Thursday, 30 September 2010

Breakfast in America (in Melbourne, at Trunk Diner)

Trunk Diner
275 Exhibition Street, Melbourne (map)
9663 7994
Breakfast and lunch, Monday to Friday

After a brief hiatus from blogging due to an unfortunate masters essay that just wouldn't write itself, I'm back! There's a backlog of places I'm itching to write about, starting right here right now with this one.

Trunk Diner

The Diner at Trunk is the American diner style cafe adjacent to the main Trunk restaurant and bar. It's been open since July from Mondays to Fridays - just for breakfast and lunch at this stage, though there are apparently plans afoot to stay open in the evenings too.

Trunk Diner

Nifty fitout, eh? It was very pleasant sitting there with the early morning sunshine streaming in, as our group imbibed coffee after coffee made by the charming Tom (who used to be my barista when he worked down in the legal district).

Trunk Diner

Love that big beautiful Trunk courtyard. The main Trunk building was originally a synagogue, built in 1859. I know this because I read it on the Trunk website, which I suggest you DON'T visit as it is a website that automatically plays music THAT YOU CANNOT TURN OFF. I'm sorry, but that is a restaurant website design FAIL of the first order. If whoever is in charge of the Trunk website reads this, please please please get rid of the music!

Trunk Diner

But back to the Diner. It was a Thursday morning and a group of us were enjoying our fortnightly CBD Bourgeois Breakfast tradition. Because it was the lovely Miss C's birthday, we also ordered a bottle of bubbly to share. Champagne and habanero sauce: it was going to be one of THOSE Thursday mornings...

Champagne and salsa picante

As I said at the top, the venue is styled as an American diner, and has a menu to match. I ordered the free range Mexican scrambled eggs ($12), which came with bacon, cheddar, jalapenos, coriander, tomato, red pepper and spring onion, wrapped and served on a little meal tray. Very tasty - even tastier with a bit of old El Yucateco.

Mexican scrambled eggsMexican scrambled eggs

The Diner also has a small selection of breakfast quesadillas - Miss A went for the vegetarian one with portabello mushrooms, roast corn, fetta and fontina cheese ($9).


Other friends went with the porridge made from rolled oats, banana and brown sugar ($8) and the house granola with vanilla poached fruit ($7). All gave favourable breakfast reports.

PorridgeHouse granola

I would like to try those winter wiggidy waffles, to see just how wiggidy wiggidy wack they really are (they come with roasted bananas, hazelnuts, ice cream and maple syrup). I'm also keen to head back for lunch next time I'm up that end of the city - not only do they have a wagyu burger that Mellie from Tummy Rumbles speaks highly of and a Cuban baguette that sounds amazing (pulled pork, gypsy ham, gruyere, zucchini pickles and chipotle mayo), their dessert menu reads as follows: apple pie, pecan pie, lemon meringue pie, brownie, caramel popcorn.

Just like Mom used to make!

Winter Wiggidy Waffles

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Drinking a Ben Shewry at Der Raum

Der Raum
438 Church Street, Richmond (map)
9428 0055

Der Raum

The Melbourne food nerd in me just about died of happiness when I opened the brand new 2010 Spring Collection cocktail menu at Der Raum on Monday night and saw that they're currently serving a cocktail named after Attica wunderchef (and recent recipient of The Age Good Food Guide 2011 Chef of the Year award) Ben Shewry.

Love it.

Ben Shewry

It's made with chilled umeshu, absinthe and fresh basil, which is fed into a bulbous beaker glass containing a thick stick of ice. The beaker is itself placed inside a big gobstopper jar containing rosemary and star anise which, having been attacked by a handy blowtorch, are charred and smoking.

The jar is then closed and the contents of the jar are given a few moments to smoke the contents of the beaker, in a method that echoes Shewry's famous dish of smoked trout broth with crackling, basil seeds and fresh smoke.

Ben Shewry

And the taste? I'm not usually much of a fan of aniseed flavours, but I just loved it tempered with the sweet plum from the umeshu and the freshness of the basil. And loved that hint of smoke characters too!

Ben Shewry

A few guys and gals from the Attica team were in on Monday night, to taste the cocktail.

