Batch

If you are a crazy anal-retentive person like me, you have a list of all the foodie places around Melbourne that you hope one day to visit. This list is, for the most part, a fluctuating beast: new places are constantly added and then often promptly forgotten about, others that I have been too sluggish to visit are sadly deleted once news of their closure becomes widespread. Places once visited get their names italicised if they were good. Bad places are slashed with a strikethrough, or deleted if the wrath is all too great.

And then there are the places that I’m excited to visit above most others, and are decorated with a little asterisk. And no other asterisked place has waited so long for me to visit as Batch has. I remember talking about visiting Batch around the time I started up this here blog. It’s shameful I’ve taken so long, so I made up for it by visiting it twice in mere weeks!

Batch is on bustling Carlisle Street, and has a tendency to be bustling itself. It’s nicely fitted out, with a lot of slightly industrial floral arrangements and an array of cute little knick-knacks that remind you that the owners hail from across the Tasman.

On my first visit I had the potato rosti, with harissa creme fraiche, fried egg and a side of spinach. Do you like the idea of having a crispy, oily potato pancake for breakfast? If not, good, because I love the idea of having a crispy, oily potato pancake for breakfast and if you abstain it means more for me. It was a deliciously evil fried breakfast, all the things your doctor warned you about, and it was sinfully good.

And if you think I had healthful respite with the spinach, oh ho ho, you would be wrong. This was the best kind of spinach, the kind lovingly slathered in butter and dusted with salt. Delish. I felt like a very wicked little glutton by the time I’d finished it, and instead of guilt all I felt was contentment.

Highly pleased with this first visit, a week later I suggested Batch as the venue for a larger brunch with myself, Muffin, Bennett, Rob and Joe.

I was a little bit more healthful this time round, and went with the two boiled eggs with soldiers, with accompanying sides of spinach and mushrooms. The eggs were nicely boiled with gooey centres that were perfect for dipping my bread soldiers into, such a satisfyingly nostalgic dish! The spinach, sadly, was nowhere near as good as the first time, it was very watery and didn’t seem to have been seasoned at all. Though at least there are salt shakers and pepper grinders on tables, so it was a bit more palatable once flavour enhanced. The mushrooms, however, were a delight, all zingy with mustard seeds and continental parsley.

I did not get around to sampling anyone else’s dish besides Muffin’s, who got the potato and spinach hash, which looked like a great big bowl of breakfasty potato salad. Tasted great, with a distinct flavour thread of sour cream and mustard seeds (they love their mustard seeds here).

I am very positive about Batch’s food, but I cannot be as effusive about their tea. They are pretty insipid brews. The earl grey I had on my first visit was horrible, all flat and muted, lacking in bergamot overtones and having an unpleasantly metallic top note. The English breakfast I had the following visit was better, but nothing special and still reasonably bland. I neglected to ask what brand they use (and I can’t find any tea info in any other blog reviews because it transpires that no one cares about tea), but by the taste of the earl grey alone I would hazard that it may be T2, because T2 earl grey has that same muted, metallic taste and is vile (seriously, do not stock T2 earl grey. Just don’t). Perhaps I will have to just bite my tongue and order mochas next time I go, everyone I dined with said that the coffee is amazing. I just sometimes wish places that put so much care and effort into coffee selection and preparation would extend the same courtesy to tea, but oh well. It’s a beverage culture thing, I guess.

There may have been quibbles here and there on my behalf, but the important thing was that I suggested this place to and experienced it with five other people, and they all came away having highly enjoyed themselves and praising the food, coffee and space to the hilt. And that seems to be where Batch hits the nail on the head: it has great food, and gives itself over to creating a great, friendly space for friends to gather together to eat and giggle, and they’ve been doing so consistently for about six years, which in the longevity-shy cafe scene is pretty impressive. So give Batch a go. Tea’s not great but the food is sinfully seductive, and if you can wear off your fried breakfast belly with a kip in a sunny park afterward with your friends, well, you’ve just had yourself a perfect afternoon, haven’t you?

Batch

320 Carlisle Street, Balaclava

Ph: 9530 3550

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Longrain

My mother and I’s birthdays are separated by a mere few days, so this year we decided that family celebrations for the two events should be compressed together into a single dinner of awesome. I was entrusted with the choice of venue and was quite overwhelmed with the task, especially as since my sister Carly’s new beau is a chef who very conveniently seems to know everyone in the Melbourne food scene, it means that booking swanko places that are generally hard to get into for family dinners has suddenly become very easy* (seriously guys, get onto getting yourselves your own chef BF, the whole family benefits!).

Luckily Muffin had recently gone to Longrain with her own family and sent the longest and most amazing text message in the world detailing the fabulousness of her meal, and since I trust Muffin with my life I figured that I would trust her with restaurant recommendations. To Longrain, loved ones, let’s go!

The restaurant is in a gorgeous space, as you would expect, all greens and mahogany browns, and lordy, if you’re in a bigger group, make sure you get booked into one of the big, circular tables that are made of heavy dark timber. The entirety of the middle of these tables are beautiful stone lazy susans! Seriously, why don’t all tables come with a built-in lazy susan, we are living in the 21st century, we should be on top of this.

The table began with a round of the betel leaf starter, of which I got a special veggie version (once you let your waiter know that you’re a veggie, all of a sudden they let you know that there’s a ton of veggie versions of most dishes secretly available to you!). I was neglectful of taking note of exactly what was in it, but it was a fresh and juicy burst of veggies and herbs that was a very pleasing palate-preparer.

My entree proper was a veggie version of the eggnet salad filled with beansprouts, slivered chili, peanuts, all doused in mild, sweet vinegars, and with an amazing cucumber relish that my other sister Megan promptly stole from me. This was another burst of veggie freshness (everything at Longrain is permeated with clean, crisp, fresh flavours and textures), and I want to know how to create that eggnet, except that I’m afraid that my mother might one day come home to find me entangled in spools of egg. That would be awkward.

While the rest of the table ordered a round of about seven dishes between them to share (let me warn you that the serving sizes here are very large, you don’t need many dishes to fill you, but in my family we don’t do things by halves and insist on ordering half the menu), for my main I selected the salt and pepper silken tofu. Being one of my favourite dishes to order out, I had very high hopes that this dish would be a transcendent version. Expectations met! Silky smooth insides with a swoon-inducing crispy coating. There was definitely something interesting going on in the outer layer’s spicing that was a bit more complex than just plain salt and pepper, perhaps some five-spice power or some equally lip-puckering mix. The Chef BF attempted to get Carly to try some (“It’s good tofu, you’ll like it!”), only to be met by a shriek once she took a mouthful. “It’s burning, oh god it’s melting and burning, you’re trying to kill me!” Death by tofu, a noble end for vegetarians, evidently an embarrassing one for omnivores.

To counteract the fried nature of the tofu, I also ordered the Chinese broccoli with chilli and garlic. Seems unassuming, but good golly this was stupidly delicious. Not only was the broccoli itself good and crisp, the garlic and chilli sauce was all kinds of tasty goodness. I ended up pouring the excess sauce onto my brown rice and chomping away happily on it. Yet another dish that I had to beat Megan away from, she was intent on consuming ALL OF IT, which is very unusual considering it was a plate of vegetables.

Dessert time! Vanilla tapioca with jackfruit and a globe of deliciously soft watermelon sorbet on the side. This was a gentle way to finish the meal, the light sorbet releasing a refreshing taste of watermelon across the tongue, with the tapioca pudding providing possibly the freshest, lightest stodge food imaginable.

As for beverages, I had recently come off medication that had prevented me from drinking alcohol for a few weeks, and to get back on the tipsy train I broke my fast with a Manhattan, which is a long time favourite of mine and the drink I use to judge a cocktail maker’s metal. This one was pretty damn good, nice and strong (the first sip of a good Manhattan should make you gasp at least slightly), although I think it may have been shaken rather than stirred, which has a tendency to make the whole a touch too watery, but honestly that’s just my personal preference and in this case didn’t affect my enjoyment of it.

The Chef BF also chose a beautiful bottle of KT Melva Watervale riesling (I was negligent in noting the year I’m afraid, sorry wine aficionados) that he shared with the table. I’m a fan of riesling over any other wine variety to begin with, but this in particular was a fine specimen, with bubbling citrus topnotes and a smooth finish that leaves a very agreeable taste on the palate, it was a brilliant complementary accompaniment to the flavours of the food.

So in conclusion, Longrain is spectacularly badass, we all rolled out of there with our stuffed bellies feeling enormously pleased and contented with ourselves. While our very gluttonous experience may not be the best way for everyone to approach the place (you didn’t see the bill, OY VEY. Delicious but expensive times), but I’m very much looking forward to going back to sit at the bar and languorously throw back some more cocktails over a smaller selection of dishes.

Longrain

44 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9671 3151

http://www.longrain.com.au/

*Disclaimer, yo: Just because the Chef BF helped to get the Blintz family a date with Longrain does not mean that we received any freebies or discounts, nor were staff aware that I was a blogger. We paid our way, and my opinion is not for sale. Just putting it out there, seeing as this has been a sensitive issue ’round the foodie blogosphere of late.

Gypsey & Musquito

As you may have noticed, I have a very boss group of wonderful friends. I’m so lucky! Not only are they willing for me to drag them all over Melbourne so that I can experience new foodie delights, sometimes for special occasions they organise for me surprise foodie dates. Such a surprise food date occurred on my recent birthday, when Muffin sent me a barrel of exciting messages that comprised of “I am taking you for surprise birthday brunch! You will not know where we are going, it is to be a delicious surprise!”

This sent me into a state of RIOTOUS ANTICIPATION! By the time we were driving along Church Street with Bennett in tow, I was gabbing excitedly. “So are we going to Abbotsford, or Richmond? If we were going further north we would have taken Punt… Oooh, is it on Bridge Road? What’s on Bridge Road again, are we doing cafes or restauranty spots…”

“Stop guessing, we’re not going to tell you!”

“Eeeee!”

It turned out that, yes, I was correct to guess both Richmond and Bridge Road, we ended up at Gypsey & Musquito. What is special about Gypsey & Musquito is that they are a cafe focused on showcasing particularly Australian native ingredients. So you can expect the see things like wattleseed, quandong and lemon myrtle pop up on the menu. Exciting and novel! Although it probably shouldn’t be novel when you think about it, everyone should be using these faboo native ingredients when you think about it.

Now I will have to admit that I was not terrible vigilant in taking note of all the ingredients in dishes, I was too excited to be having such a nice birthday meal and was focused on enjoying myself.

My primary source of enjoyment was my dish of pikelets with caramelised banana and macadamia ice-cream. With actual chunks of macadamias in the ice cream! This was so creamy and decadent, and a little bit rich, as anything with caramelised banana in it has a tendency to be. But birthdays are days to be reckless and to indulge yourself with rich sweets for lunch, it is the proper spirit to be in.

I also had myself a pot of ‘Magic Myrtle’ lemon myrtle tea. This was one of the very few times I haven’t had to ply a tea with milk and sugar, it was so lovely and strongly flavoured that it doesn’t need any beverage crutches. A very enjoyable brew for discerning tea drinkers, I urge you all to give it a try.

Muffin went with the baked eggs, all bush tomatoes and cheesy goodness with yolks peeping out, which even though they were served in a metal pan didn’t have that horribly metallic taste transfer over to the contents, miracle! Seriously, metallic-tasting eggs, this is the very worst thing in the world, it’s why I never order baked eggs, from FEAR. These were very good baked eggs, however, although also a little rich so keep that in mind if you are a small eater.

Bennett, who had mentioned on our drive in that “This place better have bacon”, ordered the potato hash with bacon, poached eggs and microherbs. “What’s the difference between a microherb and a sprout?” asked Bennett. I peered at the little nest of green things perched on top of the hash and bacon mountain. “I think microherb is just a fancy word for sprouts.” Whatever they were, they must of been tasty (or perhaps it was just the bacon), because the entire plate disappeared.

Also, bonus surprise for webcomic fans: if you have to go to the bathroom, make sure you take note of the fabulous graffiti that decorates the outside corridor leading you there that features Tycho and Gabe from Penny Arcade! I was so excited I returned to Muffin and Bennett fair gibbering with excitement (they are used to my gibbering, it is a standard event).

Gypsey & Musquito are serving up some very interesting and impressive food in pleasant, airy surroundings. It seems like the sort of place where you can hole up in a corner with your laptop and while the day away working while sipping on billy tea and nibbling some of the gorgeous cakes, pastries and sandwiches to be found in the ample display cabinets. It was certainly a very pleasant place to spend part of my birthday in, buckets of thanks to Muffin for choosing it, and to Bennett for coming along. May you all have such ace birthday brunches!

Gypsey & Musquito

382 Bridge Road, Richmond

Ph: 9939 9314

http://www.gypseyandmusquito.com.au/