Sweet Evelyn Cafe

We were invited by Sweet Evelyn Cafe to dine as guests, and it turned out to be the perfect start to our weekend! They are a cute little cafe located in the hipster suburb of Brunswick. I loved the semi rustic feel of the cafe with the tin roof and huge planter boxes located just before you walk in. This feeling carried flowed through to the inside with the worn wooden floorboards, and vintage style lights. I never got the sense that they’re trying to be something they’re not, instead I got a strong message from them that says ‘this is what we are, and we welcome you’.

We generally have a quick look at the menu the a few days before to see what types of food are available. I quickly detoured from my original food choice due to a heavy night of drinking the previous night, and I didn’t feel like anything too heavy. I opted for the Acai bowl but I had a bit of trouble ordering it because I realised I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this whole time! I’ve always pronounced it ‘AK-KAI’ but it turns out that it’s ‘AH-SAI-EE’. Now how the hell was I supposed to know that? How embarrassing… all the other places must have not bothered to correct me.

Helen could never turn down baked eggs when it’s available on the menu, so she opted for the Shakshuka Baked Eggs which is a Middle Eastern style baked eggs with peppers, tomato and goats cheese served with sour dough bread. I was lucky enough to be offered a few spoonfuls by her and it was soooooo good! The balance of the tomato and peppers sauce was perfect, it wasn’t too sweet or sour. The eggs were still runny and the goats cheese rounded up the dish beautifully. Helen mopped up all the sauce with the sour dough bread, a valiant effort from her!

My Acai bowl was exactly what the doctor ordered. It was a giant bowl of fibre and nutrients, which was everything my body was craving for. It was also Instagram worthy, all the ingredients were separated and displayed artistically. I didn’t know how to tackle it because I didn’t want to ruin the presentation. This concern lasted for about 5 seconds before I just went for it! For a fruit lover such as myself, this was divine. The house baked granola provided a textual and temperature contrast to this dish, something I don’t get in other Acai bowls. I couldn’t fault it at all and loved it from start to finish.

We had a great experience overall and would highly recommend Sweet Evelyn Cafe to anyone looking for some daytime indulgence! Just a stone’s throw away on Fallon Street, there’s a great place called Very Edible Gardens. We walked past them, and they were happy to show us their veggie patches and chook pens. There’s something about watching food grow that makes it so comforting. Check these guys out too if you happen to visit Sweet Evelyn Cafe!

Sweet Evelyn Cafe
Approx $25 AUD per person
Address: 128 Union St, Brunswick VIC 3056
Phone: +61 3 9078 3734
Website: sweetevelyn.com.au

Sweet Evelyn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Oyster Bar & Grill

We were at Crown for a few nights over the Easter break and decided to check out Oyster Bar & Grill, a more casual yet sophisticated dining area located in a corner area of The Atlantic. The main reason for this visit of course was for the $2 oysters! Yes, you heard! Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday they do $2 oysters until sold out. When we caught wind of this, we knew we had to be there. It reminded of us when we were in New York and downing $1 USD oysters during happy hour. Ahh memories…

Anyway, we ended up going back there TWICE during our stay because the oysters were THAT good! They were so fresh and delicious. They weren’t too big and came with a lovely shallot vinaigrette which I of course drowned the oysters in because I can’t get enough of it. Davin probably ate half a dozen and I had about a dozen to myself because I love oysters that much.

We also ordered a crab toast which consisted of hand picked spanner crab and avocado cream. It was delicious and again the crab was super fresh.

As a main we ordered the King Prawn Spaghetti to share, the dish was cooked to perfection. The pasta was al dente, the prawns were fresh and the sauce was well flavoured with chilli, garlic, lemon and parsley.

Overall, the food was of very high quality. The restaurant itself had a great ambience with a classy feel to it and the staff were very friendly and efficient. The only thing I’ll note is that there was a bit of confusion at the end when we paid our bill. Firstly, our Crown membership card didn’t seem to work so the guy that took our payment told us we needed to take our bill to the Crown Rewards front desk so that they could add the reward points onto our card. He also told us that we couldn’t obtain free parking because The Atlantic was not a Crown restaurant (we were advised that if you dined and spent $50 or more at a Crown restaurant that you get free parking). That was fine for us.

So we took our bill to the Crowns Reward desk and they told us that the restaurant should have provided us with a manual adjustment form so that they could add the points onto our card and that we SHOULD have got free parking for dining there. They were kind enough to add the free parking to our card but we had to walk back to the restaurant to ask for the manual adjustment form to get our points. We ended up speaking to someone else at the restaurant who dealt with it for us. We saw him talk to the original guy we spoke to who seemed to shake his head like he didn’t even remember us. Oh well, other than that it was a great dining experience.

Oyster Bar & Grill
Approx $65 AUD per person
Address: 8 Whiteman St, Southbank VIC 3006
Phone: +61 3 9698 8888
Website: http://theatlantic.com.au/eat/oyster-bar-grill

Oyster Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Budapest Restaurant and Palinka Bar

We recently went to a Hungarian restaurant in Elsternwick called Budapest Restaurant and Palinka Bar with Bearabbit and co. We had never tried Hungarian cuisine prior to this so it was a first for us which got us very excited!

To ensure we experienced the best of their dishes, we decided to order the Budapest Banquet which consisted of three courses. At $42 per head, it did not sound like a bad idea at all!

Before the food arrived, we ordered one of their Palinka Sampler Flights. We learnt that Palinka is the protected Hungarian name for pure fruit spirits. We ended up ordering the Palinka Premium Honey Selection which consisted of 3 x 15ml shots of honey infused Palinka. It sure warmed us up!

We started the first course with Grandma’s Homestyle Chicken Soup and Chopped Liver with Pickled Onion and Farmers Rye. The chicken soup was so good and it really felt like we were eating grandma’s soup because it gave us such a warm and homey feeling. Davin loved it so much and slurped it all up in a flash! The chopped liver was like a lovely chunky pate and was really flavoured. I generously lathered my bread slices with it!

The second course was huge and included the Hungarian Goulash with Nokedii Dumplings, Chicken Schnitzel on Peasant Potatoes, Cevapici Balkan Sausages with braised red cabbage, and Crumbed Mushrooms stuffed with Dilled Goat’s Cheese and Csiki Sauce. Oh. My. Gosh. What a feast it was! Everything was so scoffable and flavoured really well. The goulash was delicious and the chicken schnitzel was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.

The peasant potatoes were amazing! Now I am a big fan of all things potato and I don’t want to toot my horn but I think I make a pretty good mashed potato. These mashed potatoes were exceptional, so flavoured with the addition of herbs mashed throughout. I could not stop eating it!

The sausages were super flavoured and also went well with the mash. We also loved the stuffed crumbed mushrooms. I like all things cheese but this goat cheese with dill was a match made in heaven.

The third and final course was the strudel of the day which they are well known for and did not disappoint. The pastry was lovely and crumbly, and overall it was not too sweet.

As you can tell, we thoroughly enjoyed the food and nothing really disappointed us! We will definitely be back when we’re in the mood for some Hungarian!

 

Budapest Restaurant and Palinka Bar
Approx $50 AUD per person
Address: 273 Glen Huntly Rd, Elsternwick VIC 3185
Phone: +61 3 9530 0859
Website: budapest.com.au

Budapest Restaurant and Palinka Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Desserts by Night

If you’re a dessert fan and ever in Springvale one day then it’s worth checking out Desserts by Night to satisfy your sweet tooths! Davin and I were in the area for dinner with Hello.imnikki and partner when we decided to check out this newish place to see what it was all about. We learnt that it also had a sister branches at other locations.

As we were walking towards the place, from across the road we weren’t actually sure if it was open or not. They had garage like roller shutters that were a quarter down and we couldn’t see any lights on. However when we got closer we realised that they were open. Yay! The cafe itself was very large and spacious with plenty of chairs and tables.

Being really full still from dinner, we decided to order a few desserts to share. The pear shaped dessert was called The Helen which Hello.imnikki ordered. Of course I couldn’t resist trying it given it was my name! It was shaped just like a pear so delicately placed on a bed of chocolate. We cracked the outer layer of white chocolate to find lovely chunks of pear and cream inside. It was probably more on the sweet side for me but a nice and pretty dessert nonetheless.

The Mango Pudding was my type of dessert. Firstly because I love all things mango, but also because it was a light and not too sweet type of dessert. It had fresh mango, mango coulis, lychee foam, condensed milk, vanilla crumble, tuile biscuit and mango sorbet. A dream dessert for a mango lover and all the components went perfectly together.

Finally we also tried their special which was the Pinata. Now if we weren’t already impressed with the presentation of the desserts so far, then this really wowed us. The dish came out on this wooden contraption where a white chocolate sphere dangled above the rest of the dish. The idea is to crack it open with your spoon, releasing flakes of goodies over the dessert. On the main dish was a coconut cheesecake, with berries and pineapple and passionfruit sorbet. It was a really refreshing dish!

We were overall certainly impressed with all the desserts they had to offer, particularly the flavours and the beautiful presentation of their dishes. A place we will definitely think of again after dinner one night!

Desserts by Night
Approx $20 AUD per person
Address: 317 Springvale Rd, Springvale VIC 3171
Phone: +61 3 9540 3453

Desserts by Night Springvale Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hinoki Japanese Pantry

Hinoki Japanese Pantry had been on our ‘to try’ list for a while now. We generally go out of our way and make an effort to travel to these places on our list, but fortunately on this occasion we bumped into this place while walking along Smith Street, Fitzroy! I guess some things are meant to be, and we did not hesitate to rush in.

There’s a gradual transition from exposed bricks to the white walls which lead to the Japanese grocery area. Bright colours from the food products to the sushi menu lit up the whole place just like in Japan, this place never looked dull and boring. As much as we were tempted to browse the isle to buy some seaweed or Furikake (rice seasoning), the fact was we were hungry and needed food ASAP!

We got some takeaway packs – a mixed sushi/maki pack, and a mixed maki pack. First thing I noticed, was that these packs looked way better than your run in the mill shopping centre sushi packs. The ingredients actually protruded past the height of the rice on the maki! This was not only more visually appealing, but it also benefits my belly.

I guess the big question is how does it taste? The answer to that is… absolutely amazing! The fish was exceptionally fresh with great texture. I couldn’t fault the salmon, king fish or the tuna. Even though these packs came from the cold display, the rice wasn’t hard and separated, an indication that they wouldn’t have been in the cold display for that long.

The mayo in the maki was very tasty and provided a light creamy mouthfeel, while the spring onion reinforced a freshness to the roll. I loved how all the ingredients worked together. Even the soy sauce was awesome, I normally don’t use too much soy sauce but I did get a little carried away on this particular occasion! I had never seen this brand before, but it was in a shiny silver packet, which already looked quality.

In summary, Helen and I had a great experience at Hinoko Japanese pantry. We came, we conquered and we bounced. We totally forgot about buying some things for home before we left! Without a doubt we’ll be returning here to eat some great sushi, and to do some grocery shopping next time.

Hinoki Japanese Pantry
Approx $15 AUD per person
Address: 279 Smith Street, Fitzroy VIC 3065
Phone: +61 3 9417 4531
Website: hinoki.com.au

Hinoki Japanese Pantry Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Good Times Milk Bar

If this is not the most feel good name ever, then I don’t know what is! I used to live right near a milk bar and the happiness I felt buying lollies and ice cream from them was indescribable. It’s a shame to see them slowly close down one by one, but Good Times Milk Bar reminds me that they were indeed good times back then! I was deeply attracted to the name of this cafe, and with the help of a sneaky Zomato rating look up, Helen and I made the lovely trek to Bentleigh to pay them a visit.

They’ve done a fantastic job with the interior of this place! There’s a cool modern vintage theme happening. I loved the polka dots against the pink background on the front of the benchtops. Even the tables had an interesting shade of blue, a food photographers dream. They even had merchandise which you can purchase such as T-shirts and tote bags, now that’s thinking outside the box! The whole place just had a real positive and uplifting vibe to it, not a bad feeling to have before the food comes out.

It was a warm day so Helen and I started with some iced coffees to cool our precious little bodies down… the coffee was smooth, delicate and the bitterness was balanced. I think the vanilla ice cream went really well with it, coffee snobs would probably roll their eyes but I thoroughly enjoyed every last drop.

Helen ordered the famous ‘Dippy Eggs’ while I couldn’t resist the sardines dish. Such an underappreciated fish needs support sometimes, and eating sardines since I was young certainly helps with giving it the support it needs. I was disappointed to find out that they had now taken the sardines off the menu, and have replaced it with a smoked trout omelette. The poor humble sardine goes back to being neglected! I can understand that this was probably a business decision, I guess if it’s not selling well then it’s gotta go.

The Dippy Eggs felt like a tailor made dish for Helen as she likes picking at different foods. It came with rustic sourdough bread with Italian Pecorino cheese grated over it, 2 runny eggs with shell intact, avo-cream, relish, and hemp seed dukka. We opted for the optional bacon crumbs which turned out to be a great decision. The eggs were cooked perfectly with runny yolks. There were no rules on how to eat this dish, anything goes! I like how it’s served with the shell, to see an egg in its pure form at a cafe is very special indeed. Everything went really well together, and along with the contrast in textures made it extremely appetising.

My sardine dish featured sardines from Port Phillip Bay on a piece of toast. The sardines were very tasty and had wonderful sea flavours. The toast itself was a bit hard, and I really struggled to cut through it. I think they were expecting the tomato and basil puree to soften it, but that wasn’t the case. I found the puree very strong and overpowering, and would have preferred a more mellow version. The peperonata was very nice, the sweetness of the peppers really shined through!

I enjoyed my time at Good Times Milk Bar, I felt very happy being here! The service was excellent, and it’s just a great place to come and chill. I also love the fact that the menu is so varied and I can get dishes here which are unavailable at other cafes! Here’s the thing… they can either make the same dishes as all the other places, or they can throw a sardine dish on the menu. It may have not paid off for them, but I applaud them for doing something different. We will definitely be returning to try some of their other dishes!

Good Times Milk Bar
Approx $25 AUD per person
Address: 83 Tucker Road, Bentleigh VIC 3204
Phone: +61 3 9557 4868
Website: goodtimesmilkbar.com.au

Good Times Milk Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

King Chooks

After the gym one week night we decided to find something quick and nearby for dinner as we were starving! So we hopped onto Zomato and came across a charcoal chicken shop called King Chooks in Blackburn with very good reviews.

Being a charcoal chicken joint, you don’t really expect much so the outside was the usual tacky looking shop and the inside was no different. But of course we were not there for ambience and great decor. We were there for the food!

We both ordered Chook Combos, and I ordered a quarter chicken with scallop potatoes and the beetroot salad. Davin ordered a half chicken with chips and the caesar salad. The chicken was quite impressive! The skin was thin, crispy and flavoured to perfection – not too salty and not too plain. The chicken itself was really nice and moist, and fell of the bone. My scallop potatoes were creamy and flavoured well too. The highlight however was Davin’s chips! They were so crispy on the outside, and soft and fluffy on the inside. The seasoning on the chips was also perfect and we couldn’t get enough of it!

Davin’s caesar salad was also good however my beetroot salad was so sour. Yes, sour! I think they drenched it in some sort of vinegar dressing and overdid it which is unfortunate because if it wasn’t for my beetroot salad it would have been a perfect meal.

Overall however, great chicken and perfect chips so we’ll definitely come back when we’re in the mood for some charcoal chicken!

King Chooks
Approx $15 AUD per person
Address: 9/96-98 Canterbury Rd, Blackburn South VIC 3130
Phone: +61 3 9878 9688

King Chooks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Le Charme De Saigon

We had the pleasure of being invited to Le Charme De Saigon, a Vietnamese restaurant which recently opened on Little Bourke St in Chinatown, Melbourne CBD. We dined in the lovely company of Bearabbit, Tim.E and Simmy.

I instantly loved the decor of the place upon entering. Recently renovated, the walls and trimmings were painted a dark modern teal, with lovely lotus lamps, and tree like lights hanging from the ceiling. It certainly had a nice charm to it!

We started the night off with some cocktails, Davin ordering the Salted Caramel Expresso Martini, and I ordering the Ultimate Lychee Martini. My lychee martini was really nice and refreshing. Davin’s cocktail was on the sweet side and didn’t have that strong coffee flavour we generally look out for. It may have been that the salted caramel and kahlua was overpowering the coffee itself.

For food, we started off with a tasting plate called ‘A Little of Everything’. It had spring roll, viet sausage, shrimp cake, chicken skewer and prawn crackers. This was a lovely appetising starter dish and everything was fried to perfection. The batter on everything was light and crispy.

We then had the lamb san choy bow and DIY crispy duck with bao (steam bun). Both the lamb and duck was fried with crispy skin. The sauces that went with both dishes were probably more on the sweet side for us. The duck in particular was quite dry, however we understand this dish cooked authentically is supposed to be this way, therefore knowing that, it made more sense to us.

The Saigon curry beef brisket stew with baguette came up next. This was a delicious dish! It brought back memories of my grandma making Vietnamese curry for me when I was little. The sauce was flavoured to perfection and it had a lovely consistency with the perfect amount of heat to it! I loved dipping the bread and scooping up all the curry sauce. The beef itself was a bit tough however overall it was a great dish.

The North Viet supreme soup with fish fillet was also really nice and flavoured. It was an appetising dish. Davin’s favourite dish of the night however was the stir fried clam with X.O sauce. I have to say it was a really tasty dish! We haven’t had this in a while and it was full of flavour. It even had the lovely crunchy chinese donuts mixed in and soaked with the X.O sauce.

We also really liked the Saigon seafood rice broth, the seafood was really fresh and we loved the crispy rice in the broth which gave it a different texture with each bite. This is a dish we would definitely order again!

Overall we had a great experience, and the food was good. Being Vietnamese however, I do note that a lot of the dishes are more Chinese or Malaysian than authentic Vietnamese. Perhaps it should be labelled more as an Asian restaurant than Vietnamese. Anyway, if you’re ever around this area, check it out and let us know your thoughts!

Le Charme De Saigon
Approx $35 AUD per person
Address: Shop 3, 178 Little Bourke Street, CBD, Melbourne
Phone: +61 3 9663 3321
Website: le-charme-de-saigon.business.site

 

Le Charme De Saigon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tokosan

First and foremost we would like to thank Tokosan for inviting us to dine at their restaurant. When we arrived at their doorstep, there was a strong sense of familiarity especially the steps which lead into their main dining room. We had a suspicion that we may have been here before, but it felt a little foreign at the same time! The location felt familiar but the décor and atmosphere felt different. After spending way too much time trying to figure out this mystery, we dug through our photos and realised that they used to be called Toko! It turns out that Toko is relocating to the CBD and this place had been revamped to Tokosan. Another mystery solved, we were finally back on track, and ready to see what Tokosan brings to the table.

The transformation from Toko had been dramatic, we remembered Toko to be a fine dining Japanese restaurant. Tokosan has a massive wall of street art as you walk in on the left, and it sure creates a strong impact! There’s a bar area on the right with an assortment of alcoholic beverages and they even have a karaoke room. Past the bar and through the glass doors, there’s an outdoor area to kick back and enjoy some drinks. This also doubles as a function area, so for anyone looking to host an event, this option is available. We were offered to sit outside – no way Jose! There’s no way I’m putting my body through this heat… I’ve been struggling enough lately with Melbourne’s crazy temperature fluctuations. We wisely opted to sit inside in a comfortable booth. I suspect that they don’t have air con because the cold air didn’t feel refrigerated. I felt a little sticky which tells me that it may be evaporative cooling. Not a big deal at all,l as cooling is all personal preference!

The waiter ran us through the specials of the day which included a $5 sparkling wine (Fleur De Lys) and $5 Gyoza dumplings. For anyone wondering why the waiter needed to run us through the specials, our meal was subsidised to a certain amount, anything over would be out of our own pocket. We couldn’t turn down the specials, and we also ordered a bowl of chicken ramen, wagyu beef bao, and a pork ribbies (highly recommended by bearabbit).

The wagyu beef in the bao came in a patty style. It had great beef flavour and was cooked a perfect medium to medium rare, the best doneness to showcase the beef. It tasted great and all the ingredients held together nicely in the bao without going everywhere. I was surprised to find the prawn dumplings deep fried! I’m used to them being pan fried, and I’m generally not a huge fan of deep fried. In saying so, I could taste the separation of prawn pieces in the gyoza itself and it had a great crunch. Fans of deep fried would enjoy this style of dumpling. I have to say that I was a little shocked at the price though, a serve of 5 prawn gyozas are normally $16! This feels a bit steep for gyozas and the price would have put me off ordering them. $5 specials are enticing but I wouldn’t be paying full price. The pork gyoza was my favourite out of the two, the filling was packed full of flavour and pan fried to a classic crisp on one side. I loved it but couldn’t justify the RRP of $13 though. Could something be really tasty and overpriced? I don’t normally think this way because I can usually justify the price as long as the quality is good, but I may have to make an exception in this instance…

I was really looking forward to my ramen as I hadn’t had ramen in a while! The bowl came out, and it looked great. It strangely didn’t have the strong aromas I was expecting from a quality bowl of ramen. I took a sip of the soup… BLAND. It taste diluted, with zero richness and no pork flavour. It was truly underwhelming indeed, but little did I know that I was going to be hit with a double whammy. The ramen noodles were bloated and overcooked with no elasticity and mouth feel. (FYI – I snapped a picture of the ramen in record breaking time, as I’m fully aware of what leaving the noodles drowned in soup would do to it. The noodles already came in this state straight out of the kitchen). The two most important aspects in a bowl of ramen failed miserably, and as a result made me feel a little miserable also. The chicken and broccolini was nice, but it was too little too late.

The pork ribbies on the other hand were amazing. Tender, fall off the bone with a delicious teriyaki sauce. The sour cream worked surprisingly well with the pork ribs and I found myself looking forward to each dip. The pork ribbies and the pork gyozas were my favourite dishes at Tokosan.

With the exception of the ramen, I enjoyed all our dishes of the night. Tokosan has a lot going for it with the bar, good food, outdoor function area, karaoke, hell they even got a pool table. They’ve got the perfect recipe for a great night out and I wouldn’t hesitate to come back again!

Tokosan.
Approx $40 AUD per person
Address: 142 Greville St, Prahran VIC 3181
Phone: +61 3 9521 3155
Website: tokosan-melbourne.com

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

Cucina & Co

Following on from my previous review of Cucina Bar & Restaurant, we ventured across the road to continue eating at Cucina & Co. This place had a great industrial feel to it and we were quickly seated on the black communal table.

