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)
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).
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.
We also shared a serve of barbecued hellim cheese (aka haloumi), accompanied by a sticky, sweet, spiced medjool date ($10). Another great combination.
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.
I love Gigibaba's blue, red and white colour-coded bookshelves for 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.
Rear 191 Smith Street, Fitzroy (map)
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!
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.
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!
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!
So where should we go for our next no-bookings Thursday?