The Grand 130 year birthday celebration

The Grand in Richmond is a culinary institution that needs little introduction and has long been a Gastrology favourite. Consistently plating up delicious, authentic Italian food with care and an emphasis on fresh, quality ingredients, The Grand has earned many loyal regulars and a 2015 chefs hat from The Age Good Food Guide.  
Therefore, when invited back to The Grand to celebrate its 130th birthday with Zomato, Gastrology bloggers were understandably excited. 
The birthday celebration was a gorgeously stylish affair - the Como dining room had been breathtakingly transformed by The Three Piece Suit with stationary styled by Lauren Skorsis. And what would a birthday be without a birthday cake, courtesy of Bake and Co.  
Pepper crusted venison carpacial, goat cheese mouse and beetroot

Wonderfully tender, wafer thin slices of rare venison paired beautifully with the gamey goat cheese mouse. The beetroot lent a wonderful sweetness.
Agro dolce quail with procini mushroom puree, brussel sprouts, quail egg and black truffle.

The quail was cooked to a rarely found perfection. The mushroom puree packed an amazing depth of flavour and the generous shavings of black truffle elevated the aroma of this dish to another level. Simply stunning - a must try dish.
Broad bean, pecorino and mint risotto

The risotto was cooked immaculately, ensuring the rice retained the ideal firmness and creaminess. The mint provided freshness, contrasting beautifully with the creaminess of the pecorino.
Mortadella cappalletti in brodo

A deceptive dish of cappalletti in a clear broth, however hidden inside the cappalletti was a mortadella sausage filling that was powerfully rich and moreish.
The nights festivities involved us preparing our own fish course by selecting our own ingredients to pair with the wonderfully fresh barramundi and sealing them all inside a layer of terracotta.
After being expertly baked by the chef, our terracotta parcels were brought out to the dining table where we broke them open to reveal their delicious contents.
Cone bay barramundi cooked in terracotta

The texture of the fish was exquisite and cooked to perfection. The ceramic casing sealed all of the natural flavours and juices inside resulting in exquisitely delicate, moist fish.
Buffalo mozzarella, tomato, basil
Lemon delizia

The night ended on a deliciously sweet note with a lemon delizia, melding a beautiful combination of textures, flavours and techniques.
It was an honour to celebrate The Grand turning 130 years over a truly decadent and wonderfully prepared degustation. If you are keen to try the wonderful dishes on offer at The Grand, we would encourage you to sign up for free to the VIP list at as all Grand VIP's get a birthday dinner for free!

Location: 333 Burnley Street, Richmond

Phone: (03) 9429 2530
Cuisine: Italian

Click to add a blog post for Grand Hotel on Zomato

The [turning] Point

Gastrology bloggers dined courtesy of The Point.
Open for over a decade, The Point has recently undergone a radical and exciting transformation aimed at elevating it well above its roots as a premium steakhouse.

Sommelier and Restaurant Manager, Joseph Griffiths and Executive Chef Andy Harmer have been charged with the responsibility of bringing The Point to the forefront of fine dining in Melbourne and refocusing this institution on contemporary and creative cuisine, premium wines and seamless service. And based on our recent tasting, this transformation is well underway. The current menu impresses and surprises with elegant dishes of flawless execution which showcase seasonal, local ingredients - and perhaps a few artisan ingredients from our friends overseas. 
Not to be outshone is the wine list which reads like a work of literature, boasting a carefully curated wine collection spanning the best of old and new world wines. Of course if you prefer, you can leave wine matching in the expert hands of Joseph Griffiths. 
Cep mushroom crème fraiche, kipfler potato, ground roast chestnut fraiche, kipfler potatoes, mushroom and ground roast chestnut

Bursting with umami, this luxuriously textured amuse bouche awoken the senses with an outstanding depth of flavour. It is difficult to imagine a better start to a meal. 
Taleggio raviolo, walnut, grape and sorrel
Matched with: NV Dosnon et Lepage Champagne Rose de Saignee, Cote des Bar France

A playful reinvention of a cheese platter, this was a delightful combination of well-considered textures and flavours. The Champagne was the perfect playmate with its summery ripe peach characteristics and citrus aroma. 
Spanner crab, almond gazpacho, sauce Jacqueline
Matched with: 2013 Condes se Alberei Alberino, Rias Baixas Spain

Beneath the dense cloud lay crab meat perched above a moreish almond gazpacho. The delightful sweetness of the crab meat was retained and accentuated by the sauce Jacqueline. This dish deeply impressed with its finesse and textural delicacy.
Autumn in the Park
Matched with: Lustau Rare Cream Sherry Solera Superiore

A masterclass in textural balance and layered flavour. The ground seasonal mushroom powder, scattered morsels of parsley sponge and pine mushrooms evoked feelings of an edible forest floor and was only enhanced by the powerful fragrance of generous shavings of black truffle. The creamy celeriac acted as the perfect canvas and brought all of the elements together. Although initially surprising, the accompanying sherry paired exceptionally well with its sweet yet savoury nuances and taste-bud enlivening freshness.
Murray Cod, fennel and yuzu salt
Matched with: 2012 Cantina Terlano Vorberg Pinot Bianco 

