HOT: Royal Croquet Club, Birrarung Marr, Melbourne

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Royal Croquet Club is a pop up food, entertainment, sporting and lifestyle festival open for just 2 weeks until Sunday 1 February. I reckon it’s the hottest place to hang out this summer.

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Picking up where the Night Noodle Market left off, the area by the Yarra River at Birrarung Marr features some of Melbourne’s favourite restaurants – along with a full size croquet pitch. I was invited along for a tasting.

 

Food-wise you’ll find the Broadsheet Summer BBQ featuring D.O.C, Mr Claws, Meatmother, Miss Chu, St Ali and Gelato Messina. So much choice, so little stomach room….so if you don’t mind eating dessert first then my tip is to head straight to one of the Desserts in a Can by Gelato Messina ($9)! You’ll skip the queues and have enough room to enjoy the highlight of my meal.

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What is the Gelato Messina International Soup Kitchen? Basically the famous gelateria has devised some ingenious dessert concoctions all served up in a fake Campbells soup can – very Andy Warhol. I tried the Zuppa Duppa, with hazelnut gelato, wild strawberry preserve, pistachio crunch and amaretti biscotti – creamy, crunchy and oh so decadent and the kind of ice cream innovation that Gelato Messina is known for. Other flavours include ‘Black Forest Bisque’, ‘Faux Pho’ and ‘American Chow Down’.

royal croquet club melbourne

Back to the savouries each restaurant has a small selection of menu items, all hovering around the $10-$15 mark. You’ll probably eat two or three items so expect to pay around $40 for food.

royal croquet club melbourne

If you like your meat then grab  Meatmother’s ‘Burnt Ends’ – slippery cubes of slow cooked pork belly with jalapeno slaw and Mother BBQ sauce ($12).

royal croquet club melbourne

Lobster lovers must try Mr Claws lobster rolls filled with chunky lobster flesh in a soft buttery bun ($12). You can choose your lobster dressing from classic mayo base, chunky miso wasabi to spicy sriracha.

The drink of choice has go to be a Pimms cup – otherwise Yalumba wines or Heineken beers are on offer.

royal croquet club melbourne

The croquet action is pretty laid back. Basically just pick up a free mallet and off you go!

royal croquet club melbourne

royal croquet club melbourne

Royal Croquet Club is a really fun, relaxed place for eating, drinking and badly played ball sports – a great place for post-work get-together, a date or to hang out with friends. I’m hoping to visit the Royal Croquet Club at least three more times before it closes so that I can try each of the Gelato Messina’s International Soup Kitchen flavours!

From tonight Friday 23 January Royal Croquet Club will be celebrating the Australia Day long weekend with a Truck-A-Palooza festival with nine food trucks in attendance from 5pm and a special headline guest performing at sunset each night. Don’t miss it!

Royal Croquet Club, Birrarung Marr, Melbourne

Fri 16 Jan – Sun 1 Feb

Free entry event from Sunday through to Thursday. Friday and Saturdays are $5 after 7pm.

Monday – Thursday: 4pm -11pm

Friday: 4pm – 1am

Saturday: 12pm – 1am

Sunday: 12pm – 11pm

Extended Trading hours for the Australia day Long Weekend & Closing Weekend:

Sunday 25th: 12pm – 12am

Monday 26th: 12pm – 12am

Closing Night Sunday 1st Feb: 12pm – 12am

HOT: Round the Way Bagel Burgers Food Truck, Mr Wow’s Emporium, 97B Smith St, Fitzroy

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One of my favourite local bars is the fun-filled Mr Wow’s Emporium. There aren’t many inner city bars which also feature an airport strip light-style indoor bocce corridor!

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I also love the ping pong table, large curved bar festooned with dangling phallic looking naked bulbs against the backdrop of a huge Melways mural (in case you get lost, y’know) and the covered balcony overlooking Smith Street if you don’t fancy being sportive.

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Mr Wow’s Emporium is also unique because it has a rear-access astro-turfed garage which can host a round robin of food trucks because technically it’s ‘private property’ (sister Cuban bar Los Barbudos shares the food truck space).

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Their latest resident was Round the Way, a sleek food truck serving bagel burgers using interesting ingredients and house-baked bagels of the bready rather than chewy boiled variety.

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The menu varies from time to time and on my visit there were three burgers on offer – a vegetarian option, one bagel burger and one deli-style bagel.

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We tried the ‘Czech 1-2’, a high tower cevapi beef burger, crispy iceberg lettuce, tomato, cheese, onion with tomato chutney and mayo. A reasonably standard burger combination lifted beyond the norm by the run-down-the-chin juiciness of the patty.

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We both also enjoyed the ‘Baus Hawg’, a seasoned pulled pork with a smattering of caramelised onions, a deep Texas style BBQ sauce and cheese. I would have liked a little more layers of flavour and texture in the burger – maybe some chilli or fresh greens.

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For those with smaller appetites or daintier fingers try the mini bagel bruschetta toasted with garlicky oil and topped with tomato, Meredith goats cheese and fresh basil, proscuitto, peppers and a slice of King Island blue cheese and my favourite, a slice of eye fillet bresaola with a sprinkle of green olive tapenade and semi-dried tomato ($12).

You can keep an eye on where Round the Way parks their van by following them on Twitter and Facebook.

Round the Way Bagel Burgers Food Truck, Mr Wow’s Emporium, 97B Smith St, Fitzroy


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The Barons Palate – Giveaway!

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I love a good pop up! Especially when the experience combines food and drinks with cutting edge art and design.

The Baron Said is a warehouse event space in Fitzroy which derives its name from a historical character created by Sir Martin Lang, a scholar and nobleman who produced literary works in the 18th century. In keeping with the character of the Baron, an anonymous nobleman famous for his extravagant parties, for just four days next week The Baron Said will host chefs, mixologists, designers and artists who will combine their talents to create four unique experiences.

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Here’s what in store for ‘The Barons Palate’:

Thursday 18 July 7pm – 11pm Art Exhibition Launch
For $29 admire the work of designers and artists who exhibit in some of Australia’s top commercial galleries, receive two West Wind Gin cocktails and matching art inspired food items.

Friday 19 July 7pm – 11pm Dessert Palate by Anthony Hart (The Press Club Group)
$55 for cocktails and floating tables of finger food desserts including lollipops, popcorn macaroons and marshmallows.

Saturday 20 July 7pm – 11pm Restaurant Theatre by Andreas Papadakis (Comida Bebe)
$55 per head. Andreas will be creating food reflective of the art being shown on the night and cocktails complementing the food will also be served.

Sunday 21 July 3pm- 7pm High Tea by Matt Forbes
$55 a head to indulge in pastries by Matt Forbes and a glass of sparkling wine.

Tickets for all of the experiences are available now online and on the door.

The Baron Palate, 18-21 July, 83 Kerr St, Fitzroy

Giveaway! Thanks to The Baron Said I have a double pass to each of the experiences to give away.

To win all you have to do is 1. Like the blog on Facebook or follow me on Twitter (if you don’t already) 2. leave a comment saying which event you’d like to attend – Launch, Dessert, Theatre or High Tea. The winners will be drawn on Wednesday 17 July and tickets will be left at the door on the relevant night. Good luck!

And the winners are #13 Catrina (High Tea), #18 Alissa (Restaurant Theatre), #31 @Rathdownepossum (Launch) and #29 @gerardbrody (Dessert). An email/DM has been sent to you!

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HOT: Winter Bento Picnic, Nama Nama, 31 Spring St, Melbourne

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Last week, during the particularly cold snap we had, I saw not one, two but three people dressed in shorts and flip flops. They weren’t Swedish backpackers but were clearly made of hardier stuff than me as I shivered away in my scarf, woolly hat and coat and barely left the house.

The folks at Japanese cafe Nama Nama are evidently thinking in the same vein as those winter-shorts-and-thongs wearers, as they have launched a Winter Bento Picnic for the month of July as part of Look.Stop.Shop, a month-long program of events and experiences curated by Three Thousand and presented by the City of Melbourne.

Before you scoff ‘who wants to dine alfresco in the middle of winter’, a picnic is actually a brilliant way to up your Vitamin D intake when the sun peeks through the bare tree branches. Treasury Gardens, just across the road from Nama Nama, is the perfect picnic backdrop, with a relatively flat landscape of lush green grass, golden leaf falls and dappled sunshine. Certainly makes a nice break from the artificial light of the office and you just need to rug up a little.

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For $20 per person (minimum 2 people) you receive a surprise bento box (though you can specify pescatarian, vegetarian or any other dietary requirements if need be), a sweets bento box to share, a large thermos flask of green tea, two paper cups and a woolly picnic rug to sit on.

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The presentation is super kawaii and the food was interesting and surprising – meaning that I’m not sure of the identity of some of what I was eating but it was universally delicious.

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What I could identify in my bamboo bento box was a delectable Wagyu beef rice paper roll with creamy mayonnaise, poached chicken salad with circles of radish, mince and green-flecked rice wrapped in a bean curd skin, some peppery pickled cucumber and daikon and a main dish of baked eggplant, braised beans, Asian cabbage slaw and rice.

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My pescatarian friend enjoyed some miso marinated salmon fillet with rice, curried sweet potato with carrot and lotus root and some beautifully fatty ocean trout sashimi, a highlight.

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The desserts were equally delightful morsels. A piece of fudgy dark chocolate disguised as a lamington, some fluffy berry and pistachio cheesecake, shards of sticky nut toffee, a small crushed almond biscuit, sweet pear and caramel tartlet and a Pokemon-looking wagashi – Japanese bean flour treat (an acquired taste I think).

The green tea was the perfect healthful accompaniment to the food, though I would like them to provide sturdier cups that are able to rest on the grass without tipping over!

The surprise element of the bento boxes means that you’ll be able to unroll the rug for a Winter Bento Picnic at Nama Nama any fine day in July and not eat the same thing. So enjoy the novelty (and the winter sunshine) while it lasts!

And psst…Whisper ‘MasterDen sent me’ at Nama Nama (or sister restaurants Izakaya Den and HiHou) to unlock special treats. No idea what they could be but I’m trying the secret password next time!

Winter Bento Picnic, Nama Nama, 31 Spring St, Melbourne

Monday – Saturday in July 11:30am-3pm

$20 per person, minimum 2 people, must call +61 3 9639 9500 to pre-book. Can cater to dietary requirements. 

Nama Nama on Urbanspoon

HOT: Afghanistan Pop Up cafe, Melbourne Museum, Nicholson St, Carlton

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Every year Melbourne Museum hosts a special winter international exhibition and this year’s showcase Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures is from the National Museum of Kabul.

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If you’re visiting the exhibition (or even if you’re not) you may not be aware that just outside the entrance is a pop up cafe that serves tastes of the region. I was invited to try some of the Afghani menu and as I have no previous experience of food from that region I can’t comment on the authenticity of the food – I can only vouch for its tastiness!

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My favourite dish turns out to be Afghanistan’s national dish Qabili Pilau ($12.50). It’s a generous serving of fluffy pilaf rice studded with raisins and nuts which hides a gently spicy slow-cooked lamb stew buried at the bottom of the bowl.

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The Mourgh Delight (chicken) is also a hearty meal and good value for two pieces of sticky roasted chicken maryland for $9.80, though I think the orange-infused spicy sauce could have been punchier. It comes with two hunks of bread to mop up the remains in the terracotta ramekin.

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The big seller at the cafe is Afghanistani bread stuffed with cumin lamb ($12.50) or leek and lentils ($9), both served with yoghurt on the side ($9). It’s essentially a fancy toastie but is enjoyable nonetheless, with the fluffy homemade bread similar in texture to a bagel, served crisp from the sandwich press and melted feta oozing out the seams.

Afghanistan Pop Up cafe Melbourne Museum Carlton

For vegetarians there’s the Sabzee vegetarian filo which is chock-full of spicy roasted vegetables ($9.80). I found the filo pastry chewy rather than flaky, a shame as I think it was probably reheated via a microwave given the lack of proper kitchen facilities in the pop up space.

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If you’re after a lighter option you might try the salad of chicken and orange segments. It was pleasant enough and the chicken was very moist but I couldn’t discern any of the advertised saffron vinaigrette in the mix ($9).

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I highly recommend you try some of the cake, all of which are served with a pot of sweet yoghurt ($5.90). My favourite was the Halwa and Zardak pudding which was like a moist, spiced carrot cake with nuts and raisins fragranced with rosewater and cardamom. I thought I’d prefer the rosewater and orange curd tart but I felt the pastry was chalky and heavy-handed, a shame given that the curd itself was fragrant and silky.

There’s no special Afghani drinks served at the cafe but I highly recommend the spicy, creamy chai ($4) with a side of Sheer Payra Fudge, a large cube of cardamom scented fudge sprinkled with crushed pistachios which is usually served on festive occasions ($4.50).

The Afghanistan Pop Up cafe is open for the duration of Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures (until 28 July) from 10am – 4:30pm. I think it’s a great choice for lunch or morning/afternoon tea, even if you’re not visiting Melbourne Museum –  just duck down the escalators on the right of the foyer, without going through the ticket office. If you’re in the area it’s a chance to sample some Afghani food, the service is fast and most dishes are under $10.

Plus if you purchase a ticket to Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures you can receive a free ticket for your friend until 21 July (of equal or lesser value). Just mention Gold Treasures when you purchase tickets over the phone or at the Ticket Desk (not online).

Afghanistan Pop Up cafe, Melbourne Museum, Nicholson St, Carlton 
Every day 10am – 4:30pm until 28 July

HOT: The Drifter’s Table, Small Block, 130 Lygon St, Brunswick East

 The Drifter's Table Small Block Lygon St Brunswick East

I love a good pop up as much as the next Melburnian, but a pop up one-night-only dinner that I found out about via Twitter? I had to get myself to The Drifter’s Table!

The Drifter’s Table is a project by Zac Nicholson, Robbie Bell and Keelan Gallogly – three chefs with experience from Quay, Rockpool Bar and Grill Melbourne and The Fat Duck – who decided to start hosting pop up dinners in Melbourne at the beginning of this year. Their team inhabit the kitchens of cafes and restaurants around town, bringing normally daytime-only venues to nocturnal life with their Mod Oz/British/European influenced food and friendly service.

For each event they have a set menu of four courses for an amazing price of $65 a head or you can choose to match each course with a sparkling wine and three wines for $100. I reckon you can’t get a better deal than that in inner city Melbourne at the moment! The constantly changing location and one-night-only menu adds to the mystique of the whole experience.

I attended their third pop up dinner and their first at Small Block cafe in Brunswick East. We arrived earlier than their allotted start time of 7:30pm so had a quick drink at The Alderman a few doors down (which by the way is an awesome little local bar). I didn’t realise at the time of booking but while they state that dinner starts at 7:30pm you can actually book for whatever time you like – some tables were only starting their first courses as we were leaving.

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The menu for our dinner started with an amuse bouche of pressed ham hock, pease pudding and a pornographically positioned cornichon. The dish was much more substantial than a traditional amuse bouche which I’d normally expect to be just a tiny taste to get the taste buds kickstarted. I didn’t love or hate the dish, other than noting that the terrine was too firmly pressed in my view, but that’s a matter of personal preference.

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The entree was a perfectly poached silken fillet of blue eye with black olives, red capsicum, samphire and pine nuts. It was my favourite dish of the night as it showed real finesse in cooking technique and the combination of flavours, with the hard-hitting olives not overpowering the delicacy of the seafood. I know it’s a bit faddy but I loved the textural contrast of the crispy twist of fish skin cracker as well.

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The main course was a huge serving of rotisserie lamb – fillet and cutlets, I felt like a nomadic hunter! It was served with a bulb of roasted garlic, perfect smeared onto the meat, a bed of cavolo nero with its bitterness cutting through the fattiness of the meat and an equally huge side of mixed roast vegetables – spuds, heirloom carrots and onions.

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The dish was comfort food at its best – warming, weighty and wafting juicy robust flavours. Even though our stomachs were bursting to capacity I simply could not leave a single skerrick on the plate.

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…but of course there’s always room for dessert! After stuffing us like a turducken for three courses I was amazed by the size of the chocolate, salted caramel and peanut tart. It was the size of a small saucer! Nevertheless we managed to clear our plates as the thin chocolate crust held together a wonderfully oozy caramel filling that was so sweet that you really couldn’t resist licking each spoonful clean. Good idea balancing all that sugar with a hit of salt as well and I liked the presentation with the crunchy praline reaching like a waterfall towards the sphere of ice cream.

The Drifter’s Table next event will also be at Small Block and is on Friday 24 May. The menu will be as follows:

  • Chicory, Blue Cheese and Walnut Salad
  • Roast Quail with Muscat Grapes and Chestnut
  • Red-wine Braised Beef, Carrots, Bone Marrow Toast
  • Pumpkin Pie

I’m not sure how they go with dietary requests so best to ask on booking. The menu will continue to be four courses for $65 per person and local wine and beer will be available on the night. Seating is limited so send an email to thedrifterstable@hotmail.com to make a booking (and if you miss out on this event watch for future announcements on Twitter and Facebook). You’ll love it!

The Drifter’s Table, Small Block, 130 Lygon St, Brunswick East

HOT: WLG Wellington Pop-up Restaurant, 153 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

For the last week I’ve been watching the corner of Gertrude and Napier Streets with interest.

WLG stamped on the walls. Brightly coloured metal chairs lining long tables on the pavement. A dude with an enormous 19th century handlebar moustache working the tables.

