Tag Archives: modern Australian cuisine

the prelude to romance is in the eclectic

Most romantic weekend ever.

Oh wait. We’re not there yet.

A stopover was needed for stretching of legs and general refreshment. I was trying to be the best girlie girl I could be just for this particular weekend. Alas, this did mean that Tris drove to and from our exciting romantic destination.

Anyway, our stopover: a charming little place called Eclectic Tastes in Ballarat, near Lake Wendouree. If you’re wondering why no smile on my dial, it’s because I was cold and determined. But more cold. It was freaking freezing that day and I was chilled to the bone merely from hopping out of the car to the cafe’s door!

It was that dead time when you can’t always be certain when you get to an eatery that you’ll get food because the kitchen might be closed, or it’s too close to closing time and indeed we did arrive here at that very time: no main menu for us.

Fortunately, there were still counter snacks and definitely the usual array of hot and cold drinks. Tris and I shared a selection of things though each got a Portuguese custard tart…

…and divvied up a slice of quince tart and a savoury muffin with pine nuts, spinach and fetta.

Served hot with melty butter, Tris, the savoury muffin sceptic (gasp!) was a convert.

The place’s true eclecticism is really reflected in its décor. Littering the walls and cabinets, you can see a myriad of trinkets, old record covers, adorned chairs and tables. Our tablecloth was blue and white gingham which then had a horse complete with brown mane and hooves cross stitched onto it! I was indie-girl (read: predictable) giddy with glee.

And people say they don’t use Urbanspoon anymore – us two tragics still do. I picked this place because it sounded okay and seemed to have a high rating from a sizeable proportion of people. It pays to take a chance sometime. I’ll be back to sample their menu proper when next I visit my favourite lit nerd girlfriend who works as a curator at nearby Sovereign Hill, I’m sure of it.

But, as David Tennant’s Doctor would say, allons-y! Fortified for the moment, it was time to leave the warmth of the lovely cafe and its staff and hit the road again, all the while blasting some of my more tragic DJ podcasts given radio stations were slim pickings once properly en route to our destination.

Eclectic Tastes on Urbanspoon

heading south to NorthSouth

Our mate Lindsey is an epic foodie and had mentioned that he really liked Ron O’Bryan’s food when he was head chef at Church St Enoteca. I’d never eaten there but when we found out that Ron would be cheffing at a place called NorthSouth*, an expedition was proposed (though he wasn’t in on the night we dined). I was going to joke about what an inconvenience crossing the river is but who am I kidding: living in suburbia is inconvenient.

Incidentally, I was always rather fond of the insinuation that Wordsworth liked and romanticised suburbia because it afforded him the pleasure of playing with himself whilst locked up in his shed, free from interruption. True story.

Sorry about the rad but inappropriate literary trivia. Can’t help it.

NorthSouth is located in South Yarra. Whilst driving past it the other day, I noticed that they also have their Twitter username proudly emblazoned upon their window. Yea!

To start with, the six of us shared saffron and fontina arancini and the selection of artisan cured meats and salumi with hand-rolled grissini. Yea for cornichons and mustard on the latter!

saffron and fontina arancini

artisan cured meats & salumi, hand-rolled grissini

After an attentive staff member came out to ask if there were any dietary issues they needed to note, these beauties appeared in front of us – pea soup. Hit the spot given we were dining on a dreary, rainy day.

Alissa gave me much food envy by ordering the crisp fried zucchini flowers filled with marinated feta, tomato ragout, lemon mayo which looked just perfect. The batter looks like a mere hint!

To follow, she went with a special on the night of roasted king brown mushroom, new season asparagus, woodside goats curd and aged balsamic.

By stark contrast, Colin beefed it up and began with a beef tartare with harissa aioli and handcut chips – one of the prettiest dishes out of the ones we chose. He seemed fairly enthusiastic for its taste too.

As if that wasn’t enough…he went for the classic steak for his main too.

Given that I had a lot of the cured meat at the beginning and considered that a starter, I chose the humble spaghetti carbonara. It’s a bit of a comfort dish. This rendition had a beautiful poached egg in the middle. Overall, it was a touch too salty for me but in fairness, I don’t tend to like a lot of salt in things so that aside, I’d still recommend it.

Suz also chose a pasta main – the penne with broccolini, chilli, lemon, anchovies and pangrattato. The wise lass (ie. not fat bastard like the rest of us, hehehe) chose not to order an entree.

Both Lindsey and Tristan got the special braised rabbit leg and spring vegetables risotto offered which didn’t quite live up to expectations. The general consensus seemed to be that it has a little too much liquid – perhaps it was more ragout-like?

While Tristan had grazed on arancini as an entree, Lindsey got the semolina dusted calamari, endive, fennel, almond & parsley salad which he seemed chuffed about.

All of us had dessert. It’s interesting to note that while the desserts offered seemed very typical, they all had special twists to make them memorable. For example, there was a pear frangipane tart with creme anglaise – scented with star anise.

Then the good old vanilla bean-flecked pannacotta – with grated Granny Smith apple, and apple and cinnamon granita.

Lastly, a creme brulee – of raspberry and white chocolate. Should have got a shot of this in medias res, come to think of it!

NorthSouth offers some good staple dishes (this is snobbily based on the assumption you live in Melbourne and are all cosmopolitan-like…) and does them well, largely with a touch of finesse. The service is excellent it feels equally at home as a place to have a casual coffee or have a special meal with fussy Asian parents (I have mine in mind!). The menu changes with the seasons so there may very well be completely different offerings to what we ate on this occasion.

However, it is their breakfasts that are currently the buzz: recently they even had a breakfast degustation. Once I work out my ratshit sleeping pattern, I can’t wait to return and sample said wonderful breakfasts some of which is detailed in Claire’s appetite-whetting blog post!

NorthSouth Eatery on Urbanspoon

NB. Ron is no longer at NorthSouth, so we all missed him, dagnabbit

not bad for second choice

Panic panic panic.

That was me trying to get a booking for my Sydneysider bestie L for a bunch of us Twitterers to dine at Cookie. For days, no one seemed to be answering their phone. When I finally got through, of course they were all booked up for the night we wanted to dine.

Panic panic panic more.

Tristan suggested The Deanery and I remember hearing some food blogger wanksters saying the food wasn’t half-bad. So I booked.


Not to betray my (old) age or anything, but didn’t The Deanery once used to be frequented by drunk, suited bogans? Perhaps so. It didn’t seem so upon my first visit: the bar area was crowded but the punters were polite. The dining area looked very fancy indeed and the venue’s wine storage is visible from almost every table. Woah. So this is a wine nerd joint, eh?

So of course I ordered a glass of Bridge Road’s Chevalier Saison. I later learnt on Twitter that the keg that just been tapped that same night we were there and more reassuring, The Deanery’s Twitter presence was conversing with Bridge Road’s. Good to see more good food places getting in on the craft beer love.

It gets better.

I didn’t actually order it at the time, but Tristan and Luke had a bottle each of the Weihenstephaner hefe weissbier. Remember guys, when life gives you lemons, get it the fuck away from your hefeweizen. One of my favourite pearls of wisdom from Twitter. Remember folks, this is the One Wheat Beer To Rule Them All.

Weihenstephaner hefeweissbier

I love how the menu is divided into small, medium and large dishes, allowing you to choose lots of small things to make up a meal. Of course, if you prefer the more traditional option of just getting one main, there’s that too. Luke opted to do this and had a humble old steak. He seemed pretty taken with it!

His partner Kim chose the Momofuku-inspired steamed pork buns as a starter, as did Tristan. Due to the absence of serious tech, you’ll have to suffer my ghetto mobile phone photos. I do apologise as it won’t do the morsels justice. I believe these appear in the Momofuku cookbook so you can try your hand at making them at home, like this blog has. The consensus seemed to be that The Deanery’s take on them were okay.

steamed pork buns 'inspired by Momofuku'

Kim then went with the duck pie, celeriac purée and preserved mushrooms on my erroneous advice that it came highly recommended. Turns out I had confused it with The Lincoln’s duck pie. She decided to order it anyway and declared it wonderful.

duck pie, celeriac puree, preserved mushrooms

Big sis L started off her culinary adventures with the quail with coconut, yoghurt and tamarind chutney. She really enjoyed it but as quails are a somewhat bony bird, that can dampen the nomming experience. Just the way the figurative cookie crumbles!

quail, coconut, yoghurt, tamarind chutney

After much indecision (with which the waiter was not very sympathetic, it has to be said), for mains she chose to have the pork belly. Greedily, I looked on!

pork belly, cabbage, apple, candied walnuts, mustard sauce

I had two starter-type dishes: first, a trio of freshly shucked oysters with the house made XO sauce – not only do they look visually stunning, but devouring them was a punchy, flavoured treat. The last time I’d had oysters previous to this occasion, they weren’t fresh so this restored my confidence in them! A trio wasn’t enough.

oysters, freshly shucked to order with house made XO sauce

My second gluttonous escapade was the rabbit rilette with prunes. I was curious as to what rilette was and discovered that it’s a meaty, finely shredded preparation that lends itself to spreading and snacking as if parfait or pâté.

rabbit rilettes and prunes

Consider this bouche much amused! Under the layer of fat, the meat hides making it easier to spread and enhancing each others’ flavour. I love these sorts of dishes because I really do find they whet the appetite but they’re also substantial if you’re not wanting an epic fatty meal.

rabbit rilette, detail

To bulk up my deliberately small meal, I ordered a side of the watercress and fennel salad. As a personal preference, I would have preferred more watercress rather than fennel and for the salad to be equally composed of both ingredients as fennel is rather astringent. Besides, I’m British and we love watercress, haha.

fennel and watercress salad

Tristan’s main was the slow braised goat, almond and currant couscous with yoghurt. High fives for goat meat! Surprisingly, I don’t think he was as gushy about it as I expected.

slow braised goat, almond and currant couscous & yoghurt

The fitout of the eating area is swanky and the service is mostly lovely – big sis L wasn’t impressed with the waiter that served her and to be honest neither was I, only because I sometimes got the impression that he’d much rather be doing something else than helping our table (as was in evidence when we asked for the bill). The rest of the staff were great and it’d be ace to try out more enticing menu items on a future visit! Was a shame there was no time for dessert as we had to nick off and pretend to be cool cats at yet another Melbourne hotspot…stay tuned!

The Deanery on Urbanspoon