September Dining Round-Up

Excellent pepper steak with great crispy chips at Montmartre Cafe

After spending the first half of September in Queensland, mostly pigging out on steaks…

AMAZING rainbow and mint chic chip ice creams with sprinkle cones at Sea World

ice creams…

My favourite kebabs EVER in the whole world at Sahara – we went back more times than I’d like to admit…

kebabs…

We’d heard that BBQ Baron was supposed to be a pretty decent burger joint but this experience was very average.

and burgers…

French Vanilla Pancakes – stack of 3 pancakes with butter and maple syrup ($10, fruit and ice cream extra)

….I got back into the (only slightly) healthier meals once I returned home to Geelong and back to reality. This month there were some great breakfasts, starting with Biagio’s – a relaxed yet professional Italian dining room in Niddrie. Jono’s pancakes were pretty much flawless, fluffy and hot served with real maple syrup and generous portions of fruit and ice cream.

Eggs Florentine – 2 softly poached eggs with spinach and hollandaise sauce on a toasted English muffin ($10).

My eggs florentine brekky was great too, and the hollandaise – although not the best I’ve had – was laced with wholegrain mustard, making for a nice twist to the famous sauce.

 

Lemon meringue pie ($13)

 

Armageddon Cake is a cute little dessert bar that opened in late 2011 and, despite hearing rave reviews, I only managed to get myself down there a few weeks ago. We should have visited sooner – the venue is more ‘lounge’ than ‘bar’; in fact, it’s just like being in a friend’s lounge room. Jono loved it as he got to sink into one of the big, old, comfy chairs in the front corner and relax with a hot chocolate and a massive piece of cake. As well as the pie, we had an excellent sticky date pudding, and the coffees and peach nectar were delicious too. Armageddon Cake’s friendly staff serve up an ever-changing menu Thursday to Saturday from 8pm-11pm. It’s a much needed nightspot for Geelong – I love that they don’t even open until many of Geelong’s restaurants are closing their kitchens.

 

63 big brekky with scrambled eggs, bacon, tomato, mushrooms, spinach, hash brown & kransky sausage on zeally bay sourdough toast w side of 63 baked beans ($21).

and

Sweet potato & bacon hash cakes with roasted beetroot relish, rosemary & feta scrambled egg with chive hollandaise ($16.5)

You can’t really go wrong when it comes to breakfast and brunch at 63 Degrees. Generally, both the Highton and Pakington Street stores get it right and I couldn’t help but revisit an old favourite, the sweet potato and bacon hash cakes. I love this meal; the hash cakes are beautiful little balls of carbs that go perfecctly with the fresh beetroot relish, the scrambled eggs are always creamy and the hollandaise sauce at 63 is probably my favourite in Geelong. Jono was equally happy with his big, man sized breakfast.

 

Two scrambled eggs on sourdough with smoked salmon and hollandaise ($15.50)

The new Winter’s spring menu is fantastic – it has some really interesting breakfast choices that you wouldn’t find anywhere else in Geelong, like an open crab omelette with fresh papaya salad, or vodka cured salmon gravlax on charred rye with sauce vierge, cottage cheese and micro herbs. On this occasion, however, I was craving a simple breakfast of eggs and smoked salmon, again with my old favourite, hollandaise – I reckon Winter’s takes second place in the unofficial “ravenous melbourne’s Best Hollandaise in Geelong” competition.

 

Jono and I took a trip to my old neighbourhood, Port Melbourne, for lunch before catching the VFL semi final. I’ve only been up that way a handful of times since moving back to Geelong two years ago, and it was interesting to see how many of the local cafes are no longer there or have changed hands. Port Melbourne can be a really funny place for dining out and it took us a while to settle on a venue. Creme was nothing spectacular, but it did the job – we ordered a big, carb-y lunch of pasta, Turkish bread and arancini balls. The portions were big and good value, and while this place won’t have you raving, it’s a quick, reliable option with lots of menu choice.

 

And it wouldn’t be a round up without a few dishes from my work at The Shed @ Terindah Estate – this month for staff lunches we’ve been treated to some really beautiful eye fillet served simply as is, or in a fresh salad accompanied by organic chicken, confit garlic bread and Andy Pye’s famous Russian potato salad.

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Consistently good at Darriwill Farm Highton

Darriwill Farm

65-71 Barrabool Road

Highton

(03) 5241 2933

darriwillfarm.com.au

It was a joyous occasion when Darriwill Farm opened its Highton doors some years ago. Finally there was a place in the little Belle Vue Avenue shopping centre serving breakfasts and lunches that strayed from the usual bacon and eggs or salad rolls, and whose coffee could be depended on for its consistency. Darriwill is an innovative cafe with a shop attached, selling a range of condiments, gifts, wines and kitchenware that may not be found elsewhere. The cafe has a regularly changing menu as well as a specials board that changes daily – a highlight being the grazing plate, a platter of little goodies that lets you sample a range of delicious things from the menu in bite sized serves.

