Top 10 foodie finds in Melbourne this week

figs for dessert...

1. Brother Baba Budan is one of my go-to spots for a quality coffee in Melbourne’s CBD. It may be tiny, but it makes up for it with its funky charm and atmosphere. The house coffee is from famous Carlton based roastery, Seven Seeds. If you’re lucky, grab a spot at the communal table and watch the masters at work as they churn out countless brews to the steady queue of caffeine hounds. And don’t be alarmed by the chairs hanging precariously from the ceiling – I am assured they are held on tight.

Brother Baba Budan on Urbanspoon

2. With a sister cafe in Windsor, Dukes Coffee Roasters in Flinders Lane doesn’t miss a beat. Like Brother Baba Budan, seats are limited, but it’s a great option for a pre work takeway coffee. Dukes pride themselves on environmental and social sustainability; all of their coffees are ethically traded and organically grown where possible. Don’t miss the decadent selection of pastries on the front counter (my favourite is the white chocolate coated alfajores). Be prepared to queue a little at peak tomes.

Dukes Coffee Roasters on Urbanspoon

3. Set in a stunning Victorian terrace overlooking Carlton Gardens, Epocha’s ambience is every bit as charming as its menu. With its high ceilings, wooden floors and cosy candle light, Epocha will feel like you are dining in your wealthy relative’s dining room. The menu is largely European and divided into a mouth watering array of sharing plates which focus on the seasons. Whether it’s for a romantic date or a special occasion, I’d challenge you to find a nicer spot around town.

Epocha on Urbanspoon

4. Sidestep Epocha on the ground floor and walk up the steep staircase and you will find the beautiful Hannah’s Bar. Featuring antique silverware and  murals by local artists Merryn Trevethan and Jamie Boys, the bar is a stylish  establishment, perfect for an after-work cocktail or two. In the summer months, retreat to the balcony and overlook the beautiful gardens below.

5. If you have a love of coffee and donuts, then make a beeline to Short Stop in Sutherland Street. Get here early or risk waiting in epic queues or even miss out on your favourite donut all together. All donuts are made fresh on-site using high-quality, natural ingredients. Enjoy the classic yeast-raised ring donut, the filled, the cake and French cruller varieties.So is $4.50 too much for a bite sized donut? I will let you be the judge…

Shortstop Coffee & Donuts on Urbanspoon

6. Hoptoberfest at Hophaus on Southbank for the closest Oktoberfest experience you will experience in Melbourne. Expect traditional Bavarian food specials like schnitzel, rotisserie chicken, bratwurst and of course salty giant pretzels. There’s also a great range of Oktoberfest Bier on tap served throughout the festival, especially flown in from Bavaria. So get your stein and your lederhosen out and get into the festive spirit. But hurry, the festival ends on the 5th October!!!!

Hophaus on Urbanspoon

7. There’s a lot to love about Grossi Florentino’s Cellar Bar. The timeless bar/restaurant oozes charm and style. It may not be as sophisticated as the menu next door but the pastas are superb, hearty and affordable. The menu has a small selection of traditional Italian dishes which focus on simple, quality produce. It’s also a perfect spot to perch at the bar and enjoy a deep bodied red after a hard day’s work.

Grossi Florentino Cellar Bar on Urbanspoon

8. My latest addiction is Connoisseur Murray River Salted Caramel Ice Cream – I could literally eat it by the bucketful. The icecream is infused with pure, ancient salt from Australia’s Murray River. Chocolate coated hazelnuts are folded through hazelnut flavoured ice cream for an extra flavour punch.

9. From the team behind San Telmo, Pastuso is the latest Peruvian inspired restaurant to hit ACDC Lane. The pisco sours here are spot on. For food you can expect a palate popping selection of authentic Peruvian food with modern touches. Next time I will be sure to order the scorched tres leches cake soaked in condensed milk.

Pastuso on Urbanspoon

10. Deliciously Ella’s ‘Breakfast Smoothie’. With a healthy combination of spinach, banana, berries, oats and chia seeds – it’s the perfect smoothie to get started in the morning.

What have been your favourite finds around your town this week? Would love to hear your comment below!

Chef Series Q&A: Colin Fassnidge, Four In Hand & 4Fourteen

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Chef, TV personality, author, loving family man – it appears that Colin Fassnidge has many hats. But perhaps the most noted hat for foodies goes to his extraordinary transformation of a small dining room in a pub to a two hat restaurant.

The straight talking, Dublin born, chef has certainly had a well-travelled cooking career . He worked in Oxford in 1994 under Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. After spending a few more years in the UK, he arrived in Australia and worked at some of Sydney’s most acclaimed restaurants, including Banc and est.

Love him or hate him, Colin has made a great impact on the Australian food scene, known throughout the industry for his nose to tail cooking philosophy.Often criticised for his social media antics and brutal honesty in reality cooking show, My Kitchen Rules, there is no doubting that Colin’s heart belongs in the kitchen.

While being Executive of Four in Hand, Colin has transformed the Paddington dining room in a pub to one of Sydney’s hottest foodie destinations, alongside recent addition 4Fourteen in Surry Hills.

So what makes Colin tick? I caught up with him to find out more about his cooking style, his future plans and what it was really like working with Raymond Blanc.

How would you describe your cooking style?

I like creating non fussy, simple food. As I’ve got older I have learnt to appreciate food and the ingredients more. I hate waste, so I try to convert even the most undesirable of off cuts into great dishes.

Your menu seems to shift with the seasons: how important is local produce to your cooking?

Using seasonal, local produce is really important. I am great friends with my local producers and farmers. Every day we have a chat about what’s coming up and the vegetables in season; they know what’s best for you and your menu.

How did you transform Four in Hand from a small dining room in a pub to an award-winning restaurant?

We worked our butts off! It wasn’t easy, the process took years. We set the bar really high to a certain level and didn’t stop until we got there.

Who have been your main influences?

My mum! I can remember having a passion for cooking from a very young age. My mum is a great cook. Food  and meal times were always huge in our household when growing up in Dublin.

And Raymond Blanc of course.

What was it like working with Raymond?

Tough! We often got our butts kicked (he jokes). Being a chef is a hard job. The biggest lesson Raymond taught me was to respect the ingredients. He taught me what to do/not want to do and most importantly to learn from my mistakes. A willingness to learn from your mistakes makes a great cook. And taste at every stage in the process.

Tell me more about the famed pig’s ear schnitzel?

Laughs. It actually started as a joke when we braised a pig’s ear in the kicthen for hours, then crumbed and deep-fried it like a piece of chicken schnitzel. No one thought it would be a a success on the menu; everyone thought we would go broke! Now they are a regular fixture on the bar menu, served with salsa verde. Everyone loves them!

What are your favourite places to eat out in Sydney?

Spice I Am, Mamak. I prefer smaller places. I have two little girls now so have to think about child friendly places. The ‘child effect’ means we have about an hour!

You have travelled quite a lot in your career, any plans to open another restaurant overseas or interstate? My home is in Australia for now with my wife and two girls so definitely not overseas. Perhaps interstate? Maybe Brisbane? No definite plans yet.

Colin has released his first cookbook Four Kitchens so you can enjoy his delicious dishes in your home kitchen. 

Marinated Rack of Lamb with Coriander & Honey

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I have fond memories of spending time in North London ,wandering along Regents Canal and Upper Street’s quirky shops and boutiques. But perhaps one of my favourite memories is frequenting Ottolenghi’s flagship restaurant in Islington, gossiping with friends over countless coffees and cakes drenched with rosewater syrup.

For anyone who is familiar with Ottolenghi’s cooking style – it is punchy, colourful and incredibly flavoursome. But what I love most about his cooking is that it’s simple and largely uncomplicated.

“Unfussiness and simplicity in food preparation are, for us, the only way to maintain the freshness of a dish.We love real food, unadulterated and unadorned” Ottolenghi says.

One of my favourite recipes of Ottolenghi’s is the marinated rack of lamb with coriander and honey. The marinade in this recipe is superb – fresh, punchy and absolutely bursting with flavour. The greens in the recipe perfectly balance the sweet and sour flavours to provide a welcome companion to the lamb.

I made a visit to South Melbourne Markets last weekend to stock up on gourmet goodies. If you can, try to buy quality lamb from your local butcher; it will make a world of difference. And to make it easier, ask the butcher to french trim the lamb rack, leaving only a thin layer of fat.

The dish can be served both warm or cold. And the best thing? It is best prepared the night ahead, to allow all the beautiful flavours to permeate through the lamb.

Everyone needs a good lamb recipe in their life!

Serves 4

You will need:

1kg rack of lamb, french trimmed

20g flat leaf parsley, leaves and stalks

30g mint, leaves and stalks

30g coriander, leaves and stalks

4 garlic cloves, peeled

15g fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

3 chillies, seeded

½ teaspoon salt

50ml lemon juice

60ml soy sauce

120ml sunflower oil

3 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

4 tablespoons water

Directions

1. Make sure most of the fat is trimmed off the lamb, leaving a uniform thin layer that will keep the meat moist and add to the flavour. Use a very sharp knife to separate the rack into portions of two or three cutlets. Place in a non-metal container.

2. Blitz together all the remaining ingredients in a food processor, pour them over the lamb and make sure it is well covered for a night in the marinade. Refrigerate overnight.

3. Preheat the oven to 200c. Heat up a heavy cast iron pan, preferably a griddle pan. Remove the meat from the marinade and shake off the excess. Sear well on all sides, about 5 minutes in total. Transfer to a baking tray and cook in the oven for about 15 minutes, depending on the size of the racks and how well cooked you want them. Note – I prefer medium rare so only cook in the oven for 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, heat the marinade in a small pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Put the cutlets on serving plates and serve the sauce in a separate bowl. Both cutlets and sauce can be served hot or at room temperature.

Bon Appetit!

This recipe is from Ottolenghi – The Cookbook

 

Top 10 Foodie finds in Melbourne this week

My hangover coffee

1. Find of the Week: The Kettle Black is one of the hottest brunch openings in Melbourne right now. Nestled on Albert Road, in leafy South Melbourne, the popular cafe pulls in brunch punters like moths to light. It’s a beautifully converted venue, with a modern stylish look and feel. Expect to queue at busy times, but rest assured, the outdoor coffee cart (weather permitting) will be happy to help you with your morning caffeine hit while you wait. From the team behind Top Paddock, it’s no surprise that the cafe pushes the boundaries when it comes to its menu. With items like Robbins Island wagyu skirt steak, and Flinders Island wallaby, it’s a bit fussier than your average weekend brunch spot. The outdoor terrace will inevitably be a hot spot this summer.

The Kettle Black on Urbanspoon

2. Kong BBQ is so loud, fast and furious you may trick your mind into thinking you’re in the middle of a busy restaurant in Tokyo somewhere. Quirky features with futuristic projections and talking bathrooms just add to the charm of the place. The menu draws on age-old barbeque and smoking techniques. Soft shell crab buns are soft, pillowy and literally stuffed with crispy, succulent crab; while  wagyu beef and kimchi dumplings, bathed in an emulsion of soy vinegar, are an equal crowd pleaser. Looks like the crowds will be continuing here for a while…

Kong BBQ on Urbanspoon

3. State of Grace, an eclectic restaurant located on the New York end of Collins Street. The restaurant is a collector’s dream – bursting at the seams with antique collectables like chaise lounges, books and lamps. Don’t miss the secret entrance to the basement bar. Here you will find Fall From Grace. You won’t be disappointed with the impressive drinks list.

State of Grace on Urbanspoon

4. Mr Mason for its seasonal inspired French menu. Slightly off the usual foodie track, Mr Mason is not one for foodies to ignore, with  beautiful dishes like Berkshire Pork belly and Aylesbury duck breast on the menu. Mr Mason’s menu changes regularly, but a few favourite French classics always remain. For something a little less formal, Mr Mason also hosts great value member nights like wine and cheese evenings. Definitely one to consider for post-work drinks and dinner.

Mr Mason on Urbanspoon

5. For anyone who follows me on Instagram, you would know that Axil Coffee Roasters in Hawthorn is one of my all-time favourite spots for coffee and brunch. Luckily for city dwellers, Axil has opened up a smaller sister branch in the CBD. The outpost has a small takeaway counter on street level and a small cafe upstairs which is easy to miss! It may not have all the trimmings of the Hawthorn establishment, but it serves a good brew.

Axil on Urbanspoon

6. Local Trivia Night at the Geebung Polo Club in Hawthorn on Monday evenings. Get your mates together for a few beers and enjoy the $14 special menu with pub classics like fish and chips and salt and pepper squid. Even if you’re not a trivia buff, you will be guaranteed a good laugh.

Geebung Polo Club on Urbanspoon

7. The Village Drive In, in Coburg,  has just got more interesting with the arrival of a food truck festival. Held at various times throughout the year, the Coburg Drive In Food Truck Festival is a perfect start to a casual date at the movies. Pick up a freshly torched creme brulee from the Brulee Cart and some fresh meats from the Argentinian grill at Senor to tuck into before putting your seats back and watching a movie in the comfort of your car. Tickets are $17,50 for one $40 for a car load.

8. The Builder’s Arms, a landmark public house on Gertrude Street, which has both a bistro and a private dining room, as well as a leafy courtyard -perfect for the summer months. The more formal dining room, Moon Under Water, named after a George Orwell essay, features a four course chef’s menu, inspired by seasonal cuisine. Fellow foodies will feel well at home here.

Builders Arms Hotel Bar and Bistro on Urbanspoon

9. Hidden off the normal drag of Chapel Street in South Yarra, the Sweetwater Inn on Bray Street, is definitely worth the short detour. With its rusty cast iron trimmings, taxidermy and its tin cans doubled as cocktail glasses, you will feel like you have escaped to the country somewhere. The menu is all about it’s BBQ items like smoky chicken wings, pulled pork, and bbq split king prawns. I am salivating just thinking about it.

Sweetwater Inn on Urbanspoon

10. My recipe of the week is Ottolenghi’s Marinated rack of lamb with coriander and honey.

What have been your’e favourite finds this week? Would love to hear your comments below!

Yung Kee – the best roast goose in Hong Kong?

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The familiar story of rags to riches rings true for Yung Kee founder, Kam Shui Fai. More than half a century ago, Kam was a young and penniless man trying to make ends meet at a humble food stall seling siu mei at a dai pai dong on Kwong Yuen West Street.

After some success, a couple of major moves and even the Second World War, Kam Shui Fai eventually moved his business to the heart of central Hong Kong, on Wellington Street in the Yung Kee Building in 1964. And even after over 70 years, the restaurant is still going strong, receiving one Michelin Star in 2009 and another in 2010 and 2011.

Yung Kee is one of Hong Kong’s more famous restaurants, serving a number of award-winning Chinese dishes. But the most famous is its gourmet specialty-Roast Goose. In fact, the demand for its roast goose is so high that as many 300 birds are sold daily.

On a hot and sticky Hong Kong afternoon, I beat the “suits” and retreated indoors to o the air-conditioned comfort of Yung Kee. The restaurant has a certain sense of old-fashioned class about it without being pretentious.

The half goose, perfect for two to share, is beautifully fragrant and flavoursome, achieving a perfectly golden brown glaze. The delicate skin is thin yet crispy, with a thin layer of fat underneath it.

Melt in your mouth style meat was juicy and succulent, served over a bed of braised soy beans which effortlessly soaked up the flavour and the delicate plum sauce.

So is this the best roast goose in Hong Kong? Perhaps but I need to do a bit more research first.

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goose
32-40 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2522 1624

A Progressive Dinner with Mason and Grace

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Meet Mason – a charming Frenchman, famous for his imaginative cuisine and tales. And Grace – the more eccentric of the pair, a lover of antiques and vintage. This may sound like a romantic tale of boy meets girl, but instead a tale of a progressive dinner with Mason and Grace.

Foodies gathered excitedly at 6.30 at the outdoor terrace of Mr Mason to enjoy free-flowing champagne and roving canapes to mark the start of the progressive dinner. Charming waiters weaved through the eager crowd tempting us with palate popping plates of cured salmon and horseradish and beef tartare with quail egg and nori.

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We were then tempted inside to warm our cockles by the roaring fireplace to enjoy a French inspired meal, compliments of Head Chef Thiago with matched wine. Thiago addressed the hungry guests briefly to explain the largely French inspired menu, which showcased the best of local, seasonal ingredients.

The Berkshire pork belly, which happens to be Thiago’s favourite is a beautiful assembly of pork belly, smoked pork loin, cauliflower and raisin. The belly itself is cooked to perfection with a fatty and succulent underbelly topped with an impossibly crisp golden crackling.The delicate jus brought all the elements of the dish together harmoniously. The match – a full-bodied 2013 Villages Beaujolais.

