Saturday, 25 August 2012

Merrywell - Goin' Out In A Blaze Of Glory

Another day and another shooting in the good ol' US of A. Another day, another blog post. Another Saturday and another Weekend Australian to read. Standard things really. I thought I would spew out a post before driving to the country today.

The newly opened Merrywell restaurant in the Crown Complex, on the corner of Clarendon Street and the Southbank Promenade will tempt you in to its clutches between 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM on weekdays as they promote a "Happy Hour" special, which includes your choice of a selected burger and a pint of mysterious beer for the tidy sum of $15. This offer has been too good to refuse on numerous times and I was happily wrapped into the restaurants warm embrace.
Gluttony. A sin that gives you so much pleasure (Se7en)

The menu is very American influenced with what can be described as comfort food, body armour and sides of ammunition. If I ate here frequently I would have to double the time that I spend in the gym to compensate I fear. Between the tasty burgers with very sugary buns, melted cheese and bacon on the chicken offering, just as sweet onion rings served in a basket and alcohol-infused ice cream drinks are placed in front of you, this is really a glutton's paradise.

After eating what I can describe as an American curry at the Local Taphouse in St Kilda, which was their form of "chilli" I was hoping to get a cup of chilli from Merrywell since if they are a true higher end American eatery, that they would be able to get this Texan parcel correct. What came out was bolognaise just without the spaghetti in a paper cup. I thought it was truly bizarre and was disappointed. The burgers and onion rings never disappoint though.

There are two bars downstairs. As people order food at the bar along with drinks, split bills and negotiate for a peace agreement in Syria all at the same time at the bar, there usually is a wait. Every time there has been a substantial wait especially as it seems they have not integrated PayPass technology. They have cans of Tecate beer behind the bar, so I have learned to become a patient man as they are rare to find in Melbourne as hen's teeth.

The restaurant is a great place to meet people and it is amusing to "people watch" from one of the high tables in the corner that looks out over Clarendon Street and of course Southbank Promenade. There is a staircase that leads to more tables upstairs and also attaches to one of the gaming areas of the casino. Like at the Common Man, there is always good background music playing which adds to the generally relaxed and informal vibe. I shall always remember Jon Bon Jovi's classic Blaze of Glory playing over the sound system as four rather large casino security staff escorted an equally large and very vocal woman down the stairs and out the door of the restaurant. She was giving them hell and they effectively removed her from the casino via the eatery. I thought that was strange but it made for some excitement for the day. Goin' out in a blaze of glory indeed.

Merrywell, Southbank
Link to review
The West End of Crown Casino, Clarendon Street
(03) 9292 7468
My Rating: 12.5/20
Service: 3/5
Ambiance: 3.5/5
Quality: 3/5
Value For Money: 3/5
Comment: Good place for people watching

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com

When I posted this diatribe, 77% of the reviewers liked Merrywell on Urbanspoon. I like it about 77% of the time also when I am in the mood for cheerful (but not) cheap food however I am not usually happy waiting to get drinks for a long period of time or bolognaise pretending to be chilli.

  The Merrywell on Urbanspoon

Friday, 24 August 2012

A Return to The Common Man - A Continuation of Debauchery

Lance Armstrong and his single testicle has abandoned his fight against the anti-doping charges and will be stripped of his Tour de France titles. Who really cares about that silly bike race unless an Aussie wins it? It is about as exciting as watching people play golf and considering that I play that "sport" that says something. I am still upset that when Lance Armstrong was in Australia last he was campaigning for his "buddy" Mike Rann to be returned as premier of South Australia. Of all people to hold a news conference, Lance Armstrong came out with his support of "Ranny" and he doesn't even live here or can vote! Perhaps I will lend my support to Angela Merkel as I would like to think that a blogger should be taken more seriously compared to a bicycle rider but still I suspect my aforementioned support will be met with a hallow response in a tongue that I can not understand.


After the Tour de Melbourne last Friday and Saturday, I met an esteemed friend at The Common Man at South Wharf on Sunday morning for breakfast. He had been duly informed about my past injustices after reviewing my previous post about the place however we wanted to converge there simply because it was convenient and also because I have always touted it as a "fun" place.

Given the poor service and attitude in the past by service, which I reflected on in my last post, I was shocked that I could not get a word in edge-wise with my guest because service was so motivated to take our order and provide us with drink. Not one, but two people came to service our table every third minute. I could not believe the new found service levels. I could have confused it with Flower Drum with the way that the staff were so overtly attentive and it was probably not because I am attractive guy that appeared dehydrated.

After the tenth request to order, I asked for eggs benedict. What came out was perfection.

The Bloody Mary's are now $9 and they were also not only pungent (in a good way) but dressed with a stalk of celery that resembled a tree in the botanical gardens. On this venture, I never went thirsty or wondering where the floor staff were. I did not wear cologne or deodorant so they were not facinated with my smell, or probably even my good looks after the huge day and night prior during the weekend of debauchery so I can actually truthfully say that The Common Man has lifted its game. Now I will not only think of it as a "fun" place but somewhere that I look forward to visiting again for food, drink and service.

Before when I reviewed The Common Man on Urbanspoon, I didn't like it. I changed my vote which is a first. I would also encourage anyone else who did not like this place before to check it out. You will not be wasting your time and might actually have some "fun" in the process. Everyone and every place deserves a second chance.

The Common Man, South Wharf

The Common Man
Link to review
39 Dukes Walk,  South Wharf VIC 3006
(03) 9696 3774
My Rating: 12.5/20
Service: 3/5
Ambiance: 3.5/5
Quality: 3/5
Value For Money: 3/5
Comment: Sunday morning breakfast is on

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com

Common Man on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Senoritas + A Showdown with Mamasita and Fonda

I am confused as to why anyone cares about Prince Harry getting into a state of undress around the ladies in Las Vegas. If anything one would think he would be smarter about hanging around with people armed with camera phones. However because BHP announced that they will not be expanding the Olympic Dam there isn't much else to be concerned about besides Harry's bits it would seem. Even a member of One Direction was seemingly bullied off Twitter, so it is all happening.

As not to fall victim to the rubbish in the press, I rang Senoritas and made a booking for two at the bar last night. Perhaps because I had read other reviews of the place and have experienced the phenomenon of Mamasita and the enigma that is Fonda, my expectations were quite low.

Senoritas Meyers Place Entrance
The entrance to Senoritas
A meagre portion of tortilla chips are placed in front of you with three different salsas after you sit down. This vexed the people next to me as they never expected something to come out complimentary or understand that it is customary that "Mexican" restaurants provide chips and salsa as standard to tide you over whilst you order and chat. In the case of Senoritas, the three salsas that you are given are effectively mild, medium and hot. The hot habenero salsa does not match the intensity that I can make at home but it does pack a bit of a punch.

I immediately ordered a Bohemia beer and Tacos Al Pastor, which is a mixture of pork marinated in pineapple and it is classically one of my favourite parcels of Mexican food. I was very disappointed when I was at Mamasita as the earlier reviews stated that they were serving Tacos Al Pastor however when I visited they were no longer on the menu. Senoritas pretty much hits the mark with them. The meat was tender and no one flavour overpowered one another. One can easily tell someone in the kitchen knew how to prepare "authentic" Mexican recipes. As the tacos are served in approximately 5" corn tortillas that are made on-site, you are left wanting more after you stuff your face. I tried the spicy chicken tacos next which were the special of the evening and was just as impressed.

Getting into my second Bohemia beer, with great trepidation, I ordered the fish tacos. I was having such a good experience at this point, I didn't want it to end as I was scared that the fish tacos would disappoint, like they did at Mamasita and Fonda. When they were served, I tasted the fish and although a tad dry, it was not bastardised by any sauces, oils or other rubbish to distract from it. I added some salsa verde (the mild salsa) and shoved it down my gob and the end result was a smile on my face.

The great authentic food made me wanting more, so I ordered more Tacos Al Pastor, a repeat performance of the chicken taco special and followed up with another round of fish tacos. I also tried their pork and bean taco combination which was different, however worked well when paired with the habenero chilli salsa and the Tapatio tequila that I started to take an interest in. About the only thing I would pass on next time is the side of guacamole as it was too citric but not overtly offensive.

We were getting fairly prompt service from three people including the barman. After my second 40ml glass of the demon tequila, I looked around whilst sitting on my perch and noticed that the place had filled up with happy patrons in a matter of thirty minutes. I was surprised that the noise did not begin to overwhelm, which it never did, considering the restaurant is small.

