Hammer and Tong 412 – Sublime Menu

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Hammer and Tong comes to you from the team of Dennis Ferriera and chef Simon Ward and is located in the previous location of The Brix. They pretty much left the fit-out as it was  with the open kitchen, the large open windows and the decor.

Both Ferriera and Ward come with a wealth of experience and have worked in restaurants such as Di Stasio, Caffe e Cucina to France Soir, Momo, Vue De Monde and Jacques Reymond. In Hammer and Tong they have brought together casual dining and fine dining all in one and they do it exceptionally well.

Hammer and Tong has a bright and chirpy atmosphere and although it accompanies a smallish space, the light and large windows make it somewhat spacious. There are elements of old school from the big vintage scale at the front where newspapers are held one with a old school iron. There are three different dining spaces such as the main dining hall as you enter, where you can see the baristas’ busily making coffees, followed by the corridor bar and the sunroom at the very back of the space. Both the corridor bar and the sunroom has bar seating that overlooks the window as well as low table seating. In the corridor bar there are hanging plants over head and interesting lighting around the place.

We came on a Saturday morning around 11am and as expected there was a line to get a table. The staff informed us it would be about a 5-10 minute wait which it was. We were seated in the corridor bar and placed our coffee orders whilst we looked at the menu. I had heard a lot about the soft shell crab burger, but settled on the spiced corn fritters as I wanted something more breakfasty. I also wanted to try out their pancakes and told the waiter that once we were done with the savoury dishes to bring out the pancakes – as a dessert =)

We placed our food orders and it wasn’t until we had almost received our food that we got our coffees. It was full house and I did have to remind them about our coffee orders – this was somewhat of a let down.The coffee was good though – creamy and smooth and is from Dukes Coffee Roasters.

My Spiced Corn Fritters, Avocado,  Sour Cream, Chilli Jam, Tomato with a Poached Egg came out and was plated up brilliantly. There were three corn fritters, atop of the tomato in a triangle shape with the poached egg in the middle and the other elements around. The fritters were dense and tasty and I loved the hint of spice attached to them. They were the perfect crisp on the outside as well. Combining them with the avocado, sour cream and chilli jam completed the dish perfectly. This was a sublime dish – one of the best corn fritters I have had to date. N ordered Fried Eggs with a side of Chorizo and said the Chorizo was the best that he has had at any of the many cafe’s we have been to.

Once we were done with our savoury dishes, the waiter brought us the pancake dish – Buttermilk Pancakes, Blueberries, Maple Syrup & Popping Candy Ice Cream. If you think just from reading about the dish that its good – wait till you actually try it – it definitely does live up to all its expectations. There are four buttermilk pancakes surrounded by blueberries, maple syrup and ice cream which has the popping candy placed on top. As the dish is placed down in front of us, you can hear the crackle of the popping candy. Not only does the popping candy add a hit of crackle and a party in your mouth but adds lots of colour to the dish. The pancakes were thick but not too thick, fluffy, sweet and warm. The blueberries were fresh and juicy. All the elements together worked together and made for a great dish. It did get overly sweet towards the end but for some people that really isn’t a problem =p

Hammer and Tong is great new breakfast/brunch place that has a great ambiance and fantastic music playing over the speakers. From the lines at the door it certainly is popular and after having tried it I can tell why – the food is fresh, delicious and unique, and you can tell the experience of the team from the dishes. I forgot about the fact that our coffees were late as those corn fritters were just amazing, not to mention the pancakes.

Hammer & Tong offers coffee, breakfast, lunch, snacks and beverages six days a week, from Tuesday through to Sunday. Dinner is offered Thursday through to Saturday.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Brunch menu – http://www.hammerandtong.com.au/brunch.html Dinner menu – http://www.hammerandtong.com.au/dinner.html
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Bright, Light and Chirpy – it really does pick up your day!
Standout Dish: Spiced Corn Fritters, Avocado,  Sour Cream, Chilli Jam, Tomato with a Poached Egg
Service: Friendly
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.hammerandtong.com.au/index.html
Rear 412 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Tel No: 9041 6033

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 7:00 am – 11:00 pm
Sunday: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

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The Town Mouse – Great Addition to Carlton

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L and I headed to dinner to The Town Mouse on a Wednesday night. The Town Mouse has replaced the former fine dining restaurant Embrasse on Drummond Street in Carlton. The team behind this creation is the brother and sisters team of Christian McCabe (Honky Tonks and one of New Zealand’s best restaurants The Matterhorn) and Amber McCabe (Longrain), as well as Jay Comeskey (Amber’s husband).

The Town Mouse feels welcoming from the moment you walk in to the massive COME IN for GOOD TIMES welcome mat style etched into the entrance doorway. As you step in you are greeted by the glistening black tiles which are on all four walls, the centrepiece is the black bar which is lit up in all the right places and has a gunmetal grey lattice work, and is surrounded with high raw wooden stools and vintage lampshades which are dropped from the ceiling. The atmosphere is comfortable yet sophisticated. I love the use of wood against the backdrop of black – the only drawback being that there is only high stool seating.

The menu developed together with chef Dave Verheul has a strong emphasis on sharing plates and sits perfectly between the fine dining and casual categories. The menu  has been inspired by a Modern European style with flavours of Asia along the way, and is split into 6 different sections – To Start, Raw,  To Share, Vegetables (there are 5 different dishes to choose from), Meat & Fish and lastly Dessert. Looking at the dishes and the combinations of ingredients, there was a lot there that caught my attention – it was hard to just settle on a select few dishes to share between the two of us. The wine list consists of a wide selection and has been devised with the help of Lachlan Barber.

Once we had decided what we wanted and were waiting for our dishes to arrive – we were given bread along with seaweed butter. I am always a bit apprehensive about dishes that contain seaweed, but the seaweed flavour was subtle and added to the normal butter taste.

L and I started with something from the To Start section (how fitting =p) – we got the Goat’s Cheese Profiterole, Caraway, Thyme & Our Honey. They came out in tiny round morsels with a crisp crunchy outside casing and the Goat’s Cheese filling together with the spice & herbs was delicious. What made the dish interesting was the addition of the honey. I really do like the combination of the tangy cheese and the sweetness of the honey. This is a definite must try dish – a mix of savoury and sweet flavours!

Next up we got the Crab & Gurnard Terrine, Salted Lemon Curd, Nori, Pea Leaves and Crab Essence. This dish comes out beautifully presented and resembled a garden with the Crab & Gurnard Terrine being the flowers. Gurnard for those of you who don’t know is a type of sea fish. This was a dish full of flavour and textures – the terrine was soft and dense and the nori was crisp and salty. The combination of this was great and the salted lemon curd further enhanced this.

We followed up both these dishes with the Steamed Diamond Shell Clams, Black Mussels, Clam Bisque, Fennel & Rosemary and also got the Kipflers cooked in Toasted Hay, Buttermilk, Crisp Sage & Almond Brown Butter. We were also given extra bread to go with the Clam and Mussel dish to soak up the Clam Bisque – thoughtful! This dish was tasty and the seafood was fresh. The Clam Bisque was flavorsome and delicious (and there was heaps of this so the bread was definitely needed). When reading the Kipflers dish I loved the sound of all the components – especially the combination of the sage and almond brown butter – and it certainly wasn’t a let down when it came out. Once again the dish was beautifully presented with a fantastic taste to match. The almond brown butter and the buttermilk were delicious and the potatoes were cooked perfectly with the skin having a nice crunch to it in certain areas.

Next up was time for dessert and there were two dishes that caught my eye, so we asked our waiter which one we should try. He won us over with the description of the Chocolate Tart with Thai Flavors. Once again presentation of this dish was immaculate. The Chocolate tart was a rich deep dark brown colour that had a shiny glaze and was surrounded with the “Thai Flavours” – there was cucumber, mint, kaffir lime leaves, powders and crumbs. This was one of the most interesting dessert dishes I have tasted – the mix of chocolate and veggies in a sense was thrilling and actually tasted really good! The chocolate was rich and divine. A must try for all chocolate lovers.

The staff at The Town Mouse were friendly, attentive, helpful and accommodating which all added to the experience. By the time we had gotten our meals the place was buzzing and the atmosphere was warm, cool and suave all at the same time. I have already recommended this place to some of my friends and would definitely be heading back to try out the other dishes (really want to try out the Smoked Barramundi!). The Town Mouse is an awesome addition to the Melbourne food scene and the food is simply amazing – it really has surpassed its predecessors that used to accompany this venue. CHECK IT OUT for GREAT times =)

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Have a look at http://www.thetownmouse.com.au/downloads/Hungry.pdf  Wine List at http://www.thetownmouse.com.au/downloads/Thirsty.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cool, Sophisticated, Welcoming and Warm. Fantastic place for a catchup with friends, celebration – you really could spend a lot of time here.
Standout Dish: Goat’s Cheese Profiterole, Caraway, Thyme & Our Honey
Service: Fantastic and Attentive – Very Friendly as well.
Online Booking: No – But it would be best to call them up and make a reservation, as they do get quite full. There are two dinner sitting times as well.
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.thetownmouse.com.au
312 Drummond Street, Carlton
Tel No: 9347 3312

Opening Hours:
Wednesday: 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Thursday to Sunday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm

The Town Mouse on Urbanspoon

Coffeehead – Great Coffee, Food & Atmosphere

Brunch @ Coffeehead
Coffeehead Baked Eggs: 2 free range egg baked in capsicum ragout, topped w goats cheese served with sourdough toast AND
Big Head Breakfast: two eggs your way w bacon,avocado, chipolatas, spinach & toast

Coffeehead has opened up in an old warehouse space in Camberwell by Paul Mathis. Mathis is a somewhat mogul in the food industry being a restaurant and cafe owner with more than 17 businesses such as Taxi, SOS, 100 Mile Cafe, Firechief Pizzeria and Golidocks Cafe (there are others as well) as well as founding  Blue Train Cafe and Automatic in Southbank. Coffeehead stocks different brands of coffee such as local boutique blends, coffee-making equipment and showcases a variety of methods of coffee brewing which include Greek and Italian-style stove-top. For coffee lovers this place is a paradise. Their aim as it says on their website is bring coffee from Australia’s favourite roasters to the one location. They even have a online retail store where you can purchase coffee goods via their website.

Eventhough the main focus here is on coffee (hence the name coffee head) – the food is delicious as well. The menu used to be Spanish and Mexican inspired food by Chef David Airoldi (who used to work at Dukes Coffee Roasters), however now the menu has changed over to Italian inspired food by Oscar Rigo (he has come from Church Street Enoteca, Journal Canteen).

The venue is complete with checkerboard floors and is quite a colourful venue. There is even a Foosball table! It has a very old school feel to it as well. There are industrial workbenches and recycled tables in red and green. There are massive 12 kilo Probat roasting machines at the back of the venue that you can stare for hours at. D ordered the Big Head Breakfast served with avocado, chipolatas, spinach and toast and I ordered the Baked Eggs. The Baked Eggs were tasty and the mix of capsicum and tomato was a great mix, with the capsicum providing a peppery flavour. The sourdough bread served with the Baked Eggs was a great addition. The coffee I had was a latte and it was creamy and nutty at the same time. They do definitely know about coffee!

NOTE: I haven’t been to Coffehead since the head chef changed, or tried any of the new menu dishes.

Rating : 3 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Menu can be viewed at http://www.coffeehead.com.au/files/CH_menu_150812_PDF.pdf  (The menu on the website has not been updated to the new menu)
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Old School and Fun. It has a very laid back chilled out atmosphere. Great for a weekend breakkie/brunch session.
Service: Friendly and Happy
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.coffeehead.com.au/index.html
8-10 Railway Parade, Camberwell
Tel No: 9831 1400

Opening Hours
Monday to Friday: 7am – 5pm
Saturday and Sunday: 8am – 5pm

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John Gorilla – Great Summery Cafe for Catchups

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Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice at John Gorilla Toasted Bagel filled with Smoked Salmon, Fresh Spinach, Sliced Avocado, Dill, Boiled Egg & Mayonnaise
Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice and Toasted Bagel filled with Smoked Salmon, Fresh Spinach, Sliced Avocado, Dill, Boiled Egg & Mayonnaise
French Toast made with Brioche & Served with Fresh Strawberries, Kaffir Lime Leaf infused Raspberry Couli, Toasted Macadamias and Vanilla Bean Mascarpone
French Toast made with Brioche & Served with Fresh Strawberries, Kaffir Lime Leaf infused Raspberry Couli, Toasted Macadamias and Vanilla Bean Mascarpone
Braised Field Mushrooms on Sourdough toast, finished with shaved Pecorino, Chervil and Truffle Oil
 Braised Field Mushrooms on Sourdough toast, finished with shaved Pecorino, Chervil and Truffle Oil

John Gorilla is relatively new cafe in West Brunswick that was opened up by Joanna Wilson (owner of the much loved Mart 130 cafe in Middlepark).  Wilson posted on an online fund-raising platform Pozible to assist in the funding to build this solo venture. Through the website, people could sign up for vouchers for coffee and food in exchange for donations. She quickly managed to raise almost $7K and the rest as they can say is history. This place has been full of patrons from day one and after visiting this place I can see why.

