Eat My Words looks back on a month of memorable meals, from dirt-cheap dumplings in Glen Waverley to caviar and champagne at Ms Collins, and everything in between. Find out where to eat in Melbourne.
I’ve just been scrolling through my phone, looking for a snap of a particular pasta dish, and it dawned on me I’ve eaten a helluva lot of good food in the past month. Here’s a quick snapshot of the meals that impressed me the most, from cheap and cheerful snacks in the suburbs to indulgent media dinners (as always, invites are clearly noted).
Fast and fabulous: Kalimera Souvlaki Art
Souva has never been as sexy as the plump, juicy numbers at Kalimera Souvlaki Art in Oakleigh, in Melbourne’s south-east. The boys here take the fluffiest, lightly charred pita and wrap it around garlicky chicken or pork, tangy yoghurt dip, a few gratuitous slices of tomato, and a stack of hand-cut chips, all for $8. This is no drunken stumble on the way home; I guarantee you’ll be lusting after this temptress in the daylight hours.
41 Chester St, Oakleigh
Bang for your buck: Hong Kong Dim Sum
Any time Simon and I leave the South Yarra/Prahran vicinity, it’s a big deal. So to go on two suburban outings in one month is nothing short of intrepid. Last weekend we hit the Monash Freeway in search of dumpling perfection, and came pretty damn close at Glen Waverley’s Hong Kong Dim Sum. At around $1.20 a pop, these bargain-priced beauties were some of the best-quality har gau, sui mai and char sui bau we’d wrapped our lips around, bursting with juicy prawns, pearly scallops and hunks of barbecued pork.
77 Kingsway, Glen Waverley
Turning Japanese: Shizuku Ramen
Another wallet-friendly wonder is Shizuku Ramen in Abbotsford. We got lucky with the lunch specials here, and ended up ordering three meals between two (yep, we have a problem). The tonkotsu ramen was a milky, rich pork broth with sprightly noodles, slices of pork belly, half an egg, pickled ginger and bamboo shoots, and a sheet of nori – tasty, but decidedly pale and ugly. Instead, I’ll share this tasty little lobster roll with you, which came with a pork belly buddy and a miso soup for $10. Bargain.
309 Victoria St, Abbotsford
Meaty mitts: Ironbark BBQ
Last year I travelled across the United States with Simon and his dad, Brian. We had some insanely good barbecue on that trip, so our family dinners now often involve a search for a local equivalent (that’s Brian’s mitt trying to get his hands on the meat, above). On the brisket front, the boys at Ironbark BBQ have nailed it: all charry, pepper-slaked bark, blushing smoke ring and buttery interiors. The ribs and wings could do with some work, as could the service, but that brisket is worth persevering with the rest.
25 Easey St, Collingwood
Pub dining with a punch: The National Hotel
I was invited to sample the new menu at the National Hotel in Richmond, now that ex-Grace Darling chef Raymond Larkins is at the helm, crafting an Asian-accented menu that offers a nod to the neighbourhood. The standouts were the delicate shiso-cured salmon, perfectly paired with a citrus-bright Yelland and Papps Vermentino, and share platters of saucy pork ribs and fall-apart lamb shoulder, which we piled into steamed bau and bundled into lettuce leaves. Bold and beautiful.
304 Victoria St, Richmond
Bistro classic: France-Soir
Lunch at France-Soir has become something of an institution among our friends, so on Good Friday we all gathered in good Catholic style for steak frites and a few bottles of red, to celebrate Tim and Maya’s birthdays. I’d lunch here every weekend if the bank balance allowed, such is the enduring appeal of this chichi brasserie.
11 Toorak Rd, South Yarra
Seasonal standout: L’Hotel Gitan
Another French gem in our neck of the woods is L’Hotel Gitan, from legendary chef Jacques Reymond and his clever offspring. Thankfully, things have loosened up a tad since opening, with more rustic, hearty options now gracing the menu – think rotisserie chicken and pork parmentier. Over dinner with a girlfriend, I stuffed myself with pine mushrooms en papillote and a onion-rich risotto. Earthy, autumnal, comforting perfection, right down to the retro plates.
32 Commercial Rd, Prahran
Refined affair: Woodland House
I was invited along to Woodland House, Jacques Reymond’s old haunt, for the launch of the Hennessy 250 Collector Blend (tough gig, I know). This precise little duck dish was paired with the Hennessy XO, followed by a luscious dessert of chocolate ganache, nougat, coconut foam and cognac-sloshed raisins, which riffed off the rich chocolate and nut notes in the 250 Collector Blend. Well played, team.
78 Williams Rd, Prahran
Fiery delights: Ms Collins
I was also hosted by Ms Collins for a fun-filled New World Kitchen event in Ms Collin’s psychedelic Champagne Room, which saw in-house chef Daniel Poyner face off against Paul Wilson and Dan Wilson. Highlights included an ultra-luxe starter of caviar toasts with Dom Perignon, Paul Wilson’s lip-smacking ceviche (above), and Dan Poyner’s sticky beef rib with pickled watermelon rind, all paired with knockout cocktails from David Debattista.
425 Collins St, Melbourne
Wine dining: Oakridge
Hands down the most memorable meal of the month was the lunch I shared with Heston Blumenthal at Oakridge Winery in the Yarra Valley. The kitchen crew was more than up to the task, dishing out local organic chicken with chardonnay-splashed mushrooms; tender tri-tip beef with Pepe Saya truffle butter; and a rib-sticking take on Snickers for dessert. To be fair, they could have dished up a jaffle and I still would have thought it was a standout lunch, such is the star power and charm of Mr Blumenthal…
864 Maroondah Hwy, Coldstream