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McConnell Marathons

1 Jun

Sorry for the absence!! It seems DDO have been too busy eating or breast feeding to properly document our culinary adventures of late!  But rest assured… we are still eating… rather excessively in fact!  So whilst the other part of DDO is busying herself tending to the little chub – little babe is gaining the weight of a block of butter every couple of weeks! – I thought I’d give y’all a little look into what I’ve been stuffing my face with in her absence from society!

I’m going to start with an oldy but a goody!  It’d been a successful week on the fitness front and i’d just completed my second workout session at the gym.  Feeling pretty excited by my commitment to working on my fitness I thought i’d treat myself to CUMULUS INC… Something about cold weather and craving carbs!  I needed some of that Fried Bread that Cumulus does so damn well!  I called my favourite mid week dining companion Z to help celebrate my new found lease on life.

Filling the Void: Fried Sour Dough!

I don’t know how Z felt about this bread.  Especially given how much I harp on and on about this stuff, but I enjoyed it!!  This was Z’s first time at Cumulus so I let her do most of the decision making (bar the bread and cauliflower salad).  We decided to get 2 starters, 2 mains and a salad.

Smoked mussels, escabeche $9

First to arrive were the smoked Mussels, with the escabeche giving it a nice vinegar-y kick!  Soon after came the soft shell crab which came with lettuce for wrapping up, and kewpie mayo!

Fried soft shell crab, kimchi, lettuce & kewpie $18

I’ve always been partial to soft shell crab!  Only because you generally, you can’t really f*** it up!  Having said that, credit to Cumulus for getting their batter/crab piece size ratio perfect!  SO many textures and flavours topped with smooth sweet Kewpie!  Winner!

Tuna tartare with crushed green pea salad $32

I think by this stage i’m already getting pretty full, and rather boozy.  Some thing about exercise and making you get drunk really quickly…? The Tuna Tartare came at a good time though, as it’s cold, and light.  I forgot almost instantly about my almost full stomach …

Roast Aylesbury duck breast, toasted grains, lentils & quince $36 (back) & Cauliflower Salad

The duck was delicious and completely unnecessary.  And while  I’ve always been a firm believer of not winning friends with salad, for this Cauliflower salad, I always make an exception!  There’s a bit of greenery, a good smack of paprika… those mouthfuls where you get the pop of pomegranate and pine nut crunch!  It’s a pretty good mouth party!

I left feeling it was all a pretty great way to celebrate my new found fondness for working on my fitness and discovering the genius invention that is ‘skins’.   Sadly, I have since fallen off the fitness train.  But I am still wearing my skins, and eating out!

Our next adventure was also an Andrew Mc Connell establishment.   This time we decided to take new DDO mum out on the town while getting a rest from baby duty, with Little L, Z and I meeting her at the newly renovated The Builders Arms Hotel.

Bread & butter

It didn’t take long for us to settle in, order some wine and get our orders in!  It’d been a while since we all got to hang out and try somewhere different, so amidst me losing my shit over the bread being served  (…yeh don’t get too excited!  It LOOKS like fried bread… but it paled in comparison to that of Cumulus… think it was just a regular sour dough!) and trying to participate in the verbal diarrhea happening at the table, we almost let the waiter open a Magnum bottle of  Valpolicella!

We’d ordered the 2010 Ca’Rugate Rio Albo Valpolicella, which the waitress somehow assumed we meant ‘bring us the biggest bottle of it you have!’.  Love a night out with my girls, but I personally don’t want to imagine the state of us (we’re kind of small, driving and 75% of us asian…) after having 1.5 Litres of wine!

Anyway, crisis averted, normal sized wine served, back to the talking at each other and food on its way!

Pig ear scratchings $6

We decided to get an appetizer and an entree to share.  Between the Pig Ear Scratchings and the Roast Chicken Hearts on the menu, I was right in assuming no one would be into eating hearts…which was annoying because I was sooo intrigued by the tiny little things!!  No matter.  The Pig Ear scratchings were given the go ahead and were tasty, salty and crispy!  We also ordered the Corned duck, raw brussels sprouts and prune ($16) which I have no idea how, but I decided not to take a photo of it.  Come to think of it, I can’t even remember what it tasted like… I guess that’s enough said…?!! (The other DDO – it was amazing! raw brussel sprouts were delicately sliced and surprisingly tasty and the duck was pretty amazing)

Fish pie, smoked trout, prawns, hapuka, sorrel $32

For main’s, both N and I decided to get the Fish Pie (it’s seems N has grown soft since her recent birth giving, and has now relaxed on her ‘everyone order something different’ rule).  It was a very generous serving, with really big, fresh chunks of trout and hapuka in a béchamel type sauce inside.

