Westville Chelsea, New York

New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town, the Bronx is up and the Battery’s down! And the people eat very, very well.

I was only in New York for a short time, so I had to capitalise on eating as much good food as possible. In among hunting down delicious junk food encompassing diner breakfasts, burgers, and cookies, I was lucky to have some New Yorker friends to point me in the direction of purveyors of excellent foodstuffs. The first memorable example of this was an excellent brunch at Westville Chelsea in the company of equally excellent human Mindy (who despite living in NYC is a frequent reader of this here blog, HI MINDY I LOVE YOU!).

We trooped in just as Westville opened at 10am (I think the staff were a little startled to see us that early and chipper), and after getting big pots of tea looked to the food menu proper.

America is VERY BIG on breakfast omelettes and scrambles that you customise from a list of fillings, which I very much like as who doesn’t love what is essentially a mini build-your-own breakfast? I chose to have scrambled eggs with mushrooms and spinach, served with two Portuguese muffins (they are basically a slightly lighter version of ye olde English muffin) and I also asked for a side of home fries because HOMES FRIES! Seriously Australia when are we going to get on board with fries for breakfast, stop behaving like we are some culinary BACKWATER.

The scramble was bright yellow and beautifully creamy, with seams of glistening baby spinach leaves and big wedges of savoury mushrooms peaking their crowns out of the egg. The Portuguese muffin had a bouncy chew to it, and with four slices provided there was no mouthful of egg that wasn’t supported by a bite of muffin. The home fries were excellently crispy with a pleasing amount of soft, fluffy insides, and did I squirt ketchup all over them? YOU BET I DID.

Mindy had a kale-based salad which came in a giant bowl (all kale salads should come in as big a receptacle as possible because they are always delicious, FACT), which had such an array of ingredients I can’t even remember them all, and was by all accounts filling and full of HEALTH, as all great kale salads should be.

Westville was a delightful spot to catch up with a dear friend and yell about books and food and Twitter and get all high on gossip and tales. Thank you for sharing it with me, Mindy, and may we have the chance to repeat this day sooner rather than later!

Westville Chelsea

246 W18th Street, Chelsea

Ph: 212 924 2223


Other Westville locations can be found in both the West and East Villages, and in Hudson.

Blintz on Tour: Grasslands, Toronto

The funny thing about Toronto is that the subway doesn’t operate on a Sunday until 9am. This obviously made it a little difficult for me to get to the 9am film screening I’d planned to attend on this particular Sunday, but no matter – instead I decided to go on a nice long walk through the University and Chinatown, ending up on Queen Street West in the hope that Grasslands might be open at the end of my hike.

Steph was so effusive about her visit to Grasslands back in June that before I left for Toronto she essentially grabbed me by the lapels to shout “GO TO GRASSLANDS OR YOU WILL BE FORFEIT TO ME AS A PERSON.” Well, I did not want to be FORFEIT, so I was pleased that Grasslands was indeed open by the time I loped into the Queen Street neighbourhood.

I remembered Steph heartily recommending the hangover plate, but I liked very much the sound of a morning burrito, so went with the breakfast burrito: house scrambled tofu, corn, black beans, mushrooms, daiya cheddar cheese, onions, peppers and guacamole wrapped in a flour tortilla, served alongside a house salad of dressed greens, cabbage, red onion and slivered almond bits, another mound composed of house fries, and, delightfully, two pieces of watermelon.

The meals at Grasslands are served on these long platters with each component laid out end to end, which is perfect for weirdos like me who like their food SEPARATE, for ease of individual component tasting. Moving down the platter, firstly the breakfast burrito was nicely sized, big enough to feel like a solid handful, but not, you know, the size of your head, which is initially exciting but ends up after a while feeling like the kitchen is just trying to intimidate your stomach. The tofu mixture inside was properly spicy and will definitely wake you up should you be having a sleepy morning. Also, everyone was right about daiya being the only vegan cheese worth bothering with – no nasty chemical overtones, actual proper cheesy taste achieved. I’m not sure what is stopping daiya from being widely available in Australia but we have to get on that, stat.

The salad was lightly dressed in a mayo-ish sauce and provided an excellent creamy crunch. Also crunchy were the fries, and I would like to put forward that my Official Stance is that fries for breakfast are entirely acceptable and I would like to see more of it, MORE I SAY. And of course the sweet juicy burst of watermelon to finish and cleanse the palate was a very thoughtful touch.

Grasslands also has a nicely varied drinks menu. While I could of started the morning in an alcoholic fashion with a breakfast cocktail I decided to be slightly sensible for once and instead chose one of the mocktails, a cucumber lemonade complete with a sugared glass rim, all tart and refreshing and just what was required to hit that spot.

Steph was right (she always is) that Grasslands was a Toronto must. You must, you must, you must.


478 Queen Street West, Toronto

Ph: +1 (416) 504-5127


Blintz on Tour: Fresh, Toronto

I took to Fresh like a newly minted cult member. This is only slightly hyperbolic a metaphor. I was in Toronto for the Toronto International Film Festival, and when one is seeing upwards of five films a day, food becomes a very pressing concern, and it can’t just be any food, as salty processed stuff just ends up making me sluggish and more prone to tune out during a flick. For preference it needs to be healthy and hearty stuff, while also being served quick enough that I have plenty of time to duck out between films to refuel.

I’d already been recommended Fresh by a couple of folks who had been to T-town relatively recently, and on discovering there was an outpost on Spadina Avenue a few blocks from the cinema I’d be spending most of my time in, I visited on my first day. And then went back, no lie, nearly every day. I was fanatical, swift and deep.

The reason Fresh struck such a chord with me, apart from my very exacting film festival food requirements, was that everything was simultaneously healthy and delicious, with a wide breadth of options. Indeed, within ten days of visits I didn’t end up ordering any dish twice, I kept being beguiled by something new every day.

My favourite dish all over was probably my second Fresh meal, the panko crumbed squash tacos. These were definitely not eat with your hands tacos as the fillings were so multitudinous that there’s no way you’d be able to trap them all in a tortilla. The two of them spilled forth with tomato, red onion, kale, coriander leaves, fat little nuggets of crispy crumbed squash, and drizzled with creamy jalapeno lime sauce. Squeeze over a wedge of lime and attack with a knife and fork, and it was a zingy delight.

For a quick injection of health, their huge selection of salads and bowls were a great choice. The ‘ace of kales’ salad was an explosion of vegetables, with a kale base supporting heirloom grape tomatoes, spring onions, avocado, jicama, toasted mixed nuts, and thick slabs of tempeh bacon. I did find the tempeh bacon just a bit too sweet for my liking, but otherwise who could sniff at such a bowl of goodness? The green goddess bowl, which had already come with Steph’s seal of approval, was served on soba (you can choose rice instead if you would prefer) and came with broccoli, pickled ginger, grilled tempeh, toasted sunflower seeds, tahini sauce and steamed greens. It was lucky I ordered a baby-sized bowl of this, as despite the deliciousness it was an absolute stuffer for my tiny Australian belly!

Michael had been VERY INSISTENT on Fresh’s quinoa onion rings being a must-try item. I first had them as a component of the BBQ burger, which along with the rings comes with an almond and grain patty, banana chilies, napa cabbage, tomato, lettuce and garlic mayo. As a burger it was huge and quite overwhelming, and quickly had to be reduced to its parts in order to be easily eaten, but it revealed that the quinoa onion rings were indeed devilish magic and needed to be sampled further. So on a later visit I dutifully ordered them alongside a cup of Cuban chickpea and sweet potato soup. Served with vegan dipping mayo, the solo onion rings properly proved themselves to be appropriately off tap. Let’s all be deep frying quinoa, it is clearly a boss idea.

The only thing I had which strayed off the healthy agenda (okay apart from the onion rings, but they don’t really count, they are our crunchy friends in a bowl) was the green poutine. Now you might think from the word ‘green’ that surely it would be somewhat healthy, but that shows your unfamiliarity with poutine. Chips, cheese and gravy are still chips, cheese and gravy, even if the gravy is made of real mushrooms, even if the cheese sauce is a creamy vegan alternative, EVEN IF it is topped with sauteed rainbow chard. THE GREENERY IS A TRAP! This is still poutine, and it will sit in your tum like delicious potato concrete, and even if you roll out the door groaning there will be no regrets. THIS IS POUTINE.

Fresh also have a selection of takeaway sandwiches, baguettes and salads, which were very helpful for those gaps between films that weren’t long enough for a sit down meal. I very quickly found my favourite in the mock turkey with aged cheddar sandwich, with salad bits all held together with a light mayo. Mock meaty sandwiches are something that I really wish I could get around Melbourne easily.

