Sunday, January 20, 2008


330 High Street, Kew, 9853 1727

After our debacle at trying to get a table at Church St Enoteca in Richmond, we managed to book ourselves a table at Estivo, in High St, Kew. This was a pretty random choice based on a review in The Age Good Food Guide and a review by John Lethlean. None of us had been there before and thought we would try somewhere new.

The restaurant is quite small, but comes with all the trimmings; crisp white table cloths, fabric napkins, shiny new cutlery and modern, posh artwork on the walls. The first thing we noticed was that the restaurant was very quiet, so found that we had to keep our voices down so that we didn't share our conversations with the rest of the room. From one extreme to another, the silence in the room didn't last long, the private function which was going on upstairs kicked into gear and the shouting and cheering from above destroyed any ambiance going on in our room for the rest of the night.

The menu was very Mediterranean as you'd expect with a name like Estivo, but there was also some Asian influenced dishes in there like Crispy Pork Belly with Nam Jim. The waiter advised us that there were a couple of changes to the menu this evening and some dishes had changed. Eg. The Gnocchi in one dish had been replaced with Spagettini, which happened to be the Main that I ordered.

The service started off very professional offering all the right things, pre-dinner drinks, napkins on laps, extra cutlery where required, but seemed to lack a sense of friendliness and personalisation. I queried with the waiter what was on the Tapas tasting plate, but he was unsure and had to check with the kitchen. Not quite what I would expect, when you're paying these prices.

After confirmation of what was on the Tapas plate, I ordered the plate as my Entree. The standout tastes were the deliciously fresh oyster with a sweet Tomato, Salsa type dressing. As well as the gorgeous Quail served on some perfectly cooked Eggplant. My Entree was great and hopefully a sign of things to come.

As it happened, the Main that I ordered was the Gnocchi dish, which as the waiter explained, came with Spagettini instead. It was Pork and Veal Meatballs, with Peas, Hazlenuts and chickpeas. My meal arrived, only it didn't look like what I'd ordered. It was Spagettini, tossed in a Tomato Sauce with Mussels and Prawns. I explained to the waiter that this wasn't what we had ordered and that we ordered the Meatball pasta. This waiter, different from the one that took our order, told us that, that dish wasn't actually on the menu this evening and that the chef would have to make it up for us, so it might take a while. The original waiter hadn't told us it wasn't on the menu, only that the Gnocchi had been replaced by Spaghettini.
After about 10 minutes and everyone else had pretty much finished their meals, those of us that ordered the 'gnocchi' finally had our meals arrive. Only to discover that there was still no Spaghettini- but the original Gnocchi, which apparently was off the menu! The waiter explained that the confusion came from the fact that the Chef had taken the dish off the menu, because he hadn't refined it to his liking and he wasn't happy with the dish just yet. Now, the reason I ordered the Spaghettini dish, was because it wasn't Gnocchi- I don't like restaurant Gnocchi. I'm happy to make it at home, but I've never been to a restaurant which makes it as light as I like it. This was no exception. In this case, it wasn't just the Gnocchi I wasn't a fan of, but the overall dish.

The Green Peas didn't have any freshness about them and had the same texture as the Chickpeas, dry and slightly chewy. I also frown upon the fact that this dish had so many ingredients of the same size and shape, such as the Peas, Halzenuts and Chickpeas. None of these ingredients were working together for me, the dish was under-seasoned, the Parsley leaves that were mixed through were huge, over powering and the Veal Sausage meatballs were chewy! The Chef was right not to keep this dish on the menu and I wished I had of kept the original plate that was bought out to me, which looked a lot tastier than what I got in the end.
I have to say though, that the second waiter did apologise for the error and only charged us for an entree size dish, rather than the main to make up for the mix up, which made things a bit better.
I should make a point that everyone else (everyone that didn't have the Gnocchi) was very happy with their meals and they were all presented very well. The Steak meal looked delicious, as did the Lamb.
Onto dessert. I had a Vahlrona Chocolate Tart, served with a Poached Peach and Rosewater Cream. The Tart was very soft, but probably not 'Chocolatey' enough for my liking. The Rosewater cream however, was completely out of place in this dessert, too much rosewater had been added and was completely over-powering. Without the cream, I was very happy with this dessert.

This is a lovely little restaurant, which I'm sure on a good night can serve some pretty decent food. It was such a shame that we had to turn up on one of their off nights. Overall, we were pretty disappointed with our night out and definately think our money could have been better spent elsewhere.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Strawberry Salad with Speck and Halloumi

I saw Jamie Oliver do this recipe on his new show, where he has the insanely big garden, huge house and best of all, a massive woodfired oven!
I love the idea of food with a twist and mixing ingredients together that seem a little unusual. This salad has definately got that vibe. Although it might sound a little strange to have strawberries in a salad, the taste is actually really (for lack of a better word) 'zingy'.
My local deli didn't have any Speck, but I'm sure you could find it in Melbourne if you looked hard enough- so I used some nice thin Prosciutto instead. Make sure you use some good Balsamic vinegar for this recipe, otherwise the final product will be rubbish. My favourite is from Simon and Johnson, which is about $20 a bottle- but lasts for ages and is definately worth it for the taste.


  • 300g strawberries, hulled and cut into one quarter cm slices
  • good-quality balsamic vinegar
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil
  • a few sprigs of fresh basil, leaves picked
  • 250g halloumi cheese, cut into 8 thin slices
  • a few sprigs of fresh mint, leaves picked
  • a handful of mixed salad leaves, washed and spun dry
  • 8 slices of speck
  • In a bowl, drizzle the sliced strawberries with a good splash of balsamic vinegar, the lemon juice and some extra-virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. This will draw out and flavour the lovely strawberry juices.

    Preheat a large non-stick frying-pan to medium hot and add a splash of olive oil. Press a basil leaf on to each slice of halloumi. Place the slices, leaf side down, in the frying-pan and fry for a minute. Turn over carefully and fry for another minute until the halloumi is light golden and crisp.

    Get yourself four plates and place a couple of pieces of the crispy halloumi on each. Put the mint, the rest of the basil leaves and the salad leaves into the bowl with the strawberries and toss together. Pile some of the strawberry mixture in the middle of each plate and drape the speck over the top. Finish with more salad leaves. To serve, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil.