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We continue to be mad about Melbourne!!!
My first visit to Melbourne was a very long time ago with my glamorous Grandmother who loved nothing better than escaping the seaside fishing village of Queenscliffe where she lived for the bright lights. One particularly memorable lunch was when she was determined to dine at the newly opened Southern Cross Hotel. Dressed to the nines we travelled to Melbourne by train. I always felt bathed in her beauty, although, I am sure that the many men who ogled her clearly wished she was alone. As an adult I frequently suspected that this grandmother had also wished she had been unfettered. But, it was Elma Lucy who instilled in me the love of the fine dining experience and what could be expected from it. Apart from what was then fabulous modernity of the Southern Cross the only other childhood Melbourne dining experience I clearly remember was Florentino’s which remains pretty much unchanged over 60 years later.
In the winter Melbourne may seem like the coldest place on the planet, but Melbourne offers a stunning range of eating options from modest to the limit that can be found elsewhere in the world. This middle winter trip was to catch up with old friends. One [male] favourite customer of my former restaurant Mistress Augustine’s, for whom our most famous dessert, the chocolate slut was named and two over achieving former employees of Mistress Augustine’s Restaurant….Lousie Elder, whose daughter Ellie now in her early 30’s was almost born in our kitchen and lived in it until she could walk, and Lisa Burley who worked front of house at MA’s in its maddest days. Louise now works for Miele Melbourne and is an expert about the improvements in domestic kitchen appliance functionality. Lisa works for RMIT and has a skill in contract writing that has drawn her international acclaim and a position that takes her all over the world. We did not get to catch up with pastry chef Edwina Peoples who, we are happy to note is working at one of Melbourne’s most celebrated bakeries The Tivoli Bakery in South Yarra.
All images unless otherwise stated are copyright © Ann Oliver Cuisine-Extreme.com
The best way to get around….defining BYO for the uninitiated and the best wine shops to buy a great bottle to take to dinner….click here
but, down to business 2018
while we are updating our old Melbourne content, seven new entries and just a single repeat visit to Movida, included in our Melbourne reviews since 2008…still on point chefs in tapas restaurants should dine here to understand what tapas are really are supposed to be, a single, at most two mouthfuls of absolute tastiness !!!
Xiaolongbao and Dumpling
146 Little Bourke Street
+61 3 9662 3226
It is impossible to look at Melbourne’s history without recognising the contribution of very early Chinese migration to Melbourne. Just up the side street, the Chinese Museum
Having worked in mainland China several times I long for the authentic dumplings of Shanghai and have tried on several previous trips to Melbourne to find them. This trip after a visit to the Chinese Museum I noticed that a single dumpling restaurant on the corner of Cohen Lane and Little Bourke Street had a queue and plonk myself at the end. There is an authentic aroma wafting through the doors. Shanghai street is a chain, so please note we are only recommending this venue. Packed diners eat and go…cheap and tasty what’s not to like?
Seamstress Restaurant & Bar
You have to love the history of this building….brothel, sweat shop are just two incarnations. There are great elements of kitch with plastic flowers and draped ceilings…and in the bar an eclectic collections of Chinese garments hanging from the ceiling continues the theme. Service is excellent and staff appear to share a pride in the food they serve. We did lunch and chose the lunch menu….perfectly portioned and great value for money…but…the dessert OMG ‘Pumpkin & coconut custard, cocoa crumble, candied pepitas, salted caramel with coconut and pandan gelato. Irish, round eyed chef, nails this food and it has an authenticity not found in other favoured Melbourne Pan Asian restaurants like for instance Chin Chin which, despite the beautiful building and fabulous staff, just does no cut it for me…but back to the dessert! Everything we were served was excellent, but, the dessert at just $14 AUD was one of the best desserts I’ve had in years. This includes two weeks of three Michelin starred dinning earlier this year in Reims and Paris. Incredibly complex texturally astonishing with the silken pumpkin custard…the crunch of the caramelised pepitos…the odd salty spike and a perfectly textured gelato….very, very good!
We doubt it would matter what time of day or night you visited The Seamstress we are sure you won’t leave disappointed!
8 Whiteman St
Southbank VIC 3006
(03) 9292 8888
Web – https://www.crownmelbourne.com.au/restaurants/premium/long-chim/info-booking
Long Chim is yet another restaurant under the consultancy of David Thompson. A former Australian, Thompson is without doubt the most celebrated exponent of the Thai kitchen. Do not go to Long Chim expecting the peaceful elegance or glamour of Nahm in Lodon or Thompson’s former Darley Street Thai restaurant in Sydney, Long Chim is pitched at the middle market and to compensate, is modestly priced.
Crunchy Prawns were terrific with just the right bite of chilli, Eggplant Salad and Glass Noodle Salad were also very good. The disappointment was the Hot and Sour Seafood Soup and we blame ourselves for ordering it. We have been in the industry long enough to know that it is not possible to make this sort of dish and sell it for $34 AUD without compromising the quality of the seafood. Washed down with a bottle of 2015 Wagner Stempel – Silvaner Gutswein that was such a great match for the spiciness of the food we ordered a second.
Service is enthusiastic about the food but less skilled in making wine recommendations….however, to be fair at Long Chim’s price point one shouldn’t expect a sommelier. Would we return, yes, we want to eat the Crunchy Prawns again they were absolutely scrumptious and explore many of the other dishes that appealed to us.
Tapas at its best on this visit without doubt the Local Smoked Eel with Celeriac Remoulade and Bresaola floss. So many restaurants serve cold food straight from the fridge. No only does this diminish the flavour profile it quite often ruins the dish. None of this nonsense at Movida. A delicious little mound of finely julienned celeriac remoulade, that was perfectly seasoned, topped with a generous piece of skinned smoked eel and a smattering of the bresaola floss. The oiliness of the eel and its delicate flavour was in perfect harmony with the celeriac remoulade and the slightly gritty texture of the bresaola floss was so good we had a second. Basically we worked our way through their tapas but the eel and the Bistec Tartar, which has been on their menu as long as I can remember were standouts. Of course, it goes without saying their Cremé Caramel is a must.
