Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2015 – Highlights from the Eat and Be Merry Crew

2015 has been a stellar year for the Eat and Be Merry Crew: over 200 restaurants, cafés, bars, wineries and other foodie activities reviewed, across Australia and around the world. Not content to be confined to our home town of Melbourne, collectively we ate our way into country Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia; and also headed overseas to New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Mauritius.

From luxe dining experiences to cheap eats, from familiar cuisines to challenging flavours, we found places that We Loved pretty much everywhere we went – about one in every three posts, showing how lucky we have been, and how fantastic the food scene is in Melbourne and abroad.

Amongst so many great places, which ones have been the most memorable (for the right reasons)?

I asked the Crew to nominate their two or three absolute favourites from the year, and the results are in. No one cuisine dominates: modern Australian (with its myriad influences) mixes it with Thai, Malaysian, Japanese, Chinese, Cretan, French and Italian. Naturally, Melbourne features as the most frequent destination, but there are a few mentions from overseas, some a bit surprising.

In no particular order…

Yellow Tail sashimi jalapeno at Nobu

Deep fried rockling fillets with curry leaves, chilli and spices at Blue Chillies

Ruby Grapefruit is a fan of the Express Lunch events at the annual Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Her most memorable express lunch was from Nobu and she also has very fond memories of the Malaysian fare at Blue Chillies in Fitzroy.

Red duck curry at Blue Ginger

Obelix nominated Blue Ginger restaurant as her favourite fine dining establishment. Situated on a small pavilion in a calm pond, mood lighting creates a mystical ambiance. Attentive service and great Thai food with clean flavours completed a memorable dining experience. Unfortunately for Melbournians, this gem is in Mauritius – for the geographically challenged, this is a small island country off the east coast of Africa that was colonised by the French!

Ouzo and avocado prawns sauteed in garlic and lemon at Zimari

Her mid-range favourite is Zimari in Prahran. She loves its home-style Cretan cuisine, which is quite different to standard Greek fare.

Flaming Volcano Roll at Bento Station

And her go-to place for cheap eats is Bento Station in Bulleen for its sophisticated and delicious volcano rolls, generously sized serves of bento and cheery service.

Mushroom ravioli at Pinotta

Like Obelix, Bureaucrat had trouble nominating just two. Her first choice was one of her most recent posts: Pinotta in Fitzroy North. In her exact words “Cucina povera and fine Italian dining together in harmony. Classy, effortless and amazing value.”

Pope Joan's "kinda" full English breakfast at Pope Joan

Smoked fish brandade served with poached eggs, sourdough and capsicum sauce at Chez Dre

Equal second are Pope Joan in Brunswick, and Chez Dre in South Melbourne. “Quintessential Melbourne brunch fare that’s above the hoi polloi.”

Plat du jour at Comptoir des Archives

And then she pleaded to be allowed to nominate an overseas entry: Comptoir des Archives in Paris.
“Eleven Euros for a big plate of juicy duck breast and Lyonnaise potatoes... heaven!”

Twice-cooked pulled lamb at Mr Foxx

Bilby Blue and I dine a lot together, so it’s not surprising that there is an overlap in our nominations. Both of us have nominated Mr Foxx in Glen Iris in second place, for its great friendly service, innovative cuisine, and its lamb that was just divine.

L’Estival – a vanilla mousse with a strawberry confit centre and red mirror glaze on a pistachio biscuit and topped with a piece of gold leaf at Louis Sergeant

Bilby Blue’s first place goes to Louis Sergeant in Wellington, New Zealand. She has visited several times and it has excelled on each and every occasion – while it is renowned for its French patisserie, the savoury options are also brilliant. It is one of very few places where the morsels taste every bit as good as they look, and they look stunning.

And me?

Spaghetti allo scoglio from the BBq Father

My most memorable restaurant for 2015 was the most unexpected. The BBq Father in Exmouth, WA
excelled, not for its BBQ, but for its pasta, with flavours as big and as bold as the serving sizes.

Beef tripe at Gold Leaf

Like Bureaucrat, I also can’t leave 2015 with just two nominations. A restaurant that I first reviewed in 2011 and still frequent for yum cha – Gold Leaf in Burwood East – rates a mention for sustained and continued excellence.

We wish all of our dear readers a Happy New Year and great foodie experiences for 2016!

 ~ from Benny and the rest of the Eat and Be Merry Crew

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