Prawn pasta (about $18)

This was a dish from the specials board, described by our waitress as “spaghetti with tiger prawns, rocket,  roasted red peppers and capers”. What came out was the spaghetti, prawns and rocket, with red onion and peas. We joked that perhaps the waitress had confused peas with capers, and thought that maybe the red sauce the pasta was in had been made from roasted red peppers. It was a good dish with big, juicy prawns and a very nice sauce, but it was a little heavy on the peas and quite different to the dish that I was expecting to come out.

Big breakfast $21.40

A good, classic big brekky – although perhaps a little pricey.

Chicken, cannellini bean and red onion quesadilla  with a Cajun prawn and avocado salsa dressed salad (about $18)

A great example of Darriwill’s innovative dishes and signature “stack” style serving method. There’s a lot going on on this plate yet it all works.

French toast with smoked salmon, roast tomato and pumpkin, rocket, honey roasted almond flakes and a lemon aioli (about $18)

The cafe seems to like to take classic dishes, like French toast or eggs Benedict, and reinvent them somewhat. This was a lovely brunch dish. The sauces and dressings at Darriwill are always delicious and this lemon aioli was a winner.

Caesar salad (about $15)

This is probably the least exciting dish I’ve seen come out of the kitchen. It’s fine for a simple Caesar but I was surprised at the average quality of that bed of lettuce.

French toast with smoked salmon, rocket, capers and basil pesto oil (about $15)

This dish came from the specials board, another take on the classic French toast. The whole dish was a triumph, with each flavour working together perfectly and the basil pesto oil leaving you wanting more without overpowering the rest of the dish.

The Highton shopping centre now has many more dining options than it had in years gone by, and there’s plenty of places to get a more traditional breakfast/brunch/lunch if that’s what you’re looking for, but if you’re after something a little different and coffee you know you can depend on Darriwill Farm is worth a visit.

Darriwill Farm on Urbanspoon

Girl’s Weekend Part Two: Eat, Drink, Water Taxi with Bear Brass

Bear Brass

3 Southgate Avenue

Southbank 3006

Ph: (03) 9682 3799

 

After getting a little tipsy in the sun and heading back to our hotel for a brief rest, it was soon time to head back to Southbank for dinner. Mum suggested we catch a water taxi to our Michael Buble concert, and remembered a package deal she had seen combining the boat ride, dinner and drinks.

Eat, drink, Water Taxi is the name of the deal, and it offers you two courses, two drinks – one with your meal and one after the concert –  and a return trip on the water taxi for $42 per person. With a return ticket normally costing $18 per person its a good deal; we worked out we would have saved around $22 each by buying the package.

 

 

Bear Brass describes itself as “buzzy and informal”, and that pretty much sums it up. They serve breakfast all the way through to late night drinks, and the clientele you see here shows it’s the kind of place that caters for lots of different needs: a couple after a nice dinner; a bunch of girlfriends who just want cocktails and a few snacks; blokes craving a beer and a good pizza after work. The set menu for the water taxi deal looks pretty stock standard at first glance, with something to cover everyone’s tastes – a chicken dish, a risotto, calamari – and we were expecting a tasty meal but one that may have not been as good as if we had ordered a la carte. We were pleasantly surprised however; the food looked and tasted fantastic.

 

Turkish bread with home made dips

We were never told by our waiter what the dips were, but we figure they were along the lines of a capsicum, a beetroot and a tzatziki style dip. They were excellent; fresh and flavoursome, a creative blend of flavours.

 

Parmesan crumbed calamari with spinach, rocket and aioli salad

Sometimes kitchens get that protein-to-salad-to-dressing balance all wrong, with not enough of something and too much of something else. This was not one of those times. The aioli came already dressed on the greens, rather than in the little pot to the side that I was expecting, and there wasn’t a whole lot but it was the perfect amount to complement the salty, cheesy, crunchy calamari. There was plenty of calamari too; the ratio of seafood to greens was spot on.

 

Just a note: the young girl who took our booking in person for this package deal was very unpleasant to deal with, and when we were trying to find out what exactly the deal offered and how it would fit in with the rest of the night’s plans it was like getting blood out of a stone. On the other hand, the waiter who served us at dinner was charming and friendly. Service here is a bit hit and miss; you might get someone fantastic, or a grumpy surly teenager.

