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Food

23 Best Foodie Experiences of 2016

The World Loves Melbourne had some amazing foodie experiences in 2016 and here are our top 23 foodie experiences (not in order). We also enjoyed many top notch events and launches and several amazing corporate box experiences in both Melbourne and Sydney.

Attica

Attica is the best foodie experience in Australia as far as I know. I've been there twice in recent times and both occasions have been spectacular. The level of service is top notch and you'd be struggling to find better service anywhere. The waiter remembered me from a previous visit and even conversations we had. Every dish inspires the imagination as well as the taste buds. You get a perspective of Australia and Australian food by visiting Attica. You think to yourself "Ben Shewry is a genius." Then you appreciate the fact Attica is always evolving; they don't stand still. With their test kitchen they are always striving for new things and they have managed to garner a strong ethos and team. Ben Shewry is not interested in following trends but in evolving on a journey where the natural ingredient is honoured. Each dish is presented with a sense of theatre.

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We enjoyed a full dining experience with Jeffrey Merrihue (thanks!) CEO of foodiehub.tv and his wife Maria, along with Kristy of Queen of Bad Timing from Perth (Perth expert for foodiehub.tv). One of the best things to do in Melbourne is to visit world class restaurant Attica.

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Bringing back childhood memories of the pristine beaches in South Australia, the Goolwa Pippies was a delightful dish with pippies infused with seaweed butter and lemon juice. A Mouthful of Green was again a simple title, but the hit of flavour was wonderful; peas, asparagus and walnut puree. Creamy, crunchy and a taste of the land.The Fresh Cheese and Honeycomb dish came with honeycomb served at the table in a way that was entertaining as well as exciting food.

Attica excelled with the Wallaby Blood Pikelet. After all we love black pudding and this seemed to be an Aussie version. This was served with native Davidsonia plum jam on top, garnished with Basil flower.With crimpled butchers paper turning upwards, the Attica version of the Aussie meat pie was enchanting; Gazza's Lamb Pie. These pies are designed to be eaten in a single bite (like many of the Attica smaller dishes). Saltbush short pastry had required crisp crust; and the lamb was saltbush fed South Australian Dorset Lamb (we are not unfamiliar with this lamb from our days in South Australia). So many highlights!

At the end of the day the food is so delicious! Sensational.

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Noma Sydney

One of the best foodie experiences of my life. What a privilage to visit Noma and with a salubrious table of foodies. Having a 15 minute connection with Rene Redzepi was a highlight along with his signed menu. He promised to send a signed menu and sure enough I got the letter from Copenhagen a few weeks later with the signed menu. Like Attica here was genius when it comes to indigenous ingredients. I appreciated Rene's "take" on Australian food and life. It was like an overseas artists impressionist paintings of Australia. Rene has broad strokes in his artwork with an ode to nature as well as food. Service was amazing including an Aussie waitress living in Copenhagen. Natural wines were superb and opened our eyes further to the world of natural wines. We enjoyed a whisky with staff after service (although I'm not sure they were drinking?). Magical. Thanks again to Jeffrey Merrihue CEO of Mofilm and foodiehub.tv for such a great night!

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Flower Drum

Flower Drum is an icon and you don't get to be at the top for decades for nothing. Service is on the formal side but there is a sense of the relaxed also and an air of humour. Technique in the cooking is paramount. Perfectly cooked duck with right amount of pink and skin to die for. 

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In terms of Chinese cooking, this is Cantonese cuisine at its finest. Original Chef Anthony Lui still leads the kitchen maintaining high standards year after year.

The Cantonese classics are here; Duck wontons, Steamed dim sum, Pork ribs, Peking duck and Quail Sang Choi Bao. Or try spectacular Grain fed eye fillet with Sichuan sauce or the luxurious Abalone. We elected to tune in to the Neil Perry recommended menu we had read in an article in the Qantas magazine. White Pearl Meat, Peking Duck, Mud Crab and the Shallot cakes - all spoke of luxe cuisine. Thanks again to Jeffrey Merrihue CEO of Mofilm and foodiehub.tv!

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Embla

Embla surprised as we were led to believe it was a bar. Certainly it is but is it more restaurant than bar? This was one of our best foodie experiences of 2016 and I managed to visit this place twice. 

Christian McCabe and Dave Verheul have struck a chord with a wine bar and wood oven combination. Just to get a table here is an achievement; a half hour wait at the bar ensued.Wine list at Embla impresses with unique wines sourced from boutique Australian producers, as well as an alluring international list. Enjoy wines by the glass or do what we did and order a couple of bottles.

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Anchovy toasts with cultured butter were exceptional, as was theStracciatella, camomile oil, fermented fennel (a simple light and delicate textured dish). Pickled mussels served with rouille was a stunning dish. Piquant, sweet and juicy; perfect food with standout wines. Nouveau cuisine. Snapper (rather than Flounder), charred kale, oyster, seaweed was a delight but the triumph of the night was the Creamed corn, cream fraiche, oregano, dried citrus. This was another dish worth returning for.

Then again rave reports go to the Black Angas bavette, tarragon, green beans dish and the Half roast chicken (pour the chicken sauce/gravy over the chicken and enjoy the roasted garlic cloves). 

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Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal has taken Melbourne by storm since it opened. Of course it's the no 45 restaurant in the World 50 Best (S. Pellegrino list, dual location). I've dined twice at this restaurant and each occasion has been spectacular. It's a restaurant 'for the people"; the kind of place you could visit before the theatre. Come here for "steak and chips"; admittedly the best steak and chips you've ever had! With a bottle of French Pinot of course.

The bar is compelling where you can enjoy historical cocktails, each with an amazing story. Heston's love of history comes to the fore in the menu and you could find youself eating a dish from the 1300's through to the 1900's (still relevant and exciting today). Each dish is allocated a circa date in terms of its historical gastronomy.

Meat Fruit c 1500 is a visually exciting dish which looks like a mandarin; but under the skin of course is a superb chicken parfait.Rice & Flesh c 1390 featured Saffron, curried kangaroo tail, red wine and amaranth and is in the style of a risotto. We celebrate the Aussie touch of the kangaroo tail in wine and the match with saffron. Heston has embraced several clever examples of indigenous food in his historical English gastronomic selections. Frumenty c1390 features Grilled octopus, spelt, pickled red moss, chervil emulsion and smoked sea broth. Is this Heston's homage to Alain Chapel; a champion of land meets sea and of nouveau cuisine? 

Heston famous for his take on porridge delivers with Savoury Porridge c1660 with Garlic and parsley butter, grilled abalone, pickled beetroot and fennel. Powdered Duck Breast c1670 also featured Smoked beetroot, grilled red cabbage, umbles and pickled cherries. I love the history of the umbles and the references to eating umble (or humble) pie. Another signature is the Lamb & Cucumber c1830 featuring Best end of lamb with roast cucumber heart, sweetbreads, peas, barilla and mint.  Saltbush lamb is the most flavoursome lamb we know and this dish is cooked to perfection.

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Tipsy Cake c1810 is light and fluffy with decadence of pineapple cooked on a spit roast. A triumph of brioche based cake in brandy caramel (sauternes custard sauce). Taffety Tart c1660 also features caramelised apple, wattle seed biscuit, Eucalyptus, fennel and blackcurrant sorbet. Again, we applaud Heston's use of indigenous Australian ingredients in one of his classics. It's as if every dish is iconic and a chartopper. A must visit.

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Lulu Cafe and Gallery

Lulu was one of our most surprising and best foodie experiences of 2016 (open Wednesdays to Sundays). Lulu is a hidden gem in North Melbourne that boasts a light airy ambience on Queensberry St (just out of the city). Roger and Pan are passionate foodies (and art and music lovers) and their vision for a unique venue in Melbourne is compelling. Lulu is a cafe by day with European influences on the menu; think Caramelised Pear and cress Salad with Poussin or French toast with lavender and grapefruit ricotta, nut praline and maple syrup. The Croque Monsieur is also rewarding. Or choose the Avo Go dish with smashed avocado on sourdough toast, smoked egglplant creme fraiche, salsa verde, coriander and chilli.The Sexy Fruit Salad lives up to it's name with seasonal fruit, coconut yoghurt with a smart kaffir lime gel.

