Friday, 24 October 2014

Bittersweet Beckonings at Brooks in Melbourne

Ok ... isn't it funny how people are there for you in words and intentions only, but very rarely in action?? There's nothing like a personal setback to show how much of an obligation you can be to others. And how perfunctory the response in come cases. This is the reason why I have only a small coterie of friends, because I value honesty and true compassion, traits that are very rarely found in the human race these days. Also, I am at a lost to understand how friendships can be broken over an isolated but honest emotional response that in itself is adjunct to the fundamental issue concerned. Did all the many many years past mean absolutely nothing? All the trials and tribulations, and the good and the bad times? All of that so easily come to naught without even an opportunity to apologise and obtain some closure!! People never cease to amaze me. I now appreciate the draw of a hermitic life. And I stand on that cliff edge right now staring into uncertainty but knowing very well that I have a stronger core than this, and that one day I will sit back and reflect with easy notalgia and without punity.

Right deep breaths everyone! Why this maudlin dose of literary reflection? Well its because a recent work lunch at Brooks Restaurant in Melbourne was the very last company hurrah! And I am still missing the camaraderie and the congeniality that took so very long to build and so very little to dismantle.

When we scraped the barrel that was petty cash to see how much we could spend on our mid-year function (i.e. an excuse to drink good wine and eat great food), what we came up with was certainly not on par with halcyon days gone by. Still those were our parameters so we started working our way through restaurant wishlists, concentrating on lunch specials that would leave us a little over for another 2 drinks each at least.

Settling on Brooks (from my personal wishlist) we opted for a latish lunch which meant that we ended up being the only table for that afternoon. A bit of a buzz kill but we soldiered on.

Proceedings started very well indeed with a bottle of Eminence's The Assembly Sparkling from Whitlands, Victoria ($88). This is not an easy bottle to track down as the Vineyard does not have a cellar door, and they mainly supply restaurants and a select number of wine outlets. However if you are in the vicinity of Seddon, head to Seddon Wine Store and hopefully Clare (from the Assembly family) is on shift and she can possibly assist. But grab the opportunity to taste this if you can. As it is with other artisanal champagne (terroir be damned) offerings, this tastes like a combination of cider/whisky/sparkling white! Heaven!!

We opted for the 3 course lunch special at $48 a pop. Your other choices being a 2 course for $33pp or a degustation 5 course number for $95pp. The menu consists of a triumvirate of choices - so 3 entrees, 3 mains, 3 desserts.

For whatever reason I ended up surfing the waves with my choices, starting with the Cured snapper, yoghurt, oyster cream, dill. Dramatically presented with a ring of dill jus round the plate, the snapper was cured to perfection, but the Oyster cream did overpower slightly. If you were an afficianado of the taste of the sea with all its briny metalicness on the palate, then this would have delighted. I, on the other hand, could be unguardedly critical and say that it did tend to taste a little too fishy (oh yes the irony!).

Some of my companions ordered the Nic’s souvenir of Laguiole; Meli Melo of vegetables, herbs and flowers. So many unpronounceable words; so many needing translation; so many colours on the plate; so many taste sensations ... have a look at the photo - even with my nonexisting shutter skills this looks so inviting and exciting and other sundry feels!

A dish like this is an event. All those gel blobs and purees and unguents and half of Nanna's garden border on a plate. It was fun trying to decipher the different flavours and picking combinations to savour. My final word on this though is that Daisies are simply not edible!!

For mains, I chose another seafood number - Fish, ink and verbena, cos lettuce, romanesco. Again high drama with that intense blob of ink on the plate. As with my entree the fish was cooked to perfection; lovingly browned on the outside and meaty flesh with just the right amount of give within. The romanesco looking like something from the little shop of horrors was surprisingly gentle in flavour and the cauliflower and garlic puree set everything else off nicely. I'll skip the wilted cos lettuce as its one culinary method I fail to understand.

Oh and definitely have the Aligot - cheesy mash ($16) as a side. You won't regret it! Its served rather theatrically at the table by your friendly waitstaff. Two forks go in and a portion is twirled in mid-air before being plonked on your plate. Drama!

And now we come to dessert!! Sadly the "forest floor" Brooks is famous for was not on the lunchtime menu, but something equally as intriguing and bombastic was the Artichoke ice cream, chocolate, hazelnut, candied milk skin, pork crackling.

When it comes to blending savoury with sweet I'm not the most adventorous, but curiosity got the better of me, and I was more inclined to take the risk especially since I wasn't paying. The trick with dishes like these is not to have a scientific approach and sample each component separately. You need to combine the lot to fully appreciate its synchronicity.

Still there was alot of tentative chewing going on at the table. And I'm not sure everyone was entirely sold. I think more pleasure was derived from the sense of achievement of having actually eaten the damn thing in the first place. The milk skin in itself could have gone horribly wrong. As it was, the artichoke ice cream was slightly anaemic in flavour, so it needed the chocolate sponge and the hazelnut and yes! the pork crackling to bump it up. Now that I've tried it, does it bear repeating? That is indeed the question.

Just like our little lunch group was soon to implode, rumour has it that Brooks now has new owners. What direction this underground space will take next remains to be seen. I suspect that the quality of the food may suffer a little during this transition period, but I think the lunch specials are reasonably priced and the food is exciting and different. Try and check it out soon.

Brooks on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Don't You know your Queen, cracked, peeling - Perfume Genius!

Ok ... so this year's musical offerings have been lacklustre to say the least. Nothing really stands out in my mind as being trully remarkable. Perfume Genius' latest release Too Bright is unlikely to change the landscape that much. It is however great to have a bit of glamour and camp injected into proceedings.

My signed copy - in Gold Vinyl

Apart from the subtle influences afforded by the involvement of both Adrian Utley (Portishead) and John Parish (PJ Harvey), nothing has really changed in Mike Hadreas' insular close mic'd world.

There are still the keyboard based confessionals, opening number I Decline being a case in point, and then there are flashes of the jolly reprobate trying to break out some Xiu Xiu badness with the wailing banshee chorus (Grid) and the vibrato heavy guitar riffs (Queen).

And if you listen closely, you may pick up on the rumbly parping of a bass clarinet giving some of the songs gravelly organic gravitas.


All in all, its an album in the true sense of the word, with songs, videos, album cover all interconnected in one glorious golden thrust of a release ... well, in as far as the self depecrating and wickedly funny Hadreas can push!

Finally an album to actually get excited about, and an album that is not relegated to the petty confines of the ipod shuffle mode - at least not for me. Mike, see you at The Corner next year! (oh and bitch tell your record label to let me post your song Queen on my youtube page!!)

Me and Mike at Laneway Festival

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Akshaya - a vegertarian revamp in WeFo

Ok ... so much to catch up on! Lets start with a food post from a few months ago. The Braybrook branch of Akshaya's in what some would posit is the middle of nowhere decked out like a celebratory dinner in a bollywood movie circa 1984, left me decidedly warm with its underwhelming promise of traditional South Indian fare. All the usual suspects on that menu but with better versions further up the road, I was never tempted to go back.

Akshaya Mark II is a completely different proposition. Located in WeFo's vibrant Indian enclave on Barkly, its outlook on the street does it no favours. Ineffectual signage and advertising doesn't quite draw the stray punter in. Given the dynamics of the local citizenry in the area, they should be screaming out that they serve delicious, economical vegetarian fare. But there you have it.

It was a particularly uninspiring CBA friday when neither of us could quite articulate what we were in the mood for, so decided to give somewhere new a try. After being seated and given the menu to peruse, it didn't help when I realised everything was vegetarian -  I do like my protein - particularly when I am starving. However the staff were so welcoming and M spotted his favourite Mirchi, so I reluctantly kicked back and went with the flow.

Wise decision! The Mirchi was not its usual heavy grammy mess. It was light, crunchy and very more-ish. And was the perfect starter before the ubiquitous Paper Dosa, which arrived a-tablé suitably thin and crunchy with a distinct lack of greasy oil! Also the accompanying sauces were some of the best I have had in a long while, particularly the red chutney, which had a bit of a kick! And wasn't at all of the skin stripper asofoetida variety.

But the star of the meal was their Thali plates. For the whopping sum of $10.90 you get a plate of rice with three curries, raita and a chutney!! And let me tell you every morsel on that metal plate was delicious, the spicy cauliflower being a particular highlight. All fresh clean flavours that complemented each other perfectly. We left feeling sated and healthy, almost as though we had just gone through some kind of body cleansing regime.

Akshaya gets the Temasek seal of approval - wholeheartedly!

Akshaya on Urbanspoon

Temasek Redux! - A Sordid tale of debt collectors and shoddy lawyers

Ok ... I am sat here in an empty office with the lights all turned on even though its just me! Its my last hurrah in the city after a tumultous few months, which also explains the lack of activity on this blog! (Well, it hopefully absolves me in some orthodox catholic way). I have multiple drafts queued to go but I suspect that I will scrap the lot and start again. But to flaunt any form of overt/covert superstition, let me revamp these hallowed/hollowed pages with a precautionary tale - NEVER EVER get involved in accident with a Taxi!

