Tuesday, December 31, 2013


118 Lygon Street
VIC 3053
03 9663 3536

We'd read about Svago and when we walked down the busy Lygon street its more laid back yet elegant feel appealed to us. After checking if we had a reservation the charming tall German waiter offered us a table inside or let us choose one on the street, then asked if we were in a hurry, and warned us that the kitchen was a little crazy. We didn't have any other plans for the evening and given the cool change had resulted in a pleasant temperature we decided to stay.

While initially around 6:30 things were quiet, it got busier inside and people were soon being turned away. We perused the concise menu and made our selections. We ordered and our wait began, in the end it was about an hour after we arrived and maybe 50 minutes from ordering before our entrées arrived, although we had a couple of updates and apologies, some bread and drinks in that time. With plenty of people to watch it wasn't a bad place to pass time...

My choice to start was the roasted tomato soup and while I didn't notice the crunchy Cherry tomatoes the basil oil was the highlight of the dish.

The sardines were served with plenty of roasted peppers and basil on toasted bread. They looked great and were soon polished off.

The wait for our mains wasn't quite so long, I had the Spaghetti del Mar, which featured beautiful home-made pasta  with fresh seafood including prawns, mussels, calamari and perfect scallops in a Salsa Verde sauc.

The loin of lamb looked impressive, with a generous helping of backstrap served with braised sprouted legumes, pea puree and Juniper berries jus. Appearances weren't deceptive, and dish went down well, with all the elements proving to be a success.

While the delay was a little longer than we expected, the food was worth the wait. The waiters warnings and updates were all delivered with great humour which made the evening more memorable. The bill came in just under $110 including 3 glasses of wine. We'd definitely return, if we were looking a relaxed evening and some great Italian influenced food in Carlton.

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Monday, December 30, 2013

The European

161 Spring Street
VIC 3000

I'd had coffee at the European a couple of times but hadn't ever eaten there, but as our guest had requested European food we headed there...

The name does give a strong hint of what to expect, with a very traditional French Bistro style feel to the place including the wood panelled walls, small tables and classic wooden chairs.

Once seated the waiter ran us through the specials, with a knowledgeable introduction to each, they were also able to answer all the questions we had about the menu.

Danny went for the smoked padrón peppers with the creamy Monte Enebro goat's cheese, and peppers certainly had plenty of the smoky flavours along with a kick.

I also chose from the board and had the smoked fish croquettes which were nicely flavoured and perfectly cooked and came with some great sauces.

Danny went for the beef Wellington with peas and braised cos. The pastry wasn't quite in the style he'd expected, and initially he was a little underwhelmed by the serving size, but the steak was beautifully tender and won him over. He also enjoyed his side of kipflers with bacon and cabbage..

I had the black and white linguine with fresh crab, tomato, basil and bottarga. At the time I assumed the bottarga or botargo was another herb, but have since determined it is salted, cured fish roe. The flavours certainly worked well witht he crab to create an enjoyable dish.

The bill came to around $160 with a few drinks, all also from Europe. The service was pretty much impeccable and it is an excellent choice to get the continental style dining experience in Melbourne.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Pizza e Birra

60 Fitzroy Street,
St Kilda,
Victoria 3182

We were taking a visitor to St Kilda and needed a spot for a latish dinner and settled on Pizza e Birra conveniently sited at the end of the light rail portion of the number 96 route. As it was a Friday before Christmas we wondered if it would be busy, but there were plenty of tables available. The fit out was fresh and the large windows let us look out across Fitzroy St.

We took a while to work out what we wanted, and shared the Piatto di Antipasto as an entree featuring a selection of cured meats, cheese, olives and some mushrooms, served with bread.

The selection was fine and served as a nice appetizer, but didn't blow us away.

Danny had the house pizza e birra, with tomato, fior di latte cheese, cacciatorre hand cut salami, red peppers and chilli. He didn't wait for me to dig in, and seemed to enjoy the spicy combination.

I went for the Tonno, featuring tomato, tuna, caramelised onion, fresh tomato, capers, garlic, spinach and oregano, a fairly healthy pizza which was still packed with flavour and enjoyable.

The pizze bianche funghi misti topped with mozzarella, mixed mushrooms, peas, gorgonzola and parmesan was a little too cheesy for my tastes, but a little different to standard offerings!

The service was great, friendly, informative and efficient. The pizza's started around the $20 mark, and I'd certainly head back again.

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Queen of Sheba and the Nicholson South Popup Market

222 Nicholson Street
VIC 3011

We wandered down to the the Nicholson South Pop-up Market not quite knowing exactly what we'd find. There were more stalls than I expected and plenty of tables and chairs set up in the street, as well as a stage at the southern end of the street. After checking out a few of the marquees, picking up some Christmas gifts and having a look around the Colour Box Studio we were hungry so sought out some grub.

There were a couple of food trucks, including the Taco Truck and lil' nomnoms in attendance, however based on some appetising plates of food we spied, we decided on the Queen of Sheba Ethiopian restaurant. I'm glad we did especially after reading about the challenges they face at the moment in The Age. We received a friendly welcome on entering and were offered specials for the event as well as the standard offerings, we opted for one each of the large veggie and chicken special combinations. We found a table near the restaurant with a view of the stage, it was great to be able to enjoy the wonderful weather out on the street. Unfortunately the licence hadn't come through and as beers weren't allowed out of the Colour Box Studio I made a quick trip for byo beers, assuming it was OK to drink outside as we'd spied the mayor enjoying a Corona.

The veggie combination a couple of wats or lentil based Ethiopian curries, salad, vegetable stew, rice and a darker injera than I'd seen before. The wats were beautifully spicy and the large size was plenty for me!

The chicken combination contained similar ingredients, with the addition of a couple of drum sticks and a small serve of a beef based stew.

We'd only ever eaten at one of the African restaurants on Nicholson streets ''Little Ethiopia'', mainly visiting the sadly now closed Taj Palace when in this end of town. The owner of the Queen of Sheeba came out and she briefly explained that she'd moved from Brisbane and set up here after her children got uni places in Melbourne. It was certainly a tasty and great value meal, and we will try and make a return visit soon. Hopefully this strip of shops and restaurants can survive the challenging time with their direct link to central Footscray shut until the bridge re-opens and the new offices nearby open. The pop-up market seemed to be a success and a return, either before or after the work is completed would be great.

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Monday, December 2, 2013

The Westies - Happy Camper Pizza & Mr Burger

Yarraville Gardens,
VIC 3013

After missing last years westside food bloggers picnic, we made sure we got to the inaugural "The Westies: Dishes of Distinction", the western suburbs’ first dedicated food awards in Yarraville gardens.

We arrived around midday and quickly located the crowd of attendees and the nearby food trucks. The Wild Horse Cafe caravan looked to be doing a good trade in coffees.

We headed straight across to get ourselves an early lunch, and were waiting for our respective dishes when the awarding actually took place.

The Happy Camper pizza truck drew my attention with their beautiful Airstream trailer, a new addition to the food truck scene. I went with the simple $12 "Setting up Camp" option, topped with tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil. My order seemed to be well timed and only 5 or 6 minutes later the basil leaves were being torn up in front of me.

The uncomplicated offering hit the spot, the only tiny quibble is that I'd have preferred it cooked medium instead of rare!  I'll certainly be looking out for them about town, you can follow their movements on twitter and facebook.

Mr Burger tempted the better half...

She went for the Mr Burger option, with the beef pattie, cheese lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, mustard, mayo and tomato sauce.

Things were pretty hectic in the 'kitchen', and there was a bit of a wait, and the pizza took a bit of a hit while we sat on the wall.

Eventually the burger arrived, and it was apparently very much worth the wait. (It actually wasn't that long, probably just over 10 minutes... but you it seems longer when your fellow diner already has their food!) Everything certainly looked good, and I'm not sure I'd have been able to get a bite if I'd asked!

I did get to try a few chips, which were pretty much perfect.

After eating I got to speak to Lauren of Footscray Food Blog fame, Kenny of Consider the Sauce was busy chatting to other guests. Thanks for the great work by both of them in setting the Westies up, you can read the full write up by Lauren in The Age for the details of the winners. We haven't visited any of them, so that adds a few more options when we want to try some new places out in the vicinity.

