Posts Tagged ‘restaurant’

St Judes Cellar, Brunswick St

Finally, I’ve eaten at St Jude’s Cellar. It has been in my mind since stumbling upon it on a lonely St Patricks day and spending my last $20 on fine wine, not Guinness. I’ve since been back, for wine and cocktails, to sit at the bar, to taste their wine, and even to just gaze at the interior design but never for food – how I’ve been missing out.

The wine list is great. They have a great range of wines by the glass, varying not only in style but also price and a massive by the bottle, walk in wine list with a $15 dine-in premium over their retail price. This makes for a reasonably cheap bottle with dinner. The problem is, their lack of good wine advice. This seems to happen a lot recently, we asked for wine advice and our waitress told us what she had been drinking lately. That was the bottle we ended up drinking, but I really wanted someone to suggest a bottle that would complement our dinner.

Wine service aside, the rest of the table service was very attentive, not quite annoyingly so for the first few minutes, but as the bottle of wine emptied and our conversation continued, the staff interrupted less. The perfect amount of service.

Following up the great service was amazing food. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks and trying to replicate the textures and contrast at home. The bread was the sourest of dough – with butter, pink salt and pepper it was truly divine. I easily could have just eaten the bread and left content. The hand cut potato wedges with garlic were crunchy, tasty and a giant serving. The peas and broccoli were crisp and super fresh and the chilli butter was subtle and there was too much rabbit food for 2 people.

Greens @ St Jodes Cellar

The paddock plains lamb was cooked perfectly, the rare lamb had that perfect tough to the knife-melt in your mouth consistency and the potato accompanement had a nice firm texture. I wish I could remember what else was served with this dish.

Lamb at St Jude's Cellar

The standout however was the Tibooboora scotch with oxtails. The contrast of the clean texture of the perfectly cooked steak against the grittiness of the cooked down oxtails was astounding. The onion tart was crunchy and gooey against the crisp asparagus it was served on. This dish alone made my night, so good I was tempted to order a second helping.

Scotch Fillet & Oxtails

In fact, I think I might drop in tomorrow.

The Confusion at the Middle Park Hotel continues

Front Page of the Menu

The front page of the Menu. Worth a read.

The Middle Park Hotel has been refurbished, rebranded and reinvigorated. So they would have you believe. This ex-brewery, ex-party, ex-neighbourhood pub is the latest gastropub in town and the food is getting rave reviews. People are over the top with the quality of the food that chef Paul Wilson is producing and they are right, the quality of the food is great. Perfectly executed.

But what are they doing? The hotel is trying to be everything to everyone. It has an amazing feature-piece bar which dominates the room and a wine and booze list to match. The architecture is startling, built with beautiful dark wood, it even has a custom printed carpet with the hotel’s emblem. The collection of sporting paraphernalia adorning the walls is pretty impressive. Robbie McEwen’s signed green jersey, a Victor Trumper bat and a variety of panoramic photos, rugby jerseys and old, long-irrelevant highschool awards boards. I suppose it is left over from the days of the Gunn Island.

This strikes me as a hotel built by committee. Take 1 hotel owner who loves his sport and owns a great piece of real estate, add an investor who loves architecture and thinks an interior design makes or breaks a venue and top it all off with an awesome English chef who loves eating and cooking offal. The result is a superb restaurant with a statement on the first page of the menu that they love everything to do with sport and that the Spring Racing carnival will be played on all screens throughout the establishment. This is exactly what the discerning diner wants, the sound of people cheering on the boxing match (advertised on a letter-board out the front) while they are enjoying their offal salad.

Robbie McEwen's Green Jersey The confusion doesn’t stop there. The menu doesn’t know what season it is. The pub has outside dining for close to 50 patrons, perfect to take advantage of the hot, upcoming summer, yet the menu consists of mostly heavy, winter style meals. Offal, roast chicken, lamb chops, pork chops and the “coming soon” roasts of rare animals are not the sort of meal to eat in 35 degree weather.

Nor have they quite grasped the concept of a bar menu. There are 2 menus, a restaurant and a bar menu, yet both can be ordered throughout the hotel but only is their any sort of service at the restaurant tables. Order your meal, explain to the bartender which of the 20 outdoor tables you are sitting at and you receive a box of cutlery, napkins, salt and pepper. With the quality of the food and the price of a meal, I expect a far higher level of service. Perhaps these may be teething problems, but the obvious solution is to only allow the restaurant menu to be ordered from the restaurant where the extremely good waitstaff can handle everything.

You see, the problem is that this pub could be so much more. The critics will love the food and the people of Middle Park are crying out for a place, any place to drink. But this hotel, even with it’s free wifi, superstar chef, and extensive wine and scotch list just isn’t going to be the haunt of the wealthy 55 year old BMW driving residents of Middle Park.

Sad really.

The Menu

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More photos

Provincia, Albert Park – Honest, Unpretentious Italian

ProvinciaAfter being disappointed with the cheap italian feel that was Basilico in Albert Park I was certainly expecting something good from the unpretentious restaurant serving local style italian dishes that Provincia advertisers itself as. The food lived up to this expectation, it was good, honest, well presented and represented the flavours of provincial italy with class.

The space isn’t big, it is dominated by the bar and it’s ceiling-high wine rack and spirits shelves. The room is dark, with most of the light provided by tea lights set on each table and a few muted hanging and wall lights. There isn’t many tables, all set out around the perimeter of the space with settings for 2 or 4. The dining room is intimate and almost unwelcoming for a group of 4, but perfect for a dinner of 2. Unfortunately our table was in front of the door and each time the door we felt an unwelcome gust of cold Melbourne night.

Inside Provincia, Albert Park The service is as you would expect, perhaps a little too keen as I struggled to finish my whole glass of water before our waiter topped it up. I was disappointed with their wine service though. After we had ordered our meals we asked for a wine recommendation and the waiter told us that a particular wine was a nice italian variety. This has happened a couple of times recently and perhaps I’m not asking right, but I want to know what $60-100 bottle of wine will go nicely with our meals.

The menu consists of a variety of italian dishes under the premise of being each from provincial Italy. Beside most of the dishes is noted the area the dishes are from. The prices around the $30 mark and the quality of the food is easily worth it. The wine list is mostly international and as you would expect the majority are Italian. The bottles start at around $50 which seems a little excessive, perhaps they could provide a cheaper entry-level.

Negroni, Provincia

The Negroni was on the money. Personally I prefer a slightly more vermouth heavy Negroni but nonetheless it was a great start to the proceedings.

Pear, Gorgonzola and Walnut Bruschetta

The pear, gorgonzola and walnut bruschetta was an ordering afterthought but was amazing. Mild flavours accentuating each other all capped off with the texture and flavour of walnut. Brilliant.

Grilled Porterhouse and Mushrooms, Provincia

This great sized piece of porterhouse was cooked perfectly and served with grilled field mushrooms. It was a great piece of meat, cooked well, what more is there to say?

Bork Belly, Provincia This roasted pork belly with a coriander salad reminded me more of a chinese-style pork belly, yet further research suggests it is just as italian as chinese. Fatty, crisp, tasty, perfect.

Pasta at Provincia

I didn’t taste this pasta, but it certainly looked great.

Lamb at Provincia

This slow-braised lamb shoulder was exquisite, melt-in-your-mouth lamb with root vegetables. This was always going to be a winner for me as it’s one of my favourite dishes. It didn’t last long on the plate.

Pannacotta, Provincia

The pannacotta was lovely and rich yet not overly sweet with the Campari reduction adding the necessary sweetness and orange flavour.

Self Saucing Pudding, Provincia

While the meals across the board were exceptional, this stole the show. The chocolate self saucing pudding with vanilla-bean icecream was heavenly. The chocolate sauce was thick and rich. The texture of the icecream was subtly granular and the vanilla flavour prominent. The dark and light flavours work so well next to each other.

Provincia on Urbanspoon

Fish 349, Elizabeth Street, North Hobart

Having been given the recommendation of a now closed restaurant, Amulet in North Hobart we were left on Elizabeth St searching for a place to eat. We were standing outside a busy seafood restaurant called, Fish 349 which looked good and didn’t disappoint. I would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for good seafood at a reasonable price.

The restaurant is a really casual affair, the kid-friendly dining room (with colouring-in books) meant that there was a lot of small children around they weren’t disruptive, instead keeping the atmosphere light-hearted. The orders were taken at the counter, which I’m not a fan of, but the wait-staff had warm smiles and a great tableside manner and were happy to bring new water bottles and the tables were cleared quickly.

The food was impressive. The oysters were big, fresh, served quickly and cheap ($19.50 a dozen).


The Pistachio Dukkah Encrusted Blue-eye ( was perfectly seasoned and the mash and seafood dressing worked exceptionally well. Blue-eye Trevalla seems to be the most common eating fish in Tasmania, it has a mild flavour and a firm, meaty texture making it a great fish. I’ll be looking for it at the market.

Dukkah Encrusted Blue Eye Trevalla

The Grilled Flathead was cooked perfectly, the texture of the flesh was really firm and flavoursome. This was served on an olive mash with a capsicum puree which was sensational. The puree was nice and spicy and the olive mash is definitely the sort of thing I’m going to be reproducing at home.

Grilled Flathead

I didn’t taste the Surf and Turf, it was a lamb sausages and prawns and looked amazing.

Surf and Turf, Fish, North Hobart

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The Mill, Hardware Lane

Close to fine-dining but also with a touch of pub feel is where The Mill sits in the restaurant spectrum of Melbourne. It is located in a nice spot close to the centre of town in Hardware Lane. The menu is comprised of hearty food perfectly executed and all priced around $30 for a main and served in good sized portions. It can’t be called cheap, but it is definitely affordable.

Hardware Lane is becoming more like Lygon St every day, spruikers and menus on the street, good deals involving glasses of wine or cheap 2 course meals, good food all served up with a good price and a great atmosphere until well into the night. The atmosphere is spurned on by something that the Carlton strip doesn’t offer, live music while you dine and a friendly, lively atmosphere.

The Mill presents itself as an upmarket alternative in the laneway with a great cocktail list, a massive wine list and prices $5-10 higher than other restaurants and a distinct lack of promotions. The wine list is worthy of mention with 18 wines by the glass and a massive selection of Australian and international wines. It lacks an accompanying somelier which leave a diner confused and intimidated. Even if the staff were happy to offer some advice you would be more inclined to try different wines.

The mill provides a really great dining experience, the maitre d wasn’t pushy at all, and the waitresses kept our water topped up and offered drinks at just the right times. The portions were generous and the timing of the meals was good.


The scallops were very nice. Perfectly cooked and in a light tomato sauce.

Rolled Pork Belly

The salted duck was only mildly ducky and perfectly salty. It worked well with the rich muscatel jus. The spring roll added an interesting dimension to the meal.

Rolled Pork Belly

The rolled pork  belly again was perfectly cooked, cooked so well it literally melted in your mouth. It was served with garlicy mash and a sweet onion and proscuito jam. This meal was really well balanced, the flavours came together really well.

Smoked Lamb Rump

The smoked lamb rump was great. The smokey flavour was present throughout but not overpowering. The texture of the chickpea sauce added an interesting element to the dish. The flatleaf parsley garnish was over the top and everywhere.

The broccoli side was over garnished as well, someone in the kitchen was going crazy with the flatleaf parsley.

Tomoshibi Japanese Restaurant, Middle Park

As our neighbour described it, Tomoshibi doesn’t look like much, but it is most definitely worth a look. The first thing you notice after negotiating your way to the front door, down the alleyway is that you seem to be in the entrance to someone’s house. The cash register is tucked under the stairs, the reservations book is behind the door and hanging from the walls in place of family photos are alcohol licenses, newspaper clippings and sashimi calendars. The sounds emanating from the stairs are either those of a party or a family’s everyday life, the kids running around give it away. This certainly isn’t the feel of a normal Melbourne restaurant, but this complete lack of pretentiousness coupled with polite japanese service is a breath of fresh air.

The dining room decor is dated, solid chairs and tables, almost too dark lighting, punctuated with elegant flowers and chopstick holders but the loud drunk girl was wrong when she crassly suggested that they “just get some new fucking chairs.” This setting is the background of a restaurant that is about much more than worrying about designer furniture and achieving what they want perfectly. Perhaps this fitout won’t endear itself to the materialistic yuppies among us, but what is served will leave an impression on the food lover.

The menu consists of a number of sections, starters, sashimi starters, sashimi mains and regular mains. The gyoza from the starters menu was  a brilliant start, steamed to perfection the lightly fried classic japanese dumplings were full of flavour, with a great texture. These are the sort of dumplings you could eat all day. The mixed sashimi starter, salmon, tuna, ocean trout and mackerel, was sashimi at its best. Fresh fish, good sized portions presented beautifully on an upturned oystershell and garnished with a pink orchid flower.

For mains, the chicken and fish soup was the only let down. The dish is served still boiling away with an impressive sizzling sound, the chunks of fish were tender and flavoursome, the chicken was nondescript and the broth lacked flavour. The grilled eel on the other hand, was the standout. The eel had been grilled perfectly giving the skin has a slightly crunchy texture, the soy based sauce’s (I’d love to know what this sauce was) richness was not overwhelming at all even when eaten just with the leftover rice.

Accompanying this great example of japanese cuisine was a very well priced, but minimal, wine and beer list. Topping off a great example of japanese cuisine, service and hospitality.

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Supper Inn, Celestial Ave

There are places in Melbourne that make you feel as though you are in another place, or another time and sometimes you stumble down an alley or a laneway and you could well be in both another place and another time. Walking down Celestial Ave, in the heart of Chinatown at any hour of the night or day is precisely one of those experiences. If it wasn’t for the multi-storey carpark towering over the street you would easily expect to see Woo, of Deadwood fame, sitting down beside of one of the stores with his pigs, and his whores. Yet, he isn’t there and in his place is an overflowing dumpster and an angry asian chef having a sneaky cigarette perhaps a beer.

Who can hold it against him though, when the Supper Inn advertises its opening hours until 2:30am and you would have to think that if there were people there wanting to order at half 2 the kitchen surely wouldn’t be closed. The food is great, it certainly isn’t the cheapest between the red gates of Chinatown but it doesn’t seem as jam packed with artificial flavours as other restaurants. $20 will net you the barbecued suckling pig which was very tastey, but quite a small portion and $18 will get a Szechuan Beef and a Sweet and Sour Pork. Of particular note was the sweet and sour pork which was not only extremely tasty but also a great sized portion. The menu consists of traditional style Chinese food, all sitting around this price range. It’s probably the best food in Australia that money can buy at 2 in the morning.

Working our table was an older chinese man who’s lack of conversation was refreshing, considering our conversation was hilarious to us, but almost certainly less so to him. He was happy to pour our cheap ‘Bulli Bulli’ Shiraz which was quite a surprise but nothing compared to how he wielded the spoons when he served us our special fried rice. This was something that has to be seen to believed, the spoons were snapping faster than a pitbull in a cattle yard and before we could say, “Cheers mate” our bowls were overflowing with rice.

Service with a smile and a nod.