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.

Eating on Hayling Island and around Havant

I had a short project in the town very close to Portsmouth. We were a little far to be travelling to Portsmouth for dinner as we stayed at the very nice hotel, The Langstone Hotel. This area is best navigated by a car, but we ended up catching taxis around as it was pretty much to and from work, and then to and from dinner. We ate pretty well out there, but only after doing a bit of research. Here’s a list of places we ate at:

The Brasserie Restaurant

Located within the Langstone Hotel, this restaurant did surprisingly good food both in terms of interesting ingredients, combinations and presentations.

They had a decent vegetarian selection and the only strange point was the insistence of having different, over-sized plates for the food where the waiters/waitresses were unable to put cutlery in the right spot. Still pretty nice. Fare is probably best described at Modern European.

The Moghul Brasserie

A nice Indian restaurant where I had a really hot curry (tasty though) with some great naan bread. They had a jazz band playing Thursday night and I would have liked to give the curry with naga chilli a go but was a little timid about it.

36 on the Quay

A seafood focused restaurant to have held a Michelin star for the last fifteen years.

Beautifully presented, strongly influenced by French food using local fresh ingredients. Beautiful experience.

Piranha Bar and Restaurant

Literally at the other end of Hayling Island, this remote restaurants sits amongst a marina where you can watch all the people enjoying food on their boat and the surrounding atmosphere. Nice fresh seafood and a bit more of the pub than restaurant feel.

Fine Dining Indian at Rasoi

Last year we managed to nab a 50% discount off a tasting course at the Michelin-starred Rasoi. It’s tucked down a small alleyway, a few streets away from Sloane Square tube. From the outside, it looks more like someone’s home than a restaurant and it feels similar when you step in where they take your coat and welcome you to the restaurant. Only a small, almost unnoticeable sign hangs in the distant and I’d recommend you map it out before you get there, otherwise you miss it.

We’re shown to our table, fortunately by the window in what really should be someone’s front room. The down lights are dimmed to an almost ridiculously low level and I apologise in advance for any blurry images in the post below. I’m glad I brought the bigger camera, as the poor iPhone really wouldn’t have been able to cope. Even as it were, I was shooting at maximum (1600) ISO and had to try to keep the camera really steady.

They presented us with the two tasting menu options. Being an Indian restaurant, vegetarians are very well catered for and we could have opted for that. Not tonight. Whilst we waited on the first course, we had some fried paneer, poppadoms and chutney. They had topped the paneer with a lovely spicy dollop of something, and the typical coriander sauce and chutney were welcome additions to the crisply fried thins.

Our first course soon arrived. Apparently fried rice cakes served with sambar. This dish seemed inspired by the idli dish that I remember so well from Bangalore. The “fried” factor was pretty much zero as there was no crispiness, instead each rice cake surrounded by chilli spice. The sambar was a lentil soup, had deep flavours and a good background heat to it. A good start to the course.

We then had lamb two ways, the first being minced lamb and lentils. I wasn’t particularly impressed by the texture, almost reminding me of an excessively minced meat – an almost liver-like texture. The lamb kebab however was wonderfully flavoured. Plenty of smoke and chilli with deep flavours.

The next dish really surprised, a tomato “makhni” ice cream sitting atop a wild mushroom and truffle oil laced khichdi. This dish reminded me of an Italian mushroom risotto, although obviously influenced by Indian flavours. What was amazing was the contrasts here. Ice cold ice cream stayed perfectly formed for the entire dish, separated from the hot bed by a rice cracker. Spiciness kicking in only to be contrasted by the umami-rich truffle and mushroom tones. Definitely a winning dish.

We then had the gunpowder sea bass, curry leaf potatoes, beetroot moilee sauce and a coconut chutney. Although this dish was very beautifully presented and very flavoursome, it seemed a tad confused and overwhelming. Too many contrasting components that would have been fine.

A cleanser round of a melon and black pepper sorbet. Interesting combo as both flavours were quite strong.

By this stage, we were both pretty full and had expected our dessert round. How wrong we were when they presented this beautiful dish topped with a dome full of smoke. They removed the dome to uncover a chicken tikka, aubergine caviar, dal sauce and potatoes. I’m a big fan of aubergine and my only criticism of this was that the “caviar” texture didn’t really come through, so they really might as well have called it mash. The chicken tikka was amazingly tender, moist and full of flavour and a great combination of textures and flavours that really balanced out.

Normally Indian desserts are excessively sweet, so was a bit hesitant about the final course. Fortunately there’s a reason they have a star rating from the Michelin guide. We had a “Chocomosa” – a samosa filled with almond, white and dark chocolate and a fresh rose-petal vanilla bean ice cream. This was the perfect way to finish the meal as the samosa wasn’t as heavy as it could have been and the ice cream very refreshing.

Service was great – they topped up our tap water constantly and there was no pushing of other drinks (we did have a mango lassi with dinner as well).

Name: Rasoi
Found at: 10 Lincoln Street, London, SW3 2DT
Website at: http://www.rasoi-uk.com/

Tripping to Asia and back in one night

We organised yet another team dinner out in Cambridge, this time deciding to hit a restaurant called Asia. I’d read some great things about it so I was quite excited to do so. I’d arranged the booking a week in advance, although I was surprised when I called up the day before our dinner to find out that our booking disappeared into the ether. Fortunately they still had space for our change in dining numbers.

We sat at a very local freehouse (St Radegund) in Cambridge (highly recommended for a very pub-like experience) when I received a call from the restaurant telling me that their Thai chef did not turn up. I thought this was quite nice of them, though understandable, when half of their menu is Thai.

We also had strange service throughout the entire night, mainly because we had a bit of a newbie waiter asking one of his colleagues to come across. I think it was the first five questions that sent him running that triggered us to have a bit of a laugh of it throughout the night. Strangeness continued throughout the evening, with the wine menu being presented with an one extensive page each, of red and white wines, yet then to be told only four bottles were available of the 20+ listed.

On to the food. The menu was pretty large, although being “pan-asian” they only seemed to have Indian/Pakistani and then Thai foods. This is probably a good choice because pan asian restaurants tend to offer greater variety of cuisines at the cost of quality. Fortunately they hadn’t sacrificed quality. I skipped the starters, although everyone else said their starter was delicious. They certainly looked like it. Then the mains finally arrived and I almost regret ordering the plethora of side dishes.

I ordered their Chicken Lababdar (Tandoori chicken tikka cooked in lababdar gravy with fresh ginger, green chilli, coriander and finished with cream) which ended up deliciously spicy and creamy at the same time. It was a hugely generous serve (as were all of the main dishes), hence regretting the presence of all the side dishes we ordered.

We ended up taking all the leftover food home. Despite all the strangeness, if you simply treated this as an Indian/Pakistani restaurant the food is definitely worth going for. I can also recommend ordering their mango creme brulee.

Name: Asia Dining Room
Found at: 66 Regent Street, Cambridge, CB2 1DP
Website: http://www.asia-dining.co.uk/cambridge

Urban Turban

This weekend I finally ended up having dinner at Urban Turban on Westbourne Grove. I can’t remember how it got on my list of places to go, perhaps it was the Time Out Top 50, or some random website. When we arrived for dinner (just after seven), I thought that the dining room seemed pretty empty for a Saturday night. It doesn’t help that it’s split into two by the bar, with only a few tables visible from the outside.


We were shown to our table, conveniently located by the window, where numerous passer-bys could see what the fuss was all about. After all, its very classic Eastern dark colours, high ceilings and mood lighting certainly catches the eye. We were presented with menus, including their wine list also listing a whole set of cocktails on offer. Their food menu is split into three main parts, the first section focusing on “tapas-style”, with the second part being more classic dishes, and a small section that included two set menus, one including a “hot rock” grill where you finish the food off at your table with a rock that keeps its temperature for some time.


We decide to start with two tapas dishes, unsure about the portion sizes since each “tapas” dish was £7.50. The pictures above are the “Gun Powder” prawns, and the Crab and Corn Cake. Both dishes were served with a slightly spicy sauce and whilst quite shareable, weren’t worth the price of each dish. The Gun Powder prawns didn’t really have the peppery pizazz one might expect from the name, and the crab and corn cake were delicious and tasty, wasn’t particularly memorable.

Naan and Lamb Biryani

We moved on to the main meal, where we’d ordered the lamb biryani (£12), saali chicken curry (£10), and an aubergine curry (£6) as well as two naan (£3 each). As you can see from the picture above, their naans are huge, since most of them are stuffed with some sort of filling. They had a lot more a unique assortment of them including the chilli garlic naan (that tasted a lot like this sauce, simply spread on top).

Lamb Biryani

Out of the dishes that we picked, the aubergine curry and the lamb biryani were definitely my favourites. The aubergine was hearty and extremely flavoursome, while the lamb biryani reminded me of the few that I remember seeing in India where they were sealed and cooked with a pastry topping (Urban Turban uses a richer, flaky puff pastry and recommend you mix it in, though I remember it was only supposed to be used as a cooking mechanism). They also served it with yogurt mixed with fenugreek that left a distinctive taste, not something that my sister enjoyed but I did.


Urban Turban serves delicious food. I just don’t think it’s worth the price you pay (at least not out of my own pocket). For a dinner for two costing £65 without any alcoholic drinks (1 mango lassi for £3.30, and a nutella colada for £5.50) the food just didn’t really warrant the price. Service was reasonable though I also still question whether or not they can charge 12.5%.

Name: Urban Turban
Location: 98 Westbourne Grove, London W2 5RU
Website: http://www.urbanturban.uk.com/
The good: Modern decore, friendly service and some interesting dishes
Not so good: Well over priced tapas dishes or just in general.