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

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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

The Press Club – Food with a Greek Twist

panda 4 rating
Drinks at Press Club Butter with Cod Flavoured Butter Peas, Pickled Mushroom, Marouli Tomato, Olive, Cucumber Salmon, Fosolakia, Skordalia Chicken, Corn, Kritharaki Fruits, Sorbet, Ice Cream Karythopita, Creme Fraiche, Cherry

The Press Club is a two-hatted restaurant owned by chef and restaurateur George Colombaris. The Press Club showcases Colombaris’ Greek heritage together with modern Australian dishes, and is one of the most popular venues in Melbourne.

Ever since I started to watch Masterchef and there was a challenge where the contestants had to cook at The Press Club, I wanted to try out the Degustation menu with the distinctive Aphrodite dessert. However, I never got around to visiting and the dessert no longer exists, yet I still had to make to this famous venue. Previously, I had only come here late one night for a dessert fix and found the desserts were absolutely delectable, so high expectations were set for the food.

The Press Club is a classy yet welcoming place – there are dark floors, a wooden ceiling which have dangling light globes and beautiful textured wallpaper. Tables are decked out with a white table cloth and have a spot of colour in the form of an orange water glass (which I loved!), and are spaced out perfectly and is what adds the casualness to the place. The staff are friendly, passionate and knowledgeable and make the place even warmer. The kitchen is an open style theatre and allows diners to look at the chefs preparing meals. Just at the front of the open kitchen is a marble table which serves as a “Chef’s Table,” where diners can see the chefs plating up dishes right in front of them. The restaurant exudes elegance and class.

My friends and I arrived for a lunchtime meal and had three options menuwise to select from – Mini Symposium Degustation, The Kerasma or the Business Lunch. The Mini Symposium Degustation was 6 courses that each person on the table would get, The Kerasma was the ” To Treat and To Share” menu, where the entire table would have a selection of Tastes, Small, Main and Dessert dishes to share and lastly, the Business Lunch where you could either select from 2 or 3 courses. We decided to do the Business Lunch and I opted for the 3 courses.

The meal started off with complimentary bread that came with house-made salted cod roe butter. There were two different types of bread available – olive and plain. I wasn’t a massive fan of the salted cod roe butter (due to not being a massive fan of cod), however the rest of the table did enjoy it and said it complimented the breads, and was especially suited to the olive bread. The butter itself was airy, light and fluffy and the texture was perfect. For my first course I had the Peas, Pickled Mushroom, Marouli which I thought was a very fresh dish made from the freshest of ingredients. The ingredients worked well together and had a great after taste as well – clean and delicious. I would have liked more of the avocado to be added, but that’s just being picky.

My next dish was Salmon, Fosolakia, Skordalia. Fosolakia is the Greek for beans and Skordalia is a thick puree made of crushed garlic with a thick base such as potatoes etc. The Salmon was the perfect pink colouring and cooked to perfection with the right amount of crispness in the skin. Matched together with the beans and the puree sauce – it made for a great combination and was my favourite dish of the day. The fish was juicy and flavoursome and the beans provided the texture in the form a great crunch.

For dessert I had the Karythopita, Creme Fraiche, Cherry – which was a de-constructed cheesecake / walnut cake. This dish was good but not great. The crumble was fresh and tasted great. The main cheesecake / walnut cake part was nice and had great texture and flavour, but as a whole I thought this dish could have been a whole lot better. My friend had the Fruits and Sorbet Ice cream – three different house-made flavours of sorbet with fresh fruit. The flavours were deceiving and not what you would expect from the colours that you see. Worth trying!

Overall the food and ambience of The Press Club is fantastic and the staff are friendly and attentive. You can fire off any questions you have about the menu or drinks and they will tell you the answers, and if they don’t know it they wouldn’t hesitate to go and find out. Perfect service! The quality of the food is fantastic and you can tell that real care and love has been put into every dish.

The Press Club has announced on its site that it will be closing in March 2013 and a complete refurbishment of this space will welcome Gazi’, an informal restaurant inspired by the street food of Athens. For more information please visit their website – http://www.thepressclub.com.au/newsreviews.html

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$$
Menu –There are many menus to select from – Lunch menu (http://www.thepressclub.com.au/lunchmenu.html) – which consists of the Keresma, Business Lunch and Mini Symposium Degustation Menus, Dinner Menus (http://www.thepressclub.com.au/dinnermenu.html) – which is the Symposium Degustation where you can select from either 5 or 8 courses
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Classy, Elegant and Inviting
Standout Dish: Salmon, Fosolakia, Skordalia. Fosolakia
Service: Fantastic, Friendly, Attentive and Knowledgeable. Outsanding service!
Online Booking: Yes and Reservations are Essential – via http://www.thepressclub.com.au/bookings.html
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.thepressclub.com.au/index.html
72 Flinders St, Melbourne
Tel No: 9677 9677

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Monday – Sunday: 12pm to 3pm
Dinner
Monday – Sunday: 6pm to 10pm

The Press Club on Urbanspoon

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

Virginia Plain – Contemporary European Cuisine

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Virginia Plain is Marco Santucci’s newly opened European styled restaurant, which is located next door Cumulus Inc on Flinders Lane in Melbourne. Former Vue du Monde head Chef Andy Harmer is at the helm of the kitchen, together with Flo Gerardin and Andrew Wright. The venue is massive (one of the largest in the CBD in fact) and seats 120 guests and boasts a bar that is 18m long, which is the focal point of the restaurant. The vibe is casual and the place is spacious and artistically designed. The tables are wooden and sturdy, the chairs are comfortable and if you score yourself the couch side along the walls- very soft. There isn’t much lighting around, and I wondered once it got to well into the night, if you would be able to see anything (Despite the lack of lighting, it does stay well lit even late into the night).

My friend and I decide to try out the 4 course degustation menu which we are told showcases some of their best dishes. At this point I have to say that the prices for the degustation meals are very reasonable. Four courses will set you back $55 (which includes 3 savoury courses and 1 dessert course) and if you wanted matching wines – $75. There is also a seven course degustation available for $89 (which includes 5 savoury courses, 1 cheese course and 1 dessert course).

Whilst we wait for our meals to come out we are given warm sourdough bread which is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, and came in a little cloth bread pouch. Our first course was an “egg course.” This was a described as a slow cooked egg sitting on top of parsnip crisps and sorrel, served with a brown sugar sauce together with a bruschetta crisp and finished with fresh parmesan. The egg was cooked perfectly and when you cracked the white casing, the yolk was the right consistency and gooey. The Brown sugar sauce was my favourite addition on the dish, and I really think this brought together all the other flavours of the dish. My friend had the addition of the jamon in her dish as well.

The next dish we received was their version of a tart – Tomato tart with goats cheese, beets & lambs lettuce. I wasn’t a fan of this dish. It did however come beautifully presented, but I think there needed to be more flavour added. It just seemed like a dish where different elements were put together but somehow didn’t all match. The puff pastry which formed the base of the tart was buttery and deliciously crunchy.

For what was lacking in the second course, was definitely made up in the third (and final savoury) course – Roasted King fish fillet with three cheese crust baby calamari with Vongole sauce. This dish was spectacular! I haven’t had a fish dish which came with a cheese crust before, and this simply addition made a whole lot of difference. It added not only texture but great flavour to the fish. The fish was seared and cooked fantastically and was soft and flavoursome. The vongole sauce was another definite highlight of the dish. It added depth and brought the whole dish together, along with the clams and calamari. Highly recommend this dish for not only fish or seafood lovers, but anyone.

Dessert came served in a glass and we were told this was their take of the Banoffi Pie (called the Hungry Monks Banoffi Pie) and consisted of caramelised banana, semifreddo condensed milk, Genoa sponge (génoise), Dulce de Leche caramel, topped with milk foam and rice crispies at the bottom.  I have never been a fan of banana’s in my dessert, however this was an interesting take. I liked the layering of the Banoffi Pie and the best way to eat it is to get every layer in a mouthful. The flavours worked well together, and the rice crispies added a welcome crunch. The dessert was very sweet, and I couldn’t finish the whole dish.

The food was good and the service was attentive, pleasant and friendly. We had waitresses come up to us during each of our courses and ask us if everything was alright. One gripe however, was the temperature in the restaurant, it was quite cold and I had to put my jacket on halfway through the night. I do want to come back and try food from their a la carte menu and that may change my rating.

Rating : 3 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – You can either do A la Carte, Have a Degustation – 4 courses for $55, Bring it on (7 courses) for $89. They also serve Bar Snacks – check the menus out at http://virginiaplain.com.au/menus/
Fullness: 90%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual and Comfortable. Great for a group function or work get together.
Standout Dish: Roasted King fish fillet with three cheese crust baby calamari with vongole sauce
Service: Friendly, Pleasant and Attentive
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://virginiaplain.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://virginiaplain.com.au/
31 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9290 0400

Opening Hours:
Monday to Wednesday: 11am – Midnight
Thursday to Saturday: 11am -1pm
CLOSED SUNDAYS

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