Friday, April 29, 2011

Yum Table App Launch at St Jude's Cellar

You and a group of friends have just watched a movie, and now you're hungry. "Where to for dinner?" is the most asked question.

You've finished work on a Friday and a work mate asks if anyone is up for dinner. The inevitable "Where do you want to go?" pops up.

You've just watched Hawthorn thrash Collingwood (ok maybe not currently but definitely in the past) and you're all ready for a meal "Where to eat guys?"

If any of the above scenarios seem familiar to you, then there is an iPhone Application that you'll love. It's called Yum Table. I know the app will be useful to me as I've lost count of the number of times when my friends and I all ponder about what to eat after an event. Usually we all stand around undecided for 30 minutes and start getting out our phones to check out what is around the area and whether the restaurant is free. Yum Table solves all these problems, in real time.

Yum Table is the brainchild of Craig Winkler, ex-CEO of MYOB, the ubiquitous accounting software for small business. Craig's turned his attention to this Yum Table app and I personally think it's a brilliant idea. For years now, I've bemoaned the lack of a real time restaurant booking system. If you can book a plane ticket in real time, book a movie ticket in real time or book a concert ticket in real time, what's stopping you from booking a restaurant table in real time. Restaurants that profess to take online bookings still require you to wait for confirmation when they ring you back the next day. With most people in Australia owning an Internet enabled phone, booking online seems like the most natural progression, and Yum Table does that. It is as easy as taking your phone out of your pocket and pressing a few buttons. Yum Table even takes it one step further. It uses the location of your phone to tell you what is in the vicinity, and better still, what is being discounted. It's like for restaurants.

I'm definitely a fan of the idea of Yum Table and think it can work fantastically. However, the key to the success of this application is to get buy-in from restaurants. If restaurants don't participate, it will severely restriction options for the customer and people will use it less and less. So far Yum Table has gotten agreements with numerous restaurants, including some big names like Flower Drum, Fenix and St Jude's Cellar, where the launch party was held.

I was fortunate enough to score an invite to the launch party and learn more about the app from Marketing Director Niv and Craig himself. I can't see too many flaws in the application itself so far. I found it very easy to use and the interface is clean, simple and efficient. You would expect that with all the experience of MYOB, the software aspect would be in good condition. As for the restaurant side, it's a win-win for diners and proprietors. They can fill out seats during quiet hours at a discount or offer specials on items that they may have recently sourced a lot of. The system will fail if restaurants don't put on any listings or there are confusion over bookings made and they don't get registered into the system.

At the launch, the food at St Jude's Cellar was extremely delicious. Below you can see Craig in the blue shirt on the left, and that's John Lethlean in the pink shirt, food editor at The Australian newspaper, and next to John is Joyce, my fellow food blogger from MEL: Hot or Not.

We started our meals with the Charcuterie Platter, which was a highlight for me. It contained sensational croquettes, cured meats, pickled vegetables, terrine and relishes. That was followed by a beautiful Seared Calamari and Chickpea dish and Stuff Zucchini with Sheep's Cheese. The calamari was so tender and fresh. Just as tender was the Lamb Ragout with Pappardelle. The meat was so unctuous and the pasta was perfect.

The Pork with Braised Lentils had everyone at the table reaching back for more. Crispy pork skin (the worst thing is pork with chewy skin) encased a tender flesh. At this stage I was so full already but I soldiered on and ate the Seafood Stew of monkfish, clams, calamari and mussels. The sauce was so full of substance and I lapped it up while devouring all the clams.

Despite my assertions that I was full beyond belief, when dessert came I found a second wind. I savoured the comforting Autumn Fruit Frangipane Tart, served with a slightly ugly but tasty vanilla cream. Wines throughout the night went beautifully with the food.

I had a fantastic meal and learnt all about the Yum Table app, a great idea I think. The highlight for me was to get to chat with Craig and ask him a million questions about everything. His honesty and down to Earth nature really captured me and I believe that he believes in this app, which is what you want as a consumer. It was also fantastic to meet one of my food writing heroes in John and hear his views on things as well.