Z and Little L went for the Dry Aged, grass fed Rib Eye, Cape Grim 800g ($69) to share (that big chunk of meat in the back of the photo) which by all accounts looked cooked to order (Rare!  Of Course!!) and juicy.  We also ordered the obligatory side of fries and baby cos.  Z couldn’t finish her steak, but feedback was positive from both of them.  We all sit back rubbing our rather over stuffed bellies as they clear our well demolished dishes… until the suggestion of dessert seems to magically revive us instantly.

Poached meringue, frozen curd, sour quince jelly $14 (front) & suet pudding

We share the poached meringue and the suet (i.e. animal fat – really) pudding special which the waitress convinces us is the BEST thing on the menu.  Thankfully for her, we aren’t instantly turned off at the sound of animal lard baked into a small cake… because that’s all I remember of the little syrup covered cake to the back.  And she was right!  While the meal wasn’t bad, I think the only redeeming factor of this whole meal (from start; with the lack luster bread, and almost catastrophic mis-serving of the magnum to finish) was in fact this dessert.  You probably won’t see me rush back to the Builders Arms in a hurry….but if I had to, it would be for that pudding.  Animal fat – baked and served with cream!

Cumulus Inc- 45 Flinders Lane  Melbourne VIC 3000 | (03)9650 1445
The Builders Arms Hotel- 211 Gertrude Street  Fitzroy VIC 3065 | (03)9419 0818

Robert Burns Hotel

24 Feb

Whats the best thing about friends making impromptu visits to Melbourne?!  Well besides having the pleasure of being in their company, it generally means we get to catch up over some good ol’ wining and dining!!  So when the well travelled (and VERY well dined) P, J and P2 came to town from Hong Kong, they thankfully brought their appetites with them.

We’d given them a list of food genres to choose from, and the end result was Spanish.  DAMN!! Why the hell did we suggest Spanish!  Don’t get me wrong.  I love a bit of Paella and a LOT of Sangria… but combining the no bookings/small interiors/us having a big group situation with the places worthy of eating at… things were not looking easy!  Thankfully, the other DDO had an amazing brain fart and thought of the Robert Burns Hotel.  Well done N!  Looks like pregnant brain has yet to take hold…

I’d been to the Robert Burns Hotel prior to its ‘face lift’ when it was still… well… much more ‘traditional’ and family run and meals came out on big plates with food piled high.

The new interior kept touches of the old, keeping the old dark oak furniture and mixing it with sections of (tartan…?) feature walls and flooring.  Regardless, the interior is spacious.  It took our booking for 6 people.  And we weren’t jammed side by side or seated in a line at a bar… so i’m willing to overlook that rather interesting ‘feature wall’ situation and make the most of our environment.

As always, I arrived to find N and JP, already with an open bottle of wine and pretty sure idea of what to order!  So the gang arrives, we pour some more wines order some food and proceed with our catch ups.  The first to arrive was a special – some sort of fried goats cheese- which was added in to the order at the last minute.

Special: Goats cheese and spinach croquette

Now, obviously, this is a serve of 4.  We are a table of 6. Correct me if i’m wrong, but wouldn’t it be common sense to inform us that there is only 4 per serve?!  Not rocket science really…  So the next few ‘sharing’ dishes all came as a serve of 4!!  Which meant we had to order another as each plate was presented (unfortunately our waitress was apparently blissfully ignorant and numerically illiterate to… or just plain negligent in DOING HER JOB!).  OK, rant over.  Back to the Balls.  The Goats cheese and spinach croquette was crispy with a soft interior, and was texturally good, although generally anything deep fried is. Moving on…

Croquetas del mar mussel and prawn croquettes $9.90

This one had much more flavour and bite to it!  A good bit of saltiness from the seafood and the potato was smooth.  Didn’t melt in my mouth, but at least it had flavour.  Thankfully, the best share plate was saved for the last… like a glorious cliche, it was AMAZING!!

Pimientos rellenos de rabo de torto grandma's own recipe, piquillo peppers stuffed with ox tail $11.90

So inside this little red pocket rocket piquillo peppers was what tasted like a slow cooked ox tail.  WIN!! The whole thing kind of fell apart as you cut it with a fork, but the pepper still held its form without being mush.  The richness of the ox tail cooked into the peppers created a super fragrant, delicious pool of sauce in the bottom of the dish.  Would’ve LOVED some bread to soak up those amazing juices… I was so blown away by this meaty flavour bomb that I actually paid little attention to the salad being served at the same time (yes, the ladies of the table – obviously not including me – made sure there was some foliage).

Unfortunately I cannot remember what was in this besides the quail eggs and the olives.  I guess it was just a normal garden salad… The quail eggs were good!! So with starters close to done, we were ready for the main event.  I think by this stage we were second bottle in and ready for something more substantial.

Paella negra con alioli squid ink paella w cuttlefish and scallops served with alioli sauce $22p/p

The squid ink paella was a rather refreshing version of what we normally have access to in Melbourne.  The squid was fresh and the rice was cooked al dante, although I would’ve loved a squeeze of lemon and lots of salt.  We decided to get a serve for 2, considering we’d had the starters and to leave room for…

Mixed Grill plate

MEAT!! This mixed grill doesn’t look that big for 6, but starting from the bottom, there were 2 lamb chops, a rabbit (joint?  fillet? the part that has a bone in it…) a sausage and a big piece of eye fillet.  The eye fillet was probably the best, cooked to pinky perfection on the inside and a little charred on the outside.  The rabbit was a little dry and flavourless, but nothing a good dollop of chimmichurri didn’t fix.

Churros con chocolate $9.90

We’re all pretty full by the end of it – and YES! We did manage to finish it all, save a few bits of leafage from the meat plate – but let’s be real.  There is ALWAYS room for dessert!! Even if it is the safest, most cliched spanish dessert around.  Thankfully, Robert Burns does this cliche rather well.  The Churros are crisp, and not too thick – there is nothing worse than being served a bratwurst sized churros – and the chocolate is a perfect balance of bitter and sweet.

Much like the last taste to pass our lips, despite all the slight misgivings of the evening, it was in the end as it should be, all about the exceptional company.  Which much like the dessert was full of shits and giggles and bitter sweet.

Easy Tiger

7 Aug

After a month of pre-planning (and still 2 people dropped out – but I am not going to name and shame here…) we finally managed to get all 7 of us old uni mates (DL, OK, CT, TS and of course my DDO partner in crime JL and my love JP) to Easy Tiger, a much loved (Z practically lives there) but not enough lauded modern, Thai inspired eatery located in what is becoming THE culinary hub of Melbourne, north of the Yarra (not that I can really name any culinary hubs on the other side of the Yarra – touche).  The only problem with being a culinary hub is that parking is impossible and after a full 40 minutes of circling the blocks of Collingwood, we had to settle for a permit park and hope for the best.  But I digress.

I had been to Easy Tiger a couple of months back with a Z and Little ‘L’, after much harassment from Z to visit her much loved institution.  A little skeptical at first (everyone who knows me will have heard of my disdain for any type of modern / fusion / deconstructed Asian cuisine of any type), I was pleasantly surprised by the whole package that the place offers – fantastic food, great wine choices, intimate ambience and the accommodating staff who are genuinely excited about the food and making customers happy.  This latest visit was no different – which is refreshing, particularly when lesser institutions make a big fuss about booking changes with short notice (when I called to change from a table of 9 to 7 there was literally no fuss) and late arrivals (turns out we all had trouble parking).

On this occasion the 7 of us were seated outside in the covered and heated courtyard complete with fairy lights. It was a beautiful night to be sitting outside with the chimenea providing just adequate warmth and the spice in the food doing the rest of the heating.

To make things easy we had gone with the banquet option (the banquet is the only option for tables greater than 8, and also on Sunday nights).

First up was the cutest little appetizer called ‘ma hor’ – minced meat and prawn cooked in palm sugar atop a little round of watermelon.  The fresh, crisp taste of the watermelon provided the perfect backdrop to the smooth velvety taste of the palm sugar – the curious little dish was also texturally exciting with the slight crunch of the watermelon blending well with the soft minced meat.

'ma hor'

This was swiftly followed by the betel leaf with prawn, peanuts and fresh coconut – which I will call the  Z special for the amount of times she has mentioned it.  The betel leaf is probably one of two ‘in vogue’ things (along with son in law eggs – but more on that later) that crop up on any modern Thai / fusion / slightly Asian influenced menu.  The version at Easy Tiger is one of the better ones I have had – the leaf is a rich dark green and of a larger size than most, allowing one to properly wrap up the contents and consume without it erupting like a volcano.

Prawns on betel leaves

Oysters arrive next – freshly shucked and served with a red chilli nahm jim (what I would describe as fancy Tobasco), they’re nice enough but not particularly exciting.

Oysters with red chilli

Then we all burn our mouths on the chicken, coconut and galangal soup with shimeji mushrooms (like a tom ka gai), which are presented simply in deceiving double walled bodum glasses.

chicken, coconut and galangal soup

I actually really like the soup which has just enough small chicken bits and the freshest of herbs make it a tasty warming treat.

At this point the group have settled in nicely and polished off two bottles of wine from the predominantly Australian wine list (which offers a solid selection to suit all tastes), and we are all awaiting the main dishes with eager anticipation.  Fragrant jasmine rice (cooked surprisingly well for a non-Asian establishment – thank god for the Asians who introduced the rice cooker to this country!) arrives with two main share dishes – a red curry duck with mangosteen and baby corn and steamed snapper in a lemongrass and ginger broth – and two sides – the iceberg lettuce salad (simple but tasty) and those son in law eggs (one each)!!!  I had tried the son in law eggs on my first Easy Tiger adventure, and this second consumption was no less memorable.

Iceberg lettuce salad

Son in law eggs

Cracking open the softly fried outer shell the yolk oozes out like a river of gold – I like to have mine on some rice to make sure I soak up all of that gooey goodness!  Its amazing how a thing as simple as an egg is transformed into a culinary wonder just by frying it.

The red curry duck is perfectly fragrant, although a bit rich for my liking – and if you don’t happen on the one rogue chilli in the dish then you won’t have a problem, as its not really that spicey.  However if you are the lucky one (as I was), then beware – this chilli will literally set your mouth on fire! There is no easy cure but to drink lots of water (which doesn’t really help) and sit it out (hopefully this happens towards the end of the meal so that you can actually taste all the other dishes!).  Compared to the  green beef curry I tried on my first visit, the duck lacked a little spice (the beef was consistently spicey so if you don’t like it hot then go for the duck), but the mangosteens and baby corn adds textural interest.

Red curry duck with mangosteens and snake beans

The fish was fresh and succulent and the broth was the perfect balance of thai flavours – a little sour, a little sweet and with that quintessential thai herb, lemongrass.

Steamed snapper in lemongrass and ginger broth

Dessert was a coconut jelly with young coconut, pomegranate and puffed rice. The servings were just the right size (after a pretty big meal, we weren’t really wanting to eat a lot more), and the jelly provided the perfect relief to my burning mouth (from that damned chilli!).  The puffed rice and pomegranate added a great texture to the dish (crunchy balls of flavour that burst in the mouth to punctuate the velvety coconut).  This dessert is probably one that looks slightly less interesting on paper but is executed extremely well – on my first visit the duck egg custard looked particularly enticing on paper, but was much less amazing in my mouth (not an execution issue, just not to my palate’s liking).

Coconut jelly with pomegranate and puffed rice

All in all a great night with fantastic company at one of my new favourite places to eat.  It may not have any hats or stars but Easy Tiger has certainly got the approval of DDO and friends!

Easy Tiger

96 Smith St


(03) 9417 2373

Raffle’s Place…to the rescue.