One of the things to love about Movida it its honesty; it does not get stuck in silly fashion trends and just nails it. Best Cremé Caramel in Australia, all washed down with a couple of glasses of NV Ruinart ‘R de Ruinart’ which is a favourite of ours.
The new local in Armadale Bouzy is more French bistro than any we visited in a recent trip to France and the food was markedly better. Packed, people constantly coming and going service was swift and informed and food that included oysters served plain with lemon, Russian eggs, steak tartare, burgers and pomme fritte just rolled from their open kitchen. Outstanding was their Butter lettuce, buttermilk & Roquefort dressing but everything was good including the wine recommendation of still French Rosé.
Bouzy is not the joint where you will hang around and if you are looking to have a conversation ask to be seated in the arcade. However, good as we think Bouzy is we suspect it will be so popular with Armadale locals bookings will be essential.
Ground floor and basement
175 Flinders Lane
+61 3 9671 4888
Brilliant food served with great theatre and a fabulous wine list…..full review will follow!
Image copyright © Kisume 2018
Image copyright © Minamishima 2018
4 Lord Street
+61 3 9429 5180
Stunning is the word for this restaurant….lone diners or at most a couple might prefer to sit at the bench were the full theatre of the preparation can be enjoyed, but the acoustics are brilliant and seated at the tables it is possible to have a conversation and hear each other talk.
There is a set menu of the day with two to three additional choices…on of which was the famed Puffer Fish which was, of course irresistible….our menu
The food was perfection as was the wine list. The sommelier a match for the entire dining experience…this is a restaurant not to be missed when visiting Melbourne and a detailed review will follow.
The European Restaurant
161 Spring Street
+61 3 9654 0811
7 days from 7.00 am until very late
One of the best coffees in Melbourne, except for an unfortunate long weekend where their best baristas had clearly left town. The European is a much-loved Melbourne institution. An incredibly efficient operation that only closes for four hours daily, from 3.00 am until 7.00 am when they open again.
We like the fact that their food remains old style Italian where seasonal specials are mixed with classic dishes and whilst over the years we have tried a lot of their menu we are guilty of always ordering our favourites. The favourite, a rustic Italian egg dish Blood sausage and eggs cooked in tomato sauce. Their kitchen is ever amiable regardless of the hour of your arrival and they don’t have any of those very annoying rules as to when you can eat or what!
One of the first Italian imports into Australia the European has maintained a very high standard since forever and probably has the widest age demographics of any Melbourne eating establishment. Wine list fab, food good and service impeccable. We particularly like the fact that whilst The European Restaurant is clearly not meant to be the long lunch, there is never any obvious pressure to move on.
And, its just possible when you’ve been thrown out of everywhere else, you might just go back again before they close.
Plenty of great choice n their wine list and they always have a good French by the glass, not the ideal match for blood sausage but starting the day but after a long night apart from a Bloody Mary what could be better. We like the European a lot!
City Wine Shop
Located pretty well next door to the European the City Wine Shop is a great place for people watching. The City Wine shop has never been noted for its food but it is a great spot to stop by for a good glass and an okay cheese plate. Even better purpose is to pick up a great bottle to take to dinner. Wine buying advice is erudite and pricing is competitive, plus they have an excellent Champagne selection.
The Melbourne Supper Club and Bar
pictured left and right their rooftop bar
161 Spring Street
+61 3 9654 6300
The Melbourne Supper Club is my favourite Australian late night bar. The smoking Nazis have had their way and somehow the Melbourne Supper Club isn’t just quite the same without the fragrance of those big fat Cuban cigars, but, we still love it. The Australian non-smoking rules have seen the invention of outside drinking spots open and the roof of the Supper Club now hosts a cute little bar, Monopole were fags can be consumed. This roof top bar is bound to be packed in summer, even in winter as their heating keeps it very comfortable.
We never go to Melbourne without visiting the Melbourne Supper Club, but try to stage out visits mid-week when it is much easier to get in the door. They do serve food, but given the quality of their wine list it is a disappointing offering, however, after a bottle or three of Champagne it comes in damned handy!
We have seen winemakers cry when they have viewed their credit card receipts in the morning following a big night out at the Melbourne Supper Club and seen then happily line up to get back in there the next night. There are dozens of great late night spots in Melbourne but we love this place!
Borek & Gozleme
481 Elizabeth Street [near the Queen Victoria Market]
Victoria Australia 3000
+61 3 9329 5553
Heading for the Queen Victoria Market, blown along Elizabeth Street in icy cold weather wondering why I had ventured out in such utterly vile day there was an aroma straight from the Middle East. My misery was turned to delight as the memory of these amazing bakeries in Jordan flooded in.
Art form, made on the premise, cooked and sold straight from the flat top they have the perfect outer crispness with a thin soft inside and are light and crisp; even better, they are as good as the best we ate in Jordan. So often in Australia the flat bread is tough, dry rather than crisp, way too chewy and kept warm, which toughens them even further. They are meant to be rolled cooked and eaten.
At Melbourne’s Borek Bakehouse, people wait patiently because they clearly know the difference. Pumpkin filling was beautifully spiced. All offerings are very inexpensive, expect to queue at office lunch and breakfast hours. For any philistine who does not appreciate the skill behind this food, have a go at making them yourself…this type of Middle Eastern baking is perfected by starting with the right flour, the right recipe, executed with loving respect and years of making hundreds on a daily basis…look for the sign [or the queue]!