A delicate dish which allowed the natural sweetness of the cod to shine, we enjoyed the interesting textural interplay between the sous vide fish flesh and the intensely crispy shards of skin. The minerally yet fruity pinot bianco echoed the delicate savouriness of the dish and matched well.
Wagyu (marble score 9) short rib, smoked eggplant
Matched with: 2011 Denton View Hill Nebbiolo, Yarra Valley Vic
2010 Pio Cesare Barolo served as a taste alongside

The slices of Wagyu short rib were cooked to a wonderful perfection with the subtle, delicious smokiness of the eggplant elevating the rich, buttery meat to magical levels. This dish highlighted a new wave of steak dishes that occupy The Point's menu emphasising elegance and completeness. The Nebbiolo was a perfect match with its black fruits, aromatic complexity and vibrant acids. We also were lucky enough to try a Barolo side by side in a classic battle of new verses old world - the big, tannic Barolo boasted a bouquet of dark fruit aromas, mint and liquorice.
Pre dessert: Lemon cake, vanilla poached quince and warm white chocolate mousse with lemon and mint water
Honey and eucalyptus parfait, Jerusalem artichoke, milk skin and thyme oil
Matched with: 2010 Kracher Beerenauslese, welshriesling chardonnay, Burgenland Austria

Consistent with the savoury courses, the dessert was superbly executed. The flawless harmony of sweet, creamy parfait contrasted with the savoury crisp, salty Jerusalem artichoke chips. An innovative and well-executed dessert. Once again, this dish was matched beautifully with welshriesling chardonnay - thick and syrupy with intense honeysuckle aromas and a fresh acid finish.
Under the careful guidance of Joseph Griffiths and Andy Harmer, The Point has shown itself capable of exceeding the legacy forged over the past decade. Having experienced these very exciting changes firsthand, it is clear that The Point is establishing itself firmly in the upper echelons of Melbourne’s premium culinary institutions. 

Location: Aquatic Drive, Albert Park Lake
Phone: 03 9682 5566 
Cuisine: Modern Australian 

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Winter @ Cecconi’s

Gastrology bloggers dined courtesy of Cecconi's.
One of Melbourne's premier fine dining institutions Cecconi’s is a Melbourne icon that requires no introduction.
Cecconi’s continues to deliver with dishes that are consistently well executed and highlighted by innovative, yet familiar, flavour combinations. The restaurant’s colour palette mixes black, white and copper while incorporating varying textures and tones to create contrast, producing a space that possesses familial warmth. 
The luxe, dark and clubby basement space of Cecconi’s boasts one of the more theatrical kitchens in Melbourne – wide-open and centre stage.
Caramelised scallops, crispy pork belly, shaved fennel, blood orange dressing

The scallops were perfectly seared and bursting with natural flavour while the pork belly was punchy with a delicate lining of pork fat and crunchy crackling providing an added kick of sinful pleasure. The subtle sweetness of the shaved fennel further and the fruity acidity of the blood orange dressing introduced further layers of complexity.  
Moreton bay bug tortellini, mustard fruit butter sauce, fried leek

The tortellini was exceptional. The filling of deliciously savoury and perfectly cooked Moreton Bay Bug was encased in al dente pasta. The accompanying crispy fried leek and stunning mustard fruit brown butter sauce made this a perfectly executed, expertly balanced and intelligent dish.
The slow cooked wagyu brisket, truffled gnocchi, spinach puree, red onion jam was decadent and flavoursome. Incredibly tender, it fell away easily with the weight of our forks. Coated with the earthy braising sauce, the dish was very enjoyable to consume with the light gnocchi which captivated with its delightfully pungent truffle aroma.
Roasted duck breast, confit leg, brussel sprouts, bacon, chestnut spaetzle

The slices of duck breast were cooked to perfection with allowing the natural rich flavour of the duck to shine through. The accompanying confit leg was tender, the skin crisp while the hearty chestnut spaetzli adorned with crispy bacon provided the crowning element to this luxurious dish.
Dessert tasting plate - Gianduja cheesecake, hazelnut nougat, Oreo crumbs, chocolate sorbet; Banana and passionfruit sorbet, blondie, toasted marshmallow, brandy snaps; and Lemon yoghurt cream, cassis jam, crispy meringue, vanilla sugar

Continuing the trend for the evening, the desserts were delicious. The rich cheesecake was beautifully made while the Banana and passionfruit sorbet was zesty and well-balanced and the Lemon yoghurt cream was silky smooth.
A modern Italian restaurant where food, wine, service and atmosphere blend beautifully together, Cecconi's boasts delicious Italian cuisine while taking great pride in using only the freshest ingredients available. The new Cecconi’s winter menu is, as expected from its predecessors, excellent.

