The Chef Series Progressive Dinner @ Collins Square

Nestled within the heart of Melbourne's thriving Collins Street business district is Collins Square Hospitality Group's hub of award winning restaurant brands Chiara, Bar Nacional and Long Shot Café.  To complement the group's iconic restaurants comes Collins Square Catering and the Collins Square Cellar, outstanding hospitality services for discerning inner Melbourne foodies. From your morning coffee fix, to Spanish tapas and VIP sommelier experiences, Collins Square Hospitality Group offers a little something for every foodie.

Gastrology recently enjoyed an intimate 'Progressive Dinner' where we sampled the finest food and beverage from Collins Square Hospitality Group in an intimate dinner hosted by each of the executive and head chefs in their respective venues.

First stop: Canapés @ Collins Square Catering
Compressed watermelon, Yarra Valley feta, aged balsamic, oregano 

Our evening began with canapés in the catering kitchen. Collins Square Catering is Melbourne's most convenient events and catering offering, with a seamless process from ordering through to delivery.
Slow cooked duck 'empanada', blood orange mayonnaise

Our favourite canapé was the Duck empanada. The wonderfully flaky empanadas were filled with melt in your mouth slow cooked duck and served alongside blood orange mayonnaise. Topped with sesame seeds for some added texture, the empanadas were just beautiful.

Second stop: Entree @ Bar Nacional
Bar Nacional pays homage to the most celebrated aspects of Spanish food culture: a lively atmosphere, community, quality ingredients, careful preparation, and the fast-paced variety of flavours and creative combinations achievable with dishes designed especially to share. 

The Bar Nacional menu re-interprets a range of Spanish classics in new and exciting ways, with Head Chef Scott Spence dishing up traditional Carrasco guijuelo Iberian bellota and a creative play on crema catalana.
Smoked ham hock and fennel bomba

The bomba had a wonderfully crisp exterior which combined beautifully with the smoked ham hock which provided salinity to the dish while the creamy fennel ensured that the dish had requisite balance.
Perrito caliente - guindillas, pork crackling

We loved this Spanish take on the hot dog. Sandwiched between buttery brioche buns are juicy chorizo sausages, complete with indulgent sauces and decadent pork crackling. These rolls wantonly disregard the current trend towards healthy eating and, as a result, are abundantly flavoursome.

Third stop: Main @ Chiara
Chiara's menu pays homage to the authentic Italian culinary culture, with a modern Melbourne twist. The restaurant's impressive wine list boasts a decadent selection of Italian wines, champagne, local favourites and rare, aged options alongside aperitivo style cocktails. 
For those looking for an exclusive experience, Chiara's semi-private cellar room offers bespoke dining with personal menus and matched beverages for up to 18 guests.
Braised rabbit saddle, carrot, cardamom, guanciale & rock oysters

A myriad of well-balanced flavours enveloped the rabbit meat which was well cooked, juicy and tender. It was a rich and complex dish that worked superbly.

Fourth stop: Dessert @ Long Shot
Rumoured to be the best cafe West-of-Spencer, the team behind Long Shot understands that Melburnians take their coffee seriously, with expert baristas pouring a morning brew of coffee roasted by St Ali. 
Coconut ice pops, passion fruit curd, baby basil

All sweet treats are made in-house daily by pastry guru Maria Lantelme. 
From left: Brown butter panacotta, Canadian Maple croissant croutons; Caramelised chocolate puff pastry, cherry ice cream, vanilla powder

A local lunch haunt for fresh sandwiches, healthy salads, baked goods and treats to cap off your afternoon cravings, Long Shot has spoils for every palate.
Madeleines & caneles

We loved each of the sweet treats we indulged in. Each were a decadent interpretation of classic French and Italian creations that had been carefully handcrafted.
Find out more about Collins Square here.

Contact CSHG

Collins Square Hospitality Group:

Chiara Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Thanks to Altair, Warrandyte’s dining scene has been taken to new and unexpected heights. The menu is designed to surprise and delight over perfectly executed dishes that retain your interest from start to finish. 

There was an incredible precision to Head Chef Kelvin Shaw's cooking that spoke volumes about his calibre. It is absolutely no surprise that the restaurant is the highest ranked restaurant in the Eastern Suburbs by the 'Age Good Food Guide'. 

The ambience of Altair is comfortable and relaxed, providing the perfect canvas for the culinary art. The dining room is marshalled by excellent service staff, led admirably by Michelle, who ensures your experience is a memorable one.  
Crab cracker with miso mayonnaise
Matched with: NV Laurent Perrier Brut, Champagne, France

Our meal started with a beautiful amuse bouche. The acid balance of the miso mayonnaise was perfect and the crab cracker had a wonderful textural edge. 
Rose tofu, soy, coriander, prickly ash, chilli & edamame
Matched with: “Muromachi Shuzo” Sakura Muromachi Junmai Ginjo Bizen Maboroshi

Simply stunning. This dish was well balanced, loaded with umami and complex, due in part to the skilfully balanced flavour combinations. The creamy melt in your mouth tofu cradled the fragrant rose elements while the soy reduction brought the whole dish together. Both beautiful and beautifully prepared. 
Grilled Mackerel, clam, saffron, tapioca sofrito, almond gazpacho
Matched with: 2014 Yabby Lake ‘Pink Claw’ Grenache Rose, Heathcote VIC

The mackerel was cooked to perfection.  The almond gazpacho provided a delectably unique and refreshing accompaniment to the Mackerel. We could not fault this dish.
Smoked eel, den miso, Japanese mustard, shiitake, pork floss & green tea
Matched with: 2013 Helens Hill ‘Long Walk’ Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley VIC

Presented beautifully, this dish was yet another highlight. The earthy mushrooms were cooked perfectly giving them a wonderful texture. Combined with the dispersed miso, Japanese mustard and pork floss, this dish was restrained and elegant. 
Venison carpaccio, raspberry, liquorice, wild bush olive, anchovy bavarois
Matched with: 2011 Leconfield Merlot, Coonawarra SA
Corned Lamb, carrot quinoa, celeriac, lavender jus
Matched with: 2010 Tim Adams Cabernet Malbec, Clare Valley SA

The centrepiece course of lamb continued the trend of stunning dishes that preceded it. The lamb was moist and melted in our mouths while the quinoa was perfectly crispy and accentuated by subtle but very much present lavender jus.  Our favourite wine match for the evening, the Cabernet Malbec was a perfect match with its hints of violet which echoed the lavender jus and fresh blackcurrant and vanilla which provided a delicious backdrop for this intense meaty dish. 
Mimolette Vieille, France, Cow’s Milk
Matched with: 2014 the Darling Pinot Gris, Marlborough NZ
Blackcurrant, ginger, honey & myrrh trifle
Matched with: NV Bethany Old Quarry Fronti White Port, Barossa Valley SA

This striking dessert was a playful take on the traditional trifle. A sweet end to a decadent evening. 
Altair is an extremely capable restaurant that offers a wonderful dining experience. We left spellbound - from the amazingly tender lamb to the enticing smoked eel. Each course was well thought out, complex, delightfully balanced and impeccably executed.

Location: 152 Yarra St, Warrandyte VIC 3113
Phone: (03) 9844 5548
Cuisine: Modern Australian

Altair Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gastrology bloggers dined courtesy of Altair.

Mr Huang Jin

With chefs from Din Tai Fung, the legendary Taipei-based global chain, it is not surprising that Mr Huang Jin has rapidly gained a cult following.

