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"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." – J.R.R. Tolkien

Tag Archives: Modern Australian

Saint & Rogue

Ah, the ever-present dilemma of where to go for work drinks. I’m always up for a Google search and a catchy name will pique my interest. Thus, the decision was made to meander down to Saint & Rogue at the west end of the CBD.

This pub/bar/restaurant was very nicely decorated, all wood and soft lighting, as a pub should be really. Their insignia is everywhere it can be but it is rather well designed that I can’t fault them.

Saint & Rogue

Saint & Rogue

As we were there on a Wednesday, the place was understandably quiet but I have heard that things get quite lively on a Friday night. Nevertheless, we were quite happy to order drinks at the well-stocked bar while the restaurant area was opened upstairs. With a range of beers on tap, from Kirin, to Guinness, to James Squire, there really is something for every taste, unless of course, you really want a craft beer, in which case you should probably go to a microbrewery instead.

We were seated at a large table that was perhaps a tad too high for the very comfortable booth. I felt like a child sitting on enormous furniture. Perhaps sitting on one of the chair would have been a better idea. In any case, the menu soon distracted me. With a large range of dishes, including the usual pub suspects the Chicken Parmigiana, Steak and even a Surf ‘n’ Turf dish as the special, it was somewhat surprising that half our group ordered the Parma. They did seem very happy with their choice in the end, and most of the plates were polished off.

My side of the table ordered a little differently. The pasta linguine with cherry tomatoes, chilli, baby spinach,
kalamata olives, fresh basil, lemon oil & parmesan was deemed tasty, if perhaps a touch small, and the Surf ‘n’ Turf didn’t fail to impress.

As I wanted to leave some room for dessert, I went for the smoked trout, asparagus and toasted pinenut salad with
kipfler potatoes, baby spinach and horseradish cream.

Smoked Trout, Asparagus and Toasted Pinenut Salad with Kipfler Potatoes, Baby Spinach and Horseradish Cream

This wasn’t quite what I expected, but it was still quite good. The trout was delicately smoked and full of flavour, and the toasted pinenuts lent a satisfying crunch to the dish. The potatoes still tasted somewhat odd to me (perhaps because I ate so many chips beforehand), and I was a little disappointed at the lack of asparagus. I did feel nourished however, and that can be hard to achieve in a pub.

I was looking forward to dessert though. Whilst there were a couple of options on offer, multiple orders of only two of the dishes were requested.

Baked Honey and Limoncello Ricotta Cheesecake with Raspberry Coulis

The baked honey and Limoncello ricotta cheesecake with raspberry coulis was by all accounts, a very good cheesecake. My co-workers seemed very enthusiastic when it arrived at the table, perhaps a little too much so. Whilst I was slightly jealous, I wasn’t at all disappointed with my choice of the coconut & lime pannacotta with pineapple jelly and toasted pineapple shard.

Coconut and Lime Pannacotta with Pineapple Jelly & Toasted Pineapple Shards

It should really say ‘shard’ but that’s just me being picky. The dessert with delicious, and suitably light. The coconut flavour was quite light, and I would have personally preferred a stronger flavour, but it was an interesting and comforting dessert.

All in all, Saint & Rogue has a great atmosphere, a large range of alcohol to choose from and most importantly, good food. If the boys weren’t so picky about not going to the same place twice, I’d drag them there in two months time. As it stands, I’ll need to come up with new ideas. Recommendations anyone?

Saint & Rogue
582 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Mon-Fri 12pm-Late, Sat 4pm-Late

Saint & Rogue on Urbanspoon

Quay (NSW)

With the reputation of being Australia’s most awarded restaurant and one that prides itself on using locally sourced food, Quay was one of the must-eat-at places during a recent trip to Sydney. Having already exhausted ourselves with the degustation at Tetsuya’s, we were glad that we had only booked in for lunch, and went with choices from the four course menu rather than another degustation.

Before I get to the food, I must mention that the view from the restaurant is amazing. With large expansive windows, there’s a clear view of the harbour including both the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. It amused me to watch the ferries and water taxis bob along the water, as well as the endless stream of tourists, even a wedding party or two. The restaurant itself was light and airy, with plenty of space. We were lucky enough to have a relatively private booth (even if the seating itself was a touch awkward) and thoroughly enjoyed just being there. When a slightly inconsiderate patron wandered over and started a phone conversation during our meal, it wasn’t long before a staff member gently ushered her outside so as to not disturb anyone else.

Moving on to the actual meal, all in all, I was quite impressed but things were perhaps slightly too fancy for my tastes. So much was going on with every dish that there were moments of confusion as to what exactly you were eating. None more so than perhaps the appetiser. I didn’t hear the waitress very well, and so wasn’t even sure what we were eating. Jelly perhaps? It was very pretty, but tiny enough that I barely tasted what I was eating. Maybe my palate just isn’t good enough in that case.

Jelly?

I enjoyed the entrée a lot more. Being somewhat unadventurous, I ordered the sashimi of blue mackerel, smoked eel flowers, sea scallops, pickled apple and nasturtiums (similar to watercress).

Sashimi of blue mackerel, smoked eel flowers, sea scallops, pickled apple, nasturtiums

The dish was beautifully presented. The mackerel was pleasantly oily, the eel certainly interesting (if lacking a little in flavour) but I absolutely loved the softly delicate scallops. Always curious, M ordered the Mud crab congee consisting of fresh palm heart, hand shelled mud crab and Chinese inspired split rice porridge.

Mud crab congee: Fresh palm heart, hand shelled mud crab and Chinese inspired split rice porridge

I’m not sure why they specified “hand shelled mud crab” but I guess it always pays to be more detailed rather than less. I wasn’t even aware that machines could shell crabs, but I’m guessing they must exist to speed up large processes. Anyways, that is slightly irrelevant. What is relevant is that the dish was delicious. Comforting and homely, it was at the same time also inventive and exotic.

I’m not sure how to classify the second course seeing as dishes were all slightly heavier than entrees yet lighter than the mains (as expected). In any case, I definitely enjoyed my order of: Gentle braise of black lipped abalone, rare breed pig belly, shiitake, warrigal greens, ginger milk curd, earth & sea consommé.

Gentle braise of black lipped abalone, rare breed pig belly, shiitake, warrigal greens, ginger milk curd, earth & sea consommé

Once again, why “rare breed pig belly”? Was it a wild pig hunted from the forests of NSW? It was undeniably tasty so maybe they’re on to something there. I never find abalone full of flavour, but I do enjoy its texture, but it in this case it was slightly overpowered by the pork. Indeed, everything in the dish tied quite well together except for the pork, but perhaps it was included to ground the dish and distinguish it from a first-course entree.

M ordered the slow cooked coturnix quail breast, stone ground semolina enriched with Alba truffle butter, buckwheat, farro, walnuts, pumpernickel and malt.

Slow cooked coturnix quail breast, stone ground semolina enriched with Alba truffle butter, buckwheat, farro, walnuts, pumpernickel, malt

Once again, I think they’re being overly specific by identifying the genus of quail used but maybe I should stop nit-picking. The best part of this dish? The crust. With eclectic mix of ingredients, it was crunchy and full of flavour and made the quail slightly bland in comparison.

The mains were stunning though. I ordered the Berkshire pig jowl, maltose crackling, prunes, cauliflower cream, perfumed with prune kernel oil.

Berkshire pig jowl, maltose crackling, prunes, cauliflower cream, perfumed with prune kernel oil

Who knows why prune kernel oil is so special, and why they had to specify the breed of pig again? Actually, don’t answer that question, I’m getting side-tracked again. I loved the maltose cracking in this dish, which, like the top of a creme brulee, shattered so satisfying-ly with a small tap using the cutlery. The pig jowl was tender and full of flavour , and was offset beautifully by the prunes. I’ll be honest, when I returned home after the trip, I searched for a few pork recipes with prunes to make in the future.

M was brilliantly happy with his main course too: David Blackmore’s full blood Wagyu, bitter chocolate black pudding, ox tail consommé.

David Blackmore's full blood Wagyu, bitter chocolate black pudding, ox tail consommé

Once again, the meat was full flavoured and tender. The marbling of fat was as good as you would expect from top quality Wagyu, with the benefit of the cattle being fed a low-grain diet (hooray for being slightly healthier options). The extra $10 surcharge? Justified.

What we had been anticipating the whole meal was of course, the desserts. Eight texture chocolate cake!

Quay's Eight texture chocolate cake

I had an unreasonable amount of fun identifying and counting the layers. I’d think that I had found eight, then recount and only be able to find seven. In any case, it was satisfying and full of chocolate flavour without being overly sweet. The ultimate chocolate indulgence.

Quay's Eight texture chocolate cake

Of MasterChef fame, we present to you, the Snow Egg.

White nectarine snow egg

Impressive! Definitely ordered more for the visuals and the technical skill involved rather than the taste, this is perhaps the dish to go for when a lighter option is warranted.

White nectarine snow egg

The meal was rounded off with coffee and petit fours.

