Diary of my time in Melbourne- entry no. 6

After a hard weeks work at The Press Club I thought I would take a break from talking about work. Instead I want to share some of my favourite dining experiences since I have moved to Melbourne. I have come to learn about food, and this means not only hands on experience but also seeing what other restaurants are doing. I have been using my days off to try and visit as many places as I can. Here are some of my favourites:

Movida:

After filming an episode of Masterchef on the cobbled alley next to Movida, I couldn’t wait to get back and try the popular Spanish tapas style cuisine. I would recommend booking as it is a very busy restaurant. The food was beautiful with honest big Spanish flavours. You can either order individual bites or larger plates to share. Shown below is a stunning duck liver parfait with a Pedro Ximenez sherry foam. I loved everything savoury I ate, and the desserts were solid, without being mind-blowing.


Huxtable:

On a particularly chilly night walking down Smith street in Fitzroy, I discovered this place as much to get out of the cold as to enjoy an amazing meal. We were encouraged to sit at the bar which was effectively a chef’s table as I sat in a perfect position to watch the chefs work. I would recommend sitting at the bar as not only was the food interesting but the chefs were more than happy to have a chat. In my case I actually got the chef to choose everything I would eat for the night; I figure if it’s the chefs favourite it’s probably good! I often take the approach of asking waitstaff or the chefs to order for me. I feel that most people like having trust placed in them and take a little bit of pleasure in doing so. Of course some people will just give you the most expensive thing on the menu, so it’s not a flawless system! The chef has travelled a lot, and this is reflected in the menu with influences from all over the world. Similarly to Movida this isn’t a restaurant where you order entree and main as there are ‘bites’ as well as shared style food. Desserts were rich but tasty, such as the chocolate mousse with raspberry I ordered.

Il Forniao:

The menu has been designed by none other than Philippa Sibley, who some of you may remember as the chef I cooked against in my celebrity chef challenge on Masterchef. In fact, the ‘snickers’ dish is requested so frequently they have been unable to take it off the menu. I ordered it for a bit of nostalgia, and it was as delicious as I remembered! You can order both classic savoury French dishes (the chicken pithiver with puff pastry made in house was particularly good) but the menu is heavily geared towards ordering dessert. Classic French, classic pastry, beautiful desserts. Unfortunately, Phillipa is no longer at Il Forniao as of 20/11/2010 and so I’m not sure what this means exactly.

Ezard:

I have been wanting to visit Teage Ezard’s restaurant ever since I got the book a year ago. I was not disappointed. The food could be described as Modern Asian with Thai, Japanese, and Chinese influences appearing heavily on the menu. I wanted to get the degustation but also wanted to try the signature dish of caremlized pork hock. The waiter was more than helpful and included it as a course on the degustation menu. It is easy to see why this dish has not left the menu since the restaurant opened, with a perfect balance of flavours and textures. I love dishes in restaurants that use secondary cuts of meat and turn them into something special. This is a perfect example. The steamed crab dumpling with the quintessential Thai soup Tom Kha poured around the bowl at the table is shown. Subtle flavours, one of my favourite dishes of the day.

Cumulus:

Cumulus is Cutler & Co’s more casual brother, and has a no booking policy. Which can be annoying to wait around for a table, but is perfect if you are a last minute person like I am. Sharing style food is the way to go here. The place has a buzzing atmosphere, with a packed restaurant, people waiting to get tables, and an open kitchen. The food is often simple, but done very well and using some fantastic ingredients. The pork and snails dish was tasty, as was the chocolate dessert served with a barley ice cream.

Rosamond:

I’m almost hesitant to include this in my list of awesome food experiences, as Rosamond was truly one of the best eating experiences of my life, and I want to keep it all to myself! Only open one night a week, Pierre Roelofs is a talented pastry chef who does a dessert only degustation. The menu changes every week, so no two visits are alike. The way Pierre combines flavours and textures, without making any of the desserts too rich or sweet is to be admired. I am going to be doing some work experience there in the future which needless to say, I am very excited about! Pictured is “rhubarb and banana”

Of course The Press Club is in my list, but I talk about the food there often I don’t feel it is necessary to include it again this week! I might just take this opportunity though to thank all the chefs who are patient in teaching me their trade. In particular, Andy, Carl, Eliza, and Smokey (I don’t know why they call him Smokey) have spent a lot of time helping me “push on” in the larder section, Nada who has shown me the pastry section, and of course head chef Joe, who is not only teaching me to cook better but is organising all the work I am doing outside The Press Club. I could go on all day naming names but there is too many, so thank you to everyone!

