Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Boo in Australia - Sydney

Perhaps my best meal of all in Australia was the Italian dinner we had at A Tavola in Darlinghurst, just around the corner from our hotel. In fact, I would go so far as to say I had the best dessert of my life there.

Here it is, I'm working backwards because I can't mention this place without immediately raving about the cremino al cioccolato. Italian meringue topped chocolate mousse, with a layer of soft salted caramel. I was actually lost for words. Served in a little cup and saucer, god, I want it now!

Mains were brilliant too, I chose from the specials, parpadelle con ragu di agrello. Freshly made daily, the pasta was hanging up at the rear of the restaurant, where the kitchen is. Certainly the best pasta dish I've eaten in a restaurant, with a rich slow cooked lamb sauce, this place was such a gem and I need to find a restaurant in London which is up to this level of Italian cooking. Thomas' gnocci was, guess what? The best gnocci I've ever had, with peas and mushrooms.

We were lucky to get in without booking ahead, we were seated along the long communal table and the menu was explained to us in great detail. The wine advise was also spot on, we had a great Sicilian Nero D'avola, perfect with the ragu. Starters of burrata, with grapes and tomatoes, and carpaccio di manzo with beetroot and watercress we interesting combinations too. Served with a light and pillowy focaccia bread.

I can't rave about the place enough, Eugenio Maiale, you're a genius. Can you open a restaurant in London please? Seamlessly moving on to somebody who has....Bill Granger.

I've not been to Bill's in London yet, but I did hit up 1 of his 3 Sydney addresses. My lasting memory of the place is that it was overpriced and the service was crap. This is pretty much in the same vein as what I've read about the Notting Hill venue.

We visited on a Monday so, thankfully, didn't have to face a queue. There's a large communal table, a nice selection of magazines to read and an open kitchen. We kicked things off with lattes and stuck to the 'classic' Granger dishes, sweetcorn fritters, with an extra side of guacamole ($4.50, for that measly portion), and the ricotta hotcakes with banana and honeycomb butter.

Tbh, I'm not the biggest fan of sweet dishes for breakfast so the fritters were my preference of the 2 but I could certainly appreciate the lightness of the hotcakes. I'd love them as a seriously big dessert. The whole thing was a little soured due to the inattentive servers. We were seated by a guy who immediately left the building and about 20 minutes later, we had to go and find someone else to serve us. I'd read similar reports. This is why I've not rushed to try the London branch.

There are a multitude of appealing cafes and bars in the area where we stayed. A walk to Surrey Hills one day took us via the corner of Forbes and Burton Streets, where Forbes & Burton was abuzz. We nabbed the last available table for a lunch to fill up ahead of an afternoon of exploring.

Thomas' pulled pork sandwich with homemade brown sauce, coriander, mint, carrot and rocket was fantastic. Each ingredient detectable between the robust slices of sourdough. These are proper sandwiches.

I went for the croque monsieur with smoked leg ham, swiss gruyère and mustard béchamel. I developed a bit of a thing for a jazzed up toasted cheese while I was in Oz! We shared a side salad and a pot of earl grey and were all set for a day on our feet.

A Tavola
348 Victoria St

A Tavola on Urbanspoon

433 Liverpool St

Bills on Urbanspoon

Forbes & Burton
252 Forbes St

Forbes & Burton on Urbanspoon

Other highlights included drinks with iconic views at Opera Bar and at the top of the Shangri La hotel. The latter offers brilliant cocktails and a great system which pretty much guarantees you a seat at some point, no matter how busy things get. We only had to wait for around 20 minutes which flew by as we caught up with our friend Lex and Jane. I loved Sydney, despite the constant rain during the 3 days we were there. No beaches unfortunately, but plenty of great food and drink.

Blu Horizons Bar - The Shangri La
176 Cumberland St
The Rocks

Blu Horizon Bar, Shangri-la Hotel on Urbanspoon

Opera Bar

Opera Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Pitt Cue Co. Soho

I'm definitely late to this party but, hey, better late than never. A recent power cut on Poland Street meant I got an early and extra long lunch break. I could think of nowhere better to spend it than Pitt Cue Co.

Open daily from 12, you need to get here early or be prepared to take away, such is the buzz around this BBQ eatery. Having missed them in their former guise under Hungerford Bridge last summer, I was excited to hear they have set up a permanent residence in Soho.

The menu is short and simple, choose a meat, choose a side. There are a handful of extras for us greedy ones and daily specials. A meal, served on a round metal tray, is around £10.

I went for the braised beef bun with burnt ends mash and shared a side of spicy chicken wings with my companion. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Everything about it. The deep smokiness of the meat. The crunchy slaw. The soft, slightly sweet bun. The mash, oh my god, the mash.

They are serious about their meat here, and it pays off. I also tried the pulled pork and the neighouring table's ribs looked increds. I can't wait to come back. Everytime I've wandered by since, there have been mega queues. Go people.

Pitt Cue Co
1 Newburgh Street
Soho, W1F

Pitt Cue Co on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Boo in Australia - Dinner Highlights in Melbourne

I was in Melbourne for a total of 15 days and, within that time, I tried to cram in as much eating out as is physically possible without making yourself ill.

Here are some of the best meals I had whilst there.

Chin Chin was the talk of the town back in October (still is evidently) and our friends Jamie and Tori recommended that we definitely make time to try it. It was a big deal to whittle down a shortlist in a city where there are so many quality eateries.

I'm so pleased that we made it here, having perused a few blogger reviews beforehand, I had a firm idea of what I wanted to try. The beef massaman curry was the biggest hit of the night, such a rich creamy sauce with plenty of succulent beef. Other treats included the pork roll ups and the son in law eggs, which I had never heard of before, they're deep fried and served in a sticky sauce with fresh chillis.

We also tried some snacks in the bar downstairs whilst waiting for our table (no reservations, obviously) and I distinctly remember the roti wraps being wonderful. Drinks were good, there's a fine selection of cocktails and the only problem you might have with the place is the wait. We were a group of 6 but even on a Monday evening we were told it would be a 2 hour wait. In actuality it was more like 45 minutes. And the food was well worth it.

I was fortunately informed by Melbourne friends in the know, that Lygon Street in Carlton, whilst having the reputation as the place to find the best Italian anything, is best avoided if you're looking for a good meal. We ventured just slightly north to 1 of Dan's favourite places, D.O.C pizza and mozzarella bar.

We had to wait for about 30 minutes, again no reservations are taken, but considering the size of the place (small), we were seated pretty quickly. I had one of the specials, fig, gorgonzola, buffalo mozzarella and proscuitto. It was incredible. It's the 2nd best pizza I've eaten (2nd only to a Tuscan pizza I had years ago on holiday), amazing topping combination and a brilliant crust.

We shared 2 dessert pizzas, this one, white chocolate and strawberry and a nutella calzone. I was speechless they were so good. Side salads were simple but hit the mark and I really wish I had gone back for the mozzarella tasting board. Next time perhaps.

We explored the St Kilda area of the city one day, it was very windy so we drove there, sat on the beach for about 10 minutes, took some pictures, decided it was too chilly and went to find Golden Fields, the real reason I was there!

We were there at around 4pm, only one other table was occupied so I couldn't comment on the atmos but the food was incredible. We started with this steak tartare which was served with large slices of veggies to scoop it up with and some really fragrant lemony basil. It was fresh yet creamy due to the egg yolk, and quite pretty too.

Next up were the new england lobster roll which was fantastic, but a bit of a rip off for $15 for a miniscule bun containing crayfish masquerading as lobster. The kewpie sauce and the bread were so good that I didn't care. The pork dumplings were totally outshone by the chilli vinegar they were served with but I loved everything we ate here.

The final dish we shared was the twice cooked duck served with steamed buns. I like that the portions were fairly small, then you can try more things. I wanted more but as it was late I didn't want to overdo it as we were dining at MoVida Aqui later that day.

Perhaps my most eagerly anticipated Melbourne restaurant, I had ridiculously high hope for this meal. To be honest, I wasn't blown away, I didn't try any flavours that I'd not had before, with the possible exception of the tomato sorbet with the anchovy toasts pictured above. They were pretty good.

Everything was yum, but nothing blew me away. There's a slightly commercial air to this the 3rd MoVida restaurant in Melbourne, the word 'Movida' is everywhere. Highlights of the meal for me were the braised beef with polenta and the scallops with salty ham and creamed potato. Nice to look at too, little towers served in their shells. We had some lovely oysters too. I really wish we'd tried the smaller branch on Hosier Lane and I think we are so truly spoiled with amazing Spanish food here in London that sadly MoVida didn't impress.

Anyway, here's some of the incredible graffiti I saw on Hosier Lane, I still love you Melbourne! They even paint the wheelie bins. That's dedication. Just behind me when I took this picture, was a wedding party having their professional snaps taken with this backdrop.

Chin Chin
125 Flinders Lane

Chin Chin on Urbanspoon

D.O.C Pizza and Mozarella Bar
295 Drummond St

D.O.C. Pizza and Mozzarella Bar on Urbanspoon

Golden Fields
157 Fitzroy St
St Kilda

Golden Fields on Urbanspoon

MoVida Aqui
500 Bourke St (Level 1)

MoVida Aqui and Terraza on Urbanspoon

Thanks to Thomas for his patience, for eating through illness and for not getting too annoyed by my ever growing list of restaurants to drag him along to, both home and away x