Thaiger – Burgers with a Thai Twist

panda 4 rating

Having recently been to Fomo Thai and following them on Instagram – I learnt that the same owners were opening another place in the city. This time their focus would be simple and different – it would be all about burgers.

Thaiger Burger is the newly opened burger joint – located at The Walk Arcade in Causeway Lane in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. The point of difference with these burgers is their distinct Thai influence and flavourings. The shop itself is located next door to the ever busy Sushi Monger and does well with its small space. There aren’t many seating options available – four orange stools are available but during busy periods you will get interrupted by waiting customers. There is also a cosy little cubby hole that you can sit in whilst you wait for your burger to be made.

The space albeit being small is utilized well – as you walk up the stairs you are greeted buy an orange neon tiger symbol which works brilliantly against the backdrop of diamond shaped, shades of grey tiles. You have full view into the kitchen and can watch as each burger is carefully handcrafted – right from the base of the bun, to watching as each layer of ingredient is added as your bun grows in size to the packaging up of your burger.

Just past the cosy cubbyhole on your left hand side is the menu wall – which boasts their current menu of 14 different burgers – ranging from Crying Thaiger (Grilled Medium Rare Beef Rump Steak, Mixed Leaves, Nam Jim Joew dressing, Chik Chik Bang Bang (Crispy Chicken Thigh Fillet, Thai Sweet Chilli Mayo, Tomato, Lettuce, Sliced Boiled Egg) to the Pow Nim Black Burger (Crispy Soft Shell Crab, Granny Smith Asian Slaw, Sweet and Tangy Dressing). There is one vegetarian option at the moment – Green Thaiger – Pan-fried tofu, Enoki Mushrooms, Corn Fritter, Seasame Soy Mayo, as well as 3 Seafood Options. There are also your classic cheese burgers on offer, as well as a double cheese double beef burger.

For those who don’t feel like burgers, there are 5 salads on offer as well. For fries/chip lovers – there is also a serving of sweet potato fries available – a somewhat healthier option.

I was tossing up between the Pow Nim Black Burger and the Tom Yum Goong burger and decided to go with the latter in the end. The Tom Yum Goong – Grilled Spicy Prawns, Fresh Herbs, Coriander, Crispy Lettuce, Tom Yum Mayo. It was exactly what I was hoping for in terms of taste and flavour combinations. The Tom Yum flavour was vibrant and the main flavouring of the burger – it was like having the soup but in a burger form – it was simply delicious. The prawns were cooked perfectly, and the bun was soft which made it easier to bite into. The burger did fall apart towards the end with the filling remaining at the bottom.
The packaging is both cute and smart – a half-box with the Thaiger branding on it – with your burger sitting upright all set for the prime position for you to put your hands on and delve right into it. It’s smart as when the filling of your burger does fall through it just ends up in the box so you can still eat it (instead of ending up on the floor!

The friends that I went with were all impressed with their respective burgers – P got the Green Thaiger, T got the Chik Chik Bang Bang and K got the Crying Tiger (Grilled medium rare beef rump steak, mixed leaves,”Nam Jim Jaew” dressing). K did however comment that the beef in his burger was a tad bit chewy. T wanted to come back and try the whole range out and I definitely wanted to come and try the Black Burger.

The service can be a tad bit slow, however once you get your burger you forget the waiting time.

Thaiger is a great addition to the world of burgers – especially since my favourite cuisine is Thai! Not only do the burgers have interesting names but have an interesting mix of flavours and combinations which I am sure most people will enjoy. Check them out!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to http://www.thaiger.com.au/home.html
Service: Can be a tad bit slow especially during peak times, but it is well worth the wait
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.thaiger.com.au/home.html
Shop 16 The Walk Arcade
309-325 Bourke St
Tel No: 9329 9446

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11:00am – 4:00pm

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Thaiger/738112479587198?fref=ts
Instagram: thaiger_burger
Thaiger on Urbanspoon

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Stagger Lee’s – Vintage Cool

panda 4 rating

stagger lee

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Menu:
Stagger Lee's Menu
Stagger Lees Drinks

It was a long awaited catch-up for the four of us – G, J, M and myself – and we decided to stick to something that was central between the four of us. This place happened to be Stagger Lee’s – located on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy.  I have heard many good things about this place ever since it opened up and was keen to check it out for myself.

