Saturday, October 31, 2009

Seven Seeds

Seven Seeds
114 Berkeley Street, Carlton
Telephone 03 9347 8664

Everyone likes the coffee here. Everyone.

And everyone talks about it as well. Everyone.

But I am such a dork that I don't really drink coffee. And blasphemously, I can't really tell the difference between a Starbucks and a...hmm, Seven Seeds I suppose.

However, because this place is so very close to the hallowed halls of the law school (and so very vogue now) I have lunch here almost every week. Plus it's the only logical option once you've had just about enough of Indonesian tummy-fillers and the greasy Chinese in the other direction.

So what do I like?

Surprise, surprise the carrot cupcake. This is my new favourite place to get it, because it's less sweet, has actual cream cheese frosting and the quality never varies - unlike The Cupcake Bakery, which, contrary to my previous testimonial, has been dry and stale(!) the last four times I've had it. In the space of a week. Not good enough!

So the Seven Seeds cupcake wins. Even though it's smaller and comes with a $0.50 extra on the price tag ($4.00 each for all the baked goodies).

The chocolate cupcake is really lovely as well, though no pictures because I scoffed it down too quickly. And I love the lime syrup friand, which is always moist and deliciously sour. Interestingly, all the pastry/cakey goodies here are from Dench, which means they're exactly the same as the ones in Auction Rooms. Except they're priced at $4.50 there. I've also had the mandarin and polenta cake and I have to say I did not like it all. There was a bit too much mandarin rind in the mix I think, which made it slightly bitter, and I don't think I'm too fond of the polenta texture either.

As for the savouries, I've had the 'Egyptian Eye' - Beautiful toast obviously, big with lots of chewy wheat bits, and I wish I'd gotten an extra egg to go with it. Came with an interesting chutney-like sauce. I'm not sure the sauce necessarily went with the sandwich, but it was definitely a change (and not an unpleasant one) from the usual sideshows (hollandaise, smashed avocado, etc.). I wish Seven Seeds had more egg options - this is the only one.

(Apologies for the awful picture, I only had my mobile phone with me the day I took this.)

Anyway, like I said, Seven Seeds has that same warehouse utility-chic look sported by all the cool cats these days, and hence, was an ideal and hip place to meet up with BFF J for lunch.

J is a coffee-drinker but not one for words. "Strong...I like it." I suppose that's as good an endorsement as any!

(Click to read the new menu!)

We had the veggo toastie option - mushrooms, fontina cheese, and pine nuts ($9.50). I thought this sounded really exciting on the menu, but to be honest, it's a bit bland until you mix the salad in with your mouthful, which I think adds a bit of acidity to the bite. The mushrooms were as lovely and picquant as they should be, and the cheese nicely melted with a fair pungence. The texture of the bread was as amazing as usual - J suggested we visit Dench Bakers soon to pay homage to its origins - and I totally agree!

So, Seven Seeds. Welcome addition to the Melbourne café scene, and definitely a welcome addition to the desert of eateries in this area.

Seven Seeds on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Clichés - Rose Garden BBQ Shop

Rose Garden BBQ Shop
435 Elizabeth St
(Take any Elizabeth St tram and stop at Franklin St)
Telephone: 03 9329 1560

Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 11am - 9pm

Like a Melbourne restaurant hidden away so no one but those in the 'know' can find it.

And like a tiny Chinese restaurant/take-away that does so much business you wonder why they don't...spruce up.

Rose Garden is tiny. And sandwiched between two restaurants with bright orange facades (one with neon lettering even) so I've walked past it many times even when I'm looking for it.

The format here is very similar to all the other HK-type eateries in the city. You enter, pick a combination of your 'dish' with rice, e.g. "BBQ pork on rice" or "Pig stomach in black pepper with rice" (the latter is a real winner of a combination by the way), and everything is priced below $10. Simple.

The only difference is that the food here is so much better than the perfunctory, fill-your-belly student fare that you usually get closer to the beaten track (a.k.a. Swanston St). It's authentic, fast, fresh, and just goddamn generous.

