melbourne

Collins Kitchen, Grand Hyatt: afternoon tea

Note: this is a scheduled post while I’m on holiday. But I’m back really, really soon!

My gorgeous friend Hazzie is getting married this week. :) I’m REALLY sad that I’ll be missing her big day, but I have no doubt that it’ll be all things wonderful.

Before I went away, Shellie roped “the gang” (me, Taz, April and Kat) into a surprise bridal afternoon tea for our dear friend. I lied to Hazzie to get her to the venue by telling her I needed a lunch companion as Alastair was busy. Sneaky alert!

The six of us message each other every day, so it was really difficult to keep quiet about it – I think we only managed to keep it a secret by barely talking to one another leading up to the day.

Shellie did the set up and did an amazing job – she made sugar cookies and even put together show bags for us – check out her post. She had even thought of a hashtag #hazhightea :)

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Nama Nama

New Japanese cafe, Nama Nama, opened in late June on the corner of Flinders Lane and Spring Street, taking over the space that used to be Verge. It hasn’t been open for long, but has already attracted a lot of interest.

Owned by the team behind Izakaya Den (Simon Denton, Miyuki Nakahara and Takashi Omi), Nama Nama is sleek and shiny. They open for breakfast and lunch, and the udon noodles are made in house and kneaded by feet.

Errr. Wait. What was that last one?

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Sarti: Chapman Hill olive oil

Disclosure: I attended the tasting and dinner at Sarti courtesy of Chapman Hill.

Once upon a time, when I was more naive than I am now, I agreed to accept a bag of fresh olives from a friend.

I had grand aspirations of marinating my own olives. They were going to be great. FOOL. Anyone who has ever dealt with fresh olives will know how much work in involved in preparing them – they need to be soaked in water, changed daily for weeks to leach out the bitterness.

Perhaps, instead of spending weeks babying these stupid olives, I should’ve tried crushing them to extract the oil. Or even better – I should’ve just tossed the olives out, bought myself a bottle of oil, and saved myself the angst.

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Heirloom

Disclosure: Alastair and I dined courtesy of Heirloom.

I think it’s fair to say that Heirloom has suffered from a confused identity. When they first opened about a year and a half ago, the cuisine was marketed as Japanese-French fusion. Fusion food, fairly or unfairly, seems to have a negative connotation, so to market yourself with that label is a brave (or naive) move.

Well, Heirloom realised that the fusion thing wasn’t really working, and at the beginning of this year they quietly rebranded themselves into a modern Japanese izakaya with a total change to their menu.

Alastair and I were invited along to a bloggers’ dinner last week to try out the food.

Located on Bourke Street on the ground floor of the Citadines Hotel, Heirloom is a vast space with concrete walls, lots of black and clean lines. Due to the hotel, they are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with breakfast mostly being a more traditional Western style affair. Lunch and dinner are more interesting, showcasing their take on Japanese izakaya food.

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Gypsy & Pig

Tucked away in Little Lonsdale Street between Elizabeth and Queen Street is a sweet little Japanese restaurant. I visited this week thanks to a tip off from a reader (Hi Gavin!), dragging along Alastair, Hazzie and Ashley for a spot of dinner. Gypsy and Pig is a small restaurant – about 24 seats or so – and unfortunately when we arrived there weren’t four seats available together. Faced with this, I agreed to us being split into two groups – so Alastair and I had an impromptu date, as did Ashley and Hazzie. :)

As well as being small, the restaurant is modest and understated. There’s a lot of black – the staff are dressed in black, and the walls are painted a matt black, broken up by large timber framed windows. Half of the seating is arranged bar-style in a big square around the open kitchen.

With a name like Gypsy & Pig, it’s no surprise that they specialise in pork dishes – specifically kurobuta, the Japanese name for a breed of pig known as Black Berkshire. Kurobuta is highly prized for its sweet, rich flavour, tenderness and juiciness.

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Henry and the Fox

Disclosure: I dined courtesy of Henry and the Fox.

In the kid’s book “Henry and the Fox”, Henry is a cowardly cockerel who can’t even crow properly. For the restaurant in the CBD, one of six (!) restaurants that renowned restauranter Paul Mathis has opened in the past six months or so, Henry is the last name of his PA and Fox refers to Michael Fox, the head chef. Fortunately there’s no cowardly cockerels at this restaurant because there’s plenty to crow about.

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Dognation

Disclosure: We dined courtesy of Dognation thanks to Thanh.

Hot diggity dog, there’s a new gourmet hot dog purveyor in town. Dognation opened a couple of weeks ago in The Causeway – the laneway between Bourke Street Mall and Little Collins Street – and their shop used to be the adjacent restaurant’s storeroom. It’s itty bitty, but somehow they manage to turn out some pretty good hot dogs, with five versions on the menu. The hot dogs are all named and themed after different cities around the world.

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Chin Chin

It was a long time coming, but I finally made it to Chin Chin.

If you’re Melbournian and you don’t know about Chin Chin, I must politely ask if you’ve been under a rock for the past year. :) Chin Chin serves mostly Southern Thai cuisine (with other Asian influences thrown in) in a Flinders Lane location. The fitout is great – large windows, brick walls, decorated with graphics utilising elements from Chinese propaganda posters and Japanese cartoons, and tables hold bottles of hot sauce plus paper placemats that double as the menu. Very groovy.

As Chin Chin don’t take bookings. if you want to visit on a Friday/Saturday night (or probably any night, to be honest…) it could mean 1-2 hours wait. You know waiting isn’t my thing, so along with Alastair, Thanh and Thanh’s friend, we rocked up at 11.10am on a Sunday, arriving just as the restaurant opened.

We pondered the menu, and eventually ordered several dishes between the four of us. Truthfully: we ordered a bit too much. But the menu at Chin Chin is quite long and everything sounded so good.

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MoVida: wine selectors dinner

Disclosure: I dined courtesy of Wine Selectors.

Movida, Movida, Movida. Last week was my first visit to the original Movida. I’d only previously had a lovely lunch at Movida Next Door but never visited the original. The reason for my visit was due to Wine Selectors – along with Haz and Thanh, we were there to try Frank Camorra’s signature wine that had been produced in association with Wine Selectors.

Wine Selectors started 35 years ago as a small retail space in the Hunter Valley and has morphed into Australia’s largest independent direct marketer of wine. Recently, they teamed up with several chefs and wine producers to create a wine collection designed to match each of the chefs’ cuisine styles.

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Touche Hombre

Disclosure: I dined courtesy of Touche Hombre.

The Melbourne craze for Mexican food continues full steam ahead, with Touché Hombre being one of the latest to open in the past month or so. The team behind it, Maison Davis, have obviously had a bit of fun putting the restaurant together. There’s many tongue in cheek references to be found: from the tag line “héroes de medio caparazón” (heroes in a half shell), to the arcade games at the entrance, to the “who ya gonna call?” neon sign, and the big cheery chicken jugs that pour cocktails out of the beak, just to name a few.

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