Wednesday, 30 September 2015

A Day in the Yarra Valley - Part 2

After our visit to the Yarra Valley Regional Food Group Farmers’ Market, we headed over to Yering Station’s Cellar Door for a private wine tasting. The Cellar Door and Wine Store are situated in the original winery building (circa 1859). We sampled some wine from the Yering Station ‘Reserve’ and ‘Estate’ collections. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Shiraz Viognier were tasted and I must admit that I found them all spectacular even though I am a white wine enthusiast. I learnt so much during the tasting about the different characteristics of wine and was given a greater appreciation of the wine tasting process. Next time you are in the Yarra Valley, I strongly suggest booking you and your friends in for a wine tasting...  

Whilst we were learning about wine during the tasting, Shannon Bennett touched down in a red helicopter to come and say hello to me... Oops, I mean he stopped by to catch up with Yering Station’s Head Chef, Tom Johnston...

The Cellar Door is open Monday to Friday from 10.00am to 5.00pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10.00am to 6.00pm. Don’t forget to grab some Yarra Valley Regional Food Group goodies from the shop on the way out...

After the wine tasting, we ventured upstairs to Matt’s Bar where you can enjoy more of the Yering Station wine collection with some delicious share plates and tapas. Try a ‘Sticky Pork Slider with apple and celeriac remoulade ($7.00 each)’ or a ‘Cheese plate ($26.00)’ with a glass of your favourite Yering Station wine... However, the menu changes daily so expect something different every time. Sit indoors or out on the amazing deck area where you can take in the magnificent views. Matt’s Bar is open Saturday and Sunday from 10am. 

To visit the Yarra Valley, check out Wine Compass...

Address: 38 Melba Hwy, Yarra Glen, VIC

Phone: 03 9730 0100

Matts Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

After our visit to Yering Station, we were escorted by Yarra Valley Transfers over to Locavore Studio in Lilydale. Locavore Studio is hidden away in the backstreets of Lilydale. My friends that live nearby have been very excited to hear that they have a cooking school right on their doorstep! Chef Jessie Rae Crossley started off her career in the Yarra Valley and has now returned to share her culinary knowledge at the Locavore Studio. Her experience and tales from working in London, France and for the rich and famous on the Super Yachts, is clearly evident in her fun and engaging classes. Jessie’s dishes are simple for you to replicate and are delicious too! Her recipes highlight the wonderful produce from the Yarra Valley. Participating in one’s of Jessie’s classes in this modern cooking studio would be a great experience for you and your friends or family. Private catering is also available so keep Locavore Studio in mind for your next event...

We were greeted by Jessie with a glass of champagne. We then learned more about the Yarra Valley Regional Food Group from Martin Cheney.

We congregated around the main cooking station to watch Jessie demonstrate the dishes that we would later recreate. Jessie’s passion and stories made the class an absolute joy. First up was the ‘Yarra Valley Chilli Linguini with ashed goats cheese, Buxton Trout and capers’...

Then we learnt how to make the perfect steak with a recipe for ‘Dry aged steak with Chimichurri salsa’...

Next up was the side dishes. A simple micro herb and red sorrel salad followed by ‘Oregano and garlic focaccia’...

Then it was time for dessert... Strawberry and Stroopwafels trifles! We had seen these Stroopwafels earlier in the day at the Farmers’ Market.

Now it was the bloggers’ turn to recreate Jessie’s dishes. I was paired up with the lovely Dani from Eat My Street to cook the ‘Yarra Valley Chilli Linguini with ashed goats cheese, Buxton Trout and capers’. I’m a big fan of Yarra Valley Pasta and was excited to be on this workstation.

Once we all had completed our dishes, we sat down at the gorgeous rustic table with equally beautiful table decorations, to enjoy our creations. It was very scrumptious indeed...

Thanks again to Jessie for such a pleasurable afternoon. I must put the ‘Mexican Street Food’ class on my ‘to-do’ list...

Address: 12 William Street East, Lilydale, VIC

Phone: 0400 284 949 

P.S. Catch up on ‘A Day in the Yarra Valley - Part 1’ here...

Friday, 25 September 2015

Mr Hendricks Cafe, Balwyn

Salad has never been one of my favourite things... but recently I’ve had a craving for healthy salads. Some people assume that the word ‘salad’ automatically means ‘healthy’ and I often hear people exclaim ‘I’m on a diet so I will order something healthy... the Caesar Salad!’ which is one of the highest calorie items on the menu. I think the main factor for my change of heart is that Melbourne cafés are creating some cracking salads that are full of flavour. A trip to Mr. Hendricks Cafe in Balwyn caused me to again be tempted by a salad... If you love to queue for a table, then Mr. Hendricks is your place to do just that in the eastern suburbs. Even on a weekday, you have to sometimes queue for a table... All that being said, the staff are extremely well organised and helpful with the process and we only had to wait 15 minutes. You have the option to sit in the sunny courtyard or one of the two rooms inside. We were seated in the smaller back room with a fireplace in the corner which was very cosy and private.   