You can download the app for free from iTunes and to once you set up an account the first time, you can start using to make all you online booking dreams come true.

Thanks to Spark Communications for the invite and I dined as a guest of Yum Table and St Jude's Cellar.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Travelscene American Express Facebook Fan Trip 3 - Beijing. Help Vote For Me

I have been seriously thinking about going to China this year for a holiday, especially Beijing. My previous trips to China have been only in the Southern regions, and I have wanted to visit the capital Beijing for a long time. So when I saw that the Travelscene American Express Facebook Fan Trip 3 was to Beijing, I just have to enter. 10 semi finalists will be chosen from all entries and then fans will vote in the three winners. I am calling out to all of you, my readers, to help get me into the semi finals and then ultimately a winning spot on the trip.

For now, please help show your support by leaving a comment in this post, and hopefully Travelscene will see the support and pick me as one of the 3 winners.

Here are some reasons why I want to visit Beijing, starting of course with all the food I want to eat.


Peiking Duck
How can anyone visit Beijing and not try authentic Peking Duck. The duck takes the name of the city even. I've tried lots of Peking Duck in restaurants around Melbourne, with the top 3 being from Simon's Peiking Duck, Flower Drum and Quan Jude, but nothing would compare to tasting the best Peking Duck in Beijing.

Hot Pot
The next iconic thing to try in Beijing is definitely Hot Pot. I eat hot pot at home all the time, even at the snow in Hotham, at restaurants like Hot Pot House and Little Lamb, but surely the variety of food items for hot pot in Beijing will blow my mind.

Xiao Long Bao
I know it's not Shanghai, but I refuse to believe that Beijing doesn't do some of the best found Xiao Long Baos in all of China. I can't wait to test out my theory. Even though the dumplings in restaurants such as HuTong and HuTong Prahran are good, it must be even better in Beijing.

Imperial Court Food
Imperial court food is something that I haven't had the privilege of trying at any restaurant in Melbourne. The closest I've come is the occasional abalone at home during special occasion. I would love to try all the fabulous feasts of the Imperial Courts, especially during the gluttonous Ming and Qing dynasties. I've watched many Chinese dramas all about the Imperial Court banquets and can't wait to try one for myself.


Forbidden City
My first must see place is the Forbidden City. Again, from watching so many Chinese dramas about what happened in the Forbidden City, I can't wait to immerse myself in the city and feel the grandeur, traditions, luxury and drama that occurred there hundreds of years ago.

Great Wall of China
No trip to Beijing would be complete without putting foot on the only man made structure seen from space. One can only imagine all the hordes of men working on this wall for years and years to keep out the rabbits from Emperor Nasi Goreng, of course.

Tiananmen Square
For historical reverence, I can't go past visiting Tiananmen Square. While many celebrations have been held at Tiananmen Square, we cannot forget the horrors that also occurred there, and must remind ourselves that freedoms need to be fought for and we should cherish our freedom greatly.

Beijing Opera
One of the oldest forms of entertainment is Chinese Opera. It may not be the coolest thing but it definitely has character and is an art form worth seeing first hand.

Beijing Olympic Park
My last place that I must visit is the Beijing Olympic Park. I'm such a huge sports fan and was glued to my TV watching every possible second of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and admiring all the amazing stadiums. I can't wait to see the Birds Nest and the Aquatic Centre for myself.

That wraps up my itinerary wish list of things to eat and do in Beijing. Hopefully you can all support me and leave a comment of support. I hope I will get to live out this dream and make it a reality. Of course I'd blog about every single moment and hopefully you can enjoy the adventure as well.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Holiday - Newcastle, New South Wales

Me: "I'm going on a short holiday"
Friend: "Where to?"
Me: "Newcastle"
Friend: "In England?"
Me: "No, Newcastle, New South Wales"
Friend: "Why are you going there? What's there to do?"
Me: "Well it was voted Lonely Planet Top 10 Cities of 2011, there looks to be a lot to do according to the Newcastle Website, I got cheap Jetstar tickets, and accommodation is free."

