Wednesday 30 November 2011

Colonel Tan's: Revolver does Thai

Colonel Tan's
Upstairs at Revolver
229 Chapel Street, Prahran (map)
9521 5985
Open 5pm-11pm Tuesday-Saturday and lunch Fridays only

Well there's a first time for everything. Walking up the steep stairs at Revolver (taking care to not touch the sticky handrail, of course) while sober was a surreal, novel experience. It was worth the effort though, given the grungy-but-great diner hidden at the back of the iconic nightclub/live music venue. Children are welcome in the restaurant during opening hours: a family-friendly Revs, imagine!

Colonel Tan's

Colonel Tan's is chef Karen Batson's Prahran offshoot of her Thai city hotspots Cookie and Choo Choo's (the late-night diner at Toff in Town), both in Curtain House on Swanston Street. At Colonel Tan's, the floral tablecloths are plastic and the drinks menu is extensive. And the food? It's cheap and very, very good.

The menu is mostly authentic Thai, plus a few random curve balls (eg rendang with roti, club steak sandwich with fries, tofu 'whopper' burger with peanut sauce). When I visited with some girlfriends the other week, we started with chilli peanuts ($3.50), snapper, peanuts, ginger, chilli and lime wrapped in betel leaves ($10.50), and grilled Thai sausage and cucumber with cabbage and ginger ($11.50). I particularly liked the Thai sausage, which was slightly crumbly without being dry.

Chilli peanuts, betel leaf salad, grilled Thai sausage

Next was a bloody nice larb: a salad of minced pork, peanuts, tomato, cucumber, kaffir lime and chilli ($14.50). The other porky dish we ordered was the dubiously-titled-but-delicious 'Bangkok bolognaise' ($15.50), served with rice noodles, Thai basil and plenty of jungle heat from both chilli and green peppercorns. It's something of a signature dish, and I'm very glad Jack insisted that we order it.

Pork peanut saladBangkok bolognaise

Also enjoyed: potato, pumpkin and peas in red curry ($14.50) and the fat duck noodles ($16.50), a smoky and - relatively - mild antidote to the Bangkok bolognese noodles.

Vegetables in red curry, fat duck noodles

Oh, and to finish? A basket of the Colonel's five spice fried chicken served with sweet chilli ($16.50). Colonel Tan, not Sanders, and a damned sight better than anything you'd get down at KFC.

The Colonel's five spice chicken

I know I often whinge on the blog about how average most Thai food in Melbourne is compared to what you can get in Sydney, but if Colonel Tan's was just around the corner from where I lived you wouldn't hear any complaints from me. For those that DO live or work in Prahran, every Thursday night at Colonel Tan's is Locals Night: if you can prove that you live or work in the 3181, you get 50% off your food bill.

Monday 21 November 2011

Fortnightly round-up (21 November)

I'm playing with the idea of writing a round-up post like this every fortnight, a space to share a few snippets of news and gossip, some Links of Note and a few amnesty photos that wouldn't otherwise get a blog post of their own.


Orange's sister restaurant in Windsor, Pandora's Box, closed very suddenly a few weeks ago. Although I never got around to writing a blog post about it, I ate there twice and was impressed by the smart, Greek-accented Euro bistro fare and sharp service. But all is not lost: rumour has it that Melbourne restaurant heavyweight Con Christopoulos (The European/Supper Club/Siglo/City Wine Shop, Gill's Diner, Pelican) has purchased not just Pandora's Box but Orange too. Here's hoping Pandora's Box reopens and Orange gets a lift and a new menu.

Pandora's Box

Word on the street is that the vacant lot on Moor Street, Fitzroy, behind the Labour in Vain and Galerie Montmartre will soon be home to a permanently parked food truck, dishing up both food and booze to hipsters seven days a week. The company running it is called Grub Food Van but no word yet on what it'll be selling - what's to bet it'll be burgers, tacos or gourmet snags?

Speaking of Moor Street, I also hear that the two adjoining sites across the road (the Vintage Sole shoe shop on the Brunswick Street corner and Kennedy Nolan architects) have been bought by a certain prominent restaurant group that has plans to transform the sites into one large, upscale eatery. We shall see!