·        Brioche French Toast with poached pears, caramel sauce, double cream, cinnamon sugar ($16.50)
·        Crispy Eggs with sweet potato puree, ham hock, salad of fennel, radish, red onion and candied walnuts ($19.50)
·        Chia Pudding with rhubarb and strawberry compote, poached rhubarb, strawberry gel and puffed black rice ($13.50)
·        Tempura Soft Shell Crab and Snapper Burger with cucumber, carrot, cabbage and coriander salad, lime aioli ($18.50)  
·        Dr. Marty’s Crumpets with honey cream cheese, Nutella or lemon curd ($7.50) *kids menu

I picked the ‘Breakfast Salad with red and white quinoa, charred corn, black beans, jalapeño chilli, red cabbage, poached egg, honey smoked almond dressing ($17.00)’. This was another scrummy version of a healthy salad. I loved the puffed grains and that little hint of mint in the dressing was divine. Not sure where the jalapeño chilli was though...

Breakfast Salad

My dining companion chose the ‘Prawn and Corn Fritters with avocado puree, charred corn salsa, chilli jam ($17.50)’. The golden spheres of fluffy corn were crunchy on the outside but there was not a lot of prawn action on the inside. However, the dish altogether was very tasty.   

Prawn and Corn Fritters

A Bloody Mary ($12.00) could be the way to start your day or perhaps an OJ ($5.00) is more your style... My latte ($3.50) made with Padre Coffee’s Mr. Hendrick’s Seasonal Blend was fabulous.


We had no problem with the service and the guy working the queue was great at his job.

Address: 469 Whitehorse Road, Balwyn, VIC

Phone: 03 9830 7579

Trading Hours:
Tues – Fri: 7.30am – 4.00pm
Sat – Sun: 8.00am – 4.00pm

Mr Hendricks Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

P.S. Other eateries nearby are Norma Loves JoeScarvelli Cafe, Town & Country Cafe, and Snow Pony...

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Zen Den, Eltham

I was looking for a place to eat in Eltham so of course I turned to Zomato to find out what was the number 1 café in Eltham. A search on my phone resulted in Zen Den but finding it in real life was a different matter... We drove past a couple of times but Google Maps told us we were in the right place. We therefore assumed that this nameless café in front of us was indeed Zen Den. We were greeted, seated and provided a menu which I was happy to see had Zen Den listed across the top. Although the outside is unassuming, the locals obviously know about this clandestine café as we only just managed to obtain a seat. The café is split into two rooms which have a very cool vibe with an eclectic mix of furniture and accessories. The bread is from the Abbotsford Convent Bakery and the free range meats are supplied by Gary’s Quality Meats.  

·        Green with Envy – kale and watercress pesto scrambled eggs with slow grilled ham hock, fresh chilli and basil, served on sourdough ($16.50)
·        Hashta La Vista – potato hash stacked with wilted spinach, buttered thyme mushrooms, toasted pine nuts, hollandaise and poached eggs ($16.50) *gluten-free
·        Pizza – poached pear and prosciutto thin crust pizza, dressed with baby rocket and olive oil, micro herbs and sharp blue cheese ($16.00)
·        French Toast Eh? – golden pan fried eggy bread, topped with free range bacon, caramelised banana and real Canadian maple syrup ($18.50)

The menu consists of many healthy but delicious options that will make you feel very zen afterwards. There are also more indulgent dishes for those who feel like something a bit naughty... I decided to have the ‘Macro Bowl – grilled tofu served with kale, roasted pumpkin, red cabbage, chickpeas, nuts and chia seeds on organic brown rice, drizzled with soy infused tahini ($15.00)’. I’m not on a vegan or gluten-free diet but this dish happened to be just that. The soy infused tahini provided so much flavour! Care was taken with each element and the pumpkin and baby carrots were perfectly cooked. An extremely generous serve of almonds added crunch. It was an incredibly filling dish but tasted so good that I managed to finish the lot!  

Macro Bowl

My dining companion picked the ‘Fresh Mex – Cajun spiced market fresh fish served with a zesty lemon infused Mexi-slaw, avocado whip and a chipotle mayo on two soft tortillas ($16.00)’. This was also a brilliant dish with large portions of succulent fish. The zingy slaw and spicy mayo made a winning flavour combination with the fish.

Fresh Mex

An iced flat white ($3.80) would be perfect when the weather warms up or you might prefer a ‘Bananarama Smoothie – banana, raw peanut butter, cacao nibs, raw oats and almond milk ($8.00)’. My latte ($3.80) made with Atomica Coffee’s Tiger Ray Blend was lovely with floral notes.

The place was buzzing with people but the service was very efficient. 

Address: 736 Main Rd, Eltham, VIC

Phone: 03 9439 8838

Trading Hours:
Mon – Sun: 7.00am – 4.00pm

Cafe Zen Den Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Town & Country Cafe, Balwyn

Perhaps you know someone with a green thumb? Or even someone with a black thumb for gardening and could do with a little help? Well, Town & Country in Balwyn could be just the place to take them. As well as the well-stocked garden centre, they have a gorgeous homewares and gift shop. After your botanic shopping spree, you can relax in their café with a cup of tea. The interior comprises of two rooms with lots of seating available which is handy for catching up with friends. More seating is out the front where you can sit amongst the potted colour.