It all started with a ratty piece of paper addressed to M with the name of a debt collection agency and a mobile number to call. We ignored this but when a similar piece of paper was stuck in the fly screen door the next day, I decided to call and find out what the deelio was.

Needless to say, the man who answered the phone refused to speak to me and only wanted to speak to M. So I said that we would have to leave it at that and refused to give him anymore details.

M had no choice but to call. Apparently he was much less professional this time round, but M can be surprisingly immovable and will dig his heels in especially if he senses any undue aggression.

Turns out the taxi company associated with the taxi M crashed into awhile ago was collecting on what they perceived as outstanding debt on the repairs that were made as a result of the accident.

We of course had done the right thing and made the necessary claim with RACV and forked out $500 excess for our troubles! Although we did think that the list of repairs that the Taxi company sent through amounting to about $10000 was a bit excessive. M's car was pretty much a write off, but there was hardly even a scratch on the Taxi as far as he could tell.

Clearly RACV was of the same opinion as they tried to contact the Taxi company several times to verify the repairs and never received any response.

So there we were emprisoned at home on a Saturday morning waiting for the debt collector to arrive to hand us our summons in person ... and he was every possible shade of lovely, starting with a thinly veiled threat of not calling from a visible phone line if we didn't want him to know our number, and then subsequently yelling at us from the street calling us bloody idiots and professing to be just a courier.

All kinds of shade over here at chez Temasek!

At least this time we had the name of the lawyer and his contact details which we passed onto RACV. We were contacted by legal affairs at RACV who subsequently made it all go away. But surely this is not legal? And surely the Lawyer should have known that this was not a legal process? Its all so shoddy and sordid. I feel like I'm an episode on Today Tonight!! Why are there so many scammers out there? 

Rant over.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Mr Big Stuff ... I think you're going to get that far ... ok that didn't work ... whatevs!

Ok ... are we over dude food yet?* If we are going to parlez american, then lets get down and ghetto with some soul food. Which is exactly what some enterprising soul(s) did. And we brought on the funk ... ok ... well we tried to ... in our anglo-asian way.

I defy you not to think of that song, or that chorus, or see the white suit and fedora hat when I tell you that the name of this joint is Mr Big Stuff .... *who do you think you are* ... sorry I couldn't help it. ... what the hell ... here ... suffer!! (There are worse earworms out there anyways).

Lets get on with it. Currently this hot spot is known as much for its fun atmos and staff as it is for its cocktails and food, so its best to book if you want a seat.

We were lucky to score prime pozzie at the bar on a recent CBA Friday Night. And I'm not exaggerating when I say we fair giggled our way through the meal. There was something infectious about the place, including the CDJ standing in front of a couple of static decks, playing my jams baby! (Anyone who drops Kid Creole in a set can trow-drop me anytime!!)

Having perused the menu beforehand, we pretty much knew what we were going to order, including our starting cocktails. These were reasonably priced at $12.50 a pop ($8.50 for the kiddies versions). Going the whole ghetto hog I had to have me some waddermalen - the Wicked Watermelon to be exact, comprising of Ketel One Vodka, Cold Pressed Watermelon, Fresh Lemon Juice and Soda - refreshing! (Ok ... at the 5.32 mark).

Our friendly waitress who had a bit of a young Scarlett Johanson vibe going on for her, recommended that we start with the Pigs Ears Chips ($8) and the Pickled Okra ($4), both great starting choices. Although I have a preference for the ones served at Builder's Arms, these pigs ears were suitable crispy with a nice salty crunch.

I love love loved the pickled okra. Not super vinegary, just the right amount of sweetness and tang.

From the Mid-Stuff section of the menu we opted for the Jerk Chicken Wings ($12) and if you know me thats a no-brainer, a side of Corned Bread ($6) and the Mac & Cheese ($12) which was another Scarlett recommendation. Good call Scar-Jo!!

Mama needed a little more Jerk in her chicken, know what I'm saying!! So this played it a little too safe for it to be trully memorable. We may try the Fried Chicken and Waffles next time instead.

The cornbread was sweet and smooth like the best pikelet you've ever had.

But the Mac & Cheese was the absolute star of the show. Comprising of 3 cheeses including a Comte, this is no plastic Kraft brick in a box number, but something slightly more refined and gourmet, but still willing to bump and grind it with a smattering of crusty ho crunchy cheese bits on the top. I'm ready for another serve right now!

From the Big Stuff section we chose the Blackened Snapper & Clams ($32) which comes served with Black eyed peas ... and you can't get more JJ Adams than that! This was delicious, but as is the case with these things, you guts yourself on the starters and then the main brings you too close to the edge for it to be completely enjoyable. But we gave it a right hot crack and were pleased to find a well-cooked piece of fish in an unctous yet curiously light clam chowdery sauce.

  Sadly we were too full for the Sweet stuff, so there's yet another excuse for a repeat visit. Can I hear you say Hey Miss Carter??!! Go.

Mr Big Stuff on Urbanspoon

* If not, can we be??!!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

The Clever Girls at Clever Polly's

Ok ... without giving too much away it was an evening when we needed to clear the air and find some sort of polite distraction in the hours between closing for the day and opening for the night.

I had read about this newly opened establishment on Broadsheet and suggested we have a quiet drink to lift our spirits. So that's how we ended up at Clever Polly's.

Situated on the border between West and North Melbourne, this is the less travelled end of Victoria Street, which in my opinion makes this wine bar cum store that little bit more special.

The wine list here is carefully curated as is the selection that can be purchased in the store. The staff here are knowledgeable and suitably enthusiastic so don't be afraid to ask and discuss. You can also refer to the Field Guide that they supply you with along with the drinks and food menus.

I absolutely adored my glass of La Distesa Verdicchio (2012) from Marche, Italy. Imagine a honeyed Chardonnay mixed with a crisp cider (yes you got that right!). I loved it so much I had it again on a subsequent visit.

M got to try the Vinterloper UWP Red # 1 (2013). This is a wine produced as a result of the Urban Wine Project and the grapes have the dubious distinction of being crushed by the feet of the wider community in Fed Square! For a bit of a hotch potch blend this was surprisingly delicious and imminently quaffable.

If you are a little peckish there is a small selection of vittles to be had. Again you can consult with the staff as to which wine to pair with what food. We had the selection of Cured meats from Salumi Australia ($22) which is a good way to start.

We also tried the Brioche soldiers with cumin and ricotta ($7) which almost burst the banks, rich as it was - the brioche came in unexpectedly thick slices.

On a subsequent visit we sampled a bit of the Comte on offer. Again I encourage you to ask which is the best cheese for the wine you're drinking or vice versa.

I love Clever Polly's and look forward to many impromptu and perhaps not so impromptu drinking dates there. Go go go!

Clever Polly's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Mozzarella Bar - memories of Florence in downtown Seddon

Ok ... I'm working my way through the pile of unfinished blogposts and I've decided to  dispense with chronology entirely because ... well frankly the bitch is tired ... so like Tamar Iveri, you just need to suck it up ... 

Anyhoo, its always a pleasure to review an eatery in the local hood, particularly one that has finally broken the run of less than satisfactory recent CBA Friday nights.

Covering a fair bit of frontage on Victoria Street, Seddon, Mozzarella Bar a recently opened Italian eatery is already in full patronage swing.

There are no design surprises as far as the fitout is concerned, although I feel that underneath all that wood veneer lurk the ghosts of neon, chrome and steel pasts. Still, they do have the prettiest wood fired oven all covered in shiny milky blue tiles.

And I pray to the gods of intellect and sophistication that the accents promulgated by the friendly staff here are genuine as the alternative is a look too far into the abyss.

But lets turn our attention to the food, because at the end of the day, thats what we're here for.

The Pizzas coming out of the oven looked and smelt delicious, but as we were both not in pizza munching mode we approached the menu in the same way we did in Italy when we holidayed there last year - i.e. a Primi (shared), a Pasta (each but this time we weren't that hungry so we shared) and a Secondi (shared).

As a Primi we ordered the Gamberini ($14) described on the menu as "Crispy Freshwater Prawns, Spiced, Lemon Rocket & Chilli". There is something about the smell of charring prawn shell ... so wonderfully evocative of holidays by the sea ... or seafood at pre-developed Punggol, embedded clam shells in the dirt crunchy under your feet ... aah ....

But then there's something rather disheartening about Prawns that are overcooked or burnt ... much like the Winter's day outside the window waiting to nip at my extremities as soon as I step outdoors.

Mozzarella's offering is teetering on the burnt side. I had to brighten the photo above considerably and still you can see how brown and dark the shells are, instead of the enticing pinkey orange we're more accustomed to (crispy school prawns being the snack de jour at the mo!). Having said that, there was not a feeler or leg left on the plate by the time we were finished.

For our pasta we shared the Filei di Mamma ($18) - Pine Nuts, Pesto. This simple dish of Florentian styled pasta was simply wonderful. A definite highlight of the meal, and a dish I hope to return to on future visits. I think that with pasta, the simpler it is, the more satisfying. You should definitely check this one out when you go.

Our Secondi was equally impressive. We had the Agnello ($28) - Chargrill Lamb Cutlets, Roasted Potatoes, Red Pepper & Eggplant Caponata.

The lamb cutlets and potatoes were cooked perfectly. The potatoes tasted like they were cooked in a stew and then roasted to finish them off. Delicious! And the Caponata was well balanced and a perfect foil to the rich meat. Also another dish I would recommend and hope to have again sometime in the near future.

All in all, Mozzarella Bar is a welcome addition to the culinary pantheon of the West. Keep 'em coming world!

Mozzarella Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, 23 June 2014

Facts are fact and Fiction's fiction - Watching the Liars at The Corner Hotel

Ok ... with that motorik shout out the crowd loses it shit ... and I am in very present danger of losing my head as arms flail and bodies thump as hardcore dancing ensues ...

I forget that Liars was born out of the fetid swamp of thrash metal and the band has shouldered that sensibility along with some of its fans on its journey into the uneasy world of EDM ...

Angus towers above us in his technicoloured woolly balaclava, removing it only to uncover cobain styled root bound blonde tresses (not real) that hides all expression from view ...

Julian mans the skins with pithy concentration, his dark bearded looks making me feel all funny ...

Whilst Aaron gives off some Nick Rhodes realness as he twiddles knobs and punches keys ...

My body spasms involuntarily in time to the relentless beat and in my mind I am the coolest of the cool ...

Meanwhile the hipsters have stayed at home ... aha aha

Darkness Darkness - A Random update

Ok ... 

In darkness
Where my dreams are all too clear

Darkness, darkness

Filled with all the sounds of fear

I hear voices (don't turn out the light)
Calling faraway

I see shadows (don't turn out the light)
Moving, changing shape

(An Excerpt from "Darkness" by The Human League)

Not too long a wait for what comes next ... 

*Photos taken at Little Lon - Melbourne Museum

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Eat8bit - Finally a burger joint in Footscray - CBA Friday that wasn't a disaster - Phew!

Ok ... so its finally open - Footscray's first ever burger joint - called Eat8bit (or is it Eat8bit ... answers on a postcard). Forgive me for being slightly out of the loop but I still don't quite know what the pun is. I know that 8bit is of significance to gamers, and is slightly retro, slightly vintage ... am I right? Hence all those Hama Beads concoctions of old school video game figures masking as table numbers. Very cute btw, or is that not what you're meant to say in these postpostpostpost modernist times.

This was 8bit's opening night and they were under the pump! They had run out of a few bits and pieces and couldn't offer everything on the menu by the time we got there. BUT, they told us at the very start that this was the case so we were well and trully forewarned. And during the time we were waiting, they came over at least twice to apologise for the wait and offered a free serve of ice cream on the first, and a drink on the next. Other newly opened eateries should take note.

Slightly dissappointed at not being able to order the Cheese and Bacon Fries or the Onion rings, we opted for Potato Gems instead and a burger each.

M had the Altered Beast - Beef, Bacon, Cheese, Grilled onions, Lettuce, 8BIT sauce, BBQ sauce ($9.50). And I opted for the 8bit with Cheese - Beef, Tomato, Lettuce, Red onion, Pickles, Mustard, Cheese, 8BIT sauce ($8.50)

But first up was the Peanut Butter Milkshake ($6.50) which was ... and I'm going to sound like a middle aged tragic now ... da bomb!!! Not quite a thickshake and therefore not so gut churningly creamy, with the peanut butter flavour oozing through like a nice warm blanket of nostalgia. M really didn't want the drink to end. I only had a couple of slurps as a whole one would have killed my delicate lactose intolerant linings, but I think I would suffer a day's worth of painful bloating for my own serve next time.

When those burgers finally made it out of the kitchen to our little window bench, I'm not sure if its because we were castaway sized hungry, but that first buttery bite was like a heady shot of dopamine and we couldn't speak until we had at least 3 more bites down the gut.

The patty is the right side of fatty, enough to give it that juciy meaty flavour whilst still allowing the other complements to shine through. But I believe its the 8bit sauce that trully delivers. And could be mildly narcotic because I think their burgers can become a little addictive. Sorry waistline, it is what it is.

We're certainly going to be back at the next opportunity. Quite a few things to work our way through on the menu. Top of the list is those onion rings, and then its the After Burner (Beef, Tomato, Red onion, Lettuce, Cheese, Chilli sauce, Jalapeños, Chipotle mayo - $9.50) and the Golden Axe (Crispy fried chicken, Cheese, Sriracha mayo, Slaw - $9.50) for me.

Oh you are so very very welcome 8bit to the Scray!

Eat8bit on Urbanspoon

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