Magic

Magic.

Magic Happens.

Magic is the corner café everyone should have. These are the unheralded stars of the weekend breakfast and no-one does it better than the inconspicuous Magic on Ferrars St, South Melbourne.

It doesn’t get much low frills than this. You could be excused for missing it – the signage is chalk drawn on the walls. Seating, both inside and out is vintage chairs if you’re lucky, crates if not, rickety oid tables, and service is so friendly and casual, it doesn’t seem like service at all, but an old mate helping out.

Pea and Mint Smash

Pea and Mint Smash

But the food is anything but no frills. The ubiquitous avocado smash served with delicious lemon infused oil, which in itself is usurped by the pea and mint smash, itself taken to another level with the addition of cashews and bacon. If you are after something smaller, and sweeter, the selction of pastries and donuts are provided than none other than Matt Forbes, and the coffee is seriously good.

The creatively surprising dishes magic serves up is not befitting the location, nor the dining space, but it does seem a wonderfully apt name.

Field Mushroom with Grilled Halloumi

Field Mushroom with Grilled Halloumi

Magic on Ferrars

286 Ferrars Street

South Melbourne, 3205

0414 991 556

Lau’s Family Kitchen

Lau’s Family Kitchen

Keeping it in the family.

Some time I took my girl to The Flower Drum for a birthday lunch, and whilst difficult to fault on any level, it failed to achieve the lofty heights of my expectations, a view seemingly shared by the good people at The Age who recently de-throned The Flower Drum from the prestigious three-hatted club.

Curious I was then to try Lau’s Family Kitchen, the younger, cooler, and less formal version of the Flower Drum which Gilbert Lau headed up for near on three decades. In terms of atmosphere and aesthetic, the two are incomparable. Gone is the stuffiness of fine dining, and in is the more modern, friendlier and far, far cosier dining space of Lau’s.

Prawn and Scallop Dumplings

Prawn and Scallop Dumplings

But the food retains that deft touch that reminds you how good Cantonese food can be. Beef in black bean sauce, where you can actually taste the beef. Tender, juicy strips of beef they were too, it had so little resemblance to the chewy nuggets I had come to associate beef in black bean sauce. Dumplings were silky and bursting with flavor, and the noodles possessed a subtlety not often found in Cantonese cooking in these parts.

Beef in Black Bean Sauce

Beef in Black Bean Sauce

Just as Gilbert Lau has rediscovered a new outlet for his culinary skills, so too will you discover Cantonese dishes vastly different to the norm.

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Lau’s Family Kitchen

4 Acland St, St Kilda VIC 3182

(03) 8598 9880

Paris. Je t’aime.

A Tall Tour part 1

Paris. Je t’aime.

Paris is bistro dining. Simple, uncomplicated fare, the way it should be. Haute cuisine has its place, sure, but when in Paris, do as the Parisians do, and go the bistro, every time.

These are my two favourite bistros in Paris, which sum up this philosophy perfectly.

Le Pantruche, located in the 9th arrondisement, not being well known as a tourist hot spot, it is one of the best reasons to visit the area. Here, chef Franck Baranger progresses further development of Paris’ revitalized bistro scene, serving up authentic and relatively inexpensive dishes to warm the soul. It takes you back to a simpler time, when there was one of these on every Parisian corner. Or so I would like to believe, because in my eyes, Le Pantruche sums up all I want Paris to be, or ever be.

Pot au Feu

Pot au Feu

Le Pantruche

Le Pantruche

Le Pantruche

Le Pantruche

All the bistro classics are here served beautifully in assortments of rich broths and sauces and delicate foams, tempting you to run your finger around the plate and lick it clean. The Pot au Feu, a rich cold meat dish with ribbons of carrot and beetroot sang for a cooking style of era’s long gone.

Lamb loin, roasted ever so slightly was pink and juicy, and the roast chicken, both served with sauces that appeared to be centuries in the making. This is truly bistro cooking as it was always intended.

Taking up a further notch is the always amazing, nearly impossible to get in to, Le Comptoir du Relais. Chef Yves Camdeborde, recognized by some as being responsible for Paris’ modern bistronomy scene turns on a masterclass. The Monday to Friday 5 course tasting menu, comes as a no frills, all kills experience. Each dish picture perfect, each mouthful an explosion.

Raviole de Colvert

Raviole de Colvert

Maigre de Ligne

Maigre de Ligne

Plateau de Fromage

Plateau de Fromage

Le Comptoir

Le Comptoir

The price pushes it above your standard bistro fare, but when one of the courses includes an all you can eat, help yourself cheese plate, it’s difficult to complain. If you are fortunate enough to land a table at Le Comptoir, and staying at the adjacent hotel next door is your foot in the door, you have just treated yourself to the best bistro Paris has to offer.

Le Pantruche

3 Rue Victor Masse, 75009 Paris, France
+33 1 48 78 55 60
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Le Comptoir du Relais

l’Odéon França, 5 Carrefour de l’Odéon, Paris, France
+33 1 44 27 07 97
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Andrew’s Burgers

Andrew’s Burgers

Keeping it real.

Now that the girl has left town, chasing the fashion circuit across the globe, I’m left to fend for myself. That means I’m settling in for the evening with a bottle of red, the pup at my feet, a roaring fire, and tucking into some Andrew’s Burgers.

Andrew’s, although looking somewhat anachronistic in Albert Park, with its hand drawn tuck shop menu and cramped ordering space has endeared itself to the locals for years. It’s longevity testament to the old fashioned philosophy of doing one thing, but doing ridiculously well. Sure, there are chicken burgers, and kebabs, but lets face it, they’re the support act. The main event is the Andrew’s with the lot.

This in not your fancy pants, trending, instagram worthy burger. There’s no brioche bun, or gourmet cheese, or rocket salad. The well-dressed couple in front of me seemed confused about this bustling hole in the wall burger joint. Eventually they left wondering if they were in the wrong place. They will rue that decision. Andrew’s is the real deal.

The Andrew’s burger is your old fashioned two-hander, with a perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned patty, paired with centimeter thick tomato, oozing cheese, and smoky bacon. One wonders how such a simple concept is so often poorly executed elsewhere. But maybe that’s the secret, Andrew’s simplifies the whole concept, even down to the production line cooking system (how do they fit that many people into that tiny space?), that manages to churn out burgers at an impressive rate. But this is no fast food. The wait extends to 45 minutes on busy nights, which just happens to be a perfect amount of time to enjoy a couple of wines across the road at the Albert Park Hotel.

The dry cleaner style celebrity photos suggest it’s more than just the locals that know a good burger when they see one. And judging by the age of some of those photos, its clear Andrew’s was a crowd favourite long before burgers received the gourmet makeover witnessed today. Thank goodness they didn’t buy into the hype, electing to continue working with a formula that although less than glamorous, works exceptionally well. Lets just hope they continue making them the way they always have done.
144 Bridport Street Albert Park
PHONE ORDERS 9690
Monday to Saturday — 11:00am to 9:00pm
2126

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Cicciolina

Cicciolina

Italian Underground.

Six months ago I moved to St Kilda or as my girl hastens to point out,  St Kilda West, because there is nothing in St Kilda, and St Kilda West is full of the good stuff.
St Kilda West has Luxembourg, Di Stasio, Baker di Chiroco, Fitzrovia.
There is nothing on acland street.  Or so I thought until we decided to check out a long held favourite of the St Kilda locals.  Cicciolina.
I had heard good things about Cicciolina.  It was a favourite of those in the know, but flew largely under the radar for the most part, over shadowed by its Fitzroy street cousins.
The first time we went as a group of four. There were drinks had, sure. Then a few more in the back room with some golden calamari and crisp Arancini balls. Service was Italian and non plussed.  So long as you had your name down for a table, it all goes on the tab.
Which would explain why the rest of the night was a blur, I think I had the ragu, and I think it was good, but let’s jump to the second visit just in case.
Earlier arrival time on this occasion and immediately seated at a table for three.we have foregone the oysters this time for the tuna carpaccio, laced with bursting citrus.  The perfect palette cleanser.  One wonders why it does not appear on more menus.
Our first visit centred around pasta dishes, which, had we not consumed vast quantities of Nebbiolo would be recalled as rich and satisfyingly hearty.  On this occasion however, we opted for the barramundi, crispy skinned and juicy of meat.  My girl had the lobster ravioli extra as a main.  A generous square of fresh pasta filled with sweet meat.  So generous in fact, it got passed around the table.  And finally, her sister, with potentially the meal of the night, the roast spatchcock.
Cicciolinas is the authentic Italian you have been searching for. No fuss, not fancy, but once you walk into within that darkened room from the inconspicuous alley, survey the interiors with the over sized blackboard menu, with the curtains drawn, and the lights dimmed, you really are in a piece of Italy.
It just happens to be on Acland street, where there’s nothing good.

130 Acland Street
St Kilda, Victoria 3182

T: 03 9525 3333
F: 03 9525 3397

E: enquiries@cicciolina.com.au

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Estelle Bistro

Estelle Bistro.

The Sunday Roast with the Most.

Estelle Bistro is the sort of restaurant one could fall in love with on the first encounter.

Estelle Bistro

Estelle Bistro

Such restaurants are rare.   I love many restaurants, but I am not ‘in love’ with many. That requires a level of commitment that runs against my grain, yet Estelle breeds such emotion.

The minimalist, yet comforting fit-out.

The professional, yet familiar service.

And of course, the breathtaking, yet deceptively simple food.

Breath-taking indeed. I was moved to utter an involuntary “oh my God” after one mouthful of the ridiculously succulent roasted pork. Many a great love affair has started this way, and I’m not ashamed to admit this dish made me weak at the knees.

So good was this pork, my usually accommodating and generous girlfriend fought me off with knife and fork, demonstrating a ferocity that has not been witnessed in our 6 year courtship when I moved in to steal that last piece of piggy from her plate.

Roast Pork

Roast Pork

Finally coming to my senses (and realizing she would in fact inflict a serious wound if I didn’t back off), I allowed her ownership of that which was justifiably hers afterall, but we both learned a little something about each other at that table.

Anyway, I digress.

The dessert of apple tarte tatin was simple, and flawless, with accompanying cinnamon ice cream, you could not ask for a better finisher. Simple, and sweet.

Apple Tarte Tatin

Apple Tarte Tatin

And the starter of pork terrine, amongst the best I have encountered, served with micro herbs and a delicate sauce that cut through the heaviness of the terrine and lifted it to weightless heights.

Both lovely, and both worth the trip to Northcote, but that roast pork … maybe it was worth losing a finger …

243 High Street,

Northcote, Victoria _

OPEN 7 DAYS

Dinner Mon-Sun, Lunch Fri-Sun

(03) 9489 4609

eat@estellebistro.com

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Lucy Liu

Lucy Liu

Say my name.

Betel Leaf

Betel Leaf

She is good at many things my beautiful girlfriend, least of all date nights. And this time, she surely nailed it.

Following the excellent David Bowie Is exhibition at the ACMI centre (go … just go!) we crossed the street to hit up Lucy Liu for some contemporary Asian.

Contemporary Asian has achieved a level of ubiquity in Melbourne, from the Saigon Sally’s and Tokyo Tina’s to the outstanding Supernormal and Chin Chin’s. The test is will Lucy Liu offer anything different.  Or does it just sound like the others?

For starters, Lucy Liu is more fun than its contemporaries. There is a separate bar area where one can wait for their table, which is handy because a wait at Lucy Liu appears mandatory. She gets busy Lucy does, and she gets busy quickly. Even on this Wednesday night we were still looking at a forty minute wait, or two Sauvignon blancs.

Yellow Fin Tuna Tatami

Yellow Fin Tuna Tatami

The bar, and restaurant, is filled with the young and the fun crowd. Loud and brash, well dressed and well heeled.  One suspects they are not necessarily there for the food, but there to be seen. Either way, they’ve come to the right place.

The menu consists of fairly standard classics but wonderfully executed and presented in contemporary manners, like the tuna tataki served with pickled vegetables and rice crackers, or the fabulously fresh betel leaf, served with tuna tartar and fish roe. The ultimate kick starter to the evening.

The curries pack serious punch too, as did our prawn and mussel curry, even if a little light on in prawns, and a little heavy on mussels, it knocked my Mrs out for six, and she is a long-time chilli devotee.

Ginger Creme Brûlée

Ginger Creme Brûlée

Desserts generally don’t fly for me at Asian restaurants, but the ginger crème brulee, although not Asian in heritage, was rich and velvety, with a perfect palm sugar crust. Again, a classic but perfectly executed with just enough ginger and palm sugar to give it an asian twist, albeit a finely subtle one.

If you must be seen, go to Lucy Liu, but while you’re there, try the food. You wont be disappointed.

23 OLIVER LANE

Melbourne

Vic 3000

OPEN 7 DAYS

Lunch + Dinner

11am – late

03 9639 5777

 

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Qualia

Qualia.

A bearable lightness of being.

Qualia (pronounced kwah-lee-ah) in Latin means “a collection of deeper sensory experiences”.

Deep may be overstating a stay at Qualia, but they sure like their champagne.

Even as soon as one enters the lobby and is faced with that flawless Whitsundays view, before even the phones come out for that first of many, many Instagram shots, a glass of Charles Heidsieck magically appears before you.

It won’t be your last during your stay. Hell, its wont be your last today.

After settling into our room with a complimentary bottle of Charles Heidsieck, feet up on the sun lounges taking in tropical beauty of the island, we have a quick bite and then off to the spa to take the edge of 3 hour flight from Melbourne. Two hours of relaxing massages followed by an aromatic bath, hand made truffles, and yes, a glass of Charles Heidsieck. Three hours in and already you are so relaxed you are in danger of melting away.

Qualia is Bob Oatley’s luxury pet project (we all have one of those right?). A veritable oasis, on a tropical island, in the midst of the Great Barrier Reef. No expense has been spared. From the free flowing champagne, to the beautifully manicured gardens, Qualia is in all ways, money well spent. Which is fortunate, because money you will spend. The cheapest rooms come in at $800 a night. The bistro restaurant on the pebble beach, the cheaper of the two dining options within the grounds, was $300 for two, including wine. The fine dining restaurant, more in line with capital city standards, came in at $500 for an 8 course degustation. But I repeat, money spent very, very well.

The fine dining restaurant provides a possibly the best hotel dining in Australia. Each dish a delicately created piece of fine art on a plate, even a touch of theatre as a melt-in-your-mouth tender piece of wagyu is bbq on Japanese volcanic rock at your table.

The sun slowly sets

The sun slowly sets

The best thing about Qualia is the lengths they go to ensure your stay is memorable. The responsibility lies with them, not you, and they deliver above and beyond. It could be the nightly invitations to join other guests and witness the setting sun with oysters and more champagne. Or the various taste and talk sessions (the sake and sashimi session a personal highlight). Or the attention to detail taken for your personal beach drop off, as you are whisked off to your own deserted island for the day, complete with picnic lunch and yes, champagne if that’s your desire. Or maybe it’s the endless supply of beach toys freely at hand. Paddle boards, kayaks, or mini catamarans. Help yourself. Qualia’s appeal lies not only in its perfect island bliss, but it is the ease of which everything is achieved. The staff, although young and almost always 3 months into their tenure, perform every task with a casual expediency that only encourages you to ask for more.

Private beach for two

Private beach for two

There’s no hiding the fact Qualia will cost you, but as sure as that sun sets on those crystal clear blue seas every luxury filled day, it will be the best money you spend.

Qualia life

Qualia life

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Baker. D. Chirico.

Baker. D. Chirico.

Life with Bread.

Very often, one only truly appreciates something only after it has been taken away. Subsequent to one particularly heavy torrent of Melbourne rain, the little known but much loved Baker D Chirico closed its doors due to water damage. This was unfortunate, as I am a fan of their simple, but insanely good … everything.

The following weekend hoarding was up. Not just a leaking ceiling obviously.

The following week, the same.

Weeks turned into months. The nights grew darker, the mornings colder, and the winds blew with an icy loneliness that chilled to the core, and yet, Baker still remained closed.

It was a difficult time for all. No notices advising a reopening date, or even if there was even going to be a reopening date. No one seemed to know when, or if, we would once again be treated to the before-the-trend vanilla custard-filled bombolino’s, or the rich quiche (they pastry!!!), or my girl’s favourite, the indulgent mushroom brioche. Yes, it was a tough time for all.

And then it happened. Without any fuss or fan-fare, so typical of the Bakery itself, it opened its doors and resumed like nothing had happened. Like it hadn’t just put us all through months of suffering!

What the Hell, Baker? No explanation?

But how can you not forgive when the coffee is that good? The bread so crusty, and so soft, and the classic croissant and pastries are as good as you’ll find anywhere. And just to make myself clear, I said anywhere.

Period.

Thank the heavens it’s back. Lets hope we never have to go through that again.

Baker D. Chirico
149 Fitzroy Street
St Kilda
(03) 9534 3777

Opening Hours
Tue to Sun 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sat 7:30 am – 5:00 pm

Il Fornaio

Il Fornaio

The Baker’s Oven.

Il Fornaio is where people in St Kilda go for their morning coffee and pastry.
It’s where local celebs go to keep it real.
And its where travelling football players start the day before heading to the G.

And it’s where you should go also.

Situated down the dirty end of Fitzroy street, but underneath the Prince, it straddles this dichotomy perfectly by offering top quality pastries and breakfasts, but in a relaxed and affable environment. Service is provided by the cool kids of St Kilda with just the right amount of familiarity to make you feel at home.

The breakfasts are the best you’ll find within a hundred metre radius. Starting with the appropriately named Homer Simpson vs Peter Griffin Massive breakfast, it’s what big breakfasts should be, served with a soft brioche instead of bread so you you have plenty of room for that meaty goodness (did I mention bacon steak and hunter sausage?).

The Homer Simpson vs Peter Griffin

The Homer Simpson vs Peter Griffin

The pastries are top notch, and although the fashionable Nutella doughnuts aren’t the best in the business, the strawberry Danish, in both large and mini sizes, are a worthy substitute.

For a place named ‘The Furnace”, it really should be about the bread. But unfortunately there is so much to love about il Fornaio, as good as the bread is, it’s far from the only reason to swing by and do it the way the locals, celebs and footballers do it.
2C Acland Street
St Kilda, VIC
03 9534 2922

OPENING HOURS
DAY -every day from seven am

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