HOT: Citrus Mint Thai Restaurant, 357 Victoria St, West Melbourne

 HOT: Citrus Mint Thai Restaurant, 357 Victoria St, West Melbourne
West Melbourne is a funny place. It straddles the city and trendy North Melbourne in a kind of grungy business/pretty residential mix and it’s not somewhere that necessarily comes to mind for dining out.

However, for locals of West Melbourne (and North Melbourne for that matter), Citrus Mint is a nice little neighbourhood Thai restaurant for those nights where you just want an unpretentious, reasonably-priced night out.  Neither the setting or the dishes are cutting edge – I’d call it comfortable and familiar instead, and that’s not a bad thing on a Tuesday night when you’re just looking for a hot meal.

I liked the fact that the décor wasn’t overtly Thai with temples and purple silk everywhere, but was just decorated with subtle touches of Thai screenprints. As there was only one other table the service was prompt and on the waitress’ recommendation we went for Dory fish fillets in red chilli paste tossed with snake beans, red peppers, wild ginger & kaffir lime leaves ($18) and the day’s special of green curry with tiger prawns, calamari, eggplant. basil and chilli ($20), served with jasmine rice ($3 each).

 HOT: Citrus Mint Thai Restaurant, 357 Victoria St, West Melbourne

The dishes arrived extremely quickly and both were laden generously with seafood. The dory fillets had a good red chilli kick to it and it was easily preferred over the rather insipid green curry – not terrible, just a bit unremarkable. I also noticed that one of the other tables was tucking heartily into some satays so I might try them next time.

 HOT: Citrus Mint Thai Restaurant, 357 Victoria St, West Melbourne

Citrus Mint is not somewhere I’d necessarily cross town for. But it’s pleasant enough that if I was in the area it’d be one of my choices for a meal.

NOT: Boynton’s Feathertop Cafe, Boyntons Feathertop Winery, 6619 Great Alpine Rd, Porepunkah

 NOT: Boyntons Feathertop Cafe, Boyntons Feathertop Winery, 6619 Great Alpine Rd, Porepunkah

In the second of this long weekend’s out-of-town series, today we head to Porepunkah (near Bright) in Victoria’s Alpine region.

In my view, a perfect Sunday involves friends, lots of food and a long white table under the shade of a big tree with rolling hills as far as the eye can see.

The setting at Boyton’s Feathertop Cafe is about as close to my imagination as it gets. The outdoor restaurant is part of Boynton’s Feathertop Winery and it’s laid out in the grassy lower terrace in front of the cellar door building amongst huge leafy trees. The atmosphere is relaxed, with sounds of tinkling glasses and laughing people and I couldn’t wait to sample the Japanese-inspired menu from chef Ikuei Arakane, formerly of Melbourne’s Taxi Dining Room.

 NOT: Boyntons Feathertop Cafe, Boyntons Feathertop Winery, 6619 Great Alpine Rd, Porepunkah

For lunch Boyton’s Feathertop Cafe offers any two dishes matched with Feathertop wines, a bargain for $45, or you can go a la carte. As we were a group of 20 it was easiest to go with the set menu and there was plenty of choice. I decided on okonomiyaki to start ($15) and the roasted duck breast, confit leg, young fennel salad and chestnut puree as my main ($28) with a side of roast duck fat potatoes ($8) instead of matched wine.

This is where the wheels started to come off. We were all seated at around 12:30pm and our large party was split up into two tables. Different dockets had been placed for each table as the unlucky second table didn’t get to place their order until about 30 minutes after the first table. So we watched hungrily while the first table received their food, then after a very long wait, those who ordered entrees on my table received their dishes.

 NOT: Boyntons Feathertop Cafe, Boyntons Feathertop Winery, 6619 Great Alpine Rd, Porepunkah

I inhaled my okonomiyaki in hunger so I don’t have much of an impression of it except that it was quite good with loads of flying bonito flakes, my favourite bit. Strangely, the duck fat potatoes appeared at the same time so I passed them out to those who had ordered mains and desserts and hadn’t been fed yet.

After we’d finished our entrees, the matched wine for the entrée appeared. Umm OK. I also asked repeatedly for water and in the end went into the building myself and handed out jugs of water for everyone. Our dirty plates sat in front of us until 3:30pm when the main courses arrived. I actually had to swap my grotty plate for a new plate of food and I felt like I was in a canteen.

In general the main courses were disappointing. I guess if you’ve been waiting 3 hours for your meal then anything will do, but RM’s BBQ lamb with lentil dahl served with tomato chutney ($28) was distinctly overcooked (the photo is of another person’s lamb).

 NOT: Boyntons Feathertop Cafe, Boyntons Feathertop Winery, 6619 Great Alpine Rd, Porepunkah

My roast duck breast was good but my confit leg was not the melt-in-your-mouth texture I’d been expecting – it was pretty dry and almost stringy. I also found the combination of crisp summery fennel and rich chestnut puree a bit of a strange contrast.

 NOT: Boyntons Feathertop Cafe, Boyntons Feathertop Winery, 6619 Great Alpine Rd, Porepunkah

The most successful dish appeared to be the dry aged beef, pickled wild mushrooms and bone marrow sauce ($28).

 NOT: Boyntons Feathertop Cafe, Boyntons Feathertop Winery, 6619 Great Alpine Rd, Porepunkah

Again, the wines didn’t come with the food until we asked for them. So much for matching as well – our glasses were just sloshed with whatever we asked for (which I guess isn’t such a bad thing if you really didn’t want the matched choice).

I can’t make any comment on the dessert of poached quince, white chocolate mousse, crème fraiche and pear and quince jelly ($12), but I do recall that it took a long time to arrive (again) and frankly it all looked a bit sloppy for my liking.

 NOT: Boyntons Feathertop Cafe, Boyntons Feathertop Winery, 6619 Great Alpine Rd, Porepunkah

Overall, I was really disappointed with my lunch at Boyton’s Feathertop Cafe – I really wanted to be wowed by it. But the food was not of the high standard that I was expecting, the service was frankly abysmal and only the gorgeous setting and the company of my friends made the afternoon an enjoyable experience. There’s relaxed, and then there’s unacceptably slow. I certainly won’t be returning.

HOT: Milawa Cheese Company, Factory Rd, Milawa

It’s a long weekend and the perfect time to think about taking some trips outside of Melbourne. Today we’re off to Milawa, about 2.5 hours drive from Melbourne and the home of the renowned Milawa Cheese Company.

David and Anne Brown founded the Milawa Cheese Company in 1988 when they set out to make Australian farmhouses cheese inspired by European methods. All the preservative-free, non-animal rennet cheeses are now handmade by a team of cheese makers headed by Stephen Russell.

The factory has now expanded to include a tasting room, produce store, cafe and bakery plus a chocolate store in the Old Butter Room and contemporary fine art gallery Muse Gallery.

 HOT: Milawa Cheese Company, Factory Rd, Milawa

 HOT: Milawa Cheese Company, Factory Rd, Milawa

As it was lunch time when we arrived we pretty much skipped the chocolates and the art gallery and headed straight to the busy cafe housed in the shed-cum-country cottage.

 HOT: Milawa Cheese Company, Factory Rd, Milawa

The lunch menu is quite extensive, including a mouth-watering selection of cheese pizzas, but as we were in a hurry we decided on two ready-made meals – a lamb and rosemary pie ($4.50) and a toasted foccacia filled with salami, spinach, sundried tomatoes, olive tapenade and multi-award winning King River Gold washed rind cheese ($8.50).

 HOT: Milawa Cheese Company, Factory Rd, Milawa

 HOT: Milawa Cheese Company, Factory Rd, Milawa

I’m told that the pie was quite good, with recognisable chunks of meat inside. I’m not so keen about serving it with sachet of bottled tomato sauce though, especially given the large selection of gourmet relishes/sauces available for sale nearby. Oh well for $4.50 I guess you can’t expect too much.

 HOT: Milawa Cheese Company, Factory Rd, Milawa

My foccacia was very good – full of strong Mediterranean flavours smothered in gooey cheese. Simple yet effective.

Then onto the  main event – the free cheese tastings. Milawa Cheese Company make over 20 different types of cheeses, from artisanal goat and cow milk cheese, from fresh curds to white moulds, to washed rinds and blue vein cheese.  You can imagine the popularity of the cheese tastings when a sign states that every person can only taste 4-5 cheeses.

 HOT: Milawa Cheese Company, Factory Rd, Milawa

I have a fairly low tolerance for stinky cheese so I shuffled my way around the crowd to the brie, camembert, cheddar and washed rind cow’s milk cheese. Not being much of a cheese connoisseur, all I can tell you was that all the cheese were nice. And not too stinky – even a little bit too much on the mild side.

On our way out we purchased a large loaf of Italian sourdough ($6.50) mainly because I was tickled by the sign saying that their sourdough starter was over 17 years old and named George. We had large slices of the bread for breakfast the next day, toasted with ham and cheese. Delicious.

Milawa Cheese Company is a worthwhile stop in the heart of the Milawa Gourmet region and surrounding wine-producing area. However, if you can’t get there then they have a shop in Carlton North which stocks a variety of cheese, wines and breads.

HOT Spots Winter 2010

P1050628v1 200x300 HOT Spots Winter 2010Once again the City of Melbourne have produced a free pocket-sized booklet full of lots of ideas to inspire you to get out of the house and enjoy winter in Melbourne. This is a post to bookmark!

I sat down with a cup of tea and flicked through the booklet, which you can pick up at many inner city shops, cafes and bars, as well as the Melbourne Visitors Centre, NGV and ACMI. It covers new places and old classics split up into five geographical sections, some of which have been reviewed on the blog before and some of which I’ve earmarked for a visit. Here are my highlights:

Central

The Wheeler Centre. The new heart for Melbourne’s literary culture, the Wheeler Centre holds frequent author’s talks, some of them free. I’m going to hear Ayaan Hirsi Ali speak on Thursday 29 July.

Melbourne International Film Festival. I look forward to MIFF every year – for three weeks I get to hibernate in the city’s cinemas and feast on great films. Last year I managed to get to fifteen of them!

Previously blogged Izakaya Den, Tessuti Fabrics and Movida Aqui get a mention and I’m aiming to hit pizza specialists Barbagallo, new bar 24 Moons and hot new Mexican eatery Mamasita (again, with better lighting).

Northside

The North Melbourne Market has become a regular event held every two months. So many new options for me here – cheese galore at La Latteria, take home cassoulet at La Parisienne Pates, authentic Indian food at the Classic Curry Co, browsing vintage furniture and bric-a-brac at The Junk Company and having a pub lunch at Hotel Lincoln.

Cultural

I’m not going to see Mary Poppins the Musical because I saw it recently in London, and it was one of the most magical, fun and joyous theatrical events I’ve ever been to. When Mary Poppins flew into the air the whole crowd spontaneously broke out into cheers! Highly recommended.

And I’m definitely going to try Tsindos, a 30-year old stalwart of Little Greece in Lonsdale Street and I’m told home to great mezethes.

Westside

I was excited to hear about Urban Reforestation, a community garden, eco shop and educational centre in the middle of concrete-and-glass Docklands. Their aim is to inspire urban farming for sustainability and food security (they’re currently investigating the possibility of rooftop farms!) through consultation with corporates and for helping individuals with gardening lessons and cooking classes.

I think I’ll combine a visit to Urban Reforestation with a stroll around the Docklands Sunday Market and maybe a late lunch as part of Slow Sundays, where you get a $15 tasting plate with beer or wine between 2-6pm every Sunday from 20 June – 29 August.

Southside

I’ve just renewed by NGV membership so I will be heading to NGV’s Winter Masterpieces 2010 European Masters: Stadel Museum 19-20th Century between 19 June – 10 October.

ACMI is hosting a huge Tim Burton exhibition direct from New York’s MOMA from 24 June – 10 October which I’m quite excited about.

State of Design, Victoria’s design festival, is happening between 14-25 July and once again I’ll be immersing myself in all things design for two weeks. As part of the festival Melbourne Open House is on 24-25 July where lots of heritage buildings will be open to the public – a great way to learn some of the stories and history behind the city.

Last but not least, Melbourne Design Market is happening at Federation Square carpark again on Sunday 11 July. This year will be extra special for me because the lovely Kath and Ben from Jellybean Bikes and my new cycling clothing and accessories business CycleStyle will be setting up a cycle-licious stall at the market! Come and say hi.

For details and more winter ideas, check out That’s Melbourne.

HOT: Lau’s Family Kitchen, 4 Acland St, St Kilda

The Jetsetting Parents were in town and as usual, I’d planned an eating itinerary for their stay. While I was contemplating where to take them, I remembered Lau’s Family Kitchen, a Cantonese restaurant in St Kilda that I’d always meant to try but being south of the river, had never really made the effort.

It was the perfect location for the Jetsetting Parents as they would be able to tell me whether the Chinese food was up to scratch. Jetsetting Mum also blogs occasionally for BNE: HOT OR NOT and this has sharpened her already finely-honed eating standards.

We rocked up at 630pm on a Sunday night and the relatively small restaurant was jumping. It seemed to be popular with large family groups, although we noticed that there were very few Asian patrons, a worrying signal for the authencity of the food. However, Lau’s Family Kitchen comes with an excellent pedigree – with his sons working the floor and the kitchen, I doubted that any venture that was remotely connected to ex-Flower Drum owner Gilbert Lau would be bad.

And I shouldn’t have doubted. The food was uniformly excellent. I think that the only reason there were so few Asian patrons because Asian families don’t tend to congregate in St Kilda and the prices are a little higher and setting a little more glamorous than the clamorous mega-restaurants of Box Hill, Doncaster and Springvale.

To start, deep-fried salt and pepper squid ($15). So tender, so light!

P1050416v1 HOT: Laus Family Kitchen, 4 Acland St, St Kilda

I had gone to Lau’s Family Kitchen with the sole intention of trying their Western Plains roast pork belly. However, I was disappointed to discover that they’d sold out when we arrived. The staff must have pitied the forlorn look in my eyes as they managed to rustle up a half serving, which was actually the right size for the four of us.

P1050421v1 HOT: Laus Family Kitchen, 4 Acland St, St Kilda

A selection of siu mai ($8 for steamer of 4) – one with prawns and one with scallops for each of us. Silken little pops of subtle seafood flavours. Probably some of the best siu mai I’ve ever had. It’s a shame they don’t serve yum cha.

P1050426v1 HOT: Laus Family Kitchen, 4 Acland St, St Kilda

An old family favourite, ma po tofu ($18). I make mine with semi-firm tofu and Szechuan pepper, Jetsetting Mum makes hers with lots of dou ban jiang (chilli paste) and silken tofu, and Lau’s version involves finely diced shittake mushrooms and red capsicum. Very moreish.

P1050427v1 HOT: Laus Family Kitchen, 4 Acland St, St Kilda

A traditional Cantonese steamed barramundi with soy, ginger, coriander, shallots ($30). With such simple presentation, it is impossible to hide bad fish and this barramundi was as fresh as could be, flaking off the fork easily. Like most Asians, the Jetsetting Parents are particularly fussy about their fish and they nodded in approval.

P1050430v1 HOT: Laus Family Kitchen, 4 Acland St, St Kilda

To end, a lovely twist on the complementary sliced oranges tradition – plump strawberries sweetened with sugar and with a hint of something alcoholic/acidic?

P1050433v1 HOT: Laus Family Kitchen, 4 Acland St, St Kilda

Even though I love to eat, I don’t often suggest eating Cantonese food for some reason – maybe it’s just too much like day-in day-out home food for me. However, if I was to eat Cantonese in Melbourne, I would cross the river to eat again at Lau’s Family Kitchen.

To read more reviews, check out Munching (in) Melbourne and Addictive & Consuming.

  • Lau’s Family Kitchen, 4 Acland St, St Kilda +61 3 8598 9880

minilink HOT: Laus Family Kitchen, 4 Acland St, St Kilda

HOT: Madame Sousou, 231 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

P1050458v1 HOT: Madame Sousou, 231 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Madame Sousou is a slice of Paris placed into a corner of Fitzroy and it transports me to one of my favourite places in the world every time I step through the doors. The interior is all old-world romance, with gilded mirrors, cosy tables, antique  posters and wooden champagne crates decorating the walls. The lighting is very dim, perfect for intimate tete-a-tetes but not so great for on-location food photography, sorry.

The menu is classic French bistro fare. Resisting my urge for duck a l’orange (I’m really just a sucker for duck every time) I decided to try the cassoulet ($33) instead. Next best thing really, as the dish normally contains duck meat and duck fat. RM chose the cote de porc ($33) with a glass of 2006 Villa Wolf Pinot Gris ($9). With our meals we shared an unnecessary side dish of beans topped with roasted slivered almonds which, when it came to the table, wafted the heady scent of butter, butter and more butter ($8).

My cassoulet was a twist on the traditional, using green broad beans instead of white beans. This gave the dish a much more colourful and appealing appearance than usual and it made me wonder why other restaurants didn’t follow suit.

P1050471v1 HOT: Madame Sousou, 231 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

RM’s porc was enormous as you can see and cooked a little pink on the inside as it should be. He wasn’t too excited by the cheesy crust but that’s just his personal preference.

P1050470v1 HOT: Madame Sousou, 231 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

While we glanced jealously at the chocolate fondant at the next table, we really weren’t up for any more food but instead rolled home happy and satisfied with our little dip into France for the evening.

minilink HOT: Madame Sousou, 231 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

HOT: Menu from My Mother’s Kitchen, Mirka at Tolarno Hotel, 42 Fitzroy St, St Kilda

DSC04631v1 HOT: Menu from My Mothers Kitchen, Mirka at Tolarno Hotel, 42 Fitzroy St, St Kilda

On Sundays lots of people like to relax by sleeping in, lounging around with the Sunday paper and maybe going for a stroll. On the other hand, I tend to have a lot of get-up-and-go on Sundays (my body just refuses to sleep in) but my one concession to slowing down is to enjoy a long lunch.

I’ve never been to Mirka at Tolarno Hotel but I thought a special Sunday lunch would be a good reason to cross the river and try it. The event was organised by Guy Grossi with special guest Stephanie Alexander as an opportunity to sample the rustic dishes from his upcoming cookbook Menus from My Mother’s Kitchen and Stephanie’s mother’s rabbit pie.

Mirka at Tolarno Hotel is a Melbourne institution because of Mirka Mora’s colourful murals adorning the walls. In fact, parts of the red and green mural are also on the cover of the Grossi Cookbook ‘My Italian Heart’.

DSC04611v1 HOT: Menu from My Mothers Kitchen, Mirka at Tolarno Hotel, 42 Fitzroy St, St Kilda

DSC04615v1 HOT: Menu from My Mothers Kitchen, Mirka at Tolarno Hotel, 42 Fitzroy St, St Kilda

We were seated in a prime position right by the large window facing Fitzroy Street and settled down to crunch on some homemade grissini and a loaf of crusty ciabbata with olive oil.

DSC04625v1 HOT: Menu from My Mothers Kitchen, Mirka at Tolarno Hotel, 42 Fitzroy St, St Kilda

Glancing at the menu, I thought we were going to choose one dish from each course, but no, for $55 a head we received every single dish. If that’s not excellent value I don’t know what is.

DSC04618v1 HOT: Menu from My Mothers Kitchen, Mirka at Tolarno Hotel, 42 Fitzroy St, St Kilda

First up, Farro e Fagioli soup, or cannellini beans with little pops of farro, an ancient grain I’d not come across before. There are no photos of this dish because it wasn’t particularly photogenic, but it was a rich and soothing way to start a wintery lunch. I did like how the soup was presented in differently patterned bowls of stripes and dots.

DSC04632v1 HOT: Menu from My Mothers Kitchen, Mirka at Tolarno Hotel, 42 Fitzroy St, St Kilda

First course, Risotto Milanese which is typically flavoured with saffron, chicken or beef stock and grated Parmagiano-Reggiano. The risotto had a wonderfully creamy texture while the rice grains still retained a good bite.

DSC04638v1 HOT: Menu from My Mothers Kitchen, Mirka at Tolarno Hotel, 42 Fitzroy St, St Kilda

Manzo Salmistratto, cured beef tongue with a simple salad of rocket and shaved Parmagiano-Reggiano. Beef tongue is something I would normally shy away for the yuk factor, which just goes to show that if you don’t know what it is, sometimes it’s worth tasting anyway and you might just like it!

DSC04639v1 HOT: Menu from My Mothers Kitchen, Mirka at Tolarno Hotel, 42 Fitzroy St, St Kilda

Insalata di trota affumicata con patate e limon, a classic combination of flaked smoked trout, chat potatoes, capers, parsley and lemon.

DSC04646v1 HOT: Menu from My Mothers Kitchen, Mirka at Tolarno Hotel, 42 Fitzroy St, St Kilda

For main courses we started with Mary’s rabbit pie. Stephanie Alexander introduced the dish by explaining that her family had a property down in the Mornington Peninsula but not much money, so her mum Mary learnt to be creative with rabbit, a meat typically associated with dull Depression-era food. This rabbit pie uses all the parts of the rabbit and includes the unexpected crunch of almond flakes. You can find the recipe here.

DSC04653v1 HOT: Menu from My Mothers Kitchen, Mirka at Tolarno Hotel, 42 Fitzroy St, St Kilda

Seppie in umido con vino bianco, or cuttlefish braised in white wine. Again, no photo because it was presented in a large bowl and just looked like a big red soup. The cuttlefish was incredibly tender and the sauce tasted of the sea – one of my favourite dishes.

Pesce fritto, or fried fish, seafood and vegetables. Love the small detail of the muslin covering the lemon half.

DSC04660v1 HOT: Menu from My Mothers Kitchen, Mirka at Tolarno Hotel, 42 Fitzroy St, St Kilda

Insalata di ceci e funghi saltati, two side dishes of chickpeas with tomato, parsley and olive oil and sauteed wild mushrooms which you can just spot in the top right corner.

DSC04655v1 HOT: Menu from My Mothers Kitchen, Mirka at Tolarno Hotel, 42 Fitzroy St, St Kilda

We battled onto our dessert platter consisting of superbly moist and springy budino di arancia (steamed orange marmalade pudding) and torta di polenta (polenta and lemon cake), a little on the dry side for me, served with rich cream and chilled martini glasses heaped with homemade vanilla gelato.

DSC04667v1 HOT: Menu from My Mothers Kitchen, Mirka at Tolarno Hotel, 42 Fitzroy St, St Kilda

Four hours later, we congratulated ourselves on a lunch well eaten and rolled home with some leftovers of the chickpeas and mushrooms (can’t let good food go to waste) and a bottle of Grossi’s extra virgin olive oil ($16).

On Sunday 27 June Guy Grossi will be hosting another lunch with dishes from Menu from My Mother’s Kitchen and with special guest Damien Oliver. It is being held at Grossi Florentino’s Wynn and Mural Rooms and costs $75. For bookings, contact Maria on 03 9662 1811 or maria@grossiflorentino.com.

HOT Chat: Alister Smith of Short + Sweet Dance Festival

For dance fans in Melbourne, June once again brings the Short + Sweet DANCE festival to Chapel off Chapel. You may be familiar with the Short + Sweet organisation through the 10 minute plays that they started putting on around the country around 8 years ago. The  not-for-profit entity is committed to proving performance opportunities to artists all over the this country to explore and develop their craft and work and they’ve now branched out in into dance and cabaret.

Today’s HOT Chat is with the Short + Sweet DANCE’s Festival Director, Alister Smith. Thanks Alister!

half Face 199x300 HOT Chat: Alister Smith of Short + Sweet Dance FestivalAlister, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to be the Festival Director of the Short + Sweet DANCE?

I have my own Theatre production house called REDROOM.THEATRE.COMPANY of which I have been artistic director for the last 6 years. I have created, produced and directed many shows that focus on the musical theatre and cabaret genre.

In 2008 I entered a piece that I wrote and directed into the inaugural Short Sweet + Cabaret Festival which was lucky enough to win and that is how the organisation became familiar with my work. So, combining that and my very long relationship with dance I was offered the role of Festival Director of Short + Sweet DANCE Melbourne.

What’s a typical work day for you?

Early Rise. Coffee and The Age. Check work email account and flag and respond to anything that need urgent attention. The day can then be spent doing any number of things from designing art work for promotional material, emails, drumming up interest in for the festival and for any of other my other shows, emails, meeting with colleagues and my production teams, emails, scheduling, emails, time lining, emails, sorting logistics of productions, emails, many many phone calls, emails, pitching ideas and brainstorming, emails, then down to my favourite café Orange for some creating and writing…..emails.

What do you enjoy most about working at the Short + Sweet DANCE?

Helping first time choreographers realise their visions by putting their creations on stage.

What are some of the most interesting or challenging projects that you’ve worked on in your career?

Last year’s inaugural SS+D festival was one of the most challenging process. Kicking off a brand new festival in Melbourne, the capital of arts festivals is no easy feat especially when I only had three months to do so…… but this was one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences of my life.

SS+D POSTER  HOT Chat: Alister Smith of Short + Sweet Dance FestivalWhat is it about Short + Sweet DANCE that makes it different to other dance events?

What identifies this festival is simple….. be 10 minutes or less in length!

We are searching for every style. Jazz, Tap, Contemporary, Hip Hop, Physical theatre, Burlesque basically if you could dance it we want to see it. We want the best of the best. Push the boundaries be creative, be original, be under 10 minutes in length and you were in.

With the S+S festivals the audience only needs to come along to one venue to see all the pieces, you don’t have to worry about making it all over the city to a multitude of venues to see the pieces you want. We throw them all together under one roof for a night of non-stop brilliance!

Last year’s event was a big hit! What can audiences expect at this year’s festival?

BIGGER & BETTER!! is all I can say….. I’m programing a festival that is fast and furious! We have more variety and everyone is pushing the boundaries… they are being brave and daring with their art forms. There is definitely  something there to challenge and excite everyone from jazz to contemporary to Hip-Hop……

Finally, what are your tips for what’s HOT in Melbourne?

  • Orange (126 Chapel St, Windsor +61 3 9529 1644) …. best coffee in town!
  • Porgie & Mr Jones (291 Auburn Rd, Hawthorn +61 3 9882 2955)…. Melbourne’s best breakfast!
  • The Local Tap house (184 Carlisle St, St Kilda East +61 3 9537 2633)…. The best beer!
  • The Butterfly Club (204 Bank Street, South Melbourne +61 3 9690 2000)….. Best cabaret in Australia (and best mojitos!)
  • Hoo Haa Bar(1/105 Chapel St, Windsor +61 3 9529 6900)…. Super Parma!!

Short + Sweet DANCE will be held at Chapel off Chapel from June 16-27 2010. For a full festival program go to www.shortandsweet.org.

HOT: Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea, Aria Bar and Lounge, The Langham Melbourne, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank

DSC04862v1 HOT: Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea, Aria Bar and Lounge, The Langham Melbourne, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank

Afternoon tea is my all time favourite meal. In fact, I could happily eat afternoon tea at any time of day, every day. I love the elegant atmosphere, the dainty food and best of all the decadent sweets and pastries.

So you can imagine my delight when Nuffnang invited a group of Melbourne food and fashion bloggers to The Langham to sample their famous Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon tea, which they offer on the weekends (they offer a Tiffin afternoon tea on weekdays). I accepted the invitation without hesitation and focused on choosing an appropriately pretty outfit with an elasticised waist.

DSC04944v1 HOT: Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea, Aria Bar and Lounge, The Langham Melbourne, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank

The Langham Melbourne is one of the Leading Hotels of the World and The Langham‘s afternoon tea is held at Aria, a bar and lounge elevated from the lobby and accessed by a glittering grand staircase. We were seated on cushy couches and leather seats and given a brief talk by Head Pastry Chef Markus Bohm about what to expect: a silver tiered stand with scones and finger sandwiches; a chocolate bar piled on beautifully patterned hatboxes and featuring desserts made from single plantation chocolates from around the world; and made-to-order souffles. I’d died and gone to heaven.

DSC04915v1 HOT: Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea, Aria Bar and Lounge, The Langham Melbourne, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank

DSC04932v1 HOT: Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea, Aria Bar and Lounge, The Langham Melbourne, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank

I won’t go too much into describing the delicacies on offer but will just let you drool over the pictures.

The Langham Torte, an almond marzipan, cherries, brandy and Valrhona chocolate concoction.

DSC04960v1 HOT: Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea, Aria Bar and Lounge, The Langham Melbourne, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank

A shot glass of raspberry jelly, fluffy orange mousse, chocolate and topped with wonderfully delicate chocolate antlers!

DSC04925v1 HOT: Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea, Aria Bar and Lounge, The Langham Melbourne, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank

White chocolate strawberry mousse tart with berries.

DSC04912v1 HOT: Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea, Aria Bar and Lounge, The Langham Melbourne, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank

Chocolate biscotti dipped in dark chocolate.

DSC04897v1 HOT: Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea, Aria Bar and Lounge, The Langham Melbourne, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank

One of my favourites, miniature chocolate eclairs with a crisp dark chocolate icing dusted with gold leaf.

DSC04886v1 HOT: Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea, Aria Bar and Lounge, The Langham Melbourne, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank

Lime and agastura bitters tart. Another one of my favourites.

DSC04888v1 HOT: Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea, Aria Bar and Lounge, The Langham Melbourne, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank

Amarascata (cherry) and white chocolate roulade.

DSC04899v1 HOT: Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea, Aria Bar and Lounge, The Langham Melbourne, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank

I’m not normally a fan of rocky road but I did like the huge macadamias in this version.

DSC04903v1 HOT: Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea, Aria Bar and Lounge, The Langham Melbourne, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank

Lady Mogador Mousse Cake, a deliciously rich cake made with dark Venezuelan cocoa topped with a passionfruit glaze that cut through the richness. It’s a shame it was one of the last things I ate, because it was gorgeous but I was a bit chocolated-out by then. I also love the Escher-style pattern decorating the side of the cake.

DSC04955v1 HOT: Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea, Aria Bar and Lounge, The Langham Melbourne, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank

The tier of sandwiches, including traditional smoked salmon, tomato and goats cheese and prosciutto with some form of cheese (definitely not cheddar). The fruit scone was light with a firm outer crust, just the way I like it.

DSC04982v1 HOT: Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea, Aria Bar and Lounge, The Langham Melbourne, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank

DSC04973v1 HOT: Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea, Aria Bar and Lounge, The Langham Melbourne, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank

Last but not least, the promised souffles. The miniature chocolate chip and passionfruit souffles took precisely 8 minutes to bake. I was impressed that they were transported from the kitchen in a portable stove so you don’t lose that hard-to-achieve high top.

DSC04984v1 HOT: Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea, Aria Bar and Lounge, The Langham Melbourne, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank

DSC04991v1 HOT: Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea, Aria Bar and Lounge, The Langham Melbourne, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank

If you’re now convinced that afternoon tea at Aria is a must-do, the best news is that on Thursday 10 June, The Langham Melbourne and all the Langham hotels worldwide are celebrating their 145th anniversary with a Global Tea Party. That means that every Langham hotel will be offering the Tiffin afternoon tea for the original price of 1 shilling 6 pence, or 20 cents! The catch is that bookings are only open to families booking for three generations or more, ie grandparent, parent and child.

Online ookings open at 1865 hours, or 7:05pm on Tuesday 8 June at www.ariabar.com.au and only 40 places are available. If you miss out on a place, you will be offered the opportunity to try the Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea on weekdays in June for $28.40, 18.65% off the usual price of $35.

You can read more about the experience from fellow bloggers Much Love Anna, Sarah Cooks and Addictive & Consuming.

Thank you to the The Langham Melbourne and Nuffnang for inviting me to sample the Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon tea.

HOT: Little Creatures Dining Hall, 222 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

 HOT: Little Creatures Dining Hall, 222 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Most people know of Little Creatures through their beer, so it’s great to see this WA-based boutique brewery branch out into a natural partnership of Little Creatures beer served with good pub grub in Melbourne.

The Little Creatures Dining Hall is no run-of-the-mill boozer though. It’s a lofty warehouse converted into a friendly diner, with low booths and easygoing wooden tables and chairs. On the Sunday of our visit it was filled with families and I can see why – the atmosphere is relaxed and hums with enough noise so there’s no need for kids to be hushed, there’s space for running antics, plenty of interesting paraphernalia to poke through and the aisles are wide enough to fit prams.

 HOT: Little Creatures Dining Hall, 222 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

That’s not to say that it’s just an upscale version of McDonalds though. Firstly, of course, there’s a strong focus on beer and you can do a tasting of all their beers by buying 125ml ‘ponies’ of each.

 HOT: Little Creatures Dining Hall, 222 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Secondly, the menu, while not being particularly challenging, does go beyond burgers and fish and chips. I tried the pizza with chorizo, feta and unusual pops of sweetcorn ($19), RM had the melting lamb shanks and we share a large bowl of chips ($8) which I was pleased to see still had their skins on.

 HOT: Little Creatures Dining Hall, 222 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

 HOT: Little Creatures Dining Hall, 222 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Thirdly, and this is my favourite, they hire out classic Swedish Kronan bikes for free to anyone who wants them. You don’t have to eat or drink at Little Creatures – just leave an imprint of your credit card and return the bike by sundown/around 6pm (if you don’t return it, you’ll be charged $1000 a bike – you’ve been warned). The bikes come with locks, helmets and back racks. What a great neighbourhood scheme!

 HOT: Little Creatures Dining Hall, 222 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

minilink HOT: Little Creatures Dining Hall, 222 Brunswick St, Fitzroy