We started with the pumpkin focaccia and I instantly fell in love with this dish! The pumpkin base was delightfully appetising, along with the prosciutto and fresh tomatoes it combined to make a cracker of a starter. I use the term starter lightly because this was so filling that we were a bit worried of what was to come.

The Pizza Royal and Pappardelle Giuseppina were our other favourites. The buffalo mozzarella was of high quality, and I could taste the milky/creaminess in the cheese. The base was thin and crispy, yet it had a slightly chewy texture. These are the pizza bases which set the standard and it’s worth coming here just for this experience! I don’t get to eat Pappardelle much, but I can really see the appeal with this pasta. The large flat shape really soaks up the ragu sauce and holds onto it. The lamb and pork ragu was tender, succulent and flavoured beautifully.

Unfortunately I wasn’t a huge fan of the nutella desserts. The fried pizza dough drizzled with nutella was way too dense and doughy for my liking. The nutella calzone was just an explosion of nutella! As much as I love nutella I was seriously overwhelmed with the quantity of it, and add to the fact that I was so stuffed from all the food, it did not go down too well.

Luckily we finished off with a limoncello which helped ease the digestive system a bit! This one was really tasty and I cannot wait to open a bottle which an Italian friend gave us last month. It seems like an alcohol which I can get used to!

We’d like to thank Enzo and his team for the invite and hospitality. We enjoyed the food here and will revisit in the future.

Cucina & Co.
Approx $40 AUD per person
Address: 325 New Street, Brighton VIC 3186
Phone: +61 3 9530 5324
Website: www.cucinaandco.com.au

Cucina & Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Fish & Burger Co.

We were recently invited to the VIP launch dinner at The Fish & Burger Co. in Doncaster. The restaurant was rocking when we arrived and it was very modern and spacious with plenty of tables and chairs.

We were provided with a range of different dishes to try which included the beef, chicken and prawn sliders, mac and cheese croquettes, nacho waffle fries, chilli cheese fries, crispy fried chicken, grilled calamari and salads.

The sliders were delicious and so easily scoffable! The chicken sliders were particularly good as the chicken was crumbed with a nice slaw and ranch sauce.

We also loved the mac and cheese croquettes. They came out piping hot, crispy on the outside and oozing of the lovely mac and cheese components on the inside.

The chilli cheese fries were also nice and full of flavour. It had large chunks of jalapenos and spring onion throughout and the chips also came out fresh and crispy. The nacho waffle fries were a bit too soft and doughy for us so we much preferred the fries.

Our least favourite dish was probably the fried chicken as it was quite salty. It had a sweet and spicy marinade with sesame seeds, spring onion and a chilli mayo sauce. However all we could taste was the salt.

There are a range of salads to choose from and we had the quinoa, pumpkin and pomegranate salad and the kale and roasted sesame salad which are both good options if you are looking for something a bit healthier.

We were also invited to try their mains which included burgers and seafood plates however we were too full after trying their smaller dishes so we moved straight onto dessert!

Right at the front of the restaurant and as soon as you enter, there is a gelato and shake bar for those with a sweet tooth. I ended up getting the expresso gelato in a cup and Davin ordered the lemon sorbet in a cup. The gelatos were nice but probably a bit sweeter than the gelatos we’re used to. Having said that we are not the biggest sweet tooths so some may love that it’s sweeter. Overall if you’re looking for a cool place to hang out and enjoy some burgers, seafood and gelato, check it out!

The Fish & Burger Co.
Approx $40 AUD per person
Address: 1001 Doncaster Rd, Doncaster East VIC 3109
Phone: +61 3 9842 1011
Website: thefishandburgerco.com

The Fish & Burger Co Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cucina Bar

We were invited to dine at Cucina Bar and Cucina & Co, and as a bonus we got to dine with @bearabbit & the mischievous +1! They were already at Cucina Bar when we arrived, I don’t think there’s ever been a time which they’ve been late. We were seated by the window ledge looking out to New St in the beautiful coastal suburb of Brighton.

After a quick and warm welcome from Enzo, we were on our way to sampling some great food! To say that the portions were decent was an understatement. We initially thought that we were going to be sharing all the dishes between us 4, until we realised that we were getting our own portions. We started off with the Sardine Beccafino. I’m a huge fan of restaurants using underappreciated fishes, and this dish is a reminder of how great sardines are. As I bit into it, I could hear a crunch followed by an explosion of flavours in my mouth! There was the sea flavour from the sardine, rounded up by the sweetness of the sultanas and orange. It was fantastic, I couldn’t fault it.

Having eaten rice my whole life, you wouldn’t think that rice could excite me anymore. Oh it can, it definitely can! These Arancini balls were some of the best I’ve ever had. Crispy on the outside and the rice inside was not dense at all. The cheese coated each grain of rice beautifully, I was in rice heaven! This is the carb I need in my life, I wouldn’t mind waking up to this every day.