Stagger Lee’s is brought to you by the people of Proud Mary – it is a collaboration between Proud Mary owner Nolan Hirte, former Proud Mary general Manager Monica Chhay, Head Chef Chris Hamburger (ex The Aylesbury, St Ali North) and Mun Soon of MGS Architects and owner of Krimper Cafe (refer to https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/krimper-cafe-hidden-warehouse-style-treasure/ for my blog review of Krimper Cafe).

Stagger Lee’s is named after a pimp / bad-ass from St Louis – he infamously shot a cell mate in the 1900s for stealing his red Stetson hat and since this time over 400 musicians have retold the story of Stagger Lee. Here at Stagger Lee – this story reinforces the fact to “stick to your guns” and to “stand up for yourself” and most importantly are being the “bad-ass” of Ftizroy when it comes to great coffee and ingenious food.

The vibe is typical of what you would expect of the Brunswick / Fitzroy area – but with a whole lot more fun and excitement. There are exposed brick walls, concrete floors and huge glass windows which let the morning sunlight stream in. It’s a bit industrial, a bit indie – but rest assured feels welcoming and warm. There are wooden slatted tables for parties of varying sizes, as well as two large communal tables at the front – paired with metal chairs. There is both inside and Outside Street seating as well – they utilise their space well in terms of catering as many seats as possible without being too squishy. There are splashes of green thanks to the weatherboard effect around the kitchen window at the back of the venue, as well as the salt and pepper grinders placed on the tables and the coffee cups by the coffee machine. There are the usual filament lights that hang for lighting that I love as well.

The coffee here is a little bit different – they do not serve blends – only single origin espresso and filter coffees are being offered – and are pumped out of the stark white Synesso machine. They also use a EK 43 grinder which means they are getting the best extractions possible for the customers – allowing them to deliver some of the best coffee in town. I ordered a latte which was full bodied, strong and nutty and was perfect to wake me up first thing in the morning. The creamy after taste thanks to the fresh milk was also great. The decision not to blend comes from the work Proud Mary has been doing with the farms in Brazil and the quality of the single origin beans that work well with the milk without needing to be blended – and from my experience with their coffees this is working fantastically.

Another difference from Proud Mary is that they have a liquor license and look to open a few nights a week down the track.  They serve up wine, local and international beers and specially made cocktails – there is even one that contains cold drip coffee! Aside from specialising in coffee – they do also have an interesting list of juices, smoothies and milkshakes – with interesting names to match. Juices include Lance Armstrong (Carrot, Beetroot, Lemon, Ginger) and The Regulate (Apples, Strawberries, Coconut Water), there is a milkshake called Gangsta Milkshake, Crooks ‘n’ Creams – which is of course based on cookies and cream.

The food menu designed by Chris Hamburger (what a cool name!) is described as simple and sexy comfort food – and it really does comply.  The menu is split into a breakfast and lunch menu – both of which are available all day and there are gltuten-free, vegan and vegetarian options. There are dishes that covers all the main protein dishes that you would want to eat including lamb, bacon, beef, quail, chorizo and ham hock. From reading the menu you might not think these dishes really cut it – but trust me they do! There are your usual suspects such as Toast, Fruit Toast, Bircher Muesli, Granola and Porridge – but what makes it unique is the offerings that come with these basics. For example the porridge is buckwheat porridge together with chia, banana and honey. The first dish that caught my eye was the Coco Pop and Salted Caramel French Toast – I mean they had me at Coco Pop! The four of us quickly decided to share this amongst ourselves, thereby reserving some space for a proper savoury breakfast (and trying out more of the menu – win!). There are also dishes such as Shrooms ‘n’ Truffles which comes with Truffled Polenta, Poached Egg and Pepito, a Roasted Cauliflower and Quail dish, a Roasted Lamb dish that comes with Humms, Raisins and Toast as well as a Stacked Burger that comes with croquettes and greens.

