Hopetoun Tea Rooms

Hopetoun Tea Rooms

The Block Arcade, 1-2/282 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

IMG_8103It strictly speaking is just a room and as small as it is, every sweet here at Hopetoun Tea Rooms was however spot on, if not perfect if I could conclude just base on the two cakes that we had that morning at 10am. I know, sounds ridiculous for these cakes to be taken at breakfast but that is somehow, the only way to beat the long snaking queue that never shortens throughout the day. Walking into this tourist-filled Victorian styled Block Arcade, whose interior has evidently been greatly influenced by the British and where was once a place only for the Royalties, we say it definitely has turned into an elegant artpiece today. And as much as we may not have exactly a positive thing to say about British food (the savouries at least), English tea is somehow one of the few that created an impressionable influence around the world. A Victorian arcarde; what could be more befitting than housing an English Tea Room in it. And there at the entrance already, you would be glared by the many luscious and irresistible cakes at the display, which the locals themselves could not even deny but to join the long mental queue.

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Without much of a hassle, only if you are there earlier on a lazy Sunday morning when most must still be slumbering in bed, we started the day off with the Hot Chocolate and Flat White, both at $4.95 each. And before we tourists start using our flashlights or what not, these elbow knocking spaced tables may make you think twice; sounds like how an Asian restaurant would function which in a way increases turnover as well.

IMG_9497What we really want to shout out though are these lovely cakes, made so hearty and soulful indeed. Carribean Coconut Crumble – Everything done perfect, what stood out greatly for me was that white dense layer at the top as it is beautifully perfumed with the coconut fragrance and punctuated with coconut shreds. Very delicious! $9.35.

IMG_9498Raspberry Pistachio Love – And given a nutty body, this is cut through seamlessly by the lightly sour but delightful and refreshing raspberry zest. $10.45.

IMG_8114IMG_8115As much as I dislike anything touristy, this is one of those that should really be visited!

Verdict: An excellent cafe 4.6/5.

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Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (Melbourne)

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal 

Crown Towers Melbourne, 130/8 Whiteman St, Southbank VIC 3006, Australia

dinner3 years ago, it was an electrifying birthday lunch at the original Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in Londonand this time round, the restaurant is revisited for the same occasion, however, at its second outlet in the Southern Hemisphere, Melbourne. Expectedly, an extremely intriguing meal despite the presence of heavy British influences which usually has an infamous connotation to monotony, yet instead with lots of creativity abound over here. My second visit and still, the star of the day for both the buddy and I goes to the Mandarin appetiser that made Heston a wonder. Sat comfortably, overlooking the skyline of melbourne through the 2 storey-high glass facade, that lies adjacent to the buzzing “open” kitchen, yet still able to enjoy the serenity of the packed restaurant, this was I thought pretty world class.

IMG_9470Started off with the warm, perfectly crusted bread with that precisely thawed butter by the side; delicious.

IMG_9472IMG_9476IMG_9477Lets kick this off with the stellar Meat Fruit. What looks incredulously like an orange, is really a heavy savoury chicken liver pate, made so smooth for a lovely spread on the grilled bread. Rich, pleasantly strong in its iron taste, this was beautifully cut through by the mandarin fragranted gelatin around it; we were floored. What a remarkable appetiser indeed and I couldn’t imagine any table giving this a miss! $38.

IMG_9474Hay Smoked Ocean Trout – Pickled lemon salad, gentlemen’s relish, wood sorrel and smoked roe.

IMG_9480Lamb and Cucumber – Perfectly frenched, cooked to a succulent relish, this main was totally on point as the different elements were brought seamlessly together. And that whimsically looking greens by the side, is made to resemble a fallen log in the woods. $60.

IMG_9478Roast Snapper in Cider – Silverbeet leaves, roast onions and fired mussels. That fork tender snapper, partially drowned in the complementing thick creamy yellow sauce is uplifted by the light refreshing cider aftertaste, making this another excellent main. $56.

IMG_9481And that smooth, buttery mash, sinful as it is, we polished it clean. $14.

IMG_9482Chocolate Bar – Light and ethereal, yet filled with the intense, unbridled dark chocolate punches, this is cleverly cut through by the passion fruit jam within. And the smooth lightly pungent yet not overwhelming ginger ice cream by the side gave it a coveted creamier touch. $30.

IMG_9483Tipsy cake – Slightly alcoholic tasting, together with its amazing fluffiness as you stretch out a portion from the bulk, the pineapple at the side further complemented the bun with a sweet roasted edge. $32.

IMG_9484And thanks to the team for writing so meticulously on the complimentary chocolate fudge dessert, rounding off the meal beautifully.

Wonderful ambiance without a shortfall in its taste, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal indeed has proven to be the best birthday meal yet again!

Verdict: An excellent restaurant. 4.6/5.

Grossi Florentino – Pretty delicious, not the usual Italian restaurant

Grossi Florentino

80 Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

IMG_9460Instead of the Michelin guide, Aussie functions with a Hat system, with three Hats being the most prestigious of all. Not too sure how great or marvelous a hatted restaurant should be, we actually got into one on a Friday night without making any booking at all. Not the initial intent as I wanted a hearty Italian meal from some Pizza and pasta specialty restaurant, we decided to give Grossi Florentino a go still as it seems to serve pretty decent grill and most importantly, there are some free tables already at 9pm!

IMG_9461Warm bread with a crusty crust served the moment we sat and we could feel the friendliness in the service already. The menu, though is a little annoying as everything is in Italian (Could the Aussie understand all of them?), was gone through patiently by the amicable waiters and waitresses there who are always wearing a wide smile (Thumbs up for them but I guess they must be very well paid as the minimum wage there is actually quite ridiculous).

IMG_9463S and I both got the O’Connor Hanger Angus steak (200g) each that was beautifully grilled to a light fragrant char while the chunk within still retains its pinkish red hue. Very tender with a beautiful crusty outer layer, this was perfect. $42.

IMG_9464Potatoes roasted with Garlic and Rosemary – Very straightforward, yet with much precision evident in this dish. The potatoes were desirably moist and complemented with that crispy skin, all uniformly permeated with the herbal rosemary; perfect side for the steak. $12. I think this was the only item written in full English!

IMG_9465I need some greens and so the Cime Di Rapa stir fried with Guanciale was ordered. With just that written on the menu, it was impossible to understand without asking. Its taste – A little like the texture of broccolini, flavoured up by the slightly greasy but fragrant cured meat. Not exactly a healthy dish, but a definitely a delicious side. $12.

IMG_9466And we officially proclaimed that the tiramisu over here is legit. A large bowl will be brought to you and before you think your $10 dessert would be the best-value-for-money item ordered from the menu, a large decent portion of tiramisu will be scooped onto your plate. Very moist, strong intense coffee taste with that madly creamy, smooth mascarpone cheese, we finished this big chunk in just a few mouthfuls, without leaving any traces of the cream.

Oh and before we end, Grossi Florentini functions as both a fine-dining and casual restaurant, as they are split into two different storeys. Reckon that food here is straightforward but each familiar dish has been thoughtfully perfected. We were glad that our random choice was a satisfying one!

Verdict: A good restaurant. 3.8/5.

 

Tipo 00 – Italian fare well deserving of that hat!

Tipo 00

361 Little Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

IMG_9444It wasn’t planned, purely coincidental, but it has gotten into one of our must-go restaurants in Melbourne. Trust me not, then google for Tipo 00, and you will be swayed by the almost perfect reviews rendered to them. Specialising in Italian fare, mainly pasta, and tapas as starters or sharing plates, this one hatted restaurant is truly deserving of its award as we would daringly say that the menu over here is definitely not straightforward. Lots of thoughts given to each dish, with some sophisticated pairing of ingredients that kept receiving nods of approval from the people around us, as well as ourselves. One tricky thing is that this restaurant takes bookings early and you really need to plan your schedule at least two weeks ahead if you want to avoid disappointment. Knowing that and the restaurant is also open between dinner and lunch service, we decided to have lunch at 4pm. Afternoon tea it is strictly speaking, but there were only 2 free tables left with some counter seats; we were lucky!

IMG_9447A beautiful toast, glazed with some olive oil that got us slightly hyped up for the meal.

IMG_9448The heavily Aussie accented but friendly waiter recommended some of their starters that were not found on the menu and picking one of the many that sounded familiar, we ordered this Polpo. More like a Spanish dish to me actually as this fresh octopus, with a beautiful consistency, was given an extra nutty body from that familiar Romesco sauce. $18. Slightly smaller in portion but that octopus was faultless.

IMG_9451Gnocchi di patate – braised duck, porcini mushroom and pecorino pepato. Beautiful texture in those little Gnocchi balls and what made it tick was the intensity in the flavour of the reduced braised duck sauce slathered over it. And the pieces of duck meat was consistently fork tender throughout, very impressive indeed. $26.

IMG_9452Tagliolini al nero – squid ink tagliolini, squid and bottarga. And I thought I was going to stain my lips and tongue black with the squid ink pasta, but what was served wasn’t one that is drenched in tar-black squid ink sauce, thus the absence of the heaviness usually associated with such a dish. Instead, this was made really much lighter, with a subtle seafood flavoured sauce, that makes it a dainty yet delish main! $27.

IMG_9454IMG_9455Feeling totally satisfied with the savouries and greens, we decided that its time to move on to the desserts. Without having much expectations, I was very much delightfully surprised by the amount of details put into both desserts that we ordered. They must have some good pastry chef there! Tipomisu – chocolate, coffee and mascarpone. Sounding so similar to its cousin the tiramisu, this actually is a deconstructed one but without the use of finger biscuits. Instead, that chocolate disc felt like a solid dark chocolate fudge-like cake, permeated evenly with that strong intense coffee aroma. This was spotless. $14.

IMG_9456Crespella – warm crespella, ricotta and pistachio gelato. That warm thin crepe, filled with the creamy ricotta, was beautifully balanced off by the extremely smooth pistachio gelato while the pistachio bits definitely gave it a nutty hit. With all elements coming seamlessly together, this was indeed a slightly complex dessert that hit all the right notes! $14.

IMG_9457That was some very refined Italian fare tasted over at Tipo 00!

Verdict: An excellent restaurant. 4.8/5.

Cookie – So hipster yet very delicious Thai restaurant

Cookie

252 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

IMG_9419Just by looking at the address, you wouldn’t have known that it is hidden on the second floor of a dingy building. We didn’t and so we ended up walking up and down Swanson Street several times, not knowing where unit 252 disappeared to as we only noticed a jump in unit numbers. Looking sketchy, as if there are drug dealers in the stairwells, we decided to pop in and there we saw finally – Cookie restaurant.

IMG_9417Split into a bar and dining area, this hipster restaurant is splashed with strong neon lights that may not pander to the classy and might not be the most suitable place for a relaxing dinner. But embrace the loud cackles from the neighbouring tables, and you realise it is quite a fun place to be in actually. You might not be able to guess still what this restaurant specialises in and surprisingly, really delicious, unpretentious, modern Thai cuisine is served over here.

IMG_9416Pork Ribs, Roasted Chilli Powder, Basil and Hot Sauce. It was dinner at 10pm for us as we returned with a famished stomach from the Philips Island and this big plate was ordered! Very on point, these pork ribs were first given a light frying to yield that crispy fragrant crust followed by a good roast in the aromatic herbs that is overall lightly spiced with some chilli powder. Balanced in taste, we polished it really clean. $26.

IMG_9415Snapper and Green papaya Sour Yellow Curry. Very rarely found in Singapore Thai restaurants, this sour yellow curry totally whets the appetite with its savoury acidic flavour. Unlike the usual curry that is thickened with coconut milk, this remains clear to the palate while the fresh slices of plump snapper soaks the essence up. $28.50.

IMG_9414Drunken noodles – Rice noodles, minced pork, tomato and chilli. Stir fried to yield that really strong wok hei, this heavy tasting savoury dish was just spot on. Fish sauce evident, and blended together with other spices and the fragrant curry leaves, we simply love this dish. $22.50.

That is it, 3 dishes and we were stuffed when I was actually skeptical of the servings initially. Very delicious, heavy tasting yet without forgetting the intricate balance in spices that Thai cuisine embodies, Cookie really makes the cut!

Verdict: An excellent restaurant. 4.5/5.