Thursday, December 02, 2010

Three Bags Full

56 Nicholson St
Abbotsford, 3067

There's something about Three Bags Full that is just cool. Damn cool.
I thought at first that the flocks of people that come through the doors were only there because there wasn't any other decent cafe around Abbotsford. Whilst this is true, there's something more to TBF that at first I couldn't put my finger on. Then as I looked around the room and started to put all the pieces together.
There's the antique Tolix Chairs. Not the replicas that all the other cafes are using, but the real deal.. There's the bare globes dangling from the ceiling. There's the bright yellow highlights around the room. The old warehouse walls are garnished with artwork; rubbings of ladies undergarments. The big factory style windows brighten the room. Flowers on the tables bring a touch of elegance to the old factory room.

A glance down at the other end of our communal table and we spied an ex-Masterchef contestant. Another look across to the constant flow of people coming through the door- early on a Monday morning and we spot local comedian Josh Thomas. It seems that even the local celebs think highly of this place.

I ordered the smashed peas, ricotta, tomato vinaigrette with poached egg on sourdough. What an awesome warm weather breakfast. Fresh peas on toast, with runny poached eggs on top. Very Cool!

The coffee is sensational. It was strong on the morning we visited, but it's not too bitter and not too milky. There's not many coffees around town that I actually really like, but these guys make my favourite so far!

The staff, some of which I recognise from the owners other cafe in Alphington - APTE.
Despite the popularity of the cafe early on a Monday, staff are friendly and efficient, even somewhat bubbly! A hard one to pull off on a Monday!

So, what is it about this place that makes it so cool? I think it's everything. They seem to have gotten all the little details 'just right.' From the food to the service, to the decor to the Hilltop Hoods being played on the speakers. Very cool. I can see why this place is always busy. If you have to wait for a table, trust me when I say it's worth the wait.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Purple Peanuts

620 Collins St
Melbourne, 3000

The Spencer St end of Collins st used to be completely void of any type of decent lunchtime eating spot, other than a couple of food courts which sold your standard 'lemon chicken' and 'tropical rice' dishes from a Bain Marie. These days it's a totally different part of town. There are creperies, fish n chip shops, fancy sandwich shops and now there is a Japanese place to tell your workmates about.

Purple Peanuts recently opened in the shop that used to house Boost Juice. But apparently not a lot of people were all that keen on Boost down that end of the city and they seemed to much prefer to line up for the Krispy Kremes Doughnuts across the road. So Boost juice lasted about a year or so to make way for a few other asian food stores that didn't seem to do much trade.

In it's most recent form, the store houses a top little Japaese joint - Purple Peanuts. It's primarily a take away place, but there are a few tables and chairs in case you would like to sit down and watch people lining up for their lunch. Purple peanuts seems to be following a very similar menu format to that of Don Don / Don Too. Basically keeping it simple with only a few menu items like Chicken Teriyaki and Chicken Curry. Also keeping it cheap is a priority too.

They also sell various forms of Inari, which all look delicious, different types of handrolls, as well as different types of Onigiri. The Onigiri they sell here is different to the type I tried in Japan. It appears to be deep fried and look more like an Arancini ball than the Japanese Rice Ball that I'm used to. I was keen to try one of these, but they were sitting right out on the counter, just at mouth height, and I'm not a fan of food that has, possibly been sneezed on or coughed on by someone waiting in line, so I passed on those. This time, anyway.

I went with the Chicken Teriyaki option ($8.50) and I got it to take away. Back at my office I opened up my container and was pleasantly surprised. The chicken looked great. Although, it didn't appear to have those little charcoalie / crispy type bits that I love so much about the Don Don version. But the chicken was tender, the sauce was a little sweet like Teriyaki should be. The salad that you get with your meal is better than the salads you would get a Don Don. I love the sesame dressing they use on it here and the nicely cooked beans. You also get a decent portion of rice with your meal.

Unfortunately, my office has moved across to Docklands now, but Purple Peanuts is still just close enough to Docklands for me to wander over now and then, for some pretty awesome Japanese Lunch treats. Considering the line out the door yesterday when I walked past, it seems that I'm not the only one who is a fan!