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By night Lulu is transformed into a marvellous dinner venue with sophisticated food when we visited such as Beetroot done 3 Ways (baked, confit, pureed) with chutney made from the stems and olives, and chips from the leaves, mixed with stracciatella. Or think Sicilian tortelloni with caponata and almonds as an authentic and delightful dish. There's even great technique with humble ingredients such as Asparagus - served with burnt eggplant or with stracciatella, rye and grilled scalions. Mussels, kimchi, n'duja and lupin flakes hits the high notes.

Dessert also impressed with current offerings being Ricotta brambleberries, charcoal and elderflower and Pineapple, chilli, buckthorn and dark chocolate. A new dinner menu is coming after Lulu re-opens after the summer break.

The bar is intimate and you may score a bartender who is fresh from Paris. The staff here are like the United Nations; with Lulu having the vibe of a cafe somewhere in Europe. I don't know any other place like it in Melbourne.

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Then there's the gallery space upstairs which has already offered superb exhibitions such as the Japanese Woodblock Exhibition which explored the influence of Japanese Ukiyo-e on French Impressionism. Original Antique prints by famous artists Hokusai (The Wave) and French poster artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec were featured. Some amazing exhibitions are in the pipeline for 2017. Corporates and others have taken advantage of the bespoke space for unique functions.

Lulu is the place to relax and in no sense are you rushed (like at some other places). Their backyard courtyard is a winner (another hidden gem in Melbourne). Plans include a Joy Division mini-festival in 2017.

Visit LULU for dinner and you will see an eclectic group of diners; including maybe some artists, legal fraternity, and locals.

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Grossi Florentino Upstairs

A place of elegance and refinement it was great to enjoy a 4 hour lunch with Edmond IT guru from the UK. Grossi Florentino is iconic in Melbourne and a great foodie experience. The main dining room is a place of grandeur with European tones and chandelier. Any experience here feels like a sense of occasion and Guy Grossi is Australian foodie royalty.

Croquettes perfectly crispy outside and delicate inside; one of several starters before our first course, were a welcome pleasure. Who can resist Duck liver ragu? GARGANELLE Duck Liver and Pancetta Ragu, Marsala, Sage Pangrattato was a rustic triumph.

RABBIT AGRODOLCE Risoni, Crispy Saltbush was a triumph; rustic overdrive with perfectly cooked rabbit and modern twist of crispy Australian saltbush added.

RAVIOLI ALL’UOVO Egg Yolk, Smoked Ricotta, Butter, Sage, Amaretti, Aged Balsamic, Parmigiano Reggiano is a famous dish at Grossi Florentino; with Guy Grossi producing this dish on camera in cooking demonstrations. This is an indulgent dish with all the things we love; smoky, butter, runny egg, and parmigiano reggiano. A rare Aged Balsamic was poured over the dish with a sense of theatre...

SHER WAGYU RUMP CAP 9+ Young Corn, Onion and Rosemary, Bone Marrow, Hazelnut Salsa Verde was a standout in terms of a meat dish; the best rump available with excellent accompaniment of young corn, the indulgence of creamy intense bone marrow, and a delightful salsa verde. Edmond and I both enjoyed this dish; it was hard to go past. Our lunch concluded with refreshing sorbet, coffee and petit fours. Indulgent lunches like this are magical.

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Oter 

A family dinner at French restaurant Oter was a foodie highlight of the year. Oter features the genius of Flo Gerardin. We've been a fan of Flo for a while charting his course in Melbourne and it seems at Oter he has creative licesnse to express himself in a harmonious flow. The menu is French but not predictable. A selection of meats, radishes (Les radis is a great way to start a meal), and other small plates was a fine start. A highlight was the Veal sweetbread "meuniere" with polenta; melt in your mouth veal. Braised rockling with prawn jus and fennel was exquisite. Cape Grim beef with braised shoulder and potato puree was another high note. The Madeleines for dessert were a must order.