When we arrived on this Sunday morning (around 10:30am) Stagger Lee’s was packed out already and we had to wait about 10 minutes for a table for the four of us. Initially we were given an area on the communal table all in a row – which would have made it hard for us to chat. However the staff had miscounted the number of seats and promptly moved us to a table which suited us better – making it easier for us to chat. Most of us ordered coffees to start and G ordered a juice whilst we decided what we wanted to eat. G ordered the Nice Pear – Apple, Pear, Mint, Lime. Juices come served in a generous size jar, with two big fresh mint leaves for more flavour- the juice was refreshing, tangy and produced a great flavour combination. M ordered the Frank ‘n’ Beans – Saffron Baked Beans, Smoked Ham Hock, Chorizo, Soft Poached Egg, Herb and Garlic Crumb Toast. The dish comes out presented well – the saffron baked beans together with the ham hock are at the base of the dish, with the poached egg and chorizo placed on top and finished with the garlic crumb toast. The Garlic Crumb Toast smelt and looked delicious – crispy on the outside and soft and filled with flavour on the inside. M seemed to enjoy her dish and the flavours – the poached egg was cooked to perfection with golden gooey goodness.

G originally ordered The Mexican – Soft Shell Corn Tortillas, Charred Corn, Lime and Tomatillo Salsa, Avocado, Fried Eggs, Creme Fraiche, Herbs. However, she has an allergic reaction to sesame seeds and some nuts, and although I don’t think that this dish had any of that, she started to get a reaction and therefore had to order something else. The dish came plated out with two tortillas, with the fried egg placed in side and topped with the charred corn, lime and tomatillo salsa and avocado, and finished with crème fraiche. The flavours were typically Mexican and the addition of the fried egg with its gooey runny yolk gave it the breakfast element.

J ordered the Smoked Trout Salad – House Smoked Ocean Trout, Grilled Asparagus, Soft Poached Egg, Butter Poached Potatoes, Shaved Fennel, Preserved Lemon Aioli and Green Goddess – which was quite the colourful dish thanks to the salmon colour of the ocean trout, purple colour of the radicchio, green colour of the salad and the white colour of the poached egg and lemon aioli. J did enjoy this dish and rated it better than The Mexican – the smokiness of the trout, together with the grilled asparagus and brilliance of the poached egg was a winner.

I ordered the The Fitz Royale – Grilled Asparagus, Cashew Cheese, Avocado, Fresh Herbs, Pea Tendrils and Citrus with a Poached Egg. The dish comes out with the fresh herbs being the centre of attention on the plate – the other components – toast, cashew cheese, avocado, grilled asparagus hidden underneath. The poached egg and the lemon slice are placed to the side. My favourite part of this dish was the cashew cheese which was placed like a spread on the toast – it was tangy and creamy all at the same time. Together with the subtle flavours of the asparagus and the softness of the avocado the flavours worked in perfect harmony. A great dish for asparagus lovers.

The last dish that we all got to sample was the Coco Pop and Salted Caramel French Toast – Coco Pop Cream Pat, Vanilla Ice Cream, Honeycomb and Raspberry Crumb. I don’t think much explaining needs to be done to understand how good a dish it really was. The plating wasn’t as clean as I had expected, as the Coco Pop Cream Pat resembled a messy blob, but I guess the consistency and texture of it didn’t help. I loved the mix of textures from the softness of the toast, cream pat and ice cream mixed together with the harder and grittier textures in the form of the tangy raspberry crumb, sweetness of the honeycomb and the pop of the cocoa pops sprinkled around. Overall I thought the flavours worked well together (I would have liked more raspberry crumb) – and was a great colourful dish that was the perfect way to end our meal at Stagger Lee’s.

The staff are quite accommodating and helpful, but are hard to get a hold of due to the sheer number of people they have to cater for. However, the wait to get their attention wasn’t too long. If you get a seat near the back of the venue – you can peer into the kitchen window and watch the chefs busily keeping up with the incoming orders. Even with the volume of orders –they keep a cool, calm and collected exterior and get on with the job.

There are also sweet treats that you can purchase from the counter – lamingtons, cupcakes, tarts and friands just to name a few.

Stagger Lee’s is a great addition to the grungy Fitzroy area and brings a somewhat homely and funky venue here. The vibe is buzzing, the place is warm, the menu is simple and unique and the staff friendly and always with a smile. Get down this weekend and check it out for yourself. The next time I come back – I am definitely trying the Shrooms ‘n’ Mushrooms.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – There is an all day breakfast and lunch menu – refer above to the pictures or look at http://staggerlees.com.au/food/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Casual and Welcoming – a great place that you can spend of your day in.
Standout Dish:
Service: Friendly, sometimes it can be hard to their attention.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://staggerlees.com.au/
276 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Tel No: 9419 5564

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7am – 4pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8am – 4pm

Stagger Lee's on Urbanspoon

Northern Lights Bar & Eatery – Fusion Food with Fanciful Lights

panda 4 rating 
Love the Lights!

