Disclosure: I attended courtesy of Prahran Market.
It’s that time of year again – yes, it’s March and the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival is back.
I don’t have much planned for this year’s festival for some reason. I had a bit going on when the program was released last year and just never got around to organising anything. And I must admit that the allure of staying home and doing absolutely nothing is having a very strong pull on me at the moment!
But last weekend, I left the house temporarily to go to Prahran Market to attend their Harvest the Sea and the Vine event.
Normally at 8:30am on a Sunday morning the very last thing you would find me doing is sitting by the beach in St Kilda. But one Sunday in March, there I was sipping a coffee and watching early morning fitness freaks run past. I definitely wasn’t down in St Kilda for fitness purposes, as I was about to take a BBQ masterclass and scoff meat for breakfast. Fitness be damned.
As part of the BBQ Festival, there were several master classes in barbequing. I attended a session hosted by Chris Girvin-Brown from Perth, who held a class about offset and direct heat barbequing in the super condensed time of two hours (normally they’re a full day).
Well now it’s April, and the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival seems like a distant memory. And thank *goodness* for that, because the few weeks of MFWF really stretched my eating pants. Metaphorically of course – those who know me personally know that I don’t wear trousers (because I’m mostly in dresses, in case you think I’m doing some weird Donald Duck thing and going bottomless). But back to MFWF – today I want to share the last express lunch I went to during the festival: Matteo’s.
That Saturday I became a third wheel and joined Hazzie and Gazman for lunch as Alastair was away that weekend. We were all early for lunch because we had been advised when booking that we only had the table for 1 hr 15 mins. This must’ve put the fear in us – we were all so early that I had enough time to join Haz and Gazman in their car for a quick instagram session before going into the restaurant (we are all addicts and we are not ashamed).
The decision to have an express lunch at No35 was the most annoying process ever. It started off innocently with an email from Thanh asking which restaurants we wanted to dine at during the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival (MFWF). After several, several, SEVERAL emails back and forth, we finally settled on a few dates, one of which was the Labour Day public holiday. But could we decide on a restaurant on that day? Nope. It was worse than herding cats. For a group who like to eat and who are normally very decisive about where we want to go – we were hopeless. It got to the point where we were all a bit exasperated and it looked like we wouldn’t be eating anywhere.
It felt like I hadn’t seen my friend Maz in weeks. So when she suggested a MFWF event at Der Raum, it only took me a moment. Cocktails and a night out with one of my favourite people? I was definitely there.
So, Der Raum. It’s a cocktail bar in Richmond that’s famed for their innovative cocktails using high quality ingredients. They have stacks of awards. Despite everything I’d heard about the place, it was my first visit there. Mostly because 1: it’s in Richmond, and Richmond is a pain in the arse to get to from my house, and 2: I’m a granny and I like to do my drinking in the comfort of my own home. Alone. In the dark.
(Those last two sentences are a lie. I like to inflict my drunk self on others under bright lighting.)
Wouldn’t it be good to be able to tap into a collective memory? Then you would always have access to important details, and it wouldn’t be a problem if your mind was crowded with useless things like the lyrics to “Deep deep trouble” even though you haven’t heard that song for 15 years. (Oh, is that just me? And yes, I do know the words. I can totally bust it out at any time. HELP I CAN’T FORGET IT.)
Fortunately, I have friends who help me remember things. When I eat out I sometimes can’t recall all the details and will message whoever I ate with: “Hey, do you remember what was in that dish?”
After our lunch at Embrasse, Thanh and I had the following conversation.
“What was the fish again?”
“Ummmm. I can’t remember.”
“It was silver something, wasn’t it?”
“Oh! It was silver dory!”
Food bloggers hive mind win. With our memories combined, we are… one normal person!
As part of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival June roast dinner series, the Boys and I headed to Campari House with Maria and Daz, where we were treated to five grazing courses accompanied by five wines.
When we arrived, all the glasses had been lined up on the table, and we were advised that all the wines would be poured at once. This was so we could taste each one with the different courses and make our own mind up about the wine and food matching. Which was a great idea, with the only problem being that it was a school night… and the wine pours were VERY generous and our glasses were topped up whenever they were nearing empty.
