Tag Archives: Smith Street

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.

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