I usually come here for takeaway, because
a. I live nearby, and
b. Seating, as you may observe, is very limited

Most people get the spicy chicken ribs on rice ($8.30), which, I gather, is their true specialty despite the roast meats hanging in the window and indeed, despite the name of the restaurant. Which doesn't mean that they don't do a mean BBQ - they do, and it runs out really quickly (hence the unorthodox early closing time for an Asian student-centred joint), but the chicken ribs are just...


As you can see, I get mine topped up with roast pork anyway, for an extra $5.

With a serving of won tons (four plump parcels in a bowl of actual soup) ($4.20). I prefer these to the limp and emaciated ones I've had at Camy.

Bliss. And much-needed nourishment for many a quick and comfy dinner at home.

Rose Garden BBQ on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Cupcake Bakery

The Cupcake Bakery
Shop GD006, Menzies Lane
Melbourne Central, LaTrobe St
(closest entrance is Elizabeth St)

Cupcakes, which is to me as rice is to the Chinese, and pasta is to the Italians. Shameful, but true.

The Cupcake Bakery has taken a lot of battering on the web, but as far as I can tell, business is booming. I've been there a few times a half-hour before closing and missed out because they always seem to sell out. Oh the beauty of a fantastic location. And it really is too, positioned along Menzies Lane between the Elizabeth St entrance (where Chilli Padi and Max Brenner dwell) and with strategic proximity to the Melbourne Central train station. And see, how pretty!

How can you say no? And I rarely do, despite some unsatisfying experiences. So far, I've tried the Molten Choc (rich, but the chocolate quality is not...great), Choc Choc (ditto, and I tasted grainy sugar in the frosting), Red Velvet (...bit strange, as if they'd under-sweetened it), Hummingbird (alright, not my thing), Banana (bland), Sticky Date (very 'true to its name' flavour) and Lemon Poppyseed (not bad). To be fair, I didn't find any of them dry, which is the major criticism I've read about this place. In fact, all the cupcakes thus far have been pretty moist - and I've bought a fair few, and many at closing time. But yes, on the whole, I definitely don't think it's THE best cupcake place in Melbourne. So why do I keep going back, you may ask?

For these!

Yummy, really nutty, moist, sizeable carrot cupcakes.

Oh and I love them. This cupcake is my most regular snack, and by regular I mean, almost daily (I did say this was a shameful post) and by snack I mean lunch.

Because I'm a light lunch eater and it's pretty big for $3.50!

I've placed a CD next to the battered cupcake I carted home to take this picture so you can see how it's quite a bit bigger than say, Little Cupcakes on Degraves. And at the expense of being hit over the head as I take my regular walk down Menzies Lane, I'd say it tastes better as well! In this one flavour at least. Especially because of the nuts. I love nuts! And it's so nutty.

In fact, I've eaten this so many times, I can tell you that the carrot topper is changeable. Sometimes, you get a pretty topper like this:

And sometimes, you'll get this more lazy-looking carrot:

See the difference?

Yes...I keep my toppers - you might say, I'm just nuts about them! *Hold for applause* All other times, you get some walnut bits on top instead (no pictures, because I eat them, of course! The walnuts, not the pictures).

So yes, The Cupcake Bakery - some hits and misses. But much like floundering in a sea of awful dates with awful men, I keep returning...for more of the Carrot Cupcake, my one true love.

Revision 26.10.2009: The carrot cupcake has been consistently terrible the last few times I've been there so I've given up on it now. On the lookout for a new carrot cupcake love! And I think I know who to hire as a guide...

Cupcake Bakery (Melbourne Central Shopping Centre) on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 12, 2009


3-5 Fitzroy St
St Kilda VIC 3182
Telephone 03 9534 9666

It's funny how you never go somewhere for ages and then suddenly find yourself there twice in a week. I'm back in St Kilda - BFF Yunn turns 21, and being the ultra-generous creature that she is, hosts a gorgeous private dinner at Sapore, which is newly-hatted, and always pretty. I should probably start by saying that this isn't the first function I've attended here - the place, honestly, is quite beautiful, and perfect for the most 'elegant' of dinners - especially in comparison to some other hatted restaurants we checked out in the Carlton area. To be fair, however, most of those are converted houses, and perhaps don't have the scope for the kind of modern architectural design sported by Sapore.

