Where we ate and drank in Melbourne

In September, we had an amazing time eating and drinking our way around Melbourne. Although I had a huge list, we only had a small amount of time but still managed to get through a good deal of them. Here’s some of the places that we ended up visiting.

Eating Places

  • Fancy Hanks (Level 1, 79 Bourke St) – If you’re craving some good American style BBQ with a wide variety of sauces and craft beer, then Fancy’s Hanks is for you.
  • Dehli Streets (22 Katherine Pl) – A cheap and cheerful restaurant tucked away in an alley but was full even on a Monday evening. A good mix of Indian food served in a Thali which gives you a good option to try several things at once.
  • Sezar (6 Melbourne Pl) – A more upmarket restaurnat serving Armenian food which is an interesting mix of dishes that remind me of a mix between Turkish and middle Eastern dishes. Try the feast, although make sure you leave some room for dessert! Bookings essential.
  • Bibim Fresh (9/108 Bourke St) – A cheap and cheerful Korean restaurant serving focused on serving Korean stone bowls with fresh ingredients and a slightly healthier twist on the dishes such as brown instead of white rice.
  • Maha (21 Bond St) – An underground Turkish restaurant that offers both ala carte and an amazing 4-6 course tasting adventure. This is definitely a bit more fine-dining and we noted a number of people coming here for birthdays because it was nice.
  • +39 Pizza (362 Little Bourke St) – A popular but tiny pizza place that offers huge pizzas. The pizza was good but I was disappointed that the foccacia was basically a pizza dough, not a proper foccacia one. Cheap and cheerful.
  • Frances’ Food and Coffee (1/245 Franklin St) – We stumbled across this place looking for breakfast when we were near the QVM. I’m glad we did with good coffee, great variety of cooked breakfasts, seats in the sun and friendly service – what more does one need?
  • Dex2rose Nitrogen Gelateria & Cafe (377-379 Little Bourke St) – Instagram-friendly creative dessert cafe based on ice cream made with liquid nitrogen.

Drinking Places

  • Fall from Grace (Hidden bar in State of Grace at 477 Collins St) – One of those speakeasy bars that is hidden behind a retracting bookcase that will make you fall in love with the atmosphere. Cocktails take a while to whip up, and ordering them at the counter is worth watching the amount of preparation. Rather darkly lit on the inside but lots of comfy lounge areas if you come early enough.
  • Berlin Bar (Upper floor – 16 Corrs Ln) – I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this place. The reviews made me think it could be really cheesy… but it was really well done! Sit in the East or the West side and enjoy the creative and German-inspired drinks, the fitting atomsphere and some of the great entertainment (black and white film and an in-house magician!) Cocktails weren’t cheap AUD20 but were worth it for something unique. Even better is that everyone must sit at a table, so it’s never too crowded (but there was a line so come early or book)
  • Madame Brussels (59 Bourke St) – Brightly decorated tennis lawns, pink chairs and camp decorations make this jovial bar a delight to drink at. Why order a single cocktail when you can order the cocktails by the pitcher to share! They have a nice terrace that even in winter was used because of the outdoor heating. Light finger food made available (the sausage rolls were amazing!)

Coffee Places

  • Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke St) – This tiny place was just down from hotel we stayed at and was a place I remember from the last trip I had in Melbourne. It’s not really a huge place with lots of tables but works for a couple.
  • Duke’s Coffee (247 Flinders Ln) – Some of the folk from my office showed me this coffee place. Proper hipster style, with a long stream of regulars and often a line out of the door. They also offer some amazing looking cakes and pastries to snack on as well.
  • Manchester Press (8 Rankins Ln) – We actually dropped in here for breakfast. It’s a larger airy place that apparently is really crowded on weekends (we went on a weekday). I wasn’t particularly impressed by the breakfast offerings – various bagels with different toppings but the coffee was good with lots of seating area in a large warehouse-like environment.

Pork Knuckle at Haxnbauer

German food is well known for being meat heavy, and if you’re in Bavaria this becomes even more of the truth. One of the places recommended by my work colleagues was a place very well known for its pork knuckle, a large hunk of meat including a very crispy pork skin, almost as if it’s been deep fried. I try not to think of it, preferring that they have lovingly roasted it with their special spit roast (visible in the window) until its been perfectly cooked.

Haxnbauer is a place well known for its pork knuckle, where the service is German-brusque. They got my order wrong, bringing me first veal instead of the pork, and where the waiter literally threw it down in front of me. My very helpful German colleagues helped clear up the situation and eventually I was brought another dish, although the waiter continued to give our group the very rough service.

Fortunately the pork was really good. Crisp, meaty and served with some great sauerkraut and lots of mustard to help cut through the greasiness of the dish. We were all a bit full from that to order a full dessert but ordered a few to share amongst the table.

Name: Haxnbauer
Website: http://www.kuffler.de/en/muenchen/haxnbauer/index.php
Found at: Haxnbauer im Scholastikahaus, Sparkassenstraße, 80331 München

Horvath’s Round 2

I’d eaten at the much acclaimed Horvath’s at the beginning of the year. It’s an unusual find in Kreuzburg, focusing much more on the higher end of the market offering modern twists to Bayerish cuisine.

It’s more of the place you’d take your parents to meet your partner for the first time, rather than as a casual night out. Fortunately Berlin is as happy serving a bunch of geeks (seven of us to be exact) as they are entertaining German families.

We opted for a mix of the the tasting course menu – me, of course, hoping to try as much as we could given the time. The courses end up much more than the six expected courses.

They first brough a bread basket to the table, a mix of wonderfully different styles including one that had notable chunks of black pudding throughout. My favourite, of course, a lighter bread surrounded by a crisp crust lightly dusted in flour.

Just as unusually, their “butter” proved to be a combination of cream cheese, some butter and some toasted pumpkin seed oil. The oil proved less popular at the table as it was surprisingly bitter, not the smooth subtle flavours one would normally expect of a more classical olive oil at the table.

It’s a while since I wrote this up, so the details of each dish are less forthcoming, however I hope you enjoy seeing some of the pictures anyway. Here I think we had a pureed celeric with some fresh celery and apple. As the first dish, it proved refreshing to the pallette.

Round two, a chunk of duck liver with a majoram glaze and a caramellised corn pudding accompanied by some other pureed vegetable stuff (I think). If you look closely you can see there was a very thin sugar crust layering on top that provided both the element of crunch and sweetness to an otherwise very rich dish.

Next followed a really delicate dish confit fish filet with dark berry sauce, and mushrooms. The dish had been finished off dotted with lots of capers and two chunks of a very small sour cream cream. Mmmm. Delicious.

Next up was a softly cooked venison strip. I honestly can’t remember what it sat upon but I do remember it being amazingly tender and very well cooked.

Our next course would make vegetarians envious with generous chunks of aubergine with a generous selection of fresh chanterelles sitting on some more pureed turnip.

Being Bayerish food, one doesn’t expect too many vegetables and predictably changed with the next round, a duck breast accompanied by a selection of pototo and red cabbage.

Some of us then had the additional cheese course, a strong blue cheese that went really well with the small sultanas dotting the plate.

Dessert finished off our meal with an amazingly fresh red carrot sorbet, a soft cake, and a couple of other puddings. Everyone was so impressed by the strong flavours of the red carrot sorbet, someone even asked for the recipe.

With tea arrived a small selection of biscuits and soft caramels but I literally coudln’t eat anymore.

An enjoyable evening and a place I would definitely return to again.

Name: Horvath’s
Website: http://www.restaurant-horvath.de/
Found at: Paul Lincke Ufer 44a, Kreuzberg, 10999 Berlin


I know of at least one restaurant near me that is like the Dunkelrestaurant (Dark Restaurant) that we ate at a couple of weeks ago. Just like one near me, the Unsicht Bar (Invisible Bar) focuses on serving a meal that really pushes your sensory experiences by forcing you to eat your meal in the dark.

It’s a bit like this:

You first sit down in the bar to choose what sort of meal you would like. They cater extremely well for vegetarians, fish lovers or just down right meat eaters. However not to spoil the fun, you get to choose dishes like a soup, “A greek with many names loves to bathe and be seduced by the Asian beauty whose taste is very fine indeed”, or an appetiser “Tender American girls cuddle up against Italian hunks against a green backdrop” so you really don’t know what you’re eating.

Of course, normally this is where I’d share all the photos of the food but obviously it would ruin the experience. Instead you’ll have to imagine what it’s like.

Firstly, our waiter introduced himself. He was, I think, half blind and got us to follow him to the edge of the dining room. Forming effectively a human congo line, though hands on shoulders rather than hips, he walked us through a winding passage way where the bright room gave way to a black void filled with interesting sounds. We could hear tables talking fairly loudly and only got a sense of what the room was like by where all the sounds of the people came from.

Not able to fully focus on the wall as our waiter moved quickly, we suddenly stopped at our table where he told us to stand still as he guided each of us to our chair and sat us down. He asked us to feel where everything was on the table, and using our hands, delicately pushed things around to rediscovery the feel of what would normally be on the table. A good thing our wine glasses were shorter and smaller than normal ones that we’d be more likely to knock over.

Instructed to alert him (how we have no idea) if we needed something, he dropped off some water and wine before whisking away to serve several other tables. At first, it was mighty awkward. Using fingers to guide the neck of the bottle to the glasses and another inserted to sense the overflow, I was amazed to see how we had to adapt.

Our first dish soon arrived and recommended by our waiter to use our hands, decided to poke around on the plate. Michael and I decided to have the beef menu, whilst another Patrick (Pat D) had the poultry. Michael and I had fun trying to guess what we had, and discovering different things on our plates at different times. It was actually a really great event that really got us focused on the different delights of the food we had to eat. Ours ending up being a slice of roast beef, with anti-pasti and salad. Full of flavour and really well cooked.

Our main was quite entertaining, because we knew we had a bit of beef coming and using a knife and fork to cut it proved difficult for the entire meal. Cutting it wasn’t too bad. What was hard was finding out that the fork you had came back empty, or with a chunk far too big to eat without even realising it. Deliciously made though.

Dessert was perfect as well, a white chocolate mousse of some sort with some berry compote or the like.

An awesome experience and definitely well worth going for. In a way, we were also pretty lucky we didn’t get the fourth course, a soup option that I can imagine simple spilling everywhere.

Name: Unsicht Bar Berlin
Website: http://unsicht-bar-berlin.de
Found at: Gormannstraße 14


Apparently an institution in Berlin for a place that does very traditional German food, Chris recommended this place over Max and Moritz as its apparently filled with more locals than tourists. We came here in a fairly nice day, so all the tables were unfortunately taken. Inside, the interior is bright and airy so it looks just as good, but we couldn’t enjoy the sunshine as a result.

I can’t really remember what else was on the menu, but seeing as it was still in the heart of asparagus season, and Beelitzer Spargel (asparagus) was all the range, who was I to argue. I ordered the schnitzel with 400g of the big beasts.

Of course, like any good place, they served some awesome great beers, and I got to indulge in Schwartzbeir (black beer) along with my food. Mmm.

The schnitzel was well cooked and accompanied by a hollandaise sauce, particularly decadent (not the dish to have every night). More than the that, you can see the giant asparagus spears and they were the true stars of this dish. Flavoursome, and just cooked so they still had some texture. Delicious. I’ll have to come back and try a few other places.

Name: Weltrestaurant-Markthalle
Found at: Pücklerstrasse 34, 10997 Berlin- Kreuzberg
Website: http://www.weltrestaurant-markthalle.de/


Before Stef left our project, we decided to hit one of Berlin’s handful of Michelin-starred restaurants. Opting for the one located in one of our most favourite neighbourhoods, Kreuzburg, a number of other people couldn’t believe a Michelin-starred restaurant could exist in the neighbourhood that invited the Döner Kebab.

Everything started off wonderfully – we were shown to our tables before being offered the menu choice and an aperitif to start. The menu errs a bit more on the slightly causal side of a restaurant, though I will note that service was extremely good throughout. Our menu differed slightly from the what was on the website, a good indicator the menu changes based on availability of ingredients.

We opted for the 5 course tasting menu and instead of the matching wines, opted for two different types of bottle of wines to share for the rest of the meal.

Shortly after deciding, a small amuse bouche arrived, fishcake with fresh apple and mango sauce (or at least I think it was – my memory is getting worse as times passes). I remember everyone being very impressed by the starter – fresh ingredients, delicate textures and a strong balance of flavours that worked remarkably.

We also got two types of bread – nothing particularly to write home about, but both came along with two different spreads – a tantalising light mayonnaise with garlic and herbs, and the other, fresh cheese curds mixed with some sort of green herb. Dare I say waldmeister (woodruff) that Germans seem to enjoy.

Here’s a picture of the Poached Saint Pierre in laurel milk with calameretti, confit tomato and dry olives. I can’t really comment on the dish since I didn’t order it, but others reported it was very nice. It also came with an ink sauce.

My first dish was the crayfish with eel jelly, baby artichoke, Granny smith and pancetta. For me, this was an amazing dish – the little jelly cube packed with eel flavour, the crisp salty pancetta balancing out sweet crayfish, with neither excessively dominating and apple and a scoop of apple-infused ice cream doing wonders to balance it out. No wonder these guys got an award for great food.

Next up was our Seabass with grilled asparagus, pea and tarragon gnocchis. A hearty piece of piece served with perfectly crisp skin, in season white asparagus (it’s everywhere at the moment), and a hearty handful of the potato pasta infused with the peas and herbs. Another winner.

When our dish of Braised and pan seared venison with brioche dumplings, yellow chanterelles and spinach arrived, we all commented on how wonderful it looked. Not content to have venison one way, we had it twice – but showing off the great flavours. Being a sucker for stewed meats, I particularly savoured the deep flavours developed by the braised version but both tasted amazing. The brioche dumpling also provided a nice textural counterbalance to the dish.

Finally on to our dessert rounds. Up first was the Cheese selection from Maitre Affineur Waltmann. It was a French selection, and although I’m not the biggest fan of cheese for dessert, it impressed everyone else – good selection from strong to soft, and of different textures. They provided more bread at this stage as well.

Here’s a quick picture of the dining room.

And well laid out cutlery throughout the meal.

Our final dessert for the evening, the Baked chocolate with cherry and ice cream made out of sour cream. The cherry came in three forms (fresh, glaced, and then served in a triangle form, effectively a mousse). The sharpness of the cherries naturally provided a great complement to the rich chocolate slice, and more counter balanced by the sour cream ice cream that worked to cleanse the pallette with every mouthful.

Not to be overly done, they also served a dish of petite fours (indeed various cakes, chocolates and bites to delight).

Hartmann’s is gold. Service was particularly great throughout the evening, warm and friendly at the same time without getting in the way. It’s strange location makes it even better. I reckon it’s also one of the best valued restaurants I’ve been to for some time (for the quality of food such as this).

Name: Hartmann’s
Found at: Fichtestrasse 31, Kreuzberg, Berlin 10967
Website: http://www.hartmanns-restaurant.de/

Brunching at Schneeweiss

Schneeweiss, literally translated as ‘Snow White’ sits in the heart of Friedrichshain, the more edgy and upcoming part of Berlin. Situated in a neighbourhood with plenty of other cafes and interesting looking bars, it hints at the resentful gentrification settling upon Berlin. It’s clean, white interiors (hence it’s name) provide a stark contrast to those buildings around them.

We went along for their Sunday brunch, where they have a buffet offering pretty much everything on their normal menu, that focuses on atypical Austrian cuisine, although without the wiener schnitzel. Drinks are excluded from the menu, although they offer you a menu so that you can pick.

The restaurant seats large groups, and until I went to the restroom, didn’t really how extensive the entire place would be. I could only imagine how this place might evolve on a late Friday and Saturday night, when the bar area opens up and the back room fills up. This morning probably represented a much more sedate and the average Berlin crowd on a weekend – young hipsters and groups of people catching up. Several people bringing dogs into the restaurant as well (not just the small ones).

Although doing several different types of coffee, the nearest to a reasonable ratio of milk and coffee they offered was the cappuccino. I have learned hard the lesson about ordering a latte macchiato, the drink where Germans let milk dominate the coffee.

They had plenty of stuff on offer on the buffet – many types of salads (half of which contained meat), cold meats and cheese and different types of breads. They even had a whole pretzel stand (the large variety) that seemed popular with the crowd.

Further down stood plenty of micro salads including the many traditional German ones (potato! beetroot!) and good portions that let you try them all without getting too stuffed.

On another table opposite the bar, they offered the hot stuff that included a number of dumplings, some hot stews and some roast pork. I tried a small bowl just to sample them all but was filling up fast.

Germans like their desserts, particularly their “kuchen” (cake) and Schneeweiss offered many including several sweet slices, and other lovely tasting morsels like a creme brulee.

It’s hard not to enjoy the vibe of a restaurant like this. One that is obviously popular with locals (I only heard German speaking tongue). One where you can enjoy the local delights, and take your time doing so.

Name: Schneeweiß
Website: http://www.schneeweiss-berlin.de/
Found at: Simplonstraße 16, 10245 Berlin, Germany

Good Eating at Horvath

Horvath owns two restaurants in Berlin, one of which we’d already eaten at for a team outing. This one, more distinguished restaurant is located in the heart of Kreuzberg, by a canal and offers the tastebuds interesting takes on German cuisine.

You have the option of ordering a la carte, or with a variety of set menus. I felt like we could have a three course meal when we went, just not the five or seven course ones also on offer. Frankly I feel like I’ve been eating too much since arriving in Berlin, and with so much variety, there’s always something new to discover.

Their bread offering soon arrived after the offer of an aperitif. LIke many restaurants trying to impress (which they most certainly did!), we had three breads on offer – a black pudding bread (the round one), a pumpkin seed bread, and a hearty sourdough, all perfectly warm and well made.

Two types of spreads accompanied the bread, a plain butter (but pretty good butter with flavour for Germany) and, another mayonnaise concoction, though this time topped with toasted pumpkin seed oil. Yum.

To our surprise, an amuse bouche arrived after our hearty bread, turning the intended three course into a much more filling meal than intended. It wasn’t simply just a bite either, this being a reasonable sized plate, smeared with mashed turnip, earthy mushrooms and brought to life with pickled carrots.

My sister had a vegetarian starter, not that interested in the terraine. I have no idea how it was.

I opted for the “old vienna style beef jelly” that had the perfect combination of textures (soft and crunchy contrasts) with refreshing slices of turnip, sourness of pickled onions and a fresh zing of some sort of vinegar dressing.

We both then went for the “baked spring chicken with a potato cucumber salad”. What arrived was the juiciest, tenderest chicken that seemed like it had been fried with an unbelievably crisp crumb. I guess it was their take on “wienerschnitzel” and I can’t rave about how good it tasted. Each small slice burst with flavour – this was once a happy chicken, or one that grazed on a flavoursome herb diet. As you can see, everything was thought out with the muslin cloth wrapped lemon preventing pips from entering the food.

Like most recipes, the potato salad also burst with flavour – that perfect combination of soft, yet textured potatoes in a delicious dressing.

We finished our course with the apple fritter – and served with a sour cream ice cream provided a delightful finish – the sourness helping bring out the sweetness in the apple. A mound of caramel sat in the middle of the plate, providing yet another type of sweetness that was probably not really needed considering the whole plate had been dusted with icing sugar.

Funnily enough, our meal still wasn’t finished when they brought the bill also bringing along a pumpkinseed truffle. The truffle had a really interesting taste, the oil slightly taking out the richness, though adding another dimension to the dish, almost lengthening the flavours on the tongue.

The restaurant had some really great food and service, and it was such a shame that we couldn’t indulge just that little more. You’ll definitely pay a lot more for the meal compared to other places in Berlin, but the equivalent of this sort of food in Berlin, you’d be paying even more in places outside of Berlin.

Name: Horvath
Website: www.restaurant-horvath.de
Found at: Paul-Lincke-Ufer 44A, 10999 Berlin, Germany

Average Alpenstueck

A small deer on a white sign on a typically dark Berlin street marks the spot for Michelin Bib Gourmand recommended Alpenstueck. I was scheduled to meet Jo, Nigel and his wife after their viewing of the Blue Man Group and although they asked if we had a reservation, tables on a Sunday evening were quite easy to come by.

The deer motif runs throughout all of their menus, representing an icon for their focus on South German foods.

The others were running late, so I had a bit of time to take in the atmosphere. They brought bread, not accompanied by oil or butter, but by a mayonnaise blended with, what I think was some fresh dill. The bread tasted like it was freshly made, my guess is on the premises given they also have a bakery open from 7 in the morning during the week.

Another thing I noticed was the open kitchen views from our table, something I really appreciate when dining in any restaurant. The waiters were very friendly, checking to make sure I had something to drink or if I needed anything whilst waiting. More on that a bit later.

Several things caught my eye on the menu, and since I hadn’t had a schnitzel for sometime, I figured this place would be a great place to try it. When the others arrived, we placed our order and waited for a while. Unfortunately we sat, waiting for our food, until the waiter came back to our table with bad news that he’d somehow lost our order and needed to take it again. Being that it was already a late meal, I was a little disappointed by this and we were offered no recompense in our meal.

When the food finally arrived, the schnitzel was freshly cooked and quite delicious. I’m guessing that it’s not that hard to cook well, but the meal was definitely flavourful and not excessively over cooked. The swabian potato salad was nice, although strangely cold in contrast to the rest of the dishes. The food elements to the meal were quite reasonable although slightly more expensive than your average Berliner restaurant (€19.50 for the schnitzel). The killer though was the bottles of water, not realising each 750ml bottle cost €7.50. Extortionate! I’d rather have had a bottle of wine from their extensive list instead.

I’d like to offer them another chance, but on this visit, they managed to disappoint in a couple of areas.

Name: Alpenstueck
Found at: Gartenstrasse 9
Website: www.alpenstueck.de