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Icebergs Sydney

Lunch at Icebergs in Sydney with Australian Pork was a magnificent occasion. Is there any better venue in Australia than Icebergs at Bondi Beach? Unsurpassed views of Bondi Beach and the coastline and of course the Icebergs swimmers below. Grab a rose and head out to the balcony on a fine day and imbibe the scene.

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This was an indulgent affiar with every course featuring Australian Pork with Executive Chef of Icebergs Monty Koludrovic on song. Spectacular oysters live in my memory featuring Wapengo Ostriche Kilpatrick Fredde con Caviale fresh chilled and sumptuous. Crackling served on top of the oysters was a hit. Ham croquettes were addictive.

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Pork and cheese toasties were indulgent and fun. Amazing ham fat caramels and chantilly cream cups for dessert were a talking point. Monty can sure cook up a glazed ham (below). With rose, fine wine and cocktails flowing this was an occasion to savour.

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Hubert Sydney

One of the hottest destinations in Sydney I pulled in to Huberts. Admire the chic entrance and  walk down the stairs into a bar wonderland. A session perched at the bar with a bartender who managed to give me travel tips to both LA and Mexico City. The beer list was impressive with bespoke international options and further fine recommendations from the bartender.

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OK so the fine dining area was booked out but there are compelling dishes available while perched at the bar. The Steak with frites is a popular dish and a memorable experience. Sydney cool.

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IDES

Peter Gunn has always been a man of culinary genius with overflowing passion in everything he does. After the hugely successful pop up of IDES the permanent restaurant on Smith St Collingwood has been a hit from the start. Not everyone "gets it" but not everyone always will. That's because Peter Gunn paints will bold strokes and avoids the non descript. Every dish is a bold launch. I love the big flavours; and that's what great cooking is all about. Not the tepid and tame but the wild with a touch of elegance. Most restaurants look to hit on a few signature dishes then milk them for all their worth, but IDES is always evolving in its menu and can never be accused of getting in a rut. There seems to be changes to the menu every week. 

Great dining is also about talking points and there was a talking point in the first 5 min when they served me an all Australian Negroni only made with Australian ingredients. And what a fine Negroni it was!

Of the six dishes, two mains and two desserts, there were many "signature" dishes. It was fun dining with Peter's twist on peanut butter and bread; the indulgence of my childhood (or does it ever end?). House cultured peanut butter and moorish sesame sourdough demanded we ask for more bread.

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Oysters in Saffron syrup was a song on a plate; a chorus of textures and bold flavours. Pacific oysters from Blackman Bay in a sweet and sour saffron syrup, horseradish cream, crushed radishes and smoked herring roe. Perfect with Sake.

Sweet Potato Broth was another standout dish because of it's complexity and bold flavours. The broth was a joy, but the dish could equally have been called Silver Lake Smoked Eel in sweet potato broth; as the smoked eel was a highlight. A sense of theatre ensued as the broth was poured into the bowl by the chef. Barramundi and Artichokes was another dish of pure joy; featuring pan seared barramundi, pine butter sauce, artichokes and onion vinagrette. Duck leg, Green Olive, Mulberries was a triumph featuring salted peking duck breast covered in dried mulberries, green olive puree and nashi pear. Who thinks to put a crust of dried mulberries on duck? Magnificent. Then to combine the duck with a green olive puree and refreshing nashi pear. 

In cricket parlance we love it when a bright young chef dances down the wicket and plays some shots. Bold aggression at the crease.

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Pilu at Australian Open

One of the great events on the calendar is the Australian Open and to enjoy it in the Lavazza Superbox with Giovanni Pilu as our private chef was spectacular. It seemed Pilu broke a few rules as this was the best corporate catering I've ever had. It was as if we were actually in his restaurant in Sydney. To be honest I had trouble taking in the tennis (even with Serena Williams playing) such was the level of hospitality and the fun group assembled in the box. The food kept coming thick and fast like a tennis rally. The charcuterie and croquettes were unbelievable. The Spanish Paella was simply sensational. Not pre-prepared by Pilu but cooked fresh from scratch on the spot. The fact that Giovanni was so engaging chatting with us through the whole experience was memorable. We were served some Lavazza Espresso Matinis and some fine wines, which made the experience even richer.

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Masons of Bendigo

Another amazing surprise for us was a delightful visit to Masons of Bendigo. Kudos to Nick and Sonia Anthony. A modern bustling eatery awaited us. The menu balances comfort food factor with edgy flair and features a Roaming Menu to give you the dishes of the day. Playfulness and fun were evident in their take on a Chiko Roll, with Bendigo's own Chiko roll spring roll. Use of local ingredients from local farms is impressive. The McIvor Farm Berkshire Pork Belly was a highlight, as was the Kangaroo Loin Carpaccio with bush tomato. The Lamb done 3 ways was sensational - Roast Wanbi Plains lamb loin, crispy belly, rolled shoulder, black olive caramel, fromage, beetroot crackle. The presentation of each dish is top notch! The dessert was a pinnacle - Creme brûlée, Holy Goat & lychee panacotta, chocolate delice, macaron, strawberry 'eskimo pie', lemon cheesecake with sweet dukkah, chocolate pot with coffee soil, Favourite Flavours ice cream & Persian fairy floss. Masons of Bendigo is a must-visit for any trip to Bendigo for foodies. In fact it's worth a drive from Melbourne just to visit this exciting restaurant.

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Pastuso

An event with Hilary McNevin (Pep Events), Christian McCabe (Town Mouse, Embla) and Head chef of Pastuso, Alejandro Saravia to celebrate the pairing of ceviche and natural wines, was a culinary highlight. Many people I've spoken to since the event have said it was one of their culinary highlights of the year. Such talent in one room. Alejandro grew up in Peru and knows his ceviches; we were treated to the best ceviches imaginable. Christian McCabe has become something of a natural wines guru (amongst other things) and his pairing with the cevishes were astonishing. This was a match made in heaven. With Hilary interviewing both Christian and Alejandro, this was a special afternoon.

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The Press Club

Dining at a launch event, we experienced the firsr class cuisine of The Press Club and the engaging hospitality of George Calombaris. The location is delightful of Flinders St in the iconic old press building. Modern decor and modern Greek cuisine are the order of the day for this restaurant now celebrating 10 years. 

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Dips were refreshing and flavoursome with Tarama dip, served with bowls of deep fried Loukamathes. Chicken, Fasolakia beans and Lemon was a triumph, as was Hirino (Greek style pork). A highlight was the ode to George's childhood; the Hills Hoist with pegs of delicate chocolate and blow torched marshmallows. Dessert with rhubarb and licorice was also a hit.

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Donovans

It was a great experience to be one of the judges for the St Kilda Winter Festival with Gastrology. Donovan's is another iconic Melbourne restaurant, with an amazing ambience by the sea ( a beach house feel). It's a superb place to dine all through the year, taking in the changing seasons. We dined on a packed Sunday for lunch and it was memorable.

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Mediterranean style fare is the name of the game at Donovan's. Handmade gnocchi with Confit Duck is an alluring European style dish that is a real crowd pleaser. Added to this are crunch roasted chestnuts, cavolo nero and perfectly melted raclette, a cheese that has recently seen a spike in popularity all around the world. We ended up crowing Donovan's the 2016 St Kilda Winter Culinary Champion.

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Merricks Creek Mornington Peninsula

Merricks Creek is one of our favourite wineries and foodie experiences in Victoria. In terms of winery visits this has to be our favourite. We prefer relaxed dining experiences when it comes to wineries. Merricks Creek charms and excites with its sweeping vineyard views, enhanced by the raised deck where it feels you are virtually in the vineyard. The vista is magical. Not only that but the ground sthemselves are compelling; some visitors prefer to sit at one of the garden tables and imbibe the Monet inspired garden. The Cellar Door is stylish and modern with superb use of timbers and stone. Old telegraph poles are a nostalgic and trendy touch on the raised deck. 

