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.

Return to La Carbonara in Rome

For the past couple of years, we have been making a journey to Rome to watch a game with Italy play in the six nations. Luca is very good at organising it. One of the places that we try to frequent is a place called La Carbonara.


It is definitely one of those places where you need to book in advance. Luca was good enough to also organise that on our latest trip. They do two sittings, and we ended up with the later sitting at 20:30 although you can turn up for a drink at the bar whilst waiting. We did see quite a number of people enter, only to be turned away because they didn’t have a booking. If you’re in Rome, get your hotel to make the reservation for you. It’s very worth it.


You also have to be careful because there are two places in Rome called La Carbonara, and they aren’t even related.


We started by sharing some fritto misto (mixed fried stuff) – almost very much like a tempura coating.

Frito Misto

We also shared a fried artichoke (it’s one of those things in Italy where I’m surprised they fry a lot of things). Of course, it tastes pretty good because they do it with olive oil, and the ingredients are super-fresh.


Of course, the star of the show is the carbonara, and it would be wrong to order any other pasta dish as a first course, unless you have a dairy intolerance, or just don’t like bacon (who doesn’t?!) Like classic Roman style, the dish is creamy without the addition of real cream, just an egg yolk to bind it all together, plenty of black pepper. Just perfect.


The other classic dish to have in Rome, is the Saltimbocca, or pieces of veal topped with some prosciutto. Good to have a couple of green sides to go along with this as the main dish.


And what would an Italian meal be without any tiramisu? A nice, light way to finish the meal.


Name: La Carbonara
Website: www.lacarbonara.it
Found at: (Viminal Hill) Via Panisperna, 214, Rome (it’s not the one in Piazza Campo Dè Fiori)

Truffle Menu at Cantina Del Ponto


Truffle season lasts only a very short time around London, and every year many restaurants host a truffle special menu for this short time. We headed down to a D&D London restaurant, Cantina Del Ponto down by Tower Bridge to celebrate with their affordable menu.


This was actually attempt number two, after trying to book for the first day of their truffle menu only to receive a call in the afternoon telling us the truffle delivery had failed and that they weren’t able to offer us the menu that evening. I did appreciate the call to ensure we did waste a trip out there, but I found it strange they couldn’t get a delivery earlier than the day of the menu.


We rebooked for another Monday later in the month, and the restaurant was quite empty. Monday’s tend to be quieter than normal, and this area in particular tends to be very quiet, so the result was a pretty empty restaurant at 6pm. A few tables filled up later in the evening, but it largely remained empty.


They offered us the a la carte menu, but seeing as we were here for the truffle menu, we decided to go for the menu. The only disappointment on the menu was that the truffle dessert wasn’t present and they substituted their well-known chocolate cake.


We started with the bread basket, containing some foccacia, some plain bread and served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.


The first course on the menu, was a beef carpaccio, served with shavings of parmesan and truffle. I wasn’t quite sure about this dish, but as soon as I put one of the delicate slices of beef into my mouth, it exploded with a mouthful of flavour. Salt, umami, yumminess.


The next dish was a truffle tagliatelle. The pasta was thick, perfectly al dente and covered with a butter truffle sauce. I didn’t find the flavour as strong as the previous dish but it was still very fulfilling.


A little bit of parmesan helped too. We finished up with the chocolate pudding served with a scoop of ice cream. It wasn’t quite the chocolate fondant that many other restaurant serve, but it was good nevertheless.


Name: Cantina Del Ponto
Found at: 36c Shad Thames, London SE1 2YE
Website: http://www.cantinadelponte.co.uk/

Polpo Smithfield

Russel Norman is praised a lot for his ever growing empire of small restaurants with big food. The original Polpo located in Soho proved popular and expanded into Covent Garden before his most recent escape into the area of which I live. Pretty much opposite in fact. I remember the opening very well because loud music and swarms of people came to the opening where I feared I may need to sleep regularly with earplugs other than the days that the club, Fabric around the corner, had some popular DJs in town.

As you can see from one of the opening evenings it was pretty packed with a long queue and waiting list. I think we waited about an hour and half before being seated. Not really a problem as we downed a few bottles of beer and I caught up with a friend, Tom, before he set off to relocate to the other side of the world. He was pretty excited as well at a recommendation because he’s a big foodie (we both ate at Noma together before it was ranked number one in the San Pelligrino Top 50 restaurants in the world list).

The menu is pretty simple, inspired by the small plates found in the Venetian backstreets of Italy and enjoyed with gusto by the locals. We tried a mix of various small dishes although many of the photos turned out poorly with a combination of being shot only with my iPhone and very dim lighting that doesn’t really reflect off the brick-bare walls.

I remember ordering the veal and porcini meatballs (£6.5) as I’d heard all of the meatballs were really good. Though meaty, dripping in juices and pretty good, I didn’t find the porcini flavour shining through as much as the meat.

The mackerel tartare, horseradish and carte de musica (£7.5) didn’t have the bite that we were hoping for and the Fennel, almonds & curly endive salad (£5) quite under-dressed and not much else.

Unfortunately they ran out of the dessert I wanted to try (a flourless orange and almond-cake) and I ended up settling for a small tiramisu pot (£5) a bit steep at the price despite hearing Russel Norman talk about the way that he crafts them on a BBC podcast.

On a good note, I’m pleased that the popularity and noise of Polpo Smithfield has calmed down. I’m also pleased, in a certain way, the food wasn’t as good as the hype everyone made it out to be. Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice for a couple of small plates but it’s not going to be a substitute for a nice, home cooked meal or the many other alternatives in area.

Name: Polpo Smithfield
Found at: 3 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6DR
Website: http://polpo.co.uk/

Una Pizza Napoletana

Our cousin took us out to dinner and we wanted to return the favour since they tend to cook for themselves more than go out. And San Francisco has far too many places to go out. The combined effect means you’ll never stay on top of them. Friday is typically pizza night for them so we headed out early to get to a “gourmet” pizza place in the SOMA district. Una Pizza Napoletana used to be based in New York. I guess a combination of expensive rents and probably a different lifestyle caused the owner to move cities.

I have no idea whether he used to have a wood burning oven in New York, but it’s the grand centrepiece in the converted warehouse, now restaurant area. There’s plenty of space although the dining area looks tiny in comparison to the extremely open kitchen preparation area including lots of flour thrown on the ground. I couldn’t tell if that was for effect, or just the culmination of hard working pizza making. The pizza restaurant has plenty of articles, all of them posted up in the corridor that leads to the restroom, and if you were really impressed by the pizza can take home merchandise like these trendy Italian coloured socks.

The menu is pretty simple. There are no shared pizzas. There are no single slices and unlike the American way of having alterations there are no extras you can put on them. Most of the pizzas abstain from a tomato sauce base. The closest thing are the smattering of cherry tomatos or the delicious San Marzano tomatoes flecked across.

They ran out of Chinotto and of course offer a number of bottles of Italian wine and beer. Pizzas aren’t exactly cheap at USD20 per bite but what you’re paying for is essentially super fresh, Italian pizza. Despite a very large oven, they could only make three pizzas at a time and with the four of us dining, I took the hit and waited whilst everyone tucked into their hot slices.

I couldn’t resist this gorgeous creation that included smoked buffalo mozzarella, rocket and cherry tomatoes. The crust was a little bit thicker than I expected from an Italian thing, but that might be a regional thing. It was extremely fresh and light and I ate mine probably far to quickly.

Look out for the sign way above your head. I missed it the first time since it’s not really at eye level.

Great tasting pizza and worth getting there early to avoid the queue.

