HOT: The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

The Grand Masters The Grand Hotel 333 Burnley St Richmond 1 HOT:  The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

Melbourne has so many eateries opening week after week that it’s easy to get caught up in the fervour of chasing new dining experiences.

But we musn’t forget the stalwarts of the city’s dining scene, places like The Grand Hotel in Richmond that have been serving happy customers for more than twelve years in Burnley Street.

I confess that despite moving to Melbourne twelve years ago myself I have never ventured to The Grand until last week. I was invited to attend one of The Grand’s special monthly events, The Grand Masters dinner to celebrate the old guard of Melbourne restaurant scene for AFR’s Australia’s Top 100 Restaurants, the only peer voted restaurant list in Australia.

The Grand Masters The Grand Hotel 333 Burnley St Richmond 2 HOT:  The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

Branco Cokesa, Alex Almatrah and Peter Watt  are three front of house staff that have worked in the hospitality business for over 40 years and together garnered over 165 (!) chef hats between them. While they served the diners in one of The Grand’s upstairs function rooms, they regaled us with anecdotes about ACDC, Billy Joel, Alan Bond and other celebrities, shared stories about their love for hospitality and the special place The Grand had in their hearts.

The Grand Masters The Grand Hotel 333 Burnley St Richmond 3 HOT:  The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

The night highlighted the skill of The Grand’s co-head chefs, two young Italians in their late 20s with Michelin-starred resumes.

The Grand Masters The Grand Hotel 333 Burnley St Richmond 4 HOT:  The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

First course was a Battuta di Tonno, a simple tuna tartare inspired by Olimpia Bortolotto’s dish served at Cafe Meni’s in St Kilda.

The Grand Masters The Grand Hotel 333 Burnley St Richmond 5 HOT:  The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

The pasta course was a dish that Stephen Downes rated as one of the 100 things you must eat before you die – chef Valerio Nucci’s Vincisgrassi Lasagne. It’s a traditional dish from the Marche region of Italy and not one you’re likely to find on many restaurant menus. The secret ingredients? Pot roasted chuck steak slow-cooked with vegetables and herbs, chopped kidneys brains and liver and lashings of butter!

The Grand Masters The Grand Hotel 333 Burnley St Richmond 8 HOT:  The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

The main course was a melting roast porchetta with baby carrots, beetroot and spinach inspired by Bill Marchetti’s Latin, THE place for the rich and famous to dine in the 80s and 90s.

The Grand Masters The Grand Hotel 333 Burnley St Richmond 7 HOT:  The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

The finale was developed by the The Grand’s ‘Young Guns in the Kitchen’ a white chocolate semifreddo with caramelised rock melon. It’s not often you see melon on dessert menus these days and the refreshing sweetness was a perfect counterpoint for the richness of the previous savoury dishes.

The Grand is the kind of place that families visit over generations and it has consistently been awarded one hat since 2006.  It’s not flashy or cutting edge but serves authentic Italian food in a warm and inviting environment where you know you’ll be taken care of. Treasure it, Melbourne.

The Grand Masters Wednesday 20 May and Wednesday 27 May

The Como Room, The Grand, 333 Burnley Street, Richmond (03) 9429 2530

Mon – Sun 12pm till 11pm

Fri – Sat 12pm till 1am

minilink HOT:  The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

The HOT List: Afternoon Tea in Melbourne – Mother’s Day Sunday 10 May 2015

Afternoon tea at The Hotel Windsor 111 Spring St Melbourne 7 The HOT List: Afternoon Tea in Melbourne   Mothers Day Sunday 10 May 2015
Sunday 10 May is Mother’s Day and Melbourne’s restaurants and cafes will be busy organising special events for the day. Here’s a round-up of high teas in Melbourne and surrounds, some of which are special events just for Mother’s Day.

Melbourne High Tea Reviews

Over the years I’ve reviewed a lot of afternoon tea locations – some great, some not so great. Here are the ones which are open for Mother’s Day.

DSC04960v1 The HOT List: Afternoon Tea in Melbourne   Mothers Day Sunday 10 May 2015

Langham Melbourne – one of my favourites in Melbourne for the quality of the food and the ambience. The closest to the ‘London afternoon tea’ experience I think, minus the all-you-can-eat ribbon sandwiches!

Intercontinental – For coffee lovers rather than tea sippers.

Cinema Nova – watch a film and enjoy high tea.

Jam and Cream – this little cafe with a pink vintage caravan is as cute as it comes as a setting for afternoon tea.

LuxBite Tea Set for Two 38 Toorak Rd South Yarra 7 The HOT List: Afternoon Tea in Melbourne   Mothers Day Sunday 10 May 2015

LuxBite – The Tea Set for Two gives you a little taste of the decadence available at this South Yarra dessert patisserie.

Bursaria at Abbotsford Convent – High Tea in the lovely surrounds of Abbotsford Convent.

The Tea Salon – Do some shopping at Emporium then relax with a high tea accompanied by tea, sparkling or champagne.

The Hotel Windsor – Enjoy this iconic building by indulging in freshly baked scones are served with jam and cream and exquisite pastries sit above delicate finger sandwiches.

DSC02865 The HOT List: Afternoon Tea in Melbourne   Mothers Day Sunday 10 May 2015

Westin Melbourne – a highlight for the pastry lover.

The Waiting Room – decadent sweets, sorbet, scones, sandwiches and hot savouries at Crown Towers.

Collins Kitchen at Grand Hyatt Melbourne – sub-par pastries and a bun-fight at the buffet. Not relaxing.

Sofitel Melbourne – pretty average with rock hard scones.

Other High Tea in Melbourne and surrounds

CBD/ DOCKLANDS

Marriot Melbourne Hotel Cnr Exhibition and Lonsdale St, Melbourne. Child (under 12yrs): $28, Teen (12-18yrs): $49, Adult: $65. Bookings: Book online or call 03 9660 1176

28 Skybar Lounge at Crown Melbourne $85 per adult $50 per child. Bookings 9292 5777.

Hopetoun Tea Rooms 282 Collins St, Melbourne. $50. Bookings: www.hopetountearooms.com.au/reservations 48 hours notice required.

Wonderland Spiegeltent 120 Pearl River Rd, Harbour Town Docklands. Cost: Child $35, Adults $39.50. Bookings: Telephone 03 9602 1311

Vue de Monde  525 Collins St, Melbourne. $250 person. Bookings: (03) 9691 38888

Hotel Lindrum26 Flinders St Melbourne. $55 per person including a glass of sparkling wine. Bookings:  03 9668 1111.

Om Nom at Adelphi Hotel 187 Flinders Lane Melbourne. $65 per person. Bookings: (03) 8080 8827

Stamford Plaza Hotel 111 Little Collins Street. Cost: $69 per adult $34.50 per child 4-12 years. Bookings: +61-3 9659 1000

Myer Mural Hall  Lvl 6, 314-336 Bourke Street. Cost: $70 per person, children under 3 free. Bookings: +61 03 9661 1546

Hazelbark Patisserie at Blue Diamond 15/123 Queen Street. $50 per person. Bookings Hazelbarkpatisserie@gmail.com.

Afternoon tea at The Hotel Windsor 111 Spring St Melbourne 1 The HOT List: Afternoon Tea in Melbourne   Mothers Day Sunday 10 May 2015

NORTH

Mamor’s Chocolate 153 Johnston St, Collingwood. $75 per person.

Melbourne Zoo Elliot Ave Parkville $65 adults $30 children. Bookings (03) 9285 9440.

EAST

Beau Monde International 934 Doncaster Road, Doncaster East. Child (4-12yrs): $35, Adult: $70. Bookings: 03 9660 1176

Mossgreen Tea Rooms 926 High St Armadale. $52 per person or $68 with champagne. Bookings: Call 03 9508 8850 or email tearooms@mossgreen.com.au

SOUTH / SOUTH-EAST / BAYSIDE

The Vincent 111 Victoria Ave, Albert Park. Child: $25, Adult: $65. Bookings:  Call (03) 9682 6444 or click here to reserve your table.

Ganache Chocolate 250 Toorak Rd, South Yarra. $45 per head or $60 per head with a glass of sparkling. Bookings: Call 9804 7485

WEST

Cocktails and Canvas Puckle Lane, Moonee Ponds. $82.50 high tea ‘Sip & Paint’.

The Tea Salon Shop 2041 Level 2 Emporium Melbourne 295 Lonsdale St Melbourne 5 The HOT List: Afternoon Tea in Melbourne   Mothers Day Sunday 10 May 2015

MELBOURNE SURROUNDS

Chateau Yering Historic House Hotel 42 Melba Highway, Yering. $60 per person. Bookings: Call 03 9237 3333 or email functions@chateauyering.com.au

Marybrooke Manor 10 Sherbrooke Rd, Sherbrooke. Adults: $40 Children $17.50. Bookings: Call (03) 9755 2755

High Tea at Yarra Valley Lodge 2 Heritage Avenue, Chirnside Park. Cost: $45 per adult and $27.50 per child (3-12 years). Bookings: Call 9760 3355 or email dining_atbella@yarravalleylodge.com

Coombe Restaurant 673-675 Maroondah Highway Coldstream. $55 per person. Bookings (03) 9739 0173

HOT: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk National Gallery of Victoria 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 2 HOT: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

The National Gallery of Victoria is currently hosting The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, a retrospective of the work of French designer Jean Paul Gaultier organised by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Melbourne is the only Asia-Pacific venue to host the exhibition, which has been seen by more than a million visitors in New York, San Francisco, London, Madrid and Stockholm.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk is a visual feast for those with an interest in fashion, art and design. Forget fashions on the field at the Melbourne Cup tomorrow and appreciate haute couture at its finest instead.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk National Gallery of Victoria 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 3 HOT: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

The massive show of clothing, accessories, furniture, photographs and art and it will take you at least 2 hours to see everything. It’s surprisingly interactive and is not just clothes on dummies, one after the other.

