Friday, April 23, 2010

ravenous is moving to WordPress!

After it was made very clear at the Eat.Drink.Blog. 2010 food blogger's conference (see my wrap up of the event here or check out what The Age had to say) that WordPress was the blog platform of choice for the majority of those in attendance, I've decided to make the switch. This page will remain but no new reviews will be posted here; instead, check out

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Not a bad word to say about Mr Tulk

Mr Tulk
State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston Street
Melbourne 3000
Ph: (03) 8660 5700

When I open a restaurant one day in the future, I want the service style to be just like what you get at Mr Tulk. The staff here are young and fun, and on the surface, they seem to be extremely relaxed - thankfully, this casual nature does not equal poor, inattentive service. Have a closer look at the movements of any of the staff here, and you'll find they're going fast, watching the room, talking to themselves about what needs to happen next.

My Mum, my brother and I sat in the waiting area and ordered some drinks as staff found a table for us. Table turnover here is fast, but the cafe is usually packed, so there's a good chance you may have to wait. When you finish your meal, however, wait staff don't hustle you out the door. Any pressure the staff feel to clear the table as soon as possible is not passed on to the customer.

My first interaction with a member of staff was as I gave my drink order to a waiter who had danced over to me. Soon, we were being shown to our table, facing the difficult decision of what to have. Mr Tulk offers breakfast and brunch, lunch, light snacks and little sweet things. There are so many things on the menu that sound fantastic, picking is tough. Last time Mum and I visited, I had breakfast and she had lunch - beautiful, creamy scrambled eggs tinted green from the basil that was mixed through, with sweet, roasted tomatoes; and a light, fresh dish of calamari frites and a rocket salad. This time, the three of us struggled to decide, at one point all wanting the same dish. It was the waiter who came to the rescue when he asked for our order.

"What are you deciding between?", he asked me. I proceeded to list about half the menu. Mum piped up that she liked smoked salmon; my brother, James, asked about the Caesar salad. I enquired about the day's soup special, a lamb, pea and fennel soup. "Is the soup nice?", I asked. "No", the waiter replied, "It's shit." It is this humour and relaxed nature that I love about Mr Tulk. The ordering incident came to a head when the waiter took charge of the situation: "Why don't you have the soup, you have the smoked salmon, and you have the salad." Easy, quick and helpful. I am a very indecisive customer and I value the opinion of wait staff. It is a big pet hate of mine when I visit a restaurant or cafe, ask for advice, and am told "I dunno... it's really up to you".

The view from our table: The entrance to Mr Tulk on the left, and to the State Library on the right; further down the room, guests can grab a coffee and something small to eat and sit at one of the bar stools. Note the man in the grey top with a menu in front of his face: that's our waiter, deliberately jumping and dancing to get in my picture.

Lamb, pea and fennel soup of the day with crusty bread

This soup was fantastic. Small pieces of lamb were visible when I lightly swirled the soup, but when I plunged my spoon right to the bottom and scooped up, I found a big piece of lamb on the bone and as the dish sat there, melt-in-your-mouth chunks fell right off. Big cubes of soft potato were also present in this strong-flavoured and well balanced dish.

Caesar salad with white anchovy and poached egg

"One of the best Caesar salads going round", claimed the waiter, and it certainly was. Beautiful creamy dressing covered good-sized pieces of bacon and parmesan, and the big, juicy white anchovies were an excellent addition. I enjoyed the bread presented, rather than as small croutons scattered throughout, as a large, lightly toasted slice sitting atop the salad.

Smoked salmon bruschetta with onions, capers and creme fraiche

A simple dish, but a delicious one, with a generous helping of fresh smoked salmon, served with a twist: creme fraiche rather than the commonly used Philadelphia cream cheese, and pickled, deliciously vinegar-y slices of red onion.

Both times I have been to Mr Tulk, service and food have been flawless - I really have nothing critical to say about the venue and highly recommend it as a great, friendly place to have a coffee or something quick to eat in between whatever it is you're doing in the city. Mr Tulk is open till 5pm Monday-Thursday and till 4pm Saturday (closed Sundays), but on Friday nights they close at 9pm and host happy hours and fish specials - something I am keen to experience.

(Apologies for the lack of prices accompanying the dishes in this post. Dishes at Mr Tulk are around $10-$16)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

An update on Demitri's Feast

Demitri's Feast
141 Swan Street
Richmond 3121
Ph: (03) 9428 8659

Reading through the very extensive coverage of Richmond on Eat (Almost) Anything at Least Once, I stumbled across a review of Demitri's Feast, a cafe whose reviews I am always interested to read as I had such a strange, inconsistent experience there. This is post is a comparison, just for interest's sake, of two pictures of the same dish. Obviously the quality of my picture is not as clear, but the differences in the dishes is still obvious:

From Eat (Almost) Anything at Least Once, the Fried Eggs - a dish that doesn't look particularly exciting, but simple and probably some people's idea of a perfect, basic breakfast.

The dish that Bf received: apparently the same dish, but presented in an appalling manner, unlike the neat, clean stack above, and we assume the kitchen ran out of the lokaniko sausage as there were a few pieces but most of the meat served was bacon. (This was not explained to us at all when the waitress delivered the meal).

Finding this photo was very interesting for me as I had already done a whole blog post on how Demitri's delivered a few great dishes, but failed to keep up that same high standard. It's just incredible to me that the same dish can be served to two customers so differently - one presented quite nicely in a stack and the other, an unappealing mess - within the space of less than a month.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Eat.Drink.Blog. 2010

Eat.Drink.Blog. 2010
The Essential Ingredient, Prahran;
St. Ali, South Melbourne

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural Eat.Drink.Blog food bloggers conference. I was one of 45 bloggers who came together at the drool-worthy foodies store, The Essential Ingredient, went upstairs to their demonstration kitchen and discussed all things blogging - from how and why we blog, making money, ethics, and photography, to copyright and other legalities, being more social in the blogging community and SEO.

Receiving this invitation was thrilling for me as realised I would get to mingle with some of my favourite food bloggers, such as Ed from and Claire from Melbourne Gastronome. When I arrived it was evident that many of the bloggers knew each other from online or from previous events, and as a relative newcomer to the food blogging scene it was a relief to find each and every person was friendly and welcoming.

There were so many highlights, so many funny moments throughout the day, and one was the Twitter broadcast that was projected up onto the wall. Even if you didn't make it to the event, if you followed #eatdrinkblog or #eatdrinkblog2010 yesterday you probably felt like you were there as we furiously tweeted everything that was said, as well as updates on the temperature of the room and our current hunger/wanting booze status.

Lunch was provided by St Ali - a selection of sandwiches from which I chose the smoked salmon and chicken package.

We returned from lunch for the "how to be social" panel which I found particularly interesting as a fairly new blogger. Armed with a fat notebook I took down notes from the experienced bloggers and particularly took home this message: Be involved in the community - be active online as well as in the 'real world'. Interact with your fellow bloggers. If you are using your blog to simply upload and update information, your blog will only go so far.

Next stop: the food photography exhibition, sponsored by SBS, which featured some stunning pieces I'd love to have hanging on my walls - including the ice cream photo by the lovely Linda from We were served cocktails in brown paper bags and old poison bottles courtesy of Der Raum - I wasn't such a fan of a chamomile cocktail, but we all agreed that the beetroot juice mixture served in a wine glass was delicious.

Note the SBS goodie bags on the table - a bag full of DVD's and cookbooks for the bloggers!

After two hours of drinking and mingling we all had rumbling tummies and I know I was very excited when Ed yelled "FOOD!" - time to enter the very cool ST. ALi for a six course "Bloggers Banquet".

I ate scallops, oysters, wontons, Chinese broth, mushrooms, kingfish head, lamb rump and fresh fruit with chili sugar. Michael from told me that he basically lives at this restaurant; I can see why. Each dish was stunningly presented, perfectly portioned and the flavours very balanced. It was an incredible meal, accompanied by a very passionate and knowledgeable waitress and beautiful fellow bloggers to chat to. I would consider a large majority of my friends and family to be very into food, but these people are absolute food geeks, and it was such a pleasure to be surrounded by people who also wanted to keep talking and talking about food and wine and coffee.

One of the biggest highlights, however, was the "Pick your favourite Essential Ingredient" competition that we were told about at the start of the day - and it was such a highlight because I won! The task was to roam the aisles of The Essential Ingredient, pick your favourite food item, snap it and tell everyone why you chose the item. "My favourite Essential Ingredient is caperberries", I tweeted, "for their versatility". I was so excited when Ed announced over dessert that I had won - my prize was the book Coco - 10 world-leading masters choose 100 contemporary chefs!

To top it all off, us bloggers woke this morning to discover our event had made it into the "Melbourne Life" section of The Age:

The Age, Monday 22nd March

The event was fantastic and it was so exciting to be a part of the first one. From it, I gained invaluable knowledge from long-time bloggers, met wonderful people who share my passion and got to eat some incredible food. I thank all those responsible for bringing the idea to life and look forward to next year's event.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Inconsistent Demitri

Demitri's Feast
141 Swan Street
Richmond 3121
Ph: 03 9428 8659

"We found out that we won Best Breakfast and we ran, and ran, and ran".

When mum and I visited Demitri's Feast on a Thursday morning, we found our waitress's description of her reaction to the award a little strange, but we liked her nonetheless. It had been two days since Epicure had announced that the Cheap Eats 2010 award for Best Breakfast had been given to this graffitied Greek cafe in Swan Street, and we were indeed enjoying our breakfasts.

The clientele was really interesting. There was a table of two business people who, it seems, the waitress suspected them of visiting in order to steal ideas; there was a young man having a working breakfast by himself; and a grandmother and her three year old granddaughter who, after sitting at the table for a few minutes exclaimed, "Where's my coffee!?!" The courtyard is tiny, as is the whole cafe, and it's a really interesting place to (subtly) people-watch.

Poached eggs with ouzo and dill cured salmon and spinach ($15.50)

One of the most amazing serves of salmon I have ever had at a restaurant or cafe; up there with the finest sashimi-grade salmon. It was so fresh, so melt-in-your-mouth, and the dill was the perfect accompaniment. A satisfying, perfectly portioned dish that, unlike many breakfasts, left me feeling full yet light.

Scrambled eggs with goats cheese feta and oregano roasted tomatoes on toast ($13.50)

Normally, I hate scrambled eggs that look like this: folds of egg rather than soft "clouds", however these eggs were creamy and rich and paired so well with the goat's feta - a cheese so much more authentically Greek and creamy than anything I've ever bought from a supermarket or even a deli.

Our waitress, in clearing our plates, knocked over the vibrant blue glass water bottle that sat on our table, smashing it on the ground and our feet. She managed to recover from that quite well. She was apologetic but confident enough to remain positive and make a joke out of the situation, and as the whole courtyard turned to see what had happened in the corner, the young man packed in tight next to us quipped: "It's still the Best Breakfast".

What a difference a weekend can make. I brought Bf to Demitri's on a Saturday morning. Again, we sat outside in the courtyard (note the little chairs made from old feta tins, above), but this time we waited inside by the coffee machine as staff ignored us and failed to even acknowledge that we were there. When we finally made eye contact with one, we were told "I think there's a table out the back, go out there".

To start off with, I was craving a Bloody Mary. When I asked the waitress - the same one who gave such great service to my mum and I on Thursday - if they made them, she barked at me: "No!!"
Alright, I said, fair enough, and she walked off.

A few minutes later, when I decided I wanted an iced coffee, the waitress asked a confusing set of questions about how I wanted my drink prepared. When it came out and I tasted the bitter, almost burnt-tasting coffee I understood why she asked: their iced coffees are prepared in a different way to most cafes and she was concerned that I might not like it. If only she had of actually been clear about her concerns, rather than walking off and saying "Don't worry about it" when I didn't understand.

Fried eggs with free range bacon, lokaniko sausage and oven roasted tomatoes ($16)

This was Bf's dish, and when I told him halfway through his meal that the cafe had won Best Breakfast I think he thought I was joking. His food was just really average, and the presentation was pretty poor.

Omeletta - Greek omelette with lokaniko sausage, potatoes and kefalograviera ($14.50)

My omelette was pretty good - nothing to rave about though. The sausage was quite thick and I think it would have had a more enjoyable texture if it was cut finely.

While we were eating, a young male waiter asked a table to leave the cafe as he had another group waiting to be seated. I understand the importance of table turnover in a busy restaurant - you want to get as many people through as you can. At my work, however, we pre-warn customers of this during busy times - for example, letting customers know that on a packed Friday night, they can only have the table for an hour and a half. If customers know this at the start, they're usually fine with it. If they find out at the end of the meal, when they're relaxing for a moment, letting their food settle, and you're trying to hustle them out the door, it can be an unpleasant end to what might have been an otherwise enjoyable experience.

Bf was absolutely appalled by this place. I left feeling less negative because I had already had a great experience and know what Demitri's are capable of; it's just a shame that the floor really can't cope once it starts to get busy.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

It's not really a food review, but...

Deveny Does Matt Preston and Marieke Hardy
C.U.B. Malthouse
113 Sturt Street

Last night I went to see a night of conversation, hosted by Catherine Deveny, in which she tackled "some of the hard topics" (food, literature, sex) with guests Marieke Hardy and Matt Preston. When S told me about the event I was incredibly excited; three fabulous writers whom we both admire, in the one room, speaking intelligently and about interesting topics. When I thought about what other 19-year-olds might be doing with their night I felt like a bit of a geek, and I enjoyed that feeling; it was so nice to do something so different. The demographic was mixed, with people of all ages in attendance.

The writers sat on white wicker chairs around a table piled with books, water and white wine. It was relaxed, as though they were in a restaurant having a typical conversation and we were flies on the wall listening in. The conversation in general was fascinating and funny, but from a foodies point of view, it was the way not only Matt, but Marieke and Catherine too, spoke about food that was thrilling. They spoke of the importance of food in everything that we do; that it is much more than fuel. As Matt described, it is what brings people together, and what is there no matter what we are doing: attending a funeral, coming together at Christmas time, at every rite of passage we go through. It was absolutely wonderful to attend an event where interesting people spoke passionately and intelligently about food, among other things, and if such an event comes up again I would highly recommend it to everyone.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I ♥ P+MJ

Porgie + Mr Jones
291 Auburn Road
Hawthorn 3122
Ph: 03 9882 2955

Synonymous recently moved out Hawthorn way and it had been a while since we'd caught up. Perfect, I thought; I could see my beautiful friend and visit a little cafe I'd been meaning to try for ages - since Matt Preston wrote it up for Epicure in 2008 - at the same time.

Tucked away between dry cleaners and newsagents on Auburn Road, P+MJ consists of three distinct "layers": as you first walk in, the vibe is casual, fast, takeaway. Walk through to the next room and it becomes instantly more grown up, perfect for a cosy dinner (the private dining room upstairs has just been opened and provides an intimate space for 12-18 patrons). S and I kept walking out to the cute little courtyard, a quiet, pebble stone haven.

First impressions of the (quite good looking) staff were good. All young but professional, we were quickly shown to a table, their nature casual but very welcoming. When I faced my usual dilemma (two things on the menu sound particularly fabulous; I will now take half an hour to decide), and after a game of heads or tails failed to help, the waitress provided some very helpful advice.

"What are you choosing between?"

"The salmon or the risotto."

"Are you quite hungry?"

"Yes. Ravenous. Which do you like best?"

"They're both delicious, but the salmon is quite light, whereas the risotto is a large serve."

"Alright", I concluded, "the risotto it is then".

S was having breakfast - I was tempted, especially when I saw some of the P+MJ 'classics' like smashed avocado with thyme buttered mushrooms, marinated feta and torn basil on wholegrain toast, poached 'googie' optional - and I had a feeling this was a place that would do breakfasts well. But this blog could so easily become about nothing but breakfast with how often I crave a meal out in the morning, and that's not the aim, so with ravenous in mind I stuck with the "Lunchy Things" menu.

Risotto of pea and pancetta, herbed marscapone ($19.90)

A bowl of creamy, quite runny rice. The flavour was nice, but it was nothing stunning. The herbed marscapone added a nice kick and would have been better spread throughout the whole dish rather than lumped in the middle. The flavour of the pancetta was good but the little pieces of pork were hard, rather than the thin, melt in your mouth slices I was expecting.

Carman's bircher muesli with pear and cinnamon compote, honeyed yoghurt ($10.90)

S really enjoyed her Bircher; I'm not much of a muesli eater but I had a spoonful and it was creamy with a strong taste of fresh pear.

From a PR point of view, P+MJ are on fire. Their website and business cards are fabulous and continue with the cute theme that's found throughout the restaurant - blackboards on the walls with little messages of optimism, cute quotes on the menu ("...My tongue is smiling", claimed Mr Jones' 5 year old brother). Presentation of the restaurant itself is fabulous and service could not be faulted - the only flaw in the entire experience was my risotto and even that wasn't a 'flaw' as such, just a dish whose flavours were simply 'nice' and whose texture could have been improved.

Given how nice S's breakfast was, maybe breakfast and brunch is more their thing - I will be back to investigate this further.