Thursday, April 25, 2013

Red Robin Supper Club Presents Brunch

The Red Robin Supper Club (RRSC) is a social media success story with more than 900 hungry Facebook followers watching eagle eyed for Rory Doyle's next pop up service. Necessity is the mother of invention and when Rory found himself in the midst of the global financial crisis and with the end of his apprenticeship fast approaching he struck upon the idea of hiring an existing restaurant and opening it on a night when it wasn't usually open to serve his own unique menu. 

Genius stuff as not only do you build your profile as a chef, you know exactly how many tables you're serving but provide your customers with a unique experience. In the weeks leading up to an event Rory will set a date, release menu tib bits to keep you salivating before opening email reservations on a designated date and time. From there you draft your email, fire it off at 6pm on the dot, stand on one leg, sacrifice a small animal to whatever heathen Food God you pray to and hope for the best. Despite being on the other side of the world, for the first time ever I was successful in getting a booking, I was elated!  

So on Sunday, April 14 Spensley and I set out across town for La Finestra at Camp Hill. We ensured that we had the appropriate amount to grab coffee from another store in the enclave as we were briefed earlier that alas the coffee machine would not be repaired in time. We forced ourselves past the girls at L'Miao Bakery, who were setting up their pop up stand, and were briskly seated by the front of house staff. Spensley picked the kale sauteed with chilli and garlic, crispy chorizo, eggs how you like them served on thick pieces of toasted sourdough. It looked absolutely amazing but I was looking for something a little milder and opted for the Crab Cake Buttermilk Biscuit Sandwich.

Crab Cake Buttermilk Biscuit Sandwich
The buttermilk biscuit was layered with rocket, sliced tomato, topped with the fried crab cake and a generous blob of zesty mayo. I could use a more aesthetically pleasing word like dab or quinelle but no it was a blob and it was completely necessary for tying the dish together. The buttermilk biscuit was beautifully light, slightly sweet and worked well with the fresh ingredients but the mayo gave the dish the moisture that you needed to work your way through it. It was gorgeous and we left completely full. But we couldn't come all this way without a piece of L'Miao Bakery. 

Nutella Crack Pie
Somehow in my haste I had missed the message on Facebook that the girls were taking pre-orders and was completely devastated to find the Pear and Honey Cake had sold out so instead opted to purchase a few pieces of the much-hyped Nutella Crack Pie. Crack Pie often sports an oat cookie crust which gives balances our the sweetness and the L'Miao offering is no different. Intense nutella flavour without being sickeningly sweet. L'Miao also specialises in gluten free and vegan treats so keep an eye out for their next pop up spot. It was an excellent morning so I highly recommend liking the RRSC and L'Miao Facebook Page and staying alert to ensure you can get onboard for the next pop up event. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Ritz: London

Being a great lover of scones with lashings of jam and cream meant the one foodie extravagance that I had to have in London was a session at the Ritz. As you can expect, the Ritz being the institution that is runs high tea from mid morning, all the way up to its last session at 7.30pm, which was the session we booked. After making an online booking, we then received a rather pointed set of instructions via email declaring that all men were required to wear a collared shirt and tie and for women, a dress! A dress indeed! Surely there would be an exception to prevent a girl from Australia freezing to death? But alas the Ritz makes no such exception and for good reason too.

For when you step through the front doors you are awe struck by the Parisian opulence of the place. All the gold, marble and ornate plaster work. There is an inhouse pianist, an accompanying string quartet and staff to exchange the heavy burden of your coat for a petite tasselled token. You are seated, offered coffee or a choice of one of their 17 teas which are served from heavy silverware bearing the Ritz lion standard. 

At the appropriate time a three tier stand in brought to your table bearing only two plates, one containing petite cakes (macaron, mille feuille and two rich chocolate cakes) and the other sandwiches. Each guest receives one each of the following sandwiches which means you don’t have to resort to paper, scissors, rock off for the salmon one:
  • Ham Sandwich with Grain Mustard Mayonnaise on White Bread
  • Cheddar Cheese Sandwich with Chutney on Onion Bread
  • Cucumber Sandwich with Cream Cheese, Dill, and Chives on Caraway Seed Bread
  • Chicken Breast Sandwich with Horseradish Cream on White Bread
  • Scottish Smoked Salmon with Lemon Butter on Rye Bread
  • Egg Mayonnaise Sandwich with Chopped Shallots and Watercress on White Bread
During our sitting we were offered extra sandwiches, but I suspect this was because we were the last session as it’s an uphill battle to chomp, munch and politely belch through plain and raisin scones, a yogurt palette cleanser and your choice of cake.

Somehow through the misty forests of the food coma, PIE (Partner in Eating), and I realised that if it we didn’t ask for the bill before the session ended it would be a complete bum fight to acquire a cab back to our hotel (a complete necessity due to be being forced to wear a dress) so we asked for our bill early. One can only assume that billing is completed by one individual and as a result when our waiter brought us a bill totalling £45.00 it came somewhat as a shock. £45.00 equates approximately to a princely $66 AUD and ought to be the amount for just one guest at the Ritz. So I said, “quick, Spensley, put down the money. Let’s grab our coats and if they stop us say, we thought one meant one bill for the table.” We put down our pounds, tossed our token at the cloakroom for our coats and walked briskly towards the door and into a waiting cab. It was only then that I declared, “22 odd pounds each for the Ritz, that’s fair.” Australians, convicts. But really what what's the worst they could do? Send us home? 

Rome, Paris, London

The biggest nightmare for most children is being dragged to the local General Practitioner and pinned against the door as they shrieking their defiance at the seasonal vaccination. For me, it was bi-annual pilgrimage to Queensland Book Depot (QBD) where my Mother would take great joy in purchasing holiday text books to ensure her children would be fully prepared when they returned to school. Thanks to this sadistic study regime I’ve spend the majority of my life chained to my desk with only the occasional opportunity to head back to China. But in the last six months I’ve seen more of the world than I could have ever hoped for. I’ve been to Taiwan, hopped around East Coast of America and thanks to Spensley I’ve just returned from Rome, Paris and London.

Zuppa Di Verdure, Rome

My favourite location on this journey was Rome, a chaotic unplanned city that had been left to grow organically for thousands of years. The houses lapped the roads and with no footpaths, pedestrians, parked and moving vehicles were left to jostle for priority. There were no designated shopping precincts so it took me three days to locate white-out and when I did, the store was around the corner from our apartment. But the one thing I couldn’t get over with Rome was just how far the Euro stretched. €5 brought you a transfer by coach from the airport to the main station, €3.50 brought you a cappuccino and a flaky custard filled pastry and for €24 you could eat like a king! It brought an entree, two mains, dessert and wine! Pizza, pasta, risotto, but even this smorgasbord of carbohydrates would not stop my tastebuds from craving the flavours of home so one night Spensley and I cooked a simple steak dinner. The steak was incredibly pale and tender, the spinach fresh but God those Italian tomatoes were just packed with flavour. They punched you in the face without the aid of balsamic and a dab of brown sugar. At another point on the trip we would have killed for soup and after wandering the block managed to find a cafe that served a simple Zuppa Di Verdure or if you opted for pasta, it was touted as Minestrone Di Verdure. But before you screw up your face it was nothing like the Minestrone you would find in Australia as the vegetables were perfectly cooked and the delicate broth lightly flavoured with tomato. Superb!

Millefeuille, Paris

After four days of glorious Rome we boarded the night train to Paris. Spensley and I were travelling first class (think Orient Express, James Bond) as the only other option offered by the Thello was sharing with three other strange men or women. So you can imagine our shock when we opened the door to our cabin to find one manky couch and just enough room in the aisle to leave your suitcase upright. Everything was built vertically so when we next inspected the bunk (which was only suitable for one) we were shocked to find what could only be described as insane asylum straps. Spensley quickly decided this was important as if the train suddenly stopped (which it did over the course of the journey) your body might roll, but your neck would not and would be clipped by the ladder conveniently positioned at neck level. After braving the stuffy confides we emerged victorious in Paris. Our hotel had the good fortune to be position around the corner from the most amazing bakery with a constant stream of locals enjoying crusty baguettes generously appointed with brie, yogurt thick with raspberries, champignon filled quiches and most decadent pastries. We also had the most gorgeous millefeuille at Lenotre on route home from the Louvre. While we had some concerns about the quality of food served being on a tourist strip it was beautifully made and the waiter elegantly divided it with such flourish that we felt almost criminal devouring it. However we can’t say all things in Paris are equal so if see the chain Paul, I would advocate staying well away.

Salmon, Rocket and Roast Beetroot Salad, London

After a brief two day jaunt in Paris we took off on a British Airways flight to London. It only dawned on me when an air hostess was offering me a packet of crisps that we were indeed travelling to yet another country. Because after I quickly responded that I would love a biscuit and the brain too stock and realised that crisps were chips and GOD I FREAKING LOVE CHIPS! We were delighted not only did the Grosvenor have restaurant standard room service but there was a Chinese Restaurant in the foyer. I’m sure the staff thought I was mad as I made such a fuss when I received my bowl of plain white rice as while we were in Rome we barely saw anything on offer other than Italian and while there was ample Japanese in Paris it wasn’t the plain jasmine rice of home. We also ecstatic to see an egg with a runny yolk at Le Pain Quotidien a bakery and communal table chain hailing from Belgium. The store had an amazing range of fresh options and perhaps Le Pain Quotidien’s origins helped it supply good coffee as the English serve awful coffee. 

Raspberry Cheesecake, Reading

The only other place we found a solid cup was the Workhouse Coffee Company in Reading which was owned by an Australian. Apart from their coffees, the Workhouse Coffee Company also serve amazing baked delights and we sampled freshly baked Pear Tart, Lemon Meringue and the pictured Raspberry Cheesecake with actual raspberries, not just puree as found back in Australia. It was an amazing experience and I could tell you so much about the culture, the people, the theatre but it just won’t fit in one article. For all the reading you might do and all the television you might watch, it just doesn't come close to the experience.              

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


To celebrate our anniversary I decided I wanted to share a beautifully executed gastronomic experience with Spensley in Sydney. With Quay is booked out for dinner until March, would it be possible to find a restuarant with amazing food, a relaxed environment and didn't cost the first born child? After a lot of research, I decided to settle on a modern French restaurant in Surry Hills called Assiette. For us, non-Frenchies Assiette means 'plate' which is the perfect name for this no fuss modern French diner by Warren Turnbull. Once we were welcomed at the front door, a friendly staff member showed us to our table. Crisp linen, a room of clean lines broken up by a sexy peak into the kitchen and a trio of artwork depicting a playful woman's expressions. After a quick peak at the menu to ensure we weren't missing anything we proceeded with the degustation beginning with hiramasa (Kingfish) ceviche with coconut, heirloom tomato, jalapeno and yuzu. The challenge of ceviche is always taking the best fresh raw fish marinating it with citrus juice and a touch of spice but ensuring the fish isn't overpowered and this dish does it. The hiramasa was the star with uplifting citrus notes and the coconut milk balanced beautifully against the blanched tomato.  

The next dish that followed was Jannei goats' curd, vinocotto, figs, golden beetroot and cereal. I love all these flavours but the magic touch was the toasted cereal which added texture and additional sweetness.
The third dish was Glazed Silver Lake smoked eel, black sesame, grilled leek and onion puree. The black sesame and onion purees worked well with the smoked eel but I found the texture to be quite dense dense and the baby leek was challenging as even in gourmet food death it fought against being consumed. But I didn't mind as leek has never been one of my favourite vegetables. 

After the first three meals were served in quick succession we took a small break before moving onto Bass grouper with saffron parsnip, mussels, dulse and candied lemon. Though the bass grouper was lovely the most incredible component of this dish were the silky mussels so delicate that they came apart violently with a fork and dissolved in the mouth.

Crispy-skin quail, picked carrot, Szechuan salt and ginger vinegar signaled the end of the seafood dishes. Well presented, the quail was beautifully moist, tend and the picked carrot made for an easy flavour transition.

The Milly Hill lamb loin, aubergine puree, baked Jerusalem artichokes and balsamic jus was probably the most traditional dish featured on the degustation. Every component was beautifully cooked and I was almost fooled into thinking the Jerusalem artichoke was a potato. Delightful. 

Pre desserts are always a great way to cleanse the palette as even with the perfectly balanced portion sizes, moving from the rich lamb to a chocolate marquise would have been death. So we lingered for a while with this refreshing pana cotta with blood orange foam.

Our final dish was this ultra decadent Chocolate marquise and sorbet with salted caramel ice cream and cocoa nibs. It was gorgeous but I will admit I was judging it against the one I had earlier in the week at One Eleven. The One Eleven version was a little more tuned to my personal tastes with the fresh raspberries but if you like chocolate on chocolate, then this is heaven. Though I've given some personal thoughts on the flavours don't be fooled as the experience was impeccable. The venue is comfortable, staff are friendly and warm, food is divine but you only have until 22 December to enjoy Assiette as they will be closing their doors. Warren Turnbull will be relocating to New Zealand to focus on his more casual dining offerings. A true loss to Sydney, so if you have the opportunity try to sneak in while you still can!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Address: 48 Albion Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010.
Open: Lunch, Thursday & Friday (12pm - 3pm), Dinner, Wednesday – Sunday (from 6pm).
Phone: (02) 9212 7979.
Price: Degustation $105 per person. Matched wines $65.

Assiette on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 30, 2012

Tartufo: Tony's Italian Table

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of being invited by Karen Reyment (TheWordOnFood) to join her and a few other bloggers at Tony's Italian Table. Tony's Italian Table isn't the name of an event but a gorgeous new offering at Tartufo which allows groups of six or more to enjoy a multi course Italian feast. This offering is changed daily based on seasonal produce and naturally the whim of Tartufo Head Chef, Tony Percuoco. As a native of Naples, Tony is absolutely passionate about his food and this is evident from the care he takes to ensure special dietary requirements are met and the passion in his voice when he describes the source of his produce. All of the bread and pasta used in the restaurant are made on site and while the majority of the Tartufo produce is sourced from growers within a 200km radius of Brisbane, Tony can't ignore perfection so you will see the occassional distant treat such as Gippsland Veal or buttery Italian Proscutto. 
Our Italian feast opened with beautiful crusty housemade bread served with organic extra virgin olive oil, marinated mixed Italian olives and platters of traditional antipasto. If you have a favourite item then I recommend you get in fast as in the tradition of a family feast it is first in best dressed. However Tony is aware that occassionally we have our favourites so each guest was served their own individual arancini ball. The recipe for the arancini are just as Tony's Mother used to make and filled with peas, parmesan, mozzarella and tomato. Absolutely delicious, fresh, balanced like all the dishes in this feast but for me the stand out dishes were:
  • Insalata Caprese
    Fresh sliced tomatoes topped with mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil.
  • Vitello Tonnato
    Braised Gippsland veal served cold, thinly sliced, topped with a tuna mayonnaise of capers, anchovies and served with cornichons. 
  • Gnochetti Sardi Ai Piselli
    House made small shell pasta with onion, pancetta, fresh peas and pea puree, pepper and pecorino cheese.  
  • Semifreddo Al Torrone
    Hazelnut, nougat semifreddo (house made ice-cream terrine) served with crostoli and espresso sauce.  
Parking and public transport is highly accessible at the Emporium, the space is welcoming, the food was divine and service impecable. But apart from a huge thanks to Tony and his wife, Gordana, I wanted to also thank Karen for being such a warm host and the other bloggers on the table for their company: 

So might I recommend that you grab a bunch of six or so of your closest friends and take on the impressive feast that is Tony's Italian Table. You won't be disapppointed.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Address: 100 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley, QLD 4006.
Open: Lunch and Dinner 7 Days.

Phone: (07) 3852 1500.
Price: $50 per person.

Ristorante Tartufo on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Beer Stalker

Thanks to a random number generator and the lovely Renee at the Pantry Review I managed to win a double pass to the Lifestyle Maggie Beer Chefs Table at the Brisbane Good Food and Wine Show but never has a prize been so difficult to claim! 

I was informed by Renee on Saturday that the ladies at Square One PR would mail out the passes and without any sign of them by the Thursday I was growing concerned so I called the company. They assured me that the passes had been mailed but to call them if there were any problems so they could arrange collection from the Box Office. There were times when I was ready to cry but honesty there were that many errors that in hindsight it was hilarious: 

  • The passes arrived 2pm on Friday for the 1pm Friday session. I didn't make this discovery until I opened my mail at 6pm and frantically called and twittered Square One PR. The ladies picked up and said they wouldn't be able to correct it until the next day.
  • I was contacted the next day to say that unfortunately the Maggie Beer Chefs Table's allocation was exhausted and to make it up to us, they booked us into the Celebrity Theatre that afternoon and arranged for a meet and greet at 3.30pm.
  • I arrived at the Good Food and Wine Show to pick up the tickets from the Box Office to find the Celebrity Theatre session was 11am. I called Square One PR in a panic and they confirmed the meet and greet was still on but they had booked me into the Chefs Table with Anna Gare at 5pm.
  • Come 3.30pm and I'm ushered into the VIP lounge with Spensley. We're treated to some canapes, a comfortable chair and a cool drink. We wait for an hour and Maggie Beer never shows. However my brother who was mixing it up with the great unwashed managed to score a photo with her. The time stamp on the photo out of interest was 3.30pm. 

But I can highly recommend Anna Gare! She is as lovely and bubbly as she comes across on television and I came away with a solid respect for her cooking. The Lifestyle Food Goodie bags were also extremely generous, chock full of numerous food and kitchen products and I'm pleased to say that I am now the proud owner of one KitchenAid product ... a spatula! On a whole I loved the Good Food and Wine Show from the passionate and bustling cheese alley (I highly recommend Bruny Island Cheese Co and Banglow Cheese Co) to scoffing icecream sandwiches and running into what seemed like half of Brisbane. This foodie event is still the must see event of the year ... oh for those wondering we never did get to meet Maggie Beer. There's always next year.          

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Kettle and Tin

If you're a regular at Anouk or Eurovida, you couldn't help but notice the haphazard colours of the former Pandemonium Cafe dissolve and give up to an elegant gunmetal gray shopfront. But what is? So when I heard along the grapevine that this site has been acquired by the owners of the New Farm establishment, Ponycat I started actively counting down and was even more excited when I heard it was open. So I grabbed Spensley and we made our way through the bracing cold to Paddington. Perhaps I had built up Kettle and Tin too much in my head because we entered the gate, we were stopped by a gentleman who automatically intoned, "we not ready for another 15 minutes." Maybe it was the lack of greeting, the hunger, the cold, the lack of coffee or a combination but I was annoyed as their Facebook page advises a 6.30am start. So after killing some time in the newsagency, we made our way back to the cafe and we greeted with a rustic but modern decor. The metal chairs are a tad cold on ones' backside in the morning, but I can assure you the coffee is taste, warm and the menu hearty.  

The photo doesn't do it justice but Spensley ordered the Parmesan and Spinach Egg White Omelet. This dish will keep the health conscious pleased with three parts egg white to one part whole egg. My partner is fond of sides, so disregard the mushrooms as they are just one of the optional extras you can add to your plate to fortify your stomach before you start your day.

I on the other hand was keen to try out the Eggs Benedict which was perfect. Crisp english muffins, a layer of caramelised leeks, house cured gravlax, running eggs and home made hollandise made for perfection. I would be delighted to have this dish as my last meal and despite my little service grumble, the food has me worshipping their feet. So visit!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Address: 215 Given Terrace, Paddington, QLD 4064.
Open: Tuesday - Saturday 6.30am-4pm. Sunday 6.30am-2pm.
Phone: (07) 3369 3778

Kettle & Tin on Urbanspoon