Moor St

UPDATED 8/12/11 TO ADD: Here are the first photos of the food truck being set up on Moor Street (courtesy of the lovely Michelle from Galerie Montmartre next door, and the lovely Fenn from Adioso across the street). Not only is the food truck a beautiful vintage Airstream, word on the street is that THEY WILL BE SELLING TACOS. Cue Fitzroy hipster meltdown!

Original Airstream at Moor St (photo courtesy of @galmont)
Airstream at Moor St (photo courtesy of @fennb)

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of acting as one of the guest judges in the Sommeliers Australia Best Sommelier of Australia grand final. The winner, Franck Moreau from Sydney's Merivale group, will represent Australia in the ASI Asia Oceanic Competition in 2012, and the ASI Sommelier Du Monde competition in 2013. Being a part of the judging process (along with food journalists, winemakers and other sommeliers) was a nerve-wracking but fun experience that really deepened my appreciation of the skills involved in being a top somm. The three grand finalists, while all very skilled, had completely different styles of service and it was fascinating arguing it out with the other judges over which styles we preferred.

Oh, and at the Annual Sommeliers Australia Ball afterwards I got to check out Peter Marchant's most excellent tattoo.

Oink tattoo

Melbourne's Fringe Food Festival is running a 'Forcing Summer' dinner by Matt Wilkinson out in the lovely garden at Pope Joan on Thursday 1 December, featuring amongst other ingredients some organic forced rhubarb grown in the dark especially for the dinner. An outline of the planned menu and link to the bookings site can be found here - tickets still available.


Are you passionate about the future of food in our city? The City of Melbourne is currently developing a Food Policy and has released a Food Policy Discussion Paper (PDF, 2.8MB) as part of its community consultation process. Why have a food policy? The Discussion Paper touches on nutrition and health, sustainability, food security (affordability and accessability) and food safety. Whether you're a stakeholder, an industry organisation or a member of the broader community, the City of Melbourne welcomes any feedback you have on the Discussion Paper (closing date for feedback is Friday 9 December 2011).

Dothraki baby

Two drinks I mightily enjoyed last week: the Thai Basil cocktail from Chin Chin's GoGo Bar, and traditional Colombian hot chocolate from Sonido, served con queso. Cheese in a hot chocolate: so wrong it's right.

Thai Basil at Go Go BarColombian hot chocolate

Traditional Japanese breakfast, prepared for our family by the lovely Mari-san on her return visit to Melbourne. The first time I tasted nattō (very pungent fermented soybeans).

Japanese breakfast
Mari-sanMari's menu

Most outrageous cupcake ever: The Elvis, from Beatrix. Banana buttercake, peanut butter buttercream and smoky bacon praline, consumed on Saturday. As they said on their Facebook page, it's a hunka hunka buttery love.

Elvis cupcake

Links of Note:

- Sausage sizzle or popup charcuterie? Great article by Phil from The Last Appetite about food truck culture in Melbourne.

- In case you missed it, food blogger king David Lebovitz gave a rundown on the Sydney dining scene during his recent trip to Australia.

- Sydney design blog yellowtrace recently did a post on places to eat and drink in Barcelona.

- The Milk Bar article on new Brunswick cafe Acústico made me keen to visit next time I'm up near Union Street. Add it to the list.

- Michael from My Aching Head wrote a blog post entitled How to better engage the new (and old) media. PR people trying to lure decent bloggers to restaurants, take note.

- Dan Sims from The Wine Guide gets his rant on about Australia's most expensive wine on release and the Twitter debate that followed.

- Five lovely friends of mine who share a house in Fitzroy recently started the excellent group food blog 310 Fitzroy, which I recommend you add to your RSS reader. One of the five is a cookbook editor, all five of them are brilliant in the kitchen, and I have to compete against them in a cooking competition in December. GULP.

- Another one to add to your RSS reader if you don't already know it: Sydney blog What Katie Ate. Her food photography is gorgeous.

- Burger Mary wrote an open letter to My Mexican Cousin (the new Creole-inspired cafe/restaurant at the Melbourne Recital Centre), decrying the recent trend of Melbourne restaurants cashing in on American comfort food.

- Ending on an academic note, Tammi's blog post Authenticity: not 'what' but 'why' questions what makes an 'authentic' burrito and offers some interesting thoughts on individual cuisines in a cosmopolitan context.

Got a Link of Note from another blog you think I should include next time? Let me know!