Location: Basement, 61 Flinders Lane  Melbourne
Phone: 03 8663 0500
Cuisine: European, Italian, International

Click to add a blog post for Cecconi's Flinders Lane Restaurant on Zomato

Spring menu tasting @ Cecconi's

Gastrology bloggers dined courtesy of Cecconi's.
A modern Italian restaurant where food, wine, service and atmosphere blend beautifully together, Cecconi’s boasts delicious Modern Australian cuisine while taking great pride in using only the freshest ingredients available. The new Cecconi’s spring menu is, as expected from its predecessors, excellent.
The restaurant’s colour palette mixes black, white and copper while incorporating varying textures and tones to create contrast, producing a space that possesses familial warmth. 
The luxe, dark and clubby basement space of Cecconi’s boasts one of the more theatrical kitchens in Melbourne – wide-open and centre stage.
Caramelised scallops, broccoli pangrattato, prosciutto crisps, lemon aioli

The scallops were perfectly seared and bursting with natural flavour, a flavour further enhanced by the subtle sweetness of the broccoli pangrattato.  The fruity acidity of the lemon aioli and the restrained savouriness of prosciutto crisps introduced further layers of complexity.  It was a beautiful dish.
Crispy king prawn with black sesame, avocado, pickled cucumber, lime

The king prawn has a perfectly crisp exterior and a moist and juicy interior. Nestled on a bed of avocado with a tart lime juice over the top, this was an enjoyable dish.
Squid ink gnocchi, broccoli, baby squid, chilli, chives

A lovely dish that was highlighted by the light gnocchi which captivated with it’s delightfully salinity courtesy of being made with squid ink. The accompanying baby squid was very tender and beautifully flavoured. 
Rock flathead, parmesan cream, kipflers, baby zucchini, frizze

The crispy skinned flathead was very fresh and excellently cooked. The accompanying classic flavour combinations worked wonders. We particularly loved the luxurious parmesan cream.  
Tasmanian Wilderness scotch fillet, truffled mash, king brown mushroom, jus

The steak was the highlight of our dinner at Cecconi’s. Displaying a mastery in the manner the steak was cooked, the inch thick cut of beef was cooked perfectly from end to end. A light searing ensured that the steak was lined with a thin crisp layer packed with caramelised beef flavour. The accompaniments, of a thick slice of king brown mushroom, truffled mash and jus, provided a range of harmonising flavours and textures – the end result was a thoroughly enjoyable dish that departed from the norm. 
Foreground: White chocolate cheesecake, brownie, no cello gelato 
Background: Citrus bavarois, pistachio cantucci, mandarin sorbetto

Continuing the trend for the evening, the desserts were delicious. The rich cheesecake was beautifully made while the citrus bavarois was zesty and well-balanced.
Cecconi’s continues to deliver with dishes that are consistently well executed and highlighted by innovative, yet familiar, flavour combinations. 

Location: Basement, 61 Flinders Lane  Melbourne
Phone: 03 8663 0500
Cuisine: European, Italian, International

Cecconi's Flinders Lane Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review: Annie Smithers Bistrot & Produce

Location: 72 Piper Street, Kyneton
Phone: 03 5422 2039
Cuisine: French, International, Modern European
Overall Impression: 9/10
Iconic Annie Smithers Bistrot was recently taken-over by passionate Tim and Michelle Foster, bringing about a brilliant modern twist to the menu whilst retaining the métier and the spirit of the bistro, in one of Piper Street's most beautiful spaces. 
 Tim & Michelle Foster

Under Tim's guidance, the kitchen offers high-quality cuisine in a relaxed setting. The highlight of the cuisine served is seemingly simple but carefully prepared dishes; the fruit of Tim and Michelle's expansive experience in the world of hospitality. 

Tim was most recently the Executive Chef at Healesville Hotel Group, and prior to that was Head Chef at Hollicks Winery Coonawarra. Whilst his wife Michelle is a qualified Chef, she now works as the front of house Manager. 
House-made sourdough

The dining room combines an atmosphere that is warm, welcoming, modern yet rustic and relaxed.  From the kitchen flows a careful selection of healthy, seasonal gourmet cuisine in the traditional bistro style. 
Amuse bouche - Cold tomato soup with ricotta and bacon

What we experienced was sensational. The menu is based on two central elements: top-quality ingredients from local producers and a strong  European influence. This enables the bistro to offer its guests the best meats, fish, vegetables and fruit available in Victoria. 
Left: Pan seared scallops, confit free range chicken wings, Jerusalem artichoke puree & chips, fresh asparagus, pickled kohlrabi
Right: Grilled partially de boned quail, buckwheat polenta, broad beans, prosciutto, peperonata, jus
Tortellini filled with cauliflower & comte cheese, roast cauliflower, golden raisons, pickled walnuts, sage, brown butter

Our favourite entree, the tortellini was exceptional. The filling of deliciously savoury and melt in your mouth cauliflower was encased in al dente pasta. The accompanying roast cauliflower, raisins, pickled walnuts and stunning brown butter sauce made this a perfectly executed, expertly balanced and intelligent dish.
Left: Aged Sidonia Hills beef, fondant potatoes, grilled asparagus, horseradish creme, beetroot jus
Right: A side of salad from local growers' garden

The steak was beautifully cooked and arrived cooked medium as requested. Perfectly seared on the outside and beautifully juicy and pink on the inside. It was evident that the meat was sourced from a quality producer and great care had been taken in its preparation.
Confit free range duck leg, brined & smoked breast, eggplant puree, beans, cherry jus, fat hen

The slices of duck breast were cooked to a rarely found perfection with the subtle smokiness allowing the rich flavour of the duck to shine through. The accompanying confit leg was tender, the skin crisp. The sweet and sticky cherry jus provided the crowning element to a luxurious dish. 
Consistent with our savoury courses, the desserts that followed were superbly executed, well balanced and fresh.
Left: Rich chocolate delice, strawberries, blueberries, cumquat brandy, lavender honeycomb, pink lake salt meringues, Redesdale estate olive oil ice cream
Right: Lemon verbena poached yellow peach, white chocolate mousse, summer berries, pistachio dacquoise

The rich chocolate delice was, as its name suggests, decadently rich. The lavender honeycomb added a lovely textural element.

The lemon verbena poached yellow peaches exhibited a vibrant combination of flavours. 
Buttermilk panna cotta, new seasons rhubarb, shortbread, strawberry sorbet, rose

The panna cotta was smooth and well crafted, the rhubarb was cooked to perfection. The sorbet had a bold fresh strawberry flavour and the melt-in-your-mouth texture of the shortbread accompanied perfectly. 

Of particular note is that despite the complexity of the dishes crafted by Tim Foster, each element on every plate was cohesive and necessary, and when eaten together were stunning.
Under Tim and Michelle, Annie Smithers brings traditional, classic dishes bang up to date using local and seasonal produce. The reputation of Annie Smithers appears to be in safe hands. 

Annie Smithers Bistrot & Produce on Urbanspoon

Gastrology bloggers dined courtesy of Annie Smithers Bistrot.

Upcoming Event: Davidʼs Beyond the Bund World Dinner

David is giving his loyal customers more reason to smile in November with his World Dinner Feast as part of the Good Food Month. This dinner will take Melbournians on a food adventure exploring regions further afield from Shanghai, called ʻBeyond the Bundʼ.
Under his watchful eye, David and his team have curated a delightful dining event at the restaurant that takes his name. ʻBeyond the Bundʼ promises to be an evening filled with subtle and delectable flavours from Davidʼs own cuisine repertoire for $45 per person. The delicious sensations have also been coupled with wines to enhance and compliment Davidʼs fine food for $65 per person. 

In the spirit of sharing, the offerings have been selected to show the variety that China has to offer. In traditional Chinese cuisine flavours change from region to region as one travels throughout the country. David has emulated these delicious contrasts through his menu choices. 

From the eastern coastal province of Jiang Su comes the Lion Head, a sumptuous pork and chestnut meatball concoction in a delicate chicken broth. 

To represent Shanghai, customers can indulge in the newly crafted crunchy prawn clusters,satisfyingly crisp parcels with a melted butter center. Another seafood offering will be the Crispy flash fried whiting, smoked on luxuriant caramelised leek. 

Davidʼs will serve a thinly sliced crispy beef dish accentuated with orange peel that is distinct and very palatable, a specialty from Hunan, located in the south central part of the Chinese mainland. 

To finish off the World Dinner, Davidʼs will prepare a classic hot favourite from Sichuan, 
wok fried Chinese cabbage with dried chilies. 

In true David's style, the offerings from the kitchen will be hand prepared, using only the freshest and finest quality ingredients. When diners walk into David's for the World Dinner event, they will eat and celebrate as a Shanghai local does, authentic, fast-paced and bustling with flavour
Where: Cecil Place, Prahran 
Cost: $45 - Beverages included: $65 including matching wines
When: November 12 2013 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Bookings: 03 9529 5199

Taxi Dining Room's November Sundays Series

Boasting some of the best views, food, wine and service that Melbourne has to offer, Taxi Dining Room has established itself as a prime destination for sophisticated dining.
Taxi Dining Room recently launched its "Month of Sundays" series of lunches. The Month of Sundays events move away from the more traditional fine dining experience that Taxi is renowned for, instead utilising a monthly hero ingredient to plate up a communal, fun and affordable family lunch. 
The hero ingredient for November is Chatham Island blue cod. Gastrology bloggers were privileged to enjoy an exclusive (and delicious) pre-sitting of the November Sunday lunch menu last week. Here is a sneak peek to whet your appetites… 
Tuna Sashimi with wasabi yuzu dressing 

The wasabi yuzu dressing was refreshing and mild, preserving the integrity of the beautifully fresh, delicate slices of tuna. 
Rare beef salad with roasted peanuts and red chilli dressing 

This dish was a triumph, both in terms of texture and flavour. The tender slices of beef were dressed beautifully with an expertly judge blend of lime juice, palm sugar, fish sauce and soy. The crunchy peanuts and spring onions provided texture whilst the basil and coriander leaves provided freshness. 
Szechwan pork with silken tofu and black bean leeks 

An expertly seasoned, comforting and delicious dish courtesy of the chilli broad bean paste, fermented black beans and rice wine. 
Steamed Chatham Island blue cod with ginger and spring onion 

Beautifully fresh, vividly white pieces of Chatham Island blue cod were paired with lap cheong (Chinese sausage), ginger and spring onion – a traditional Asian blend of ingredients that just works. 
White chocolate and almond parfait 

This dessert was a wonderful example of restrained elegance - the parfait was subtly flavoured and exquisitely textured. It was an indulgent end to a wonderful meal. 
Taxi has become a landmark in Melbourne's progressive dining scene as a result of its premium service, delicious food, excellent wine list and wonderful views. Taxi’s new "Month of Sundays" menu offers the smart, contemporary dining experience we have come to expect from Taxi, but with a fun, approachable and communal flair that makes it a great lazy Sunday lunch option with friends and family.