My cocktail companion, the lovely H, chose a different cocktail called Sausage Fingers. It contained CHIPOTLE AND MANGO TEQUILA, pressed lemon and agave, and tasted smoky and fresh and sweet and spicy all at once. Der Raum cocktails are not cheap (these two were $22 each) but boy oh boy do we love them.

Sausage fingers

It was a Monday night and we'd promised each other we'd stop at one cocktail. But I'm keen as mustard to get back there ASAP to try the Midnight in Sicily: Averna, Campari, blood orange and Strega mist. Be still my beating heart!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

A night of no bookings: Gigibaba and Rosamond

Roelofs berries and bubblegum

So, the no-bookings thing. It's been mentioned as the one of the next Melbourne restaurant trends every year for the last three years in the Epicure's annual "dining trends" wrap-ups, and The Age keeps running what is essentially the same story about whether or not a hot new Melbourne restaurant's refusal to take bookings is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing.

I tend to come down on the side of it being a Good Thing, but think places like MoVida Aqui do it best by offering bookings for half the restaurant (the tables) and no-bookings for the other half (the bar and tall tables along the windows). Everybody wins!

Best-friend-K and I are making a habit of going out for no-bookings dinners together on Thursday nights. This week we decided at the last minute to cumulus it up (walked in at 6:45 and got the last two seats without having to wait, SCORE!)... I'd write a post about it, but I've already written enough slobbering loveletters to Cumulus Inc on the blog, so let me just say: their new dish of globe artichokes and asparagus barigoule with salt cod aioli and a soft boiled egg is *extremely* good.

But the Thursday before, we'd decided on a no-bookings double feature on Smith Street, with savoury at Gigibaba and sweet at Rosamond.

102 Smith Street, Collingwood (map)
9486 0345

I hadn't been to Gigibaba since my (one and only) visit in April 2009, and I was keen to head back there to give Ismail Tosun's Turkish food another try. Thankfully, my new camera is much better at coping with Gigibaba's lighting conditions than its predecessor.


The no-bookings gods were smiling upon us as b-f-K had managed to grab a perch at the bar without waiting. We ordered a few beers and started the night with a lovely simple dish of smoked eggplant, tomato, roast peppers, pinenuts and currants ($14).

Smoked eggplant, tomato, roast peppers, pinenuts and currants

B-f-K insisted we get the rose-scented beetroot with chard and walnut ($14). Rose and beetroot seemed like an unlikely pairing to me, but they worked together beautifully.

Rose scented beetroot, chard and walnut

We also shared a serve of barbecued hellim cheese (aka haloumi), accompanied by a sticky, sweet, spiced medjool date ($10). Another great combination.

BBQ Hellim cheese with spiced Medjool date

The chicken, black olive and mint borek topped with a slow poached egg ($18) was probably my favourite dish that we ordered - the pastry in particular was superb. As our waitress brought the dish over to us at the bar, the egg slid gracefully off the borek with a gentle plop. Being slow poached, the egg just sort of pouted yolk at us rather than dribbling everywhere, so we scooped it back up onto the borek and pretended nothing had happened. But that's the reason for the somewhat haphazard presentation in the photo below.

Slow cooked eggs are cropping up on menus everywhere these days. A Melbourne food trend I'm very happy about.

Chicken, black olive and mint borek

I love Gigibaba's blue, red and white colour-coded bookshelves for cookbooks.

Gigibaba colourcoded cookbooks

Our no-bookings karma had to run out at some point. There was a wait of over half an hour for a table at Rosamond, but we were happy to leave a mobile phone number and repair to Panama Dining Room for a while, where we could sip glasses of Prosecco, plan overseas holidays and look out over the Collingwood skyline through the floor-to-ceiling Play School arched windows.

Cafe Rosamond
Rear 191 Smith Street, Fitzroy (map)
9419 2270

I've also written about Pierre Roelofs' dessert evenings every Thursday at Rosamond before, but the brand new menu each week means you're always in for a surprise. You can order one, two or all three of that week's dishes, plus each week there's also a different dessert tube (containing four different elements in cross-section... just hold it up to your lips and suck).

