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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.

Huxtable

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

http://www.huxtablerestaurant.com.au/