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Menu:
Northern Light Menu

We needed a place to have dinner after a full day at the Good Food and Wine show in the Fitzroy / Collingwood area, as we were heading to drinks in that area later. I referred to my trusty list of places I wanted to go and realised Northern Light Bar & Eatery worked perfectly.

Northern Light is located on Smith Street in Collingwood – in what used to be the old Gigibaba. Venue owners are Adam Liston and Glen Bagnara (ex-Chester White) together with manager Emily Pullen, and they have created a fusion Chinese and Japanese eatery that is all about shared dishes. Clearly the years Liston spent in Shanghai were utilised in the creation of the menu and the idea behind Northern Light.

From the moment you step in you feel like you are transported to another world – almost forest like (hence the name) – thanks to the plethora of dangling combination of light bulbs and lanterns. It’s beautiful. The next thing your eyes are drawn to is the marble white bar that takes up the length of the venue, finished with dark wood. There is seating all along the bar, along with lower tables at the front which has a massive white decorative mirror overlooking it. Exposed brick walls and mood lighting completes the look.

The menu designed by Liston and is split into 6 different sections – Snacks, Plates, Cooked over Binchotan, Meat, fish & Vegetables, Sides and finishes with Desserts. You can pick from the enticing dishes yourself or have the banquet menu – 5 courses for $55 and 7 courses for $75. Snack dishes include Spiced Prawn Cracker, a golden egg, Plate dishes which are slightly larger consists of an edamame dish with kimchi sauce, an interesting eel dish and air dried Blackbmore beef. Cooked over the Binchotan have a selection of skewers that come in the form of mushroom, chicken, beef or pork belly. The meat, fish & vegetable section include soba noodles, suckling pig, a smoked trout okonomiyaki and lamb ribs. There are three different sides to choose from as well three different desserts.

The drink menu includes Sapporo on tap along with other drink options include cider, wine, and a concise selection of cocktails. I ordered a mocktail of mint and pineapple and it was quite tasty.

We have a few dietary requirements and the staff are happy to help us out and let us know which dishes are Gluten-free. With that knowledge we decide to order for ourselves – there are four of us – and get a couple of dishes from each section. What I also liked was that each time a dish came out – the staff explained what the dish was and each component.

We start off with the Golden Egg, Caramel, Fried Shallot, Furikake. This came highly recommended from the staff, and after eating this dish we could see why. The dish was quite a colourful dish thanks to the blue background of the plate together with the fried shallots and furikake (nori, seasame and chilli) all adding to the colourfulness. The golden egg was perfectly soft centered – it had been poached and then flash fried to create a crackling outer shell that had been rolled in caramel. The dish was finished with the onion as well as the furikake and worked extremely well together. It was a combination of spice, salt, sugar, crunch and gooeyness – try it out for yourselves.

The Sichuan Spiced School Prawns, Curry Mayo were up next. There was a bit division here with this dish but only with regards to the Curry Mayo – half of us liked it and half of us didn’t. I was on team I LIKE THE MAYO – it was an interesting combination and I think it worked well with the flavour of the prawns. The Sichuan spiced prawns on the other hand was a clear winner – everyone loved it and we sat around discussing how we could recreate this dish at home. They were perfectly crunchy and flavoured well and you could sit there eating them all day!

The Edamame, Broccolini, Gai Lan, Kimchi Sauce was an interesting dish. I am obsessed with Broccolini at the moment, so when I saw this as one of the components I had to get it. The Edamame came already out of the pod – which was a bit disappointing – the whole fun attributed to popping them yourself was missing, however I get why it was done for this dish. The dish was fresh and tasty thanks to the kimchi sauce.

Next up was the Eel unagi, Squid Sauce, salted Grapes, Mojama. This was a really great dish! A hadn’t ever had eel before and she tried it for the first time here and quite enjoyed it. The dish was presented interestingly, with grape halves dispersed amongst the eel, which lay on top of the squid sauce and topped with mojama (salt-preserved tuna). The eel was smooth and had a smoky flavour which worked well when coupled with the sweetness of the grapes and the saltiness of the mojama. A dish well worth ordering.

The Air dried Blackmore beef, wasabi, yolk, fried potato was another interestingly plated up dish – the main focus was the nest of thin potato slices that you needed to push aside to reveal the vibrant Blackmore beef and the bright yolk. The dish was completed with fresh wasabi, horseradish and sorrel leaves. The boys quite enjoyed the beef dish and said it was interesting to have it combined with the walk runny yolk.

The Wagyu oyster blade skewers with Bulldog Sauce were a hit as well. They are quite small in size and I am sure they all could have eaten another three skewers each – they were that easy to eat – tender and flavoursome, and the bulldog sauce always makes things more interesting.

I used to order vegetarian okonomiyakis all the time and really enjoyed the dish, so was interested to see what Northern Light’s version would taste like. We ordered the Smoked trout, salted shrimp okonomiyaki, katsuobushi (this is the Japanese name for dried, fermented and smoked skip jack tuna). We were all enthralled by this dish when it was placed in front of us as we saw pieces of food moving – this turned out to be the katsuobushi. When placed on hot food, the heat waves causes the thin and light katsuobushi to move about which made the dish seem alive with the “dancing” katsuobushi. The dish resembled a seafood omelette and was quite tasty – however we found it a tad bit too salty. The saltiness took over the other flavours of the dish so I couldn’t really taste the smokiness of the trout.

To accompany the dishes we had ordered we also ordered the Warm soba noodles, wild mushrooms, white sesame and the Vegetarian Fried Rice. The soba noodle dish I loved – anything combined with mushrooms and sesame to me is brilliant. The noodles weren’t overcooked either so all in all a good dish.

After all the dishes we got try I actually was quite full and wasn’t really considering dessert – but I am glad that I decided to change my mind at the last minute. I ordered the Broken Ice Cream Sandwich. This was yet another interestingly presented dish – it came out with jagged edged shards made out of chocolate and reminiscent of a hardened cake – placed in form of a tent shape. Once you open this fort like surrounds you reveal a luscious and creamy vanilla ice cream rectangle chunk, which is topped with dollops of equally creamy chocolate mousse and gooey salted caramel. The combination of these three elements together was spectacular and it was the best end to a great meal. Who knew something so simple when put together could taste so great!

We apparently beat the Saturday night rush as we had a pretty early dinner – around 6pm and left around 7:30pm. So if you want to beat the rush go early! Northern Light Bar & Eatery is a great place to just hang out and enjoy some great Japanese/Chinese inspired dishes whether it be with a group of four people or even a romantic night out. The mood is casual and relaxed, the staff really friendly and those multiple hanging lights are a winner in my book!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to above pic. Menu can also be found at http://www.northernlightbarandeatery.com/menu/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Romantic, Mood Lighting, Casual and Relaxed. Great for a first date – but works well for a group of 4 as well!
Standout Dish: Golden Egg, Caramel, Fried Shallot, Furikake AND Broken Ice Cream Sandwich
Service: Fantastic! Very helpful when we needed to find out about which dishes were Gluten Free. Friendly as well!
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.northernlightbarandeatery.com/bookings/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.northernlightbarandeatery.com/
102 Smith Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 9416 0698

Opening Hours:
Closed Mondays
Tuesday to Thursday: 5:30pm – Late

Northern Light 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

Annoying Brother – Relaxed Brunch

panda-4-rating1
annoying brother Avocado Smash with Mushrooms and a Cappuccino

Inside Annoying BrotherInside Annoying Brother – love the chalkboard wall!

Cake and QuotesA delicious cake and an awesome quote in the background

Menu:

Drink Menu @ Annoying Brother Food Menu @ Annoying Brother

Annoying Brother is one of my new favourite cafes. Located on the hustle and bustle of Nicholson Street, Annoying Brother, owned by Julian Moussi, is a small and cosy cafe. There are large accordian windows which make the venue bright and happy, as well as letting a cool breeze in. There is a blackboard wall filled with Lunch Specials, Breakkie Specials as well some funky and artistic drawings and quotes. This all adds to the playfulness and fun-ness of this place.

