I had an absolute ball eating my way through the Melbourne CBD during my short visit last year – so much good food, so little time! I’ve done full posts on MoVida Bar de Tapas and Mamasita, but here’s a quick sampler of the other places I hit up during my trip:
After our late lunch at Mamasita, we decided to indulge in a little sweet treat (there’s always another stomach for dessert!). We walked to the chocolatier Koko Black in the Royal Arcade on Bourke Street, which was still fairly packed even late in the afternoon. The store had a nice chocolate aroma wafting about it with nice views of the heritage arcade out the window. We had a hard time deciding what to order off the menu because everything sounded delicious, so we ordered the Dessert Degustation for two to try a little bit of everything and also a cup of their signature Belgian hot chocolate. The drink came out first and was rich and smooth. I adored the slightly darker chocolate mix used and it is a great hot drink to warm you up in the Melbourne winter.
Belgian Hot Chocolate, $6.50, Dessert Degustation, $22
The degustation of 5 miniature desserts came out next, neatly presented on a platter. Just as a spoiler alert – they were all exquisitely decadent delights and definitely lived up to the high standards I had expected from a “degustation”. I think I read somewhere that the menu for this platter changes seasonally, and on our platter we were presented with the Chocolate Alchemy Cake, Hazelnut Praline Delice, Raspberry Chocolate Dome, a chocolate gelato and the Belgian chocolate mousse. All the elements of the dessert platter complemented each other wonderfully and the velvety Chocolate Mousse with a crunchy chocolate “soil” was a standout. Be sure come by the store to grab some of their little gift packs or handcrafted chocolates for your friends and families if you’re looking for some souvenirs to take home.
Shop 4,Royal Arcade 335 Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: (03) 9639 8911
The Hardware Societe
This cafe has been on my list to visit for awhile thanks to all the rave reviews it has gotten, but it seems like everyone else in Melbourne was thinking the same thing. The queue for a table was already quite long at 10.30am on a Friday morning and we were informed that it was an hour wait for a group of 7 when we arrived in the morning to scope out the line. Luckily after a short stroll around Melbourne city (we hit up the nearby Manchester Press for a bagel snack), we returned to find that a big group was just about to leave which meant that our table was finally ready exactly an hour later at 11.30am as promised!
The decor of the place is simple but modern, and I loved the luxe touch of white marble tables. My friend insisted that I order a Mocha and I found out why pretty soon because they do their Mocha a bit differently at Hardware Societe – it comes served in separate little jugs of coffee and milk to mix at your own discretion. When the two halves were mixed together, the Mocha had a rich, strong chocolate flavour and I find that the coffee beans used in Melbourne are generally more fragrant but slightly weaker than Sydney coffees.
Confit Duck, $21
For lunch, I ordered the Confit Duck which was quite flavoursome and tender, although not quite as melt in your mouth as the Confit Duck we had at La Brasserie in Sydney. The other elements of the dish were very flavourful too, in different ways – the crispy jamon was rather salty and crunchy, the D’ambert Tartlet was full of strong cheese and buttery, flaky pastry while the Jerusalem artichoke puree and shallot foam rounded out the dish.
Baked Eggs, $17
The boy decided to get the Baked Eggs with chorizo sausage, piquillo sauce, crunchy almonds and queso de cabra goats milk cheese. The baked eggs came out in a little cute oven proof pot, served with fresh bread which was lightly drizzled with olive oil. The dish was flavoursome, and the chorizo gave the whole dish a slightly spicy taste. It was a moreish dish that we wished came in a little bigger serving. If you’re willing to brave the crowds at Hardware Societe, this café should definitely be on the list to try if you are ever in Melbourne.
The Hardware Societe
120 Hardware Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: (03) 9078 5992
La Belle Miette
If you have a sweet tooth, there’s also a gorgeous little macaron store called La Belle Miette that’s close to Hardware Societe further down on Hardware Lane. It is fitted out in soft, pastel colours which are reflected in the rainbow colours of the macarons delicately displayed behind the glass counter. On my first visit to Melbourne last year I stopped by this store, but this year I went to the store on Collins Street and picked out a few of their more interesting flavours to try such as the Pimm’s & Pomegranate and Moet & Chandon champagne one! Neither tasted particularly alcoholic, but overall their macarons were quite sweet and had a lovely texture to them.
Macarons, $2.50 each (except Moet & Chandon which is $2.80)
La Belle Miette
8 Collins Street or 30 Hardware Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: (03) 9024 4528
Another patisserie that is a must visit in Melbourne is LuxBite, which is a short tram ride away from the city centre in South Yarra. We stopped by on our way to Chapel Street for a bit of shopping and were in awe of the intricate desserts they had on display, not to mention their very impressive selection of macarons with exotic Asian flavours like Pandan, Bamboo Oolong Tea and Kaya. These macarons were more reminiscent of the adventurous Zumbarons we have in Sydney, both in flavour combos and texture while I’d say La Belle Miette macarons are more dainty like La Duree.
Pack of 4 macarons, $11 and Salted Caramel Spread, $10
As a memento of my visit to this dessert wonderland, I bought one of LuxBite’s Salted Caramel Spreads to take home and indulge myself with whenever a craving hits. All the sweet offerings at LuxBite are quite pricey, but it’s worth the premium for the interesting flavours they have!
We loved their delectable award winning Epic Chocolate Cravings cake which lived up to its name thanks to the rich Belgian dark chocolate used and a wonderful hit of salted caramel from the sphere on top. Another winner was the Endless Love macaron sandwich which was inspired by Pierre Herme’s Isaphan and was almost too pretty to eat. It was a refreshing change from the chocolate cake with fruity, floral flavours from the lychee ganache, rose cream and slivers of lychee and fresh raspberries. We also tried the Lollybag Cake which had been featured on Masterchef. As its name suggests, it was an intriguing cake with each layer representing a different sweet from a classic kid’s lolly bag and really brought me back to my childhood days of going to other kid’s birthday parties! When I took my first bite there was a crunch from crushed hard candies and a kaleidoscope of other sweet and minty flavours that are too hard to pinpoint but are undeniably familiar.
Epic Chocolate Cravings, $7.50
Endless Love, $9
Lollybag Cake, $7.50
38 Toorak Road
South Yarra VIC 3141
Phone: (03) 9867 5888
Mr Hive Kitchen & Bar
At the glitzy Crown Casino complex, there are numerous dining options as well as a picturesque water front. We decided to give Mr Hive Kitchen & Bar a try on a Friday night, before having a look at the Casino and their Skybar for a view of the city skyline at night after. The décor at Mr Hive’s was modern and polished, while the ambience was deliberately a bit dark and moody. On arrival, we were smartly ushered past the bar into the main dining area.
We started with an entree of Roasted Scallops and Wild Rice Spice. The dish was artfully presented and definitely had the umami factor. The sweetness of the scallop was complemented nicely with the slightly crispy rice.
Roasted Scallops, $22
Flat Iron Steak, $36
For mains, I had a Flat Iron Steak which was rubbed with soy salt, miso and came with some white radish on the side. The meat was pinkish medium rare as requested and the tender slices of beef had soaked up the flavours of the marinade well. I enjoyed my dish and so did my friend who got a Ricotta Gnocchi, but unfortunately some of the others on the table weren’t quite impressed with their dishes such as the Pork Belly (skin was soggy not crispy) and the traditional Beef Wellington (bit tough for medium rare).
Ricotta Gnocchi, $30
After all the sweets we had devoured during the day at LuxBite, none of us were in the mood for a full dessert each so we decided to get a Dessert Tasting Plate to share. This featured miniaturised servings of a Citrus Eton Mess, White Chocolate with mango, basil and coconut, Mrs Hive’s chocolate bar and one other dessert we didn’t know the name of. The flavours in all of the desserts apart from the Chocolate Bar were a bit jarring for our tastebuds, but the Tasting Plate was saved by the delectable Mrs Hive’s Chocolate Bar with hits of peanuts and caramel.
Dessert Tasting Plate, $32
Mr. Hive Kitchen & Bar
Crown Entertainment Complex
8 Whiteman St, Southbank VIC 3006
Phone: (03) 9292 8300
Quanjude Peking Duck
The original Quanjude Peking Duck restaurant in China was established in 1864 and as they claim to be the “number one Peking Duck restaurant in the world” – you could definitely sense the excitement in our group as we opened the doors into the restaurant.
We were greeted by traditional Chinese decorations with the dragon motif being a recurring theme. In fact, our group was highly impressed with the restaurant’s matching cutlery and bowls which were brightly coloured and well made.
The signature Quanjude Peking duck came out first on a metal trolley with the chef carving up the golden brown duck in front of our table. It was then served to our group to make the duck pancakes ourselves, using the other ingredients which had been neatly placed on the lazy susan already.
Quanjude Peking Duck Full Set, $78
Our group had fun trying to find the right ratio of pancake, duck, shallots, cucumbers and hoisin sauce to use for our own individual pancakes. We had ordered the full Peking duck set and there was enough meat for 2 pancakes each for a table of 7 diners. The duck meat was sweet and slightly fatty which gave it a moreish flavour. The skin was also crackly and crunchy which meant it was glazed perfectly in the oven. Not quite sure if it was mind-blowingly good – but definitely the best I have ever had in my life. The second course for the Peking Duck set is a soup which is strongly flavoured by essence of the duck meat and a nice way to cap off the meal.
We also ordered Crispy Deep-fried Bean Curd as a side to balance out all the meat and were pleasantly surprised by the silken tofu used and the light layer of crispy batter coating the outside. It was probably the most expensive plate of tofu I’ve ever ordered though. We were less impressed by the plate of Fresh Soft Noodles with Minced Pork in Mandarin Sauce (aka Jah Jiang Mian) which didn’t taste like the usual savoury tomato flavours that are usually in this conventional Chinese dish.
Crispy Deep-fried Bean Curd, $25
Fresh Soft Noodles with Minced Pork in Mandarin Sauce, $15
299 Queen Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: (03) 9670 0092
Hutong Dumpling Bar
After being warned that the lines get massive at Hutong, we got here at 5pm on the dot as per the opening time on the Google search. To our dismay, we found out found out that the actual opening time was 5.30pm, but we weren’t the only ones – in the half hour before the restaurant opened about 4 groups of people turned up to wait and there were about 20 people already in line by the time the doors actually opened. Even though we were there early, they were only able to give us a table for 5 until 7.15pm, which shows how quick the turnover is at Hutong. We decided to order their famous dishes of xiao long baos, wontons with hot chili sauce, Shanghai fried noodles with shredded pork and the red bean paste pan cake for dessert.
Xiao long bao, $11.80 for 8
Xiao long baos are definitely the litmus test for Shanghainese restaurants. These plump symmetrical dumplings containing a little pork meatball and filled with meaty broth definitely require great skill and experimentation to get right. It’s clear that the kitchen at Hutong is an efficient, well-oiled machine because our order arrived at the table in the bamboo steamers about 5 minutes after we ordered. As we took the first bite, we noticed that the dumpling skin was not quite as thin as the Sydney restaurants like Lynn Shanghai etc. The broth itself was also slightly lukewarm and lacked the depth of flavours from the ones we usually get in Sydney.
Wontons with hot chilli sauce, $9.80 for 8
It was a slightly disappointing start which was fortunately saved by the excellent Wontons with chilli sauce. The chilli sauce gives the silky dough a shiny reddish glow and also gives the wonton a kick as you munch on them. The Shanghai fried noodles came next and these are usually made from hand-made noodles and then stir fried with pork and some vegies in a wok. It’s a simple dish, and our group also gave it a thumbs up.Our dessert of Red Bean Paste Pancake came next which one of our friend raved about (she loves red bean). The dough was deep fried to provide a satisfying crunch as you bite through it to get to the sweet red bean interior. A good experience overall but we were not too impressed by their xiao long baos, since we’ve been spoilt by the high calibre of Sydney ones.
Shanghai fried noodle with shredded pork, $13.80
Red bean paste pancake, $7.50
HuTong Dumpling Bar
14-16 Market Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone:(03) 9650 8128
Our short trip to Melbourne turned out to be a great gastronomic experience. Be sure to explore the famous laneways for great food and cool bars that open to 1am on a Monday. We didn’t take any photos of the bars we tried, but highly recommend the hidden Eau de Vie for a nightcap!