Pullman International High Tea Instameet
I was lucky enough to have snagged an invite to the Pullman International’s High Tea Instameet held yesterday afternoon. What’s an Instameet you say? It’s pretty much a bunch of Instagrammer’s meeting up to take photos of a shared interest – in this case it was food. I have been following a few of the ridiculously talented pastry chefs from the Pullman International for quite some time on Instagram and after many promises that I would come and visit for a High Tea I finally got there! Would you believe that this was my first ever High Tea experience? And wow it didn’t disappoint.
The Pullman International with it’s beautiful high ceilings, grand piano and old world charm set the scene for our afternoon of delights. Upon arrival we were met with a long table of gorgeous tiered sweet and savoury treats. A barrage of photos ensued and we took our seats with offers of Mocktails, Iced Tea and Sparkling Rose.
My fellow Instagrammers and I were joined at the table by Executive Chef Matt Lonne and Head Pastry Chef Mel Day whom we chatted with about our favourite restaurants (and not so favourite restaurants), favourite ingredients to cook with and of course the hot topic in Cairns at the moment, the heat.
The High Tea consisted of five savoury dishes and five sweet dishes lovingly created behind the scenes by the unbelievably creative pastry team.
Out of the savoury menu I absolutely loved the Petite Deconstructed Beef Wellington with Red Wine Reduction.
The Watermelon Mousse with Sour Gel was a huge hit at the table but my personal favourite had to be the Peanut Butter and Jelly Macarons.
After an hour and a half of sweet and savoury treats and just ‘one more’ macaron about four times over I had certainly had more than my fill and was ready for an afternoon nap. I had a fabulous time yesterday and cannot recommend the High Tea at the Pullman International enough! It’s a popular spot birthdays, hen’s do’s and of course baby showers, in fact my +1 enjoyed herself so much yesterday she is considering having a High Tea 30th birthday ‘do’ there in a couple of months time. Of course you don’t have to have an event to do the High Tea as it’s available 7 days a week from 10.30am to 4pm.
Wings of Death @ the Green Ant Cantina, Cairns
If you’re a true Cairns local then it’s more than likely that you’ve heard of the Wings of Death challenge at the Green Ant Cantina on Bunda Street. For those of you that haven’t well it goes a little like this… The Wings of Death are chicken wings that are coated in secret hot sauces made from ‘some of the hottest chillies known to man’ – the habanero and the ghost chilli. To win the challenge one must eat seven of these wings without any liquids to ease the burn and the plate must be completely sauce free at the end. If you achieve all that then you get a bumper sticker and your name on the ‘Wall of Flame’, because how cool are bumper stickers? Pretty sweet deal huh? Did I do it? Well, not exactly…
As someone that has watched the entire series of Man Vs Food and heard various tales of people that have attempted the Wings of Death I’d be lying if I didn’t say curiosity had gotten the better of me over time. Thinking that I am pretty bulletproof admittedly I have always wondered what it was like to do one of these so called ‘challenges’ last Friday night whilst there with my family for a friend’s birthday dinner MS suggested we give it a go.
Ok, ok initially the suggestion was made for the Birthday Boy to do the entire Wings of Death challenge but he pretty much straight up refused it. Soon after dad’s curiosity as to how hot these wings really were also got the better of him. He lay down the challenge to myself and the Birthday Boy saying that we couldn’t/wouldn’t eat one and so we decided that the only way to find out was to order a plate of the Wings of Death and share them.
This wouldn’t be the first time my dad has egged me on and no doubt it won’t be the last. Ever since I was a kid everything between me and him has been a competition (a friendly one of course) – from who could run the fastest to who could eat dinner the fastest, hence the reason that now as an adult I don’t chew my food, I inhale it. And who could forget our much contested appearance on the live audience version of Fear Factor at Universal Studios back in 2005 where we both drank a concoction of blended up sour milk, fish guts, duck tongues, live maggots and live crickets. I beat dad by drinking two cups of the horrendous tasting gunk to move onto the next round in my unquestionable gut churning domination of the event. Dad still to this day cannot let it go and swears that he drank it faster than I did unbeknown to the entire studio audience that was watching. Needless to say The Mummy rollercoaster ride later on that day was a memorable experience for all the wrong reasons.
So now you understand how competitive things can get between us I shall go back to my original story. To cut an already long story short the death wings arrived at the table and out of the 9 people there only 3 of us ate a Wing of Death – myself, my dad and the Birthday Boy. My brother put his finger in the chilli to taste it and cried like a little baby, my Sri Lankan mother who barely consumed a ‘bee’s d*ck’ of the sauce made an awful racket about how badly it burned and then the rest of the table just down right refused to go anywhere near it.
The remaining three of us each consumed a wing whilst waiting for our mains to arrive. It goes without saying that these wings are ridiculously hot but because we weren’t officially doing the challenge (we were just sharing an entree) we could have as much water or in my case blue cheese sauce as we wanted. After the tears and the running noses we all decided that one Wing of Death was indeed enough and the remainder of the wings were pushed to the end of the table never to be thought about again. Or so we thought.
We had dinner, which might I add wasn’t particularly great, and I was about to signal the waitress to bring out the birthday cake. About an hour had passed since we ate ‘one’ Wing of Death each and I began to feel a slight burning in my tummy followed by a strong feeling of being generally ill. I excused myself from the table and went to the ladies toilet which was luckily very close by, all the while using every ounce of my energy not to fall over because I was so dizzy. I sat in there for a good five minutes sweating profusely and wondering if possibly my drink had been spiked. I also seriously considered lying down and curling up on the cold concrete floor at my feet. I heard a bit of a commotion outside the door and realised that I wasn’t in fact the only one that felt this way.
Because I had so quietly excused myself to go to the toilet when my dad started panting heavily and struggling to breathe MS sincerely thought he may be having a heart attack and went into full emergency mode, which luckily is what he is trained for. A few minutes later when I literally dragged myself from the toilet and the rest of the table saw how deathly white and pouring with sweat I was we all realised it was in fact the Wings of Death. The party was over. No cake for me and dad, or anyone for that matter. Mum drove dad home stopping suddenly along the way so he could power spew on the side of the road. My sister, who pleaded with me to go straight to the emergency ward, on my staunch request took me straight home where I lay on the shower floor in foetal position with severe stomach cramps until MS forced me to drink milk and miraculously as quickly as it had come on the pain subsided.
For dad and I it was a bit of a horrific end to what was a nice birthday dinner for the Birthday Boy, who might I add despite a bit of heart burn didn’t succumb to the Homer Simpson-like experience that dad and I did. Dad is still convinced that someone is probably going to die one day doing the actual challenge which is probably why anyone that does do it has to sign a medical waiver before they commence. They’re certainly not called the Wings of Death for nothing but in the end I didn’t spew like dad did so that makes me the clear winner. Again.
What’s your all time best foodie experiences?
After over 150 posts of me talking about myself I want to hear about you! I want to hear the all time best foodie experiences of you guys – my foodvixen readers. It doesn’t have to be fancy and it certainly doesn’t have to be expensive – the best meals are often the cheapest meals! For me food is all about the experience – who you dined with, where you dined or what you ate. It doesn’t have to be overseas, it could be a memorable picnic on the Cairns Esplanade or fish and chips at Palm Cove… Whatever is it I want to hear about it! For those of you that have followed my blog some of you might remember me recounting my top foodie experiences in previous posts but for those of you that missed it, I’ll recount one more time in the hope of unlocking some of your top foodie experiences.
1. Peking Duck in Beijing – I travelled to China for the first time in 2006 and as part of the tour we were on my family and I ended up at a restaurant in the heart of Beijing. I had never had Peking Duck before – the world famous dish that actually originates from Beijing and was first prepared during the Imperial era – nor did I know what it entailed. The duck was sliced in front of our table by the chef and then the waitresses showed us how to eat it with spring onions, cucumber, sweet bean sauce all wrapped up in a little pancake. The thin and crispy skin of the duck was out of this world and to this day I still dream about returning to Beijing to eat their amazing Peking Duck.
2. Oysters in Florida – Before the big oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – 2004 to be exact. My family and I did an RV tour of the USA and we stopped in at the Eastpoint Oyster House in Florida for some fresh seafood. There is nothing my family loves more than fresh seafood – apart from my sister who only just discovered wine (yes she hasn’t quite grown up yet). We bought 12 dozen oysters to eat between three of us – me, mum and dad. The oysters were only US$3.99 a dozen if you shucked them yourself. Having owned a seafood factory for many years my dad was and still is no stranger to shucking oysters. He would also tell you he once won a prawn peeling competition against the prawning peeling ladies that worked at his factory. What he won’t tell you is that he cheated and those ladies should have beat him hands down. Anyway we sat out of the front of the Eastpoint Oyster House on a rickety old table overlooking the Apalachicola Bay, surrounded by mountains of discarded old oyster shells and ate dozens of Apalachicola Bay oysters straight from the shell with savoury biscuits, hot sauce and lemon. Absolute bliss.
3. Chicken Biryani in Colombo – I travelled to my mother’s birth country in 2011 where I did a three week Intrepid tour with my cousin. The first day that we arrived in Sri Lanka we found ourselves at a rundown little restaurant on the main strip not far down from the famous Galle Face Hotel. We had no idea what to order so we pointed to what everyone else was having which turned out to be the best Chicken Biryani of my life for all of about 200 rupees (about AU$2). Although I was the only female in there the owner made us both feel very welcome, in fact he was beside himself with excitement at having some Australian tourists dine at his humble roadside restaurant. It was the perfect beginning to what was an amazing 3 week adventure in Sri Lanka.
4. Stand up noodles in Osaka – Tachigui soba is a fast food that is unique to Japan and literally means ‘standing up eating’ soba noodles. I first travelled to Japan in 2009 where my friends and I stumbled upon a tiny Tachigui soba bar in the Osaka suburb of Fukushima (no not that Fukushima). The four of us crammed into the noodle bar on a cold and wet day and slurped our steaming hot bowls of noodles with a couple of friendly Japanese business men who found it all highly amusing. It was my first introduction to stand-up noodles and I made sure that I returned to this very place in my most recent trip to Japan in November last year.
Others moments worth a mention are gobbling up cherries the size of a baby’s fist at the Salamanca Markets in Hobart, baby back ribs in a dingy bar in Nashville, a birthday picnic organised by my love MS and courtesy of Davy at Mama Coco at Lake Eacham, a 10 course degustation atop the Rialto in Melbourne at Vue De Monde also with my love, xiao long bao amongst Chinese breakfast-goers in Shanghai and fish and chips on Bondi Beach in Sydney. I could go on forever here because I have had some truly memorable foodie moments in my travels. As you can tell I love food and I love travel but this was only supposed to be a relatively short post. Now it’s over to you x
The Rising Sun, Palm Cove
A couple of weekends ago I put up a post on my Facebook page not long ago asking for suggestions for a birthday breakfast out at the beaches – my birthday breakfast in fact. I received numerous suggestions from my followers and despite what the majority said I ended up booking a table at The Rising Sun at Palm Cove. I figured I had an Entertainment Book voucher and I enjoyed dinner there (mostly) a couple of years ago so it was worth a try right? I made a booking for 6 people and we met out at Palm Cove early one Sunday morning. When we turned up we were the only people in the restaurant bar one other occupied table – a couple of what looked like tourists. I found this a little strange considering everywhere else I passed on the way in seemed to be quite busy, especially the Chill Cafe which was almost spilling over it was that full. Couple that with the stunning weather that day and by all my calculations The Rising Sun should have had far more people dining there. I briefly considered going to the Chill Café or Vivo down the road but I figured we were here now and I’d already made a booking.
Half of my family were already there when I arrived however two were running about 10-15 minutes late. The waitress handed out some menus and walked away with absolutely no mention of ordering coffees in the meantime. She returned about 5 minutes later asking if we were ready to order yet. Umm well no because two people still hadn’t arrived. She returned on two more occasions asking if we were ready to order yet each time sounding a little more annoyed than the last. She came back again no more than a minute after the last person turned up and asked one last time. Lets for a moment consider that maybe this person hasn’t even had a chance to look at the menu yet? Alas common sense did not prevail that day.
Anyway so we ordered our breakfasts finally (heaven forbid should the waitress have to wait on others) whilst I sipped on my horrendously bad coffee which took far longer than it should have to arrive. About 15 minutes later our breakfasts arrived in dribs and drabs. First of all my mum’s breakfast, the Baked Mexican Eggs, arrived. Mum, who has recently decided she wants to be a vegetarian (although I support her in her endeavours I give her till Christmas Day), asked if there was any meat in the Mexican Eggs when she ordered. Apparently there was so she asked if there was a vegetarian alternative. The waitress got the confirmation that was ok from the chef however mum had a sneaking suspicion that they simply scooped the bits of meat out of her dish and then served it to her. Considering how our breakfast was paning out, I actually wouldn’t be at all surprised. Mum said that it lacked flavour and didn’t enjoy it very much.
Next up my brothers girlfriend GH had ordered the Rainforest Honey Granola with Poached Fruit and Mungalli Yogurt for AU$10. Now despite the fact that the near incompetent waitress had given her a fork to eat the damn thing it was literally a bowl of nuts with yogurt on it. Just to be sure I did a quick Google search to check that the rest of the world agrees on what I think granola is – yep just as I suspected… it’s muesli although I didn’t spy any form of grain in this so-called granola. GH said that the yogurt was very sour and had to ask the waiter for some honey to put on top to sweeten it up. Wasn’t it supposed to be Rainforest Honey Granola, I’m confused…
To my left my dad ordered the Benny Royale – poached eggs, smoked salmon, muffin and lime hollandaise for AU$19. He said it was pretty good although he said he didn’t like the plain old ‘straight out of a packet’ English Muffin that was underneath. I personally think the portion size was far too small for $19 – a rort if you ask me.
And then sitting towards the end of the table was myself, my sister and my brothers girlfriends mother KH. We all ordered various versions of the Stockman’s Free Range eggs – poached eggs on toast for AU$9 with a few sides to ‘jazz it up’. My house made beans were forgotten and then when they arrived they were still cold in the middle, the roast cherry tomatoes were also forgotten and we got two dishes of minted labne when we only ordered one. It really was the most visually lacking breakfast I think I have ever laid eyes on. I will however say that the Zucchini Pickles that I ordered on the side were quite delicious but this didn’t make up for the sheer lack of organisation that should go hand in hand with eating out.
So there you have it – despite the awesome company my birthday breakfast turned out to be quite a disaster. It seems quite ironic that the person (me) that lives, eats and breathes dining out chose one of the worst places to go for her own birthday breakfast. I must also give a small mention to the presence of ants in the dining area. All three people sitting across from me complained on ants crawling over them while they ate (and yes although we were technically at the beach, we were sitting inside). And whilst the food left a lot to be desired, it was the service that was most lacking. Both the wait staff on hand appeared to be lacking certain ‘people skills’ that I think are mandatory when serving in a restaurant.
You may think I am being a little harsh but frankly my dear I don’t give a damn. This sort of thing sh*t’s me to tears. It’s because of restaurants like this that I started this blog in the first place – I like to call them tourist traps. These tourist traps are located in well frequented areas of Cairns with clientele that are mostly tourists who most likely won’t return. These restaurants seem to have missed the point of serving decent food or providing half decent service because it doesn’t really matter to them either way. Any Cairns local reading this knows there are plenty of restaurants that fit this description in the Cairns area and you know what? It’s not ok. It doesn’t matter if you’re a tourist or a local, if you pay the money to dine out you should reap the damn benefits! Such a shame because the last time I dined at The Rising Sun (for dinner) it was actually pretty good. It turns out I learnt a valuable lesson that day… When you ask your readers for advice on where to go for a birthday breakfast out at the beaches, majority rules and I’m still kicking myself for not listening.
P.S: For those of you wondering what the majority ruled on… It was the Lime Tree out at Trinity Beach.
Cafe China Express At The Marina, Cairns
It’s been a ridiculously long time between posts for this vixen. It turns out that life without a laptop/computer is pretty damn debilitating for me. I have had nothing but dramas with a Toshiba Ultrabook I bought less than two years ago (brand new) having the operating system ‘break down’ no less than three times and also the hard drive replaced once in that period. Many a file have I lost over this time because although I have the best of intentions to back files up, it’s just something that usually gets put on the back-burner for me. I do however usually save at least two copies of everything – one on my laptop and one on my hard drive but it really doesn’t matter because I get f**ked by technology one way or another (apparently portable hard drives don’t like to be dropped).
Finally, I’d had enough of my laptop failing me and tried for the 500th and final time to get it replaced under the extended warranty that I had purchased. The dude in JB HIFI proceeded to tell me that it was something that I was doing with it that was causing it to fail and they couldn’t replace it. With MS by my side I usually feel 10 feet tall but without him my eyes began to well up. I kept it together long enough to ask the guy to speak to the ‘big manager’ but make sure he takes my side when explaining the situation. Two minutes later he returns and tells me they are going to replace it with a product of equal or lesser value (that really could have saved 10 minutes of arguing). The two computer guys tried in vain to get me to consider an Apple – something I didn’t want to have a bar of. I DGAF how good Mac’s are nor do I want to approach them with my ‘non-PC’ brain on. I’m a PC for life kind of girl so save your breath. In the end I got some new ASUS Zenbook thingy with some Norton Antivirus to go with it. Now if I could just figure out how to use Windows 8 then life would be sweet.
So here I am trying to get back on the blogging bandwagon and recap all the wonderful and not so wonderful places that I have dined in the last, say 3 months. Firstly I think I will start with one of my most recent outings – Cafe China Express at the Marina. Having been there a few months now Cafe China Express has taken over from the long-standing, and probably too long, Boardwalk Cafe. A place that was once upon a time known for its huge cafe style meals and delicious Egg’s Benedict. I personally hadn’t returned since I received a particularly violent case of food poisoning there after consuming an Open Grilled Turkey Sandwich on my 23rd birthday about three years ago (haha just kidding, it was two). It turns out that the toilets at Rosse and Locke are few and far between, especially when you’re in a ‘hurry’. Big thumbs up for my birthday that year. FML.
Anyway, Cafe China Express was so carefully selected by my brothers beautiful girlfriend GH for her 20th birthday dinner last weekend, presumably because well they have pork buns and we all know that everyone loves pork buns. The fact that you pay and order at the counter is perfect for a large group because divvying up a bill can often be a painful experience, something I found recently whilst dining at an Italian restaurant in Sydney’s Pyrmont a couple of weeks ago with a couple of wines under my belt, or smoking hot pair of Wayne Cooper pants (in a size 6 might I add, awwww yeah!). Anyway so cunningly GH told my family – minus myself – that dinner was at 6.30pm when it fact it was at 7. My family is notorious for being at least 20 minutes late no matter how much warning they have and anyone who knows them knows this. Apparently leaving home with ample time to arrive at their given destination is far too difficult because my dad always finds it imperative that he walk the dog at the exact time they should be leaving home. Mum always blames dad for them being late and all you can do is shake your head and sigh. So you can imagine my delight when I arrived at Cafe China Express to find that my entire family already seated and waiting – apparently I was the late one. Whatever makes them feel better.
We all perused the menu whilst waiting for the birthday girl to arrive. Since it was a bit chilly outside I thought I would go for a noodle soup type dish to warm my insides. There was pork buns and dumplings to be shared as well. About 20 minutes later the whole party had arrived and after greetings and salutations were made and presents were opened we all went up to order. I chose the Fish Ball Soup (AU$11.90 for regular size) with an entrée of Har Gow or steamed prawn dumplings (3 for AU$7.90). Like me, my dad has a lot of trouble understanding people with certain accents. It’s nothing personal, maybe we are both hard of hearing – some would say ignorant – but even I sometimes have trouble understanding my Sri Lankan aunties when they talk too fast. After a 5 minute struggle to order dishes, my dad decided it would be better to point it all out instead. Upon returning to the table he claimed that he really had no idea what the bubbly Chinese girl behind the counter was saying and he thought she sounded like she was singing a song when she talked. Dad has such an eloquent way of describing things sometimes but he means it in the best possible way.
There was 12 or so people seated at the table and it took about 20 minutes for the meals to start arriving. My dumplings arrived somewhere in the middle, closely followed by my Fish Ball Soup. Most of the meals arrived a little scattered, and not in any kind of order.
I tasted a selection of the dishes around me including my younger brother’s Roasted Duck Laksa, which he managed to eat the majority of in between his constant scrolling through Facebook and Instagram despite my repeated requests for him to put his phone away, was delicious, creamy and extremely decadent.
Mum and Dad’s plate of Roasted Duck – tough and chewy although a very reasonable sized quarter serving for AU$9.90.
The majority of my family had ordered BBQ Pork Buns to share – except for me. According to my dad they were cold on the inside like they had been put in the microwave and barely heated through. That and they were more dough than anything else. How hard is it to serve a warm pork bun? My dumplings were also ridiculously doughy to the point where I was unsure if there was in fact any filling inside them. Dad and I debated whether or not they were made in-house, especially considering that Café China has about 3 other eateries in Cairns. In the end we concluded that they were pulled straight from a box in the freezer along with the pork buns.
My Fish Ball Soup was as I said earlier quite flavorless. The broth had very little depth to it and although the fish balls were nice, in that artificial kind of way, I found myself wishing that I had ordered something else, like my brother’s laksa.
Next to me mum and dad’s plate of Stir-fry Spinach in Garlic had arrived. A staple for them whenever they go to a Chinese restaurant. I shovelled some into my mouth with my chopsticks to be met with what I can only describe as ‘liquid hot magma’ style spinach. Holy crap they must have literally pulled that stuff straight out of a volcano it was that frigin hot! With tears welling up in my eyes and my taste buds burnt clean off it still tasted pretty good but there was lots of oil on it – presumably what caused my third degree burns (who needs taste buds anyway).
My sister, across from me, had ordered the Chicken Teriyaki. This arrived at the table no less than 30 long minutes after everyone else received their meals. It took that long that we actually thought they had forgotten since all we could see in the open kitchen were people washing up and doing non Chicken Teriyaki related jobs. I tried to do the right thing and wait for her meal to arrive before I started mine but it became beyond ridiculous and in the end my near flavorless soup was getting cold. When it finally did arrive we exchanged glances across the table to say ‘is that seriously it?’ I guess Chicken Teriyaki can’t really be too elaborate a dish but it was literally a piece of whole chicken breast thrown on a plate with some rice, a bit of tomato and kewpie mayonnaise. I wondered what the hell had taken them so long? Presumably because she had ordered a Japanese dish in a Chinese restaurant – a cardinal sin in my books and a sure-fire way to screw up your meal – or get food poisoning especially in a foreign country.
Our dinner at Cafe China Express at the Marina wasn’t particularly fantastic and certainly didn’t even come close to some of the fantastic Chinese dinners I have had in the last 12 months – to be fair most of those were actually in China. The service was great but I wouldn’t consider the place to be express (my sister wasn’t the only one who waited more than 20 minutes for her meal to arrive and the restaurant was barely a quarter full). It was all pretty cheap but more the cheap and nasty type of cheap not the ‘woo hoo we paid next to nothing’ exciting kind of cheap – although the birthday girls mum did score a free glass of red wine. The food itself was somewhat lacklustre and although there was a few yummy dishes amongst our table on the whole it all seemed pretty thrown together. Maybe that’s where the express part comes in…
Cafe China Express At The Marina
Pier Shopping Centre, Pier Point Rd, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4051 6887
Eating ourselves stupid in Melbourne – The Newmarket Hotel
Yes, you heard me. That’s what I’ve titled this post and I am sticking with it because it’s the most accurate description of what MS and I did when we went to Melbourne for 5 days during December. As the story goes… Our birthdays are only two days apart and for the last two birthdays (2011 and 2012) that we have been together we have done the “let’s get retarded and drink shots with our friends and random strangers” thing so this year we decided to do something different. I was at out at sea and MS emailed me asking if I wanted to go to Melbourne and eat instead of organise the pool party that we had originally planned, which involved lots of drinking no doubt. I was like ‘does a bear sh*t in the woods’? Hell yeah I would rather do that! He knows me so well and before I knew it our flights were booked for our little eating vacation to Melbourne.
Now as some of you may know and as I have hinted in previous posts, I haven’t exactly been able to eat a whole lot of the food that I wanted this year. Most of my diet has been somewhat restricted and whilst I am still watching what I eat now, let’s just say I wasn’t going to be watching anything other than my pants get tighter down in Melbourne. We had originally planned a trip to Melbourne in November but then had to cancel it because I got called to go to sea. In the lead up to that I had researched my little butt off of all the places I wanted to go – and yes the majority were cafe’s, restaurants and ice cream shops – for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and dessert.
So we took off on our adventure flying down with Tiger Airways (first time I had ever flown with them) even after all the bad stuff we had heard. I must say our experience with them was nothing like many others – the airfares were cheap and it was on time. No complaints from me, except for the cabin crew’s hideous uniforms. Who designed those monstrosities?! We rented a car and drove to a studio apartment that we rented just off Flinders Street on a website called Airbnb. That website is absolute gold. In fact I doubt I will ever use wotif again. Our lovely host Linton met us, gave us the rundown and left us to our own devices. Here is a link for the place that we stayed – such a great little spot. If you are heading down to Melbourne and need somewhere to stay I can’t recommend this place enough! It’s in the perfect location to explore Melbourne! Just as long as it’s free when we go to stay there next ok?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, enough about my life story hey. Just get to the food you say! Since we got in a little late in the afternoon we pretty much hung around in our room for a bit *wink wink* and then went straight out for dinner. For our first dinner out in Melbourne I had chosen the Newmarket Hotel on the outskirts of St Kilda. We both planned to have a couple of drinks so we left the car behind and caught a tram there. Turns out neither of us are good at figuring out public transport (I never had this much trouble in China!) and after much f*cking around we finally got on a tram which took us about 20 minutes to go only 6 km and then we had to walk 800m with MS complaining about his shoes. I was the one in heels FFS.
As we walked towards the Newmarket Hotel I thought ‘jeez what kind of a sh*thole is this?’ From the outside it was a very unassuming brick building that didn’t look very speccy. On the inside it was super modern restaurant/bar that was packed to the rafters with people having drinks and/or dinner. Lucky for the both of us I had called up and made a booking a couple of days prior so we had a couple of drinks whilst waiting for our table. The lovely female waitress that led us to our table for two was a gem and looked after us from the get go. At our table we ordered a pitcher of ‘Once Upon a Time in Mexico’ – Blanco Tequila, Ginger Liqueur, Raspberry Puree, Lemon, Sugar and Ginger Beer for AU$38 and for our food we ordered the ‘So Cal Spread’ for AU$55 per person because the Californian/Mexican menu was so bloody good that we just couldn’t choose. And a bit of everything we did.
Our pitcher of tequila arrived and it was just what the doctor ordered but the best part about it was that they had rimmed the glass (is that what you call it?) with sugar, kind of like jelly crystals. It was a nice surprise from the usual salty rim and had MS and I declaring that we were definitely going to do it next time we had tequila cocktails at home (yeah that’s never). The Newmarket Hotel was da (the) bomb!
First up was the Soft Shell Crab Tacos, Guacamole, Shaved Fennel, Spicy Corn and Tomatillo Salsa. What an awesome start to the meal! These were super flavoursome – so much so that my non seafood loving boyfriend forgot that he was eating soft shell crab. Something he would normally never eat. He gobbled it up and so did I.
Our second course on the ‘So Cal Spread’ was the BBQ corn on the cob with chilli and queso freso. Again, MS doesn’t particularly like corn. In fact I have never seen him eat it. I am starting to see a trend here because like me he loved the corn. It was probably the best damn corn I have ever tasted. The queso freso was like a creamy cheesy sauce over the top and holy crap it was good! MS ate the lot once again.
We didn’t wait long for our next two dishes arrived – Wood BBQ chorizo with pears, violet artichokes and seasonal pickles and . My word, each dish was better than the last so far! This was outstanding and probably my second best dish of the night, after dessert of course, but MS declared it his favourite. Who would have thought to pair pears with chorizo? What a magnificent ‘pearing’! I would love to get the recipe to recreate this one at a BBQ of my own.
The second dish was a selection of more soft tacos – one of them with prawns and the other I could have sworn the waitress said scallop but I can’t see anything resembling a scallop on their online menu. Let’s just say there were excellent, albeit a little spicy for MS. The prawn ones were definitely my favourite with fragrant herbs and jicama slaw.
That was our entree’s done – sheesh how was I gonna fit the mains and dessert in? I was gonna give it my best shot that’s for sure. I ordered a glass of wine since our pitcher had run out and our two mains arrived. In the middle the waitress placed the Newmarket Wood Roasted Chicken – Organic Milawa chook with smoked bacon, sweet corn, spring vegetables and buttermilk and the XL St Louis style pork ribs, Newmarket Hotel’s BBQ sauce and apple slaw.
Okay, okay, I lied when I said that the dessert was my favourite and then the chorizo second. Let’s just put the dessert in a whole category by itself because this stuff is savoury and that is sweet. The Wood Roasted Chicken was my favourite dish. It was so creamy and so so so tender and… oh wow. I had some of the pork ribs, which were delicious btw, but this chicken in buttermilk was the business. I ate every last piece of corn in that dish and even considered gnawing the chicken off the bone but looked around at the Newmarket crowd which included lots of men wearing cardigans around their neck and figured that I probably shouldn’t. Dammit.
By that point we were pretty much stuffed but I was really looking forward to that dessert. It was Valrhona single origin chocolate cazuela with pears, salted caramel and vanilla ice cream. What’s the hell is that you ask? Well think of it as like a big fudgey, chocolatey, caramely brownie baked in a clay pot with pears. It. Was. Heaven. And again, here I go, one of the best desserts I have ever tasted. Okay so it may have been the cocktail, the pitcher of tequila and the wine talking by that stage but considering the amount of food we had I think that overtook the alcohol I had consumed. It was super chocolately and fudgy and went oh so well with the sweet pears.
After that would you believe that MS wanted another dessert. The waitress said that was no problem and after some umming and ahhing whilst viewing the menu to choose which one we wanted – I wanted the Peruvian quinoa pudding with cinnamon, pineapple and coconut (everything tastes better with cinnamon in it) but MS claimed that he didn’t like quinoa (FFS!) and in the end he let the waitress steer him towards the Tres leche cake with drunken fruits and rhubard. He won’t eat quinoa but he will eat rhubarb?!!! So I forgot to get a photo of this one and neither of us particularly liked it. I thought it tasted like 3 pieces of white bread sandwiched together drenched in some sort of sweet milk. We’ve been jipped! On doing a little bit of research while writing this post it just so happens that ‘tres leche cake’ means ‘three milks bread’. Who would have thought?! It was ok but it had nothing on the amazing dessert that we had just eaten before it.
So there you go… that was our first dinner out on our food tour of Melbourne and it was a hit for both of us. I gave myself a secret pat on the back for finding it as MS still thinks that was one of the best meals that we had whilst in Melbourne. I think the best part is definitely in ordering the ‘So Cal Spread’ and not knowing what is coming out next. Food excitement is the best kind of excitement! Stay tuned for my next ‘Eating ourselves stupid in Melbourne post’….