As you walk towards John Gorilla – which is located on Pearson St, which just your regular neighbourhood street – you are greeted with big windows and rulers which line the bottom front wall – which is the main design feature – in all types of colourfuls. This feature runs inside the cafe as well under the main countertop. The main countertop features some of sweets on sale such as cupcakes and muffins. Along the entrance there are a few tables and as you continue inside there are two main rooms, together with an Astro-turfed back garden to enjoy more of the sunshine.

The decor is colourful vintage chic with a few modern twists in the form of colourful wall mural (which is hand painted by Melbourne artist Beci Orpin)  – to keep with the colourful ruler theme. The lightshades are a main focal point made of wire and exposed bulb filament (I LOVE!). There is also a painting of John Gorilla himself which overlooks the coffee area – such a cute feature.

My girlfriends and I got seated in the outside courtyard area which had wooden table and soft spongy chairs that reminded me of classroom days back in primary school – not to say it wasn’t comfortable. The weather was beautiful and this arrangement surrounded with some of my best friends was great. We ordered coffee (John Gorilla serves Padre coffee) and fresh juices as we chatted and looked over the menus.

Shane Beazley is the head chef of John Gorilla and has created a menu that covers all bases and is enticing and appealing. The menu is broken up into 5 parts – Cereals Fruit &Toasts, Breakfast, Eggs, Sandwiches and Lunch. Breakfast dishes consist of French Toast, to Lamb fry to breakfast combinations such as eggs with mushrooms or baked beans but with additional ingredients to make the dish pop. Sandwiches aren’t your normal sandwiches – there is a bagel with smoked salmon, a steak sandwich and vegetarian option of an open toasted sandwich with pumpkin dahl, tomato and basil. Told you the menu covers all bases =p

I ordered the Braised Field Mushrooms on Sourdough toast, finished with shaved Pecorino, Chervil and Truffle Oil which was quite a large sized dish! The mushrooms were plump, juicy and fresh and the combination of ingredients did work well. The shaved Pecorino wasn’t as “fresh” as I thought it would be and would be my only complaint. I struggled to finish my dish. I also tried some of my friends French Toast which was really delicious! I am a huge fan of vanilla bean and loved that this was the main flavour in the mascarpone. A definite must try!

My girlfriends and I continued to sit around in the courtyard chatting and sipping coffees for a good 4 hours and the staff were friendly and didn’t at any time tell us to leave – simply asked us if we needed anything else.

John Gorilla is a colourful and quirky cafe that serves great food and tasty coffee. It is a great place to come to spend a sunny afternoon or even if it is just for a quick coffee (which can be served through the front windows). This place is a definite must visit and a return to place on my list.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Great Breakkie selection – refer to http://www.urbanspoon.com/u/menu/1699339
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Retro, Comfortable and great for a Summery day catchup, especially in the outside courtyard
Standout Dish: Braised Field Mushrooms on Sourdough toast, finished with shaved Pecorino, Chervil and Truffle Oil
Service: Friendly and Attentive
Online Booking: No – Cafe doesn’t take bookings
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.johngorilla.com/#
49 Pearson St, Brunswick West
Tel No: 9005 8680

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 7:30am – 4:30pm

John Gorilla on Urbanspoon

Mama Baba – A Combination of Greek and Italian

          
      

Left to Right (clockwise) : Haloumi Fried Cheese with Beetroot Relish, Cured Salmon with Yoghurt and Greens, Chorizo Sausage with Peppers, Penne Pasta with Pesto, Peas’ and Almonds, Gnudi- Ricotta, burnt butter, honey, walnuts, sage, capers, Beef Cheek with 2 cheese Wet Polenta, Snapper Fillet with Fish Broth and Lettuce, Capers,Polenta Chips with Sour Cream, Chilli Soffritto

Left to Right (clockwise) : Mama Baba decor, “Our Ferrero Rocher” dessert, the Hanging cheese and meats looking into the kitchen, The bicycle and fruits at the Entrance, The dining area with the bar and the projector wall in the background, The other desserts – The Italian Mess – Caramel mascarpone, meringue, fruits  and Bomboloni – Cinnamon, Nutella
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Our fortnightly work dinner catchup had come around again and this time the place that was chosen was George Colmabaris’ restaurant Mama Baba. I have previously been to his other restaurants (Maha, Press Club, St Katherines to name a few) and have usually enjoyed the food. Mama Baba has a combination of Greek and Italian dishes as the name pertains to – his Mama is Greek and his Baba is Italian (there are decorations around the venue that state this). I think the naming of this restaurant is unique and really shows how much focus he has on family and food which I think is fantastic.

This is not your typical restaurant venue like his other places. It is located in back streets of South Yarra and in what used to be an old warehouse.  It is a wide open spacious restaurant and has a vintage feel to it. You are greeted when you first walk in with a bicycle and some fruits which then follows around to the open and see through kitchen, where you can see the chefs busily preparing food. Cheeses and meats hang from the ceiling. There is a long bar which almost spans the length of the restaurant and has highlighted lighting and is colourful  Something a bit different is the curved wall where a projector plays visual items – on this occasion we had the ballet and then it later changed to the movie – TRON.

In most of George’s Restaurants like Hellenic Republic and St Katherines’, the food has a very homey feeling. Mama Baba is the same. It has a rustic and home cooked feeling to it. The Menu is split into two sections – the Mama which are the Greek dishes, and the Baba section which are the Italian dishes. You can either go A la Carte or choose from the Mama Menu. We decided to go with the Mama Menu – which is a selection of dishes over 4 courses – we were told this was the best way to try out the menu.

The dishes that we got served are pictured above. We started off with 3 entrees plus a vegetarian option for me (Polenta Chips with Sour Cream). The Fried Haloumi with Beetroot Relish was the standout amongst the entrees as was the Cured Salmon with Yoghurt and Greens. Next we got a selection of pasta and this is where I had one gripe – some of my pasta pieces weren’t cooked fully and were hard. The flavour however was nice – pesto and peas and this dish was the greenest dish I have ever seen! The standout dish here and in fact for the night was the Gnudi (Gnocchi). There is just something about the combination of Gnocchi and Burnt butter that makes me drool!  The gnocchi itself were huge and if you were to order just that and have all 5 gnocchis you will definitely need to be rolled out of the restaurant.
The mains were nothing to write home about, they were OK. I could actually taste the fishiness of the fish that came out, and I am never a fan of that. As a vegetarian substitute because I couldn’t eat the Beef Cheek – I was given a wheat grain rice mixed with vegetables which was packed full of flavour and was actually quite nice and very filling, however a bit on the salty side.

Onto dessert (the most important part of the meal I say) – we were given a selection of the Italian Mess and the Bomboloni. Prior to coming to the restaurant, as I do, I checked out the menu and really wanted to try out “Our Ferrero Rocher” – so we ordered that as well. For $13 I was expecting a lot more than a tiny little dessert and was also let down by the flavour. There were no nuts as a normal ferrero rocher has or the wafer biscuit bits. This dessert is one that was talked about so I was expecting something special.

Overall, the place and the decor was fantastic. The food is not up to the normal standard that I would expect from a George Colombaris restaurant. The food was good but not great. Might give it a few months before I go back and try some of the other menu items.

Rating : 3 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – A la Carte Menu, Mama Menu (4 Courses for $55) and Group Menus – http://mamababa.com.au/menus/
Fullness: 85%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Vintage and Open – a massive fan!
Standout Dish: Gnudi
Service: Great Service and very friendly. Sometimes though it was a bit hard to get the waiters attention if we needed something. Also when I called up to make a reservation I had a query about if the food was halal and the lady said she would find out and call me back – and she did. Impressed by that.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://mamababa.com.au/
21 Daly St, South Yarra
Tel No: 9207 7421

Opening Hours:
Lunch: Friday & Sunday: 12pm – 3pm
DINNER:
Monday-Thursday & Saturday:  6pm – LATE
Friday & Sunday: 5pm – LATE

Mama Baba on Urbanspoon