When a foodie goes to Melbourne: By night

I spent two and a half weeks in Melbourne (the one in Australia not Florida – just to be clear) over the Christmas-New Year period visiting family and catching up with a few friends. It was hot – much hotter than I’m used to even in the warmer parts of Europe – but that did not stop me from doing loads and eating even more.

Last time I tap-tap-tapped away about the high points of our daytime eating adventures and promised to follow up with the same for our culinary exploits after dark. So here it is, post number two.

Fat Bob’s Bar & Grill – Moorabbin

For at least three years, my loved ones have been Facebook posting about Fat Bob’s and when I arrived for a visit two years ago, I was sadly informed that Fat Bob’s was closed until the day after I was due to fly back to the UK. This time Lil Chicky was on the case – Fat Bob’s would be closed from Christmas Eve so nine hours after I got off the plane on December 23rd, we were scoffing amazing burgers, more-ish fries and some super scrumptious fried apple dumplings.

fat-bobs

Tucked away in an industrial estate in Moorabbin, once you walk through the gate there are vintage signs everywhere you look.

fat-bobs-food

There’s a good range of craft brews and ciders to pair with your burger. My White Rabbit Dark Ale was smooth and easy (too easy?) to drink and my Victa burger – a crumbed chicken fillet with Asian slaw, Japanese mayo and BBQ sauce – was completely scoff-worthy

It’s a fabulously unpretentious place and was definitely worth the wait. The food was served in plastic baskets with the burgers wrapped in foil (helps to stop the drips as you hoe in) and cutlery was kind of optional frowned upon. If you love a dirty burger and a retro approach to decorating, get yourself to Fat Bob’s…and leave your tiara at home.

Mexico City – Bentleigh

The original Mexico City restaurant opened in 2011 around the corner from where I used to live in Elsternwick but I’ve been away since 2004 so when Lil Chicky told me that there was a new one in Bentleigh, it seemed the perfect place to stop for a pre-cinema dinner. It’s quite a small place and as we were only two people and didn’t have a booking, we had a choice of sitting at the bar or at the window. We chose the latter and ordered a couple of Moscow Mules to sip with our complimentary corn chips and salsa before our meals arrived. I loved my vegetarian burrito and Lil Chicky enjoyed her Mexican trio. But be warned – the portions are huge so if you want to have more than one course, I’d suggest sharing.

Favorite Noodle & Dumpling Restaurant – Moorabbin

This is a family-run business right across the highway from Moorabbin train station. It’s a large restaurant with an extensive menu of dumplings and Chinese stir fries. Mum, Licensed-To-Grill and Lil Chicky all raved about the dumplings so that was what I chose. They were soft and melt-in-the-mouth delicious – definitely the best I’ve had. I’d been eating elsewhere in the day so couldn’t fit anything else in but again I was gobsmacked by how big everyone else’s portions were.

It got really busy while we were there and the service, while still friendly, did suffer a bit as a result. There was also a little lost in translation moment when pea-hater Lil Chicky asked whether there were peas in the fried rice. (We were absolutely assured there were no peas, just beans, only for Lil Chicky to be faced with picking out all the peas when it did arrive.)  But it’s cheap and cheerful and if I lived there, I’d probably be doing a dumpling run at least once a week.

Bad Frankie – Fitzroy

I was reading one of the daily newspapers at Lil Chicky’s in turns marvelling at how clueless I am about Australian celebrities nowadays and checking out all of the things-to-do recommendations. It was the word ‘jaffles’ that caught my eye – these were the mainstay of many a Sunday night dinner growing up and were crammed full of things like baked beans, ham, tuna, tomato and savoury mince but always with loads of gooey melted cheese. I managed to convince some friends to have a jaffle-themed catch-up…and what a catch-up it was!

bad-frankie

Top row: Look out for the sign when you turn off Smith Street into Greeve Street; Quirky decor  Bottom row: Retro cocktail glassware; the traditional ham and cheese jaffle with a side of tomato chutney; the infamous lamington jaffle – there are no words – you’ve got to experience it for yourself!

Bad Frankie specialises in Australian spirits and the drinks list is pages and pages long (who knew we Aussies were so prolific outside wine and a bit of boutique beer) so we went with cocktails served in the types of glassware you might find at the back of your Mum’s kitchen cupboard. We chose a range of savoury jaffles to begin with – which were yum – then tackled the lamington jaffle. Chocolate sponge filled with jam and rolled in coconut was served warm from the jaffle maker with cream on the side – it was scrumptious and VERY rich, making us all glad we had decided to share. The others also tried the ANZAC Bikkie jaffle (brioche toasted with rolled oats and golden syrup) which they reported tasted faithfully of its namesake.

To my mind Bad Frankie was an absolute find. The decor is quirky and cosy and everything is very laid-back. We’d been in the City in the afternoon and the promise of jaffles and boozing did take us out of our way but it was a chilled and convivial evening with an easy tram ride at either end. Just go!

Okami – Hampton Street

Okami is a chain of five Japanese restaurants across Melbourne and on my last night, we decided to tackle the All-You-Can-Eat offer at the Hampton Street branch. You get a two-hour sitting, a menu and then you just keep ordering dishes until you can’t eat any more. We shared many great dishes but stand outs for me were the Chicken Karaage and the Teriyaki Chicken Skewer. We also tried the Octopus Ball – which turned out to be balls of octopus meat versus something akin to a Bush Tucker Trial – better served with soy sauce than the mayonnaise they came with I thought.

okami-1-441x640

Domo arigato for a job well done! 

We managed to find a small space at the end for some cold vanilla ice-cream (it was 38C that day – that’s really hot!) and pretty much rolled out the door. And all of this for less than $30 (approx. £18) each.

And that peeps ends the culinary tour. The next day I boarded a plane for the long trek home with an underweight suitcase (believe me, it took careful packing to manage this with the amount of shopping I did). However I cannot say the same for yours truly and I must admit to my comfy travelling trousers feeling slightly snugger than when I arrived two and half weeks earlier. But what are holidays for, I ask you?

I hope this has whet the appetite of those of you  living in or travelling to Melbourne…if you are a glutton for punishment and want more or missed the partner post on daytime eating in my hometown, you’ll find it here so in the words of my childhood dinners…

Two four six eight

Dig in. Don’t wait!

 

A sweet life

It feels like January has disappeared in the blink of an eye and that, at last, the real chill of winter has descended upon the UK, settling itself around London’s shoulders and shrouding parts more northern with snow and ice. Since my return from Down Under on the 7th, I have been bundled up like a veritable pass-the-parcel prize, the clear skies making the morning air sharp and bracing on my nose and ears.

And yet despite the layer of frost over the back garden each morning, the green stalks poking out of the soil herald the coming of daffodils and I am also convinced that my morning commute is becoming a shade lighter. This may be a sign of Spring or foolish optimism or both.

In any case, since my last post my sister has graced Gidday HQ with a little visit.

(Yes I know I only saw Lil Chicky over Christmas but she was in The Netherlands for work and one of the founding principles of expat life is ‘never waste an opportunity to hug your loved ones’. More on this sibling hugg-ery in a later post.)

So I picked her up from the airport and left her in Gidday HQ’s second bedroom to get settled in for her four day sojourn. Wandering back in a few minutes later to assess the coffee situation (essential to Lil Chicky’s status of well-being and general happiness), she asked me to pick up her jacket off the bed.

Aussie snacks

That’s right.  4kgs of gastronomic nostalgia! There were (clockwise from top left) Chicken Twisties, Burger Rings (snacking on scoffing these as I type), Cheezels, lamingtons (in the plastic container), licorice bullets (soft licorice covered in either dark or milk chocolate), Caramello Koalas and a whole heap of my favourite chocolate bars, Violet Crumble.

You may well laugh but while Aussie vittels like Milo and Vegemite are pretty easy to come by in the UK, these are things that I have not been able to find over here, particularly since the demise of The Australia Shop. It is a complete joy to have a little stash of these for home as well as enough to take into work to Aussie-fy my colleagues. Let me tell you, the few bags of koalas and bullets I brought back with me earlier in January went down a treat in the office with one lady describing the bullets as a ‘taste sensation’.

But there always comes the moment when the last one is gone and I wonder how long it will be before my next nostalgic face-stuffing and while that might be a week or so away at the moment, the thought of a Violet-Crumble-less future makes me a little despondent.

But last night, after a bit of wine and a good meal, some English friends of mine and I discovered the Kingdom of Sweets…and these…

IMAG2218[1]

…as well as these.

IMAG2217[1]There were also English retro sweets like Parma Violets, White Mice and Love Hearts…

Love Hearts

…and for the Americans, there was an abundance of Wonka confectionary, Fluff (my English friend giggled)…

IMAG2216[1]

…as well as the biggest bottle of Hersheys syrup I have ever seen.

IMAG2220[1]

85 Oxford Street has just become my new favourite place in London. Although I read that Nestle deleted Violet Crumble from their range in 2010 and that more recently, a descendant of the original inventor Abel Hoadley has been chasing the recipe and naming rights. Go Bryan (Hoadley) I say. It would be a tragic thing to be missing this chocolate-y honeycomb moment of joy from my nostalgic nose-bag.

So January may have passed in the blink of an eye but things are definitely looking up.

Best I get myself back to the pool so this sweet life doesn’t migrate on a permanent basis to my sweet a**!

Report Card: The Great Bake-Off

Well hello good people!  Thanks for dropping past to check that all is well at Gidday HQ after the big birthday bonanza.  42 is going well so far – but it has taken me a week to get my proverbial s**t together to get tap-tap-tapping again.  Who knew it would be such a busy week!

Anyhow, with such a break between posts and a pretty full-on week, there’s lots to catch up on – picnicking at the polo, Kindle exploits (yes, I got one peeps – now just waiting for my free wireless router to be delivered) and Mad Men – but with the passing of August 1st, there is one update that demands my most urgent and immediate attention – My Year Of Baking.

Just over a year ago, when navel-gazing about what I had achieved in my 41 years and what I might like to conquer in the year ahead, I decided to overcome my serious lack of baking experience.  So I set up The Great Bake-Off tab on Gidday From The UK to chart my cake-and-cookie exploits.  Just doing this was a triumph in itself as my excitement back on October 17th will attest to.

Anyhow, as with all good projects, I thought it was time to compile a little Report Card for your comment and review so without further ado, here are a few key stats to start us off.

I baked on 10 occasions.
Double figures – yeah baby – well done me!  And that’s just for the new recipes (although admittedly while I cooked quite a bit, there wasn’t much ‘baking’ outside this list).

I made 6 new recipes.
  30 JUL:  Anzac Biscuits
  10 JUL:  Walnut & Rosemary Bread
  25 APR:  Hot Cross Buns
  17 APR:  Apple & Raspberry Squares
   6 MAR:  Mango Fruit Cake
   6 OCT:  Pineapple & Banana Loaf

On average, that’s one every two months – okay but I could’ve done better. Life at various points just got in the way…

I used lots of ingredients.
I had to clear a space in my cupboard (and for that part, in my life too) for all of my baking essentials – in particular, I used a lot more fruit/flour/butter/sugar:

   Fruit – 2,920g (400g was walnuts – does that count?)
   Flour – 2,255g 
   Sugar – 865g 
   Butter – 360g
   Eggs – 17

More than is probably good for me (and others). But what a blessing it turned out to be!

So that’s the stats bit done. Let’s now check out the highs (and the lows – but only if we must):

High Number 1:  
Most successful – Apple & Raspberry Squares – by a mile!

Amazing what some slightly squished raspberries from the market and a crinkly old apple can produce.  I had people visiting my desk to tell me how good this was and one guy wanted to schedule my next ‘cake’ day in his Outlook calendar as he had missed out on my little squares of fruity joy second time round.

This has sinced morphed into Raspberry and Coconut Cake with as much success.  I made this 3 times and may even morph this further as the blackberries are coming into season along my walk home.

High Number 2: 
Biggest victory – Hot Cross Buns

I LOVE Hot Cross Buns – warm and lovely with lashings of butter.  But since moving to the UK, I have not been able to partake of this little Easter treat as I am allergic to oranges and there is mixed peel in every one of the little blighters.  In the face of significant incentive for mastering this one, there was also a less-than-successful bread-making incident in Home Ec. at High School so I embarked on this one more than a little daunted by that living (breathing?) entity – yeast.

I am pleased to report it went well.  Warm and lovely with lashings of butter…

Having mastered yeast-o-phobia also meant that Walnut & Rosemary Bread was a cinch – twice!

Low Number 1:
Biggest disppointment – Anzac Biscuits

I have to confess that I’ve never been a huge fan of these myself so when these came out of the oven looking like little crunchy lumps of…well not biscuits, I nearly didn’t take them to work.  But they disappeared and people made [polite] yummy noises, so not disasterous by any stretch of the imagination. 

Note to self: only bake what moi likes to eat.

Low Number 2:
Coulda, woulda, shoulda – Lamingtons

The plan for office birthday baking was to educate everyone with a couple of Aussie icons.  I managed the Anzac biscuits with ingredients from the store cupboard (although why I had rolled oats in there I will never know) and they were meant to be accompanied by Lamingtons. Having been inspired last November by A-down-the-hill’s Lamington exploits, I was so looking forward to this but time/energy/enthusiasm faded slowly away last weekend and I ended up whipping up a batch of the Raspberry and Coconut Cake using ingredients I already had. 

Despite the absence of lamingtons in my portfolio, it does make me rather proud to say I ‘whipped up’ a cake.

So there you have it folks.  My Year of Baking.  And there are still items of the pastry, chocolate, mousse, jelly and iced variety to explore as we cruise on-board the SS 42. 

As well as lamingtons. 

Hooray! I say.

Now where did I put that spatula?

Did Somebody Mention Christmas?

Last we left things (see Lazy Saturday), I was bracing myself for a rather chilly foray into Kingston to run a couple of errands before heading over to A’s for red wine (yes more), a home-cooked dinner and some girly telly. 

So I set out just after 4pm (you know, just after our ‘sun’ has gone down and it’s, well…dark), crunching down the sporadically-gritted path to the bus stop, resolutely telling myself that a) it was not as cold as my nose was telling me it was, b) it was ok not to walk all they way into Kingston today because it was cold/it was dark/time didn’t permit and c) that I would feel much better with these errands off the to-do list. 

And then I got into Kingston to find…

…the lights are up…
…the tree is out…
…and there’s a gorgeous new old-fashioned sweet shop in Castle Street (where I spent about 20 minutes wondering around in child-like amazement).

Buoyed by all this festive cheer (and a reunion with my phone which seemed to go quite smoothly), I crunched on to A’s who had promised an evening of home-cooked lasagne and mooching on the couch, curled up under blankets and just feeling all warm and toasty. 

I didn’t think it could get any better, but it did… 

She was making lamingtons when I got there!

Eeeeeeeeeee (aka squeal of excitement)!
Delicious little chocolate-dipped, coconut-covered bundles of sponge-cake yumminess!

And not wanting to be rude, I had three…

I think Christmas may have come a little early (27 days actually) this year!