For those of you in the food world that are living under a rock, the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival starts today!
Whilst a lot of the restaurant dinners are sold out already, you may still be able to get yourself in for an Express Lunch (or two!) at participating venues. We are only heading to Pearl Restaurant this year, as our food journey through California took a fair toll on the credit cards. Previous express lunches at various venues over the years have all been very good – Grossi Florentino and Matteo’s have been the standouts.
Our beautiful, unseasonably warm sunny Sunday morning in Yountville, Napa Valley, was spent eating brunch at Thomas Keller’s casual restaurant, Ad Hoc.
It’s open for dinner 5 nights a week (Thursday to Monday), and also for brunch on Sunday. We were quite lucky that our 4 nights in the Napa Valley coincided with us being there on a Sunday as we were quite interested in the Brunch 🙂
Brunch is a funny thing – we don’t typically go out for it as Ritsy’s stomach usually gets angry if it hasn’t been sated by 8am! To counteract this, we opted to make our booking quite late (11:30am), which allowed us to get one more “breakfast” in at Bouchon Bakery (also Thomas Keller’s, and just over the road from where we were staying). This ended up working out very well considering the size and richness of the three courses of the day, which cost us $34 pp plus tax.
I wanted something low-key for my 30th birthday lunch with the family. Good, rustic food, a classy, quiet venue, and somewhere not too expensive.
Sunday lunch in early January poses a few problems, as a lot of restaurants are closed – either for the xmas break, or just because it’s Sunday. One of our favorite restaurants which happened to be open (Circa, the Prince) never responded to my web enquiry, despite me calling them and being recommended to use their online enquiry system. After a few false starts, I ended up settling on The Press Club, the swank Greek restaurant by George Calombaris.
A day after my tentative booking, they emailed me a confirmation form (we asked for a table of 14, so this is not unusual) with a sample menu, price per head, and the different menu options for lunch. I was quoted $70 per head for the “Kerasma – to treat and to share”, which consists of “Tastes, entree, main and dessert”, selected by the chef. I queried the cost as Kerasma for regular bookings is listed at $65 per head on the website. Their reservations coordinator explained that “For reservations of 8 and over we require a group menu priced at $70 per person.”, but also added that “Our group menu does include unlimited bottled sparkling or still water”.
Traditionally Christmas lunch is spent with my dad’s family, but this year lunch was relegated to a 7:30am breakfast (which we couldn’t bring ourselves to commit to) so we decided to cook Christmas lunch for a party of 3!
Our Christmas morning started with what has become a tradition for us – Waffles with fresh berries and vanilla ice cream – yum!
After breakfast we began to work on lunch. We chose a pretty simple menu to make things easy on ourselves…
My dad loves duck, and there was a delicious looking recipe in the December issue of Gourmet Traveller for Roast duck with cherries and roast kipfler potatoes so that was main course sorted. As the weather was going to be warm, I was toying with the idea of a family favourite – shredded duck salad with jellyfish. Donny was slightly apprehensive, wondering whether a duck duo would be a bit too much, but the $7 ducks we stumbled upon sealed the deal. What a duck feast we were going to have!
It was over before it really began – NorthSouth Eatery, the small “upmarket eatery” located in South Yarra, only opened on October 22 last year, so its quite interesting that – after less than 3 months in operation – Roger Fowler and Ron O’Bryan have parted ways.
We contacted both Roger and Ron for comment – Roger stated that:
“Rons a terrific chef who’s bound for glory and I have nothing but appreciation for all of his assistance in getting NorthSouth up and running.”
Ron echoes this statement, adding the following:
“Our split was amicable. What we’d originally planned to do together and what NorthSouth is is vastly different. It wasn’t the business model we’d intended at the start. Whilst I am disappointed not to be involved at NorthSouth, I haven’t ruled out helping out at NorthSouth down the track and the possibility of future projects.”
Anada is another one of those places that we’ve been meaning to go to for a long time (ever since they opened, which is nearly 3 years ago now!) but never got around to it. One Monday in early December, the opportunity arose to eat there as we were heading out to the Fitzroy side of the city. We called up on the day and managed to secure the last table.
Being huge fans of MoVida (see our MoVida Aqui writeup here), we were interested to see how Anada compared, as it’s always been given good reviews from the press and visiting chefs alike. Incidentally, head chef and owner, Jesse Gerner, and his wife Vanessa both worked under Frank Camorra at MoVida.
The last time we dined at Spice Temple, Melbourne, we left feeling a little disappointed. Sure, the food was good, but the atmosphere was lacking compared to the Sydney version we visited twice over the past year or so.
Still, we wanted to come back, determined to get a downstairs table. After Ritsy made our booking, I called closer to the date to confirm that we would be seated downstairs. After being on hold for half an hour (I got the “You have called at a busy time. You can hold the line or leave a message and we’ll call you back tomorrow” message at 5pm on a Sunday night – go figure), I gave up and left them a message, requesting a call back with confirmation of a downstairs table. They never rang 🙁
The alarm goes off – it’s 4:56am in Melbourne, two calendar months to the date that we arrive in Napa. Sleepily, we reach for our phones – three of them in total – and do a quick check that all our speed dials are getting through to The French Laundry’s answering machine.
We had done a fair bit of research into getting a booking at The French Laundry – heralded by most people as the best restaurant in the United States, and currently ranked number 32 in the world. The size of their dining room (16 tables / 60 seats), coupled with their reputation, means that getting a reservation is inherently tricky. Various blogs echoed frustrated stories of people trying for months and months to secure a 3 to 4 hour experience at Thomas Keller’s eponymous restaurant, so we were always a bit worried that our 4 day window might not be enough.
Colonel Tan’s (Chapel Street, Prahran) is one of our favourite places to go for a few drinks and some tasty thai food on a Friday night, so we figured it was about time we gave the place a bit of a writeup!
For those not in the know, Revolver (and therefore Colonel Tan’s) is owned by the same people as Cookie, the awesome CBD bar-slash-thai-restaurant – and Cookie’s chef, Karen Batson, is in charge of the kitchens here too.
The typical Prahran / Windsor style guide is well and truly enforced: Nana’s tables, old school chairs, a bunch of well worn reclaimed couches, and a few plastic doilies thrown in for good measure. There isn’t a great deal of tables (not surprising given the size of the kitchen – the word “small” doesn’t do it justice!), so if you’re hoping for a Friday or Saturday night walk-in at 7:00pm, expect to be disappointed.
Back in August (yep…this is Ritsy writing!) we had the great pleasure of attending the Leeuwin Estate Art Series dinner at Maze Grill in Melbourne.
This was our first time at Maze Grill and after reading some mixed reviews we were definitely going more for the wine than the food. I’m pleased to report though, in the main the food was quite enjoyable – so much so that at one point I got sprung by our waiter scraping the last remains of a dish with the comment “scrapey scrapey” – gold…
We started the evening in the bar / holding area with a glass of the beautiful 2009 Art Series Riesling, which was generously topped up until we were walked through the restaurant to the Grill where we were dining.