HOT: Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar, 61 Flinders Ln, Melbourne


Cecconi’s Flinders Lane is a much-awarded Italian restaurant stalwart in Melbourne and their recent revamp in décor drips of old school glamour with a capital G.

My memories of Cecconi’s was as a place of celebratory feasting with friends, romantic tete-a-tetes and even a wedding.

I was invited to sample their new seasonal menu and it appears that the relaunch has not changed Cecconi’s approach. It’s still a fine dining establishment which knows how to deliver a complete experience in food, service and ambience.


Tottering down the basement steps your first view is of the quiet, well-ordered open plan kitchen centre stage. As well as being practical, the hanging copper pots and pans lent a warm glow to the surroundings and touches of copper were echoed in some of the other décor such as the wall lights.


Near the stylish bar there’s a subtle nod to the Cecconi’s heritage with the framed portraits of family members hanging on the back wall.


I was also particularly taken by the huge dome pendant lamps with a delicately ornate etchings on the porcelain inner. Overall the look is sharp and polished – a place to impress.



To start we were offered some smart canapés – melting San Daniele prosciutto twisted around long grissini and mushroom arancini with garlicky aoili to name a few.



Then, the first course – a heady truffle and parmesan risotto. A creamy, earthy dish lifted to decadence by the extravagant amount of freshly shaved black truffle spiking the plate.


Second course was Chatham Island Blue Cod, confit tomato, fennel, fried zucchini flower from the owner’s garden and a drizzle of aged balsamic. The fish was perfectly pan-fried with a slight hint of crispness on the outer edges, which meant that I would have preferred the zucchini flower to be more lightly battered as I felt overall that the textural balance was on the dry side.


The dish of the night was twice cooked duck and the most luxurious sweet potato puree. Who knows how much cream or butter was whisked into that puree but it was like eating marshmallow. The duck was perfectly cooked, simultaneously juice and crispy.


Dessert was a jar of caramel pannacotta layered with broken wild fig cake and macadamia ice cream. I felt that serving the pannacotta in a jar diminished its impact somewhat as the other ingredients dominated the palate before your spoon hit the bottom. Nevertheless, an artful twist on an Italian classic.


Based on my dinner it seems that Cecconi’s will be continuing on with what it does best – fine dining without stuffiness, Italian food without fussiness and a place that’s sure to impress your parents, your friends or your date.

Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar, 61 Flinders Ln, Melbourne  03 8663 0500

Monday – Friday 12:00pm-12:00am

Saturday 5:30pm-12:00am

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HOT: Vue De Monde, Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins St, Melbourne


I feel that everything that needs to be said about three-hat Vue de Monde has already been said.

So instead of describing at length each of the ten courses of the degustation at one of Australia’s best restaurants (and having to take notes during my lunch), today I’m going to leave you with a photo essay of what the full Vue de Monde experience looks like.

First off, the view at 55 floors.


The restaurant itself is quite casual for a fine-dining establishment. They use quietly expensive crockery, furniture and artwork in the space but it’s not in any way intimidating. Plus the staff are professional and friendly without being snooty. Sometimes the kitchen staff present the dishes they have made, complete in aprons and clogs, which I think is a particularly lovely touch.


One of Vue de Monde‘s signature cocktails is their version of the Old Fashioned, using Leatherwood honey. An Old Fashioned may have become a bit of cliche with the advent of Mad Men, but when it comes served with a huge ball of ice (so it doesn’t melt as quickly) in a cut crystal tumbler then you know it’s high end. Just be aware it costs $25!

Vue De Monde, Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins St, Melbourne

The restaurant has a whole ‘classy cave man’ theme happening which means the tables are covered in kangaroo hide, some of the chairs have (faux?) fur backs and food is sometimes presented on rocks and sticks which brings to mind scenes of a Neanderthal bonfire. It may be considered gimmicky but I don’t mind of a bit of theatre when it’s backed up by incredible attention to detail in the food.

First up on the rocks – carrot (some poor sod had to fashion these to look like twigs?), smoked eel, white chocolate and caviar, salt cured wallaby and Truffle marshmallow (not pictured).


Vue De Monde, Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins St, Melbourne

Vue De Monde, Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins St, Melbourne

Vue De Monde, Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins St, Melbourne
King prawn (including the crispy head), seaweed salted duck yolk and some wasabi snow spooned over the top at the last moment.

Melbourne onion soup – the liquid was siphoned through a coffee filter and poured over roasted and pickled onions.

Vue De Monde, Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins St, Melbourne


A perfect sous vide marron, sweetbread, lamb floss.

Vue De Monde, Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins St, Melbourne

The butter for the bread arrives with almost ridiculous ceremony – spooned out from a huge tub of imported Beurre Echire.


Duck yolk, pear circlets, truffle and crispy saltbush leaves.

An interactive palate cleanser of wood sorrel doused in cloudy liquid nitrogen and crushed to a powder with your pestle. A spoon of cucumber sorbet was then added on top.

Vue De Monde, Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins St, Melbourne

Vue De Monde, Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins St, Melbourne
A juicy fillet of barramundi with nettle puree and young garlic.

Vue De Monde, Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins St, Melbourne

Flinders Island lamb, olive, Australian anchovies, mustard

Vue De Monde, Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins St, Melbourne

Blackmore Wagyu, smoked bone marrow, saltbush

Vue De Monde, Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins St, Melbourne

After seven savoury courses you can choose to have three desserts or an assortment of cheeses, bread and jams plus two desserts. The wooden cheese trolley is a large structure which is quite a sight to behold.

Vue De Monde, Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins St, Melbourne
My alternative dessert was of buttermilk, malt cream, hay.

Vue De Monde, Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins St, Melbourne

Rhubarb, white chocolate, coffee

Vue De Monde, Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins St, Melbourne

A Vue de Monde classic – the most perfect chocolate soufflé I’ve ever had in terms of consistency of texture. This shows off the kitchen’s classic French techniques to perfection.

Vue De Monde, Level 55, Rialto, 525 Collins St, Melbourne

If you make a booking for the first lunch sitting at midday then be aware that you’ll need to vacate your table for the second sitting at 2:30pm. The transition is impressively smooth and well-organised – there’s no unceremonious shunting you out the door but instead they set you up at the bar (with a glorious window view) to enjoy your selection of petit-fours at your leisure.

The petit fours were all ‘Australiana’ inspired – miniature chocolate mousse lamingtons, chocolate pippi shells, bourbon jellies shaped like two-up coins and eucalyptus ice cream balls.


And to extend your Vue de Monde experience you go home with a goodie bag of brioche, honey, tea, cookies and granola for the morning after!


Vue de Monde offers some of the most inventive and decadent dining in Australia. At $250 a head for the ten course degustation it is certainly a special occasion restaurant – but if you appreciate artistry in food and wine in stunning surroundings then save your pennies and book ahead.

HOT: High Tea at the Library, Cowen Gallery, State Library, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne

High Tea at Library, Cowen Gallery, State Library, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne

The State Library of Victoria is not a place you often associate with afternoon tea (more like invigilators saying ‘no food or drink in the library please’) so I was really interested to discover that they are holding high teas in the Red Rotunda of the Cowen Gallery. Never knew that the State Library had galleries? Neither did I.

High Tea at Library, Cowen Gallery, State Library, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne

The Red Rotunda is one of the function rooms that you can hire at the State Library. For the State Library High Tea the library’s caterers CNK Food Design had set up round tables and chairs in the centre of the ornate room as old beardy men in the 19th century paintings and plaster busts stared down at you. Together with the parquetry floors and high dome it was quite a regal setting to be sipping tea and nibbling cakes but the shared table format meant that there’s a lot of chatting with strangers (if you wanted to) so the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed.

High Tea at Library, Cowen Gallery, State Library, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne

High Tea at Library, Cowen Gallery, State Library, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne

I liked the styling of the tables, with lovely vintage floral tea sets and crockery and a literary touch with some old books tied up with a silk ribbon (I’m stealing that idea).

High Tea at Library, Cowen Gallery, State Library, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne

On arrival everyone was offered a glass of Tahbilk Coueslant Chardonnay Pinot Noir and surprisingly for a high tea top ups were offered throughout the 2 hours. Disappointingly there was no choice of tea (English Breakfast only) alongside coffee, sparkling or still mineral water.

In the centre of the tables were placed classic three tiered afternoon tea stands. On the bottom were double-decker finger sandwiches of egg and mayonaise and cucumber with lemon mayonnaise, all very fresh with soft white crustless bread. There was no sign of the promised poached chicken with herbed mayonnaise sandwiches but as Gourmet Chick and I arrived a little late we may have missed that plate. There were multiple serves of the other sandwiches though so I still ate my fill.

High Tea at Library, Cowen Gallery, State Library, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne

The other savoury offering was a smoked salmon roulade made with a spinach crepe and filled with with creme fraiche and salmon roe. They were just as fresh as the sandwiches and deliciously light.

High Tea at Library, Cowen Gallery, State Library, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne

Of the sweets the pastries – macarons, Belgian chocolate dipped strawberries and lemon meringue tarts – were more impressive than the scones. Sadly, the buttermilk scones were as hard as rock on the outside (and bizarrely we had to ask for knives to slice them open) although they were quite fluffy on the inside. Slathered with strawberry jam and King Island double cream they were still palatable but by no means the best scones I’ve had in Melbourne.

In contrast the miniature macarons were delectable, light as air but with no tell-tale air pockets inside the shell and a good proportion of ganache and macaron in each bite.

High Tea at Library, Cowen Gallery, State Library, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne

The pastry of the lemon tarts was buttery and thin with a soft, faintly bruleed meringue capping off a sweet lemon curd.

High Tea at Library, Cowen Gallery, State Library, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne

At the end of the high tea you could elect to join a guided tour of the State Library‘s current Mirror of the world: books and ideas exhibition which showcases rare and beautiful treasures in the Library’s collection as detailing the history of books, illustrations and ideas. I declined the opportunity as the tour crowd was looking to be quite large and I could visit the free exhibition in my own time. 

Considering the fact that the State Library doesn’t specialise in serving food I was generally impressed by the quality of the food on offer, with a few exceptions. There was certainly a lot to go around, with generous top ups of sparkling wine and quite a few sweets left over at the end.

My only other comment is regarding the price. The high tea costs $80 ($70 for Foundation members) which puts it on the upper end of the afternoon tea prices I’ve seen around Melbourne, even taking into account the unique setting. Gourmet Chick and I managed to score a Facebook offer of 2 for 1 tickets which made it a very reasonable $40 each.

I think with a few improvements as to the catering and maybe a reconsideration of the pricing the State Library High Tea would be a lovely, unique space to indulge in afternoon tea.

The next dates for State Library High Tea are:

Saturday 12 October 2013, 2:00pm – 4:00pm

Saturday 9 November 2013, 2:00pm – 4:00pm

State Library High Tea, Cowen Gallery, State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne +61 3 8664 7099

Cost $80.00, $70.00 Foundation members

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Spice Journey dinner with Shane Delia, Maha – Giveaway!


If you’ve been watching SBS’s new series Shane Delia’s Spice Journey (Thursdays 7:30pm SBS ONE) you will no doubt have been salivating over all the wonderful Middle Eastern dishes he describes and creates as he travels Malta, Lebanon and Iran. Now here’s your chance to try them and to meet Shane himself!