The five wines were:
Blue Pyrenees NV Brut, Blue Pyrenees Savignon Blanc 2009, Sticks Chardonnay 2009, Red Claw Pinot Noir 2008, and Campbells Bobbie Burns Shiraz 2008.
I’m not hugely knowledgeable about wines so I won’t talk about them – except to say that the more I drank, the more I enjoyed them. Isn’t that always the way? Hah. (more…)
Going back to the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival for a moment – as well as the Hawkers’ Market, Bro and I also attended the “Are you game?” dinner at the Royal Mail Hotel on Spencer.
Also known as the “roadkill” dinner, it was an evening of dishes showcasing different Australian game meats. Apart from the yabbies, all the meat that evening was wild caught game. Drink wise, we started with a glass of Prosecco, and then over the course of the evening were served three glasses of wine from the wine label, Ladies Who Shoot their Lunch. Seriously, how perfect was that wine label for the evening. I’m not going to talk about the wine because I know sweet FA about wine, apart from the fact I like to drink it. On to the food!
There were TEN courses… when we saw the menu we thought that we might have to select from some of the options. But no, there were TEN COURSES! Oh my goodness. Let’s get stuck in.
First up was a Yarra Valley yabby martini with lime aioli and spring onion cigar. The yabby meat was very delicately flavoured, and we found a bonus quail egg at the bottom of the glass. The aioli was nice and creamy, although I found the spring onion cigar rather sweet, which was disconcerting!
Next up we received a quail pithivier with wild rice and curly kale. The pithivier had light flakey pastry and I also noted that it was buttery – mhmmm so buttery – with hints of cinnamon. The wild rice was chewy and sweetish, and the kale was also buttery. It was a very enjoyable dish.
The third course was a smoked Flinders Island mutton bird salad with Mount Buffalo organic hazelnuts and grapefruit dressing. This was one dish that had everyone divided. The mutton bird was interesting, and was unlike any other bird I had ever eaten before – it had a very strong, oily anchovy flavour. Yes, anchovy! Mutton bird tastes like fish! Amazing. I can’t say that mutton bird is a meat that I would seek out again, but it was interesting to try it.
After the mutton bird, we received wild barramundi with “sand of the sea” and clam foam. The barramundi was BEAUTIFUL – it had fantastic flavour, was perfectly cooked and flaked away under my fork. The “sand” was finely ground breadcrumbs, and the “foam” was tapioca. Chives represented seaweed and thinly sliced potato on the fish represented scales. I was so impressed that the fish was perfectly cooked when the kitchen would have had to cook so many portions at the same time. This was the dish of the night for me. Seriously lovely.
Following the barramundi was a duck liver parfait with apple and pear chutney and brioche. The duck liver parfait was very, very rich – to the point where it was almost bitter. It was nice though, very smooth, with the sweet, fruity chutney helping to cut through some of the richness, both from the parfait and the buttery (and heavily buttered!) brioche.
Next was a Flinders Range kangaroo rogan josh curry served with a pappadam and a piece of nann. The curry had big bold flavours and the roo meat was made into a couple of large meatballs. I’ve had (and cooked) roo many times before, and because it’s so lean it’s not a meat that is nice when overcooked. So I’m not entirely sure about roo meatballs – while the roo meatballs weren’t too dry, they were noticeably drier than a beef meatball would be. It was a tasty curry though.
After the curry there was a palate cleanser of crocodile ceviche with Yarra Valley salmon roe and limoncello. This was really interesting, it was like a lemon liqueur crocodile chewing gum!
Moving into the final courses, next up was herb crumbed Daylesford venison with mushrooms, kipfler potatoes and saffron cream. Maybe I was a bit delirious with food by this stage, but I wrote in my notes that the venison had a pate like flavour with a texture that made me think of boiled meat.
And for our last savoury course, we received slow braised wild Redesdale rabbit with squid ink gnocchi. This was supposed to come with Flinders Island wallaby prosciutto, but they must have had a shortage because a small amount of the prosciutto was passed around the table (which didn’t get to us). The chewy and tough gnocchi was the only disappointment of the night. The rabbit, however, was good – tender and flavoursome, and in my notes, I wrote that it tasted like a savoury chicken pie! I think I was definitely delirious with food by this stage. The thing that was topped with a mushroom was a potato filled with rabbit liver.