There were a few skeletons and skulls about but they were all pretty whimsical and fit in with the art and colours of the place. The mood is set by not having to dine under bright lights but with candles littered throughout the place to cause an effective mood.

After retiring to the toilets, I was shocked to discover they were so clean. I suppose after eating authentic food in Mexico where you must relieve yourself on the ground out back of some places or in the sink, the petty first world conveniences are sometimes unexpected when you experience something as authentic in the kitchen that Senoritas is providing.

I thought the food, service and ambiance was great and the food did remind me of "proper" Mexican food so I will be back and I could not stop raving about the experience as I left. It is great having your expectations defied. I certainly look forward to returning.

The Showdown - Senoritas vs Mamasita vs Fonda
  • I found Senoritas to be the most authentic and best value for money,
  • Fonda is different especially if you are keen for a kangaroo burrito, but has a cafe feeling instead of a restaurant feeling like the other two,
  • Mamasita would probably have the best "vibe" but considering the foot traffic, how smaller tables can not be reserved and the noise around the bar detracts from the overall food and beverage experience a bit.
  • Most importantly after benchmarking all three places using their fish tacos as a selection criteria, I would return to Senoritas for what they have on offer in a heartbeat.
Senoritas Meyers Lane Melbourne

Link to review
16 Meyers Place  Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9639 7437
My Rating: 15.5/20
Service: 4/5
Ambiance: 3.5/5
Quality: 4/5
Value For Money: 4/5
Comment: Awesome tacos al pastor

Twitter: epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com
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At the time of this post, only 62% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon like this place. This really shocks me. I did spot people eating tacos with a knife and fork so these are probably the ones that do not appreciate Mexican food or would be confronted by a hot salsa. Come on people, stop eating tacos and burritos with utensils. It is not proper and you also look very silly.

Señoritas on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Matilda Bay Bar and Brewery - A Journey of the Damned to Port Melbourne

Whenever you fly Qantas, you are told to "Enjoy The Journey" usually after a delay in taking off after viewing the safety video. Sometimes the journey is all part of the fun and in the case of my recent trip to the Matilda Bay Bar and Brewery which recently opened its doors in Port Melbourne, it is indeed a journey but one of the damned to get to this place.

We all know that drink driving in a vexed problem and that you just should not engage in the activity full stop. With this in mind, a companion and your humble narrator attempted to walk to Bertie Road in Port Melbourne, not far from the Toyota complex, which is where the brewery is located.

I made the mistake of not walking down the pedestrian path that follows the Port Melbourne tram line which is a fine path to follow under any circumstances and instead tried to cut through the various industrial estates south of Yarra's Edge. This proved to be quite the experience.

Following Google Maps to the brewery had us walking on the various streets as there were no footpaths for most of the journey. At one particular hazardous intersection, we found construction workers who were digging a hole for some strange reason and summarily abused us when we went to cross the road. As the workers were concerned with directing the one car per minute that was turning up at the intersection, so it would not drive in the hole that was dug in the grass and dirt on the side of the road, I can see why they were so confused to see pedestrians.

After walking through mud, dirt and grass, a pedestrian footpath came into view and it wasn't long after this we presented ourselves at the Matilda Bay Bar and Brewery.

I did not expect a large industrial complex, but something like Little Creatures in Fremantle or even Red Oak Brewery in Sydney. The forward section of the warehouse has been converted into a food service, bar and service area but this accounts for roughly 20% of the floorspace. You have options to sit at high tables on high stools or very low stools on very low tables.

The service was quick and friendly and adeptly poured some Alpha Ale and Cider which was rapidly consumed. After a few more rounds with equally quick service we decided to order lamb burgers before the kitchen shut. I was not expecting much, since this is a brewery, but the food was great. The lamb tasted like lamb and was not overwhelmed with anything that distracted from it. The bread appeared fresh also and it was certainly nice not to have it come out pressed between 600g of dry Turkish bread that other cafes should be demonised for serving lamb between.

If you are keen, you take a tour of the beer making facilities which I spotted some other guests doing however we were happy to sample what came out of the machinery which was very tasty.