Shane’s restaurant Maha will host a Spice Journey exclusive event on Tuesday 4 June at 7pm. The one-night only dinner will comprise a 6 course meal showcasing dishes from Shane Delia’s Spice Journey, with a wine match from the Middle Eastern regions he traveled for the program as well as appearances by the very personable Shane himself.

Tickets are $150 per head and limited in number but one lucky person can win a double pass to this amazing event. To win all you have to do is 1. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook (if you don’t already) and 2. leave a comment below. A winner will be drawn randomly on Monday 3 June. Good luck!

The winner is #5 Mellie! And email has been sent to you.

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Maha, 21 Bond St, Melbourne +61 3 9629-5900. Pre-payment by credit card preferred
Tuesday June 4, 6.30pm arrival for 7pm service
$150 per person (includes 6 courses, matching wines plus still/sparkling water and tea or coffee).

HOT: Moon Under Water, Builders Arms Hotel, 211 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

For the first time in my memory food critic John Lethlean from The Weekend Australian magazine awards a restaurant 5/5 stars. And given it’s only a hop, skip and jump from my home it would be remiss of me not to visit Moon Under Water, the fine dining side of the revamped boozer Builders Arms Hotel.

If you’re short on time then the conclusion is that everything that Mr Lethlean says in his review I heartily concur with. Under Andrew McConnell’s guidance, Moon Under Water is sophisticated and confident, creative and intriguing. The prix fixe menu of $75 for 4 courses is value for money in my view and as the menu changes weekly to fortnightly depending on the season and availability of produce you could go for repeat visits and not eat the same thing every time. They also cater very well (and very politely) for any dietary requirements.

The all-white dining room could be termed stark but I prefer to think of it is calming and serene. All that wood panelling combined with Bentwood chairs is very Nordic and a far cry from the multi-coloured Saturday Night Fever-esque flooring which I used to dance on (showing my age!). The whiteness does not make the atmosphere clinically sterile – there are dots of colour in the form of a greenery or a bowl of zucchini. Also the staff slip around in semi-scuffed white Dunlop volleys and the tables are covered in butcher’s paper for a casual feel.

On my most recent visit the menu was as follows:

  • Cheese biscuit
  • Rottnest Island scallops, cucumber, fennel
  • Shaved jamon, fresh curd, raw and grilled zucchini
  • roast chicken, celery, leek and hazelnuts
  • peach, lemon cream, blueberries
Inside what looked like a camping enamel soap container was the most delicious salt/olive oil bread I’ve ever eaten paired with slices of lightly pickled cucumber and a hunk of good butter. That bread outshone even the shiitake mushroom croquettes for me (which curiously were not mentioned on the menu).

On a summer’s day you can’t go too wrong with perfectly seared scallop, the freshness of cucumber and a lemon aioli. The presentation was painstaking too – you could just imagine the tweezers in action placing each miniature fennel frond precisely around the plate.

More freshness, this time in the form of zucchini, goats curd and an intensely fragrant tomato highlighted with a sliver of jamon. The dish really showcased what you can do with humble vegetables – a dish full of colour and flavour and a pleasure for the senses.

The meat course was a perfectly roasted chicken breast with celery, softened leeks and a square of crispy chicken skin. It was accompanied by a simply dressed bowl of lettuce – again highlighting the finesse you can demonstrate through the use of a humble ingredient.

Dessert was what I consider a typical McConnell dish – a bunch of torn up ingredients tossed together in what seems to be a haphazard way but is actually a carefully considered combination of flavours. And I’m sure that jumble of summer flavours is not accidental plating either as every plate looked the same on our table.

To end – thin dark chocolate shells housing an oozing salted caramel and mousse. Otherwise known as a fancy-pants Rolo!

As you can see the servings are modest so while you will be full at the end of the meal don’t expect to feel like you’re rolling out the door. If you enjoy that I’ve-just-had-a-degustation-and-can’t-move feeling then I suggest filling up on the delicious bread!
I like Moon Under Water so much I have been twice in 2 weeks and would happily go again and again. Given the hype around the restaurant I was surprised to be able to get a booking easily and at short notice (once for a large group of 10 people). Must be the holiday season I guess.

