Monday, August 31, 2009


24 Hall Street, Newport VIC 3015, (03) 9391 6404

Apparently cafe culture has moved to the Western suburbs. Yeh, yeh, I know that places like Yarraville, Seddon and Williamstown apparently have cool little cafe's that do really great food and have done for years. But this is the first I'd heard of in Newport.

I'd known about Nosh in Newport for quite sometime, since I grew up in Newport and my parents still live there. However, for some reason I'd chosen to avoid it, despite being in Newport most weekends. Something inside me was telling me to stay away. So I did. For many a year. Until I read recently that David Azzopardi from Ezard was doing Friday night dinners at Nosh. Now Ezard is by far my favourite restaurant, so in my eyes, the fact that David was cooking there, gave this place a hell of a lot of credibility. So, this weekend, I stopped listening to that little voice inside me and thought I'd give their breakfast a go. The place is regularly packed when I drive past on a weekend, so it can't be all that bad. That is unless the people of the west have a lower standard, than us 'trendy' inner city folk. I guess it was time to find out.

We arrived on a very rainy Saturday morning, to find the place very busy indeed. There were tables outside and undercover, but everyone had chosen to sit inside, which added to the hustle and bustle. The cafe is located on a corner building, which originally was the Newport TAB and then The Pepper Tree cafe. The Pepper Tree was one of the first of it's kind in Newport. Unfortunately, Newport wasn't ready for cafe culture back then, so it wasn't long before it closed down. Nosh took over the cafe and gave it a bit of a spruce up and it is what you see today.

The guy who seated us, looked very familiar. I believe he used to be a manager at Joe's Garage in Brunswick St and is now the manager at Nosh. (Correct me if I'm wrong).

Within seconds of being seated, a very young looking waiter appeared asking for our order. We hadn't even looked at the menu yet. It was so loud in there I could barely hear him and he couldn't hear me. So when I ordered an English Breakfast tea, he wondered where on the food menu I found an 'English Breakfast." Ummm, no....When my tea did arrive, I never got any milk to go with it. That was mistake number one.

For breakfast I ordered the poached eggs, with locally handmade chevaps and smoked ham hock baked beans. When the plate arrived I saw no chevaps. It appears they were so small they were hiding under my toast. Then I took one look at my eggs and they were very, very raw, you could see clear globules of uncooked egg white, without even breaking into the eggs. I very quickly sent them back. A few minutes later the eggs arrived back at my table, as the waiter placed them down mumbling something... but again - it was so noisy, I couldn't hear him. The 'locally made chevaps' were less than average. If locally made sausages are this bad, you should be importing them. Em' and I both agreed these tasted exactly like those standard pink sausages you would get from Coles or Safeway.
The baked beans were OK. Nothing like the delicious smoky baked beans I had at the Wye River General Store recently.
Worst of all, the butter was Western Star butter in a foil wrapper! Attention to detail my friends, is what makes or breaks a place. Butter is a detail and Nosh failed to pay attention to it. Nothing screams lazy to me like a foil wrapper of butter. There are so many better options than butter in foil, at least take the foil off!
We actually also noticed a table full of girls next to us also sent their eggs back as they were undercooked.

Em' ordered the Bacon and Egg roll, with onions and relish. These fried eggs were better, the yolk was runny, however, the bacon inside was like cardboard and it was that dry crumbly sort of bacon that nobody likes. The onion was pretty overpowering and quite similar to one of those Sausages with onion you get at Bunnings on a weekend. But overall, Em' was happy with the roll.

Overall a disappointing performance from Nosh. Nothing special here and this is exactly the sort of place I would expect to find in Newport. I'm suprised though that it's made such a name for itself in the area. Is that because there's nothing else around? Possibly. Raw poached eggs, dry bacon, LOUD atmosphere and wait staff that just look like they would rather be someplace else.

So despite the fact that David Azzopardi is cooking there on the occassional Friday night - he obviously isn't cooking breakfast there. I won't be returning in a hurry, if I want Ezard, I'll go to Ezard, thanks.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Taste Of Melbourne '09

Some people like the whole Taste of Melbourne concept, some don't. I'm one of the people that do. Compared to events like the Melbourne Food and Wine show, Taste is a million times better, in my opinion. The food and wine show is like a room full of those ladies that you see in the supermarket, offering you tastes of the latest Kan Tong Simmer Sauce, or Chicken Tonight.

Boring, if you ask me! And if you're against the whole mainstream foodie event, you could head to your local farmer's market or out of town to some of Melbourne's great producers.

I, however, don't mind a bit of a mainstream event like Taste. I think it's a really cool idea-being able to walk around and sample food from some of Melbourne's best restaurants. Sure there are quite a few missing and sure the quality and atmosphere is not going to be what it is in the real restaurant, but you get the idea. It can also help you decide whether or not you actually want to visit the real restaurant. Chances are, if they're going to give you a tiny, flavourless morsel at Taste, you're pretty likely going to get the same thing, when you visit in person.

I was lucky enough to get a couple of free passes from Spread My Butter (thanks!). We thought we would visit tonight (Thursday) as it was probably going to be the quietest session (well, tonight and Friday Lunch). We were right. While there was still quite a few people wandering around, it was by no means crowded and never any lines for any of the stalls (that we encountered, anyway).

You would think The Press Club if any of them would have had a queue, but the stands were well staffed and then only wait was a couple of minutes for your food, once you had ordered. Speaking of The Press Club, George Calmobares was on hand for photos and autograph signings. As was his Masterchef counterpart - Gary Mehigan. Most of the other chefs were there too, such as Frank Camora, Toby Puttock, Dallas Cuddy, etc. All of them were up the front and chatting to foodies, fans and whoever else wanted a chat.

The main difference I noticed from the last Taste of Melbourne I went to, were that the servings were much larger than before. Our first couple of plates were the Souvlaki and Saganaki dishes from The Hellenic Republic stand. After eating those, we were already half full!

Slow Roasted 'Berkshire' Pork belly, in the Style of Porchetta, with Lentil Du Puy & Salsa Verde - Fifteen
Lentils were VERY, VERY undercooked. I would have taken it back had I not have been talked out of it. The Pork was tasty, but nothing special there. No crispy crackling, which you'd expect at Fifteen, either.

Slow Cooked Cuttlefish with Chorizo and Chick Peas - Movida
I'd never had Cuttlefish before. It kind of has the texture of a thick piece of fat, except with a fishy taste. At first this dish was a bit weird on the palate, but I did warm to it. The chorizo was the highlight.

Seafood 'hotdog' with Corn Relish and Avocado - Oyster Little Bourke
This is one ugly dish! There was no recognisable fish in there, either. Based on this dish, I won't be going to Oyster in a hurry.

Lamb Souvlaki - Hellenic Republic
This was my favourite dish of the evening. Very slow cooked lamb with homemade chips in Souvlaki Bread. So nice to eat and I think there was a little horseradish in there, too. I can now never go back to the Souvlaki King.

Saganaki with Peppered Figs - Hellenic Republic
Another highlight of the evening. Stretchy, chewy Saganaki, with sweet figs, which were a little bit spicy from said Pepper. Delicious!

Pave' of Valhrona Chocolate with Burnt Orange Cream and Candied Cumquat - Botanical
This was very rich, nice Pave. The Orange Cream was so thick it wouldn't come off the plate. Stay away from that cumquat. No joy there.

Chocolate, Honeycomb & Salted Caramel Crunch, Circa- The Prince
Like a liquid cake with a weird textured chocolate at the base. Kind of a cross between a milkshake and a trifle. Worth a try.

One qualm that I did have, was that the whole night we were looking to buy a bottle of water, or some other non-alcoholic beverage. We couldn't find any at all. Might be an idea to have some soft drinks available for people that are driving or that don't drink.

Overall, we had an excellent night out - we spent $64 out of our $80 worth of crowns that we purchased. ($1 = 1 x crown). With our leftover crowns, we bought 2 cheeses from the Yarra Valley Cheese stall to take home. Thanks again to Spread My Butter for the tickets!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wye River General Store

35 Great Ocean Rd, Wye River, 03 5289 0247
Please note that this review has been removed as I have emailed the owner in relation to an issue and am awaiting their response.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

French Macarons

Have you noticed all those pretty little cupcake stores popping up around town over the last few years? They're very cute and very pretty, but they are SO last year! The Macaron craze has hit town and are the new big thing in town. Especially since their featuring in a few episodes of the Australian Masterchef show.

Late on Saturday night (1130pm late), I was reading up about how to make these little beauties and was surprised to find out that they're not as easy as you might think. If you are interested in learning about how to make them and how not to make them - read the most amazing guide to Macarons at Syrup and Tang. After spending an hour or so reading all the info on the page- I couldn't resist giving them a go.

I found a recipe over at Kitchen Wench's page, which is a bit easier to follow than Syrup and Tang's formula type recipes.

So by 1.30am Sunday morning and after one failed attempt, I accomplished my mission, with these pretty cool little sweet bites you see before you. The only tips I can give you, other than the ones that you will find on the links above, is that if you think your batter is too runny, add some more almond meal to the mix. Also, if you think your Macarons are stuck to the baking paper, lift them slightly at the edge and carefully slide under a palette knife. Most of mine stuck to the paper, but saved 100% of them by sliding the knife under.

I filled half of mine with Dulche De Leche and the other half with a French Earl Grey infused Chocolate Ganache. Whilst I may not be getting a phone call from Donna Hay, asking me to work as a food stylist for her magazine, I reckon they look pretty cool for a first go. And they were deliciously tasty and perfectly chewy inside. Brilliant!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Pier, Sydney

594 New South Head Rd, Rose Bay NSW Australia 2029 | phone: +61 2 9327-6561

On day 2 of our 5 days of foodie inspired adventures in Sydney, led us to Pier in Rose Bay. Sydney really put on the weather for us- rain and lots of it! Quite a novelty for us Melbournians. Only problem is, it's never fun driving in Sydney, less fun when you don't know how to get where you're going and even less fun, when you're driving in the hail during peak hour!

I'd been interested in visiting Pier since Peter Doyle released his beautiful cookbook of seafood dishes. My interest was sparked again when watching the beautiful dishes that were served to the contestants on Masterchef Australia, when they visited the restaurant.

The restaurant has a very unique layout and is literally built on a pier, jutting out into Rose Bay. During the day, you would have a beautiful view through the huge windows which surround the room. However during the evening, you have a view of beautiful fairy lights bobbing up and down on the bay and in the background the lights of Sydney's well to do's houses shining onto the water. Sensational spot.

We decided to go with the 5 course Degustation menu - $139. Not cheap, considering at most Melbourne restaurants of the same calibre would offer you probably 8 courses for that price.
But the seafood here, is apparently literally the best around and is meant to taste like it has been caught to order. So hopefully it's worth bill.

To start we were offered up little Kingfish 'Ice Creams'. The cone was very similar to a wonton wrapper, which had been deep fried into a cone shape and well seasoned. The Kingfish was served raw and finely diced, mixed with capers, maybe Kaffir lime? and maybe some other little bits and bobs. So simple, yet, so tasty. Slightly too salty, but you know when it's that really good salt and it just makes it better?

Next was the Salad of Marron, with Foie Gras Mousse, Cherry Carpaccio and Banyuls reduction. Tonight was a night of firsts and I'd never had marron before. It's very much like a cross between a bug, a prawn and a yabby. A baby lobster even. Their little claw is very cute and delicate tasting. The foie gras mousse was very rich - luckily it was a tiny portion. Once again - delicious. Only I was hoping the next 3 courses were going to get somewhat bigger.

Third dish was the Pan roasted Scallops with Saute Veal Sweetbreads, Shimeji Mushrooms and Cauliflower / Madeira Tofu. 2 Scallops with a small circle of tofu in the middle. Scallops were perfectly caramelized and rare in the middle, just the way they should be. The Cauliflower tofu was like a little panna cotta and nice and wobbly. On top was a little caramelized sweetbread. This was my first ever sweetbread, so I was keen to give it a go. For those of you that don't know - a sweetbread is not a Brioche or other pastry like bread. It is in fact the thymus glands and pancreas glands of lamb, beef, or pork. Delicious, huh? Would you believe it actually was? It had the texture of very, very, tender chicken schnitzel and the taste of a mild bone marrow. I would definately eat them again. This was our third dish and still a very, very small one. At this point I was well past being appetised and was keen for a big plate of food.

Well, this wasn't to be. Our forth course, the main was another minimalist experience. Pan roasted Barramundi with Caramelised witlof, Serano ham, dutch carrots, with bitter orange sauce. The Barra fillet was small, but brilliantly cooked. Crispy skin, soft in the middle - yum! However, considering if you had to buy this dish from the a la carte menu it would cost you $52, it was tiny. My two baby carrots weren't soft, they were still hard in the middle- not sure if this was intentional. The plate was warm of course, but it was so warm/hot that it cooked the bitter orange sauce to the plate, meaning that I was unable to drag my fish through the sauce as it had been dried out by the over hot plate. This wouldn't have been helped by the fact that it was spread so thinly, either. The sauce that I did get however was delicious!

The final dessert, my last chance at filling my tummy, was a Spiced Pear Souffle'. Can you believe I'd never eaten a Souffle before? I was excited! I was served in the little copper saucepan it was cooked in and the waiter poured in the spiced pear sauce into the center of the souffle at the table for the theatrical experience. I dug my spoon into the souffle and was very disappointed. The taste was very average. It just tasted like sweetened egg whites. They were too sweet, so much so, neither of us could finish it. The egg whites didnt appear to be flavoured prior to cooking and they probably were only flavoured by the sauce that was poured inside. The egg whites inside even appeared to be undercooked. A massive let down.

Five courses later, I had that horrible feeling. I was paying $139 for dinner and I was still hungry. When eating such amazing food, you don't want to be rolling out the door, but you want to at least feel satisfied for a few hours. But at the end of the meal, I could have eaten another 5 of the same courses. That said, the flavours were amazing, the experience was sensational (let's just pretend I didn't have that souffle). The service was great, however- a little impersonal. The room is amazing and I can see why they can charge what they do for food. We had a really nice night at Pier, I would recommend it for the great cooked food and for the amazing flavours. However, I'd also suggest that you be wary, that it's one of those places where you may need to have a Kebab on the way home to fill you up.