·        Dr Marty’s Crumpets, poached strawberries, mint and vanilla mascarpone ($10.90)
·        Greek Quinoa Salad, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, mint, onion, olive labneh, preserved lemon ($12.90)
·        Pulled pork bun, slaw, chilli spiked jack cheese and BBQ sauce ($18.50)
·        Banana bread, salted caramel, espresso mascarpone and hazelnut crumble ($12.90)

·        Leg ham and cheese toasty ($7.90) *kids menu

I was expecting an ordinary menu but was pleasantly surprised to find a menu full of tempting dishes. I picked the ‘Smoked Salmon Omelette, braised kale, chives, pickled beetroot and crème fraiche ($15.90)’. The dish was quite nice but a bit slimy and wet with the melted crème fraiche. The omelette was lacking the essential golden hue on the bottom which also added to the sliminess. The smoked salmon was dry but the kale and beetroot were winners. Aesthetically, coloured beetroots would look better than cream beetroots.

Smoked Salmon Omelette

My dining companion chose the ‘Breakfast Brioche Roll, fried egg, bacon, avocado, spinach, aioli and tomato relish ($15.90)’. The toasted bun was stone cold so must have been sitting around for a while. The avocado was mostly the bruised bits that you would normally put in the bin. The rest was good but spoiled by the former.

Breakfast Brioche Roll

Tea Tonic loose leaf tea ($4.00) is available with flavours such as Dark Chocolate and Black, Berry Green, and Apple Tree. My latte ($3.80) made with Organico Coffee was not great. It was an inferno and tasted burnt.  


The best part of our experience was the service which was very attentive and friendly. However, the lipstick on my glass was a little too red for me... 

Address: 24 Whitehorse Road, Balwyn, VIC

Phone: 03 9816 9458

Trading Hours:
Mon – Sun: 8.00am – 5.00pm

Town & Country Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

P.S. Other eateries nearby are Norma Loves Joe, Scarvelli Cafe and Snow Pony...

Friday, 18 September 2015

Mammoth, Armadale

Massive is a considerably overused word at the moment. My friends and I use it all the time to describe everything for a bit of a laugh. A drinking game can be made from watching reality television for each time they use the ‘M’ word. How about a new ‘M’ word to describe something huge? Perhaps, Mammoth could be the next Massive... Also, could Mammoth be the next ‘must-visit’ cafe in Melbourne? Mammoth opened this week in Armadale and is the newest creation from the people behind Pillar of Salt, Touchwood and Barry. The triangular shaped building could be difficult to utilise but Technē Architecture + Interior Design have produced a bright space that is both practical and stylish.  

·        Char spanner crab egg crepe, bean shoot salad, water chestnut, lemon sorbet ($24.00) *Gluten Free
·        Lobster donut burger, green mango and papaya slaw, cucumber jam, sriracha kimpi mayo, salt and pepper ($24.50)
·        Egg brulee, bread and butter pickled zucchini, artichoke, toast ($16.00)
·        Black Russian Salad - red egg, tomato, candied olive, bulls blood lettuce, black rice wafer, liquorice and vanilla dressing ($18.00) *Gluten Free
·        Lavender bagel, fresh honeycomb, whipped buffalo ricotta ($12.00)

The menu definitely ventures away from your usual café fare and makes an exciting change from eggs on toast. I decided to have the ‘Grilled lychee and passionfruit chia pudding, macadamia, hemp seed crumble, blood orange ($14.00)’ which coincidentally is a gluten free and vegan option from the menu. I thought this may be a bit small for my mammoth appetite but the dish turned out to be a lot bigger than I expected. I loved how this dish was not overly sweet, it was indeed quite bitter in parts. It looked gorgeous and all the elements complemented each other. The passionfruit jelly was a delightful addition.

Chia Pudding 

My dining companion picked the ‘Rainbow Salad - fermented vegetables, puffed rice, almonds, buffalo curd, walnut and apple dressing ($17.50)’. This dish needs quite a bit of improvement. It was a visually stunning dish but in terms of edibility was rather disappointing. I’m not sure who would enjoy some rock-hard rice scattered over their salad... The vegetables were beautifully prepared but the almonds were scarce.

Rainbow Salad

At home, I tend to drink a lot of Rooibos but don’t often see it on café menus. I was pleased to see it included on Mammoth’s drinks list ($4.00). My latte ($4.00) made with Five Senses Coffee was okay. It was creamy and had a robust flavour but was very cold. Probably just a few teething problems that will be sorted out once the café gets going.  

The service was fantastic. The team worked as though Mammoth had been open for years. This was probably due to the fact that they have used experienced professionals that have worked for them before. 

Address: 736 Malvern Road, Armadale, VIC

Phone: 03 9824 5239

Trading Hours:
Mon – Fri: 7.00am – 3.30pm
Sat – Sun: 7.30am – 4.00pm

Mammoth Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

P.S. Other eateries nearby are The Pour Kids and Adriano Zumbo Patisserie...

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