Friday, July 4, 2014


6 Russell Pl Melbourne, 
VIC 3000

When dining out and having a great experience, the question is, will lightning strike twice? After a great night out at Sarti a few weeks ago, I was keen to return and now I can confirm, yes it does.

Sarti could be described as a sleeper restaurant. It is not really the first name that comes to mind when reeling off a list of must-dine restaurants in Melbourne, but yet it delivers well above a lot of the fashionable darlings.

For this visit we decided to pass the responsibility for the meal over to the kitchen to choose a menu for us. What was to follow was a magnificent lunch of modern unpretentious Italian food. The fritto misto of lightly battered and fried crab, zuchini, calamari & whitebait is perhaps the best deep fried food in Melbourne outside of Tempura Hajime.

Equally enjoyable is the salumi platter which lead to the highlight dish of the meal of perfectly cooked squid ink pasta garnished with blue swimmer crab, tomato and chilli. This type of cooking highlights italian done well and makes memories of Lygon strip a thing of the past.

Secondi and contorni of perfect medium rare beef with mash and kale accompanied by broccoli and roast potatoes finished the meal off magnificently. Nothing flashy, nothing overcomplicated, just perfectly executed cooking at its best.

Sadly the savoury courses left little room for desert, we did enjoy a couple of donuts with a homemade nutella. For those that have room to spare, the tiramasu is also highly recommended. The layered desert of textures and flavours puts the old school masrcapone monstrosities to shame. Well worth a trip for this alone.

By now I think it is pretty clear, Sarti is an excellent restaurant and not too extravagant. Food was approximately $90 which for the quality, quantity and service is good value in Melbourne.

Simply magnifico
Sarti on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 13, 2014


121b Main St 
Rutherglen VIC 3685

I think at times my biggest challenge when dining out is to be surprised, especially if the word to precede surprised is pleasantly. However, pleasantly surprised is how I would sum up my experience at Taste@Rutherglen.

Heading up to Rutherglen for the weekend, research indicated Taste@Rutherglen was the new shining star. The unassuming street frontage which looks more cafe than fine dining is where executive chef Gavin Swalwell operates a small but excellent restaurant.

Taste offers both an a la carte menu and a tasting menu. Feeling indulgent, the tasting menu it was and possibly the best value degustation menu followed.


After a complimentary oyster amuse bouche, the first course kicked off with Lobster & scampi. Even though Rutherglen is not exactly seaside, it was a great start. Perfectly cooked with a cauliflower cream and butter was a great show of restraint and showed off the ingredients in all their glory. Similarly the scallops with leeks and champagne cream were delicious.


Following the first two seafood courses, the uber rich gnocchi and mushrooms changed pace. There was a lot of earthiness in this dish and was a very generous portion. Some could argue a bit too generous, but it was hard not to finish them off, light, fluffy and tasty.

The final savoury course of eye fillet paired with a Warrabilla shiraz was a carnivores delight and the only negative was the fondant potato which was cooked ok, but wasn't really crispy.

Creme brulee for dessert with a Stanton and Killeen topaque finished the meal, my enthusiasm got the better of me and i dove in before taking a photo. Crunchy topping and creamy custard was a great way to finish a very nice dinner indeed.

At $80 for the 5 courses and generously poured matched wines at $50, Taste@Rutherglen is exceptional value for exceptional food.  Service was also attentive and friendly, Gavin walked the floor at the end of the meal and chatted which was also a nice touch.

If only it were not 4 hours drive away.....

Epic Value & Flavour
Taste @ Rutherglen on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Gun Barrel steak & gamehouse

862 W Broadway Ave Jackson, 
WY 83001

Often Australian's are accused of bluntness to the point of being outright. Those accusers have never been to the state of Wyoming where restaurants such as The Gun Barrel steak and gamehouse exist. There is absolutely nothing subtle here, the large wooden restaurant is adorned with a mural of a native American spearing a Bison sums it up.

Upon entering, there is a stuffed bison that may or may not be the one from the outside mural, but it does give one an appreciation of the size of the beast that is an option featuring several times on the menu.

If you haven't figured it out by now, The Gun Barrel is about one thing and one thing only. Serving up the best of America's game with a few non game options for those "bleeding heart liberals". Options for trout, salmon and chicken all sound reasonable, the reality is the speciality here is the mixed game grill - AKA beasts on a plate.

Since this was my first and possibly only visit to the Gun Barrel, the Mixed Game Grill it was and what a superb plate of meat it was. A plate of venison sausage, elk steak and rare bison rib eye delivers to expectations.

The venison sausage was rather tasty, the elk steak was a tad over medium which was a shame, but the rare bison was pure carnivore nirvana. Tender and succulent, I can see why the natives prized such a beast. The accompaniments of beans and mash were nice, but this was all about the bison.

The dessert of apple pie with whipped cream that may have been from a can was OK, but after such a great piece of meat with a few nice reds, this was not judged too harshly. If I were to return though, I would forsake this for more of that succulent bison.

Most huntingest and shootingest win daggnammit
The Gun Barrel Steak & Game House on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tempura Hajime - Update

60 Park St
South Melbourne, 3205

It has been a while since my last blog on Tempura Hajime. The good news nothing has changed and the good news nothing has changed.

So this makes life very simple for me. My last review of Tempura Hajime remains unchanged, the food is the same, the quality is of the same high standards and presentation remains unchanged.

While many a restaurant feels the need to re-invent, it is refreshing to go back to Tempura Hajime and see that re-invention is not required when everything is working well, and besides, re-invention is not an innate Japanese thing when it comes to food.

Deep Fried Winning
Tempura Hajime on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Miss Ladybird Cakes

256 McKinnon Rd 
McKinnon, VIC 3204

What the?? Imagine my surprise walking back to my car after a routine Saturday morning haircut to find a cake shop at the desolate end of McKinnon rd nestled amongst a retirement village, pokies pub, tool shops and mechanics.

The octopus cake in the window of the five day old Miss Ladybird Cupcakes managed to stop me in my tracks and command me to take a step inside.

Once inside I met the owner of this new venture, Gina Tubb, who took some time out to have a quick conversation. Gina has a ton of experience in various kitchens around town and has opened Miss Ladybird Cakes to go her own way with a cool and quirky cake shop.

My first sample was the Sprinkles cookie and Turkish Delight tart. Both were delicious, the cookie reminded me of the old Tic-Toc biscuits I had as a kid only more refined.

The Turkish Delight tart was also great, an impossibly rich, dense and moreish tart. The presentation was impeccable and managed to avoid being too sweet, I would try this again, however, there are so many other options to try.

Miss Ladybird Cupcakes? It is great to see such a cool place opening up in the area which means I can satisfy my cake craving without driving too far at all.

Sweet tooth win
Miss Ladybird Cakes on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Rae's Restaurant Balgownie Estate

1309 Melba Hwy 
Yarra Glen, VIC 3775

Rae's at Balgownie is the multi-purpose cellar door, bar and restaurant that offers stunning views across the Yarra Valley. Serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner it is non stop and as a guest staying at Balgownie Estate it is also a no-brainer to dine at Rae's since it avoids debate over who is going to act as designated driver.

The restaurant balances relaxed and casual quite well, no tableclothes but there is also no "no denim" policy like Eleanore's either. The fixed price menu for 2 and 3 courses has some interesting dishes.

For entree we started with the scallop, black pudding, hollandaise and pork crackle. The plump scallop was cooked perfectly and while it was only one, it was a very generous one. Combined with the black pudding and sauce the texture and flavour combinations were great.

For my main course I ordered the 18 hour lamb rump with mushroom ragout and rosemary jus. Flavour wise this was ok, but the lamb was not really cooked for 18 hours and wasn't anywhere near as tender as I expected. I guess this was made all the more worse when compared to my wife's steak dish which was cooked perfectly and looked a treat too.

The final course was also a bit dissapointing, the banana semi freddo came out and was frozen rather than semi-frozen and seemed a little bland. It wasn't bad, but wasn't really a must have dish like the scallops.

The wine list featured most of  Balgownie's current releases by the glass and overall the staff were friendly if not a little stretched at times.

Summary of Rae's, I wouldn't steer someone away from Rae's if set on dining there, especially as a guest, but there are also some better options in the Yarra Valley.

Safe, if not exciting
Rae's Restaurant, Balgownie Estate on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 13, 2013

Eleonore's Restaurant

42 Melba Highway 
Yering, VIC 3770

First impressions of a restaurant normally sets the tone for the rest of the evening. Upon arriving at Chateau Yering to dine at the highly rated Eleonore's we were shown to the drawing room prior to the dining room to have an apertif. The cosy, relaxed yesteryear drawing room seated in antique chairs by the fire drinking champagne definitely set a very nice tone for the evening.

While we could have sat there all night enjoying the fire, we moved to the dining room which again is antithesis of the modern winery dining room. Tables are well spaced with good quality tablecloths, cutlery and very comfortable chairs. In fact the only thing that isn't from the mid 1800's is the menu which is by all standard very modern.

There was a cute little amuse bouche to start the evening and it wasn't too long before the entree of Roasted Squab, porcini, chestnut, fig, toasted grains, spiced jus arrived. Overall it was a pleasant dish, nice flavour combinations, the squab was nice but felt there could have been a bit more, especially when I was looking over at the Prawns my wife was enjoying. 
Fortunately the next course more than made up for it. The Char-Grilled Wagyu Jerusalem artichoke, confit winter vegetables, Perigord jus was an absolute cracker. I normally refrain from steak at a restaurant like this, but wagyu paired with Perigord jus was just too hard to resist. The wagyu was up there with the best I have had in Australia and the jus was simply magic. Would order this again in a heartbeat.

The final course of Devil’s Chocolate Cake caramel sauce, cashew short bread, earl grey marshmallow, cherry sorbet was possibly more style over substance. The dish looked amazing and there were some great flavours, but the chocolate cake itself was a bit dry and crusty, I think putting Devil in the title made me think Hot and oozy which sadly it wasn't. It was enjoyable, but not quite amazing.
Post dinner we enjoyed a final drink in the drawing room as we waited for one of two taxi's in the Yarra Valley to take us back to our hotel. I would definitely return to Eleonore's, despite a couple of niggly things it is a great fine dining experience and isn't too exorbitant at $98 for 3 courses. Everything you want from a fine dining country restaurant.

Winning in the country

Eleonore's Restaurant on Urbanspoon