Tuesday 15 November 2011

Wellington Gastronome - a giveaway and a photo tour of Welly

Cable car

It was a happy collision of events. In the same week that reading Max's article on Wellington in the September issue of Gourmet Traveller had piqued my interest in visiting New Zealand's political and food capital, Positively Wellington Tourism contacted me to invite me along on a weekend-long blog junket to check out the food and drink scene in Wellington. Seeing as I'd never even been to New Zealand's North Island before (see a post about my trip to the South Island here), it was an opportunity I felt I couldn't refuse.

The junket was part of the publicity for PWT's current tourism campaign in Melbourne to promote Wellington as a cool dining destination - culminating in a two-weeks-only pop-up restaurant on Gertrude Street Fitzroy, run exclusively by Kiwis and using Wellington produce.


The restaurant, called WLG, is operating in the Rue de Fleurus site at 153 Gertrude Street (formerly known as Claypots and conveniently located just across the road from The Everleigh). WLG opens TONIGHT and runs every night until 27 November. The three course menu is a ridiculous bargain at only $35 per head, plus $30 per bottle of NZ wine. Other details about the restaurant, including about the five chefs who've designed the menu and will be running it, can be found here.

Ticket reservations for the restaurant were available through the Time Out website but have already been snapped up - however they'll still accept walk-ins each night, so you may get lucky. OR you might like to enter the Melbourne Gastronome WLG ticket giveaway - I've got a double pass to the restaurant to give away to a blog reader. The pass is for two people for dinner at 8pm on this Sunday, 20th November 2011 (so don't enter the competition if you can't attend on Sunday night, obvs). To enter, leave a comment on this blog post stating your favourite New Zealand import in Australia - cultural, culinary or otherwise - before NOON on Friday 18th (if I don't already know you through blogs/Twitter etc, make sure I know how to contact you in case you win). I'll announce the winner on Friday afternoon (via both Facebook and Twitter, so keep your eyes peeled), and I'll email the winner their PDF double pass.

Wednesday update: Photos of the restaurant and meals served on WLG's opening night can now be seen on Shellie's blog. I was also invited along last night, and was particularly taken with my main (slow-cooked venison in Tunisian brik pastry with veal sweetbreads - mmmmm - broadbeans, peas and pancetta), my dessert (licoricello panna cotta with vodka lime parfait and pistachio wafer) and the laid-back Kiwi charm of a waiter sporting a truly outrageous moustache.


So, a photo tour of Wellington (apologies, I'd half-drafted this post last week but I've been struck down with illness over the last four days and am currently running a fever, so this post will be light on analysis).

I went to Welly a few weekends ago, accompanied by three other Melbourne food bloggers (Ed, Penny and Shellie). During the two days I attended three of the restaurants whose chefs will be running the WLG pop-up.


Lunch on Saturday was at Logan Brown, one of Wellington's most upmarket restaurants. If the facade looks a little imposing, it's because the 1920s building used to be a bank.

Logan Brown

Lovely high-ceilinged interior. We had a good chat before lunch to head chef Shaun Clouston (one of the WLG chefs) about the provenance of his produce.

Logan Brown

I was particularly excited about trying the local shellfish that we can't get in Oz, like tua tua surf clams from Cloudy Bay (similar to pipis), and Tio Point Bluff oysters and Mahurangi Pacific oysters. Sensational.

Tua tuaOysters

Special mention also to the chestnut flour pappardelle with porcini mushrooms, macadamias and gorgonzola, and the Whangamata scallops with cauliflower cream, coppa wafer, apple and preserved lemon. Some beautiful organic biodynamic Urlar wines, too.

Chestnut flour pappardelleScallops with cauliflower cream

In between restaurants I made a beeline for some of the tourist sights: the Wellington Cable Car (see photo at the top of this post) up to the Botanic Gardens and lookout over the city, and an hour at New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa.

Te Papa

Such a great museum! One of the best I've been to in years, I wish I'd had more time to explore it - especially the exhibitions about the geology and flora and fauna of New Zealand, and the Mana Whenua exhibition about Maori culture (including a copy of the Treaty of Waitangi, which I studied at uni).

Te PapaTreaty of Waitangi

On the Saturday night we went to dinner at The Larder in Miramar, a suburb 15 minutes drive away that is also home to Peter Jackson's Weta studios (filming for The Hobbit movies is currently underway, but alas I didn't spy any Middle-earth inhabitants).

The Larder

Chef/owner Jacob Brown takes great pride in the relationships The Larder has with its suppliers: to reinforce the point, black and white portraits of various suppliers adorn the walls of the restaurant, and Jacob (also appearing at WLG) can tell you an anecdote about each one.

Pea and asparagus soupProducers

Culinary highlights included my carpaccio of peppered venison fillet with spiced pear, pear jelly and beetroot; Penny's pig's head baked in brik pastry with seared chicken livers, radish and cress; and my main of pork belly with crumbed black pudding, apple calvados puree and pepper caramel. A Valrhona fondant and parfait were also excellent.

Carpaccio of venisonPig's head in brik pastry
Pork bellyFries, asparagus, salad
Vahlrona chocolate fondantParfait

Back in town, we went for cocktails at Matterhorn, recently voted one of the 50 Best Bars in the World by Eater.

In addition to flying back some Martinborough pinot and a bottle of the suddenly-very-trendy-in-Melbourne Lighthouse Gin (hand-crafted and hand-distilled in the Wairarapa), I also bought a bottle of Smoke & Oakum's Gunpowder Rum, an outrageous, you'll-love-it-or-you'll-hate-it small batch blended rum infused with tobacco, chillies and actual muzzle-loader style black gunpowder. It's... a little intense.


Although I was in Wellington for less than 48 hours, I liked that my schedule allowed me some time to explore the town on my own. One solo expedition led me to breakfast at Sweet Mother's Kitchen.

Sweet Mother's Kitchen

SMK was kooky in all the right ways, decorated with lowbrow trinkets and staffed by friendly kids who kept swapping ridiculous afro wigs. The casual (yet ambitious) home cookin' menu, which included Creole, Cajun and Mexican dishes, has no equivalent in cafe-saturated Melbourne - I'd LOVE to know what my N'awlins/Texas expert (and cuisine purist) friend Burger Mary would've thought of it, had she been with me. Those beignets were damned tasty.

Sweet Mother's KitchenBeignets

Just some photos of buildings in the city centre that caught my eye.


On the Sunday morning we all visited Wellington's weekly food and wine artisan City Market, where we were welcomed and shown around by one of the Market's co-founders, the personable Rachel Taulelei (owner of seafood supplier Yellow Brick Road).

Yellow Brick Road

Lots of produce from the City Market will be served at the WLG pop-up in Melbourne.


More local colour at the Market. I really liked that Crooked Cider Lars was selling - it was cloudy, very dry and made from proper cider apples. If only I hadn't already reached my customs alcohol limit, sigh.

Emporio CoffeeCrooked Cider

Outside at the regular Harbourside Market, loads of red kumara plus bananas SO CHEAP they'd make an Australian weep.

KumaraCheeeeeap bananas

Our last meal was at Capitol, another restaurant whose head chef/owner Tom Hutchison will also be cooking at the WLG pop-up. Photo of Ms Jeroxie taking a photo.


Shellie opted for something sweet at Capitol, French toast with shaved apple and passion fruit salad. The dish I was taken with was the seared scallops with parsnip puree and pancetta crumble.

French toast, shaved apple and passion fruit saladSeared scallops, parsnip puree and pancetta crumble

And finally, a word about coffee. Welly is officially crazy for coffee: there are over twenty coffee roasteries in the Wellington area alone (a remarkable fact when you consider that the city's population is less than 400,000), and the third wave coffee movement has definitely made its mark.

Memphis BelleFlight Coffee

I stopped in at the Memphis Belle Coffee House, the home of Flight Coffee (best ethically traded coffee in New Zealand, according to this year's NZ Coffee Awards). From the coffee station offering Chemex, Syphon, V60 Pour-over or Swiss Gold brewing methods, I chose the Chemex for my Brazilian Moreninha Formosa. Seriously cute little cafe.

Flight BomberChemex

And so ends my weekend blog junket to New Zealand! If you're in Melbourne, be sure to enter the giveaway above for a chance to check out the WLG pop-up for yourself on Sunday, otherwise you might like to try your luck with walk-ins if you're wandering down Gertrude Street during the next fortnight.


(Obvious disclaimer due to nearly-all-expenses-paid nature of blog junket to New Zealand, care of Positively Wellington Tourism)