The rooms have been curated into seven thematic arrangements that track Gaultier’s design influences and the whole effect is highly theatrical.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk National Gallery of Victoria 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 6 HOT: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

The exhibition starts in the eerie blue room, with Jean Paul Gaultier himself dressed in his signature Breton stripes and introducing the exhibition as one of the animated mannequins. Gregorian chanting emanates from the Gothic looking women who are lined up two rows like religious icons.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk National Gallery of Victoria 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 18 HOT: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

In this room you’ll find costumes worn by Kylie Minogue and one of Beyonce’s jumpsuits.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk National Gallery of Victoria 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 11 HOT: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk National Gallery of Victoria 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 12 HOT: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

From there you are taken to a somewhat more traditional museum setting with various items on show, including his famous corsets.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk National Gallery of Victoria 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 13 HOT: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

The path then leads to a brightly lit throwback to the 80s, with graffiti on the walls, punk music blaring and a clever moving runway of mannequins where you’re invited to take a front row seat.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk National Gallery of Victoria 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 7 HOT: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk National Gallery of Victoria 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 4 HOT: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

You’re then lead into a room reminiscent of the opening scene of Chicago where the dominatrix and S&M influences of his work are collected.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk National Gallery of Victoria 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 17 HOT: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

Jean Paul Gaultier was also responsible for the costumes for many films, such as The Fifth Element and Pedro Almodavor’s works.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk National Gallery of Victoria 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 8 HOT: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

My favourite room was probably the ‘Urban Jungle’ with wild and extravagant interpretations of ethnic costumes set amongst a backdrop of Melbourne’s skyline. Just look at this bridal gown!

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk National Gallery of Victoria 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 15 HOT: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

 

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk National Gallery of Victoria 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 10 HOT: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk National Gallery of Victoria 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 5 HOT: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

The final room is a special addition to the Melbourne exhibition as it features Gaultier’s Australian muses including pieces he has created for Kylie Minogue, Cate Blanchett, Andrej Pejić and Gemma Ward. The couture gown that Nicole Kidman’s wore when she won her Oscar for The Hours in 2003 is on display. I also liked the way in background had been created for this room, with the outlines furniture pushed and stretched against stark white fabric.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk National Gallery of Victoria 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 20 HOT: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

It’s the small details that make this experience so awe-inspiring. The yards of silk pink ribbon sewed together to make a corset. The hand-pleated details. The Eiffel Tower kitten heels. The animal skin made up of tiny little tubular beads.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk National Gallery of Victoria 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 16 HOT: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk National Gallery of Victoria 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 14 HOT: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk National Gallery of Victoria 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 19 HOT: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk National Gallery of Victoria 180 St Kilda Rd Melbourne 1 HOT: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk is a rare opportunity to learn about the skill and background of a designer that’s been in the fashion business for over 40 years and to admire the craftsmanship of haute couture up close. Don’t miss it.

NGV’s popular Friday Nights return in style celebrating The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier. Every Friday until Friday 6 February (excluding 26 December and 2 January) DJs and bands take to the stage alongside pop-up talks, bars and dining. Check out the program here.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk

National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

Open 10am–5pm daily except Tue. Exhibition from 17 October 2014 until 8 February 2015

NGV Member Adult $17

Adult $22

Concession* $18

Child (5-15 years) $10

 

HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 7 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

Crowning the world’s best margherita pizza is a big ask….but Johnny Di Francesco, chef and owner of  Brunswick pizzeria 400 Gradi was awarded this accolade by the judges at World Pizza Championships in Italy in April 2014.

Luckily for Melburnians, 400 Gradi has just expanded into their second restaurant at Crown and it serves the same fantastic pizzas and other traditional Italian and Neapolitan dishes as the original restaurant.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 4 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank
I was invited to a first taste of Gradi at Crown’s menu and I can attest that every single dish was delicious, authentic and well-presented. A dining experience that was almost flawless from start to finish.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 1 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

At the entrance to Gradi at Crown you’re greeted by a large rack of salumi and enormous wheels of cheese. In fact as soon as you walk into the restaurant you smell cured meats, not pizza!

On the left of the salumi counter is a Venetian-style cicchetti bar where you can snack on freshly cut salumi and formaggi over a glass or two of Italian wine. All the cheese is imported from Italy while the majority of the salumi is also imported from Italy with a few Australian exceptions, such as the mortadella.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 3 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

On the right stretches a massive dining space with cosy chocolate easy chairs and a combination of large and small tables. I particularly liked the communal marble-topped table overhung with glistening copper pots as decoration.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 2 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

The copper motif extends to the two glorious wood fired ovens presiding over the pizza making station. The two ovens were in constant use during our dinner, doling out pizza after pizza from its fiery depths.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 6 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

Our dinner started with a selection of salumi served atop a thin wafer of Sardinian ‘carasau’ bread. My favourite was the Prosciutto Crudo Mornello 18month ($6.50 for 30g, $14 for 70g), thinly sliced and meltingly tender. I don’t know what they feed those pigs but the prosciutto tasted distinctly of soy sauce (the quality Japanese stuff, not Maggi)! Umami heaven.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 13 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

From the formaggi selection I enjoyed the novelty of the Bello Lodi Raspadura, which comes in big wheels with shavings slipped into a neat paper bag ($6 for 30g, $13 for 70g). A couple of slivers dissolved on the tongue was just perfect.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 14 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

The antipasti selection is mostly about beef and seafood. The standout was the only version of surf and turf that I condone – vitello tonnato ($19). A platter of finely sliced slow cooked beef, served cold with a velvety sauce of tuna, mascarpone, mayonnaise and fat, not too salty, capers.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 11 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

For those not watching their waistline too much I urge you to try the montanare fritte. I wasn’t sure what they were based on the description on the menu and I was expecting small dough balls.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 10 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

Montanare fritte turned out to be deep fried pizza dough crowned with savoury toppings ($15 for 3). Plump pillows of featherlight dough – a dangerously addictive savoury doughnut! My favourite topping was the ‘classica’ with San Marzano tomato, buffalo mozzarella, basil and parmesan, full of sunny margherita pizza flavours.

