Ferrovia Deli & Fine Foods – Pascoe Vale – Saturday 6 August 2016 – Breakfast

Eggs Florentine with a side of Hash Browns

Eggs Florentine with a side of Hash Browns

Spoilt for choice in Richmond, I cannot help the small pang of jealousy that Pascoe Vale has Ferrovia Deli & Fine Foods. Here is a cute neighbourhood café that is comparatively small both inside and out, with a feel of the suburbs.

There is no line, but there is a sizeable enough crowd to deliver a nice atmosphere. The service is relaxed and friendly, but still well tuned. All aspects feel comfortable and homely.

I came across Ferrovia about six months ago when looking for a coffee in what is a random area for me having led an existence around the inner city for all the years I’ve lived in Melbourne. Back in Perth I grew up in the suburbs, but there were no quality cafes within cooee. At that first time the coffee was great, and I instantly vowed to return for breakfast.

The interior is rustic, with dark tones; the focus being on the display window, tables and chairs scattered around where they can fit. Looking at the menu there are plenty of good looking options. A traditional dish, but one I’m not familiar with, the Eggs in Purgatory jumps out to Catherine. I decide to try an old classic that I haven’t eaten in a long time.

Eggs in Pergatory with a side of bacon

Eggs in Purgatory with a side of bacon

Catherine’s eggs in waiting for heaven is basically poached eggs in a Napoli sauce topped with with pesto and pecorino cheese. This dish is made by the rich Napoli sauce which is oozing flavour, freshened by the pesto. Obviously all of the ingredients are on the heavier side, but Catherine loves the combination.

My eggs Florentine also has perfectly poached eggs, the yolk running over just-steamed spinach. The hollandaise is terrific, and this classic combination is executed much better than average. The whole dish makes me regret not having ordered it for years. Our sides of bacon and crunchy hash browns, in particular, are excellent too.

Ferrovia’s coffee is fantastic. Using only a blend, the three I try are consistent, my long black each time is well made. Catherine’s orange juice is freshly squeezed; nice and sweet.

Out in the suburbs, Ferrovia is serving up food and coffee that stands up to the better cafes in inner city Melbourne. It goes to show that driving that extra bit doesn’t necessarily reduce the quality, but you certainly won’t have to wait in line as the weekend goes by.

Ferrovia Deli & Fine Foods Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Attica – Ripponlea – Thursday 28 July 2016 – Dinner

Emu's Egg

Emu’s Egg

Expectations are one of the most important ingredients in any restaurant experience. Try as we might to lower them to a reasonable level, the more hype, and the longer the wait between booking and dining, the more difficult it is to not over inflate. For me, tonight’s dinner at Attica is the most prone to setting expectations to unreasonable levels, so I jotted them down in the hope of being objective.

Cook's Leaves

Cook’s Leaves

There are many obvious, and a few less obvious reasons, why I expect to have one of the best restaurant experiences of my life here. Of course, Attica is Melbourne’s highest ranked restaurant on any number of guides, over a number of years. The less obvious reason is that I already rank Ben Shewry’s temple as one of the top experiences I’ve had in Australia, and around the world. But that was five years ago. Now that it is mentioned in the same breath as some of the world’s greatest restaurants, you hope for the small (but important) improvements you’ve read a little about to take it to the next level.

Chicken Carrot

Chicken Carrot

As we walk out the back to the restaurant garden, to be greeted by one of the pastry chefs, and are offered tea and a home made mint slice biscuit (that is delicious), we get a chance to reflect on one of our great meals in the cold winter air. So far, in the lead up to dessert, we have tried twelve snacks, and four courses of savoury dishes. There are highlights; but there are no lowlights. It is hard to imagine being happier with a meal. Attica is putting an emphasis on native Australian ingredients, in a completely approachable manner, with hardly an ounce of pomp.

Catherine with her Cuppa Tea (post mint slice!)

Catherine with her Cuppa Tea (post mint slice!)

Personally I like challenging food that makes you think and take notice, and there are different ways to achieve wonder and awe. At Orana, which also has an Australiana focus, you are presented with ingredients like green ants that do taste great, but are challenging to approach. I think Attica is making you take notice in a different way, with more subtlety, and some familiarity in the flavour combinations.

Gazza's Vegemite Pie

Gazza’s Vegemite Pie

An example that has stuck in my mind for this past week is the saltbush fed lamb pie. Classical Australian presentation (resting on a brown paper bag), the pie has some manchego grated over it, and there is vegemite in the filling with the saltbush lamb. It is brilliant, absolutely brilliant, and I can’t stop thinking about it. There is some challenge in a few ingredients though.

Aged Santa Claus Melon

Aged Santa Claus Melon

To preface, I haven’t mentioned service yet, but our waitpersons use the perfect balance of professionalism and friendliness, along with genuine care. Towards the beginning we have a conversation about the meal ahead. It is the type of discussion that puts you at ease because you realise that your waitpersons are there to guide and improve your experience, and there doesn’t seem to be this overarching will of the chefs being pushed upon you, like some other fine dining establishments.

Salted Red Kangaroo and Bunya Bunya

Salted Red Kangaroo and Bunya Bunya

Our waitperson explains that one thing they need to confirm we are comfortable eating is the kangaroo tartare. Here we are talking about raw meat, and a particular meat that isn’t eaten often by most people. We are happy to try it as we trust the ability of the chefs and the quality of the ingredients. Catherine did hesitate though. As it turns out, our first savoury course is one that you really do not want to miss. Cleverly the raw roo is hidden under a beautifully presented collage of thinly sliced red carrots. Not only does the carrot work for presentation, it adds texture to the dish. The roo is beautifully seasoned and it seems this is a terrific way to eat this meat, which is always a difficult one to cook.

Smashed Avo on Toast

Smashed Avo on Toast

An ode to our breakfast culture comes in the form of “smashed avo on toast” with minced avocado, tiny mint, finger lime, and apple, on a crisp cracker. It evokes memories of the first time you tried this now staple café dish, and the intricacy pushes the boundaries of what is already a wonderful classic combination.

Marron, Lilly Pilly and Pearl

Marron, Lilly Pilly and Pearl

Alongside the playful, and the intriguing, is the classical. Glorious marron from my home state of Western Australia, is perfectly cooked, and comes with a lemon myrtle sauce, which is a feature ingredient of several dishes, including the equally sublime scallop snack. We were having wine by the glass off a reasonably priced and diverse list, and with this dish the elegant Domenica Roussanne Marsanne 2013 from Beechworth, worked beautifully.

Hand Dived Scallop

Hand Dived Scallop

There were some other wine highlights, starting with the 2008 Lark Hill Sparkling from Canberra, which had the versatility you need with several courses of snacks. The Pinot Meunier Pinot Noir 2011 from Iron Bay Pot in Tasmania was also particularly good with the kangaroo tartare.

Stemware by Zalto

Stemware by Zalto

The famous potato cooked in its own soil has been replaced by an equally gorgeous “all parts of the pumpkin” dish that is a familiar concept having seen a similar focus at O.My recently. Texture from the seeds; richness from the flesh; and complexity from the sour beer cream infused with juice from the skin. It comes together in a dish that makes you feel like Shewry could turn his restaurant vegetarian tomorrow, and it would still be just as good.

All Part of the Pumpkin

All Parts of the Pumpkin

There is little theatrics, but a lot of novelty done in an intelligent way. The wallaby blood pikelet sits atop a playful recipe that is not so much a recipe, but a larrikin’s tale. The crumbed mussels have some extra crunch from the pig face succulent topping, but are not as intriguing as the painted mussel shell. The carrot, which curls when put in freezing water, is presented in a hollow rooster dish, but the flavour of the chicken minced with sorrel, kale and tarragon, is impeccable, far outshadowing any of the fun presentation.

Wallaby Blood Pikelet

Wallaby Blood Pikelet

The other dish that stands out from earlier is the plainly presented pork neck. This is meat that sings. Astounded by the flavour I have to ask how it is done and learn that there is a combination of different cooking techniques over a 24 hour period, including smoking and grilling, to get to the depth of flavour that you only get a small but memorable taste of. We finish our chat outside, cut a tulip for our first dessert course, hand it to the chef, and resume our seats.

Smoked Pork

Smoked Pork

We are at the back of the restaurant in a smaller slightly separated room, laden with black curtains that do a good job to reduce noise levels. You feel a world away from Glen Eira Road outside, and it is a good looking restaurant, without that aspect being a particularly topical feature. It is more about minimising distraction from the food, and the good lighting is an example of the focus.

Tulips DIY

Tulips DIY

Our Tulips DIY comes out as our first dessert. We have just been told that there are only five edible tulip varieties in the world and the rest are very poisonous! Luckily these are edible and the fruit and cream cheese inside is delicious. If we thought that was a pretty dish, the next was almost as pretty, and definitely intricate.

Byron Sunrise and Fresh Coconut Cream

Byron Sunrise and Fresh Coconut Cream

Three thimbles of apple, sitting in coconut cream, make for a more savoury dessert, but one that is still very nice. Crying out for something a bit sweeter, our prayers were answered with a decadent chocolate sponge, soaked in chocolate sauce with a yoghurt ice cream to soften the richness.

Cheftales

Cheftales

Finishing with another playful, and delicious taste, our “cheftales” are another ode to an Aussie classic, but again the take by Attica is better than the original, and comes with a “Who am I?” related to one of Australia’s numerous great chefs. There really has been absolutely nothing that didn’t work tonight. Quality through and through.

Lance Wiffin's Mussel

Lance Wiffin’s Mussel

We go to restaurants for many reasons and we bring our expectations with us. All of my lofty expectations were realised, or even exceeded tonight, and that is no mean feat when you are off to one of the world’s great restaurants. With some good measuring sticks to compare some of the native Australian ingredients and their use (namely Orana and Igni) I can see the subtle reasons why Attica is rated at the top of the pile.
Attica Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Expectations

I wrote these thoughts before going to Attica but did not post them prior to dining (on purpose).

I am off to Attica tonight and as you would expect I am excited.

Like the label or not, we have a World’s Top 50 Restaurant in Melbourne, and that is something to be proud of.

What do I expect from tonight? First, I have been to Attica just once, and it was five years ago. AGT tells me that naturally the restaurant has transformed completely (more than once most probably) and does not resemble my previous experience. So what I expect is all completely new dishes and a certain change in inspirations behind the dishes.

After all, Ben Shewry was just becoming a “celebrity” at the time and has only broadened his perspectives since then with more travel, more acclaim, and more focus on his restaurant from a global audience. There have also been changes in the structure of ownership of the restaurant with Ben now the sole owner, and lately the experimental nights have been pulled, most likely to make sure every experience is consistently exceptional.

I don’t read reviews in the lead up, or even try to have a look at the menu. I like the surprise and luckily, there is almost no ingredient I do not like (as long as it is eaten for pleasure, and not other purposes – in Bourdain’s words on food that does not taste good but is culturally important “to make you strong!”) I hope for a sweet dessert thrown in to the lately balanced (read savoury) theme at fine diners.

I hope there is a protein I haven’t eaten often (or at all). I hope that his treatment of vegetable dishes elevates them in the way I know he can (with the now famous potato cooked in its own soil). I hope all of the snacks are sublime (yes, I use that word) and that they are all memorable. I hope service is perfect (not a completely unreasonable expectation in this type of establishment). I hope the coffee is okay.

