Melbourne review – Renee G, Sydney reviewer

One of the downsides of knowing a chef is the vast amount of eating that occurs whenever we see each other.  We recently spent a week in Melbourne catching up with my sister and her partner, blog chef Scott.

Here is a quick fire review on all the places we ate.

Healesville Hotel – 4/5

Good beers on tap, interesting pub grub, good service. A nicely restored building with several interesting pieces of art. We grabbed some finger foods to share for our table.  The whitebait was good with enough spice to be interesting, but not too much for the kids. The breads with dip were arranged in the latest fad style – swiped across a slate slab.

Coffee: Fig and Walnut – 2/5

Weak, watered down coffee that really disappointed.  Service was good enough to stop them getting a 1. We didn’t eat here, although the food options looked much better than the coffee tasted.

hung vuong, Footscray – 4/5

Plentiful Vietnamese noodle broth with lots of flavour. Interesting service, rather than excellent service. Very amusing. The perfect comfort food for a cold, drizzly day.

Metro Burgers on Degraves St – 4/5

Solid burgers, good service, quirky location. We discovered this by accident as we walked around the city. No3 and No4 shared the outback burger – a kangaroo patty – which they seemed to like.  The waitress said “oh, are you sure?” “yes” “they are very adventurous” “yes”.  My conversational skills to the fore. No1 and I both had the bacon cheeseburger, although he didn’t have the mustard dressing, while No2 had a chicken schnitzel burger and Bismarck had the super-hot smoked jalapeno beef burger.  So hot that it gave him nose sweats!

The Catfish – 4/5

Lots of beer choices. Straightforward service. We had pre-dinner beers there, while No4 destroyed a newspaper.  Worse than a cat, ripping up paper and leaving shreds under the table. They get a high service rating because they didn’t seem to mind.

Belles Hot Chicken – 4/5

Getting amongst with the Baller buckets at Belle's hot chicken. Can't believe the kids finished a whole one. #eattilyouhateyourself
Getting amongst with the Baller buckets at Belle’s hot chicken. Can’t believe the kids finished a whole one. #eattilyouhateyourself

Scott described the head chef as a gigantic maori, and the hot chicken with sides was amazingly full of flavour.  We got the kids a ‘southern’ bucket with sides of beans, greens, slaw, and fries.  The adults got a bucket that was a mix of ‘medium’ and ‘hot’.  We weren’t brave enough for the ‘really hot’ or ‘really f*ing hot’ – given that Scott said he once tried the really hot and it wasn’t fun.  The hot was hot enough for us, and still had the full-on mouth burns and sweats.  The pickles were amazing, as were the collared greens (with bacon).  The place has a great wine selection – I had a glass of Semillon, everyone else shared a bottle of red; a Sirah from Yarrah Valley.

Grub Food Van – 5/5

Welsh rarebit @Grubfoodvan
Welsh rarebit @Grubfoodvan

Is it wrong to give my bro-in-law’s place a perfect score? Nah. It deserves it. Of course we got special treatment because we knew the chef which helps.  It started as we arrived. Scott brought us bread to fill the starving children while we ordered.  We were seated in the library, slightly out of the way of everyone, which was great because we could be a bit raucous without worrying about other people. The library is a real library with real books.  You could spend all day there.  They also had scrabble.  The kids had a milkshake each (2 x mint, 1 x vanilla, 1 x raspberry) while we had a beer each. We ordered the rarebit each, and the kids had the quail to share, as well as the spiced chick peas. So good.  Scott also brought us the kangaroo tartare with salt bush – so amazing. It is worth going to Grub just for this dish. After lunch, Scott showed the kids through to his testing kitchen, and locked them in the fridge.  They LOVED it; crazy kids.

N04 checking out the Grub Food Van fruit bowl
N04 checking out the Grub Food Van fruit bowl

Rudimentary – 3/5  

This was one of those hipster Melbourne places where the waiters had beards, and No2 got a hair in his food.  The food sounded better than it was, with the croque monsieur apparently with bechamel sauce.  No4 had this. It was a butter soaked ham and cheese sandwich with too much mustard and no béchamel sauce.

I had scrambled eggs, which tasted like salty cheese.  No1 had the same, and seemed to like it.  No3 had a fried egg, which he ate; and Bismarck and No2 had the ‘breakfast burger’. Totally yum – so they gave it the thumbs up. No2 didn’t like the ‘meat patty’ which he now says “I totally knew that it wasn’t meat” when we told him it was made of oats. The food was mixed with some of us enjoying it and others not.  The service was good.

Blue Bonnet – 5/5

Bluebonnet BBQ meat-fest
Bluebonnet BBQ meat-fest

Oh man, that food was yum.  A $350 (for 8) selection of smoked meats and sides. We ordered 100g of each of the smoked meats, and a bit extra of some, such as the brisket (should’ve got more of that).  Sides were America styled – chilli cheese fries, grits, pickles, slaw, potato salad, crispy Brussel sprouts (which were amazing). The standouts were the brisket, the lamb ribs, the Brussel sprouts (so crispy on outside and creamy soft and buttery on inside). We also had desserts – the kids had a cookie and milk each, and a couple of lemon meringue pies to share. Yummo.  Even better than the fancy south American place, Porteno, we went to in Sydney which is saying something as that was pretty outstanding. The food here had better balance (not so much ‘salad’ covered in cheese) and was less pretentious.

No3 outside Bluebonnet BBQ checking out the truck
No3 outside Bluebonnet BBQ checking out the truck

The Paddock at the MCG – 3/5

We ate at the café there, overlooking the ground, and watched the maintenance guy paint the ground for Sunday’s game with a broom.  The food was pretty good, better than expected for a stadium café, although with stadium inflated prices.

No1 tucking in at the MCG
No1 tucking in at the MCG

Two Birds Brewery – 4/5

Another dinner out with more beer.  This is basically a tasting bar for the brewery.  You can watch the beer being made, enjoy a taster paddle, and some nibbles.  The nibbles were good.  We shared a whole bunch of them including the Ruben Sandwich, Hot Dog, and Chinese Donuts (oh, yeah). Basically these were pork buns with a donut sweet coating. We also had the pork scratchings with an incredible sauce; and the fried chicken flavoured popcorn. The beers were also amazing – the whole reason you go there.  We tried most of them and also bought some takeaways.

Coffee: The Sourdough Kitchen – 4/5

Solid coffee from here at the standard we’ve come to expect from a city barista. Didn’t eat here, but the bread looked amazing.

I Love Dumpling – 4/5

Chef Scotty B getting excited about dumplings @ I Love Dumplings
Chef Scotty B getting excited about dumplings @ I Love Dumplings

I love dumplings.  True Fact – also the name of the restaurant. The prawn dumplings and xiao long bao were ok, on par with other places we’ve had them.  The beef dumplings in chili sauce were amazing; as was the deep fried silken tofu. The eggplant pies were also very good; eggplant filled with pork stuffing, battered and fried. Fried pork strands on lettuce was excellent. Of course, we stayed too long and were late for the AFL at the MCG.

Grace Darling Hotel – 4/5

Gargoyle at the Grace Darling Hotel
Gargoyle at the Grace Darling Hotel

A cool old stone building that we chose simply because of the architecture. The wallpaper was amazing and the insides were warm and cosy. Just what we needed on a cold, wet, winter Melbourne day.  The fires were blazing in the hearth, and the beer was good so we stayed and talked for a while. We fed the kids some nibbles from the bar. The fries were excellent and still had the peels which added to the flavour, as well as being good to see the lack of waste. This is the type of place you could spend all afternoon in, just hanging out with friends around a warm fire.

the Panama – 4/5

Aunty and Uncle teaching the boys how to mis-spend a youth @ Panama Dining Room
Aunty and Uncle teaching the boys how to mis-spend a youth @ Panama Dining Room

Scott recommended a bar called Panama Dining Room, which was up three flights of stairs.  The view was great, looking out over Fitzroy through some wonderful old windows.  A cute bar with a pool table and plenty of beer options for the craft beer aficionados.  A nephew vs nephew competition broke out.  No1 and his aunt were winning and I said “”Looks like you are getting smashed No2″. He replied with his typical optimism, “Yeah but soon we will have a sweet comeback!”

Rockwell & Sons – 5/5

A salty kiss from Rockwell and Sons
A salty kiss from Rockwell and Sons

This place is basically a burger joint where they do fast food upscale. Bismarck had their double patty cheeseburger; the ultimate example of the perfect dirty hangover burger. I had the tiger prawn roll, slightly too much sauce, but always prefer when a place errs on the side of more sauce than less, so all good.  I’m sure that we ate the entire menu, as the meal for eight came to around $270.  Pork crackling, tatter tots, pickles, broccoli, all excellent. And again, plenty of craft beer choices. With brilliant service.


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