Too big for your boots!

-Nathan Miller
What happens when a venue falls into the common trap ‘too big for your boots’ ?

Last weekend I made a booking for a group of eleven family members and friends at the Plough Hotel in Footscray. It was my sister-in-laws birthday and her 25th wedding anniversary, so we wanted somewhere close to home, great food, friendly service and good value.

The booking was made on the Saturday morning, for a 8pm sitting. Eleven people gathered at our place for pre dinner snacks and drinks before heading out for dinner.

Walking into the Plough Hotel, was a shock. The place was full, the noise was earsplitting, so I tried to find a waiter to show us to our table.

That’s when it all went pear shaped. When I asked about our table, I was told—in a not so pleasant manner—’your table isn’t ready’. I asked how long it would be—and this time using a tone I did not appreciate—‘how long’s a piece of string’, he answered and walked off.

Our guests were distressed and offended by the way in which I was spoken to.

My partner had then arrived, and when I told them of what had happened, he went to seek further clarification.

After my partner received similar treatment, we departed the hotel with a sour taste in our mouths. Chinese take-away was ordered, and a brilliant night was finally had.

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I last ate at the Plough Hotel on the 21st of July 2014. This experience was delightful with great food, a fantastic atmosphere and reasonably priced. http://ramblingrelish.com/?p=743

Over the past couple of weeks I had heard that people had a similar experience to ours, and that they would not return ever!

So this question still remains, ‘Do they deserve a second chance?’

My answer is NO, not at all. We were eleven, all very hungry and thirsty people up for a great night of celebrations and experiences.

This is a common situation in Melbourne of late. A venue works so hard to win the attention of the public. They maintain high standards for a couple of months, and soon enough, the food standard has dropped; the so called hospitality staff just don’t care anymore; and the management, well they are happy to just sit upstairs and count the cash.

It’s a fact, that what happened to us, has happened to others in recent weeks, and unless something is said, they will continue to be self-absorbed, obnoxious and just plain rude.

This post will be sent to the Plough for a response.

Celebrity Chefs?

Our bookstores are full of them; our TV’s are constantly being overloaded with them; red carpets are speckled with them; and no event is complete, unless you have one. You guessed it, celebrity chefs.

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The queen of food porn – Nigella Lawson

Many questions come rushing to mind, firstly, like what makes them a celebrity? And why do we—as consumers—have this mad obsession with people who cook and plate food? What makes them sit above the rest of the hospitality industry, or those in any other industry? Do we blame shows like MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules, or is there an underlying emotional attraction that we have with someone who can cook food, and be sexy at the same time.

For as long as I can remember Women’s Weekly cookbooks were apart of most home kitchens throughout Australia. Over time, we saw the rise of Margaret Fulton, Stephanie Alexander, and Maggie Beer. Three amazing women with exceptional talent, yet, they are just happy to write books, do some television, and appear at limited food events.

These days as a chef, the most important tool you need is a stylist. Not for the food, but for the chef. There is the essential tattoo, a Mohawk, a clothing endorsement, and a sponsored $10k watch. Celebrity Chefs now have personal assistants, dragging them from event to event, securing the next media event and getting them into the social pages of glossy magazines. Gone are the days of wearing target clothes, rocking up to work in a Datsun 120Y, working till 1am, and never getting the chance to socialise. It seems that Celebrity Chefs will go to the opening of a garage door if there is a chance of being spotted or noticed.

While these chefs are out at bars and clubs promoting their fancy cooking shows and cookbooks, who is doing the cooking?

There are a large number of brilliant chefs who spend their evenings sweating away over the grill, plating some of the best food Melbourne has to offer. Yet there is this underground culture to be famous, not just successful or talented, but billboard famous.

After viewing a selection of cooking shows from around the world, I think I’ve found they key to being a successful celebrity chef, SEX. Not a sex tape, not even raunchy pictures on restricted web sites, but more so, sex appeal. Food can be both erotic and sexy. So chefs know that to be successful in media, they will be promoted as a sex object.

There is the minority like chefs Iain Hewitson, Ian Palmeter and Gabriel Gate, who survived with their cooking shows—for a many year—all without sex appeal.

Supermodels, billionaire housewives, children of celebrities, and even sports stars launching their own cooking shows and cookbooks, while the pioneer of sex and food, Nigella Lawson, hardly rates on the scale of sexy cooks.
source – www.complex.com

Here in Australia, we’ve seen the transformation of Pete Evans, dropping a huge amount of weight through a lifestyle change and healthy eating. George Colombaris shed a substantial amount of weight to be more TV friendly.

Is it the pressure we as consumers put on these everyday people to be more sexy, more likeable, and watchable. Or it is the chefs who push their own standards to be sexy, fashionable and famous?

So if your keen for photo shoots, weekends off, nights partying with actors/actresses, and making that illusive 100k, apply here to be a celebrity chef.

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Ploughing Ahead

My love for pub grub is no longer a secret, more so after a night at The Plough Hotel in Footscray.

Having opened their doors again recently, The Plough offers the usual pub fare with a touch of class and modern cuisine.

The warm interior provides a relaxing and welcoming feel, combined with some small touches of elegance and refinement, this space is simple yet effective.

The menu includes shared plates, standard pub mains, a great selection of pizza’s and a small but fair choice of desserts. With the mains priced between $19-31, it’s fairly reasonable for a Monday night dinner.

As I settled into the comfortable bench seat facing the open kitchen, a glass of 2011 Chalmers Vermentino was poured. The vermentino was a perfect match for a similar heritage anchovy, olive chilli & parsley focaccia.

The focaccia was simple enough to let the flavour of the fresh anchovy and marinated olives set the palate.

The service was very efficient and affective, ensuring that I didn’t get a chance to sit thoughtless for too long.

Tonight was going to be about the steak. A 450g Gippsland T-Bone had my name all over it. If I looked hard enough, I could have made my name out of the perfectly charred marks on this thick, perfectly cooked, well-rested tender steak.

The mushroom sauce was not thick and creamy, but smooth and rich with the subtle flavours of the mushrooms allowed them to break through.

The Open steak sandwich also was delicious. The perfect balance of meat, salad, and runny egg, ensured that the balance of each ingredient was able to shine. Encapsulated by the freshly prepared toast and a side of beer battered fries, it was a surprise to have a standard fare, prepared and presented so stylish.

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After consuming enough meat to have rescued a small nation, I was sweet talked into a Pink Lake salted caramel panna cotta, served with burnt orange honeycomb.

On their own each part of this dish was simple and nice, but when combining the panna cotta, honeycomb and fresh berries, there was an explosion of tastes and sensations that sent me scuffling back to my childhood.

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After rolling out the door and out to the car, even if I wanted to, and believe me I wanted to, I could not have squeezed another thing in to my expanding waist line.

With a well-presented space, outstanding value for money, nice location and proficient and professional staff. The Plough has certainly made their mark of good food in the west.

 

 

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Derby & Well

There are only a small number of reasons that you would want to leave the house on one of the coldest nights of the year, and that’s simply to check out Ron O’Bryan’s handy work at The Vine in Collingwood.

The Vine hold a Derby & Well event monthly within their authentic walls, thus giving Chef/Owner Ron O’Bryan, a chance to display his talents, and the opportunity to break away from their usual fare of hearty Guinness pies and Parma’s.

There have been a number of late nights/early mornings that I have walked past this bold green building perched neatly on the corner of Wellington and Derby St’s in Collingwood, but that’s another story. So tonight was an opportunity to enter and explore the food, wine and atmosphere.

Remembering the pubs/hotels around Melbourne during the 80’s, and having lived in a few ourselves when my father was a publican, I knew the style very well. So when I entered the embossed glass front doors, I was immediately transported back to when there were only two beers on tap, nuts were thrown on the red mottled carpets, bar snacks were the staple diet of construction workers, and the clientele were called punters. This was a time where men would smoke heavily, laugh loudly, fights were a nightly occurrence, and footy was the only topic spoken.

Although the carpet remains the same, the food, wine selection and sevice have definitely progressed within The Vine. Derby & Well, that’s what has changed.

The set menu was designed to challenge your taste buds and ask the question, ‘Where am I again?’ Matched perfectly with fine wines from Eastern Peake here in Victoria, the evening was set for an enjoyable experience.

It all started with a cleansing hot tottie at the bar. A hot tottie is normally served to assist in a cold or a hangover; so it had an awesome cleansing effect on my palate.

Speaking of the 80’s, the first course was a whisky sour jelly with a lemon sorbet. It fizzed and crackled on my tongue like sherbet, and the shockwaves were felt right through to my toes.

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Who combines raw fish, beetroot, white chocolate, horseradish and watercress? Ron O’Bryan that’s who. The rich flavour of the mackerel was subdued by preparing it tartare style, which allowed the real flavours of the fish to shine.

MARRON RAVIOLI

Marron, a fresh water crayfish found in Western Australia, fills the fresh homemade ravioli in the next course. Leeks and cauliflower in a mild chicken jus finish this dish impeccably.

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A faultlessly prepared duck breast from Trentham, was the next plate. Served with rich black pudding, celeriac puree, carrots and chestnuts. The dissimilar textures and bold flavours in the dish hit me for six, as it was not expected.

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Stilton cheese is banned in our house for two simple reasons, my waistline, and my waistline! Stilton, walnuts and blackberry jam sat there, on that plate for milliseconds, before I scooped them onto my rye toast and enjoyed the superb balance of sweet and tart, soft and hard, and smooth and crunchy.

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To see this evening to end, a milk chocolate pannacotta with quince and drunken raisons evaporated into thin air before I could truly enjoy the richness of this tremendous dessert.

Derby & Well dinners are held monthly with each month having a new theme.

 

The Vine Hotel

59 Wellington Street

Collingwood, Victoria, 3066

(03) 9417 2434

http://www.thevinecollingwood.com.au

 Meals are available from:

11:30am – 3pm Monday to Friday,

5:30 – 9:00 Thursday & Friday nights.

ramblingrelish/eatme#1

Eat Me, don’t mind if I do.

On recent travels to Thailand to check out what’s going on there that is foodie related, I stumbled upon a fun little restaurant ‘Eat Me’.

Located between Silom and Sathorn in Bangkok, Eat Me has been around for almost 18 years now, and has a massive ex-pat following.

The venue is quite arty with a subtle urban feel, and with the clever interior design, you feel like your back here in Melbourne.

I started with the recommended Passionfruit Mojito, and sat in the lower section of the restaurant.

Once seated I ordered a nice bottle of South Australian Riesling and sat back and watched the endless array of Australian’s pour through the door as they normally do here on a Saturday night in Bangkok.

The menu and wine promptly arrived, and I was impressed by the great blend of imported Australian produce and the local seafood.

ramblingrelish/eatme#1The pan-seared Alaskan sea scallops w/ chorizo and black eye pea puree was remarkable. The sweetness of the scallops allowed the spiciness of the chorizo to make its mark on this dish. The puree of black eye peas, which meant, I just can’t get enough!

To follow up the seafood, I chose the Australian 150 day grain fed beef tenderloin with blue cheese and caramelised onions. Blue cheese on a steak is one of my all time favourite matches, so I was keen to see how the chefs at Eat Me would serve this dish.

The scent of melting blue cheese has a certain effect on one’s mind, and I could smell this dish being served in the kitchen moments before it arrived at my table.

ramblingrelish/eatme#2The steak was cooked perfectly, requiring just a butter knife to slice my way through this tender piece of Australian beef – I was in heaven.

The cheese takes on a softer and more delicate taste when melted and combined with rich beef. The caramelised onions sat nicely with this great combination of beef and cheese.

To add to the dining experience, I was convinced to try the lemongrass infused soft crème brulee. It was creamy, delicate and had a lovely crust that melted imminently when consumed.

There is not one cuisine covered here at Eat Me, but many, that all seem to intertwine with each other, and somehow it works. That takes talented chefs, a great manager and an insightful restaurateur to deliver these goods.

Eat Me haven’t set out to recreate the wheel by any means, they have just taken a fine chisel and reworked the spokes to deliver great food, wine, atmosphere and awesome cocktails.

When in Thailand next, drop in and see Darren and the team.

www.eatmerestaurant.com