Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Michelangelo – Aspendale Gardens

I had visited this particular Michelangelo a few back with a party of work friends at Christmas. At that sitting my then boss and I ordered steak. Neither of us enjoyed the steak. Sometime later I dropped into another Michelangelo’s further up the line and enjoyed a very nice paster dish.

Recently I was working in Black Rock and decided to have a quick lunch at Michelangelo Aspendale Gardens situated in southern Victoria. This is a big restaurant which not only caters for individuals, families and groups but has a huge function area. I sat in the main dining area and looked over the drinks menu. Straight away I was impressed by the scope of wines, beers and spirits plus soft drinks which were listed. One of the beers listed (Asahi dry) I had not heard of before. I couldn’t image anyone dining here not finding a drink to go with there meal. For me it was a NZ Sav. Blanc.

My food selection was Atlantic salmon fettuccini. Service was swift and friendly and I had my drink and meal in a very short time. It was Thursday 1pm and the venue was very quiet so I would have expected nothing less. There is good range and variety on the menu and I notice a few around me chow-down on steak. My meal was good but not great. Paster was firm but I like that way. Salmon tasty but also a little firm. Source was OK. The wine was very pleasant and a well chilled white.

I will go back. I probably wouldn’t order the steak but it was a few years back when I had it first. For a quick meal or out with friends and family definitely a place to park the car and the butt. Lust over the wine list and food menu. Michelangelo’s has an Italian feel, meals are Italian style though Australianised. Its big and open, not the place to take a hot date for a romantic nosh if you think you may score. Worth a try.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Cove Hotel - Patterson Lakes

Hanging over the water of the Patterson Lakes marina is The Cove Hotel. There is an extensive decking area and on a sunny day you can look out over the marina, catch a few rays and wine and dine the day away. In winter clear plastic walls go up and the heating goes on. The Cove is a massive and open hotel complex. If you wish you can snuggle up on a couch in front of the gas fire or just get a table for two for a romantic dinner. Out on the decking, in winter, the heating is provided by overhead gas heaters. Your head will be hot while your feet are cold. Small criticism.

The games room is off to one side and a large bar centres the complex. And like most modern hotels there are boring large TV panels installed. I go out to get away from TV. The beer on tap is very limited with the usual Carlton Draught, VB, Cascade light etc. So no really good beer is offered on tap. There is plenty of variety in the fridge but then most pubs can offer this. The wine is list sufficient without being extensive. The Cove does cater well for large groups but always book in advance.

The service is friendly. If you do go with a large party you may have to wait a long time for meals to come out. A small group may not have this wait. Food quality is fair and not great. I ate with a dozen or so and only a few of us thought the meal excellent. Most left some parts of the meal. Proportions are ample. If you are a big eater and like VB of Carlton Draught you have found your home. The finer dinner will be fussier. But this is a pub, though a nice one. Pricing is about right for venue and place. Drop in if in the Patterson Lakes area. Try it for yourself. It may suit you.

Monday, August 15, 2011

On-Im-Aloy Thai - Carrum Downs

There are restaurants and then there are restaurants. By that I mean there are quality places to eat and enjoy dining out then there are lower quality eateries. Sometimes it gets down to just how much you want to pay this time or an establishment which is close by. On-Im-Aloy Thai slips into that second category. Food quality is matched to a price and location.

The food does have Thai flavours. If you are like a number of friends of mine you enjoy the fresh lime, spice and other herbs, famous for Thai food, you will get it here. But I got the feeling the food has been westernised or the quality of those flavours and foods was low. But for $53 dollars (for two including corkage), we shared a fish cakes entree and two mains. The service was good and the staff are in Thai dress. BYO is supported here. Now there's a big plus!

The restaurant is small and on a Friday night, well packed. It has a Thai feel with bamboo and Buddha decorations. It was noisy without being offensive. The take-away section has some excellent reviews on the Internet and appeared very busy. I'm not saying don't go but I am saying keep expectation low. Go because you want a cheap meal and you can't be bothered heating the pies in the microwave or don't want pizza again. Eat out cheap? Your call.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Woodford Reserve - Kentucky Bourborn

This is a very serious Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. At the first sip you will be stunned by the sourness of this spirited sipper. Not bitter but sour. Woodford Reserve is based on a sour mash which incorporates rye. Bitter and sour are quite different and this AU$70 a bottle small batch bourbon will gladly show you the difference. So why drink something that at the very first taste has you questioning your selection? Because hidden deep in this very complex spirit is almost sublime flavours and aromatics that only come to life once they wash over your pallet.

You could drink a good scotch for the rest of your life and die a happy man. But there is adventure to be had. Why play it safe when for little more than a good scotch a knockout bourbon can enrich your life. As with most good spirits a center meter or two in a big wide whiskey glass (chilled) and a single ice cube (from filtered water) is the way to go. You do not want to freeze the delicate flavours and aromas out. Cool is what is required.

Each small sip will reveal a complexity and depth rarely found in good scotches. The sourness just sharpens the pallet preparing it for what is to come. As the aromas are release the head and nose fills with a breath from another place, far away, where a few select distillers are practicing their craft. I believe they work with a smile on their face knowing that some one some where is saying "thank you". Those amongst us who enjoy the richness and surprises of this life are willing to try new things, enjoy the endeavours of others and know there is more awaiting. Wait no longer.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Rose by any other name - Rosebud

Venturing down deep into the Peninsula, south of Mornington, you come to Rosebud. This very pretty seaside outer-suburb is extremely popular, over the Christmas break, with caravan and tent dwellers-Victorian gypsies. Rosebud TRIPLES its population at this time of the year. Stay away over the peak period and venture here any other time, winter or early spring, when it is quiet. Parking and crowds can be a problem over the Christmas hols. Santa will not gift you free parking.

Go for a Sunday (or Saturday) drive to a smart looking restaurant/hotel called ROSEgpo. This was, sometime back, the GPO for Rosebud. I know because while a Telstra employee I collected my wages here. Thank God they changed the look of the place. In fact this big cafe has had a few incarnations. The current owners have it looking good. Their music taste requires a freshen-up though. Moldy pop from the 70s, 80s, and 90s is very yesterday. The music was older than the wine I was drinking. Speaking of wine there is good selections to be had. Choose carefully to get what you want. A goodly glass is served at a reasonable price.

The surrounds are excellent and there are a number of indulgence areas. Out on the street, inside upfront or down the back or for drinks and nibbles-upstairs. For me it was the Calamari. Big, thick, lightly crumbed strips. No sign of deep frying or out of a box frozen surprises. An excellent quantity for a big eater like me. The squid proudly sits atop a layer of big fat chips from real potatoes and some rabbit food to the side. Rabbits though would have called the chef and complained. Too much oil over the greens. I'm an oil aficionado from way-back but too heavy is too much. The Tomatoes were almost transparent but now I'm getting picky.

The Calamari was excellent. These were big strips and they were tender and moreish. The SA Riesling which accompanied the sea creature was tangy and worked well with the dish. Service was fast (midweek lunch) but just a little cold. I didn't need a cuddle over lunch but " g'day" would have been nice.

Pluck up the courage and venture into the deep south of Victoria's Peninsula region. Pick the rosebud of restaurants which blooms with ambiance, good wines and ample well priced eatables from an establishment which has a real history. But your experience will be new, enjoyable and sweet smelling. A rose by any other name would be ROSEgpo. Pluck it!