 

When the platters of Tagliere Salumi (cured meats) and Tagliere Formaggi (Italian cheeses) came out, I started to get worried because we were supposed to go across the road to eat at Cucina & Co. Never ones to back down from a challenge we persevered. The best way to tell if an Italian cheese platter is good is to cut into the buffalo mozzarella! If the texture is smooth and creamy then you’d know you’re onto something good. This mozzarella ticked all the boxes and it had a prominent milky taste. The other hard cheeses were equally as good. I also enjoyed the cured meat platter especially the salami. The fat to meat ratio was perfect, if I was to consume saturated fat, this would be my go to meat!

We came, we conquered, and then we were ushered across the road to eat some more. It was a great start to our night at Cucina Bar.

Cucina Bar
Approx $45 AUD per person
Address: 312 New St, Brighton VIC 3186
Phone: +61 3 9592 1592
Website: cucinabar.com.au

Cucina Bar & Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Quan Lua

Being Vietnamese, I’ve grown up eating Vietnamese food at home and at the restaurants in Springvale where I’ve had the pleasure of being served authentic dishes. Don’t ever expect any customer service and a clean environment when you’re eating in these restaurants. You’re there for the food and that is it! However over the past few years I have noticed a lot more modern looking Vietnamese restaurants popping up in Springvale.

We recently discovered a fairly new restaurant called Quan Lua that opened up with apparently really good Bun bo Hue. Now for those that don’t know, Bun bo Hue is a spicy Vietnamese noodle soup from Hue, a city in central Vietnam. Davin and I have both had our fair share of this dish in our lifetime and so when a friend of ours told us how good it was there, it certainly piqued our interest.

Located on Buckingham Avenue along a strip of other restaurants and shops, Quan Lua is a smallish no nonsense restaurant. When you enter, you know it’s the real deal when there are only true blue Vietnamese customers dining inside.

For drinks I ordered the iced kumquat drink which was delicious. Davin has never been a fan of kumquat in general but I love it. He stuck to just hot tea.

But we were there of course for their famous Bun bo Hue so we ordered 2 bowls of it and excitedly waited with much anticipation. They came out in large generous bowls piping hot with the usual sides of lime wedges, mint, bean sprouts and other greens to mix in with your Bun bo Hue. The first thing we noticed was that it was packed full of goodies to devour! They definitely didn’t cheapen out as the bowls had lots of beef and pork slices, cubes of pig blood and large pork knuckles.

The first thing I always do when eating a soupy dish is to take a sip of the broth to get a sense of the flavours. The broth was so beautifully flavoured. It had the perfect amount of spiciness combined with the lovely sour and salty flavours to make it a killer broth. The noodles were also perfectly bouncy and not too soft. Coated in the flavoured broth, I enjoyed slurping up every bit of noodle. The beef and pork portions were generous with the right amounts of fat attached to it, however it was the pig blood that was really special. These cubes of blood was so delicate like jelly, and so fresh! I don’t think I’ve ever had pig blood that fresh before.

Verdict? Probably the best Bun bo Hue I’ve had in a long time! Highly recommend! However if you do feel like another soup noodle dish there, I also recommend their country style chicken noodle soup which is also amazing. The broth is herbal based and also really flavoured. The chicken literally just falls off the bone too!

Quan Lua
Approx $15 AUD
Address: 23A Buckingham Ave, Springvale VIC 3171
Phone: +61 (0)401 211 888

Quan Lua Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Belleville

We were recently invited to Belleville, a restaurant and bar located in a rustic warehouse type building near Chinatown. Think dim lights, chandeliers, scuffed walls and floors, loud music and a DJ to create a casual vibe.

Davin and I started off with a couple of drinks and I ordered a dry martini with olives, and Davin ordered a glass of the Champagne Collette.

For starters we ordered the duck ham with taleggio cream, pickled black berry and sour dough crips. We’ve never had duck ham before but the texture and flavours were nice. Davin thought it was probably on the salty side. We also got the chargrilled calamari with ‘ndjuda, cavalo nero and mussels. This was a really nice dish and the seafood was fresh.

With mains we decided to order the Tasmanian salmon with cauliflower, golden raisins and citrus beurre blanc, and their famous rotisserie free range chicken with jus and miso butter. The salmon was nice and cooked well. The rotisserie free range chicken however was a bit of a let down. The chicken skin was on the salty side and tasted more like one of those charcoal chickens you could get from a takeaway shop. It didn’t stand out for us.