Casual sophistication is the name of the game. Located at Katherine Place in the ‘New York’ end of Flinders Lane, Mr Huang Jin seats 40 guests inside their new interior that has been modeled around the simplicity but strong heritage of the bamboo-steaming basket.
The immaculately made xiao long bao are perfection. Showcasing the skill of the chefs, the xiao long bao skins are elastic, translucent, of consistent thickness and don't tear or unravel. In order to achieve such results, incredible discipline and extreme quality control are prerequisites. 
The pan-fried chicken dumplings, were equally impressive. These potstickers had beautifully silky skins and perfectly crispy bases. The lemon grass chicken dumplings were of particular note - bursting with a deliciously complex splash of lemon grass, they were an absolute delight. 
We also had some beautiful roti rolls. Robust and fragrant chicken satay encased within freshly cooked roti bread, it was an addictive and comforting dish.
The prawn and pork wontons were yet another highlight. We loved the velvety wonton pastry which was beautiful in texture and the accompanying sea of sweet soy, peanut sauce and chilli was pleasantly appetising. Cooked with the perfect amount of heat, these wontons tantalised our taste buds.
Moving to the Taiwanese tapas served at dinner time, unusual but exciting combinations feature on the menu such as the twice cooked pork spare ribs that have been grilled and then served with house made chili oil and broad beans. The Taiwanese tapas were lovely with wine - and you definitely can't go wrong with Taiwanese fried chicken. A popular dish in Taiwanese cuisine and the mainstay of Taiwanese night markets, Taiwanese fried chicken is a very guilty but delicious pleasure. 
Mr Huang Jin’s rendition of the Taiwanese Fried Chicken is commendable - beautifully balanced from the use of soy sauce, sugar, garlic, rice wine and five-spice. 
The fresh, vividly white slices of butterfish were cooked to perfection. We enjoyed the meaty texture and the golden-brown charred bits of caramelised miso on the fish. It was a beautiful dish.
Our dining experience at Mr Huang Jin ended with classic Taiwanese red bean pancakes. A simple dessert that amalgamates the best aspects of a good fritter and gooey red bean, the pancakes were folded over luxurious red bean paste, deep fried and laced with homemade maple syrup. The pancake had a pleasant chewiness which contrasted nicely with its crispy exterior.  It was a simple but truly superb dessert.
Having been an iconic Melbourne classic in their days at the Rialto Tower, Mr Huang Jin have moved but are better than ever at their new Archway location. While many Chinese restaurants in Melbourne serve xiao long bao, Mr Huang Jin’s variety are a cut above. The fillings are lean, not fatty, and the technique used to produce them is impeccable. Aside from dumplings, Mr Huang Jin serves up a delicious mix of Taiwanese main courses and tapas offerings. Combined with its excellent drinks menu and warm service, Mr Huang Jin is a compelling lunch and dinner time destination.

Location: The Archway 4-5 Katherine Place 517 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9629 5452 
Link: Facebook
Cuisine: Taiwanese, Asian

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Gastrology bloggers dined courtesy of Mr Huang Jin.

L’ altro mondo

“L’altro mondo” is an Italian phrase that translates literally to “another world”. Our recent visit to l’altro mondo suggests that it is a highly appropriate name for the restaurant. It is a name that evokes memories of the warm familial atmosphere, of the excellence of its cuisine and together with a touch of magic, the ability to transport patrons to another culinary world.
Domenico De Marco and his partner Elyse Woodward-Brown quietly opened this Italian restaurant at 125 Victoria Avenue Albert Park in September 2014. Together, they manage a committed team intent on achieving exceptional things.
Having just recently turned 30, Domenico has an impressive resume including a slew of one star Michelin Italian restaurants including Il Povero Diavolo (Torriana), Ristorante L‘erbe del re (Modena) and at the Four Seasons Hotel (Florence). In Australia, Domenico has worked with renowned chefs such as Luke Mangan and Neil Perry at the Rockpool Group.
Patrons can opt for the degustation or a la carte menus which feature Domenico’s ‘contemporary cuisine with an Italian influence’ boasting dishes with clear lineage and subtle, yet sometimes surprising flavour combinations. 
An Italian aperitivo with house made bread

Pursuing a clean taste and a purist in terms of using produce of the utmost quality, Chef Domenico cures all his own meats and bakes his bread daily. We loved the delicious selection of aperitivo with his outstanding bread.
Onion pie, rhubarb, fennel and orange salad

Crumbly pastry encased beautifully caramelised onions. The accompanying fennel salad was nicely sweetened by slices of orange to dull the customary sharp aniseed note and provided a pleasant counterpoint to the very sweet spiced jus adorning the pie.
House cured rainbow trout, radicchio, and ginger dressing

A delightfully fresh dish of house cured rainbow trout, radicchio, ginger dressing was lovely.
The soft texture of the trout contrasted nicely with the crispness of the radicchio while the ginger dressing provided a light heat which cut through the saltiness of the umami laden dish.  It was a dish of subtle, but balanced, and well considered textures and flavours.  
Ricotta and winter green filled ravioli, lemon butter herb sauce

The ravioli was exceptional. The filling of deliciously savoury and melt in your mouth ricotta and winter greens was encased in al dente pasta. The accompanying lemon butter herb sauce made this a perfectly executed and expertly balanced dish.
Slow braised beef brisket in an Asian stock, kale puree, liquorice jus, and beetroot

The slow braised beef brisket was decadent and flavoursome. Incredibly tender, it fell away easily with the weight of our forks. Coated with an earthy braising sauce, the dish was very enjoyable to consume with the luxurious kale puree and liquorice jus which captivated with its delightfully aroma.
Cappuccino ghiacciato

A pre-dessert of frozen cappuccino delighted with its playful interpretation.
Saffron mousse, marzipan, yoghurt, salted macadamia, mandarin oil

Continuing the trend for the evening, the dessert a delicious interplay between interesting textures, flavours and seductive aromas. The layer of gritty sweet polenta was delicately thin and crisp and paired beautifully with the mellow and luxurious saffron mousse and marzipan. The salted macadamia brought an added textural element and just a touch of salinity while the tartness of the yoghurt produced a balanced dessert.
At l’altro mondo it is all about the food and Domenico’s passion that underlies it. Whether you are an Italian traditionalist or prefer to swerve off the autostrada into culinary roads less travelled, make sure you make l’altro mondo a destination for your next food adventure.

Location: 125 Victoria Ave, Albert Park 
Phone: (03) 9682 2388
Cuisine: Italian, Modern Australian

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Gastrology bloggers dined courtesy of L' altro mondo.

Woodland House

When you arrive at Woodland House, a mere first glance makes you understand why new owners Thomas Woods and Hayden McFarland have decided to continue their stint at the old Jacques Reymond location. 

Sumptuous statement chandeliers, show plates on crisp white linen, well-spaced tables and noise levels at a muted hum capture the luxury and ambience of a bi-gone era creating the perfect setting for opulent fine dining. 
While Jacques Reymond has left the building, one thing is certain - the breathtaking mansion continues to honour its glamorous past, with an evolving epicurean offering.
The dynamic menu features local producers and showcases top ingredients cooked in a manner which allows their natural flavours to shine through.
Rockling, crab emulsion, almond
Matched with: 2011 Tarrawarra ‘Reserve’ Chardonnay, Yarra Valley, Australia

The rockling was served in a beautiful sea of crab emulsion. The fillet had been cooked at very low temperatures for an extended period and, as a result, retained slightly gelatinous characteristics. The flesh was extremely delicate and communicated many of its natural flavours. It was a beautiful start to our dining experience.
John Dory, sheep’s whey, bottarga, dill
Matched with: Grüner Veltliner ‘Von Stein’, Saloman Undhof, Kremstal DAC Reserve, Austria

The John Dory was perfectly cooked – its skin was crisp and the underlying flesh was tender and succulent. 
Snail, pig tail
Matched with: 2011 Etna Rosso, ‘Archiner’ Pietradolce DOC, Sicily, Italy

