Saturday, 26 May 2012

Newsflash! A Temasek Update

Ok ... I have updated my Year in Music page for 2012 ... so go and ch-ch-ch-check it out! And please feel free to agree and/or disagree. Love to know what you think. Just to get you pumped up for it, this little number is on there!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Newly Minted Builder's Arms - Can Andrew M do no wrong??!!

Ok ... what is fast turning into a regular thing, me and JD had another girl's catchup and checked out the revamped Builder's Arms to see how much of an alchemist Andrew McConnell is. You may wish to check out my posts on Cummulus Inc here, and Cutler and Co. here.

The Builders Arms used to be a regular Thursday night haunt many many many moons ago. It was the venue for Q&A - the queer and alternative night and my hangout till it jumped the shark and played the Spice Girls!!

Then it turned into some kind of space aged barbarella george and mildred retro hybrid with average food and even less average staff. You may wish to read my thoughts here.

Now all that try-hard excess has been stripped right back to bare boards and white walls which are pending some special artworks as we are reliably informed by our mutton-chopped maitre'd. And areas are being sectioned, although the flow isn't quite there yet so you need help navigating the space.

But here's the lowdownhoedown - you have your bar area (not that many places to sit at so you're screwed if its packed) where the menu is restrictive and consists mainly of snackage.

Then you have your restaurant area, with a fuller dining menu, but it doesn't take any bookings, only walk-ins ... and you already know my opinion on that subject!

Come July, another section of the old pub called Moon Under Water, will have a separate bar and menu (I gather this is the posh end of town, so to speak) which will take bookings.

And finally 2 areas upstairs for private parties, the smaller of which is a corner room with windows looking out onto good ole Gert, complete with a turntable for you to spin some "choons" (I'm loving this btw) and a minimum spend of at least $2500 if taken on any night from Monday to Thursday - a higher rate on the weekends obviously - and comfortably seats 16 - you could squeeze in more, but best to bring your own protection.

Right, but whats the pull and attraction, its, as with every other McConnell joint, the food. If you're going to bitch about prices because its a pub ... stop reading now ... and really why are you reading this blog anyways? Yes its a gastro-pub, get over it ... like Jessie J says "am I the only one getting tired".

So after downing a Cotes du Rhone by the glass, we eschewed the Bar Snacks menu and headed to a table in the Bistro. JD as mentioned previously is vego, but thankfully eats seafood.

So we opted for 2 appetizers, 2 entree sharing plates, one main and a bowl of chips (obviously!). And we said Pshaw! to our waitor's suggestion of having something green.

The first thing brought to the table was the Whipped Cod Roe. I know its not wise to peak so soon but this was to die for!! And a definite must order when you come here. It was smokey, salty, unctuous and rich, but not overpoweringly so.

I'm afraid that the Smoked Curd, Crudite and Pomegranate paled in comparison somewhat. We may have had a different opinion if this had come to the table on its own. Still the accompanying baby veg was cooked or rather uncooked to perfection. And not a microfuckingherb in sight! Brilliant.

The first of our entree plates was the Smoked swordfish with capers, dill and apple. Again fresh and exciting flavours and those tiny little capers provided just the right balance of piquancy.

But it was our 2nd entree plate that pretty much stole the show ... and guess what the main ingredient was ... carrots!! Who would have thunk that such a boring vegetable (ok in my books anyway) could taste so amazing. We had the Organic Carrots served with harissa, almonds and barrell aged fetta. The harissa was suitably spicy but not overpoweringly so You could taste the almonds, the sweetness of the carrots and the salty hit from the fetta. I would not have imagined in a million years that I would be recommending something as pedestrian as carrot ... but this is another must order. Trust me!!

Finally, for a main we had the Wild Barramundi served with cauliflower, burnt butter (Maggie would have creamed her jeans) and lemon. Try and imagine the softest fish you have ever tasted, melting like cream with each mouthful ... you're only halfway there. This was so beautiful words cannot describe the texture of the fish and the freshness of the flavours. With cooking this good, I can't wait to go back and work my way through the entire menu.

You may or may not have noticed that I didn't mention dessert when I did the menu roundup at the start ... well Fait Accompli peops Fait Accompli!!

For Dessert we had the Poached meringue with frozen curd and sour quince jelly ... I know ... me and quince right?? Not exactly besties ... but then again I was even willing to go the Chocolate Prune pudding ... I just can't say No to JD. And what was the dessert like well it was ............... did you get that? That was the sound of someone eating and telling you to fuck off with your "goes without sayings".

Go Go Go!!

And here's Q&A Jumping the Shark:

Builders Arms Hotel on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Treasure Island - bought on a whim

Ok ... this month I found less in my pay packet and nothing left over for savings so what do I do? ... I go and splash out on a framed print that I don't really need and can ill-afford ... but fuck it! Its a Stanley Donwood! If you're a Radiohead fan, then you'll understand why his work looks oddly familiar. He's done a few album covers and logos for the band. So my prized possesion, called Treasure Island, sits nicely on the mantlepiece, caressed by mood lighting from a Freedom lamp:

Oh and its signed ... but unfortunately its an open edition, meaning that its not a limited print run, he may choose to print more or he may not. Here's hoping.

Also in other "art/design" breaking news, we have finally hung the Kimono Belt we bought at 20% off over at Made in Japan. Its a bolt of deco heaven in blue and orange. Photo does not do it justice.

And finally at a recent scrounge round the Smith Street Bazaar, we collected a pair of these chrome leather chairs that now sit comfortably in all their ergonomic glory round the breakfast table.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

I want Candy ... well candied lemons that is!! CBA Friday at Sapa Hills

Ok ... so putting aside prejudices we decided to grace the clean, modern halls of Footscray's concension to the burgeoning anglo-saxon dollar, Sapa Hills. And if I tell you that they have been successful enough to have opened another branch in Hawthorn, you may perhaps surmise the type of clientele this place is aiming at. However, this does not necessarily have a transverse effect on the quality of the food as we sheepishly discovered on a recent CBA Friday.

Sapa Hills has upped the ante in the interior design stakes, and I guess a greater amount of care, or should I say an equal amount of care is given to housekeeping concerns, at least at front of house if nowhere else. Staff are also nicely turned out in crisp(-ish) white tops. Prices are comparable to everywhere else these days, although I have to say that the South side (the market side) of Hopkins Street will need to start bucking their game. The last 2 visits at previously deemed favourites were not quite as memorable.

The menu attempts to provide some background on the sort of cuisine they serve, which is a nice touch. We jokingly thought of ordering spring rolls, lemon chicken, fried rice and beef with black bean sauce. But what we did try was firstly the Stuffed Chicken Wings.

Not quite sure what this was actually stuffed with, but I'm thinking it was a mixture of chicken and pork, but I could be wrong. It sort of reminded me of the frozen meals our ex-landlady, who's Vietnamese, used to ply us with. She'd stuff at least 2 or 3 different dishes into the same plastic bag so that it formed an unearthly conglom of unappetising colourless meat. Despite not being quite certain what the stuffing was, we enjoyed our chicken wings, especially when dipped into the accompanying bright red sauce, which tasted like a mixture of honey, diluted tomato sauce and lemon ... ok that doesn't quite read the same as it tasted ... which was yummy!

We doused this down with an Avocado smoothie each. Is there anything better? Well, maybe the Indonesian style which is served with Gula Melaka. Still feels like swallowing phlegm (sorry readers I had to go there!) but in a nice way ... hahaha.

We also had the Rare Beef Coleslaw ... HEA-ven!!! This is a must try. Full of fresh herbs and flavours ... the highlight being thin slivers of lemon rind all through the salad ingredients. Amazing.

For extra protein, we ordered the salt and pepper rockling, which tasted like a healthy alternative to your bird's eye fish fingers served with a smattering of crunchy fried noodles. Sapa Hill's version is not drenched in oil or msg. And we recommend scooping up the bed of assorted diced vegetables that the fish pieces sit on into your rice.

To complete the meal, our vegetable option was the Water Spinach and preserved beancurd. I have to say this dish does not do it for me at all, and never really has, but M is an absolute fan. He said that it was delicious and one of the better versions he's had. I still find like its eating greens drenched in baby sick, or something that has been cooked in the water from a Singapore drain ... harsh I know ... but I call it as I see's it. *snap snap*  I don't mind having the preseved bean curd as an accent or a dipping sauce, but not right through a dish. Still if you like that sort of thing, then this is the dish for you. The greens looked shiny and bright and were just the right side of crunchy.

So yes I will eat humble pie and admit that not all plastic fantastic places serve watered down and overpriced cuisine. I should keep my reverse prejudice in check.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Toot Toot Hey Beep Beep - when will this all end!

Ok ... I thought I was exaggerating when I remarked that they keep dropping like flies ... but its beyond a joke now. Please not my Donna!! Sadly, she is no longer with but her memories and legacy remains ... Vale Queen of Disco, you soundtracked many of my teenage years and provided pleasure well into my adult years. I am eternally grateful but for now my heart bleeds.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

In Honour of His Purple Majesty's visit

(gif file pinched off Thousands Website!)

I'm liking this shade of brown ... dinner at Mabrown

Ok ... sometimes those all-in-ones in the far reaches of outer suburbia (ok ... its Balwyn!) succeed when they really have no right to ... especially when service is extremely chaotic and staff are borderline downs. I was actively discouraged from writing about this well-guarded secret, but the truth is already out there as envisaged by the wealth of voluntary links on this restaurant's Urban Spoon page. I am of course talking about MaBrown, the not-Malaysian-but-really-Chinese restaurant in Balwyn.

Firstly, lets debunk the all-in-one myth ... they bill themselves as Malaysian, Thai and Chinese ... but lets face it ... the majority of dishes are Chinese in flavour, source and inspiration so be warned.

Secondly, I'm not exaggerating when I say that service is chaotic. I recommend that you book and when they invite you (i.e. force you) to pre-order ... do it!! Which means you will need to do your homework, but if its your first time there ... go for their recommended specialties. You will not be dissappointed ... the specialties of the house list is not just a marketing ploy.

Thirdly, the food (although not quite amazing!) is pretty darn good! Prices are what you expect for this side of town.

The one thing you should not miss out on is the Spicy Quails! You pay by the number. There was 4 of us, so we had 6 quails which works out to be a Quail and a half each. Absolutely delicious and yes they are spicy, not quite the searing "tear bits out of the roof of your mouth" Singaporean scoville standard, but just the right accent of heat.

We also had the beef and chinese broccolli ... which shock horror was not overly salty, and not drenched in oil either. Although it was at this point in the meal that the fawlty toweresque service reached its nadir when we were duly informed that they had run out of chilli sauce ... and all they could muster was about 4 spoldges of chilli oil in a condiment bowl.

We ordered the Steamed Fish (which along with the quail is another specialty of the house) chinese style. This dish would easily make my Top 10 on deathrow list. I still think my own humble version is better, but other charlatans take note, the encumbering sauce is sweet, not from sugar, but from the sweetness of the fish and the ginger and the spring onions.

Our fourth and final choice was the beef spare ribs ... which was a tad on the sweet and sour side but yummy nonetheless ... well it all got polished off anyways ... which at the end of the day is the best recommendation of a restaurant I guess.

So while Melbourne is in the grip of Purple fever, I recommend you take in a little bit of the colour brown ... Mabrown to be exact. You won't be dissappointed ... entirely!

PS ... yes I know it was a bad pun. But I had to work it all in somehow.

Mabrown on Urbanspoon

Monday, 14 May 2012

Joolia Goolia!!

Ok ... I really don't want the mad monk in power ... do you? So c'mon Joolz, Obama has, you can too!!

(paste ups from one of Melbourne's alleyways)

Monday, 7 May 2012

Footscray Milking Station

Ok ... so we finally made it to the Footscray Milking Station.

It was one of those amazing Melbourne autumnal days, slight chill in the air but with the sun packing a mean punch. Footscray Milking Station is slightly further out from us than W48 ... but far outclasses its competitor in the stakes of food, vibe and most importantly coffee. FMS uses Padre's house blend and you can certainly tell the difference.

This cafe on the leafy corner of Bunbury and Cowper Streets beckons you into a welcoming sea of green pastel hues and milky white accents. Altogether a very cheery aspect ... and the staff are amazingly convivial. It must be a great place to work at.

We started our afternoon repast with said Padre coffees and sat down to a deliciously uncomplicated meal that somehow made the world a much better place and life seem full of endless possibilities ... I know I am waxing lyrical here ... but its the first time I have really felt that the West has finally arrived ... that we've beat them at their own game ... plus we have the added colour, variety and contribution from a myriad of cultures also on our doorstep ... so we are doubly blessed.

M opted for homemade baked beans (his litmus test dish for brunching cafes) served with yummy crusty sourdough bread and real butter! (sorry but we are on a diet and very rarely have real butter).

I had the corn cakes served with relish, guacamole and slices of bacon. The perfect lunch and exactly the flavours I was after ... although we sheepily asked for the Salsa Picante ... which they brought to the table without batting an eyelid or scrunching a face.\

We have not milked this station dry ... and will certainly return for another tweak. I have my sights on the Beef Ragu wrap!

PS ... erm why would you need to have a Costco membership just to (a) park the car and (b) have a sticky beak!? Preposterous.

Footscray Milking Station on Urbanspoon

I beg for a reprieve!

Ok ... I'd love to tell you dear ones that I have been too busy living life to update my blog ... the truth is I've been popping antibiotics in a desperate attempt to quell the swelling tide in my throat that has rendered all oral sustenance a chore rather than the usual pleasure it affords (also thanks to a surfeit of Vintage classics I seem to have adopted a rather Victorian turn of phrase!).

Thankfully I am surely on the mend, and I have ... well ... not very much to catch up on. But lets do a Random thoughts rundown anyways:

- Firstly ... Doncaster Shoppingtown ... Amaze"balls"!!! My friend JD was right, its not unduly massive but there's just something about it that makes it feel other than your run-of-the-mill shopping centre. Anyhoo, it also has the Apple Store with a Genius bar where my old skool iphone got fixed. Oh yes I was without my iphone (and more importantly my iPod!) for 3 whole days ... I was already climbing the walls and developing an allergic stress induced smacky itch!

- Secondly ... with Doncaster Shoppingtown on one end of the scale, waaaayyyyy over on the other side in tumbleweed country is Harbour Town!! Ok so I admit I am a bit of a snob when it comes to these things ... but it was like stepping into a different world altogether, where the smells of polyester and rubber reign supreme! I mean a whole 2 levels of total tack!! How does this happen in Victoria? WA yes! But not Melbourne.

- Thirdly ... I may have possibly had the best vanilla slice EVAH!! at Depot de Pain ... they call it a milles feuilles (fancy!) and they sell cans of goose rillet at $75 a pop ... but don't let that put you off. I am not a fan of vanilla slices (or snot blocks) because the bottom bit always has the texture of cardboard and the custard invariably tastes fake! But this one was divine!

- Fourthly ... my trusty friends at Padre have reliably informed me that a Magic (sorry fatboo!) is simply a hipster way of ordering a strong flat white.

Next up ... we finally made it to the Footscray Milking Station!
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