Tag Archives: tapas

Pulpo a la Gallega

Octopus. The idea of it is so appealing when you see it on a menu… slow cooked, char grilled, tender and fleshy, new born into a sea of olive oil and garlic and Mediterranean fantasy. You could be sitting in a trattoria in Italy, a taverna in Greece, or a whatever they call a place where you get drunk and eat good food anywhere else. It’s a holiday dish, the kind of food you eat when you’re off somewhere else far from home pretending to be young and adventurous and carefree. “I’ll have the octopus and a carafe of the house white” You say with a confidence born from a sun tan you really don’t deserve.

Then long after the memory of the holiday and the tan have faded, you’re back home trying to explain to all your friends just how amazing this octopus dish you had was…So you pick up one up in the local fish monger, and the grim reality of this carnivorous marine mollusk sets in. Octopuses are not pretty creatures. They’re long, wet, slimy, unwieldy things that defy your attempts to nicely put them in a bag, and once you do, more closely resemble the contents of a larger animals stomach, than something you should consider eating.

Of course, we are in the fortunate position in 2012 of knowing that millions of people have gone before us to both cook and enjoy this wonderful creature, and the advent of modern fishing has made it’s capture and transportation to our homes much simpler than bygone eras where you had to wrestle with one yourself. Risking life, limb and ink-eye to get your evening meal.

So in true “What I did on my holidays” fashion, here is a dish that I came to love while traveling around the north of Colombia. It is of course of a classic Spanish dish from the North West region of Galicia, from which it’s name is derived Pulpo alla Gallega (Galician Octopus).

Now there are many areas of conjecture as to which approach to take to cooking the octopus, so I’m not going to go out on a limb and say that my way is the right way, but it worked well for me the few times I’ve made it, so let your conscience be your guide as to how you do yours.

Ingredients

  • 1 large fresh octopus (~1kg in weight)
  • ~1kg potatoes (waxy ones like Ruby Lou or Kipfler work well)
  • The best Spanish sweet paprika you can find
  • Good quality olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh flat leaf parlsey
  • 1 bay leaf

How I made mine

Gingerly take your octopus by the top part, which hopefully has the head and beak removed, and is comprised of a ring where all the legs are attached. In a large bowl in the sink, wash the octopus well in cold water. Some people say you should freeze the octopus before you start, as that helps to tenderise it, but I haven’t felt the need to do that (it gets perfectly tender when it’s cooked for long enough).

Then in the biggest pot you can find (the Spanish say it needs to be a copper pot, but I think you can do just fine without), fill with water and a bay leaf and bring to the boil.

Once the water is boiling carefully dunk the octopus into the water and leave it there for 30 seconds. You’ll see the water stops boiling as the cold octopus lowers the temperature, so after 30 seconds, take it back out and let the water come to the boil again. This process of dunking into boiling water is supposed to set the gelatine in the legs and helps to preserve the texture you want.

Dunk the octopus back in and out of the water 3 more times and then leave it in there for around 40 minutes on a high simmer until you can pierce it with a knife and it’s soft inside with some resistance outside.

About 20 minutes into the cooking processes, peel the potatoes and drop them into the pot with the octopus whole. They’ll cook along with the octopus and absorb all that briny flavour. They’ll also turn a slightly alarming shade of red, which you shouldn’t be scared by.

Then when the potatoes and octopus are cooked, take them out and let them cool down on a board, before cutting the octopus into round slices along the leg, and slicing the potato into slightly larger rounds. The arrange the potatoes on a plate or board, season liberally with good sea salt and olive oil, and then add a layer of octopus to the top. Season again with more oil, a healthy sprinkling of paprika, and some finely chopped fresh parsley.

Serve it on it’s own, with some crusty bread, or as the first course in a Spanish feast. Make sure you have plenty of crisp white wine, invite a few people who understand what it’s all about, and enjoy the satisfaction that you can bring the best of the world to your door step if you really want to.

Pulpo all GallegaPulpo all GallegaPulpo all GallegaPulpo all GallegaPulpo all GallegaPulpo alla gallega

My Melbourne Birthday

Suckling Pig from Cutler & Co

So last year I passed a small milestone. I turned 30. Not one to generally pay attention to the whole passing of time thing, I figured I was mostly immune from any sort of anxiety or insecurity at having reached a new notch on the belt of life. I leave that kind of thing to women with ticking biological clocks and guys hoping to be millionaires by the time they’re 40 who’ve realised they have bugger all chance of that ever happening. So with neither a hormonal imbalance I’m aware of, nor a particular desire to achieve anything, I thought I was in the clear.

That was of course, until I awoke on the morning of my birthday, looked into the streaky mirror of my windowless room in Melbourne’s crappiest hotel and noticed a crease right between my eyes that I swear was not there the day before.

With the panic of my diminishing youthful beauty starting to kick in, I managed to remind myself that perhaps the lead up I’d had to that morning was not the most skin rejuvenating way to approach such a milestone. But then I figured if it was going to happen, it was going to happen in style. So after finishing the bag of salt and vinegar chips, that had seemed like such a good idea the night before, I dragged myself out of bed and lurched into my future…

As a way of making it possible for me to even contemplate writing this up, and to keep the casual reader entertained whilst reading what can only be described as one man’s quest to develop gout as quickly as possible, I’ll try and concisely recount the events of the week I spent in Melbourne for my birthday.

This is going to be a work in progress post, so I’ll go back and update details for each place I’ve mentioned when I get a chance, and when prompted by the hordes of Melbournites looking for details on each one :) For now i’ve just included the names of each restaurant / cafe I went to and the photos I took at the time.

So it goes a little something like this…

Fly in Monday 14th of September at some ridiculous hour. Head to Hotel Enterprize (yes, it’s spelled with a Z) on Spencer St, henceforth known as The Crappiest Hotel in Melbourne (TCHIM). Drop my bags into a windowless box of a room next to an air vent, and head out looking for coffee. Along with me were Ben and Jen, long time sufferers of my gourmet wankery and fellow birthday road trippers (BRT’s), as Jen’s birthday is around the same time.

So I had a relatively forgettable flat white at The Dancing Goat (looked nice, but pulled too long and had a funk to it), then met up with the Frenchies for extremely good value pizza at +39. I loved the menu and even the excessive number of business people didn’t dampen the bustling vibe. Everything looked and tasted great, particularly liked the calabrese and pumpkin varieties. Let just say $12 pizzas look a lot different where I come from.

+39

+39 calabrese+39 pumpkin pizza+39 pizza+39 pizzas+39 menu wall

Brother Baba Budan

Then it was over to Brother Baba Budan for coffee. If you haven’t heard of this place then I’m not sure where you’ve been. BBB was the second cafe opened by the godfather of the Melbourne speciality coffee scene, Mark Dundon. It’s tiny, ridiculously cramped, and consistently has a line out the door. I tried a Kenyan Wamugump through the Clover and recall it tasting delicate and fruity.

Kenyan Wamugump @ BBBUbiquitous chair shot @ Brother Baba BudanPastries @ BBBClover pour @ BBBClover spout @ BBBSteaming clover puck @ BBB

Caboose

A little more wandering around and with a lingering thirst, I stopped by Caboose on Swanston St for a glass of wine, although apparently I was in entirely the wrong place and should totally have gone to La Vita Buona (according to That Jess Ho), which is way better. Regardless the petit chablis and rose du provence went down nicely and imbued my adventuring spirit. The fit out is done like an old timey train carriage, which more or less works. Though sitting outside and swatting a billion little flies away from my wine glass meant most of it was lost on me.

wine at Caboose

The Grace Darling

And so to my first meetup with some of the Melbourne Food blogging Mafia (Ed, Jess, Claire). I’d done some pre-arranging and Jess decided that The Grace Darling in Collingwood might be a decent spot to catch up with a few people for a casual drink and something to eat. With the Frenchies and BRT’s in tow we navigated the trams and made it there early. The Grace Darling apparently used to be quite a dive until it was done up recently, and I quite liked it for the most part. My pork chop with apple and fennel salad was tasty and stealing Ed’s chips from his deconstructed parmiagana was entertaining. Like poking a bear with a stick. After a bottle or two of the Wolseley Pinot Noir and a whole bunch of lame food talk, we did what any self respecting food bloggers should, and went for more drinks.

Romain savoursEd, Matt, JessDeconstructed parmigianapork chop, apple / fennel / potato saladMarie-AgnesCandles holderFrite loverA man for all timesJeff HopeWolsely Pinot NoirClaire & IRepentant but unforgivenInside the Grace Darling

The Black Pearl

This would become a faithful friend during the short week I was in Melbourne, and the end point to a number of big nights. The bar tender Chris Hysted has a huge reputation in Melbourne, and the greater Fitzroy area as a cocktail master, as his recent awards would attest, though apparently noone elses agrees with me that he looks like Johnny Depp. Ed seems to favour a drink called the “fog cutter”, which to me tasted like pure alcohol poured into a tiki mug. Fortunately there were plenty of other things to my liking, and requests for virtually any drink were met with keen interest and a historical breakdown of all methodologies for making it.
The other great thing about the Black Pearl is that it’s open late virtually every night of the week. Meaning you get a bunch of hospitality crew hanging out there after work, and would explain why we ran into Teague Ezard (Not the last name I’ll drop) and some of his staff from Gingerboy there. Awesome place.

The Black Pearl - boozeageddonThe Fog CutterLighting @ The Black PearlThe barThe Black Pearlan exercise in inkinside the black pearlI love lamp...

