CocoNine, Canberra 09-2015

I feel sorry for CocoNine. Every time I walk along the foreshore their next door neighbour Chong Co is bustling and full whereas CocoNine seems to be much emptier.

I used the Entertainment Book voucher (one of the reasons other than pity) to try out this place. The fried chicken larb and fried soft shell crab with seafood meant a little too much fried for one meal. The batters were identical and the servings large. My standards of tom kar goong and red curry duck with lychee were fine without being memorable.

To me the food seems of similar quality to Chong Co. If one is busy, try the other and I don't think much will be missed. The food I had at Baan Latsamy in Manuka was better (for classic Thai cuisine). I'm hoping Morks will bring a new modern step up to the foreshore (when I finally get there).

CocoNine Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Hyatt Hotel, Canberra 09-2015

The Hyatt Hotel hosted a series of Latin American themed buffets. Apparently the buffet is always on but on these occasions some dishes were inspired. On this evening the country was Ecuador. I think the menu item that interested me most was the promise of fried plantains.

Unfortunately this was also the most disappointing part of the buffet - the salad that had fried plantains listed in the ingredients had no actual plantains in it.

The rest of the buffet was actually decent - standard dishes included a selection of fresh seafood with crab, mild oysters, good sized greenlip mussels, prawns and octopus. Of the specialty dishes, my favourites were the pilaf rice, bean stew and braised goat. Of the desserts, the churros were terrible (cold and soft, even the ones freshly brought out) but the cakes were fine.

Overall it was ok for a buffet. For the price of $69 there is better to be had around town though (if you aren't planning on gorging).

Hyatt Hotel Canberra Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

The Dock, Canberra 09-2015

The Kingston Foreshore is really starting to heat up. Considering the incredible number of apartments being built that will eventually surround the place, I can only imagine getting some early real estate for food business must be a good long term investment. Up until relatively recently the only pub was Walt & Burley. The food there is extremely average and quite pricey. The drinks are similarly high. Rum Bar serves decent drinks but the food is limited and also expensive.

This made way for The Dock, a sports pub with decent drinks, live music on certain nights and something new to try. For a very short time they were listed in the Entertainment Book but I suppose after realising how much business they got, this was then unnecessary.

The Beez Neez Beer Battered wild caught fresh Australian Barramundi ($25) and Full rack of American Pork Ribs ($46) were really quite expensive but adequate. A few days later I took advantage of their 2-for-1 pizza Mondays (there are also 2-for-1 rib Tuesdays and burger Wednesdays) - a little expensive on their own at $20-24 each but for half price a serious bargain. Sure the weekday atmosphere doesn't quite match the hustling weekend, but you can't have everything.

It's better than Walt & Burley in my mind. Otherwise eat elsewhere on/near the foreshore (eg. Brodburger) and have a drink with company here.

The Dock Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Vitis Eatery, Canberra 10-2015

I had seen Vitis Eatery a few times walking through Braddon but only when I saw the incredibly good value deal on Livingsocial did I book in. It was a quiet weeknight with intermittent rain and the casual setting made for a nice dinner. After the initial bread starter (which I'd now recommend not eating much of given the quantity of food that followed), the set menu commenced.

- Batemans Bay Oysters // Champagne Granita & Lime - I still prefer my oysters natural;
- Scallop tartare on toast // Avocado & wasabi
- Caramelised Pork Belly - tender pieces of meat with a thick fat layer on top (which I removed);
- Twice cooked Lamb Ribs // Grain Salad Honey & Garlic yoghurt - a good salad that reminded me of Hellenic Republic's and a fatty rib on top;
- Whole-roasted Quail - a delicious bird well cooked and complemented well by the sweet grapes. My stomach was struggling by this stage but I persevered;
- Italian fried doughnuts - ended up taking some home and couldn't eat them all. Crisp outsides and doughy interiors. A little plain on their own.

Considering the price at $79 for 2 people, the amount and value of food was superb for the quality. Thanks Livingsocial and Vitis Eatery for such a good showing.

Next time I would order (based on the current online menu) the lamb ribs with grain salad, quail dolomades and braised rolled lamb with falafel.

Vitis Eatery Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Habibiz, Canberra 09-2015

One of my favourite outdoor (undercover) eateries in London was Yalla Yalla ( I am yet to find an equivalently good place for meat on spits, falafels, salads, prices and atmosphere.

I'd read about the charcoal roasted meats at Habibiz in Westside Acton Park. The shipping container food setup has some live buskers which add to the atmosphere under the weekend sunshine. There's several places to get food but the aroma at Habibiz had the most appeal and my search to replace Yalla Yalla began.

After a short 15min wait the falafels, half chicken and salad arrived. The chicken was tender and delicious, the falafels crisp and the dips acceptable. I would have preferred thicker breads and a salad more reminiscent of tabbouleh. Nonetheless I'll be back to enjoy the Westside, eat the grilled meats and try the Indian place that looked interesting also.

Yalla Yalla, London 02-2013, 03-2013, 05-2013, 10-2013

One of my favourite outdoor (undercover) eateries in London was Yalla Yalla. The outdoor version in Shoreditch kept me warm (with outdoor heaters) and fed (with excellent street food from Beirut) throughout winter and summer. The only downside was the portaloos with alcohol handwash which wouldn't suit most people.

Nonetheless the delicious meats from spits, the excellent crunchy falafels, the flavoursome salads and dips, and the warm breads they'd refill for me for free (due to being a recurrent customer perhaps) kept me coming back and will always have a place in my heart.

I have many fond memories from eating here alone, eating with friends, and an end-of-year work celebration that turned into a Tuesday-drinkathon along High Street. I ate once in the central restaurant city location, but from then on this foodvan setup had me coming back every couple of months.

Yalla Yalla Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Hash, Melbourne 09-2015

I wandered down Hardware Lane in search of Hardware Societe, a cafe I hadn't been to before with its ridiculous 4.7 rating. For reasons unknown (perhaps it was hunger) I saw a place with a sign # and assumed this was it. Hash does have it's own charming interior so I'm not overly disappointed I ended up here. In fact I didn't realise until I left after paying the bill and walked further down the street to see the real Hardware Societe. The lessons we learn.

In Hash I was given a nice solo seat squeezed next to a narrow staircase. Considering I like being antisocial and indistinct when dining alone, this suited me perfectly.

Chai latte was creamy and not overly sweet. Chorizo & seared scallops on toasted sourdough with a fried egg, chilli & white bean spread ($20.5) had nice flavours but serving size was a bit small. I always like getting a side of black pudding but $5 for a few narrow slices is really quite ridiculous.

Next time I would order from Hardware Societe (considering it was my initial intention, is very near Hash, has ridiculously high ratings, and hopefully better value).

Hash Specialty Coffee  Roasters Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Meatmaiden, Melbourne 10-2015

I dreamt of opening a smokehouse myself in Melbourne. This came after the London rage initially lead by the exquisite smoked meats at Pitt Cue Co. ( I even bought the cookbook to complement the massive 22" Weber Smokey Mountain imported from the USA (which I haven't had a chance to use yet). One day I will smoke my own ribs and briskets and my world will be a better place.

In that time Melbourne has seen a few smokehouses open recently to fill this void. Of the few I've tried, none have particularly wowed me and I still persevere on and hope for the best. I must admit the menu at Meatmaiden has been one of the more impressive I've seen, and I've been meaning to try it for a while (not only because the name reminds me of some of my favourite burger experiences at MEATliquor and MEATmarket).

The place has nice decorations on the walls (think female models holding axes), a dimly lit industrial setting, and a glass window showcasing drying slabs of meat. It is good that the dining area doesn't smell of overwhelming smoking and cooking fumes, for although that would be a nice aroma, the smell imbedded on clothing would be less so.

Tangy chilli and sweet BBQ sauces are found on the table to complement the flavours of the dishes. Smoked Old Fashioned (classic old fashioned, Buffalo Trace Bourbon gunned down with applewood smoke, sugar syrup and bitters) $18 was an intensely smokey version with a touch of other flavours to make the whiskey more easily palatable.

- Burnt ends $11 - trimmed ends of beef ribs, reasonably tender and flavoured;
- 20-hour Rangers Valley, Wagyu brisket, Tasmanian pepper berry rub (200g) $25 - nice meat and decent tender texture;
- Lamb ribs, lemon crumb $20 - very fatty (a bit too much) meat with standard lamb flavour but minimal other seasoning;
- BBQ eggplant & roast tomato $19 - piping hot simple eggplant. For some reason I expected this to be smoked but it wasn't;
- Shaved fennel, pomegranate salad $8 - very delicious mix of textures and flavours showing how good raw fennel can be.

I'll still come back to eat these dishes again (except the lamb ribs) and try the beef short ribs, brick chicken, lobster mac & cheese and grilled Sher F1 Wagyu ribeye (1.1-1.2kg), the last one of which particularly sounds like a dream. It hasn't replaced Pitt Cue Co. for me but until I can capably make my own or find better in Melbourne, it'll be fine.

Meatmaiden Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Parlour Wine Room, Canberra 09-2015

One of the good things about movies at Palace (other than the general lack of kids, teenagers, crowds etc.) is the food options. I had a great meal at A. Baker once and Mocan & Green Grout is still on my list. I'd heard that Parlour was a very nice tapas place but the servings were tiny and expensive. Despite this I somehow ended up here before watching a Friday night movie.

For reasons I can't explain, Parlour occasionally has a Friday afternoon special where food ordered prior to 6pm is 2-for-1. Maybe it's a special ploy to get people in on a Friday night and spend more on drinks. Who knows, but it seemed a very fortunate and great value deal.

The serving sizes are reasonably sized and for half-price exceptionally valued.

- Confit organic garlic, lavosh, Canberra cows curd, pickled vegetables $17 - this was an unusual dish recommended by the waitress consisting of creating a small mouthful of bread, plain cheese and nicely burnt garlic. Overall it was ok but not really to my taste;
- Mushroom, manchego & rice croquettes, mojo picon $17 - a good mix of rice, mushroom and cheese but the outside could have been a little crispier with the frying;
- Dusted calamari, black garlic, squid ink, almonds $19 - calamari rings with one token baby legs excellent seasoned and fried to a soft fleshy perfection;
- Chili & garlic Australian prawns, piquillo pepper & coriander salsa $21 - 5 prawns with a salsa. Decent quality prawns that were a little softer than crisp but maybe not the value at full price;
- Slow roasted paprika lamb, baby nicola potatoes & dressed leaves $25 - a nice large serving of tender meat around the bone with potatoes and lettuce;
- Pan roasted free range duck breast, Patatas Riojanas & morcilla $28 - extremely tender medium-rare duck meat on some rounded potato slices and some black sausage.

I went back recently and paid full price. I suppose I ate more conservatively this time and so the price wasn't too exorbitant. The setting and decor are nice, and it's definitely a good option for pre-movie food and drink. The Facebook website lists occasional deals so might be worth timing the visit.

Parlour Wine Room Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Hammer & Tong, Melbourne 11-2015

Hammer & Tong has been on my list for months and months. Enough time had elapsed such that I couldn't quite remember why, but after coincidentally walking past the Soviet-looking logo off Brunswick Street, I ended up going the next morning. Funnily enough for a Sunday mid-morning I expected queues but was met with several empty tables including the window bench with people watching ability.

After looking at the menu I remembered why - breakfast ramen. I admit the thought of it months ago initially seemed a little odd, but one couldn't come here and not try the most interesting dish of all.

- Golden Gaytime milkshake $6.5 - considering the Gaytime (and probably Bubble O Bill) are my favourite childhood icecreams, how could I resist this milkshake? It certainly had the flavour and some crumb texture, but it lacked the thick texture of the classic. I suppose it was simply a thin milkshake as advertised whereas I'd have preferred a thickshake that used icecream;
- Breakfast ramen (62c hens egg, bacon, mushrooms, spring onion w bacon dashi) $19.5 - nicely cooked ramen in a ham hock broth (but nowhere near the smoked intense David Chang Momofuku version I didn't like) with some good quality ingredients. Overall very nice and different to a standard cafe breakfast;
- Duck egg & candied bacon waffle (sriracha caramel icecream, toffee popcorn, maple & seeded mustard syrup) $21 - Sriracha icecream? It tasted like it sounds with a hint of spicy and a slightly odd taste. It was a quite sweet breakfast which generally isn't my thing, but I can appreciate the concept.

There's so many things I'd like to try here. Ox cheek benedict, krispy fried chicken sandwich, lamb ribs, soft shell crab burger, briostie - or just go for the breakfast ramen again.

Hammer  Tong Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato