This is a very delayed post of my now, not so recent, trip to Melbourne. The main purpose of which was to eat, drink and be merry; and that is pretty much all we did, that and walk, a lot!
First stop on our culinary adventure was Fifteen Melbourne. We went for lunch as we thought it would be a good way to kick things off, and indeed it was. After gingerly making our way down the steep stairs, we were shown through to the dining area, past the bar (where Toby was sitting having his lunch) to a lovely little table with an excellent view of the open kitchen (which was very calm and orderly, I must say). The waiter quickly asked us if we would like a drink, perhaps a gin and tonic, to get started, and as E and I were there with the distinct purpose of drinking a lot of gin, we were very pleased with his suggestion. Things improved when a different waitress came to ask us if we had any preference for our gin. We said we normally drank Tanqueray, and she suggested Hendricks with cucumber. After hearing its praises sung by Pips, we were very keen to try it, and it was amazing!! We couldn't get over it, so fragrant and crisp and delicious. We were truly in awe, and most definitely in love. After phwoaring over our gin for a bit we decided on the Express Lunch menu, which was two courses and a glass of wine for $35. The range was limited, but delicious all the same. We both went with the squid salad and parpadele with veal ragu. The squid salad was amazing; Beautifully cooked baby squid with a good hint of chili,and citrus with snowpea shoots and the most delicious fried capers, which were crispy little bursts of salty flavour, and were amazing. The ragu was lovely too, though the freshly made, perfectly cooked pasta was the star of the show. The nice mild red that we got as part of the lunch went perfectly with the ragu.
Breakfast the next morning was the next important stop as we found a gorgeous little Spanish cafe down a laneway off Flinders Lane and we ended up there every morning. The coffee was amazing, strong and sweet and the perfect temperature. I had sourdough toast rubbed with tomato and olive oil with a generous amount of delicious, smooth, jamon topped with parmesan. It was gorgeous. E had french toast made with brioche that came with a poached pear, maple syrup and cinnamon. It was gorgeous too, and I had it on our third visit and it lived up to my expectations. The second day we both had big breakfasts, which was huge (too much protein for me) but delicious all the same. It included delicious though quite spicy chorizo, bacon, two eggs, tomato, mushrooms and sour dough toast. After staggering out from that protein charged breakfast in search of juice, a little jazz band had set up at the end of the laneway, and we passed a good hour sitting over a coffee listening to them bust out some smooth tunes. It was really good, and left us wishing for such things in Sydney.
On Friday we wandered down the Southbank and were lured into a very stylish bar by the prospect of beer and by a Virginia Woolf quote by the menu. I can't remember what it was called for the life of me, but the wait staff were very attentive and lovely. We decided on some bar-type food, though this was pretty special bar food. We ordered goats cheese cigars which were the most delicate pastry filled with chived goats cheese. One end was dipped in what seemed to be dehydrated raspberries and it came with an olive caramel. It was beautiful and one of the most intriguing flavour combinations I have had. We also got some Wagu beef sliders (mini-burgers). This tender piece of wagu was served on a mini brioche bun with a pickle and blue cheese. They were very tasty indeed.
Dinner that night was much anticipated. We went to Comme a beautiful French restaurant, which I will say right away the food was delicious. Our table wasn't quite ready when we arrived so we waited in the bar with a gin and tonic, though sadly not Hendricks, and people watched for a bit. It was a lovely bar with nice, sensible, smart looking people, somewhere you would like to come for a few drinks and some of the very delicious sounding bar food. We were ushered in to the restaurant and eventually decided on our meals. I had the new seasons lamb with aubergine puree and garlic fondant and sauce ratatouille, though it is changed on the online menus slightly. It was delicious. There were two or three different cuts of lamb, all cooked perfectly, and the garlic and aubergine went wonderfully. The sauce was a very delicate , thin ratatouille with tiny pieces of capsicum, though it was a bit too capsicumy for me (I should have paid more attention when ordering. E ordered the Western plains rabbit, foie gras croquette, etuvee of courgette flower, crystal bay prawns, hazelnuts and tarragon. It looked amazing and E's reports were that it tasted fantastic. It included several different parts of the rabbit and was a beautiful well balanced dish. It was E's favourite of the trip. For dessert, although I was almost swayed by the poached peach, we both decided on the chocolate fondant with milk sorbet. We were happy to wait the 20 minutes for it to arrive and curiously watched what the other diners were getting. Due to a bit of a back log in the kitchen it took more than 20 minutes, and our lovely waiter couldn't have been more apologetic and came back several times to let us know the progress of the fondant and to assure us that it was worth the wait, and indeed it was. It was possibly one of the best desserts I have ever had, and certainly the best chocolate fondant. It was perfectly oozing in the middle, soft, tender, rich and delicious. The milk sorbet was the perfect accompaniment, and we did all but lick our plates clean.
Saturday night dinner would turn out to be the highlight for me and it was, I have to say, one of the best meals of my life. Gills Diner was our port of call, on what was a cold and rainy Melbourne evening. Set down a little alleyway, Gills is a charming little place with loads of character and a friendly, if noisy, atmosphere. We had an early booking, and although we were early were shown straight to our table. We were pleased to see that they had Hendricks, and quickly ordered some. Deciding what to eat was another question, as everything on the menu sounded delicious. We had heard that the meals were quite hearty so after a delicious selection of bread with excellent butter, we decided to start with a main. I decided on the pork, which was a roast Otway pork chop (clearly from a rack of pork) with a pumpkin and chorizo puree, a fennel and apple salad and asparagus. The pork was perfectly cooked. The meat was tender and juicy and the crackling was to die for. The pure was amazing, rich and smooth, and a generous amount. There was also a drizzle of heavily reduced cooking juices, which was perfect. The fennel and apple salad was finely chopped, like a coleslaw and the asparagus, which was white asparagus had been lightly battered and fried. It was a wonderful, tasty and perfectly balanced meal. E ordered a special, which was an eye fillet steak topped with an olive crust served with potatoes, cabbage, onion and bacon. Though full, we were sorely tempted by the dessert menu and decided on basil panacotta with strawberries and pistachioes. All I can say is wow! The panacotta was perfect, niether rubbery nor runny. It was a beautiful green and the flavour of basil was both distinct and subtle. The strawberry had been cooked and the syrup around was perfect with the panacotta. We were also persuaded into a dessert wine. We weren't sure which to choose and asked for one that would match the dessert, and we were not disappointed. The staff were lovely again and the whole experience was wonderful.
We finished off the evening with a trip to the Paris Cat jazz club where we saw Kimba and the Gin remedy - which was a fantastic show, if you like jazz and ever see her playing I can't recommend her strongly enough. Her band was wonderful, her husband was the lead guitarist and musical director, and was just amazing. All in all, it was a wonderful way to round off a wonderful day.
Our final culinary stop was Giuseppe Arnaldo & sons where we had a bit of an antipasto selection. We had some delicious Cacciatore salami, A ricotta basket with chili, lemon, mint and grilled bruschetta and aranchini made with spinach risotto. Again, Hendricks gin rounded off the meal.
We left Melbourne full and content and wishing that we could afford to eat and drink like this always.