16 Apr

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.  On this Friday evening, Melbourne CBD was Hell and I was the woman scorned!  You see it all started with the most pleasant of cocktails at Maha in the lower end of town.  I had a mean

Pomegranate sour (front) Kekka Club (back)

craving for dirty dumplings, so given the cheap and cheerful meal ahead of us, I figured we should treat ourselves to a proper drink.  Maha has long been one of my favourite establishments.  Set in a basement on Bond St, this middle Eastern Utopia (part of the Columbaris group) offers share plates with flavours to write home about and delicious cocktails to make it a beverage destination in its own right.

We arrived at a relatively peaceful Maha and were quickly seated at the bar.  The service, as you’d expect, is that perfect mix of friendly and knowledgeable. I decided to go with a pomegranate   Sour (anything with pomegranate has me at Hello!) whilst N went for the Kekka Club (she’s taken to drinking Gin based concoctions… I don’t get why?).  It was the perfect surrounds, with a low level hum of noise & chatter that did not leave me feeling like I should have brought my microphone and hearing aid.

So far so good.  The night is off to an above average start!! We decide to get the bill and make our way to fulfilling my dumpling craving.  Time check,  7:30pm!  I’d wanted to take N to China Red, for a while now.  Yes.  It’s ‘that place’ with the computer screens for waiters.  And yes,  it’s a bit of a gimmick.  But after going there a few times, I’d really enjoyed the food (the dumplings are made fresh and all the dishes offered taste as they should) and the service – or lack thereof – the cutting out the human makes for zero human errors in order taking/language barriers…kind of a God send!

We leave Maha and make it to China Red in good time.  But what’s this I see…?  Before my dumpling crazed filled eyes is a 10 meter line of hopefuls waiting for a table.  DAMMIT! I HATE LINES! So apparently I missed the “everyone wants dumplings tonight” memo, as we walked around for another 45 minutes going from dumpling place to dumpling place… each one offering me nothing but a line of people and a 35 minute wait!

Needless to say, the high of the Cocktail had well and truly worn off and all I can think about is eating dumplings.  We finally decided to leave the city and hope for the best!  Then, as we drive out of the Dumpling Crazed City, N has a brain fart!

Old Raffles Place

RAFFLES!  This Singaporean eatery has been satisfying DDO’s belly since  way back when.  Whether you catch Mr Han on bad day or a worse day, there’s something instantly elating about being seated in his pink walled eatery.

Now, coming here strays from my previous craving.  But honestly, I’m just happy to be able to walk into a restaurant, be seated immediately and not have to fear culinary suicide (…there was a point where we got SO desperate in the city we considered Mai Tai – enough said!)

Every time I come here I have to have the stir fried Turnip cake.  Although as an appetizer it is pretty filling, with it’s large cubed turnip cake pieces stir fried in ABC soy with a silky scrambling of egg and topped with fresh spring onions.   Not many places manage to do this without turning the turnip cake into a plated pile of moosh.  I did however find it a little on the sweet side on this occasion, to which Mr Han informed me that next time I should ask for it with fried shallots instead… Thanks Mr Han… advice with what could subjectively be described as a rare smile…(?)

Chai Tow Kwai (stir fried turnip cake with egg)

I decided to order the Hainanese Chicken Rice Set which is consistently perfect every time I have it here.  (A lot of other places leave me gasping for water shortly after eating it due to all the MSG).  Chicken really isn’t usually my thing – I find it uninspiring and dry- unless I’m at an asian restaurant.  As the chicken is cooked whole, with the skin, in chicken and pork stock, the flavour remains and the meat is succulent and tender.

Hainanese Chicken Rice Set

The rice here is fragrant and the perfect dampness (not overcooked, and definitely not dry), so when you get your mouthful of rice and chicken with a spoon of that hot ginger sauce, it’s like a harmonious flavour symphony!  I can’t fault this dish!

N decided to go for another Singaporean classic, Char Kway Teow.  I requested, as we’re gonna do sharesies, to opt for the Racecourse version which as well as yellow Hokkien noodles AND flat rice noodles, also contained prawns, fish cakes, pak choy, tons of bean shoots and Chinese sausage.  Coz ain’t no point in a WHOLE plate of carbs with no supplements…

Racecourse Char Kwai Teow

Again, a little on the sweet side and a little too saucy.  A perfect Kwai Teow should have no juice sitting in the dish, with each piece of noodle being lightly grease coated to prevent sticking, but without being soggy.  Yep.  mission VERY DIFFICULT!  But props to Han for delivering a well made Char Kwai Teow – it is quite the accomplishment to master cooking this dish without it being too oily or too dry as the flat rice noodles have a tendency to stick together.  Given our trying culinary night out, all that was left of this dish was the pool of sauce.