Cost: $65 per person
When: 12 noon until 4.30 pm, every Sunday in November
Bookings: Call 9654 8808 or book online

Taxi Dining Room on Urbanspoon

Gastrology bloggers dined courtesy of Taxi Dining Room.

Event Review: Pork and wine night at David’s

To pay homage to China’s favourite meat, David’s in Prahran put together a menu celebrating all things pork.
The dinner featured five courses with matching wines selected by Bibendum Wine Co.
Gastrology bloggers were privileged to be invited to attend this feast.

Pork & Chive Soup Dumpling 
Matching wine: 2012 Von Buhl Qba Riesling (Trocken- dry) Pfalz Germany 
Tasting note: Crisp and refreshing with a core of lovely zingy but ripe Riesling fruit. 

The dumplings were beautifully crafted and were our favourite dish from the night. They had a thin and delicate skin encasing a tasty pork and chive filling and sumptuous broth. It was a great start to the dinner.

Crispy pork back strap flash fried with seaweed & spring onions 
Matching wine: 2011 Pazos de Lusco Albariño Rias Baixas Spain 
Tasting note: Mid weight aromatic white with pulpy texture, white stone fruits and mineral notes on the finish. 

The pork was a succulent classic, given an interesting twist by the coating of seaweed. A thin blanket of crispy batter encased the moist pork - pure comfort food.

Slow cooked pork belly in soy, ginger & Chinese’s wine served with signature fluffy open baos & condiments 
Matching wine: 2010 Rockburn Pinot Noir- Central Otago NZ 
Tasting note: Luscious deep coloured cherry dominant Pinot with a plump juicy fruit spectrum and bright acidity. 

Sweet and sticky, the braised pork belly was full of flavour. We particularly loved the baos – they were fluffy and light, like soft cushions. The Rockburn Pinot Noir was the wine of the night. Beautifully complex, it was a wonderful example of what makes New Zealand Pinot so appealing.

Pork Ribs marinated & cooked in sweet & salty red bean curd sauce served with rice 
Matching wine: 2011 Luke Lambet Crudo Shiraz, Yarra Valley VIC 
Tasting note: Beautifully weighted savoury, earth, minerally and meaty notes. 

The pork ribs were beautifully marinated and had a good balance of sweetness and saltiness.

Steamed white chocolate dumpling 
Matching wine: 2011 Domaine Plageoles Mauzac Roux, (Muscadelle) Gaillac, South West, France 
Tasting note: Delicious dessert wine with a luscious, unctuous but not cloying mouthfeel and a tropical fruit spectrum 

The dinner ended on a sweet note with delightfully chewy steamed glutinous rice dumplings that had been filled with luxuriously rich white chocolate. It was a wonderfully modern take on a traditional Chinese dessert.
As expected from a dinner at David's, it was a wonderful evening. The expertly chosen wines complemented each pork course perfectly. Unfussy food with staff that make you feel at home, David's emphasises beauty in simplicity.

David's on Urbanspoon

Gastrology bloggers dined courtesy of David's.

Circa’s month-long pop-up Yakitori Bar [available only in April 2013]

Location: 2 Acland Street, St Kilda,
Phone: 03 9536 1122
Cuisine: Modern Australian, Japanese, Asian

Gastrology bloggers were privileged to be invited to the launch of Circa’s Pop Up Yakitori Bar (which will only be around for the month of April) at Circa, The Prince.
In conjunction with the excitement of the Pop Up launch, Circa showed off a more permanent addition - its sleek new bar. The new bar has an indoor outdoor feel, with fairy light wrapped foliage hanging from the ceiling, and natural light streaming through sky lights.

This month, to match the yakitori, the bar is celebrating all drinks Japanese (sake, Japanese cocktails and Kirin beer) – as self confessed sake enthusiasts, we must say we were impressed.
We observed skilful chefs presiding over a series of delicious Japanese-inspired canapes.
While the night out in Japan theme runs through the menu, there is a clear distinction from traditional Japanese yakitori. The Yakitori Bar menu is incredibly modern, embracing a large range of different ingredients, all of which work wonderfully together.
The menu features delicious offerings including mountain peppered wallaby loin, served with quandong caramel; husk roasted snow baby corn with smoked white and black garlic aioli; Flinders Island lamb fillet with Sichuan eggplant; and lastly, bonito glazed with bush lime and green tea.
On the non-yakitori side of things, there is a selection of bao that Chef Paul Wilson has crafted to compliment the yakitori. The mouth-watering bao fillings include tea smoked duck and quince with bush plum sauce; caramelised toothfish and native fingerlime with miso mustard; crispy Australian soft shell crab with kimchi relish; as well as sticky pork with mango and fragrant herbs. 
The caramelised toothfish and native fingerlime with miso mustard bao was certainly the highlight of our night. It had a great balance of different flavours: salty yet sweet, soft flesh, with just a hint of heat. It had strong soy and mirin flavours.
Uninhibited and welcoming, Circa’s Pop Up Yakitori Bar serves mouth-watering, yakitori and delicious Japanese drinks. Get in quick before April comes to an end! 

