Monday, March 28, 2011

Essence Restaurant at Marriott Hotel

Corner Exhibition & Lonsdale Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Ph: 9660 1183
Website: Essence Restaurant at Marriott Hotel

I've walked past Essence Restaurant quite a few times when I park in the outer parts of the city centre. I look enviously at the restaurant patrons as I wondered how it would feel to dine in such an elegant and refined surrounding. I thought that you had to stay at the hotel to eat in there, so was very jealous of the diners. I'm far from rich so have never stayed at a 5 star hotel. Luckily for me, the restaurant is actually open to all diners and I was invited to dine there as a guest. I was also informed that Essence Restaurant was also looking for a photographer to shoot their new menu, and the best photos taken will be the chosen winner.

Upon arrival with my friend John, we were led to a great seat, right near the window. This mean we got as much of the setting sunlight before getting a wonderful view of the city lights and people going about their business on the Melbourne streets. The room is beautifully decorated with a modern feel. Large heavy wooden tables of assorted sizes are scattered throughout the room, with quite a large amount of space between them. Our waitress took our drinks orders before leaving us to browse the menu.

We are served an Antipasto Platter as a starter. It looks nice and there were some good elements, but also some bad elements. The prosciutto was ok and the grilled vegetables were good, but elements like the breadsticks, olives and salami were very bad. The platter was very generic and felt very store bought.

The entree of Seafood in Coconut Sauce was very good and both John and I enjoyed it thoroughly. The fresh tasting seafood worked well in the creamy sauce and I soaked up all the sauce with my bread. However, the next dish undid all the good work the seafood dish did. The Salt and Pepper Calamari was one of the worst I've tasted. It looked good but was very chewy and floury. If I had to guess, it was either fried at too low a temperature, left on the pass for too long, or pre-fried and then re-fried. Whatever the reason, it was not good and we didn't touch it after our first piece each. The Oysters Kilpatrick was better, but still not great. The oysters themselves were fresh, but the Kilpatrick sauce was far too sweet and lacked that tangy bite needed.

Between entrees and main, Executive Chef Samantha Lotter came to talk to us. I found out that she was originally from South Africa and had been an Aussie for quite a long time. She has been at the helm of Essence for 2 years and the menu is her design. I felt that she was enthusiastic about food and when asked, knew where her ingredients were from. I asked Samantha about the Lamb and Steak that we were going to have and she said they were from Victoria, which gave me high hopes as Victorian Lamb and Beef are very good.

My Roast Lamb was served with a wild mushroom sauce, green beans and a roast potato. Let me start with the good elements. The lamb was cooked nicely and had good flavour. I loved the mushroom sauce and it went very well with the lamb. However, simple elements like green beans which tasted raw and an extremely starchy and gluey potato ruined an otherwise good dish. I didn't touch any of the beans or potato. I think fundamental elements such as cooking beans and potato properly should be a requirement of any restaurant, let alone a place that is catering to a more refined clientele.

John's Steak with Chips was again, good and bad. The steak, while still tender and tasted good, was not cooked to medium rare as requested. It was cooked to at least medium well, if not well. And see that red sauce around the steak, that wasn't all the sauce. There was quite a bit of blood leaking from the steak still, which is easily avoided by resting the steak before serving it. That is again a fundamental skill that anyone who's ever cooked a steak will know. Even I can say that I rest the steak when I cook it at home. The heirloom tomatoes served with the steak were good, as was the mushroom. However, the chips were so limp and starchy that it was not eaten at all.

For dessert, I chose a Bread and Butter Pudding with maple ice cream. This was a mixed dish, like everything else we had that night. I loved the maple ice cream, with pecans placed through it. However, the bread and butter pudding was a sorry sight. It was a dry, thin piece of bread, dotted with sultanas and tasting way too sweet. Bread and butter puddings are a comfort dessert and should be lush and creamy and buttery, as the name suggests.

John was recommended the special dessert at the time, a Chocolate Fondant with Macerated Strawberries. The fondant was served in the silicon mould, which I can't say I really liked. The fondant was far too runny and undercooked. The bits around the edge that were cooked better did taste good. The macerated strawberries were good and vanilla ice cream soft and smooth.

The restaurant atmosphere was fairly quiet throughout the night as there weren't too many diners. I didn't mind this and liked the elegant feel that enabled me to comfortably talk to John without shouting. Whilst I liked the elegant feel of the atmosphere, I can't say the same about the service. Whilst all the waitresses tried hard to make sure we were looked after, they probably tried a bit too hard. I felt a bit agitated with the constant inquiries as to how I was enjoying my meal. I had hardly put a fork into my entrees, mains or dessert without being asked how it was each time. The placing and clearing of plates was also quite clumsy, with items dropped constantly. This wasn't the fault of the wait staff, but more these ridiculously sized two person tables. With so much space and the tables spaced so far apart, the two person tables were those tiny round cafe tables which is adequate for placing two coffees and some small plates of cakes, but not when you share entrees or have large mains plates with sides.

The food at the restaurant is extremely confused. There is a bit of everything that I guess is trying to please all the hotel clients. However, it leaves me as a diner, unsure what to order. The quality of the ingredients is good, but the way the produce has been cooked left quite a lot to be desired. I don't think they can justify the prices they are currently charging. I can handle simple food with quality ingredients, but they would still need to be done well. The Melbourne dining scene is far too competitive to get away with food that is not cooked well at high prices. The setting may increase the value of the food a little, but I would choose to sit in a cramped restaurant eating well cooked food at a great price rather than a comfortable restaurant with food that is not cooked well.

I think the way forward for Essence is to cut down the menu and focus on a few items that has mass appeal if they don't want to zone in on a particular cuisine style. This probably means concentrating on simple salads and well cooked seafood for entrees. Simple changes such as putting some thoughts into salads rather than using the same supermarket mixed leaf salad for everything would instantly add appeal. Mains can be simple items such as Steaks, Lamb Racks, Pastas and Seared Fish. Desserts can be simple items served with their nice ice creams. Something like Sticky Date Puddings are easy to make and cliche, but nonetheless still delicious. Tarts and cheesecakes can be pre-made and chilled and hence not put stress on the kitchen. Something definitely needs to be done or the restaurant will continue in the same manner, quiet. I'm not being harsh for the sake of it. Having done my "boot camp" at Steer, I know how hard it can be and all the issues involved. I hope that my clear and honest assessment of what I thought was wrong, and some possible solutions can help improve the restaurant.

We dined courtesy of Essence Restaurant.

Essence Restaurant at Melbourne Marriott on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Luxbite - Best Macarons In Melbourne?

38 Toorak Road
South Yarra, VIC 3141
Ph: 9867 5888
Website: Luxbite

The word "best" is very hard to use. For something to be the best, you have to had witnessed everything else and then definitively measure it against the others and be able to show its superiority. With sport, this mean winning the race or the tournament. With macarons, I think it can be measured by the number of blog posts.

Luxbite has only been around for a number of months, but they have definitely created a stir and captured the blogging hearts and mouths of Melbourne. Just look at the sheer scale of reviews by Serena, Penny, Ashley, Cindy, I-Hua, Liz and Michelle.

Let me start with my verdict and work my way back. I haven't tried every macaron in Melbourne, but from the many places that I have tried, I would say that Luxbite do the best macarons in Melbourne. The macarons aren't all perfect, in fact there are a couple I don't like. But the ones that I do like are spectacular. The flavour combinations are very innovative, presentation is good and texture the way I like it, slightly crunchy outside and soft inside. It gets close to the macarons from Pierre Herme and Laduree that I had in Paris. I thought the Luxbite macaron was still just a tad under those, but the latest macaron, the Vanilla Creme Brulee comes extremely close. My view is definitely biased by the memories of sitting in a Parisian park in the beautiful sunshine and munching on my macarons.

I love the way that Luxbite present their macarons, like jewellery. Yen and Bernard, owners and makers of the macarons, told me that they were so in awe of the Pierre Herme shops in Tokyo that the decided to start a shop themselves and model it on those stores. They are both classically trained at Le Cordon Bleu and have created a very defined image for their shop. It has a feel of luxury and elegance from the fitting of the store, to the displays, to the boxes that they use to store the macaron. Look at the beautifully backlit macarons in the special glass case they got made.

I went a couple of times and bought many macarons each time to try out as many flavours as possible.

I thought that the Kaya Toast was my favourite but I have a new champion, the super pretty Vanilla Creme Brulee. This one had a wow factor from both the looks and the taste. It is now my undisputed favourite.

Luxbite do quite a number of innovative flavours and here are my verdict on the ones I have tried:

*Vanilla Creme Brulee - My favourite of all the Luxbite macarons. The sexiest looking and tasting macaron.

*Kaya Toast - Their house made kaya tastes great and there is definitely the toast flavour. Love it.

*Salted Caramel - Lovely salted caramel flavour and texture is fantastic.

*White Peach and Jasmine - I love this macaron as I adore peaches. And I think this one has the best texture too as the filling is a bit wetter and oozes together with the shell. The jasmine does shine through and add a fragrance.

*Raspberry and White Chocolate - Another one of my favourites, the raspberry really shining through the white chocolate.

*Watermelon Yoghurt - This was the biggest surprise for me. I didn't think you could capture the essence of watermelon as it's quite a light flavour, but boy this macaron packs a punch in flavour, beautiful.

*Passionfruit - One of the best passionfruit in Melbourne. Very intense passionfruit flavour and I liked that it wasn't paired with chocolate as usual. I actually don't find the passionfruit/chocolate combination very nice.

*Vanilla Creme Caramel - A very good macaron with a nice flavour, but pales in comparison to his cousin the Vanilla Creme Brulee.

*Rose & Lychee - I think it's quite good but the rose flavour is a bit too strong for my liking.

*Peanut Butter and Jelly - You gotta love peanut butter and jam together to enjoy this. Luckily I did. Tasted just like the sandwiches I used to make.

*Strawberry Cream - I thought this was too sweet. Yes, it sounds stupid to say a macaron, made of sugar, is too sweet. But the filling was too much for me.

*Kaffir Lime - I love the flavour of the lime, but the extremely dry shell means I didn't like this one at all.

*Choc Cherry
*Toby's Mocha
*Sicilian Pistachio
*Choc Freckles

Luxbite don't just do macarons though, they also do a lot of mouth watering desserts. The Caramel Slice with Salted Caramel Macaron is to die for, literally. You can feel your arteries clogging up as you dig into the super rich caramel with the ultra sticky chocolate layer. But man, I don't know what they do with the caramel but it's one of the best I've tasted. I tasted a hint of coconut and Yen confirmed that it did contain coconut. The Raspberry Tart was also very good, with fresh perfect raspberries sitting atop a good shortcrust pastry and pastry cream. I love the little snowflakes and snow sugar that just makes it look so adorable.

So there's my wrap-up of Luxbite. Whether they are the best macarons in Melbourne or not, it doesn't matter. I know which macarons I love to eat and will be going back to them many more times to eat them. Yen and Bernard are very generous with their time and will answer questions and take feedback. They are also very active on Twitter so let them know your thoughts.

LuxBite on Urbanspoon

Bees Knees Brownie Company

I was first introduced to Bees Knees Brownies at Pan Asian. I was totally intoxicated by the Dulce de Leche brownie that I ate. It was just perfect, a gooey chocolate hit with specks of dulce de leche that gave it a fragrant flavour.

Li from Pan Asian told me they were from Bees Knees, and I had assumed it was some huge American bakery such as Magnolia Bakery or Hummingbird Bakery. Hence I went online to search for a recipe. And there was indeed many recipes claiming to be Bees Knees Brownies. So I tweeted that to the world, only to be informed by Barbara, owner of Bees Knees Brownies, that what I had tried was her own creation and the recipe I had was wrong. However, she generously offered to send a sample pack to try out all the other flavours. During our correspondence, we found that we lived very close to each other, so a real meetup was in order.

I met Barbara at a cafe and we talked about food and especially brownies. Barbara had given up her employment in the corporate world to pursue her food dreams. She explained how she had spent a long term developing her brownie recipes as she couldn't find a good one that she was used to having in America. She had moved here from the States to study, met her now husband, and decided to stay. What a great story. Now she runs her own business making the most delicious brownies this side of America.

She has developed eight flavours, and given them cute names too. The flavours are as follows.

*The Real McCoy - Classic Brownie
*Attaboy - Toffee Almond Crunch
*Palooka - Peanut Butter Crunch
*It's The Berries - Raspberry and White Chocolate
*Mrs Grundy - Peppermint Cream
*The Big Six - Six Mixed Nuts
*Hotsy Totsy - Chili and Cinnamon
*All Dolled Up - Dulce de Leche

I managed to eat my way through five of the brownies, and here are my thoughts.

*Classic Brownie - Flecked with chocolate drops on top, the classic brownie is as it says, classic. The gooey chocolate just melts in your mouth. Barbara told me that she sources really good chocolate (I can't remember from where) and uses good quality ingredients, and it shows.

*Peanut Butter Crunch - I really like the peanut butter in the brownie. That slightly salty hit and peanut flavour works for me. If you don't like peanut butter, you won't like this.

*Six Mixed Nuts - You can never go wrong with nuts in brownies, and to have six different flavours makes for a good mix as you bite into different nuts at a time and get a different flavour with each bite.

*Chili and Cinnamon - I have to admit that I did not like this. I love chili in savoury food but have yet to find anything sweet with chili that works for me. You'll either love this or hate this, there is no middle ground I think.

*Dulce de Leche - Last and definitely far from least, is the dulce de leche (caramel). Oh. My. Goodness. This is by far my favourite and is perfect for me. It just outshines all the other brownies, despite them all being very good already. This brownie somehow just has this fragrant flavour. I'm not sure what chemical interactions go on during the cooking or if I'm just a sucker for dulce de leche, but you must try this brownie for yourselves.

The brownies now come in beautiful boxes that would make great presents for friends, corporate functions or thank you gifts. You can also just order them to eat. That's what I'd do.

Peanut Butter Crunch

Chili and Cinnamon, Classic Brownie

Toffee Almond Crunch, Six Mixed Nuts

Dulce de Leche, Gift Box

Thank you to Barbara for giving me that gift pack and taking the time to talk to me about her passion and philosophies on food.

EDIT: I thought I would tell everyone how you can get your hands on these brownies. After speaking to Barbara, here are the options.

1) For orders of the gift boxes or more that you want delivered, you can order through the Bees Knees website.

2) For orders of the gift boxes or more that you want to pick-up, you can pick them up at Pan Asian restaurant in Chapel street.

3) For purchases of individual pieces, you can follow Bees Knees on Twitter to find out when they deliver to Pan Asian, purchase at Soho Coffee House in Parkdale or Daylesford Makers Market.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Steer Boot Camp - Day 6 "Front of House"

This post is about my sixth day at "Boot Camp" at Steer Bar and Grill in South Yarra. You can read more about how I got the opportunity to work in a commercial kitchen for a week and also about my previous days in the links below.

How I got to work at Steer
Steer Boot Camp - Day 1 "It's All New To Me"
Steer Boot Camp - Day 2 "Food, Lots of Food"
Steer Boot Camp - Day 3 "So That's How You Do It"
Steer Boot Camp - Day 4 "Show Time"
Steer Boot Camp - Day 5 "Cabin Fever"

After getting cabin fever from being in the kitchen, it was welcome relief to work front of house. I got to meet new people and interact with the customers. I got artistic and decided to take lots of photos of the restaurant while it was closed between lunch and dinner service. I love the decor in the restaurant and feels it has a really modern vibe, but I would prefer the lighting to be brighter during dinner service. That's my pet peeve about restaurants, when it's too dark.

View from outside the restaurant and the view of the cafe area (which will be turned into a bar area) from above the stairs.

The Chef's Table which seats up to 22 people and the upstairs bar area.

On the floor, I met the sommelier Monolo and one of the waiters Layne. I had a good hour long chat with Monolo, about how he went from an accountant to a sommelier, about wines and different flavours and about Spanish food (he's Spanish). He described Spanish food with such vivid imagery that we both said we were hungry at the same time. It was so funny how we were both salivating from what we were saying ourselves. According to Monolo, Movida food is good but no traditional. The closest to traditional Spanish food is at Entre Tapas Y Vinos, but even that is more complicated than the Spanish food he's used to. He described some dishes to me that were all very hearty and simple, served in large pots for communal eating with simple breads and beans. We also both discovered that we didn't like a certain Spanish catering company who cook their paellas by cooking the rice and seafood separately. It was such a funny story because it coincided with another blogger getting blasted for writing about that catering company and how their food wasn't good. More on that saga soon. I also had a good chat to Layne, who has been in the industry for a long time, but is now working towards a degree so he can change professions because the hospitality industry is very tough.

Since it was a Sunday service, it was fairly quiet. After learning what I could about front of house and serving the few plates to customers, I had time to kill so went back into the kitchen and convinced the other chefs to help me create a dish. Look how happy the chefs are and how much they loved each other.

The dish we created is called Grilled Chilli Spatchcock with Textures of Corn and Salsa. I think the title describes it all. It was a spatchcock covered in a chilli type paste and grilled and then baked to crisp the skin. Next we made a corn paste with some marinated whole corn pieces with herbs. A salsa was made and finally some avocado finished off the dish. It was a truly sensational dish, and I'll take some credit for suggesting the items, even if I didn't cook it.