I’d say the only fault of Raffle’s Place was the sweetness of some dishes.  But in saying that, perhaps it was Mr Han’s way of sweetening my scorn towards my initially unsuccessful Friday Night Food Adventure.  Raffle’s Place, our saving Grace in turning Hell to Heaven.

The Old Raffles Place

70 Johnston Street



20 Mar

Its 2pm on Saturday afternoon!  It’s sunny.  And we are starving!!

After 2 consecutive unfortunate events happening in the space of 2 hours (yes.  One involved food… or lack there of.  The other being an appointment cancellation.) It seems the Higher Powers had decided,  “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was officially the soundtrack of my day!

So after a previous rather disappointing attempt at getting some brunch and having to walk out due to a 2 hour wait for poached eggs on toast -an hour and fifteen minutes waiting over time- , N and I were annoyed, hungry and NOT in the mood for further disappointment.  As we drove up Smith Street I tried to think of the closest brunch option with highest possible success rate (being judged on food quality, zero line tolerance, and absolutely ZERO incapable staff tolerance.)  Then came the epiphany!

Sonido is a quaint Columbian cafe on Gertrude Street which is all Filler no Killer.  Out of the 5 times I’ve visited, it’s been consistently pleasant, if not perfect everytime.  With it’s blue walled interior, adorned in South American paraphernalia and super charismatic (BONUS!!) yet efficient staff, I feel like my day could finally start looking up.

Supreme coffees at Sonido

Specialising in, as you’d expect, Columbian fare we are promptly presented with their menu which offers a range of Arepa’s -an arepa is a dish made of ground corn dough or precooked corn flour popular in both Colombia and Venezuela- Empanadas and a small selection of sweets.  They make an AMAZING Supreme coffee and also offer a range of icy fruit drinks – JUGOS NATURALE with a range of native fruits including Feijoa and Lulo – and Columbian Hot Chocolates (I’m still yet to try the one that comes with cheese… (?)… SO intrigued).

Shortly after our coffees are presented and our orders are placed, we enjoy our surrounds whilst we await our food.  N loves a good scramble, so went with the scrambled egg Arepa (which is normally only served until 2pm, but the friendly waitress made an allowance for us this time -we were 5 minutes late…) .

Arepa Con Huevo - Scrambled eggs with spring onion and tomato

The eggs were scrambled to perfection, still glistening and slightly wobbly from being not over cooked.  The little bits of tomato and onion also added that nice bit of texture through the silky smooth scramble.  Delicious!  It’s a good thing we’ve made a habit of ordering different dishes, so we can do taste testers…. because needless to say, I liked my meaty selection even better.

'Old clothes' beef; Cuban beef

My Beef Arepa came served with guacomole and salsa.  The “old clothes’ beef as they call it, is slow cooked and full of flavour.  The beef is soft but not slimy and is saucy enough without making it soggy and sludgy.  Accompanied with the tartness of the salsa and the creaminess of the gaucomole (and lashings of El Yucateco Salsa Picante Chile Habanero hot sauce … I like it spicey) every bite of this beef Arepa was satisfaction guaranteed!

So it seems my day is finally looking up.  The whole experience only took a little over 45 minutes  and the pep in my Saturday step was fully revived.  Thank you Sonido!! You’ve once again managed to change my tune for the better… looks like (Girl) CAN get Satisfaction, after all!!

Sonido 69 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

Josie Bones

24 Feb

I’m standing on the fence of two of the latest eateries on Smith Street, as I await the arrival of Z.  It’s been a long, excruciating week (and I’m only half way through) and  there’s been a week long void since I’ve had the pleasure of Z’s company.  It was a hard decision choosing between Easy Tiger and Josie Bones which are the two of the latest highly touted offerings on Smith Street, both conveniently next to each other.  As Z had already tried Easy Tiger (and who am I kidding, MEAT will always win in such battles) we decide to try Josie Bones.