Pierre gives his loyal fans advance notice via Twitter of what the dessert tube will be each week, and on the week we were going I was excited to hear that it'd be a snickers tube - layers of chocolate, nougat, caramel and peanuts. Giddy up. Reminded of other Melbourne chef Philippa Sibley's famous snickers dessert, I went over to have a chat to Pierre and learned that a group of people who work with Philippa were seated at the table next to mine!

Roelofs snickers tube

We had two of the dessert dishes, the first involving berries and bubblegum. I'm not much of a bubblegum fan (and I'm a little hazy now about exactly what elements were involved in the dish), but I just loved the presentation.

Roelofs berries and bubblegum

The other dessert was served in an old-school cut glass bowl (with a doily underneath!) and contained a fabulous jumble of elements including pandan, coffee and whisky spheres (made using a bottle of whisky the rarely-drinking Pierre was given for Christmas). But what elevated this dish from delicious and interesting to JUST INSANE was the addition of chocolate coated "explosive rock candy". I hadn't had any form of carbonated candy since I had Pop Rocks as a kid. Talk about having a party in your mouth!

Roelofs pandan coffee whisky choc pop rocks

Pierre showed me the jar of explosive rock candy (imported from Spain) and enthusiastically explained to me the science involved in making it. Crazy stuff!

Explosive rock candy

So where should we go for our next no-bookings Thursday?

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Getting Naked for Satan in Fitzroy

...just don't expect me to drink Lucifer's Lovejuice.

Naked for Satan
285 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy (map)
9416 2238

Naked for Satan

Naked for Satan is a gorgeous, shiny, Basque-style pintxos bar that opened a week ago on Brunswick Street.

Naked for Satan

"We can't stop here! This is Basque Country!"

Naked for Satan

I went to check it out on Tuesday night with the lovely mlles Jess and Kate. We were wearing our highest high heels and our reddest red lipstick. Jess began, as is her wont, with a bloody mary (a 'Bloody Satan'), and I'm glad to report that it lived up to her bloody high bloody mary standards. Kate got a beer, then a Cava. I liked the sound of the cocktail with vodka, Campari and grapefruit juice, but I COULD NOT bring myself to order something called 'Lucifer's Lovejuice'.

So I got a cider instead. They have Bulmers (with 'A Naked Twist') on tap. Also on tap is an ale called 'Naked for Satan Ale' - but as Jess so rightly pointed out, 'Ale Satan' would be a much, much better name!

Bulmers 'A Naked Twist' cider

Pintxos (pronounced 'pinchos' and spelled with an 'x' in Basque) is the name for certin kinds of snacks commonly served in pintxos bars in Northern Spain.

Naked for Satan has about 30 different platters of them, catering both for omnivores and herbivores. The platters are self-serve and each individual portion is speared with a toothpick. In between drinks you grab a plate up at the bar and help yourself to as many pintxos as you want, and at the end of the night the bar staff count up the number of toothpicks on your plate and charge you accordingly ($2 per pintxo). Here's hoping the honour system works out for them...


And pretty damn tasty pintxos they were too. Highlights included the wagyu bresaola, the pissaladière, the blue cheese, lettuce and quince paste, the capocollo and the toothpick-skewer of olives, anchovy and guindillas pickled in white vinegar (like they do in Movida Aqui's bocadillos de calamares). The army of Naked for Satan staff would occasionally circulate the room offering trays of hot pintxos: the one we liked was the crumbed veal. It's bar food, and not as posh as the tapas you'd get at the Movidas, Bar Lourinhã or Añada, but at only two bucks per pintxo I'm certainly not complaining.


But that's not all, there's more! It's also a vodka bar, hence all the beautiful steampunk distillation getup in the centre of the room.

I'd heard that they infuse their own vodkas on the premises so I tried their 'Opiumtini', a martini made with 'opium infused vodka'. I asked the head bar honcho to elaborate and he explained that he adds a hint of rose to the poppies he uses to infuse the vodka.


It turns out that vodka distillation is how the bar got its curious name, given the minimal clothing worn by one Leon Satanovich while making illicit hooch in 1920s Fitzroy (read the full story on the Naked for Satan website).

We liked it!

Naked for Satan
Naked for Satan