I’ve already decided I won’t get the matching wines. I like to have wines by the glass that are versatile and can match a couple of courses in a row. When I finish a glass I either know what I would like next having scanned the menu, or I simply go with exactly what the sommelier suggests. Normally the surprise of how much the glass costs on the bill at the end of the night is pleasant, but I try my best not to have a budget (even though I most certainly do).

There is a gasp at looking at the per head cost of food here, but I justify it in several ways and put it in the background, essentially as part of the booking process. The other justification is it is not as much as the Fat Duck was (for friends – I didn’t go) and is not as much as most three michelin starred places in France, New York or London.

Consistently exceptional food, perfect service, and versatile elegant wines. That is how I hope I can sum up tonight’s experience. Wish me luck!

Fratelli Fresh – Melbourne, City – Wednesday 27 July 2016 – Lunch

Pappardelle with braised beef cheek ragu

Pappardelle with braised beef cheek ragu

My first Fratelli Fresh experience was in 2008 at Potts Point, which wasn’t the original, but was one of the earliest branches. At the time I thought, “this place is amazing; I wish there were more”. And it did. Not only has Fratelli Fresh continued to expand, but it is now in Melbourne, ready to conquer from an initial flagship position in Alfred Place.

I have been following the Melbourne Italian dining scene for many years as a tourist and over the past 8 years as a local. For most of those years I think the sentiment was to hold the long running Italian restaurants as Melbourne treasures, untouchable by new entrants. While there is no doubt the old school remains extremely cool, there is a growing place for new entrants as the city heaves with growth. Tipo 00 is an excellent example of a break-out, but new, Italian restaurant in the city, that is still honouring Melbourne’s love of all things Italian.

More than any other restaurant undertaking in Melbourne, if you are going to do Italian, you need to do it carefully and properly. Fratelli Fresh is bringing Sydney’s A-game to our proud city, and nothing less would do. The entrance, as it was in the Comme days, continues to be impressive, but is now adorned with a triumvirate of attractive hosts representing both the cafe downstairs, and the steak house (Cut) upstairs.

The downstairs room of Fratelli Fresh is inviting and well thought through. For the first time this year, I’ve walked into a venue that isn’t Scandinavian dominant, and is sensibly (and well) decorated by flourishes of very Italian red, and plenty of Italian paraphernalia reminiscent of the Fratelli brand of the North. It’s comfortable, kept casual with paper napkins, and the artistic writing over the bar is kitsch but not over the top. Both the welcome out in the foyer, and inside the cafe, is warm and our waitperson is attentive, but leaves us to catch up for a time before ordering.

Cheesy Casarecce 'Cacio e Pepe'

Cheesy Casarecce ‘Cacio e Pepe’

There are plenty of good options to stretch out lunch or enjoy a single course. Andrew orders the pappardelle with braised beef cheek ragu, and while I would have been happy with the same choice, I decide on the cheesy casarecce ‘cacio e pepe’. The pappardelle looks great, served generously, and while Andrew says there are a few pieces that haven’t completely broken down, it is still a good dish.

I’m glad I had the warning of “cheesy” because my dish is full of cheesy goodness, making for a really filling main. The casarecce pasta is literally translated to “handmade” and is rustic small twisted fresh pasta, that is perfectly al dente. ‘Cacio e Pepe’ which I had to look up, is “cheese and pepper”, but really I ordered this for the pigs cheeks, which is served in cubes and has the salt and fat goodness that lifts the flavour, with some rapini greens to break it all up a bit. I’d suggest it would not be unwarranted to share the pasta if you are also looking at the wood fired pizzas, or some of the salumi and cicchetti on offer.

With a Butcher’s Bride American pale ale on tap to wash it down, all that is needed to finish today is a long black. My coffee is well made in the no fuss Italian style as you would hope for.

I’m excited about Fratelli Fresh and I’m hopeful they will open even closer to home in the next few years. This will certainly not be the last time I’m here, and it seems that all the experience gained over a decade in Sydney has been beautifully translated into this first offering south of the border.

Fratelli Fresh Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Little By Little – Berwick – Sunday 3 July 2016 – Breakfast

Little Ben

Little By Little Ben

It takes dedication to drive for three-quarters of an hour to eat breakfast. Our love of this meal is extreme and there are good reasons, especially when you live in the best breakfast city in the world. All we needed for inspiration was the suggestion by Chayse from O.My that this place is top quality and it was immediately on the list.

Little By Little is not on the prettiest patch of dirt in Berwick with a dilapidated car park disguising a little house that has been turned into a café. A local in Berwick told me that originally an application had been made to demolish. While I don’t always support heritage restrictions, in this case it has worked well because the café that came about is a terrific vibrant meeting place for locals.

The main room in the café has plenty of light filtering in through the windows, and although packed, has a comfortable open feel. We are near the back door that in summer would provide a cooling breeze, but today when it opens it is like walking down the freezer aisle! Catherine has already been sussing out what the best offerings on the menu are, and naturally is in a much better position to order than I am.

Moroccan eggs

French Cassoulet

The Little By Little Ben is basically eggs benedict, but with pork. It didn’t grab me on the menu, but when it came out for Catherine it was glistening. Each element is quality, especially the hollandaise and the incredibly indulgent shredded pork. As a combination we all know the usual Benedict it is a classic, and this one is brilliant.
IMG_5427
My dish of French Cassoulet has a variety of beans and chorizo sausage, again with perfectly poached eggs on top. There is plenty of flavour in the casserole and it is a solid dish, great for winter. The coffee is well made here, and I’m pretty sure I ended up trying three to make sure. There is an excellent range of treats so the last coffee was joined by a Portuguese tart with nice thick custard and a denser base than usual.

Yes it is a long way to go, but the drive is well worth it. Sitting here lingering over some excellent food and coffee, with nice enthusiastic service, feels like we actually are away from it all. It is a feeling that is difficult for inner city cafes to achieve.

Little by Little Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Post script:

Catherine was back with a group of friends again (Saturday 25 July 2016) and had another excellent experience. Her Chai Panna Cotta dish was delicious, and is presented in spectacular fashion, and the hot chocolate is decadent, as it should be.

IMG_5514

Chai Panna Cotta - served with granola, dark chocolate soil, cinnamon meringues, dehydrated orange and fresh fruits

Chai Panna Cotta – served with granola, dark chocolate soil, cinnamon meringues, dehydrated orange and fresh fruits

D.O.C. Pizza and Mozzarella Bar – Mornington – Friday 24 July 2016 – Lunch

Radicchio salad

Radicchio salad

Walking around after lunch I came across a new “where to eat pizza” book that I’d recently heard of. When it comes to pizza, even the average ones are good, but there is such conjecture on which are the best. While it might not be everyone’s favourite food, or necessarily the topic of final meal conversations, it invariably is one of the favourites for many.

At D.O.C. Pizza and Mozzarella Bar, whether you are in Mornington where we are today, or in Carlton at the original, the recipe is all about top quality ingredients, on a classic Italian thin base. While I don’t have a favourite pizza, I’m extremely glad that we turned the corner years ago, doing a complete one-eighty on the deep pan American extremism where you try to put every ingredient known to man on the one pizza.

Pizza DOC

Pizza D.O.C.

Now that we have properly acquainted ourselves with what is actually traditional, it has become apparent that merely sourcing quality ingredients is really the easy bit. That close to perfect base is actually the aspect that seems most difficult to attain. There have been a few reasonably high quality pizzerias that I’ve been to recently that just can’t seem to get there with the perfect balance of crispiness, but just thick and doughy enough to capture the ingredients without impacting the middle with sogginess.

The reason I am writing about the base, is D.O.C. does a particularly good one. One that has been consistent on each of the ten-odd occasions I’ve been to either branch. Today both our “pizza speck” with smoked prosciutto, fontina cheese, wild mushrooms and thyme; and our “D.O.C.” with DOP Buffalo Mozzarella, San Marzano’s tomato, and basil; have a base that is pretty close to perfect. The simpler D.O.C. is adorned with an excellent amount of impeccable mozzarella that is easily the star of the show. It doesn’t get much better than great tomato and mozzarella!

Pizza Speck

Pizza Speck

The pizza speck is full of flavour and certainly more complexity, some of it owing to the smoky meat, some of it to the less usual but very flavoursome fontina (cow’s milk cheese from the Aosta Valley in Italy), and a further level through the mushrooms and thyme which are a tried and tested combination. We also have the radicchio salad which is filled with gorgeous ingredients including walnuts, gorgonzola, thinly shaved fennel, and is dressed with balsamic.

I had a bit of a night out the prior evening at a Bellota wine tasting, so it is chinotto for me, but Catherine has a well made Aperol spritz, before we finish with peppermint tea and a pretty good double espresso. While our waitperson is quietly spoken, the service is always fantastic in that style that somehow always is present in Italian joints.

There are a lot of good pizzas going around, but like the book I was browsing through following lunch, there are only a few really great pizzerias, and D.O.C. in Mornington is one of them in my book.

DOC Pizza & Mozzarella Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Good Things – Mosman Park – Sunday 26 June 2016 – Breakfast

The Hulk - smashed avocado with peas, fresh mint, pickled onion, papitas, sesame, whipped feta and toast, and a poached egg (on the side)

The Hulk – smashed avocado with peas, fresh mint, pickled onion, papitas, sesame, whipped feta and toast, and a poached egg (on the side)

I took for granted the winter sun in Perth. It came around every year and didn’t bring as much excitement as the heat of summer or the seasons in between that are hardly distinct from the summer I experience now in Melbourne.

If Good Things is anything to judge by, the long hibernation of winter is not as depressing in Perth anymore. Like all aspects of this city, winter is becoming more popular and with weather like this it is hard to see why it wouldn’t be.

In a non-descript part of Mosman Park, there are tables full of customers outside, with several groups standing waiting for the next table or their takeaway coffee. Interestingly, the tables here are mainly for groups of four meaning there are lots of spare seats on tables of three and two.

In any case it takes little time for us to be offered a seat on the window and with the sun beaming in we are happy to take it. Oddly, like many places in Perth, everything happens at the table, except the ability to order. It could have been a disaster because I forgot one aspect of Catherine’s order, but luckily the staff were quick to accommodate, and I was back in the good books.

Huevos Rancheros - smoked and pulled beef brisket with Mexican fry bread, charred corn, tomato salsa, fried eggs, jalapeño sour cream & cilantro

Huevos Rancheros – smoked and pulled beef brisket with Mexican fry bread, charred corn, tomato salsa, fried eggs, jalapeño sour cream & cilantro

My order of Huevos Rancheros with smoked and pulled beef brisket on Mexican fry bread is a well thought through combination. There is a generous serving of fried eggs, the yolks of which are needed to partially soften the fried bread, along with a good helping of tomato salsa, grilled corn, and jalepeno sour cream. It is a filling breakfast, but there is a freshness to it, and I’m sold.

Catherine’s smashed avocado nicknamed “The Hulk”, which is initially missing a poached egg (thanks to me!), is also generous, with plenty of avocado and peas stacked over two pieces of sourdough with whipped feta. As you would expect, it all works well together, and seems to be a staple of Good Things.

With the sun shining through the window we linger a bit longer than usual, ordering a second coffee. They use a rotating offering of single origins and today’s Proud Mary roasted beans are high quality. There’s a good portfolio of diverse coffees becoming available across Perth, which is excellent to see.

Good Things is popular for a reason. There is plenty of thought in the food we ate, great coffee, and all of this comes in a nicely fitted-out café. I’m glad we gave it a go and we’ll be back again.

Good Things Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato