Monday, August 31, 2009

Breakfast on Bridge: Chimmys

342 Bridge Road
Ph: 9427 1391

This Sunday I spent the morning breakfasting on Bridge with J, my mum and mum's friend SM. We went to Chimmys, a bakehouse and restaurant with a long list of breakfasts to choose from. When we arrived the place was packed; we stood around at the entrance to the restaurant until finally a waitress noticed us and found us a table for four.

SM ordered poached eggs on toast and a hot cross bun; the eggs came out long before any of the other meals arrived, going cold as she politely waited for the rest of our food to arrive. The hot cross bun finally showed up at the very end once all the other food had been delivered.

Mum had: Madrid omelette with chorizo, potato, rosemary, red onion, cheddar and slow roasted truss tomatoes on toast ($13)

I gave into my addiction and had Chimmy's version of Eggs Atlantic; absolutely delicious although I was a little disappointed that the "capers" that were meant to accompany the dish turned out to be a single caperberry.

Soft poached eggs with smoked salmon, sauteed lemon spinach, capers and hollandaise ($14.50)

J: Roasted vegetable panini ($8)

So at times there was confusion about where meals were to be taken and the timing of our dishes wasn't great; but I guess most importantly the food was delicious and good value too. If you don't feel like a sit down, hot meal, there's plenty of fresh, reasonably priced paninis. I'll be back to try one of the dishes from the $12 lunch menu, such as the pan seared lamb cutlets with rosemary and sea salted potatoes.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

24/7 curry

Red Pepper
14 Bourke Street
Ph: 9654 5714

21 days ago I declared, via a Facebook status update, that I would abstain from eating McDonalds for a month. Coming home from a big night out, when I'm cold and tired and need to get food quickly, Macca's has always been a regular Saturday night pit stop. But this Saturday I found myself in Bourke Street right outside Red Pepper, a 24 hour, 7 days a week Indian restaurant that J had been to previously and really enjoyed.

Apart from one guy who worked at the club next door, J and I were the only westerners; always a good sign. We ordered and paid at the front counter; the menu offers a long list of curries under $10, with most actually falling around the $8 mark. This year's Cheap Eats states that the "small, rich servings wont leave you overstuffed" and suggests you may need to come back for more; J and I found that the huge pieces of naan bread that came with our meals left us more than satisfied.

J's dish:
Paalak Paneer with naan - 'Indian cottage cheese cooked with spinach in a cream gravy' ($8)

Daal Tadka with naan - 'a full flavoured yellow lentil dish' ($6)

So J's dish looks like sludge, but it was really delicious and for the price and convenience of 24/7 trading, who's complaining?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Eating in Geelong: Winter's Cafe

Winter's Cafe
330 Pakington Street
Ph: 5221 8832

This week I went back to my hometown of Geelong to visit my family; my mum took me out for lunch to one of our old favourites down the river end of cosmopolitan Pakington Street - Winter's cafe.

I am an Eggs Benedict addict and this is where the obsession started. Winter's have a great mix of sandwiches, pastas, salads, soups and curries and despite this I get the Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon pretty much every time. This time, however, it was one of the pasta dishes that caught my eye.

Parisienne gnocchi with panchetta, spinach, pine nuts and sun dried tomatoes - $15

The pasta sounded so good that Mum and I ordered the same dish. The gnocchi was so light and just melted in your mouth; the tomatoes were plump and juicy; and the panchetta was so crispy and salty, although I would have liked a bit more. Then again I am a pig when it comes to panchetta. When it came out I was worried about the size because I didn't think it would fill me up - my eyes are always bigger than my stomach - but it was quite an oily dish and I wasn't actually able to finish it as it was so rich.

Winter's cafe is open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea 7 days a week and is also available for functions and catering.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Food Fest: Taste of Melbourne

Last week, my flatmate J and I bought premium tickets to the Taste of Melbourne festival (Thursday evening session). Excited about the prospect of trying dishes from some of Melbourne's best restaurants, I checked out some other food blogs to see if anyone had done a review of the event from previous years. I was unpleasantly surprised to read some quite negative reviews, suggesting that the event wasn't good value for money, the tastings were tiny, that patrons left hungry or that "crowns", the official currency of the festival, were wasted. Well, I am happy to report that this was absolutely not the experience that J and I had! In fact I believe J's exact words as we left were "Best $50 I ever spent!"

