Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Auction Rooms

03-107 Errol Street, North Melbourne VIC 3051 (03) 9326 7749

Remember how I was saying, I enjoy going out for breakfast and finding something slightly out of the norm? Well, the Auction Rooms in North Melbourne have done it, with my favourite breakfast in quite a while!

What I had here was basically a Panzanella Salad with delicious Sardine fillets. There were large chunks of toasted torn bread to soak up juices, capers, tomato and basil.

You could argue that this is more of a lunch dish, but hey, who doesn't love sardines on toast for breakfast?! That's basically what this is, with a few cheeky additions.

Oh, and how cool are The Auction Rooms? They have a great little menu, great setup and have lots of keen followers, so make sure you get in early!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Hellenic Republic

434 Lygon St Brunswick VIC 3055 - (03) 9381 1222

I've eaten breakfasts all over the country, from Darwin, to Byron Bay, down to Sydney, to Melbourne, all the way down to Hobart. So, I like to think I know what makes a good breakfast. To me it's something a little out of the norm, something that is done different to the rest of the cafes around town. Living in Melbourne, every place thinks they do Melbourne's best breakfast, when infact all they are serving up is some average eggs and overcooked bacon.

This is why I was happy to see Masterchef Australia's very own judge serving up Spanikopita with poached eggs! Never seen that on a menu before and never thought that I would order it, but I'll try anything once. Apparently, however Mr George Calombares, isn't a fan of us food bloggers. Well, that's what he was telling the crowds at the Melbourne Food and Wine festival. Well George, just like you have opinions about what people cook on Masterchef, we have opinions about what you cook in your restaurants. That's only fair, isn't it?

Now, whilst I'm a huge advocate of George's other restaurant - The Press Club I'm not loving the breakfasts at his new joint - Hellenic Republic. Sure the Spanikopita with eggs is different, so too are the over cooked poached eggs that go with it. One of the poached eggs was almost over cooked and the other was WAY over cooked. The spanikopita, however, was delicious! Salty, soft inside, crunchy outside, a little slippery on the tongue from the spinach or silverbeet.

My mate had Ouzo cured Salmon with scrambled eggs - which from my side of the table, didn't appear to be over cooked and he said were fantastic!

Ok, so mistakes happen, it's an over-cooked egg - not the end of the world, so a few weeks later, I return to try something new.

On my next visit i try the smoked lamb sandwich with greek cheese and a fried egg. Yaay! Something a little different again! ...or not. My egg was cooked solid AGAIN! In this photo you can see a shiny yellow yolk, but below that - it was hard, pale and over cooked. As Darren Hinch would say - SHAME, SHAME, SHAME!!

Is the first thing you learn at chef's school, not how to cook an egg? Shouldn't you already know that before you go to chef's school? I can cook a fried egg and a poached egg with my eyes closed.

I have heard from a few people though, that the lunches and dinners at Hellenic Republic are far better than their breakfasts. Do I dare visit there again and hope for third time lucky?

So George, I guess I haven't helped you and your dislike for us food bloggers, but I tell it like I see it, and the photos here prove that I could have played table tennis with those poached eggs.

Brandon Hotel, Carlton North

237 Station St (Cnr Lee St), Carlton North 3054 VIC

I love the idea of pub meals, especially in the depths of winter. However, usually you hear about pub meals in Melbourne which a supposedly fantastic, only to find out they are over priced italian meals or Bangers and Mash. Although, their new chef - Jane Molloy is from The Grand Hotel in Richmond - one of those over priced italian pubs.

So, when some friends of mine invited me to try out the Brandon in Carlton North, I was somewhat skeptical about what would be on offer. However, the Brandon Hotel is within walking distance from my house so I thought it would be worth a shot.

The front bar is your typical local pub, with sticky carpet and old bar stools, nothing fancy here.
However, the dining room appears to have undergone a renovation in the last few years. It's quite large with an open fire place, white table linen and vases of fresh flowers.

The menu here absolutely screams warm me up! When you get out those winter cook books, this is exactly the sort of food you look for to make on a Sunday when it's cold and rainy outside.

I had the Roast duck breast with braised red cabbage & parsnip puree $30. The duck was beautifully cooked and not too fatty. The parsnip puree was deliciously creamy and (juniper berry?) Jus, was perfect over the top.

The Bouillabaisse with char grilled ciabbata $26 looked amazing, however my friend would have probably preferred that the prawn heads were removed before serving. They're great for flavour - but not everyone likes heads on their plate.

Our other guests both had the
Navarin of Lamb with glazed root vegetables & mash $28, which was fantastic. The lamb was soft and tasty, with a large serving of mash on the side.

Nothing fancy here, just good, honest pub grub, the sort of stuff Gordon Ramsay tries to get all those hopeless restaurants to make on that TV show. The food here isn't cheap, but for it's quality I would not say it's over priced either. Also, if you don't want to spend $30 each on a mid week meal, you can also eat a good old parma in the front bar and other pub standards for about half that.

We will definately be back to visit the Brandon, but I suspect by the time we get back there, the rest of Melbourne may have discovered Carlton North's little secret.

Rathdowne Street Food Store

617 Rathdowne St, Carlton North VIC

I've been meaning to check out Rathdowne Street Food Store for years, but it seems that you have to make a booking most weekends and apart from very special occasions, I refuse to make a breakfast booking. However, this weekend, my friends were eager to try RSFS, so they made the booking.

It's a small cafe, which is definately busy - we can see why we need to book. However, you would think if you booked in advance, you wouldn't get the table near the door - especially on a chilly winter Melbourne morning. The room is full of people that look like off duty doctors, lawyers, and business people. This seems to be Yuppy Central. The menu is a massive breakfast menu and I'm suprised there's such a big choice.

I decide to go with the special breakfast, which is Scrambled Eggs, with Basil, fetta, Smoked Salmon and tomato. By reading the menu, I probably stupidly assumed that all the ingredients would be served seperately. However, the scrambled eggs were cooked with all these ingredients mixed in. I am not a fan of this at all. Firstly, i don't believe that you can cook the eggs properly when you have mixed through all these ingredients. Secondly, the ingredients always seem to bleed out their liquid when served like this and you end up with that puddle of juice at the bottom of the plate. You can see this in the photo below.

It was indeed a generous serve for breakfast and none of us that ordered the special, managed to finish the plate of food. The eggs were overcooked and every mouthful had too many flavours and was almost sickly. RSFS could probably do with shortening their menu and living by the mantra of 'do a few things and do them well' rather than cook everything and do a less than average job.

I'd heard rave reviews about this place for years, however maybe I missed my chance at visiting, when they were sending out good food. Or maybe we visited on a bad morning. Or maybe their special breakfast, just wasn't that special.

To top a poor breakfast off, we ordered a second round of coffees, which after 20 minutes we had to chase up. Turned out they'd forgotten about them. We told them not to bother and paid our bill and left.

Rathdowne Street Food Store - not worth making a booking.