I love a lunch deal. So when I heard that Vue de Monde was doing a $60 1 hour express lunch that ended in November, I hurriedly booked in a lunch date with I-Hua and Maz.
Maz and I cleverly scheduled a day off work, while I-Hua snuck out for a long lunch. We weren’t aware of exactly how long a lunch it was going to be. One hour stretched into two hours… which extended to three hours. (Sorry, I-Hua’s company!)
We were a bit early for our table, so we were directed up to the Lui Bar via the snazzy nightclub style elevator. At the Lui Bar, we spread out on their couches, admired the view, and decided that: nope, 1pm was definitely not too early for a negroni. Not too early at all.
It’s been a long time between Ladies Lunches. Last month I caught up with my friend Emily for a spontaneous lunch. We met at Journal Canteen, but unfortunately it was chock-a-block when we arrived, so we wandered up to Gills Diner instead.
And what a good idea that was! We had a wonderful lunch.
(Excuse the exceptionally shit phone camera pics. Just try and think of the strange blurry, smudgy parts as “artistic”.)
I had one of the specials – a very wintery dish of braised ox tail and mashed potato. I must’ve zoned out when the waiter was describing the dish to me because I thought he said ox tail and grilled cheek. But I’m pretty sure that grilled reddish thing was tongue. Either way, it was very good – all tender meat and dark, savoury sauce.
Em and I shared dessert: lemon delicious pudding with vanilla ice cream. We were warned that it would take 15 minutes to make – and oh boy was it worth the wait. The pudding was divine! The top was a delicate lemon sponge, and underneath the sponge was a tangy lemon sauce. The ice cream was also delicious and flecked with vanilla seeds. We savoured dessert right to the last spoonful and I had a touch of regret that we hadn’t ordered one each!
Lisa came into the city recently and we had a leisurely Friday lunch. We headed down to Trunk, situated in a lovely red brick building that used to be a synagogue. Upon entering, we found there were two menu options – the bar menu, and the dining room menu. Lisa and I had a quick look at both menus and decided that we would eat in the dining room. Some of the options on the bar menu did look tempting though!
We started with salt cod green chilli fritters ($13). They normally come with three fritters, but the waiter wisely asked us if we would like four. Ummm, yes please! They were very nice – a crispy shell and salty, fishy middle.
We then shared two small serves of pasta. This one was the fresh pappardelle with a rabbit and pancetta ragu and green olives ($22/$27.50). The pasta was lovely and toothsome in the way that fresh pasta is, and the rabbit was savoury and tender.
We also shared the saffron gnocchi with cauliflower, gorgonzola and walnuts ($19/$25). The gnocchi was pretty good, with just a touch of gorgonzola. The cauliflower was nicely soft and sweet and the walnuts added a bit of crunch (despite my non-love for walnuts). While the pappardelle was good, I think we both preferred the gnocchi.
For dessert we shared a honey semifreddo with a chocolate Florentine wafer ($13.50). Definitely one for honey lovers, as it had that unmistakeable honey flavour, it was delicious but rather rich. I was very glad that we were sharing!
We finished off with coffees and received a little morsel to have with them.
Sadly, Lisa has now returned to full time work and there’ll be no more lazy weekday lunches for the two of us for a while (I know, how inconsiderate of her!). At least they ended on a good note – we really enjoyed our lunch. Perhaps after work one day we’ll return to sample the pizzas on the bar menu!
Several weeks ago, Lisa and I headed to Cumulus Inc for lunch. I am quite behind with posts so I won’t tell you exactly how many weeks ago! We arrived around 12.15pm, and while it was already packed by this time, we managed to snag two seats at the bar. Lisa and I are not very tall, and I often have comfort issues with high stools, but these felt fine and we were okay perched on the stools during our meal.
On one wall of the restaurant are shoe lasts that double as coat hooks. I wonder who designed the installation – probably not someone as short as Lisa and me. When I went to hang up our coats, the lowest hook was taken, and I could only just reach the next lowest one.
After an initial look at the menu, we received some help from one of the staff, who guided us in our ordering. We started with the kitchen’s selection of charcuterie ($21). It was bought to us by a waiter who announced, “I come bearing a plate of meat.”
“You certainly know how to charm,” I replied.