(Placecards not provided, the hostess made ours)

And so - to food. In my opinion, the function menu is competitively-priced - especially when you consider the fussy $100 meals that other restaurants were proffering in venues much less attractive *cue sour look. I also detest places that are inflexible about their minimum spend, especially if it's a weekday function and and the room isn't being used anyway - it's such a silly way to turn off potential future customers and lose a veritable source of income for the restaurant. Happily, Sapore was flexible on the most parts regarding the minimum spend, especially as there were only about 20 of us.

The menu draws on dishes from the actual menu, so the prices listed below are as per ala carte (obtained from their website).

Choice of three appetizers, and like any seafood aficionado, I pick the 'Salt and pepper calamari with a salad of bitter leaves (read: rocquette), garlic, aioli lemon and fig vincotto (huh) - $18.'

And I have to say, I was very happy with this. I know it's not the most original of dishes, but the calamari was crisp and fresh - though I can't say it was warm, and I'm not sure whether this is intentional or because all the appetizers had to be served at a go. It was lovely, generous, and really, just the kind of moreish food you look for after a day in salty St Kilda.

Choice of three meals, and I faithfully select the seafood option (though not without some internal struggle) and it's 'Atlantic salmon with snow pea, beetroot, sauce vierge and a scallop & prawn tortellini - $28.'

And it...meets expectations. Certainly, it's a sizeable cut of salmon, cooked well (not over or under after a Goldilocks-type examination), and the skin is perfectly crisp. I also liked the filling of the tortellini, it was very won ton/dim sum-ish. For the same reason, however, I felt the pasta casing didn't work - I know it said tortellini but I think that for such a delicate balance of flavours, a much thinner case is called for. But to be fair, the entire dish was satisfactory and arrived 'as described.' So I really struggled to figure out why I wouldn't order this again. And then it came to me - I'd been attacked by an acute case of order envy:

Duck 'due mode' with butternut pumpkin, mustard fruits, foie gras mousse and blackberry vinaigrette - $34.

Oh I could go into raptures about this, it is lovely, lovely, lovely. Tender, juicy, flavourful - everything a duck should be. And I know this because the hostess' father on my right generously placed on my plate one of those large chunks you see at the forefront of the picture. Which I proceeded to chew and nibble at slowly for the rest of the meal, at the expense of finishing my own.

The other options were 'Prime cut of the day with truffle mash potato, salsa verde and a veal jus' (The menu option reads 'Grain fed eye fillet' with the same garnish and is priced at $36)

And Sapore's 'signature' Seafood Linguine with prawns, calamari, mussels, fish, chilli & parsley - $29.

Both were good - with the steak, I'd advise future punters to order it cooked a tad under what you'd like, as the hostess' mother's 'medium well' proved well-done, while the 'rare' steak I sampled was cooked to perfection. And it's such a crime to overcook meat. The linguine, which I've had on two previous occasions is everything it should be and a very safe option if it's the kind of thing you like. Probably perfect for the less adventurous kiddies.

And finally, dessert in the form of an ultra-rich birthday cake - the 'St Moritz' from Lindt; three 'silky tiers of dark, milk & white chocolate mousse', each separated by thin layers of almond cake:

The one in the picture is actually two 'large' cakes pushed together ($65 each). Very rich, and very good. The beautiful plaque was ordered especially from Koko Black, and came packed in bubble wrap with complimentary chocolate curls - also individually wrapped. Now that's service!

And thus, Sapore - everything a fancy night out should be. Go for the duck.

Sapore on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Seafood Tasting Plate vs Seafood Platter

1A-1D, 10-18 Jacka Blvd
St Kilda Sea Baths
Telephone 03 8598 9055

So G's parents are in town, and in the interest of sun, sea, sand and spring (what spring?!), we take them to St Kilda which is the obvious touristy locale. But because this 'spring' is so absolutely chilly, we give up on the Pier Walk somewhere around 4pm and enter the empty Republica where the service is perfunctory, but the food - eeh.

Although maybe it wasn't their fault - you be the judge. If a menu entry reads 'Seafood Tasting Plate For Two', costs $37 in a clearly 'casual' beachside cafe, and describes itself as 'today's seafood specials including oysters, soft shell crab, calamari, kingfish sashimi, tuna roulade, and more' - do you unbuckle your belt in anticipation and flex your fingers for some lemon-squeezin?

