A Winter Food Weekend in Melbourne - Part Two
Chef Matt has his own show, Recipes that Rock, which airs on the Food Network UK and will hopefully reach Aussie screens soon.
There’s something quintessentially Melbournian about rugging up in layers, braving the bracing air, and walking the city’s streets in search of a winter food adventure. With so much to see, do, discover and taste it’s guaranteed you won’t stay cold for long.
Saturday | Early-morning and Eco-friendly
Zipped up in thermals, we ventured out in the frosty cold of the morning (after a gym session in a vain attempt to compensate for our MoVida Aqui dining experience and made a beeline for Hardware Lane. A considerable queue of people lined the street; the breakfast norm for the wonderfully French-inspired café Hardware Société.
Tucked into a tiny narrow space directly opposite, we entered Silo by Joost (pictured) – an entirely sustainable and waste-free café owned by florist/designer/creative/entrepreneur Joost Bakker. The colourful Jeremy (his hair was rainbow) immediately took us through the menu. He sat us down at the long communal bar, where we literally perched in the kitchen (an open kitchen is a good sign of a well-oiled culinary team).
Head chef Matt Stone and desserts man Dom Moldenhauer (who was in the middle of assembling a perfect lemon meringue) indulged me as I madly Instagram-ed their delectable creations. Our coffees were delivered in adorable half-glazed, half-raw clay exposed cups, and were smooth, full-bodied and balanced. Our pick for breakfast? Filling, warming and creamy porridge, hand-milled on site, served with poached rhubarb, almonds and pepitas and topped with fresh pomegranate seeds. Our freshly-squeezed tangy grapefruit juice, which arrived in rustic hand blown glasses, rounded out a hearty and healthy breakfast experience.
The guys at Silo are utterly inspiring. Everyone is clearly driven by the love of good food made with good produce. On our way out Jeremy kindly shared that chef Matt has his own show, Recipes that Rock, which airs on the Food Network UK and will hopefully reach Aussie screens soon. I am eagerly awaiting its arrival.
After our superb breakfast we made our way toward the National Gallery of Victoria, where our eyes were met by the astounding texture and colour of the Monet’s Garden exhibition. Engrossed by a stunning collection of the Master Impressionist’s early travelling work, painted sketches of his beloved gardens of Giverny and preparatory work for his Magnum opus, Nympheas, we quickly whittled away time and worked up a hunger. With a dinner reservation just hours away, and not wanting to ruin our appetites, I decided to surprise my mum with a treat.
Leaving the gallery we turned down Little Collins and headed up to Hub Arcade. At the end of the short arcade we pulled up a pouf at Belgium chocolate café, Chokolait. I brought mum here for one reason… hot chilli chocolate! Mum and I have become self-proclaimed hot chilli chocolate connoisseurs. We’ve tried them all over Melbourne, Daylesford, Adelaide and Brisbane, and we’re determined to find Australia’s best.
You know a place is serious about their hot chocolate when they have chocolate buttons sitting in jars labelled like coffee beans: Costa Rica 38%, Peru 64%, Ecuador 71%, Uganda 80%. The best part about Chokolait? You can choose your intensity of chilli on the chilli metre from 1 (mild) to 10 (hot!).
We swiftly placed our order, a platter of fresh strawberries drizzled in a combination of milk and dark chocolate and two dark hot chilli chocolates with an intensity level of 10. The rich, thick chocolate was the perfect sweetness, and as the cacao hit my tongue I was ensconced into chocolate heaven. Then came the kick of the chilli at the back of my throat and immediately warmed me to the core. Combating chilly with chilli – the perfect combination and antidote for a cold Melbourne winter! I couldn’t stop myself from chugging back what may be the best hot chilli chocolate I’ve tried to date.
And back to France
I’ll confess, I am a bit of a Francophile. Attired in a 1920’s jazz age-inspired beaded jumper and emerald green scarf, I set off with mum for dinner at Bistro Vue with high expectations. We entered through the heavy glass door of the Collins Street restaurant into a softly-lit dining room. A delightful maître de greeted us by name, took our coats and led us to the back of the restaurant – a cozy dining section, with hints of rustic elegance in the décor.
Gazing over our menus momentarily, we were asked if we would prefer “Still, sparkling or good ol’ Melbourne tap”. It immediately lightened the mood. There wasn’t a hint of pretentiousness throughout the entire evening. Even the diners next to us generously shared their thoughts on what they ordered.
We began with a treat, a glass of Veuve Clicquot. Mum looked thoughtfully at the glass and explained that the difference between French champagne and sparkling wine is in the bubbles, “Look at how light and fine the bubbles are Gem…they look like fairy fireworks”. We chinked glasses, both settled on fish, and broke open our adorable, still-warm mini baguettes.
After a few short words about our meals and tastes, our sommelier matched our wines with our meals, and swiftly retrieved two bottles for us to approve. I was presented with a smooth and slightly sweet glass of Millton ‘Arai Vineyard’ Chenin Blanc, while mum enjoyed a crisp and fresh Albariño from the Sommelier Cellar Release. Both were delicious and suited our palates to a tee.
Our entrée of soft shell crab, celeriac and apple rémoulade with mojo sauce was the perfect starter. The sweet tartness of the apple mingled with the mild nature of the celeriac, and was enhanced by cumin and smoky paprika in the sauce. Our mains were equally delicious. My traditional French dish of John Dory 'à la meunière' was simply beautiful – a modestly served, large fillet pan-fried with butter, parsley and lemon. I enjoyed it with Salade and Broccoli with garlic and chilli. Mum adored her dish of Mark Eather Striped Trumpeter with cauliflower and raisins – a fat juicy piece of white fish atop a bed of grated cauliflower and purple cabbage and a nutty element that she exclaimed was “Délicieux!”
Too full to stomach a whole dessert we opted for the Petit Four selection with a cup of tea. Two waiters arrived at our table. One carried teapots and delicate cups; the other pushed what can only be described as a Heston-Blumenthal-cross-Willy-Wonka trolley. Eye-popping crimson-coloured macarons, hanging from twig-like branches. Long spiralling snakes of snow-white marshmallows in a glass jar. A perfectly-arranged checkerboard of small cakes, chocolate logs and jelly-pops standing upright in a field of canelés. The trolley was wheeled away and we were left to marvel at what was as much a visual feast as an edible one.
The team at Bistro Vue must be commended on their joie de vivre and ability to create an absolutely enchanting “Parisian” evening. We personally thanked the manager and maître de upon exiting and picked up a few parting personal tips for when we visit Paris later this year.
Check back next week to read part two of Mimi’s food adventure, which tells a tale of street food, costume design and Impressionist Australians.
Read more musing by Mimi Hyll online at Mimi Must Try.