Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rich Curry - Elsternwick Victoria

If asked what is my favorite food style I would have to say Italian. When looking at the amount of Indian food I am eating lately I may have to question myself here. I must admit I’m a sucker for a good curry. Tender lamb in a hot spicy source comes up for order nearly every time. Rich Curry in Glenhuntly Road Elsternwick serves up a very nice curry.

The restaurant is situated in a small group of shops and unless you are looking out for it you will definitely miss it. Evidently it has just changed hands, according to one patron, who also said it was one of the best places to dine in the local area. Though on a Thursday evening there were a few tables occupied I would still book. The restaurant is not all that large and don’t expect to enter the Taj Mahal the decor is plain. Service was excellent, warm and friendly but Ruby of India was in jeans. How hard is to slip into a sari.

The food was excellent from the pappadums, nahm bread to my spicy “Josh”. Saffron rice helped soak-up the source which itself was light, fluffy and lightly scented. My friend (Paul) and I both agreed – Nice. Lucky I have a someone who lives nearby who took me here for the first time. This eat house is definitely on the menu. I just feel a little more “India” in the furnishings and staff would add more spice to the experience. It may be the only ingredient to put this small restaurant on the “must do” list. Don’t miss this place, the food very good.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Baxter Hotel - Baxter, Mornington Peninsula

There are a number of quaint little towns down the Mornington peninsula. No wonder the area is such a tourist magnet. Being near the water on both sides is a double draw particularly during the warmer months. The whole of the peninsula is stunningly beautiful, easily accessible and comparatively inexpensive.

One of the small towns you may not pass through on your journey down the peninsula is Baxter. It is situated only about fifteen minutes drive from Frankston but well off any highways and main roads. Not a lot to see here but they do have a hotel and there is a motel associated with it. The Baxter hotel has been around for some time. Recently it has been extended substantially. It comprises a bar, huge bistro area, pokies and function rooms. Over the weekend the Baxter can be hard to get a seat being very popular and the only hotel in the area. Book in advance.

On a recent visit with family and friends we both ate and had a few drinks. We took up two large tables in the new and expansive bistro area. For such a busy and popular hotel they only have a single queue for taking meal orders. It is not unusual to line up for over thirty minutes to order your meal. I have seen the queue nearly out the door of this large hotel. Doubling the size of the bistro should have instigated the addition of another till allowing two shorter queues to order food. But strangely this has not happen.

You would think that after spending so much time in the queue and subsequent waiting for the meal to arrive you would be treated to some excellent food. Unfortunately this is not the case. My meal of veal parijiana and chips was tasteless and chips were soggy and floury. Asking some of the others about their meal brought similar comments. My wife’s salmon was uncooked and inedible. She waited far too long for it to be served well after others had finished theirs.

Don’t expect any unusual or exciting beers on tap because there are none, just the usuals. The live entertainment for the night was a single male singer singing 60s, 70s, and 80s hits to recorded backing tracks while he played guitar. As the night progressed he got louder and louder to point where we were yelling at each other at the table to be heard. We were well back from the “entertainment”. The Baxter, a few years back, was the place to go for good food and had a country and friendly feel about it. Not anymore. Check it out for yourself but there are better pubs on the peninsula. I wouldn’t waist my leisure time here.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Beewah Hotel - Beewah Queensland

While holidaying near the sunshine coast in north Queensland my wife and I decided to try a local pub meal. Beewah is a small town near the Landsbrough/Mooloola Valley area. The Beewah Hotel is a real oldie but has a modern makeover both inside and out. Should you visit take a look at the photos displayed inside the hotel of the early days of the hotel and area.

Like most pubs there is a bar, bistro and outdoor area. We found a table in the bistro area close to a window for a view of the side street. On tap you expect Queensland beers like XXXX which everyone drinks who lives in the state. Even Victorians living in QLD drink XXXX. But on tap were some Sydney beers. Tooheys Old and New? I was surprised. Of course XXXX was there and a few CUB beers. Just to go against the grain and I rarely get the chance to drink it on tap, I went for the Tooheys Old. A dark beer with a stout-like flavour, rich and a slightly bitter finish.

While staying with my daughter in the Mooloola area we had a steak meal consisting of the biggest steaks I have ever seen. The “Bushman’s cut” will see steaks as big as your plate begging to be eaten. The meat in the area appears a speciality and I’m told it comes from the “high country”. Not sure where that is but I’m grateful it exists because the meat is first class. Steaks featured heavily on the hotel menu so I felt compelled to indulge. But first I asked one of the kitchen staff if the meat was frozen and tenderised. I’m told it comes in fresh each day its not tenderised. I find tenderising allows the meat to dry while cooking. On the menu it did state the meat was “tender stretch”.

Regardless the meat was excellent and the meal big and hearty. The steak (rump for me, scotch for the good lady) was juicy and tender and perfectly cooked for me-medium to medium rare. A glass of red made for a good night out and a fine meal in pleasant surroundings. Drop in and take on a local steak. You will leave feed and watered and very satisfied. Beewah.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

McKinnon Hotel - McKinnon

When you visit the McKinnon Hotel, if by its exterior you think it has been there for One-Hundred years, you’d be right. Try One-Hundred and Fifty years plus! It was originally called the “Gardeners’ Arms Hotel” because of the market gardening in the area. Inside it is thoroughly modern. Complete with bottle shop, pokies, lounge, atrium bistro, outdoor eats area and bar. The bistro atrium area is bright and airy and a great place for lunch.

The wine and beer list is extensive. Let’s face it if a pub can’t provide a huge wine and beer list then meals isn’t going to win customers. I go for their Stout on tap. I have eaten at the McKinnon on two other occasions and both times thought the meals excellent. Service too was efficient and prompt. This time I moved out of my pasta comfort zone and ordered crumbed lamb cutlets. Next time I’ll be more sheepish with my selection.

I waited an extraordinarily long time for the meal to arrive. There was only a few tables of patrons in the bistro and others got their meal ahead of mine. I just kept thinking “it’s going to be good that’s why it is taking so long”. But the meal wasn’t good and I waited far too long for it. The lamp meat, the cutlet, appeared OK itself but the so called crumbing was shocking. No other way to describe it. It looked like either the cutlets had been pre-cooked then re-cooked to server or they had been crumbed and frozen, therefore the lengthy wait. The crumbing was rock-hard and heavily chard in some areas and most of it fell off the meat as I cut into the cutlet. A very poor effort on chef’s behalf.

If this was my first and only meal at the McKinnon Hotel I would be saying “eat somewhere else”. Because I have had two excellent dining experiences here over the last year or so I would have no qualms to re-visit. Try the pasta and risotto and forget the cutlets. Or just go for the stout on tap.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Biscottini - Main Street Mornington

If you thought there is a lot of hair dressing salons in Mount Eliza try to count the number restaurants, cafes and take-away stores in Mornington. With completion like this in one main street you would think that standards in Mornington would be high. You would feel that each establishment wants to standout over the other in some way. Or is that being average really doesn’t matter because you are going to get the customers regardless. For whatever reason Biscottini’s is very average if not below par! With an exciting Italian name like this cafe has you would think you are in for something special. In a way you are, it is especially average.
There is no decor here which says “Italian” or even “European”. Its says “Average Cafe”. Eat on Main Street or in their large tabled area or catch a stool at the sliding open air window. Lunch menu is short except if you want it fried and with chips. I rarely choose Risotto but due to poor menu selection I chose seafood Risotto. The wine list has the lowest number of choices I have ever seen on a wine list anywhere. There was nothing local in the whites but at least Victorian.
The meal looked delicious. Prawns, scallops and sausage bobbing up everywhere. Wow! Unfortunately for my stomach this book was judged by its cover. The whole meal had no taste at all. It was creamy but not in a well prepared creamy way, more like squirted out of a tube creamy way. The prawns tough and tasteless and the scallops, not sure they really were scallops, tender at least. The parmesan cheese was fatty and lacked any zest. Risotto should be dry on the bottom, here it was quiet soggy.
I would suggest if you drop into Biscottini’s try a beer or a coffee and cake and chase meals elsewhere. If you are feeling average a beer and a watch of Ellen on the LCD TV might just be what you want. It maybe all you will get here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Canadian Bay Hotel - Mount Eliza

For many years you could not get an alcoholic drink, in a pub, in Mount Eliza. Though there is not a pub on every corning there is one quite modern one in Ranelagh Drive right in the heart of “The Village”. Canadian Bay Hotel or “CB” is divided into two parts. A bar where you can down a few with the lads and brag about the latest sexual conquests and the main longue where you can wine and dine a promise. The establishment is modern, open, smart and well run.

I dropped in for lunch mid-week. Though I have eaten here a number of times before this time I wanted to take notes for a post on the DineWineMeet blog. It was quiet with only a few tables taken. There are a few good beers on tap and I started with a Stella Artios. The Stella was a flat, first pour of the day and should not have reached my table.

I’m not a crepe man but I went for the Seafood Crepe. Prawns (probably frozen) were tough and so was the sqid but scallops were very nice. The sauce was buttery with a little too much salt for me but quite flavoursome. Would I order it again. Yes. Service was fast and polite, staff ready for a smile and a joke. The wine list, for both reds and whites, was very extensive with lots of Vic and Peninsula wines. I had the Pinocchio Pinot Grigio with the crepe which was excellent. Prices are about “pub” prices with the food “pub” food or just a little better. Small un-exciting salad as a side.

As I finished my meal I was completely distracted by the noise coming from the kitchen as staff were cleaning-up after lunch and preparing for the evening. There was far too much noise which detracted from the whole experience, good up to this point. I was well away from the kitchen but pity anyone even close to it. On top of the kitchen noise was some horrid old rock music, not afternoon relax over a drink music, forced out of noisy little speakers. Too bad “CB” you were so close to Michelin Star-NOT. I would still go back though, even with zero Michelin Stars.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pizza Napoli - Melbourne

I worked in the heart of Melbourne for about twenty-five years and ate at many different restaurants over that time. Now I just visit the city four or so times a year. On a few occasions now I have found myself late in the city looking for somewhere to eat. On three occasions I have dined at Pizza Napoli. First I had a pasta meal the last two a Pizza. One very good thing about this smallish restaurant is they served Frost beer in bottles. Not anymore I discovered recently. They do have a good substitute though.

First time I tasted Frost is when I dropped into a small bar opposite the the Trevi fountain in Roma Italy. The barman pulled the beer from a tap. All I can remember it was one of the best beers I have ever had and was delighted when I learned Pizza Napoli stocked it. You will find this “Italian job” in Russell Street near Collins Street and it has been there for many, many years. Service can vary from warm and friendly to cool but always polite and professional. Service is quick even on a busy night.

I’m not sure how “traditional Italian” the food actual is but in this case who cares. It is always good. The gourmet pizza I had last was delicious and though I had a large to myself I didn’t want the eating experience to stop. This almost hidden little city gem will not disappoint even the fine diners amongst us. Ingredients always appears first class and the food comes hot and hearty though presentation is basic. Menu is extensive and always backed by a board of specials. Beer and wine list is sufficient. Find yourself late in the evening, or out for some lunch, in the city of Melbourne, dig up this little gem of Italy. Chow.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thai Restaurant - Somerville

This large Thai restaurant is situated in the Centro shopping centre off Eramosa Road Somerville. There is plenty of parking out front of the restaurant and provided you book ahead you should have no trouble getting in for a feed. After saying that, for two days leading to our night at the restaurant, I rang and left messages for a booking. I was told I would be rung back by the answering service. It never happened but I did get in. I had heard enthusiastic reports about this Thai eat house and was looking forward to it.

Funny when you go to an Italian, Chinese or Thai restaurant you expect to see something from that country or decorations and furnishings that might make you feel “you are there”. Ambience? This joint – nothing. It is large, open and modern but they could have served-up a Hungarian goulash or Moroccan Lamb, the decor was non-descript. Where am I again?? Hey I don’t need to be greeted by a reclining Buda to enjoy Thai food. Bring on the good food for which this place is famous.

Selections are made from a Hogs Breath style menu. Entree was ordinary but I still had main to go. Well at least they are consistent here, main was ordinary too. The food was Thai style and some of the wait staff are genuine Thai - khawp-khun. They must laugh at us for what we think Thai food is like. I spent a few weeks touring all over Thailand and islands. The genuine Thai food served in Thailand is delicious, spicy and exciting. If you are a McDonalds fan you’ll love it here.