Archive | October, 2011

The Aylesbury

21 Oct

Arriving at The Aylesbury a bit later than I wanted to, I was not keen to find out how long the wait would have to be for a table (yes its one of those places with a no bookings policy unless you have more than 6 people – but more on that later). Luckily at ten to 7 the next available table was at 8:30, and the low-key roof top bar was the perfect place to while away the time with my good friend BFM who had come home for 2 weeks from London (thank you Melbourne for not raining that evening).  Buzzed through by the waitress we arrived at the roof top to the pleasant buzz of end of week drinks – but thankfully not to a sea of suits that is typical of many a bar in the CBD on Fridays.  Perched on a stool overlooking Exhibition Street and sipping a cold drink, time went by pretty quickly – oh and if you’re hungry then there is a good menu of bar snacks that broadly reflects the larger menu of the restaurant downstairs.

As it approaches 8:40 (we have been joined by JP and JT) we head down to see if our table is ready only to be told ‘no its not ready as the table was not been rebooked when the guests sat down so no time limit was given, and they have only just ordered dessert’.  And therein lies the awkward situation you get when you have a mixed booking policy.  Honestly you either take bookings or you don’t.  Plus given the hype surrounding the place and the no booking policy for small groups, wouldn’t you think to tell people that there is a time limit – because the no booking thing pretty much guarantees that there will be a waiting list.  So back we go upstairs and just as I am about to keel over from hunger and fall off the top of the roof, the lovely hostess comes up to show us to our table (its 9:10 by now).

The menu itself is not super extensive, and if you are vegetarian you might struggle to find a decent feed as the focus is squarely on meat and seafood.  They use Warialda Belted Galloway beef and Glenora Heritage Produce – both wonderful local Victorian suppliers – as well as some produce straight from the chef’s garden.  Struggling to choose (hunger has well and truly taken over now), we opt for the very reasonably priced Feasting Menu for $65 a head, which offers up the best from the menu (10 dishes plus 2 sides).

Beef Tartare

Garden on a Plate...

Mackarel with Gazpacho

We started with Coffin Bay Oysters – shucked fresh with a squeeze of lemon, followed by the beef tartar which comes with the most delicately toasted bread.  Both dishes focus on the freshness of the produce which is fantastic.

Next comes the garden on a plate (I can’t recall exactly what it was called) – which is a colourful dish of small bits of various raw vegetables arranged artistically on a black plate.  Not much to say about this one really…

Asparagus and Curd

Wagyu, Marrow & Morcilla

Lamb Cutlets

The aired dried wagyu with marrow and morcilla  is a bit on the salty side and the asparagus with curd is surprisingly refreshing – the curd being extremely light in flavour.  The mackerel with green gazpacho cream was not extraordinary.  And then what turned out to be my favourite dish of the night – the lamb cutlets delicately baked in dehydrated peas and lemon zest which were wonderful accompaniments to the tender and juicy cutlets.

Aylesbury Duck

Salt Baked Flathead

For the bigger dishes we had the Salt Baked Rock Flathead – which certainly looked impressive, but lacked a little in flavour – and the Aylesbury Duck which was served a little pink with a beetroot puree.  In the midst of all this a side of carrots and a side of potato in duck fat appears on our table.

For dessert we opt for the Beignets with chocolate and the Chocolate Slice.

Chocolate slice

Beignet with Chocolate Sauce

The Beignets are rather large – but are soft and fluffy on the inside and the dark chocolate sauce is the perfect consistency.  The Chocolate Slice is a bit too rich – lucky there isn’t too much of it.  It is past midnight by the time we fix the bill and bade our farewells.

Top marks for the fresh produce and the creativity of some of the dishes, but all in all a little overpriced and a little bit bland.  The food doesn’t have the same wow factor as Anada does (well what I remember of it) and that mixed booking policy means I won’t be a regular at the Aylesbury – well not the restaurant at least…but that rooftop has a lot of promise!

The Aylesbury

103 Lonsdale Street Melbourne

(03) 9077 0451

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Brunch at The Brix

7 Oct

A welcome breath of fresh air, The Brix is unlike any other restaurant you will find in Fitzroy. Located just off Brunswick street down the somewhat lackluster northern end, this new(ish) establishment serves modern French style food – complete with a prix fixe set menu on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

On the outside the fresh white paint gives the place a light airy feel which translate also to its interiors of wooden floors, simple lines and lots of big windows that let in the natural sunlight. Its not a big place, with probably a maximum of 15 small tables plus several seats at the bar. The staff are dressed in white t-shirts, black skinny jeans and braces and provide a professional and friendly service.

I meet O on a Saturday morning for what was intended as a late brunch, but at The Brix actually turns out to be lunch – they stop serving the breakfast menu at 12noon, oh how very French!

Cured Ocean Trout with Nicoise Garnish

Pork Cassoulet

Not to worry, there is plenty on the lunch menu to satisfy, and we quickly put in our orders – O goes for the cured ocean trout with nicoise garnish and I opt for the Pork Cassoulet.

The ocean trout comes on a black slate plate which is the perfect backdrop to the vibrant colours of the salmon and the light nicoise style salad on the side. By O’s account it’s not only a pretty dish, its also tasty and fresh.

The cassoulet comes in a cast iron dish and is served together with a couple of slices of toasted rye bread on a wooden board. The pork is tender and melts in the mouth, and the persillade (a mix of parsley chopped together with seasonings including garlic, herbs, oil, and vinegar) provides a crunchy texture to the dish. The servings aren’t big – just perfect for a light lunch, but if you’re a big eater, you’ll definitely be left wanting more.

Frangipani Tart

A meal with O always involve sweets and on this occasion we choose the frangipani tart which is a pleasant offering but not exactly mind blowing. The tart casing is not too doughy or chewy and the frangipani is subtle and not too sweet.

Peppermint Tea with Artisan Honey

Washed down with my peppermint tea (served with some artisan honey from NZ) it’s a nice way to finish off a light meal.

All in all The Brix is a good addition to this part of Fitzroy and offers something completely different to the casual café fare served in these parts. Next time we’ll try the prix fixe menu.

The Brix

Rear 412 Brunswick Street,

Fitzroy VIC 3065

(03) 9417 6114

Xi’an Famous Foods – NYC

3 Oct

After a month of ‘settling’ in to New York City and it’s ever vibrant -not worth missing-i’ll sleep when I die- cultural offerings, it took a bad douse of Bronchitis to finally slow me down!  Nothing like a bad case of disease to make you really home sick…

And so, for the past week, I have taken to curing my physical and mental illness by loitering around Chinatown every chance I get.  Something about the smells.  The crowds of people.  The rather loud often unnecessary hollering.  Did I mention the smells…?  I found comfort in hearing my mother tongue even if it were from the mouth of a stranger!!

Although i’d been more than successful in visiting a large amount of Asian Bakeries and grocery stores -yes I already have my firm favourites: Grand Bakery!  HK style milk tea and their egg sponge paper cake – I was still yet to dine at any of the many Asian restaurants…which, given my fear of eating out alone kind of makes it rather difficult.  So having spent much of the week obsessively ‘researching’ online for good recommended Asian eateries, I found the most commonly written about happened to be a little place called Xi’an Famous Foods.

Xi'an East Village

So on a night where it was cold, rainy and the thought of consuming another dumpling was enough to make me want to self harm (my freezer is FULL of dumplings!! That’s what happens when you put a lazy Asian girl alone… in New York City… who has been hitting EVERY Asian grocer in town!!)  I decided to give Xi’an a go!  It ticked all the boxes: within 0.5 miles (umm… i guess thats less than a kilometer…?)  from my house, did takeaway and was fast and cheap!

Xi’an offers a range of noodles, soups and starter dishes, and is most famous for it’s hand ripped noodles, a dish called the Lamb Face Salad (which I thought about ordering…. maybe next time!) and most highly touted The Cumin Lamb Burger.

Having done all my research online before going, I decided I wasn’t hungry enough to tackle the Lamb Face thing, and didn’t feel like dealing with the wrath of noodle soup done Take Out, so I went with the famous Lamb Burger.  Walking into the tiny shop that is Xi’an, I couldn’t help but feel relieved to find the shop full of Asians!! Not to be controversial… but choosing to adorn your Asian Eatery’s hoarding with the words “Western Chinese Cuisine” hardly instills confidence – and I do not have enough energy to start ranting about why no one (not even white people) orders Lemon Chicken anymore… !  (Upon more research, it seems the Xi’an restaurant chain ‘boasts a unique cuisine that may be best described as a fusion of Middle Eastern and Chinese foods.’)

Cumin Lamb Burger $3

So it took approximately 97 seconds between me ordering and paying, and walking out the door with my dinner!! It also took that 97 seconds of waiting whilst seeing everyone eating their hand ripped noodle goodness to give me SEVERE food envy and make me suddenly starving!!

Lamb Burger

I pull that neat little ‘burger’ out of its bag, to reveal a nicely toasted bun with the filling sitting neatly inside.  I was pretty delighted to find no sauce spills or mess when taken out of the wrapping.

Inside. Cumin spiced lamb

Although, after taking a few initial bites, it didn’t take long for me to wish it had been a sauce laden mess!  The bun tended to be a little… no… actually a lot on the dry side.  Given the Cumin Lamb is not meant to be saucy, it is kind of understandable!  But I wish I was given some hot sauce or something to relieve those bland chunks of bun!!

Having said that though, the lamb was very well cooked.  Not tough at all, and well marinated in the cumin giving off a nice subtle heat (it could have been hotter!! But then again, all the places i’ve eaten and ordered the item with the chillies next to it are lacking heat).

Maybe it was the slightly dense, dry texture of the bun… Or more likely the fact that I feel like i haven’t eaten meat in a long time … I found myself to be struggling at the half way mark.  This little ‘burger’ is surprisingly filling, amazingly cheap and as far as (VERY VERY) fast food goes, I think i’ll be revisiting this over McDonalds.  Now all I have to do is get over my fear of eating out alone and it’ll be Lamb Face Salad time…

Xi’An Famous Foods –

East Village  81 St. Mark’s Place, New York, NY 10003

China Town (counter only| no seating) 88 East Broadway #106, New York, NY 10002

China Town  67 Bayard Street, New York, NY 10013

Flushing 41-28 Main Street Bsmt #36, Flushing, NY 11354