Cafes and Restaurants » Melbourne Restaurants
I love Chin Chin. I’m friends with Jess and Ben and love the food and pretty much everything about the place (especially the cutlery). In fact, I’ve probably been there more in the last 3 months than anywhere else, including my favourite hamburger shop.
But today, they’ve taken a big step backwards – they spammed me on my mobile phone. I received the SMS message “Gogo is a-gogo, Chin Chin’s new underground cocktail bar is now open daily….”. I presume the only way they would have my number is because I’ve left it on file for them to call me back when my table is ready. Sounds like they’ve sent this message out to everyone who has done the same. Not cool.
What I find so interesting though is that they would even consider that they needed to do it. The Twitter and Facebook campain that they used prior to launch of the restaurant worked a treat, at time of posting they have 1581 followers on Twitter. The Twitter account regularly talks about all things Chin Chin related and no one would really care about a week or so worth of Tweets about the new bar.
My bet is that whoever sent that Tweet didn’t consult people like Jess or Ed and they are now regretting it.You should follow me on Twitter.
Since moving on from Outpost, Paul Jewson has been a busy man. I’ve seen him in the kitchen at St Ali, he’s been working at St Ali in London and turns out he’s and partner Marco Pulagni have been turning the Waldorf in St Kilda into the beautifully rendered Fitzrovia. At 155 Fitzroy St, it’s just near the newly opened Golden Fields, Baker d Chirico and Miss Jackson in what’s becoming a fine-food hotspot.
I’ve long been a fan of Paul Jewson’s food. It ticks all my boxes (I don’t really have boxes to tick), it’s generous, has big flavours and is always seasonal. It’s hard to say what the plan is, but when we dropped in on Sunday the daytime menu was poorly printed on the dodgy computer printer. We were told it was “temporary”, but I’m not so sure it was, not in the sense that it will ever be “fixed” anyway. It was the same at Outpost and the ever-changing menu works perfectly, especially when the food has this sense of style. I just wish they’d get a good printer.
The dinner menu, though, is a far more refined affair in presentation and substance.
The restaurant comprises 2 separate areas. At the front, a 2 level, minimally lit, glass atrium, perfect for breakfast or brunch and come evening a perfect place for a pre-dinner aperitif or glass of wine. The dining room is a more traditional dining area with a huge open doorway into the kitchen. Currently the walls are sparse, but trimmings are coming and it won’t take much to turn it to a understated, classic dining room.
The kitchen itself is somewhat of a feature, it has a huge marble-topped island table crowned by a rustic, hanging pot rack. It doesn’t have the carefully manicured design of Outpost, but it is far more functional and will provide a great vibe on a busy night.
The 2 brunch dishes we had were sticky lamb ribs on a smoked corn salad and scrambled eggs with bacon and tomatoes. The ribs were in the no-fork-required territory with the sauce overpowering the flavour of the meat. The scrambled eggs were as good as they get, endless folds of soft, rich egg with a tomato chutney with a nicely balanced tang. The chutney was so good that I ended up eating the last of it on toast.You should follow me on Twitter.
It’s been open a couple of weeks now, and I managed to drop in before a gig at the Palais. Golden Fields is McConnell’s latest outpost – it’s pretty much a reinterpretation of Cumulus, with a Chinese twist. In fact, it’s so close to Cumulus I feel a little deflated.
The food is great and the service sparkling, but it is a little too similar to what has come before it.
The menu borrows some of the very best from Cumulus and Cutler & Co. The lamb shoulder appears similar though it is spiced with cumin seeds (though I didn’t actually try it). The pork buns are straight off the Cutler bar menu, they are as amazing as ever and the fried prawns and pork tail are very similar to a blend of 2 Cumulus dishes that have since been retired. The similarities don’t end there, the interior design is straight from the same playbook: white tiles, big bars, open kitchens and coat hooks. It’s good but not ground breaking.
