Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Restaurant Review: Maze by Gordon Ramsay (revisited)

Location: Level 1, Crown Metropol Corner of Whiteman and Clarendon Streets
Phone: +61 (0)3 9292 8300
Cuisine: Modern Australian
Overall Impression: 8.5/10

To read our review of our first visit to Maze, click here.

As you can tell from the pictures we took during our second visit to Maze, they have taken mood lighting a bit too far. This time the booking was for 7.30pm and the whole restaurant was already incredibly dark when we arrived. There was barely sufficient lighting to read the menu and wine list. I can see how this would be a problem for older guests.
Speaking of the wine list, if you look through it, you will see a variety of bottom range French wines that have been ridiculously marked up. We both recalled seeing a few of these bottles during our travels around Europe and even when the dollar was not as strong as it is today, those bottles would have costs about 10AUD. On the wine list however, they had been marked up to $66. There was a mere sprinkling of Australian wines on offer and that is nothing less than disappointing. It appears to be an attempt to prey on unsuspecting diners. We have noticed this unwelcomed trend in the fine dining scene lately. It first came to our attention during our second visit to Vue De Monde (the first time, the wine list was excellent). It appears that other restaurants have caught on to this money-making gimmick. Maze is unfortunately not an exception. That said, the wine list also included wines in the $1000 bracket etc, and these are marked up by 300% (which unfortunately, appears to be the norm in Melbourne's fine dining scene).

The dining experience, similar to our last visit, was exceptional. With Maze bidding Josh Emett a fond farewell, we wondered if John Lawson being the new person in charge would change the style of the offerings. In our view, the style and execution has not changed.  
Almost every dish was executed perfectly, balanced and delicious.

The only dish that was slightly disappointing was the Crispy roast pork belly. The pork belly skin was unfortunately chewy and the broth that it came with was a bit too salty. Highlights of the meal included the delicious whiting, the amazing veal and the very good foie gras.
The following is the degustation menu we partook in.

Marinated beetroot with goats curd,
Cabernet Sauvignon vinaigrette, toasted pine nuts

Seared yellow fin tuna
white radish, yuzu, enoki mushrooms, black garlic

Foie gras and chicken liver parfait
Madeira, mulberries, toasted sourdough

Marlborough King Salmon
Jerusalem artichoke, mustard, horseradish cream

King George whiting
smoked paprika brandade, black olive

Crispy roast pork belly
calvalo nero, soybeans, dashi

Gisborne duck leg
sweet corn, cracked wheat, fig jam

Cape Grim short rib
potato, shimeji mushrooms, shallot gastric

Exotic fruit vacherin passion fruit and banana sorbet (picture from last visit)
Chocolate ganache salted caramel, hazelnut ice cream

The degustation sets you back $120 per person for 7 courses, which is more than fair for a restaurant of its calibre. The casual take on fine dining means that sharing dishes are encouraged so you could very well share more than 7 different courses between a couple if you each choose different courses from the degustation menu options. That said, this casual take also means that the service provided is such that patrons are not made to feel special. Personally, we loved that we were left alone but we can see how this could be seen as a lack of attentiveness on part of the wait staff.
maze Melbourne on Urbanspoon

Monday, 24 October 2011

Cafe Review: Glicks

Location: 352 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Phone: 03 9614 0533
Cuisine: Bakery, Kosher
Overall Impression: 6/10

Best bagels in town? Yes oh yes...
There is a large variety of bagel flavours at Glicks - plain, poppy seed, sesame seed, garlic, onion, caraway, blueberry, choc chip, cinnamon and sultana, “everything” and wholemeal.
Definitely worth a visit if you are a bagel enthusiast.

Glicks on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Event Review: 2nd anniversary of Heide Museum and Yering Station's partnership

J and I were both privileged by an invitation to a celebration hosted by Yering Station and Heide Museum as this was the second anniversary of their partnership. It was a lovely afternoon of Yarrabank sparkling and Café Vue sweets.
 The event commenced at 2pm on the lovely grounds of Heide Museum. We were delighted to indulge in the newly released 2007 Yarrabank Cuvee. As neither J nor I have ever visited Café Vue, we were curious to taste their offerings. To be honest, this has been quite deliberate. Neither of us are a fan of Vue de Monde, so instinctively we have not found reason to be supportive of Shannon Bennett’s Bistro Vue and Café Vue that undoubtedly trade under the success of Vue De Monde.
2007 Yarrabank Cuvee
Hazelnut Cupcake (front), Pistachip Cupcake (back)

The sweets provided by Café Vue were lovely. Of particular note was the Flourless Pistachio cupcake. It was indulgent and delectable. An intense pistachio flavour permeated the cupcake. I could not resist the temptation to have another one. Needless to say, this experience has definitely given us a favourable view of Café Vue.
Lamingtons (front), Orange and chocolate Cupcake (back)

The popular Café Vue lamingtons were also on offer. They were good and slightly more sophisticated than your run of the mill lamington but were not particularly impressive.
 As is customary, speeches were delivered. It was good to hear a little bit about the history of Yering Station, a winery J and I have become very fond of. J’s cellar is full of red wines bearing the Yering Station label. In fact, one of our very first dates was at Yering Station’s Wine Bar Restaurant over a lovely bottle of Cab Sav.
 We were also given the opportunity to wander through the fabulous exhibitions after the event. An opportunity we gladly accepted. The current exhibitions are Callum Morton: In Memoriam, The Futile City & Nöel Skrzypczak: Talking to Strangers. We also enjoyed walking through the beautiful gardens.
 Thank you, Yering Station, Heide Museum and Café Vue for a wonderful afternoon!

Café Vue at Heide on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Macaron Mania: La Belle Miette vs LuxBite

La Belle Miette
Location: 30 Hardware Lane, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9024 4528
Overall Impression: 8/10

Location: 38 Toorak Road, South Yarra
Phone: (03) 9867 5888
Overall Impression: 5/10
Given the surge in the macaron fan base in Melbourne, the supply of macarons in cafes have been steadily increasing.  La Belle Miette is a café that contributes to the macaron supply chain. Located in trendy Hardware Lane, this small French patisserie specialises in macarons.

LuxBite on the other hand, is a Malaysian influenced dessert bar with exotic macaron flavours. J and I love exotic flavours and trying new things but ultimately, the macarons at LuxBite failed to satisfy. As pretty as they were, the flavours were very much one dimensional. They lacked the depth and complexity in taste that the ones at La Belle Miette have.
Since our little LuxBite vs La Belle Miette competition, we have been back to La Belle Miette several times…
Our latest visit consisted of us buying a box of 18 macarons filled with every flavour they had. As usual, they were all perfectly shaped. Each macaron was the same size. The flavours were beautiful. Each flavour was distinct and special. There was a good crunch that came with the right thickness of the casing that enveloped the two ‘bsicuit’ sides. This ensured it crumbled perfectly with each bite.  
So I guess the winner is clear... We both cannot wait to go back *again*.
La Belle Miette on Urbanspoon

LuxBite on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Restaurant Review: Gills Diner

Location: 360 Little Collins St, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9670 7214
Cuisine: Modern Australian
Overall Impression: 6/10
We had heard the praise lavished on Gills Diner from numerous sources and were excited about the food we would be receiving.
In true Melbourne style, Gills Diner is hidden in an alley way. In the midst of the bustling CBD, it is almost a sanctuary inside. Dimly lit, you forget it is the middle of the afternoon.  The menu is written with chalk on the boards. I found every item on the menu incredibly appealing. J and I both struggled, thinking about what we should get. We finally settled for the roast pork belly and a pie.
 Long Macchiato
 Beef and Burgundy Pie $22

The pie was at best, underwhelming. The side of chips and salad screamed of mediocrity and did little to distinguish this humble pie from any other I have tried.  Tolerable, though unexceptional, it was disappointing especially from a restaurant that has been the recipient of much accolade.
 Roast Pork Belly with lentils, apple and celery $32

The pork belly was cooked well. The crackling was amply salted and crunchy. The pork was tender and well seasoned. The apple brought some needed acidity to the dish that cut through the richness of the luxurious crackling. As a whole however, it was a simple dish that was executed reasonably well. It was good but not particularly impressive.  
From our experience, the hype surrounding Gills Diner is not entirely justified. Its recurring existence on The Age Good Food Guide Chef’s Hats list for instance, is questionable. The food is unobjectionable but certainly not phenomenal.

Gills Diner on Urbanspoon

Monday, 3 October 2011

Restaurant Review: Da Giovanni's

Location: 136 Highfield Rd, Camberwell
Phone: (03) 9836 0714
Cuisine: Italian
Overall Impression: 5/10

J had to pick up some wine from Canterbury so we decided to have dinner close by. On the way back, we saw this Italian eatery and decided to give it a go. In their vast dining room, there was only one table that was taken. We felt slightly apprehensive about this but thought it might have been a Sunday night thing. Besides, it was too late to walk out… the maitre’d had seen us.
We decided to share a pizza and pasta.
Giovanni's Originale 13" pizza
Tomato, cheese, fresh sausage, basil & olive oil

The pizza was quite good. It had a good crust. It was traditionally thin and crisp without being too dry.
Marinara Gnocchi

Marinara Gnocchi was an odd choice, I must admit. But when a restaurant gives you both the choice of pasta and the accompanying sauce, it is difficult not to resist the urge to do something a little silly with that power once in a while. It was clear that it was the wrong sauce for gnocchi but it was certainly kosher. The gnocchi itself was incredibly good. Those soft pillows of potato goodness were clearly home-made. I savoured every moreish silky bite. I was pleasantly surprised at this as I have had bad experiences with gnocchi at similar looking establishments. The marinara sauce on the other hand was incredibly disappointing. For some reason, the tomato sauce tasted very artificial. It was clear that the seafood was out of a frozen “marinara mix”.
Overall, it is an average Italian eatery that meets expectations. I would place it slightly above a Sofia’s/La Porchetta restaurant (just to give you an idea). I highly recommend the gnocchi sans the Marinara sauce (which was my own doing).

Da Giovanni's Camberwell on Urbanspoon