Monday, December 24, 2012

Gingsen - Frankston, Victoria

Looking for a nice night at the Chinese. Try Ginseng in Frankston on Napean Highway. You will not feel you have walked into an exotic Asian restaurant but what you have walked into is very nice Chinese food with staff who are efficient and friendly. Hanging a few fans and pictures on a bare white brick wall does not a Chinese restaurant make. But luckily the food and servive more than make up for it.

The menu is extensive with a number of banquets on offer. Some of the better meals are in the mid-twenty dollar mark and for what I got seemed reasonable. Beer and wine can be selected from the menu and this restaurant is BYO but there is corkage per glass. Of a large table of big eaters there was no complaints and I even sneaked in a banana fritter.  I went away full and quiet happy. I eat there long time.

Parking is available and easy depending on the night you arrive. The restaurant is large and would have no trouble accommodating big parties. It is one place I would be happy to revisit. C U in Frankston for a chopstick shootout! And banana fritter.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Aldi - Cheap beer but is it drinkable?

In an effort to cut down the price of my drinking habit I swapped some consumption to beer from wine and now looking for cheaper beer purchases. I started with Peroni and then went to Becks which can be bought for $40 a case. The Peroni was $54 a case. This is cheap beer when you think what you pay a glass at the local. I would suggest never purchase a six pack the price for twenty-four is far more economical. It want go off!

Peroni and Becks are both brewed, under license, in Australia with local and imported produces. Quite often a beer tastes as it does due to the water used. The brewers are not going to import water from Italy and Germany so locally brewed beer will be made with the local water, good or bad. I heard it said, many years back,  that Tasmanian beer had a fresher cleaner taste due to the fact that Tassy had the world's purest water. Not sure if that is still true now. Of the two beers, Peroni and Becks, I would slightly favor Peroni over Becks but they are both very similar tasting.

The two Aldi beers I am currently trying are Santiago Cerveza De Oror - $25 and Fraser Briggs - $30 a case. These are both very cheap beers even compared with the Becks ($40). The Santiago is fully imported so you get to sample their local water and the Fraser Briggs brewed in New Zealand for Aldi. At least they are not brewed in Australia with mostly local products. But are these beers drinkable?

Let's get the worst of the two out of the way first. The Santiago beer, brewed in El Salvador, is a weak almost tasteless beer. Pale in colour and pale in taste. I could not imagine an ozzie bloke wanting to down too many of these regardless of price. Australian beer has always been a big, bold flavored, heavy beer regardless of alcohol level. This beer would pass as mouth wash even at 4.6%. At $25 for twenty-four it may appear good value but from your first sip of this shockingly weak flavored beer you will feel ripped off. You wanted a beer and you got a beer flavored drink.

Fraser Briggs at least brings you some earthy yeast flavors and has a heady fresh bread bouquet. It has body and though a larger, it reminds me of a yeast beer. Even notes of banana and tobacco can be detected. You ARE getting a reasonable drinking beer for your $30 outlay. But once more this NZ brewed drop may not satisfy your hard drinking Australian. Better than the Satiago but not better than a lot of other beers. For the $5 extra per case, go for the Fraser Briggs. Nothing wrong with the water from the islands of the long white cloud.

Rivet comes in 330ml cans, the other two in long neck stubbies.  It is brewed in Vietnam and claims on the can to be "Full Flavoured" and a lager. A lager it maybe but like the Santiago beer it is almost without any taste. What this beer does have is the biggest, white, fluffy head I have ever seen on a beer. Pour slowly into a cold glass and make sure the beer has been in the fridge for at least 24 hours. The head is made up of fine white fluffy bubbles and looks delicious. Put the beer is disappointing and though 4.7% proof tastes like a light beer knock-off. Don't touch it!

Of the three beers tried the Fraser Briggs is by far the best. Followed a long way back by Santiago and I'm not even going to mention Rivet. Well I may have mentioned it but I will never buy it again. Even at $25/24 cans, it's just not a good drink. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

T'Gallant Winery - Main Ridge, Morington Peninsula

If there is one thing the Mornington Peninsula is not short on it is wineries. There are hundred of them. And thankfully these are generally accompanied by very nice indoor and outdoor eateries. To date Montalto's is our favorite but dropping in there recently on a Thursday saw us looking for another venue. Eating in the herb garden at Montalto is a lovely experience but one you can only experience on the weekend through summer. So onto T'Gallant's Winery we go. Luckily it's only a few minutes away.

At T'Gallant's we could chose one of about four different eating locations. The day being sunny we chose one of the outdoor locations but slightly shaded from the sun. There were sunnier spots with views over the fields of vines, a relaxing sight. The scenery is beautiful with rolling hills of green. Grab a table, order at the counter and sip a sumptuous red while your meal is being prepared. Meals are delivered to the table and staff are efficient and friendly. You get the feeling the owners are serving you and they have a real interest ensuring your time with them is good.

