Wednesday, 2 October 2013

AIREYS INLET FOODSTORE & CAFE

Black russian tomatoes with sides
As I agist my horse in the little town of Aireys Inlet I spend a lot of time there. The food offerings aren’t as consistent as in Lorne further down the coast, but the Foodstore & Café stands out.

This place is very nature oriented and appeals to the Melburnian yuppies that make their summer pilgrimage to the region. There is an emphasis on using local produce, especially meat. In the adjoining foodstore there are a lot of organic foodstuffs and artisan products. Or you can pick up some Scandinavian gumboots, as you do.

The food is uncomplicated, handmade and of good quality. For breakfast there are black Russian tomatoes with fetta cheese and sides. If you have a sweet tooth the crepes with lemon and sugar are delicious or for something simple try an egg and bacon pie. 

Unfortunately the atmosphere is slightly cold and very modern. It lacks the cosiness of the other cafes and is open. The staff are usually good but at times can be a bit ignorant.


This is another one which is best in winter; in peak season it bustles with families. Situated opposite the beach, there’s nothing I love more than eating here after I’ve galloped my horse along the windswept shoreline. 


89 Great Ocean Road
Aireys Inlet

Lulu & Mr Q/Aireys Inlet Food Store & Cafe on Urbanspoon

THE VEGIE BAR


Mee goreng
When I first came to Melbourne I hated this place. At the time I was dating an avowed vegan, and as a certified carnivore viewed that lifestyle with disgust. As Melbourne’s most popular vegan restaurant we found ourselves there often and the rabbit food grew on me.

There’s a distinctly hipster greenie atmosphere at the Vegie Bar. Wait staff are usually quite hairy, badly dressed and possess a holier than thou attitude. It’s reflective of the Brunswick Street vibe and most customers are alternative types.

The Vegie Bar is committed to using the best quality ingredients available, and have a range of gluten free and raw dishes. Their massive serving sizes and great taste offer good value for money. As a result, most nights you’ll wait at least 40 minutes for a table. There is a waiter who resembles Jesus who kindly pushes me to the front of the queue when possible. 

Mixed berry cheesecake
My all-time favourite dish is the original stir-fry with satay sauce, consisting of a mound of crisp vegetables and tofu in a delicious reduction served with brown rice.

The Mexican burrito is another preference, filled with mushrooms, beans and rice and served with corn chips, salad and guacamole.

For noodle fans try the mee goreng with its rich sauce and sautéed potato pieces. This one is particularly filling. If you don’t mind spice, go for the sambal noodles featuring (surprisingly delicious) faux chicken.

That’s just a small selection from their large menu, the quality is consistent and my dining companions have always been satisfied.

And then there is the cheesecake. I have developed an obsession with their mixed berry cheesecake, created in their on-site bakery. It’s delightfully creamy and representative of dessert perfection. Such is my love for it; staff have referred to me as “Cheesecake Girl”. Sometimes I even have two pieces.

If that isn’t your preference have the sticky date pudding or flourless chocolate cake.

As I mentioned earlier, usually it’s a long wait for a table. Out through the courtyard is a cosy bar, complete with fireplace and mulled wine in winter.

In the past they’ve had some aloof staff but the current ones are lovely and deliver good service.


If you want to have a fun night out AND feel healthy, The Vegie Bar is the place to be. 


380 Brunswick Street
Fitzroy

Vegie Bar on Urbanspoon

LORNE HOTEL



Being local to the Surf Coast I often eat at Lorne pub, its Victorian façade belying the yuppified interior. Situated on the main street, it offers spectacular views of the ocean and is unsurprisingly infested with tourists in summer.

It is a corporate sort of pub, run by a company and lacking individual flair. The dining room is a large open space, providing a mainstream, bustling ambiance. If you dislike a crowded atmosphere I would recommend somewhere else. I prefer to slum it downstairs at the bar with the colourful locals whilst getting on the punt.

The dinner menu is extensive, covering everything including steak, pub classics, seafood (obviously), and Mediterranean food.

The steak here is fantastic. Usually it is Wagyu, top quality and cooked to perfection; neither I nor my regular dining companion can fault it.
Butter chicken

My personal favourite is the butter chicken curry, though it tastes atypical and far from what you’d expect. Tender pieces of chicken in a sweet sauce, the dish is mild (except on Saturdays) and served with aromatic saffron rice. I’d eat it on a daily basis if possible.

The chicken parmigiana is excellent; not overcooked and most importantly they don’t skimp on the cheese. For those who prefer pasta, apparently the spaghetti bolognaise is appetising.

Steak
The wine list offers a good variety of types and regions and is sure to satisfy most connoisseurs. They seem to have an ample supply of Penfold’s, and conveniently there is a bottle shop downstairs.

Service here is consistently chipper, which surprises me as it is usually hectic, at least on the weekend.
Average wait time for food is twenty minutes.

Every weekend there is a guitarist doing covers; I feel he is horrible however the other patrons seem drunkenly content.


If you make a special trip down to Lorne, come during the winter to escape the crowds. 

www.lornehotel.com.au

176 Mountjoy Parade, Lorne

Lorne Hotel on Urbanspoon

LOUNGE

Chicken parma
Located in Swanston Street is this grungy institution that was established eons ago. My middle aged friends fondly reminisce about spending their halcyon days (or rather nights) at Lounge when it was an exclusive nightclub. One recalls scaling the drainpipe and busting in through the bathroom window one night when Nick Cave was performing. From my experience, the hedonism has since been toned down but it is still a favourite hangout for a variety of crowds. 

Food at Lounge is under the banner of “Gloria Swanston’s Kitchen”, and features comfort food with an American bent. Deep fried dishes and burgers abound.  I hear the beef sliders are tasty but haven’t sampled them myself. 

Beef sliders
Lounge does a great weekday deal where a particular dish is offered for $10. I usually go on Mondays, where you can get an honest, cheesy parma. Cheap, cheerful and satisfying. Go later in the week for a steak sandwich or Texas BBQ ribs (approved by an American cohort).

The bar itself is decently stocked and the hipster staff unusually amicable.

The food is straightforward and uncomplicated, reflective of the venue. Go to Lounge when you’re looking to have a comfortable time, chilling out on the scattered lounges in the gloomy light; or migrate to the balcony perched above the hustle of Swanston Street. 

www.lounge.com.au

243 Swanston Street

Gloria Swanston's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

KUNI'S

Sashimi main
A traditional Japanese eatery in Little Bourke Street, Kuni’s would have to be my favourite restaurant in Melbourne. Considering I don’t have a kitchen, I’ve been to a lot of restaurants.

As a sashimi aficionado I find their main course platter sublime and order it on every visit. The fish is always fresh and of a high quality. Buttery cuts of tuna, salmon and king fish among others are alluringly arranged and quickly demolished.

My other favourite dish is the spicy tuna roll. The heat does cause me to hiccup uncontrollably when I commence eating; my persistence should be proof enough of its deliciousness. I’ve sampled several variations of this dish and find Kuni’s offering to be the best.

In addition to sushi there is a bountiful offering of hot meals. While I have not had many of these, dining companions have praised the beef sukiyaki and vegetable tempura.

There is also a seasonal menu; beef tataki and asparagus tempura when available are must haves.
For those with a sweet tooth, the dessert menu is simple however the white chocolate squares are wonderful accompanied with plum wine.

The setting is understated for a comfortable, neutral feel and suits a variety of dining situations. It is lightly decorated in the Japanese way, ornamented with traditional pottery and ink paintings. My favourite spot is at the sushi bar, watching chef Owari work diligently.

The service at Kuni’s is impeccable, with attentive, gracious staff. Upon arrival you are greeted enthusiastically in Japanese (“irasshaimase!”) and intently waited on. Owari even slips in extra dishes for regular patrons.

There is an extensive drinks list with a good selection of sake and Japanese beers and wines.


The fact it is actually frequented by Japanese people is an endorsement and I wholeheartedly recommend Kuni’s to anyone looking for a quality sushi restaurant. 

www.kunismelbourne.com
56 Little Bourke Streeet

Kuni's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

ASIAN BEER CAFE


Located in Melbourne Central shopping centre, Asian Beer Café (formally known as Chao Gao) is a popular student haunt.

The atmosphere is a mixture of Asian styles, with traditional oriental furnishings and Japanese anime showing on wall mounted televisions. Carved wood panels, liberal use of dark red decorations and heady incense combine to create a cosy, mysterious setting. Music alternates between banging dance music and retro ‘80s tunes. 

The menu is snack-oriented with an emphasis on pizza and bento boxes. I regularly order the simple yet delicious barbecue chicken pizza. Asian Beer Café does $4 pizzas for lunch and later in the evening; how can you go wrong? 

BBQ Chicken Pizza
For those who are bento fans, I can recommend the chicken bento box. It is done in a fusion Asian style and includes (very spicy) butter chicken and a tasty satay skewer. 

Keeping in line with the theme, they have a good selection of Asian beers with Kirin, Tiger, Sumo’s Choice and Sapporo on tap. There are drink specials on a daily basis which include $8 jugs of beer and two-for-one cocktails. Additionally there is the ever popular ladies night on Thursdays featuring $1 champagne for women (and those who resemble women). 

I have always found the staff to be fairly polite, enthusiastic and quick to serve. When ordering meals the average wait time is 20 minutes; that is fine considering most items (including the pizza) are handmade.


During daytime Asian Beer Café is a very quiet affair however the place does go off at night. The versatility is good; go there for a subdued lunch or knock back cocktails on a Friday evening. Whenever you go, it will be fun.    

www.asianbeercafe.com.au

Level 3, Melbourne Central
(Up escalators, CNR La Trobe & Swanson Street)
Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia

Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday: 11am to 1am
Sunday: 11am to 1am


Asian Beer Cafe on Urbanspoon