And finally, for dessert, we had duck egg crème brulee. This was SUPER rich, and very creamy. It was lovely, but oh my god it was SO RICH, particularly after ni
ne other courses! I enjoyed smelling the sprig of rosemary and lemon too.
I was mostly very impressed with the food that evening. Most of it was cooked really well, presented nicely and nothing was too strange (not that Bro and I mind strange, we did do offal last year). It was a very good event to attend and we went home two happy eaters.
Royal Mail Hotel on Spencer 519 Spencer St West Melbourne Phone: 03 9329 6955
The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival is over for another year. I only went to two events this year, and the first was the very popular Heat Beads Hawkers’ Market held at the Queen Victoria Market.
Held on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night, there were two sessions on each evening. We attended the later one at 8:30pm on the Tuesday night. A ticket for the event included four vouchers to purchase four small dishes from the various stalls.
I was a bit worried that it would be crazily busy, and the night was going to involve lots of lining up to get food, but fortunately that wasn’t the case. There were twelve restaurants represented, with each restaurant presenting a small selection of their dishes.
As soon as we arrived, we nabbed a table. I specifically chose one that was close to the food stalls and under good lighting.
Alastair and I shared our dishes, so we got to sample eight dishes plus a bonus.
We started at Dainty Sichuan. I was VERY overwhelmed with the choices on offer – the lady at the stall rattled them off at breakneck speed and by the time she got to the end I had forgotten what she had first said! It would have been great to have them listed on a piece of paper. I ended up with a prawn skewer, a chicken wing and some pork ribs. I didn’t actually ask for a chicken wing – I normally steer clear of barbequed chicken – but it ended up on my plate, so I just accepted it. Turns out that the wing was good anyway. The wing and the prawn skewers had a spicy, tongue numbing quality to them from Sichuan peppercorns.
We tried a serve of the goat masala and daal from Chilli India. This was just okay, I thought it was a bit bog standard.
Next up, we tried the pork cheek from Pan Asian. This was VERY fatty, and very tender. I was a bit worried that Alastair would be put off by the fattiness, but it turns out that he was in an eating mood and gobbled it up.
Oh, and remember how I mentioned that I specifically choose a seat with good lighting? At this point THEY TURNED OFF THE LIGHTS IN OUR SECTION. Rahhh! Hence the funny lighting in the rest of my photos.
We had the fish grilled in a banana leaf from Laska Me. The fish was tender and moist, with some subtle spices. It was very nice.
From Maedeya, I selected the okonomiyaki and sweet potato. I was surprised that the okonomiyaki was actually pretty good – it was still nice and hot which definitely helped. The texture was very soft, but it was tasty. One of the best dishes we ate that evening.
We also tried the japchae from Hallah. Points for being freshly cooked, but unfortunately taste-wise I found it to be far too sweet.
By this stage we were getting full and I was running out of things I wanted to try! Lots of places had also sold out of dishes as well, which cut down my options. So I gave a voucher to Kenzan @GPO for a serve of their yakisoba and cooked tuna sushi roll. The yakisoba was just so so – like the japchae, I found it too sweet. The sushi roll was nice though.
Thanks to Bro for the picture!
After this we were too full to eat any more savoury food, so I headed to the ice cream stand. You had to pay for ice cream though, and while I normally wouldn’t have minded, I still had two vouchers left! So I figured a compromise would be a banana fritter from Dumpling King, which came with a scoop of ice cream. I don’t know why they stuck sparklers on their banana fritters, but it was cute! Thanks to Bro for taking the photo, because the sparkler fizzled out before I made it back to our table.
Oh, and the banana fritter and ice cream was great.
For my final voucher, I handed it in at Warung Argus and received a serve of black rice pudding. What I had actually wanted from them was the suckling pig, but they had sold out by the 8.30pm session (BOO). The rice pudding was very runny and coconutty, with the rice still quite firm. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t amazing either. Pork would’ve been better!
Bro received an extra voucher from someone who was too full to use all theirs – apparently he looked “deserving”. Heh! He finished with a bowl of laksa!
There was entertainment…. but we were too busy eating….!
While four vouchers each doesn’t sound like a lot, it did end up being quite a lot of food, and we were STUFFED afterwards. While some of the food was just so-so, overall it was a good event and we really enjoyed ourselves.