Tag Archives: Carlton

not quite a gastropub, but pub food with real flair

My brother and his wife just had their first child recently so weren’t able to make it to my birthday dinner proper. Dad suggested having another (!) family birthday dinner a month after to make up for it. The initial choice was the lovely Station Hotel in Footscray, but sadly they were booked out for our chosen evening. My second choice was Hotel Lincoln, in Carlton. None of us had ever been before but they were perfectly happy to accommodate a baby in pram so that definitely sweetened things for us.

In typical familial form, all of us were late, some more than others. While my partner and I waited, we ordered Napoleone and Co. cider. It’s a very subtle and sophisticated cider and doesn’t taste alcoholic in the slightest, which is very bad as it makes it very moreish. Later when my brother, his wife and my baby nephew arrived, he tried it and seemed quite taken by it too. The three of us drinking it stuck with it for the rest of the evening, prompting a joke from our waiter that we had nearly depleted their supplies of it.

All of us ordered entrées except Mum who was concerned she’d filled herself up on their fresh, soft bread. Brother had pork crackling with fennel salt from the charcuterie selections, his wife and I the cured salmon with sour cream and toasties, Dad had the Middle Eastern spiced crab cakes with tabbouleh and tahini yoghurt, and partner had the grilled ox tongue with tomato relish and grilled potatoes.

The jokes were flying in regards to the pork crackling – it is very popular among Filipinos to have chicharon – seasoned pork crackling. Hotel Lincoln’s version is virtually flavourless, and you sprinkle the fennel salt according to your taste. I know it’s unhealthy, but it’s a fantastic snack to accompany beer drinking.

 pork crackling

The cured salmon was satisfactory and to be honest, not much can go wrong when it’s served with fresh sour cream.

 cured salmon

Easily, the bravest choice for entrées was the ox tongue. I had no idea what to expect: would its appearance be off-putting? I didn’t think so, but partner’s brain seemed determined to remind him that it was OX TONGUE and not tender, delicious red meat. What do you think?

 ox tongue

I wasn’t sitting very close to Dad so didn’t really get to ask him much about his choice. He said it was okay, but didn’t volunteer much other than that.

 crab cakes

Overall, I think the entrées were well received, but no one seemed to be amazingly turned on by any of theirs. Would mains impress us more? Hopefully so.

Brother and Dad were definites for steak. Both chose the 250g Victorian Yearling Fillet which came with a choice of béarnaise or Roquefort (yum!) butter. Both chose the former. I don’t think my brother knew what Roquefort was and wasn’t game to ask. One thing I will point out: brother asked for his steak to be medium but it came out medium-rare. As far as I was concerned, that was his problem because he chose not to inform staff as soon as he cut into his steak. We did press for him to do so, but he assured us it wasn’t a problem and that he’d be happy to eat it as prepared.

 steak and chips

Mum, predictably, had the market fish – blue eye with Indian spices and coriander and cucumber relish. It’s become her thing to have fish of the day when it’s available.

 blue eye

Partner had the rabbit loin with creamy mash. I wanted to have this, but chose the mussels so as to ‘test’ out as many dishes as possible. He said the rabbit was a little lacking in taste, but the mash and sauce was very yummy. The meat did seem a tad dry.

 rabbit loin with mash

I had the mussels à la meunière. Yes, I’m on a bit of a mussels/seafood kick at the moment, but as I said above, my partner chose what I wanted and I was quite happy to go with mussels, and these beauties from Spring Bay were massive as was the serving size. My dish came with handcut chips and homemade mayonnaise. Sadly, I left most of my chips due to being so full – such a shame when the mayo was superb.

 mussels with white wine

However, I wasn’t leaving without dessert! Good thing a few others decided to join me too. Mum chose the fruit salad with orange jellies which I have to say, looked very ordinary.

 fruit salad

My brother’s wife didn’t want to brave the raspberry clafoutis, and so had the chocolate pot with shortbread and orange marmalade, the latter of which I’m told was very sweet. Marmalade isn’t really supposed to be sweet… For a stock-standard dessert, it certainly looked impressive. The chocolate underneath the garnish looked so rich and creamy.

 chocolate pot

Partner and I shared the bombe Alaska – I was so looking forward to having my very first one! Tart passionfruit pulp mixed with sweet, soft meringue and an ice cream centre which I think was also flavoured with passionfruit. So dreamy. Has Masterchef brought it back in vogue?

 bombe alaska

The service was excellent and they were very accommodating when it came to bringing my baby nephew (who was very well behaved), but I can’t help but feel that the menu let us all down a little. Of course, as far as pub food goes, this is top-notch, but in terms of true gastropub fare, I don’t think they’re quite there just yet. However, if I’m ever in the area on a Monday, I’d love to try the bar meals which are all $12 before 8pm – this is quite the bargain. I was tempted by many of the bar snacks as starters before deciding upon my final choice. It’s not too far away from the CBD so head out if you can. I’m pretty sure I’ll check out the bar menu in depth at some stage. The dining room is a romantic, intimate space and I’d recommend it for dates because it’s nice and quiet so you can converse freely.

Hotel Lincoln on Urbanspoon

keeps the costs down

Birthday week is getting exhausting. If not my birthday week, then it’s Bit O’ Meat’s! Birthday weeks equals lots of dining. Gee, it’s a hard life, giggle.

Norsiah's Kitchen, interior

Not far from work, and also just round the corner from Chai – Eat Like Malaysian, I’d read some good things in the food blogosphere on Norsiah’s Kitchen. It’s good for late-night nosh, for supreme affordability (I paid just over twenty dollars for two mains and two drinks) and convenience. Don’t go in expecting any service, however. Perhaps this is how they keep costs down – it seemed to bother Bit O’ Meat more than me.

I was feeling like absolute shite with a headcold, so it was soup for me. Norsiah herself made sure I really wanted fish balls in my noodle soup. Erm, yes, I do. There were no thin rice noodles, so I got the thick, flat ones. There was a choice of yellow (egg) ones but years of being force-fed substandard ones have scarred me for life. I’m sure there’s a psychoanalytic reading in that somewhere.

mee sup bebola ikan

A tad salty, but pretty sure the MSG and the garlic combined to have me at three hearts’ full health again. Yep, that was a retro video game reference. I also think the thick, flat rice noodles were more suited than thin ones. Harder to grasp or scoop but they soak up the broth better.

curry ayam

Bit O’ Meat had plain ol’ chicken curry (curry ayam). Instead of cooked to order like my dish, this was served from the bain-maries at the main counter though they were cooking up a fresh batch when I ordered. I remarked that I was really coming around to Indo/Malay curries, that which I had not liked before. He asked me what the difference was (to Indian) and I couldn’t really provide a coherent response. I think Indian curries just have more spices, though Malay/Indian love their chilli. This might not be entirely accurate as the heat of an Indian curry will depend on what region has influenced it. Amusingly enough, I tolerate hotter (Indian) curry than my (Anglo-Indian) father.

Though I had to wait a while for it, I got the ‘teh tarik halia’ – ginger tea with condensed milk. Why isn’t this more commonplace? It’s wonderful! Very strong, sweet black tea laced with ginger.

With bellies full on the cheap, it was time to dash across to the Nova, and meet up with some mates for a very late session of a film.

There’s ample seating at Norsiah’s and there is also a steady stream of customers for takeaway. It’s not the sort of place I like to sit down and dine at, but beggars can’t be choosers, eh? However, don’t let that put you off. It’s busy for a reason.

Norsiah's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

no goddamn colonels, no goddamn clowns!!!


Grill'd interior

Post-fillum nosh and I was starving. I persuaded the Bit O’ Meat (the nickname for my better half) to buy me a gourmet burger. A mere hop, skip and a jump across the road from Cinema Nova and we’re at Grill’d in Carlton.

I must say when I first was introduced to the gourmet burger bar concept, I was singing the praises of rival Urban Burger to all and sundry. However, I have now defected to the other camp: I much prefer Grill’d and find them on the whole to be more flavoursome and satisfying, and aesthetically, less sloppy.

You might recall that I previously wrote about Grill’d. So for this occasion, I made sure to choose a burger I hadn’t had before – the ‘Grill’d Bird ‘n’ Brie’, while partner had ‘Hot Mama’, available in either ‘hot’, or ‘extra hot’. Bravely, I thought, Bit O’ Meat chose ‘extra hot’. The chicken and brie one I decided on sounded very similar to one of my favourites at Urban Burger, and so I was keen to compare.

Below is a photo of my ‘Bird ‘n’ Brie’ with its best ‘come hither’ look:


Grill'd Bird 'n' Brie burger

It’s become clear to me that Grill’d burgers are actually prepared pretty carefully (it seemed so to me as they prepared our order) – they’re always neat and all ingredients are in balance. though mine was a little heavy on the cranberry sauce. The brie was melty and luxurious with bites of chicken. Partner’s was also delish but not as hot as I thought it would be – just enough to give the burger a good hit of flavour and heat.

I’m actually looking forward to trying one of their vegetarian burgers next up. Might bring a toothbrush with me if I have a side of fries…those things, while addictive, are definitely not first-date food. I don’t care: I will still eat them and look stupid with green bits in my teeth, and remind my companion with the promise of breakfast at St Ali’s and dinner at the Station Hotel in Footscray. Don’t let anyone tell you bribery doesn’t work!


Grill'd on Urbanspoon