Thursday, June 6, 2013

Gazi, CBD

I know I keep saying this, but its been a long time between posts. During my recent shuffle of my life, priorities and aspirations (see 'Looking towards 2013') for some reason I have lost a little bit of my motivation for blogging, cooking and eating out. But I am slowly getting my groove back, and have spent the last few months discovering some of the budget gems Melbourne has to offer while I save for my European adventure that I leave for in 3 weeks time.

But, anyway onto topic- a new little slice of Europe in the Melbourne CBD... in the former premises of the Press Club, George Colambaris's new restaurant Gazi. Now this was not technically 'budget' food, but compared to its predecessor, this new Greek 'street food' restaurant was surpisingly easy on the pocket. My foodie cousin and I were able to eat a huge amount of food (seriously, I couldn't eat for 16 hours) for $60 a head with drinks. It seems Colambaris and co have realized that Melbourne's trend at the moment has drifted from fine dining into more 'hip and interesting share food', and thats definitely what Gazi had to offer. I love George's Hellenic Republic restaurant, but I was glad to see that Gazi offered up some really interesting and different alternatives to the more traditional Greek style that HR offers.

Aesthetically, the restaurant is beautiful. It is simple enough that a family could dine there quite happily, but ambient enough for a first date and funky enough for Saturday night drinks. The obvious feature is the roof, lined with hundreds of terracotta pots for a very different and cool looking showpiece.

We started with the option of three dips, and it was so difficult to decide which ones to try. We were extremely happy with our selections. The cauliflower skordalia was jazzed up with smoked almonds and some crispy pork mince and was very creamy and delicious. The hommus was given something extra with some fried chick peas that offered an extra element of crunch. But the dip we both couldn't get enough of was the smoked sweetcorn with crispy chicken skin- simply amazing.

At the waitress's very helpful suggestion, we shared only one of the mini souvlaki's rather than one each- that would have been a potential disaster. These would be the perfect size for lunch with a handful of chips, and great as a pseudo kids meal. We had the chicken version with chips, parsley and mustard. My cousin was very excited to see chips as an addition, something she had loved when eating souvlaki in Greece. The spit roasted chicken was just gorgeous.

For main, we went for the dish neither of us can ever say no to- pork belly. This pork belly serving was huge, more than enough for the two of us (but of course, we let none go to waste!) Two large servings of rich pork belly with crispy crackling, served with white beans and apple skordalia. Amazing.

We felt our salad choice to accompany the pork was perfect with a brussel sprout and quinoa salad. I am only just starting to discover the versatility of the humble old brussel sprout and this salad was a perfect example of how much this vegetable can shine.

Overall, we were very impressed with our first experience at Gazi. These big restaurants can sometimes be a let-down, especially during the hustle and bustle of opening week, but these guys are doing very well and I would happily recommend this to my fussiest, budget strapped friends. Simple but interested Greek street share food, done very well. The only thing missing was a sighting of Mr Colambaris himself!

Gazi on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 21, 2013

Taste of Tasmania

Over the school holidays, I went to visit a girlfriend who lives in Hobart, and amidst the smoky bushfire haze we ate and drank our way through Hobart... just my kind of holiday. I had originally planned to visit later in the holidays, but my friend (who knows me too well) insisted that I had to make sure my travel dates included the 'Taste of Tasmania' festival, more affectionately referred to by Hobartians as 'Taste'.

I am so glad that I did make it in time for the second last day of the 6 day food and wine festival, because it was a great way to taste what Tasmania has to offer.

Unlike Melbourne's food festivals, which mostly attract the resident 'foodies', the Taste is a huge drawcard for both tourists and locals in Hobart, and the fact that it can run for six days and stay busy, bustling and atmospheric really demonstrates the popularity of it and the way Tasmanian's are able to celebrate their food and produce on a daily basis for a whole week. I am a huge fan of Tasmanian wine, and managed to work my way through quite a few bottles. This was of course accompanied by some very yummy food!

One of the restaurants I was very keen to visit whilst on my trip was 'Smolt', so I was stoked to see they had a huge tasting platter available that showcased some of their yummiest dishes. The platter included a selection of savoury dishes- Ceviche of Tasmanian salmon, grilled Tasmanian salmon with white bean pur r /> ee & capponata, slow cooked lamb with salsa verde and smoky eggplant, Patatas Bravas with romesco & aioli, and also some churros with dipping sauce. The savory dishes were gorgeous- from the gorgeous summery cured salmon, to the heartier lamb and beautiful quinoa salad, to the rich potatoes. It was a great way to start the festival and to accompany our first bottle of Tasmanian wine. And who doesn't like churros? I am yet to meet someone!
For $40 and shared between two, I thought this was really reasonable.

Full for a while after that platter, later in the afternoon we pecked at some local sourdough with beetroot relish, gorgeous Tasmanian goat cheese and heirloom tomatoes. I love simple food like this that lets the local produce shine!

As the day went on and the empty bottles of wine stacked up, it became very clear that we needed something a little heartier for dinner if we were going to get through the evening. What better for that than a pulled pork roll, with pork fat potatoes? The whole dish just screams, 'alcohol soaker up-er'! Well, it did to me on the night anyway. Perhaps not as gourmet as I usually claim to be, but amazing nonetheless!

Unfortunately we drank too much wine to have dessert, but what a merry and yummy way to spend the day in Hobart. I cannot urge anyone thinking of going there (and who wouldn't, it is a charming little town!) to arrange their trip in time for the Taste Festival. It will definitely be on my list for the NY period from now on. A great place to take some friends, with your eating hats and your drinking shoes, and nibble the day away. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013


This is a delayed post, but at the end of 2012 Mum and I went and had a beautiful meal at the infamous Rumi in Lygon St. The reviews for Rumi are outstanding, and from the minute we walked in it is clear why. The service was impeccable, our waitress so friendly and attentive without being overbearing, and the food just lovely. Another restaurant that prides itself on share plates, the options are endless so we just chose a few dishes that caught our eye to share!

The Lebanese Zucchini, chickpea, garlic yoghurt, crispy crumbs, paprika butter was a lovely rich but balanced vegetarian dish.

The Fried Cauliflower, caramelised onions, currants, pine nuts was probably my least favorite dish we tried. An interesting combination, but the cauliflower was a little bit too fried for my liking and had taken on a bit of a charcoal, burnt flavour that I wasn't such a fan of.

The za'atar lamb ribs were definitely the stand out dish. Sticky, yummy, tender- these lamb ribs were just how lamb ribs should be... where you literally will eat like a barbarian to make sure there is no meat left on the bone. The za'atar crust was gorgeous.

The Persian Meatballs, tomato and saffron sauce, labne were also flavoursome, packed with those signature Middle Eastern flavours. The tomato sauce was lovely also, and almost needed some crusty bread to soak it all up!

We only really had a small taste of what Rumi has to offer, and would love to go back and try the proper tasting menu. A really beautiful restaurant that offers dining worthy of a special occasion at everyday, affordable prices. The reviews don't lie! The sister restaurant 'Moor's Head' in Thornbury is currently also pretty high on my 'to try' list also.

Rumi on Urbanspoon