Sunday, June 28, 2015

Brunch at Fitzrovia

Fitzrovia

For (one of) my birthday celebrations this year, I got the idea into my head that I wanted to do a fabulous boozy brunch with my blogger buddies. You know, eggs, bacon, mimosas, that sort of thing! It was a little tricky finding a suitable place - I needed somewhere that would take a weekend brunch booking, that could accommodate a group of ten people, that offered brunch cocktails (dealbreaker!), and of course, that did good food. And with all boxes ticked, I chose Fitzrovia in St Kilda!

Fitzrovia
2/155 Fitzroy St
St Kilda VIC 3182 
Ph: (03) 9537-0001

You may remember I visited Fitzrovia back in 2012 (on an invite) shortly after it opened, and was really impressed by the dinner we had there. I'm glad they're still going strong! It was absolutely packed on the Sunday lunchtime that we were there. Fitzrovia is owned and run by a really lovely couple - Paul, the chef, running the kitchen, and Marco taking care of front of house. The vibe is homey (the building used to be a house), and slightly chaotic, but in a really pleasant way. It's a nice spot to spend a weekend afternoon!

Also: cakes.

Cakes!

But first, coffee.

Magic - $3.80

But also, Aperol spritz.

Aperol spritz - classic Italian Aperol orange amaro topped with prosecco, smooth and simple - $16

Now, because we were in a big group on a long table, I didn't get to try every single dish we ordered. (Although you can rest assured I gave it a red-hot go!) So unfortunately I can't describe all the dishes. However, everyone told me they enjoyed their meals. Hooray!

Crème brûlée French toast with banana, whipped mascarpone, toasted pecans and grilled Istra bacon with vanilla Box Grove verjus syrup - $17.50

I ordered the crème brûlée French toast, which was, delightfully, actually brûléed. The toast was super thick, with a soft, creamy centre, and a crackly sugary crust on the top. The bacon, mascarpone and banana made it even better! (Ashley and Daisy ordered a gluten free version of this for their dessert, and it was really good!).

Roast heirloom tomato & Shaw River buffalo mozzarella baked eggs with Genovese pesto & rocket - $18.50
With shaved prosciutto - $4.00

Thick cut bacon with Gruyère potato cake, fried eggs, chipotle, baby spinach and a beetroot remoulade - $19

Wild harvested pine mushrooms and wilted spinach on brioche with a fried free range egg, salted ricotta and oregano, lemon zest and hazelnut buttered crumbs - $22.50
With Istra bacon crumble - $3.00

Sweet potato and caramelised onion fritters, free range poached eggs, thyme roast field mushrooms, snow pea shoots, grilled saganaki & truffled salsa verde - $19.50
With Gruyère potato cake - $5.00

Sandra ordered the sweet potato and caramelised onion fritters, with an extra Gruyère potato cake on the side. And that is why she is the best. Cheesy double carb goodness for the win!

200G grass fed scotch fillet steak sandwich on sourdough with rocket, caramelised onions, beetroot remoulade and thrice cooked chips - $26

This steak sandwich was an absolute monster - 200 grams of grass fed scotch fillet, cooked medium rare, with rocket, caramelised onions, beetroot remoulade and chargrilled bread. You can't see them in the picture, but it came with fat thrice-cooked chips. Winner!

Polenta chips, truffled parsley & Parmesan - $13.00

We just had to order the polenta chips - not only because Ashley had eaten them before and loved them, but because every time the waitstaff brought them out to another table, the intoxicating aroma of truffles would fill the air. Super yum! Definitely order these if you visit Fitzrovia! They are crunchy and gooey and soft and just delicious.

Super awesome brunch! Fitzrovia was a great choice. Food was great, the atmosphere was friendly and they let us split the bill. Thanks everyone for coming out and celebrating! 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Le Bon Ton

Le Bon Ton

I've visited Le Bon Ton twice in the last two months - the first time was for my birthday drinks and dinner with some colleagues, and the second time was to celebrate the lovely Ashley's birthday with some blogger buddies. Clearly this is the venue of choice for fashionable ladies around town!

Le Bon Ton
51 Gipps Street
Collingwood VIC 3066
Ph: (03) 9416-4341
Website

Le Bon Ton is located in the building that used to be the iconic Glasshouse pub. Now it's a popular saloon-style bar and restaurant, specialising in American barbecue and cocktails.

On our first visit, we got there pretty early on a Friday evening for drinks before our dinner booking. Wahey!

Le Bon Ton

Here are all the cocktails we had that evening. Disclaimer: I didn't drink all of these. Only most of them.