Which turns me to the main event – the pizza. Chef Johnny Di Francesco is the first Australian ever trained in Naples to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana rules. There are fourteen choices on the menu, all traditional combinations. They don’t offer gluten-free pizza as so much flour gets scattered around the kitchen that it’d be impossible to manage the potential cross-contamination (though they do offer gluten-free pasta on request).

The margherita ($21) and the caserta ($25.50) were the standouts. Is it the best margherita pizza in the world? I’m not the authoritative judge of that but these pizzas ticked all the right boxes for me.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 9 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

Smoky, yeasty, slightly chewy crust that wasn’t soggy. Simple toppings with quality, high flavour ingredients. The caserta had the extra edge over the margherita, thanks to that 18 month prosciutto again.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 8 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

If you’re an unadulterated carb lover then you can find more dough in the dessert menu. Gradi at Crown offer calzone with nutella and ricotta or coffee and mascarpone ($15).

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 5 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

The excellent crust meant that the molten filling didn’t turn the whole package into a soggy mess. In terms of flavour I preferred the coffee over the nutella (normally my favourite) as I found the mixture of ricotta made the filling heavier and diluted the telltale choc-hazelnut sweetness.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 12 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

The dessert menu also offers tiramisu ($15), sweetly served in a pot-bellied jar and well-balanced in its layering of mascarpone and sponge, coffee and port liqueur.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 15 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

The dark chocolate fondant ($15) was similarly perfect, with a release of molten chocolate lava upon spoon entry and a spongy exterior.

The only downfall of the desserts was that they appeared to be served with mass-produced vanilla ice cream, a curious anomaly to a menu otherwise concerned with top quality produce and the provenance of ingredients.

My dinner at Gradi at Crown was an excellent way to carb-load to a satisfied tummy. Their pizzas are certainly contenders for some of the best pizza I’ve ever eaten but they don’t fall short in other parts of their menu either. Go the dough!

Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank 03 9696 9888

minilink HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

HOT: Olivigna, 54-56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 3 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

Love the idea of sunning yourself in Tuscany but can’t afford the airfare? Believe it or not, a little bit of Italy can be found at Olivigna at Warrandyte South, just 30 minutes from Melbourne.

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 6 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

Drive up to Olivigna, surrounded by tall cypress trees, and it’s like driving up towards the Tuscan hills. The 20 acre property contains olive groves, a vineyard, orchard and garden, with a rustic stone restaurant, La Sala, at its centre.

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 1 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 5 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

The restaurant is large and bright and provides stunning views over the rolling hills of Warrandyte/Tuscany. I particularly loved the enormous gothic chandeliers presiding over the massive fireplace and the dining hum full of families and celebration.

The site is a dream and work in progress for the owners, Black Salt Catering’s Anna Gallo and developer John Di Pietro. Their love of the place is evident from all the small touches in the restaurant, such as the wooden shoe lasts picked up from France to use as coat racks.

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 19 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

As part of Olivigna mission to be an Italianate food and wine destination, they hold regularly Italian cooking classes on site. I was invited to a pasta making class at Olivigna which took place on one side of La Sala with Piera Benini, the restaurant’s pasta chef and a native of Bologna (a city known for its food and has the nickname ‘Fat Bologna’). I’ve previously sampled Piera’s pasta magic at Ladro Greville so she knows her stuff.

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 18 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 14 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 8 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

Over 2 hours Piera showed us how to make pasta from start to finish, from combining the dough to rolling it to cutting it.

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 17 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 7 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

After our morning’s instruction the kitchen, headed by chef chef Colin Swalwell (ex Yering Station), made our lunch while we were ushered to enjoy our handiwork in the private dining room, a space inspired by a traditional wine cellar/cave.

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 21 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

To start we enjoyed some freshly sliced prosciutto and house grown olives and fresh bread from the enormous wood oven accompanied by housemade olive oil (bottled just 3 days before).

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 16 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

 

Our feast continued with three different types of pasta – the tortellini we made, pappardelle with traditional napoli sauce and a surprise third dish, the restaurant’s signature Scaliatelli alle Vongole with clams, sweet zucchini and a touch of chilli. Our meal was served with a glass of Olivigna‘s own wine.

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 4 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

If you enjoyed your meal you can even take some of it home from the Olivigna food store. There you will find award-winning olive oils, caramelised onion jam and preserves that are all made on site plus the estate’s wines.

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 2 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

After your meal have a stroll around the gardens, sit by the open fire pit with a hot toddy or try your hand at the bocce court.

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 12 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

Olivigna is such an unexpected find in Melbourne and it truly does bring a sense of Italy to  our city. Get away from the city on a sunny weekend and bask in stunning scenery straight out of Under the Tuscan Sun while dining on fresh, local and home-grown produce from the estate. If you want to get hands-on with your Italian cooking, sign up to one of their masterclasses – a perfect Father’s Day outing or gift perhaps?