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

VinTam's Bakery - Docklands Challenge

Shop 109, 111 Merchant St
Docklands VIC

My team at work has been moved from the CBD out to Docklands. So I've gone from having amazing lunch places around me to having mostly crappy cafes, that no self respecting food lover would ever purchase anything from. However, I am determined to find some good places to eat around Docklands and I'm sure there are lots of people out there who are keen to hear about some decent places too. So, I'm going to share with you any good places that I find.

Some mates at the office had told me about a little Footscray Style Vietnamese Bakery, just around the corner from work. I wandered down today at lunchtime and discovered that they are a Pho joint!

I promptly ordered myself a bowl ($9) of Rare Beef Pho. I was very pleased to see that the big bowl was served with the traditional Thai Basil, Bean Shoots, Chilli and Lemon.
This Pho was as good as any you'd have in Footscrazy or Richmond. Only difference being that I didn't find the need to add any fish sauce. All of the ones in Richmond I find lacking any salt, so I need to add some fish sauce. Maybe these guys add a nice dash of MSG to brighten things up a bit!

VinTam also sells Vietnamese Pork and Chicken Rolls for about $5 - $6. Definitely keen to get back there and check those out. Am so rapt that I can have Pho for lunch now. Couldn't get that where I was in the CBD, either!

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The Farm Cafe ( Collingwood Children's Farm )

18 St Heliers Street
Abbotsford VIC 3067

Nestled amongst the trees, animals and alongside one of Melbourne's busiest bike trails (capital city trail) is The Farm Cafe - just next to the reception of Collingwood Children's Farm.
Looking out towards the chickens is this lovely little, mostly outdoor cafe. There's no table service, not much shelter if it's raining, but on a nice day, this awesome cafe is packed! Families stop off here before or after visiting the animals at the farm and bike riders stop off, for some breakky or lunch to fuel them on their travels.

The menu reads as you would expect a menu to read at the Children's farm. Lots of Free Range, organic, Bio-Dynamic, Sustainable ingredients make up the delicious dishes that are on offer here.

We visited on a Sunday morning about 9.30am and the place was already full of kids and their parents. Being outdoors though, the kids aren't too much of a drama as there's no walls for their yelling to bounce off.

You order at the counter and take a number. Usually that's not so cool, but here it works well.

Em orders the 'Goat's Toast'. Sourdough toast, beetroot relish, baby spinach & avocado
topped with marinated goats cheese $15 or with a poached egg $16.50. The beetroot relish was something out of the ordinary and pretty amazing. Goat's Cheese and eggs seem to just live in harmony together - well in my opinion anyway. Em also ordered bacon to go with her breakky, since it all sounded a little too healthy! She loved the breakky.

I ordered the Slow Cooked Beans, in a tomato & fennel seed sauce with marinated fetta & fresh herbs served with sourdough toast $10.50 with a poached egg $12. These beans were really good. Not quite as good as the first ones I had at Fenix, but they were up there. It was quite a big serve too, I couldn't even finish it.

So, if it's a nice day and you feel like a little venure down to The Farm Cafe, you'll be very happy with the food and you'll even be happier with the view. You wouldn't even know that you were about 4km to Melbourne's CBD.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Jim's Greek Tavern

32 Johnston St, Collingwood, Vic

So, where do you go in Melbourne if you want the best Greek food around? The famous Jim's Greek Tavern of course!
Well, that statement would have been true about 20 years ago. But these days Jim's Greek Tavern is far from the best Greek Food in Melbourne. In recent years with the addition of restaurants like George Colambares' traditional Hellenic Republic and the more modern Press Club, the standards have been raised.
When people go to restaurants like Tetsuya's, Vue De Monde, Quay, etc, you spend quite a bit of money. But it's all ok, because it's "an experience." Well if you want an experience, Jim's is one of those. I can't say it will be one that you will cherish forever, but it will be an experience.
If you've never been to Jim's, it's decor is still very much from the early 80's with apparently very little being done to it since then. The only difference to the staff from back then is less hair and what's left is a little more grey.

The staff bounce around like they're at their only daughter's wedding night. It would be good if that energy went into checking on their customers though.
Don't expect a menu when you arrive at Jim's. We got a "what would you like?" and our response was, "what have you got?" So, basically the waiter tells you what's being served that evening - there's a few choices when it comes to the type of fish and how you would like your meat cooked. It all sounds great! Be warned though, there are no visible prices anywhere and Jim's isn't all that cheap! You feel a bit stingy asking what the price of each item is, when it is offered to you, so you just go with the flow.

We started with the Saganaki. This came out far too quickly to be prepared especially for us, so it had been sitting there for at least a few minutes before it was bought to our table. You could tell because the cheese was rubbery and stodgy - the was saganaki goes if it isn't served straight from the heat. Lemon juice helps to reduce the richness of the cheese.

Next was some dips, which when you walk in, you can see come from a big bain marie style cooler on the counter. You would find better dips in the fridge at the supermarket to be honest. The bread however that is homemade, is pretty awesome. Nothing like fresh home made bread to soak up all those oils and juices!

Next up were scallops. These were actually delicious. They weren't all that much to look at and look like they are way over cooked, but they tasted nothing of the sort. They were tender, zesty with some lemon and really, really good with the bread! Definitely the highlight.

Next was the whiting. I chose the whiting out of the choices that we were offered, because whiting for some reason screams Greek to me. Not sure what it is. Maybe it's the fishermen that I used to see down at the Warmies when I was a kid, pulling the whiting in. The fish was excellent, minimal bones, not overcooked. However one piece of whiting for $32 was an absolute joke. We didn't realise the price until the bill came at the end. I saw whiting the next day for $5kg at vic market. The fish had just been seared in a pan.

Lastly came the lamb. You would think after cooking lamb for more than 20 years at this same restaurant to so many happy punters, you would think that these guys would have perfected it! Guess what? Not even close. The lamb was almost cold when it came to us. It was dry, dry, dry. And although it wasn't chewy, it was verging on unpleasant to eat. You needed a drink to help wash it down. Which wasn't helped by me having to ask the waiter 3 times for the coke that I ordered. The lamb doesn't even come with any type of garlic sauce or anything like that to help ease the dryness.

Overall, Jim's was a massive disappointment. The service is half arsed, the food is definitely not up to Melbourne's standard. If I was looking for greek food in the future, I'd definitely look elsewhere. The one thing that seems crazy though, is that this place is chockas! There wasn't a spare seat in the house and from my understanding it's like that on most weekends. No idea why, but they must have ordered different food to me. Or maybe it's the atmosphere that reminds them of home... if home has vomit on the stairs leading to the toilet.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Coin Laundry

61 A Armadale StreetArmadale, 3143

"Do you have a dollar, do you have a dollar for me?" - sung Lisa Mitchell in her song Coin Laundry. Well Lisa, I'm sorry, but if you need to scab a dollar from one of the punters at the fairly new Coin Laundry Cafe in Armadale, then you're probably eating out in the wrong area.

The customers at Coin Laundry, don't appear to be hard up for a dollar. That's probably because their modelling careers have taken off. The same could be said for the staff that work here too. The 2 male baristas look like something off the cover of Men's Health Magazine. While one of the female waitresses could easily be Australia's next 'it' girl. You would think that it would be hard to relax in a place like this, without worrying if you had a hair out of place or left some latte froth on your top lip. However, that's not the case.

Coin Laundry is suprisingly relaxed and laid back. The staff, despite their insane good looks, are very friendly and professional too. The room is sun-filled with massive windows looking out onto the swanky Armadale terraces. I reckon I can barely afford breakfast here, let alone one of those houses. But again, that's not the case! Breakfast is reasonably priced, which is why I guess the well to do, penny pinching locals love this place so much.

The menu doesn't go out of it's way to be different though, with everything on there sounding tasty, but very middle of the road. Considering the amount of amazing cafes in Melbourne at the moment, I was suprised to see a cafe of this calibre serving your standard poached eggs with bacon and rocket on top.

I ordered the Grilled Champagne Ham with Fontina Cheese on thick cut Noisette Sourdough with Roasted Roma Tomato and Torn Basil ($11.50) plus I ordered a poached egg on top ($3).

The Noisette bread was excellent as is everything I've tried of their's (especially their Olive Bread!). The fontina cheese looked a bit odd, kind of spread on the bread, looking a little like cream cheese. The poached egg, was perfectly poached and the tomato was nicely roasted. However the skin was left on. No big deal, but it would be nicer if they went to the effort of removing the skin. It was pretty tasty, but it's one of those things that you sit there and look at and go "I could have just made this at home and not driven all the way to Armadale." Which is exactly what I said.

