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

Prawn Star