Sunday, 22 March 2015

Eating: Drunken Admiral

Our visit to the Drunken Admiral was a last minute family dinner where an impromptu pre-wedding council was held over a seafood feast.

The interior of the Drunken Admiral is decked out in excessive quantities of pirate paraphernalia. Since we were all asian tourists we loved it, especially all the attention to detail. Many great family group selfies were had. The layout of the restaurant is a little cramped with all the decorations, but the atmosphere was great.

I’ve been obsessed with mussels since I’ve eaten them at Preserve Kitchen in Glen Iris (VIC). If cooked correctly they’re tender, chewy with so much flavour, but the sauce is always the best part. The Drunken Admiral’s Steamed Southern Mussels are a generous portion size with a delicious broth of white wine, tomato, garlic and shallots. Here’s a tip, anytime you see white wine and garlic in a mussel dish, bets are it’s probably pretty decent. The best part of this dish was soaking up all that broth with that bread.

The ocean trout salad was a hit with the parents. They loved the generous smoked trout that was mixed well throughout the rocket.

The sea salt and pink peppercorn squid was a hit with myself and The Better Half. It’s cooked perfectly, soft with a slight crunch from the crumb.

Yachtie’s seafood mixed grill, came out exceeding my expectations. I was expecting the fish skewers to be overdone, but it seemed like Yachtie (whoever they are) had pulled through and all the seafood was perfectly cooked with nothing overdone. Those tender scallops, firm prawns and that slightly flaking fish, all well charred on the grill.

For dessert we shared “The Whisperings of Tuscany” and “The Captain’s Tart”. These are respectively the lemon syrup cake served with limoncello mascarpone and vanilla custard, and the almond milk pannacotta served with blackberries and turkish fairy floss. Both were delish, but my favourite was the pannacotta. I’ll always have a sweet spot (hohoho, pardon the pun) for that silky refreshing dessert.

In conclusion:
If you’re visiting here, you must keep in mind that it’s catered for the tourist and therefore you must adopt a similar silly attitude of coming here to have fun. I cannot fault the food, as we ordered quite a quantity of dishes, but they all came within a reasonable time frame and cooked well.

The personal favourites were the steamed mussels and salt and pepper squid, but all other dishes were just as tasty. Service was a little slow, but taking into account the peak time we arrived and the full occupancy, what they lacked in promptness they made up for in friendliness.

Drunken Admiral
17 Hunter St
Hobart, Tasmania
03 6234 1903

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Sunday, 15 March 2015

Eating: Providore, Hobart

We started the day out with the excellent intentions of exploring the areas around Hobart, but the reality was brunch, shopping, just-for-fun scratchies and an amazing late lunch at Providore.

By the time we had decided we were ready for lunch most of the lunch places had closed. We were lucky to find Providore open and headed in for something quick. The decor is completed with beautiful elements giving it a rustic Australian kitchen farmhouse feel. The cafe also doubles as a pantry with it’s shelves stocked full with beautiful produce. As you enter you are greeted with an open salad bar that’s self serve and sold by weight (100g increments). The sandwiches are made to order and wonderfully fresh.

At its core this place is a sandwich shop, but then there is so much more. They do sandwiches in a way that is greater than the invention of sliced bread.

The roast chicken sandwich is a little parcel of perfection with an accompaniment of salad, encompassed by one of the best brioche buns I’ve ever had. The brioche is soft yet chewy with sustenance, and not too oily or buttery. The grilled capsicum is slightly sweet, and together with the parsley are great fresh elements. The pickled onions hit the sour vinegar spot, but its the paprika mayo that ties everything together with its creamy texture.

The bolar steak sandwich is in itself a snapshot of the flavours from a Thai or Vietnamese beef salad. Everything in it does nothing by halves. The slight bite of heat from the charred chilli, the crisp wombok salad, the fresh coriander, and that zesty punchy chilli lime mayo sauce. I don’t know what else they mixed into that mayo but there is just so much flavour. Great strong flavours throughout this whole sandwich. Even writing this now, I’m counting the days till when I can head back for another bite. This sandwich was that good.