Em ordered the Scrambled eggs with Bacon, Smashed Acovado and Rocket ($unk). Again, your standard cafe fare. Em noted that it was decent, but the scrambled eggs didn't have much flavour to them. However, I must point out that since I introduced Em to Bill's Scrambled Eggs in Sydney, nothing has quite met their standard. The 'smashed' Avocado has some lemon through it and maybe a bit of olive oil, which gave it's slightly runnier consistancy.
Em has a theory, that the better looking the barista, the better the coffee. Coin Laundry was apparently keeping up with this theory. Coin Laundry's coffee according to Em was pretty darn good! Their tea menu was fairly disappointing however, with only your stock standard Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Chai and Green. I wish cafes would show as much interest in the teas that they sell, as the coffee that they sell.

Overall, I reckon Coin Laundry would be a top local choice if you lived nearby. The staff are friendly and efficient, the food is decent, but it's not somewhere that I personally would be racing across town to re-visit. I think there are much more interesting options that I will be visiting before heading back there.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

DIY - Proud Mary's Potato Hash, Egg, Bacon, Spinach and Bagna Cauda

I found this recipe in Jamie Oliver's most recent issue of his magazine. He paid a visit to Proud Mary and proclaimed that it served the best coffee he had ever tried - period!

I've eaten this breakfast many, many times at the very popular Proud Mary cafe in Collingwood. I particularly love their Bagna Cauda sauce, which they serve with the perfectly cooked eggs and crunchy, yet soft potato hash. The sauce isn't as salty as you might think. The anchovies just provide the perfect seasoning with a bit of that lovely anchovy fishyness. Boiling the 8 garlic cloves in milk, also somewhat tones down the garlic flavour.

The trick to this breakky is all about timing. You'll need to have about 4 or 5 pans on the go at the same time, so if you enjoy a bit of pressure before breakfast on a weekend, this is a fun one to have a go at! Pity I can't make coffee at home as good as the one Jamie had at Proud Mary!

Serves 4

*4 Desiree Potatoes, peeled and halves
*1/4 Bunch chives, finely chopped, plus extra to serve
*About 50g of Butter, melted, plus 30g extra for the spinach
*12 Rashers of Streaky Bacon
4 Handfuls of Baby Spinach
4 Eggs

Bagna Cauda
8 Garlic Cloves
150ml Milk
25g Anchovies in a little oil
50ml single cream
1 small sprig of rosemary

1 Boil the potatoes in salted water until almost cooked, then drain, steam dry and set aside to cool. Do not overcook - you'll be grating the potatoes and want to grate into strands, not collapse. When the potatoes are cold, frate on the thick side of a box grater, Place in a mixing bowl and combine with the chives, then season well. Shape the mixture into 4 patties.

2 Get a pan of water on the boil, ready to poach your eggs. Place the potato cakes into a hot frying pan or grill plate. Flatted them down, spoon over a little melted butter and cook for 3 - 5 minutes, until crisp and golden underneath. Flip and shape into flat squares.

3 For the bagna cauda, simmer the garlic in 100ml of milk for about 5 minutes until soft, then remove with a slotted spoon, discarding the milk. Blend the anchovies, garlic, cream and 50ml of milk with a hand blender until smooth. Transfer to a pan then simmer the sauce with the rosemary until it thickens very slightly, keep warm.

4 Cook the bacon to your liking in another pan, wilt the spinach with the 30g butter and some black pepper. Poach your eggs.

5 To serve, place a potato hash on each plate. Top with a poached egg, then bacon and spinach. Drizzle generously with the hot bagna cauda.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Written On Tea, Sandy Bay, Tasmania

Nearly every Friday night here in Melbourne, Em and I head off to our favourite asian restaurant in Victoria St, Richmond. Since we were on holidays in Hobart, we obviously weren't going to be able to pop down to Victoria St. So our little Gourmet Traveller 2011 Australian Restaurant Guide came in handy once again.

We headed back to Sandy Bay, about 20 meters from another restaurant we visited earlier in the trip Shoga. The place was called Written On Tea. It was a strange little place, half of it in one room seemed like a really nice, swanky bar or restaurant and the other room, seemed like one of the cheaper unrenovated take away places on Victoria St, Richmond. Despite us making a booking, we were still seated in the dodgier looking, colder room at the front. On the positive side, at least we were getting a real Victoria St experience, in Tasmania!

We started with the Pan Fried Pork Dumplings. They were sticky little Gyoza type parcels, however somewhere along the line, somebody forgot to pan fry our pan-fried dumplings. They were as good as any I'd had in Melbourne - minus the lack of pan frying.

These little dumplings that we had next were very similar to the Shao-long Bao that you get at Hu-Tong in Melbourne. In fact, they could have been Shao-long Bao, because they had that little bit of broth in the bottom that burns your whole face when you bite into them and they explode!
They weren't quite up to the standard of Hu-Tong, but they were definately up there. After eating all the Gyoza type dumplings it was a bit of a struggle getting through these!

Finally we ordered some Duck with Basil and steamed rice. This was probably some of the best duck I've ever eaten. It was really delicious. The duck was lovely and tender. However, the basil wasn't what I was expecting. It was Italian style Basil, rather than Thai style Basil - which I found to be a bit odd, but seemed to work ok. Maybe they just read the recipe wrong? A tasty dish all the same.

The service left a lot to be desired, whilst most of the staff were friendly enough, they definitely weren't attentive and I had to get up to go to the counter to ask if I could order our food.
The room we were seated in was pretty cold, because the front door kept being opened for people coming in to get take away. We would have preferred to have been seated in the nicer room, especially since we'd make a booking. At one stage one of the waitresses came to us and said "ok, your table is ready now", so we thought we were getting moved to the good room. But the boss lady told the waitress off and we were told that the waitress made a mistake.

The food overall was above average and would fit in very nicely in Melbourne's China town. The prices were very reasonable and if you're after a cheap night out and aren't concerned about sitting in a not so sexy restaurant, then Written On Tea is a top spot.

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Choga, Sandy Bay, Tasmania

1/4 Russell Crs, Sandy Bay, Tasmania (03) 6224 4570

This was my first introduction to Korean food and I’d have to say that I was a fan! We’d heard that Choga do the best Bibimbap in Tasmania. By just looking at the tiny restaurant from the inside or outside, you probably wouldn’t believe that. But then again, how much competition around Hobart can they really have?

It was a freezing cold day outside, so a Bibimbap was definitely called for. If you’ve never had Bibimbap before, I found it to be I guess like a Korean Special Fried Rice. It’s sizzling rice in a piping hot bowl. Common toppings according to Wikipedia are cucumber, zucchini, daikon, mushrooms, spinach, soybean sprouts or tofu. There will usually be some kind of meat on there too like beef, chicken or seafood. The other usual topping is either a fried egg or a raw egg yolk.

When the dish is served to you, it literally comes out sizzling. I mixed up my rice and toppings which basically left it looking just like the Special Fried Rice that most Australians would be used to. It was the perfect lunch to have, while it was freezing cold outside. It wasn’t too much warmer inside, so it was great to have a warming meal.

When you get to the bottom of the bowl, the rice that has been sizzling on the bottom of the bowl is golden and crispy and adds to the many textures already in the dish.

Since I’d never had Bibimbap before, I don’t really have anything to compare it to, but it was very, very tasty and I’d definitely head back to Choga if I was in town again and in the mood for some Bibimbap.

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Monday, August 23, 2010


400 Bridge Road, Richmond, VIC
Phone (03)
9428 3918

After a recent trip to Japan, I couldn't get enough Japanese food. When we got back, I was making it at home, every single night. I was making it at home, rather than going out to a restaurant, because I knew that whatever I made would be more authentic than most of the Japanese you could get in a lot of the restaurants around town. I also didn't want bad Japanese food to taint my amazing memories of the beautiful food we ate in Japan.
So, before venturing out to any Japanese restaurants, I did a lot of asking around to find out where I could find the most authentic, best quality Japanese fare in town. There were lots of suggestions, but one name kept popping up. Maedaya.

Like Japan, the staff are extremely polite and friendly, always serving us with a smile. The best bit is, that just like Japan, all the staff start yelling out welcomes in Japanese as soon as you walk in the front door.

The mixed grill we ordered firstly consisted of 5 different skewers, each with different sauces and toppings. Some really excellent tastes here. However, the main thing I noticed was that the grill didnt seem to be as hot as the Yakitori bars would use in Japan. So the skewers didn't really have that smokey / charcoal flavour that gives it that extra depth. Delicious all the same.

Next up was chicken meatballs on skewers, again with different flavoured toppings.
I didn't loves these meatballs. The toppings were all very interesting, but the meatballs themselves had an odd powdery texture, which I wasn't a fan of. They weren't horrible by any means, but I probably wouldn't order them again.

Unagi! That's Japanese for Eel, of course! One of my favourites from Japan. Coated in that kind of sweet Teriyaki style sauce - excellent!

Next we ordered the Gyoza. Everyone loves a good Gyoza. These little dumplings which have been steamed and then pan fried, so that they have a crispy and also chewy texture. The Gyoza were excellent, however could have done with some more seasoning in the filling itself. I think most places seem to rely on the Soy sauce that you will add yourself as a seasoning.

One of my best eating experiences in Japan was eating authentic Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima. Whilst this Okonomiyaki, was cooked in a different style, I was still pretty impressed. It looked more like the ones you see in the crappy Bain Maries in shopping centre food courts. However, the taste and texture wouldn't compare. It was fantastic. That Japanese mayonnaise always makes anything taste better, anyway!

Even though we were stuffed beyond belief by this point, we ordered a dessert each. Here is the Mochi Ice cream. Basically a ball of ice cream which has been wrapped in Mochi dough and frozen, with a strawberry sauce drizzled over the top. So good. So Japan! I'd never seen Mochi until I went to Japan and this is the first time I'd seen it in Australia. Admittedly, I hadn't been looking.

Lastly was our Green Tea pudding with Black Sesame Ice Cream. Despite the unattractive colours of both the pudding and ice cream, this dessert was my favourite dish of the night. The pudding had that slight green tea taste and wasn't too heavy or sickly sweet - even though it looked like it might be. The Black sesame ice cream was the perfect accompaniment.

While not many places outside of Japan would ever compare to the experiences you have when you are actually over there, I'd say that Maedaya is the closest I've had to an authentic Japanese restaurant experience here in Melbourne. I'm sure there are plenty more. What are your favourites??

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cumulus Inc, Breakfast

45 Flinders Ln, Melbourne Vic
(03) 9650 1445

Apparently everyone loves Cumulus Inc. I'd never been, so I thought I'd check it out for breakfast. The morning was one of Melbourne's coldest, windiest and wettest days we've had this year. For that reason, I thought we'd be a shoe in to get a table without a wait. Especially early on a Saturday morning.

At Cumulus Inc, it seemingly doesn't matter what the weather is like or what day it is. People will flock here, because it's meant to be 'that' good!
We waited about 20 minutes for a table, in the corner which is reserved for the waiting cattle. Cumulus is a big industrial room, with beautiful warehouse style windows looking out onto Flinders Lane.

We ordered the Ham and Cheese Toastie with relish and avocado ($14). I can't remember the fancy name of the cheese or the windswept location where the pig lived that the ham came from or which trendy bakery the bread came from. But as tasty as the toastie was, it was small. Not really what you'd expect for $14. You'd definitely need two to fill you up.

I'm sure the Lunches and Dinners here are better value, since the place is so popular. With so many breakfast places in Melbourne though, there's no room for places that don't provide value for money, because there are so many that do.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Gary Mehigan, Masterchef's seemingly cuddly, father-like figure has two restaurants to his name. Initially there was Fenix, which he part owned with Molecular Gastronomy wizard - Raymond Capaldi. Then came The Boat-House in Maribyrnong. A very family orientated restaurant, down by the river. Unfortunately, Gary and Raymond decided to part ways, which left Fenix at a bit of a loss, since Capaldi was a crucial element of what Fenix was famous for. After Capaldi's departure, for a number of years Fenix only ran as a functions centre. But then this year on Masterchef, we saw Gary wearing his chef whites, with the Fenix logo on the chest. Did this mean the re-opening of Fenix as a restaurant? Indeed it did!
Fenix in it's original form was loved as a cafe, just as much as it was as a restaurant. Locals would head to Fenix on a Saturday and Sunday morning and sit outside by the yarra, amongst the trees and enjoy some english style brunch.
I decided to surprise Em with a visit to Fenix, as she was a big Gary Mehigan fan whilst Masterchef was on television. She had never been to Fenix before and she definately didn't know that it had been re-opened.
We arrived at 9.30am on a wintery Melbourne Saturday morning to discover the only place to park in the vicinity is the Fenix carpark, which is part of the Victoria Gardens complex. This costs $5 for the whole day. This wasn't ideal.
At the restaurant, all of the table were free, except one. I asked the Barista behind the counter if we could just sit anywhere. He asked if we had a reservation. "umm, no, do we need one?" considering almost every single table was free, I would hope not. Someone came out from a back room and seated us at a lovely table near the window. The table cloths are crisp and white, the napkins are a natural brown and the chairs are Hans Wegner Wishbone style. The waitress is friendly, yet, like our surroundings, very, very formal. Not what I'm used to at a Saturday morning breakfast. When one of the waiters came by to top up our water (I think he was the manager) he spotted a group of people turning up at the restaurant. The people had prams and a couple of dogs. The (possible) manager muttered to us "great, my two favourite things dogs and babies!" Ok, I get the humour - but not very professional - especially considering that now I'm sitting here typing exactly what he said.

I ordered the Homemade Baked Beans, with smoked chorizo, farmhouse cheddar and baked free range egg ($16). I've eaten lots of baked beans around town and these by far were my standout favourites! Everything about them was perfect. The tomato sauce has a slight sweetness to it, which was perfect with the absolute best chorizo I have ever eaten. The chorizo was spicy and smokey. I tried to find out from the waitress where they source their chorizo, but she wasn't giving away any secrets. Served with the beans were two perfectly poached eggs and two pieces of toast. Pay attention now, because this matters later.

Em ordered the Eggs Flornetine. A simple breakfast, but she said it was some of the best eggs she's had in ages. Considering that we go out most weekends for breakfast, that's definately a compliment. The hollandaise sauce also appeared to be perfect and Em said that it didn't leave her tummy with that sickly feeling that Hollandaise sauce can sometimes give you.

So good was our breakfast at Fenix, that we recommended it to some good friends of ours. They were keen to try and we were keen to go back, so we went back the very next Sunday.
The next week, the atmosphere was the same - a little too highbrow for a Sunday morning if you ask me. It seems however, that not everything was the same in the kitchen at Fenix.

I again ordered those fantastic Baked Beans. Only this time it was like they spilt the sugar into the sauce. It was sweet, sickly sweet. It was almost so sweet that you could call it a dessert! Not cool. Also, it seems that despite the price remaining the same as last week ($16), this week, I only got one poached egg and one piece of toast! Now, forgive me if I'm wrong, but I do recall the judges on Masterchef rabbiting on about consistency in the kitchen.

One of our friends ordered the Fenix Breakfast (Grilled bacon, oven baked roma tomato, homemade hash brown, gourmet sausage choice of scrambled or poached eggs - $20). The sausage was cut open only to discover it was very undercooked on the inside. We had to send the sausage back to the kitchen to be cooked further.

The most shocking part of breakfast was yet to come. Em wasn't feeling too good, so she chose to only order toast with Jam, which wasn't on the menu. The kitchen was only too happy to accommodate. However, when it came time for us to pay the bill, we checked the cost of the 2 pieces of toast with jam. It came to $10! Yes, you heard correctly, $10!! I can buy 3 loaves of amazing Babka bread for that price.

So, the first week we visited we had one of the best breakfasts we've had in ages - perfectly executed. And then, the next week, the complete opposite. Undercooked, over sweetened and overpriced food! It's amazing how a bad experience can completely outweigh even the best of experiences - like the one we had the previous week. So much so, that I won't be hurrying back to Fenix again for breakfast any time soon. And given that dinners are not cheap either, I'll probably avoid those in fear of inconsistent food.

Oh, and if you don't want to pay $5, we discovered that you can park across victoria st in one of the office building car parks for free. They are closed on the weekend, so there's nobody around to get upset that you're parking in their spot.