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The barramundi was an equal crowd pleaser. Crispy skinned barramundi was cooked to perfection with a well seasoned skin. The saffron bisque created a beautiful colour and aroma which gently permeated through the barramundi and clams. Its partner – a 2012 French Hugel Riesling, bone dry and well-balanced.

Unfortunately I did not taste the wild mushroom pithivier with madeira and lentil vinaigrette but it looked smashing!

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Full of food and good wine, we were then whisked away to the next venue – State of Grace.The restaurant/bar is full of vintage charm and character, literally bursting at the seams with antique collectables.

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Within minutes of excited chattering with our neighbours, we were served a decadent selection of their desserts, paired with our choice of Moscato or a Light Botryis Semillon.

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A generous slab of dark chocolate mousse was the first to arrive – devilishly rich, smooth and velvety. The addition of crushed roasted hazelnuts and jasmine foam provided a nice textural element to the dessert

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A warm pumpkin and hazelnut financier was nicely balanced, incorporating both sweet and earthy, savoury elements. A generous sprinkling of cinnamon sherbet and spiced chantilly cream conjured up feelings of Christmas. Tiny dollops of date puree were scattered around the plate to give the dessert a touch of added sweetness. The perfect winter dish.

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After hearing from the head chef, we were ushered into a small room with a mysterious bookcase..

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The secret entrance revealed a winding marble staircase, where we found a hidden cellar bar – Fall From Grace. The decadent den was stylishly dressed with chandeliers and candelabras.

The expert bartenders methodically placed glasses of fruity looking cocktails along a long communal table accompanied by small plates of sliced lime.

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The limed were lightly spritzed with alcohol then set ablaze by a tiny blow torch, creating an impressive fire display around the table.

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Once the limes had cooled, they were placed into the cocktail for an extra flavour punch. Voila their signature Zombie Cocktail! The perfect nightcap to even the evening.

Overall a great evening full of good fun, food and frivolity. Thanks for having us.

Disclosure: I was invited as a guest of Mason of Grace.

Hammer & Tong Food Truck launches in Melbourne

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Perhaps best known for their epic soft shell crab burger, Hammer and Tong 412 has decided to hit the road on the streets of Melbourne and launch the Hammer and Tong Food Truck.

Eating house and coffee bar, Hammer & Tong 412 opened in Fitzroy in early 2013 and has developed a loyal foodie following in Melbourne ever since. A partnership between industry pros Simon Ward and Dennis Ferreira (both ex Vue De Monde), Hammer & Tong celebrates casual dining and simple, fresh ingredients.

I was lucky enough to go to the launch of the food truck last week to sample some of the menu. Foodies mingled excitedly at the rear of the restaurant on Brunswick Street, tempted in by the smells of soft shell crab and charcoaled brioche and the sounds of the thumping beats from the house DJ.

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Serving up Hammer & Tong favourites, the food truck offers a new class of mobile dining fare and is a first in high-end food trucks.

Many dishes from the restaurant have found their way on to the menu, including the soft shell crab burger and lavender custard yoghurt. Of course, I had to try them all…

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The famous soft shell crab burger with sriracha mayo, black sesame slaw, coriander

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Lobster roll in charcoal brioche, lime beurre blanc, celery

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Lavender yoghurt custard, strawberry and pineapple gel, berries, lychee with basil cress

Taking casual fine dining to the next level, look out for the Hammer & Tong food truck at events, popular food truck destinations, and even catering private parties around town.

You can find the Hammer & Tong Food Truck in the following locations

Thursday August 21
Lunch 11am-3pm at Acu, Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Dinner 5pm-10pm at Moondog Brewery, 17 Duke Street, Abbotsford

Friday August 22
Lunch 11am-3pm at Victoria University, Footscray
Dinner 5pm-10pm at Kooinda Brewery, 28 Culverlands Street, Heidleberg West
Late night 10.30pm-12.30am The Racoon Club, 145 Plenty Road, Preston

Sunday August 24
Lunch 11am-3pm at Technology Markets, Box Hill Town Hall, 1022 Whitehorse Road, Box Hill
Dinner 5pm-10pm at Ruckers Hill, corner High Street and Bayview Street, Northcote

For the full schedule check out their Facebook Page.

www.hammerandtong.com.au