Front of house is probably just as stressful as the kitchen and can get very hectic on busy nights. I think that with the ever changing customers, there is at least some change, but not much. As Layne told me, it's the same small talk, and can anyone honestly say they like small talk. I despise it and tried to chat with the customers but they weren't particularly in a chatty mood. I learnt the few tricks that waiters use for holding food and remembering who had what. I also learnt how to use the Point of Sales system to monitor what customers had ordered and to call in orders. I think I pretty much picked up everything that you had to know as a waiter.

That wrapped up a very tiring and crazy week in the Steer Bar and Grill kitchen/floor. I learnt a lot about cooking, the industry, and most importantly, the people who make up the industry and what drives them. As I will keep repeating, people in the hospitality industry are tough and deserve much praise for their work. I look forward to next week's adventures working the bar and learning about wines.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook and view the Flickr stream for more photos.

Steer Boot Camp - Day 5 "Cabin Fever"

This post is about my fifth day at "Boot Camp" at Steer Bar and Grill in South Yarra. You can read more about how I got the opportunity to work in a commercial kitchen for a week and also about my previous days in the links below.

How I got to work at Steer
Steer Boot Camp - Day 1 "It's All New To Me"
Steer Boot Camp - Day 2 "Food, Lots of Food"
Steer Boot Camp - Day 3 "So That's How You Do It"
Steer Boot Camp - Day 4 "Show Time"

After the hugely successful dinner party for my friends the previous night, I was surprised how deflated I felt the next day. The long hours and tiredness was catching up to me. The long hours confined to the kitchen and seeing the same people was also starting to play with my mind. I could feel myself slipping slightly from about day 3 onwards, but now it was in full force. I instantly recognised what I was experiencing, cabin fever. I had seen the episode of Mythbusters when Jamie and Adam were isolated in a real cabin and they very quickly started to exhibit all the traits of cabin fever. Here I was in the kitchen for extremely long hours, interacting with the same group of people, with little stimulus to the brain during some repetitive tasks.

I was starting to act like the other chefs, feeling restless a lot. The irritability was also growing, getting angry when I couldn't find something. Whereas I was calm and would look for the item on the first day, I started to act like the chefs and give an outburst when I couldn't find a pen for instance. I was becoming so forgetful too. Seriously, I have been addicted to Words with Friends lately and knew all the two letter words, but I couldn't recall what letter followed Q or Z, which everyone playing Words with Friends know off by heart. It's I and A respectively, which I can remember again now. I lost some Word games for the first time ever to opponents I would normally beat easily, which further added to my frustration. The laughter aspect was also definitely apparent. I would randomly burst out into song like the chefs had been doing the whole time I was there, then laugh about it. I would also play little games and start play fighting with the male chefs. It was getting to a point where I felt so irritated that it led me to feel quite sad quite often. That whole day was particularly bad as some late cancellations meant a quieter restaurant with not a lot to do during service.

Below are some photos I took of us mucking around. We even went as far as plating up a dish to photograph.

The kitchen environment can be stressful, but at times of quiet, those are equally frustrating. The extremely long hours and constant confinement to the same location with the same people can really play with your mind. My life had been turned upside down in that week. I didn't read the newspaper anymore, didn't watch TV, didn't blog, didn't listen to music, didn't socialise with my friends, basically didn't do anything. I didn't know what was happening in the real world. If it wasn't for Twitter and Facebook (luckily I could use those whereas the chefs couldn't) during the day, I would have gone more insane.

Even with the distractions of Twitter and Facebook, I still wasn't comfortable in the kitchen anymore and asked to do front of house the next day. I thought I was getting along with the chefs but we all began to grate on each other and burst out in attacks on each other. The attacks weren't anything bad or lasting, as two minutes later we were all ok again, but something in the mind was making us do it and I didn't like that lost sense of control over my mental capacities. It was very scary indeed. I'm not saying chefs do it, but I can see why you may turn to drugs or other outlets that may be unhealthy for you. I think it was summed up best by Lexie when she said that most chefs don't start off in the industry as smokers, but they become smokers because for that 5 minutes when they're outside having a smoke, they can sit down, relax and just remove themselves from that environment for a short period to regain their sanity.

The restaurant industry is very tough, the long hours definitely being an issue, but also the confinement of the location can really play with your mind. I respect chefs and hospitality staff who can do that long term and still produce a high level of food and service. I am passionate about food, but not to that level that I would want to subject myself to such a harsh environment. I asked every chef in the restaurant why they were in the industry. They really did want to cook and the excitement they got from serving customers great food was a massive reward and partially kept them going. Ultimately, all wanted to own their own restaurant so they could control the style and quality of food produced and make a living from something they loved but admitted was extremely hard work. I'm unsure what changes can be made to the industry to change the pay and hours, because if chefs were paid a decent wage for every hour they worked, there wouldn't be a hospitality industry.

Why do chefs continue to do what they do when there is so much stress?
What can be changed in the industry yet still keep dining affordable?

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook and view the Flickr stream for more photos.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Steer Boot Camp - Day 4 "Show Time"

This post is about my fourth day at "Boot Camp" at Steer Bar and Grill in South Yarra. You can read more about how I got the opportunity to work in a commercial kitchen for a week and also about my previous days in the links below.

How I got to work at Steer
Steer Boot Camp - Day 1 "It's All New To Me"
Steer Boot Camp - Day 2 "Food, Lots of Food"
Steer Boot Camp - Day 3 "So That's How You Do It"

Day 4 was all about putting everything that I'd learnt so far into effect and putting on a big show and meal for my friends. I had been organising with Executive Shaun and Consultant Sommerlier Raul all week about a massive dinner party at the Chef's Table for my friends. They gave me full reigns on the condition that I would cook for them. So here is the menu that I came up with

Shared entrees of Steak Tartare, Kingfish Ceviche and Fried Calamari

Churrasco of Steak and Sausages
Sides of chips and salad

Sticky Date Souffle with Dulce de Leche Ice Cream and Sable

What an amazing menu right? Haha cmon, I gotta praise myself. And Raul helped match wines for the meal with a South African white wine and a French red wine.

Firstly, let's start with a shot of me in my nice chef's outfit. I actually quite liked the feel of the chef's white and vertical stripes are always flattering, making me look thinner.

The entrees were a hit with everyone, with most people loving the Fried Calamari the most, but some totally loved the Kingfish Ceviche and a few preferring the Steak Tartare. I actually didn't sit down with my friends to eat, instead running plates and doing simple tasks in the kitchen, but of course I snuck out of the kitchen and talked to them throughout the night. I may also have been drinking on the job.

Mains were the Churrasco as I mentioned earlier. Chef Shaun let me have the honour of carrying out the first trial piece and carving it in front my my friends. Look at this huge chunk of meat, mmmmm, delicious. Once the meat was given the thumbs up, it was brought back into the kitchen and carved onto lots of sharing plates. House made Brazilian sausages were also served with the meal. I only found out later that in all the mad rush, we forgot to serve the chips and salad. There was so much food that no one missed them, but the chips that I had been hand cutting for 3 hours earlier that day wasn't served. I had been bragging about those beautiful chips all day haha.

My dessert idea was utter overkill but I don't care. Those were my favourite elements so why not throw them altogether. The Sticky Date Souffle is so light and fluffy, with a brown sugar syrup and sticky dates mixed through it and within it. Pastry Chef Jane set a new record for herself by plating out 24 souffles all at once. It was with a lot of help from all the chefs in the kitchen, about 5 people doing various tasks. The sables are crispy and full of buttery goodness and then the Dulce de Leche ice cream again, wow. This was loved by all my friends, with quite a few people wanting the Sticky Date Souffle recipe and also to buy the ice cream for takeaway. Unfortunately, the restaurant doesn't do that so you just have to come in and eat it.

To finish off the night, I had made a chocolate cake for my friend Hien's birthday. The idea was great, but the execution, not so great. The chocolate cake recipe was something I've made many times before but due to using a different oven, it came out extremely dry. I'm too embarrassed to show it, but needless to say everyone ate a piece out of courtesy. I also found out that Gem and Tristan from Eat Drink Stagger were in that night too, and as it was Gem's birthday as well, I served her some cake too. Again, they took a courteous bite.

The night went extremely smoothly, thanks to all the team at Steer, from the Chefs Shaun, Richie, Lexie, Bruno, Sarah, Jane, Jeffery, Jaymz and Suresh, to front of house Monolo, Logan, Shaun M, Shaun and Raul. I had a wonderful time cooking for my friends and they all loved the food and the exquisite Chef's Table area.

Finally, as the chefs and I were leaving the restaurant at about 12:30am after some deep and meaningful chats (finishing late, feeling tired and having beers really makes people open up, I won't tell the stories but needless to say I felt a lot closer to the chefs), we bumped into Manu Fiedel. He is extremely funny and I got to chat to him and hear stories of his experiences at Bilson's and My Kitchen Rules. Of course, I got a photo.

Photos in this post taken by my friend Jordan so I can't take credit for them, especially the photo of the churrasco, which I love.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook and view the Flickr stream for more photos.