HuTong Dumpling Bar

It’s the next day now. We’ve woken a tad later than expected and it’s close to midday, and I have dumplings on my mind. There are two schools of thought on the internet as to where to go for dumplings. One is cheap and cheerful Camy, the other is better quality HuTong Dumpling Bar. So HuTong gets the vote and off we go, this time with a couple of extra people in tow who’s taste in “ethnic” food could be described as rudimentary (but should actually be called nonexistent). Arriving outside we find the place is full, and it’ll be a little wait to get in. I peer eagerly inside to the small windowed kitchen with chefs rolling thin dumpling skins and deftly twisting the tops to well formed peaks.

The meal however, does not impress. I’m not sure if it’s that fact that our dining companions ordered sweet and sour pork right off the bat (seriously, why is that even on the menu??) or that they just didn’t like my face (it’s happened before), but the service was rude beyond recognition. Food got dumped unceremoniously on the table, with long gaps in between each, and no explanation of when the next was coming.

The dumplings themselves were good, the soup inside rich and warming, but the skin on the xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumplings) tore nearly every time i picked one up, regardless of how delicate I was. I’d probably go back again If i were there and reassess because I love dumplings. But a place that looks as fancy as HuTong, with suited waiters and fancy cutlery, should not be giving back yard dodgy dim sum house service.

Market LaReflectBig red doorJenHu Tong Dumpling BarHu Tong cutleryPan fried dumplings @ Hu TongXiao Long Bao @ Hu TiongBraised beef and dumpling claypot @ Hu TongClaypot / chilli / squid

Seven Seeds

Munitions cutley box @ Seven SeedsFlat white @ Seven SeedsA moment of solaceCupping lab @ Seven SeedsThe bar @ Seven seedsSeven Seeds table settingbike wall @ Seven SeedsSeven Seeds : Speciality Coffee

Attica

Bride to beAttica : chutney / olives / almonds / butter / saltAttica : savoury madeleine amuse bouchAttlca : Craggy range chardonnayAttica : NegroniAttica : prawns, pork floss, dill pickle, coconut milk, flowersAttica: first course responseAttica: asparagus, morels, house made goats curd, rosemary flowerswarpedLaguiole : worlds sexiest knives ?Attica: Slow roasted hapuka, spinach, crispy potatoswirlAttica: Veal, young leek with hazlenut & garlic, sour flowerradiatec'est moi part deuxAttica: cognac ice cream, candied mandarin, fresh mandarin, fresh mango, sesame pralineAttica: chefs table menuAttica: finbride warsBecause two is better than onec'est moi

Charcoal Lane

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Gertrude St Enoteca & Bahn Mi on Smith St

....Bahn Mi

Cutler & Co

.............Suckling Pig, Cutler&Co.....Hendricks Gin & Tonic from Cutler&Co...

Cumulus Inc

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St Ali Outpost

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Rockpool Bar & Grill

................Rockpool...........

St Ali

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Von Haus

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Gingerboy

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Seamstress & Siglo

Rob sparks upScenes from Siglo.........Birthday Negroni @ Seamstress

Mr Tulk & Dali Exhibition

NGVNGV ceilingRomainMA & DaliMr Tulk eggs and baconThe plan makerMr Tulk breakfast

High Vibes @ Northcote & Supper Inn

Supper InnExitNot without my stylusJenDisdainly tiredNorthcote remnantsThe kidsNorthcote Social ClubFrenchies like rockgig photographers bewareMarie Agnes

Movida

.lamb cutlets, chorizo, pestochickpeaspork loin wrapped in pork belly demi secwagyu bresola poached egg, truffle, potato foamwagyu bresola poached egg, truffle, potato foamsome kinda musselsspanish cidersmoked mackeral, some kinda sorbetscallops, potato foamcroquettesjamon iberico, bread sticksortiz anchovy, tomato basil sorbetbread

Bar Lourinha

Pedro Ximenez so thick it felt like motor oilCreme catalan with blood orange caramelRabbit and blood sausageBar LourinhaMy only dining companionVeal tongueKingfish PancettaHalf a very nice bottle of wine

Pata Negra

Jamon serrano from Pata Negra restaurant Spanish red wine from Pata Negra

David Coomer is about as close as Perth gets to food royalty. His Star Anise restaurant in Shenton Park has been a mainstay at the top end of the dining scene for many years, and his reputation for sourcing great quality produce and making beautiful dishes out of them has placed him at the top of his game.

Which is why there’s been such interest in his latest venture, Pata Negra. When the announcement was made that David Coomer was going to be opening a Spanish restaurant in Nedlands, a great thrill ran through the collective stomachs of the greater dining community of Perth, hoping perhaps, that someone would come and pull us up from the quagmire of mediocre tapas restaurants.

Imagine my surprise then, to run into David at my favourite Spanish providore (article coming), buying much of the same ingredients as I do for said new restaurants launch party (though perhaps in slightly larger quantities than I ever have). I took some delight in the fact that he had to put up with as much, if not more hassle dealing with Rosa the feisty Spanish providore as I ever have. Who’s opinion on food and all things Spanish is undeniably parochial, and ultimately final. Regardless of whether she’s talking to a novice or an award winning chef.