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Cricketers Bar at Hotel Windsor

111 Spring Street,
Vic 3000

The Cricketers Bar at the iconic Windsor Hotel opposite Parliament on Spring Street was the venue for lunch with Brendan on the first day of the Ashes series. Being such a grand building I always feel slightly odd popping in to go to the bar.

Given the occasion it was pretty packed but we managed to find a high table with an all important view of the screens. There is plenty of cricketing memorabilia on display and the room does feel more upmarket than your general pub. The bar is in the centre of the room, and we grabbed menus from there. All the main meals include a drink, worth noting as otherwise even a soft drink is $4.

The $15 specials including a drink are pretty good value, on the Thursday lunch time we visited, whiting was on offer. We had a decent wait for our lunch and then initially when our meals arrived we got two of the special, and the waitress didn't know what she'd brought us. Eventually the other dish arrived.

I was a little surprised by the size of the fish and the presentation, but I guess that's the chance you take when you order to a brief oral description! The small battered fish were crunchy and tasty and came with a few leaves and sauce.

Brendan was slightly miffed to have blown some of his budget on a drink before finding out they came with the mains. He ended up going for the popcorn chicken at $12. After the wait and mix up with dishes, he was ready to be disappointed, but the chicken and especially the  spicy and wasabi mayo

The Cricketers isn't your typical pub or eating spot in the city, but given the location and the ambiance, it can be worth eating there on the right occasion. The special can be good value too.

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Vineyard, St Kilda

71 Acland Street
St Kilda,
Vic 3182

We'd been to the Vineyard a few times before, more often when we lived a lot nearer, but our visits had been later in the day and mainly for drinks.

This visit was for brunch after the City to Sea running event. St Kilda was filling up with runners and their friends and family, and we got one of the last outside tables in the sun. The breakfast menu wasn't huge but offered planty of options to customise the various egg options. It took a little while for our orders to be taken, partially due to the steady stream of new arrivals. We had to wait a short while for our coffees, but both the long black and skinny flat white were worth it.

Our meals arrived soon after the coffees. I had poached eggs on toasted cibatta with mushrooms. The eggs lived up to my high standards and were pretty much perfectly cooked, with nicely runny yolks, the mushrooms weren't bad either.

The scrambled eggs with mushrooms and spinach were also prepared to the better half's tastes.

The bill was just over $30 which was pretty good value for good quality food, in a great spot to watch the world go by, but not too crowded either. The service was fine given how busy the place was fairly early on a Sunday. I'd happily get brecky there again.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Bridge Hotel, Richmond

642 Bridge Road
Vic 3121

At the Hawthorn end of Bridge Road in Richmond, I hadn't visited the  Bridge Hotel, before, although the better half had, a few years back.

It re-opened in November 2011, and despite looking like a regular Melbourne Pub on the outside inside hosts its own lane-way which hosts urban art, including multi-layered stencils, paper paste-ups and aerosol free-form pieces developed with help from the Alleycat Creative. The open air space divides the bar area from the sit down dining area which offers table service from the same menu.

The refurbishment in the dining section was also quite dramatic, with plenty of exposed concrete and new spaces.

The tables are fairly low or bar height and the vibe was quiet and relaxed on a Saturday lunch time. The menu was mostly standard pub style, given the radical makeover the building had gone through.

The presentation of the vegetarian lasagne didn't quite live up to the architecture either, but the eggplant, spinach and mushrooms topped with bechamel sauce and plenty of cheese tasted better than it looked.It was accompanied by a basic rocket, semi dried tomato and parmesan salad.

The mushrooms stuffed with herbed goats cheese, ricotta and pistachios vanished quickly, which I took as a sign of popularity.

The 'House Made' dips, including beetroot and mint, raita and capsicum offerings, seemed fairly standard, and came with plenty of fresh grilled bread.

The service was friendly and efficient. The bill came to around $40 including a soft drink. The food wasn't at all bad, but didn't quite live up to the great refurbishment, but I would happily go back next time I was at that end of Richmond.

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