Given Fresh places equal emphasis upon it’s juice bar status as it does their food, I can’t wind up without saying a bit about the drinks menu. Basically you can get any fruit and vegetable known to man whizzed up into a juice or smoothie. My particular favourite was the Grapefruit Glow, comprising of grapefruit, cucumber, lemon, fresh mint, agave and mineral water, and was a bubbly, zingy pick me up. There’s also plenty of green smoothies and juices – thankfully Fresh follow the rule of ‘make sure your proportion of sweet fruits outweigh your greens so that it doesn’t taste like iron-rich sludge’. I also recommend, in the case of a slightly ticklish throat and sluggishness brought on by too many doughnuts, the Ginger Fireball, which juices up a bunch of fresh ginger and lemon with hot water and your choice of either raw honey or agave, it’ll strip any trace of ill feeling from your body and throw it at the nearest wall.

This is probably the most comprehensive review I’ve ever given on this blog, hence the fact it is running to such a huge number of effusive words. I ate more of Fresh’s menu in a week than I’ve managed at most of my regular Melbourne haunts in a year. And I already miss having such an easy, healthy veg alternative that ticks all those veg*n eating options yet isn’t hippy-dippy or aggressively hipster, and just puts its head down to pump out good, quick, yet still interesting food. Could we perhaps open a Melbourne outpost, Fresh HQ? I think you would do very well here.


147 Spadina Avenue, Toronto
(other locations on Queen Street West, Bloor Street West and Eglinton Street West)

Ph: +1 416 599 4442



I have always been traditionally a bit wary of restaurants and cafes attached to cultural museums and art galleries, but considering that this is a day and age where you can go out to Heide and have lunch at their resident Vue de Monde outpost, it’s a position that I am willing to bend at least in service of further investigation in the form of eating.

My mum and I were treating my Granma to her birthday present, a visit to the Monet’s Garden exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, and figured that having a post-exhibition lunch at the gallery’s main restaurant Persimmon would cap things off rather nicely. Well, super nicely actually, as Persimmon was quite a bit fancier than we were expecting.

It’s situated in a big square room up the back of the gallery – shuffle off to the right just before you hit the stained glass ceiling gallery and you’ll find it – where three sides are basically ceiling to floor windows looking out onto the NGV’s sculpture garden. Everything’s very neat and proper, from the waiters draping cloth napkins into your lap and the fact that the house sparkling is French.

On first glance the menu looks to be rather aggressive in reaching deep into your pockets and not letting go, but luckily there’s a $45 lunch special which means that you get a main and dessert, plus a glass of house red, white, or the aforementioned French sparkling for your trouble (of course we went with the French, do you think us barbarians?).

Granma chose the baked goats’ cheese with fig tart tatin, asparagus, olive and almond tapenade as her savoury. This was like the perfect upmarket picking plate for those who like a little nibble of everything – two little fig tarts surrounded by slivers of asparagus, regimental cubes of goats’ cheese, olives, schmears and edible flowers making for a very pretty dish. Granma, as a natural grazer, found this the perfect dish for her foodie sensibility and enjoyed it thoroughly.

I, as you know, have a distinct weakness for crumbed things, so once my eyes lit on the double crumbed egg with mushrooms, brick pastry and watercress puree I wasn’t going to be persuaded by anything else. This was a similarly open plan dish as the goats’ cheese, with the dark crumbed egg sitting among strewn mushrooms, edible flowers and puree, with two sticks of light, flaky pastry encasing yet more warm, earthy mushrooms. Popping the egg and letting it ooze all over everything put me in the very specific heaven that only a good gooey egg can. The only quibble I have is that there was A LOT of the watercress puree, which made things slightly wet, and didn’t have a particularly bold enough flavour profile to warrant having been distributed with such liberality.

Mum went with the smoked barramundi with slow cooked fennel and Avruga caviar. I didn’t quiz her on the specifics, but she seemed to be pleased with it, and like the other dishes it was presented very well.

For dessert I was very tempted to jump into line with Mum and Granma’s orders of a traditional creme brulee, but it was the lure of cassis sorbet that made me go with the giant “macaroon” with cassis sorbet and almond ice cream. Spelling mistakes aside, you do indeed get a giant purple macaron sandwiching a thick seam of cassis sorbet, accompanied by a smooth ball of almond ice cream decorated with almond slivers.

Contact with the ice cold sorbet does react in a way with the macaron halves to makes them go slightly tough and chewy, but apart from that this is a pretty faultless dessert. The cassis sorbet was this astounding burst of blackberry flavours that made me go absolutely wild, and it tasted fresh and smooth with no sneaky ice shards that indicates it had been made recently instead of stuck away in a freezer for weeks. The almond ice cream was equally smooth and noticeably nutty, and made me think that nut-based ice creams are definitely A THING that I need to investigate further.

The creme brulee enjoyed by Mum and Granma looked delish – the tops were properly toffeed-up and made satisfying ‘crack!’ noises once tapped with a spoon. The custard was nicely flecked through with vanilla bean seeds, Granma said it was nicely flavoured but not so rich that it sat heavily afterwards. The staff even put a little candle atop Granma’s for her birthday – happy 91 years indeed!

Persimmon makes a very good fist of giving your standard gallery restaurant a bit of quality polish without slipping too far into pretentious irrelevancy. Of course, being the tardy blogger that I am, in the time it’s taken me to write this post Persimmon has actually changed its menu, so no crumbed egg and cassis sorbet glory can be yours any longer. I’m sorry to be such a tease. But the spring menu looks rather intriguing, with a yellow tomato gazpacho offering as well as a poached berries dessert that features cassis in foam form. Go check it out and bring me back your findings.


Ground Level, NGV International

180 St Kilda Road, Southbank

Ph: 8620 2434


Garlic Kiss

We’re going further afield with this one, folks, heading all the way to beachside Mornington. My dear old friend Sarah invited me out for a nice calm hens night evening of food, cocktails and chats, which is just the kind of hens night I enjoy (keep your penis straws off of my silky drawers!).

Garlic Kiss is situated just off Mornington’s main street, and it’s rather unfortunate name makes more sense once you realise that it’s a pan-European restaurant. It’s outfitted in a way that suggests comfort rather than style, with nice solid padded chairs and one of those hammy fake fireplaces where it mimics an open wood fire but it’s actually gas powered (those things make me DIE).

We started with a couple of rounds of the dips for the table to share. There were three varieties of dip included: beetroot, sweet potato and one that I could never quite identify – it didn’t really matter in the end as that one in particular was quite tasteless. The sweet potato one was mild and inoffensive, leaving the beetroot as the only one with any flavour kick to it, it was strongly earthy and quite good. The pita bread served with the dips had been sprinkled with paprika, which added a nice smoky overlay to everything.

For my main I had the zucchini and corn fritters, served with a little dressed leaf salad and crusty bread with a little ramekin of diced tomato and salad onion (bonus bruschetta!). The three fritters were big round puffy things, liberally threaded through with cubes of vegetables and corn kernels, but were still doughy enough that they actually got a bit heavy quite quickly, I ended up leaving half of one behind. Therefore it was quite a relief to munch on the side salad and bonus bruschetta (the crusty bread was particularly good, with a touch of sourdough tang to it).

I decided to waive any side dishes. LOLS THAT’S A TOTAL LIE I TOTALLY HAD CHIPS. And glad of it I am too. The ‘Dutch chips’ were big fat crispy chips that were fluffy within, liberally sprinkled with sea salt and rosemary. Served with sour cream, some kind of thick chilli paste and a garlic aioli, the chilli and sour cream was completely ignored in favour of the aioli which was stupidly good.

Sarah also gave me a taste of her vegetable paella, which had been well cooked with a firm bite to the rice, but was it was predominately flavoured with paprika, which I imagine probably would have become a bit overwhelming if you were trying to eat the whole thing.

For dessert there was chocolate fondue with strawberries, marshmallows and orange slices to share between the five of us. The fruit was fresh, the sauce was milk chocolate but tasted smooth with a medium level of richness, with none of the brittle, plastic-y overtones of cheap chocolate. Really though, the appeal of fondue is less how everything tastes and more to do with the shared ritual of eating it.

The real king of the meal, however, was our second dessert choice: the banana and hazelnut pudding with caramel sauce. Served with a ball of quality vanilla ice cream that was ever so creamy, this is the sort of pudding that pays proper respect to bananas. It was chock full of banana chunks with seams of hazelnut pieces yet wasn’t heavy at all – handy because the caramel sauce was intensely rich and sweet, just the way caramel sauce should be! It was very hard not to whip this plate out of everyone’s grasp and just keep it all to myself.

I finished it all off with an earl grey tea that was served with sugar cubes and a slice of lemon. When was the last time you saw lemon slices and sugar cubes in a city-side caf’? Come on, Brunswick, us tea fans love our granny afternoon tea affectations, get on this.

Garlic Kiss was basically the definition of ‘nice’. The more lackluster dishes still had elements that were enjoyable, and the good dishes have stayed large in my memory. The food overall was a lot better than I was expecting from a seaside suburbs restaurant, and my dining companions also assured me that the cocktails on offer were quite delicious. It might not impress the most hard-nosed of city slicker foodies, but for what we required from it Garlic Kiss was perfectly fine.

Garlic Kiss 

1C Albert Street, Mornington

Ph: (03) 5976 1444

MIFF Eats 2012: Electric Boogaloo

Melbourne International Film Festival time! The film nerd Christmas in August! The greatest time of the year! And a perfect way for me to say fie at my bank account and treat MIFF as a period for good films and good food. Knowing that I wasn’t going to get the chance for any overseas traveling jaunts this year, I said to myself “bugger it”, took leave from work for the entirety of MIFF and basically went on holiday, attempting to eat myself decadently silly where I could in between the 45 films I saw. What follows is the most illustrious of the vittles I sampled.


After watching Step Up to the Plate and consequentially becoming VERY hungry, Jen and I took a stroll down Flinders Lane and ended up at Hako. I remember way back in the days when I was first becoming aware of the Melbourne foodie scene that Hako was quite talked about around town. Things seem a touch quieter at Hako these days, and although we had a pleasant enough meal with nice service and liberal libations of plum wine, there’s only one dish out of the four or so we had that’s really worth reporting, and that’s the herb salada maki rolls. Studded on the outside with seeds and inwardly stuffed with a mix of herbs and greenery, these were deceptively full of flavour and certainly had a lot more depth to them than a lot of vegetarian sushi I’ve come across. Jen and I were tempted to order another round of them, but had already racked up a decent bill so decided to let it go. Should I return to Hako in the future though, it will be for a feast solely comprised of those rolls and plum wine.

310 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9620 1881 


China Red

Okay, I think I’ve figured China Red out. You may remember from last year’s MIFF Eats post that I was well confused about the patchy nature of the food on offer here, with some of it being really great, and other dishes proving to be almost unforgivably lackluster. But given its convenience and the fact that the food comes out super quick (both very important when it comes to trying to fit in a filling meal between films) I hit it up a few times during MIFF, mainly for the bright green vegie dumplings. The skins are still a touch too thick but that’s the only negative I can come up with, the fillings are nice and varied and the entire concoction is properly tasty. I also partook of the spring onion pancake, which was nicely crispy and not too oily, and of course that fabulous mango, coconut cream and sago dessert that just kills me dead. With China Red do your research, figure out the dishes you like and stick to them like glue. The benefits of a fast dumpling cannot be denied.

Shop 6, 206 Bourke Street, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9662 3688



Ahh, Ol’ Reliable. I went to Journal for two consecutive Sunday brunch visits during MIFF in order to prepare for an extended filmy afternoon and evening. The first contained a creamy celeriac soup, a decadent cherry danish, and a chai served with a generous pot of honey, which is my sole requirement for a good chai. The second visit yielded up a stupidly tasty tomato and basil bruschetta (another example of getting the simple things oh so right), and a flaky croissant served with the daily jam, which just happened to be rhubarb. Can we all band together and make rhubarb jam a thing, because oh man is rhubarb jam a tart-sweet bomb of sticky deliciousness! I ended up being very indelicate and used my knife to scoop up the remains that didn’t end up on my croissant and just slurped it on its own.

253 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9650 4399

Little King

This little gem has easily become my favourite haunt in the city. Hidden behind St Paul’s Cathedral down the same cobblestone alleyway that features the Chapter House gallery space, it’s a tiny lace-curtained bolthole that has some of the tastiest treats and most gorgeous service about town. I have become fast addicted to the soft pumpkin, baby spinach and goats cheese baguette to the point that sometimes I’m blind to anything else that may be in the cabinet. The coffee’s damn nice, at least to a non-habitual coffee drinker like me (I think it the coffee may be done by Padre, take that for whatever it means to you coffee fiends). Best of all, there are always heaps of yummy vegan sweet treats to choose from, which you should totally be doing at all possible times. Especially the banana and dark chocolate muffin. Om nom nom.

Shop 4, 208 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9654 0030


Chin Chin

See, I wasn’t lying when I said I used this year’s MIFF as an excuse for decadent food treats! Before viewing the truly excellent I Wish, Jen, Em, Sohi and I managed to score a table at easily the most talked about joint in town (the magic time to go in order to avoid the queues, it seems, is late afternoon). Em has already blogged extensively about this visit over on her blog Enjoy Eat Watch (complete with photos!) so I’ll just do a quick rundown of what I sampled as part of the $65 per head ‘Feed Me’ option – which is OBSCENE value for money, by the way.

– vegetarian wraps with crispy tofu, that come out on a DIY platter. Piles and piles of vegies to choose from in stuffing your wraps, and the peanut satay sauce that comes with it was whizz-bang wonderful.

– crispy corn fritters served with Vietnamese mint, chilli jam, slices of fresh ginger and lettuce leaves. I have to concur with Em and agree that this was the only dish that we sampled that didn’t quite work. All these little fried babies needed was the excellently spicy chilli jam, everything else was extraneous and conflicted texturally.

– a plate of green with the lightly steamed pea and bean shoots with soy honey sauce. I’m a big fan of greens done simply with a good sauce, and this hit the spot perfectly.

– vegetarian fried rice. While nothing will ever compare to my dad’s fried rice, this was still a very satisfying version, with a good proper level of salty soy and a variety of vegie bits and bobs (you always want your fried rice to have a good amount of bits and bobs).

– extreme dessert quartet of sweet destruction: honeycomb parfait with ginger sorbet, banana roti with condensed milk sauce, corn ice cream with caramel coconut rice, and a creamy, coconutty Thai-inspired trifle. While all of these caught my interest in some way, the one that would have me going back in a second would be the honeycomb parfait. Smooth, rich, creamy parfait undercut by the sharp tang of the ginger sorbet: utter bliss.

Needless to say, I am now among the multitudes that found Chin Chin to be utterly worth the hype.

125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD


Cumulus Inc

I hadn’t tried Cumulus before, mainly due to the fact that I had never really heard of them rated as a good dinner joint for vegos. Indeed, once I was sat at the bar and started perusing the menu, I was dismayed that it seemed to be totally dominated by listings of oysters and charcuterie items. But within the salads and comestibles section I found succour with the cauliflower, chard and taleggio gratin dotted with delicate fronds of black truffle. This is the kind of dish that was so good that I wanted to lift it above my head into the light and declare it the high god king of all that the sun touched, but you know, I would have burnt myself on the hot skillet if I’d done so, so I didn’t.

What is also good about the salad and sides selection is that all bar the gratin can be downsized into half serves. I got myself a wee bowl of the cracked wheat and freekeh salad (I was eyeing off the roasted potatoes with sage and garlic but figured it wouldn’t be advisable to then sit through two films on a tummy filled with double stodge). This was an agreeably nutty side that definitely leavened the going with my cheesy gratin, and certainly felt healthy enough that my cheese guilt lessened considerably.

It’s also worth mentioning that Cumulus was a great experience as a solo diner. Sitting up at the bar you peer directly into the kitchen and can watch the chefs at work, and they all seem more than happy to chat with you while they’re putting together desserts, or cleaning oysters with tiny paintbrushes.

45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9650 1445


Should you be particularly interested in my filmy MIFF musings, you can head on over to 240films.com, where Jen and I are still very slowly going through our reactions to all the films we saw. By the rate we post at, we should have them all done by Christmas.


This is a public service announcement. I am here to tell you the three greatest words you are ever likely to hear, should you have the right priorities, and I think you do. Are you ready?




Got your attention? Good. Let us begin.

Gramercy is the new bistro/restaurant at the Cullen Hotel in Prahran, right next to Hu Tong, which is knowledge that should set you all a tingle. Now normally I would be slightly suspect of any restaurants attached to a hotel, but the Art Series of hotels seems to be making a fair fist of ensuring that their restaurants are keeping up with the foodie times and plating up some interesting and good food.

Gramercy models itself as an upmarket American diner experience, and the food reflects this, with the menu featuring a lot of bagels, pastrami, hero sandwiches and fancy wagyu cheeseburgers. But let’s get back to the important part: CHALLAH FRENCH TOAST.

Challah is that delightful Jewish bread that is chock full of eggs and has a sweetness to it as a result. I love to toast it and pile on with the butter (because I clearly don’t believe in cholesterol), but it’s also great with smears of avocado, or drizzlings of honey, or pretty much any topping or spread you can think of. So the thought that someone had been clever enough to soak it in egg, fry it, and then serve it with maple syrup filled me with GLEE.

Not only do you get a generous jug of maple syrup that properly drenches the toast, it’s also served with cinnamon-dusted bananas. The toast is properly egg battered too, so what with all the eggs in challah anyway its enough to turn you INTO an egg.

Young Doctor Ethnic also accompanied me on this challah-hunting trip, and got himself a reuben sandwich. Containing house-made pastrami, swiss cheese, sauerkraut and mustard on rye bread with an accompanying dill pickle, this was a monster sandwich that ticked all of the Doctor’s food buttons.

The service is young and friendly and mostly on point, although during my unexpected 40 minute wait for the Doctor (he got caught up in one of the sudden deluges that seem to have made a habit of sneaking up on Melbourne and vomiting rain and hail everywhere) I was offered a glass of water that then didn’t get refilled in that time, nor as the time crept ever on was I asked if I wanted to order in leu of my friend arriving. Wait staff everywhere, if a patron tells you they want to wait for the rest of their party before ordering, but then waits by themselves for over half an hour, please check in with them again. They are probably hungry enough by this point to be okay with being impolite and starting without their friends!

The space is all shiny surfaces that just avoids being a bit too slick for its own good, and is quite a nice place to while away your time in. Doctor Ethnic and I were certainly keen enough on our food picks to already be planning a follow up visit. Lord knows I need little excuse to fill myself up with bagels (always with the bread products).


162-164 Commercial Road, Prahran

Ph: 9098 1155


The Woods of Windsor

There are some days when trying to distill an amazing experience down into words is the hardest thing one can try to do. It’s not the same as detailing a negative experience, that is a practice that is all too easy as there are many, many delicious negative words that are far too fun to fling around in a tornado of pique. It is far, far harder, in my estimation, to really nail a positive, amazing experience down into concrete words that ends up satisfying you as a writer. Which is going to make this following post about The Woods of Windsor a very difficult writing task for me indeed.

I had taken note of the space where The Woods of Windsor was to take up residence as it was being constructed, as someone had told me that it was going to be run by the same outfit as Yellow Bird. That caught my interest, and once this glowing recommendation hit Broadsheet, I was in a tizzy. I messaged my work husband Nik (also known as Doctor Ethnic*) with alarming alacrity. “Faux husband and wife date, here, NOW NOW NOW.”

The space is long and dark, a cosy shadowy cavern, with many cute, slightly hipstery touches in terms of design especially focused on rabbit iconography (although if you have phobias involving taxidermy animals, yeah, you might have an episode). There’s seated dining towards the back of the room, but since we strolled in without a reservation (we are shamelessly lax diners), we were seated at the bar area up the front, at a long bench table abutting the windows which open out onto the street.

We started with cocktails, which is of course the correct way to go about things. Nik had a Dark and Stormy, which was a generous serving of rum with ginger ale and mint, cool, direct and refreshing. I like a cocktail that slaps you hard on the back and makes you gasp, and thus went with the Whisky Bang. It achieved that first essential gasp, and gently mellowed out as time wore on and the ice started melting. Very appreciative of the fact that the cocktails are served in tall glasses, it’s nice to have a sinfully alcoholic beverage that lasts throughout the meal.

Anyway, enough of libations, what of food? I had previously read about the zucchini flowers dish, and was so keen I didn’t even really look at the rest of the menu. This anticipation, however, didn’t quite prepare me for what was on the plate. Three neat zucchini flowers placed next each other alternating top to tail, loosely encrusted in a light, delicately thin coating of batter. Each flower was stuffed with a sweet, creamy goats cheese, and underneath each flower head rested an ever so thin slice of beetroot, about the width of a crisp. Sprinkled atop the flowers were some pan-roasted pine nuts, and little green crescents of what I think were pimento olives, as well as a garnish of sprouts. The presentation was so gorgeous to the eye that I hesitated slightly in starting to eat it, as it seemed such a shame to dismantle a piece of art.

But eat I did, and good golly, it was DIVINE. A perfect balance of all those diverse yet complimentary flavours. I must of had a very interesting expression on my face while eating it, because at one point two middle-aged ladies who were walking past caught sight of me and the zucchini flowers, and actually spoke to me through the open window to ask “Is that as good as it looks?” I garbled back “It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever eaten!” with a mouth full of flowers and then kept hoeing in.

Nik ordered the duck dish that was simply described on the menu as “spiced duck breast: quinoa, seeds.” It was quite a lot more than that simple description belies. About four fat medallions of duck breast had been placed on the plate; little brown piles of quinoa were alternated by pools of a bright yellow sauce, probably a hollondaise. “Now, here’s where it gets theatrical,” said the waitress, as she poured a thin jus out of a tiny jug with a flourish over the duck pieces. In the end Nik felt that perhaps the jus wasn’t quite needed, but was otherwise just as enthusiastic over it as I was about the zucchini flowers.

“If I could have got away with licking the plate, I would have,” I told the waiter ruefully when he came to collect our heartily scraped dishes. “Oh, we TOTALLY encourage plate-licking!” he said cheerfully.

We weren’t quite full, so our gazes collectively turned towards a shared dessert. The summer mille feuille was a sweet tower constructed out of discs of crisp, crunchy almond brittle, held together by white chocolate mousse, and layered with raspberries, halved blueberries and cubes of watermelon and cantaloupe, topped with a few violet pansies for an edible, decorative touch. It’s very right to describe this as a summer dessert, it was so light and fresh and felt really cleansing after the amazing, zinging “Oh my there’s tastes everywhere!” excitement of the zucchini flowers.

With middle to high food prices, it’s certainly not the sort of place that you are going to be able to afford eating at every night of the week (though the pricing of the many beverage selections are more than fair). But for a special occasion evening or for those times when you feel the need to indulgently treat yourself to something more gastronomically elegant that your usual fare, The Woods of Windsor has you sorted. And I am going to be trying to find excuses to be indulgent here as often as I can!

The Woods of Windsor

108 Chapel Street, Windsor

Ph: 9512 1900

*He’s not a real doctor, he just plays one on TV.

The Firehouse

There are some friends that are lunch friends, some that are dinner friends, some that are coffee and cake friends, and some are friends that you never want to see eat because the way they masticate foreshadows the end of worlds. My friend Kristen is a breakfast friend. Which means she is best kind of friend!

We used to do breakfast down at a place in Croydon, but the last time we went it was distinctly lackluster, complete with them serving Kristen an iced tea that was completely undrinkable (I don’t even want to know how that happens), so I was charged with finding somewhere new which, frankly, is a little hard out here in the outer east. But! I was driving down Maroondah Hwy not shortly after and was reminded of The Firehouse, which has had reasonable coverage in print media outlets, something of a small miracle considering no one goes to the outer east to eat unless you live there.

The Firehouse, as the name suggests, is in the old fire brigade station house, and is pretty much the cutest damn little place you could clap eyes on, with its red brick peeking out from between all the climbing ivy. Apparently they still have the original fire pole somewhere inside, but I couldn’t see it. So I’ll just imagine that there were firefighters whizzing down it all through our breakfast but I just couldn’t see them because they were also NINJAS.

Kristen had the hueveros ranchos: spicy baked beans, baked eggs, coriander and turkish bread in a big clay pot (with the bacon kindly omitted). This was huge! In fact everything at The Firehouse came in hefty sizes – I got a  grapefruit juice and later an earl grey tea that came in giant glasses. I am an advocate of big servings, but if you have a tinier appetite you might struggle a little; Kristen couldn’t finish her beans, despite loving them madly.

I had poached eggs with chive butter, hash brown and beautiful canary-coloured hollandaise sauce on turkish bread. This was pretty damn special. The poached eggs were perfectly done; a little ‘pop!’ with my knife tip and the yolks oozed all over everything. The hash brown had nothing in common with the flat, McDonald’s version that seems to crop up in a lot of cafe breakfasts lately, and was instead a hefty wedge of potato that when broken open was vividly fluffy. The hollandaise was divine, and the chive butter lended an extra tang to the dish that I worried was going to end up being overpowering, but actually ended up blending into the other flavours nicely.

The space is big, well plotted out and, well, friendly is the word I keep thinking. It’s like someone’s opened up their house for you. A house that used to have a firetruck in it. If the house is full there’s a nice area (vestibule! I’ve always wanted to use that word) just inside the front door with squishy couches to sit on and chat while you wait for the tables to free up. No clambering outside the door in the cold!

It turned out that Kristen had an ulterior motive in us going out to breakfast. She had a present for me! And get ready to gird yourself against the sheer awesomeness that is this gift. Girded? Good.

She knitted me… a DALEK!

He is orange and green and a fuzzy, cuddly woolen ball of DOOM! He sits on top of my telly, menacing my stuffed Totoro with his proboscis (don’t worry, Totoro’s a nature god, he doesn’t take no crap from some punk-ass robot alien). Thank you so much, Kristen, he is wonderful.

The Firehouse

253-257 Maroondah Highway, Ringwood

Ph: 9876 8100