So repeat that conversation about twenty times and you get the story. Everyone was asking me why I would want to go to Newcastle. To be honest, it wasn't really on my mind, but when a chance conversation with my friend Dan, who lives in Newcastle, coinciding with seeing an ad for cheap Jetstar tickets, I decided to go. Somehow, Lonely Planet had picked Newcastle as one of the top ten destinations of 2011, citing many great locations and activities. I was skeptical, but with free accommodation, I thought I'd go for a short relaxing trip.

So what was my final verdict about Newcastle? Was it worthy of it's top ten listing for this year? Not quite but there are many good points. I have to disclaimer that I didn't have a car, so obviously didn't get to experience many aspects of Newcastle that the Newcastlian (what do you call a person living in Newcastle?) told me about. It's not like Paris or London where you can catch public transport to all the numerous sites all within the city. Most of Newcastle's attractions need a car to get to. The city centre is pretty much dead, as I found out from day one. I was at the visitors centre and asked the staff what there was to do in the city centre, to which they replied "nothing, it's dead there". I was utterly confused when they clarified that most of the attractions are outside the town centre. The staff were so funny as it was rather quiet in the centre and they were more than happy for me to ask lots of questions. They were so down to Earth and did not oversell anything at all. In fact, they could probably take a lesson or two in marketing, with the Lonely Planet recommendation sign being just a tiny A4 poster stuck in a barely seen area.

I think the staff in Newcastle pretty much summed up the whole trip. People were very down to Earth and relaxed. Everyone seemed to be enjoying their time there, taking strolls, lying on the beach, riding their bikes, fishing and canoeing. It's like Geelong in many ways, with a big town but feeling like a sleepy small town at the same time. I had a very relaxing time once I gave myself into the mood and would spend hours just sitting on the balcony reading a book or walking along the river. The weather was glorious, with the sun out every day I was there and blasting away to 40C plus days. Newcastle is probably best for people who like to do less things, but again, I didn't have a car and if I did, I probably could have driven myself to more locations. The beaches at Newcastle are world class and so beautiful, there are parks, nature walks, sand dunes and the harbour promenade is great at night.

In terms of food, I was pleasantly surprised at how good the food was. It was simple fare, but done very well. There is four main areas for food, and I visited all of them of course.

* Darby Street - This is the main street which housed a lot of restaurants. It's a bit like Brunswick Street, with small cafes interspersed with boutique craft and fashion shops.

* The Harbour front, including Honeysuckle - The harbour front stretches quite long and all along it comprised many restaurants and bars. This area looked like Docklands, with many beautiful restaurants, but in contrast, it's very busy at night, with most people heading there at night for a good time.

* Beaumont Street - This area was strong in a Mediterranean feel with Greek and Italian restaurants dominating the street. Unlike Lygon street though, it's not opened at late but is less touristy and did good simple food.

* The Junction - This area is your posh posh type place. The surrounding areas are quite plain but once you walk into this area, there's leafy trees and the fancy cars all seem to pop up. Women wear scarves in the day time and cafe culture is very apparent.

One of the best meals I had was the French Toast with Caramelised Banana and Butterscotch sauce from Source Cafe. It was so rich but so delicious.

From Snow Patisserie in The Junction area, I had a nice but overprice Egg and Bacon sandwich, and a plum tart, which was too heavy and stodgy.

Zinc Cafe on Derby Street served me quite a few lunches, with simple Baguettes such as the Spicy Meatball with Yoghurt, Caramelised Onion and Salad being very delicious.

The trip to Nelson Bay, a seaside town, was a highlight of the trip. Imagine the most beautiful beaches you can, then imagine a climb across the rocks to a secluded beach where there is NOT A SINGLE PERSON. You own the whole beach and can swim in the warm crystal blue waters and walk across soft pale sand. That was a reality thanks to Yasmin, who knew of the secret location. The Fish and Chips at the local chippery was quite good, but I was most intrigued by the battered and fried dim sim. Ummm, why has no one thought of battering a dim sim yet. It's not bad.

Dinner at The Dockyard pub along the Honeysuckle harbour front gave fantastic views of the large mining ships and refreshing sea breezes. They also did an amazing Beef Rib with a BBQ sauce, some good Fried Calamari and surprisingly, curries.

A meal at Silo was also very good. Again, it was on the Honeysuckle harbour front. The antipasto plate was good and the Oysters Kilpatrick excellent. The Confit Duck was surprisingly good, with the duck being flavoursome and not dry. The Seafood Linguini was not too bad, with the seafood being fresh. A simple Steak was cooked well.

A final meal that I had was at the Albion Hotel, which actually won Best Pub in NSW last year. I was really surprised as there are so many pubs, so for it to win is a big deal. Initially I thought it was one of those silly awards but when I saw it was from the Good Food Guide for Sydney, it gave more weight to the award. At the pub I had a Lamb Shank while Dan had Fish and Chips. The lamb shanks was really really good, as was the fish, really fresh. I can see why they won best pub as the rest of the menu looked really enticing too. I had meant to go back to try more of the menu but as usual, too many places to eat, not enough time.

So that concludes all my eating and trip to Newcastle. Even though I don't think Newcastle is one of the Top Ten cities to visit this year, it is inducive for a relaxing time. You can't help but fall into the vibe and laid back attitude of the locals and the beaches are a great way to spend some relaxing time. If I did go back, I'd make sure I got a car so can visit all the other places just outside of Newcastle.

Thanks to Dan, Nandos, Ross and Yasmin for housing me, showing me around and generally looking after me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Point - Old vs New Degustation

Aquatic Drive, Albert Park Lake
Albert Park 3206, Victoria
Ph: 9682 5566
Website: The Point

I have become a massive fan of The Point ever since Executive Chef Scott Pickett took over the reigns. Read about my previous excellent experiences here, here and here. I was thinking about going to The Point's Old vs New event with my cousin Allan during the Melbourne Food and Wine festival, so imagine my utter delight when I received an invite to attend the event. Obviously I said yes.

The idea of the event is that it would be a degustation dinner featuring a battle of old techniques and new techniques. Scott would be cooking with old techniques, while Ryan Flaherty, ex chef from The Fat Duck, would be using new techniques. They would use the same core ingredient to cook with. It sounded like an excellent idea and the execution proved to be just the case. To start, here is a photo of Scott and myself. You know I'm a chef groupie so I had to get a photo.

I was seated at a table with my fellow food bloggers Ed and Jess, along with Julia from Julia Tink PR and Mark Best, food writer from The Age. I had a great time all night chatting to them whilst eating the amazing food.

Suckling pig croustade, white onion gel – the collaboration
NV Pommery Apanage, Reims France
2006 Yarrabank Cuvee, Yarra Valley

The first dish of the night was a collaborative effort matched with two wines. The croustade was delicious, with soft pork encased in a beautifully crispy pastry. Both wines were very good, favouring the Pommery slightly.

Egg (old): Poached egg, white polenta and black truffle
2009 Domain Mittnacht Riesling, Alsace France

Egg (new): 63c egg, blackened corn and jamon
2009 Christmont Riesling, King Valley

The next two dishes were of the humble egg, but cooked in the most delicious fashion imaginable. The Poached Egg by Scott was truly mind blowing. It's such a classic combination paired with the truffle and was always going to be hard to "beat". However, Ryan's 63C egg came close. The texture was sublime and went well with the jamon. It was an excellent dish but I think this round went to Old. As for the wine, I actually preferred the King Valley Riesling.

Whiting (old): Grilled whiting, golden raisins, pinenuts and beurre noisette
2008 Chablis 1er Cru Fourneaux (Louis Moreau), Chablis France

Whiting (new): Smoked whiting, fennel and bacon
2008 Red Hill Chardonnay, Mornington Peninsular VIC

Two whiting dishes were served next. Scott's old dish of Grilled Whiting had me impressed already as I thought the fish was cooked perfectly. I liked the burnt sauce but I didn't quite like the raisins in it. Ryan's new dish of Smoke Whiting was perfection. The texture topped that of the grilled whiting and the flavours were better. The foam, as wanky as it looked, actually tasted nice. For the wines, I liked the Chardonnay much more than the Chablis.

Duo of pasture fed beef – two different techniques
2003 Chateau Balac Cru Bourgeois, Medoc France
2004 Ainsworth & Snelson Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra SA

The duo of beef really highlighted the two techniques. Both steaks were served just as, cooked and salted just the right amount. On the left is Ryan's new style steak while Scott's old style steak is on the right. Both steaks were really delicious, and I liked the texture of the sous vie steak more. But you can't beat the charred caramelised edges of a great grilled steak and that won me out in the end. Mains were served with very old skool mixed leaf salad and extra creamy mashed potato. For the wines, I preferred the Cabernet far more.

Apple (old): Apple tart and hokey pokey ice cream
2007 Chateau Gravas, Sauternes France

Apple (new): Apple, cinnamon, yoghurt and honeycomb
2009 William Downie Petit Monseng, King Valley VIC

Lastly, dessert, my favourite part. The "old" style apple tart (served in a very modern flat slice) was stunning. It was quite sweet so paired well with the ice cream. The new style sous vie apples definitely had a wow factor and zing, having been cooked in apple juice to amp up the flavour of apples. As good as it was, I like the comfort of the apple tart and would eat that time and time again. For the wine, how can you go past sauternes, a classic.

So by the end of the meal, I'm not sure who won the night. There were elements here and there that each technique managed to do better than the other. Cooking is not about using one technique anyway, it's about combining different cooking methods to produce the best final dish. I think sometimes molecular gastronomy can go too far and be more about the technique than the food, but Ryan's food was definitely to do with taste and flavour rather than just purely technique. Scott's food is always great and he uses some classic flavour combinations to cook great food and pairs them with other ingredients to give them a modern edge.

With the wines, whilst I prefer some of the old school wines, I was informed they cost 3-4 times the new school wines, some of which I actually preferred. Maybe it's because I'm used to the flavours but if my money was at stake, I'd be buying new school wines most times.

Overally, I had a wonderful night and it was a wonderfully run event with sensational food and wine. I can't wait to go back to The Point again for more sensational food.

Thanks to Julia Tink PR for the invite and I dined complimentary of The Point.

The Point Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hot Cross Buns

It's coming up to Easter so all the supermarkets and bakeries are saturated with hot cross buns, of all types. I walked past a bakery one day and saw some hot cross buns and really wanted to buy it. But I decided I would attempt to make them this year as I've been meaning to make them for a while. I'm just not very confident working with yeast, but again, it was Twitter to the rescue. As I was talking to Karen, she suggested trying the recipe she uses as it's quite simple and always works. So that's what I did, with success. The hot cross buns were very good, with a good soft texture and a good taste. They look pretty good too if I say so myself. You can find the recipe at Citrus and Candy, but I've rewritten it here with some added tips from my mistakes.

Hot Cross Buns

makes 12)

310ml warmed milk
60g caster sugar
16g instant dried yeast (about 4 teaspoons)
600g plain flour, sifted
1 tsp salt
1.5 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
60g butter, softened
1.5 cups of raisins / sultanas (375ml) – or to taste
2 eggs

60g plain flour
60ml water
2 Tbl apricot jam, warmed in a pan over low heat and strained


1. Whisk together sugar, milk and yeast until sugar has dissolved. Yeast can really fly all over the place so work over the sink if you can. Cover the mixture and set it aside for 10 minutes until it becomes frothy.

2. Mix flour, salt and spices in large bowl. Rub butter into flour until crumbly. It's vital to have the butter soft or you'll have really tired forearms like me as my butter was still cold.

3. Stir in the sultanas, egg (I beat it slightly) and frothy yeast mixture until combined.

4. Flour a surface quite liberally, as well as your hands. I found that I put far too less flour initially and the dough stuck to the bench and my fingers badly. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Lightly grease a large clean bowl (I used can oil spray) and place dough into it. Turn dough so it is coated with grease. Cover in clingwrap and leave in a warm, draught-free place for 45 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

5. Remove clingwrap and punch dough until it has dropped in size a bit. Give it a quick knead and divide into 12 pieces.

6. Placed into a greased 20 x 30 cm baking tray, cover with clingwrap and leave in a warm place to rise for 15 minutes. Don't use too small a tray or they become squashed together like mine and don't look quite as nice. Preheat oven to 200C.

7. Whisk together flour and water to make cross paste. Pipe onto buns. Use a fine piping tip or you'll get big gluggy dough crosses like I did, which do not taste good. Bake at 200C for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 180C and bake a further 15 minutes. Buns are ready when it sounds hollow when you tap the top.

8. Brush with warmed apricot jam liberally to get that nice glossy shine and flavour.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Exclusive Interview - My Friend, Chef & Author of Tuscan Summer, Audrey Gordon

I first met Audrey when I was holidaying in London and dined at her restaurant audrey's. Audrey was so warm and friendly and we struck up quite a rapport. Ever since, we've kept in contact through emails and become good friends. Not only is Audrey such a nice person, she is also considered one of the world's ultimate food authorities. She began her career as lifestyle editor at Formal Living magazine, before moving on to Implausible Homes. Audrey's first book Pressure Cooking was a raving success and she followed it up with Fussy Food, Let's Blanch!, Cooking with Lamb, Cooking with Beef, Cooking with Children, Audrey's Kitchen, A Taste of Audrey and Audrey's Aroma. She has been voted 'Britain's Sternest Chef' three times as she is tiger in the kitchen but a kitten outside of it.

Her new book, Tuscan Summer, is a practical guide that will help you carry off everything from a lazy Sunday brunch with friends to a formal sit-down banquet for 300 lactose-intolerant, diabetic vegans with severe peanut allergies.

Without further ado, here is the guest post from Audrey.

My dear friend Thanh Do has asked that I be a ‘guest blogger’ on his wonderful website, something I am only too happy to do. I first met Thanh about four years ago when he visited my London restaurant audrey's. I remember he wandered in (without a reservation I might add!) and somewhat sheepishly asked for a table for one. So we put him over in what we call the ‘Desperate and/or Dateless Corner’ where he immediately began taking photos of the table setting. Watching on from the kitchen we naturally assumed he was a Michelin inspector and immediately snapped into action: emptying the rodent traps, hosing out the meat tray and organizing for a complimentary bottle of Chablis Grand Cru to be sent to his table.

Chatting with Thanh that night I was interested to discover that, as well as being a food lover, he was also a qualified engineer. This information came in handy a few minutes later when a couple dining nearby complained that they had a wobbly table. Thanh was on his knees in seconds, folding a menu in half and stuffing it under the wonky leg as only someone trained in the laws of physics could easily do. He also told me that he was training to run a half marathon. From the amount of garlic bread he put away that night I could only assume he was carbo-loading.

But beyond all this Thanh revealed himself as a genuinely passionate food lover and it was a pleasure to serve him that night. I just wish he had left a decent tip.

I can't encourage you all enough to go and buy this amazing book. Audrey gives you pratical tips such as discretely saving the prawn shells once your guest peel them and using them to form the basis of a bisque. She also explains that it's best to avoid awkward conversation topics such as gum disease or a colonoscopy. Similarly, marital disharmony is not an appropriate topic unless the subjects are out of the room and you keep your voice down. With golden tips like these, how can you not buy this book. You can buy this book from all good book stores, or if they don't stock it, discount book stores or on the Internet. Hopefully Audrey will come down to Australia soon and I can meet up with her again for a meal.

Love you Audrey, keep up the good work.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from Audrey.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Duchess of Spotswood

87 Hudsons Road
Spotswood, VIC 3015
Ph: 9391 6016

In the ever crowded Melbourne Cafe market, it takes something a bit more special to draw the crowds. Duchess of Spotswood is such a place. Despite being nestled amongst a few shops in the quite town of, well you guessed it, Spotswood, people are flocking to Duchess of Spotswood in their masses. I first read about Duchess of Spotswood from Adrian's blog post, and had been meaning to visit for a while. However, Duchess is on the other side of town, the part where I have to cross the West Gate Bridge for. Usually I only cross the bridge to go to the airport. On this crisp Saturday morning, I was willing to drag myself out of bed early and drive across town to visit Duchess as I had managed to guilt trip my cousin Allan into shouting me a meal, after a comedic turn of events that resulted in me walking 45 minutes to a train station at 11:30pm at night when he was just in the toilet. Oh well, I never refuse a free meal, especially a truly free meal that had no catches behind it.

We arrived quite early at 10am but the cafe was already full. People were already putting their names onto the waiting list, so we quickly placed our names on the list and then did what we always do, take photos. We snapped photos of this, that and everything else, making ourselves look as touristy as possible while all the while freezing in the cold air. Of course, being tricked by the beautiful sunlight, I had neglected to bring a jacket. I had broken my one and only golden rule of fashion "Never ever leave home without a jacket in Melbourne". Actually I have a second golden rule, "Super tight skinny jeans don't work on fat people". Oh maybe a third golden rule of "Sunglasses do not look good sitting on your head". Ok, fashion lesson over.

When we did finally manage to get a table (about a 15 minute wait), we admired how cosy and beautiful the interior was. The chandelier is the central focus point of the ornately decorated room. The room had an elegant feel with the decor having a Victorian or Edwardian look, according to the little knowledge I have of buildings from watching Grand Designs. The waitress, decked out in equally retro clothes (I seem to obsessed with fashion in this post) of stonewash high waisted jeans and a ruffled white blouse, took our coffee orders and gave us the menu. Allan and I both ooohed at the luscious looking menu. We wanted to try everything as it all sounded so tempting. After much discussion, we settled on a cappuccino for me and a latte for Allan, both excellent. Then we continued browsing the menu. After further discussion, we finally settled on our meals, to share of course so we can taste twice as much.

For our breakfast, we firstly had the Duchess of Pork. This was absolutely sensational. A slab of tender pork jowel was soaked in a lovely caramelised sauce. This was paired with two perfectly cooked runny eggs with truffles on them. How can you go wrong. Tie everything together with some great sourdough and I am driving back to Duchess again to eat this.

The Idle Tongues consisted of some tender pieces of ox tongue, a beautifully fried duck egg, juicy sauteed mushrooms and a creamy semolina mash. The dish was a perfect blend of textures and flavours, again all tied together with good bread.

We finished the meal by sharing a Chocolate Stout Cake. When we were both eating the cake, we knew it tasted a bit different and the waitress informed us it contained stout. I like the idea of adding beer to cake but the execution on this wasn't so great. The cake was quite dry and didn't have that indulgent taste of chocolate.

Breakfast/brunch is not really my thing and I have always been cynical about cafes charging nearly $20 for a breakfast of eggs and bacon. However, Duchess of Spotswood has changed my mind and shown that breakfast can be lifted to another dimension and made equally exciting as a dinner meal. I can't wait to go back and try all the other items on the menu such was the excellence of the savoury dishes. There's a reason why people are all going out of their way to visit.

On a final note, as Allan and I were taking photos of our meals, the lady next to us asked us if we were food bloggers. We said we were. She laughed and said how can we have so much time to write about what we eat, in which we responded because we love food. It's interesting to note that while there has been many excellent reviews of Duchess of Spotswood by bloggers such as Sarah Emily I-Hua and Maria, detailing many meals and aspects of the cafe, The Age newspaper have only just published their review today. They just don't have the resources to cover so many places, where citizen journalism, or citizen bloggerism, are increasingly covering many more places with much more professionalism. Meals are carefully described (usually with a photo) and critiques are more considered and constructive, with clear explanation of the criticisms so that it can be used by the businesses should they wish. Hopefully the view that bloggers are just hacks who don't know what they are talking about will slowly change to that of a valuable resource that can be utilised by both diners and businesses.

Overall Rating: 16/20, Excellent breakfast with lots of variety on the menu.

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.

Duchess of Spotswood on Urbanspoon