We also ordered sides with our mains and got the rotisserie sweet potato with creme fraiche, aged gouda and chives. This was delicious! It came out piping hot and we loved it. We also loved the chargrilled greens with citrus butter and pecorino. It was so flavoured and the greens had a lovely crunch to it.

Overall, Belleville has a great vibe for if you want to have a couple of drinks and food with a bunch of friends in a casual setting.

Belleville
Approx $45 AUD per person
Address: 1 Globe Alley, Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: +61 3 9663 4041
Website: belleville-melbourne.com

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

Bensons on Martin

Tapas is the best cure for indecisive people, which was the category that Helen and I fell into on a weeknight. It’s hard to keep the budget down on weeknights without opting for Asian food, but ya gotta splurge sometimes! We were interested to find that Brighton had a tapas restaurant called Bensons on Martin with some decent reviews. Brighton is not the first suburb I think of when it comes to a tapas restaurant, but this was the exact reason why we decided to try these guys out.

First thing I noticed walking in was that it didn’t have the buzz of a tapas restaurant. I’m used to a packed house, people chattering, music playing, etc. This was not the case here ,as we even got to pick where to sit. I’m not complaining but it just felt unusual. This was a weeknight after all, so maybe they get busier on Fridays/weekends. We decided to sit by the window to give these guys some free advertising.

The decision was made to get an assortment of tapas and then reassess our fullness. We were off to a flyer with the mussels with white wine broth! Plump and juicy mussels, the broth had heaps of flavour and character. I could also taste the onion and herbs coming through as well, this was a delicious dish. There just wasn’t enough though as I could have done with 6 more, such a tease! The other two dishes I really enjoyed were the scallops wrapped in bacon and lamb cutlets.

Some of the other dishes we had here were a bit hit and miss. It’s interesting because I’m not referring to the whole dishes as a miss, but specific components within the dishes which did not hit the mark. For example, the caramalised onions were overwhelming the stuffed mushrooms, it felt like I was eating caramalised onions on a small plate as I couldn’t taste the mushroom at all. The crispy pulled pork was good for the first two bites before it go so sickeningly sweet that we couldn’t finish it, and the smoked salmon in the carpaccio tasted like it was from a packet at the supermarket. It’s not that I don’t like packaged smoked salmon from the supermarket, but it’s just that for the price we’re paying, we kinda expected a bit more.

The tapas didn’t fill us up fully so we decided to get a roasted duck breast risotto to finish off. The risotto itself was amazing, but once again the inconsistencies shined through as the roasted duck breast was extremely tough. If I had dentures, I’m sure this duck would have ripped it out of my mouth!

Bensons on Martin does some dishes really well but they also a healthy amount of not very enjoyable dishes. The ratio is too high to warrant a return from us unfortunately. If these certain components in the dishes could be improved, then the customers would be in for a stellar experience! We hope that they take some of the feedback on board and continue to improve, and we wish them all the best.

Bensons on Martin
Approx $45 AUD per person
Address: 146-148 Martin Street, Brighton VIC 3186
Phone: +61 3 9596 0443
Website: www.bensonsonmartin.com

Bensons on Martin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Secret Kitchen (Doncaster)

There is an abundance of places to choose from in Melbourne when it comes to yum cha. We absolutely love yum cha and have grown up with it, often making it a family affair. Anyway not long ago we were advised to try out Secret Kitchen. There are a number of franchises scattered across Melbourne but we ended up going to the one recommended, located in the Doncaster Westfield shopping centre.

As with traditional yum cha, trolleys of glorious food is pushed around the restaurant right to your table for your choosing. We picked our usual favourites which included varied dumplings, chicken feet, tripe, and a noodle dish.

All the dishes were of very high quality and fresh! We particularly liked the noodle dish, which is something we don’t normally order or even see at other yum cha restaurants, but it was delicious! So flavoured but it didn’t taste overly oily. It was so easy to scoff.

The dumplings were all good with generous delicious filling and the perfect, bouncy outer skin. Sometimes you get dumplings where the outer layer is so thick that’s all you can taste, but that’s not the case here!

We also ordered the silken tofu with ginger syrup dessert, one of my favourites! The tofu was certainly silky smooth, with a nice subtle ginger flavour. The syrup was also not too sickly sweet.

The egg tarts were freshly baked with the perfect eggy flavour, and again not too sweet.

Overall it was a great yum cha experience. Service was also really good and staff were super efficient. We will definitely be thinking of Secret Kitchen when we’re craving some yum cha in the future!

Secret Kitchen
Approx $40 AUD per person
Address: ShopL2-2003/619 Doncaster Rd, Doncaster VIC 3108
Phone: +61 3 9840 2248
Website: secret-kitchen.com.au

Secret Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato