Posts Tagged ‘review’

Wall Two 80, Balaclava

Outside Wall CafeIf  we were all rabbits, the Wall Cafe would be the kind of cafe we would all love. There is no order, there are random little tables and chair jammed in every nook and cranny, seemingly spilling out onto the street. The cafe seems to have been jammed into an old butchers shop that it doesn’t really fit into. Much like the rabbit warrens of my dreams.

Apparently people like this claustrophobic feeling. The place is packed and nobody seems to care that you have to push past someone to get to your table, or that there is newspaper strewn all over the biggest table in the place. Or perhaps it is that the food is great, the service is surprisingly quick and the prices are rock bottom.

The menu is written on the wall and comprises mainly of gourmet pides with a few other bits and pieces. The coffee was good, a really dark blend which made my strong latte a little too strong flavoured. My second was a regular latte.

Baked Beans and Ham Hock at Wall CafeBaked beans and ham hock ($10) with basil and fetta.  This is such a great combination, the gritty texture of the ham hock contrasts really well with baked beans. The basil and fetta ($1.50 extra) adds an extra layer of flavour.

Avocado on Rye at Wall Cafe

Not the best photo, this avocado on rye was really good. Very fresh avo, great rye bread with cottage cheese and a slice of lemon. Very filling for a small serve and only $8.

It was a quick breakfast, 4 coffees and 2 meals for $32. Can’t really complain when the food is this good.

Dead Man Espresso

Dead Man Espresso's single origin beansThere has been a massive amount of buzz since Dead Man Espresso opened on Market St in South Melbourne. There is a lot to love about this cafe, especially the staff and the coffee. But I’m in 2 minds about the menu. There are 2 menus, a reasonably limited brunch menu, served till 12 each weekday and all day on weekends and a lunch menu, served from 12 till 3 each week day. There is a bit of overlap between the 2, but the lunch menu is definitely a bit more diverse. Sadly, I only just realised it existed as it’s normally a weekend haunt. I’ll have to rectify that.

With the exception of the omelette of the day, the food is not your typical cafe fare. The menu is technical and refined and although each item is interesting, they aren’t long lived. Let me clarify, I’ve tried most of the brunch menu and feel as though I’ve exhausted all the options and unless the menu changes, probably won’t return for the food on the weekend. Thankfully, it seems like the lunch menu will keep me going for a little while longer.

Dead Man Espresso, Pour over coffeeThere is no such problem with the coffee. There are 2 options for espresso, the Dead Man blend and the 7 Seeds blend. The Dead Man blend is super smooth, slightly sweet with a bit of berry coming through and the 7 Seeds blend is a much darker, regular style espresso blend.

Most of the single origins are sourced from 7 Seeds but the also regularly have guest appearances from Market Lane and Coffee Supreme. These coffees are available only as pour-over, but I suspect with a little cajoling the barista would pull them through the Synesso. This makes for a great range and doesn’t disappoint. The stand out is the Panama Esmeralda Geisha, this was the best coffee I’ve had for weeks. It had a full palate and a ridiculously oily texture with flavours of honeycomb and dark chocolate.

In a city where every coffee fiend is talking about the Slayer and ordering single-origin siphons, the focus on pour over is refreshing. It is a far more subtle style of coffee, with a very gentle texture which helps to highlight the subtle flavours of the beans. I think pour-over and siphons are the perfect way for people new to non-milk coffee to cut their teeth.

Smoked Salmon, Confit Tomato, Sourdough and Avocado Salsa

This is the sourdough, smoked salmon,  avocado, mimolette and grapefruit salsa and a confit tomato. Sadly I didn’t get to taste this but I was assured it was amazing. The confit tomatoes are out of this world. It’s hard to describe but they have a beautifully fragrant flavour while still tasting like tomato.

French Toast, Sesame Seed Caramel, Grilled Pancakes and a Confit Tomato

The brioche french toast with grilled pineapple, bacon and sesame seed caramel (I added a confit tomato). This is possible the richest dish I have ever tasted. The caramel is dark, and quite acidic but works really well with the grilled pineapple and the bacon.


This is the deconstructed BLT. Pork belly and spinach puree on brioche with gazpacho. As with most dishes this is quite rich and very flavoursome. I’m not convinced pork belly belongs on a sandwich, I think it kind of hides the amazingness of the cut of meat and to some extent this deconstruction removed some of the great texture of a regular BLT. It is a really interesting take though and I would definitely recommend it.

Panzanella with Paprika SausagePanzanella with pesto, smoked paprika sausages and poach eggs. This is an amazing dish, the bread has been lightly soaked in a light olive oil and slicing into the egg self sauces the salad. This is the star performer.

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.