I love a sausage and especially an Italian one so my choice was easy. The meals are moderately priced and of fair size. If you're a big eater choose an entree' first. Of course there is a good wine selections but fewer by the glass. The bottle price is reasonable and the wines are delicious. There is plenty of parking but I would imagine on warmer days, on weekends, the place may get full. Not sure you can book just be early to secure a table.  Drop in for a meal, a wine or coffee, you will enjoy your time at T'Gallant's.

Blue Orchid Thai - Caloundra, Queensland

Feeling like Thai? Happen to be in the main street of Caloundra shopping center? Then drop into Blue Orchid Thai for a great Thai meal. Though the ambiance and decor doesn't scream Thai it is pleasant.  Being on the second floor, if you get a window seat, you get a view of the main street below. Unfortunately the night I dined here I was accompanied by old rock and pop music from the local radio station. Hardly conducive to extending the eating experience. A long flight of steep steps lead you from the street to your table.

I had a new waitress serve me that night and she was both helpful and friendly. The regular staff were efficient and helpful also. If you are in a bit of a hurry, worry not, the service is quite snappy. The food is very tasty with a good balance of spice and flavors and good portions. The Dim Sims are quiet different to their Chinese  cousins and worth a try. The locals talk in glowing terms of their experience of dinning here and go back regularly for their favorite dishes. Price is moderate and value is excellent. Why not join the fan club?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Formosa House - Nanawading, Victoria

Generally I not a big fan of Chinese food but being stranded in Nunawading around lunch had me drop in to Formosa House for a midweek meal. The decor is delightful and service is fast and efficient. Chinese music plays and I think this adds to the experience. The food and wine list are extensive and it is BYO. The restaurant is large and I would image on Friday to Sunday could be quiet busy.

Unfortunately this is where the good news end. Firstly the special fried rice was excellent. Served on a huge plate, enough for four big eaters, it was fresh, colorful and tasty. The Pork in spicy plum sauce was awful. The pork was dry, tough and lacked any flavor and the sauce spice was badly balanced against the sweetness of the plum. The pork may have been leftover from the night before or pre-cooked and re-heated or re-cooked again for my meal. Even the veggies lacked any freshness or flavor. I can't recommend this restaurant but maybe the meals are better at night? They'd want to be or this place will go bust real soon. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Portico - Greengate Hotel - Killara - NSW

While supporting our daughter at aerobic national competitions in NSW we needed find a place to eat. We had an hour or two before heading back to the competition venue to see her team perform. While driving on the Pacific hwy.  through Killara, we spotted the Greengate Hotel. With intentions of eating at the hotel we parked at the back but to our surprise there was a very nice restaurant, Portico, as part of the hotel complex.

I wouldn’t put Portico in the class of “fine dining” but it is extremely nicely laid out with just a touch of class.  The decor is modern but with a cosy feel. There is a bar and couched area for drinks and nibbles. We took a window seat and spent time drooling over the menu. There really were some nice selections. After a prolonged period (we just couldn’t decide) we shared a platter.  Pate, calamari, prawns, crisp breads, etc. adorned or large wooden platter. A light beer to start and a local red to finish the lunch just topped off a beautiful meal. Every part of the platter was perfect.

Food selection is mouth watering (if not a little over descriptive on the menu), service was first class, decor was modern, spacious and smart and the whole experience – transporting.  We were hoping to visit Doyle’s while staying close to Sydney but it didn’t happen. Though Portico is no Doyle’s I don’t feel jilted. Portico gave us a very delightful eating experience and a pleasant distraction while away. Don’t drive past the Greengate Hotel and just make sure you drop into Portico. Give yourself time to savor the experience.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Thyme Square Cafe - Hornsby - NSW.

Thyme Square Cafe can be found in the heart of Hornsby in NSW just north of Sydney. It is situated between a number of both India and Chinese cafes and restaurants. We dropped in for brekky but coffee and cake, lunch or a beer and wine can all be catered for. It is a bright (quite white) cafe with booth or table seating and two eating areas. A window seat can be obtained and a eating bar with stools for a quick snack is provided.

Staff are courteous and efficient in what was a very busy little cafe. Families do dine here so expect a little noise but booth seating will help reduce this a little. Foods yummy, coffee excellent  and though the menu is a little curtailed there should be something there for all. There is a bar so a drink after work or over lunch is possible. A pleasant place to eat.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Crackerjack Cafe - Carrum - Southern Victoria

Sometimes I think there is a God especially when I visit cafes and restaurants for the first time and have a heavenly experience.  For me it is only a twenty minute drive to Carrum from my home and a pleasant easy d rive at that. To find at the end of the short trip a modern waterfront cafe with delicious food, stunning Port Phillip Bay views and great service is a real blessing.  My first “holy” experience for was breakfast one chilly winter’s morn.  Breakfast with good friends themselves religious foodies.  Crackerjack is a crackerjack.