The answer? The WLG Wellington pop-up restaurant has landed in Melbourne to occupy salon/bar Rue de Fleurus for 2 weeks only, from 15 November to 27 November.

WLG Wellington pop-up restaurant is a tourism marketing campaign for the city of Wellington, New Zealand. It aims to showcase Wellington’s finest locally sourced produce, wines from neighbouring wine regions, restaurants, cafes and hospitality faces beyond a glossy travel agent brochure, by bringing a slice of the Wellington experience straight to our doorstep.

Tickets for the $35 three course dinner have been selling like hot cakes and in-the-know Melburnians have been clamouring for the 50 or so walk-in spots as well. I was lucky enough to be invited to sample the restaurant thanks to Positively Wellington Tourism.

Wellingtonian chefs, sommeliers and hospitality staff have been brought over especially for the pop-up restaurant’s two-week duration. The 3 course menu has been devised with their input – there’s a taste from each chef in the starters tasting plate and a main course choice by each chef ranging from fish to meat to vegetarian. Everything has been brought over from across the sea – even the award-winning Antipodes drinking water.

Your dinner starts with a shared tasting plate to which each chef has contributed.

Tick off the following:

Manuka salt cured lamb shortloin with  beetroot, walnut and balsamic salsa;

Grilled Marlborough scallops, celeriac puree and pancetta crumbs;

Fried goat’s cheese balls with Manuka honey and Kiwi chutney;

Maple syrup smoked Regal King Salmon with horseradish creme fraiche and tiny capers (the highlight for me); and

Pig’s cheek ‘schnitzel’ with roast lemon chutney.

From the choice of five mains I choose  the the pan-fried Cook Strait groper atop a large dollop of lemon potato puree with baby herb salad and crispy fried white bait with preserved lemons by Tom Hutchinson (Capitol) while D had slices of perfectly judged Horopito-seasoned beef with slow-roasted tomato, potato fondant and green beans by Rex Morgan (Boulcott Street Bistro). The other chefs involved are Shaun Clouston (Logan Brown), Jacob Brown (The Larder) and Terry Lowe (Black Barn Restaurant and Vineyard).

For dessert we tried to the two dessert options. The Whittaker’s Dark Chocolate Pavé with fresh raspberries, Manuka honey cream and damson plum coulis was the ubiqutious ‘something chocolate’ on the menu and we both agreed that the Licoricello pannacotta with vodka lime parfait and pistachio wafer was a more exciting dish.  I particularly loved the texture of the pannacotta – smooth, silky and not a hint of rubber at all, plus the sharp hit of 42 Below vodka.

The hospitality staff have been pulled from various Wellington establishments and service is very smooth when you consider that the staff are working together for the first time.

As a marketing and awareness campaign, the WLG Wellington pop-up restaurant is smart and it works. The food is delicious. The wine is delicious. The atmosphere is young and fun and the guy with the handlebar moustache turned out to be our friendly waiter for the night (and can be found at Duke Carvell’s Swan Lane Emporium back home). Who knew that Wellington could be a gastronomic travel destination?

Plus only after dining at WLG Wellington Pop-up Restaurant was I aware that Wellington was only 3 hours away from Melbourne (and Sydney and Brisbane) and considered by Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2011 to be the coolest little capital in the world – two facts emblazoned on the dining room wall in front of me.

Tickets have sold out but there are walk ins available each night and unreserved outdoor seating. Just go!

WLG Wellington Pop-up Restaurant (taking over Rue de Fleurus for a two-week period) 153 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne
Tuesday 15 November – Sunday 27 November 6pm til late. Closed Mondays

 

HOT: Beatbox Kitchen, around Melbourne

Beatbox Kitchen Melbourne Hot or Not review

Mobile food vans are nothing new. But a mobile food van that looks like a big stereo is pretty cool.

Raph owns the Beatbox Kitchen and serves up burgers and fries in locations trackable only via Twitter. He pulled up in front of the Lamington Drive gallery opening  of Risographica! on a wet evening and I was his first customer.

There are only three items on the menu – Raph beef burger with salad and tangy mango ($11), a portabello mushroom burger with the same salad and tangy mayo ($11)  and hand cut chips with tangy mayo or Annie’s tomato relish ($5).

Beatbox Kitchen Melbourne Hot or Not review

The burgers are pretty good – grilled to order with crisp salad ingredients, although personally I think not as good as gourmet burger chain Grill’d. I highly recommend ordering the relish with your cone of fries – Annie is a family friend of Raph’s and she makes huge jars of the relish in Seaford only for her family and Beatbox Kitchen.