Coffee, Petits Fours

Being royally spoilt by Melbourne coffee, I was once again disappointed with Sydney’s offering but at least it was presented nicely. All in all, a wonderful meal with good food, good presentation, set in sophisticated surrounds. Given the option, I would still pick Tetsuya’s over Quay, but it’s interesting to see how two top restaurants in the same city do things so very differently.

Given the chance, try both and make up your own mind. Just expect to live off instant noodles for a few weeks if you do.

Quay
Circular Quay West, Sydney
Lunch: Tue-Fri 12pm-230pm, Dinner: Mon-Sun 6pm-10pm

Quay on Urbanspoon

Colonial Tramcar Restaurant

I was lucky enough to be taken out for dinner on the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant for my birthday by an amazing friend. The restaurant is contained within one of the first trams to operate in Victoria, and surprisingly enough it still runs, albeit slowly to ensure no food or wine is spilled during the meal!

The 5-course late dinner meal is paired with a range of alcohol, starting with champagne, with red wine, white wine, spirits and liquors available. Surprisingly, even though the space is limited and there are a number of tables, you never feel crowded in. Each table seems to have its own bubble, where you can happily hold your conversations without fear of disturbing other diners. The service was extremely friendly and efficient, and it’s only out of personal preference that I found some of the music annoying.

Moving on to the food though, here’s a recap of the impressive meal. To start, an appetiser consisting of Chicken Liver and Cognac Pâté crowned with pink peppercorns, and Roasted Red Capsicum Dip served with crackers.

Chicken Liver and Cognac Pâté (left) and Roasted Red Capsicum Dip (right)

The dips were the perfect appetisers to sooth our growling bellies. I especially like the Pâté with its delicate, creamy flavour and smooth texture. Even though the crackers seemed to be the standard supermarket variety, the quality of the dips still made the experience a bit indulgent. The accompanying champagne they served wasn’t bad either!

Seeing as there were two of us, we each chose one of the two options from each course so we could taste every dish. For the entrée, there was a choice between Tasmanian Ocean Trout, pan seared and served on julienne vegetables with a soy ginger reduction and Kangaroo Fillet marinated in lemon myrtle and honey, served on a vegetable frittata and topped with bush tomato chutney.

Tasmanian Ocean Trout

Kangaroo Fillet

The trout was cooked to perfection, with pieces falling softly off the fillet as the knife cut into it. The sauce wasn’t overpowering either, emphasising the lightness and freshness of the seafood. The kangaroo was cooked medium rare but I think the tomato chutney was the star of the dish. I love how full of flavour a good tomato accompaniment can be!

For the main course, there was a choice between the Grilled Chicken Fillet served on a Mediterranean vegetable risotto with pesto, shaved parmesan and a roasted tomato sauce and Victorian Farmed Eye Fillet of Beef with potato and herb rosti, seasonal vegetables, onion marmalade and a rich beef jus.

Grilled Chicken Fillet

Eye Fillet of Beef

The chicken was tender, but I found it slightly bland. That could be my personal preference for chicken thighs as a result of my upbringing though. A didn’t have any of the risotto but was told it was quite delicious. The beef was perhaps slightly overcooked in parts (it was supposed to be medium rare) but the quality of the meat more than made up for it. I get the feeling that cooking in a tiny kitchen on board a moving tram would be quite difficult so the chef is certainly still doing very well!

He’s probably relieved that there’s a cheese platter with a selection of Australian cheese accompanied by fruit bread and crackers to serve before the desserts have to be ready.

Cheese Platter

Nothing particular special about the cheese, but it’s cheese so that’s good enough for me, especially after three glasses of red wine.

I was more looking forward to dessert though with Warm Sticky Date Pudding served with butterscotch sauce and cream and White Chocolate and Passionfruit Parfait with praline and a vanilla raspberry syrup on offer.

Warm Sticky Date Pudding

White Chocolate and Passionfruit Parfait

The desserts were divine. The sticky date pudding wasn’t too heavy and was just perfect for a cold winter’s night. The light-as-air parfait was the perfect contrasting, yet complimentary dish, and in a way they were the Ying and Yang of desserts.

I highly recommend the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant. The food isn’t mind-blowingly amazing, but it’s good quality and served in a timely fashion. You’d definitely dine here for the experience – slowly travelling through the streets of Melbourne from the CBD to St Kilda and back, surrounded by soft music and dim light with a continuous supply of food and wine brought to you by a friendly waiter. A special event experience that makes you feel very special.

Colonial Tramcar Restaurant
Tramstop # 125 Normanby Road

Mon-Sun Luncheon 1pm-3pm, Early Dinner 545pm-715pm, Late Dinner 835pm – 1130pm

Colonial Tramcar Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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