*There is a daily happy hour that will run from 6pm to 9pm across the month for Kirin beer, matching cocktails and sake. All yakitori and bao dishes will be available for $5 dollars each.

  Circa, the Prince on Urbanspoon

Images courtesy of Anthony Licuria of APL Photography

Romantic Yarra Valley rendezvous (Chandon, Chateau Yering and Rochford)

In addition to the stunning scenery, J and I love the Yarra Valley for its beautiful food and, of course, spectacular wine. 
So it was no surprise that we were back again. Our recent trip began with a visit to Chandon.

Green Point Brasserie at Domaine Chandon 

Location: 727 Maroondah Highway Coldstream
Phone: 03 9738 9200
Cuisine: Modern Australian, European

Green Point Brasserie at Domaine Chandon on Urbanspoon

The food was of a reasonably good standard. The polenta chips were a particular standout. Unfortunately, the service left much to be desired -  the waitstaff could be seen avoiding eye contact and being incredibly unresponsive. Thankfully, the beautiful surrounds more than made up for that flaw.
We soon arrived at Chateau Yering where we were staying for the weekend.

Featuring elegant fixtures and fittings throughout, this historic homestead offers luxurious accommodation. Our suite had a majestic ambience - it was sheer luxury.

Eleonore's Restaurant

Location: Chateau Yering, 42 Melba Highway, Yarra Glen
Phone: 03 9237 3333
Cuisine: Modern Australian, International

Eleonore's Restaurant on Urbanspoon
We had a wonderful dinner at Eleanore's, which is the restaurant attached to Chateau Yering.
The menu features a wonderful selection of Modern Australian cuisine with daring flavour combinations that delight. 
Each course showcased Executive Chef, Matthew Macartney's culinary expertise. It is no surprise that the restaurant has consistently maintained its Chef Hat standard. 
Suckling Pig white onion purée, rhubarb relish, black pepper jus 
Miso-cured Kingfish nahm jim sorbet, caramelised cashew, Thai salad 
Rare Roasted Venison beetroot gel, walnut praline, apple cake, chocolate jus 
Hay Smoked Duck Breast foie gras, cherry, white peaches, vanilla jus 
Pear Tart white chocolate cremeux, lychee, mint fizz, pear cider sorbet 
Vanilla Cheesecake pistachio, macaron, honey ice-cream
Each course was well thought out and delightfully balanced. The service was warm and unobtrusive. It was certainly a memorable dining experience.

Sweetwater Café

Location: Chateau Yering Hotel, 42 Melba Highway, Yarra Glen
Phone: 03 9237 3333
Cuisine: Modern Australian

 Sweetwater Cafe on Urbanspoon

Breakfast at Chateau Yering's Sweetwater Cafe...
Our trip to the Yarra Valley ended with a lovely lunch at Rochford.

Isabella's (Rochford Winery Restaurant)

Location: 878 - 880 Maroondah Highway,  Coldstream 
Phone: 03 5962 2119 
Cuisine: Modern Australian

Rochford Winery Restaurant on Urbanspoon
The restaurant has a lovely dining area with alfresco areas where you can bask in the sun. 
Freshly baked soy & linseed ciabatta with housemade smoked olive oil butter
Beef Cheek 
24 hour slow cooked Cape Grim beef cheek, horseradish, mash potato, cavelo nero, Rochford sweet red wine jus 
Lamb Back Strap Salad 
Yeringburg lamb back strap cooked to medium with semi sun dried tomatoes, Yarra Valley Persian feta, black olives, caramelized red onions, asparagus & mesclun 
Caramel Macadamia Nut Tart 
Served with Yarra Valley dairy goats milk ice cream & candied macadamia nut

The food was of a very good standard and the service was excellent!

The Yarra Valley continues to be J and I's favourite places to visit in Victoria.

Restaurant Review: Attica

Location: 74 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea
Phone: 03 9530 0111
Cuisine: Modern Australian, Vegetarian
Overall Impression: 9/10 

On Tuesday nights, Attica serves new ideas and test dishes that challenge and please. The menu is different every week and seasonal. Priced at $95 a head for 5 courses, it is no surprise that there is a consistently long waiting list.
It was a privilege to trial some of the latest cooking ideas from the Attica kitchen. I dined here with a few colleagues so the photos are secret shots I have taken with my phone (I keep my food blogging antics a secret from my work life - I fear this may be career limiting as it may conjure images of me obsessing about food every hour of the day and not being able to concentrate properly at work although this may very well be the case?). Needless to say (although I will say it) the photos are of a less than desirable quality. 
The food on the other hand was quite simply, fantastic. Well-balanced flavours, creative and beautifully presented. I look forward to returning with J to test drive the weekend dining menu! 

Attica on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review: Pei Modern (Bar)

Location: 45 Collins Street, Melbourne
Phone: 03 9654 8545
Cuisine:Coffee, Breakfast/Brunch, Modern Australian
Overall Impression: 7/10

Only 19 more sleeps until I finally dine at Mark Best’s Marque in Sydney. My excitement levels have raised quite a few notches now that I have had a quick taste of what the culinary genius Mark Best has to offer in the form of Pei Modern. 

After our S.A.T.C. lunch at Mamasita, KM, BB, Alice and I decided we needed some coffee and sweet treats. Pei Modern is conveniently located a mere seconds away from Mamasita, so we decided to get our caffeine and sugar fix there.
The result of a collaboration between Mark Best and the two MoViDa men, David Mackintosh and Peter Bartholomew, Pei Modern is a modern gastropub with a relaxed and modern ambience. The curved timber ceiling and the minimalistic designs make this space both comfortable and elegant. 
Sauternes Custard and Crostoli
Blueberry Danish
Caramel Slice
Anzac cookie
Soy Latte
Long Macchiato
What we received was brilliant service, top notch coffee and lovely sweet treats. The Sauternes Custard and Crostoli was the highlight of our visit. The custard was silky smooth and had the perfect level of sweetness from the bitter caramel and the crostoli was beautifully crisp. I cannot wait for a return visit to indulge in the restaurant menu.

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Restaurant Review: Maha Restaurant

Location: 21 Bond Street, Melbourne
Phone: 03 9629 5900
Cuisine: Middle Eastern, Mediterranean
Overall Impression: 8/10

L loves Middle Eastern food, so during our recent lunch catch up, I suggested Maha. 
Maha serves Mediterranean inspired Middle Eastern cuisine that boasts bold flavour combinations that retain authentic characteristics.
The ambience is great. There is a distinct ‘Arabian night’ theme in the furnishings and fabrics used and it makes the whole dining experience a little mysterious.

Having dined at the restaurant a couple of years ago and really enjoying the experience, I was excited to try their bar menu.
I decided to email the restaurant about the bar express soufra. I received a prompt reply from the very helpful Reservation Coordinator, Sian who kindly provided me with details in relation to the soufra. I was also informed that the restaurant was currently a part of the Look, Stop, Taste event.
The Maha offering (which was priced at a bargain $15 per person) was designed to be a quick 45 minute lunch. I promptly made a booking as the menu was absolutely perfect given our time constraints. 
2011 Wanderer Rose from the Yarra Valley
To our delight, the menu did not disappoint!
Turkish bread
Corn fed chicken tagine, broken egg, corn bread, saffron, iranian figs, sucuk soil 
We each had the corn fed chicken tagine, broken egg, corn bread, saffron, Iranian figs, sucuk soil. We both expected the tagine to arrive to the table served in a tagine pot, with its conical cover. Instead, what we received was a beautiful work of art that looked nothing like what we had expected.
The dish was delicious.
Owner and chef, Shane Delia’s background in classical French cuisine is apparent in the technicality of the dish. The morsels of chicken were butter-tender. The tagine had deep and complex flavours from the use of spices. The grittiness of the corn bread brought an interesting textural element to the dish and was an excellent canvas for the delectable chicken and the sauce. The Iranian figs brought the right hint of sweetness and the dehydrated sucuk (which is a traditional Turkish sausage) added a lovely savouriness to the dish. It was a beautiful.
Hot Chocolate

The meal ended on a sweet note with a very tall glass of hot chocolate.
Whether you’re at Maha for a quick lunch at the bar or an indulgent 8 course degustation at the restaurant, you will be well taken care of. The service we received was outstanding. Every staff member was incredibly hospitable and accommodating. Maha is certainly deserving of all the accolades it has received.

Maha Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review: Cutler & Co

Location: 57 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
Phone: 03 9419 4888
Cuisine: Modern Australian, Wine Bar, International
Overall Impression: 8.5/10

Awarded the best restaurant in Victoria by Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Guide 2013, Andrew McConnell's flagship restaurant, Cutler & Co, showcases perfectly executed Modern Australian fare.
The restaurant is surprisingly relaxed for a fine dining establishment. Forget the white table cloths; the ambience is much more like a trendy bar with its brick-exposed walls and soft curtain-like chandeliers hanging down from the high ceilings.
J and I decided to reward ourselves with the degustation menu. This option will set you back $150 per person (excluding wine and the additional cheese course).
Selection of appetisers   
Oyster broth, Hervey Bay scallop, king brown mushroom & wild garlic 
Hand-picked mud crab, buttermilk potato, almond & brown butter 
Hay baked carrots, goats curd, toasted grains & ash 
Smoked & fried duck, morcilla, carrot & gingerbread 
Roasted suckling pig, mustard, kohlrabi & onion soubise 
Apple & sorrel sorbet, fennel meringue & dill 
Earl Grey ice cream, chocolate, Pedro Ximenez prunes & honey

Salted caramel chocolates 
The Cutler & Co menu is unpretentious.

The food boasts tried and true flavour combinations that work a treat and are perfectly executed. Every dish had very well-balanced flavours and was presented beautifully. Course after course, our taste buds were spoiled with bursts of delicious flavours. It was obvious that the quality of the food sourced was of the highest standard. The Hervey Bay scallop was of particular note with its natural sweetness which paired harmoniously with an oyster broth that had just the right hint of mushroom and garlic flavour (anymore and it would have over-powered the sweetness of those fresh scallops).
Cutler & Co certainly affords a brilliant dining experience for patrons. The space is elegantly relaxed with brilliant attention to detail. Each element of every course was consistently cooked to perfection - the pork crackling was beautifully crisp, the unctuous smoked and fried duck was moist and tender. As expected, the service was brilliant. J and I both felt incredibly welcomed and comfortable. Our wine glasses were consistently filled and our courses were delivered at perfect intervals. We cannot wait to return.

Cutler & Co on Urbanspoon

The Age Good Food Guide 2013

Congratulations to all the winners!

Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year: Vue De Monde

Citibank Chef of the Year: Michael Ryan

Regional Restaurant of the Year: Provenance

Best New Regional Restaurant: Gladioli

Plumm Wine Glasses Best New Restaurant: Pei Modern

 The Age Young Chef of the Year: Mark Briggs of Sharing House

 Champagne Louis Roederer Sommelier of the Year: Travis ‘Cougar’ Howe at Coda

 Service Excellence Award: Ainslie Lubbock

 Epicure Sustainability Award: Colin McLaren from Villa Gusto

 Vittoria Coffee Legend Award: Alla Wolf-Tasker

 Citibank Best Short Wine List: Casa Ciuccio

 hermomix Award for Innovation: Joost Bakker

 Regional Wine List of the Year: Ten Minutes by Tractor

 Brown Brothers Wine List of the Year: Coda

 Samsung Diners’ Choice Award: Ezard

 BYO restaurant of the year: Ladro

 The Donlevy Fitzpatrick Award: Vernon Chalker

Three Hat Restaurants

Two Hat Restaurants 

Flower Drum, Stokehouse, Matteo’s, Cutler & Co, Café Di Stasio, Ezard, MoVida, The PressClub, Rockpool Bar & Grill


One Hat Restaurants

Easy Tiger, Sarti, Circa the Prince, The European, Pei Modern, Cecconis Cantina, Moon Under Water, Albert St. Food and Wine, Grossi Florentino, The Point Albert Park, The EstelleBar & Kitchen, Steer Bar & Grill, Embrasse, Dandelion, Bistro Vue, Church St Enoteca, Maha, Tempura Hajime, Cumulus Inc, Mercer’s, Becco, GillsDiner, Donovans, Coda, The Italian, Bistro Guillaume, Shoya, Koots Salle e Manger, Golden Fields, Terminus


Regional Two Hat Restaurants

Loam, Tea Rooms of Yarck, Stefano’s, Lake House, Ten Minutes by Tractor


Regional One Hat Restaurants

The Long Table, Teller, Annie Smithers’ Bistrot, Montalto, Bella Vedere, The River Grill, Gladioli, Sunnybrae, A la Grecque, Chris’s Restaurant, La Petanque, Scorched, Neilsons, Eleonore’s, Villa Gusto

Ex- Hat Restaurants

Abla's, The Atlantic, Centonove, Cicciolina, Comme, Livingroom, Sapore, Oscar W's, Port Phillip Estate, Simone's Restaurant, Whirrakee Restaurant

Check out The Age Article, 'Who's up, who's down, who's in, who's out ... '

Restaurant Review: The Press Club

Location: 72 Flinders Street, Melbourne
Phone: 03 9677 9677
Cuisine: Modern Greek, Modern Australian
Overall Impression: 8/10

Being big fans of George Calombaris, J and I were excited to revisit his flagship restaurant, The Press Club.
Umame bread

The Press Club serves Modern Greek cuisine. We opted for the Symposium degustation menu with matching wines. Given it was truffle season, we had the option of receiving an extra truffle course for $35 per person - a proposition we could not refuse. 
Epanomi “Glykadia”- sweetbread

The degustation menu took us on a Hellenic gastronomic journey where the techniques executed were modern and contemporary but the food retained authentic Greek cuisine characteristics that had a lot of heart and soul.  
Mouzaki “Aiginares Artichoke”

The courses started with subtle delicate flavours. As the dinner progressed, the flavours increased in intensity, working its way up to the main – the Thraki “Moschari – Beef” which was the highlight of our evening. 

Karpathose “Xifias - Swordfish”
Crete “Psari – Hapuka” 
Tasmania truffle, Bannockburn chicken girolles

There was one downside to our dining experience at The Press Club and it was the additional truffle course. While the dish had commendably generous shavings of truffle, the truffle unfortunately lacked flavour and aroma. As a result, the truffles played a small supporting role instead of being the hero of the dish. It was however, difficult to be too critical given the fact that the other elements of the dish had been executed perfectly.
Epirus “Elafi – Venison”
Thraki “Moschari – Beef”

This was the dish of the night. The morsels of beef were the tenderest pieces of meat I have ever had. It melted in my mouth and was incredibly soft but not to the point where it had lost its texture and integrity as beef. It was brilliant. The flavours were beautifully intense and delicious.
Corfu “Refreshing”
Athens “Sokolata – Chocolate”

The Press Club is great for a relaxing dinner or a celebration. The ambience is lively and classy - the dining room is endowed with black marble, chandeliers and wooden panels. The service is attentive and friendly without being intrusive. Each dish was executed perfectly - each course had flavours that were well balanced coupled with a beautiful mix of textures. It is no wonder The Press Club remains one of the most highly regarded dining establishments in Melbourne.

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