Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Laksa King - Eat like a Windsor in Flemington

It is always a bit challenging to visit all of the places that you either read about in the usual press that are a bit inconvenient to get to. Laksa King in Flemington is one of those places only because I didn't want to take the train to Newmarket to enjoy a laksa of all things when the cost of the fare would equal that of the food in some cases. However I used my latest trip to Costco to give me an incentive to make a detour to Flemington so I could finally ascertain what the hype with this place is all about.

Frankly I was shocked to find such a clean restaurant that was air conditioned where the manager not only takes you to your seat but will take your order and bring your food. He was all business and I appreciated that. My first impression with the brick wall, plants and the types of tables and chairs was that I was at a Brisbane RSL however the extensive menu of Malaysian and Chinese inspired fare removed those thoughts in quick fashion.

There is no pomp and circumstance here. The chicken roti rolls that we ordered to start appeared in about five minutes. They were much larger and flavoursome than I expected them to be. Once again probably because I went with low expectations, I was easily impressed in every area that I find important. They are known for their laksa, so I ordered the king prawn variation and what was delivered after a reasonable about of time was just massive in both quantity and taste. The kitchen took the time to remove the heads, tails and the poop chute from the prawns which I found to be a nice touch and once again was not expected. The laksa was a cornucopia of flavours and products so every taste was slightly different but also special. I was impressed and I am not much of a consumer of laksa.

Leaving is a bit of a chore though as the server, in our case the manager, needed to announce what table we were at so we could pay at the kiosk. They do not except credit cards but conveniently have a generic ATM right next to the kiosk for your use. It is quite clever of them so they can operate a cash-based business and pass on the fees to the customer directly to withdrawal cash instead of the banks charging the business for the pleasure of accepting my used and scratched American Express. It is quite clever of them and fortunately between us we found legitimate currency and tendered it so that we could make an exit without guilt or any surcharge for a cash withdrawal.

Clean, efficient, different tastes and a substantial amount of food would get me to go back and actually take the train for the pleasure next time and not simply just use the fact that I was visiting Costco an excuse to frequent the area.

Laksa King, Flemington
Laksa King
Link to review
6/10-12 Pin Oak Cres., Flemington VIC 3031
(03) 9372 6383
My Rating: 13.25/20
Service: 3.25/5
Ambiance: 3/5
Quality: 3.5/5
Value For Money: 3.5/5

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

At the time of this post, 89% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like Laksa King.

Laksa King on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Proud Mary - Creedence Clearwater Collingwood

In order to postpone any desire to enjoy a balanced breakfast which I planned to have as the 20/20 cricket was on in the evening as I knew that I was going to be enjoying tasty alcoholic beverages whilst we attempted to win the ridiculous short-form game, not only did I end up at the gym but also walked to Oxford Street in Collingwood to enjoy lunch at Proud Mary with one other. By the time I turned up at the restaurant, I would have eaten a chair I was so hungry (and thirsty) so it was with gratitude that I learned that the wait was a mere 20 minutes for a table.

Proud Mary is known for its all-day breakfast options, limited lunch menu, teas and extraordinary coffee. As it was a great day weather-wise in Melbourne, I was ecstatic when we were offered one of the four tables outside. Inside is a very lively and loud room where it is difficult to have any sort of pleasant conversation because of the sheer volume of noise. Not to say that it is off-putting if you are in the mood for such a jovial atmosphere however on this occasion I was extremely pleased to be able to enjoy the serenity of the street. As the restaurant is off of Smith Street, there is limited traffic and on-street parking available in a neighbourhood that has an industrial feel.

After being seated it didn't take long at all for water to arrive. A few minutes later a happy member from the service team turned up to consult on the menu. I had a few questions about the coffee that was on offer and I found service to be very informed and happy to guide me down the path of enlightenment. I ended up ordering a single origin coffee from El Salvador and also a blood orange granita ($6) to accompany a McIvor farm pork ragu ($17) - 24 hour braised pork and fennel ragu with house made pappardelle and shaved parmagiano. It did not take long for the various beverages to come out and just before I was about to take a bite out of my table, my lunch arrived. My dining companion ordered the Avacado ($16) which is avacado on farmhouse toast, charred corn and quinoa tabouleh with goats cheese and chilli oil. I was jealous of this as not only did it appear amazing but when I begged for a taste of it, the taste was also amazing. My pork ragu was a bit flavourless with the exception of the shaved parmagiano and the pappardelle pasta was a bit undercooked. It didn't stop me from eating it all but I was disappointed in my selection just because of the lack of flavour. The pork was tender and there was an adequate portion of it included in the ragu with relieved my immediate hunger and certainly tasted better than my other option, being the table I would suspect, however the small taste of the Avacado dish made me regret my decision. I would certainly come back to enjoy that.

A second round of drinks and high quality service made for a relaxed early afternoon. With the summer of cricket coming to an end, I will have to return to Proud Mary again very soon to sample more of their breakfast menu so that I am prepared for the abuse that the West Indians will give to our bowling attack and I will not only request a table outside but happily wait for it.

Proud Mary, Collingwood, Melbourne

Proud Mary
172 Oxford St  Collingwood VIC 3066
(03) 9417 5930
My Rating: 12.75/20
Service: 3.25/5
Ambiance: 3/5
Quality: 3.25/5
Value For Money: 3.25/5

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

At the time of this post, 87% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like 
the Proud Mary.

Proud Mary on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Builders Arms Hotel - The Life of Fish Pi

Recently I have been taking refuge in Andrew McConnell's properties more often. On this occasion, I undertook a good brisk walk to Fitzroy so I could enjoy the Builders Arms Hotel on Gertrude Street which is much closer in comparison to my last few journeys to Golden Fields in St Kilda.

You could mistake The Builders Arms Hotel for any corner pub and probably be misled into thinking it is just another drinking hole if you didn't know any better. There is a bar area that is very welcoming and you could easily pull up a stool and spend a few hours drinking Cricketers Arms Lager and be virtually unaware that through a connecting door, a bustling restaurant awaits that flows to an outside terrace area. Fortunately for us, we were not distracted by the beautiful sound of beer pouring into jugs and the soft murmur of friendly voices in the pub and when we presented ourselves at the restaurant, the aroma of bread and the sounds of pleasant conversation distracted me sufficiently from my dry mouth.

Service was happy to take us to a table even without a reservation. The restaurant retains a hotel-pub feel and an ambiance which was inviting. the tables are far enough apart so that you are not distracted by other diners. In typical Andrew McConnell style, there is a minimalistic design. There is little art to distract or even annoy which is refreshing which in turn encourages you to have pleasant conversation with your dining partners and be enamoured by the food and beverage on offer.

We ordered in a convoluted way that saw us requesting Claire de Lune oysters ($3.50/each) along with olive toast with Ortiz anchovies and peppers ($4/each) as appetizers and cold poached chicken with English cream and breakfast radish ($16) paired with the seared tuna, celery, potato and white anchovy ($16) as entrée plates to share. Murray's Whale Ale was offered in a jug ($25) so I thought it would be a convenient way to start proceedings with the demon drink.

Although the oysters tasted a bit alkaline, with a bit of lemon and of course the beer, the meal started off well. I really enjoyed the olive toast with the single Ortiz anchovy as I am a huge fan of the brand. Frequently I will stop around at Cumulus, Inc. and just order a beer and Ortiz anchovies and enjoy them at the bar however for this appetizer, I found the pairing of the anchovies with the olive element to be excellent. It would have been easy just to order 24 of these and sit around and drink beer all day, but I knew that there were more exciting things in store.

I like the concept of having a few entrée plates to share. The English cream that is poured on the poached chicken when it arrives is a winner and when combined with the radish made for a wonderful combination of tastes and is certainly a good light dish. The seared tuna was just that. A bright magenta colour and when sliced down the centre and combined with the celery, potato and white anchovy, made it my favourite dish from the experience. I just couldn't get enough of the little soft cubed potatoes and the introduction of the salty anchovy ultimately made the tuna taste even better.

Another jug of beer was ordered along with mains. The fish pie which had smoked trout, prawns, rockling and sorrel ($32) and and offering of steak tartare ($24) which included chips seemed appropriate to order considering the beer. The pie turned out to be deceivingly large with a big bulbous top crust however once you slice into it, you find that it is not completely filled with product and there is a a fair amount of air however you do find a fair amount of fish and the pie is really enjoyable. My dining companion could not stop raving about the steak tartare and insisted that it is one of the best that he has had and put it in the same league as what you get at Movida. I ordered a tomato salad ($14) to accompany my pie and I was happy that I did.

Service remained very attentive throughout the two hour extravaganza. The team were always coming around to swap out dirty plates, utensils and to make sure that our table was clean. There was always water available and we never waited long to have our supply of alcohol replenished. I liked the casual feel of the place but also the professional flare. My very enjoyable meal set the foundations for further beer consumption at the Gertrude Hotel down the road and was certainly a stand-out experience in the recent past.

Builders Arms Hotel, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Builders Arms Hotel
211 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy VIC 3065
(03) 9417 7700
My Rating: 14.25/20
Service: 3.25/5
Ambiance: 3.50/5
Quality: 3.75/5
Value For Money: 3.75/5

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

At the time of this post, 72% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like 
the Builders Arms Hotel.

Builders Arms Hotel Bar and Bistro on Urbanspoon