Taste of Melbourne 2011: opening night

Disclosure: Alastair and I received an entry pass courtesy of Hothouse Media and Taste of Melbourne. We paid for our own crowns.

Is anyone heading to Taste of Melbourne this weekend? Just like last year, Alastair, Bro and I stopped by the gorgeous Royal Exhibition Building on the opening night to check it out.

Before buying any food, we wandered around the stalls, trying out samples and chatting to some of the stall holders. There was lots of things to try – tea, ice cream, salmon, juices, cheese, chocolate, wine, beer.

The owner of the Rochester Ginger stall was kind enough to give me a small bottle of the ginger drink after we stopped by for a sample. I really liked the ginger drink – it’s non alcoholic and made from pressed ginger, so it has a real ginger kick.

But on to the food. This year we spent $70 / 70 crowns and purchased 5 dishes, one beer and a cocktail. Here’s what Alastair and I ate:

The Millswyn: 10 hour braised beef cheeks with beetroot, spinach and field mushrooms (12 crowns)

I was really keen to try this dish from the Millswyn, but unfortunately I found it a bit disappointing. It was cold, stone cold, and I just didn’t find it interesting. The meat was tender, but not falling apart – it just seemed to hold together. Perhaps that was due to the temperature of the meat.

The Botanical: Wagyu beef burger (12 crowns)

There was a big crush at the Botanical when we got there, and Alastair and Bro both had to wait to get their burgers. They were teeny little things, though at least they had two small meat patties. I didn’t try any of the burger, but both the boys said that it was good.

St Katherines: Prawns, braised tomato, saffron, cardamom, fennel, toasted almonds (10 crowns).

We went to St Katherines so Bro could get the fried chicken, and Alastair decided to try out one of their dishes. I don’t know about this dish. I stole one of Alastair’s prawns, and I thought it tasted weird. There was a strange bitterness to it – maybe too much cardamom or fennel?

St Katherines: KFC “St Katherine’s fried Lilydale chicken” (12 crowns)

Initially we weren’t going to eat the fried chicken from St Katherines, but Bro ate it and gave it a rave review, “The best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten,” so we had to try a serve. And it was definitely really good. Tender and juicy, it was covered with a spicy coating that went really well with the mayo on top. My only criticism is that I found the coating a bit claggy and floury. But I haven’t been eating wheat for the past couple of weeks, so perhaps I’m a bit sensitive to it. It seemed to be just my issue because Bro went back for another serve before we left. :p

The European: Regal King salmon fishcake with tartare (8 crowns)

The last thing we ate was a salmon fishcake. It wasn’t bad, though a touch dry in the middle.

So that was all we ate! Even though we hadn’t eaten much, I didn’t feel like eating any more. So I spent our last crowns on a cocktail from the Sensology bar (“if you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain…”) while Alastair had a beer.

(Do you have the pina colada song in your head now? You’re welcome. Mwahaha.)

We had a good time, but my thoughts about Taste are the same as last year. I still think it gets quite expensive if you need to pay for entry as well as crowns. But it is quite cool to be able to sample several restaurants in one night, if you’re into that.

As for me though, you can see that I wasn’t particularly excited by the food this year. However this could be solely my fault – I’ve cut a lot of stuff out of my diet, which really limits what I can eat. The fried chicken was definitely a highlight, and now Bro wants to head to St Katherines solely on the strength of that chicken.

This year I enjoyed walking around to the different stalls, having a chat, and trying out samples more than the restaurant food. Have you been to Taste of Melbourne this year? What was your favourite thing?

By the way, if you’re interested in attending, it’s not too late. There’s sessions being held on both Saturday and Sunday – check out the Taste of Melbourne website for more details.

And for more on Taste of Melbourne 2011, check out these blogs:

  • The Chronicles of Ms I-Hua
  • Amystown
  • Sweet Cherrie Pie