Ok, so I don’t usually take photos of the bread basket, but how could I resist when 4 warmed slices of sourdough were swaddled up in a white napkin? This is how we began our dinner at Pei Modern, sister restaurant of Mark Best’s Marque in Sydney’s Surry Hills where I’ve had some great meals. Just before our trip to Melbourne, Pei Modern was also named Best New Restaurant of 2013 in The Age Good Food Guide so that definitely sealed the deal and we promptly made a booking.
To start, there was a choice of selecting a few bar snacks or proper entree dishes. The brandade croquettes was one of the bar snacks – 4 perfect quenelles of salt cod brandade shaped and deep fried to a crisp and served with a creamy mayo-like dipping sauce.
One of the dangers of going on holiday is that there are always so many places I want to eat at. Three square meals a day just isn’t enough time so I manage to squeeze in a few snacks here and there, leaving me ridiculously full after each day. Oh well – it is a holiday after all! My last trip to Melbourne included snacks like fries, cupcakes and chocolate. Round 2 of Melbourne Snackage is about all things sweet… get ready for some macarons, doughnuts, cakes and more macarons!
Our first stop is LuxBite in South Yarra – and the first thing that catches my eye is the rainbow of macarons in the glass cabinet. There are lots of flavours, several of which are unique to LuxBite, which makes it difficult to choose just a few.
Near the macaron display is a wall of pretty cakes. We ogle at the cake display for a while before choosing a pretty ispahan-inspired dessert called Endless Love. It’s sweet but not overly so, with a delicate lychee ganache, rose cream, chunks of lychee and fresh raspberries providing a bit of tartness.
While researching places to eat in Melbourne, I came across Purple Peanuts Cafe which serves tasty and healthy Japanese food at affordable prices. As luck would have it, we found that Purple Peanuts Cafe was actually located just around the corner from where we were staying, and so it was the first place we hit after arriving in Melbourne.
Don’t be scared by quirky decor, which includes a giant stuffed octopus perched on top of the drinks cabinet. Line up at the counter and choose from the selection brown-rice sushi rolls and salads in the window, or pick something from the brown paper menu stuck on the walls behind the counter. Some of the hot dishes include this beef curry soba, which is definitely a winter warmer dish that arrives steaming hot in a bowl. The beef curry smells amazing and there’s a nice sprinkling of fried shallots on top.
Late last year, I travelled to Melbourne for a week. It’s only a one and a half hour plane trip from Sydney, but I love going there and exploring the city, since there’s always new things to see and places to visit. One of these new finds (for me, anyway) was The Merrywell, located in the Crown Casino complex in Southbank.
Some tough decisions had to be made once we got there. First of all, upstairs or downstairs? Downstairs offered a casual burger and sandwich bar (hello duck burgers, fried chicken sandwiches and floats!), while upstairs had enticing snacks, mains and desserts in jars on the menu. We decide to head up to the restaurant, mainly because the snacks/share plates were too hard to resist.
The lollipop buffalo wings were the first to arrive, and I have to say I was a little disappointed that these were little drumettes rather than the wing itself. These were pretty spicy and hot enough so that my mouth was burning after eating one (yes, pathetic, I know). A blue cheese sauce and celery sticks accompanied the bowl of buffalo wings, which provided some much needed cooling action for the fire.
“Is that cheese?” asked Liz, as she pointed at the circle of butter while the rest of our table laughed. It was our last day in Melbourne and we’d decided to splurge on a three course lunch at the three-hatted Vue de Monde. It was definitely on the pricey side for lunch at $55 for two courses or $70 for three courses, especially since a few of the group weren’t that into fine-dining (or butter that looks like cheese). But by the end of the fabulous meal, everyone agreed that it was definitely worth every cent.
We dined at Shannon Bennett’s restaurant when it was still located at the Normanby Chambers on Little Collins St. Things have changed a little since then, with Vue de Monde moving to a new location in the Rialto on Collins St, but there is still the option of having lunch for $60 or going all out for their $250 degustation menu.
We’re in awe at the level of service as soon as we step through the doors. It was a rainy day and we were immediately offered to place our wet umbrellas and jackets in cloakroom before being taken to a spacious dining table. The girls in the group were even offered to place their handbags on a shelf rather than the floor – and it’s these little things that make a dining experience so memorable. We took in the sights of the simple but sophisticated dining room, and I was lucky enough to have a clear view of the pass where a mirror was set up to reflect the chefs placing the finishing touches on the dishes before they were sent out.
While we each decided on what we wanted from the menu, some appetisers were placed on our table for us to nibble on. The olives came in a bowl made out the bottom of a wine bottle, while the crisps and sour cream dip which was topped indulgently with caviar were a cute little set where the dish was able to fit perfectly on top of the wavy edge of the bowl of crisps.
After we placed our order (and after I convinced everyone to get something different so we could cover the whole menu!), a waiter came over carrying a basket of bread. We were each offered a warm bread roll which I slathered thickly with the French butter. Yes I wanted more, and yes I was eyeing off the bread basket going off to other tables. But luckily we only had the one bread roll because there was more delicious food to come.