On the plate was a piece of pheasant terrine with spiced prunes, wagyu bresaola with fresh horseradish, proscuitto and… what’s that fourth thing? The memory is weak… The only thing that I didn’t like on the plate was the spiced prunes (when normally I like prunes). I found the flavour of them a tad strange with the terrine.
Next we had the baked gnocchi with tallegio and white truffle oil ($15). This was served piping hot, with the big fluffy gnocchi covered in the rich cheese. I loved this!
We were advised to go for a second lighter option, as the gnocchi was quite heavy (although, truthfully, it was so delicious that I would have had no problem finishing it by myself!). Our second dish was the cracked wheat and freekeh salad with barberries and preserved lemon, toasted almonds, shredded parsley and labneh ($12). This was delightfully nutty and fresh.
And over coffees, we had 2 madelines with lemon curd ($2.50 each). Lisa and I debated on the correct pronunciation of “madeline” (mad-e-lean? mad-e-line?) and ended up saying it incorrectly anyway. The madelines are freshly made to order, so they took a little time to arrive, but the wait was well worth it. They were warm, dusted with icing sugar, and filled with lemon curd and were a sweet little ending to our meal.
After such a lovely lunch, I very regretfully headed back to work. It’s fortunate I don’t have lunches like this every day – I would never get any work done in the afternoon!
This is a double edition of ladies who lunch – I had the pleasure of having two lunches with two friends in the same week.
Jo and I went to Nudel Bar for a long over due catch up. It was a cold, wintry day, and I felt like something warm and soupy. So I ordered the Tom Yum soup ($19.80) – it was packed with egg noodles, a slurpable, spicy, sour broth, and lots of seafood (mussels and squid).
It was a very large serve, and if I hadn’t eaten all of it I would’ve been tempted by dessert. There was a chocolate cake that the waiter described in persuasive detail that sounded wonderful.
Nudel Bar 76 Bourke Street, Melbourne Phone: (03) 9662 9100
The next day I met up with Emily and her daughter, Audrey, for a lunch at Society. It was much posher inside than it appeared from the outside (all the yellow outside threw me off), but they were okay with a pram being pushed through the restaurant.
We were given bread and oil, along with the tastiest olives I’ve eaten in ages. I had a baby on my lap at the time, so I didn’t manage to take photos.
Society do an express lunch during lunch time – for $20 you get a plate of food (from a shortened menu), a glass of wine and a coffee. Good value!
I opted for something off the main menu – a small serving of potato gnocchi with slow-cooked beef ragu & fresh shaved black truffle ($18 / $28). The little gnocchi were light and the sauce was rich and plate lickingly good.
Emily had something off the Express menu – a pear and blue cheese salad. You can see Audrey’s hand (on the right) picking up a piece of blue cheese. It appears that kid has good taste already!
Two lovely lunches with two lovely ladies in one week – it was a rare treat and very much enjoyed.
Society Restaurant 23 Bourke St, Melbourne Phone: (03) 9639 2544
Isn’t it annoying how life always gets in the way? When I first started working in the city, my friend Emily and I had the intention of having lunch about once a month. With lots of stuff happening in both our lives, it was difficult to set a date and we skipped a couple of months. In April, we finally managed to get together again, and headed to Journal Canteen.
Journal Canteen is located in the Centre for Adult Education building, and used to be a vacant first floor classroom. The menu, written on a couple of blackboards around the room, changes often but generally comprises antipasto, a couple of main courses and a dessert.
On our visit, the main choices were orrechiette with peas, pancetta and fresh ricotta, chicken coletta with cucumber and tomato, stuffed peppers with green beans, and spaghetti with three meat ragu.
I had the spaghetti with three meat ragu ($18). The braised, shredded meat in the rich, tomato based sauce was nothing fancy, but it sure hit the spot.
Em had the stuffed pepper with green beans ($18). I’m not sure what the pepper was filled with – we were too busy yakking for me to find out!
And we got a wee salad.
To finish off, we each had a freshly filled ricotta cannoli ($4.50 each) and a complimentary stovetop espresso. The cannoli was perfect – the fat tubes, dusted with icing sugar, were wonderfully crunchy with just a touch of sweetness. A lovely end to a long overdue lunch.
Journal Canteen 253 Flinders Lane Melbourne Phone: (03) 9650 4399
My friend Emily and I just managed to sneak the next instalment of Ladies who Lunch into January. The restaurant of choice this time was Bottega, which is located at the top end of Bourke Street, not too far from Parliament.