We initially wandered around the building just sussing out where everything was, and had free samples of wine, cheese, bruschetta, chocolate and various condiments handed to us as we walked by. There was certainly no shortage of free samples and after doing a lap of the festival J and I were actually a bit full. So before we purchased our first meals we decided to watch one of the cooking demonstrations; we saw the James Squire Beer Masterclass.

The host, Chuck Hahn, told us a bit about the history of the brewery and his waiters came around to give us samples of their pilsner and golden ale. Then Joseph Vargetto, chef at Oyster Little Bourke, took over and taught us how to shuck oysters, and attempted to make a romesco sauce to accompany them however there was no working blender...

... so he quickly moved on to the "Popcorn prawn with citrus aioli".

Armed with a goodie bag from the cooking class and with rumbling tummies, we decided it was time to select our first dishes.

J's first dish: Baked crab shell served with Portuguese sauce (12 crowns) - Silks

My first dish: Natural oysters with romesco sauce and lemon (10 crowns) - Oyster Little Bourke

Oh, how I love oysters. These were so fresh and delicious that I actually only had the romesco sauce with one of them; I just wanted to taste that natural, salty flavour on its own.

I was also very excited to see the boys from Masterchef; this is outside George Calombaris's stand which consisted of his 3 restaurants Maha, The Press Club and Hellenic Republic, and was incredibly popular all night.

Time for dish number two...

Mine: Slow cooked cuttlefish with chorizo and chickpeas (12 crowns) - Movida

J's: BBQ Sher Wagyu steamed bun, pickled carrot, spring onion and hoisin (10 crowns) - Circa, The Prince

My dish from Movida was so smokey and rich and so not just a tomatoey stew like how it kind of looked.

At the end of the night we bumped into some people we knew; as I ate and talked I forgot to take pictures of our last dishes. J had dessert - Turkish Delight filled doughnuts with pine nut sugar and rosewater honey (8 crowns) - Maha; I don't have much of a sweet tooth and opted for another savoury dish - Steamed pork and prawn Sui Mai (8 crowns) - Silks. These looked so much more pork-y than prawn-y but the prawn flavour came through so strong. This came in a serve of 4 dumplings which I thought was quite generous.

Everything was absolutely delicious; my favourite dish was the oysters because I think oysters are actually my favourite food in the world, but all the dishes were incredible.

Happily, my experience of this festival was very different to many other food bloggers. J and I paid $50 for our tickets, which got us entry and $30 worth of crowns. Neither of us needed to go to the festival bank to get more crowns and we both left feeling really full and satisfied. The complimentary tastings, the other freebies (magazines, tea, coffee, chocolate etc) and the chance to speak with chefs and producers made for a fabulous night and its definitely a festival I'll be attending again.

Taste of Melbourne runs from 27-30 August 2009 at the Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Breakfast on Bridge: Raw Cafe

This morning before work I went out for breakfast with Synonymous and our friend Fei. We wanted to go to Flaunt on Bridge Road but the door informed us that "Irene has the flu"; so instead we continued wandering down the road and stumbled across Raw Cafe. Here we were warmly greeted by Darren, who has been the owner of Raw for 3 years and is one of those people who are just so suited to working in hospitality; very cheerful and charming and welcoming.

Raw has seating indoors and out; we sat outside as it was a beautiful, rare sunny morning today. After two great lattes (only $2.50!) we ordered from the extensive menu; Raw has all the the breaky usuals (Benedict, big breaky etc) as well as a full page of sandwiches to choose from, each of which is named after an AFL team. Synonymous had this...

"Richmond's greatest breaky roll" - soft roll with egg, bacon, tomato relish, cheese and lettuce, $6.90. Indeed, it was pretty great; the tangy, slightly spicy relish made it stand out from other breakfast rolls.

I had the "Vegi Breakfast", which did come with eggs but I was having one of those mornings where you don't really feel like you can stomach eggs, so I replaced them with bacon. A vegan option is also available (minus the hash browns and add extra veggies). The bacon was crispy, the mushrooms were earthy and smokey but one of the best things was the baked beans; when I read baked beans on the menu I just assumed Raw would deliver canned, store bought beans, as so many cafes do serve up for breakfast; so it was a lovely surprise to receive kidney and cannellini beans in a housemade, rich, tomatoey sauce.

Great service, lots of choices and good coffee - and at $15 for a big breakfast and a latte it's very reasonably priced.
Raw Cafe
382 Bridge Road, Richmond 3121
Ph: 9428 7012