The prices for the sandwich are a little steep for an everyday lunch but you can be assured you’re paying for the very best in ingredients. Portion sizes aren’t huge, but I left feeling content.

With our sandwiches we enjoyed two local ciders. Pagan apple cider was crisp, fizzy and delicious. Willie smiths organic pear cider from Huon valley is a cloudy beverage, and has a more fermented taste.

In conclusion:
Make sure you stop here for a lunch, or a breakfast, or a snack sandwich. I promise that you will not regret it. To enjoy the food here you do need to be someone who likes bread, and salad, and flavour. If you’re any sort of decent person who enjoys eating, then you have to try a sandwich from here. We felt so good after eating this that we didn’t even want to sully the aftertaste by getting frozen yoghurt. My favourite was the bolar steak sandwich since I’m asian and I like asian flavours, but the roast chicken was still pretty amazing.

100 Elizabeth St
Hobart, Tasmania
0456 780 224

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Thursday, 12 March 2015

Eating: Pilgrim Coffee, Hobart

Tragedy struck on day two of the Tasmania break, the cellular network left me without wifi. So to console me, we decided to indulge in some fancy breakfast at Pilgrim Coffee.

We weren't disappointed. The decor is edgy and modern, with the feeling of being underground in a mining tunnel. The polished gold tables adds to the allure of searching in a gold mine. The exposed wood beams of the ceiling, the muted singular curl of the corrogated iron wall lights give an interesting vibe.

Pilgrim surprises diners with complimentary pilgrim popcorn flavoured with salt, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and chipotle. The flavours meld well together.  It isn’t super crunchy but it's all about the flavours. View this popcorn like pilgrim introducing themselves and handing you their business card. Here is what we do: flavour.

Pirates bay octopus with chilli, octopus, potatoes. Great zingy citrus flavour with strong notes of pepper. Potatoes are crunchy and creamy in the inside. The octopus is very soft, which suggests that it has been in brine then cooked. The preserved lemon gives so much zing. The colours really remind me of a Mexican dish. Unfortunately it doesn’t have the same lightness as a mexican salad based dish, but the combination of the pickled pepper, preserved lemon and octopus is a great mouthful. With each chew, the flavour keeps giving. I’ve recently noticed a trend over the past half a year that restaurants are incorporating more pickled or home preserved elements. This gives their dishes more flavour than just simply adding spice or salt. This process takes much more time and preparation. A great example of a restaurant doing it so well is Provenance, in Beechworth.

The coriander is a good lift to the dish, as all the other elements are more intense in flavour, the coriander is that "fresh" component. I think I would have liked a little more, maybe some basil as well. At the time my dish arrived the heat from the other elements had wilted it, but i’m sure it couldn’t have been helped.

The Better Half went with the french toast with maple butter and bacon. The bread was rich and creamy, which in itself was a nice bread, but when made into french toast it went squishy and mushy. The BH struggled also in eating the caramel due to the way it hardened once it came into contact with the cooler dish. There were a few pieces of the caramel, that the better half just couldn't chew through. The contrast between the mushy bread and the hard chewy caramel, makes for a complicated mouthful.

Service here is prompt and friendly.

In conclusion:
Pilgrim coffee is a friendly relaxed way to the start the morning in the middle of Hobart’s CBD.
I heartily enjoyed my Pirates Bay Octopus but would think twice before ordering the french toast. Their more savoury dishes have more promise due to the way they love to play with flavours.

Pilgrim Coffee
48 Argyle St
Hobart, Tasmania
03 6234 1999

Pilgrim Coffee on Urbanspoon

Monday, 9 March 2015

Eating: The Westend Pumphouse, Hobart

Dinner at the Westend Pumphouse is a busy affair. The large, repurposed industrial space is now an open plan dining hall that is filled with the energy of bustling patrons, either dining or grabbing a post-work drink.