We were offered bread to begin. Really Good Bread. Sometimes it’s the very simple things that make me happy and the bread certainly did! The bread had a lovely chewy crust and moist, soft centre. The friendly and professional waiter came back later to offer us another piece, which I gratefully took because the bread was divine. (Another simple thing at Bottega that made me happy? Good quality wine glasses.)
We started off with the Silician sugar cured kingfish carpaccio with lemon, sherry, currants, radicchio and pinenuts ($18). Look at it. It was so beautiful it was a shame to eat it.
My main was the romesco crusted barramundi fillet with roasted eggplant shown on the left ($31.50). My dish was stunning. It seems like such a simple dish, but it was totally amazing. The fish was cooked perfectly – moist and just flaking under my fork. The eggplant was meltingly tender (and y’know how much I love eggplant). The romesco was full of flavour and garlic. The garlic didn’t totally dominate though, and I didn’t really notice the amount of garlic until I realised I was sucking down glasses of water like crazy.
Em had the nettle tagliatelle with fresh spanner crab ($21). I’m told that it was delicious and rather filling.
We shared a side of broccolini with lemon anchovy dressing ($6). Again, something relatively simple, but done so well. The still slightly crunchy broccolini was dressed in a salty, buttery, lemon dressing. Breadcrumbs provided a bit of textural difference to the dressing. So freaking gorgeous.
We didn’t leave without having dessert. I had the cannoli filled with ricotta, hazelnut and chocolate candied orange with bitter chocolate icecream ($14.50).
The cannoli was a good way to finish off the lunch – not too rich or too sweet. The pastry tubes were slightly crunchy and firm, providing a nice contrast to the soft filling. I did find it a bit hard to eat with a spoon and a fork – too bad it wasn’t the kind of place where I could just pick it up with my hands!. While I’m not that into candied orange or orange flavours (I have no problems with the fruit or juice though) I still found myself gobbling the little chocolate candied pieces up. They gave a little zing to the creamy ricotta. The ice cream was a deep, dark chocolate and my only complaint is that it melted too quickly!
Em had the bittersweet chocolate tart with morello cherries and creme fraiche ($15). It looked very decadent!
Bottega is comfy and stylish, and on the day we were there, much quieter than I was expecting (perhaps the rain that day had kept people in their offices). It was a wonderful lunch to finish off January. The next restaurant in the Ladies who Lunch series will have to be pretty good to compete with this meal!
I started a new job when I got back from my holiday, so I’m now one of those people who work in the city. Yey! Access to new shops and restaurants is very exciting. My credit card is a bit scared, but I’m very excited.
The other week I had a lunch date with a friend, and her lovely 7 month old daughter at the European. The European is located on Spring St, next to the Princess Theatre. It’s a moody little place – a long narrow dining room, black and white chequered floor, and dark wood panelled walls. As we were toting a pram, we were seated at the front of the room which meant a bit more natural light for pictures. Grand.
Freshly shucked oysters – slurp
We started with one of the day’s specials – freshly shucked oysters. These were served with a little dish of a vinegary sauce. They were very hard to eat gracefully with the little garnish on top. Good thing we weren’t trying to impress! The oysters were fresh and sweet.
Manchego and fig salami
We shared another starter – Manchego with fig “salami”. Manchego is a sheep’s milk cheese from Spain (as I have discovered). The slightly salty, creamy cheese was lovely with the fig (and on bread, and by itself).
This was fish, prawn, clam, mussel, and a scallop surrounded by a tomato based broth. The seafood came out in the bowl by itself, and then the broth was poured on top. It was slightly tangy and seafoody. I also got some toast, which you can see in the background.
The food was presented nicely and the other plus were the little touches. For example, the lemon half that came with the oysters was wrapped in muslim to prevent lemon seeds from falling in. There was nice bread with a good quantity of garlic aioli. And the staff didn’t bat an eyelid when cutlery and napkins got thrown to the floor or when my friend’s lovely little daughter got a bit grizzly because she needed a nap. Thankfully it was fairly lively (noisy) in there so we didn’t seem to disturb other diners.
This might be an ongoing series. My friend has gone overseas but we have a lunch date for January when she returns. It’s my choice of restaurant this time; recommendations of good eating places around the top end of the city would be welcome (as long as they’re pram friendly!).
The European 161 Spring St, Melbourne Phone: 03 9654 0811