I loved the extensive cocktail list, which had a good selection of different types of cocktails - lighter/aperitif, tall/fizzy, fresh/zingy, stronger and boozey ("old man drinks", as I think of them). Between us, we managed to try a good cross-section of the menu. I was really impressed with the quality of the cocktails too - well balanced flavours, and an interesting selection, without being too adventurous or out there. I know that Le Bon Ton is known for its barbecue, but I think the cocktails were even better!

Beer
2 x Champagne Charlie - Plymouth sloe gin, apricot brandy, fresh grapefruit, plum bitters and Mumm Cordon Rouge Champagne - $19.50

Back: Hurricane - Havana club 7 yo, fresh pressed citrus, passionfruit & pomegranate, mixed & kegged in-house - $19
Left: Lilypad - Fresh white peach, Beefeater gin infused with peppermint, and aromatised wine, balanced off with a hit of citrus - $18
Right: Bullseye! - American apple brandy and south American grape brandy, rhubarb liqueur, and a splash of lime, topped with a hint of fizz - $18

Front: Clubhouse Cocktail - Bulleit Rye Whiskey, smoked maple syrup and a dash of blackberry - $20
Back: Mojo Hannah - Sailor Jerry spiced rum, fresh watermelon, Cartron white cacao and hints of citrus and absinthe - $18

Stone's Throw - Calle 23 Blanco tequila, Aperol, fresh pineapple and agave nectar, topped with Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA - $18

Vieux Carré- Martel VS Cognac, Bulleit rye whiskey and Antica Formula vermouth with lashings of bitters & Dom Bénédictine liqueur - $18

On this visit, we were a group of seven, and so ordered off the à la carte menu. (Groups of ten or more have to go from a set menu).

Three of us on the table ordered "Kitchen Sink" salads: huge salads with a mixture of vegetables, cheese, crisp tortilla strips, chipotle ranch dressing and a protein of choice.

"Kitchen Sink" Salad with prawns - Mixed leaves & iceberg lettuce, red capsicum, cucumber, cherry tomato, cheddar, white onion with toasted pepitas & crispy corn tortilla strips, dressed with chipotle ranch - $22.50

"Kitchen Sink" Salad with Southern fried chicken - Mixed leaves & iceberg lettuce, red capsicum, cucumber, cherry tomato, cheddar, white onion with toasted pepitas & crispy corn tortilla strips, dressed with chipotle ranch - $21.50

The salads looked a bit messy, but tasted great and were a very generous serving. I didn't get a picture of it, but my friend Alaina had her salad with blackened salmon, and said it was very good.

Brisket Sandwich - Pit smoked chopped brisket with damn good BBQ sauce & slaw, on soft brioche, served with house made pickles - $16

My friend Adam ordered the brisket sandwich. Adam's the kind of guy who's not into highfalutin fancy-pants food, but he enjoyed the sandwich. (Although just quietly, I think he enjoyed the beers more!)

The rest of us shared a few different dishes and sides...

Fried Chicken - Southern style buttermilk soaked tenders with cracked pepper white gravy - $16.00

The fried chicken was good, with a flavourful batter and tender meat, but we thought it was quite a small serving for sixteen dollars.

Brisket (1/2 lb) Grain-fed Riverina Angus beef - $22

The brisket was very impressive - I loved the smoky flavour, the falling-apart-tender meat, and the caramelised fat.

Top left: Chilli Cheese Fries - Traditional Texas style beef & bean chilli with sharp cheddar sauce on crispy fries - $16.50
Top right: Braised Greens with house smoked maple bacon & apple cider vinegar - $9.50
Bottom left: Onion Rings - beer battered & jerk seasoned - $10.00
Bottom right: Mac & 3 Cheese - Cheddar, American & Swiss - $9.50

Our sides! I really liked the chilli cheese fries - a big delicious mess of chilli con carne, cheese, and chips, which became appealingly soggy underneath all that sauce. (I love soggy chips, by the way!) I also enjoyed the braised greens (I think these were chard or something similar, to emulate collard greens) with smoked maple bacon, but I think the flavours were a little too dark and challenging for some of my friends. The onion rings were fantastic - crispy and crunchy and well seasoned. Finally, I liked the mac and 3 cheese. It had good flavours and went well with our mains, but it didn't taste like anything I couldn't make at home.

The ultimate plate.

Yummeh!

Dinner!

We were all quite full, but I couldn't leave without tasting one of their house made pies. My friend Alaina kindly split a chocolate peanut butter pie with me - I liked the creamy peanut butter filling and the rich chocolate mousse topping, but found that the crust had a slightly burnt taste to it.

