Friday, 29 May 2009

The Deanery

Poor Mr Wickens, plans for bringing the highly rated Interlude into the city bought undone. Still, he has found his way from Fitzroy into the CBD, presumably via the 86 tram, to deliver all the interesting and creativeness synonymous with his previous venture.

Or so I thought. There’s nothing wrong with the menu, but reads like a censored Superbad script. Gone are all the cheeky “oh no he didn’t” bits you’d come to expect from this master chef. Which is presumably the intention, to be something more understated. Have a read: Chicken, Potato Puree, Hot Liver Parfait. Mulloway, Sweetcorn, Crab, Bisque. I prefer the quirky Whiting, Carrot Consommé, Curry Marshmallow or Buttermilk Pancake, Passionfruit, Miso. Oh yes he did.

Enough dwelling on the past, as there are glimpses of the old swagger. The absolutely delicious dish of plump scallops get nicely browned on a pan, a chervil risotto cradles the gems, the subtle flowery sweet violet foam somehow brings it all together. The colours might clash but the favours certainly don’t. For mains, beef is brilliantly tender, cooked it to a very pink medium rare to retain the natural cow taste, a meat jus reduction forms the gravy but overall doesn’t really excite because it’s not overly unique. The wow factor comes courtesy of the intricate smoked gratin, which looks like a potato meuille fille. I can’t look at spuds the same, even more so after the lyonnaise potatoes garnished with caramelised onions.

This could have been different had the pork fillet, pork pie, carrot and pickled apple been available. Obviously popular seeing that there were 4 left when the menu was explained. Then zero when we ordered. Running out before 7pm on a busy Saturday night dinner service?

With the move, the bohemian eccentric wild child from Smith Street that was once bold and daring has evolved into something more sterile reflecting the move to a corporate, commercialised world. Bring back the Fitzroy I say.

2.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 1 Bligh Lane, Melbourne, VIC
What? Entrees $25, Mains $35

Thursday, 28 May 2009


There’s a sense of modesty and humility to Attica that disgusts me. It’s the Tiger Woods of dining, a cut above the rest having been crowned Restaurant of the Year by the tough Good Food Guide crowd. Where they both could be out there pumping their chest and gloating about how absolutely awesome they are, it’s the complete opposite, the consummate professionals.

As seriously understated as the golfing great’s on course dress sense, there’s nothing flashy about Attica’s interior either. Except for the interesting thin rectangular chandelier that’s suspended above the bar, it’s fine diner standard.

But there’s nothing understated about his game though, an unrivalled blend of power, precision, flair, creativity and finesse. It’s the same with the food that’s all about visual impact, temperatures, aromas, multi levelled flavours and textures that plays with all your senses.

Take for example the lazy 3 wood to start the round of flaked snow crab, crumbed silken egg white, barberries and salmon roe strewn amongst the cream icy horseradish powder like snow on top. The delicacy, chills, the pops and bursts. A beautiful dish before the theatre of a plate of cubes of ocean trout, pork crackling that arrives looking like a crystal ball. Lifting the bowl releases the trapped hickory smoke, a smoked trout broth with basil seeds lightly poaches the fish and crackles the scorched pig skin that has the drama of an intentionally hooked 5 iron before curling back and landing a metre from the pin.

There’s a ridiculously tender potato cooked Polynesian style in the stuff grass grows on, its earthy taste matched with a cow and goat cheese cream and coffee powder. Chorizo smear and black cous cous powders medium rare kingfish that’s like a nod to Tetsuya’s signature. An onion and peanut puree and ginger relish matches well with a medium rare slice of wagyu, Berkshire pork loin on a puddle of celeriac puree is dusted with a salty fennel pollen, apple sauce made to look boring by a glaze and distilled cider gel.

Transitioning from savouries to sweets is the terroir that balances between the two. Showing Kiwis are just as useful here as they are to Tiger, the green fruit is fused with avocado oil contrasting against the vibrant purple red of beetroot almond meal crumble that blankets a creamy fromage sorbet, avocado jelly, crisp malt bits and pepper. Stunning. Hitting a hole in one at the 18th is the cheeky violet crumble, a violet sorbet, powder and grains, icy chocolate powder, crunchy honeycomb and butterscotch served in an oversized stemless cognac glass. A shot I’d replay any day of the week.

Just like Tiger, chef Ben Shewry keeps the standard extremely high and consistent over the course of the degustation. You’ll find an absolute champion in Ripponlea.

5 / 5 yums!
Where? 74 Glen Eira Rd, Ripponlea, VIC
What? Degustation $130

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


Drum roll please… And the winner of the restaurant with the best sleepability, proudly sponsored by Captain Snooze, goes to… Becco! Not that the food is boring and will whisk you to slumberland. Far from it. You’ll know what I mean when you take a seat. There’s a simple, classic, European charm to the place. Casual yet classy. And lighting that’s really low. Like apple bottom jeans shorty got low, low, low. Yes, the lack of bright makes one yawn to the point of temporary unconsciousness.

Won’t be too long, as you dish doubles as a wake up call. Top quality oysters have Sealy comfort. Main of roast duck, skin attached, the fat rendered down flavouring the mean, with a powerful muscatel and grappa sauce something that’ll be embedded into my memory foam. Likewise with the pork belly cooked in its own fat, a healthy strip of crackling on top with accompanying braised cheeks that are doona tender, pea puree adds colour and subtle sweetness.