After chatting for a while David kindly invited me along to the media launch the coming Sunday evening, a chance to explain the concept and demo some dishes before a full restaurant opening the following Tuesday. I wandered around chatting to wait staff and chefs Matt Stone (former sous chef from Star Anise) and Kurt Samson (previously of the Builders Arms and Momo in Melbourne), who will be heading up Pata Negra while David controls the reigns at Star Anise. It was a great night and a chance to sample some of the menu in it’s infancy, which had the immediate effect of whetting my appetite for the real deal.

Now I’m not prone to rhetoric as much as other writers in the food game in our fair city, but I will say that despite the build up, and all the hype, my first meal at Pata Negra was fantastic. So forgive me if I leave out details of the rustic mismatched furniture and glassware, and the warmly arcane lighting fixtures. I’ll also also brush over the unexpectedly icy dash to the bathrooms via the outdoors, and the unexplained mineral water that was poured into the next door tables glasses. Which are not all superfluous, but didn’t detract from the experience.

The review starts here

It was Friday night and the place was packed. Open since Tuesday, this was their 4th night of service. I’d booked for 8:30pm, ringing the day before to make sure I could get a seat, but was reassuringly told by the manager that tables would be set aside every night for walk in traffic. Lazy diners of Perth unite ! You should be able to stroll into Pata Negra at any given time with no forewarning and land yourself a table. The tables in question are a series of small communal spots at the front. The rest of the restaurant seems to run with two sittings, one at 6:30pm (the early bird special) and the later at 8:30pm.

A quick peruse of the wine list while we waited for the table to be ready showed an interesting mix of Spanish and Portuguese wines, and Australian wines in the same vein. New world Tempranillo blends mixing alongside Douro and Rioja. It was nice to see some decent cheaper options amongst the mix too. The cheapest bottle of wine being $35, which is not bad for a restaurant of this nature. Though it’s immediately apparent that the style of this place is meant to be warm, fun, and casually intimate. We settled on a bottle of Portuguese Douro that I know virtually nothing about. It was medium bodied and fruit driven and was a wonderful match to many of the dishes.

So the food.

The menu is split into sections. Tapas at the top, which are all small dishes. Working down through different sections based on the type of dish. If I recall correctly it was Sea (seafood things), Earth (vegetable dishes), Land (meats), Queso (cheeses). I know I’m forgetting or mislabeling them, but will clarify at some point when I go back. All the dishes are designed to share, thought not necessarily as individual pieces. But the concept of the shared table seems to be a central theme. The dishes are predominantly Spanish in feel, though there’s a strong Moorish / Middle Eastern influence coming from Kurt Samson’s background in running Momo with Greg Malouf and his own personal style of hearty tagines.

We started with some of the pork crackle. To call it pork crackle though is almost a misnomer. It’s essentially lighter than air pork rind fried to puffy crunchy perfection, served with a yoghurt dipping sauce and paprika. The joy of crunching into them is a must for any true lover of the pig.

Pata Negra: Pork crackle Pata Negra: Kingfish Ceviche

Next up was some Jamon Serrano. At half the price of the restaurants namesake Jamon Iberico, it makes for a deliciously rich, salty indulgence. The fat is lovely and supple (though not as melt in your mouth as the pata negra), and it’s a generous portion of 40 grams for $15. A massive ham slicer sits atop the stairs in the entrance to the kitchen, which will no doubt get a considerable workout over the years as this place shaves many a leg of ham to it’s salty end.

A small anchovy fillet laid across a rich tomato salsa on a thin wafer was next. A wonderful combination of textures and flavours as it all came together in a satisfying bite.

Now a brief respite and a chance to collect thoughts, enjoy the wine, schmooze with other local food illumenati and choose some more dishes. The only problem so far is that there are far too many to choose from, that all look good.

So after some wrangling we settle on some wood roasted portobello mushrooms and the one dish it seems most food writers can’t go past… fabada. Fabada is a rich stew with confit duck, chorizo, ham hock, and beans (in this case lentils), quite similar to cassoulet… a lovingly rich rustic dish of epic proportions.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. The wood oven at Pata Negra is a legacy of the pizza shop that used to be there a while ago. As a lazy university student I fondly remember walking past Sol Pizza on the way to somewhere else other than university. Hopefully my lack of patronage wasn’t why it closed in the first place… but regardless the wood oven works well, and is used to great effect by Pata Negra to create a number of their dishes.

The wood roasted mushrooms then, were an explosion of earthy joy. Juicy, dense, perfectly cooked… I could have had just that one dish and been completely satisfied. Shavings of parmesan over the top only enhanced the depth of flavour. How good they were, yet how simple, was quite simply astounding.

The Fabada came served in a cazuela. The confit duck consisted of one large maryland piece split in half, that fell apart at the mere thought of a fork. The lentils mingled with Rosa’s intensely spicy chorizo and smokey ham hock. It was exactly what I was hoping for. Homely, hearty, soul restoring.

For dessert, we couldn’t go past some of the house made Pedro Ximenez ice cream. Served with a sweet doughnut made from brioche and deep fried, then rolled in cinnamon and sugar. All I can say is thank God for a complete absence of churros, I miss you not. I also tried the poached persimmon, with yoghurt ice cream, sadly reaffirming the fact that I really don’t enjoy persimmon. The yoghurt ice cream rich and creamy, although I’ve been told I need to include in this review that my initial reaction was: “Wow, this yoghurt is really yoghurty”. Such is the brilliance of my observatory powers.

Pata Negra: ice cream churn Pata Negra: pedro ximenez ice cream, spanish doughnut

I finish the night with a glass of Pedro Ximenez and a smug expression on my face at a fantastic first meal in a new restaurant destined for great things. Is this Perth’s answer to Movida ? Only time will tell. But with what I’ve seen so far the sky is the limit. The team behind Pata Negra is committed to bringing great food to Perth. The service was quick and attentive, and you can tell they care about giving people the right kind of experience.

Get there soon and tell me what you think.

Pata Negra
26 Stirling Hwy, Nedlands
Phone: 08 9389 5517
Fax: 08 9389 5519

http://www.patanegra.com.au

Pata Negra on Urbanspoon

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Adelaide – Day 4 : Barossa

a glass half there

Now to the final words on Adelaide, and what a time it was. This day sees us in that holy land of wine country… the Barossa valley. So often lauded as Australia’s greatest wine growing region, and I can now see why… Which is of course because everyone from the Barossa keeps telling you that so often, you eventually start to believe it :)

However, there is something about the Barossa and the people of the Barossa Valley area that is very unique. They are bound together in their love of food, wine, and the life gastronomic. Many times throughout the day of travelling through wineries, tasting delicious wines, did I hear stories about how people in the Barossa stick together. There was no bad mouthing of other wineries, and a helpful suggestion of other places in the area who we should definitely go and check out was often offered. Having been a fan of the tv show “The Cook and the Chef” for a while now, I’d been making stupid jokes about dropping in to have lunch with Maggie Beer (as well as how she can’t go 5 minutes without mentioning how much she loves the Barossa Valley), but I should probably have shut my mouth. Not only did I meet someone who sang in the local choir with her, but her daughter (who runs a catering company) was setting up for a cellar door managers dinner at one of our last stops of the day. It’s two degrees of separation in that neck of the woods. Cocky food bloggers beware, or there’ll be a Beer Lynching squad after you in no time… :)

So we whisked our way through Trevor Jones / Kellermeister wines, Charles Melton, Rockfords (managing to snag a tasting of the Basket Press Shiraz), Rolf Binder / Veritas (meeting Rolf the wine maker and purchasing a bottle of his Hanisch Shiraz), and finally Torbreck.

The lineup

My impression of the day and the wines can be summarised in one simple statement.

“Shiraz is not just shiraz”

The quality and depth of flavour from the different styles we tried was remarkably varied across all the wines we tried, which was barely a smattering of the wineries the Barossa has to offer. From spicey and peppery styles to smoother more fruit driven styles of the cooler Eden Valley, there really was something for everyone.

My only regret being that I didn’t have enough time or enough money to get all the wines I wanted. But with a few essentials under our belts (mainly the Charles Melton Nine Popes), it was a wonderful day. Very nearly surpassed by a great night to follow.

So following up on more website comments and suggestions, we’d given Melting Pot a call earlier in the day to try and get a reservation for Saturday night. Unfortunately they were completely booked that night, and so it looked like we were going to miss out. I figured I might try and put on my important / desperate voice for one last try though, and on calling back, found out there was a table for 2 available for that evening, Friday night. We booked it in, and hastily made our way back from the Barossa to be dropped ever so graciously by Serena (our chauffeur and future wine connoisseur) right out the front, and just in time.

Melting Pot

Melting Pot is hard to describe. I suppose you’d have to settle on Modern Australian (whatever that means) if you needed to find a label. The menu is centred around the degustation style that so many haute cuisine restaurants prefer these days, with matched wines for each course. We chose a 6 course tasting menu with wine, and a few extras thrown in for good measure.

Now while I’d love to write a glowing review about how every dish was a fantastic revelation of culinary amazement. The sad reality was that the majority of the courses were average at best, and just strange at worst. The popcorn quail in particular (which featured actual popcorn strewn across the plate, along with some “popcorn” quail pieces, reminiscent of KFC’s efforts at using up the left overs).

The wine matched with each course was mostly nice, though we’d been far too spoilt over the last three days of oenophilic
indulgence to get a lot of enjoyment out of run of the mill wines. Plus a day of tasting intense Shiraz had left my palate cleft of all love for subtle light wines that chefs like to serve with their dishes.

Still, by the end of the 4th course things were starting to pick up. The culmination of wines throughout the day and with each course started to work it’s magic, and as a light headed fuzzy feeling of mild intoxication came over me, everything started to taste a whole lot better.

By the end of the meal we were quite merry indeed, and can honestly say we enjoyed the experience. Though perhaps not as fully as I was hoping for.

The night still being young however, we decided to try our luck getting a taxi into the city and checking out the other “must go to” place on my list, Apothecary 1878.

Apothecary 1878

Now if you’re familiar with Adelaide, you’ll know all too well what Hindley Street is known for. It’s essentially the nightclub, late night, red light, anything goes district in the city centre. Bars, pubs, and clubs are full of people who have had too much to drink, and not enough clothes to wear.

So coming across a place like Apothecary, in the midst of the debauchery that is the rest of the street on a Friday night, was like a breath of fresh air. Walking in to what seemed like near silence, as the door closed behind us and our eyes adjusted to the subdued lighting and the relaxed mood that only truly cool places can so effortlessly attain.

The name comes from the fact that the place is fitted out to look like an 1800’s style chemist. All of the cabinets and bar had actually been bought and shipped over from the UK, so they do actually date back to 1878. No ikea style renovations for these guys.

The wine list was similarly impressive. Around 20 pages or so of every major style and region around the world. With plenty there to keep the wine geek in me flipping back and forth for a good 10 minutes before finally settling on something. If you live in Adelaide, you had better be making the most of this place, because it really deserves it.

Chorizo from Apothecary

But wait.. what’s that you said.. you serve food too ? Well, we have just had a 6 course meal with wine, and dessert… but what the hell, lets have a look. So after another couple of glasses of wine, some meatballs, chorizo, and olive tapas dishes, another chocolate pudding for Sharon, and a couple of glasses of sparkling wine, we concluded what was possibly the most gastronomically extravagant days of my life.

Before I could start thinking about whether it was possible or reasonable to have three dinners in one evening, fatigue start to set in. Still, it was a great day, and great night, and a wonderful trip all round to Adelaide, with some very memorable experiences with good wine, good food, and good friends.

Kara and Paul were married on Saturday to a wonderful reception. I didn’t cry once… but some dust may have got into my eye at one point. Anything is possible in Adelaide.

Adelaide Day 2- McLaren Vale & Tapas

Nice Legs Tapas @ Mesa Lunga

In what may prove to be the most drawn out explanation of a week long holiday ever… I present day two of our trip to Adelaide. Cleverly titled to reflect the main events of said day.

The beauty of Adelaide (or one of them anyway), is that it’s a stones throw away from a handful of Australia, and indeed the worlds, best wine making regions. Just how close I had no idea until we got into the car to go to McLaren Vale, and a mere 20 minutes later were standing in a tasting room swirling Reidel glasses daubed with inky red stuff like nobody’s business.

McLaren Vale is unique in that it is actively promoting itself as a region that produces excellent Grenache. With a special regional label of sorts called Cadenzia being created especially for McLaren Vale winemakers wanting to display the best that their grenache has to offer. It’s an interesting initiative, and one that I think is a great idea. It gave us a real focus for what the region did well, and also made it possible to compare and contrast styles of wine that were different and special in their own ways.

So we had the best intentions of going everywhere, but I think time slows down when you’re in wine country, or should that be speeds up. It felt like we’d been to a lot of different places, and perhaps if the tourist map we were following had of been accurate we would have (nb: never trust tourist maps ! The giant grapes next to the giant knife and fork is not to scale !!), but by the end of the day we found that we’d only made it to 4 places !

Still, quality not quantity as I always (read: sometimes) say. We started off at Coriole, one of my favourite wineries, and making of some fantastic Italian varietals. The Sangiovese is an old favourite however we really loved the Fiano, which is a rather rare (for “new world” plantings) Italian white wine from the Campania region.

Next it was on to Chapel Hill, another great winery and recent recipient of some big awards. Of course, not knowing any of this, I didn’t fully appreciate a lot of their wines, although a trend that emerges over the day was that Tempranillo is becoming one of my favourite wines. We took a bottle of the Il Vescovo Tempranillo and sauntered onwards.

dArenburg

After that it was on to d’Arenburg, another of my favourite spots, and maker of some stunning Shiraz blends. Their “Laughing Magpie” Shiraz Viognier is one of the nicer styles of that wine I’ve tried recently, and the Stump Jump GSM is nearly an institution in cheap but tasty drinking. We splashed out a little and got a bottle of the Dead Arm Shiraz, the Cadenzia GSM, and the Laughing Magpie.

On to the final spot of the day, Mr Riggs and Pennys Hill. Pennys Hill is the vineyard and Mr Riggs (aka Ben Riggs) is the winemaker, who also runs his own label from the same location. Plenty more great Shiraz and Grenache blends as well as a little Clare Valley Reisling sneaking it’s way in, but what we came away with was a chocolaty and smooth bottle of fortified Shiraz.