The beautifully composed dish of snail and pig tail was highlighted by its feature components that were each expertly prepared. 
Spatchcock, Jerusalem artichoke, black garlic
Matched with: 2013 Sumur Rouge, Domaine Guiberteau, Loire Valley, France

The spatchcock was silky, courtesy of being cooked to perfection. The natural gaminess of the spatchcock was showcased alongside the subtly sweet Jerusalem artichoke puree. 
Shortrib, sweetbreads, kohlrabi
Matched with: 2010 Agricola Punica ‘Barrua’ IGT, Sardinia, Italy

The shortrib was tender and delicious, with caramel undertones courtesy of being slow-braised. Paired with an earthy and luxurious sauce, the shortrib fell away at the weight of our forks whilst still retaining its integrity. The perfectly cooked sweetbreads were a great accompaniment. It was a magnificent dish.
Cheese, boudin noir

Our cheese dish was a cheese sensation that demonstrated memorable dishes can often be very simple. In this instance, a slice of an amalgamation of cow and sheep milk cheese was topped with fried black pudding and crisps. 
Celeriac, macadamia milk sorbet, fermented pineapple
Matched with: 2014 Singlefile Frankland River Riesling Botrytis, Great Southern, Australia

A wonderfully imaginative dessert concluded our meal. The dessert featured a truly novel flavour combination of celeriac, macadamia milk and fermented pineapple that succeeded.  
Under the guidance of Woods and McFarland, 78 Williams Rd, Prahran continues to be a timeless fine dining landmark and continues its award-wining food journey.

Location: 78 Williams Road, Prahran
Phone: 03 9525 2178
Cuisine: Modern European, Contemporary

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Gastrology bloggers dined courtesy of Woodland House.

Daring and innovative cuisine @ Los Patos

Daring and innovative cuisine @ Los Patos

Regularly described as one of Granada's “destination” restaurants, Los Patos allows diners to embark on a culinary journey through the local flavours of Granada.

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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

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Spanish Armada @ Robert Burns Hotel [11 & 12 March 2015]

Gastrology bloggers dined courtesy of Freixenet.
As part of the 2015 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Gastrology recently attended Spanish Armada at Robert Burns Hotel where celebrity chef Miguel Maestre and Head Chef Marc Albalate treated Robert Burns’ kitchen implements as paint brushes and our plates as their canvas.
The unique six course dinner was matched with supreme Spanish wines from Freixenet Barcelona, and paid homage to some of Spain’s most famous painters, with each dish inspired by the palette and mood of a masterpiece.
Miguel Maestre taking guests through each of the courses

Head chef Marc Albalate was born in Barcelona, but grew up in Palma, the capital of Mallorca (the largest of the Balearic Islands) and has turned The Robert Burns Hotel into the home of truly traditional Spanish cuisine, albeit its very Scottish name. 
The menu is classically Spanish and features the best dishes from the many different regions of Spain.
Red cabbage “Gazpacho”. Beetroot foam, balsamic vinaigrette reduction
Inspired by: Perceval Graells. ‘Al Alba’ (At the Sunrise) 2006. 
Matched with: Freixenet Cordon Negro NV

The evening started with a lovely aperitif.  We loved the gazpacho’s wonderful freshness and vibrancy in flavour.  The matching Cordon Negro Brut echoed the gazpacho’s vibrancy with its crisp and clean characteristic. 
Mango “Salmorejo”, roasted peppers, cherry tomato jam, balsamic glaze, sprouts, leafy greens
Inspired by: Joan Miro, ‘El Jardin’ (The Garden) 1925
Matched with: Freixenet Cordon Negro NV
Marriage of seafood “Salpicon” and Ceviche - prawn carpaccio, emperor ceviche, pickled mussel, red onion, leche de tigre
Inspired by: Joaquin Sorolla, ‘Paseo a Orillas de Mar’ (The walk on the border of the sea) 1909
Matched with: Freixenet Cordon Negro Vintage 2011

The ceviche was our favourite dish of the night. Displaying technique, elegance and skilful restraint, the ceviche items were beautifully presented and accompanied by a beautifully made leche de tigre, a citrus-based marinade that cured the seafood. It was a wonderful mélange of salinity, sweetness and acidity. 
Confit rockling, creamy goats cheese rice, black olive, ink cracker.
Inspired by: Pablo Picasso, ‘Guernica’ 1937
Matched with: Agnusdei Albarino 2013

This dish was visually, the clearest match to its corresponding work of art - A canvas of  black, white and grey. The rockling was cooked to perfection and the ink cracker was a nice addition. The matching Agnusdei Albarino’s unctuous, toffee notes acted as a great partner to the dish.
Grilled lamb ribs, baked beetroot, honey & rosemary braised baby onions, cherry tomato, potato
Inspired by: Luis Melendez ‘Bodegon’ 1770
Matched with: Solar Viejo Crianza 2011 & LalaLand Tempranillo

Our final savoury course, the lamb was roasted to perfection and hence was juicy and succulent. We particularly enjoyed matching this course with the Solar Viejo Crianza which boasted the fine aromas, liquorice flavours and red fruit flavours with an elegant oak finish.
Crema Catalana, chocolate coated honeycomb, chocolate cookie crumble, whipped white chocolate cream
Inspired by Salvador Dali ‘La persistencia de la Memoria’ (The persistence of the memory), 1931
Matched with: Segura Viudas Semi Seco NV

A theatrical dessert concluded our evening at The Robert Burns on a decadent chocolate note. The Semi Seco was a wonderful match with the medium acidity cutting through the richness of the dessert while the fruity and citrus notes matched the honeycomb and white chocolate cream perfectly. 
The Robert Burns brings the authentic tastes and cultures of Spain to Melbourne’s iconic Smith Street. A family and kid-friendly, restaurant, it is an ideal place for all occasions from relaxing in the courtyard, with drinks and tapas to a decadent dinner in the wine room.

Location: 376 Smith Street, Collingwood
Phone: 03 9417 2233
Cuisine: Spanish, Tapas, Mediterranean

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400 Gradi Cicchetti

Gastrology bloggers dined courtesy of 400 Gradi Cicchetti.
400 Gradi Cicchetti brings a little piece of Venice to Melbourne. The bar replicates a traditional ‘bacari’- a small, intimate bar typically frequented by locals in the City of Bridges.
Keeping in the tradition of cicchetti, the 400 Gradi Cicchetti menu features small plates including the likes of crispy polenta with mixed caramelised mushroom and gorgonzola, and spaghettini al granchio with lobster bisque, fresh crab meat, garlic, chilli, cherry tomato and fresh basil. 
The wine list showcases an intelligent choice of drinking options including an extensive list of Italian wines. Not just appealing for the palate, the 50-seater bar has been designed by award-winning Pascale Gomes-McNabb, one of Melbourne’s most celebrated interior designers.
Situated next door to Di Francesco’s popular Lygon Street restaurant, 400 Gradi Cicchetti is a sleek yet relaxed and informal bar, shunning the grungy look that is today’s Melbourne norm in favour of a more conventional bistro atmosphere.
Our host for the evening was Fulvio. Professional, very knowledgeable, friendly and passionate, Fulvio made our dining experience a sensational one. 
Aperitif: Peach Bellini

A beautifully fresh cocktail made from prosecco sparkling wine and peach nectar this Venetian cocktail was a great start to our evening.
Fresh natural shucked oysters
A selection of salumi

The selection of salumi was a display of superlative flavours comprising of a respectable assembly of 18 Months Old Prosciutto di Parma Devodier Cantina Mornello, 30 months Old Prosciutto di Parma Devodier Cantina Secretum, Mozzarella Di Bufala, Bella Lodi Raspadura freshly shaved Cheese and bread. The Prosciutto di Parma Devodier Cantina Secretum and Bella Lodi Raspadura were in particular excellent – both possessing a richness that had been further enhanced by the flavours of the intense curing salt mix.
Beer battered zucchini flowers stuffed with crab, ricotta, and a bit of chilli

The batter encasing the zucchini flower was ethereally light and very crisp while the stuffing was rich and flavoursome.  Combined with the sweetness of the crab and the lovely kick from the chilli, the dish was a delight to eat.
Freshly made Arancini balls made with sausage rice and cheese

A traditional comfort-food classic, the arancini balls were beautiful. Each morsel was sufficiently seasoned and flavoursome.
An elegant, dry and aromatic drop with beautiful peach and floral notes, the BIO VIO - Pigato wine from Liguria Italy was the perfect match for our entrees before we continued on to our heavier mains.
Duck ragu trecce

As expected of any acclaimed Italian restaurant, 400 Gradi Cicchetti is particularly good at producing quality pasta dishes. The Duck ragu trecce that we had was no exception. The large spiral pasta were intertwined amongst lashings of tender duck ragu. The flavours were complex and rich. Texturally, the tenderness of the duck contrasted nicely with the perfectly cooked al dente pasta. Fulvio presented it to us as “a wonderful dish” and we could not have agreed more.
Girolamo Russo A'Rina Etna Rosso - Nerello Mascalese and 5% Nerello Cappuccio wine

The matching Girolamo Russo A'Rina Etna Rosso was a light and exuberant wine with a tight flavour profile.
Margherita verace Pizza

400 Gradi Cicchetti patrons can also include Johnny’s internationally awarded pizza in their dining experience. Johnny took out the number one spot at The World Pizza Championship earlier this year for best STG (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (Specialita’ Tradizionale Garantita), with 400 Gradi now being home to the world’s best pizza.

The Margherita verace pizza was picture perfect in appearance and outstanding in taste. A thin layer of tomato sugo, healthy dollops of buffalo mozzarella and a sprinkling of basil leaves created a delightful fusion of flavours that would keep any pizza purist happy. Encircled with a puffy crisp crust, this pizza was superb.
Tagliata Di Manzo - Angus Beef Eye Fillet grilled and sliced served medium rare with shaved parmesan, balsamic cream, capers and baby rocket

Our final main course of Angus Beef Eye Fillet met our expectations admirably.  The accompaniments to the beef were simple and delicious. A light searing ensured that each slice was lined with a thin crisp layer packed with caramelised beef flavour.  The meat was intense with characteristic Angus beef notes and a deep earthy richness and texturally it was sublime with a decadent melt in the mouth, almost buttery, consistency.
Molino Barolo 2010 From Nebbiolo wine

The beef was served with our favourite wine of the evening. A classic Barolo, the Molino Barolo boasted a bouquet of dark fruit aromas, mint and liquorice. We loved its balanced flavour profile which while quite tannic given its age, tasted beautiful.
Homemade Tiramisu and Pannacotta tasting plate

400 Gradi Cicchetti’s rendition of a pannacotta was texturally perfect. The pannacotta was silky smooth - just barely holding its shape, it was quivering on the plate. The tiramisu was similarly well made, with its flavour heavily dominated by the constituent alcoholic component.  Both were simple traditional desserts that were well executed and thoroughly enjoyable.
Passito Di Pantelleria Dessert Wine

Hailing from the sun-drenched island of Pantelleria, this dessert wine was thick and syrupy with intense aromas and a fresh acid finish.
Cheeses: La rustichella truffle paste cheese, Taleggio 'Bufaletto ' made with buffalo and cow's milk, Pecorino Cacio di bacco: Pecorino style cheese matured in pomace and covered with grape

Our evening concluded with a selection of good quality cheeses. Each unique and varied greatly with their distinct flavours and luxurious textures. It was a fantastic way to finish the night off.  
400 Gradi Cicchetti combines friendly and affable staff, wonderful ambience, exceptional food and one hell of a beverage list to deliver an enchanting experience - one that transports you to a traditional ‘bacari’ in Venice.

Location: 99B Lygon Street, Brunswick East
Phone: 03 9380 2320
Cuisine: Tapas, Bar, Italian

400 Gradi Cicchetti Bar on Urbanspoon

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

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A toast to good food & great wine @ The Valley Cellardoor

Gastrology bloggers dined courtesy of The Valley Cellardoor.
Since first opening its doors in June 2010, The Valley Cellardoor has developed a reputation for keeping locals well lubricated with well-priced wine and good food (which, of course, goes perfectly with wine) in a comfortable environment which reflects rustic sophistication.
We sat at the newly expanded area of the cellar door which has increased the venue’s seating capacity to 150 people and offers a view into the cosy, open plan kitchen. We loved the welcoming and cosy ambience.
The focal point of The Valley Cellardoor is the wine with over 250 to choose from, all from boutique producers ranging in price from $10 – $35 take away and $17 – $42 drink in house.  
There is also an impressive list of craft beer and cider that will impress and suit any taste.
For those eager to increase their knowledge of wine, the staff offer advice, plenty of expert knowledge and guidance.
Owners and brothers Tony and Mark Pendreich possess extensive experience in wine and hospitality. Mark is a trained sommelier, and has an impressive resume including having worked in London for Marco Pierre White and the Conran Group whilst Tony spent 7 years in Hong Kong and China as a Project Manager. The pair were one of the first to introduce the BYO food concept and minimal in house corkage through their original wine bar ‘Mordialloc Cellardoor’.
Their passion for the liquid gold is clear and their warmth and hospitality is palpable as you step into the venue. 
Charcuterie platter

The charcuterie was a respectable assembly of salami, prosciutto, cheddar, brie, olives, cornichons, antipasto mix, quince paste and bread. The salami and prosciutto were in particular excellent – both possessing a richness that had been further enhanced by the flavours of the intense curing salt mix. 
Pizza of the month - Housemade tomato sauce, potato, leek, bacon pieces

The potato, leek and bacon pizza was a winner and featured a classic amalgamation of flavours which could not be faulted.
Vegetarian pizza 
Housemade tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, caramelised onions, roasted pumpkin, roasted peppers, roasted eggplant, pinenuts

The vegetarian pizza was lovely. Layers of mozzarella were teamed with delightful melt-in-your’s-mouth eggplant slices, juicy pumpkin and mellow roasted peppers. Encircled with a puffy crisp crust, this pizza was the perfect Friday night treat.
It is no surprise that The Valley Cellardoor quickly attracted a steady stream of devoted clientele, impressed by its rustic, yet fine foods, use of local, specialty purveyors, and their exceptional wine and beer offerings.

Location: 18 Hall Street  Moonee Ponds
Phone: 03 9370 2000
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Win[e]ding down @ Strangeloves Bar

Gastrology bloggers visited as guests of Strangeloves Bar.
Gastrology was recently invited to review Strangeloves Bar anonymously.
We were asked to book a table and at the end of the visit, introduce ourselves, where we then enjoyed chatting to owner, Michael about the concept behind the bar and his passion for wine.
We loved Strangeloves’ BYO food policy which benefits the surrounding fantastic selection of restaurants, making Strangelove ideal for a group pf people that have different appetites and tastes. 
The space is divided into intimate spots with soft low lighting and relaxing background music, making it a contemplative environment, conducive for conversations.
Gas log heaters provide warmth and comfort during chilly Melbourne evenings.
The wine list is extensive (14 pages worth) and there is a large selection of cocktails and a small selection of spirits.
We enjoyed sipping on top shelf whisky and cognac – a lovely way to wind down after a working week.

Location: 577 Mt Alexander Rd  Moonee Ponds
Phone: 03 9078 3574
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