Multicultural Cuisine of…
With our bellies full and hearts content, we shuffle out of the Good Food and Wine show. It’s still day light, so I decide we still have exploring to do. Poor Sous-Jeff is lugging around a bag full of goodies from the Show, but like the trooper he is, he doesn’t complain.
We start wondering back towards the Flinders St station area – the heart of Melbourne is always a good place to start when looking for truly good food! We meander in and out of alleyways. Centre Place is busy, but nothing really catches our eye there…
Continuing on our way, we end up wondering down Hosier’s Lane and decide to stick our heads into MoVida, which (yes, I know it’s disgraceful for a Melbourne foodie), we still haven’t dined at! We’ve been meaning to go since our wedding last October, as we had a few photos taken down Hosier’s Lane, and one actually taken out the front of MoVida!
Sous-Jeff had never been particularly keen on trying the tapas they serve (“I’m not eating duck liver parfait!”), but upon actually looking at the menu, he decided there were in fact a few things we could enjoy. What we wouldn’t enjoy, however, was the two and a half hour wait for dinner when we arrived at 5:45pm. Ah well, wasn’t meant to me.
Onwards we explore, eventually finding ourselves on Swanston St. I remember that Beatbox Kitchen is around here somewhere, and suggest a big fat hamburger to Sous-Jeff. His eyes light up, and we continue on to Curtin House, dragging our tired feet up the six flights of stairs to burger heaven. Only to see this sign at the top:
Not thrilled. But you know what? The Rooftop Bar was open, and they’d have cold vodka and beer, so we decide it’s time for a pit stop!
Level 6, 252 Swanston St,
(03) 9654 5394
Although I’d been to Cookie and Toff In Town on the lower levels, I don’t think I’d ever made it quite to the top, and I’m pleasantly surprised! It’s very relaxed, laid back, and reminds me a little of Madame Brussels (which I loooooove!) with less of an artsy crowd and vibe. DJ playing, great view, quick bar service and reasonably priced beverages. Great place for pre-drinks, I’d say.
But, alas, our tummy’s were grumbling and we couldn’t deny them any longer! So we continue on our way. We try our luck at Mamasita, but are given a 50 minute waiting period. No deal. We somehow find ourselves back to the start, at Degraves St.
It’s starting to get busy and it smells amazing down there. Post-wedding and pre-honeymoon, Sous-Jeff and I stayed in the city for a few nights, and we had an amazing breakfast somewhere along Degraves one morning. We remember wanting to go back for dinner, but when we went back on the Monday night, it was of course closed. Sous-Jeff thinks he remembers the restaurant, so we head on down to check it out, and we arrive at The Quarter.
27 – 31 Degraves St,
(03) 9650 6156
We’re warmly welcomed by the lady at the door and shown immediately to a table. Upon first glance, it’s incredibly busy, and the tables put you almost shoulder to shoulder with your neighbour. However, the longer we’re in there, the less I notice it; I feel instantly relaxed and comfortable in the European style eatery.
Norah Jones is playing softly in the background, and the walls are lined with black and white Euro-style art and photographs. The lighting is dimmed, giving the restaurant a very Parisian street-cafe feeling, but not as pretentious. The crowd is quite mixed – young and old, couples with children and groups of young friends.
A friendly waiter appears at our table, seemingly unfazed by the Saturday-night-Degraves-St craziness, and politely inquires as to our menu selection. We make our choices, but are a little apprehensive about the wine – Sous-Jeff isn’t much of a wine man, so we have to make sure he’s happy with the bottle I’m about to select. Sensing our uncertainty, the gentleman offers us a taste of the wine first. I know this might not sound all that impressive, and in fact at most places it’s expected, but the restaurant was absolutely packed, and we really appreciated him taking the extra few minutes to do that. Good customer service, to me, is every bit as important and good food, and I think this was highlighted by the customers sitting on the tables on either side of us who also made comment on the waiter we all shared. In fact, upon hearing one lady mention that she was too full to finish her meal, but wished she could take it home for breakfast, he promptly packed it up for her in a neat parcel and wished her a very happy breakfast. Orders placed and wine poured, we relax a little and prepare ourselves for a bit of a wait, while chatting about the day at the Show. About 5 minutes and not much of a wait later, our garlic bread arrives.
|Garlic Bread, $5.00|
Made with Turkish bread, it’s crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, buttery but not oily, garlicky but not sickeningly so. I love garlic bread, and while this wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, it was pretty darn good!
Not too long later, out come our mains. Sous-Jeff has ordered the Open Cajun Spiced Chicken Burger – Cajun-marinated chicken breast in a Turkish bread roll, with tomato, pancetta, caramelised onions, cos lettuce, melted gruyere, served with chips and aioli.
|Open Cajun Spiced Chicken Burger, $18.50|
The plate is laid down and we both dive straight for the chips and aioli. There isn’t much more I love in life than crispy potato and garlicky aioli. The chips aren’t as crisp as we’d generally prefer, but they were nice and soft inside. The aioli was super creamy and the flavour very well balanced. Sous-Jeff enjoyed his burger, although he thought that the chicken breast was a little thin and he’d have preferred one thick fillet instead of two thin ones. He also mentioned that the Cajun seasoning wasn’t particularly strong – a nice flavour, but just not much of it.
|Chicken Breast, $24.00|
I’ve gone with the chicken breast, oven baked and stuffed with fetta and sun dried tomato pesto, served on a spinach and lemon risotto and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. My chicken was perfectly cooked and white on the inside, but unfortunately no where near enough stuffing. The risotto was a real highlight for me; I was expecting something sharp and acidic, but it was very soft, gentle and refreshing. The spinach and herbs married beautifully with the lemon risotto, and I enjoyed it so much that I’m now looking for a way of recreating it at home!
We were wayyyy too full for dessert, so we paid the bill and began our waddle back to the station for our trip home. All in all, the service at The Quarter was outstanding, and the food was quite good, but it was also still very crowded, there were no bathrooms available to customers and the menu options weren’t overly impressive.
Would rate it a 6.5 out of 10.
Onto the train we go, and enjoy quite the amusing trip home; Bill, the portly, inebriated gentleman, decided he wanted someone to chat to on his last few stops. As my nonna would say, he was “più largo che lungo” (wider than he was tall), and wanted to tell us alllllll about his daughters and the fact that he should be allowed to get drunk on the train, because at least he’s not drink driving. Finally, he disembarks, a little unsteadily, and we arrive home 15 minutes later.
Our final act of gluttony for the evening is to empty our goodie bag and plonk our tired bodies on the couch and nibble on some of our treats! Here’s what we came home with…
Randomly flavoured M&M’s from USA Foods.
|Pretzel (yuk), Peanut Butter (amazing) and Coconut (perfection) M&Ms|
Sauces and chutneys from Outback Spirit.
|Chilli Jam, Bush Tomato Chutney and Tomato & Black Olive Chutney|
A box of milk chocolate freckles from Freckleberry.
|Milk chocolate freckles.|
The most magnificently coated nuts that I have EVER had – I always pick up a few bags at the Good Food and Wine Show every year. Thank you ever so much, The Gourmet Nut Company (I’ve been nibbling on these as I’ve been writing this post!).
|French Vanilla Almonds|
|Honey Roasted Cashews|
Aside from the fact that I’m about 2kg heavier than I was on Saturday morning, it lived up to my expectations as one of the best days of the year. I ate, I drank, I was merry, and 24 hours later, I still feel kinda full. And yet here I am, bum on couch, nibbling on my french vanilla almonds and already excited about trying out some new tricks and ingredients that I learned about over the weekend. For those of you who haven’t been to the Good Food and Wine Show before, please go next year! You won’t regret it!