Food Safari in Melbourne

Mushroom and pea risotto, confit duck, triple cream brie $31

Mushroom and pea risotto, confit duck, triple cream brie $31

I have always known Melbourne to be a food lovers’ paradise because of its vibrant multicultural and cosmopolitan lifestyle.

Little Bourke street, Melbourne CBD

Little Bourke street, Melbourne CBD

Melbourne’s infamous climate of having “four seasons in a day”can sometimes confine one indoors all day.

Some people believe this may have something to do with the proliferation of stylish cafes and restaurants around the city and its suburbs where a hearty hot chocolate may just be that tonic for a cold wintry Melbourne day.

In recent years, Melbourne’s vibrant cafe and restaurant scene has been vying for top honours with some of Sydney’s best. Celebrity chefs from Melbourne are not short on order as well.

What I have found is that many of Melbourne’s top cafe and restaurants do not have the breath-taking water views like some of Sydney’s iconic restaurants by the harbour.

Double smoked bacon, Queen Victoria Market

Double smoked bacon, Queen Victoria Market

A beautiful view can sometimes mask average food and many have claimed that some Sydney restaurants may lose a big part of their appeal if they were not located close to the water’s edge.

So on our trip to the “Garden state” last week, there were a couple of restaurants that Mysaucepan was determined to sample after hearing so much about them.

We are also excited because apart from our friends KG and Elaine who are always the most gracious hosts in putting us up at their home, we are also meeting up with my cousin YB and his wife who lives in Las Vegas. He is in Melbourne to visit his sister WY and being food lovers like ourselves, they are also eager to join us in trying out some of the cafes and restaurants in Melbourne that we have heard so much about.

There are no “killer water views” at many of these restaurants and the only determinant of quality is good, honest food on the plate.

Stuffed olives, stuffed capsicum and Greek feta, Queen Victoria Market

Stuffed olives, stuffed capsicum and Greek feta, Queen Victoria Market

We got a taste of some beautiful ingredients and fresh food when we made our visit to the Queen Victoria Market which is located within a 5-minute walk north of Melbourne CBD.

The sheer variety and freshness of the food reaffirms my believe that Melbourne’s food scene is vibrant and together with our friends, we are excited to sample some of the food this great city has to offer.

Food safari in Melbourne:

Here is a sample of the cafes and restaurants that we visited during our trip last week:

1. Jade Kingdom, Heidelberg Heights
2. De Clieu, Fitzroy
3.  Pho 369, Fitzroy
4. Blue Chillies, Fitzroy
5. Pho Hung, Preston
6. Pantry, Brighton
7.  Movida Aqui, Melbourne CBD (Read about our full review here).

1. Jade Kingdom,  Heidelberg Heights

Jade Kingdom is one of my favourite restaurants in Melbourne. Located about 15km north of Melbourne CBD, we have frequented this restaurant time and again because it is within a 5-minute drive from KG’s house.

Malaysian style hokkien mee

Malaysian style hokkien mee

However, the close proximity is not the main reason because I believe the Malaysian style hokkien mee is arguably one of the best I have tried in Australia.

Thick silky slivers of noodles in its signature black caramel sauce is stir-fried with prawns, slices of fish cake, cuttle fish, cabbage and sprinkled with bits of crispy pork lard. This is one dish that I always think about whenever I visit Melbourne.

Nasi lemak with beef rendang

Nasi lemak with beef rendang

The nasi lemak with beef rendang is fragrant with its coconut flavour and the rendang is soft and yielding.

Cantonese style stir-fried rice noodles

Cantonese style stir-fried rice noodles

A Cantonese style stir-fried rice noodles is one of Mysaucepan‘s favourite. The noodles are nicely seared with good wok breath and it comes ladened with its classic thick eggy sauce with strips of pork, prawns and vegetables.

Nasi lemak, Cantonese style stir-fried rice noodles and Malaysian style hokkien noodles

Nasi lemak, Cantonese style stir-fried rice noodles and Malaysian style hokkien noodles

Styled as a “Malaysian & Chinese” restaurant, “Jadey” as I like to call it, does some pretty good Chinese dishes as well.

Deep fried silken tofu with mince pork

Deep fried silken tofu with mince pork

This deep-fried silken tofu with mince pork and preserved cabbage is a case in point. It has a nice texture outside while the interior is silken soft as it should be. The gravy is tasty and always a beautiful complement for steaming hot rice.

Nyonya style assam snapper

Nyonya style assam snapper

Another mouth-watering dish that goes well with steamed rice is the Nyonya style assam fish. A snapper is steamed with a blend of Nyonya sauce redolent of chilli, lemongrass, ginger and kaffir lime flavours.

Garnished with fresh coriander and strips of fresh red chillies, the tangy and spicy taste makes you more hungry with each mouthful.

Peking style deep fried beef strips and broccoli

Peking style deep fried beef strips and broccoli

A Peking style deep fried beef strips with broccoli is sweet and crispy with its syrupy sauce. Not quite my favourite dish but it seems to be disappearing quite quickly.

We have ordered way too much food for eight people tonight but Jadey is quite consistent and satisfying for all the times I have been to this restaurant.

