Thursday, December 8, 2011

Courting Miss Jackson

Miss Jackson
2/19 Grey St
(enter from Jackson St)
St Kilda 3182
Telephone: 03 9534 8415

Opening Hours: Tue-Sun 7am-4pm

Miss Jackson is the kind of lady that will make all your troubles go away.

Not a difficult feat to begin with: the sand and sea are a block away and while she’s a shy beauty on the outside (finding the entrance took some hunting)…


…the interior gives off a unique combination of vibes: minimalistic with a hint of Mamma Mia! (the Meryl Streep version). Certainly, Miss Jackson has distinguished herself, having won the accolade of Best Food Café as per The Age Good Café Guide Awards 2011.

My sister is starving and orders the corn fritters with bacon, avocado and vine tomatoes — adding poached eggs as a ‘side’.


The corn fritters are crisp, sizeable, and embedded with juicy golden kernels, the avocado slices are fresh and fleshy, and the eggs are poached perfectly. Interestingly, the presentation of the dish appears to have evolved quite a bit since its inception.

I can never say no to eggs prepared with goat’s cheese and this omelette proved impressive — in taste and size.

It was massive! And more importantly: moist, thick, and generous with the cheese. There was a bountiful lot of bacon to match that was a little burnt around the edges but still very good. My only niggle was the bread. This might be a point of personal preference, especially given it didn’t look at all burnt, but it was so crisp and hard that it wouldn’t have been out of place spun across the room in an old Bruce Lee film. Perhaps if it had been sold to me as biscotti.

Unfortunately, the pan fried gnocchi with sausage didn’t fare as well. Which was disappointing, as it was aesthetically amazing.

The portion was pretty small (next to the omelette, minuscule) and the gnocchi itself a tad bland and mushy. Given the glowing reviews I’ve read elsewhere, I suspect this might just have been a kitchen miss on the day.

Too full from my enormous omelette, I opted to take away a brownie (a huge hunk), which was deceptively innocuous in appearance.

After an initial nibble in the car, I finished it before we’d even reached the city. It was exemplary: fudgy, nutty, and heaving with chocolate.

I’m not sure it’s got the best food in Melbourne but Miss Jackson’s certainly bringing all the boys to the beach, and they're like, it’s better than yours. Definitely worth a revisit as the days heat up!

What kind of food do you think goes best with a sea-nic day out?

Miss Jackson on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Movida Aqui (for when you can only pick one)

Movida Aqui
Level 1, 500 Bourke St
Telephone: 03 9663 3038

Opening Hours: Lunch & Dinner. Mon-Fri: 12 noon until late; Sat: 6pm until late

Here is something they don’t tell you when you start blogging. Suddenly, there's a notion of responsibility when you're asked (and you so often are) to 'recommend a place'.

Being a ‘blogger’ connotes you consider yourself 'some' form of authority on the subject. They have a bad experience, and you’ve ruined their night (possibly their one and only in the city); they have a good one, and you (rightly) get no love, it’s not your restaurant after all.

Movida Aqui for me is a bit like the Ipod of MP3 players. If I’m stumped for recommendations it’s the safest (even if not the most original) option that comes to mind. Also, in booking-saturated Melbourne (and to avoid hellish no-booking queues), it's the best place you might get an 'in' at the last minute.

Here is the main reason you should spend your one night of Melbourne consumption here:

Paella de Marisco ($65 for Grande)

This was exemplary — the standard to which other paellas aspire. Lush with clams, calamari, king prawns, firm chunks of fish, and goodly rich saffron rice, with an obligatory layer of gorgeous crust at the base of the pan. Size-wise this was huge so, as good as it is, I wouldn’t expect you could finish if you were only two people (‘grande’ is recommended for groups of 2-4). Be warned that this will ruin you for all other paellas: I’ll definitely never be able look at the ‘big pan’ market versions the same way again.

I also really liked:

Carillera de buey ($22.50)

An eat-with-a-fork slowly braised beef cheek in Pedro Ximenez, the intensity of which was very nicely complemented by the smooth cauliflower puree (an interesting alternative to the usual potato). There’s nothing particularly original about this dish (I’ve seen variations of it everywhere, and even featured one on my maze Melbourne review), but I keep ordering it anyway because this is the epitome of comfort food: a tender hunk of meat with a side o’ mash.

This was a special on the night:

The board had a better description I failed to take down so you’ll have to contend with ‘squid stuffed with crab, and I believe, bits of potato’. I do remember, however, that it tasted fantastic. Both the squid and crab were very fresh and had great, juicy resistance. There were also some good, varying textures in the stuffing.

I find it difficult to have tapas without ordering a croquette of some variety:

Bomba ($4.50 each)

Hurried photograph, unfortunately, because there’s nothing worse than a cold croquette! This was textbook excellent: slim, crispy exterior and a filling of potato embedded with cheerfully spicy chunks of chorizo.

