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21 Jul

Whilst researching places to eat in Melbourne, I was crestfallen to discover that Jamie Oliver’s “Fifteen Melbourne” had recently closed. I was pretty disappointed as I have never eaten at a Jamie Oliver restaurant and he is my all-time favourite chef. Luckily we had Gordon Ramsay’s Maze to console us.

From the ashes of “Fifteen Melbourne” rises “The Kitchen Cat”, which is owned and operated by Tobie Puttock, who has worked directly with Jamie in many different restaurants and projects (including setting up the first “Fifteen” restaurant in London). “The Kitchen Cat” prides itself on offering rustic Mediterranean food, with a heavy lean towards Italian food. Unfortunately, these photos don’t do it justice.

MoVida, located in an artsy graffiti-covered laneway, is a tapas bar/restaurant hybrid. It came highly recommended to us by a local foodie that we met and it constantly rates as one of the top food establishments in Melbourne. It isn’t cheap but the food was extremely innovative and the atmosphere made us feel like we were in a genuine tapas bar somewhere in Spain.

Another great spot that we ate at in Melbourne was Cookie, a popular casual Thai restaurant in the heart of town that also doubles as a beer hall. Cookie was serving the kind of Thai food that I have been yearning for since being away from Australia; Thai with a mod-Australian twist. I wish I’d had time to return to make my way through the extensive menu that consists of sweat-inducing curries, noodle dishes, spicy seafood selections, and various takes on stir-fries. Service was very slow but I’d expect as much in a place this busy. Try and visit at an off time (not sure if there is one!) to ensure you get a table.

Melbourne’s food scene truly stunned and impressed me. The food scene thrives in Melbourne and even with as many restaurants as there are, they seemed to always be busy. The Aussies have high expectations for a good meal and, from our experience, these expecations are met and often excelled. I cannot wait for my next trip to Melbourne.


Gordon Ramsay’s “Maze”

11 Jul

Level 1, Crown Metropol
Corner of Whiteman & Clarendon Streets
Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne is a city of, and for, food lovers and I am (obviously) a food lover. This made my recent trip there a very conflicted one. On one hand there were countless restaurants and cafés that I wanted to discover but on the other hand, I didn’t even scratch the surface of all the places that I wanted to try. With only 2.5 days in Melbourne we really didn’t have time to do the city justice, however, we certainly gave it our best shot. We both gained some extra “padding” in Melbourne as our days consisted of a tightly packed schedule of coffee, food, coffee, food, drinks, and more food.

The one place that B and I had our hearts set on eating at was Gordon Ramsay’s, Maze. We both admire Gordon immensely so when I told B that Melbourne is home to two (!!) Ramsay restaurants he demanded (kindly) that I make a reservation immediately. I didn’t need to be convinced. We made our reservation for lunch at Maze about a month before we left on our trip. Gee, could you tell we were eager? My friends from Melbourne told me that the restaurant isn’t actually doing that well and I think the location must play a big part in its struggles. It is in quite an odd location – upstairs, at the back of the Crown casino – I don’t think that was a great choice as it is quite out of the way.

The restaurant décor is sophisticated in a modern way – elegant furniture, lots of open space, and whilst we were there, a lot of natural light. To me, Maze was informal fine-dining (although just skimming the line between formal and informal) and the menu was mostly French but with a slight Australian influence (noticeable in the use of local ingredients). We opted for lunch so that we could enjoy a long lazy meal but at a price that wouldn’t blow our entire travel budget. The three course lunch at Maze is $42, whilst four courses is $54 (includes taxes and remember that tip is optional, not expected, in Australia). Without hesitation we ordered the four courses and sat back to enjoy our Gordon Ramsay experience.

As we had expected from a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, everything was elegantly plated and finely executed, from the complimentary bread basket, to the main courses, to the coffee. I particularly enjoyed the yellow fin tuna tartar, with white radish, yuzu, and black garlic, but the show-stealer for me was the rhubarb compote. I absolutely loved it!

Final Thoughts: Maybe we are biased because we admire Gordon Ramsay but I thoroughly enjoyed my meal, and our experience, at Maze. It was definitely a highlight of our trip to Melbourne. I thought the meal was extremely good value for money (as I’ve mentioned the $54 is including taxes) and the meals were what I would expect from a perfectionist like Gordon. I really hope that Maze doesn’t fail in this location but Melbourne is a tough city to crack so I can only hope that more people make the effort to get lost at Maze.

Maze Melbourne on Urbanspoon

I’m a coffee snob. Pleased to meet you.

7 Jul

Before my recent trip to the good old land of Oz, I hadn’t stepped on my home soil for five long years. Five YEARS?! I never thought I’d ever be away from Australia for that long! But one thing leads to another and you end up meeting your husband and making a new life for yourself in a faraway place.

In those five years away I have certainly had time to reflect on the things that I love about the country that I still refer to as home. It is a land of extreme diversity, beauty, and hardships. It is home to friendly, laid back people who aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves or to have a chat. The outdoor lifestyle offers opportunities to really spend time outside. And, of course, the food, wine, and coffee are exceptional.

I have long droned on to anyone that will listen (well…mostly just B) about how great the food and coffee are in Australia but I must admit that even I was beginning to wonder if I just had on a big pair of rose-coloured glasses. After five years away perhaps it was just wishful thinking that my home country, more than 12,000 kilometers away, was brimming with mouth-watering international cuisine and coffee so good that I could cry. Well, after my recent trip, it seems as though I wasn’t out of touch at all. A foodie Eden truly does await Down Under.

Touching down in Sydney, we dumped our bags at the hotel and immediately headed to The Rocks, a well-known part of Sydney, and went straight for a coffee at the nearest café we could find. In an outdoor courtyard, surrounded by plants and bathed in sunlight, we ordered our first flat white of the trip.

For those unfamiliar with a flat white it is an espresso based coffee that is basically a cappuccino/café latte hybrid. However, the foam is not a dry foam (like a cappuccino) but rather a silky foam that is poured from microfoam. Even though this particular café seemed to be nothing special, we were served a coffee almost better than anything we have been served in Vancouver. And this was only the start… 

If you have ever had the fortune of travelling to Melbourne you will understand exactly what I mean when I say that coffee is serious business in Melbourne (as is food, but that is an entirely different post). The result of the high density of European immigrants in Melbourne is that there is almost a coffee shop on every corner. And I’m not referring to Starbucks (Starbucks actually closed almost all of their locations in Australia due to poor sales). I am referring to genuine cafés that are manned with trained baristas who actually care about the quality of coffee that they are serving. I am talking about little cafés that make coffee such a highlight that their menu is limited and yet, people still flock. This is a city that takes its café scene seriously.

Whilst in Melbourne I was like a junkie who could not get enough of my much-needed vice. Espresso machine choirs sung out to me from cute coffee shops that were located in even cuter laneways and I found myself visiting one after the other (after the other). And each and every time we were presented with a superior, high-quality coffee that made my veins perk up. A friend of mine from Melbourne told me that most Melburnians have a favourite coffee shop that they will repeatedly return to loyally, hence why there can be so many. Like I said, it is a serious business. I don’t even have to recommend a particular coffee shop in Melbourne – honestly, they were all fantastic.
Australia (Melbourne in particular) reminded me that it is acceptable to be a coffee snob. I don’t want to drink bad coffee, heck, I don’t even want to drink mediocre coffee! What’s that saying? Life is too short to drink bad coffee. Well, I agree. I have been spoilt and I think it’s high time that Vancouver stepped up its game. Surely as a world-class city we can do better for coffee than what we currently have on offer.

For more great reading on the coffee scene in Melbourne, check out this article.