Because this is a large industrial warehouse, it was rather cold and I can imagine it will get pretty hot inside during the summer. I liked the decor (or lack thereof) and found it different however I found it quite inconvenient to get to. You can take the Port Melbourne tram and then do some walking but since there is nothing around this brewery besides industrial estates, you will really want to be keen to taste the beers that Matilda have on offer but when they are served on tap at other fine places in the CBD and Southbank (I noticed that The Boatbuilders Yard will offer you a pint of Alpha Ale for $14) you really have to wonder if the journey of the damned is worth it to this part of Port Melbourne. I could easily find myself taking the train to Balaclava and fronting up to The Local Taphouse, not only because it is a great bar, but there are so many other things to do in the area, including having access to public transport.

I liked Matilda Bay Bar and Brewery but I do not think I will return soon just because it is such a pain to get to. I would also fear that my motorcar would fall into a hole on the side of the road thanks to Port Phillip counsil if I tried.

Matilda Bay Bar and Brewery, Port Melbourne

Matilda Bay Brewing Company
Link to review
89 Bertie St, Port Melbourne VIC 3207
(03) 9673 4545
My Rating: 10/20
Service: 1/5 (bar service only)
Ambiance: 3/5
Quality: 3/5
Value For Money: 3/5
Comment: Take a tour of the brewery

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com
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When I posted this, 92% of the people (out of 14 votes) liked this place on Urbanspoon. Not really a consensus.

Matilda Bay Bar & Brewery on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A Weekend of Debauchery

(Note: restaurant and bar links will take you to the original reviews posted on this blog)

It is always difficult when friends and acquaintances travel to Melbourne to catch up with me. It requires me to actually pick great and fun places to eat and drink at. Knowing there are so many, it is always a challenge. This weekend I was intending to impress more than usual so I decided to take my own advice as written in this blog before, and the results were very interesting.

In Sydney you would never be able to secure a table at a decent restaurant at 11:00 PM on a Friday night but there is no problem with that in Melbourne. I rang up The European and they were happy to oblige. After ordering wine, stake tartare and fois gras with stinky black truffles, the sommelier came over to apologise as he was under the impression the bottle of wine was damaged. Upon further inspection, it did have a very faint disappointing smell however he was happy to take it away and replace it with another bottle. Not only I was impressed by the professionalism but appreciated the gesture. Given we would have just drank the bottle, it was refreshing to see service go out of their way and not wait to be called out on a potential issue. My guest enjoyed the fois gras and truffles and was frothing at the mouth in anticipation as he read my previous blog post whilst experiencing the delay getting to Melbourne thanks to Qantas.

The European on Urbanspoon
After a great late dinner, we left The European and made our way to Manchuria. We were looking forward to early morning Zombies and at $30/each, the bar was happy to deliver them to our table. The bar, considering the time was relaxed and there was a good vibe. Unlike anywhere you would find in Sydney at that time, or really many other places in Melbourne, it was good knowing that we could retreat to Manchuria, have a great time and also enjoy some table service along with potent drinks.

On Saturday, the weekend of debauchery continued and I found myself at The Hairy Canary for lunch. Sharing Jamon Serrano pizza and washing it down with Cricketers Arms Beer seemed appropriate. The service was much more attentive and friendly when compared to my last visit which was refreshing.

Hairy Canary on Urbanspoon
Bar Americano was next on the list. Although only two cocktails were had, with one being the aptly named "Americano" was as classic as the service. Bar Americano once again proved why it is my favourite boozer that I have discovered since writing this blog and constantly not only impresses but exudes the personality of Melbourne.

Bar Americano on Urbanspoon

Contrasting Bar Americano to the next destination, The Rooftop Bar is pretty easy especially when you are transitioning from classic cocktails in a very small room with drinking pints out of plastic glasses outside but it was worth it. As usual, it was a relaxed experience and I was grateful to see the Saturday afternoon drinkers not taking anything too seriously.

Gin Palace was the next stop and multiple Winston Churchill Martini's were consumed. It is so easy to get sucked into the lounges and chatter away whilst the very efficient table service takes care of you. By the time we left, we were both in great moods and in able to solve the big problems in the world.

Finally Der Raum was frequented. My message remains consistent that Der Raum in my opinion is the best bar in Australia and time and time again, they repeat a process of providing superior drinks and service in a lively and fun atmosphere. When I want to impress visitors, this place is always on my list and continues to evolve from strength to strength. I am just pleased that they put up with my antics especially knowing that I was not in the most sober state, but they have fun with it always ensuring that the guests are safe also.

The activities for Sunday will be addressed in the next blog post so this is the first part of a two part diatribe.

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com