Saturday, February 27, 2010

Royal Derby Hotel, Melbourne

Having never ventured up to Brunswick Street, except for when I was being driven in a car after a meal in Lygon Street months ago (before I started this blog), I was very excited to be paying an actual proper visit to this part of the city.

The 'Royal Derby Hotel' was my destination tonight and it's on the corner of Brunswick and Alexandra Parade.  It's not a hotel as we English know it, it's a pub.  Not your average sort of a pub though.  It's got a cool vibe and a funky eclectic interior with super comfy chairs, a pool table and lots of seating in the outside decked garden area.

You may think it strange that I went to a pub to eat, but I had heard about their 'Award winning' pizzas and at $6 a pop, well who can say no to that! 

My fellow diners and I arrived to a lively pub with eclectic furniture and decor.  We had a table reserved for our group and were shown to the lovely leather couches by the pool tables. 

We ordered a pizza each and since I can't remember the names of the pizzas, I will say that the ingredients were fresh and tasty.  The pizza bases weren't to my personal preference though.  They were thicker than I like, but this is not to say that everybody would or does like super thin paper crust pizza bases like me!

Have a look for yourself...

At $6 a pizza, I was comfortably full and didn't need anything more.  Now, a thin crust at these lovely individual sizes wouldn't have sufficed seeing as I have a healthy appetite at the best of times. 

There's a gorgeous beer garden at the back to enjoy on warm beautiful evenings.  The dance floor gets busy later on at night.  This place is chilled out enough to enjoy a relaxing drink with friends or a good boogie after a few drinks.

Royal Derby Hotel
446 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, VIC 3065
Tel: +61 (0)3 9417 2321

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Thanh Thanh, Melbourne

Last night, I was back on Victoria Street and this time, I decided to try 'Thanh Thanh'.  A fellow foodie told me that her husband used to frequent this place with his Vietnamese friend as students.  His friend had highly praised it and they still continue to come here.  So of course, I wanted to pay this establishment a visit. 

Arriving just after seven o'clock, there were already throngs of tables full of delicious looking food and hungry diners.  Looking around, I noticed that there were students, couples and families.  I loved the fact that there were families in here with their young kids, it gave the place a friendly, cosy feel.

Sitting down, a waiter came over to place a vacuum flask of tea and two drinking cups down on the table for us .  He also gave us a menu each.  Everything is listed in Vietnamese and English, as one would imagine it to be. 

My fellow diner and I decided to start with some 'Rice paper rolls with prawn'.  At $7, we got four wonderfully rolled rolls!  The peanut and carrot dipping sauce had a smooth consistency that wasn't too gloopy nor too thin as to drip like water.  They were deliciously fresh and plump.

The main meal consisted of a shared plate of 'Rice with grilled pork chop' ($9) and 'Chinese broccoli with garlic' ($14). 

The grilled pork chop with rice was a generous portion, two pork chops on the bone and finely grated cucumber.  The pork chop was simply delicious.  It had a marriage of flavours - not sure what, but at a guess I'd say fish sauce, sugar, soy sauce and garlic.  I know they were whole chops, but I'm not a big fan of sucking meat off the bone and having to cut off fat.  Nonetheless, not exactly hardship for a delicious piece of grilled pork.

The chinese broccoli was equally as delicious.  Gorgeously green, they were juicy and crunch.  The roasted slices of garlic (which looked similar to sliced almonds) were beautifully golden and crisp (unlike the Cantonese style of cooking).  Although they were absolutely sublime, neither of us could polish them off and believe me, I tried my very best to.  We also left a lot of rice.

A truly filling and tasty dinner.  Not exactly a feast, but it really felt like it once we had finished.  We were both so full! 

You get free tea in a vacuum flask here, there are condiments of chilli sauce, soy sauce alongside a box of toothpicks on each table.  The staff were helpful when we were ordering the grilled pork - explaining that shredded pork is in fact the pork skin rather than the meat itself.  

A very pleasant experience and another good Vietnamese meal.

Thanh Thanh
296a Victoria Street, Melbourne, VIC 3121
Tel: +61 (0)3 9428 5633

Mon-Sun: 9:30am-10pm

Friday, February 19, 2010

Shanghai Noodle House, Melbourne

With shabby graffiti walls on the outside, Shanghai Noodle House doesn't look like much to a passerby.  However, I had read some good things about this place and I love trying out new lunch options. 

Just so you're aware, there's another dumpling joint a few doors down, but I decided against it.  Why?  Well, this place won hands down for several reasons - it was brighter, it looked a lot cleaner, it didn't have a nasty odour and I wasn't greeted by any rudeness. 

As I sat down at the table below the television screen (showing a Chinese channel), I saw that all four walls were neatly covered in multicoloured A4 sheets of paper with scribblings of dishes on offer.  A cheap, but oh so typical Chinese way of decorating the walls of a humble eatery.  It's not offensive and means that you can read about the dishes that you wish you had seen before ordering.  At least, it was in my case.

A waitress handed me a menu.  Like many Asian eateries, the choice is immense.  And of course, there are dumplings a plenty.  Seeing as I was in the mood for dumplings, I decided to go with the 'Chilli oil dumplings in soup'.  Fifteen dumplings for $7 - now that is what I call a bargain lunch.

As I waited for my dumplings to arrive, I wandered over to the counter top by the window to help myself to cutlery and pour myself a mug of hot tea from the canister.  It's not the strongest tea in the world, but it does for cleansing my palate.

My dumplings in soup arrive looking plump and delicious.  They bounce around in the hot broth like buoys in the sea.  Chilli oil has been spooned into the middle, there's also coriander, sliced fried egg, sliced cabbage and even seaweed! 

The soup was a little weak for me, so I had to add soy sauce, white pepper and a little more chilli oil.  Yes, I am such a chilli fiend?!  But I simply love the stuff.

The dumplings themselves were de-lish!  I could taste the subtleness of rice wine, the pork was beautifully minced with no gristle, and they were generously filled.  I managed to eat them all and was truly stuffed, but happily so.  I don't think I'll be needing another meal for the rest of the day. 

I'd like to come back to try one of their hotpots as they all sounded so good.  Shanghai Noodle House is great place to come for a cheap and cheerful dumpling lunch.  It wasn't overcrowded which was nice and it will definitely go onto my 'lunch options' list.

Shanghai Noodle House,
Tattersall Lane (off Little Bourke Street), Melbourne, VIC 3000
Tel: +61 (0)3 9662 9380

Mon-Wed: Lunch 11:30am-3pm; Dinner 5pm-9:30pm
Thurs: 11:30am-9:30pm
Fri: 11:30am-10pm
Sat: 11:30am-9:30pm
Sun: 11:30am-9pm

Monday, February 8, 2010

Donovans, Melbourne

Last night, I dined at Donovans in St. Kilda.  It's a charming beach house styled restaurant; with comfy oversized cushioned benches and an eclectic mix of wooden chairs.  White dressers line the long side wall, arrangements of framed photographs sit next to a large wooden framed mirror at the end and an assortment of candles help to soften the lighting. 

The staff are in dressed in pastel green check shirts and beige trousers under long orange aprons.  In keeping with the pastel green and orange theme, the dressers are dressed with the same coloured drinking glasses.  The atmosphere is one of casual, relaxed and of course, by the beach.

The food menu is vast - starters, salads, pasta, from the bbq, main courses, on ice (oysters), dishes for two (such as a whole roast duck), side orders, desserts and the cubby menu for kiddies.

I decided to start with some oysters, a mix of Pacific and Sydney Rock ($3.50 each).  As one would imagine, the Pacific oysters tasted more like the sea - delicious! 

My fellow dining companions had the 'four tastes' tasting plate ($21)and the Donovans 'home smoked salmon with a blini, salman caviar and dill sour cream' ($25).  The blini was no shrinking wallflower, it looked like a generous fishcake.  The salmon looked wonderfully moist.  The four tastes were a stuffed mushroom, roast beef, smoked trout and unfortunately I cannot remember the fourth.  But I did try the mushroom and roast beef, both were good.

For mains, I chose the 'Sicilian-style swordfish with pesto, mint and melting onions' ($42) from the bbq.  My dining companions chose the 'Black Angus T-bone of beef from the Western District' ($45), again also from the bbq; the 'Double lamb chop flavoured with chicken and herbs served with creamy mash and ratatouille vegetables' ($44) and the 'Roasted Berkshire pork cutlet with sauce charcutière and creamy mash' ($45) from the mains.

My swordfish wasn't overwhelming which was good.  The onions were wonderfully softened and full of flavour.  It also came with a side of lightly dressed cos lettuce leaves and crispy rosemary roasted potatoes.  A gorgeous light meal.

Below is the 'Black Angus T-bone steak'.  Again, it came with a side of lightly dressed cos lettuce and rosemary roasted potatoes. 

The double lamb chop with chicken and herb crust looked rustic, generous and well cooked.

The pork cutlet was a generous size with a dollop of mash and the charcuterie sauce.

Service was attentive, polite and informative.  We felt very much at home in this wonderful beach house restaurant.  I can see why people love Donovans, it was spectacular to watch the sun setting right by the beach whilst enjoying a delicious meal. 

Although this place isn't cheap, it is well worth it for a special occasion.  The food is good, ingredients fresh, service exemplary, and the views are lovely.

40 Jacka Boulevard, St. Kilda, VIC 3000
Tel: +61 (0)3 9534 8221

Mon-Sun: Lunch and Dinner