Service here on a weeknight was excellent, taking into account the busy turn out they hadn’t been expecting. We were one of those pleasant surprises. Hi, surprise! Can we have a table for four please? All delivered with a slight tone of pleading and food desperation, while maintaining my cool aura, of course.

We were quite keen on the lamb shoulder but were told that it would take about forty-five minutes to an hour for it to be done. The Lamb here is cooked fresh, because the people here are serious about their food. After being told this how could we leave Hobart without eating this? So we settled in to wait and filled our time with some choice sharing plates.

The night did not start out strong unfortunately. Our first plate consisting of duck rillettes and pickles, which was disappointing to be honest. The smoky smell and taste was there, but other than that there wasn’t much flavour to the meat. Not one of our favourite rillettes. I would have liked some more pickles to help balance the meat a little more.

The evening started to improve with the arrival of the charred octopus, dried olive, lemon and potato. The texture and flavour of the octopus was superb, with a slight chewy texture but still very tender. With each mouthful you really got all those smoky charred aromas and flavours.

The star show of the night was the lamb shoulder. When the lamb came out it justified it’s own waiting time, even with just the smell it wore like a cloak. That lamb shoulder had it’s own confidence. Listen to me wax lyrical over a lamb shoulder!

The lamb was tender to the very bone. The sinew and tendon gave no resistance when any pressure was placed on it, it allowed itself to be dominated into a buttery soft mess. A spice rub consisting of cumin had been applied to the surface of the lamb, which enhanced the meaty fatty flavour of lamb. There was a slight char and crisp to the outer layer of the lamb.

There was pure genius applied to the lemon zesty sauce that was probably a reduction of the meat juices with added pepper. The flavours of the zesty sauce, the spice rub, and the fat in the meat melded well into a harmonious mouthful that very quickly became several mouthfuls. The coleslaw itself had it’s own fair share of secrets, with a friendly pairing between the pumpkin seeds and barley.

I would love to come back Hobart, especially if it includes a visit to the Westend Pumphouse. Our portion of the lamb shoulder was generous on the night, and four grown adults couldn’t finish it. Be warned that there was a definite wait for the lamb, but armed with a glass or two of wine, the time does pass. Not that I’m saying you should get drunk while waiting for the lamb. That’s completely not what I’m saying at all.

The large open design with it’s exposed ceiling beams can lead to the noise level growing loud quite quickly. But it’s a place with great character and filled with a young crowd who probably don’t mind the noise at all.

In conclusion:
If you’re looking for a great place to chill and socialise at the end of a long day. If you’re looking for a place with great character and great food, then this is a good place to start. I would come back for the charred octopus and lamb shoulder if I had ample time. I’d still come back to try out all the other share plates and snacks. Be aware of the long-ish wait for the lamb to share, but the great vibe and cool people will distract you.

The Westend Pumphouse
105 Murray St
Hobart, Tasmania
03 6234 7339

The Westend Pumphouse on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Travel & Eating: Petty Sessions Cafe, Franklin

Travel: Tahune Airwalk, Geeveston, Tasmania
Eating: Petty Sessions Cafe, Franklin

Our time in Hobart was just too short. After our brunch session in Hobart we decided we needed to make the most of the little time we had. We were here for the Better Half’s, sister’s wedding. So we really only had one and a half days to ourselves before we got swept up in the pre-wedding preparation, wedding day, and post wedding clean up. But all that was still to come.

We spent the earlier part of the day at the Tahune Airwalk. The drive to Geeveston is stunning in itself, as you come through the Huon valley. The way the edge of the water is a meter away from the edge of the road in some places, as it winds its way through Huonville, Franklin and Geeveston. How the yachts and boats moored on the water float as if they’re suspended on a world of liquid clouds. The Tahune Airwalk is well maintained with easy tracks, and cleared paths. We exhausted ourselves with traipsing over the airwalk, awkwardly pirate-leg swinging over swinging bridges, and noisily admired our way through the pine walks. We couldn’t wait until arriving in Hobart for our late lunch, and were fortunate enough to give this Franklin cafe a go.

Petty Sessions is a beautiful cafe, renovated from an existing family home. It is nestled in the lush orchard filled Huon valley next to the Huon river.

For the few hours we had spent in Tasmania, I’d heard the concept of the scallop pie advertised from multiple menu of the day blackboards around Hobart, so I decided to satisfy my curiosity.

The scallop pie is comfort food at its best, with its large succulent scallops. The scallops themselves are tender, with their roe still attached. The choice to leave the roe on reinforced the scallops flavour, and helped it pair beautifully with the creamy curry based sauce. The instant-curry-powder style curry  definitely had a little kick that stopped you from ever getting sick of this taste. The pastry is soft and a little flakey, but just the way a pie should be. I remember a baker uncle once telling me that the butter should be mixed well into the pastry but not too well that it becomes tough, but just enough that it helps it flake. I never really understood what he meant, I presume this must be a good example. The chips were perfectly fried with the right amount of seasoning, crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. This was definitely a generous serving.

The Better Half chose the seafood linguini, which also had a lovely chilli kick to it but without the burn. The seafood is cooked well with plenty of flavour, that does not let the freshness of the seafood down. Another perfect comfort food dish, and what you see pictured is actually the entree size.

In conclusion:
We stopped here on a note of desperation for a late lunch, and were pleasantly surprised. The hour was quiet and the lunch crowd had come and gone, so the natural beauty surrounding the cafe made the dining experience soothing. Service was tad slow, but owing to the odd hour we were eating at we couldn't fault them.

The food was generous in both size and taste. Everything was cooked well with none of the seafood being overcooked. My favourite was the scallop pie with the curry based creamy sauce, matching well with the scallop roe flavour. I already miss this comfort food dish.

Petty Sessions Cafe
3445 Huon Highway 
Tasmania, 7113
03 6266 3488

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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Eating: Machine Laundry Cafe

One of the first things we did as soon as we got everything sorted at the airport was find some coffee and food. My interest was already engaged due to the sheer number of word by mouth recommendations. Machine Laundry cafe is located in a darling courtyard just off Salamanca place. Salamanca place itself is gorgeous, with the buildings all retaining their old world charm of seafaring and convict labour history.

As soon as you bite into the Parmesan and pancetta pancakes you are greeted by the hardened outer cheese crust of the pancake. This is an amazing accomplishment, this is comfort food lifted to the next level. The carbs, the crispy pancetta embedded into the dough. The body of the pancake is soft and doughy with chives scattered throughout. The tomato relish with cinnamon and other spices, helps to cut through the fat after you’ve had a few mouthfuls.

Their coffee is smooth and well brewed. There is only one thing that I would have liked to see. After the second slice of pancake, I felt myself yearning for something a little acidic like a pickle. But that might just be my vietnamese taste buds talking, i’ve been accused many a time for mixing sweet and savoury.

In conclusion:
This place definitely warrants all the word of mouth reputation that has preceded it. I would not hesitate to recommend this cafe for anyone stopping by Hobart. The surrounds are relaxing and calming with the fountain nearby and the shaded outdoors seating.

The food is a delightful find, and the coffee also performs well. I would come back to Hobart for the comfort food perfection that is the parmesan pancetta pancakes.

Machine Laundry Cafe
Shop 12 Salamanca Place
Hobart, Tasmania 7004
(03) 6224 9922

Machine Laundry Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, 19 January 2015

Eating: The Rusty Windmill


For a week I decided to have an at-home-holiday. This involves sleeping at home but doing multiple day trips around Victoria to give myself the travel but to not put such a strain on the purses.

One of the trips we organised was a drive down to Venus bay to go Pippi hunting with the better half and my younger sister who was on summer holidays from school. So we hauled ass early one morning, and on the way there we stopped by a Leongatha for a spot of brunch at The Rusty Windmill.

This place was an excellent find! The beautiful decor of what I would call country chic, with chandeliers, distressed wood furniture, chairs upholstered with recycled sacking material. It pulls together well giving a rustic but stylish charm. The back garden seating area is definitely a must see with a lovely wisteria tree, and a blooming herb garden.

The food does not disappoint. The coffee is a lovely smooth blend, unfortunately that's as far as my coffee vocabulary extends. I can tell you I liked it.

Mine was the pumpkin gnocchi with in a tomato based sauce with mushrooms, zucchini, bacon, tomato, and onion. The pasta itself was creamy and delicious, with a hint of Rosemary worked into the pasta dough itself, helping the gnocchi stay interesting throughout the meal. The tomato base had strong acidic undertones but was well balanced with the abundance of vegetables.

As far as I could tell, the fettuccine my sister ate had the same pasta sauce but with a different pasta.

The better half ate the goats cheese and roasted vegetable frittata. He thought it was standard fare but leaned more to the better end of the tasty spectrum. He was most impressed with the salad, which consisted of green leaf mix, grains, cranberries, and other berries.

In conclusion:
It's a beautiful brunch place that seems small from the outside but opens into a place of delights. The decor and ambiance is lovely, with friendly staff complementing the interior design. The food is generous with lots of fresh things thrown in for a hearty but tasty meal. Flavours are good but you'd be going more here to receive solid quality each time.

If I am in the area again, I'll definitely be dropping in.

The Rusty Windmill
45 McCartin St
Leongatha, Victoria 3953

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Eating: Red Shallot


One lazy night, when we felt like naughty food but our wallets were too slim, we dipped into the Entertainment book and decided on Red Shallot.

The interior is a little threadbare, with an attempt at a modern style. I noticed straight away a great example of design compromising functionality in the bowls they had set up with chopsticks threaded through, (please see above for example). I like things functional yet pretty so seeing this caused an eye twitch.

Since it had been a particularly long week at work, we both felt like being greedy, and decided on fried Basa fillet with coconut sauce to share, with one Pad Thai each.

The fish looked amazing, but was not as great as we had hoped. The Basa fillet had an excellent crunch but the flavour of the fish was spoiled by the overwhelming oil flavour from the batter on the outside. The quality of the fish was questionable as it felt mushy and undercooked right in the centre. It's like the consistency you would get if you didn't completely thaw out your fish before deep frying it. The coconut sauce was made of a generous amount of desiccated coconut, coconut milk and a few bits of chilli. The flavour was not one that improved with time, as the more you ate the more fatty it felt, without anything to help cut through the oil from the outside crumb.

Recently I've been preferring my vegetarian versions of my favourite noodles. Unfortunately this is one of the poorer versions of vegetarian Pad Thai I've experienced. The firm style tofu looked like it was meant to have a crunchy exterior but was gooey, and potentially undercooked. The Pad Thai sauce was tasty but was much too wet, making the noodles soggy.

My better half chose the seafood pad Thai, but half way through stopped eating the prawns. He described them as tasteless, and once again questionably undercooked. Do you notice the same pattern I noticed? Just to be clear we didn't experience any gastroenteritis after this dining experience, but I'm not one to place myself in a situation where there is the potential for illness.

In conclusion:
My one dinner experience at this restaurant was not one I would remember fondly. Other people seemed to have better experiences here, but based on my one night I wouldn't recommend this place to my friends or loved ones. The tastes here are average in the Basa fillet with coconut dish, and the two Pad Thai dishes. The quality of the food is questionable, as the texture is not one I would equate to food cooked to an acceptable eating standard.

Perhaps you might have a better experience here than I had, but it's not an experience I would personally repeat.

Red Shallots
680 Glen Huntly Rd 
Caulfield South, VIC 
Ph: 03 9528 4026

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