Panda Wedding Fun!

Hey Guys!

So relating to my previous post of being MIA – one of the main reasons was because I was busy planning a wedding and got married back in June 2015. We have been lucky enough to be nominated for Wedding of Year 2015 and would greatly appreciate your support. If you could click on the link below and Vote for Shazrina & Nik – that would be awesome.

I had a really fun time organising and planning all the details of the wedding – from the quote on the bottom of my shoe to the personalised thank you tags for guests, the photo collage in the shape of our initials – I really did love it all. Of course my favourite aspect was the food tasting and selecting of dishes for my guests on the two different nights.

For our Indian reception we had catering done from Topaz Catering – a delicious Sri Lankan banquet.
For the reception at Encore in St Kilda – we had the lovely staff provide our guests with a 3 course meal of dishes we selected.
Entree:
Spanner Crab with Avocado, Apple Puree, Daikon and Puffed Wild Rice
Slow cooked Buttermilk Chicken with Crisp Jerusalem Artichoke, Goats Curd and Figs

Main:
Truffled Chicken Breast with Boudin Blanc, Sweet Corn Polenta and Popcorn
Slow Cooked Salmon with Prawn Colcannon and Pea Puree

Dessert:
Caramel Ice Cream Paddles with Chocolate and Praline Hazelnuts
Passionfruit Tarts with Soft and Crispy Meringue
Wedding Cake

What I also enjoyed was cake tasting – and picking the different flavours for our – not one but TWO wedding cakes. My choices were White Chocolate Raspberry (which was my all time favourite), Caramel, White Chocolate and Chocolate Fudge.
We had the lovely Vinu from Vindya Boutique Cake Studio – https://www.facebook.com/Vindya-102326746613223/ (for the Indian Reception) and Jo from Splendid Servings – http://splendidservings.com.au/ (for the Encore Reception) creating our beautiful cakes.

If that wasn’t enough sweetness – we also had a beautiful blue themed dessert table created by ever talented Ngoc from The Dessert Parlour – http://thedessertparlour.com.au/. Our table was filled with homemade and personalized cookies, marble heart shaped chocolates and meringues – along with a variety of lollies and candies.

Shazrina_Nik_Cultural-Wedding_005
Our Wedding Cake by Vindya Boutique Cake Studio (https://www.facebook.com/Vindya-102326746613223/)
Shazrina_Nik_Cultural-Wedding_SBS_013-600x900
Our Wedding Cake by Splendid Servings (http://splendidservings.com.au/)
Shazrina_Nik_Cultural-Wedding_016-900x600  Shazrina_Nik_Cultural-Wedding_SBS_014-600x900
Our beautiful Dessert Table from The Dessert Parlour (http://thedessertparlour.com.au/)

If you could head to the following link(s) and Vote for Shazrina & Nik – that would be great!

http://www.easyweddings.com.au/real-weddings/competition/december-2015-nominees/

http://www.easyweddings.com.au/real-weddings/traditions-combine-shazrina-niks-three-day-cultural-wedding/

Thank you all so much for the support

Much Love

Grazing Panda xx

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Form Cafe – Suburban Treat

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Form Cafe Menu 1 Form Cafe Menu 3 Form Cafe 2

Form Café is located in the suburban streets of Essendon and has been on my list of cafes to try for a while. I found myself in and around that area on a Saturday so decided to pop by for something to eat before running more errands.

Form Café resides on Albion Street in what used to be a milk bar, then a house, then an artists’ studio and finally a café. Owned by Rob Cecchinelli and Jason Currie (both from Ray) – this café has a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere where you can see yourself spending lots of time without even realising how much time you have spent. I especially love the wheelbarrow garden located at the front of the restaurant coupled with a chalkboard sign with its name on it.

The interior is mostly white with splashes of wood throughout. I love the island bench that houses the terracotta jugs where you can self-serve your own water – it actually makes self service cool! Carrying on the self-service theme are the cutlery and serviettes that are clustered in the middle of each table held in a tomato soup tin – how vintage! Carrying on the vintage vibe is the menu that is written on brown butcher’ paper. There are three main sitting areas – one as you walk in, another as you go up the stairs (almost like a raised living area) and then outside in the courtyard.

The menu begins with the classics that you expect to find on a breakkie / brunch menu such as Fruit Toast, Pet (Poached Eggs on Toast), The Good Stuff (Bircher Muesli with Poached Fruit, Cream, Pistachios & Honey) and then moves onto the more unique dishes such as Shane’s Sardines (Tinned Sardines on Toast with Pickled Fennel and Salsa Verde), Cheese & Onion Square (Leek & Onion braised in White Wine on Toast, sat under Grilled Messy Valley Cheese) and Smash (Avo, Tomatoes, Danish Feta on Multi-Grain Toast with Grilled Corn) – just to name a few. There is also Gluten Free bread available.

I order a latte while I decide on what food I want. The Latte is perfection in a cup – strong with nutty flavours and just the right amount of milk and foam. I decide to order the Trout – Petuna Smoked Trout, Potato Cake and Lemon Scented Zucchini and Poached Eggs. I was surprised at how quickly the dish appeared at my table not long after I had ordered. A few tables down – the patrons made the same comment as well – the quick delivery of food once their orders had been placed. Efficiency at its best!