And the things that are not as they seem:

Pincho de tortilla ($4.80)

Apologies for the other bad photograph of the night. Perhaps it was the sheer surprise of receiving this under the description ‘organic egg and spinach tortilla with manchego’. It was more like an egg and spinach cake and, texturally, was very reminiscent of Japanese tamago. Good value going by the size but it was perhaps a bit bland. A touch of Tabasco really (if blasphemously) gave it some kick.

Setas ($16.50)

These are clearly mushrooms, as written on the menu (mushrooms cooked on the plancha, finished with sherry vinegar), but come under the ‘not as they seem’ category because they were freakishly the best mushrooms we ever had (and I was raised in a fungus-loving family). They were incredible: small but toothsome and caused tiny explosions of flavour in the mouth. We even considered ordering another plateful. Not your typical side dish.


Churros con chocolate ($12.50)

The texture of the churros was fabulous, not at all like some fast-food versions I could mention. These were much thicker and softer (properly doughnut-y) but still crispy. The chocolate was deceptively simple in description ('drinking chocolate’): it was gloriously dense and laced with orange.

Helados ($14.50)

Homemade ice creams with fig bread. Portions were perhaps a bit small (especially when shared between four!) but these were seriously rich and punchy scoops of sticky caramel, ginger, and grapefruit, the last being more of a sorbet. Also, don’t expect the fig bread to be, well, bread-like: it’s a very chewy nougat-esque slice best nibbled in small doses.

The best thing about recommending Movida Aqui? Consistency (reduces the fear of bad-meal backlash). I’ve personally eaten there on three occasions with three different groups at three different times over the past (I want to say three) six months, and a great time was had by all.

Tip: Order the paella (you'll want to) even before you've made your other selections as there's a significant waiting time on the dish!

Don't think going up the one flight of stairs to get there will even dent the quantity of calories that will be consumed once you get inside.

Don’t forget that you can still sign up for my Heston Blumenthal book giveaway (including The Fat Duck cookbook) in the post below (open until 12/12/2011). Exclusive to this blog, no effort required, and not many entries yet so you’re in with a huge chance!

Where do you recommend people go if they’ve only got one night in town?

MoVida Aqui and Terraza on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giveaway: Heston Blumenthal! Also I'm Back For Good (or Evil)

Because 'free' and 'food' are two of my very favourite four-letter F words.

Thank you for your patience - erratic non-blogging behaviour will end now as I leave the hallowed halls of law school behind! And here is a not very cunning nor subtle giveaway to win back the favour of my favourite friends (i.e. obsessively foodie and I don't have to change out of my PJs to talk to you): a hedonistic Heston competition!

The next best thing to being his woman?

Recently (by shamelessly subscribing to myself), I've realised that the 'subscribe' function to this blog via email is not as reliable as I'd hoped - there's a time lag of at least 24 hours and sometimes the post just never shows up. This is a shame, especially with my last post on top Melbourne market eats, because by the time the post appeared in my inbox, the market for that weekend had closed! 'Liking' my Facebook page (link on your right) is really the quickest way to get real-time updates, and here are two incentives:

Incentive One: The Fat Duck Cookbook

In hefty hardcover!

I'm waiting for my own copy to arrive and it's destined to be one of the many (many) cookbooks I have that I try maybe once and then relegate to wistful reading (while resentfully eyeing up my subpar tiny kitchen). Luckily, Heston is a fabulous writer so there's much pleasure to be had from vicariously cooking, say, 'sardine on toast'.

Sardine on toast

Incentive Two: Total Perfection: In Search of Total Perfection

In paperback!

This is one of the best and surprisingly, funniest, reads I've ever had, detailing Heston's very involved attempts to 'perfect' some very ordinary dishes like roast chicken, spaghetti bolognese, and fish and chips. Reading it was also the inspiration for the chicken and batter bomb that exploded in my apartment when I was infected by the bug to perfect 'fried chicken'. Bonus? Colour photographs and full, final recipes - I don't suppose you ever imagined you'd need ten hours to make a single plate of risotto. Or dry ice while cooking chilli con carne. Or protective googles for your treacle tart.

The Rules
  1. 'Like' my Facebook page if you haven't already done so (if you have, proceed to Step 2).
  2. Leave a comment on this post telling me: what dish would you like to perfect and why?.
  3. You can stop now and you'll automatically go into the draw to win Total Perfection: In Search of Total Perfection. If you'd like to win The Fat Duck Cookbook, proceed to Step 4.
  4. Get your friends, family, MX flirtation, secretary's children to 'like' my Facebook page as well. For you to win they must 'like' it AND let me know who sent them by tagging your name on a post on the page or shooting me an email at melbournemunchkin @ (no spaces). Something along the lines of "Dwight Schrute sent me here because you bought his beets" or "Gob Bluth sent me here to win some free book! Come on!" or even a simple "Yada yada sent me here".
  5. The person who sends the most new likes my way wins the cookbook!
  6. Competition ends 12/12/2011 at 12:12pm. Winner will be announced on my Facebook page, and I'll send you a Facebook message/email as well. Open to anyone in the world though you might want to check with me first if I'd be shipping to an igloo or Bedouin tent.
That's simple enough I hope! Certainly simpler than anything you'll learn from Heston. This is an entirely non-sponsored giveaway. In case you're wondering why Heston fever has hit a canine-level pitch in this household, it's because I'll be off for a holiday to London (baby!) in a little over a month and dining at his new restaurant: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. You'll hear it here first of course. Don't worry, I'll still be posting up mostly Melbourne munchings even while I'm away. I imagine the immense backlog of posts is good practice for my future legal career.

On that note, new post in three days!

Friday, October 21, 2011

To Die For: Top Eats at Melbourne's Markets (Part 1)

For those who live and breathe food.

Last year I stopped gymming and started running. This went well until winter arrived (sometime just before autumn), and voluntarily braving the Melbourne wind and chill in active wear felt like an unintended death wish. Unless of course, you're running towards something worth dying for.

Living in the CBD, my incentives take the form of the four surrounding farmers' markets: Veg Out in St Kilda, Gasworks in Albert Park, Slow Food in Abbotsford, and the Collingwood Children's Farm Market.

Because you've never really lived in Melbourne unless you've been to a Melbourne market - especially the farmers' markets. It's an experience right up there with trams, inanely hidden restaurants and countless cups of coffee in renovated warehouses.

Especially because there's little other way to get your hands on one of these:

1. Mellawha Heavenly Pastry
Where: Gasworks Albert Park; Slow Food Abbotsford

This is at the top of the list because it is at the top of my list.

My pick: the Lebanese mince.

Just before the meat is piled on.

Unreal flaky pastry (like fabulous roti) encasing Warialda beef mince, Schulz organic yoghurt (also available at these markets), tomato, tangy chilli (formerly Susan Neville chilli pickle, until she sadly retired from the city market circuit), spices like sumac, baharat, and za'atar, and a whole lot of love.

You can get it without the chilli, but not without the love.

Price tag on one of best eats I've ever had: $8.90.

And I'll pay for yours if you can guess what these ladies do in their day jobs!

Where: St Kilda Veg Out; Slow Food Abbotsford; Mt Eliza Farmers' Market

On to sweet breakfasts and desserts, and there's a smorgasbord to pick from.

Head here early, because Kath's home-made goodies have an annoying way of running out quickly. The strength of these treats are in the strength of their taste. You can be sure that if it's lemon, it'll pack a punch. And anything chocolate is darkly intense.

Her brownies are particularly infamous, but my top picks are the citrus curd slice and the chocolate and pear praline tart. The lemon tart is fabulous as well, no weak and weedy over-sweetened nonsense here. In more ways than one, you pay by weight.

Spot the empty serving stools.

When my favourites are not on offer (like on the day I took these pictures), I go for anything containing oranges or rhubarb.

Because I literally know where they come from!

Where: St Kilda Veg Out; Slow Food Abbotsford; Collingwood Children's Farm Market; Gasworks Albert Park


I'm told there's no better rhubarb in Victoria, and Frank, Food & Me certainly makes these the showcase of their desserts.


My personal pick: the rhubarb tarts with cream.

Petite pastry shells topped with stewed rhubarb compote and cream. A slightly pricey $3 a pop, but very, very good. Fresh rhubarb, jams, cakes, and chutneys also on offer.


4. Kingfisher Oranges
Where: St Kilda Veg Out; Slow Food Abbotsford; Collingwood Children's Farm Market; Gasworks Albert Park

Also a favourite Frank, Food & Me ingredient, Kingfisher oranges and mandarins are incredible. Really juicy with an intense orange sweetness and texturally excellent: none of the hard, sour, supermarket variety.

The quality control is amazing, if they don't think their oranges are perfect, they simply won't sell them.

The proof is in the eating: I replenish my fridge with 6kg of these each week. And a jar of their mulberry jam can last me two, at most.

Where: King & Godfree, Carlton

No longer strictly a market item, but I'm willing to let that technicality go. Previously mentioned in my Taste of Melbourne post, these intensely luxurious Belgian chocolate brownies from Brisbane were worth ruining my weekend gym session when they were available across the street right after at the Prahran Market on Saturdays.

They've only shown up at special events since, but have just recently arrived on the shelves of King & Godfree on Lygon St in Carlton.

You can purchase them online to be delivered, but $15 (Brisbane)/$20 (anywhere else) shipping is a bit of a deterrent unless you're purchasing a heap, or as corporate gifts. These brownies are such delicate creatures they have to be shipped in a much larger box with liquid ice packs to keep them perfect.

Seems a shame to eat them, but at $5.50 each for the experience, I don't hesitate. And I'm in good company - fans of the brand include Ashton Kutcher and Oprah.

My picks: Espresso & Walnut, Honey Caramelised Macadamia, and Rosewater & Pistachio (no, seriously).

One post certainly isn't enough to encompass all my market loves, so expect many more parts to this series in future.

As for all that running, it pays off in other ways:

Like 21.1km in 2:17:02.