Name: Una Pizza Napoletana
Found at: 210 11th St + Howard St San Francisco, CA 94103, United States
Website: http://www.unapizza.com/sf/

Michelin Dining in Munich at Acquarello

Not having been to Munich before, I did my usually scouring around for restaurants. The diversity of the scene wasn’t as big as that on offer in Berlin, with many places offering much more traditional Bavarian-style foods involving lots and lots of meat. Sunday and Monday tend to be very quiet nights but I managed to find one restaurant open, recommended by the Michelin guide to try. It was an Italian restaurant found on the east side of the city, and I think five or six U-Bahn rides away.

The dining room was bright and airy compared to the darkness outside. I only had my iphone camera with me, so the photos turned out a little grainy, but it gives you a good idea about the place. The hosts greeted me in German and entertained my wish to speak and practice only in German. They presented each dish and all ingredients in German though I can’t really remember what they all are.

Each table already came set with a bread basket, but then they placed some salts. I had a guess at what they were. One was noticeably truffle salt and the other ordinary salt (Fleur de Sel to be exact) but the other red-tinged salt I couldn’t make out. I asked the waiters the ingredients in German, guessing at the ones I knew. The other one, strangely enough was a strawberry salt. Not my favourite but something a little bit different.

The breads also came with three different choices of olive oils (different maturities I guess) to let the salt stick to something.

An amuse bouche suddenly appeared as well. This one a tiny beef tartare topped with crispy noodles and based with a yogurt dressing. A good thing to get the appetite warmed up.

The next dish was a prawn ravioli covered in a deliciously rich lobster bisque foam that was surprisingly thick. The pasta was delicate and obviously freshly made, and generously filled with sweet prawn meat. A dish that disappeared a little too quickly.

Although the next dish, on first appearances looked like a crazily decorated garden, what we had was an Italian take on a sashimi dish. Fresh fish, thinly graced the plate, decorated with a variety of Italian ingredients such as lemon, pesto, pine nuts and olives. You think it would be strange but I whole heartedly approve of this interpretation.

A very nice palette cleanser in the shape of a mango sorbet atop some lightly flavoured jelly.

The main course soon made its way to the plate. It had a lot of meat including a venison sausage (the thing speared with the rosemary) and a roulade wrapping some very succulently cooked meat that I was guessing cooked sous vide and then caramelised in a pan. It sat atop rabbit risotto and then was decorated with lots of crunchy fresh vegetables.

Above is the instagram version after I’d eaten into it. It’s amazing what that thing can do.

Before we finally moved onto a dessert. A lovely pineapple jelly surrounding a light coconut mouse and some almond milk shavings. Delicate, refreshing and a perfect way to finish.

I did order some team, but they also presented some petite fours – candied orange slices as well as white chocolate mint leaves. Service was great throughout the evening – polite, friendly and not too in your face. They even offered another round of dessert at the end – a slice of chocolate tart at the end of meal literally bringing around the fully devilish dish into view. I declined as I was pretty full at this stage. It was even a very funny, if not, very formal farewell when I left with almost all of the waiters and waitresses lining up to say, “Auf weidersehen” at the same time. Total cost for the evening tasting course, an aperitif, a glass of wine and water and service €110.

Name: Acquarello – Cucina del Sole
Found at: Mühlbauerstr. 36, München, Germany
Website: www.acquarello.com

La Rosa in Budapest

According to many people who’ve been to Hungary before, it’s best to avoid the Hungarian food if you want something that is going to delight the taste buds. It’s not because Hungarian food is bad, but it does tend to be rather bland and a little bit all the same after a while. Spending a longer weekend in Budapest meant looking for alternatives, and one that cropped up in one of the tourist guides was the opening of a new restaurant, La Rosa or sometimes referred to as La Rosa Lux.

It’s a bit strange because the guide wrote about it being a “fusion” menu though the only fusion I could tell was the fact there were some hungarian dishes on the menu, and the rest being Italian. Besides being a little bit skeptical of restaurants listed in guide books, we still gave it a go. There are a few tables (four if memory serves me right) sitting outside where you get a lovely view of a… bus stop. Not the best view but it’s still nice to be out in the open. The interior was pretty empty on the Sunday evening we dined out.

