Gelato places seem to be all the rage these days but one that’s causing quite a stir in Melbourne for it’s quirky spin on the common ice cream scoop is N2 Extreme Gelato. MS and I weren’t actually planning on going to N2 Extreme Gelato. We were driving down Brunswick Street in Fitzroy when I spotted a large queue of people out of a shop door and recognising the name (N2 Extreme Gelato) I demanded MS pull over – pretty please pull over? – so we (I) could see what all the rage was about.
So just what IS all the fuss about I hear you ask? Well, at N2 they freeze their gelato on the spot with liquid nitrogen before they serve it to you. Here’s an excerpt that I pulled straight from the N2 page explaining why they use liquid nitrogen to make their gelato… “The use of liquid nitrogen at N2 Extreme Gelato plays on the strength of a phenomenon called nucleation-dominated ice crystallisation, it forms a large number of microscopic ice crystals in seconds, resulting in exceptionally smooth textures”. It’s pretty much recreating the fresh flavour that ice cream has when it comes fresh off the churn. Interesting huh? After doing a bit of online research it seems N2 also has a shop in Sydney (the original one) and there are a couple of similar concepts popping up around Australia – such as the one in Noosa that fellow blogger Baking Myself Happy told me about, Nitrogenie.
Anyway, after seeing the lineup and considering we were still ridiculously full from brunch MS and I decided sharing our scoop of N2 Gelato was the best bet. We chose one of the flavours off the wall… the Ferrero Reveal – Hazlenut and Nutella Gelato, Rice Bubble Milk Choc Top and a Warm Milk Chocolate Ganache (the menu changes weekly). It’s cash only – typical of many places in Melbourne – and at between $6 and $8 a pop these guys are making an absolute mint. The system was pretty disorganised and erratic with names being taken from a sea of people wanting gelato within a sea of people waiting for theirs.
I went up to the side of the counter to take some photos and have a look-sie at what goes on with the whole gelato ‘making’ process. There was a hell of a lot of Kitchen Aid type mixing appliance with plenty of cold mist rising out of them and workers completely run off their feet trying to pump out individual ‘made to order’ scoops. It was all pretty theatrical I guess and cool to see – kind of reminded me of the whole ‘double bubble toil and trouble’ thing from Macbeth or at least the one that SS, HT and I did for our grade 10 English assignment with Miss Bagnall.
20 minutes later my name was called… “Foodvixen?” Haha just kidding. MS and I shared our melting mess of gelato and rice bubbles with it’s novelty idea of a syringe full of ganache that I guess you are supposed to inject into it. That just didn’t work for me – the idea of the syringe I mean. Here’s an idea… You leave the syringe out of my gelato and we will make it $6 all up? Sweet.
Personally I didn’t think the gelato at N2 was anything to write home about and neither did MS. I also think that the whole liquid nitrogen thing is just a fad that will fade with time, just like frozen yogurt (something I still go crazy for). Firstly, at N2 there’s the waiting over 20 minutes in a shop that’s shoulder to shoulder with people each waiting for their own gelato to be ‘made’. I know the ‘show’ is all part of the experience but a five minute show is enough for me. Secondly, well, the true gelato lovers are probably going to hate me for saying this but it’s just ice cream with a higher price tag (AU$8????!!! You’re frigin kidding me right?). And thirdly, the stuff is near damn completely melted by the time you get your hands on it. I know the whole liquid nitrogen thing is part of the freezing process but they need to freeze that sh*t for longer man.
Yeah the flavours are wacky, they use full cream milk and fresh cream from local dairies, real fruit and herbs and the list goes on but surely that’s a prerequisite for any good gelato place these days? Cool concept, shitty waiting times and for me I think they aren’t really making particularly great gelato but just jazzing it up with some dry ice and plastic syringes. If you want amazing gelato without all the BS – apart from the lineup – then head a few blocks over to Gelato Messina on Smith Street – hands down the gelato shop of all gelato shops (IMO).
N2 Extreme Gelato
329 Brunswick St, Fitzroy VIC 3065
Opening Hours: 1pm- 11pm 7 days
Yeah I am really dragging this whole Melbourne thing out I know. Especially considering that MS and I went to Melbourne in December! But, the memories of the fantastic food we ate are still as raw as ever which is why we are heading back again this month. Day 3 in Melbourne wasn’t a particularly big food day for the two of us although it was MS’ birthday. We ended up at a bakery out near the motorbike raceway out at Broadford getting pies for breakfast since we were on the road early.
MS had shouted himself a Champion’s Race Day for his birthday which included a full day of racing around a track on a motorbike and yeah some other guy stuff. I wasn’t particularly interested but I did have to drop him out there and drive all the way back into the city to catch up with a friend for lunch. EG told me that I could choose anywhere for lunch – something I had already planned on doing anyways – so after a legs workout at some random community gym in Footscray that I found on Google maps and then a quick stopover at a random clothing alterations place to get a dress taken up (I couldn’t look any less than smoking hot for MS’ at his birthday day dinner) we headed to the much hyped and hip burger joint Huxtaburger on Smith Street.
I’m not sure if I had heard about it in one of the foodie magazines that I read (Delicious, Gourmet Traveller and Feast) or whilst trawling through Melbourne cafes and restaurants on Urbanspoon (or all of the above) but it seems that everyone in Melbourne has been going crazy (especially those crazy vegetarians) for Huxtaburger. And yeah I might be a little slow on the uptake (any Melbourne foodie reading this is probably like “der that was so 12 months ago”) but this was MY first experience at Huxtaburger.
At first I was like “How good can a burger really be?” I was reading reviews from people saying things as simple as “best burgers in Melbourne” to the more profound reviews like it was “life changing” or “an out of body experience”. Sh*t yeah these burgers must be good! I must admit I still hold fond memories of the ‘Macca Burger’ at the JCU Refectory that my study buddies and I used to mung out on during my uni days as a Science student.
Upon entering Huxtaburger with my friend I had a strong feeling that the JCU’s signature burger that tied me over between my Statistics lecture and my second year Zoology lecture was not going to rate too highly on the ‘best burger in Melbourne’ scale. My friend and I went to the flagship store on Smith Street but there is also one in the city and one in Prahran.
I had heard stories about people queuing down the street for their own Huxtaburger and I was expecting no less for our lunchtime burger experience so you can imagine my surprise when we walked straight in and straight to the counter to order. The small list of only 6 burgers sounded bloody good especially the Denise (original Huxtaburger with jalapeno and Sriracha mayo) but I figured I should go with the original, that way I had a baseline to work with. EG and I took up a couple of seats in a little cramped area of tables and chairs out the front on the footpath and waited for our burgers.
Within about 10 minutes out two Huxtaburgers had arrived, each served on a small silver platter. Each looked like the perfect burger – almost like a cartoon burger. I’m not going to go into a big speel about how good these burgers were/are because frankly, Melbourne reviewers have already blogged the sh*t out of Huxtaburger and I don’t really need to add my two cents into the mix but for my Cairns readers… These burgers are the bees knees. From the juicy beef patty to the soft but toasted and slightly sweet brioche bun. Like I said, I didn’t understand how good a burger could really be… Until I went to Huxtaburger, and then I understood. RIP Macca Burger. I was going to have to bring MS back for his own Huxtaburger before we left Melbourne.
The next couple of hours involved catchups and flatwhites followed by me dropping my friend back to her place in Footscray, picking up my altered and smoking hot dinner dress and then driving an hour to pick MS up in Broadford. By the time I arrived at the track I was so damn hungry that I think I ate my weights worth in Arnott’s Family Assorted sweet biscuits next to the tea and instant coffee which were there for the race day goers. Although my Huxtaburger was out of this world tasty it was a little on the small side (put it this way, I could have easily eaten two).
Fast forward a couple of hours and MS had a great time and we were on our way in a taxi to Lygon St for MS’ birthday dinner – just the two of us. There really isn’t too much to say about where we went for dinner nor is it worth mentioning (just another Lygon Street Italian restaurant) but the highlight of the evening for us was spotting Chestbrah walking along Lygon St – looking like a total douche in a black skivvy, black pedal pushers and white sneakers. MS wanted to get a photo with him purely as a piss take but then he didn’t want to give Chestbrah the satisfaction. (For those of you who don’t know who Chestbrah is, google him. He’s basically a Melbourne pretty boy/body building personality that takes lots of photos of himself with no shirt on at music festivals – I follow him on Instagram for a laugh and I’m still unsure if he takes himself seriously or not).
So after our dinner and 3/4 of a bottle of wine for me (MS had the other 1/4) – I stopped after that otherwise MS would have had to carry me home. Not something he wanted to do on his birthday! There was a club in the city that I had heard about a few years ago that I wanted to check out – only because it sounded cool. We found The Croft Institute hidden down an alley way in Chinatown and paid something like AU$20 entry – why the hell didn’t pull the birthday card?! The Croft Institute is 3 storeys – the ground floor resembled an old school science lab with shelves of odd shaped glassware, beakers and other Chemistry looking things that you’d think I could remember with all the Chemistry I did at uni.
The lighting was pretty dim in inside but not quite dim enough to see that it was a bit of a sausage fest in there (aka not many women) so we headed upstairs for a bathroom stop on the 1st floor. The bathrooms (well I can’t speak for the men’s room) were probably the coolest part of the place. The was even a hospital bed in there.
The whole atmosphere was pretty spooky and kind of like an old asylum – reminded me of that movie Gothika with Halle Berry.
Upstairs from there was another bar with a DJ playing… I can’t remember much from up there, only that it wasn’t as cool as the two previous floors and that everyone seemed to be completely off their head.
We went back down to the ground floor and ordered a couple of drinks. After watching the first season of Ray Donovan whilst out at sea I had become obsessed with tasting Cognac because that’s all they seem to drink on that show and they make it look so damn tasty. MS had tried to warn me that I wouldn’t like it but I am pretty stubborn like that so you can imagine my delight when I saw Cognac on the menu at The Croft Institute. We ordered a Cognac on the rocks and a Tequila and Orange Juice which came served with a syringe. Another quirky feature of this crazy hidden club.
So it turns out that Cognac wasn’t everything I imagined it to be. In fact it tasted pretty sh*thouse really. How the hell do they drink that crap so easily on TV?! Wasting nearly $15 on a glass of Cognac that we barely had two sips of out was soon forgotten when we found a $50 note on the floor next to some unsuspecting hipsters. It was a cool club and fun place to visit but not somewhere that I (we) would want to spend any longer than the 30 or so minutes that we did. MS and I finished off the night with a Cadbury Marvellous chocolate bar from the 7/11, a stroll back to the apartment and then me becoming good friends with the toilet bowl. White wine + cognac + tequila + chocolate = me being sick. That and I’m a lightweight on the turps. Oops. Happy Birthday baby!
106 Smith St, Collingwood VIC 3066
Rear 357 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000
208 High St, Prahran VIC 3181
Check out the website for the different opening hours: www.huxtaburger.com.au
The Croft Institute
21 Croft Alley, Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9671 4399
Opening Hours: Mon – Thurs 5pm – 1am, Sat & Sun 5pm – 3am