Sunday, January 30, 2011

Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons

A weekend late (very late) birthday treat with Lee saw us cruising Crown on a Sunday lunchtime looking for fish. We'd just spent a couple of hours in Melbourne Aquarium to see the baby hammerhead sharks, and seafood was the order of the day. You know your fate is sealed when you stand at an aquarium window staring at a large octopus, and the only three words that come to mind are: Lemon. Oregano. Chargrilled.

Sadly, Waterfront is gone forever, replaced by the shell of a new restaurant called Atlantic Bar & Grill. So we wandered into Giuseppe, Arnaldo's no later than noon to see what they could do for us.

It's a funky place with a serious pedigree, and I have heard nothing but good stuff about the place. On a 40C day in the city, we sat alongside the strange folding windows, opened out to show a sleepy riverfront, and the coolness of the interior still won out. The wait staff in their butcher's coats, jeans and Converse were attentive but not overpowering, and it didn't take us long to order two plates of the spaghetti with crab.

The wine list didn't really attract for wines by the glass, so I went with the house red, a tempranillo blend straight from the tap behind the bar. It worked. Beside us, a man about my own age entertained a gorgeous young four- or five-year-old to lunch. She sat imperiously at table, knowing how good she looked in that hairband with the huge pink flower, and looked like she was pretty good company.

Behind me the big salami showcase glistened, and we are not sure how we succeeded in not ordering a plate of everything, with a hunk of the fresh artisan bread lining the walls beyond. But we stuck to our guns, and awaited our pasta.

Not sure why the pasta was served wrapped in a baking sheet parcel. It was a lovely, garlicky, tomatoey pasta sauce with plenty of fresh crab meat, and I just know it was only in that oven for a few minutes. It didn't need to be oven-baked. But the visual impact was pretty good on arrival, even if the baking parchment then got in the way for the rest of the meal.

The pasta was too saucey for Lee. I didn't know what she meant. There is no such thing as too much sauce for me.

At the next table, a couple chose the chicken cacciatore which looked and smelled amazing. Nearby, somebody else chose the Sunday roast - suckling pig. Now, that looks like a dish to come back for.

I can't comment on the value for money, as lunch was Lee's treat, but the menu looked tempting enough for a second, more leisurely, visit another time.

Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 24, 2011

loading dock

Riverfront, 70 Lorimer Street, South Wharf, Melbourne
(03) 9681 8289

A casual afternoon lunch with friends on a sunny Melbourne Sunday. Where to go? Initially I balked at the idea of Docklands, even on such a perfect day. Everybody knows that despite the developers' and Melbourne City Council's best efforts, Docklands is a wasteland, and only barely acceptable for about three weeks of the year when the wind is at its lowest and the mercury at its highest.

But no, this little gem of a place is on South Wharf, over the curly pedestrian bridge from Docklands proper, or a pleasant 10-minute stroll west along the river from the Polly Woodside. If you are a shopper, it's less than five minutes walk from the South Wharf DFO complex. The tables outside face north, so they are a bit of a sun-trap, with a small marina spread out in front, and city views all around. Perfect.

Over the course of four hours we grazed on perfectly-cooked thin-crust margherita pizza, fresh and flavoursome thai beef and black-seared tuna salads, generous panini, a pretty stunning Aussie burger, and a couple of excellent Jamaican dishes - curried goat and Jamaican-style snapper with pumpkin rice and okra.

One of the co-owners here is Jamaican, and on the third Sunday evening of the month they host a West Indian evening. We missed the last one being out of town, but February's is firmly in the diary.

The wait staff were lovely. Well, I admit one of them was the daughter of the friends with whom we were eating, but the other waiter didn't know who we were initially, and was most welcoming and accommodating. On paying our bill, one of the owners looked after us, and his civility gave us every reason to give him our custom again.

I have to say the pizzas alone are worth the wander down to this little-known corner of Melbourne city, and I know it is going to become a bit of a regular haunt for us.

So if you're looking for a new corner of Melbourne with some pretty good food and a laid-back riverside vibe, head down to Loading Dock. It's worth the detour.

Loading Dock on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 22, 2011

duchess of spotswood

Duchess of Spotswood
87 Hudsons Road
Spotswood 3015

A mid-week day off from flood response saw me, Kerry and Nina meander down to their new(ish) local eatery, the Duchess of Spotswood. This place is not open that long and has a huge following already, so I was looking forward to a late breakfast with good company.

We sat at the big table right at the window, in a sparsely-decorated but bright and welcoming main salon. One or two tables sat outside on the pavement. On a late Wednesday morning the place wasn't hopping but we were still three of about eight or nine punters.

The breakfast menu was interesting and full of lovely names - breakfast of champignons, anyone? - but nothing on there for one of us who did not fancy eggs. Everything bar the muesli and the toast (Zeally Bay sourdough, thankyouverymuch) included eggs. Happily, they cobbled together a breakfast of sides for our eggless one, whilst Kerry chose poached eggs with spinach and tomato on Zeally Bay sourdough. I chose the Prince of Wales: house-smoked salmon with a poached egg served with potato pancakes.

My weak English Breakfast tea came out in a proper pottery teapot with a tea-leaf holder inside that meant I could stop the brewing anytime I wanted. Marvellous. Kerry's latte was perfect. I believe they use Auction Rooms small batch coffee.

We didn't have to wait too long for our dishes to arrive. My smoked salmon was small but perfectly-formed, and although initially I quailed at my portion size, it was indeed an elegant sufficiency. My poached egg was perfectly cooked, a delight. The tiny potato pancakes were lovely, but with one slice of bread were insufficient for my carb-loving body, so I followed through with some more toast and home-made rhubarb jam for afters. Or it could have been the hangover I was nursing.

The service was fine: efficient enough, a little hard to raise at times, and bordering on the unenthusiastic if I'm honest. All in all, some lovely food and great company, but I am not entirely sure the place is worth all the hype I'm hearing about it. I would like to re-visit for lunch sometime, to see if this place really is the next big thing, or just the Emperor's New Clothes.

Duchess of Spotswood on Urbanspoon