The menu works well, as you’d expect. The feature of McConnell’s cooking and menu construction is that each dish is simple yet effective. The way you order a variety of dishes builds all the complexity you want. The beef belly and rump was brilliant, subtle flavours and awesome textures. The shredded cabbage and Moreton Bay bug salad is so simple it’s brilliant.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, the food rocks and I’ll be back. I’d suggest that the menu will evolve and grow into its own skin. I hope next time, I won’t just be thinking how much like Cumulus it is.You should follow me on Twitter.
There has long been murmur’s of another St Ali venue in the same South Yarra complex as Outpost. Finally it has arrived. It is a noodle bar serving up well made, south-east asian inspired noodle dishes with good ingredients and plenty of flavour. The concept is a simple, effective and plays perfectly into the hands of Chef Ben Cooper. One of my guilty pleasures is the dodgy noodle box shops that seem to be everywhere, so making amazing noodles is alright with me.
The fitout too is simple and effective. Black panelling and dark wooden tables and chairs are the order of the day. The walls are almost completely covered with cupboards with black cross hatched doors which let you see the dry stock stored within. To some extent, it is a very similar feel to Outpost in that you can see all the ingredients while you dine. The kitchen is separate though and has plenty of fridge space, wok burners and bench space.
The menu is categorised into different styles of dishes, soup noodles; wok noodles; salad noodles; and curries. The dishes themselves are mostly approachable such as the hokkien noodles with slow roasted bbq pork and oyster mushrooms, the classic pad Thai and the spicy pork wontons, egg noodles and shaved cabbage. The menu is by no means limited though and 18 dishes provide a heap of variety.
The 3 dishes that we had were the steamed chueng fung with fried bread salad and soy ginger sauce, the rendang with beef brisket and japanese pumpkin and the scallops, bacon, sambal olek and shanghai noodles. For each of the dishes the key spices really stand out giving each dish a unique spice and tang. The rendang was my favourite, the mouth-melting gelatinous brisket was balanced nicely with a good amount of chilli.
The prices range from $13.50 – $20 and while it isn’t particularly cheap, the higher quality of food is well worth it.
This dish has introduced me to 2 new “favourites.” Brisket is pretty much pork belly from cows. And brown jasmine rice which has a great fluffy texture and more flavour than the white variety.
Though I loved all of the food, my favourite thing about this place is the panda motif. The panda is holding chopsticks and has a green mohawk and star tattoos. It’s a Ben Cooper look-a-like and a pretty funky icon at that. I can see it being sold in plush doll form sooner rather than later.
Currently Mopho Noodle Bar is open Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm. There are plans to open on Saturdays and Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights but they are taking things slowly. Currently there is no liquor license or EFTPOS but both are to be remedied reasonably soon. It is located at 9 Yarra St next to the South Yarra train station.
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There is this concept in Japanese cooking that a piece of food on a plain plate is naked – an insult to the food. This is why sushi is always served on beautiful ceramics. It’s an oft forgotten idea – that the plate is as much a part of the meal as the food. We eat with our eyes so why not focus more on the crockery.
Padre Coffee in the South Melbourne Market (and I assume the East Brunswick store) haven’t forgotten. They are serving their coffees on the most beautiful hand-made ceramics. They are made by Karen Ho; a regular at the East Brunswick store; at the Carlton Arts Center. For such a simple thing, they add an amazing warmth to the coffee – something that no machine or bean can reproduce.You should follow me on Twitter.
Every time I’m on my way to Miss Jackson all I can think about is that song, “I’m sorry Miss Jackson, I am for real” it’s really annoying because I should be thinking how Miss Jackson is going to help me from my hangover, you know, for real. After watching the film clip, now I’m going to expect someone to be washing their pimped out car out the front and dogs nodding their heads at me as I walk up Gray St. All of this and no hallucinogens.