Not only is there a main cafe area, but also decking for drinks and coffee and add to this a function room. In the function room music afternoons are held regularly (too, loud for me). There is something for everyone here. The main cafe is small and extremely busy so book first to ensure a seat. The establishment is modern and boasts extensive use of timber and glass, all very nice.

Our host was most accommodating when we arrived for a table of six, on a Sunday, in the middle of their busiest period.  Service and staff were very warm and friendly and meals arrived in a reasonable time. The kitchen is right on the ball here with food not only being exceptionally delicious but hot and served promptly. All credit to Chef and kitchen staff. Meal size is generous and pricing very reasonable.  Crackerjack is open seven days a week. Go in a quiet period for a relaxing meal or drink. You will pay for parking though.

A few weeks later we dropped back for coffee and cake. I went for the wine list which is sufficient without being extensive. Locally grown wines and beers are very well supported and this is great to see. Carrum awaits you for Sunday service or any other time you feel sinfully hungry. Praise be those who serve and thank God for Crackerjack.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Great Provider - St Kilda Marina - St Kilda

My wife decided to jump out of a plane. We check in at St. Kilda Marina where the "Jump" office is and from here she was driven off to Moorabbin airport to head for the skies. Of course jumping out of a plane at fourteen-thousand feet can make you hungry. Lucky for us The Great Provider restaurant was also on the marina. So we ate.

The restaurant, cafe and bar has a casual, relaxed feel about it and looks over the marina. Decor is modern and in the warmer weather the plastic curtains are lifted to allow out door dining. Parking is plentiful nearby but you may have to pay. Service is efficient and friendly. The three of us all ordered different meals and we all though the food quality excellent. The wine list is sufficient for most tastes. This is not five star, fine dining but then again neither was the bill. Coffee is good and if a stroll down on the marina begs a coffee and cake to balance calorie burn and intake there may be no better place.  A pleasant experience can be had here.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Koko - Southbank - Melbourne

Once more we were staying at Crown Promenade for the wife's 50th birthday. As usual our stay was excellent and we always ensure we find some where fine to dine.  Crown were offering $50 off any meal if you ate at one of their half dozen or so restaurants. Number 8 and Koko were on the list. Number 8 didn't excite us so off to Koko we gogo.

Koko is fine dinning Japanese. The ambiance and decor say "Japan" and a window seat overlooking the Yarra, late into the evening, made for a romantic dinner for two. I had Saki with my waygue beef which came in a clay steam pot. Sitting atop the beef was a half cooked egg with a thin mushroom soup at the bottom. Well we were eating Japanese. Though the dish looked disappointing the beef was moist and sumptuous. I can think of no better way to enjoy this type of beef.

Service was efficient if not a little funny from our kimono clad waitress. Combine this with great ambiance, surrounds, the view and unusual tasting delicacies plus a little rice, wine you have a night to remember. We will. Try a meal from the house of the rising sun, dine at Koko's. Not cheap but a must try -ganbattene (good luck).

Thursday, July 19, 2012

time out - Fed Square - Melbourne

My ventures to Melbourne these days are few and far between. It’s a pleasure these days to wander around the City after working there for twenty-fives. No pressure, exploring new and old stores, nooks and crannies and trying eateries and bars not normally visited.  Federation Square, near Flinders Street station has been established for quite some time. It has become a place to meet with restaurants etc. and often free entertainment.

My wife I ventured here looking for a bite to eat on a sunny but very cool day. Time Out, which is a modern establishment offering inside and outside eating areas, became or choice. After an hour or two of walking and not finding anywhere else we fancied we were quite hungry. Being a dedicated fine ales man I ordered a pint of White Rabbit Dark. I had partaken of the non-dark variety a short time before and though I liked it I wouldn’t bath in it. The “Dark” was another matter. It was scrummy.

We ordered three entre size meals wanting to try various foods. The bruschetta and crispy calamari dished was spot on. All three dishes were very appetizing, well presented on the plate and of good size. We had definitely picked the right place. We sat outside in the cool sunny conditions, a pint in hand and fine tasty meals in front of us – thanks Melbourne. The service was warm and friendly and the bill goes down as easy as the food. Mark this place on you fine eats list, pick a sunny day when you have plenty of time on your hands and take Time Out. We did.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Charlotte (home cooking) – Beaumaris - Victoria

This blog is generally comments about restaurants, mainly local to the Mornington Peninsula but also interstate and international.  I have, in the past, covered some wines and whisky.  This time I highlight the fact that the best restaurants in the world can be humbled by good home cooking.  Of course we don’t just go to restaurants for the food it is more the pleasure of escape, being pampered, temped and teased and often talking a walk on the naughty side of life.  Forget the waste line and wallet! Maybe crab chowder with expensive champagne sat at a romantic corner table in well regarded Melbourne eatery. This may give you relief from the daily grind and/or demanding kids.  A few hundred dollars? Well worth it.

I have often commented to my wife, an excellent cook even on a bad day, that I would gladly pay good money for one of her meals when dinning out. But why when I can enjoy them at home? An invitation for dinner prepared by my favourite niece, Charlotte, had my wife and I in the car and heading for Beaumaris. Charlotte’s cooking prowess is legendary right from any early age and now just nineteen she cooks well beyond her years. A natural talent true enough but one that has been nurtured by the parents Mark and Mere’, both good cooks.

So what’s for dinner tonight? Lamb Shanks in a rich sauce with a vegetable ratatouille, creamed potato mash and string beans.  Both my wife and I would not normally eat lamb shanks but a meal offer with extended family is hard to turn down and whatever is served will be delicious. And it was. The meat fell away from the bone, the sauces were rich but not over powering and the ratatouille was a perfect complement to the juicy, meaty shanks.  A home cooked meal, prepared by Miss Charlotte, at its best and enjoyed with family and a red or two.  I don’t get much better.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Briagio’s – Niddrie, Victoria

Niddrie is one of those suburbs in Victoria I would never drive to not for any reason.  I can’t even remember ever driving through it. In this case we had been invited out for dinner. Our hosts had already established the eating venue where they were meeting others. We were on the road over that side of town so it was a definite yes.  Italian style food is one of our favourites, followed by Indian, Greek and the list goes on.  In the main street of Niddrie shopping centre you will find Biagio’s. Parking spots are around just lookout for them.

A double shop front greets you as you approach this big, open, spacious, modern restaurant. Though Italian food chokes the menu a number of large wall posters are of French printed text. This seems odd, why not Italian verse? We arrived at 6:30pm to find the restaurant packed so on popular nights a reservation is a must. Tables can be arranged to accommodate large groups so think about Biagio’s for your next big function should you live nearby. With hard wooden floors and high ceilings and no sound baffling, on busy nights it gets hell-loud. Be prepared. Unfortunately on the night we were there there was a large table of young girls a few of which felt there stories should be shared with the rest of the diners.

Service is prompt, efficient and friendly and the food is excellent. This is one food venue worth a drive to. If you’re not up for dinner or lunch they do a great cake and coffee. Our table of six all enjoyed their meals and all commented how good the food was. There are plenty of selections and portions good size. Save some room for dessert. Our “home made” tiramisu was disappointing and for an Italian restaurant was way off the mark. Other desserts, at the table, did look good so our choice was just a bad one.  But your choice will be a good one should you venture to down town Niddrie. Yes you should.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Moravia Restaurant – Camberwell - Victoria

Buried in the heart of the Camberwell shopping strip, on Bourke Road, is Moravia Restaurant. This long thin cafe extends to an upper eats area. A walk through to parking makes access easy.  If you can’t get a spot here, behind the main shops there is three hour parking and unlimited from 1pm on in other areas. Moravia is more of a large cafe than a “classy” restaurant. It is licensed and has a good selection of beers and basic wine list. The general feel is European or Italian. In fact most of the staff had strong accents. I like this it adds to the atmosphere.

I would drop in for a lunch while shopping in the area but wouldn’t make a special trip just to dine here. In my case it was to catch-up with old friends. Being near the Camberwell station it can make for a convenient meeting point for those who like to train or even tram. Where some cafes are so noisy you struggle to hear your own thoughts this was not the case here. The general ambiance being on the quiet side.

Service was efficient and the food OK. The four I eat with all enjoyed their meals. Pricing is reasonable and if you are budgeting you will come away feeling satisfied and not worried about deeper credit card debt.  The cake selection is excellent. I would make this the place to drop into for that cake and coffee you have to have while out shopping.  They do make a good coffee.

The Herb Farm Restaurant - Lilydale - Victoria

While on a Sunday drive through the Yarra Valley, on our approach to home, we stumbled on the Herb Farm Restaurant.  It was 3pm and we were quite hungry and looking for some where to have a late lunch. Shocked to find this delightful establishment still serving lunch at this late hour we tired-up the horseless carriage and parked our hungry butts at a window seat. There is plenty of parking right in the restaurant.

The view from the restaurant is elevated and pleasant with plenty of trees and being on the corner of two major roads, lots of cars whizzing past.  The eating area is open, quiet and extensive and you will have no trouble finding window seats or romantic a nook. Attached to the restaurant are two gift shop rooms, one having hundreds of delicious coffees and herbs for sale. Take a look.

Service was prompt and friendly with an extensive and very yummy food and wine list. There were too many choices for my wife who took quite some time to make her food selection. The sparkling wine I sipped as a palette freshener was excellent and the white with the Garlic Prawn Fettuccini was perfect. You will have no problems finding something you like, both on the menu and the wine list.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Restaurants of South America.

On a five week eating adventure through South America we visited not only many very interesting places but dinned in some exquisite restaurants, cafes and hotels.  Of course we had our share of bad food even a little food poisoning but on the whole the gastronomical adventure was very pleasant. Countries/Cities visited were : Dubai, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil (Rio only).

The countries we really enjoyed were Argentina, Chile and Peru.  One meal I was chasing was an Argentinean steak. This proved harder than it seemed until I realised I had to order “fillet”. My first two encounters with Argentinean steak resulted in in-eatable meals. Finally in Lima Peru I had my first quality steak. OK it wasn’t Argentina but it was South America and the steak was worth the wait.  Let’s start in Lima (capital of Peru) and Mangos, Larcomar Plaza.

Mangos – Mira Flores - Lima - Peru
I had struggled all over Argentina  to get a good steak with no luck at all. I had had some excellent pasta meals but no steak. My first satisfying steak was enjoyed in Lima. I order Filet Mignon with trepidation (which is not a source). It was absolutely delightful and though a good serving, I just did not want the eating experience to stop.

For the steak we sat outside under the stars on a mild night. Mangos is a huge restaurant with both inside and outside dinning, a huge bar and an up stars area. The whole restaurant is built on the side of a cliff and through the day has excellent views of the ocean. Mangos is a great place to eat with excellent service fine outdoor areas and magnificent view.

La Bomboniere – Lacomar plaza - Lima - Peru
Also at Lacomar plaza is La Bombonaire. Though we didn’t have a meal here we did drop in for cake and coffee. For me the Creme Broulee I ordered was gorgeous with a few short backs. The coffee good too. The Broulee was just a touch runny according to my wife but this did not detract from the experience.  While sipping your coffee you look out across the Atlantic Ocean.  Service is good and the cafe has a French feel about it.

Bodega de la Trattoria – Miraflores - Lima - Peru
Not far from where we stayed in Lima, the Lima Wasi Hotel, is Bodega de la Trattoria. This is a new looking very elegant restaurant with high ceilings, a bar and open spacious eating areas. I love my pasta and when in an Italian restaurant what else would you have? The pasta was perfect, service first class and the wine was good also. It can be a little pricy and though the food is good you are paying for the decor.

Mojsa – Puno - Peru
Our wonderful hosts at the Kuntur Inn in Puno suggested we try Mojsa Restaurant in Plaza De Armas (the town square). It was only a short downhill walk from our hotel. Mojsa looked good from the outside so we so we went in. There are steep steps up to the restaurant on the second floor so you must be able bodied. Mojsa is pleasant inside but not overly decorated. There is a wood fired pizza oven at the back, a good place to be on cold nights. If you are early or lucky you may be able to get a table on the balcony which is enclosed. There is a great view of the street and plaza from here.

The food is beyond reproach and reasonably priced. Luckily food in South America is cheap at most places even the better eat houses. Order anything you feel like from the menu here there is almost a guarantee that you are going to like it. Entree and main is the way to go which suited my savory palette.  We had the chance to visit other good restaurants but didn’t because the food a Mojsa’s was that good.

Service is OK but not off the planet but you can’t eat service it just adds to the experience. What you must experience is the food at Mojsa. From pizza to trout and a selection of the local beers the experience was delightful. Mojsa is the place you must try if in Puno, Peru. Try for a balcony table.

El Galeon – Mercado Central -  San Diego - Chile
One of the better restaurants we visited was El Galeon. This is long walk from de Armas Square but an extremely pleasant one.  As the name suggests its main fare is seafood.  The restaurant is long and thin, much like a ship, with the bar and kitchen upfront. The kitchen area is visible from the street and also from within the eating area. Pressing yourself against windows from the outside will allow you to see the kitchen in action. Don’t like what you see, don’t go in. Not only is the food unique in style and variety but it is served in a shallow clay bowl.

Preparation of the meal may start on the kitchen bench tops but that’s where it stops. The meal is constructed in the clay bowl then cooked, served and eaten in the bowl.  This way it stays hot and all the complexity of the juices is delivered straight to your table.  Service is friendly, wines and beers are plentiful on the menu and the ambiances congenial to a great eating experience. This IS the place for two. Not the cheapest place to eat but the food is seriously delicious with plenty of variety. When in town make it date.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mentone Hotel (Edgewater) - Mentone

If you live around the Mentone/Beaumaris area you will know there are not dozens of Hotels to “wet your whistle” like Frankston. Frankston has three pubs and a night club on one corner.  The two in the area are the Beaumaris Hotel and the Mentone Hotel (Edgewater).  The Mentone Hotel is a sprawling grand old hotel which has had a number of make-overs over its very extensive existence.  It’s definitely modern inertia supports a number of bars and indoor and outdoor eating areas. There is plenty of off street parking.

This hotel attracts better than its fair share of the younger set. Live entertainment is provided on most of the popular nights but it would require more than this to bring the predominately young crowd. There is a number eating areas and most are large and open. Catering for large groups is easily accommodated but bear in mind this is a family hotel. If you out for a quiet romantic night pick where you sit carefully.

Bar staff are a little casual and you may find others being served before you regardless of how long you have been waiting. Table service is better and staff are friendly and reasonably efficient. This is not a fine dining restaurant so don’t expect high quality food perfectly prepared. This is a pub after all and serves pub food. Drinks are reasonably priced and there is a huge range of beers, wines, cocktails and soft drinks.

For me a good and varied selection of beer on tap is important. This hotel does have that.  If you like to try some different beers on tap in a pleasant environment amongst the younger set, take a trip to Mentone. It can be noisy so once more for the romantic evening choose your seat wisely. Enjoy.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cerberus Beach House - Half Moon Bay Black Rock

Living on Port Phillip Bay certainly has its advantages even if, like me, you never visit the beach. We have a number of cafes ad restaurants which are situated right on the water’s edge.  These always provide stunning views of the bay and at the setting of the sun, gorgeous horizons. There is just something special about dining while looking out across blue water. In the warmer weather the sun lovers provide additional amusement.

Cerberus Beach House, right on the water’s edge at Half Moon Bay Black Rock, is a two storey affair with floor to ceiling glass doors showcasing some of the best bay views. There is plenty of parking but be aware some is for cars with boat trailers only and a ticket is required until 8pm. What’s left of Cerberus is still visible and there is a jetty for an after lunch stroll. Add to this the views of the beach and brightly coloured cliff face. Wow!

The cafe area is not overly large and a booking would be best to ensure a good seat. Book early and ask for a window seat. The folded glass doors open to bring you closer to Mother Nature. Service is good and staff and very friendly and informative. The menu is gourmet and fig and goat’s cheese bruschetta is a fine way to wake-up the stomach. The chilled muscles are a must.  There were four of us for dinner on a Sunday and all our meals were excellent.

The wine list may not be as extensive as other cafes but you should find something you like. Buy by the bottle for the cheapest way to hydrate unless you are by yourself and want only one glass. There are some inexpensive wines which should lessen the pain of a non-BYO dinner.

On Sunday night the cafe had a one man guitar and vocal show. What started out as a quiet song and strum soon became an annoyingly loud noise which table dwellers had to shout over to communicate with one another.  Unfortunately most entertainers inflict this treatment on their audience and believe if you like what they do quietly you will like it more LOUD! WRONG.  What could have been a perfect meal and evening with friends soon turned into a sore throat. Pity really. But don’t let this stop you from going. Find out when they DON’T provide entertainment and book.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mosskito - Clifton Hill

In and around the city of Melbourne there are many fine restaurants and cafes. Lygon Street holds some of the trendiest and on any given Sunday you will struggle to find a park to be a part of the action.  Up near the top of Hoddle Street (Clifton Hill) is a very large restaurant, night club and bar called Mosskito. I have eaten here a few time and both times pasta dishes.

Mosskito advertise to come hungry. Heed this wise advice the meal sizes are generous. The food style is Italian and quality is high. The drinks menu is sufficient without being extensive and the service is relaxed but efficient. I have only ever been here through the day for lunch so I can’t comment on what the night club is like. Toilets are modern and clean not something you see at every restaurant.  You can eat inside or out or stretch out on a Chesterfield leather lounge in front of an open fire during winter.

If you live in the area or are driving through fly in and take a bite at Mosskito the whole experience should be excellent. The inertia is modern and spacious and there is plenty of car park space. The building and some of the surrounding buildings are Art Deco. You get the feeling this is an old part of greater Melbourne and the Italian influence seeps through to make a pleasant time of it. The Buzz is high.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Morning Star Restaurant - Mount Eliza

Mount Eliza, on the Mornington Peninsula, has many quaint and interesting homesteads, farms, vineyards and restaurants. It also has history and some notoriety with the multi-acre homesteads of Sir Reginald Ansett and the Coles family. I, in a working capacity, have visited both properties and have seen first-hand their size and grandeur.  

One other property, which has intrigue around it, I did visit was Morning Star Catholic Boys Home in Sunnyside Lane.  This was first established in 1932 and extended in 1944 by the Franciscans.  The boys were not always treated well and some, being locked in cells for punishment, did not survive. I did see the cells before the whole complex was first transformed into a grand domestic home and later restaurant, vineyards, accommodation and reception center.  Rumor has it that some boys still roam the buildings and grounds. I have seen boy’s names penciled in nooks and crannies around the buildings.

Morning Star Restaurant and complex has some of the most beautiful gardens and grounds you will see anyway. Not only is it a large vineyard but also has a gallery on the grounds. There is lots of good reasons to visit here and give yourself the whole day to do so. My wife and I have eaten here a few times the most recent was early in 2012. We sat with a long table of a ten or so and enjoyed a two course meal while looking over the beautiful gardens. This was a Sunday afternoon and the restaurant was nearly full. Book ahead.

The food quality is high and in inverse proportion to the portion size. An entree of scallops is three scallops.  I will say it again the food quality is high and the scallops were excellent. All at our table enjoyed the meals but most commented on the size. The wine list is extensive and supports local produce. Table service may depend on your waiter on the day. On our table service was OK and a little humorous. If you are a big eater or don’t like expensive meals Morning Star may not fill your needs and you might be better satisfied at some of the Mornington pubs which are excellent. If fine dining, a stroll in the magnificent gardens and delicious food are what makes you smile, book a table at Morning Star, the experience will be no apparition.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Maggie Beer - Barossa Valley - SA.

I (and my wife) had recently posted an entry for the Barossa Valley in South Australia and included a number of memorable locations visited. One place we did visit but did not mention is Maggie Beer. When we visited Maggie’s eight years earlier we had quite an enjoyable experience.  We sat for lunch and was served a tasting plate with about a dozen different meats, quinces, pate’ etc. and a wine to go with it. The experience was memorable and we enjoyed it a lot.

This time on a re-visited we felt that Maggie’s (well deserved) success had taken away some of the uniqueness and quaintness of the place.  The lunch basket appeared lacking for the cost.  Bread rolls are a central part of the meal and when they feel stale and hard it impacts on the whole “luncheon” experience. Of course most of the basket was very nice and there were definitely some very good local products there.

A lake full of turtles is a very appealing sight and had us fascinated. The fact the Maggie puts on cooking demonstrations, free, is admirable and if you are into cooking this would be a highlight of the afternoon. A cooking lesson over a glass of wine, that’s for me! What did impress us immensely was the huge range of foods available for tasting. This is something you must do. Try everything in the shop.  You can help yourself to pate’, quinces, olives, sources, chutneys, etc. The range and depth of the products is overwhelming and all of them taste absolutely divine.  Don’t miss this tasting extravaganza. Don’t miss Maggie's.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Barossa Valley – South Australia

Novotel Barossa Valley resort
My wife, for a surprise birthday gift, booked us into the Novotel Barossa. This beautiful resort sits high above the valley overlooking the vineyards below. It also backs onto a golf course. Like most better resorts it comprises of a large pool and sunning area, restaurant, games area, massage and beauty services, conference rooms, wine tasting rooms, product sales and bar.

The rooms are spacious with a king bed in all. Everyone has a balcony and view with some views facing back to the resort and are the nicest. The mini-bar is well stocked and rooms are serviced daily and kept clean and neat. No complaints with the service. Meals can be delivered to the room at a lower than restaurant price.

The restaurant has the pick of the views which stretch into the hills. The wine list, as to be expected, goes on and on for pages. Not only many local wines but French Champagne and other imports. The food, which included for us breakfast, lunch and dinner, is very good.  The big breakfast was excellent with a great selection of cold and hot food.  I tend to over eat here but it is real hard not to.

For dinner, one night, I had skippy (kangaroo) which was very good and my wife the mushroom soup, also excellent. Wines are a generous serve and reasonably priced as were the meals. Staff are warm and friendly and only too eager to please.  Service is brisk.

Novotel Barossa is not cheap but it is an excellent place to stay. We have thoroughly enjoyed both our visits and look forward to a third. It is within twenty minutes of most of the surrounding small towns, wineries both large and small and most of the sites worth seeing. A car is essential and will allow you to enjoy some of the best scenery Australia has to offer. Take the trip.

Lyndoch Bakery and Restaurant
Lyndoch is only a short drive from the resort and holds a number of small shops, winery, service station and a few bakeries. Of the Lyndoch Bakery the bakery section is small and is part of a larger restaurant/bar complex. It has some great tasting pies, buns and cakes.  

On our first visit we dropped in for coffee and a bite. I had strudel and coffee (the coffee is strong, don’t order a double shot). The strudel was big and jammed full of fresh apple, cloves and cinnamon and went perfectly with a latte’.  The following day we went back for breakfast and I had their Kelly Pie. This is a small meat pie with egg and bacon on the top. If you go, order one. They are a very tasty and a meal in themselves.

Lord Lyndoch Hotel
We had dinner one night at the Lord Lyndoch Hotel. We were attracted to the hotel because the young manager claimed they serve “life changing” Black Angus steaks. How could we refuse? My wife had the 200g Scotch and I the 400g Black Angus. Though I still feel like myself and my life has not changed in any one direction the steak was good.  If you’re a steak-kind-of-guy a visit this historic hotel should be on your list when in the area. The manager, Scott, is funny, friendly and runs the hotel (for his parents) very professionally.  He is passionate about the food, the wine and the hotel and will make your visit “life changing”. Just ask Scott.

Tanunda Bakery
The locals will tell you this is the best bakery around. And they’re right. The Tanunda Bakery has a huge range of gorgeous looking cakes, breads, etc. on display. The coffee is good too and we had a cake and coffee here. Also we took away a pizza bread stick which we had with pate’, chorizo sausage, and Chateau Dorrien red wine in our room . The pizza bread was delicious and the sausage and pate’ made by Barossa Fine Foods from a butcher in Angaston rounded out a perfect day of tastings, sightseeing and winery bashing!

Seppeltsfield Winery
The approach to the newly name Seppeltsfield (formerly Seppelts) is something to see in itself. Kilometres of date palms line the road way into the winery now owned privately by three families. The new owners have made some big changes and are pushing some new ranges. We had purchased four bottles of tawny dated 1879 and 1880 some years back to now find they have grown in investment value.

Seppeltsfield is the only winery with yearly releases of consecutive 100 year old tawny ports. We were lucky to taste the 1912 pre-release to sell for $999 a half bottle. These ports taste like nothing you have ever tasted and “hang” in your throat and head for hours. We also tasted a new range of ten and twenty-one year old ports. For $10 extra the twenty-one year old is a far better purchase. The winery is worth a visit. The grounds and buildings are extensive.

Peter Lehmann Wines
Many of the bigger wineries will offer a lunch platter. These often consist of a selection local smoked and cured meats, olives, breads and cheese. Olives are also grown in the area and are well worth a try. Of the platters offered the Peter Lehmann platter appeared the best. We had put in a hard day of wine tasting and finished here before heading back to the room.

The wines are very good, well priced and have won many world class awards. Lehmann buildings, inside and out, are worth a serious look. There is a large picnic area right near the cellar door so either bring your own and purchase a wine or two or try the lunch platter. Very pleasant.

We returned the following day for the lunch platter which is more than enough for two and a bottle of the Mentor Cab.Sav. Staff, here, were very friend and decanter and re-bottle our wine to get some air into it. This did improve the wine and combined with the platter, under the shade of gum trees, made for an excellent and relaxing afternoon.  We will return. You should try it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Los Argentinos restaurant - Franskton

Los Argentinos restaurant (bar and grill) brings something new to the sunny Frankston by the sea. We have many Asian and Italian restaurants a few Mexican, Greek and European but this, as far as I am aware is the first Argentinean restaurant for the area. Hurrah!  Depending when you visit you may have parking problems. Read the parking signs well or the night may workout very costly.
A friend had dined here a few times in the past and knowing my passion for food and drink had suggested my wife and self should try it. So we did.  On a Friday night it was quieter than expected but at this point it is a new restaurant. Frankston's culinary base starts at McDonalds and the thought of well prepared good tasting food would frighten most local away. Particularly from a country they didn’t know existed. Fine diners won’t find silver service but will enjoy the rustic ambiance.  Service is excellent too.

On entering you pass by the open flame grill and notice a very large steak or two under the care of a dedicated cook. Steak is featured on the menu but there is many other dishes which will equally entice. There are also some Argentinean and Chilean wines to chose from. I selected the Argentinean red and found it fragrant smelling, delicious and full bodied. The wife selected Sangria and a seafood dish. She loved the meal but the Sangria was not for her.
The steak was 400g of quality meat and just a tad rare for me but also very flavorsome.  The baked potatoes, which come with the steak, are large and the meal should fill you. Once finished the chef may come out and ask you for a comment. All staff were warm and very friendly making the whole experience excellent and not expensive.  Every aspect of this restaurant is pleasing on a number of levels. To think Frankstonians can now safely try other divers foods not served at McDonalds is heartening. Steak lovers: eat here!

Revisit:  Los Argentinos import a lot of their meat. Once more a good meal at a reasonable price.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Australian Wine Tour and Rochford Winery - Yarra Valley

My daughter gave me an Australian Wine Tour ticket for father’s day. A great gift for a guy who loves wine. Leaving from the Melbourne we headed to the Yarra Valley and visited four wineries. Two were distinctly upmarket, modern and large and two were rustic and quaint. I felt Kellybrook Winery, one of the more rustic cellar doors, really didn’t want visitors. The area around the cellar door is very illkept and there is absolutely nothing inviting about the Winery. A further personal insult was that there was nothing I tasted which I liked. Others shared my opinion. Kellybrook is a successful winery so they must be doing something right, it just wasn’t obvious to me.

Rochford Wines is a modern complex of cellar door, restaurant, gallery, picnic grounds and lookout turret.  Our host was knowledgeable, engaging and an excellent ambassador for Australian wines and Rochfords particularly.  Part of the tour package was to lunch at Rochfords. The meals were selected on the bus on our way to Rochfords so the kitchen could have meals ready after our testing. Many selected the ocean trout. With the meal we got a full glass of one of three wines. Nice.

The crux of this post is to pass comment on the lunch provided by Rochfords. I would think we were treated as any guest in the restaurant that day even though nineteen of us arrived as an organised tour. The trout, possibly the smallest serve I have ever seen, was dry and tasteless. This opinion was shared by those seated near me with the same meal. The trout sat on tabouleh with a green garnish. Left quite hungry and disappointed I managed to scavenge extra bread for a filler.

Rochford wines is worth a visit, it is a grand place and holds many outdoor entertainment events through the year. Go for a tour, a tasting then maybe coffee and cake after. It is worth the effort. Rochfords have gone to a lot of trouble and expense to present an impressive complex. Thay are passionate about their wines and providing a memorable experience for their visitors. The food side of the business needs a revamp. But then I’m basing my impression on one visit.