Food is served on recycled plates (they really are looking out for the environment) – which I don’t mind at all! The Potato Cake sits on the bottom with the beautifully smoked trout layered on top followed by the lemon scented zucchini and finished with rocket leaves. It looks like a Christmas tree that I can’t wait to devour. The poached egg is placed to the side surrounded by peas, pepitas and dukkah. The Potato cake is soft on the inside with a crisp and delicious tasting crunch on the outside – it is not what you would expect normally when you think potato cake – but is fantastic nonetheless. The combination of the fresh cool trout with the warm potato and hint of tang from the lemon scented zucchini is a divine combination. The egg was poached nicely and the addition of the peas and pepitas added extra texture. The dish was consumed just about as fast as it arrived.

The service is a bit varied but overall friendly – especially the barista as you leave – which makes your experience a whole lot better and makes you want to come back. Form Café is a great addition to the area and I will definitely be back to try out Shane’s Sardines!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Comfortable and Casual
Service: Friendlyish…
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Form-Cafe/184897851654353
32 Albion Street, Essendon
Tel No: 9375 3232

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 6.30am – 4:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00am – 4:00pm

Form Cafe on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Form-Cafe/184897851654353
Twitter: @ForMCafeMelb
Instagram: @formcafe

5 & Dime Bagels – NYC Goodness in Melbourne

panda 4 rating

Menu:
5&Dime Menu

5 & Dime has finally launched in Melbourne bringing New York style bagels into Melbourne CBD, and we have Zev Forman to thank. 5 & Dime is located in Katherine Place, near the Spencer Street end of the city.

Forman formerly from New Jersey grew up having bagels everyday with his grandparents in New York and started baking his own bagels and selling them in markets such as Flemington and Coburg Farmers Markets. For research he travelled to America to work with the most celebrated bagel makers in New York, to ensure he had the perfect recipes and techniques.

5 & Dime is a dedicated bakery and carries a simple fit-out by Brand Works and Beyond the Pixel – with wooden accents, tables and clear circular glass display for the bagels. Seating is limited but available for those who wish to have breakfast and lunch.

The bagels themselves are a labour of love – it begins with a starter that sits for 24 hours, then they are rolled into rings and fermented for another 24 hours. The last steps involve being boiled, baked and finally served fresh. The current flavours are Dill, Poppyseed, Everything, Cinnamon & Raisin, Onion, Plain, Salt, Sesame and Rye.

The usual spreads are available – Cream Cheese, Butter, PB&J – along with some different spreads – Strawberry Cream Cheese, Spring Veg Cream Cheese, Bacon Maple Cream Cheese, Smoked White Fish Cream Cheese and Vegan Cream Cheese. You can also get extras with your bagel – Tomato, Red Onion, Pickled Shallots, Capers, Radish, Vegemite, Avocado and Cured Salmon. All ingredients are of the highest quality with Foreman smoking his own salmon, curing his own Gravlax and using Goldfields real cultured cream cheese.

Coffee is also served and is provided by one of Collingwood’s new comers – Promised Land. They serve batch-brewed filter coffee (which can be available immediately to serve) and offer rotating single origins as well.

I order a latte and a Cinnamon & Raisin Bagel with Cream Cheese. I love the toastiness on the outside together with the soft pillow like texture on the inside. The combination of the crunch and softness is brilliant. The Cinnamon flavour is vibrant throughout the bagel with accents of sweetness thanks to the raisins. The cream cheese is the perfect accompaniment. The latte is strong, rich and full of coffee goodness that packs quite a bit of kick.

If bagels are your thing and you want to watch them being made – via a huge machine that has come all the way from Canada – then I suggest you try out 5 & Dime Bagel.

NOTE: 5 & Dime also supply their products to various cafes around Melbourne – you can find a full list on their website – http://5dimebagel.com.au/great-places-using-5d-bagels-1/. You can also purchase bagels from a variety of places other than their CBD store – this info is also on their site – http://5dimebagel.com.au/great-places-using-5d-bagels/

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$$
Menu – Refer to Picture above or you can find the menu at http://5dimebagel.com.au/5-dime-cafe/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Modern and Welcoming
Standout Dish: BAGELS
Service: Friendly and Welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
5dimebagel.com.au
16 Katherine Place, Melbourne
Tel No: 0433339367

Opening Hours
Monday to Friday: 7:00am–3:00pm

5 & Dime Bagels on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/5-and-Dime-Bagels/451649908200685
Twitter: @5dimebagel
Instagram: 5dimebagel

Dig A Pony – Uniquely Delicious

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Dig A Pony Menu Dessert Menu    halal (1)** ONLY DUCK IS HALAL**

We (there were four of us) had just visited a friend in the Williamstown area and needed to find a place to have early dinner. After a bit of googling dinner places around the area, we stumbled on Dig A Pony. A quick phone call and we found out that they wouldn’t be open for another 30 minutes, but that would be about the time we would take to drive there.

We arrived about 15 minutes before their opening time however since they knew we were coming they saw us hovering around the outside and let us come in early – which was nice of them.

Dig A Pony was opened by owners Mike and Hannah Bacarella in 2009, to create a place that they would enjoy – a place that was welcoming and relaxed to enjoy good food, wine, music with great friends. The name Dig A Pony is inspired by the name of a classic song by The Beatles which was features on their final album “Let It Be” – and was known as a whimsical and eclectic song – which is the vibe that this restaurant and bar is going for.

From the outside Dig A Pony looks like your normal corner bluestone pub, but once you step inside you are greeted with wooden tables, creative lamps and lighting along with a variety of seating – from leather lounges to antique chairs as well as bar stools and armchairs – there is bound to be a seating arrangement that you enjoy. During daylight hours the natural light is let in through the many windows, however once night time hits the only lighting is from the light shades and few down lights around the venue – it can get a tad dark.

The menu initially was based around Mediterranean Tapas with authentic recipes hailing from Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco and France – keeping firm the concept of food designed to be shared and enjoyed by all at the table. Enter in Mark Briggs (Vue de Monde, Sharing House) who added his touch of elegance and fine dining background to create an exciting menu that consists of delicious snacks, enticing small dishes as well some spectacular combinations for its larger plates. The concept of sharing, enjoying and having a bit of fun still remains.

The menu starts off with eight “Small Bites” – consisting of Oysters, Croquettes (Mac and Cheese) – how awesome do these sound! – just to name a few. Next on the menu are “Small Plates” (you can select from a selection of nine dishes – these include the likes of Mushroom Cannelloni (with Parmesan Mousse & Mushroom Ketchup), Moules Mariniere (Mussels in White Wine, Garlic & Cream), Chicken Kiev (with Crispy Kale & Broccoli), Tartare (Classic Beef with Egg Yolk Puree & ‘Chips’). There is only a selection of three “Larger Plates” to choose from – Duck, Goat or Wagyu Brisket. There are “Vegetables and Salads” to choose from as well as a “Charcuterie” section. If you find yourself not wanting to decide dishes on your own there are two Chef’s Selection Menu’s available – Five Plates ($45 per person) or Eight Plates ($55 per person).

Their drinks menu is quite extensive – consisting of wines, international and local boutique craft beers, spirits as well as a selection of intriguing cocktails. They also have unique combinations such as beer and whisky for those wanting a drink with a difference. In fact I think if you ask – you can mix just about any drink! I ordered a mocktail – which had flavours of Apple, Mint and Tang – a combination that quite refreshing on the palate.

There were two of us who had dietary requirements in the form of Dairy Free and Gluten Free and out waiter was very helpful in identifying which dishes could be consumed to suit. I also thought I would try my luck and ask if any of the meat or chicken was Halal – he found out that the Duck was – so of course we had to order it.

There were four of us at dinner so we decided to order a few dishes from each section.
We ordered three dishes from the Small Bites section. The first dish was the Cornetto – Ocean Trout & Granny Smith Apple – which came out looking as the menu read – in a cone shape sitting upright on a wire rack. Inside the cornetto cone was the mix of fresh ocean trout mixed with granny smith apple, capers and lime. I loved the mix of the crunchy cone together with the softness of the trout. The trout itself mixed with the apple was a brilliant combination – a hit of flavours for your tastebuds and a must try dish.

The next dish we received was the Cauliflower Popcorn with Roast Garlic Aioli – which comes served in a jar with the aioli placed on top. The cauliflower was crumbed and fried to create the popcorn effect and was seasoned well. The roast garlic aioli complimented the cauliflower well and tied the whole dish together. My only comment about the dish is to have the aioli in a separate little dish to make it easier for dipping purposes. The way it was with the aioli on top, when you got towards the middle or near the bottom of the jar you had run out of the aioli.

The last dish from the Small Bites section was the Buffalo Wings with Ranch Dressing. I didn’t try this dish; however I did try the Ranch Dressing which was absolutely divine – tangy with a kick of heat of it. Everyone around the table thoroughly enjoyed this dish as well and especially enjoyed the hint of chilli at the end.

From the Small Plates menu section we ordered the Confit Salmon with Clams and Savoy Cabbage and Scallops with Caramelized Cauliflower Puree & Sour Raisins.
The Confit Salmon usually comes with Pancetta, however we ordered this dish sans Panchetta. The dish was plated beautifully with flavours to match. The salmon had great texture and colouring and was cooked perfectly. The clams for me were the hero of this dish – delectable. Each of the elements brought a different flavour and depth to the dish – from the savoy cabbage laced in dressing to the pumpkin puree and finally the fried onions. A great tasting dish.
The Scallop dish was another good dish – the scallops were seared perfectly, the cauliflower puree worked brilliantly with the other elements on the dish and the raisins provided sweetness.

After these Small Plates we were onto our Large Plates of which we ordered two. First up was the Goat Hot Pot – Shoulder of Goat with Fennel and Rosemary. I loved the way this dish was presented – in a clay pot with a ring of scalloped potatoes on top. This was a clear favourite around the table – with the goat being melt-in-your-mouth, with the flavours being infused in the right proportions.
The next Large Plate dish was the Duck A L’Orange – Roasted Breast, Confit Leg & Brussel Sprouts. The duck was a bit on the tough side when you went into cut into it but the crispy skin on the outside was perfect. The velvety citrus sauce was rich yet subtle and really complemented the duck. This was my first experience of Duck A L’Orange and I must say I did quite enjoy it.

We also ordered the Quinoa with Pomegranate, Pistachio & Dates from the Vegetables and Salads section. The elements of tang from the pomegranate and sweetness of the dates, together with the nutty flavours worked well – you really cannot go wrong with this combination.

We were all really full from our meals but everyone needed a coffee for the drive home and so we looked at the dessert menu as well. There are five desserts to choose from and I was stuck in choosing between the Violet Crumble and the Parfait. In the end I went with the Parfait of Honey with Chocolate Mousse & Popcorn Granola. This was a really memorable and divine dessert. The chocolate mousse was rich, the parfait was creamy, the popcorn granola was caramelized and if you take each of these components together in one mouthful you will be heaven! If this dessert was this good – I can imagine just how good the other desserts would be!

Dig A Pony is the type of place that I wish I had stumbled upon a lot earlier as it serves up some great tasting food using simple ideas and a mix of interesting ingredients. The vibe is relaxed and casual – it’s a great place for a catch-up dinner with friends, as well as for a celebration. Staff are friendly and go out of their way to help in any way they can. If I was you I would definitely make a trip to Yarraville.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to picture above or http://digapony.com.au/wintermenu.htm
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Relaxed, Casual and Welcoming. Great for any occasion.
Standout Dish: Cornetto – Ocean Trout & Granny Smith Apple
Service: Friendly, Knowledgeable and very helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://digapony.com.au/bookings.htm
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://digapony.com.au
58 Ballarat Road, Yarraville
Tel No: 9689 0110

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Thursday: 5:00pm – 11:00pm
Friday to Sunday: 5:00pm – 12:00am

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dig-A-Pony/199011662736
Instagram: Dig_A_Pony_
Twitter: @dig_a_pony_

Dig A Pony on Urbanspoon

Hooked – Delicious Tasting Healthy Seafood

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Menu at Hooked Lunch Menu at Hooked Specials Menu at Hooked

Hooked is the brainchild of Ray Good and has been around for a while now serving healthy seafood – in three different branches – Fitzroy, Windsor and its newest branch in Hawthorn. I was lucky enough to be invited to try out their latest branch.

The fit-out is exactly what you would expect to find beach-side with a modern twist – white rustic wooden panels combined with white washed exposed brick walls. There is a large communal table at the centre of the venue, surrounded by wooden tables which largely seat parties of two. To the right along the wall are sailor striped booth style seats and a lifebuoy with the inscription – Hooked – In Cod we Trust – further adding to the seaside vibe. Painted on the brick wall as you walk in is a mural of a blue grenadier, further on the wall is a painting of a diver complete with a diving suit – something for you to admire whilst you await your food. These extra touches, together with the friendly smiles of the staff behind the counter complete the warm and welcoming feel.

The menu is located on top the counter which you order from – which is reminiscent of a your local fish and chip store. There are a plethora of selections to decide from. There is a Seafood section from which you can order House Fish (either Grilled or Lightly Tempura Battered) or Calamari (Grilled or Salt & Pepper Battered) both served with either Hand Cut Chips OR Rice & Asian Greens OR Salad. There are Boxes available – Box for One (1 House Fish, 6 Calamari), Box for Two (2 House Fish, 8 Calamari, 2 King Prawns) and a Kids Box (Fish Bites or Calamari with Rice or Mini Chips and Juice Box or Water – with a side salad). The two Boxes also come with the same option of Hand Cut Chips, Rice & Asian Greens or Salad.

There are also 3 different burgers to choose from – Hooked Fish Burger, Seared Tuna Burger and a Veggie Burger. If you are feeling like something different maybe you can try out their Taco and Burrito Menu (Fish Burrito) – with two selections of tacos – Baja Fish and Grilled Prawn. If Salads is more your thing – there are three delicious sounding salads to choose from – The Hooked Salad, Superfood Salad – think quinoa, broccoli, spinach, sunflower seeds etc and an Asian Slaw.

There are also specials that you can have during Lunch hours, as well as a Fisherman’s Soup all for $10.95. You can also buy Extras if you want to add to your meal – such as Chips, Prawns, Scallops. In addition to this are their Home Made Sauces – Dill & Caper Tartare, Sambal, Salsa Verde or Sweet Chili. What’s great is that they give you a recommendation as to which sauce works well with a particular dish. For example the Sambal is delicious with grilled fish with rice or salad. There are also Gluten Free options available. Drinks include the usual soft drinks, Charlies range of fresh juices as well as Phoenix New Zealand Organic drinks.

I decided to order the Box for One – and chose Grilled Fish and Salt & Pepper Calamari, as well as Rice & Asian Greens, with Sambal sauce on the side (I went with the recommended salsa – but was keen also to try the sauce). The dish comes out served on a large white round plate, with the seafood on the one side and the rice and Asian greens on the other with the salsa and a slice of lemon in the middle of the two. The house fish they serve is blue grenadier – the fish was fresh, white, fleshy and cooked to perfection and tasted absolutely delicious – you really don’t need the addition of anything else. The fish remained succulent and juicy which was another win. The rice has a mix of sweet and savory flavours – thanks to the combination of soy, kecap manis together with a dash of sesame oil. The grains are separate – just the way I like my rice. The Asian Greens are blanched and lightly sautéed – keeping in theme of being healthy whilst being the perfect accompaniment to the rest of the dish. The Calamari was another standout – I loved the lightly battered salt and pepper tempura flavouring. There wasn’t a thick layer of batter rather a light covering, which allowed you to enjoy the freshness of the calamari and also made for a less greasy dish overall.

S ordered the Superfood Salad (Quinoa, Broccoli, Rocket, Spinach, Semi Dried Tomatoes, Peas, Mint, Toasted Pumpkin, Sunflower Seeds & Sesame Seeds finished with a drizzle of Yoghurt Lemon Dressing) with a side of House Fish together with the Salsa Verde sauce. We shared our dish with each other so I got to sample some of her Superfood salad. Once again the salad had a combination of refreshing flavours and crunchy textures which was finished off well thanks to the yoghurt lemon dressing. S liked the salad so much that since then she has tried to replicate this at home. The Salsa Verde sauced packed a punch of flavours with coriander being the main character and was quite delicious.

Hooked prides itself on producing healthy food with the key factors being highlighted – low in fat and cholesterol, high in protein and rich in Omega 3. This is thanks to the use of cholesterol free cottonseed oil in all their cooking. Their chips are freshly hand cut from Gippsland potatoes each and every day, and cooked from scratch using cottonseed oil. A fun fact to note is that Hooked will not serve any flake – after all it isn’t a fish!

Hooked has created a modern day healthier version of your local fish and chip shop – which includes an inviting ambiance and vibe that makes you feel like you have just spent a day at the beach. Together with friendly and warm service, delicious tasting food and funky décor – it should be next on your list to visit!

Note: Students can receive a 10% discount (Monday to Thursday 11:30am – 5pm)
Another thing to note is that the Fitzroy and Windsor branches are fully licensed, with the Hawthorn Alcohol License coming soon!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to above pictures or check out http://www.hooked.net.au/menu/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Warm, Inviting and Beach-like
Standout Dish: House fish & Calamari, Superfood Salad
Service: Friendly and Welcoming as well as prompt – we were surprised at how quickly our food came out, despite being quite full.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.hooked.net.au/contact/hawthorn/
669 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn
Tel No: 9939 4412

Opening Hours:
Sunday to Wednesday: 11.30am-9.00pm
Thursday to Saturday: 11.30am-9.30pm

Hooked on Urbanspoon

Other Branches
http://www.hooked.net.au/contact/fitzroy/                                                               http://www.hooked.net.au/contact/windsor/
384 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy                                                                                         172 Chapel Street, Windsor
Tel No: 9417 7740                                                                                                               Tel No: 9529 1075

Opening Hours:                                                                                                              Opening Hours:
Sunday to Wednesday: 11.30am-9.00pm                                                                      Sunday to Wednesday: 11.30am-9.00pm
Thursday to Saturday: 11.30am-9.30pm                                                                       Thursday to Saturday: 11.30am-9.30pm

Hooked on Urbanspoon                                                                                                      Hooked on Urbanspoon

 

Lemon Middle & Orange – Hidden in Industrial town

panda 4 rating

Lemon Middle and Orange is a newly opened café in the Collingwood area from Magaret Lawless and Liam Ganley. Lemon Middle and Orange is located on Rokeby street amongst the industrial buildings and was once a paint factory, which now houses John Wardle Architects upstairs. John Wardle Architects was used in helping to convert the space into the café it is now. The name itself is an ode to its former life as Lemon, middle and orange were the chrome pigments they used.

As you walk in off the street, there is an outside sheltered sitting area with the bright yellow neon logo placed on the wall: a chirpy yellow bird with an olive branch in its beak. There are upturned paint cans used as stools paired with wooden tables. Large glass wooden frame sliding doors – which I couldn’t initially work out how to open (=p) – lead through to the main part of the café. The café is long with tables and chairs on the right hand side and the counter, coffee machine and kitchen area along the left side. The feel is modern, casual and inviting. The combination of wooden tables & chairs, with the concrete floors and exposed ceilings all add to this.

The menu is created by Sam Morris (former Rockwell and Sons, Auction Rooms) and pays homage to Ganley and Lawless’ heritage. Brown Soda Bread is baked onsite which is a traditional Irish bread, and is served with block pudding as a breakfast dish. The brunch menu runs all day, with a lunch menu starting from noon carrying through till early afternoon.

I order a latte before deciding what food I will order. Coffee is by Syndicate, and there is also a single origin by Clark St Roasters, which will rotate seasonally. The latte came out with pretty café art in the shape of a heart that reminded me of a kite. The coffee was creamy, smooth and nutty and I really enjoyed it. The milk was frothed to perfection as well.

The brunch menu is quite different to most cafes and has quite a bit of variety ranging from yoghurt, rice pudding to croquettes, breakfast rolls and house plum cured salmon as well as a poached dug egg dish. Lunch menu consists of a selection of four sandwiches – such as roast beef or confit chicken, as well as homemade dishes from the kitchen. These include Corned beef hash with piccalilli puree and kohlrabi sauerkraut, pulled pork neck or roast chicken breast with harissa vegetables and pearl barley.  There are also Cakes available which come from local caterer Little Bertha in nearby Abbotsford which are handmade using local organic ingredients.

Both G and I decided to order the House Hot Smoked Plum Cured Tasmanian Salmon, Potato Latkes, Poached Eggs, Fennel, and Horseradish Crème Fraiche. The poached eggs sat in the middle of the dish with the thick, juicy and inviting salmon fillets surrounding them together with the crispy skinned potato latkes. The fennel which was dressed with the horseradish crème fraiche was placed elegantly on top. The eggs were poached as expected with the gooey yolk, the salmon cured to smoky heaven and together with the horseradish crème fraiche – it was foodie paradise. We both enjoyed our dish immensely and it was quite a filling dish – I had no room to try out the cakes on display.

Lemon Middle and Orange not only has a catchy name, but a memorable logo and vibe to it. I love the variety of dishes available, as well as the fit-out of the place.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://www.lemonmiddleandorange.com/documents/LMO_A5%20menus_Nov_6.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Modern and Chilled Out – love the front street covered courtyard area and the upturned paint cans for stools!
Standout Dish:
Service: Friendly and Welcoming.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.lemonmiddleandorange.com/
25-31 Rokeby Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 9415 1593

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7.30am–3.30pm
Saturday: 8am–3pm
Sunday: 9am–3pm

Lemon, Middle and Orange on Urbanspoon

Common Galaxia – Out of this World

panda 3.5 rating

I had heard a lot about Common Galaxia and had been wanting to check it out for a while – so when a catchup needed to be organised and J lived nearby – it was the perfect opportunity! Common Galaxia is owned initially by Luke Mutton and Kylie Mackinlay who also own Deadman Espresso in South Melbourne, but now bought by Paul Fox. Common Galaxia is located in Seddon and its main focus is on coffee – with coffee from Seven Seeds and Market Lane. The food though is not just an after thought – there is a huge variety and the dishes we had were scrumptious.

Common Galaxia has a fantastic vibe from the moment you step foot inside – the look is modern, classy and stylish. The furniture and fittings are all custom-made with functionality at the forefront. The interior was built by Fido Projects. One of the stand outs are the cutlery and menu caddies that hang individually from the tables (so that you can help yourself if you need more cutlery or happen to drop your cutlery) as well as the leather and timber chairs – both of which are made my locals LifeSpaceJourney. The coffee machine is Synesso and is the centre piece of the bench which also houses quick take away options such as smorrebrod (Scandinavian open sandwiches). To the right of the main counter is a window which allows you insight to the kitchen and is where all the food comes from. The running theme of the venue is wood with copper pots, terraniums, dark bottles with colourful flowers and funky black light fittings with filament lightbulbs dotted along the way together with the light coming in from the large windows which surround the venue.

There is usually a line to get a table and this morning was no different – but our wait was quite short – about 10 minutes to get a table for four. We started off by ordering coffees whilst we pondered over the menu. My latte was delicious and had a combination of a fruity and nutty taste – a taste that you kept going back more for.

The menu is broken up into Breakfast, Brunch which you can order all day, Lunch as well as options for the kids called “For the littles”. There are also options for Vegetarian and Gluten Free. Drinks compromise of Coffee, Tea, Fresh Juices, Smoothies, Cold Drinks and Milkshakes. The smoothie combinations are intriguing – combinations such as Kale, Parsley, Lemon Zest, Mango, Banana and Coconut Water as well as a Mixed Berry, Coconut water and Honey combination. Fresh juices consist of pre made mixes or you can create your own. There is also an option of having a peanut butter hot chocolate as well as a chocolate brownie milkshake.

Breakfast dishes are what you would usually expect – but with a Common Galaxia twist – adding interesting ingredients to the basics. There are scones, crossiants, toast, fruit toast and Bircher muesli – as well an interesting concept called the Breakkie Board (more on this later). The all day brunch menu consists of scrambled eggs, their version of Egg’s Benedict, Common Galaxia Big Breakfast as well as smoked salmon dish.

It was food decision time and I was tossing up between the French toast and the avocado dish, but J decided to get the French toast so I went with ordering the Avocado with Blood Orange, Marinated Goat’s Cheese, Basil, Almonds and Radish on Toast with a Poached Egg. The dish was plated up well with the toast being at the base of the dish and the avocado mix placed on top and finished with parsley and a poached egg and a wedge of lemon on the side. The avocado combined with the blood orange and goat’s cheese together with the crunchiness of the almonds was tasty. The serving was generous and the poached egg was cooked perfectly. All in all it was a great dish.

G ordered the Smoked Salmon on Sourdough with Spicy Avocado Puree, 2 Poached Eggs with Tomato and Herb Salad. This dish was quite the colourful dish, especially against the black backdrop of the plate. The spicy avocado puree was buttered on the toast with the smoked salmon and tomato and herb salad on top, and the two poached eggs as the final layer. G did enjoy the dish but thought the spicy avocado was an acquired taste, but overall the combination was interesting and worked well together.

B ordered the Breakkie Board – Museli, Poached Egg with Avocado on Whole Wheat and Honey Toast, Small Fresh Orange Juice. I really do like the concepts of Breakkie boards as it comes with a small selection of things that you would want for breakfast such as toast, eggs and muesli. The bonus of freshly squeezed orange juice completes the dish.

As mentioned before J ordered the Salted Caramel French Toast with Blood Orange Curd, Oreo Crumble and Blueberry Compote. When this dish came out it was really impressive – the berry compote was drizzled at the bottom and acted like a soup, with the French Toast on top drizzled with Salted Caramel and finished with the Oreo Crumble. The dish was overly sweet, but the berry compote was a great addition to cut some of this sweetness and add tanginess to it. There was a generous amount of blueberries and salted caramel on the side as well. For anyone that loves French toast this is a dish to try.

Common Galaxia is a fresh, lively and vibrant addition to this area of Seddon that serves great coffee and good food! The interior with its wooden and black tones and accents of plants and flowers is fantastic. The staff are friendly and look like they are enjoying themselves at work which always a great attitude to have. I would highly recommend the trek down to this suburb and whilst you are at it visit nearby Cobb Lane.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://commongalaxia.com.au/menu/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Chilled out, Modern and Inviting. Such a great place to be on a sunny day especially with the sunlight streaming in through the windows.
Standout Dish: Salted Caramel French Toast with Blood Orange Curd, Oreo Crumble and Blueberry Compote
Service: Friendly and Inviting. The staff look like they really enjoy what they do and are always chirpy and happy.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
commongalaxia.com.au
Shop 3, 130 Victoria Street, Seddon
Tel No: 9691 3888

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Friday: 7:30 am – 4:00 pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Common Galaxia on Urbanspoon

The Black Toro – Hispanic Delight

panda 3.5 rating

It was a Tuesday night and my friend E and I were in the Glen Waverley area and wanted to grab some dinner – I have been wanting to try out The Black Toro for a while so we thought we would give it a shot. It was about 7pm on a Tuesday and we hadn’t made a booking and when we arrived were told that all the tables were taken but that something should come up in about 15-20 minutes time and that they would call us the moment a table came available. We thought this wasn’t too long a wait and decided to go have a coffee in a nearby restaurant whilst we waited. Although we didn’t get a phone call (hmm??), we decided to go and see if anything was available about 30 minutes later and a table had happened to be free – so we were seated.

The Black Toro is the venture from former Ezard chef, Garen Maskal and has a Hispanic theme to it offering a Mexican and Peruvian inspired menu which includes innovative and interesting tapas style dishes. It is located in the always bustling Kingsway strip in Glen Waverley (like I said we went on a Tuesday night and parking was a nightmare! And the restaurant was at full capacity). As the name suggest, there is a lot of black happening at the venue – from the signage to the wrought iron screens as you walk in the door and completed with dark timber tables and chairs. The lighting is dimly lit but enough to create a cosy and welcoming atmosphere. As you walk in you are greeted with the lengthy bar which is followed at the end by the kitchen. The main feature however, is the huge mural of a charging bull with smoking, angry eyes which helps to create the Latino vibe.

The menu is separated into 4 different sections – Poco Plates (which are your smaller dishes), Grande Plates (which as the name suggests are your larger dishes), Sides and Salsas and finishing with Desserts. The Poco Plates consists of dishes from Cured Salmon to Wagyu Beef Sliders (which from looking around at what people were ordering was one the popular dishes) to Crab. There are also quite a few vegetarian options as well. I also like how the Pico Plates section tells you how many pieces will come in a serving – saves you the trouble from having to ask the wait staff. Grande Plates include Lamb, Beef, Whole Chicken, Fish and two Veggie dishes. At the bottom of the menu is a glossary for some ingredients or foods that you might not know about which is handy.

The friendly waitress informed us that for the two of if we had about 2-3 poco plates and maybe 1 Grande plate that should be enough for us. We decided to go with 4 of the Poco Plates and also we got one side dish. You would think ordering 4 of the smaller sized dishes wouldn’t be enough but the serving size at The Black Toro is quite generous and even with these 4 “smaller” dishes we couldn’t finish all of our meals.

The first dish we ordered was the Mushroom Taco with Corn Truffle, Ricotta and Chive – which comes in a serving of two – which was perfect for the two of us. The mushroom and Corn Truffle filling is dense with a garlicky flavour added to the mushroom, coupled together with the salty smooth flavour of the cheese – it was a great combination. The overall juiciness of the mushroom combining with the semi crisp taco bread was divine.

The next dish – which I would have to say was one of my favourites for the night – was the Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Buttermilk Dressing & Sriracha. Sriracha for those of you who do not know is a Thai Hot sauce made from sun-ripened chilli peppers together with vinegar and garlic – and tastes spicy and delicious. The Crispy Soft Shell Crab came beautifully presented with the crab being the centre of the dish with the sriracha around the crab. The outer coating of the crab was perfectly crisp with just the right amount of saltiness, and the crab on the inside was fresh and flavoured perfectly. The buttermilk dressing was smooth and flavoured correctly and combining it with the spiciness of the sriracha and the saltiness of the crab was a great flavour hit in your mouth.

The next dish we ordered was the Kingfish Sashimi with Orange Pressed Apple, Jicama and Burnt Agave Nectar. Once again the dish was beautifully presented on a long black dish which made the pinkness of the Kingfish and the Orange strand out. I was a tad bit disappointed with this dish, even though the Kingfish was fresh and had a great texture, the flavours just didn’t do it for me. The sweet and sourness of the orange and the apple paired with the Kingfish was nice but there was something missing in the flavour palate – it needed a bit of saltiness.

The side dish that we ordered (as it came recommended by our waiter) was the Zucchini & Corn Fritters – which were fluffy parcels of yumness! As a side dish once again the quantity was huge as there were about 10-12 pieces! These serving sizes are really quite generous! We also got some house made chilli sauce to go with this dish which further exemplified the dish.

E ordered the Sticky Chicken Wings with Cripsy Jalapeno and Coriander – which she was perfectly cooked and was crispy, glazed and salty on the outside whilst being juicy and soft on the inside.

Even though we were both quite full, we couldn’t leave this place without at least trying out a dessert so we decided to share the Frozen Nutella Parfait, Broken Tres Leches Cake, Toasted Meringue & Banana. This was a rather interesting dessert – with each part being deconstructed. Tres Leches Cake is a ‘three milk cake’ which resembles a dense sponge cake and is quite delicious in its own right. It is made by soaking butter cake in three different types of milk – evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream. The Frozen Nutella Parfait was the centre of the dish and the key to this dish and was filled with hazelnuts yet kept its chocolatey flavour. The other elements surrounded this centrepiece and put together it was a welcome sweetness.

There is also an extensive drinks lists which covers wines, beers, cocktails as well as having 3 different mocktails. They really do cater for everyone =)

The Black Toro is a fantastic place for dinner – be it a catch up with friends or even a romantic dinner with your partner. It was established to bring something different to the Glen Waverley area – where the surrounding restaurants and cafes are of the Asian Cuisine – and the locals and non-locals sure do appreciate it. The dishes are quite different to what you would normally experience and show a range of skill and technique in its preparation. Having only sampled a few dishes I will definitely be visiting again to try out all the other delicious sounding dishes.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Poco Plates at http://theblacktoro.com.au/?page_id=832
Grande Plates and Sides/Salsas at http://theblacktoro.com.au/?page_id=953
Desserts at http://theblacktoro.com.au/?page_id=959
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy, Comfortable and bit Classy – the lighting is dimly lit and makes you feel at home. Check out the Raging Bull mural on the wall – this is the centre piece of the restaurant.
Standout Dish: Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Buttermilk Dressing & Sriracha
Service: Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking:  Yes – via http://www.bookarestaurant.com/widget/details/The-Black-Toro/4242
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://test.theblacktoro.com.au/
79 Kingsway, Glen Waverley
Tel No: 9561 9696

Opening Hours:
Lunch:
Monday to Sunday: 12:00pm – 3:00pm
Dinner:
Monday to Sunday: 6:00pm – Late

The Black Toro on Urbanspoon

The Mess Hall – Favourite Seafood Pasta!

panda 4 rating
Black & White Tagliatellewith Mussels, Prawns, Clams and Salmon @ The Mess Hall

I had been to The Mess Hall years ago – prior to me ever starting this blog and remembered that the food here was pretty good. So on the night of the Stereophonics concert, I needed a place for food and The Mess Hall happened to be near where they were playing. The Mess Hall is quirky and funky looking place complete with wooden tables and interesting accents in the form of decor around the place. The staff are friendly and welcoming. The food served is Italian style and they are open for breakfast, lunch, dinner as well as for snacks.

The Mess Hall is a rustic and intimate menu and despite being simple is a great place to visit for a romantic occasion with its soft lighting. The menu is short and simple, with many dishes catching my eye but I settled on the Black & White Tagliatelle with Mussels, Prawns, Clams and Salmon. I have to say this has been on my favourite seafood pasta dishes ever! The pasta was perfectly cooked and the flavours were simple yet delicious. The Seafood was fresh and all cooked to perfection with each separate component complimenting each other. The serving size of the dishes are just as great as the actual food and are quite generous.

I did also get to try out their coffee which was nutty and creamy. As we had to rush off to the concert, I didn’t get a chance to check out their dessert menu but from the sounds of it – it sounds delicious! I definitely do want to come back and try out some of their other dishes for dinner – but high on my list is to come here and try out their breakfast menu – the corn fritters sound great.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu: http://www.themesshallmelbourne.com/ – you can find all the Menus under the Menu heading
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Comfortable, Casual and Cosy. Really great for a dinner date with that special someone.
Service: Friendly and Welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.themesshallmelbourne.com/
51 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9654 6800

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:30am – 10pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8am -10pm

The Mess Hall on Urbanspoon

Don Too – Quick & Tasty

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Don Too Menu

Don Too is a tiny Japanese cafe style place in the heart of the CBD in Melbourne and is a great option for work lunches. The dishes are quick, hearty and healthy and very reasonably priced. And when I mean quick it really is, my friends and I ordered the dishes and within 5 minutes they were at our tables! This is not to say the dishes were not tasty or fresh – because they were.

Don Too has two sections to its restaurant and both areas – the front dining room and the back dining room — fills up pretty quickly. The vibe is energetic and vibrant. You are given menus and then need to order at the counter. The whole process is swift.

The menu consists of a selection of bento boxes and curries. You can select from beef, chicken to tofu and salmon all ranging in the price from $6.30 to $8.70! You can refer to the menu link above to check out the menu in detail. At dinner time Don Too serves Ramen and serve 10 different types of ramen – the one I really want to come back and try is the King Prawn Laksa Ramen! The Ramen prices range from $9 to $14 (once again pretty cheap!).

I ordered the Sashi Don – Salmon Ocean Trout Sashimi on Rice – and loved how the dish came out. The salmon came out and looked like a rose and was the centerpiece of the dish which was surrounded with all the other other elements – which included, salad, ginger, tofu and egg. The salmon was fresh as were the other ingredients. I would have liked a bit more sauce to my dish but other than that there were no complaints here. It also comes with a side of wasabi and soy. My friend got the Don Don Box which comes in a section split into different sections and includes Teriyaki, Sukiyaki, Salad and Rice, as well as a piece of fruit for dessert. You even get something sweet all for one low price.

Please note that Don Too is a CASH ONLY place.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to picture above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Classy – a room with a view of Melbourne from 55 floors up
Standout Dish: Check out any of the Boxes or Curries
Service: Quick and Friendly
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.vuedemonde.com.au/vue_de_monde
330 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9670 7113

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Monday to Friday: 11am-3.30pm

Dinner
Monday to Friday: 5pm-9pm
Saturday: 5pm-9pm

DonToo on Urbanspoon