Wedged down an alley between halfway houses, backpacker travel agents and a few seedy nightclubs, Miss Jackson is a shining beacon of class in an otherwise classless (apologies to the Melbourne Wine Room, none such to the ever-so-trashy George lane-way bar) area. The café itself is a converted house that reminds me more of a rabbit warren than a café, the smaller nooks don’t quite fit the tables that they contain. It’s nowhere near as cramped as Wall 280 in Balaclava and there it adds “character”. Nonetheless the place has character and the larger communal tables are comfortable and spacious. There’s also an outdoor area, which thankfully parents seem to utilise to entertain their wild children.
The menu is everything you would expect without being outstanding. Corn fritters, steak sandwiches, and eggs every which way. But what the menu lacks in excitement it makes up with in the execution. While you might cook everything on the menu at home, it simply won’t be as good.
The portions are great, the food looks amazing and best of all it tastes spot on. In fact, of all the cafés around, Miss Jackson is my favourite for a comforting, hangover curing breakfast – morning or afternoon. Perhaps this is cause of a subtle focus on booze. There is beer and wine on the menu and a few bottles of spirits peeking out from behind the bar – important for my personal favourite menu item.
The “superstar DJ” bloody mary is everything you could want in this breakfast cocktail – good spice and acidity and a healthy sprig of celery. A bloody mary is tricky to get right at the best of times and they come out with amazing consistency.
The guys that run this place (Steve and Matt) are clearly drinkers – it shows – they know what’s good for you.Twitter.
A week is a long time in football, and in a city as fascinated with coffee as it is with football, a year is an eternity in the world of cafes. Today marks the 1st birthday of Seven Seeds, one of the superstars of coffee in Melbourne. Happy Birthday Seven Seeds.
It is amazing to think that since the opening of Seven Seeds there have been so many other great coffee shop openings. So many in fact that Seven Seeds feels as though it is one of the “old boys.” It will be fascinating to see how the “scene” evolves over the next year.
Putting it all into context I’ve constructed something of a timeline of the last years specialty coffee shop openings. The dates aren’t exact (and I would welcome corrections) but they are pretty close.
- Seven Seeds, Carlton. 1 June 2009.
- Outpost, South Yarra. 22nd September.
- Dead Man Espresso (review), South Melbourne. 25th September.
- Proud Mary, Collingwood. 4th November.
- Market Lane, Prahran. 10th November.
- Sensory Lab, (review), Melbourne CBD. 29th November.
- Three Bags Full, Abbotsford. 27th January 2010.
- Monk Bodhi Dharma, Balaclava. 5th January.
- Espresso 3121, (renamed and revamped) Cremorne. 3rd February.
- Padre South Melbourne (review), South Melbourne. 5th February.
- 65 Degrees, Melbourne CBD. 18 February.
Cafes opening aren’t the only thing that has happened in the last year either, the blog coverage of cafes in Melbourne has gone through the roof with the usual suspects spending as much time reviewing cafes as restaurants. There is one specialty coffee blog though that has been providing an attempt at objective reviews of the coffee being served across the city. Backseat Baristas is doing a great job and can only get better as they refine the concept.
Like in so many other facets of life Twitter has become the best way to talk to people who are involved in the industry and coffee is no different. I have created a coffee list of the people I follow. It’s a great way to keep an ear to the ground.
In a summary of the year I would be remiss to ignore the fact that the actual coffee has changed quite considerably. Seven Seeds, St Ali, 5 Senses, Market Lane and Small Batch seem to be all be expanding the number of cafes they are supplying with beans and places like Dead Man are making the most out of the variety.
Experiencing these coffees has never been easier either with Seven Seeds and Market Lane (that I know of) doing daily cuppings.
This isn’t to mention alternative brewing methods which seems to have had a massive boom. The syphon has gone from strength to strength with a good number of these cafes using it. Pour over seems to be the flavour of the day though, with it allowing some subtle flavours to really poke through.You should follow me on Twitter.