Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Dining with the Skamp - Supernormal, Melbourne

When people ask us what our favourite restaurants in Melbourne were, Supernormal is one of the first places that spring to mind. We left quite a few restaurants in Melbourne promising ourselves we’d go back. But then we got super engaged in crossing the Top 100 restaurants off the list and we never did. Except for Supernormal. We hit it first off for lunch on the second day of our trip, and the first day staying in the city. It’s a relatively large restaurant on Flinders Lane, with a large glass window and a cheery cherry neon sign welcoming you. We were offered a seat at the bar, as the dining area was full. No worries. We soon learnt that being a couple in Melbourne means you eat at the bar, or wait a long time. But if you are normally against this sort of thing, at least do it at Supernormal. Trust me, they’re the best seats in the house. Especially if you sit on the kitchen side, rather than the bar side. We not only received the best service from the bar staff and wait staff, we also watched the chefs at work, and chatted to them about what they were doing, and the best dishes to order. It was so incredibly fun, and we left feeling part of the Supernormal family.

Dining with the Skamp - Supernormal, Melbourne
Dining with the Skamp - Supernormal, Melbourne

The only downside of watching the food being cooked is that you get food envy, even though what you are eating is amazing. Which, apart from feeling like family (a sentiment backed up by the warm greeting we received on our second visit), was probably a large part of why this was the only restaurant we revisited. We were stuffed full, but so entranced by some dishes being plated, we had to try them!

Dining with the Skamp - Supernormal, Melbourne

As with the majority of restaurants in Melbourne (and Perth!), the dish style here is share plates. A form of meal Lance and I revel in. We started with the sea urchin crackers, a special of the day. The look of the sea urchin was a little off-putting (I think the term ‘manky vagina’ might have come up), but the dish itself was anything but manky. Raw, thinly sliced sea urchin, on a housemade seaweed cracker with pickled onion. The ocean flavour of the urchin was strong, the texture slightly chewy, slightly silky. The seaweed cracker snapped, crackled and dissolved as you ate it, like a thin prawn cracker, and the pickled onion set everything off.
Dining with the Skamp - Supernormal, Melbourne

The white cut chicken salad was ordered on a recommendation by Rob Broadfield at the reviewers lunch I attended, and it didn’t disappoint. The soba noodles, seaweed and spring onions the perfect base for the perfectly poached then chilled chicken and spicy sauce. The chicken was so tender and clean, not the slimy texture you can get with cold cooked chook.
Dining with the Skamp - Supernormal, Melbourne
Dining with the Skamp - Supernormal, Melbourne
Dining with the Skamp - Supernormal, Melbourne

We then went the bao route. Given my love of duck, that was a given, so we grabbed a duck leg seeing as there was just the two of us, and the pork bao. The pork was braised, crumbed and fried, and served with a tamarind sauce. This sauce was spicy, rather than the sticky sweet style of tamarind sauce I’m more used to. The spice and tartness of the sauce balancing the fluffy white mantou bun and rich fried pork well. The duck came DIY style. A plate of buns, a plate with the duck and cucumber, and a couple of sauce dishes. At first glance, the duck leg looked dusted in cocoa, but it was a dark, thin crispy shell created from the deep frying. It cracked open satisfyingly to reveal moist flesh that fell easily off the bone. The plum sauce and vinaigrette complimented it perfectly.
Dining with the Skamp - Supernormal, Melbourne
Dining with the Skamp - Supernormal, Melbourne

We wanted to keep eating at this point, but simply could not. So we ordered dessert. We shared the green tea and plum soft serve – playful in it’s colourful swirl, and texturally spot-on. The tart plum soft serve, compote and freeze dried pieces playing well against the grassy matcha. The peanut butter parfait was pure sweet heaven. A peanutty mousse on a macaron base with that wonderful chewiness macarons get. Salted caramel sauce, peanuts scattered about the place and a ball of chocolate ganache mousse finishing off the sweetness overload. Lance got this the second visit too.
Dining with the Skamp - Supernormal, Melbourne
Dining with the Skamp - Supernormal, Melbourne
Dining with the Skamp - Supernormal, Melbourne
Dining with the Skamp - Supernormal, Melbourne
Dining with the Skamp - Supernormal, Melbourne

Our second visit was our last dinner in Melbourne and made the perfect finish to the trip. We ordered three dishes, only one of which is still on the menu a few months later – the New England Lobster rolls. These were sweet and delicate parcels of lobster in a soft buttery bun. And my dessert was the baked ginger pudding. Straight from the oven in a cast iron pan, this dense gingerbread style pudding was everything Christmas dreams are made of. Realistically, this was big enough to be a share pudding – but after two weeks of doing nothing but eating, I greedily fit in the whole thing! Lance was too busy eating a peanut butter parfait to care too much!

Definitely deserves it's spot on our top 3 "normal" restaurant list. (Vue de Monde is in a class of it's own!!)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Dining (and mini-golfing) with the Skamp - Tipo 00, Melbourne

Melbourne Mini-Golf
Melbourne Mini-Golf

Lance and I both love mini-golf. And it was telling a casual co-worker about this love that initially spawned Lance’s anniversary surprise holiday to Melbourne. He was told there was one about an hour out of Melbourne that we *had* to do. Before he could get the specifics about the course, this colleague left and Lance was left to investigate himself. And there seemed to be multiple options. No matter! He formed a for us a mini-golf tour of Melbourne. It was perfectly planned and more than a little crazy – which tends to be how most of our tours and tournaments end up. Crazy, pushing our physical limits and just So. Much. Fun. We’d fly out at midnight, getting in to Melbourne at 6am. We’d grab a rental car and then drive course to course until a winner was determined. All up, there was about 4 hours of driving between the venues, with 8 courses to play across 5 venues. We’d then drop the car off in the city, just around the corner from our hotel, check in then get a bite to eat. Dinner that first night was always supposed to be a simple affair. Just a quick meal to fill us up and get us to bed early to get over the midnight horror and full-on day. Instead, we walked a few hundred meters to a little Italian place I’d stumbled across in my research called Tipo 00 and got an early start to the best restaurants tour of Melbourne.

Melbourne Mini-Golf
Melbourne Mini-Golf
Melbourne Mini-Golf

When I say the tournament was perfectly planned – we didn’t factor in one thing – Melbourne weather. It was sunny and warm in Perth when we booked the car and finalised the tour schedule. It was not when we arrived in Melbourne at 5:30am. Sleepless and cold, the lovely Thrifty folk let us sit in their office for half an hour before they opened and could serve us, and we headed out to the first course. And it rained the whole drive. And it rained off and on the whole course. And it was freezing. The guys in the golf pro course thought we were insane. Yes, we had turned into crazy golfers who played rain or shine. They have two 18 whole courses at Yarra Bend, so we had a coffee in between the two to warm our fingers enough to hold the clubs. At the next course, it appeared to have gotten colder. And it started hailing. Yes, now we were crazy golfers who played rain, HAIL, or shine. Luckily, the second of these two courses was mainly undercover. They informed us that our next stop was actually closed that day. So, freezing, tired (we’d now gone around 30 hours without sleep) and wet…we decided to call the tournament early. Four courses completed, Lance was the overall winner. But deciding it was too cold to continue was the best decision we made. The second best decision was eating at Tipo.

Tipo 00 - bread and wine
Tipo 00 - Lingua – grilled ox tongue, balsamic vinegar & pink peppercorns
Tipo 00 - Entree Special - Wild mushrooms with smoked wagyu

It’s a fairly unassuming little spot, but hugely popular. It’s interior is rustic and welcoming, dimly lit and warm. We were told there would be a half-hour wait, but that there’s a lovely wine bar up the road, they’ll call us when we can eat. Perfect. Just as I finished the last sip of my vermouth, the phone rang. I’d recently introduced Lance to Lalla Rookh in Perth, where we ate the il Capo menu and it was hugely tempting to go for that option here. There was so much on the menu we wanted to try, that it seemed a good way to do it. But our curiosity to try a few specific dishes won out and we ordered ala carte instead.

Tipo 00 - Riso vialone nano – stinging nettles & saltbush risotto

We decided on two entrees and two mains to share, and the sommelier and wait staff then helped us pick two wines available in the half bottle that would go with our options. I love half-bottle options, especially at places where the half-price is exactly half the bottle price. More flavours, same price! The wine list was mainly Italian, not a lot I was familiar with, so the staff knowing the wine inside out was a huge help. Our dishes were the entrĂ©e special of the day – wild mushrooms, with smoked wagyu and housemade rosemary crisps and the grilled tongue. The tongue is thinly sliced and concertina’d onto a skewer before being grilled, so it’s both aesthetically interesting and has lots of crispy exterior bits as you bite into it. For mains we had clam and smoked tomato spaghetti – as I’ve mentioned many a time, Lance is currently obsessed with smoking things, so this was one of the dishes that made us lean away from the set menu. The little smoked cherry tomatoes were fabulous – but there weren’t enough of them. I think the dish totalled 10 clams and only 4 tomatoes. The flavours combined so well, but needed more of the sweet smoky bursts of flavour. The stinging nettle and saltbush risotto was vibrantly green in colour and flavour. It was decidedly different, and one of the best risottos I've eaten.

Tipo 00 - Riso vialone nano – stinging nettles & saltbush risotto

Given how much we’d enjoyed the food thus far, skipping dessert was simply not an option, which set a decadent precedent for the remainder of our Melbourne Food Odyssey. Lance ordered the torta del giorno, which was a light and airy white chocolate mousse dish which I remember as being a little lacking in textural variation. My dessert is their signature – the Tipomisu – or their take on the classic tiramisu. It was Oh. My. Gosh. Fabulous. A dense chocolate brownie round filled with sweetened rum mascarpone, topped with chocolate and then smothered in the richest coffee caramel sauce you could imagine. I still have dreams about that sauce. Such an intense coffee flavour, tempered by the caramel, without sweetening it too much and a hint of salt to further round out the coffee bitterness.

Tipo 00 - Torta del GiornoTipo 00 - Tipomisu

 As we do with Lalla Rookh, we left proclaiming that we would try and head back there to try a few more dishes. And we had the best of intentions of doing just that – especially considering the restaurant was only a 5 minute walk from our hotel. But other restaurants beckoned and we didn’t end up back there. Sadly. Maybe next trip we’ll do the rest of the tournament and go back for the chef’s menu. In summer.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

All's Quiet on the Blogging Front - Eating around Melbourne

Duck Waffles at Cumulus Up
Peking Duck at Flower Drum

So, it's been a while since my last post, but it's been with good reason! My husband surprised me with a holiday to Melbourne for an anniversary present and so instead of cooking (and photographing, and blogging), I've been eating food. So. Much. Food.

Smoked Tomato and Clam Pasta - Tipo 00
Cured Scallops at Rockwell & Sons

When he told me we were going to Melbourne, he asked if I could do a bit of research and find a few restaurants we should go to. Mission, accepted! We've both been to Melbourne once before, and absolutely loved it - but didn't really know the go-to places for good eats. I put a shout-out on my Instagram, I asked Rob Broadfield when I met him at The Trustee Food Review lunch, I checked on Yelp, I found a few Melbourne blogs and re-read my Gourmet Traveller reviews. 
Matcha Soft Serve at Supernormal
The Dessert Platter at Gingerboy

Whilst taking on lots of advice and ideas, our main food plan came down to the Top 100 restaurants list that was being compiled by the Australian Financial Review. It started off with a list of 500 restaurants Australia-wide, that chefs and restaurateurs then voted on to get the best 100 restaurants in Australia.
Alpaca Tartare at Pastuso
Grilled Prawns with Squid Ink CousCous at Bar Lourinha

When we left Perth, only the top 500 were released so we started eating our way around Melbourne, whilst we also indulged in 2 of our other shared passions - putt-putt and pinball. (We held our own Melbourne Pinball Tournament - more details on that in the future!!). The Top 100 list was released mid-holiday so we started re-focussing our last few days of eating on the winners. By the time we got home, we'd eaten at 11 of the Top 100 restaurants in Melbourne. Not bad for a 13 day trip, hey?
Smoked Brisket and sides at Le Bon Ton
Creamed Corn at The Town Mouse

I'll go into more depth on some of the incredible dishes and highlight restaurants we ate at over the coming weeks, but I just thought I'd check in and say hi! And I'll also get back to cooking and blogging my own dishes!

The Denise and the Huxtaburger

Have you been to Melbourne? What is your must-eat at restaurant?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Margaret River Gourmet Escape

Cape Naturaliste
This past weekend was the Margaret River Gourmet Escape. An annual food festival that consists of two days of "Village" Life - hundreds of stalls, exhibitors and presentations at the Leeuwin Estate Winery, as well as a host of "Satellite Events" over 3 days. These satellite events are mainly meals hosted by various locations in the Southwest. Chefs from all over the world come to take part in this Food and Wine Extravaganza.

The Gourmet Village at Leeuwin Estate Winery

There were so many events I wanted to go to, and so many events that having seen photos, I am disappointed that I didn't get to. But given logistics and funds, I limited myself to one satellite event, and a day at the Gourmet Village. The choice of Satellite Event was a no-brainer for me - From Catch to Cape, a seafood feast at Cape Naturaliste Winery, with chefs from Stokehouse. If you have read this blog often, you'll know how much I love Cape Naturaliste wines. This was a meal I had to attend.

A girlfriend and I headed down to Molloy Island on Thursday night, spent Friday wine shopping and eating our way around the South West. I picked up some Venison Chorizo, some Margaret River Dairy cheeses and wines for both the weekend, and to stock the fridge back home. And stopped off at Boranup Gallery for coffee and cake!

Friday my husband came down straight from work, then he played taxi for our lunch on Saturday. Dropping us off at Quindalup Boat Ramp early in the morning, then picking us up from the winery after we'd eaten and drunk to our hearts content. Our day consisted of a Whale Watching Cruise, followed by a Seafood Meal cooked by Chef Oliver Gould and a team from Stokehouse paired with Cape Naturaliste wines. I thought he got the raw end of the deal, just being taxi. But he in the meantime had himself the degustation at the recent WA Good Food Guide Regional Restaurant of the Year Award winner - Wills Domain!

Me and my partner in food on the boat!
Blue Swimmer Crab Tart, Eggplant Puree, Salmon Roe, Baby Chervil
Kingfish Crudo, cucumber, mussel vinaigrette
Baked Scallops, citrus sabayon, pistachios, fennel cream
BBQ Gummy Shark, green chili and ginger salsa verde 
Baked Dhufish Fillets, tomato, red onion and caper sauce, green beans, kipfler potatoes in anchovy butter
Chef Oliver Gould and Owner Craig Brent-White

Sunday we ate our way around the Gourmet Village, and watched several of the presentations. A highlight for me was watching Rick Stein show us how to prepare and squid, and take the meat out of a lobster. Rick Stein's Seafood Odyssey was one of the first cooking shows I ever watched and he is such a charming man in real life.

Crispy soft shell crab tortilla with smokey corn salsa, chipotle mayonnaise - Pork shoulder cooked in aBahen & Co. Chocolate sauce with adobo and jalapeno chilis with avocado salsa
Smoked Ocean Trout with green mango salad, nim jam 
Rick Stein
Chef Sam Ward from El Publico teaching us tortilla skills

For all of my photos from my time away, check out my Facebook Album