My advice? Book now and enjoy.

Moon Under Water, Builders Arms Hotel, 211 Gertrude St, Fitzroy +61 3 9417 7700

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HOT: Rumi’s 40 Days of Lent with Joseph Abboud, The Essential Ingredient, Prahran Market, Elizabeth St, South Yarra

Happy Easter!

If you were observing Lent you are probably celebrating the end of the 40 days with some feasting today. While I’m not religious I am interested in the rituals and traditions of Lent, so I recently attended a demonstration class at The Essential Ingredient with Joseph Abboud, the chef/owner of contemporary Middle Eastern restaurant, Rumi, entitled ‘Rumi’s 40 days of Lent’.

Rumi has been on my to-eat list for a while but my weak excuse for not getting there so far is that it only opens evenings, when my outings are somewhat restricted by a young baby. But after attending Joseph’s class I have renewed vigour for getting myself out to try his take on Turkish, Lebanese and Persian cuisine.

Before attending the class I also had a preconceived notion that demonstration classes were a bit of a waste of time when there were so many chefs I could watch on TV. Now I know the difference is like watching a music concert on a screen and attending the gig. The experience is much more satisfactory in real life and what I didn’t realise is that you actually get to taste the food being demonstrated as well! I thought you just sat around watching an upside-down mirror and taking notes.

Anyway, this demonstration class was themed as a Lentan feast. Over the course of 2.5 hours Joseph and his assistant demonstrated five traditional Lebanese dishes typical of the more restrained meals eaten during Lent – lots of vegetables, mostly vegan fare. If this is fasting, then I’m all for it!

Eggplant M’nazleh. Cubes of deep-fried eggplant folded though a slow-cooked tomato, onion, chilli, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg sauce. As a variation Joseph also sliced the eggplants and deep-fried them until very dark, which I preferred.

Deep fried cauliflower florets (meant to look very dark brown) with caramelised onions, currants and pine nuts. This dish has been on the menu at Rumi since day one and is a delicious way to serve a very underrated vegetable.

Baked fish with homemade tahini and toasted almonds, pine nuts and walnuts. Joseph buys his nuts and other Mediterranean ingredients from Miramar Nut Shop (313 Lygon St, Brunswick +61 3 9387-6805), Basfoods (419 Victoria St Brunswick +61 3 9381 1444) while his olive oil is locally made by Pitruzello Estate (25 Deverall Rd Sunbury +61 3 5428 3055).

Green beans braised with onion and garlic. The kind of dish that his mum would leave on the stove before going to church and it’d be ready when she returned. I’ve never eaten braised beans before and was surprised to find that grey, soggy looking beans can be very appetising!

Ma’mool – date filled biscuits to celebrate Easter and the end of Lent. Date paste is not a traditional filling and Joseph’s approach to cooking is not to change the traditional recipe unless it tastes better or improves the original.

And finally, the decorated eggs that you saw at the top of this post. These look like wood-turned eggs and the trick is to knot the egg inside a stocking with a parsley leaf then put the egg into a pot of onion skins (red or brown) to dye the outer shell. The flavour inside isn’t affected and the parsley leaf creates a delicate stencil pattern.

If all the chat and tasting about food isn’t enough to get you to a cooking class, as an attendee of a class you get a 6% discount off your purchases at The Essential Ingredient. While drooling over the shelves of delectable goodies I ended up raiding their discount shelves of biscuits, spice mixes, panettone and cycling home with a Himalayan salt brick :–)

The Essential Ingredient runs a cooking class schedule throughout the year of local and international chefs that would make your mouth water. Check out the schedule here and book early.