 

 

After our dinner we walked a few metres down to the river and jumped in our water taxi. I would highly recommend this mode of transport; you get a beautiful and unique view of Melbourne and it’s a really fun and easy way to travel if you’re going to a concert. The company caters for most of the big acts playing in Melbourne and they leave from Southbank frequently, every ten minutes. We had a fantastic time at the concert, enjoyed our daiquiris despite them seeming to have absolutely no alcohol, and took a short stroll back to the river for our lift back to Southbank. Once there, we decided we felt more like making our way back to the hotel and grabbing a coffee than sticking around for another drink – and the great thing is that the drink cards don’t expire. So we wandered back to Citadines and had a delicious coffee from the downstairs restaurant, Heirloom: a place when we experienced a unique breakfast the next day.

 

 Stay tuned for Part Three: Breakfast at Heirloom!

 

 

 

Bear Brass on Urbanspoon

Pearl: about 8 months later

Pearl restaurant + bar

631-633 Church Street

Richmond 3121

Ph: 9421 4599

pearlrestaurant.com.au

This post has become one of those ones that sit in your draft folder for months and months and months, never being completed for some reason, sitting there watching as other, newer posts are put up before it. As it has been such a long time since I first went to Pearl and took these photos my descriptions of each dish may not be in a lot of depth; however what I do remember distinctly is being blown away by the tastes, the thought and the care that went into each dish. I’ve been back twice since that first visit in May 2010 and I would have to say that Pearl is right up there in my list of favourite places.

Coddled egg toasty with Hervey Bay scallops and Yarra Valley salmon caviar, snipped chives and whole egg mayonnaise (approx $20)

One of Pearl’s ‘famous’ menu items; a beautiful, creamy dish with complex flavours; almost like a tasting plate of different textures and tastes.

‘My tartare’ of Hopkins river beef, beetroot shoots and quail egg yolk, soldiers (22.5)

Not one person on our table of six had tried steak tartare, and we decided this would be a good place to try it. I’m so glad we did, and that my first tartare experience was an excellent one, with the freshest meat, balanced flavours and great texture when combined with the toast soldiers.

Wagyu minute steak, buttered spinach and Portobello mushrooms, spicy tomato jam and onion rings (32.5)

Roasted red duck curry, crisped fried egg, shallots, mint, sweet fish sauce and coconut rice (38.5)

An incredibly impressive dish not only in terms of the flavour and the presentation, but the thought that has gone into it and the way it is presented to you. Our waiter placed an empty bowl in front of me and explained how to tackle the dish: combine the rich, coconut-y rice and the red duck in the bowl. It’s then up to you how you want to use your crisped fried egg; I was informed that some patrons like to mash the egg into the dish. I enjoyed it simply sliced and mixed through, so the crispness of the white was still there. Once you’ve assembled your bowl, you can season to taste, with chili, lime, fish sauce, mint and red onion, and if it all gets a bit overwhelming, there’s a stick of wombok to cleanse the palate. I loved the concept; the idea of assembling your own dish gives you a special feeling, a kind of ownership of it, because you get to make it just how you like it. I also love it for the way it is designed to stimulate all your senses: there’s hot and cold; sour, spicy, sweet, bitter; very soft and very crunchy textures, and then there’s that thoughtfulness in including the stick of wombok.

Steamed broccolini with oyster sauce and sesame ($11)

Even the greens here are incredible.

One side seared sashimi grade yellow fin tuna, sweet smoked fish salad with sunflower shoots, galangal and kaffir lime, young coconut and lemon oil (46.5)

Freshly shucked Clair de Lune natural oysters with nam jim of tamarind and lime granita (4.5 each)

Quail san choi bao with lup cheong, water chestnuts and longans, served with crisp iceberg lettuce cups (29.5)

Boned whole garfish, wrapped in rice paper and hot mint, stuffed with spicy pork and sticky rice, mam nem with crushed pineapple and chilli (32.5)

Leaf salad with organic balsamic and Cobram Estate extra virgin olive oil ($11)

Hand cut chips with mushroom and garlic salt ($11)

I’ve sampled a fair percentage of Pearl’s menu and I just want to go back for more. I want to go to Mud Crab Night and I want to spend a lazy Sunday morning having brunch at Pearl Cafe. I’ve enjoyed some beautiful bottles of wine here, and there’s not one dish on the menu that is unpleasant or bland. Service is always spot on; staff are polite and formal, but not stuffy or uptight. They have personalities. And Pearl not only has beautiful, thoughtful food and competent bar staff, the venue itself is part of what makes the experience so good: it’s sexy and dark and, despite the formally dressed, professional wait staff and sleek interior there’s a very relaxed feel.

Larissa Dubeki, in her November 2009 Epicure review, recommended: “Go for the pearl meat and the red duck curry, if you’ve never been before. But go again (and again) for the rest.” I completely agree; there are a selection of dishes you must try if you only have the chance to go once, but the creativity and thought that goes into the flavours, textures and overall experience of the meals will leave you thinking about each dish long after the meal is over.

Pearl on Urbanspoon