We visit one fine summers day and the place is packed. We find it difficult to get a table and there is a convivial atmosphere with diners and wine lovers imbibing the delights of Merricks creek on the deck, people dining inside, people wine tasting with Peter and Sam Parker, and people dining in the gardens at the outside tables (in the shade). A summer haze across the lush vineyards makes this a magical setting. Wine buff professional friends of ours all rave about Merricks Creek Pinot Noir being among the best in Australia. If you have a group and arrange by appointment, you can enjoy a barrel tasting with Peter Parker, a fabulous experience. You will hear about the French wine making techniques Peter and Sam use to make such elegant and intense Pinot Noir, as well as hear about the close-planted vines and even taste up and coming vintages.

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The food here is to pair with the fabulous Pinot Noir (and estate Chardonnay). The menu features simple shared dishes that don't impinge on the wallet. Affordable dining at a winery is a great thing! Choose from dishes such as Rare eye fillet, caper vinaigrette and ciabatta, Twenty month aged Italian proscuitto di Parma (sliced to order), Blow-torched buffallo mozzarella, roasted red peppers and grilled ciabatta,  Award winning pork and pistachio terrine,  Lightly seared Atlantic salmon with soy and ginger glaze, and Roasted tomatoes, Main Ridge Dairy goat curd and grilled ciabatta.

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Cheese plates are alluring such as Delicate blue cheese (Fourme d'Ambert) aged in French underground tunnels - mild and creamy, and Soft, silky triple cream cows cheese from the Rhone Alps in France.

Desserts are famous on Instagram including Kahlua espresso deconstructed tiramisu and White chocolate mouse mini pots with fresh passionfruit. 

There’s even a kid’s menu.

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Royal Mail

Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld is one of the great Victorian foodie experiences. People who don't know the standing and history of the Hotel no doubt get a shock when they pull into this small town in the Grampains and encounter such foodie excellence. Royal Mail is famous for its garden and use of local produce (pretty much everything we ate was from their garden). This is a first class dining experience, with exceptional service.

Royal Mail Hotel orchards and olive groves provide further seasonal produce. Eggs from the free range hens are collected daily. Their own farm provides our lamb and beef.

The Royal Mail Hotel recommend guests indulge in the signature experience - the eight course Chef’s Tasting menu with matched wines, served Wednesday through to Sunday evenings. We enjoyed a fabulous five course option of the highest standard.

Royal Mail Hotel is a seasonal champion and they were showing off their amazing garden here with Tomato, nasturtium panna cotta, basil seeds, wasabi ice cream.

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Eggs on toast (below)!

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A famous dish is the Royal Mail Beef (their own beef!), carrots in fig leaf, malted barley, cheddar whey. Paddock to plate baby! These were an example of just some of the dishes from our fabulous degustation.

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 Royal Mail Hotel is a must visit Victorian foodie experience.


Estelle by Scott Pickett, Picketts at Queen Victoria Market

 So hot right now is Scott Pickett! And busy! We had 3 memorable foodie experiences with Scott Pickett, including the launch of Pickett's at Queen Victoria Market. We always know Scott delivers and there no short cuts; with a hands on approach that ensures all aspects are covered.

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Kingfish, Daikon, Avocado and Sea Vegetables was a sexy dish with compelling textures and flavours.

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Sexy food with main of Wagyu Rump & Cheek, Bone Marrow, & Fermented Truffle. This was not just steak cooked up on a plate but a savvy dish and a cacophony of flavour. The beef was Cape Grim, our favourite beef in Australia.

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OK let's throw in a photo from Picketts. another culinary highlight of 2016... Dreaming of that chicken!

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La Cucina Di Sandra

La Cucina Di Sandra remains one of our favourite foodie experiences in Melbourne. Impress your friends and learn how to make accessible authentic Italian dishes at home! La Cucina Di Sandra is a unique authentic Italian experience - whether a cooking class or bespoke function - a foodie session with Sandra is always a hit. It's like a slice of italy in Melbourne as Sandra cooks the receipes inspired by her Zia with such charm and personality. The cooking classes are intimate and lively with Sandra coming with an interactive and informative approach.

