Element Restaurant & Events, Eltham

Located not too far from the CBD, Element Restaurant doubles as an wedding and event space. I attended a wedding reception here, which provided me the opportunity to try out a number of dishes. It had a lovely vibe going, being classy but also providing a relaxed environment.

Chicken Ribs w. Soy-based Sauce

Pumpkin Risotto

The night kicked off with two canapes: the pumpkin risotto was a little dry and could have done with a little more salt, while the chicken ribs with accompanying soy-based sauce were almost the opposite – tender, juicy and tasty.

Clearwater Scallop, Poached Balmain Bug, Micro Leaf Salad w. Shallot and Ruby Grapefruit Dressing

Snap-fried Local Calamari, Petite Salad, Aioli, Lemon

Both the entrees for today were seafood-based. Dense and meaty scallops were accompanied by a salad of poached Balmain bug and potato, with a micro leaf salad and ruby grapefruit dressing. The salad wasn’t bad, but I’m generally not a fan of creamy seafood and/or potato salads so I tired of it after a while. The snap-fried local calamari was finely floured and reminded me of fried white-bait.

Crispy-skinned Salmon, Green Pea Puree, Scallop & Prawn Ragout w. White Wine Cream Sauce

The somewhat crispy skinned salmon was slightly overdone and needed a bit more seasoning. I wasn’t too sure about the combination of the slightly sour cream sauce, green pea puree and tomato-based prawn ragout, though I did quite like the flavours of the ragout.

Riverina Black Angus Sirloin w. Potato Chips, French Style Green Peppercorn Sauce and Vegetables

Though unevenly cooked, the Riverina Black Angus Sirloin was tender and flavourful, even without adding much of the jus. I personally preferred this over the salmon.

Home-baked Apple Strudel w. Double Cream and Caramel Sauce

Flourless Chocolate Cake, Berry Coulis, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Onto dessert! First up was the home-baked apple strudel w. double cream and caramel sauce. The tender slices of apple enveloped in flaky pastry was well received. The flourless chocolate cake was my favourite dish for the night. It was moist, dense and moreish and the vanilla bean ice cream and berry coulis were perfect for breaking up the richness of the cake.

There were a few hits and misses but overall the guests tonight had a good impression of the quality of food, especially given a tendency towards low expectations of wedding reception cuisine.

Element Restaurant & Events
410 Main Rd
Lower Plenty, VIC, 3093
(03) 9439 9941
http://www.elementrestaurant.com.au/
Element Restaurant & Events on Urbanspoon

Paynes Rise, Seville

Located in the Upper Yarra Valley region in Seville, Payne’s Rise winery has a lovely, quaint charm to it. I attended a wedding here and got to try out the light lunch they offered.

Tandoori Chicken Roll

Tandoori Chicken Roll

Curried Egg Roll

Curried Egg Roll

We started with a variety of rolls, most of which were filled with cold cuts and cheese. I had a curried egg roll and another with tandoori chicken.

Cookie + Hedgehog

Cookie + Hedgehog

Portuguese Custard Tart

Portuguese Egg Tart

This was followed by quite a large selection of deserts. The egg tarts were clearly the most popular – they’d all but disappeared within the space of 5 minutes. Though they weren’t warm, the texture of the egg custard and pastry were still enjoyable. There was a variety of muffins and slices as well as a large rectangular shaped cookie filled with walnuts and chocolate. Also available were chocolate slices, a cherry-ripe like slice and hedgehogs, which I haven’t had since high school.

Overall it was a simple menu, but perfectly adequate and a fitting end to a wonderful time out.

Paynes Rise
10 Paynes Rd
Seville, VIC, 3139
(03) 5964 2504
http://paynesrise.com.au/
Paynes Rise on Urbanspoon

Bluetrain, Southbank

Bluetrain (1)

As part of the opening weekend of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Southgate held the Southgate Fiesta, involving live music performances, free movie screenings and $15 tasting platters from participating restaurants. I chose to try out the tasting platter offered by Bluetrain. Recently revamped with a modern colour scheme, it has high ceilings and an airy feel that create a relaxed and casual environment. Bluetrain has been a resident at Southgate for more than 20 years and has a menu covering pizzas, pastas, burgers, char-grilled dishes and desserts as well as an extensive drinks menu.

Bluetrain (14) Prawn & Crab Salad, Salmon Roe, Tobasco & Tomato Custard; Zucchini & Feta Fritter, Tomato Relish, Lemon, Mint & Sour Cream; Marinated Kangaroo Fillet, Salt Bush & Raspberry Salad, Candied Prociutto

Named Taste of Bluetrain, Bluetrain’s offering was a tasting plate of four dishes. To start I had the prawn and crab salad with salmon roe and tobasco and tomato custard. It was light and refreshing, as expected, and the dressing and custard did not overpower the delicate flavours of the prawn and crab.

I decided to eat the dessert second because the ice cream had started to melt at this point. Childhood Memories consisted of a peanut salted caramel layered chocolate cake, chocolate fudge, fresh berries and milo ice cream. A little fudgy because of the salted caramel, but not sickly sweet, and with extra texture from the nuts, I found this dessert a pleasure to eat. The zucchini and feta fritter had a pleasant chew to it and was accompanied by tomato relish and lemon, mint and sour cream.

Zucchini & Feta Fritter, Tomato Relish and Lemon, Mint & Sour Cream; Marinated Kangaroo Fillet w. Salt Bush & Raspberry Salad, Candied Prosciutto and Australian Bush Finger Lime Dressing

I finished with the marinated kangaroo fillet with salt bush and raspberry salad, candied prosciutto and Australian bush finger lime dressing. The kangaroo could have done with a touch more seasoning, but the texture was pleasant and it was nice to be able to appreciate the kangaroo in this way.

Bluetrain (13)

The tasting platter was great value, especially considering it included entry to the boutique wine tasting area. It was a good opportunity to sample a variety of dishes from Bluetrain and see what they had to offer; definitely hoping the tasting platters will be available at next year’s MFWF!

Disclaimer: I was invited to dine at Bluetrain as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

Bluetrain
Shop UR3/U10, Upper Level
Southgate Complex
3 Southgate Ave
Southbank, VIC, 3006
(03) 9696 0111
http://www.bluetrain.com.au/
Bluetrain on Urbanspoon

 

Festival Artisan Bakery & Bar, Queensbridge Square, Southbank

Festival Artisan Bakery & Bar (6)edit

The Festival Artisan Bakery & Bar was a pop-up set up specially for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Over 17 days, famous bakers from both Australia and overseas came in to oversee the production of baked goods for us to devour, and enjoy a selection of salads, rolls and boards with wine and coffee.

Festival Artisan Bakery & Bar (14)

On the first day of the festival I dropped by hoping to grab one of Julian Gellatly’s famous salted caramel cream-filled doughnuts, but sadly they’d already sold out by 8:30am. Justin Gellatly is from London’s Bread Ahead bakery, known for its doughnuts and sourdough Cathedral Loaves. I did, however, buy some bread to try. The Cathedral loaf is a 7kg monster reaching up to 2 metres long, before being sliced into more manageable 1kg portions for people to take away. The bread had a lovely crust, moist crumb and enticing aroma.

Festival Artisan Bakery & Bar (17) Salted Caramel and Vanilla Cream Doughnuts by Justin Gellatly ($5.50)

On Sunday I dropped by, hoping for a quick (and unhealthy) breakfast and managed to nab one. There was a huge amount of filling inside the doughnuts – one bite and I had custard and sugar all over my cheek…and no tissues handy. Classy. I was relieved that it was too early for there to be many witnesses. I particularly liked the shards of honeycomb that had been inserted into the cream.

Salted Caramel Doughnut ($5.50) and Raspberry Tart ($4) Vanilla Cream Doughnut ($5.50)

I also tried one of the vanilla cream doughnuts, which had a fresher, cleaner flavour profile. A raspberry tart was also purchased to take away, but couldn’t help myself and took a bite whilst on the tram. Just as well I did, because at some stage during the day I lost it. I consoled myself with the fact that I managed to consume half of it before misplacing the paper bag.

I love good bread – half my diet while travelling through France consisted of freshly baked, floury goodness – and I’m hoping the Festival Artisan Bakery & Bar will make an appearance again next year.

Festival Artisan Bakery & Bar (20)edit

Festival Artisan Bakery & Bar
Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, March 2015
Queensbridge Square
Southbank, VIC, 3006

Popol Nah, Carlton

Translating to ‘The People’s House’, Popol Nah brings us Latin American food in a casual atmosphere. The menu is divided into chicos (small plates), carnes (larger meat plates), and intermedios (in between). It’s designed for sharing, though you could order dishes for yourself if so desired – most people on our table did.

Bolinhos de Bacalhau - Fried Cod and Potato Croquettes, Aioli $10

Bolinhos de Bacalhau – Fried Cod and Potato Croquettes, Aioli $10

Chicharron - Slow Roasted Pork Belly, Lime, Salsa Verde $8

Chicharron – Slow Roasted Pork Belly, Lime, Salsa Verde $8

I was keen to try a couple of different things so opted to share a few dishes between three. We started with two chicos: the bolinhos de bacalhau and the chicharron. The cod croquettes were pleasingly crunchy, though I thought its innards were a tad dry. The pork belly had a nice, subtle roasted flavour and the salsa verde had a pleasing bitterness that suited the pork belly well.

Albondigas - Beef and Lamb Meatballs, Sofrito, Pineapple Salsa $14

Albondigas – Beef and Lamb Meatballs, Sofrito, Pineapple Salsa $14

Our single intermedios plate was the albondigas. These meatballs were surprisingly dense but had plenty of flavour with all those added spices. Pineapple, capsicum, chilli and spring onion helped keep things fresh.

Cordero Ranchero - Braised Lamb Shank, Ranchero, Kale, Quinoa Salad $22

Cordero Ranchero – Braised Lamb Shank, Ranchero, Kale, Quinoa Salad $22

Our meat dishes arrived soon after. The lamb shanks were only OK; I didn’t find the flavours punchy enough and there wasn’t that much meat on the bone.

Marrano Caramelizado - Roasted Pork Shoulder in Agave, Orange and Chipotle Glaze, Cabbage Slaw $22

Marrano Caramelizado – Roasted Pork Shoulder in Agave, Orange and Chipotle Glaze, Cabbage Slaw $22

On the other hand, the marrano caramelizado was the best dish of the night. The pork was so tender and tasty and the glaze not too sweet, despite what the menu description made it out to be.

Overall, there was a mix of good and OK dishes, though nothing particularly bad. Serving sizes are on the small side so be sure to order slightly more than you normally would. Popol Nah also opens for breakfast and lunch so there are plenty of dishes to try out.

Popol Nah
171 Lygon St
Carlton, VIC, 3053
(03) 9347 3293
http://popolnah.com.au/
Popol Nah on Urbanspoon

Lorem Ipsum: A Hidden Space, Pop-Up Venue Launch

Lorem Ipsum Preview Event 2015 (42)

Lorem Ipsum, the text used in publishing, typography and graphic design as a space filler to demonstrate layout and features, is the name cleverly chosen for Melbourne’s first ever pop-up gala space. Created as a collaboration between EMG (Event Management Group) and Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Lorem Ipsum is nestled in the unlikely location of an exhibition bay within MCEC. The space is capable of accommodating 500-2000 people for occasions ranging from cocktail functions to gala dinners and lunches.

Each year will follow a different theme and this year’s theme will follow a ‘hidden’ theme, reflecting the many gems hidden within Melbourne’s laneways, with a colour scheme of stylish black and gold.

Lorem Ipsum Preview Event 2015 (27)

Most of the function space is customisable, from the size of the room, the lighting design, stage and sound system used to the table arrangements and centrepieces on display. Elegant three-metre tall crystal chandeliers are also available for installation if needed. In accordance with the theme, the room will feature black draping, and an impressive gold pressed nine-metre tall panelling and panel ceiling.

Lorem Ipsum Preview Event 2015 (13) Golden Wall

Catering is also available courtesy of MCEC’s impressively efficient kitchen team, who offer gourmet menus and matched wines. As well as being offered a preview of the event space, we were treated to a sampling of the sort of food on offer.

Tomato and Mozzarella Macaron; Crab, Corn, Yoghurt and Yuzu Sake Canape

We were offered two different cold canapes: a tomato and mozzarella macaron and a crab, corn, yoghurt and yuzu sake canape. The tangy tomato and mozzarella combination was subtlely savoury, whilst the crab, corn, yoghurt and yuzu sake canape was refreshing.

Sticky Pork Pancake, Sweet Pickle, Togarashi Mayonnaiseedit

The sticky pork pancake was packed with flavour and one of our favourites. It had a slight smokiness and a spicy kick that many people enjoyed.

Braised Lamb, Caramelised Shallot Puree, Pickled Onion, Saltbush; Beef Brisket, Sauerkraut, Secret Sauce on Brioche

Braised Lamb, Caramelised Shallot Puree, Pickled Onion, Saltbush; Beef Brisket, Sauerkraut, Secret Sauce on Brioche

Scallops, Black Pudding, Triple-cream Mash; Beef Brisket, Sauerkraut, Secret Sauce on Brioche

Scallops, Black Pudding, Triple-cream Mash; Beef Brisket, Sauerkraut, Secret Sauce on Brioche

The scallops used for this interesting skewer were lovely and sweet. I’ve usually shied away from black pudding in the past, but I have to say the flavour was milder than I expected. The slider was another of my favourites because of the pairing of melt-in-your-mouth beef brisket and soft brioche. The sauerkraut prevented the brisket from being overly rich.

Lorem Ipsum Preview Event 2015 (8)

The final tasting was of the light and tangy passionfruit tarlet.

Passionfruit Tartlet

Lorem Ipsum is available for bookings for the end of the year. With its convenient location, proximity to accommodation, car parks and public transport, and expert team of event managers, it presents itself a very classy and interesting location for large functions at a busy time in our calendars.

Lorem Ipsum Preview Event 2015 (38)

Disclaimer: I was invited to the Lorem Ipsum launch as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by MCEC or EMG in any way.

Il Gambero on the Park, Carlton

Compared to the multitude of Italian restaurants on Lygon St, the frontage of Il Gambero is relatively quite dark and unassuming, but upon walking in we were surprised at the clean, modern and airy space inside.

Entree Special - Truffled, Porcini, Pancetta Aranchini $14

Entree Special – Truffle Oil, Porcini, Pancetta Aranchini $14

The entree special immediately caught my eye. The perfectly crispy shell enclosed the fragrance of truffles, and mushroom, pancetta, and rice. The restrained dab of aioli on top gave just the right amount of moisture to the complement rice.

Spicy Tiger Prawn and Scallop Risotto - Tiger Prawns, Scallops, Bacon, Chili, Cream (Entree $18)

Spicy Tiger Prawn and Scallop Risotto – Tiger Prawns, Scallops, Bacon, Chilli, Cream (entree size, $18)

The Spicy Tiger Prawn and Scallop Risotto released delicious aromas when it arrived. I was pleased with the amount of seafood included in it and the chilli spiced up the creaminess a bit. It was quite rich and cheesy though and it quickly became filling and almost difficult for me to finish.

The service was very warm and pleasant and there was a strong family restaurant-like vibe, which created a wonderful ambience. I can see why Il Gambero has been around for over 40 years and continues to be a popular destination on Lygon St.

Il Gambero on the Park
166 Lygon St
Carlton, VIC,
http://www.ilgambero.com.au/
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High Tea at The Waiting Room, Southbank

High Tea @ The Waiting Room (7)

For $55, The Waiting Room offers a daily afternoon tea with Jing Tea and Vittoria Coffee and featuring the usual categories of hot savouries, sandwiches, sweets and scones.

Egg And Chive Salad Spinach Bread; Smoked Salmon And Herb Crepe Roulade; Cucumber And Cream Cheese On Tomato Bread; Chicken And Walnut on Malted Bread; Crab And Leek Vol-Au-Vent; Ricotta Cheese Filled Zucchini Flowers

We started with the top tier of crab and leek vol-au-vent and ricotta cheese filled zucchini flowers. The zucchini flowers were well received and it was a bit of a shame there weren’t more warm savoury treats to enjoy.

Egg And Chive Salad Spinach Bread; Smoked Salmon And Herb Crepe Roulade; Cucumber And Cream Cheese On Tomato Bread; Chicken And Walnut on Malted Bedit

Egg And Chive Salad Spinach Bread; Smoked Salmon And Herb Crepe Roulade; Cucumber And Cream Cheese On Tomato Bread; Chicken And Walnut on Malted Bread

Of the sandwiches I liked the flavour of the smoked salmon roulade the best, though the cream cheese was very viscous and rich, making it necessary to savour slowly. The other sandwiches were not too bad, though the breads were a little dry.

Spiced Dense Chocolate Cake And Ganache; Violet And Cassis Éclair; Velvet Green Tea And Red Bean Mousse; Mango Curd Tart w. Tahitian Vanilla Cream

Spiced Dense Chocolate Cake And Ganache; Violet And Cassis Éclair; Velvet Green Tea And Red Bean Mousse; Mango Curd Tart w. Tahitian Vanilla Cream

Spiced Dense Chocolate Cake And Ganache; Violet And Cassis Éclair; Velvet Green Tea And Red Bean Mousse; Mango Curd Tart w. Tahitian Vanilla Cream

The green tea flavour of the creamy mousse was very subtle and some couldn’t taste it, though I quite liked it. The rather pretty mango curd tart had a coconutty case and was decorated with egg-shaped dollops of vanilla cream. The violet and cassis eclair provided some tanginess, which was a nice relief from the richness of the chocolate cake.

Traditional Raisin And Butter-Milk Scones, Homemade Jam And Whipped Cream

Traditional Raisin And Butter-Milk Scones, Homemade Jam And Whipped Cream

These scones were my favourite of the offerings in this high tea. I preferred the plain ones, which to me had a nicer texture and went better with the jam and whipped cream. They were baked to order so we had to give the kitchen 10-15 minutes notice, after which they arrived at the table deliciously warm, crusty and moist. The gluten free alternative to scones was a selection fruit. There was a variety of fruit there, though admittedly not a particularly impressive one.

High Tea @ The Waiting Room (16)

Raspberry Sorbet, Pecan Praline

The final course was the raspberry sorbet. It was very sweet, though not as sweet as the gluten-free pear sorbet. It had a surprisingly dense texture, perhaps because of the raspberry.

The Waiting Room has quite a good reputation but I couldn’t help but feel a little underwhelmed, particularly with the sandwiches. I did quite enjoy those buttermilk scones though; they were the nicest scones I’ve had in a long time.

The Waiting Room
Ground Floor, Crown Towers Lobby Crown Casino
8 Whiteman St
Southbank, VIC, 3006
(03) 8679 1800
http://www.crownmelbourne.com.au/The-Waiting-Room-Bar
The Waiting Room on Urbanspoon

Jinda Thai, Abbotsford

Jinda Thai (5)

Jinda Thai has a strong reputation for affordable and tasty Thai food and it was time to see what the fuss was about. The tables are very close together and even small tables are aligned to make a sort of communal table. I guess they really have to maximise the space to accommodate the crowds!

Perusing the menu, I was drawn to the the boat noodles and the som tum with soft shell crab, and not just because they’re popular dishes. I chose beef to go with the boat noodles and the rice vermicelli was recommended by the waitress, who said it was the most traditional. The food came out really quickly; I was only halfway through typing an SMS straight after ordering, when a steaming bowl of noodles landed on the table, with the som tum arriving not long after.

Boat Noodles w. Beef and Rice Vermicelli (Small, $6)

Boat Noodles w. Beef and Rice Vermicelli (Small, $6)

The boat noodles had a very enticing aroma and I quickly dug into the noodles, tender pieces of beef, and tasty broth. The dark colour of the soup is due to the addition of blood, though to me it isn’t an off-putting fact. Although the broth might look very rich, in reality it’s not that heavy and I quite enjoyed the combination of herbs and spices used in this dish.

Som Tum w. Soft Shell Crab ($12.90)

Som Tum w. Soft Shell Crab ($12.90)

Another favourite of the regulars here is this salad of green papaya, cherry tomato, snake beans, and soft shell crab, topped with peanuts and chilli. There’s a definite hit of chilli in this dish and it’s probably not for chilli lightweights. The soft shell crab was definitely nice and crispy, but sadly there wasn’t a whole lot meat inside. If you’re simply after as much crab meat for your money as possible, it might be better to go for something on the soft shell crab menu (yes, a whole menu page dedicated to it!). Having said that, I did like the combination of flavours and textures in the som tum.

Jinda Thai also does take away, which is welcome news for everyone in need of a good Thai fix and was perhaps unsuccessful in securing a table at this popular place.

Jinda Thai Restaurant
7 Ferguson St
Abbotsford, VIC, 3067
(03) 9419 5899
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