The menu (can be found above) is simple yet different. There are interesting dishes on the menu such as Silly Eggs – soft poached eggs dropped in Napoli sauce with chorizo and feta, The MeBrother which is honey glazed ham with creamy scrambled eggs on an english muffin,  as well as everyone’s favourite Smashed Avocado and Homemade Pancakes. There is also a Breakkie Burrito to try as well as a generous range of paninis, focaccias and salads. I ordered the Smashed Avocado with a side of Mushrooms and N ordered the  ‘Tetris’, which is a “build your breakkie” option that starts with a foundation of eggs of your choice on toast with extras.

The Smashed Avocado was simple yet tasty and just the kind of dish that I needed on this Saturday morning. I definitely want to come back and try out some of the other dishes on the menu especially the Silly Eggs. and some of the delicious cakes that are made fresh. How scrumptious does the chocolate cake with strawberries look in the picture above.

This cafe is not just about the food, but about the coffee as well. You can select from V60 Pourover, Syphon and Cold Drip styles. The coffee is creamy and nutty and tastes delicious. There are tables and chairs located outside in the sunshine to enjoy your meal or read the paper. There are also seats located on a high bar overlooking the road which are funky to be seated on as well. The staff are friendly and happy to offer their opinion if you can’t decide on what dish you want. Definitely come and try out this place – its on my list of breakkie/brunch places to try!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Breakfast and Lunch Menu – refer to the menu pictures above.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Relaxed and Friendly – great for a weekend catch up!
Standout Dish: Smashed Avocado and Lemon Infused Feta with Sourdough
Service: Friendly, happy and helpful.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
650 Nicholson Street
Fitzroy North
Tel No: 9482 9494

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 7am to 4pm

Annoying Brother Espresso + Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Gong de Lin – Vegetarian and MSG Free!

panda 4 rating
Gong de Lin - Vegetarian

Gong de Lin is a newly opened all Vegetarian restaurant located in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. It is a bit hard to find as it is located at Level 3 and you need to enter another restaurant and take the lifts up to the restaurant itself.

The restaurant itself has a green and white theme and I associate those colours with vegetables (green = veggies) and has individual wooden tables as well as booth style tables. We had a group of four and we were allocated to a booth which overlooked Swanston Street, so it was quite a nice view – watching people bustling around on the streets of Melbourne. The feel is quite bright and vibrant.

Gong de Lin is entirely vegetarian and the menu is extensive to say the least. There are pages and pages of different options that you are left bewildered and not sure in what you want to pick. The menu has icons which tell you the recommended dishes by the chef, as well as the level of spiciness of the dish. The menu which is entirely MSG FREE (which is a big WIN in my book) – is made of up of many mock meat and seafood dishes, as well as many mushroom and vegetable dishes. There are also some interestingly named dishes such as the Hedgehog Mushroom, the BBQ Boletus Edulis (which we were told is a type of mushroom), Mountain Mushroom. There are also some pictures of some of the dishes if you need some help deciding, otherwise the friendly waitresses are happy to make suggestions of what dishes you should try.

There are smaller dishes and starters – such as dumplings, wontons and baos. The vegetarian pancake (which is similar to the spring onion pancake in most asian restaurants) is delicious and crispy.

The dishes are decently sized and this place is great if you go with a bunch of friends and share a whole lot of dishes – this way you get to sample a bit of the menu. Mind you with the amount of variety you will need to come back here many a times before you get through the whole menu! The dishes are also plated up quite nicely as well – always with a purple lily on the side. Another plus is that the dishes are priced very reasonably.

This place is a great addition to Melbourne and one of the first ALL vegetarian places that I have tried. The food not only looks great but tastes fantastic as well. There are so many interesting dishes on the menu such as Vegetarian Goose, BBQ Boletus Edulis and Vegetarian Sea Cucumber – just to name a few.

This place is great for vegetarians who want to “try” meat without any fuss or for meat lovers as well. The food is pretty great. I will definitely be back to try out many of their intriguing dishes!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – An extensive menu of Vegetarian dishes
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Comfortable and great for a catchup dinner with friends. Its better to go in a big group so you can all share multiple dishes.
Standout Dish: Vegetarian Pancake and the Spicy Vegetarian Chicken with Cashew Nuts
Service: Friendly and Helpful. As we were located in a booth in the corner, they didnt come around many times so it was hard to get our water glasses filled up or ask them for more rice – but this is just something minor.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
Level 3
264 Swanston St, Melbourne
Tel No: 9663 7878

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

Gong dè Lin on Urbanspoon

Two Birds One Stone – Bustling Brunch Venue

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Latte at Two Birds One StoneLatte at Two Birds One Stone

Roasted Field Mushrooms, Toasted House Made Brioche, Meredith Feta & WatercressRoasted Field Mushrooms, Toasted House Made Brioche, Meredith Feta & Watercress

Charred Corn, Haloumi & Zucchini Fritters with Guacamole & House Smoked SalmonCharred Corn & Zucchini Fritter with Haloumi, Guacamole & House Smoked Salmon

One Stone - Eggs, Mushrooms, Avocado, Spinach, Haloumi, House Smoked Corn and Tomato RelishOne Stone: Eggs, Mushrooms, Avocado, Spinach, Haloumi, House Smoked Corn & Tomato Relish

Two Birds One Stone is a newly opened cafe brought to you by the owners of Three Bags Full (in Abbotsford) and Liar Liar (in Hawthorn) – Nathan Toleman, Ben Clarke and Diamond Rozakeas – and is located in Claremount Street in South Yarra. This cafe it seems is always buzzing with activity and on the Sunday morning it was no different. We were after a table of three and were told that there would be about a 20 minute wait.

We were seated at the communal table – which can sit up to 20 people around the rectangular wooden table. This is the centre piece of the cafe and is surrounded by a few other table of twos, as well as three private booths which sit up to 6 people. The cafe decor is one of modern appearance – lots of light wooden features as well as tiled walls and suspended lighting together with bare light bulbs. Around the place is a selection of wild flowers which adds bursts of colour amongst a white backdrop.

In charge of the menu is head chef David Finlayson (ex Press Club) – where there are two sections – Breakfast and Lunch – although both are served all day. Breakfast has the typical dishes of muesli, toast and eggs – but various dishes have ingredients that you don’t usually find together. There is french toast with twice cooked marmalade, oranges and vanilla mousse, there is also banana bread with soured dates. Lunch consists of mainly different types of sandwiches, pides and a corn fritter dish.

I ordered the One Stone dish which comprises of Eggs, Mushrooms, Avocado, Spinach, Haloumi, House Smoked Corn & Tomato Relish. All the things that I love for breakkie – the only addition was the House Smoked Corn which I have never had in “big breakfast” type of dish. One of the poached eggs were cooked perfectly and was gooey and runny, however the other one wasn’t to this level and was somewhat over cooked. I did enjoy the addition of the corn to the meal, but overall, the other elements were pretty average and nothing to get too excited about. My friend G ordered the Corn and Zucchini fritters which were delightful. The Haloumi was used to hold these ingredients in the fritter together and brought the whole dish together, teamed together with the salmon and avacado – it really was a great dish! B ordered the mushroom dish which was quite good as well. The mushrooms were of great quality and were juicy and fresh and the feta added to this dish really complimented it. I should have stuck to my usual fave and ordered the mushroom dish =p

Coffee is great here too and is from Five Senses. I love the Tiffany blue saucers that the cups come on as well. The coffee is strong but delicate and creamy – just the way I like it. There is also some fine coffee art done too. Overall this place is buzzing with activity and has lines of people waiting with good reason. Some of their dishes can be a bit hit and miss, but I definitely want to come back and try their French Toast or Banana Bread. There are also house made pastries on offer at the coffee bar for the sweeter side of things.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Breakfast and Lunch menu at http://www.twobirdsonestonecafe.com.au/menu/july-2012.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Buzzing and Energized
Standout Dish: Charred Corn & Zucchini Fritter with Haloumi, Guacamole & House Smoked Salmon
Service: Friendly and Happy
Online Booking: No – suggest that you go either really early or after 12:30pm to easily score yourself a table, otherwise there is generally a 15-20 minute wait – sometimes shorter.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.twobirdsonestonecafe.com.au/
12 Claremount St, South Yarra
Tel No: 9827 1228

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7am to 4pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8am to 4pm

Two Birds One Stone on Urbanspoon