Halal Snack Pack – HSPs – Learn what the Fuss is all about!

HSP Goodness!

HSP

Halal Snack Pack or HSPs as they are affectionately known as are the latest food craze to trend in the foodie world – this has further been promoted thanks to the federal elections where NSW Labor senator Sam Dastyari offered to meet Pauline Hanson and get her to try this delicious dish; much to her offense and disgust (?!).

So what exactly is a HSP?
It is a dish containing meat – typically beef, chicken or lamb – together with chips and one or more sauces – especially Chilli, Garlic and Barbeque. It traditionally comes served in a styrofoam container. Some kebab stores refer to it as a Snack Box or Mixed Plate.

HSP!

This infamous dish has contributed to the flourishing success of many kebab stores around the country. There is also the creation of the Halal Snack Pack Appreciation Society (HSPAS) on Facebook which began in December 2015 by a couple of good mates- with the group having over  159K members! It started off in a small scale with a few thousand people sharing their favourite styrofoam encased meals and engulfed into what it is today being an international phenomenon.
The main aim of this group is to identify some of the best HSPs around the country and eventually identify the World’s BEST HSP!The group also raises funds to support the Australian Relief Organisation, an organization that assists underprivileged people to attain cataract surgery and assists orphanages with matters regarding water supplies.

A typical post on the page involves a picture of a recently-purchased halal snack pack, along with an informal review that scores the dish on various criteria; including meat, chips and sauce quality, clarity of halal signage, packaging, price and greeting.

Below is the marking scheme taken from the page.
1. The greeting: Anything Less than good day brother or sister is Haram.
2. The Sign: There needs to be some sort of Halal sign visible, or, you guessed it, Haram!
3. The chips: You nailed this, they need to be a good Ratio to the meat and chips
4. Cheese: Cheese would be a layer on the chips and then a layer on the meat with sauce on top. You may get roasted you for this…
5. The meat: Mixed meat is a winner with the crowd, marking it on quantity/ratio and juiciness.
6. Now… The Sauce: Anything less than the HOLY TRINITY  – GARLIC, CHILLI, BBQ – may get a good roasting from the crowd. BBQ is second selection but you have to have the KEY garlic in there
7. Packaging: anything less than styrofoam container is haram and marked 0/10

As you can see HSPs are serious business! By the way to get you down with the lingo here are some of the terms explained:

  • Expressing approval of a snack pack can be described by using the term “Halal”
  • Expressing disapproval of a snack pack can be described by using the term “Haram”
  • A member/customer who requests tomato sauce, salad, rice or anything that is not meant to be part of the HSP – with their snack pack is referred to as a “Haram Dingo”

There are many claims to having created this exceptional dish including the Kapsalon – which is a Dutch food item consisting of fries, topped with shawarma meat, grilled with a layer of Gouda cheese until melted and then covered with a layer of dressed salad greens. The dish is often served with garlic sauce and sambal. The key difference here is the use of salad. This dish was conceived in 2003 by Nathaniël Gomes, a Cape Verdian hairdresser in Rotterdam; who in collaboration with the neighboring shawarma store “El Aviva” combined all his favorite ingredients into one dish.

Another similar dish is the AB from Adelaide who claims to have invented this dish between 1969 and  1989. An AB is prepared using gyro meat, chips, tomato sauce, chilli sauce, barbeque sauce and garlic sauce. Two restaurants in Adelaide have claimed to have invented the dish – The North Adelaide Burger Bar and the Blue & White ; with the key difference here being the addition of tomato sauce (haram!)

There has even been the creation of the world’s biggest snack pack which was covered by Sunrise – you can check out the video here – https://au.tv.yahoo.com/sunrise/video/watch/31864783/the-worlds-biggest-halal-snack-pack/#page1

I myself was quite late to jump on the HSP bandwagon as well – but ever since trying this calorie, carb-filled dish I must admit I am in love (as is my husband!) We have a kebab store just down the road from us where we get our HSPs (although they call is a Snack Pack – so that’s haram already!) which is simply delicious and is shown in the pictures above.

Since I am quite “new” to the world of HSPs – I am not too sure about where the BEST HSP is in Melbourne – however there is a website – http://getmehsp.com.au/- which helps you locate where you can get a HSP from. Of course there is the HSPAS which has been created for this very reason to find that perfect 10/10 HSP. If you have any recommendations please comment below and I will add them to the list.

Happy HSPing!!

Here are some of the special mentions of Kebab stores around Australia that you could check out (in no particular order):

Melbourne
Melbourne Kebab Station, Coburg
Clayton Kebab House, Clayton
Little Bad Wolf, Noble Park
Yozzy Kebab and Carwash, Doveton
Hot Kebabs, Doncaster East

Sydney

King Kebab House, Campbelltown
Oz Turks Jnr, Redfern
Metro One Kebab, Ashfield

Western Australia
Perth Kebab Station, Subiaco

Queensland
Kebab Shack & Takeaway, Caboolture

 

Paperboy Kitchen – Vietnamese Deliciousness

panda 5 rating

Menu:
Paperboy Menu

Asian street foods are all the rage at the moment and Paperboy Kitchen is a latest addition to the Melbourne CBD. Located on Little Lonsdale Street, between Elizabeth and Queen street is this small sized eatery. Set up by Adam Milgrom – who quit his marketing job and took up training at Leith’s cooking school in London – who started out creating a pop-up version before settling on a more permanent venue in the city.

The menu is simple, delicious and fresh. Paperboy serves rice-noodle bowls and bread rolls that come served with Asian slaw, carrot-daikon pickle, Sriracha -Mayo and Coriander. The menu is cleverly named Rolls or Bowls. Once you decide between these two – you then have to choose from a range of fillings which include Coconut Pepper Beef, BBQ Chicken, Satay Tofu, Panko Fish, Spicy BBQ Pork and Pulled Lamb & Hoisin. Both the rolls and bowls come served with a small side bowl of Popcorn topped with chilli spice. If snacks are what you are looking for – Crisp Fried Chicken served with Sriracha Mayo dip is available. If sweets is what you are after – the Milk-Bar Cookie is a must try.
Drinks from Charlie’s, Beers and Ciders as well Cola, Lemon Lime & Bitters, Lemonade and Ginger Ale from Phoenix are available, as well as fresh coconuts (that you pick you from the fridge and have them cut up). The coconuts come served with a cocktail umbrella to make you feel as if you are beachside.

The fit-out like the menu is simple – complete with wooden high tables and chairs to sit in and enjoy your scrumptious food. There is an industrial combined with an Asian grocer store feel to the venue thanks to the feature of wooden shelves that stored things like Sriracha sauce, soy sauce, water and plants.
The main counter from where you order from opens out into the kitchen – which you can peer into and watch as your meals are prepared. As you place your order you are given plastic animals that aid as table numbers which is a fantastic idea. On the tables together with Sriracha Sauce are bottles of chilli labelled “Hot Stuff” – the extra hot stuff for those who dare.

I ordered the bowl with Satay Tofu alongside a fresh coconut and a plastic giraffe. The food comes served on a wooden board with the Paperboy stamp on the bottom corner, with the bowl placed in the centre and side bowl of popcorn just above it. The serving size is very generous (I couldn’t finish the entire serving so took it away to have for dinner!) and from the moment it is placed in front of you, the smell of all the ingredients literally take your breath away. The dish is fresh, packs a whole load of flavour and is gobsmackingly delicious. The Sriracha Mayo is the perfect addition of spiciness and tanginess. The Asian Slaw is made from lettuce, cabbage, carrot and black sesame seeds. The Satay Tofu has a crunchy outside which complements the softness on the inside and flavoured to perfection. Together all the components of the dish work seamlessly together to provide a great flavour explosion for the palate.

The staff are friendly and always willing to go out of their way to help. Don’t delay the trip to Paperboy anymore!

Rating : 5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu:  Refer to the picture above or visit http://paperboy.com.au/#two
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual and Relaxed
Standout Dish: Any dish really!
Service: Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.paperboy.com.au
320 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9642 0147

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 11:30am – 3:00pm

Paperboy Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PaperboyKitchen
Instagram: paperboykitchen
Twitter: @PaperboyKitchen

Göz City – Gözleme Charm

panda 4 rating

Menu:
The Menu Gözleme menu halal (1)

One of Grazing Panda’s readers emailed me about Goz City to let me know that it was a restaurant that I should add to my Halal Restaurant tab – and from that time onwards I was keen to check it out. Having visited Turkey earlier in the year I was looking forward to eating one of Turkey’s famous age-old foods.

Goz City is the first of its kind – the first standalone speciality gözleme store in the Melbourne CBD, well just Melbourne even – and was opened in January by Taylan Aksoy. Aksoy together with his dad Alan also owns Koy in South Melbourne – where you can purchase gözlemes as well; and on a busy day they can sell upwards of 300!

Goz City is a smallish store located near the corner of Little Collins and Williams Street in the Melbourne CBD, complete with a cosy, homely and relaxed vibe. What I love is that you can stand out the front and watch through the front window as the gözleme are made. You can watch their swift, efficient process as they churn out these traditional flatbreads. The process involves the yufka pastry being rolled, flattened, filled with your choice of topping and cooked to order.
The menu consists of four different varieties – Cheese & Spinach, Herbed Chicken & Mushroom, Minced Meat (Beef) or Mushroom & Vegetables – which are $10 each (or if you want to purchase it with a drink $12). These are complemented weekly, with unique and seasonally-driven gözleme flavours.
There are also Boreks ($4 each or if you order it with a coffee for $6) available in the same flavours, as well as Pides (such as Tomato & Egg or Sucuk Sausage & Egg for $5 each or $7 with a coffee). There is also the option of House Made Soup served with a toasted Turkish Bagel (when I visited the soup of the day was Mushroom). There is also a great selection of Turkish, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern inspired salads such as Cypriot Cauliflower or Quinoa Tabouli.
Coffee served is from Tobys Estate and comes in a House Blend as well as a Single Origin.

Their main focus is on takeaway – but if you get in early and beat the rush there are around 14 seats available – both inside and outside – there is a high bench for seating as well as some lower wooden tables. Lines are out the door especially if you arrive after 12pm with the wait time not too long (you are getting fresh, made to order gözlemes after all!).
Earthy, rustic and warm tones are used throughout the venue coupled with black and white pictures. Gözlemes are presented on a wooden board – with the gözleme cut into convenient mixed sized rectangles and served with sour cream. The serving size is very generous (I struggled to finish the entire serving!) – and the dish is very very filling. I ordered the Herbed Chicken & Mushroom gözleme – which had been seasoned perfectly and tasted great. The bread was cooked just right as well – crispy on the outside and soft on the lower layers. My only critique would be that instead of the gözleme being served with sour cream I would have preferred it to be garlic sauce.
I also had a minced lamb borek – which was a tad bit on the oily side – but was succulent and delicious. The pastry used for the borek is thin, light and crunchy.

There are also Homemade Turkish sweets such as Baklava and Turkish Delight available for sale as well as Turkish Coffee.

Goz City combines the age-old gözleme tradition with a distinct modern twist – offering a unique Turkish food experience. Gözleme is fast becoming the latest street food craze to hit town and if the queues are anything to go by – it will be one to stick around for a while to come!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to the pictures above or go to http://www.gozcity.com.au/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy, Homely and Relaxed
Service: Friendly
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.gozcity.com.au/
502 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9041 5667

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:30am – 4:-00pm
Saturday & Sunday: CLOSED

Goz City on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gozcitycbd
Twitter: @GozCity
Instagram: Goz City

Mr Big Stuff – Bringing Soul to Melbourne

panda 4.5 rating

 

Menu:
Drinks Menu
Food Menu House Spirits Menu

A and I were due for our regular dinner catch up and she suggested we check out Mr Big Stuff. We tried to book a table but due to its newness & popularity there were no tables available, however they did inform us that if we came in we could sit at the bar – so this is what we did.

Mr Big Stuff is the new, funky and soul filled restaurant that’s taking Melbourne by storm. It is located in Meyers Place (it resides where Senorita used to be) – pretty much in and around the centre of the Melbourne CBD. Mr Big Stuff is relatively new having only been open a few months (opened in May 2014) with the concept being to add a bit of soul into the Melbourne food scene – and adding soul they do! From the moment you step inside you feel like you have been transported to 70s – from the pumping soul music to the orange and red warm tones and completed by the swagger of the wait staff in cute retro diner attire – think suspenders and bow ties. You can thank the 5 partners, including Michael Chen and Adam Ong from Golden Monkey bar (located in Hardware Lane) together with Head Chef is Louis Naepels (ex-Grossi Florentino) for bringing this new style of venue to Melbourne.

Mr Big Stuff is all about sharing some great tasting soul food and bopping along to some really great music. The venue has a in-house turntable that plays Thursday to Saturday (the night starts out with soul music, then progresses to R’n’B and cranks up to Hip-Hop – pure awesomeness!) and is decked out with sound-proofing material on its walls. Mr Big Stuff has been designed by Techne architects and has wooden tables along with some banquet seating in the main dining area. The other main feature is the wooden bar and the hole in the wall which allows you to peer into the kitchen. The tones of orange, red and wood really make you feel like you have stepped into the 70s and get you prepared for the food adventure that is about to begin.

What I loved when I looked up the menu online was the drinks menu and the fact that you could have each and every traditional beverage sans alcohol. This was fantastic for me as I don’t drink!

You can choose from the Cold Pressed Kool-Aid drinks – there are 4 different flavours to choose from, or the Egg Cream – a New York-style spider, which interestingly is egg free – Homemade Chocolate Sauce, Milk/Cream & Soda is the flavour available here. There is also a selection of Cold Brew Ice Teas available – of which there are 5 to choose from.

There is a magnitude of choices to select from so it took me a while to decide what I wanted – if I had it my way I would have spent the entire night there sampling every drink! I decided to go with the Kickin’ Kiwi – Cold Pressed Kiwi Juice, Fresh Lemon Juice & Soda. The Kickin Kiwi was full of flavour, refreshing and hit the spot. The tangy flavouring of the cold pressed kiwi worked well with the lemon and soda, that had this effect of creating a party with every sip. A ordered the P.Y Tea – Cold Brew Hibiscus Tea, Fresh Cold Pressed Watermelon & Fresh Lemonade. A’s drink came out served in a tall glass and came with extra sugar syrup on the side in case she wanted to make it sweeter – which she did utilise as it was a tad bit bitter at the start. I sampled her drink and it was quite tasty and refreshing as well – with the hibiscus tea flavouring much stronger than the watermelon. An all round good drink!

The menu is designed and created by Louis Naepels and is broken into four sections – Small Stuff, Mid Stuff, Big Stuff and Sweet Stuff. Naepels has done great things with menu especially coming from cooking Italian at Grossi Florentino – it is adventurous, fun and mixes brilliant flavours together. Across each of these sections there are upwards of 5 different dishes to try, except for the Sweet Stuff – there are only 2 desserts for now to try. Small Stuff includes dishes such as Pickled Okra, Grilled Corn, Pig’s Ears and their famous Corn Bread. Mid Stuff includes a selection of sliders (there are 4 different ones to choose from), and dishes such as Mac & Cheese, Kale Greens, Chicken Wings and Roasted Bone Marrow. The Big Stuff consists of Blackened Snapper & Clams, Mussels, Veal, Beef and Pork Ribs. We were told by the friendly waitress that the menu was created to be shared – ordering a little bit from each section.

We decided to share some things and order some separate dishes for the each of us as well (this tends to be what happens when A & I go out as I am a pescatarian and she can eat everything).

One of the first dishes to come out was the Jumbo Prawns – Corn Meal Dusted, Cajun Spiced, Prawn Head Mayonnaise –you get one prawn per serving. The prawn came out looking deliciously crunchy and it sure didn’t disappoint! The Cajun spice mixed with the soft texture of the well-cooked prawn was scrumptious – pair that with the “prawn head” mayonnaise and you have a somewhat fiery hit mixed together with a creamy finish. You really could eat more than a handful of these at a time.

A ordered the Sweetbread Nuggets – Lamb Sweetbreads, Honey & Thyme Glaze. Initially she was a bit apprehensive to order this dish – but speaking to our waitress she reassured her that it was a great dish, and it just tasted like lamb. These came out in a serving of five and looked exactly like how you would imagine nuggets to look like – served in a turquoise blue bowl and topped with thyme sprigs. A really enjoyed this dish and mentioned more than once how good these nuggets were – crispy coating on the outside and soft, tender lamb on the inside with a sweet aftertaste to finish on.

I also couldn’t look past ordering a slider from the menu and went with the Shrimp Slider with Spicy Mayonnaise. Once again this was another stand out dish – the shrimp had been fried to provide a crunchy texture and together with the slight sweetness of the brioche and the spice of the mayonnaise were a great combination. There are no words to describe it – you just have to try it yourself!

A ordered the Fried Chicken & Waffles – Spiced Maple Syrup – which seemed like one of the more popular dishes on the menu to order. I mean it is quintessentially soul food after all! This is quite a generous dish and comes with couple of pieces of chicken off to one sized, with perfectly placed waffles on the other, with the spiced maple syrup in a separate mini pitcher. The chicken has been marinated overnight in buttermilk and a spice blend of black pepper, cloves and cayenne pepper. The result was that the batter was flaky, crunch and fell off the chicken in a way that you would want it to. The chicken was cooked to perfection – juicy whilst being tender- and had combined hints of smokiness, spiciness and sweetness.
The rosemary and cheddar flaked waffles were out of this world – crunchy and textured on the outside whilst being soft and fluffy on the inside. The combination of the savoury waffles with the sweetness of the spiced maple was interesting and must be experienced.

We also ordered the Mac & Cheese – Three Cheeses – to share. This dish comes served hot hot hot on a warm pan and from the moment it is placed down you get the wonderful aroma of the cheese. The top layer is a combination of the three cheeses and crumbed biroche which have been toasted just right. The cheesy creamy pasta of elbows had a great peppery taste to it – combine this with the crunchy breadcrumbs and this dish is heaven. For usual Mac & Cheese lovers – you wouldn’t want to share this dish!

What is also brilliant about Mr Big Stuff is that they make their own Hot Stuff Chilli sauce which is bottled and is made from Habanero Chillies, Cayenne, Carrot, Apple Cider Vinegar and Spices. This sauce sure does pack a bit of a punch and is great for all of you who want that extra hint of chilli in your dishes .This also works well with the Shoestring fries!

Despite being full we had to check out dessert – if the food was anything to go by then the desserts would be just as amazing. I ordered the Quince & Rhubarb Cobbler. Initially I wasn’t quite sure what a cobbler was so had to ask our friendly waitress. A cobbler usually consists of a fruit or savoury filling which is then put into a baking dish and covered with a batter, biscuit, or pie crust before being baked – hence creating a combination of crunch and softness. Generally speaking I’m a sucker for anything with Crème Fraiche – I think it adds a great element and depth to a dish and brings out flavours even more. The cobbler was quite a refreshing dish – with a combination of star anise and fruity flavours. The “cake” bits were moist, soft and delicious with the bread crumbs providing another texture. You definitely needed the addition of the Crème Fraiche to add some creaminess and extra wetness to the dish. Overall a very different yet tasty dessert.

A ordered the Apple Pie – Cinnamon, Spiced Rum. This wasn’t like any apple pie you would normally order – they came out as individual little pockets which reminded me of mini pastries – you get 4 per serve. The pastry on the outside was buttery, flaky and had a great flavouring to it, coated with cinnamon sugar. The inside was filled with a smooth warm apple filling that was both juicy and tasty. A said she really liked this different take on the apple pie.

The staff here are really friendly and always ensure you feel looked after without being overbearing. They are happy to offer suggestions when you are ordering food and can assist in answering questions. Another stand out of the venue is the music – we both loved the music played – it brought back memories from our high school days with stand outs like MJ, TLC just to name a few. If the music was this good when the in-house DJ wasn’t playing I can’t wait to come and check out the DJ sets on Thursday to Saturday nights.

When we call for the bill – it arrives in a wallet with Mr Big Stuff engraved on the front – which I think is quite fun and fits in really well with the 7os theme. They also have a variety of uniquely designed coasters which use known brand logos such as Pringles, MTV but change it to reference the Mr Big Stuff  name. Creative!

Mr Big Stuff is a Soul Food inspired restaurant designed around sharing great tasting food with friends along with unique Kool-aid drinks and funky tunes in a lively and warm atmosphere. If you want to be transported to the 70s and try out a place that makes you feel like you are part of the Soul Train set – this is your place!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to pics above or click here for the links
Food Menu: http://www.mrbigstuff.com.au/files/MRBIGSTUFF_WEB_FOOD_140523.pdf
Drinks Menu:http://www.mrbigstuff.com.au/files/MRBIGSTUFF_WEB_DRINKS_140523.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Soulful, Warm and Inviting – a great place for a celebration and an all round good time! They have  in-house turntables which place on Thursday to Saturday nights.
Standout Dish: Shrimp Slider with Spicy Mayonnaise, Three Mac & Cheese
Service: Fantastic  – Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.mrbigstuff.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.mrbigstuff.com.au/
Meyers Place, Melbourne
Tel No: 9639 7411

Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday: 6pm – 11.30pm

A Lunch Service is COMING SOON!

 

Good Food & Wine Show – Thanks Rachel’s Gourmet Yoghurt

I was invited to check out the Good Food & Wine Show in Melbourne by Rachel’s Gourmet Yoghurt. I must say this year’s show was the best show put on than any of the other previous years I have attended. There were lots of interesting food and drink stalls, and in keeping with the times lots of products that were tailored to the growing need for Gluten-Free, Dairy Free, Lactose Free etc.

Rachel's Stand

Rachel’s Stand

Rachel's Stand

Rachel’s Stand

rachels

Rachel’s was launched in the early 90s and has grown onto becoming one of the UK’s favourite yoghurts. With that market secured they have transitioned to Australia to make the same indentation in the market. Rachel’s yoghurt is a low fat product that combines fresh Australian Milk together with a unique fusion of fruits resulting in creamy, delicious yoghurt. They use a traditional recipe and quality ingredients. There are currently 4 different flavours:
Mango & Madagascan Vanilla
Black Plum & Roasted Fig
Wild Strawberry & Rhubarb
Peaches & Vine Ripened Passionfruit
They can be purchased at Woolworths, Coles or favourite independent supermarket. And another fantastic fact to note is that they are Gluten Free! For more information check out their website at http://www.rachelsyoghurts.com.au/

It was quite ironic that I received this invite from Rachel’s as it was only the previous couple of weeks that I felt like yoghurt and went to Woolworths and ended up purchasing Rachel’s yoghurts as the flavour combination really interested me. I tried the Mango & Madagascan Vanilla, as well as the Black Plum & Roasted Fig. I loved and enjoyed both the flavours – they both had a smooth and creamy texture paired together with nice big fresh chunks of fruit! Perfect! What is even handier is that under the lid, there is a foldable spoon that you can use! Briiliant! They do really follow their tag line – Combining passion and care with premium ingredients.

I am just going to point of some of my highlights and stalls that I thought were pretty amazing. We started off with trying out some nuts (I don’t have any pictures, as I think I was too busy trying out the samples) – I ended up buying Chilli Macadamias and Chilli & Lime Cashews – both of which were delicious! They also had some sweet flavoured nuts – such as honey and caramel macadamias and cashews.

The Ginger People
Ginger People Product

The Ginger People were another stall that was exciting – we tried some lollies that contained ginger as well trying the ginger sweets – in the form of chewies and candies, as well trying out some of the beverages on offer. We found the crystallised ginger a bit too overpowering but enjoyed the ginger sweets and the beverages. One of their products that caught my eye was the Organic Ginger Syrup – their version of the honey maple syrup – unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to try this out.

The Ginger People have been around for around 30 years and source premier quality ginger to create innovative ginger products that are healthy for you. They are Australian owned and operate dand the most award winning ginger brand. The Ginger People’s products can be purchased at Go Vita, Healthy Life, Natural & Organic Supermarket, Great Earth Super Discount Health Shop and select IGA stores. You can also order online from their e0tail partners – Kombu Wholefoods and Aussie Health Products. For more information check out their website at http://gingerpeople.com.au/. For Australia stockists you can visit http://www.aulifeproducts.com.au/stockists1.html

Bruce Cost Ginger Ale

One of my favourite stalls of the day would have to be the Bruce Cost Ginger Ale – where we got to sample ginger ale with a difference. I am the first to admit that I am not a huge fan of ginger beer or ginger ale, but I had a look at the flavours and they really tweaked my interest. The Jasmine Tea and Pomegranate with Hibiscus that caught my eye. There is also a Passionfruit with Yellow Ginger (Tumeric) flavour as well as the Original and ^66”. I tried the Jasmine Tea flavour first and loved the jasmine notes mixed together with the refreshing ginger. Next up I sampled the Pomegranate with Hisbiscus – the pomegranate was subtle and once again it was a refreshing drink. I did prefer the Jasmine Tea flavour so I decided to purchase some.

This ginger ale is sparkling and refreshing is made with only fresh ginger and pure cane sugar. To that they add the full leaf of jasmine or fruit pulp to get the flavouring just right. The end result is unfiltered, which has tiny ginger particles through it that need to be shaken before drinking and enjoying. It also provides a source of iron, calcium, vitamin A and C. For more information about their products and to find out where you can purchase their products from refer to their website at www.brucecostgingerale.com

Walker Foods
Carribean Sauces

Walkerswood Carribean Foods was another stall that caught my eye – as I LOVEE SPICY foods and sauces! I am always on the lookout for the next spiciest sauce that I can add to my food for that extra oomph! The Jamaican Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce was my favourite and rather spicy! A clear runner up in terms of both flavouring and spice was the Jaimaican Jonkanoo Pepper Sauce.

Walkerswood Carribean Foods is named after a rural village in Jamaica hidden in the green hills of St Ann – there a factory produces these wonderful spicy tasting sauces, seasoning and condiments from the freshly harvested produce from the area. For more information about their beginning, their products and where you can purchase their products – visit their website at www.walkerswood.com

Boss Man Jamaican Jerk Boss Man Jamaican Jerk Cassowara Chips

 There was also the Jamaincan Boss Jerk Food stand and this is where we decided to get some food for lunch. There was corn on the cob for sale, as well as their famous Jerk Chicken, but we both decided to get the Cassava chips. They were so popular that we had to wait in line a good 10 minutes to get them. Cassava is a woody shrub and is a major source of carbohydrates and is also called manioc, yucca, mogo or tapioca root. The chips came in a cone shaped banana leave style paper with seasoning. I added some of the spicy sauces. The chips tasted great and were worth the wait – they had a sweetness to them and were soft on the inside.

Noshu Donuts Noshu Donuts
Noshu Donuts Close up of Noshu Donuts

Noshu (which literally means No Sugar) is an Australian owned company and strive to achieve their philosophy “All Love, No Sugar” – and I think they do this really well. When chatting to the girl working at the stall she mentioned that just because there are people out there with allergies, intolerances or even diabetes – they shouldn’t have to give up on proper tasting food and eat products that taste like cardboard – this is where Noshu steps in. Noshu is 100% sugar free and the sweetness that they do have in their products come from ingredients such as pumpkin, coconut and gluten free flours. What really caught my attention was when the girl mentioned that their baked donuts have less sugar, less carbs and more fibre than a medium apple! Amazing! Currently their products consist of donuts – there are three different flavours to choose from – however in the near future they are looking to extend these to include chocolate brownies and ANZAC biscuits.

The three flavours of donuts are – Dark Chocolate and Raspberry, Caramel Spice and Banana and Coconut. My favourite would have to be the Dark chocolate and raspberry and caramel spice. They have denseness to them, yet it feels and tastes really smooth. They really do taste good and you don’t have to feel guilty eating them! Double win!

You can store these donuts in the fridge for up to 4 weeks and up to 5 months in the freezer. You can purchase these products via their website www.noshu.com.au and they offer next day deliver to most post codes (no PO Boxes).

Coconut Essence Coconut Essence Product List Coconut Chips and Nutella

JT’s Coconut Essence was another stall that had some great products – their coconut chips in a variety of flavours as well as their version of nutella – cocotella were a hit. Their cocotella is sugar, gluten and nut free! The girl at the stall recommended eating the cocotella with banana – apparently they made for a great mix.

I really enjoyed their coconut chips – there is original, chocolate and salt & vinegar – especially the chocolate flavour. The Salt & Vinegar flavour I wasn’t a huge fan of, and the original was quite tasty as well. The coconut chips are baked not fried, and have the perfect crispness to them. They are high in antioxidants, minerals, caprylic and beneficial lauric acids, all whilst being vegan, dairy and gluten free together with having no cholesterol and trans fat. They are really addictive (in fact I am snacking on some whilst I write this post!)

JT’s Coconut Essence is an Austrlaian owned company and produce products that are pure, natural and healthy from fresh green coconuts that are harvested and canned on the same day. Other products they have are coconut water, coconut oil, coconut oil gel capsules and coconut sorbet! For more information on where to purchase these products and for recipes and other products refer to their website at http://www.coconutessence.com.au

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As well as visiting a number of other stalls, we also took a break from walking around carrying all the things we bought to watch Jacques Reymond Live at the Good Food Theatre. He was making a lamb dish, a pork belly dish and a dessert dish of balsamic strawberries and cream. It was great to watch a chef of his experience and talent in action, as well as listening to his helpful tips and secrets. He has a great character and exudes enthusiasm about cooking and food – and he is quite funny too!

Chorizo on a Stick Chorizo on a Stick Chorizo on a Stick

Another interesting find was seeing people eat this – Chorizo on a stick proudly supplied by Salumi Australia! They were a sure hit with many people at the show! Great idea! Check out their website for more information on their products and stockists at http://www.salumi.com.au/

Live Honey Bees

Live Bees were on show as well – this was wine made using honey!

Cheese from Boosey
Boosey Creek Cheese was one of the cheese we got to sample in a very busy and crowded Cheese Alley. Quite tasty I must say!

Great Offer for Cured Meats
This show-bag of Cured Meats from Barossa Fine Foods was fantastic – it came with 5 different types of cured meats as well as small cleaver which was not only a handy size but had a very sharp blade.

Overall A and I had a great time at the Good Food and Wine Show and walked away with many heavy bags of our purchases! So much so that we had to tram it to meet the boys to carry the heavy weights to the car!

Rue & Co. – Great Addition to Melbourne

panda 3.5 rating

Menu:

St Ali Breakkie Menu St Ali Burger and Dessert Menu Kong Menu

It was after the footy game (Go the Hawks!!) and N and I were feeling a tad bit peckish – so we decided to check out the newly opened Rue & Co. Located off the main hustle and bustle of Collins Street, near Exhibition street is Melbourne’s version of street style food. It is an outdoor pop-up venue – around for 6 months – and has the following venues – Church of Secular Coffee (St Ali), Jimmy Grants and Kong BBQ – a joint venture between Salvatore Malatesta, George Calombaris and Chris Lucas.

Salvatore Malatesta’s

Salvatore Malatesta’s
George Calombaris,

A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf

A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf
A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf
A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf
A joint effort between George Calombaris’s Jimmy Grants, Salvatore Malatesta’s St Ali and Chris Lucas’s soon-to-be-opened Kong, – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf

The “fit-out” is very Melbourne – there is astro turf laid on the grounds, and the venues are located in a row under neath the massive wall artwork. On the opposite side to where the food is – is a stylish yet simple seating area decked out with minimal black stools, seats and tables. There is a combination of low seated stools as well as higher bar chairs. There are two areas – one area being covered complete with heating to keep customers warm (especially in the unpredictable Melbourne weather) – as well an open air area under trees with fairy lights.

We decided to try out Kong BBQ (opened by Chris Lucas – who brought us Chin Chin) as I had heard a lot about this place and wanted to see what we could expect once it opens its more permanent doors in Richmond.

I love the use of the Japanese characters to spell out BBQ in the name as well as the addition of the PANDA and the tag line HAPPY LIFE. As you all probably know I LOVE PANDAS! (haha hence the blog – Grazing Panda) – so I cannot wait to visit their permanent venue and see the use of the pandas. =)

The menu here at Rue & Co. is split up into 6 sections – Soup, Wings (6 pieces), Steam Buns (2 pieces), Kong Bo Ssam, Ssam Roti Roll and Salads. There are vegetarian and pescatarian options available under most of these headings.

I ordered the Peanut Butter Crusted Tofu, Pickled Cucumber and Spring Onion Kon Bo Ssam which comes served with Kimchi, Ssam Jang and Butter Lettuce. N ordered the Roast Gochujang and Chipotle Hot Wings.

The food comes out served in cardboard boxes with KONG BBQ stamped on the front of it. I loved my dish – I didn’t really get the Peanut Butter flavour on the tofu – but I like the crust and crispness that was present on the tofu. The kimchi was spicy and fresh – just how you want it to be. The whole combination of wrapping each element in the butter lettuce was tasty and the textures worked well together. I really liked the Ssam Jang – spicy and smooth!

N enjoyed his chicken wings – there were 4 pieces in his little boxed package – with the flavour combination working well together. Each of the dishes also come with a “Cools and Dries” towelette so you can feel free to get your fingers dirty.

I also decided to try out some dessert from St Ali – so got myself the remaining flavours of profiteroles for the day – Choc Hazelnut and a Vanilla Raspberry. Both of them were scrumptious! The Choc Hazelnut had a whole hazelnut in the middle combined with gooey rich chocolate. The Vanilla Raspoberry was my favourite out of the two however, with the creamy vanilla and sweet (but not too sweet) raspberry jam. The pastry itself was textured and crunchy to combine the smooth goodness inside. Pity they were so small!

The St Ali menu consists of a Breakfast menu which is served until 11:30m from 7am daily. Breakfast includes a Toast Bar from which you can choose from a number (five to be precise) of toppings, as well Crispy Potato Hash with the addition of either salmon, pork or mushroom and feta. There are also two bigger dishes – The Daddy – Breakfast bun with sausages and bacon and Mexican Cousin – Corn Fritters.

After 11:30am there is a Burger menu which is served until Late. There are four burgers to choose from – A Shrimp Burger (Seoul Searching), A Wagyu Burger (Royale with Cheese), Pork Burger (Pork Me) and a Vegetarian Burger (Cheech and Chong) all for $12.

And of course – the usual St Ali coffee is available, as well as the St Ali bottled Ice Coffee.

Jimmy Grants pop-up presents the “best of the menu” that could be found at its main venue in Fitzory – such as the delicious Souvas, slow roasted lamb shoulder, salads, snacks and dips. There is a vegetarian option – Homer – Falafels, Greek Yoghurt and Slaw.

Next is Jimmy Grants, the all-conquering Fitzroy-based souvlaki joint. The Rue & Co pop-up version presents a ‘best of’ menu, including slow roasted lamb shoulder, salads, snacks & dips, and of course JIMMY GRANTS’ AMAZING SOUVAS! Before you ask, YES CAPITALS ARE REQUIRED – THEY’RE THAT GOOD! Our pick of the two is the Mr Papadopoulos souva with its mix of lamb, mustard aioli, chips and onion, however the Homer (falafels, Greek yogurt and slaw) is also flippin’ delicious. Your Jimmy Grants experience at Rue & Co also won’t be complete without a steamed Jimmy Dimmy or two, along with some Hellenic Slaw, dips and pita bread. – See more at: http://www.theurbanlist.com/melbourne/a-list/rue-co-verdict#sthash.nS8gESUo.dpuf

Rue & Co. gives an almost picnic like vibe and is a great addition to the streets of Melbourne and is great if you want to grab a quick sneaky bite before heading off to a movie, footy game or even as a pre-dinner snack!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Picnic-like, Funky and Chilled out. Great for a morning coffee or after work drinks even! Versatile!
Restaurant Details and Location:
https://www.facebook.com/RueandCo
80 Collins St, Melbourne

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 7am to Late

Jimmy Grants on Urbanspoon

St Ali on Urbanspoon

Nieuw Amsterdam – French Bistro with New York Style

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Menu at Nieuw Amsterdam

Nieuw Amsterdam is a newly opened restaurant / bar in the heart of the city – located in Hardware Street in Melbourne. From the name I assumed that it had a Dutch influence  to the food but stepping inside and looking at the menu I realised I was wrong – there was a strong New York vibe to the venue and even the staff had the same vibe. Nieuw Amsterdamn was actually named after the original Dutch settlement on the island of Manhattan.

As you enter the venue you are greeted by a set of stairs which takes you to the main restaurant area. As you go up the stairs the menu is open space with the bar/kitchen to the left and the seating area all around. There is exposed brick, wooden floors, dark wooden tables and large windows. If you venture down the stairs to the basement area, you will find yourself at the Bar part of Nieuw Amsterdam and it really does feel like you are in downtown New York – dark and mood-lit, with a DJ spinning some tunes. The interior was designed by Eades & Bergman who are also responsible for places such as The Meatball & Wine Bar, Mr Miyagi and Bomba Bar.

Nieuw Amsterdam is owned by Michael Roszbach (ex Cookie) and the chef is Nick Stanton (ex Woods of Windsor) – who brings a French influence to his American style cooking passion. Everything is made in house and is a testament to great food. We are given the most delicious pull apart bread which was warm, fluffy and simply devine to start with! Needless to say it was gone pretty quickly.

The menu is split into 5 sections – Appetisers, Mains, The Pit Grill, Sides and Desserts. There is a focus on meat dishes, but there are actually a variety of vegetarian and seafood dishes as well. The dessert even has a Pumpkin Donut dish served with Kentucky bourbon cream! Appetisers consist of dishes like Chicken Waffles, Cured Meats and BBQ Scallops, Kingfish Ceviche. The Pitt Grill have dishes which have lamb, chicken, beef and pork and the mains consist of two vegetarian dishes, clam chowder and rabbit meatballs. There are 5 sides and 3 desserts to choose from as well. If you don’t want to have to pick your dishes there is the Nieuw Banquet which costs $45 per person to try out the chefs recommendations. Nieuw Amsterdam also does lunch and has offerings such as deli style sandwiches  as well as a BBQ meat tray – where you choose three types of proteins and it comes with a side. Check out the link to their lunch menu below.

There were three of us at dinner so and as most of the dishes could be shared we picked 2 appetiser dishes, 1 main, 1 pit grill and 1 side dish and of course finished it off with a selection of 2 desserts.

The first appetiser we ordered was the Kingfish Ceviche – Daikon, Dashi dressing, Crunchy Quinoa, finger limes, topped with salmon roe. The dish was presented beautifully and was quite colourful. The crunchiness of the quinoa paired with the kingfish coupled with the daikon and dashi dressing was fantastic. All the components together really did enhance the flavour of the fresh kingfish. The additional pop and burst of flavour from the salmon roe was a treat as well.

The next appetiser we got was the BBQ Scallops with Mango Gazpacho, Avocado and Chilli – once again brilliantly plated up and even more colourful than the Kingfish dish – with the bright red of the chilli contrasting against the cream coloured scallops with the hint of brown on the top and the soft green avocado, finished with the bright yellow of the mango gazpacho. The scallops were perfectly cooked and the right amount of smokiness and BBQ flavouring. The combination of the mango, avocado and chilli were truly divine – another must have dish.

Next up were the main dish and the pit grill dish. The main dish we ordered was Baked Eggplant with Grilled Tofu, Mushrooms and Spiced Yoghurt with the pit grill dish being Spiced Lamb Leg with Cauliflower, Pomegranate and Herb Dressing.

The Eggplant dish came with the eggplant at the base with the tofu, mushroom sitting on top with the spiced yoghurt dressing drizzled around it. I am usually not a fan of cooked eggplant like this but this dish I must say was quite good. The rich flavour of the eggplant together with the tofu and mushrooms finished with the tang of the spiced yoghurt did have me going back for more.

The Lamb leg was cooked perfectly and you can see for yourself in the picture – darker on the outside and a light browny pink shade on the inside. The pomegranate and cauliflower combination really did work well with the flavours of the lamb.

For the sides we ordered the Red Cabbage and Chilli Slaw – and was quite a large and generous serving. The bright purple cabbage together with splashings of the red chilli and fried onion was a really great side dish. There was a mixture of crunch, freshness, tang and spice all in the one dish. You could almost just have it on its own.

You cannot end a fantastic meal like we were having without trying at least one thing from the dessert menu. There are only three desserts to select from – we went with the Berry Split – Berry jelly, White Chocolate Mousse, Cream Cheese Sorbet and the The Nieuw Chocolate Bar – Banana, Tonka Bean Ice Cream. The other dessert was the Pumpkin Donuts.

The Berry Split desserts comes in a glass and is a layered dessert almost reminiscent of a trifle – and the best way to enjoy the dish is to make sure you get all the layers in one spoonful. There was an added bonus of popping candy added at the very top for even more excitement. The bottom layer is the white chocolate mousse, next is the berry jelly and the final layers are the cream cheese sorbet and popping candy with fresh berries laced in between and topped with a almond praline crisp. The flavours really work together and are a really fresh and delicious dessert – I couldn’t get enough of it!

The Nieuw Chocolate Bar dessert was a really rich, smooth and chocolaty dessert coupled with the sautéed banana and finished with the vanilla bean ice cream. It was presented beautifully with a taste to match – it really does taste as good as it looks!

The staff are very friendly and helpful in identifying how many dishes will suffice for your table and recommend dishes that they think are great. They really are quite passionate about the food they serve and will let you know when they love a dish – I think this such a great trait – if the staff are excited about the food – you know you are onto a good thing.

Nieuw Amsterdam is a great new venue with a fantastic location and a great vibe! If you have never been to New York or are missing your New York days – check this place out!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to above. Consists of Appetisers, Mains, The Pit Grill, Sides and Desserts. There is also the Nieuw Banquet for $45 per person where the chef picks your dishes.

Lunch Menu:  http://www.nieuwamsterdam.com.au/assets/lunch.pdf
Dinner Menu: http://www.nieuwamsterdam.com.au/assets/dinner.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Relaxed, Casual and Funky – a little piece of downtown Manhattan right here in the heart of the Melbourne CBD.
Standout Dish: BBQ Scallops with Mango Gazpacho, Avocado and Chilli  AND Berry Split – Berry jelly, White Chocolate Mousse, Cream Cheese Sorbet
Service: Fantastic and Really friendly. Helpful in assisting with the selection of dishes as well.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.nieuwamsterdam.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.nieuwamsterdam.com.au/
106-122 Hardware Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9602 2111

Opening Hours:
Monday to Wednesday: 12pm -1am
Thursday & Sunday: 12pm -3am
Friday & Saturday: 12pm – 5am

Nieuw Amsterdam on Urbanspoon

Jimmy Grants – Chill & Have a Souva

panda 4 rating


halal (1)ONLY THE CHICKEN IS HALAL

I visited Jimmy Grants during a day off during lunchtime as I had heard about their souvas. Jimmy Grants is the latest opening from the Made Establishment group – which also consist of Gazi, Mama Baba, St Katherine’s and HellenicRepublic and headed up by none other than Greek King George Calombaris. It is located in just off Smith Street in Fitzroy. There are more stores planned to open with one in CBD and one in Ormond. Another focus in the future is also to have a delivery service.

The name comes from the rhyming slang name for the Greek, Italian and Middle Eastern immigrants to Melbourne and pays homage to them in the naming of dishes. For example the Patris is named after the migrant ship that carried assisted migrants from Europe to Australia – and is souva which comprises of prawns, attiki honey, mayonnaise, cucumber, mint and coriander. Yum! Jimmy Grants has a very short and concise menu which consists of souvas, rotisserie meats, salads, sides and of course dessert.

The main focus here is on souvas (souvlakis) all of which are under $10. The souvas come in a warm and fluffy wholemeal pita which is stuffed with either free range chicken, lamb, prawns or falafel together with other additions that you would finding a souvlaki such as onions, parsley as well as delicious, crispy,crunchy chips! There are also the “Jimmy Dimmy” which is their take on the humble Dim Sim. I wanted to try this out but was too full after my souva so I definitely have to come back and try it out.

In addition to the souvas, there are also salads available such as the simple iceberg salad with oregano, lemond and oil, the Hellenic Slaw with honey and Balsamic as well as a Grain salad that has a combination of pulses, nuts and grains mixed with parsley and Greek Yoghurt.  You can also order either the free range chicken or the spit roasted lamb shoulder from the rotisserie together with pitas and a side (a kind of do-it-yourself souva if you will)  at $15 and you can also add a salad or extra pita breads for an extra $5 – the choice is up to you.

The menu of course has to finish with Desserts and these ranges from the Greek doughnuts with walnuts and honey (made by chef  Travis McCauley), to a Greek Yoghurt, honey and white chocolate “choc top” as well as their version of the Wagon Wheel (filled with strawberry marshmallow (all of which are made by Darren Purchese).

I ordered the chicken souva and it was quite tasty but slightly smaller in size than your standard kebab. I loved the addition of the chips for the extra crunch and the sauce used was delicious. Sometimes I found the chicken sizing to be too big to fit inside the kebab (but then again who would complain about that =p) The chicken is moist and tender at the same time and is flavoured perfectly.

For dessert I ordered the Wagon wheel which was chocolate filled with a strawberry marshmallow gooey centre. It was decently sized as well and I couldn’t eat all of it in one go – but it was certainly just as delicious as biting into it the first time.

The space in which Jimmy Grants was created was designed by Techne Architects and features low table seating in the front room, followed by high bar stools and high communal table in the back room. The historical and cultural references can be seen in the décor with splashes of the Greek blue against the white washed brick walls. There are also feature walls done by Dan Wenn which show a DC-3 aircraft as well as The Patris (the tall ship with silhouettes of friends and family waiting for their loved ones in the foreground).

Jimmy Grants is a licensed bar, diner and takeaway all in one where the staff are warm, welcoming, friendly and funny! Jimmy Grants delivers quick, easy and tasty Greek food that doesn’t cost much at all. It’s a no fuss souvlaki bar which is soon to open up in other locations and I cannot wait for a branch closer to me.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to http://jimmygrants.com.au/menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Friendly, Welcoming and A piece of Greek in Fitzroy
Standout Dish: Any of the Souva’s
Service: Fantastic and Attentive. The wait staff are super funny as well!
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://jimmygrants.com.au/
113 Saint David Street, Fitzroy

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11am – 10pm

Jimmy Grants on Urbanspoon

Madras Banyan Tree – Tasty Indian!

panda 3.5 rating

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halal (1)
Madras Banyan Tree has relocated from Brighton right into the city – located on King St. It serves Southern Indian cuisine and serves authentic Andhra, Kerala,Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Chettinadu in the eloborate menu.

The owner Suresh Chakravarthi, who was previously a Tamil comedian and TV game show host, also explains that you will find no pork or beef on the menu, and they also use only halal meat. Goat is only available on certain days and can also cook up Paya which is the south’s famous goat trotter curry.

There are also many vegetarian dishes available such as deep-fried marinated cauliflower, firm doughnut-like vadai or plump little idli rice-flour cakes. And there’s seafood such as scallops, calamari or prawns deep-fried and spiced.

Desserts include the favourites such as gulab jamoon, kulfi ice cream and payasam rice pudding.

On this lunchtime – I ordered the Roti Thali which comes with 3 pieces of roti with a selection of two meat curries – I chose Lamb Curry and Butter Chicken. Both the curries had their plus points. The Lamb Curry was cooked with the addition of chilli and the gravy was thick and delicious. The Butter Chicken had the creaminess and thick texture that you would expect from that type of curry. The Roti was made really well and tasted just as good. There was butteryness to it yet it was quite light to eat – you just wanted to keep eating more & more.

Check out Madras Banyan Tree for great tasting Indian food that doesn’t really cost that much!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – A huge selection of Southern Indian cuisine – including Andhra, Kerala,Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Chettinadu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual and Relaxed
Service: Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
169 King Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9670 1551

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: Open for Lunch
Thursday to Saturday: Open for Dinner

Madras Banyan Tree on Urbanspoon

Gazi – Greek Hawker Style Food

panda-4-5-rating4

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halal symbol* NOTE : The Lamb and Beef are Halal – at the time I went they couldn’t confirm that the chicken was as they couldn’t get in touch with the supplier. So just call up and check if you want to know.

There was a long awaited catchup that was in order and I heard of George Calombaris’ new restaurant – Gazi – opening up so suggested we try it. Gazi is located where The Press Club used to reside – in Exhibition Street in the Melbourne CBD – and looks totally different to what The Press Club did. For all you Press Club fans – The Press Club will be re-opening in the later part of 2013 and located where The Little Press used to be situated (next door to Gazi).

Gazi can be seen as the city sister restaurant of Hellenic Republic (located in Brunswick) and is an all day diner that represents Hellenic street food- Calombaris dubs this “Hellenic dirty food” – delivered in classic Melbourne style. Gazi is named after Calombaris; favourite Athens neighborhood and has a wow factor as you walk into the elegant cave like restaurant. The wow factor I talk about comes from the ceiling canopy of more than 3000 terracotta pots turned upside down that also provide a glow to the ceiling. Beneath this breathtaking art installation is where diners seat. There are booths along the outer edges of the restaurants, as well as seating at the bar which allows you to see the chefs moving fast paced to make each and everyone of the dishes. There is also seating throughout the rest of the restaurant in the form of wooden tables and comfortable seating.

Another great aspect to the interior is the table decor – each table has royal blue plates with a huge evil eye located in the centre – which is called  μάτι (mati) – and is a charm of sorts that according to superstition wards off bad luck. There is a description of this on the menu. Something a little special to be noted is the presence of two suitcases as decor – they are mounted on the wall facing the kitchen. They both hang open and if you take a look inside there is a date and name present – and these represent the years and the names of Calombaris’ grandfather and grandmother. The years represent the years which they made their long journey across from Greece to Australia. Such a great touch and addition to this already spectacular place.

The staff are super friendly and welcoming – starting from the time you walk into the restaurant to when you leave. They welcome you with a Greek greeting such as “Kalispera” which means Good Evening. As I only eat halal meats, I asked our waitress if any of the meats were halal – she went to ask the chef if they were and came back to inform me that the Lamb and Beef were, but they weren’t sure if the Chicken was as they couldn’t get in touch with their supplier. The fact that they went to the effort to try and contact the supplier I thought was great. Thumbs up for service for sure. They are also enthusiastic and happy to offer up opinions on what types of foods we should try or if we had enough food ordered or not.

This night there were four of us for dinner and we were located in a booth seating and as we had an early dinner booking, they needed the table back by 8:30pm. As we perused the menu’s we ordered some drinks. The drinks menu is quite impressive in itself – there are cocktails, mocktails, wine, ouzo and more to choose from. There are 6 different mocktails to choose from all of which have really interesting ingredients for a mocktail drink such as cucumber, beetroot, egg white etc. I started off with the Cucumber, Rose Water, Lime and Soda which was quite different. The Cucumber taste was quite strong and left quite a dry taste in your mouth. I also go to try the Pear, Ginger, Lemon, Egg White (sour) drink which I preferred to the previous one.

The menu is split into 7 different sections – starting off with Dips, then Ethnika Vromika which are smaller dishes,  Soulakakakia, Wood Fire Grill and Wood Fire Spit sections, Salads, Vegetables, Pulses & Grains and finally ending with Dessert. Head chef is Luke Croston and he has done great things in providing an insight into food from street vendors as well as bustling ouzerias. At Gazi the kitchen not only has a wood fire grill but a wood fired spit as well (you can check it out in the gallery above). There is a 10-course sharing menu that you can choose that costs $69 per person – and the kitchen can tailor make this to be vegetarian, pescatrarian etc – and is aptly named “Doing It Greek Style”. We did consider this option however with differing dietary requirements amongst us we decided to do our own version of the 10-course menu =p Also something to note is for Lunch on Monday to Fridays there is a “Bend Over Box” which takes you from savoury to sweet – something that I need to come back to try.

We decided t o get 5 “Ethnika Vromika” dishes – which are the Hellenic Dirty Food hawker style dishes. The Crispy Lamb Brains with charred creamed leeks, picked grapes was first to arrive. I have never had lamb brains before so I was a bit apprehensive at first to try it out – but if you don’t keep thinking that they are lamb brains then it just tastes like a lamb cutlet really. There is a crunchy golden crumb on the outside and the lamb brain mixture on the inside is smooth and flavoursome – kind of creamy tasting. The addition of the creamy leeks and the pickled grapes which adds sweetness to the dish and it really is a great flavour combination.  I actually really enjoyed this dish.

Next we got the Prawns – Braised, Olives, Capers, Onions, Garlic & Parsley (there are three pieces of prawn in this dish). The prawns are decently sized and are wood-fired showcasing its woody flavours. The prawns are nice but not a stand out dish to me.

We also ordered the Koulourakia with meze – Lamb Keftethes, Braised Baby Octopus. I was really looking forward to this dish – I am a huge Lamb Kefte fan – but I was disappointed at the size of the Keftethes. They are as small as a marble. The flavours of the Keftethes however are delicious – perfectly seasoned and cooked. This meze comes with Braised Baby Octopus, as well as some Smoked Pork Belly and some Bread to eat all these elements with. The concept of the meze is good idea and it works – I just think the Keftethes could have been bigger.

We then got the Roast Bull Horn Peppers – Chargrilled Cuttlefish,Witlof. Garlic Dressing. This dish was quite colourful and vibrant, and had the flavours to match. The cuttlefish were cooked for just the right amount and wasn’t tough at all, the garlic dressing was punchy and together with the roast bull horn peppers (which provided the smokiness) worked well together.

Lastly we got the Saganaki – Cumquat and Currant Mustard Glyko. The Saganaki – which in this case is a wedge of Kefalograviera – serves as the base and the cumquat glyko with currants is smeared over the top of it. This dish is an interesting concept putting together the sweet and cheese flavours and I think (as did everyone else on the table) that it worked. The cumquat jam provided some tanginess and the currants some extra sweetness to balance out the strong cheese flavour.

We all had heard about the souvlakis’ here and couldn’t have come to Gazi for Dinner and not have tried them out. There are four different varieties to choose from – Chicken, Beef Brisket, Pork and Crab. I ordered the Crab Souvlaki. The Souvlaki is served on pillowy marshmallow soft flat bread which encases the soft shell crab that comes with coriander, mint and mayonnaise. There are juices which flood out the bottom, but you are still left with so much flavour as you bite into these. The other souvlaki have a welcome addition of French fries which I think is a great idea. I first had French fries in my souvlaki when I visited Saudia Arabia and it was strange at first – but a welcome strangeness.

At this point we were all pretty full and wondered if we had ordered too much food. We still had the Baby Snapper from the Wood Fire Grill and the Chicken from the Wood Fire Spit to come. Together with this we ordered two Salads – Marouli – Iceberg Lettuce, Lemon, Olive Oil, Oregano and the Beetroot – Roasted, Pearl Barley, Peanut Hommus, Toursi Red Onion, Watercress. I couldn’t try the chicken from the wood fire spit – but my friends told me that it was a really great dish – the chicken was moist and the combination of the feta and the red capsicum (tyrokafteri) together with the white beans was tasty. The Baby Snapper from the Wood Fire Grill was great as well – the snapper was moist and not too dry. The fish on its own didn’t have as much flavour as I would have expected, but with the topping of chickpeas and caramelised onions it enhanced this flavour.

The Beetroot salad was one of my favourite dishes of the night. The Pearl Barley together was soft and together with the crunchy sweetness of the beetroot and the nutty hommus – presented the perfect balance of flavours. The Marouli salad was a simple flavoured salad was a great palate cleanser from all the flavours we had had.

Despite being quite full we couldn’t leave without trying out the desserts. And really everyone somehow has space for desserts. We placed our order and went with getting the Pavlova, Loukomathes, Brulee and Bombe Metaxa. It was 8:30pm at this point, and when I had made the booking was told that they would need the table back by that time. So we had to move over to the bar to have our desserts which we were totally fine with, but the waitress felt so bad and was apologising profusely (eventhough we knew we had to be out of there by a certain time) – see service is a sure winner here at Gazi. And for our troubles, she ended up not charging us for one of the desserts for being so nice about moving.

The Pavlova is a dessert with the WOW factor – it is a spherical meringue that has been shaped around a balloon and dusted with dehydrated raspberry and musk. Inside this meringue cave is ruby red grapefruit sorbet and pomegranate seeds. There are so many little surprises in this dish and it’s really a fun dish to eat. The meringue is crunchy and not too sweet. I love the addition of pomegranate seeds adding a bit of tang amongst all the sweetness. Another WOW factor dish was the Bombe Metaxa which states is for two people but really it is so big that it could easily feed more. The dish come out and looks somewhat like a white bee hive (meringue) – once it has been placed on the table, it is flambed right in front of you. Inside is Tsoureki which is Greek Bread that is similar to Brioche, layered with chocolate ice cream and chocolate wafer. The meringue on the Bombe Metaxa is soft and gooey, whereas the meringue on the pavlova is crunchy and crisp.

The Brulee comes with Date, Turkish Delight Crumble and was also delish. The brulee custard  itself was smooth and creamy and full of flavour – the addition of dates and Turkish delight further added to this. Lastly we had the Loukomathes which are served with Cocoa Nibs and Honey. These are Greek donuts and are served warm and are like eating fluffy clouds. Really delicious.

The atmosphere is buzzing and vibrant and the place is full of character. Everyone is there to have a good time at dinner and enjoy this bit of Greece right in the heart of the CBD and its so easy to do here at Gazi. It is welcome addition to the MADE establishment and to Colombaris’ repertoire. The service is fantastic and the food is really really delicious. I would definitely recommend this place to any of my friends. From the drinks to the desserts there isn’t much you can fault. And you really do need to visit to check out the terracotta pot art installation – so grab a group of friends and explore the menu.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – You can view the menu at http://gazirestaurant.com.au/menu/.
Direct link for the Dinner Menu – http://gazirestaurant.com.au/menu/pdf/lunch-dinner
Direct link for the Drinks Menu – http://gazirestaurant.com.au/storage/menu/Gazi_Beverage_List.pdf

There is a 10 course tasting menu including your choice of souvlaki for $69 per person called “Doing It Greek Style” and a
Lunch menu for $27.50 which is called “Bend Over Box” which is available Monday to Friday till 3pm – it includes dishes from savory to sweet.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Vibrant, Casual, Fun and Enjoyable. Bring a group of friends as most of the menu is for sharing dishes – this way you can sample the menu.
Standout Dish: Souvlakis, Roast Bull Horn Peppers, The Pavlova, Lambs Brains, Beetroot – Roasted, Pearl Barley, Peanut Hommus, Toursi Red Onion, Watercress (I couldn’t pick just one – so picked one from each section of the menu)
Service: Fantastic – Friendly and very helpful if you want to know anything about the dishes or even if you want to find out if the meat is halal.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://gazirestaurant.com.au/ Bookings are recommended but if its not your thing you can just walk in.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://gazirestaurant.com.au/
2 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9207 7444

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11:30am – 11:00pm