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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cecconi's Flinders Lane

Disclaimer: I was invited by AMPR to have dinner at Cecconi's Flinders Lane. All thoughts and opinions are based purely on my experience at the time of visit.

It's admirable for a restaurant to be long-standing in the fickle and on-trend driven city of Melbourne. Cecconi's has been established on Flinders Lane for almost a decade, despite the continuous droves of restaurants opening and closing up within a few blocks. There is a sophisticated, formal atmosphere with the open kitchen acting as the main centrepiece - from the offers to take your coat away from you; crisp white table linen dressing the dining tables; and the brushing of crumbs off the table after courses. Upon our arrival for dinner, we noticed some late lunchers who seemed to enjoy their lunch so much, they had started to transition their way into some early evening drinks

After briefly settling into our seats, we started with an Italian white wine recommended by our waitress and bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

The duck tartletta sounded deviously uncomplicated although, acted as a brilliant starter. A rich and buttery pastry encasing flavoursome morsels of confit duck with a fresh salad on the side.

Confit duck tartelletta, Jerusalem artichoke puree with pear & hazelnut salad ($26)

While slightly overcooked resulting in a chewy exterior, the caramelised scallops were complemented beautifully with a soft, rich morcilla and carrot puree. The morcilla turned out to the be highlight of the dish; a mousse-like texture and barely holding together beneath the crisp surface.

Caramelised scallops, black pudding with carrot puree & baby herbs ($26)

Mr A was incredibly keen to finally satiate his pasta cravings at Cecconi's after sadly being outvoted by his colleagues at lunch earlier that day. The linguine was al dente, laced with hints of herbs and chilli with an array of fresh, well-cooked seafood. It goes to show how satisfied Mr A was his seafood linguine, that he couldn't even be persuaded to have more than a bite of my dish - and trust me, mine was worth bargaining a dish swap for.

Linguine seafood, garlic, chilli, herbs and extra virgin olive oil ($36)

The fragrant aroma from the medley of lemon, butter and confit garlic was especially tantalising. The roasted barramundi yielded a meaty yet flaky flesh with a flavoursome, crisp skin. The celeriac puree, creamy and indulgent, showcased the barramundi perfectly making it a little too easy to devour my main.

Roasted barramundi with celeriac mash, confit garlic & lemon ($42)

While we were absolutely full at this point, we were determined not to leave without dessert. Going with the crowd favourite, the soft centred chocolate pudding had a great ratio of cake and gooey-ness to it with a scoop of toasted milk ice cream to refresh the palate.

Warm soft centred chocolate pudding with toasted milk ice cream ($17)

We expected to have a great meal but Cecconi's turned out to be an impeccable dining experience. They are obviously doing many things right over the years to consistently remain a stalwart in Melbourne's ever-evolving dining scene and we left feeling enlightened with this gem on Flinders Lane.

Food: 8.5/10
Service: 8/10
Value: N/A (we didn't pay but it is on the pricier side.)
Will I return? Yes, food and service were on point on our visit. We would happily return and pay for our next meal at Cecconi's.

Cecconi's Flinders Lane
61 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 8663 0500

Lunch: Mon to Fri 12pm onwards
Dinner: Mon to Sat 5:30pm - late

Cecconi's Flinders Lane Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Luxembourg Bar & Bistro

Chris Watson, former chef at Cutler and Co, and Andrew McConnell teamed up to open the new luxurious French bistro, Luxembourg Bar & Bistro, residing where the former Golden Fields used to sit along Fitzroy Street in St Kilda. There have been a few changes to transform the space into a seductive, French bistro and service is warm and relaxed. The chef's selection menu makes for great value, coming in at $65 a pop, so we decided to let them take charge with our menu and take in the new digs.

Bread, butter and condiments

Luxembourg offer a daily happy hour for their fresh selection of oysters between 5pm - 7pm at half the price. We decided to indulge in half a dozen before starting the chef's menu as a treat; two types of Sydney rock oysters (Petite Clair and Cape Hawk) and Smoky Bay oysters from South Australia. While all equally enjoyable, the Smoky bay oysters were my favourite for their sweet, intense briny flavour.

Half a dozen oysters (happy hour $12)

The dishes seem to be reminiscent of a few of Andrew McConnell's other dishes at his other restaurants, although different flavour combinations come into play here. Beautifully tender chunks of pickled octopus made for a nice bite to commence the chef's menu. The sea bream sashimi followed soon after; the fish was incredibly fresh and we enjoyed the kick provided by the horseradish but we felt that, perhaps, the flavours were too subtle to make this dish stand out.

Pickled octopus

Sea bream sashimi, horseradish, buttermilk & dill

A selection of house-made charcuterie and foie gras looked promising when presented to us but the mild flavours left us feeling disinterested after a few bites.

Charcuterie of coppa (neck) and lonza (loin) and foie gras parfait, Madeira jelly

Dubbed as the famed lobster roll replacement; the soft shell crab, sandwiched in between a soft, sweet brioche bun, was complemented well by the shredded iceberg lettuce and tartare sauce. The ideal bite-size snack to accompany a few drinks and still leave room for other dishes.

Soft shell crab sandwich, tartare & iceberg

Our favourite dish of the night was definitely the smoked duck breast - cooked until medium-rare with walnuts, bitter radicchio and slivered grapes. The flavours were skilfully balanced and the duck, while crisp on the edges, was utterly tender and pink inside.

Radicchio, smoked duck breast, grapes & walnut

A close second was the final savoury dish of the night; a completely comforting and homely roast chicken which was executed well. Cooked two ways with a breast portion and roulade on the side, they were both succulent and tender and made even better with the accompaniment of charred Brussels sprouts and an earthy chestnut puree.

Roast chicken, bacon, Brussels sprouts & chestnut

A chef's menu is always more exciting with the prospect of finishing with two desserts, wouldn't you agree?

We started with a pleasant enough dessert and I especially enjoyed the spiced crumble, unfortunately, the combination of flavours felt a bit one-dimensional and seemed to lack something textural. The dessert has since been altered with the addition of Mille-feuille and spiced quince, which sounds immensely improved.

Brown sugar cream, spiced crumble & rhubarb granita

We finished with a clever dessert; the citrus and the raw yet sweet tasting carrot granita cutting through the sweet liquored ice cream. Wonderfully balanced and a refreshing way to finish our meal.

Sauternes ice cream, carrot granita & mandarin

Our meal acted as a big nod to Andrew McConnell's impressive restaurants, while we enjoyed the dishes (some more than others), the entire meal failed to make an impact on us. It is almost impossible to avoid comparing Luxembourg with Andrew McConnell's other restaurants, especially more so when some dishes were almost identical. Although still in its early stages when we visited, there is huge amount of potential for Luxembourg to grow. The setting is undeniably alluring and I'd revisit to take advantage of happy hour drinks and oysters and a few bites to eat.

Food: 7/10
Service: 7.5/10
Value: 7.5/10
Will I return? For the happy hour oysters and some bar snacks, yes.

Luxembourg Bar & Bistro
157 Fitzroy St
St Kilda VIC 3182
(03) 9525 4488

Tues to Thurs 5pm - 11pm
Fri & Sat 12pm - 12am
Sun 12pm - 11pm
Mon Closed

Luxembourg on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Truffle Melbourne double pass giveaway!

Disclaimer: I have received a media pass courtesy of SSM PR to attend Truffle Melbourne.

The world's tastiest game of hide and seek

We're talking about nature's black gold here - the elusive truffle. Truffle Melbourne is an exciting new festival held at the Caulfield Racecourse on Saturday and Sunday 12-13 July (next weekend). There will be stages with celebrity chefs showcasing different ways to utilise truffle; various vendors serving up indulgent bites including truffle toasties, truffled crepes and truffled butter (!!); a champagne, truffle and caviar bar; farmers' market with fresh produce; truffle feasts and banquets; and mock truffle hunts with the dogs.

Truffle Melbourne and SSM PR have kindly offered Petit Miamx readers a chance to win one of two double general admission passes to attend Truffle Melbourne this year (worth $52 each). General Admission passes provide guests entry to the ground, truffle tasting on arrival, access to celebrity chefs on the main stage and a chance to discover truffle dishes and meet the growers of Australian's best truffles.

All you have to do is complete these two steps in a comment below:
(1) your name and email address
(2) describe a dish you would love to create if you were in possession of black gold!

Congratulations to Clinton & Simone! And thank you to everyone else who entered!

All the important info:

Truffle Melbourne

Saturday 12th July 10am - 6pm
Sunday 13th July 10am - 5:30pm

General admission entry tickets are $26 from here
Feast and banquet tickets as well as additional truffle event tickets also available for pre-purchase.

Caulfield Racecourse
Free parking across the road
Public transport available via trains and buses

Terms & Conditions of the Truffle Melbourne 2014 double pass giveaway:
- Entries close 9:00pm AEST on Thursday 10th July 2014.
- The two winners will be drawn straight away and notified via email.
- Each winner will receive a double pass to attend Truffle Melbourne for either Saturday or Sunday. These will be available for collection from the ticket box on the day of your choosing.
- This giveaway is open to all Australian residents however they must be in Melbourne at the time of the festival.
- If the selected winners do not respond with their details by 9:00pm AEST Friday 11th July 2014, I will select new winners due to the close proximity of the event.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Addict Food and Coffee and Small Victories

Do you recall the last time you walked into a cafe and every single staff member in sight turned to welcome you with a friendly smile. Well, that's how our visit to Addict Food and Coffee started off; I could feel the refreshing neighbourly vibes oozing out of every crevice of this cafe. Addict Food and Coffee is a young'un; having only finished their third week of trading today, the space is clean, aesthetically pleasing with plenty of natural light flowing in. The menu is solid and concise with their own play on the typical breakfast menu staples and unique enough to rekindle my addiction for brunch.

The World Cup is certainly making sleepless nights worth it, but in turn, we only managed to arrive just before food orders ceased at 3pm. Taking in the lax atmosphere, I found that my piccolo latte was seriously tasty and was almost tempted to order another - save for the fact that I probably wouldn't be able to go to sleep until the next morning! (FYI, I wasn't able to go to sleep until 1:30am last night, but the coffee was worth it.)

 Piccolo latte ($3.80)

With the majority of the brunch crowd having come and gone, the food didn't take long to come out. Mr A was suffering with only 4 hours sleep (haha thanks for waking up for me!) and he needed a burger. He would have favoured a softer bun, but loved the flavours of the pulled pork and the kick of spice provided from the chipotle mayonnaise.

 Southern pulled pork burger with chipotle mayo with garlic and sage chips ($16.50)

I could make an educated guess, after our visit, & assume that my dish is one of the general public's favourites on the menu. Alongside the incredibly crisp potato hash, the roasted field mushroom with an intense mushroom mixture enhanced the hearty, meaty flavours of the dish, leaving no need to order any sides of bacon. As if it wasn't already tasty enough, it was all topped off with a perfectly poached egg and caramelised onions.

 Potato hash on mushroom duxelles with roasted field mushroom, poached egg & caramelised onions ($17)

It's makes for a great day when your taste buds are satisfied and you're cheerily farewelled from a cafe and you're left with a smile on your face. In all aspects, Addict Food and Coffee have kept it simple, but they're nailing it.

Food: 8.5/10
Service: 9/10
Value: 8/10
Will I return? Yes, the ideal chill out spot. If only I lived closer!

Addict Food and Coffee
240-242 Johnston St
Fitzroy VIC 3065
(03) 9415 6420

Mon to Fri 7am - 4pm
Sat & Sun 8am - 4pm

Addict Food and Coffee on Urbanspoon

We found ourselves at Small Victories one morning; there was a twenty minute waiting list for a table so we decided to kill some time by perusing the local wine cellar and purchased a few bottles of wine, for those cold winter nights, of course. We were soon seated after our return and while the wait for the food was a bit more drawn out than usual, the service was spot on and very friendly. Perched up on the bar, looking out of the window, it turned out to be the perfect people-watching spot.

A strong latte and a magic ($3.80 each)

Torn between two dishes, Mr A had decided on the baked eggs as our waitress declared it to be one of the heartiest dishes on their menu. The thick ladro soldier was the ideal utensil to break into the baked eggs and creamed corn. With an additional rasher of streaky bacon, it was a great balance of sweet and salty flavours.

Baked eggs with creamed corn, streaky bacon, lardo soldier, thyme salt ($17)

After multiple times of claiming defeat and pleading with Mr A to never again let me order a sweet dish for breakfast, I was wiser and determined. My crisp and fluffy waffles came with wedges of caramelised banana and a scoop of condensed milk ice cream and peanut mousse. Although it wasn't an overly sweet dish itself, a side order of crispy bacon alleviated any issues I would potentially encounter. With the slivers of grape and mint to add an element of freshness, I killed the entire thing with ease.

Buttermilk waffles with caramelised banana, peanut mousse, condensed milk ice cream ($15) & bacon ($5)

Not only were our dishes great, Small Victories don't mess about with their sides like their leek & cheddar croquettes or the pickled pine mushrooms with chestnuts and tarragon, they are more gourmet rather than an afterthought. I can see why Small Victories is a hit with both locals and visitors with tasty food and attentive service.

Food: 8/10
Service: 8.5/10
Value: 8/10
Will I return? Yes, despite the wait for food, the service and food more than made up for it.

Small Victories
617 Rathdowne Street
Carlton North VIC 3054

Mon to Fri 7am - 4pm
Sat 8am - 5pm
Sun 9am - 5pm

Small Victories on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Casa Ciuccio

The night that I visited Casa Ciuccio, I was whisked away by my best friends and unbeknownst to me, the rest of my friends were laying in wait at my surprise birthday dinner. Casa Ciuccio is the sort of place that doesn't make you feel out of place whether you dress up or down; it has a homely and comfortable atmosphere, with bushes of herbs and garlic hanging from the walls.

We started the night with one of my favourite Pinot Noirs from Curly Flat ($98) and soon followed on with a bottle of Bindi Pyrette Shiraz ($65). It was going to be one of those nights. Another positive is that you can laugh boisterously without feeling like you're disrupting other diners.

Curly Flat 2008 Pinot Noir ($98)

The wait staff offered to take over the ordering for the table and if your friends are anything like ours, this helped take away any hassle with umming and ahhing over the menu allowing us to spend our time catching up and chatting away. A few small raciones to begin our night, starting with the morcilla croquetas and chicken liver parfait on toast. A light and pudding-like filling of morcilla in a crisp exterior with a kick of flavour from the spiced aioli. If you had an aversion to offal, these would be a great way to dip your toe into the delicious world of offal (more on that later).

Morcilla croqueta with spiced aioli ($4 each)

Unanimous appreciative mumblings around the table soon followed when we dug into the chicken liver with P.X. on grilled crusty bread. If we could realistically eat clouds, I believe I have eaten an offal cloud. The chicken liver was incredibly light and there was something so luxurious about the smooth texture.

Chicken liver + P.X. on toast ($4 each)

When it comes to French fries, I've noticed a division with some preferred the crispy bits and others which like the fluffy inside but crisp outside. The same applied to the grilled twice cooked octopus tentacle that Casa Ciuccio is renowned for. While some preferred the crispier and charred ends of the tentacle, others indulged in the tender, meatier chunks of octopus. The seasoning was kept to a minimum, allowing the flavours of the octopus to shine with twice cooking process and a squeeze of lemon.

Grilled twice cooked octopus tentacle ($10 per 100g - 180gram pictured)

More widely used in the Mediterranean, the grilled red mullet came out with a distinct fishy smell although cooking the fish delicately flaked away and due to the small size, the flesh was quite sweet. Despite the irritating plethora of bones, without struggle, there is no delicious eating. The salad of couscous, tomato and herbs did wonderfully to enhance the fresh flavours of the dish.

Market fish of the day - red mullet ($28)

The grilled quail was very succulent and the smoky flavours from being grilled worked beautifully with the tart bursts of pomegranate.

Quail with pomegranate ($30)

Surprisingly, I really enjoyed the spiced chickpeas for its meaty flavour against the fennel and prosciutto.

Spiced chickpeas with fennel & prosciutto ($18)

The lamb was nicely fatty and tender, we especially savoured the meat right off the bone.

Lamb ($34)

We all found the pork to be a touch dry and chewy in contrast to the lamb, thankfully it was our only disappointment that night.

Pork shoulder ($36)

As well as two serves of roasted chat potatoes ($9 each, not pictured), we  had fresh red cabbage salad and a carrot salad sprinkled with walnuts and labneh which worked well with the heavy meat mains. Typically, the dessert menu would be introduced but our bellies were heaving from the amount of dishes and my bestie had actually organised one of my favourite cakes to be brought out - the Le Petit Gateau's chocolate passionfruit brownie, yum!

Red cabbage salad ($14)

Carrot salad ($14)

It must have been kismet. A week later, we were back at Casa Ciuccio's bar thanks to an invitation from Hershy, weeks earlier, to try their newly launched offal tapas menu. Their offal tapas menu changes constantly and hosted only on Tuesday and Wednesday nights; with a select five tapas per night for $25. Based on a happy hour concept, the offal tapas menu has been designed with the freedom to have a quick bite and tipple before heading off or have a continuation of dinner off the a la carte menu for a proper dinner.

I wasn't averse to the idea of having the delicious morcilla croquetas again; somehow, I managed to enjoy them even more. Perhaps the flavours worked well with the savoury white wine we were sipping on.

Morcilla croqueta with spiced aioli

The pig's head terrine, crumbed and then fried until a crisp, made for a gelatinous and succulent morsel.

Crispy pig's head terrine

The chicken liver had a distinct taste to it, although we found that the grilling process added a charred, crispness to the edges and the sweetness of the quince and pumpkin seeds helped in alleviating from the intense flavour of the liver.

Chicken liver with quince

Although not technically offal, the house made chorizo packed a punch against the juicy and bouncy ox heart.

Ox heart + chorizo

The offal tapas menu finished with skewers of grilled tripe with a tomato reduction. Once again, the grilling process imparted a smoky flavour and gave the edges a lovely crispiness.

Grilled tripe with tomato reduction and crumbed jamon

Still feeling a little peckish, we requested one more savoury bite and the bacalao croquetas came highly recommended. A delicious creamy croqueta with nuggets of salted cod hidden within.

Bacalao (salted cod) croquetas ($4 each)

I was much too full for dessert on my previous visit so this time, I had come with the resolute intention to try the dulce de leche cream pot. A velvety dulce de leche custard topped with alternating shards of praline and peanut; definitely a dessert to play cutlery fencing over.

Dulce de leche cream pot with peanut praline ($12)

At Casa Ciuccio, they don't over think it and bombard the produce with too many elements; rather they respect it and keep things simple enough to result in a flavoursome, sophisticated menu. This is one to keep coming back for.

Food: 9/10
Service: 8.5/10
Value: 8/10
Will I return? Yes, the perfect spot for a cosy date night as well as a gathering.

Casa Ciuccio
15 Gertrude Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
(03) 8488 8150

Tues to Thurs midday - 11pm
Fri & Sat midday - 1am
Sun closed

Casa Ciuccio on Urbanspoon

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