The biggest recommendation on the menu is the Roman thin style crust pizza that comes straight out of the oven. I went for the Firense, a spicy and admittedly meaty pizza that the waitress also recommended. When it arrived, it was huge, literally overflowing the plate and the smoky charred edges promising goodness.

While not the thinnest Roman pizza I’ve ever had, this was definitely up there in taste and flavour.

Name: La Rosa (or La Rosa Lux)
Found at: 1071 Budapest, Damjanich utca 47-49.
Contact number: +36.1.788.5608

Trattoria Barca Bianca in Budapest

Despite the reputation of fairly unexciting food in Hungary, I have to say that we ate very well during our time in Budapest. Perhaps it’s because we stayed clear of many of the “traditional” foods and searching around on the web for recommendations make it much easier for bigger places. The other good thing is that Budapest is still very cheap compared to many other places, making it much easier to have good food without breaking the budget so much.

Anyway, the first place we ate for dinner was intentionally Italian as it was all about the carb loading (but not too much!) before the day of the race.

We walked around and picked, what turned out to be a very nice restaurant where we could eat alfresco, and had an enjoyable meal.

We started with two different soups, my sister picking this clear beef broth with a single ravioli (pictured above). Good but she was surprised just to have the one.

I went for the lobster bisque that also came with a bread dumpling, and also just the one. I can’t really say that I’m a bread dumpling sort of fan. The soup really could have done with some croutons for a contrast of texture, to which the bread dumpling didn’t do much. Fortunately the soup was really tasty and made up for it.

My sister proceeded to have the mussels, admittedly not very Italian but figured it would be a bit of a lighter alternative to some heavy pasta meal.

I, opted, for a Tagliatelle with speck and porcini mushrooms, a lovely and generous serving of perfectly al dente pasta and amazing chunks of flavour.

We finished the dinner off with a Tiramisu, decadently rich and presented in a very different manner, almost as if they used an ice cream scoop for each bite. Service was friendly, the atmosphere busy but not overwhelmingly noisy and an enjoyable meal to start off the long weekend.

Name: Trattoria Barca Bianca
Found on: V. kerület Fehérhajó utca 5, Pest side of Budapest.
Website: http://barcabianca.eu/

Different Dining at La Lavanderia Vecchia

A work colleague living in Berlin put me onto this great little restaurant that I wouldn’t have found out otherwise. the who. Focused on wholly Italian cuisine, you must walkout through several courtyards before uncovering the place. As one could only imagine in Berlin, the restaurant is themed out as a laundry with tea towels hanging everywhere, and strange memorabilia hanging around the corners.

The menu is short offering great value at only €13 for an entire three course meal. Being small, and printed, I’m guessing that it changes just like any good Italian kitchen should as the season and availability of ingredients change. The format is simple – order at the small counter and then grab a table. Some people grab a table first, and of course, that makes sense considering how popular the place packed out very quickly.

Each table held a large bottle of olive oil, salt and a pepper grinder for those wanting to add extra seasoning to their meal.

Our three course meal started with a fresh bowl of tomato soup, strong in colour and rich in flavour and texture. Fresh, sharp in flavour and quite a hearty sized starter that was a good indicator these people were serious about their food.

We diverged for the main meal, where I opted for the fish, wrapped in prosciutto served with seasonal roasted vegetables. The fish, firm to the touch flaked easily, the vegetables adding the depth and the crisp, saltiness balancing out the entire dish.

My sister was extremely happy with the skirt steak as well, served with some wilted greens and quite a large mount of mashed potatoes. It would have put me to sleep, but it disappeared quickly and I’m guessing that’s not because it tasted bad.

Dessert was a simple pear slice served with fresh cream and sprinkled with demerara sugar. I didn’t really like the slice mainly because it felt like they couldn’t decide between it being a slice, or a steamed pudding and the excessively soft textures didn’t let it win any points.

A unique dining experience and I’d be interested to see how the people and the atmosphere might change in the evening times.

Name: Lavanderia Vecchia
Website: http://www.lavanderiavecchia.de/
Found at: Flughafenstr. 46, D-12053 Berlin

Zilli Green

Another month and another vegetarian outing. Our last outing brought us to Zilli Green, the vegetarian outpost of Italian chef, Aldo Zilli. Located really centrally in Soho, it’s a great spot for all of us to meet at because it’s pretty much surrounded by all sorts of transport.

When I walked in, one of my dining companions already had been seated. The first dining area isn’t very large – in fact, it’s no larger than a small hallway and I thought it was going to be a much larger place. Maybe there’s some seats downstairs.

They went to quite a lot of effort to cram in plenty of tables. In fact, I noticed this clearly when sitting down and found my legs almost barely squeezing in between the two table legs and the chair. No space for them to sit outside. Hmph.

Anyway, on to the food. Zilli Green’s menu covers a broad range of dishes. It wasn’t quite as Italian-centric as I anticipated with dishes inspired by Asian classics, British favourites and the touch of Tex Mex. Each menu option lists some useful symbols to help choose if you happen to be vegan, nut or gluten allergy-friendly dishes. Helpful!

Quite a few of us went for the Squash, Corn & Feta Quesadillas with Guacamole & Sour Cream (£7.90). I’d hoped for a bit more kick than we got, and though the flavours tasted strong and well prepared, seemed a bit overpriced for a starter.

I admit I’m obsessed by truffle flavours at the moment. Their umaminess and richness add so much depth to the dishes, it’s my winter comfort food. I was struck when on the menu, two dishes included this magnificent ingredient. In the end I picked the Tagliatelle, Porcini Mushrooms & White Truffle Oil (£13.90). I think it was the extra dash of oil and the porcini mushrooms that did me in. Perfectly al dente pasta and each mouthful a flavour sensation, I was certainly pleased by it.

Fortunately someone else went for the Mushroom & Fresh Truffle Risotto, Grilled Asparagus & Mascarpone (£11.90). I had a small taste and the truffle flavour seemed a bit more sublime, it carried on the palette slightly longer probably due to the creamy mascarpone.

Another person ordered the Cous Cous & Soya Burger with Pickled Cucumber, Avocado, Mustard Dressed Mixed Leaves, Homemade Mayo & Ketchup, Thin Chips (£10.90) though wasn’t particularly impressed by it. They reported it not bad, but not the best vegetarian burger they’d ever had.

We had better reports from the handful of people ordering the Thai Green Curry with Sweet Potato & Thai Vegetables served with Quinoa (£11.90). Strong flavours and a very reasonable serve though slightly out of place in what I’d consider an Italian restaurant.

On all reports, it’s worth avoiding the Tofu Sausage with Spring Onion Mash, Mushroom Gravy & Mushy Peas (£11.90). Perhaps it’s just me, but I think it’s always a bit dangerous trying to replicate a dish typically relying on the quality of the meat to make it that good.

I wasn’t close enough to capture the picture but one other diner recommended avoiding the Beetroot Gnocchi filled with Blue Cheese in a Red Pesto, Potato & French Bean Sauce (£10.90) where the giant sized (and few) gnocchi ended up being very chewy pillows with, as they described it, ” what tasted like splashes of bottled pesto”.

Zilli Green isn’t going to win any Michelin stars for service any time soon, although we do have to acknowledge one of the waiters who, when pressed for vegan-friendly ice cream, went next door to sister restaurant Zilli Bar to report on what gelato and ice-creams they had. Apparently vegan-friendly ice cream wasn’t favoured by this group of vegetarians. Upon making our waiter go next door, my dining companion couldn’t help but feel compelled to order a scoop.

Their slightly different twist on the classic, Apple, Currant & Clove Crumble with Cream or Ice Cream (£5.50) had be tempted yet was completely full from the rest of the meal.

Name: Zilli Green (currently moving or closed)
Found at: 41 Dean St, London, W1D 4PY