Becco might not be the most exciting venue but it demands respect. I’ll be seeing it again my Forty Winks.

3.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 11-25 Crossley St, Melbourne, VIC
What? Mains $35

Bar Fino

Given the GFC (global financial crisis), paying extra might not be the best idea. But it is completely justifiable, especially if you enjoy a good brew. Using a Campos blend, it is the finest muddy cup in the area. Okay, so the place might appear a little snooty, but that’s because it is new and what you have to do to fit in with the Chanels and the Zegnas of the MLC. Boycott this place at your own detriment.

Where? MLC Centre, Martin Place, Sydney, NSW

Monday, 25 May 2009

Badde Manors

Etiquette and courtesy. Not what you’d expect from a place that sounds like “Bad Manners”, which is how I thought this joint was spelt. Completely threw me after numerous internet searches, but finally discovered the angels and chromed mini oven feature that forms the signage after a chance stroll up the road from Well Connected.

There’s a hippy, bohemian feel to the place, the wooden booths a bit cramped for two with aged ornaments that might have been donated by Anglo-Saxon grandfolks. Unfortunately no weed on the menu, but it is one for vegetarians to get high on. The chai, freshly brewed with herbs and spices in milk is a treat if you like it gingery, borrowed Bravo gelato flavours kept this writer happy.

Bad isn’t an adjective you’d use to describe the place, and the only bad manners you’ll run into is if you don’t do yourself the courtesy of a visit.

Where? 37 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe, NSW
What? Under $10

Barbarino’s + Wong

Like a Mont Blanc pen without the tip, a Rolex without the battery, the toilet without the toilet paper when you go for a number 2. Missing a vital component. Barbarino’s + Wong has the looks, the deep red Asian lucky colour, the moody, dim lighting, the Oriental style screens, it’s all very comforting. Unfortunately the food does not match its style.

As the name suggests, there’s stuff from the West such as burgers, grilled chicken and steak. The Famous Onion Rings, dangerous from the oil they’ve been fried in and as such not too delicious. Potato Skins better, the excess skin seasoned like wedges, the potato soft and mashy, dip into a trio of avocado, spicy tomato and sour cream dips. Pork ribs smothered in a thick BBQ sauce, lacked smoky flavour, a less fattier slab would have helped also. Baby snapper simply barbequed was not adequately seasoned and safely overcooked. From the Asia via the West, there are curries, fried rice, claypots, Laksa and Tom Yum noodles and meatier dishes such as lemon, koong-po, Szechuan chicken, Mongolian beef and sweet and sour pork.

Having said all that, it’s only fair to mention that only Barbarino’s was sampled, and that Wong guy’s quality might be up to scratch. The place deserves the time to find that battery or the spare roll to fix it up.

1.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 474 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne, VIC
What? Mains $20

Friday, 22 May 2009

Auction Rooms

Put the hammer down and get out to the old Auction Rooms in North Melbourne. A superb open space, vertical pipe pendants fill the air, oversized globes in another area, and it looks like they ran out of metho to strip the brick wall completely. Taking centre stage is the bar, where the magically smooth brew is crafted that rivals St Ali. They have food to match.

Museli with honey, yoghurt and caramelised pears, toast and salad there for something lighter. Choose from the Bids, the non-vegetarian cooked breakfast of organic poached eggs, sautéed spinach, baked bacon and roasted cherry tomatoes on toasted artisan sourdough all about quality produce. Add bacon to the Italian slow cooked beans, broken down but retaining its shape in a rich tomato sauce flavoured with basil, rosemary infused olive oil with slices of sourdough. No sourdough with the Japanese style beef stew, tender cubes of the cow in a sauce that resembles a curry but tastes more like the oyako-don, sweet and oniony. A more recent visit greeted us with chorizo in eggs dusted with a cumin spice mixture, a steal for the price paid.

Service is a bit slow however, but I’d excuse that, because it does get very busy. Final calls on this place, I’m totally sold.

4 / 5 yums!
Where? 103-107 Errol Street, North Melbourne, VIC
What? Under $15

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Ash Street Cellar

Fitness First membership. Using an internet connection for this blog. Just not worth your money. Unless you’re Justin Hemmes, for his wealth is no issue, so eating here is chump change. Ash Street Cellar, hidden behind the Ivy, does bring smart European style to the centre of Sydney. Much needed.

There is an air of opulence however, and you will need more than spare change to eat and drink here. Vino by the glass starts at double figures and you haven’t even begun to think about food. There’s charcuterie and cheese, all quality I’m sure. A changing menu of more “substantials” might include morsels such as crostini topped with a cured meat, deep fried whitebait, shoestring fries, grilled lamb cutlets (2 at $22) or a new style hangover egg fry up with tomatoes in own cast iron oven dish. Good stuff that won’t blow your pants off, so there’s no need for a belt to secure them before you get here.

Unless they are attempting to conserve the world’s resources for some greater good, Ash Street cannot excuse its frugal value.

1.5 / 5 yums!
Where? 1 Ash Street, Sydney, NSW
What? Average dish $17

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