On a whirlwind visit to Melbourne recently we crossed off a few of the restaurants on our hit list in 36 hours – we stayed at the stylish DoubleTree by Hilton (right across from Flinders Station) which made for a convenient base to explore the city and as a bonus they even gave us a delicious (and warm) choc chip cookie on arrival.
The Grain Store may have a bit of a queue at peak brunch time on the weekends, but it’s worth the wait with a wide selection of gourmet offerings that come with some interesting ingredients which make them more lunch-like, such as the Portobello Mushroom with a delicious Raclette Potato Rosti that I had. The dish came with two poached eggs and a hazelnut hollandaise for a twist on the norm, but I decided to order their House Cooked Salmon on the side too, which was a good choice.
Portobello Mushroom with Raclette Potato Rosti, $18 (Side of House Cooked Salmon, $6)
The boy went for one of the more substantial dishes – the Romsey Range Buttery Beef Cheeks which didn’t disappoint. The beef cheeks were falling apart and were paired with with some smoked yoghurt, portobello mushroom, cauliflower and shaved baby brussel sprout for greens.
Romsey Range Buttery Beef Cheeks and Cauliflower, $30
With a convenient location in the Melbourne CBD, a stylish, contemporary fitout and an interesting menu, it’s a great spot for brunching – one of the few options open in the CBD on weekends as we discovered.
517 Flinders Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: (03) 9972 6993
The all glass exteriors let you peer inside this playful restuarant on Flinders Lane which takes its cues from the buzzing neon metropolises in Asia (think Tokyo or Hong Kong) in terms of its design and its modern pan-Asian menu.
Our lunch started off strong with their intriguing Smoked Beef dish off their raw menu which was like a Japanese inspired rendition of steak tartare that had an impressive smokiness infused into the diced meat. It was also paired with an addictive clam mayonnaise which we couldn’t get enough of.
Smoked Beef, Mustard Leaf and Clam Mayonnaise, $17
Next up was the Eggplant Salad, which also had chunks of smoked pork belly thrown in with the fried garlic and Szechuan pepper seasoning it – the overall effect was a little on the oily side, but not as much as the same dish at some more traditional Chinese restaurants.
Eggplant Salad, Smoked Pork Belly, Fried Garlic and Szechuan Pepper, $16
The Pan Fried Spicy Beef Bun wasn’t quite what we were expecting – we thought it may be like a Shanghainese style pan fried pork bun with a pointed top and fluffy exterior, but it turned out to be more of a flat bun style with a spicy beef filling, where the entire bun had been pan fried for a crispy, flaky exterior.
Pan Fried Spicy Beef Bun, $8
The Duck Bao was a little more what we were after – with fluffy steamed buns accompanying a duck leg which had been twice cooked with an interesting crunchy coating. Best eaten with some of their tangy vinegar and plum sauce on the side.
Duck Bao – Twice-Cooked Duck, Vinegar and Plum Sauce, (Duck Leg), $28
We also decided to try their Katsu Pork Sandwich from their specials menu and were a bit overwhelmed by how big the katsu filling ended up being…the ratio of meat to katsu batter was definitely weighted towards the pork, so much so that the thin white bread slices which made up the rest of the sandwich struggled to contain the katsu. Not the most balanced of dishes.
Katsu Pork Sandwich, $15
The cheeky styling of the menu and restaurant drew us in, but the experimental approach to Supernormal’s offering meant that not everything was a hit. The pricing is also on the premium end of the spectrum, so best to stick to the dishes which you’re less likely to see at more traditional Asian restaurants (like their Smoked Beef), to make the most of their contemporary twists on Asian cuisine.
180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: (03) 9650 8688
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
We may have missed out on The Fat Duck while it was in Melbourne, but luckily for us we could still get ourselves a slice of the Heston Blumenthal experience by booking in a lunch at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Crown casino complex, where the modern menu takes its cues from culinary history.
The adventure began with looking for the hidden entrance to the restaurant (tucked away near the spa in the Crown complex). Even walking through the entrance, you still need to head down a long, dark tunnel before you emerge into restaurant itself – the whole effect is slightly disorienting at first with the bright sunshine streaming through the huge windows and the bustling of waitstaff and chefs visible in their open kitchen.
The decor is sophisticated and modern, with a touch of grandeur coming from the high ceilings, complemented by the view over the riverside promenade. We’re settled into our seats by the waitstaff, who are polished but friendly and we take a long look at the menu – there’s the tasting menu (of course), but also an a la carte option which is refreshing for a high profile fine dining restaurant (sometimes you just don’t have time for or feel like 5+ courses each). Since we were flying back to Sydney in the evening, we opted for the a la carte option as we could still order the famous Meat Fruit, along with some other dishes with some intriguing ingredients which piqued our interest.
The first dish up was the star of the show – the innovative Meat Fruit, which came out looking like a perfectly formed mandarin (the jelly exterior is topped with a real non-edible stem for effect), but was filled with an intensely flavoured chicken liver parfait which we lathered onto slices of crunchy grilled bread. Our verdict – worth the hype. Not only for the experience of marveling at how beautifully made it is, but for that divine parfait, which was hands down one of the best we’ve ever had (we had to ask for more bread for it).
Meat Fruit (c. 1500), $38
Our next dish was the Savoury Porridge, which was definitely the most delicious and most luxe porridge we’ve had in a long time – featuring delicate slivers of grilled abalone, which were paired with a fragrant garlic and parsley butter that elevated the dish to another level.
Savoury Porridge (c. 1660), $36
Our last shared starter was the Rice & Flesh, a more adventurous dish which pays tribute to Australian ingredients, showcasing a curried kangaroo tail, cooked with red wine and served on a bed of amaranth in a creamy saffron sauce. The kangaroo tail was very tender and went beautifully with the sauce.
Rice & Flesh (c. 1390), $38
The final savoury dish we had was the Chicken cooked with Lettuces, which sounded deceptively simple but was full of flavour, helped by the tasty grilled onion emulsion and spiced parsnip sauce. The crispy chicken skin shards on the side were also a welcome touch.
Chicken cooked with Lettuces (c. 1670), $58
We finished off with the Tipsy Cake to share and were impressed by the piping hot buns that came out in the mini cast iron pot, which were fluffy and slightly chewy, paired with an addictive spit roast pineapple. A fitting end to a fantastic meal.
Tipsy Cake (c. 1810), $32
For us, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal was worth the money and the hype – all the dishes were well-executed and while there were some tricky ingredients thrown into the more inventive dishes, the flavours all tantalised our tastebuds and left us wanting more. Now for them to open one in Sydney…
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Crown Towers Melbourne, 130/8 Whiteman St, Southbank VIC 3006
Phone: (03) 8582 2061