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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City-style cool at A spot for joe

 33 Little Ryrie Street (within the car park on the corner of Lawrence Place)

Geelong

3220

Ph: 0451 419 855

Waiting in line for a table is not at all unusual in Melbourne – some would even say it’s “the new black” – but down in Sleepy Hollow it’s not something cafe-goers have been used to in the past. Cue the arrival of laneway and carpark venues like Fuel and BoxOffice and suddenly it feels like there’s a new vibe in Geelong’s cafe and restaurant scene. A spot for joe – “spotties” or “joe’s” as my coffee companion Ella and I affectionately call it – opened late last year, turning an old school supplies shop into a cosy, cool little venue that wouldn’t look out of place in the trendiest of inner city laneways.

Today was my second visit to the cafe – on my first trip I got the map totally wrong and couldn’t figure out where it was. Today our other dining companion, Andy, called us for directions – “Ohhhh I know where you mean now. Don’t even ask me where I am!!” It’s fitting for a venue whose owners – adorable husband and wife team Jared and Talya – are very deliberately trying to bring “that Melbourne / New York feel to Geelong for everyone to enjoy”. On their Facebook page, they explain why they keep their promotions to a minimum, stating that “a little mystery is part of the adventure and we hope you understand and appreciate this in your search to join us!” They’ve got a strong vision and it’s working; at lunch today the three of us got talking about how slowly, slowly, places just like this are changing the whole feel of Geelong’s dining culture.

A spot for joe is all about the cute touches, from the name itself, to the smarties that come served on a teaspoon with every hot drink, to the service – Talya came over and chatted to us while we waited to pounce on a table, recognising us both from our activity on the cafe’s Facebook page. In the last few years there’s been a few venues really pushing to change the expectations locals have of coffee in Geelong and this cafe now joins them. Coffee is a very important part of this business, and the excellent cups come courtesy of the famous Slayer machine – a beast which sets cafe owners back tens of thousands of dollars but, in the eyes of many hardcore coffee enthusiasts, is worth travelling for to receive the finished product. They do a great chai latte too.

Ready made lunches in a range of interesting varieties – like a baguette stuffed full of porchetta, house pickled slaw and green apple, or the hangover-curing chorizo breakfast panini – keep dining options fast and easy but still exciting, and there’s substantial meals on the all day breakfast menu, like house made bircher with fresh labna, blueberries & passionfruit coulis.

‘avochoke smash’ with avocado, artichoke, barrel aged Mt Vikos feta and vine ripe tomatoes on seeded sourdough ($11)

 Part of the all day breakfast menu, this scrumptious veggo brekky comes as is or with ham or smoked chicken for an extra $2. A beautiful, creamy mix of complementing flavours, the mixture atop the single piece of seedy toast is surprisingly filling and it’s a breakfast that leaves you satisfied rather than in a food coma. It’s also very reasonably priced, as is everything here.

Geelong ham, French cheese, vine ripened tomatoes, dijonnaise and rocket ($10)

After having tried it on previous visits, Ella returned to this baguette, a simple one but a favourite.

Photo courtesy of A spot for joe

The owners have been smart with the limited space they have, choosing creative but fuss free menu items that can be pre prepared and served quickly yet still taste fresh and delicious. Seating is a mix of counter, communal and individual tables, adding to that Melbourne-esq vibe. A spot for joe has got it just right in every way, from interesting menu items, fantastic coffee (and plenty of sweet treats to go with that, like lamingtons, baci’s and Argentinian alfajores), very friendly service and an amazing fit out and location – it’s places like this that breathe new life into Geelong’s dining scene and excite coffee and food lovers who, for so long, have pined for a taste of that city-style chic in our own little town.

A spot for joe on Urbanspoon

Hidden industrial gem: Salford Lads Club

 1 Fennell Street (Cnr Bridge St)

Port Melbourne

VIC 3207

Ph: 0409 543 911

Recently featured in Epicure, Salford Lads Club is tucked away in the industrial part of Port Melbourne, a venue that provides a refreshing change and something different from the cafes that line Bay Street.

The feel here is much more inner city Melbourne than glamorous Port Melbourne – the mismatched furnishings, tyre swing hanging from the tree above vibrant green grass and open kitchen make this little warehouse cafe full of that type of charm and character Melbourne is famous for.  

 

Good, strong coffees and cute presentation.

 

 

Dad and I both ordered this salmon “pie” from the lunch special board – also featured were hearty dishes like the signature steak sandwich and meaty stews. Although I had hoped for some flaky pastry to encase the filling, once I tucked into it I was not disappointed. The pie was creamy, full of fresh salmon flavour, with big chunks of salmon and crisp asparagus pieces.

 

Indian curry and rice

 

Prices range from about $8-$15, with a set breakfast menu, pre made and ready to go meals, and a changing specials board. Many of the dishes are pretty much ready to go and just need to be reheated, so expect your meal to arrive quickly, but fear not – the flavours and quality of the dishes are not sacrificed because of this.

 

The Lads Club has a distinctively Melbourne feel, with an open, rustic, ex-workshop space that reminded me of CBD locations like Seven Seeds. With a liquor license on the way and a plan for tapas evenings on Thursdays and Fridays, it’s a little club with great potential and is picking up a cult following fast.  

 

 

Salford Lads Club on Urbanspoon

Ever wondered what the food tastes like at William Angliss?

Angliss Restaurant

555 LaTrobe Street

Melbourne 3000

Ph: 03 9606 2111

 

 

It’s pretty cool when “going to school” consists of making espresso coffees, doing your assignments at the Queen Victoria Market and having a class called Beverage Knowledge last thing on a Friday afternoon. Even cooler is when your school gives you the chance to eat a three course meal in its best restaurant with six accompanying wines for $20. Thats what the William Angliss class of 1X did today at 12 o’clock and the event was a resounding success – so much so that it made one male student, who previously didn’t care for wines,  rave about the beverages and declare on his Facebook page shortly after the event: “Best class ever, now a wine lover”. Our teachers couldn’t have asked for a better result.

 

We arrived at our school’s flagship venue, the Angliss Restaurant, and the wine started flowing immediately.

(Note: I have included the prices listed on the menu here to show what the general public would pay. This was a special $20 event for our class, but William Angliss students also normally receive a 25% discount off their food bill.)

 

 

Tasting the wines by themselves, I far preferred the riesling over the chardonnay. It was nice and dry and very easy to drink; it tasted great on its own. With the dishes however, the chardonnay proved to be the winner.

 

 

Hot and sour tamarind broth with prawn dumplings, Asian mushrooms and tatsoi, $7

The flavour of the broth was good, quite strong with lots of contrasting flavours from the herbs and the seafood, although there was a strange, lingering flavour that was particularly noticeable in the dumplings. It reminded me of the way a slightly old, soggy-textured prawn tastes; that odd flavour that prawns take on when they start to lose their freshness. Still, I enjoyed the dish, and it was fantastic with the chardonnay.

 

 

Ballotine of ocean trout wrapped in gravalax, served with a petit herb and granny smith apple salad and a cider beurre blanc, $7

I was lucky enough to be sitting next to a classmate who didn’t enjoy this dish, so I got to eat the scraps. It was fantastic; the two different fishes were light and so fresh, although there was not much contrast between the two, something I would think you tend to aim for in “wrapped” dishes; e.g. roast chicken wrapped in prosciutto. I didn’t get to try the salad, but the sauce was fantastic with the fish.

 

 

Asian style pork belly, seared calamari, Asian herb salad, yellow bean dressing, $7

This dish was being eaten over the other side of the table and I didn’t get a chance to try it; however I heard my classmate mention that he felt he picked good dishes from the menu so I assume he enjoyed this.

 

 

Risotto with duck confit and chorizo ragout and parmesan wafer, $7

I only had a spoonful of this dish, and didn’t get any duck or ragout, the two strong, main flavours of the dish. My spoon was full of creamy risotto which was nice enough but I’m sure it would have been much more enjoyable with the meat and the sauce. It was presented well though; the parmesan wafer was a nice touch and differentiated it from a regular bowl of risotto.

 

 

Next came the reds: a Bay of Apostles Pinot Noir 2008 (right) and the Ladbroke Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (left). I had already found my wine match for my first dish and I had seafood coming for mains, so a red probably wasn’t going to be the best match for my meals, but they were interesting wines to try. One classmate reacted quite strongly to the pinot, suggesting it tasted musty and like soil. The cab sav was quite nice, although whilst we weren’t eating I tended to stick to my riesling.

 

Pan fried blue eye with rocket aioli, Sicilian salad, asparagus and kipflers, $12

Overall, a very good dish. A huge piece of fish for the price. The flavours were fantastic, especially the aioil; so creamy and garlicky, and the addition of rocket made it so much more interesting. It’s a sauce I want to make at home. The fish tasted great, but in parts it was a little tough. The salad was excellent, the hero being the pinenuts, and the asparagus was a vibrant green, cooked perfectly. The potatoes were a welcome addition but were by no means stand outs. Overall, a fresh, well-balanced dish that left me wanting more after I had finished.

 

Slow cooked Navarin of lamb, celeriac puree, lemon and cinnamon jus.

This dish was described by a classmate as “not very special”. Indeed, it was quite bland and some didn’t finish the dish. The piece of meat that I had was hard to cut into, as if it was mostly tough or fatty. This could be because I had the scraps of someone else’s meal, however I just found it to be pretty boring. I know there were some, however, who enjoyed it.

 

 

Roasted breast of chicken with potato fondant, garlic and shallots, sauce Madeira, $12

The cabbage was an unexpected addition to this dish and I can’t say it added much to it, however the chicken itself was soft and tender, had a melt-in-your-mouth texture and paired well with the fondant and big cloves of aromatic roast garlic.

 

 

Morris liqueur muscat 2003 (left); Catalina Ridge Botrytis Chardonnay 2008 (right).

 

YUM. Just about the entire table agreed that these were fabulous. On their own, I enjoyed both wine equally, but the perfect match for the dessert I chose, the artist’s palette, was the botrytis chardonnay.

 

 

An artist’s palette – coconut panna cotta, gingerbread wafers, citrus salad, passionfruit tea, $7

I’m not normally a big panna cotta fan – although remember that when it comes to dessert I’m not a big fan of anything, not much of a sweet tooth here – but the coconut gave it a lovely, interesting flavour. The wafers were also great and were a delicious paring for the rich chocolate sauce that covered the centre of my plate, and the passionfruit tea had subtle, delicate flavours. The citrus salad: it was nice, but nothing outstanding. I love the fruits used but it was not particularly innovative. Still, if it’s purpose was to be a palate cleanser, it did the job well.

 

 

Warm hazelnut financier with hazelnut praline parfait, caramelized banana, orange syrup, $7

Another dish from the other side of the table. Here, I fail as a food blogger as I did not take the photo nor do I know much more about the taste of this dish other than “it’s good”.

 

 

Bitter chocolate pave, raspberry sorbet, chocolate syrup, $7

I think I must have a high tolerance for flavour in general. When I have laksa, I want lots of chili; on my sushi I want lots of wasabi. My fellow classmates who ordered this dish were describing the flavours to me: “The chocolate is so bitter! The sorbet is so sour!!“. They went as far as to describe it as similar to, “being hit in the face with a big berry”, so when I went to taste it I expected my lips to pucker and my mouth to salivate. Nope. I tasted the sorbet and I would agree that the berries used to make it would have been slightly sour to begin with, but on the whole it was a pretty regular (and enjoyable) sorbet. Maybe all those years of chili have burnt off my taste buds.

 

 

The point of this lunch was to educate us about food and wine matching; to complement our studies in our Food Knowledge, Operate a Bar and Beverage Knowledge classes. It achieved its aim, it converted some non-wine drinkers, and it made our class realise the value and quality of some of the food served at our school. We’re already planning our next visit.

William Angliss Institute on Urbanspoon

For a quick all rounder

Blue Train Cafe
Southgate Complex
Southbank
Ph: 03 9696 0440

It was a beautiful warm day, and we needed a sunny balcony to sit on. Mum and I headed over to Southbank, walking past the endless rows of snooty-looking restaurants and headed up to an old favourite in the Southgate Complex, Blue Train.

Seared salmon fillet: soba noodle salad, soy dressing ($19.90)

You know a dish is truly fantastic when you cant stop thinking about it for days; that’s how I felt about this salmon fillet. The crunchy noodle salad was a great accompaniment to the soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture of the salmon, and the soy dressing was strong and flavoursome without being too salty or overpowering.

Tandoori chicken salad: tomato, cucumber, Spanish onion, steamed rice, papadums, yoghurt raita ($19.90)
The papadums that came with Mum’s meal were wholegrain, adding some interesting flavour and texture. Mum’s meal was fresh and light but the tandoori chicken was quite dry with an almost stringy texture. Pairing it with the cool, creamy raita helped.

One tiny little critisism: the menu is divided into sections entitled “small plates” and “big plates”, and goes on to list quite an extensive selection of “plates”. This made the menu hard to read, as I was overwhelmed by the choice and it took me a while to gather what I had to select from. Service is not bad but not fabulous – when we had clearly not even touched our meals yet the same waiter who brought them out came and asked “How is everything?” – but overall Blue Train is a great spot for contemporary meals served fast and at reasonable prices; and a seat on the sunny balcony is the perfect spot to relax after a hard day’s shopping.