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The value for money is sensational compared to other classes around, and you get a full blown several course meal with Sandra so that it's as much adinner party as a cooking class. With plenty of tips on shopping and cooking, detailed class notes, and some references to Italy, Sandra has received rave reviews from the hundreds of classes she has taken. We've been to a number of her classes and each one is unique, enjoyable and fascinating. It's perfect for a group of friends to book a class, or you can meet people, fellow foodies of Melbourne! I don't know of another foodie experience quite like it in Melbourne. Some cooking classes around Melbourne feel somewhat impersonable but Sandra makes you feel like it's a special occasion and she's invited you around for dinner. Check out her website for class details! 

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CH James

Convivial cafe experience with top class food and hospitality on the edge of the city? CH James in Fairfield serves some of the finest cafe food in Melbourne and is right up there with the best. It's like restaurant quailty food in a cafe. Plus they are licensed and serve craft beers, wines and ciders. The dishes are modern and on trend with healthy style options. The use of local and seasonal ingredients is also impressive. Added to that there is a fair amount of culinary technique that goes into the dishes from talented chefs. Check out dishes such as Chia Pudding with almonds, berries and crystalised coffee, or the Smashed Avocado with Panko egg, fetta, dukkah spice, garlic yoghurt, chilli oil (surely one of the best smashed avocado dishes in Melbourne). Brioche French Toast with thick-cut bacon, maple syrup, berries is a huge hit (thick cut bacon is amazing), while the C.H. James Cheeseburger with bacon, relish, dill pickle, aioli on brioche is a burger winner.

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Other savvy dishes include Flaked Salmon with fetta, hummus, dukkah spice, poached eggs on toast served with chips, and the Lamb Shoulder Fry-Up with fried eggs, hash brown, smoked yoghurt, dukkah, salsa verde on toast.

A popular healthy style dish is the Vegie Nourish Bowl (pictured below) with House cured salmon, avocado, quinoa, charred corn, kale, cauliflower pakora, cucumber kimchi, poached egg.

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CH James also boasts one of the best cafe courtyards in Melbourne, with artistic mural, spacious table arrangement and attractive garden (including herb garden for the kitchen), and a fine coffee window. CH James is on the edge of the city; it is easily accessible from just about anywhere.

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Grand Richmond

Grand Richmond holds some of the best events around and we've enjoyed some "cracker" nights at this hatted venue. Of course the formal dining room serves up exciting and rewarding cuisine and is widely acclaimed. But also their other function areas are popular for bespoke events. The kitchen often features Italian chefs with lods of talent and their themed functions go "all out" in terms of food, service and the theme expressed (props, uniforms etc). These are hospitality people who have operated at a consistently high level over a long period. We recommend their dining room and any event they put on!

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Inspiring Italian dishes!

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 Tipo 00

Where to go for a romantic date? Or business lunch? Or take out of towners? Tipo 00 is a fabulous pasta house named after the famed flour. I enjoyed my foodie experience here for the engagement by staff, the atmosphere (secretaries are often asked to say "they're in a meeting" when execs dine at Tipo). Intimate and sophisticated in a laneway setting with large windows and an elegant bar. It's just as rewarding to eat at the bar as at one of the tables. You really need to book as this place is super popular; you're taking chances just to walk in from the street. 

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Bentwood chairs and marble bar give Tipo 00 a classic look, and the blazing stylish lights at the plating station evoke theatre (your eyes are drawn to the spectacle as each plate goes out).Tagliolini al nero – squid ink tagliolini, squid & bottarga is a unique rustic and rewarding dish!

Perfectly cooked squid ink pasta with pieces of squid and compelling bottarga (salted cured fish roe) on top. I washed this rustic dish down with Sangiovese then Merlot and longed to be able to enjoy long lunches here every week with thoughts I may need to revive my banking career.

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