Thursday, April 29, 2010

Luck be a Pink Lady

Or two.

Not quite the fruits of my labour; my mum planted this apple tree mid-visit to Melbourne way back then, and just as I have been informing her for years, her offspring are perfectly capable of flourishing free from worry and wear. (Although I acknowledge a little organic love never goes astray.)

Was so chuffed to see these that I traipsed barefoot into the mud to get a good shot. If only mum was here - though I know she wouldn't have appreciated as much that I had to saunter back through the kitchen after en route to the tap.

Ah mum, sure I don't deserve these, nor thee.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cutler & Co.

Cutler & Co.
55-57 Gertrude St
Fitzroy 3065
Telephone: 03 9419 4888

Andrew McConnell is the magic man of Melbourne restaurants this side of the decade. And like any trip worth its salt, a pilgrimage to the mecca that is Cutler & Co. has been on the cards for months.

In fact, there is something quite perverse and provocative about a restaurant reservation acquired so early it outlasted the relationship with the man it was meant to celebrate by about three months. Certainly, this is not an uncommon occurrence.

Never one to renege on a deal however (or to engage in the blasphemy of cancelling a McConnell reservation), I invited G to dinner anyway. It was his birthday after all - I was always going to have to pay.

And despite this disquieting premise, Cutler & Co. really was quite magical.

We began with a seductive and voluptuous "salad lyonnaise" - frisée salad with crisp pancetta, garlic sausage, smoked tongue, confit gizzards and poached egg yolk ($21).

She was big and she worked. The egg yolk wore a coquettish skirt of crispy caramel, the sausage was pleasantly pungent and plentiful, the tongue was tantalizing, gizzards grinning, and pancetta pristine.

Our other entree was more petite; pressed quail terrine, foie gras cigar, orange and pistachio ($23), but no less lovely.

We should all smoke these. It was the world's most decadent spring roll - on a bed of beautiful bird. Of course it tasted like chicken; but it was good chicken.

The stand-our performance of the evening was given by our main however; roast suckling pig, parsley root, turnip and plum ($43).

Helpfully halved.

As far as pigs go, she was holy heaven. The skin was of the snap 'em and crack 'em variety, and the moist meat was teasingly tender. Also, who would ever have thought that an ingredient as clumsily named as 'parsley root' could be so delectably delicate?

Once upon a time, I read of a wicked witch turned into a turnip for such salacious sins as consuming kiddies and growing giants. What divine retribution it would have been if I could have eaten her.

I rarely meet a dessert I don't like.

Unfortunately, this run-in was a little lukewarm.

Chocolate ice cream sandwich, vanilla parfait, and salted caramel ($17)

It was like...a lamington. With vanilla parfait for a sponge, and a chocolate ice cream less dark and powerful than I'd imagined. Also, I was hoping for little 'pop rocks' of salt in my caramel - it was just salty. Not bad in any sense however - it may be that I was expecting Michael Jordan, and Dennis Rodman turned up instead.* No less interesting, little less of a legend.

*There, G, never let it be said I learnt nothing about basketball.

Ultimately, still a very good night. And still a very good man.

Cutler & Co on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Outing Outpost

Outpost by St. Ali
9 Yarra Street, South Yarra
Telephone: 03 9827 8588

Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 7am-5pm; Weekends 8am-4pm

I am late - at this post, at Outpost. A thousand apologies.

St. Ali, Fabulous he!
Ali of Yarra
Genuflect, shorn some respect
Down on one knee*

If ever there was an exalted coffee connoisseur, St. Ali would be it.

Now, try your best to stay calm
Brush up your Sunday salaam
Then come and meet his spectacular cof-fee*

*To the transcendent tune of Aladdin's Prince Ali.

And although I remain agnostic regarding Melbourne's religion of coffee, there is much to be said for its messiahs. Not one to be left behind, I dutifully agree to attend at a Saturday morning sermon.

As far as appearances go, this is an exquisite temple indeed.

Walk through to pray with the masses at the back.

Literally, our table is an arm's length.

Worship at your leisure, it was a full ten minutes before our orders were taken; the flat white arrived four minutes later (good), the food twenty-five (it better be good).

What we lack in thirst, we make up in appetite. We went extremist on extras.

Free range eggs on toast with homemade tomato relish ($9.50), Daylesford smoked bacon (+$3.50), roasted roma tomato (+3.50), balsamic and thyme roasted field mushrooms (+$4.00), grilled chorizo ($4.00), avocado and feta mash ($4.50).

Extra poached eggs:

Basically, a blessed breakfast for two weighing in at $29.00.

Sublime? Well, I relished the relish. Everything else was pretty standard café fare. Some rumblings: scrambled was slightly overcooked, poached a little sour (laced with vinegar), and the avocado fridge-cold. "Underwhelming," says hungry, hungry sister.

There was not much redemption in the twee-est, teeniest lemon cupcake you ever saw (comes in two sizes - this is the mini).

It was as sweet as sweet can be - unfortunately not in a good way. Not wretched, but not wonderful either.

Almost everyone loves this place, so I feel like a bit of a malcontent. Was Outpost otherworldly? Not to us. And with better brunch offerings around, I'm not in a hurry to walk over water to return.

Pay homage if you're a coffee devotee/in the 'hood/unfailingly fashionable. Pass if not.

Outpost on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Journey to The Palace by Luke Mangan

The Palace by Luke Mangan
505 City Road (corner Pickles St)
South Melbourne VIC 3205
Telephone: 03 9699 6410

Opening Hours: Daily 12pm-2:30pm; 6pm-10pm

In the kingdom of celebrity chefs, even your mum knows I pay homage to Gordon Ramsay.

Unfortunately my king visits rarely, so while he's off to other lands, I'm a courtesan for any court.

I first read about The Palace here and became fascinated with Luke here and here. I'm a shameless wench; wild horses couldn't keep me away.

So one soggy Friday evening, I donned some prince(ss)ly garments and paid court over the river. And let me just preface this review by saying, if you enjoy watching food as much as eating it (and sadly, like me, you plan your meals at home around foodie TV such as Masterchef and The F Word), then dining at The Palace is the very pinnacle of experiences.

The fit-out is pretty, but hardly palatial. So why the hype?

Catch a table by the pass;
All you have to do is ask.

No, really! There is a whole row of tables right next to a huge window through which you can watch your meal (...and everyone else's! Per-vy!) being prepared. Table 12, in particular, is the place to be. But you'll have to fight me for it.

Pardon me while I gleefully press up against the window. You may peruse the menu here.

Warm bread, extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, served immediately.
The ceremony begins.

One thing to note; they do take their time here - and you can see it too, it's nothing like Hell's Kitchen. I didn't mind the lull between courses, enraptured as I was watching everything unfold. But if you're off somewhere after, it's something you should definitely keep in mind - we were one of the first guests to arrive and our three-course meal went on for over two and a half hours.

Kingfish carpaccio, goats feta, roquette, ginger eschallot dressing ($18)

I loved this; the kingfish was very fresh. It slithers down your throat something super with the crumbly feta and ginger zing.

Who couldn't love an oyster? They were a well-travelled rock trio on this plate - natural/kilpatrick/tempura. Half a dozen ($20)

A very Japanese oyster; tempura-ed and adorned with shiny, slippery seaweed.

It's an easy formula: love worcestershire; love this.

And while waiting for our main to arrive - a waitress came over with a wink. "Just as you've been watching us all night, the chef has been watching you. Enjoy."

A very delicate beef tartare on a salted 'crispbread'.
I'm too exultant to be abashed.

And you know I've been eyeing our steak on the grill the whole time.

But a beef on your plate is worth two on the grill.

400g Rib-eye; Nolan Meats, 100 days grain fed, dry aged charolais ($42). Your choice of sauce; we picked bearnaise.

Too perfect. Seasoned just right, and melted in my mouth (and my heart). It's cooked really rare because that's exactly how I like it. Say what you will, but I love my flesh fresh.

Some strong supporting actors - sweet and sultry carrots delicously roasted in dukkah...

...And the bowl of chips that lived forever after.

Great chips, but we just couldn't finish it. $8.00 each side.

I remember being horrified when Luke Mangan admitted he's 'not a chocolate person' on Masterchef (who are these people?!). But I forgive him because he put this on the menu.

My most beloved dessert - Hot chocolate fondant with cookies and cream ($17.00).

It's an obsession - I spend many, many hours scouring menus of Melbourne restaurants for this. Apparently it's a terribly boring cliché to many chefs and diners.

Your mum is a terribly boring cliché.

What a royally rollicking night. Make a date, don't be late!

Apologies for the hiatus, and the mum jokes. The reason for both: my life of late has been entirely consumed by a most heinous piece of work, which thanks-be-to-God, ends today. So all my stolen moments of pleasure during this time were with Natalie Tran, who I adore.

How did you spend your Easter weekend? Let me know - especially if you gave something up for Lent, I always find that fascinating. My Easter was spent in the most traditional fashion - copious amounts of chocolate; and contemplations of death.

But I'm back now, baby!

The Palace on Urbanspoon