Hong Kong BBQ House – Northbridge – Thursday 8 October 2015 – Dinner

Roast Duck

Roast Duck

While I had been to Hong Kong a couple of times as a pre-teen, the time I travelled there as an adult was informed, food wise, mainly by visits to Northbridge dim sum joints, and the great Hong Kong BBQ. This temple of roast duck and pork has been around for over twenty years and I have been eating here almost as long.

These days it has been tastefully renovated and is a slick version of what it once was décor wise. Luckily there is no difference in the friendliness of the service, or indeed the quality of the food, at incredibly reasonable prices.

Tonight we are out for my Brother’s birthday and while there are a few pre-requisites, the main requirement is to order more than just duck and pork, and to order liberally! It is a must to do at least one roast meat and we opt for the roast duck. As you must expect, the duck meat is succulent, while the skin is crisp and flavoursome. Vying for the breast pieces in the middle initially then turned into scrapping for any remainders, such is the deliciousness of this skillfully prepared roast bird.

Satay beef

Satay beef

We have several other mains including the satay beef. It is simply presented on a large iceberg lettuce leaf, oozing in delicious satay sauce and nicely cooked to stay tender. There is not a drop of the sauce by the end as it is used to mop up the remaining steamed rice.

The seafood fried rice is superb, with large chunks of calamari, prawns, and even scallops. The rice is not overly oily, but has enough soy for that addictive salty taste. We also have the honey king prawn, which features huge fresh prawns. However, it is probably my least favourite dish, mainly because the others are great rather than this being average.

Honey King Prawn

Honey King Prawn

To freshen things up we also had a dish of Gai Lan with oyster sauce which is excellent. Nice and simple without glutinous texture making it more refreshing than many other versions.

Here the service is brisk, but friendly, and the BYO policy for wine adds to the value. Even the glassware is above average for a restaurant that allows BYO. There is plenty of beer like Tsing-Tao to go around and the final bill is a pleasant reminder that you actually can eat great food cheaply in Perth.

Gai Lan in Oyster Sauce

Gai Lan in Oyster Sauce

Hong Kong BBQ is one of those established places that I feel very comfortable. I’ve eaten here in large groups of family and friends, but also come alone to enjoy simply cooked roast meat, some vegetables and a beer. It will hopefully be around for many decades to come, and I’ll continue to visit.

Hong Kong BBQ House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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The Grain Store – Melbourne, City – Sunday 4 October 2015 – Breakfast

Pink Lady apple, buckwheat & ricotta pancakes, nutella, orange, spiced pear, mandarin gel, pistachio crunch

Pink Lady apple, buckwheat & ricotta pancakes, nutella, orange, spiced pear, mandarin gel, pistachio crunch

As a writer there is a tension between going back to places you know and love, and being able to write about your next experience. After eighteen months of writing the balance at breakfast is leaning towards the repeats as the number of cafes on my “must try” list diminishes.

The change-up this time around is taking a crowd to The Grain Store for what can only be described as a recovery brunch. After a night out to the early hours, rocking up to brunch by 10.30am, and needing to be somewhat conversive, you really need to select a place that can quickly get you up and about.

Sweet corn fritter & bacon steak, fried egg, apple salsa & caramelised carrot jam

Sweet corn fritter & bacon steak, fried egg, apple salsa & caramelised carrot jam

I feel like I’m on holiday here. Like I’ve travelled over the Pacific and landed in L.A., given my keys to the valet, and entered a meal most Australian’s rightly call either late breakfast or early lunch. The Grain Store call it brunch, and as I sit greeting friends equally as dusty with a Bloody Mary in hand, the naming convention fits (but only here).

We are licking our wounds from an abysmal Grand Final defeat, and long lasting commiserations (via Le Bon Ton and the Everleigh mind you!), but Clair has cracked open a bottle of Verve and the party feels like it is starting again. With some good coffee and juices, along with well constructed Bloody Mary’s we are ready to eat.

Last time here, the food Catherine and I tried was memorable. Yet again, as everyone has their first tastes you know The Grain Store is delivering yet again. Catherine’s Pink Lady, buckwheat and ricotta pancakes are divine, and my colour is coming back as I get right into a bacon steak served with sweetcorn fritters and a fried egg. Things are good.

While the seating for groups down the side is not as atmospheric as the main café, that is not a bad thing when you are catching up with old friends and making some noise of your own. The service seems nice and attentive, but it would be inaccurate to say I remembered that side of the experience.

As we pushed off towards Flemington for the Turnbull I knew that it was better than even money we would be back for pre-Derby celebrations in a month’s time. A repeat offense worth doing time for!

The Grain Store Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Top Paddock – Richmond – Numerous Occasions – Breakfast

Bircher muesli with lemon curd labna & green tea poached pear

Bircher muesli with lemon curd labna & green tea poached pear

There are certain go-to places where you feel comfortable going back multiple times, and know you have better than good prospects of impressing first timers. Even in the best of café lover repertoires, having more than a couple of handfuls of these venues is unusual.

Shortly we will be moving from one part of Richmond to nearby Cremorne. There is a standout café in Cremorne that is so good it can claim to be part of Richmond. That is Top Paddock. Whether it is a month ago when Catherine felt like pancakes that are out of the ordinary, or taking a guest out before a disappointing AFL Grand Final (for West Coast supporters), it is almost certain that Top Paddock will provide a fantastic experience, once you’ve finished milling around waiting.

Slow cooked Kurobuta pork shoulder, pork crackling, house pickles, Asian leaves & habanero aioli in a bao bun

Slow cooked Kurobuta pork shoulder, pork crackling, house pickles, Asian leaves & habanero aioli in a bao bun

The time with Catherine we put our names down and were told the wait would be around thirty minutes, but after a twenty minute walk we were pleasantly surprised that a table was already waiting for us. Next time when we took out my mate Guy it was even sweeter with a table already available.

The food here is simply outstanding. My pork shoulder in a bao bun, whilst being more lunch than breakfast, was beautifully constructed, and technically incredible for a café not specialising in Asian. On the flip side, the breakfast staples that you expect to be great, are executed with flair, whether it be the photogenic nature of the pancake, or the taste of well selected ingredients like Istra bacon that are cooked to my request.

Top Paddock: chorizo, pickled onion, peppers, basil, bacon, Adelaide green tomatoes, poached eggs & relish on toast

Top Paddock: chorizo, pickled onion, peppers, basil, bacon, Adelaide green tomatoes, poached eggs & relish on toast

Guy selected a dish I haven’t tried in the “Top Paddock” and even their version of a big breakfast has an artistic nature. In particular the green tomatoes selected from South Australia are both different and flavoursome, and each ingredient looks to be treated with care.

Coffee here is an experience in itself. There is consistency in the coffee, which must be the result of excellent baristas across the board, plus the quality of the coffee available and the Synesso machine. The single origins I’ve tried recently have all been terrific; the coffee last week from Honduras a standout.

Blueberry & ricotta hotcake with berries, organic maple, seeds & double cream

Blueberry & ricotta hotcake with berries, organic maple, seeds & double cream

While there was a hint of attitude in the beginning, I’ve either stopped noticing, or it has dulled down. The service is attentive and friendly which are key needs at breakfast. For a very busy venue the food is delivered in good time and only once (out of at least ten visits) have we found an issue (the dish being cold).

I’m proud to shortly be living nearby to Top Paddock, and that is not something I’ve said about any other café (as good as some currently nearby are). There is an excellence in the execution of everything a café should be about that is brilliant, and add to this a decent drinks list and lunch options and you have versatility that is still focussed enough to be one of the greats.

Top Paddock Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Beatrix – North Melbourne – Saturday 26 September 2015 – Dessert

Pistachio lemon curd layer cake and carrot cake

Pistachio lemon curd layer cake and carrot cake

It was not mere coincidence we were back in North Melbourne a week after last visiting. That time we decided to go a little out of our way following another great trip to Pope Joan, to Dolcetti, on the border with West Melbourne. During that adventure a close friend and local of many years told us we had to try Beatrix.

It played on our mind that there was a popular cake place that we hadn’t tried, and so began our walk from the back of Richmond one week later. After a bit over seven kilometres we had a tremendous appetite. As we walked up Queensberry it got quieter and quieter and then on a non-descript corner we found what we were searching for.

Beatrix is a tiny corner shop that is a temple to cakes and associated paraphernalia. It is one of those lines that even if many metres longer you would still be deciding and strategising your choice at the counter. Today is described as “quiet” but there is still a line, and most chairs of all varieties are taken.

When we get to the counter it is decision time and we feel it was a great choice and a good choice (though looking around at the pleasure on faces of all ages there were no bad choices). The pistachio lemon curd layer cake is exceptional. If there was a prize for perfect balance of acidity and sweetness, this would win it. Every mouthful was amazing and the next time around we’ll be ordering it again.

The carrot cake was very good, but given we were eating both at the same time, was completely outshone by its sibling. As carrot cakes go it was very good, but we were looking for enlightenment, which might need a reset of our expectations!

My coffee was okay and I’m not even sure why at a place doing such an amazing job on the cake making that I expected better. Next time I’ll join Catherine with a tea. While the staff are busy, they clear tables quickly and are friendly, even when waiting for pesky people like us who are still deciding once at the counter.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that this could quickly become a favourite where we’ve tried all the cakes available over a few months. It’s funny but there is not a lot of competition in such a classic arena. These are not the intricate cakes of a patisserie like Zumbo, or Chez Dre, but they are classical, incredibly delicious, and definitely extraordinary.

Beatrix Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato