Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Toast - East Perth

Tis the season of christmas parties and over indulging! This is what happened when S had drinks on a friday night after work because someone was leaving. It wasn't a christmas party but it was overindulging... I was meant to meet up with him after work at Harbourtown to do a spot of shopping, however I was halfway there and he said he was still at the office and wasnt sure when he'd be finished there, due to Nigel leaving. So I turned around and went home again in a bit of a huff. He came home singing Seasick Steve (appropriately, the song he was singing was called Doghouse), had a shower, and a berocca, and fell asleep on my lap on the couch... So much for the friday night we had planned! I opened a bottle of nice red and had a couple of solitary drinks while he snored on the couch...

The next morning we both woke up a bit foggy (ok a few solitary drinks turned into maybe most of the bottle..) , and he said sleepily, "Ive had an idea... Im gonna take you to Toast in East Perth." which I thought was a great idea, especially if he was paying! He was.

We got there at about 10:45 and it was pretty busy but we were lucky to get a table outside by a couple of ladies and their adorable and very well behaved dogs! We had a view over the water and all the pots of veges and herbs from the Partisan next door. It was pretty warm but I think that we may have felt that a little more due to the delicate state we were in! They have a pretty extensive breakfast menu, all kinds of toast (including things like banana bread, fig and walnut, challah), fruit bowls, porridge, crepes... Have a look at their menu here. I decided on the bircher muesli, traditional swiss style, oats soaked in dairy, served with rhubarb and raspberry compote, toasted almonds, and S went for one of the specials, which was chorizo, eggs, roast garlic mushrooms, tomates and ciabatta toast - all washed down with a flat white.

You have to go and order up at the counter, and when S got back he had a cute Pastis bottle with the table number in it. I looked around at all the other tables and they had different kinds of bottles with their number which was a cute touch. Our mugs of coffee came out about 10mins after ordering, and looked good. They had a nice creamy froth on them with latte art, which after being in Melbourne and it coming standard I noticed we dont do often over here - so a nice touch they have a barista that can actually do it. I stirred mine around before I took a picture though so it doesnt look as nice in the photo as when it came out! The coffee itself was nice - it was slightly too milky for my taste, but was still perfectly drinkable. It wasnt overly bitter either which I dont like, it had a nice balance. It wasnt a coffee that either of us thought WOW but it wasnt one that we had much bad to say about either!

Our food came out about 15-20mins later, long enough for us to notice a longer than normal wait anyway... We didnt mind though because we had enough coffee and really nice surroundings so it was no big deal! Shortly after we noticed the wait though, our food was bought out. My bircher muesli was pretty small but I know how filling they are so it was a blessing in disguise really as if it were bigger youd leave feeling really full! S had a plateful though! A whole split chorizo, 2 eggs, a mushroom laden with garlic, a whole tomato and 2 big pieces of ciabatta!

This was a big meal.. the chorizo was salty and a really strong flavour, the eggs were runny, and mushroom had alot of garlic on it... I was not in the mood for such strong flavours that morning so I wasnt a huge fan - however any other day, it would have been a really tasty meal. I had a bit of egg on toast which was nice, and tried some chorizo which was spicy, salty and tasted just as it should. I didnt like the mushroom at all, it was too over the top and WAY too mushroomy. I like roast mushrooms though so Ill put it down to me feeling a bit precious! S couldnt finish it, which was a suprise as he normally finishes everything!

My muesli was nice and pretty much what I felt like. I mixed it all up and I was happy to notice that the toasted almonds stayed crunchy throughout the meal so the thick porridgy muesli was balanced by the crunch of the slivered almonds through it. The compot was really nice, sweet and full of flavour. I would have liked there to have been slightly more acidity left in there from the rhubarb and raspberries, but was nice nonetheless. It reminded me a bit of lollies - thankfully though there wasnt too much of this candy sweet compot to make the whole dish feel like you were eating a redskin...

Overall I enjoyed our experience at Toast - the service (from what I saw) was good, it was obviously popular as there were rarely tables free! Our food was good and there was plenty of choice, you can come here for breakfast for weeks and still have something new to try!

Id definately go back to Toast, the view is great, the vibe is relaxed and if its full, you can always go to the 3 or 4 other cafes around it - its a safe option!

Toast on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 16, 2011

Nanna Jean

Ive been wanting to write this post for ages, but put it off, forgot about it, didnt know where to start... But tonight Ill finally get it done. I wanted to write about my Nanna, who passed away this year. She was a big part of our lives and was often the reason that our family got together, so it was a big loss for our family. Its only fitting that she gets her own blog post - she would have been really proud that Id had built this blog up and would have loved reading it! She would have had no idea how to find it, or even how to turn a computer on, but being someone who lived through a world war, after 90 years, why on earth would she ever need the internet anyway?

Nan was awesome, I can confidently start this post with such a statement. She was a real character, who never ceased to bring laughter whenever we were with her. Sometimes we'd have our head in our hands because of something she said - she was a brutally honest woman, who was hysterical when she wasnt suffering from foot in mouth when talking about you. She once asked my little sister when the baby was due... She wasnt pregnant. She was about 19. She could also never really understand about my degree at university, which was sports science. She was proud as punch of me, as neither of her kids had gone to university, and as far as I knew, neither had her parents. My cousins never finished uni, rather went off to be successful in other things. Nevertheless, when I finished, the photo of me in my regalia took pride of place on her wall. Apparently she showed the picture of me, graduating from uni to everyone who came around. I never saw her do it but Im told she did! As proud of me as she was, she still didnt understand what my degree was. She thought I just ran around playing sport all the time. When we told her that I had the same degree as my mother (a bachelor of science, just different majors) she told me she didnt realise that I was getting a "real" degree. Whenever Nan said anything like this, everyone sniggered. Cept the person she was talking to of course - though as we all grew up we all knew what she was like and didnt really get offended, it became more of a "nanna-ism" which got laughed off, but then talked about later. "Can you BELIEVE Nanna said that?!", Dad would laugh, Mum would look over and pretend to be concerned and say "girls......" but we all knew it was ok.

It wouldnt be an Edwards photo without someone pulling a stupid face... Usually its Dad.

The main thing I associated with my Nan was her food. She was the master of soups and would be forever showing up at home or at work with ice cream containers filled with pea and ham, or vegetable soup. Sometimes we got pumpkin, but the others were most common. I loved them, I used to ring her up and ask her if I could have some for when I went back to uni, and she always had some for me. As she got older, cooking was her way of feeling useful. There was alot of things she couldnt do, and relied so much on Mum and Dad to do some things for her. But she never really needed anyone to cook for her - that was her thing, and no one was going to do any better in her kitchen, than her. You only ever had to tell her once, what you liked and whenever you were home she would bring it around! My sister and I said we liked her chicken a la Karl, a recipe from an West Coast Eagles football club recipe from Karl Langdon, and so that was alwyas being bought around. It was like that for everything though, I told her I liked the Night Magic line of toiletries from Avon, in passing, all of a sudden I got it every Christmas and birthday for years. However unlike Night Magic, no one ever got sick of her cooking. It was her thing and she was good at it. Some would say she was good at burning it too, but its what we all grew up with and so to all of us, it was the best. 

My older sis and her daughter, who is definately an Edwards...

Nan used to burn the carrots in the roast  every time. I remember as a little kid going there and my parents joking about the burnt carrots. But they were really tasty carrots, and the one time she didnt burn them when I was really little, I had to ask what these orange things on my plate were, I really didnt know. 

On holidays with the Edwards fam.
It was Nan who introduced me to having salt on my eggs, and butter on my toast. As far as Im concerned, boiled eggs must have salt on them, and that because at Nannas place, thats how we had them. These eggs went on toast, which always had butter. When I was younger I didnt know the difference between butter and marg, but I knew that Nannas toast tasted different to Mums. One day Mum bought out toast with butter on it, I ate it, and then asked where Nanna was. Mum told me she didnt know, probably at home, why? Because this toast tastes like Nannas toast. I didnt pick up on all of her eating habits though, I always thought her putting salt on oranges weird. Now it makes more sense, but I still dont do it. I do eat Kraft cream cheese spread on apples though...

Mum married an Edwards and look what happened!

To Nanna, the family was the core of her existance. She used to get snarky at us if we didnt go and visit her when we were in town, and if we didnt keep in touch she'd dramatically tell the family we werent getting a christmas card from her that year, though as far as I know, we all always got one. I used to always write her postcards whenever I was away - She loved to know what we were all up to, and always wrote her friends letters, and she never liked it whenever any of us went away for a long time. The least I could do was write her a postcard, and it became something I always did when I was away, everytime. She got cards from all over Europe, and Australia, and was always stoked when she got one. Her passing away hit home when I was away in Indonesia and then in Melbourne. Id walk past a tourist shop and remember I had to write her a postcard, but then remembered that she wasnt with us anymore, which was always a difficult thing to remember...

Cousin and Sister at Christmas
When she got sick, everyone pretty much rushed home, and spent hours by her bed. Right to the very end she was the high spirited woman we all knew and loved, bossing us around telling us what to do with her magazines and crosswords, asking us what the answers to the crosswords were and complaining about the hospital food. There were so many people in town who came to see her and bought her things, she had a million magazines, bags of her fave lollies and the hospital room was like a florist. She had all the pics of the family through the room, and the same people in the frames on her wall by her side 24/7. We all had enough time to prepare ourselves for her inevitable passing, but it wasnt easy. It never is. My aunty asked me, if she couldnt get through the eulogy, could I do it? Of course I said yes, and Im so thankful that she was composed and spoke beautifully, because I could not have done it, my sisters n I were a mess, I dont know how my aunty held it together. Karen wrote such a nice eulogy, and I learned more about Nanna from before my time. This is what my aunty Karen said about her mother:

Jean May Hutchinson was born in Mosman Park in March 1921, she was educated at Mosman Park Primary, Princess May Girls School and Fremantle Tech where she was dux of her year. During the war she joined the Air Force and it was there she met a blonde headed soldier George Edwards whom she married. On a trip to Adelaide to organise the wedding she pointed out a church to her friend, her friend told her that it was the church that the posh people got married in. That’ll do said mum and it did. After the war and our father’s farm was sold they moved to Perth and lived in Cottesloe. In 1953 we moved to Katanning. She was active in the community and was on many committees, the Arts Promotion group, the library and the Miss Australia Quest to name a few. She loved to socialize and entertain and held charity events in her home to raise funds. She supported out sport and was a very proud mother when Adrian played for her beloved South Fremantle and rarely missed a Wanderers game in the early days. She was a keen supporter of the West Coast Eagles and hated to miss a game on the TV.

She loved to read and do crosswords.

She loved classical music, ballet and live theatre and we were often in Perth for concerts, it was necessary for our cultural knowledge she said.

She loved her grandchildren Bobbie, Brett, Jade, Jacqui and Jenni and was so proud of their achievements. She had 2 great grand daughters Ashleigh and Courtney who delighted her and she was a great friend to Barbara, Trevor and Grant.

She loved flowers and working in her garden and had a large array of pot plants.

Her favourite colour was purple and mauve.

She was fiercely independent and when we finally convinced her to use a walking stick she would either leave it in the car or the shops.

She also loved going on holidays and trips with her friends.

Birthdays and Christmas.

One of her greatest joys was cooking and when Adrian and I were at school our friends all wanted to come to our house because there were always homemade cakes and biscuits to be had. I wanted to go to their house because they had granita biscuits from the shop. There was always a cake or sweet for anyone who was not feeling the best and she never arrived at my house without something she had baked. I think that one of my overriding memories of our mother would be her in the kitchen surrounded by the wonderful aromas of the food she had cooked with love for us but sadly “the kitchen has now closed”.

When they played "Time to say goodbye" by Andrea Boccelli my sister and I actually laughed - WHY this song, it will make us cry on any day of the week, if we couldnt hold it together through the start of the service we were never going to make it through this song, and we didnt really. No one did. She was buried next to Pa on a beautiful warm day surrounded by alot of her friends, family and people who knew her.

Writing this and reading Karens eulogy again had made me see that Im really similar to Nan... Which Im really proud of because she was a fantastic woman who everyone loved, and who is still missed so much. Ive got her old cooking notebook, with all her newspaper and magazine clippings, as well as hand written recipes. Im very lucky to have that... as well as being very lucky to have such an awesome lady as my Nanna.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Spiced, pickled cherries - Jared Ingersoll

A friend of mine generously left me a bag of cherries the other day, and while I would have happily just eaten them, I was pretty keen to try something new with them! Considering we have loads of bananas that need using (banana bread), as well as carrots (cake), I decided to stay away from some form of cake that includes cherries, delicious as it might be! I settled upon a recipe for spiced, pickled cherries that I found in Jared Ingersolls book, Dank St Depot. He suggests using these served with ham, which with christmas coming up, is a really different and tasty accompaniment. They would be even more amazing with duck! Try these if you have a glut of cherries or youre keen for something different! Its such an easy recipe, requires NO time at all (you dont even have to stone the cherries!), and makes a fantastic christmas gift, if youre not going to use them all yourself!

1kg cherries (stones, stems and all!)
750ml red wine vinegar
500g soft brown sugar
6 cloves
6 juniper berries
4 all spice berries
1 star anise
Zest of a lemon, cut into strips, as well as the juice
1 stick of cinnamon
2 green cardamon pods

1) Sort through the cherries and take out any less than perfect ones, give them a quick wash and set aside.
2) Put all the other ingredients into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil for 5mins.

3) Add the cherries and boil for another 5mins, then take it off the heat, and leave it to cool, covered, overnight.

4) Put them into sterilised jars and store them in a cool, dark place, and they will keep for months!

Walnut Biscotti

If youre anything like me, youll find that you often have egg whites left over from various cooking endeavours - custard, ice cream... Anyway, I have a bunch of egg whites in the fridge and no idea what to do with them. Enter the Cook Learn Love french bistro cooking class, where for dessert we made an amaaaazing creme brulee, served with biscotti... The biscotti were SO easy to make and have few ingredients. Theyre delicous and great to whip up to serve to unexpected guests over this christmas season. Theyre even better for a quiet moment on the couch with a cuppa! You can use any nuts you like, ones you already have in the house like I did, and I used walnuts. These scrummy nuts also go so well with coffee - handy, since biscotti go so well with coffee as well!

4 egg whites
2/3 cup caster sugar
90g bakers flour (a generous 2/3 cup)
½ cup nuts

1) Preheat a moderate oven (170C).

2) Beat eggwhites with sugar until they become stiff and glossy. Combine remaining ingredients in sifter and sift over egg whites.

3) Tip in nuts. Gently fold to incorporate. TIP - if you're using walnuts, don't add the flour and nuts together! The shape of the walnuts allows flour to get stuck in the little hollows, which you then find when you slice it later!

4) Make free form loaves on a tray lined with baking paper or pour into a well greased and floured loaf tin or baking dish.

5) Bake until lightly brown and firm (about 15-20 mins). Allow to cool overnight before slicing.

6) Take the sliced biscotti and place them on a tray to dry and crisp up in a low oven.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bogra Rizala - Madhur Jaffrey

The name of this dish doesnt give anything away really... it doesnt sound like the name of any curry Ive ever had, and doesnt sound particularly Indian. Well its not "Indian", it is more specifically north Bengali, and its not reeeeally a curry. Its the Bengali version of sweet and sour chicken, and it doesnt actually contain any spices at all. I was tempted to add some while cooking, but I followed my rule of not changing a recipe the first time making it, and Im glad I did :) Heres the recipe, you really should have a go at this dish! MJ describes it as "gently sweet and sour (combining sugar and aromatic lime juice), it has a scrumptious dark sauce made entirely without spices that is rich with browned onions and cooked down yoghurt.". It really is delicious, rich, creamy and so tasty!

Sweet and sour chicken "rizala" (Bogra Rizala)


2 small onions, chopped
5cm/2inch piece fresh ginger (I left the skin on)
4 cloves garlic
1 chicken, skin off, cut into serving pieces (about 1.75kg) (I used a 4 boned thighs)
6 tbsp natural yoghurt
1.5 tsp salt
6-10 whole birdseye chillies, with small slits made in them (I used 2 lge green chillies)
2 tbsp lemon or lime juice
crispy fried onion slices, crumbled (see recipe below - uses about 3 small onions)
4tbsp oil reserved from cooking the onions
1tbso ghee or extra oil


1) Put the fresh chopped onions, ginger, garlic and 3-4 tbsp water into a blender and mix until you have a smooth paste.

2) Put the oil and/or ghee in a pan on a med/high heat - when hot pour in the contents of the blender, stir fry for about 5mins or until the paste is lightly browned.

3) Add the chicken pieces and continue to stir for a minute, and over the next 5mins, add 1 tbsp of yoghurt at at time and keep browning the chicken. Add 175ml water, the crumbled onions and salt, stir to mix and bring to a simmer.

4) Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 20mins, turning the chicken every now and again. Add the chillies, sugar and lemon/lime juice - stir to mix and continue to cook for another 10mins.

I served this with white rice and S had mountains of coriander on his! I really enjoyed this dish, it was rich, creamy and way tastier than I expected! I think I needed to cook this down a bit more as I think the sauce is meant to be darker.. I loved it, it was very moreish, I think this is exactly what you want to sit down to after a long day of working hard! This isnt something youll eat often, it is quite fatty... I spooned a decent amount of fat out of the dish before I served it, so for the more health concious, add less oil, and use low fat greek yoghurt. This isnt very curry-ish, but dont let that stop you. Its delicious!

Crispy Fried Onion Slices

3 med onions 425g or equal amount of shallots
corn/peanut oil for shallow frying (I used rice bran oil)

1) Cut each onion in half lengthways and then slice it evenly across into thin slices. Line 2 plates with a double layer of paper towel and leave aside.

2) Pour enough oil into a large pan about 3mm deep and set over a medium heat - once hot, add the onions and stir fry for about 8mins till they begin to brown. 

3) Reduce the heat to med/low, and stir fry for another 2mins or so, then turn the heat down to low and continue to cook until theyre reddish brown, which should take about 15 mins.

4) Remove from the pan onto the paper towel, spreading them out and leave them for 5mins, then move them onto the 2nd plate of paper towel, and allow them to cool completely.

These onions can be kept in a lidded jar or a ziplock bag in the fridge for weeks. When I made these onions, I wasnt as strict on times etc as this recipe, and I didnt put them on the 2 plates, I just used one. Youre basically making crispy (not burnt), thinly sliced onions... So use your experience to decide how well you follow the recipe!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chocolate orange xmas cake truffles

Here in Australia, we have a hot xmas - its often 30C plus, everyone is outside playing cricket or volleyball, having a swim, or sat inside drinking in the air conditioning. We have a really different xmas from our friends in the northern hemisphere, but we still have similar food to the English when we celebrate the 25th December. We often have turkey, everyone has a ham... dessert is often a christmas pud, with custard, cream or ice cream, most of the time we have the choice of all 3! But it is pretty heavy, its really not a summer dessert. So Ive decided to take this popular flavour, that so many associate with christmas, and change it up a little bit that we still have xmas cake, but you just take a mouthful rather than a bowlful!

I took a regular 700g supermarket xmas cake, added melted chocolate, cointreau orange zest and then let it sit for an hour while I cooked dinner. I rolled them into balls, topped them with white chocolate and some chopped glace cherries. Put them in the fridge and let them set.

How cute are they!? Once they set they're great to give as gifts, or to put out when you have friends over during the xmas season. They last for aaages too, freeze em, seal em up in the fridge for times when you need to bust out the treats! This is a great recipe to get kids involved with, as they love the chocolate drizzling, cherry decorating and of course, a spoonful of melted chocolate for them!


1 x 700g christmas cake
1 x block of dark chocolate (as dark and good a quality as you can find/afford)
Cointreau to taste (or use a bit of orange juice if you want to omit the booze)
Zest of an orange 
Half a block of white chocolate
Glace cherries


1) Melt the dark chocolate - I use a bain marie type setup, of simmering water with a metal/glass bowl on top. You can melt it in the microwave as well - whatever works for you!

2) Crumble up the christmas cake - and have a taste! These cakes often taste different, so make sure you have a bit of a test so you can judge how much of everything to add later! 

3) Add the cointreau, I think I added 3 or 4 good sploshes, the orange zest and the chocolate then give it a good old mix! Make sure its all incorporated, and leave it for a while for the flavours to meld and make friends!

4) Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, and start to roll out little teaspoon sized balls of the mixture, until youve run out. Pop the balls in the fridge, while you melt the white chocolate, and finely chop the cherries. How finely you chop them is up to you and your level of attention to detail! The cherries are meant to be like holly, so how you decide to chop them is up to you! Putting the balls in the fridge means that when you drizzle the white choc on, it sets a little bit and so doesnt run off the balls as quickly (taking the cherries with it!). If youre somewhere cold, I wouldnt worry about it, but in my warm summer kitchen it helped!

Drizzle the truffles with white chocolate and decorate with glace cherries! Pop them back in the fridge to set and then pop them in containers to store! Or just eat them!

This is also my entry to We Should Cocoa, whereby each month an ingredient is chosen by either Choclette or Chele from Chocolate Teapot, for the bloggers participating to pair with chocolate. The december challenge is orange! I cant just make ONE chocolate orange recipe... Its my bfs fave sweet combo, and Ive already made chocolate orange ice cream which was AMAZING!! Ive also made Nigellas chocolate orange loaf, which was really nice... Can you tell choc orange is a favourite in our house!?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Melbourne - Brunswick St, Fitzroy

After a very long day wandering around Melbourne, we ended up on Brunswick St, Fitzroy. We had planned to check this street out as we'd read about the variety of cafes, bars, and shopping and so were very keen to see what it was all about! We'd just gone to Queen Victoria Market (an amazing place and worthy of its own post!), and so we walked from there. Turns out that day we walked about 7km, for some reason we had an aversion to the trams (more likely, S thought places were much closer than they actually were on the map!).

We got to the very start of the street, and started to walk up it. For the first 500m there was really nothing and we were wondering why on earth we'd bothered as there was nothing here. We found a cool cafe called Slowpoke, a cool urban space in amongst gritty laundromats and abandoned buildings. The feature wall is very cool, made of recycled wood which doubles as shelves which gives the place almost a log cabin feeling. Its decorated with old bottles and knick knacks and it makes the place feel alot warmer amongst the cement floors and low lighting.

We ordered a coffee each and they came out quickly. As was becoming standard, the coffee looked great with the creamy swirls, as well as backing the aesthetics up with great tasting coffee. 

We had been walking for ages and so sitting down  here was just what we needed. It was peaceful, the staff were attentive without being intrusive, and they had local papers and magazines to read while we sipped our, again, delicious coffees. I wandered out the back to find the ladies, and discovered they have a tiny courtyard out the back, as well as little tables lining the hall leading outside. Very secluded and private, and really cute. Even the toilet was cute.

Slowpoke had a great looking menu and provides a quiet relief from the hustle and bustle of the main drag of Brunswick St. Should we live in the area Id say it'd become a local, for sure!

 Slowpoke on Urbanspoon

After Slowpoke we wandered further down the road to where the action was, and we were overwhelmed with choice! We checked out a shop called Polyester Books - Totally Weird Shit, which did indeed have weird shit in there - books, magazine etc, and the owner and her friend having a chat with weird too, not the kinda conversations that are conducive to a friendly shop environment! 

We found a warehouse selling crazy discounted Allanah Hill clothes, shoes, and accessories, plus a bunch of other things! I came out with a bag, shoes and a bangle for less than $50 and the shoes cost $45 of that! S got a fedora that hes been wanting for ages - trying to find one that suits him is hard, but we got one!

Walking down the road I was struck by how similar this area was to Amsterdam. The trams, the old buildings, graffiti, modern eye catching buildings in between... There were people on bikes and the general vibe was very similar, its just alot more spread out in Fitzroy than in Amsterdam! This is probably why I felt so at home here...

We wandered down the road and back again, and found a fab little place called Naked for Satan. S had read about a place that serves tiny tapas for cheap, and this was the place. These tiny tapas are called pintxos and are bite sizes morsels of goodness! These guys had shelves set up with both vegetarian and meaty bites - all a piece of baguette topped with something. They work on an honesty system, and all the pintxos are held together with a toothpick - you keep the toothpicks and based on how many you have, you pay at the end. Sometimes theyre only 80c!! Such a bargain...

The first plate we went with (L) had bread with; smoked salmon, onion and dill, caramalised onions, anchovie and olive, cream cheese, roast beetroot and walnut, and cream cheese, chorizo and chilli. They were all really nice, a fave being the onion and beetroot ones. S went back and had a couple more (R) getting the smoked mussel and chickpea puree, and roast veges, lettuce and balsamic. I dont like mussels anyway, so cant comment, but the salad one was fine. Nothing outta this world, but nice n fresh after some rich flavours. All up they cost us $16, which was decent. It would certainly be a better deal going there for lunch when you can get them for 80c! At the time we were there, it was pretty empty, but that was at about 3pm. We didnt really feel inclined to stay for a drink afterwards, but thats mainly because there were so many other places for us to go and explore! The story of how the place got its name is written on their kitschy menus, and in the middle of the room is a big copper distilling set up, which looks cool. The ceiling has all kinds of weird and wonderful creations hanging from it, looking like theyre made from scrap metals and bits and pieces. This would be a place I would come when I was poor and hungry, getting a few nibbles and then moving on - apparently when its busier they come around with hot pintxos which would have been great as all of ours were cold. A great place with a different angle!

Naked For Satan on Urbanspoon

We had filled the holes in our stomaches, and were ready to wander. We passed plenty of generic looking menus, with a few interesting things, but we usually go for tapas and tasting plates, and finding something a bit different can be difficult because theyre very often all the same... We wandered past dingy looking bars that would likely have been packed at night time (when you dont notice how run down they are!), a place we didnt know if it was a garden shop or a bar, and a cafe/bar/restaurant that sold "thrice fried chips". Yes they actually used the word thrice. So we had to go in and have a go! The place was called St Judes and it had a really nice vibe inside, big shared tables and benches, green plants everywhere and there was alot of space. I had a local cider and S tried a new Polish beer they had started stocking, on recommendation from our waiter. Our drinks came out pretty fast, and our chips soon after. They didnt come with any sauce so we asked for some aioli, which they didnt have. They offered us mayo which was fine, but it never came. So we asked another waitress who looked at us like we were asking for something really weird. We eventually got it though... S wasnt a fan of his beer, just cos it was a bit tasteless, and my cider was fine, nothing to write home about. The chips, being thrice fried, couldve done with just the 2nd fry really... they were cripsy for sure, but a bit overdone. They needed more seasoning, and needed to be thicker, in my opinion... 

The rest of the menu at St Judes looks fantastic, and would head back for sure, for a more substantial meal, but would pass on the thrice fried chips in future! Unneccesary.

St Jude's Cellars on Urbanspoon

Finally, after more wandering, we ended up at The Alchemist, the lure of outdoor tables and tapas too much for us to resist! The prospect of people watching, tapas, cocktails and a clear balmy evening was just what we needed after such a long day. Our waiter was a friendly scottish guy who sat down and had a chat with us, asked us where we were from, what were we doing over here, what do we do... really friendly! We checked out the menu, both for tapas and cocktails, and needed a bit of time! The menu was seperated into single bites, bigger bites, salads, bar snacks, as well as degustations menus, and antipasto platters. To start off with we went for the bechamel, jalapeno and parmesan croquettes and the crostinis, with hommus, crispy prosciutto, chorizo, shredded apple, Japanese mayo & caviar. 

The croquettes were awesome!! I have missed these since I lived in Amsterdam, and while they werent the same as the ones I used to get from the snackbar, they were still great. They were nice and crunchy with a soft potato/bechamel inside, they were spicy and really peppery, and the cheese gave it something extra. We both loved it. I could have done with a little less heat or pepper, as it was a pretty dominant flavour, though a flavour we both liked! 

The crostinis were pretty great - the waiter told us we shouldnt share one, to definately get 2 as they go fast and we'll want more! I really liked these crostinis, however I thought there was a bit too much mayo, and my first taste of caviar resulted in me deciding I didnt really like it much. I hated how it pops in your mouth, it grosses me out just thinking about it! However the rest of it was really nice, the apple was needed to counter the saltiness of the chorizo and the rich mayo.  

I ordered a couple of sangrias from their cocktail menu - for $15. They have a cool cocktail menu set out like an alchemists lab, with the flavours and aromas listed. I thought the sangria was going to come in a big glass, which is what the menu implied, however it just came in a red wine glass... It was nice and I had a couple of them but Im not sure they were really worth $15. The food was really well priced however the drinks were expensive... The cheapest glass of wine was $10 so I figured I may as well go for the cocktail!

After a few drinks we ordered some more... the peking duck pancake and the patatas bravas. I didnt bother to take a pic of the potatoes because they were pretty underwhelming - cubed potatoes, fried, served with a mildly spicy sauce on the side. We could have ordered something way cooler - we were expecting spiced potatoes or something more exciting...

 The pancake was great though - pretty decent size and full of duck! It was seasoned really nicely, the hoisin sauce was tasty and it was packed full of tomato, cucumber and other refreshing goodies. Ill admit by this stage, Id had a few drinks and the nuances of the pancake are a little bit hazy... But I remember that I liked it!

The Alchemist Cocktail Bar on Urbanspoon

Overall S and I both agreed that Brunswick St was our favourite part of Melbourne that we visited on this trip. It was alive, vibrant, had such a huge variety of shops, cafes, resturants, you could sit in any kind of place you felt comfortable and people watch for hours. There were a few places that I loved the look of, corner delis where you could get platters to order from whatever cold cuts and cheeses you liked the looks of, thumping live music bars, super cheap pizzas and pricey bistros. I loved it. It was a fantastic end to a first day in Melbourne!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Melbourne - St Kilda

My bf and I went to Melbourne for a celebratory long weekend after his birthday and finishing his masters degree. We hadnt made many plans aside from eating and drinking, walking around exploring and figuring out what to see next!

One of the days was spent in St Kilda, by the water and on the famous Acland St, renowned for its cakes! I had this street recommended to me if I liked cake. Who DOESNT like cake? I also met an old friend there for lunch. (HINT - scroll down for cake!)

We took the tram from our hotel and got off at the esplanade, as we had planned to meet my friend at The Espy, a live music venue for a few drinks and lunch. The Espy is by the harbour, but you cant really see the water... There was a market over the road which sold all manner of homemade wares such as candles, jewellery, pictures and clothes, none of which really interested S or myself. We found the Espy easy enough and its looked pretty dingy. Plastic chairs n old tables, it was shabby chic without the chic. It was pretty big inside and its got uite a few different rooms for all the live bands they have there all the time. On the previous friday they had 5 bands on! There were plenty of alternative types there, and next door they have the Espy Kitchen, which serves up pretty standard pub grub, but it was all pretty cheap! We ended up eating somewhere else, but the servings looked massive and we both agreed that this would be a good place for a cheap hangover feed when you needed it!

The Esplanade Hotel (Espy Kitchen) on Urbanspoon

We decided not to eat here though, and headed around to Acland St to find something delicious. We ended up at Bluecorn, a mexican place that was busy and smelled great! The menu wasnt too long but had enough different options to suit everyone who might be there. They had sangria for $8 a glass that they made in house, and a good beer list, which suited S. I went with the cacao mole lamb ribs, with grilled red pepper and tomato sauce, which was $13.50 on the specials menu - I went with the main course size which ended up being $27. S ordered the "too big to wrap" burrito, and my friend got the smoked ocean trout quesadilla. We were advised not to get any sides with these meals as they were big! Our waitress was right, both the burrito and quesadilla were huge portions! They were both filled with black beans, guacamole, meat, cheese, sour cream - the lot! They looked delicious. I was a bit jealous, as my ribs just came as ribs, nothing else. The quesadilla, we all agreed wasnt was any of us expected, as it looked the same as the burrito - thought it would have been flatter but it was a huge mound of filling! The sangria was really sweet and not really to my taste, I think it was filled out with lemonade which I dont like because its too sweet - soda water I can live with.

I didnt take any pics, because I was with  an old friend and we were talking and I just forgot really... My meal was ok, but based on that I wouldnt go back - however Id go back to try the burritos/quesadillas cos, while huge, they looked great. All up with 3 main courses, and 3 drinks it was about $100 which, for lunch, is pricey really. It was about $25+ per main.

Bluecorn on Urbanspoon

But the real fun started when we said goodbye to the mate, and went exploring the cake shops! Acland St is famous for its cakes, and we didnt go away disappointed at all! The choice is monumental. 

Its a little bit ridiculous! But AWESOME if you love cake! We love cake...

We ended up choosing the more upmarket looking 95 Espresso. The cakes in the window werent as numerous but looked amazing.

I apologise for the poor quality of the pics but the fluorescent lights dont really help out the old camera phone!  But they all looked amazing, great colours, beautifully presented... Along with the gorgeous cakes, the sign that said they had been voted the best coffee in st kilda by Beanhunter was another winner. Best coffee in a burb known for great coffee? Winner! I chose the salted cashew caramel slice and S chose the flourless chocolate brownie, and shared a coffee (I know it was the best coffee in St Kilda, but we had been drinking ALOT of coffee! I have my limits!). For a start the service was really good, the waiter was friendly and smiley, he looked stoked to be there. He got our coffee quickly, and it looked fab. Its not really standard in Perth to get any kinda coffee art on your flat white, but in Melbourne it is. This looked so nice - and the little sugar bottles were cute, I thought it was a really nice little touch!

The coffee was really really good. It was creamy without being too milky. It wasnt too bitter, it was pretty much just as I like it. Ill be honest though, we had the coffee for about 2mins before the cakes came out, and I kinda forgot about the coffee - so thats not really a great description! At the end of the day... great coffee!

But the cakes... WOW! My salted cashew caramel slice was heavy going, alot of caramel but DELICIOUS! The caramel wasnt toothmeltingly sweet, it was buttery, creamy and rich. Not easy to eat with a fork, I just picked it up and bit into it. Crunchy nuts, and crumble... a buttery biscuit base... caramel... love at first bite.

S fell in love with his flourless choccake. It was dense, rich, chocolatey... the swirl on top was cherry sauce which gave it a black forest cake feeling, and the cream lightened the dense chocolate perfectly. It was really good... S didnt talk for a while, as is his habit when hes got something delicious in front of him!

You get 50c off your coffee if you check in on facebook, which is a cool incentive! The place is clean and spacious enough, the staff were friendly and attentive and the coffee/cake were great. It was pretty pricey though, with 2 cakes and 1 coffee coming to $17 (the coffee was $3.50), but for a once in a while treat it was totally worth it. I took the other half of my slice away with me for the flight home, and the staff were more than happy to take it and bag it up. The bags are even cool, waxed paper inside, and sealable. Nice. Id go back here in a flash!

St Kilda is pretty cool, with Acland st having a real beachy feel to it (even though the beaches are average), with PLENTY of places to eat. There is a cool community garden around the corner and an oval where S and I laid in the sun n read a book for a while to recover from our food coma! Its a cool place, and Id love to go back there again!

95 Espresso Bar on Urbanspoon