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
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’….
It was a cold night in Bris-Vegas and I had a craving for sour cream and guacamole. My friend MD, that I was staying with in Newmarket, claimed there was a great little Mexican joint just down the road from her place. And so it was decided, we were to go to Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant. Getting a table there was a different story, particularly since it was a Saturday night and we only called up to make a booking that afternoon. The earliest that we could get into Pepe’s was 8pm that night. Although I was starving, as were the rest of the group we were going with (most of us had just competed in the Spartan Race earlier that day), we figured we had no other ideas for dinner so 8pm would have to do. At about 7.15pm that night MD got a phone call from one of the Pepe’s staff saying that our table was ready. We got organised and headed down arriving at about 7.45pm.
We went in and asked for our table but it turned out that there was some sort of mix up and our table wasn’t ready after all. Anyway during the slight kerfuffle whereby MD and her two housemates sorted shit out at the bar I took the time to look over the large range of ‘Hot Sauce’ in the cabinet near the counter as well as numerous bottles of Tequila. I have no idea which ones were the good ones or not but I do know from my high school days that Coyote Tequila is probably the cheapest and nastiest. Heads up for my readers: do not be irresponsible and go to the Cairns Show after having a shot competition with your friends. (Disclaimer: despite my misgivings as a teenager and my inappropriate use of tequila I think I turned out pretty good so don’t judge me too harshly. Like most people my age I did go through the typical teenage binge drinking stage not that I condone it). These days if I do ever shot tequila, something that only happens very rarely, I tend to go for the Patron Coffee Liquer Tequila. Premium stuff that won’t strip your teeth of their enamel and it actually tastes gooooooood.
So anyway about 5 minutes later the staff organised our table (I have no idea what the problem was because I never asked) and we took a seat. The restaurant was super busy and what I thought was just a tiny little restaurant from the outside turned out to be far bigger than I had originally perceived. The restaurant seated probably about 120 people, but that guess is probably way off. The waitress handed out our menus and my friend MD and her housemate SB decided that they wanted to have a shot of tequila. After having a look over tequila menu and having no idea which one to order they asked the waitress for a shot around the AU$10 mark (Patron was too expensive) and off she went. About 10 minutes later another staff member returned with their tequila shots as well as a small ‘dish’ each of some sort of Mexican tomato sauce and a slice of lime. He gave them a quick rundown of the process and off he went again. The deal was they were to shot the tequila, shot the tomato sauce (it was kind of like a chaser) and then suck on the lime. Shot glasses clinked, cheers were made and shots were downed. Both MD and SB agreed that it was unique but pleasant way to have a shot of tequila.
Over in my corner I was having a bit of a tussle with myself over just what to order from the menu. MD had told me that Pepe’s also had really yummy breakfasts and after reading over the breakfast menu I had my heart set on the El Rancheros Grande but unfortunately it was a breakfast dish and only available at breakfast of course (sometimes I just feel like breakfast food for dinner). Again I made a mental note to return to Pepe’s for breakfast, granted the dinner was a hit. The table had already agreed to order an entree of Jalapeno Poppers – Jalapenos crumbed, stuffed with cream cheese and served with delicious jalapeno jelly AU$14.90 to share around. Down the end MD ordered the Burrito – Flour tortilla filled with chicken, beef, beans or chilli con carne then baked and topped with chilli sauce lettuce and cheese, served with rice or beans $16.50 while across from me SB and MD shared the Double Enchilada – Corn tortilla filled with cheese, your choice of beans, chicken or beef then baked with a rich tomato based enchilada style chilli sauce (a different style of chilli normally served with burritos) served with rice and beans for AU$22. And next to me TM ordered the Taquitos – Two corn tortillas rolled up with beef or chicken, fried and topped with chilli sauce, lettuce and cheese, served with Mexican rice for AU$14.50.
For me it was a bit touch and go between the Pulled Pork Tamales – Slow Cooked BBQ pulled pork and corn polenta, steamed in banana leaf parcels, served with Chilli Con Carne and Mexican Salad for AU$24.50 and the Chimichanga – Flour tortilla filled with cheese, your choice of beans, beef or chicken, deep fried and topped with chilli sauce, lettuce and cheese, served with rice or beans for AU$16.50. In the end MD’s boyfriend PS and I simply couldn’t go past the deep fried goodness of the Chimichanga.
We didn’t have to wait long after ordering until our Jalapeno Poppers arrived. There was six each so we would have gotten one each but there was a couple of sooks at the table that couldn’t handle the chilli so I ended up getting 1.5 Jalapeno Poppers. Winning! They must have only been pulled out of the deep fryer literally 30 seconds before being whacked onto a plate and delivered to our table because they were almost too hot to enjoy. You know like when you’re eating a tinned spaghetti jaffle (the best kind) and you want to eat it fast because it tastes good but instead you end up nearly burning your taste buds off? Yeah well that’s what these Poppers were like. They were yummy and spicy but they still had nothing on those good old Chilli Releno’s from El Mundo in Edge Hill. Ah the memories. The Jalapeno Jelly however was delicious and sweet and also helped soothe the temperature of the Jalapeno’s.
Before we ordered I asked the waitress how long Pepe’s had been open for to which she replied that she didn’t know and she would find out. Guess she forgot because she never came back and told me the answer. It’s not that I really care, I just like to test the staff’s knowledge on certain things. Taking home a takeaway menu for blog research I did find that Pepe’s was established in 1972 and is actually Brisbane’s first Mexican restaurant. I found it a little odd that the waitress actually had no idea. Maybe she’s wasn’t from Brisbane or something. Another 10 minutes later and our mains had arrived looking delectably cheesy.
MD said that she usually ordered the Burrito and although she kept saying how good it was she struggled to finish it off. Must have been all that tequila in her belly. SB and MD made a light meal of their enormous Double Enchiladas that they shared but they were more than satisfied in the end. TM raved about her Taquito’s and I actually thought they were really good value for AU$14.50 although probably a little bit too small for my liking. PS must have enjoyed his Chimichanga because he demolished the whole thing and then eyed off MD’s leftover Burrito.
I ordered the Beef Chimichanga because with the amount of chicken that I have been eating lately I’ll be happy if the only breasts I ever see again are my own. I certainly won’t order it by choice that’s for sure. I also ordered some extra guacamole (sml AU$2.50) and some extra sour cream (sml AU$1.50). My Chimichanga looked like a big fat deep fried pillow that made me weak at the knees with delight (lucky I was already sitting down). When I cut it open I was happy to find that the beef wasn’t mince like I was expecting but it was actually shredded. The beef mixed with the cheese inside and the crunchy tortilla on the outside was like heaven to my deprived taste buds – I knew I had made the right choice in ordering the Chimichanga in all it’s deep fried glory. And with the fresh guacamole and sour cream on the side it ticked all my boxes.
The atmosphere at Pepe’s was loud and colourful – as you would expect for a Mexican restaurant. I was really impressed with the range of hot sauces and was super excited to find a Tabasco Brand Buffalo Hot Sauce that I had never seen before. I am a bit of a Tabasco Sauce nut with my Tabasco sauce t-shirt and boxer shorts that MS has now claimed as his own. It was a bit steep at AU$12 a bottle but I guess you can expect that since the rest of the Tabasco sauce range certainly isn’t cheap anymore. The food at Pepe’s was also pretty good and by pretty good I mean it wasn’t fantastic. I don’t think that you can ever say that Mexican food is particularly outstanding because really it’s all much the same – cheese and tomato. Having said that I have had some terrible Mexican food in Cairns before and Pepe’s definitely ranks as some of the better Mexican restaurants I’ve been to. My Chimichanga hit the spot and the empty plates of my fellow diners was a pretty good sign that the food went down a treat. They might not have Stand and Stuff Taco’s on the menu at Pepe’s but they do stock one of the largest ranges of Mexican beer and Tequila in Australia. Arriba!
Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant
184 Enoggera Rd, Newmarket QLD
Ph: 3856 0966
Opening Hours: Mon 4pm – 10pm, Tues – Sun 11am – 10pm, Breakfast Sat & Sun 6.30am – 12pm