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Mousse Pie - chocolate biscuit crust, caramel & toasted peanuts - $12

When we went for Ashley's birthday, we were in a group of ten, so we had to go for the Southern Pride Menu: a set menu of shared dishes showcasing Le Bon Ton's house specialities. This one is charged at $59 a head, which was quite a bit more expensive than our first visit, but you do get a lot of food! (You'll also notice that this time I brought my proper camera, not just my iPhone, which explains the vast improvement in picture quality!)

Chilli Cheese Fries - Traditional Texas style beef & bean chilli with sharp cheddar sauce on crispy fries

Fried Chicken - Southern style buttermilk soaked tenders with cracked pepper white gravy

Black Bean Hummus - Pico de gallo, ancho crema & BBQ spiced tortilla chips

The black bean hummus was quite nice, and I liked the refreshing pico de gallo, but we found the spice on the tortilla chips were a little too sweet.

The Smoker’s Lot - Showcase of Le Bon Ton's pit-smoked meats and house-made pickles
Brisket, Jalapeno and cheddar hot-link sausage, Chicken basted in apple BBQ sauce, Otway Ranges pulled pork shoulder

Woo-hoo! Giant platter of meat! We had three or four of these platters shared between our group, and I loved being able to try all the different things! The hot-link sausage was like a cheese kransky with the added goodness of spicy jalapenos. Obviously, I loved it. The chicken was coated a sticky-sweet barbecue - delish. The pulled pork was everything you want it to be, tender and smoky.

The meats came with three sides: an iceberg salad, a potato salad, and a coleslaw. None of these would have been my first choice, but they were refreshing against the smoky, heavy meats.

Iceberg Salad - with dill, radish, cucumber & lemon dressing

Potato Salad - with spring onion, fresh dill, pickles and mayo

Tangy Coleslaw - with cabbage, carrot & onion

FOOD

Chocolate brownie with chocolate ganache and coconut

The dessert was a bit of a let down compared to the savouries. The chocolate brownie with chocolate ganache was nice enough, but wasn't particularly memorable, especially when compared to the delicious meats that preceded it.

If given a choice, my preference would be to order from the a la carte menu, so that you can order exactly what you feel like. (Nothing on the Southern Pride Menu was bad, but the hummus and sides they provided wouldn't have been my first preference, and I would have much rather had the mac and cheese or onion rings, for example).

However, on the plus side, service of the Southern Pride Menu was impressively efficient, and you don't have to think about what to order. (Always a bit tricky in a large group!) Even though we had a couple of late arrivals to our table (sorry guys!), all our food came out within the two-hour window we had on our table. The dinner was paced really well, and we were kept informed of how much time we had left, without ever feeling rushed. They also accepted split bills and let us pay with cards individually. Winner! So even though you sacrifice some flexibility with this option, I think it's a great choice for a large group.

Le Bon Ton

Phew! So that was a long post! The summary: I think Le Bon Ton does excellent cocktails, offers good food that's just a little pricey, and is great for groups. Yay!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Apple and Sour Cream Pancakes

Apple and Sour Cream Pancake stack!

Pancake stack! Last weekend, I was having a lazy Sunday morning in bed and flicking through my phone, when I saw Smitten Kitchen's sour cream pancake recipe on Facebook. They looked amazing! I realised that I had all the ingredients, so I swiftly jumped out of bed, got busy in the kitchen and whipped up a batch. Yay!

I changed these up by adding a couple of grated apples to the batter.

Apple and batter

I always use two frypans so that I can get to my pancakes faster!

Frying!

There's only a small amount of flour in these pancakes, and a high proportion of sour cream and eggs, making the finished pancakes very soft and tender. Try to make sure they're cooked at least three quarters of the way through before you attempt to flip them so that they don't break up on you.

Breakfast!

I put out all my favourite pancake fixings - maple syrup, peanut butter, nutella, butter and sugar - but I thought these were nicest with just butter and maple syrup.

Breakfast

As I said above, the pancakes are super soft and tender. I love how squidgy they are! The sour cream in the pancakes gives them a lovely tang - super delicious!

Apple and Sour Cream Pancakes
Adapted from Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes, on Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients
7 tablespoons plain flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 apples
butter, for frying

Method
Place the flour, sugar, bicarb and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.
Add the sour cream and whisk gently to combine. (The mixture will be very thick).
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla, then pour into the flour-cream mixture and whisk gently to combine.
Peel and grate the apples, then stir the grated apples into the pancake batter.
Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and melt a little butter in it.
Spoon a ladleful of the batter into the pan, and cook until golden brown underneath and bubbling on top. Flip over and cook for about a minute on the other side.
Transfer to a plate, and cover with foil while you cook the rest of the batter.
Serve with maple syrup, butter, anything you like!
Makes 12 pancakes, serves 2-4