Corner Hotel

Let me sing you an ode to the Corner. Ahem:

“Oh Corner, with your sticky carpets like glue

That I am constantly in danger of getting permanently stuck to,

Hail to your stage, host to bands epic to hear;

And hail, too, to your kitchen and garden of beer,

Humble yet tasty, coloured with a flair never too purple

… I shouldn’t have used purple in the penultimate couplet, nothing rhymes with it.”

Poetry grant now, please.

Yes! To the Corner Muffin and I scurried last week for a gig, and is per our Corner tradition, we dined in the venue’s kitchen before the show. Although, apologies beforehand: we were a little distracted during our meal and my descriptions may not be as attentive as usual, as dining at the table next to us was the band that we were later to see that night, so we were a little less focused on the food and more on OH GOD, PLEASE DON’T LET US LOOK LIKE LAME-O’S, DON’T OBVIOUSLY LOOK AT THEM WHAT ARE YOU DOING, OH GOOOOOOD!

We are so cool.

Despite Melbourne still insisting on being horridly humid for this time of year, the Corner’s menu has turned distinctly wintery, although Muffin and I were both pleased to see that they have retained the refreshing spinach, macadamia, haloumi, white bean, beetroot and pear salad that we’d greatly enjoyed on a previous visit back in summer (seriously, that salad, AMAZING). I was really feeling the winter vibe, however, and went with a chalkboard special: mushroom and chestnut soup served with crusty bread. Muffin chose the smoked salmon with potato rosti and horseradish creme and pickled beetroot and dill salad (I have got to stop finding the sight of ‘creme’ in a menu so ridiculously funny, I blame you, Harvey Birdman). We also got a bowl of edamame to share, because together we are unable to refuse them.

Muffin’s salmon came out looking like a tall volcanic island of rosti and salad surrounded by a sea of salmon.Muffin gave thumbs up to the salmon, saying it was fresh and delish. The edamame were equally delish, and were served with a kind of salt I wasn’t familiar with – the menu said plain ol’ sea salt, yet it was in the shape of big, flat squares that had been crumbled over the top. Anyone have any idea what variety it could have been?

The mushroom and chestnut soup was chunky and hearty as all get out, filled with lovely mouth-melty shrooms (swiss brown, I would hazard to surmise), the chestnuts simmered to fluffy chunks of goodness, and a whirl of green herbs on the surface shot through with a drizzle of cream. Most welcome was the slab of crusty bread that I used to mop up what my spoon couldn’t catch. Does anyone else get a naughty thrill in using bread to soak up soup dregs and sauces? Often you’ve eaten the beginning of the meal with a sense of politeness and delicacy, then suddenly breadcrumbs start flying everywhere and it’s like you’re six again. Love it.

A very satisfying pre-gig meal at the Corner. And for foodies who may also be Mountain Goats fans (the band, not the beer), for the record… not that we were watching or anything, honest… we think John Darnielle ended up partaking of the chalkboard gnocchi special. Rock on!

Corner Hotel

57 Swan Street, Richmond

http://www.cornerhotel.com/

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Max Bar & Restaurant

Does anyone else get slightly suspicious/worried when they walk into a restaurant and there’s football paraphernalia hanging on the walls? Framed jerseys and the like? Not that I don’t enjoy sports (I do! Watching them at least. Not playing them because that involves moving), but there’s something about a sporty presence in a restaurant that makes me assume that the menu’s going to be filled with steaks the size of your head and burgers containing whole cows. And that the only concession to vegos tends to be a veggie pizza, or maybe if you’re lucky a pasta dish. It’s a little uninspiring is what I’m saying.

The first thing I noticed about Max Bar & Restaurant was the football jerseys on one wall. Of course, I was lucky to have noticed anything at all, as on this particular day I was enormously sleep deprived from having pulled an all-nighter in order to finish an essay for uni (REMEMBER THOSE? Yeah, they’re just as horrible as you recollect them. I am too old for such chicanery). I barreled into the place where The Boy Dan and his friend Jan were waiting for me, having walked around in circles for a good half hour trying to find Hardware Lane in my exhausted fuzz, and hazily explained my lateness away on sleep-depravity, bad directions from The Boy, and something unmentionable that caused Jan to be completely open-mouthed and silent for a whole minute. Hello, I am Hayley and I ruin dinners before they even start.

The Boy, having once ascertained that I was “SLEEPY”, asked as to the state of my tum. “HUNGRY” was the reply. A menu was thrust hurriedly in my direction.

On viewing the menu my prejudices caused me to be metaphorically swatted upside the head. Yes, there is a focus on steaks and pub-style meaty offerings such as chicken parmagiana  and lamb shanks, and though the veggie options do include the obligatory pizza and risotto, there are also dips, bruschetta, baked field mushrooms, and a few pasta dishes. Nothing mindblowingly out of the ordinary for the more adventurous vegetarian, but there are plentiful options, which is nice to see.

I ended up going with the vegetarian pizza with grilled zucchini, slow-roasted pumpkin, Spanish red onion, Persian feta and pesto oil. I am normally Not A Fan of pumpkin on pizza, but it seemed like a seriously heavy-duty pizza, and remember, I was HUNGRY! The Boy chose the pumpkin risotto (which I was this close to choosing myself), while Jan went with the Max Burger, going with beef rather chicken.

The pizza looked great, with a nice even spread of toppings, and the pumpkin wasn’t overwhelming. Yet the crust was quite thick, which is a very big foodie turn-off for me, and frankly there was little flavour going on at all despite the taste-explosion menu description. I ate it all because I was deathly starving, but I can’t say I really enjoyed it.

The boys fared better, with Jan saying his burger was great (he even chose to finish it off while leaving behind chips, unfathomable reasoning to me, the potato fiend). Dan was the winner with his pumpkin risotto. I was offered a spoonful, and it was delightful, with plump rice dotted with melting chunks of pumpkin and baby spinach leaves threaded throughout. I immediately developed a distinct case of meal envy, and watched longingly as The Boy scraped his plate clean.

The staff at Max are friendly and efficient (apologies to our waitress who had to deal with my wan smiles and monosyllabic replies. I am normally gregarious, I promise!). The space is very large, and the predominant type of customer while we were there was evenly split between older couples and parents with young children. Not a haven for foodie hipsters, clearly, but I have to admit it was nice to sit and schlub in a place where no one was there purely to be seen eating somewhere dangerously fashionable.

The food at Max was hit and miss, but the hits were good enough to maybe entice me back one day. Sometimes you just need a dose of pub-like food stylings in a nice brasserie setting. Though I could probably still do without the football decorations (some prejudices die hard).

Max Bar & Restaurant

54-58 Hardware Lane, Melbourne

http://www.maxbarrestaurant.com.au

Trotters

I have already had to learn an important lesson in food blogging: WRITE STUFF DOWN! Particularly what is in dishes. I made this visit back last Monday and am now blearily attempting to remember exactly what occurred and what I ate. HAYLEY YOU ARE USELESS HOW IS THIS GOING TO INFORM ANYONE? (disclaimer: probably not best to rely on me to ever inform you on anything ever)

Anyways, mea cupla, try better next time, moving on. Easter Monday found Hayley on a ladydate with the most wonderous Natalie (aka Muffin). I had with me a bulging notebook scrawled with addresses of foodie places I have yet to try, but of course having thus prepared myself for newness, we ended up eating at an old favourite that I hadn’t been to in quite a while: Trotters.

I have ridiculous amounts of love for Trotters, I won’t lie. I’ve never had anything less than a completely enjoyable meal here, and this visit was no different, complete with THE BEST SPINACH MUFFIN AND I HAVE EACH EVER HAD!

Oh, good spinach, you are so hard to find. So often you are substituted with one of your ragtag cousins, like limp ‘n’ soggy spinach, dry spinach, under-seasoned spinach or, worst of all, oily flavourless spinach (I hate them all! So much!). It makes me giddy to find you included in a dish.

So, what did we order that we were gifted with such green goodness? Well, seeing as the breakfast menu at Trotters runs till 3pm, and I cannot in good conscious turn away from a second (or third) breakfast, I went with the ricotta cake with poached eggs and spinach. Ordinarily this dish comes with smoked salmon, but when I asked the waitress whether I could have it without she cheerfully replied “I don’t see why not!” (yay for being allowed to make changes without being evil-eyed by the staff and treated like you just offered to stab their children with a spork). Muffin, being of my own ken in regards to breakfast, ordered the homemade baked beans on toast, with an extra side of spinach.

I also ordered a pot of tea with the intriguing blend name of ‘Melbourne Breakfast’. The menu description emphasised its vanilla flavour – boy howdy, they weren’t kidding! A lovely brew, though would probably be best served by having it accompanied by something sweet rather than savoury, which is exactly what Muffin did, as you will soon see.

The plates arrived! And we were pleased with the eye-bounty. But what of taste, Hayley, what of it? Well, the ricotta cake was gorgeous both in looks and taste, flavoursome without being too salty, and flecked through with dill, which I assume was originally to compliment the salmon, but was not out of place at all without it. I was a wee bit worried about the poached eggs – I ordinarily don’t order poached eggs when eating out, even though they are my favourite style of egg, as too many places seem to use vinegar in the water in order to set the eggs. There’s little worse, in my book, than having to eat an vinegary-tasting poached egg. But! not a trace of vinegar to be found in these eggy morsels, which were perfectly poached and once popped with my fork dribbled decadently all over the ricotta and toast.

Muffin’s beans equally looked fab, with a multitude of fat cannellini beans and sauce that definitely looked homemade. I was offered a fork-full to taste test, and mmm, they were damn nice (with all my dining companions ordering beans lately, I really should capitulate and order some for myself one of these days).

And let’s not forget the spinach. Oh, THE SPINACH! Such faces of glee Muffin and I made, we must have been hilarious to watch. “What have they DONE to this?” I moaned at one point. “Something with butter, probably.” Muffin replied. It can’t just have been butter, there was something peppery going on as well, and the spinach itself was still bright green having only just been wilted enough to keep it warm… ahhh, bliss!

I was far too full and content to even contemplate dessert, but Muffin had herself a pot of Melbourne Breakfast and a chocolate and almond muffin (fitting!). It looked decadent, and watching Muffin eat it was better than watching Matt Preston eat on Masterchef, so happy did she look.

We whiled our afternoon away gossiping over Muffin’s tea, soaking in the space, and feeling extraordinarily contented. A fine end to the Easter weekend.

Trotters

400 Lygon Street, Carlton

http://www.trotters.com.au/ (oh goodness, that is one of the most adorable restaurant websites I’ve seen in a while!)

Seven Seeds

A gap in between two buildings, just across the way from Melbourne Uni Law School, and the entrance of Seven Seeds is revealed. I practically skip into the alcove, I’m that excited. “You could have experienced this place weeks ago if you hadn’t skipped out of Tuesday lunches!” admonishes Jess, and she’s right, sickness/laziness has caused me to miss at least two Seven Seeds expeditions (Jess, I promise not to miss any more Tuesday lunches).

The space is brightly lit, airy and very, very crowded. Apparently predominantly with law students, according to Jess. “We go crazy for good coffee anywhere within walking distance of school.” Not that I could tell you if the coffee was any good or not, as I am one of those pansy tea drinkers (incidentally, very weak tea here, even if you leave it be to try to seep for a while – couldn’t get it to raise more than a slight brown tinge. Shallow tea leaf receptacle in the teapot, perhaps?).

Despite the teeming crowd that appeared to be meandering all over the place, we’re lucky and manage to slip onto the edge of a communal table. I’m so hungry I’m tempted to gnaw on the wooden-backed menu. Jess looks grimly at it. “Everything has bread,” she says. I peek. She’s right, everything is distinctly sandwichy or toasty. The kind waitress suggests the spicy homemade baked beans, intimating that they are just as nice and filling without the sourdough toast. Jess acquiesces, while uttering a “Damn Passover.”

Having no restrictions on swellable grains myself, my empty tummy directs me to the most decadently described sweet treat on the menu – french toast with poached pears, marscapone, rose syrup and amaretti crumb thingies. I am a sucker for both french toast and pears. Though I always have a knee-jerk reaction with french toast where it is automatically compared to the dizzyingly amazing example put forward by Las Chicas in Balaclava – so eggy that it’s almost like a bundle of sweet scrambled eggs with suprise bread inside. Okay, so most french toast lovers baulk at that kind of egg-to-bread ratio, but I love it.

Seven Seeds’ version was more bread than egg, but made up for it with delicious toppings. Pears lovely, marscapone which I pretty much popped into my gaping mouth in one go (yes, I could have spread it over my toast and enjoyed it with the other flavours, but that’s the decision I made and now I have to live with it), the rose syrup was plentiful and I tried to mop it all up with the toast yet failed there was so much, and the crumbly amaretti things… I have no idea really what was going on with those, but I wanted MORE.

While I was happily letting crumbly thingies dissolve in my mouth Jess was getting stuck into her beans, which were generous in size and smelt delicious. In fact, she was quite happy with them until the fellow next to us had his meal placed in front of him – the beans. With toast.

Jess looked at it, then back at her wheatless version. Misery was etched on her face. “This would be so much better with toast.”

“Well, let’s plan what you can have when you can have wheat again,” I said, and we snaffled a menu. “They’ve gotten rid of the prosciutto pressed sandwich!” says Jess. “Kim will be devastated.” A message is sent to Kim to convey the bad news; a reply is full of sad “D:” faces. Very devo indeed. “The corned beef and sauerkraut toastie looks good though. If I still ate the meats I’d get excited by that.” I say. “How old school, hot English mustard and all!”

We mosey out (and yes Jess, I know I still owe you fifteen dollars for my meal, it’s in an envelope in my wallet because I am just that anal-retentive). Along with Animal Orchestra, looks like Seven Seeds is to become a regular Tuesday lunches venue for the Melb Uni crew.

Seven Seeds

114 Berkeley Street, Carlton

www.sevenseeds.com.au