Wednesday, November 12, 2014

November Food Events in Melbourne

November has is the best time of year in Melbourne. Spring Racing Carnival stress has dissipated, the weather is reliably warmer and people seem to be more courteous on the roads (any one else notice that?). November in Melbourne is also a food-lover’s paradise. There are hundreds of events on if you include everything under the Good Food Month banner, but aside from the iconic foodie affairs, there are some exciting newcomers, too. If you don’t attend at least three of these six events, you’re just not that into food. 


It seems that Melbourne is gin crazy at the moment – even more so now that summer is within reach. Bombay Sapphire is launching a three-week pop-up bar called Project Botanicals to celebrate ‘ginstronomy’. Wanky neologisms aside, I attended the media preview and was pleasantly surprised by the quality and complexity of cocktails such as the Cassia Blackberry Fix, complemented by some festive plates à la MasterChef Gary Mehigan. There are 10 cocktails and 10 dishes in all, each paying tribute to the botanicals in Bombay such as lemon peel, juniper berries and cassia. Tickets – which include two cocktails and two plates – are a steal at $35 (plus a $3.09 booking fee). It's worth noting that there are three, two-hour sittings: 6pm, 8pm and 10pm. It’s on Wednesday to Saturday at 64 Sutton Street, North Melbourne, from November 19 to December 6. 


I do my shopping every week at Victoria Market and was surprised a little while ago when my tomato guy relocated further down the aisle. In his place was a mysterious building site, which I soon discovered was the beginnings of The Social Kitchen. Dubbed “a global roaming cooking experience”, the kitchen is basically a way for Fisher & Paykel to show people they do more than just fridges. But instead of being a boring old show room, it’s a temporary cooking school featuring some of Melbourne’s best chefs. At the centre of the 26-week program is the fresh produce from the market.

Hungry students collect their own produce and then prepare, cook and eat the loot under the guidance of Peter Rowland Catering. Those who like a touch of celebrity with their food should opt for the Chef’s Collective master classes, with Maha’s Shane Delia leading a prestigious pack that includes Scott Pickett (Estelle), Darren Purchese (Burch & Purchese) and Benjamin Cooper (Chin Chin, Kong). Participants can choose from a huge range of themed classes, from Americana to Vietnamese Street Food through to high tea and canapés. There’s also a goodie bag to take home once you’ve finished getting your hands dirty. Classes are limited to 24 people and are on three times a day, while special celebrity master classes sometimes take place in the evening. 

GIVEAWAY – I’ll be giving away 4x passes to The Social Kitchen worth $135 on Instagram this week. Follow me at @fi_bird for your chance to win! 



If cooking’s not your thing, Queen Victoria’s famous night market started this month and is on until March. But if you want to avoid the school holiday crush it’s worth going earlier rather than later. Crowds of Melburnians and tourists alike do the rounds shopping at over 200 stalls before reviving themselves at 35 food vendors selling nosh from all over the world. Fancy Vietnamese? It’s there. How about Turkish, Ethiopian and Spanish? All there. Best enjoyed with a glass of regional vino near one of the two music stages showcasing local talent. 


One of the most peaceful food festivals Melbourne has to offer, the Paris to Provence French Festival is set in the stunning grounds of Como House. The weather always seems to turn it on for over 70 French producers and retailers selling everything from wine, cheese, macarons and crepes to clothing and home décor. There’s music, roving entertainment and the odd French bulldog. Bring a picnic rug and make a day of it. It’s on next week, November 22 to 24. 


Taste of Melbourne is on again this year from today until November 16 on the verdant lawns of Albert Park. It’s a fun day out, but it can add up despite the relatively cheap $25 entry fee (should you wish to eat, you pay for food once you’re in). Regardless, there are a whole lot of renowned chefs and restaurants in the one spot, along with top producers and lots of taste testers. Expect to see the likes of Movida, Huxtaburger, Mamasita and Burch & Purchese. Even if you don’t fancy forking out on a cooking or photography class, you can sit back, relax and soak up the festivities.


Now that Yotam Ottolenghi has been and gone, the thought of Good Food Month may not be quite as exciting to some. But jump on the website and sift through the hundreds of events yet to take place and you’ll immediately see that’s not the case. Presented by Citi, Good Food Month covers all edible bases: brining in famous overseas chefs, putting on high-flying dinners, creating special meal deals that everyone can afford, and hosting free events for the whole family. The Night Noodle Market is set to be a highlight bursting with activity, but for a more in depth look at my Good Food Month picks, see this post. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Melbourne Good Food Month 2014

Getting Progressive at Crown

My relationship with Crown is best likened to how the men in my life feel about attending social events: the thought of it turns them to protesting toddlers, but once they arrive, they’re last to leave. On first glance it’s glitzy and crowded, but when you know what you’re doing and where you’re going, it warms on you. At the very least it’s a seriously impressive complex. The place is so big that any form of transport attracts a decent walk, but the food is worth the journey. 

Dining at Crown is in the midst of a number of changes with Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons out; 400 Gradi in; and Fat Duck upsetting thousands who missed out on a balloted booking. But for less than half the price of the set food menu at Fat Duck, you can join Crown’s Progressive Culinary Tour and indulge like King Henry VIII at four premium restaurants. It’s all part of Good Food Month, and I was invited along as a guinea pig. Like many lab rodents I, nearly died from overeating. 

It started at the Atrium Bar, Crown’s ritzy champagne destination just inside the main casino floor. For those unfamiliar with it, there’s a long white-marble bar flanked by decorative lighting and metallic finishes. It’s opulent, not elegant, and we struggled to maintain self-control when lavish platters arrived from No.8 by John Lawson, Koko’s and Nobu. 

Our first seated stop was at the latter. The irasshaimase welcome here is more subdued than usual, given the sophisticated setting. Palates were whet with a trio of sashimi, including yellowtail with the added zing of jalapeño and spectacularly slippery scallops. 

John Lawson was next to welcome us at No.8 with a generous main of Barwon River lamb shoulder nestled beside bush-spiced quinoa and sheep's yoghurt. It continued upstairs at Koko with a stunning piece of grade-9 wagyu sirloin doused in thick onion sauce. 

I swore to myself another piece of food wouldn’t enter my mouth for at least 24 hours, but then we were escorted downstairs to The Waiting Room where tea and a tiered platter of pastries tempted too much for me to keep my promise. 

At $250, the Progressive Culinary Tour at Crown is good value, but it still falls under the Good Food Month category of ‘splurge’. I’ve gone ahead and included a list of my top Good Food Month picks below. They fall into two other categories: those that are gentler on the pocket and those that promise to be memorable, one-off dining experiences. 

Crown’s Progressive Culinary Tour is on this month, November 18-20 and 25-27. Visit Crown's website for more details. 

Good Food Month Highlights 


Going out for breakfast in Melbourne often costs more than lunch, if not dinner. The Weekday Breakfast Club is a great way to treat yourself and others to a plate and a coffee for $20 a head during the working week. Participating cafes include Auction Rooms, Pope Joan and ST ALi. More here

Head to Dandenong and discover what real West African food tastes like at Africa's Melting Pot world dinner. Best of all, this three-course traditional meal will only set you back $22. 

Ah, yes, the Noodle Markets. If you missed out last year, it’s upgraded to Birrarung Marr in the city, so hopefully the crowds will be a little less intense. Expect hawker-style dishes from favourites such as Chin Chin, Mamak, Izakaya Den and Longrain, with nothing over $15. 


It’s not easy eating green – being a vegetarian can sometimes mean missing out on all the good stuff. The Town Mouse is putting on a Saturday lunch called Friends with Vegetables, where herbivores will be the majority for once. 

Forget pork, newcomer Pastuso are giving guests the opportunity to dine head-to-tail on alpaca with a six-course Peruvian feast. Slow-cooked, braised, roasted – you name it; it will be there. 

Melburnians are crazy about yum cha, but The Grand has decided to do something a little different for Good Food Month. Instead of the usual dumplings and fried goods, yum cha trolleys will be wheeling around hand-made tortelli, ravioli and agnolotti.  

A taste of the Barossa Valley in the form of a long lunch, hosted by Maggie Beer, paired with Yalumba wines, conveniently located in North Melbourne. What’s not to love? 

Monday, October 27, 2014

New Cafes and Restaurants in Melbourne

13 Brand New Melbourne Eateries That Haven’t Been Written About Anywhere

It's tough being a blogger. You're up against hundreds of others. You have to balance posts about cheery local brunch spots with extravagant banquets put on by PR companies. Plus you are generally in the shadow of publications such as Broadsheet, TimeOut and Epicure, which always have their fingers on the pulse of Melbourne's throbbing food scene (apologies if that was a bit visual). Every now and then, you beat them all. You have a little win and sit back smugly. Today I'm not just having one little win, but 13. Today I'm sharing 13 brand new cafes and restaurants in Melbourne that are yet to be written about. Go nuts, you ambulance chasers, you.

1. Village Cantina | 30 Ballarat St, Yarraville | (03) 9689 8000 
Opening just last week, Village Cantina is bringing tacos back in Yarraville. The decor is uncomplicated but effective, with the vibrant logo printed above the kitchen window and the usual Mexican artwork and knickknacks scattered around the place. The small courtyard is all set for summer, and the menu keeps things simple with tostaditas, tacos, burritos, quesadillas and nachos. 

source: Village Cantina Facebook, credit: Maguri Photography

Village Cantina on Urbanspoon 

2. All Blue Espresso | 187 Through Rd, Camberwell | (03) 8394 3968 
This humble little café in Camberwell serves up 5senses coffee and all the brunch favourites. Dishes like French toast, smashed avocado and bircher muesli are prettily presented, while bonus points are awarded for service with a smile. 

All Blue Espresso on Urbanspoon 

3. Harry Hall |115 Glenferrie Rd, Malvern | (03) 9509 2708 
Back in the 1930s, Harry Hall was a moneylender operating out of what is now Harry Hall restaurant and wine bar. There’s an open fire (and a courtyard on the way), as well as rooms available for private functions. Food-wise they do everything themselves, from smoking meat to stuffing sausages. The wine menu is also a bit different, listing an Australian or New Zealand wine beside a similar varietal from another part of the world. 

Harry Hall on Urbanspoon 

4. Brother Nancy | 182 Essex Street, Footscray | 0439 318 820 
Don't be fooled by the size of this tiny, minimalist cafe, the menu packs a punch thanks to its French chef out the back. Restaurant-quality dishes such as the chicken and quinoa salad, or perhaps the steak tartare, arrive artfully arranged. Brother Nancy is quietly scoring Footscray extra points in the competitive world of Melbourne dining. 

Brother Nancy on Urbanspoon

5. The Colonel's Son | 299 Beach Road, Black Rock | (03) 9589 0481 
This Black Rock local is all about freshness and flavour. Make a beeline for the glass cabinet on the green and white-tiled counter filled with enticing sweet treats like rosewater meringues and peanut butter and jelly cupcakes. They’re open for breakfast and lunch seven days, serving everything from waffles through to linguini.

Colonel's Son on Urbanspoon

6. The Ambrosiary | 70 Portman Street, Oakleigh | (03) 9568 4490 
Ambrosia, the food of the gods, is said to make those who eat it immortal. That's not necessarily the case at The Ambrosiary, part grocer part café, but there's certainly a health focus. There are also plenty of higher-end boutique brands with loads of organic, gluten free and lactose free products. Stop in for a house pretzel and a Four Rascals coffee, then take home some Spanish Jamón Ibérico or an Almdudler alpine herb soft drink.

Ambrosiary on Urbanspoon

7. Tipo 00 | 361 Little Bourke St, Melbourne | (03) 9942 3946 
Named after the high-quality flour used in making pasta, Tipo 00 is a new pasta bar in the CBD worth a visit. The dedicated kitchen team make squid ink linguini, pappardelle and more out the back, while knowledgable waitstaff are more than happy to suggest some vino to match. 

Tipo 00 on Urbanspoon

8. Woven | 175b Stephen St, Yarraville | (03) 9973 5926 
The devil is in the detail: homemade almond milk, juices cold-pressed daily, Rooftop Honey on quinoa bircher and crumpets from Dr. Marty's, just to name a few. Then there's the tofu and kale gratin for the vegos, super grain salads for the healthy, and burgers for the wise. Woven has all bases covered in a converted warehouse to boot. 

Woven Cafe on Urbanspoon 

9. Hard Pressed | 76 Wellington Pde, East Melbourne | (03) 9417 4441 
Finally, a decent café in East Melbourne. The area, which was previously dry until Persillade opened at the end of last year, now has a French Press coffee and Latino-inspired sandwich shop to add to the mix. Those who have never had a Cuban sandwich should do so here, quick smart. 

Hard Pressed on Urbanspoon 

10. Mr. Willis | cnr Hampton and Willis Street Hampton
Hampton locals rejoice! Mr. Willis has set up shop in your 'hood, bringing with him a canary-yellow coffee machine and a display cabinet that will make your eyes pop. Make yourself comforable on the stylish cushions or grab some caffiene to go. Just make sure you keep an eye on the kids, there may or may not be lolly jars on the counter. 

source: Mr. Willis Facebook, credit: Caprice Photography

Mr Willis on Urbanspoon 

11. El Habanero | 342 Clarendon St, South Melbourne | (03) 9645 8148 
Forget the fact that these guys have ripped off Meatballs & Wine Bar's logo for a second, because their authentic Mexican is supposedly top notch. Sure, there are tacos and tortas galore, but it's the warm service that's leaving its mark on the neighbourhood. Dig into fresh and colourful tortillas, then finish with avocado ice cream. 

El Habanero on Urbanspoon 

12. Pg. 2 | 207 Swan St, Richmond | (03) 9043 6823 
Walking into this café feels like you’re entering someone's living room. Personal touches are rife, from summery flower arrangements and glass lolly jars to cushions made by the owner’s mum. Pg. 2 also supports local artists, so expect the wall candy to rotate. There's a sizeable courtyard out back, complete with red leather armchairs. Pop in for some sweet potato pancakes, or perhaps jerk chicken is more your thing? 

Pg.2 on Urbanspoon 

13. The Grounds at St. Columbs | 5 St Columbs St, Hawthorn | (03) 9819 0890 
If you want to get away from trendy cafes with queues of hipsters snaking down the street, head to The Grounds at St. Columbs. This beautiful café is located within the grounds of a church, complete with sunny courtyard and veggie patch. For now they’re only open for coffee during the week, but brunch will be in full swing early November. 

The Grounds at St Columbs on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 25, 2014

19 of the best Halloween Food Costumes on the Internet

Halloween Food Costume Ideas

With Halloween just around the corner, the logical thing for me to do while I should have been working was to source the best food costume ideas for Halloween on the internet. Although not as popular in Australia as overseas, there are still plenty of events held in celebration of Halloween Down Under, plus it's a fun activity that's guaranteed to get the kids away from those computer screens (and perhaps on track to being diagnosed with Diabetes, but hey, you can't win them all). Most of these food costumes are DIY, too. Without further ado, below is a list of Halloween food costumes to rival the best out there.

1. The Sushi Couple

Source: Mayuk Radzis

2. Clean Eaters' Choice, Quinoa Super Woman

Source: The Kitchn

3. Brunch Baby

Source: Pinterest

4. The Bacon Suit. Also ideal for Spring Racing Carnival.

Source: John Reiber

5. Finger Lickin' Fried Chicken

Source: Kitchen Fun with my 3 Sons

6. A Night at the Movies, Popcorn Costume

Source: Costume Pop

7. DIY Taco 

Source: flickr

8. Stoners Best Friend: Foil-Wrapped Burrito

Source: Pinterest

9. Easy DIY Doughnut Costume

Source: Studio DIY

10. Contender for the BEST food-related Halloween costume - The Croquembouche

Source: Studio DIY

11. The French Macaron, Darling

Source: Studio DIY

12. Human Strawberry. NOTE: for pineapple, wear yellow.

Source: Studio DIY

13. Spaghetti and Meatballs Costume

Souce: Bored Panda

14. 'Cereal Killer' Costume

Source: Huffington Post

15. Hotdog Vendor, complete with 'hotdog'

Source: The Guardian  

16. A Bunch of Grapes Costume (AKA Grapes of Wrath)

Source: eHow

17. To continue the grape theme, here's a Goon Box costume.

Source: Instructables

18. A Lone Mini-Wheat

Source: PopSugar

19. Teabag Costume

Source: flickr