Escaping McLaren Vale with a small cache of wine, a light wallet, and almost a wine dog (a super friendly jack russell terrior from Paxton), it was back to the big smoke for the evenings entertainment.

Now there are times when running a food blog really pays off. These are such times. Coming back from a long days wine tasting with little idea of where to go for more great eating that night, I paid a brief visit back to the comments section of my “I’m going to Adelaide, nah nah nah” post, to find an excellent, detailed, and ultimately very helpful comment from Zams who as well as confirming some of my other ideas, put forward Mesa Lunga as a restaurant well worth checking out. It took two seconds for me to see funky and tapas, and know it was up my alley.

Mesa Lunga is situated on the corner of morphett and gouger (now officially pronounced Goo-gah) streets in the centre of Adelaide, and looks and feels every bit the part that Zams described. Chilled out, refined, with a sexy edge to it, perhaps exacerbated by the door chick calling me babe… “Yeh sorry babe, all we’ve got is tables in the tapas section tonight”.

That’s cool, tapas is why we’re here babe… (I wish I was that clever).

So we grabbed some menus, opened a fine bottle of wine supplied by Kara (at a measely $15 / bottle corkage !), and went down the list ordering anything and everything that looked tasty.

A short run through included the tortilla, the patatas bravas, the whitebait, the baked mussels, the turkey meatballs, a goat meatballs pizza, crab croquettes, and some truly great salt cod balls.

Desserts were a chocolate tart with pashmak (that’s Persian fairy floss to the uninitiated), a creme caramel kind of thing, some stewed figs, and that bastion of Spanish desserts, churros, lovingly dunked in molten chocolate.

All up, the place was great. The food was good value, came quickly, and tasted great. I love it when tapas is done well, and this hit the spot for me. Nothing too fancy, nothing too expensive, but a focus on quality ingredients and a funky atmosphere. The manager Teale even managed to make me a passable espresso at the end of the night, which was from Rio coffee, seemingly the Adelaide roaster of choice for fresh beans.

Stuffed full, and ‘babed’ out, it was then off for a trip around the city, a few more photos of churches that will never see the light of day, and home to bed, ready for the next big adventure.

*stay tuned for more*

3 days in Sydney


So here are a few things that we’ve done so far that have been either worthwhile or noteworthy…

Day 1
– Had a great view of the city from the Harbourview Hotel
– Wandered through The Rocks, found some interesting staircases and a lot of other tourists.
– Had a very average meal at Bar Luca on Phillip Street in the city (with the worst Sangria i’ve ever tasted)
– Still hungry and unsatisfied, made our way to Chinatown (guaranteed to be open late on a Tuesday night) and had dinner 2 at Red Chilli Sichuan.

Day 2
– Went to Cremorne and Mosman and visited Gerardo’s fantastic cafes there (Don Adan, and Don Adan Too)
– Wandered through Kings Cross, to Sharon’s friends place where we are stayed. Checked out some of the more interesting sights that only the Cross can offer.
– Had some extremely tasty lamb cutlets at a restaurant called Lotus somewhere on Bayswater Rd in the Cross
– Went to the institution that is Hernandez Coffee for 24 hour hot chocolates and churros

Day 3
– Hopped a train to Newtown and checked out Campos coffee, had a superb short macchiato
– Had lunch in Newtown at KA Sushi, nothing spectacular but it filled a void.
– Bought a t-shirt from Funky Munky on King St in Newtown, Sharon bought a bag, a dress, a belt… innumerable other things.
– Wandered around finding interesting things to take photos of that didn’t seem to cliched…failed miserably.
– Caught the train back to Central and wandered through Surrey Hills. Found out where Bills 2, Billy Kwongs, and a few other places are for future reference
– Walked from Surrey Hills into the city, stopping briefly for refreshments, before ending up at The Strand, and amusing myself while Sharon slowly made her way through every designer shop she could find.
– Had tapas dinner at the old school, but highly recommended Capitain Torres in the Spanish Quarter… marveled at the fact that there even is a “Spanish Quarter”.

Pony Club


Image by bozo_z_clown

I grew up riding horses. Not pretty little ponies, but real, gritty, working mans horses. Ok, well maybe not working men, but men who have things to do and places to be, and no time for fancy shenanigans. We grew up in New Zealand riding the family horse Pinky, who was a former pacer (racing name: Inky Pinky Parlez Vous). Pinky was a good horse, but a crazy horse… She would at random and unknown times decide to switch from running forwards, to running sideways, and when you’re riding bareback (because you don’t own a saddle), that can be a problem. Dad decided it would be a good idea for me to start learning to ride her by myself when I was about 4… possibly one of the scariest moments in my life up until that point, but after the bruises healed, it soon cemented my love of horses.

Skip forward a few years and we find ourselves in Australia, horseless… Though it doesn’t take Dad long to find a local crazy called Joe who had plenty of crazy horses but no time to ride them. Joe lived on the outskirts out town and had amassed himself a huge junkyard of old cars and machinery, and (inexplicably) a small herd of Welsh Mountain Ponies.

One of these Welsh Mountain Ponies was named Rocky… and was every bit the battler of his famous namesake (Marciano not Balboa). He was of course a stallion, and prone to choosing his own course of action whilst galloping through a forest at high speed… which always made for an interesting ride. Rocky was not the most stable horse to ride… Dad had broken him in (along with the other horses there), and trained him to accept having someone ride him… but there were times when he conveniently forgot about all that and just did his own thing. In some ways that’s why I liked him so much… he was his own horse… he just let me sit on his back sometimes.

The pony club on the other hand, stood for everything that I wasn’t. Privileged, polished, and perfectionist, and all the pluck and courage in the world did not stop Rocky (and I) drawing the scorn of the primped and plaited members of the pony club brigade. I despised them… Their perfect little ponies prancing around in circles with ribbons in their tails and plaited manes… They were the bourgeois and I was the proletariat. My rugged little pony and I would gallop through the bush jumping logs, tree stumps, fences, and generally causing mischief. I didn’t have a helmet, a crop, jodhpurs, riding boots. I had a hard head, a stick, some old jeans, and a pair of well holed K-mart special Traxx.

Every year the local agricultural show would happen, and the pony club girls would get their parents to help them groom and ready their ponies, load them into a horse float, and drive them into town. I would ride my bike out to Joe’s place, saddle up Rocky, and ride him the few kilometres into town myself.

We competed well, but the judges seemed to be less interested in how fast I could ride and how high we could jump than they were at how nicely you can post whilst trotting around in a circle, and at exactly which angle you hold your feet in the stirrups. So sadly my technique for holding the reins that I’d developed from the need to jump off in a hurry before Rocky went crazy, didn’t win any votes. Still, we did manage to come away with the award for champion pony stallion under 14 hands, of which he was the only entrant…

Such is my experience with the ilk of the pony club… Elitist and over privileged, with little respect for what they’ve got.

What the hell does that have to do with food you say ?? Well nothing… but it does set the scene for the main attraction… My restaurant review of “Pony Club”.

Pony Club is a new tapas restaurant in Mt Lawley, where Infusion Noodle Bar used to be. The layout is basically the same as it was in the Infusion days, with a little more of a plush intimate feel coming from the use of a few velvety curtains here and there. The fit out is stylish and refined and the lighting dark (I have a feeling it actually got darker as the night went on). It looks and feels like it’s going to be a classy kind of place, and this is where my rant begins.

Tapas are bar snacks ! This is how they started off, this is how they should be. They are a brilliant idea. Bring out lots of tasty little dishes and charge next to nothing for them so people can happily snack away all night whilst consuming large quantities of wine and beer, before perhaps moving on to somewhere more substantial for dinner later. The moment they spread out into their own themed restaurants, things started to go down hill.

Now I’ll admit, I was once enamoured with the idea of the tapas restaurant. What a great concept it seemed. Lots of different flavours and tastes combining to make a meal. Easy to share with large groups of people who can happily graze over dish after dish of sumptuous Spanish delicacies.

Not so !

The reality is that most of these places are massively over priced and serve up minuscule dishes that everyone on the table fights for a piece of, before forgetting was it even was two seconds later. This is what we ordered at Pony Club:

Chermoula Prawns,
Dhukka Chicken,
Spanish Meatballs,
Chorizo Stew (look for my version coming soon),
Salmon Tartlets.

I would have thought that would have been a decent meal for two people… but $100 and less than an hour later it was all over and we went home still hungry. Now even if you aren’t blessed with my tank-like physique and uncanny eating abilities, I’d challenge anyone to be truly satisfied after getting a few bites of any one thing.

The food itself was nice, but uninspiring. Having made or tasted something similar to most of what was on the menu I was singularly unimpressed by all of it. And at around $14 per dish… they were far from worth it in my book.

The tiny wine list had some nice looking entries on it, but with only 3 available by the glass, and my eventual choice of a glass of Tempranillo setting me back a cool $9, I would have much rather been at home with a bottle from my small but growing collection of Spanish wines soothing my gourmet nerves.

So in the end… a revelation occurred. Fancy tapas restaurants are not for me, and until I have sampled and written off every tapas bar in Spain, I will be weary about any place that makes it seem like I should expect to pay top dollar for glorified bar snacks. To be fair, there is a “main meal” section of the menu, but we weren’t ordering from that, so I really can’t comment on how good it was. The girls next to us seemed to enjoy their Moroccan Chicken Salad.. however strange it’s appearance on the menu was.

I’m sure some people will like this place, it may even turn out to be very popular, but just remember that you heard it here first… Yo no quiero tus tapas !

The Pony Club
620 Beaufort Street, Mt Lawley 6050
Western Australia

Tel: (08) 9228 8801
www.theponyclub.com.au

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