Mr Carsisi, Kyneton

I’ve been meaning to visit Kyneton for years. Literally years. I have a friend at work who lives in Kyneton, and I have worked with her for 7+ years. And that’s how long I’ve been meaning to visit for!

Recently I was talking to her about Kyneton, and decided – you know what? Seven years is long enough. I’m going for a visit! So last weekend I rounded up Alastair, Bro, Maz and Daz, and we drove up to have lunch at Mr Carsisi.

Comme Kitchen

Recently I went on a girls’ night out with friends, Emily and Jo. Nothing dodgy of course, just a nice dinner at a semi-flashy restaurant. 🙂 We went to Comme Kitchen (a 1-hat restaurant in the Good Food Guide, if you’re into that sort of thing), which is located in a beautiful, historical building down a cobblestone laneway. As you walk in, you’re greeted by a grand staircase, and to the right is a large bar area with soaring high ceilings. The dining room, adjacent to the bar and tucked under the staircase, is much smaller and more intimate, only seating about 40 people.

Essence Restaurant at the Marriott

Disclosure: Alastair and I dined courtesy of Essence Restaurant.

I was invited in for a meal at Essence Restaurant at the Marriott Hotel recently – the publicist said they were inviting bloggers because they wanted to find a new photographer for two (paid) shoots for their 2011 menu. Sounded good to me, so I headed down to check it out with Alastair.

The entrance to Essence Restaurant is located to the side of the Marriott Hotel foyer. It’s a large room, with polished floor boards, and big floor to ceiling windows looking out to Exhibition and Lonsdale Streets.

To start with, we shared some oysters, one of the specials they were running that month. Half of the oysters came out with smoked salmon, feta and dill. Being a person who generally prefers oysters natural, I found the salmon and feta too overpowering for the oysters – it detracted from their natural flavour.

The other half of the oysters were better – coming with a splash of salty, vinegary dressing and a dollop of roe.

For mains, Alastair ordered steak (I think it was the grain fed scotch fillet), which was served with a roast portabello mushroom, vine ripened tomatoes, hand cut fries and red wine jus. He requested it medium rare. Unfortunately, it was cooked to past medium and strangely bland.

I ordered the lamb rump, served with potato fondant, mushroom ragout, green beans and truffle oil. The lamb was nice – the meat was tender and I enjoyed the mushroom sauce that came with it.

However, the potato was strange. It was really gluggy and tasteless. Poor potato. 🙁

On to desserts. Alastair’s dessert, a chocolate fondant with macerated strawberries and ice cream, was a special that month that the waiter recommended. A different waiter brought it to the table and tried to give it to me. I had to hold back a snicker, because I’m not surprised they thought it was mine – it was a rather girly looking dessert!

As you can see, when the fondant came to the table it was still in the silicon heart mould, which I thought looked a bit strange. And the centre of the fondant was cooked through – sadly, no flowing chocolate core for Alastair.

I had the baked cheesecake with cinnamon poached pear, sticky wine syrup and a dollop of cinnamon cream. The cheesecake tasted nice, however I found the texture was very heavy and dense – too much so for my tastes.

Overall, I thought the food was okay but not terribly exciting. While the presentation of the food was good, unfortunately most of the dishes we tried had an aspect that marred them. And with mains at around the $30 mark, I would expect more consistency if I was paying.

Alastair remarked that our meal reminded him of eating at hotel restaurants on business trips, and it does have that hotel restaurant ambiance and feel. To be fair, it could be completely different on a busier evening. We were there on a Tuesday night and it was VERY quiet. We were seated by the windows, and besides us there would have been literally three other tables. During our meal, only about four other diners came in – people who were obviously lone business travellers. Essence is quite a large restaurant and I felt that the atmosphere suffered because it was so quiet. I wonder if there is a way to screen off parts of the room on quieter nights to make it seem cozier and less like sitting in an empty restaurant.

I’ve found it very hard to write this post because I don’t want to be unduly harsh but nor do I want to gloss over the negatives. I know that running a restaurant is hard work, and I applaud people who cook night after night for others – I couldn’t do it! However, I do feel that Essence could be improved. More consistency in what comes out would be a good start. Beyond that it would be nice to see more innovation in the food, or something more to spark some interest, to elevate it past an average hotel restaurant.

For other opinions, check out these blogs:

  • I Eat Therefore I Am
  • Almost Always Ravenous
  • 1001 Dinners 1001 Nights
  • Gastrology
  • [googleMap name=”Essence Restaurant at the Marriott Hotel” width=”600″ height=”300″ directions_to=”false”]Corner Exhibition and Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, VIC, Australia[/googleMap]

    Essence Restaurant at the Marriott Hotel
    Corner Exhibition and Lonsdale Street
    Phone: (03) 9660 1183

    Essence Restaurant at Melbourne Marriott on Urbanspoon

    Chillipadi Mamak Kopitiam

    How many Malaysian style restaurants can Flemington support? Judging by Laksa King, Chef Lagenda and newcomer on the block – Chillipadi Mamak Kopitiam – at least three seems to be a reasonable answer! Though Penny says that Chillipadi does Tamil Muslim style Malaysian food, so it is a little different from the other two restaurants at least.

    Alastair and I have eaten at Chillipadi Mamak Kopitiam several times now, the first time being a couple of days after opening, when there were still some minor issues to be ironed out, and a lack of a liquor licence (which was finally granted last week).

    Kedai Satay

    Disclosure: My first meal at Kedai Satay was organised by a friend of the owner who got a group of food bloggers together. It was a complimentary meal that I never got around to writing up. This post is about subsequent visits that I paid for.

    My background is (Hong Kong) Chinese, but I grew up in New Zealand, which meant that I never learnt to read and write Chinese. When Alastair and I visited China many years ago, I felt like a real Failsian (Fail Asian!) because I didn’t speak Mandarin, most people didn’t speak English, my Cantonese is dreadful and they couldn’t understand it anyway! So last year I started Mandarin classes. I’m still Failsian, but I’m trying! 😀

    After my Mandarin class, Alastair and Bro pick me up in the city, and we head somewhere cheap for a quick dinner. The past couple of weeks we have been going to Kedai Satay, an Indonesian restaurant on King Street.

    Wooga Korean Restaurant

    Is it immature to want to eat at a restaurant merely because of it’s name? If so, count me as immature because I was keen to eat at Wooga for that exact reason! Woooooooga woooooga. (Someone please stop me.)

    Wooga is a Korean barbeque restaurant located across the road from the Queen Victoria market, in a string of Korean restaurants. According to The Age, woo means beef, and ga means house in Korean. I went there with mum, dad, Alastair and Bro in December for a low key birthday dinner. When we arrived on a Monday night, they were the busiest out of all the Korean restaurants on the street and even though we had booked we had to wait for about 15 minutes for our table. There’s not much standing space inside, so we loitered outside on the footpath – fortunately it was a lovely, warm evening!


    Café Vue: Melbourne Airport T2

    On Australia Day last week, Alastair and I celebrated by jetting off to New Zealand. Yes, very patriotic indeed!

    Our flight was early in the morning, so we skipped breakfast and took the opportunity to eat at the newish Café Vue at the Melbourne Airport international terminal.

    This Café Vue outlet is open rather long hours (4am-1am daily) and offer breakfast, lunch, dinner, as well as pastries and take away boxes for the plane. From what I saw of the breakfast menu, prices of the food look similar (if not the same) as the other Café Vue outlets. Breakfast and lunch take away boxes were $15, and a dinner box was $30. I was kind of astounded, because one of the things I hate the most about eating at airports is the outrageously marked up prices for horrible, substandard food. And here they hadn’t marked up the prices to gouge a captive audience?? Amazement!

    Bistro Vue

    I’ve only mentioned this briefly here – my parents arrived in mid December for a month long visit and it was FABULOUS. In exchange for teaching them how to use iphones and stocking mum up with computer games to play, they did all the house drudgery – buying groceries, cooking dinner, cleaning, and laundry. Life was good! I joked that it was like having a housekeeper… except I didn’t have to pay them! (It really was just like that, hah!) Sadly they left on Saturday, so it’s now back to regular life for me. Boohoo!

    On the evening that mum and dad arrived, Bro and I picked them up at the airport, deposited them at home, and then dashed out the door as we were running late for Maria’s birthday dinner. Maria’s partner, Daz, had organised dinner at Bistro Vue as a surprise – isn’t that sweet!

    Because there was a large group of us, we had to order off a set menu, with 2 courses for $70 or 3 courses for $80, including tea and coffee. Three or four choices of dish were available for each course.


    Charcoal Lane: dessert

    About a billion years ago – or a few months, depending on how much you like hyberbole – we had dinner on Smith Street with Maria and Daz.

    Dinner was okay, but wasn’t quite satisfying enough for us to want to eat dessert there. So when Maria suggested we head to Charcoal Lane for dessert, we packed up and headed down.

    When there, the boys selected individual desserts (priced at $16-$17) while Maria and I decided to share the dessert platter for two ($34)

    Let me tell you – if you’re ordering dessert and there’s two of you – order the dessert platter. Because we basically received three full sized desserts in all AND we got to try all the sweet desserts (there was also a cheese option that wasn’t on the platter). Win win!

    MoVida Next Door

    What’s the recipe for an awesome weekend?

    Take one BFF, a Costco visit, mini Reese’s peanut butter cups (1.5kg thank you very much), glorious sunshine, 30°C temperatures, and top it all off with lunch at MoVida Next Door.

    But first, a confession: before the weekend, I hadn’t eaten at ANY of the MoVidas before. Not the original (who can even manage to get a booking for it, anyway?), not Next Door, not Aqui, not Terraza. What kind of Melbournian does that make me? A Failbournian?

    So the visit from my BFF was the perfect excuse to finally check one of them out and complete her Melbourne experience.