We are seated at the bar, and promptly offered drinks menu’s.  For an establishment known for it’s vast offering of beer (& meat) I’m feeling pretty sad that I don’t appreciate beer.  Especially considering the bible sized drinks menu that is presented, 80% of it being beer.

Anyway, we order our wines and read over the menu.  It’s a small menu with plates designed to share.  I’m pretty hungry by this stage so we quickly decide on what we want and await the friendly waitress or waiter… or barman… ANYONE to acknowledge our presence.  Eventually, someone hovers near us at the bar so I pounce!!

crackling of the day

To start, the Crackling of Day  ($4) is presented thankfully nice and quickly.  It’s obviously been pre fried but is still cripsy and crunchy enough.  Although it would have been nice to be informed on what exactly had been and unceremoniously dumped in front us.  We had NO idea what we were crunching on until the man sitting to our left over heard us talking about it and informed us that it was indeed chicken skin.  Thanks Mr Man to our Left.  Good to know what crackling I’m consuming.  It could have done with some heat – some chilli and salt maybe…

Miniature Scotch Egg with Schmaltz Mayo

Inside the Scotch Egg

Next to arrive is the Scotch egg with Schmaltz Mayo ($6).  Pretty excited about this dish.  As I slide the knife down the center I excitedly anticipate a semi oozy liquid center of the quail yolk to spill onto the plate…. Hmmm.  No Ooze.  No sign of moisture.  I think I kind of imagined it to be less of a dry, dense meat ball … Lesson learned.  One should never assume.

By this stage we are up to our second wines each, and as it’d been such a long time between catch ups, I’m pretty distracted by talking, eating and listening all at once.  Thankfully, despite the initial complete LACK of service, once things were ordered they arrived in pretty good time.  (It was either a coincidence or the waiter judged by the way I practically fly tackled her to take our order, that it probably wasn’t in her best interest to keep me waiting…)

Ok.  So 2 dishes down, 2 to go.  Next was the duck prosciutto ($16), which I loved the sound of.  Anything Duck.  I just like! This arrived all laid out artfully on the plate.  The figs were probably the only element of flavour on this dish.  Pretty underwhelming, considering prosciutto, no matter what the animal its made from, should generally have some hint of flavour… So far, I’m feeling like each of these dishes could have done with some Salt!  … Maybe lots of salt.  Everything seems to be lacking flavour, which for meat, is actually pretty difficult.

Duck prosciutto, fig, pistachio and rocket with rum cast aged ale dressing

Finally its the Pork Belly!  Which not surprisingly, is one of my favourite things to see on a menu.  It’s that perfect layering of meat and fat and topped with  salty crispy skin that always leaves me So SO satisfied! … Well.  Normally anyway.

Slow cooked Pork Belly with pickled peaches and soubise

Unfortunately, seeing the Josie Bones $19 plate of pork belly failed to ignite the usual excitement that it normally would.  First of all, it’s tiny! But I decide not to comment or judge until I taste it.  (Who knows, this could be a little Bomb of Taste that simultaneously melts in my mouth but is topped with that perfectly salty crunch that put Pork Belly experiences so high on my ‘hobbies’ list… )  Bomb of Taste, not so much!! Disappointed.  And Yes!  Kind of still hungry!

It actually makes me really sad that I had not much good to say about this dining experience (besides of course, the always exceptional company, Z).  I’d heard so much about it, and maybe I ordered the wrong thing or came on a bad night…? But considering we payed $45 each (after the an amazing meal at Huxtable the week before, where we left with food comas for $55) and essentially ate morsels of flavourless food, it’s pretty safe to say if I ever find myself  perched on that same fence as I did at the beginning of the night, I know which side not to take.

Josie Bones

98 Smith Street Collingwood 3066  Tel +613 9417 1878



8 Feb

It’d been a long week of ringing in the New Year.  (Chinese New Year)  I hadn’t seen cutlery or any one besides my family  in over a week and I was well and truly ready get back amongst society.  Particularly with my good friend and fellow foodie (Z)!  As it’d been such a long time since catch ups and cutlery, my only request for our wining and dining catchup was that it was at a venue that did not offer chopsticks as a utensil of choice.

I had some things to finish up at the studio so I suggested we keep it local (especially since Collingwood had offered so many additions to my culinary hit list in the recent months).  Z had tried Huxtable already, but had been meaning to try it again…  properly (her first experience was with a gluten intolerant person… Do not even get me started on my intolerance or patience for such culinary restrictions) and I’d heard and read so much about this place I really wanted to try it for myself.

To my delight we arrived to plenty of empty seating and even better, we got to sit at the bar which looks onto the open kitchen.  And yes.  Me being the nosey kitchen fiend, I like to see what/how things are being prepared.

glass of 09 kasaura montepulciano with crusty fresh baked bread

The menu is designed to be shared with ‘bites’ (ordered per item) and then progressing to larger share plates categorised into ‘sea’, ‘land’ and ‘earth’ categories.  I’d read endless raving reports about the Oyster Po’Boy and so could not resist giving in to communal hype and trying it for myself.  PLUS, my love of all things Americana meant this item was a no brainer.

rice flour crusted oyster po'boy, iceberg, sriracha mayo $6.50 ea

These little bundles of joy are under the ‘bites’ part of the menu so we ordered one each.  They were promptly presented on a clean circular plate, the golden crusted oysters glistening in all their glory whilst being encased in a warmed dick roll (much like those ones you used to get from Safeway that were meant to be reheated in the oven and were possibly the most disturbingly pale white roll you’d ever see.  Although this actually tasted fresh and tasty).  In addition to the shredded iceberg the po’boy was also laced with a spicy mayo which gave it a nice kick.  Being my first Po’Boy experience I guess I was satisfied, but I found it a bit too bready and would probably prefer it without the Carb-case!

crisp filo log of lamb puttanesca, lemon yoghurt $5.50 ea

Next was the Filo log of lamb puttanesca.  This was definitely one of my favourites.  Perfect balance of crispy outer filo, encasing a fragrant and soft lamb (loves me my meat) with a slight tang from the lemon yoghurt.  Flavour/texture sensations a-plenty.  Party in the mouth!

chargrilled quail, witlof, peach, proscuitto $19

So with our ‘bites’ part of the meal done, it was time to move on to our ‘shares’ part of the meal.  Z really liked the sound of the Quail which came chargrilled.  Gotta say, my usual response to quail is, ‘meh’ as it usually has resulted in it being deep fried with some sort of 5 spice seasoning.  From tonight, I learned that it can indeed be rather flavoursome and enjoyable.  The chargrilling gave it a nice smokey flavour but didn’t over power the quail flavour that often happens when it is deep fried.  The bitterness of the witlof, combined with the sweetness of the peach, saltiness of the proscuitto and crunch of toasted almonds made for a pretty amazing mouthful of flavour when paired with the tender quail.

quinoa w zucchini flowers, pomegranate, goats cheese $14

By this stage I’m feeling pretty satisfied, but considering the final two dishes we ordered were vegetables I figured, it’s just vegies.  Suck it up.  Make room.

Quinoa with zucchini flowers was pretty tasty.  Although I think it’s my obsession with pomegranate and goats cheese that tipped me over the satisfied edge.  I love the pop of the pomegranate, and when combined with the softness of the goats cheese, its texture-nation.  The last dish was the lebanese cauliflower with harissa yoghurt and dukkah.  Can I just say.  Cauliflower (being NOT MEAT) rarely factors on my radar of food group.  But this was pretty amazing.

lebanese cauliflower, harissa yoghurt, dukkah $14

Now I know the picture may be cause for concern.  Why on earth, is this cauliflower brown!! Let me assure you, this cumin encrusted fried cauliflower is possibly the tastiest flavour explosion you will ever experience coming from a vegetable.  Its crispy.  Its flavoursome.  And eaten with some dukkah and harissa, it’ll be the most memorable forkful of food you’ll experience.

All in all I must say I left rather impressed by my experience at Huxtable.  It’s not often a place can be so talked about and actually live up to the hype.  Service was attentive without being interuptive, good wine list, and most importantly, not a single pair of chopsticks in sight (high on my list of needs this week)  I left feeling exceptionally satisfied!   And $55 each for a food coma inducing good feed (i couldn’t even fit in dessert) and 2 glasses of wine (each), this place is definitely worthy of a revisit!

131 Smith Street Collingwood  Tel +613 9419 5101