Olivigna, 54-56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South (03) 9844 4676

Upcoming master classes on desserts, pasta, salami, gourmet sausages. $120-$130 including lunch and a glass of Sangiovese

La Sala Restaurant

Wednesday to Sunday 11:30am – 3:30pm (4:30pm on Sunday)

Wednesday – Saturday 5.30pm – 9.00pm

 
minilink HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

HOT: Rice Paper Scissors, 19 Liverpool St, Melbourne

Rice Paper Scissors 19 Liverpool St Melbourne 2 HOT: Rice Paper Scissors, 19 Liverpool St, Melbourne

Rice Paper Scissors is a small South East Asian hawker-style eatery tucked away in Liverpool Street. I call it ‘Longrain-lite’, due in part to the postage stamp sized venue and its menu of Vietnamese and Thai street food.

We visited Rice Paper Scissors early on a Saturday night, when it was rammed to the rafters and with a waiting list to boot (they don’t take bookings). Even the tiny pavement tables were prime real estate in the shivery winter’s evening (thank goodness for the outdoor heaters). Indoors there was a mixture of seating, all high stools either at the bar or at communal tables.

Rice Paper Scissors 19 Liverpool St Melbourne 7 HOT: Rice Paper Scissors, 19 Liverpool St, Melbourne

The menu was easy to navigate – sharing plates on one side, booze on the other. They have a ‘get plattered for 2’ where you can choose any of the 5 sharing dishes for $45, which is a great way to scope out the menu. If you have a large appetite like mine then sharing 5 dishes will be *just* enough to make you full. So you may need to add a sixth!

We ordered our five dishes with our perky waitress and the food came quickly. It’s all business getting tables turned over quickly with such high demand for tables.

Rice Paper Scissors 19 Liverpool St Melbourne 1 HOT: Rice Paper Scissors, 19 Liverpool St, Melbourne

We started off with Son-in-law eggs which were not the whole eggs I was expecting but fried eggs sunny-side up with the yolks mingling with the chilli caramel dressing and crunchy shallots. Great punchy flavours but a real mess to eat.

Rice Paper Scissors 19 Liverpool St Melbourne 6 HOT: Rice Paper Scissors, 19 Liverpool St, Melbourne

Next up, betel leaf with fresh crab and peanut salad with a chilli caramel dressing. A sweet and spicy combination and while not as refined as the signature dish at Longrain, it will put fire in your belly.

Rice Paper Scissors 19 Liverpool St Melbourne 5 HOT: Rice Paper Scissors, 19 Liverpool St, Melbourne

We quite enjoyed the duck salad laab ped with lettuce leaves cupping a mixture of minced duck, roasted rice, herbs and a fiery dressing which wasn’t too fiery actually.

Rice Paper Scissors 19 Liverpool St Melbourne 4 HOT: Rice Paper Scissors, 19 Liverpool St, Melbourne

Better still were the sticky lamb ribs marinated in Mekong whiskey, the only sticking point (haha) was that there wasn’t too much meat on the bones and it was a little on the dry side. Loved the deep molassy flavours though.

Rice Paper Scissors 19 Liverpool St Melbourne 3 HOT: Rice Paper Scissors, 19 Liverpool St, Melbourne

The least successful dish was the Cambodian steamed fish amok, a sort of fish paste marinated in coconut cream and spices which again was not spicy enough for my palate.

It’s easy to see why Rice Paper Scissors is popular. It’s fun and convivial, with finger-lickin’ high flavour impact food that goes perfectly with a cocktail or three. Rice Paper Scissors continues the tradition of ‘cheap and cheerful’ food that characterises Chinatown, while still providing a funky dining experience.

Plus for a nightcap you can even skip next door to laneway bar veteran Double Happiness.

Rice Paper Scissors, 19 Liverpool St, Melbourne 0 03 9663 9890

Monday to Friday 12 until 3pm, 6pm till late

Saturday 5pm till late

Sunday closed

minilink HOT: Rice Paper Scissors, 19 Liverpool St, Melbourne

HOT: Syracuse, 23 Bank Place, Melbourne

Syracuse 23 Bank Place Melbourne 1 HOT: Syracuse, 23 Bank Place, Melbourne

Syracuse was one of the many restaurants I tried in my first year in Melbourne and since then it has become a stalwart of the CBD’s scene, particularly for the banker-and-lawyer end of town. It’s not a so-hip-it-hurts kind of place with queues streaming out the door – more of a quiet high achiever.

Syracuse 23 Bank Place Melbourne 4 HOT: Syracuse, 23 Bank Place, Melbourne

Syracuse’s decor has not changed much from my last visit. Still very elegant, with lofty ceilings and quiet subdued period features framed by a theatrical curtain swathing the front entrance.

Syracuse 23 Bank Place Melbourne 3 HOT: Syracuse, 23 Bank Place, Melbourne

Syracuse 23 Bank Place Melbourne 2 HOT: Syracuse, 23 Bank Place, Melbourne

I was invited to try their new menu, which has moved in a very different direction from my previous visits. It’s goodbye to Italian-influenced comfort food style of cuisine and hello to a lighter, more playful approach incorporating flavours and techniques from beyond the Mediterranean.

For lunch they have an Express Lunch menu with two courses and a glass of wine for $45 but we opted to order a la carte as we were intrigued by many of the dishes on the menu.

Syracuse 23 Bank Place Melbourne 5 HOT: Syracuse, 23 Bank Place, Melbourne

To start, To start, we shared some tender line caught calamari (more sustainable than traditionally netted calamari) with potatoes beurre fondue, braised leek and bottarga  ($16.50). A delicate entree with an inspired combination of textures.

Syracuse 23 Bank Place Melbourne 10 HOT: Syracuse, 23 Bank Place, Melbourne

While Syracuse has moved beyond traditional Italian cuisine generally you shouldn’t dismiss the kitchen’s skill with Italian dishes like the featherlight pan fried potato and porcini gnocchi ($23 entree size). This was served with earthy wild mushrooms, a dab of avocado and a surprising ‘garlic milk’. Basically it was a frothy light sauce infused with cloves of roasted garlic and was an inventive change from a basic cream sauce. I found the addition of avocado a bit too inventive though – for me there was just something not quite right with the addition of a cold avocado puree to the mix. I would have preferred a more tradition pea puree or nothing at all.

Syracuse 23 Bank Place Melbourne 7 HOT: Syracuse, 23 Bank Place, Melbourne

The hearty slow roasted Flinders Island lamb rump was incredibly tender and the tumbling combination of fermented tomatoes, black olive, macadamia and shanklish gave the dish a Mediterranean twist ($38).

Syracuse 23 Bank Place Melbourne 9 HOT: Syracuse, 23 Bank Place, Melbourne

In contrast the King George whiting, with a lineup of mandolined crayfish, pickled cabbage and watermelon ($40) was a delightfully zingy dish for Autumn and almost Japanese in its execution particularly with the garnish of roasted rice. It was certainly ornately presented.

Syracuse 23 Bank Place Melbourne 6 HOT: Syracuse, 23 Bank Place, Melbourne

To finish we shared a crème brûlée delicately scented with violets, combined with a drizzle of passionfruit caramel and ‘passionfruit crispies’ ($15). It was well-balanced in its sweetness despite the potential for overwhelming sugar in its combination of ingredients. A perfect sugar crust on the top too, perfect for cracking with the back of a spoon.

Syracuse 23 Bank Place Melbourne 8 HOT: Syracuse, 23 Bank Place, Melbourne

The Cherry Bombe was also well balanced with the meringue hiding the cherry ice cream within, though personally I could have done without the optional hit of limoncello ($16). I adored the pretty presentation.

Syracuse’s revised menu is an interesting departure from the traditional fare that it used to serve. Some of it was more successful than others but in general I enjoyed the ambience, service and the thoughtfully presented dishes. A restaurant that should definitely satisfy the gastronomes.

Syracuse, 23 Bank Place, Melbourne

Monday – Friday 7:00am-11:00pm

Saturday 6:00pm-11:00pm

minilink HOT: Syracuse, 23 Bank Place, Melbourne

NOT: Collins Kitchen High Tea, Grand Hyatt Melbourne, 123 Collins St, Melbourne

Collins Kitchen High Tea Grand Hyatt Melbourne 123 Collins St Melbourne 6 NOT: Collins Kitchen High Tea, Grand Hyatt Melbourne, 123 Collins St, Melbourne

Collins Kitchen is the snazzy restaurant within the Grand Hyatt with an open kitchen format and attached bar. As befitting a hotel restaurant it is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner plus everything in between, including high tea.

I’ve eaten a lot of high tea around Melbourne and sometimes it’s hard to judge whether a place is HOT or NOT. I love the ritual of afternoon tea and sweet things so much that sometimes it’s easy just to slap an automatic HOT in the headline because there’s limitless chocolate on offer!

But despite the chocolate buffet that I had on a weekend visit to Collins Kitchen, I can’t justifiably recommend it when comparing it to all the other possible options in Melbourne. Here’s why…

Collins Kitchen High Tea Grand Hyatt Melbourne 123 Collins St Melbourne 10 NOT: Collins Kitchen High Tea, Grand Hyatt Melbourne, 123 Collins St, Melbourne

The venue is lovely if you’re able to snag a booth which faces onto Russell Street. It’s private, comfortably seats four people and provide tall views of the streetscape below. If you’re in one of the tables in the centre of the dining floor then you’re likely to be surrounded by shrieky hens dos and noisy baby showers. I have and love young kids but it’s not my idea of a relaxing time if you’re trying to negotiate a buffet with over-excited kids and the pram brigade.

Collins Kitchen High Tea Grand Hyatt Melbourne 123 Collins St Melbourne 4 NOT: Collins Kitchen High Tea, Grand Hyatt Melbourne, 123 Collins St, Melbourne

High tea at Collins Kitchenn on a weekend is $65. We started off with a classic three-tiered stand of savouries, all of which was pretty underwhelming – mostly dry and tasteless and we left most of it. And it seemed almost desultory to only offer one limp finger sandwich.

Collins Kitchen High Tea Grand Hyatt Melbourne 123 Collins St Melbourne 11 NOT: Collins Kitchen High Tea, Grand Hyatt Melbourne, 123 Collins St, Melbourne

Collins Kitchen High Tea Grand Hyatt Melbourne 123 Collins St Melbourne 3 NOT: Collins Kitchen High Tea, Grand Hyatt Melbourne, 123 Collins St, Melbourne

The dessert buffet looked more promising, with platters of cakes and pastries, two chocolate fountains, scones and condiments, waffles and pancakes and a fridge full of ice cream.

Collins Kitchen High Tea Grand Hyatt Melbourne 123 Collins St Melbourne 5 NOT: Collins Kitchen High Tea, Grand Hyatt Melbourne, 123 Collins St, Melbourne

What I didn’t understand was why nothing was labelled. The harried staff were so busy scooping ice cream and making waffles and pancakes to order yet still had to answer questions about ‘what is this? what is this?’ to every person to came to the counter. I don’t know how many times I had to hear the poor girl repeat each ice cream flavour for every customer.

So I have no idea what cakes I ate but safe to say some were good, some were not so good. The pastry work was particularly disappointing, with chalky choux pastry, sticky macarons and dry tart casings.

Collins Kitchen High Tea Grand Hyatt Melbourne 123 Collins St Melbourne 8 NOT: Collins Kitchen High Tea, Grand Hyatt Melbourne, 123 Collins St, Melbourne

Collins Kitchen High Tea Grand Hyatt Melbourne 123 Collins St Melbourne 7 NOT: Collins Kitchen High Tea, Grand Hyatt Melbourne, 123 Collins St, Melbourne

Collins Kitchen High Tea Grand Hyatt Melbourne 123 Collins St Melbourne 9 NOT: Collins Kitchen High Tea, Grand Hyatt Melbourne, 123 Collins St, Melbourne

Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy the scones either as I found the crust too hard for my liking. It would have been much nicer to enjoy the scones warm on the tiered stand.

Collins Kitchen High Tea Grand Hyatt Melbourne 123 Collins St Melbourne 2 NOT: Collins Kitchen High Tea, Grand Hyatt Melbourne, 123 Collins St, Melbourne

The best part of the buffet was actually the limitless Gundowring ice cream but that’s easy because it’s one of my favourite ice creams. We went back for seconds!

I also found the service to be a bit haphazard. At the beginning I was asked several times by different waiters whether I wanted sparkling/tea/coffee (tea and coffee is unlimited). In contrast when we were done with our tiered stand it was left on the table along with an ever-growing pile of dirty buffet plates and no one came near our table until the end.

The only reason I’d return to Collins Kitchen for high tea over any other venues is because I can get 25% discount with an Entertainment Card. Plus children under 3 are free so I was able to treat one adult and one little person for $48.75.  On the other hand, given the quality of the food I tried I’d prefer to take my afternoon tea bucks elsewhere and maybe save my Entertainment Card voucher for another meal.

Collins Kitchen High Tea Grand Hyatt Melbourne 123 Collins St Melbourne 1 NOT: Collins Kitchen High Tea, Grand Hyatt Melbourne, 123 Collins St, Melbourne

Collins Kitchen High Tea, Grand Hyatt Melbourne, 123 Collins St, Melbourne +613 9653 4831

A la carte $45

Monday – Friday, 3pm to 5pm

Additional Dessert Buffet $65

Saturday, 12pm – 2.30pm & 3pm – 5pm

Sunday, 3.30pm – 5.30pm

minilink NOT: Collins Kitchen High Tea, Grand Hyatt Melbourne, 123 Collins St, Melbourne

 

HOT: Neapoli, 30 Russell Place, Melbourne

Neapoli 30 Russell Place Melbourne 4 HOT: Neapoli, 30 Russell Place, Melbourne

Neapoli is an all day eatery in Collins Street Melbourne that is many things to many people.

Neapoli 30 Russell Place Melbourne 1 HOT: Neapoli, 30 Russell Place, Melbourne

By day, a cosy cafe and meeting place for nearby office workers (who particularly like the big boardroom table upstairs). By night, a sexy wine bar with interesting food to share.

Neapoli 30 Russell Place Melbourne 3 HOT: Neapoli, 30 Russell Place, Melbourne

I visited on shadowy winter’s morning and the ambience was just right for the weather – dimly lit and with hidden corners for a quiet tete-a-tete. I loved Neapoli’s curving oak bar with leather stools but decided I wanted to sit somewhere less conspicuous and headed upstairs.

Neapoli 30 Russell Place Melbourne 6 HOT: Neapoli, 30 Russell Place, Melbourne

Both levels benefited from the light glinting off the glorious black-framed curved wall of glass which fronted onto the terrace.

photo 8 982x1024 HOT: Neapoli, 30 Russell Place, Melbourne

For easy navigation the breakfast menu was divided into fruits and grains, toast and bagels and eggs, plus a range of sides. I decided to start with and egg and bacon bagel with tomato relish ($12.50) mainly because the menu boasted that the bagels were steamed and baked in house.

photo 7 1024x880 HOT: Neapoli, 30 Russell Place, Melbourne

The dish was possibly the most beautiful version of an egg and bacon butty I’ve seen. One barely fried egg, a generous slice of bacon, a festive frill of baby spinach leaves and a slick of sauce opened up between two crusty slices. The texture of the bagel itself was quite interesting – not quite the chewy, Eastern European variety I’m used to but more of a bready, almost brioche-like cakiness to it. Even if it wasn’t an authentic bagel it was delicious.

Neapoli 30 Russell Place Melbourne 5 HOT: Neapoli, 30 Russell Place, Melbourne

Based on the successful bread venture I decided to try the banana pancakes too ($15). These were gorgeous fluffy discs with a crisp border presumably created by an egg ring. The three pancakes were topped with a classic combination of banana and maple syrup. Unbeatable.

A glance at the vast lunch and dinner menu invites to return – it’s a list of old-school Italian favourites and unexpected segues into Greek, Thai and Mexican cuisine. I love the idea of all day dining too, as often I find myself eating lunch at 11am and dinner at 5pm these days.

Neapoli epitomises the best of alleyway dining in Melbourne – a culinary destination that’s relaxed yet sophisticated, the perfect place to read the papers solo or enjoy long boozy chats with friends.

Neapoli, 30 Russell Place Melbourne +61 3 9650 5020

Mon – Fri / 7am to late

Sat – Sun / 8am – late

minilink HOT: Neapoli, 30 Russell Place, Melbourne

HOT: Ruyi, 16 Liverpool St, Melbourne

Ruyi 16 Liverpool St Melbourne 4 HOT: Ruyi, 16 Liverpool St, Melbourne

At first glance Ruyi looks and sounds like a Japanese restaurant. Its laneway windows display  blond wood furniture, handmade ash and concrete light fittings (from France), white tiling and small gold details. The Japanese-style aesthetic continues with the custom handmade crockery by Melbourne ceramic artist Andrei Davidoff.

Ruyi 16 Liverpool St Melbourne 5 HOT: Ruyi, 16 Liverpool St, Melbourne

But this cool, serene laneway restaurant is actually a modern Chinese restaurant. It serves mostly Cantonese favourites, with some Sichuan and Shanghai dishes thrown into the mix.

Ruyi 16 Liverpool St Melbourne 1 HOT: Ruyi, 16 Liverpool St, Melbourne

We visited on a weekday lunch when it was fairly empty. A shame because their set lunch menu of $18 is great value and you’ll definitely come out full. Not to mention soothed by the quiet and subtle interior and the friendly service.

Ruyi 16 Liverpool St Melbourne 11 HOT: Ruyi, 16 Liverpool St, Melbourne

The two of us shared one $18 set menu and one $35 set menu, which included some overlapping dishes. First up was the soup of the day fragrant duck and tofu broth, with tangles of eggwhite swirled throughout. It was warming and hearty without being heavy and flavours of all the various elements shone through.

Ruyi 16 Liverpool St Melbourne 8 HOT: Ruyi, 16 Liverpool St, Melbourne

From the $18 menu came one ‘bao bao’ with a curious combination of chicken, mayonnaise and coriander. The bao itself was feather-light marshmallow so on balance still a winner.

Ruyi 16 Liverpool St Melbourne 6 HOT: Ruyi, 16 Liverpool St, Melbourne

From the $35 menu came the lettuce cup with a choice of waygu, chicken, seafood or vegetarian fillings. The frilled lettuce leaf was daintily presented in a specialist egg-cup style plate and the filling was on the verge of being too soggy – but overall not bad.

Ruyi 16 Liverpool St Melbourne 9 HOT: Ruyi, 16 Liverpool St, Melbourne

Back to the $18 menu came some fried chicken wings. They looked blackened and burnt but in fact the crust had retained the juiciness of the meat and they were an unexpected highlight of our meal.

Ruyi 16 Liverpool St Melbourne 3 HOT: Ruyi, 16 Liverpool St, Melbourne

Another highlight were the handmade chilli wontons, fat slippery parcels in a soy and vinegar based broth. They were not just stodgy meatballs wrapped in dough but elegant parcels of pork and prawn and our waitress advised us to scoop the leftover sauce onto our bowls of steamed rice.

Ruyi 16 Liverpool St Melbourne 10 HOT: Ruyi, 16 Liverpool St, Melbourne

Our least favourite dish were the thickset, heavy pan fried pork and chive dumplings, a stark contrast to the lightness of the wontons.

Ruyi 16 Liverpool St Melbourne 2 HOT: Ruyi, 16 Liverpool St, Melbourne

The main course from the $35 menu was a choice of kung pao chicken, citrus pork, oyster beef steak or vegetarian. Our kung pao chicken was not overly fried and not too sweet or sour. But without the numbing heat of Sichuan peppercorns it detracted from the authenticity of the dish, so I’d describe it as a lightly-flavoured sweet and sour chicken instead.

Ruyi 16 Liverpool St Melbourne 7 HOT: Ruyi, 16 Liverpool St, Melbourne

As one of the owners noticed me taking photographs she offered one of their desserts for us to try. We each received a serve of warm sticky rice pudding ($12) with a mound of warm sticky rice, a drizzle of coconut sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream sprinkled with pistachios. It was a dessert that I’d not normally order but it was very good – not too sweet thanks to the relatively bland rice and a playful contrast between hot and cold on the plate. My only gripe would be that the ice cream could have been better quality – no evidence of vanilla beans in the making of the commercial product that I could see.

Overall we really enjoyed our lunch at Ruyi. The Hecker Guthrie decor is to die for – a polished Scandinavian palate with hints of warmth and lots of beautiful little details. Everything has a feeling of being handcrafted and handmade and its a space that’s obviously been built with love. The food was just as well presented and included many familiar Chinese dishes done without fluorescent artificial colours, excess grease and throat-drying MSG. Ruyi is a refined experience and a fresh take on our traditional perceptions of Chinese food in Australia.

Ruyi, 16 Liverpool St, Melbourne 03 9090 7778

Monday – Wednesday 12:00pm-3:00pm, 6:00pm-10:00pm

Thursday – Friday 12:00pm-11:00pm

Saturday 6:00pm-11:30pm

Sunday CLOSED

minilink HOT: Ruyi, 16 Liverpool St, Melbourne