Rumi’s 40 Days of Lent with Joseph Abboud, The Essential Ingredient, Prahran Market, Elizabeth St, South Yarra +61 3 9827 9047

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Rumi on Urbanspoon

HOT: Afternoon tea, Burch and Purchese Sweet Studio, 647 Chapel St, South Yarra

For a pre-Easter treat Gourmet Chick and I cycled down to South Yarra dressed in ladylike garb to partake in an afternoon tea at Burch and Purchese. Though really we should have worn  our Mad Hats as the afternoon was definitely a trip to Wonderland.

In the pink and brown confection of a store you will find chocolates and desserts unlike anything that you’ve seen before – each one a work of art combining unexpected ingredients with a dusting of magic (cue popping candy), all presented in the most delectable displays. One of everything please!

For special occasions Burch and Purchese offer the most exclusive afternoon tea event in town. One table of four people max, one session on Saturdays and Sundays only. The afternoon tea is held in a separate area between the kitchen and the dessert cabinet and is bounded by an awe-inspiring ‘inspiration wall’ – floor-to-ceiling laboratory jars of neatly labelled ingredients. Science meets sweetness indeed.

The event styling is Willy Wonka-esque down to the finest detail, such as the cutlery mat, a pillow of sugar syrup filled with dessert ingredients from cinnamon sticks to Turkish delight.

The $95 experience includes a behind the scenes tour of the Sweet Studio, an afternoon tea menu with tea and mineral water with morsels based around the traditional high tea fancies of sandwiches, scones and pastries – but what you get on the day is up to the chef’s whim. Be prepared to be surprised and delighted.

To start, a choice to T2 teas served in hot pink china cups and saucers. I highly recommend the French Earl Grey and the Chai (though skip the honey and milk, you’ll be ingesting enough dairy and sugar).

I won’t bore you with lists of ingredients and just let the photos speak for themselves. First up, an artful ‘gin and tonic’ refresher with marshmallows, grapefruit, dehydrated fruit and honeycomb.

Although Burch and Purchese are famous for their desserts they still offer some savoury food as part of the afternoon tea. The perfect little chicken sandwich, a deconstructed egg and watercress sandwich and a tomato, basil and olive ‘salad’. The sugared basil leaf and little orbs of olive infused gel were particularly remarkable.

Watch magic happen before your eyes! For ‘scones and jam’ Mr Magician aka Darren Purchese made tiramisu icecream using liquid nitrogen and coupled it with a coffee ‘scone’ crumble and coffee syrup.

A bit of a break while we wait for the final desserts. Time for a backstage tour!

The purpose built chocolate spraying  room. These are where your magical Easter eggs are finished. Very Jackson Pollock.

And now the finale! A two-tiered glass shelf with the B&P version of an opera slice with white chocolate, coffee and a very strong aniseed flavour, a black forest eclair and a tube of their best-selling (and my favourite) chocolate and mandarin cake.

Then the bottom tier – their best-selling coconut, ginger, passionfruit and mint cake.

Banana caramel and chocolate – classic combination done with a twist.

Strawberry, raspberry and coconut, which may be coming off the menu in the future so get in quick!

Apparently no one has every finished the whole afternoon tea set and even two food bloggers were defeated by the number of dishes. I was feeling quite dizzy towards the end! But I’m proud to say apparently I have gotten the furthest of anyone they’ve had in yet :–)

However, not content to go home with a box of leftovers, I also bought some of their unmissable gold bars of salted caramel dipped in dark chocolate and gold dust and the quinoa and orange malted sprinkle. RM scoffed the former when I wasn’t looking (argh!) and the latter went onto my breakfast the next morning – vanilla poached quinces and yoghurt. Makes it look so fancy!

Before you get too excited, the afternoon tea is no longer available (they are completing bookings that have already been made in May) as they are concentrating on launching an evening dessert bar opening sometime in mid/late April. So there is still something to get excited about!

For other amazing dessert in Melbourne, try LuxBite and Pierre Roelofs at Cafe Rosamond.

Afternoon tea, Burch and Purchese Sweet Studio, 647 Chapel St, South Yarra +61 3 9827 7060

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Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio on Urbanspoon

HOT: The Wine Bar Restaurant, Yering Station, 38 Melba Hwy, Yarra Glen

Fancy a day out in the country? In just 45 minutes from the city you can be out in the vineyards of the Yarra Valley.

One of the most popular wineries in the Yarra Valley is Yering Station. It’s the first winery established in Victoria and is definitely worth a stop for the cellar door/art gallery, produce shop, boutique accommodation, restaurant and small Farmers Market open every third Sunday of the month. 

The Wine Bar Restaurant dominates the grounds and is a lovely place for a weekend lunch on a sunny day. Every table is bathed in the afternoon light streaming from the floor to ceiling glass wall that fronts onto a magnificient view of the Yarra Ranges.

The menu is Mod Oz, with Asian and Mediterranean influences. To start we dipped into the crusty bread and dukkah while waiting for our entrees – tempura soft-shelled Singapore crab, coconut rice, mint and crispy shallot ($24) and glazed duck breast with porcini, eschallot and leek dumpling, tatsoi and port reduction ($24).

The crab was delicately battered and the light crunch combined well with South East Asian influenced ingredients. My duck breast was very tender but the dumplings were not very successful, with a very thick dumpling skin that was still floury in the middle.

A similar heavy-handedness with dough seemed to afflict RM’s stodgy butternut pumpkin and spinach tortellini, which was combined with soya beans, miso and the overpowering flavour of the very pungent blue cheese ($34).

My main was very prettily presented but the quince glazed pork loin was over-cooked. Fortunately the slab of pork belly was pull-apart tender and sat atop an apple rosti with a dab of quince aioli ($38).

Overall the menu read better than the actual execution of the dishes. Given the glamorous location and fine dining feel of the restaurant we were a little disappointed with the imprecision of what I’d consider to be basic cooking techniques like making pasta dough and roasting meat.

However, Yering Station in general still gets a HOT. Why? Basically, the view and ambience of the restaurant is wonderful and it’s the kind of destination that I would bring overseas guests. If you catch the right Sunday you can walk off your lunch with a visit to the small Farmers Market stocked mostly with Yarra Valley gourmet products.

The produce shop has even more opportunities to buy jams and relishes and we finished off our meal with single-serve takeaway tubs of Gundowring icecream sitting in the sun.

So despite the below-par experience at the restaurant, overall you can still enjoy a great afternoon out at Yering Station.

If you want to read more about Yering Station and other locales in the region, check out my previous visit on the NGV Artbus.

The Wine Bar Restaurant, Yering Station, 38 Melba Hwy, Yarra Glen +61 3 9730 0100
10am – 5pm daily
Serving lunch between 12pm – 3pm with extended hours on the weekend and Public Holidays from 12pm – 4pm.

Yering Station on Urbanspoon

HOT: Victoria in a Bento Box, Matteo’s Restaurant, 533 Brunswick St, North Fitzroy

The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival doesn’t just run events for two weeks in March – the rest of the year they promote food and wine with themes and events such as the Spring Graze.

The Spring Graze is a gathering of more than 60 events throughout September across Victoria, all with the theme of celebrating the new season and to promote the Put Victoria on Your Table philosophy by showcasing Victorian produce.

At Matteo’s, their event is called Victoria in a Bento Box and it’s a lunch special of seven tastes of Victoria plus a glass of wine for $44.

Matteo’s is a restaurant which definitely brings truth to the adage ‘don’t judge a book (or restaurant) by its cover’. The name conjures up a traditional Italian trattoria, the sumptious flocked wallpaper, fine crystal glassware and starched tableclothes seem to indicate a high-end European restaurant – and yet the food is Asian fusion.

And it’s brilliant. Surprising, innovative, sophisticated, delicious. Oh!

Our ‘bento box’ consisted of a large platter lined with a banana leaf and placed with winsome Japanese ceramic bowls containing the following tastes:

Coconut laksa and banana blossom soup, mini sesame prawn brioche toast – with the seafood hailing from Warranambool. This was a soothing, fragrant soup and the prawn toast added an interesting textural dimension – it was almost like a dumpling. One of my favourites.

Steamed chawan mushi custard, sake poached drunken Lilydale chicken, gingko nuts and soya beans. The chicken was really drunk, to the point of being overpowering, but I like the addition of the gingko nuts in the ultra-smooth steamed custard.

Kim chi spicy picked wombok cabbage using wombok from the market gardens of Werribee. I’m not a fan of kimchi normally (limp pickled cabbage ugh) but I liked this crisp julienned version. A modern take on a classic Korean dish.

Inari bean curd filled with coconut rice from Kerang, spring onion and ginger. I loved this! I’d describe it as a  sweet rice pudding dessert hidden under a savoury bean curd hood. Really unexpected flavours but it worked.

Teriyaki glazed Skipton smoked eel, boiled egg and potato, pickled plum and bonito mayonnaise. The pickles cut through the richness of the teriyaki sauce and the eel was perfectly cooked – not rubbery at all.

Pork kakuni slow cooked master stock Buninyong pork belly, pork crackling, Japanese mustard sauce. As we were given chopsticks and not knives and forks, the meat had to be so tender that it could be shredded with one hand. It passed the test with flying colours. I also appreciated how the crackling had been turned into a coarse dust – so that you didn’t have to wrestle with it using only chopsticks. Clever.

For dessert, black sesame creme caramel, pear cider and cinnamon poached nashi pear from Mildura. Anything black sesame is a winner with me and this smooth baked custard had just the right hint of almost savoury sesame underneath the sweet caramel. The still crunchy cubes of nashi cut through the richness, leaving a refreshing sweetness on the palate. I think I’m going to try and replicate this dish (somehow) at home.

Matteo’s Victoria in a Bento Box is available until 30 September, Monday – Friday lunch. Their usual lunch special is also $44 with a choice of two courses and a glass of wine.

For more fine dining in Fitzroy, try Cutler & Co.

Matteo’s, 533 Brunswick St, North Fitzroy +61 3 9481 1177
Sunday-Friday 12-3pm
Daily 6-10pm

Matteo's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

HOT: The Age Good Food Guide 2012 Winners!

The winners of The Age Good Food Guide 2012 Awards were announced last night. Here is the complete list of winners, some with my previous reviews – congratulations!

Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year – Attica

Citibank Chef of the Year – Dan Hunter, Royal Mail Hotel

Regional Restaurant of the year – Loam

Best New Regional Restaurant – Mr Carsisi

Plumm Wine Glasses Best New Restaurant – Golden Fields

The Age Young Chef of the Year – Josh Murphy, Cumulus Inc

Champagne Louis Roederer Sommelier of the Year – Bengt Baumgartner, The European

Virgin Australia Service Excellence Award – Jason Lui, Flower Drum

Professional Excellence – Neil Perry

Dimmi Award for Innovation – TOYS Collective

Epicure Sustainability Award –  Maurice Esposito, Esposito at Toofey’s and Saint Peter’s

Donlevy Fitzpatrick Award – Gerald’s Bar

Dan Murphy’s BYO Restaurant of the Year – Osteria La Passione

Samsung Diners’ Choice Award – Cutler & Co

Vittoria Coffee Legend Award – Philippe Mouchel, PM 24

Best Short Wine List – Merricote

Regional Wine List of the Year – Lake House, Daylesford

Brown Brothers Wine List of the Year – Spice Temple

Lucky Beer Dish of the Year –  Barbecue Spare Ribs, Dandelion

The book, apps (from Samsung apps and iTunes) and website will be available from 30 August.

Here’s the list of 2011’s winners.