Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Isabella's at Rochford Winery, Coldstream (by invitation), by Bureaucrat

Over the Easter weekend, I had the lovely opportunity to take up an invitation from Isabella's at Rochford Winery to try their new Autumn menu.

Located just under an hour's drive from the city, Rochford Winery makes a great day trip out, with lots of blue sky, clean air and sunshine waiting for you.

Because we got there a bit early, Mr Strong and I took the opportunity to soak up the vista by meandering around the estate.  

It was a good thing that we got in some light exercise, as we were soon to find out that they certainly do feed you well at Isabella's.  

The tree-lined pathway to the restaurant, cellar and gift shop.

We were greeted by friendly, smiling staff that led us to our table.  The dining area has an open space floor plan, that's divided up into a bar, cafe and restaurant area.  It has ceiling to floor windows for you to take in the views while you dine and allows the sunshine to stream through.

While there is an a la carte menu, we were keen to try their two and three course lunch menu.  Naturally, as you'd expect, the dishes are matched to wines.  To start off, we had some warm bread.

As I was the designated driver, I didn't order any wine.  However, Mr Strong did order a glass of Macedon Ranges Pinot Noir.

For our entrees, I got the Yarra Valley Blackmore Wagyu carpaccio with black garlic puree, deep fried bone marrow and green olive powder.  This is easily the most decadent Wagyu that I've ever eaten - none of the Wagyu that I've eaten before comes close to the amount of marbling in this dish!  

The marbling in Wagyu beef is graded from 1-12.  This was a score of nine, which meant it was deliciously creamy. The wafer thin slices went really well with the tart cornichons and the very moreish black garlic puree.  Although I couldn't quite taste the garlic, I really liked the umani flavour of the puree - it reminded me of Bovril, which complemented the Wagyu.  At the time, I didn't realise that the little fried ball was actually bone marrow - I cut it open and this little pod-like jelly slid out.  It didn't have much of a flavour but I liked the novelty of it.

Mr Strong went for the local beetroots, with Yarra Valley goats curd foam and pine nuts.  A lovely, light entree of sweet, tender beetroots and the light-as-air goats curd foam.  I especially liked the little dots of dark red puree - I think it was pureed beets but it had something else added to it to give it a really savoury flavour.  The toasted pine nuts gave a nice earthiness that balanced out the sweet beets.

For mains, I got the wild mushroom vialone nano risotto, which was served with a cute pot of mushroom consomme and mushroom and aged parmesan croquettes.  A lovely thick risotto with loads of wild mushrooms.  I particularly liked the use of enoki, wood ear fungus and oyster mushrooms - which you don't usually see in a risotto.  Throughout the risotto there were lovely wilted green leaves and lots of oozing parmesan.  The croquettes had a yummy crunchy crust which hid a gooey inner.

While I liked my risotto, the standout dish of the day was the 220g Wagyu rump.  Gorgeously beefy and seared.  We asked for it to be served medium well, and it came out perfectly.  As with the carpaccio, it had a marble score of nine.  It was served with horseradish potato puree, baby leeks, pearl onions and Rochford Pinot Noir jus.

The Wagyu was meltingly tender and flavoursome, and the jus was also full of flavour.  I also loved the onions which were burnished with balsamic vinegar (I think).  There was a very generous serve of mash, which was smooth but I couldn't quite taste the horseradish.  Mr Strong was very happy with his choice of dish. 

To go with our mains, we ordered a serve of seasonal veggies.  I loved the nice mix of vegs, which included samphire (locally foraged), kale, a colourful range of carrots, broccolini and peas.  All were perfectly al dente and tender, and were drizzled with olive oil.

We were too full to order dessert.  However, I did spy the table across from us order the tiramisu (served in a small terracotta pot), Death By Chocolate, and the apple pie (with lots of pashmak on top - this would have been my choice if I wasn't so full).  Mr Strong ended his meal with a latte.

Verdict
Food – 8.5
Ambiance – 7.5
Service – 9*
Price – 7.5*
*Scores are notional as we were guests of Isabella's.

Overall
Thank you to Rochford Winery, Head Chef Ciaran Butler and his team at Isabella's for taking the time to show us their estate and share with us their lovely food.  I spoke to Head Chef Ciaran who explained that they source much of their ingredients locally and that their menu changes regularly. 

The service is friendly and attentive, and the serves are generous - you'll definitely leave feeling full.  Isabella's and Rochford Winery are well worth the visit.  Certainly, there were plenty of people here sharing the same view - from large groups sharing a special meal, tourists, and young families enjoying the cafe while the kids and dogs play in the grassy field.

Address
878-80 Maroondah Hwy
Coldstream 3770
Telephone: 03 5962 2119

Rochford Winery Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Giveaway - win one of three subscriptions to Mr Earl Tea!

Earlier this year, I had the chance to try out the fabulous tea from Mr Earl Tea - an online boutique tea subscription service and shop.  How does this work?


You pick the subscription of your choice (one, three or six months), and each month you get three premium loose-leaf tea varieties, with details on where they’re sourced and instructions on how to brew the perfect cup for that particular type of tea.  You can also purchase the teas individually on the website too.

For Mothers’ Day, the founder for Mr Earl Tea, Emily Stone, has given the Eat and Be Merry Crew three one-month subscriptions to giveaway to our lucky readers!  Each subscription comes with three types of tea.

How to win your one-month subscription!
Answer the following question by leaving a comment below:

“What’s your favourite type of tea and why?”

The rules
1. Three winners will be drawn randomly and their names will be published on the blog on Thursday, 1 May 2014.

2. Winners have until Sunday, 4 May 2014 to email Mr Earl Tea (hello@mrearltea.com.au) with their names and postal addresses.  The tea will be sent via post in time for Mothers Day.

3. Comments that are left anonymously will not be considered.

4. One entry per person.

5. Only Australian residents can participate in the competition.

Alternatively, if you purchase a one, three or six month subscription before 4 May 2014, your teas will be delivered in time for Mothers Day.  For more information on the teas on offer and prices, head to http://mrearltea.com.au/.

Good luck :)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, Melbourne CBD by Bureaucrat

One fine day, I met Mother Hen and Mr Strong in the city for lunch.  As we were around QV, Mother Hen suggested that we try out Pacific Seafood BBQ House on Lonsdale Street (although, oddly, the name on the shop is Pacific BBQ Cafe) - apparently our friends, Mr and Mrs L, have eaten here before and reckon it's pretty good.

I'm fairly sure that there is another PSBH in another suburb - either Richmond or South Yarra seems to ring a bell.  I have walked past this PSBH loads of times but have never tried it out.

Inside, the place reminded me of a school cafeteria.  Bright colours, plastic chairs and booths, and the tables set out in a neat grid formation.  While it was early (around 12pm), the place already had quite a few tables of diners tucking into lunch.

I didn't need to read the menu to know what I wanted to order - roast duck on rice!  The duck here was pretty good - juicy, meaty and not too fatty.  It came with a big serve of rice and some lightly stir fried cabbage.  Simple and good.  

Mr Strong went for the stir fry beef hor fun.  A fairly big plate of hor fun with lots of beef strips, which had beanshoots and spring onions tossed through.  A reasonable amount of wok hei and it wasn't too salty.

Mother Hen went for one of the $11 set lunch menu items.  She got the grilled pork chop w black pepper sauce on rice (it also came with spaghetti).  Along with that you can also have a cup of tea or coffee.  She opted for the tea which was served Honkie style - which, to me, tastes like builders' tea made with too much sweetened condensed milk.  

Verdict
Food – 7.5
Ambiance – 7
Service – 7
Price – 8.5

Overall
A nice spot for a cheap and cheerful lunch.  The menu is varied and has lots of Honkie favourites. While I've only been there once, I reckon this place is a keeper.  I'll definitely go back for the roast duck on rice.  

Address
Pacific Seafood BBQ House
213 Lonsdale Street  
Melbourne VIC 3000
Telephone: 9663 9288

Pacific Seafood BBQ House on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mamak, Melbourne CBD by Bureaucrat

Mamak is a restaurant that's rather popular in Sydney, which has found its way into Melbourne.  When it first opened, I remember the buzz about the fact that it was opening, and the long queues of people lining up for a table every day.  Big Fil went there a few weeks after it opened (see his review in September 2012).  

As I'm quite skeptical of most things, I figured, if Mamak is good, then it would be around for some time and, as such, I don't need to hurry to try the food there.  When I first ate there (over a year ago), I didn't see what the big deal was.  The food was okay but I thought it was a bit pricey for what it was. I didn't have anything against the place but I wasn't in a hurry to go back.

So a few weeks ago, it happened that we needed a quick apres work dinner.  As it was before 6pm, the place wasn't full and we got a table straightaway.

We got two mains and some roti chanai to share.  The roti was flaky and light and came with some dipping sauces.  By memory, the yellow one was had some lentils and wasn't too spicy (it was our preferred sauce), while the orangey one was bit more spicy.  We didn't even try the chilli sauce because it'd probably be too hot for us.  While the roti was freshly made and the sauces were nice in flavour, the sauces, however, were lukewarm.  Tsk.

For the mains, we got nasi lemak w curry chicken ($12).  Instead of curry chicken, you can choose curry fish, lamb or veggies; sambal prawn or cuttlefish; or fried chicken.  A big mound of coconut rice was the good thing - as were the ikan bilis, roasted peanuts, cubes of cukes and the boiled egg.  The curry chicken itself was rather mingy.  Two pieces of mostly bone and gristle with very little meat, and also served rather lukewarm.  Definitely not worth the $12.

The mee goreng ($12) was slightly better - at least it was freshly cooked.  Stir fried Hokkein noodles w egg, prawns, fish cake and bean sprouts.  It was okay but nothing exceptional or noteworthy about it.

Verdict
Food – 6.5
Atmosphere – 7
Service – 7
Price - 6

Overall
While my first visit I thought Mamak was 'meh', based on my latest visit, my thoughts are "I'm not coming back".  There was a whiff of MSG from one or both of dishes - I couldn't tell which one though.  It was enough to make me feel really thirsty afterwards.  
Food is average - you can certainly get better for cheaper or at the same price elsewhere.  I still can't understand what the big deal about this place is (and there are still queues during the peak dining times).  For the price, the serving size is on the wee side - we were both still hungry afterwards.  I certainly wouldn't line up to eat here.

This ain't a cheap and cheerful sort of place.  It's mid-range but they still expect you to clear your table asap so they can give it to the next lot of diners.  Overall, I find Mamak a bit of a rip-off.

Address
Mamak
366 Lonsdale St  
Melbourne 3000
Telephone: 9670 3137

Mamak on Urbanspoon
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