Because we did.

And thus...eeh.

I really wouldn't call this a 'tasting plate' for two though G did point out that maybe the words 'tasting plate' alluded to the fact that it was really an appetizer for two and he's probably right. To be fair, the food was fresh and tasted pretty good individually - the best bits in my opinion being the kingfish 'tataki' with fish roe masquarading as caviar, and the deep-fried calamari - crisp and comforting as all deep-fried foods should be.

Nothing jaw-dropping but it was..adequate. And not super 'value'.

I guess the disappointment just stems from the fact that I was expecting this instead:

Red Mullet
210 Glenferrie Road
Malvern VIC 3144
Telephone 03 9500 9338

greatly misleading menu entry: 'Seafood Platter for Two ($90)'

Mother of God, that plate had it all. Three kinds of fish - sweet chilli salmon, cajun fried and battered fillets (not just one of each kind, but several), crab in chowder, fresh oysters, mussels in a very creamy, white wine sauce, mounds of smoked salmon, skewers of scallops, calamari, cold king prawns, and on and on. I also liked that it had lots of salad underneath, including lettuce and rocquette leaves, which made for excellent 'wraps' for the seafood, ala san choi bao.

The only miss was that some of the mussels weren't the freshest, and I wouldn't say the food was inspired in any sense, but the entire experience was great and the service was charming! Parents were happy - no easy task - which means I was definitely happy! And just as a reference guide for 'size' - one platter can EASILY feed four. We had two platters for eight people, left quite a bit behind (and my siblings are vacuums for food), and left absolutely stuffed.

Great value - especially if you're with a big group of hungry and impoverished students. Now that's my locale.

Red Mullet Fishcaf on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 2, 2009

Q: When is Sushi Not Healthy?

New Zealand Natural

A: When it is Sooshi.

(Also perhaps, when it is slathered with mayonaise but that seems out-of-point at the moment.)

And yes, the joke's on me.

Tempted into trying out New Zealand Natural's latest gimmicky offering by another gimmicky offering brought to me today by the letter(s) o-z-b-a-r-g-a-i-n and the website in the form of a Buy-One-Get-One-Free voucher, I ventured into New Zealand Natural on Lygon St, which, given the gelati haven that is Lygon, was naturally empty.

Save, unfortunately, for its cashier who I am sure is a lovely lady off-duty when she is not biting customer's heads off and accusing them of falsifying vouchers that will save them a dollar on bite-size ice-creams.

Oh yes, I made this. I may be a student, but I'm not that free. I assure you my days are better spent discussing the vagaries of life, assignments and cheap-as dumplings. Or creating vouchers that will get me a free life, assignment, or cheap-as dumpling.

"I've never heard of this," says Lovely Lady. "And it has no expiry date."

"Well, really, it's not my fault you were asleep at your last staff meeting or that your employers are in the habit of issuing promotional vouchers without first informing you. And without putting expiry dates on them." Is what I should have said. I just blinked.

"Fine, then," says LL maganimously. "Just pick one."

I look at the posters everywhere around the shop, including a giant one hung directly behind LL, obviously meant to create a sooshi-filled atmosphere, whatever that may be.

"I'd like a lemon fruit filling one please."

"Did I SAY lemon? Where do you see lemon? What are you talking about?" LL throws her hands up in the air. I blink harder. "Pick one from those." She points at a frankly, quite unappetizing-looking disintegrating stack of pre-made 'sooshi' at the corner of the freezer. A pity that there aren't pictures, but I wasn't feeling particularly camera-happy at this point.

Perhaps imagine the ones in the poster above, but smaller and misshapen with the 'seaweed' wrap falling off.

Well I've come this far so I hand my $1 over and walk out. To be honest, for a dollar it's not terrible value. And the ice-cream is New Zealand Natural, which is not bad on all accounts. But the 'seaweed' wrap is liquorice, the experience has left me sulky and after finishing the lot in a few tiny bites (and trust me, my bites are tiny), I go to Seasalt across the road and buy an actual salmon sushi roll instead. Which comes in brown rice now, did you know, and that almost makes up for its huge mark-up over other sushi places, none of which are in the vicinity, unfortunately.

And it's lovely. Service too.