Auction Rooms, Melbourne 01-2017

In the final week in Melbourne, there was a spate of North Melbourne cafe-eating. Within 7 days, Twenty & Six, Auction Rooms and Fandango were all visited and Auction Rooms easily won the food award in my mind.

The menu is a little different now to the online one from 12/2016 - for example the pressed pork shoulder with morcilla isn't there anymore. But that disappointment faded as it gave me other (vegetarian) options to try.

- Grilled eggplant (with stuffed paratha bread, freekeh + brown rice salad, smoked hummus, preserved lemon, poached egg) $17.5 - a beautiful display of food combining many flavours and textures into an exceptional dish;
- Arepa e’huevo (Colombian corn pancakes, fried egg, poblano peppers, straw mushrooms, baby squash, goat’s curd, piquillo + walnut salsa) $18.5 - the corn pancakes exceeded those set by standard pancakes and had a nice corn/salt flavour to it. The other bits were fillers but the pancakes were the standout.

The servings were very generous and in the end finishing left us very very full. At least it was good and worth it.

Auction Rooms Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Gaijin, Melbourne 01-2017

Given the expense and general poor quality of seafood in the UK (I accept Europe isn't far away), I snuck in a final Japanese(ish) meal during my final days at work. I remember my one and only experience at Gaijin very favourably when they had an all-you-can-eat rolls deal many years ago.

- Agedashi tofu (deepfried soft tofu in dashi soy sauce with bonito flakes) $10 - the tofu was ok but not crisp enough, however the broth was overpoweringly and undrinkably salty;
- Prawn tempura cha soba (prawn tempura served with green tea cha soba, shredded nori, Gaijin special mayo & mentsuyu dip) $19 - tempura was simple and tasty, the soba was ok but couldn't tell there was green tea in it at all;
- Gaijin platter $36 - decent salmon and kingfish with standard tofu sashimi, a tiny bit of fluorescent green and tangy seaweed and a bit of diced salmon. The chosen half rolls were Spider vs. Dragon (a brilliant flavour and texture combination of soft shell crab, tempura, cream cheese, unagi and teriyaki sauce) and South Yarra (tuna, tempura and shrimp).

$36 is expensive and when you break it down you get two half rolls ($7 each) and a tiny bit of salmon salad (entree $13), seaweed salad (entree $7) and 9 sashimi ($10 for 8 otherwise). If there was full entree size salmon salad and seaweed salad it would be worth it, but it definitely isn't. Forget the platter and go for the dishes on their own.

There was also a 10% public holiday surcharge but they wouldn't accept the Entertainment Card on Australia Day (it isn't one of the exclusion days).

Gaijin Japanese Fusion Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Hellenic Republic, Melbourne 01-2017

It's been a while since I've visited Hellenic. The first was in Brunswick way back probably around 2010. Since then I've been Kew once and otherwise satisfied myself with a heap of Jimmy Grants experiences.

The leaving Melbourne-meal couldn't have a chosen a better place with iconic Melbourne/Greek food. They don't do this in London. I don't think they even do this in Greece (that I've seen).

- Taromasalata $10 - an eggplant dip with pita;
- Stuffed zucchini flowers, lemon herb ricotta $20 for 4 - decent sized flowers, mild stuffing;
- Grilled octopus, fava, capers $25 - lovely tender and delicious;
- Cypriot grain salad $13 - delicious as always, better than Jimmy Grants because you get the essential pomegranate here;
- Barramundi, charred leek, skordalia $27 - fish cooked nicely with crisp salty skin;
- Pastourma beef shortrib, byzantine dressing $25 - reasonably tender with some chilli and spice in the rub;
- Lamb shoulder, burst cherry tomato $35 - a beautifully tender and luscious joint with a good amount of meat;
- Chips, oregano, garlic oil, feta - saltier and less tangy (no lemon perhaps?) compared to the outstanding Jimmy Grants one;
- Haloumi loukoumades, lemon curd $13 - mild cheese in a bready ball;
- Nick's Galaktoboureko, semolina parfait, walnut filo, fresh mango $18 - not a fan of the wafer but the parfait was refreshing.

An excellent meal as expected. The grain salad, grilled octopus and lamb shoulder would be the highlights for me. Beef rib, chips and loukoumades a close second. All they have to do is make an octopus and beef rib souvlaki, then I can just stay at Jimmy Grants forever.

Hellenic Republic Kew Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

The Premises, Kensington 09-2016

After looking around Footscray, Seddon, Yarraville, Maidstone and Newport, the cafe circle in the West had me extending further out. The Premises in Kensington has a beautiful interior strangely located around a corner block with another shop wedged in the corner itself. Odd.

Nonetheless the menu with Middle Eastern influence appealed to me as did exploring a new area a little more. The lamb ribs I had were nice and flavoursome, and they weren't too overly fatty (perhaps the fat had been rendered out) but I could have used an extra rib or two. The underlying salad with chickpeas, fresh herbs and pomegranate was delicious and balanced well.

I didn't try the porridge but it looked good.

Considering there is no website, I'll have to remind myself to snap the menu next time, and I hope there will be a next time.

The Premises Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

ShanDong Mama, Melbourne 10-2016

There's been a few articles recently about the best dumplings around Melbourne. The city choices basically seem to be HuTong, ShanDong Mama, Tim Ho Wan and Din Tai Fung. I've heard mixed reviews about THW and their prices, DTF tends to have big queues (but great dumplings in chilli oil) and I don't mind XLB but it isn't my favourite of the dumplings. SDM is at least something different, and after visiting Mama Mini last year, I've always wanted to try the original (

- Fish dumplings (mackerel fillets, coriander, ginger, chives into a smooth mousse) $16.8 for 10 - these huge dumplings were served boiled and I asked for the chilli garlic sauce. The dumplings still remain unique in my eyes and may even be healthy...;
- Little Rachel dumplings (prawn, calamari, salmon, chives, Chinese cabbage & sesame oil) $14.8 for 12 - funnily enough they only list it in the boiled section but on this day they said they only have it available fried (I've been told that probably means they were frozen not fresh). The filling had nice chunks of flesh which was reassuring for the quality but otherwise wasn't anything particularly memorable; 
- Stirfry Crispy Prawns in Duck Eggyolk Sauce $24 - salted egg or duck eggyolk sauce seems to be a coating for squid, fish or prawns that I've enjoyed at Sichuan places recently. This one was far from being salty, but the creamy yolk texture and flavour added an extra great element to the medium sized and numerous prawns. One to eat with plenty of rice.

There are many other dumplings to pick from and I'd happily be back for these (need to ensure I try something different to Little Rachel next time). The other dishes are only to complement the rest for some variety. I'd stick to fried (where available) but accept steamed if it wasn't.

Shandong Mama Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Hello Gelo, Yarraville 10-2016

I've been meaning to try the icecream here for a while but due to it always being late or too cold or closed over winter, opportunity keeps passing. However I finally managed just before closing time and had pear and pistachio. In both, the main flavour was rather mild. For fruit I do tend to enjoy more tartness and I like my pistachio quite strong. For those reasons, I was a little disappointed. The texture was very smooth and seemed creamier more like icecream rather than gelato, and I do know I prefer gelato over icecream.

I'll definitely drop back to try some other flavours next time.

Hello Gelo Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Tandoori Times, Yarraville 10-2016

After a craving for curry, Aangan unfortunately (not unexpectedly) didn't have any free Friday night bookings. Tandoori Times seemed relatively well rated and so ended up the opportunity to explore Yarraville a little more than just Monday night cheap-movie night.

The menu is quite extensive. I tried to avoid any dish that advertised a sauce that could be eaten with any meat/seafood/vegetable combination and focus on specific things.

- Paneer Pakora (paneer stuffed with tangy mint and green chilli chutney, chicken pea battered and golden fried. This is a treat from the New Delhi Railway Station that’s a real classic) $10.95 - I didn't try this near New Delhi Railway Station but this was a plain cheese (as paneer is) nicely fried and served with an exceptional chutney that was more impressive than the paneer itself;
- Tandoori Time platter $20.9 - two nice lamb chops (one thick, one quite thin, could have been more rare and heavier spice), lovely tandoori chicken and lastly some chicken topped in an oily heavily flavoured melted cheese sauce that was great mixed with rice;
- Hyderabad's Dhania Beef (a delicate mix of freshly pureed coriander, green chilli, and mint sauce, spiced with flavours of southern masalas) - a nice curry with tender meat and a thicker sauce that seemed to taste of cumin (maybe it was a lot of coriander seeds). Nonetheless I liked it;
- Garlic naan and masala kulcha (naan stuffed with a spicy mix of paneer, potatoes, onions and fresh coriander) were both nice chewy breads and tasty to eat alone or soak up the curry.

Mango lassi was a nice version and not too sweet with no sugar crystals and the zeera one was a cumin seeded savoury version similar to salted buttermilk (and similarly to that I can't take it as a straight drink).

There's a lot to like about this place, not withstanding the location, the friendly staff, the entertaining reading in the menu and of course great food. There's plenty of things to try for next time including the dum biryani, special regional lamb/chicken/goat recipes and otherwise more tandoori.

Tandoori Times Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

The Falafel Man, Melbourne 10-2016

On a weekday trip to Prahran Market for supplies, the sun was shining and begged to be enjoyed. Aromas of the foodcourt were overpowered by falafel and so I was lured. Mama Falafel is around the corner on Chapel Street (and in the Entertainment Book) so it was important to see if this more convenient one was better. And it was, definitely. The fresh fried falafels had a coarse texture with visible herbs and perhaps some tomato or red pepper in it. The yoghurt sauce, chilli sauce, salad and pita meant I could recreate the pockets from Yalla Yalla ( And although a warm, thicker pita would be better, this was still an adequate replacement for now.

The Falafel Man Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Two Little Pigs, Melbourne 10-2016

On a howling windy day, a bike ride from Footscray to Brunswick may not have been the smartest idea. But there was a tiny little flower market advertised nearby and so after the 2 minute walk through, the reward and protection from the elements meant lunch.

I'd marked a few places in the area during a recent property search of the area so it was easy to see what my Google Maps would lead me to. The extremely unhealthy Banoffee smoothie (frozen banana, salted caramel, yoghurt & cocoa) was delicious and decadently sweet without being toxic. It's a nice milkshake that puts to shame the substandard base liquids of the freakshakes.

- Loaded Waffle (BBQ pulled pork, grilled cheddar, maple bacon pieces, pork crackle, spring onion & housemade maple BBQ sauce) $19.9 - a sweet waffle topped with savoury ingredients including really thick and salted pieces of crackling, chunky threads of pulled pork and bits of bacon. In the end it was a little too much for a brunch but I appreciated their unhealthy interpretation of the savoury waffle;
- Mushroom Scramble (herb roasted field mushroom, truffled scrambled eggs, pumpkin puree, zucchini & dill on sourdough) $17.9 - maybe it was because of the heavily flavoured pork, but this dish overall seemed quite bland and plain. The only flavour that shone through was the truffle oil which seemed a little too chemical to me (maybe just too much oil used).

The Pea & Ham is probably the only other dish on the breakfast menu that interests me. Otherwise there's many options down the street I'm sure.

Two Little Pigs Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Grain Store, Melbourne 10-2016

It's very rare that I go for a cafe brunch in the CBD. It may be because I've been spoilt for choice in Abottsford/Collingwood/Richmond or North Melbourne and now Footscray/Seddon/Yarraville that the CBD has always been less convenient and basically less impressive. Other than Hardware Societe and its excellent reputation (which I haven't tried), Cumulus Inc. apparently does a nice version from an expensive restaurant and Rustica Canteen is the option for up the Melbourne Central area. It's nice having an option in each region of the city.

Along the South-West/bottom-left corporate area of the city, Grain Store seemed to be full of suited clientele with or without a series of laptops. There were also a few tourist-looking people who had obviously looked for a place somewhere near Southern Cross station and the start of Crown.

- Black Pudding Sausage & Fried Onion Rings (with poached eggs, fresh apple remoulade, sweet potato jam) $19 - black pudding always gets me. I think they must have some less adventurous or experienced diners who expect black rice pudding as they had the need to emphasise "Sausage" on the menu and the waitress even confirmed with me I knew what it was. The black pudding had a very smooth texture but seemed to lack a very strong flavour. Usually there's the strong pork, a charred meaty-blood flavour and little cubes of fat (which I actually prefer not to have), but that's the standard. The eggs were cooked well and runny, the sweet potato puree was to swathe around the standard onion rings (I'm not a fan generally so perhaps not the best judge). The apple salad was nice and refreshing and crisp.

Overall I didn't enjoy it as much as other places although I'll admit I didn't order to my strengths and was blinkered by black pudding. The portobello mushroom and gruyere potato rosti may be worth the go next time if I end up in that pocket of the city again.

The Grain Store Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato