Saturday, July 23, 2011

Am I clubbing or brunching???

Over the course of my life I seem to be moving further out of the CBD, I guess it's a natural progression which will end up one day with a general store in some rural town. But I'm not quite there yet. I started in St Kilda and still recall when brunch was just a meal and not a social event, going to the Galleon with my Mum and brother and eating home-made Spanakopita and their famous rice pudding.

That was before you had to write your name down, spend 20 minutes out the front of the next door laundry and then squeeze in for a table. I was astonished to hear that a very good friend's job was to essentially be a door-bitch at a famous South Melbourne cafe on weekends, and was even more blown away to see they had opened up an "overflow" cafe on the opposite side of the street. I drove past Three Bags Full in Richmond at midday three weeks ago and thought there'd been a natural disaster such was the length of the line of poached egg craving brunchers.

Lines, door-bitches, exclusivity and fashion - it's all sounding a bit like a South Yarra nightclub. The 60's/70's had LSD, the 80's/90's had cocaine, and we now have hollandaise.

Los Chicas on a Sunday morning is a body-bag filled war-zone, slipping into Batch for a quick coffee and a muffin at 12:30pm on a Saturday is a Jihadist's suicide mission with no guarantee of martyrdom and a foccaccia at my old favourite The Wall early Sunday afternoon could make you feel like an Australian soldier endlessly waiting for orders to evacuate Afghanistan.

So what does this mean for us? I say avoid the crowds and discover your local area. I started with nearby McKinnon and came across a couple of real hidden gems. I'll share them with you - but if I have to write my name down to go back to these secret places, I'll kill you all.

1. Relish Food Store (256 McKinnon Road, McKinnon). Reasonable coffee but really simple, quality breakfast. We had the "Eggs McKinnon" which had everything you need - poached eggs, bacon, hollandaise, avocado on rye. See Photo 1.

2. Mr Burch (124 McKinnon Road, McKinnon). Excellent coffee, great little place, menu requires careful selection - we had a hit and a miss. Photo 2 above was a hit, crunchy bacon, beautifully poached eggs served on a brioche with creamy hollandaise.

I've also included photos from Friends of Mine in Richmond, which has massive line-up potential but has lots of tables and we didn't wait. Great coffee, I had a Bubble and Squeak Corn Beef hash with spinach and a poached egg which was a wholesome hearty breakfast dish (see photo 3). My companion had photo 4 which is self-explanatory and gave it a big thumbs up, especially the mushrooms.

Friday, July 8, 2011

How not to get bashed by security at Crown @ Giuseppe Arnaldo & Sons

There have been a number of reports lately detailing bashings by security at Crown. So when the men of our family arranged a trip to the Motor Show at Jeff's Shed, and we were contemplating our pre-vehicle-swooning meal, the conveniently located Crown was already at the forefront of our minds. Generally when you suggest a meal at Crown, the usual reaction is: "I hate the Casino" and yes, I agree, the Casino is a blight on this city. But, that said, food-wise it has some incredible restaurants and you can't knock the Packer clan for making the non-gambling part of the Casino a little more palatable.
Giuseppe Arnaldo & Sons has a soft spot in my heart because it was the first place I recall being taken to for an upscale professional work-place lunch in my first year of work (twice, actually).

GA&S is great during the day when there are only a few other patrons and you can sit and eat all day, not really knowing how much time has passed because (just like the Casino) it is dark and there aren't any clocks. On those previous occasions I tried the Spaghetti "Arrabbiata" Crab, Tomato and Chilli baked in a paper bag (now regularly replicated throughout Melbourne for good reason) and the other time I had a risotto with marrow and peas (excellent but haven't really gone back to marrow since).

On this occasion, we started with some delicately sliced prosciutto which went perfectly with bread and olive oil. Then we each went separate ways with mains. For my companions it was solid Melbourne Winter fare including tripe stew with peas which was "not exciting but pleasant" and 'My Favourite Naples Style' Bucatini Pasta with Squid, Tomato, Chilli, Red Wine, Pancetta which was "beautiful, rich and hearty".

For me it was ox fillet minute steak cooked rare with watercress, horseradish and shallots. This was special - really you think of minute steak as being small and tough but this was beautifully cooked and great quality meat. The pea shallot and mint salad was a perfect accompaniment.
I should also comment that the service throughout our meal was exceptional, with our waiter being attentive, really friendly and making great menu suggestions without sounding like a cold caller.

So I will leave you with one thought, because besides the food being incredible, certainly the best thing about GA&S is that you don't need to walk into Crown to get in.

Note: for those of you are travelling to Sydney any time soon you should check out the North Bondi Italian ( which is the sister restaurant situated in a great location overlooking Bondi Beach and serving similar style food to GA&S.