Lessons learned this week:

  • Hands on experience is a great way to learn, but inspiration for me comes from seeing what other people are creating with food. Checking out a diverse range of places really helps you to decide what you really love. Even with something like desserts, trying to compare classic desserts (eg snickers bar pictured above) with Rosamond style, is like apples and oranges. Both are sweet, both are technically difficult, but worlds apart.
  • Eating five desserts in one night is totally ok, and desserts don’t always have to be sickly sweet! In all the desserts I had at Rosamond, none were chocolate or too sweet!
  • Eating at the chefs table/bar/watching an open kitchen is an awesome way to dine, but be prepared to want to try one of everything on the menu!
  • It is not only important to season food with an appropriate amount of salt, but also to season at all stages of cooking (and it sounds obvious, but TASTE throughout all stages of cooking!). Don’t just whack some in at the end. When blanching vegetables in salt, use more salt than you think necessary. You’re not eating all that salt, but the salt helps to cook the vegetables faster, and hence retain colour, texture, and taste.
  • Complimenting guys on their moustaches during Movember will get you a long way. Everyone seems to be quietly (or not so quietly in some cases) proud of their ‘tache’ but a little unsure if they are pulling it off. To anyone reading this who is self conscious about their moustache this month, I assure you mine is wispier and more pathetic!

Thanks for all the positive comments, stay tuned for more stories next week!

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12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by sonia on November 20, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Oh yes, spanish tapas, love love love them. I am not a dessert fan at all, but I know that you are, as are a lot of others. I’ve just never met one that I like. At all. But savoury food – paella, tapas, long slow cooked meat and rich gravies, garlic chilli prawns, and any type of seafood on the planet is where it is at for me. Next time you are in WA you must come down to Margaret River, similar to Barossa with the wineries etc, and fresh seafood and cheeses to die for.

    Reply

  2. Posted by divine grace ali on November 20, 2010 at 10:25 am

    I need to go out more and try out as many dishes as possible. It’s hard for me to dine here in Pakistan because all dishes are spicy. I’ve been to a “chinese food” restaurant (not chinese restaurant) and guess what they’re all spicy. I’m a bit disappointed but I will try to explore just like what you do and make my own version of it at home. I wish I was as talented as you though, my “invention tests” are not always that good 😦

    Reply

  3. Oh wow. I’m a big dessert lover and this post has me salivating madly. Unfortunately I’m working a night shift, so there’s no escape to go get me some food! Keep up the awesome posting.

    Reply

  4. Woh……! I hope I can try those deserts someday…. It looks yummy n incredible. Itz just amazing! Thnx cal! But which ones are your favourite?

    Reply

  5. Posted by Farha on November 20, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Hey callum. U r a real inspiration . Its feels gud 2 read ur experiences. Keep up ur gud wrk

    Reply

  6. Posted by stephy on November 21, 2010 at 9:46 am

    u are amazing

    Reply

  7. Posted by zach on November 21, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    hey there….Im from Singapore and am a huge fan of ur cooking. Glad that you are following ur food dream. Im popping by Melbourne in a couple of days time. Any nice place to reccommend for lunch or dinner? Any hidden gems in the food scene in Melbourne?

    Reply

  8. Lessons learnt:
    How to spend a ton of money in a week, yikes mate.

    Looks good though!

    Reply

  9. Posted by Alex on November 23, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Callum, this is a very timely post as I’m currently (as in, right now as I type) trying to book a long weekend’s worth of dining in Melbourne for myself, my partner and my mother visiting from overseas… What an awesome treat to happen to load up your blog and see your recommendations JUST when I’m literally taking a short break from surfing urbanspoon’s Melbourne listings.

    Cumulus was already on my list, couldn’t get a booking at Movida (several weeks in advance! What is this, Paris?! Get over yourselves, Victorians), and was going back and forth about Ezard, you’ve clinched it for me. I also have to go to Nobu, one of the only restaurants (or I guess, restaurant franchises) I truly miss from growing up in the States.

    Have you heard things about Taxi Dining Room? People’s opinions seem to be hugely mixed.

    Reply

  10. Hi Callum, thanks for the cooking tips, they’re very helpful, and I will stay tuned, and keep reading.
    It’s weird or not really in a way, I happened to stumble on your blogs recently, and now I found Adam’s & Matthew’s as well, it’s like hitting a Masterchef jack pot. LoL Greetings from the Adelaide Hills.

    Reply

  11. erhm, sorry, Williamstown is actually within Barossa council, could you please edit my other post, the last line: Greetings from the Barossa.

    Reply

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