The Grain Store – European Dinner Flair

panda 4 rating

Menu:
The Grain Store Menu for the night

I have been a HUGE fan of The Grain Store ever since its inception (check out my previous blog here for them – https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/the-grain-store-honest-cooking/ )– initially starting off with trying their breakfast menu (a few times!) and then branching out to try their lunch menu. I loved all of their food, ingredients and plating up of dishes. So naturally I was excited when I received an invite from Zilla & Brook,  to try out their latest dinner offering at an intimate bloggers’ dinner.

On arrival we were all greeted and asked to select from a choice of drinks. I opted for Hepburn Mineral Springs Organic Lemonade which was refreshing and perfect after walking from Southgate to the venue.

As the rest of the bloggers started to arrive, we received small starters which were elegantly presented in clear egg shaped glass cups. You could see the distinction of two layers through the clear glass – a savoury mushroom jelly topped with a layer of pumpkin foam and finished with a crisp triangle of chickpea biscuit. The combination was delicious – the vibrant mushroom flavour paired with the sweetness of the pumpkin. The silky jelly combined with the smooth foam was a texture party for your senses.

Once we had all sampled the starter we were led into an intimate private dining room which had been set up especially for us. It was a cosy group of about 15 of us – which was the perfect size. When we were all seated, head chef Ingo Meissner came out to say hello and gave us some information about the Grain Store – its background, philosophy and ideologies. Meissner himself is from Europe and hence there are many Mediterranean and French influences throughout the menu – that utilise both traditional and new techniques.
The Grain Store sources local produce – for example the Burrata is from Carlton, the duck is from Daylesford. But their main point of difference is that they have their very own Rooftop Garden where they grow seasonal produce – as well as the pretty flowers, petals for that little bit of jazz when plating up – that ends up on your plate. What a great idea!

The night started off with Entrees which was a selection of three small dishes – all plated up on the one plate which I thought was a great idea to showcase a variety of their dishes succinctly. These dishes included:
Green asparagus, burrata, char-grilled orange, black barley, hazelnut, rosemary sablé
Poached veal fillet, avocado, tuna mayonnaise, charred shallots, white anchovies, caper berries
Pan seared scallops, smoked eggplant, butternut boudin noir sandwich, ricotta lemon curd, crisp leeks
As I couldn’t have the Poached Veal Fillet – I was substituted with a salad consisting of a variety of ingredients.

The plating up of this dish was done really well – with the standout definitely being the bright purple cauliflower; everyone was wondering what taste they would have when they took their first bit into it. The cauliflower had been beetroot cured and therefore had a bit of tang to it – really good! Each of the components worked well together and I especially loved the black barley – which not only added texture but a great earthy tone to the dish. I loved the addition of orange to this dish to add an element of sweet and citrus.

The scallop component was definite highlight amongst the other dishes on this Entrée plate – the scallop had been seared to perfection and flavoured well. The butternut boudin noir sandwich was a welcome component adding a sweet touch to combine with the ricotta and lemon curd. I enjoyed the finish of the crisp leek – adding depth to the dish.

Next up was the mains – we were served alternative dishes between a Fish dish and a Duck dish – Free range Aylesbury duck breast, fennel slaw, Nicola potato, crème fraiche, caramelised carrot and pine nuts. There was a resounding “delicious” for the guests in the room that had this dish – with the duck being succulently cooked and the flavours of the fennel furthur enhancing the duck flavour. The Nicola potato component that it came served was glistening and looked divine!

I had the Lakes Entrance Dory fillets, new season asparagus, soft herb spätzle, charred corn salsa. This dish was plated up simply, yet it was a colourful visual spectacle. The star attraction was the fish which front and centre and sat on a green bed of soft herb spätzle (I asked Ingo later how it was made and he told me that it was made much like that of pasta – with flour and eggs, with the addition of herbs to give it that vibrant green colour), and surrounded by the asparagus and the charred corn salsa. Each component added flavour and texture to the dish. The Dory fillets were lightly battered on the outside and cooked well – resulting in soft white kernels of delicious fish on the inside. I loved the look, feel and taste of the spätzle – it was the first time I was eating this and I was highly intrigued – it is the type of dish that you keep going back for more as it is easy to eat and tastes great. The charred corn salsa had the perfect level of smokiness that worked well with the simple flavours of the fish. I would definitely recommend this dish!

Whilst we were eating our mains we were also given polenta chips topped with herbs and salt – which came out stacked like a jenga game. They were really tasty as well – crispy on the outside with a dense softness on the inside. A really great side dish addition to enhance your food experience.

It had been a great night of conversation and simply designed tasty food so far but my favourite part of any meal was still to come. For dessert we lucky enough to be served a selection of desserts which included – Black forest gateau, chocolate ganache, cherries, vanilla kirsch panna cotta, coca nibs together with a Grain Store Soufflé (Strawberry with Goats Cheese sorbet and fresh strawberries).
It was a tough choice of deciding where to begin on this sweet delight. I started with the black forest gateau – dense, rich and with added flavour from the berry centre. The chocolate ganache was the bomb – smooth, silky and full of chocolate goodness – you could seriously eat bucket loads of this ganache. The vanilla panna cotta came in a pyramid bite size piece – it was creamy and yet another delicious component.
The Grain Store Soufflé was delightful – light, soft, melt in your mouth and filled with a strawberry flavour. A truly great dish! I wasn’t a huge fan of the goats cheese sorbet that was its accompaniment and felt soufflé on its own was all that was needed.

The night was a fantastic event to meet new people and exchange stories, compare notes – all in the name of food – and more! The Grain Store should be a place that should be added to your list of restaurants that you must try in Melbourne – be if for breakfast, lunch or dinner. All dishes that I have tried here are delicious and well worth the effort.

Disclaimer: Grazing Panda was invited to dine at The Grain Store as a guest by Zilla & Brook, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Homely, Elegant and Inviting
Standout Dish:
Service: Friendly and Attentive
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.grainstore.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.grainstore.com.au/
517 Flinders Lane
Tel No: 9972 6993

Opening Hours:
Breakfast & Lunch
Monday to Friday: 7:00 am – 4:00 pm
Saturday to Sunday: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Dinner
Wednesday to Saturday: 6:00 pm – 9:30 pm

The Grain Store on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/grainstore517
Instagram: GrainStore517
Twitter:@GrainStore517

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Fenix – Venue with a View

Dinner at Fenix was my second time here. This time it was for a girlfriends Hens Night, the previous time it was for Lunch. I have to admit that when I was told that we were going to Fenix for dinner, I wasn’t looking forward to it because the last time when I came for lunch I wasn’t very impressed. The food was not bad, but from a Gary Mehigan restaurant I was expecting a LOT more. But I have to say that the experience and the food this time around was a lot better and the food was delicious! Not all dishes were fantastic but a majority of the dishes we had were great tasting dishes and all the girls enjoyed their meals. One thing that is consistent is the service – both times it was impeccable and friendly.

Fenix is owned by Masterchef Judge and Chef Gary Mehigan in the picturesque part of Richmond with overlooking views of the Yarra River. The restaurant is split level and impressive with its floor to ceiling glass windows surrounding the whole venue to allow for the views. On the higher level, there is a fire place which sets the mood to cosy and is great for those wintry Melbourne nights. The set up is formal yet somewhat casual at the same time and the friendly staff do make you feel at ease. Fenix upstairs also serves as a reception centre for weddings or cocktail functions. For further info refer to the following link – http://www.fenix.com.au/page/Weddings.

As we walked into Fenix and were shown to our table we were greeted by none other than Gary Mehigan himself. Gary went around to each of the tables that night and said hello and had a little chat which I thought was a very nice touch. When he came over to our table (of 15 girls mind you) he obliged to take a photo with about 8 different cameras. Gary was very obliging and even suggested different poses for the different cameras.

My friend who had booked for the Hen’s Dinner was told at the time of booking that we would need to pick from the set menu either 2 or 3 courses, however when we got there and were looking at the menu’s we were told that we could pick from the A la Carte menu and choose any of the dishes, so we didn’t have that restriction. This was very nice of them as we had free reign on the menu. Most of the girls had  selection of Entrées and main, whilst some had all three courses – Entrée, Main and Dessert (Yes…I was one of them =p).

For the Entrée I ordered Blue Swimmer Crab Stuffed Zucchini Flowers with Cashews and Black Garlic Dressing. These Zucchini Flowers were very tasty and the right amount of seasoning. The Crab was cooked perfectly and together with the black garlic dressing made for a great combination. The other Entrée I tried was the Atlantic Salmon Ceviche with Watermelon, Persian Feta and Coriander Shoot Salad. The mixture of salmon with the fresh flavours of the watermelon was delicious! This Entrée was actually one of my favourite dishes of the night. The addition of lime added the extra tang and further enhanced the feta used.

My main dish was Yellow fin tuna & spanner crab spaghettini, confit tomatoes, olives & lemon. There was an addition of caviar and breadcrumbs. I really enjoyed the breadcrumbs which added to the texture of the dish. The spaghettini was nicely flavoured, however I wasnt a fan of the yellow fin tuna. The yellow fin tuna still had an overly “fishy” taste and some bits were dry. I also tried the Ricotta & basil gnocchi, Otway forest shiitake mushrooms, spring peas. This is one of the best Gnocchi dishes I have tasted. The gnocchi was melt in your mouth and as I am a huge fan of mushrooms, was the best compliment to the dish. The Squid Ink Risotto, Seared Japanese Scallops, Green Asparagus Salad was also great. There was a tang mixed in with the flavours of squid and scallops. All dishes were of a generous serving size and were really filling. I was regretting ordering dessert!

For Dessert my order was Dan’s decadent chocolate trifle passion fruit jelly, hazelnut crunch. The aim of the dish is to get every layer in one mouthful. The addition of popcorn on the top was an interesting addition that you dont usually see on many desserts. This added for an extra texture amongst the trifle, jelly and crunch. The other desserts ordered were presented beautifully and tasted just as great. The Baked orange cheesecake, citrus salad, blood orange sorbet also came with some edible flowers on the side, which added extra colour and pop.  The Bourbon vanilla bean crème brûlée, chocolate & honey madelines I was told was amazing and a definite must try.

I must say that my experience at Fenix the second time around was fantastic and the food was of higher and better quality than the first time around. The venue is great and the dishes tasty. And also you might just get a photo op with Gary himself.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Various Menus – go to http://www.fenix.com.au/page/Restaurant – there are variety of menus, from Spring Dinner Menus, Express Lunch, Sunday Set Lunch, Dinner, Breakfast and Bar Snacks
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Classy – a room with a view of Melbourne from 55 floors up
Standout Dish:
Service:
Online Booking: Yes via http://www.fenix.com.au/page/Book_a_Table
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.fenix.com.au/
680 Victoria St, Richmond
Tel No: 9427 8500

Opening Hours:
Coffee – from 8:00am daily
Breakfast: Saturday & Sunday: from 8:30am onwards
Lunch: Monday to Saturday:  12:00 – 3:00pm
Sunday Lunch: Set lunch from 12:00 – 4:00pm
Dinner: Monday to Satuday: 6:00 pm – Late

Fenix on Urbanspoon