Jade Kingdom
233 Waiora road, Heidelberg Heights
Melbourne
Tel: +61 3 9458 3188

Lunch: Monday to Saturday
Dinner: 7 nights

Jade Kingdom on Urbanspoon

~~~~~~~~o~~~~~~~~

2. De Clieu, Fitzroy

We met up with YB and WY for lunch and decided to check out the cafes and restaurants around Brunswick street in Fitzroy.

We settled upon De Clieu after a recommendation from Mysaucepan as this small cafe received numerous glowing reviews and write-ups.

We decided to order only a couple of dishes as we intend to walk the length of Brunswick street to see if we can discover other eateries on our food safari.

Sweet roasted Berkshire pork neck with fried free-range egg, spring onion roti and BBQ sauce $16.50

Sweet roasted Berkshire pork neck with fried free-range egg, spring onion roti and BBQ sauce $16.50

A sweet roated Berkshire pork neck with fried free-range egg, spring onion and BBQ sauce did not disappoint. We like this dish because the sweet gravy worked well with the tender piece of meat and the fried egg is an interesting combination with the slightly chewy roti.

Is this what modern Australian food is all about? I certainly think so.

Why wouldn’t a western style cafe make an honest attempt in combining a roti that is so similar to a crepe or a pancake in soaking up the delectable sweet gravy?

This is what is it right here – honest food with a bit of creativity and all for $16.50. Please take note, Sydney cafes. 

Pea and ham soup with slow cooked hen's egg $16.50

Pea and ham soup with slow cooked hen's egg $16.50

The pea and ham soup with slow cooked hen’s egg is not only elegant, it is damn tasty too. I have always maintained that Melbourne, to me, is Australia’s most elegant city and this humble pea soup reaffirms my views.

The savoury ham and bacon is beautiful against a the wholesome soup and the thin slices of crispy croutons worked wonders with the egg.

My only regret is not taking a photo of its gooey yellow centre when we broke it open. It reminded me of yet another slow-cooked egg that remains in my mind long after I have tasted it.

Find me a Sydney cafe that can replicate this for $16.50 and I will be there in a flash.

Flat whites $3.50

Flat whites $3.50

The flat whites at De Clieu could be a little stronger but we came here for the food and we are impressed.

I wonder how many other cafes in Melbourne  can dish out innovative food like this at such reasonable prices.

Thank you De Clieu, we shall return, with more friends next time.

De Clieu, Fitzfoy
187 Gertrude street, Fitzroy
Melbourne
Tel: +61 3 9416 4661

Business hours:
Monday – Saturday 7am – 5pm
Sunday 8am – 5pm

De Clieu on Urbanspoon

~~~~~~~~o~~~~~~~~

3. Pho 369, Fitzroy

We are extremely happy after that little prelude at De Clieu and start walking towards the multitude of cafes and restaurants along Brunswick street.

We finally settle at Pho 369 since YB is keen to sample some local Vietnamese pho as he laments that good Vietnamese food is difficult to come by in Las Vegas.

Mint leaves and bean sprouts

Mint leaves and bean sprouts

The usual beansprouts and fresh mint leaves are plonked onto our table as we eagerly wait for our bowls of piping hot pho to arrive.

Melbourne did not disappoint in turning on a cold and chilly morning so we thought a steaming hot bowl of pho would be a good answer for this weather.

Rare beef pho $11.00

Rare beef pho $11.00

The rare beef is tender and soft. The taste and flavour of the stock are quite average but what let this bowl of noodles down is that it arrives luke warm. We down our noodles as we feel a little peckish after our walk from De Clieu but we all felt we would not be back in a hurry.

Pho 369
369 Brunswick street, Fitzroy
Melbourne
Tel: +61 3 9417 3311

Pho 369 on Urbanspoon

~~~~~~~~o~~~~~~~~

4. Blue Chillies, Fitzroy

“Have you been to a funky Malaysian restaurant in Melbourne?” my friend KG quips the next day.

“What is your idea of funky, belly dancers and gyrating movements while we tuck into a nasi lemak?” I asked.

“Not quite, but you will find some tasty Malaysian dishes with a bit of a twist that would tickle your tastebuds at Blue Chillies“.

On that note, the eight of us find ourselves on Brunswick street again to sample some tasty Malaysian food the next evening.

Lohbak $8.50

Lohbak $8.50

The humble lohbak is my perennial favourite for a Malaysian entree. Delectable chicken mince flavoured with five-spice powder is wrapped with tofu skin and deep-fried until crispy and golden brown.

Dipped into a mild sweet chilli sauce, these crispy nuggets will leave you pining for the mains in no time.

Spicy eggplant with dried shrimps and chilli $18.80

Spicy eggplant with dried shrimps and chilli $18.80

A plate of eggplant with dried shrimp and chilli is packed with spicy and robust flavours of belachan and curry leaves.

I love the soft gooey texture of the eggplant that is like a sponge in absorbing all the chilli and shrimp flavours.

Chilli king prawns in garlic and chilli gravy $28

Chilli king prawns in garlic and chilli gravy $28

A tangy bowl of chilli king prawns arrive with French beans, tomato and okra. The bright orange gravy is piquant and bold with chilli and Nyonya style flavours that complement the big crunchy king prawns.

I find myself eating more steamed rice that usual because of such bold and tasty flavours.

Assam fish curry with tamarind and lemongrass $25

Assam fish curry with tamarind and lemongrass $25

The assam fish curry with tamarind and lemongrass  is spicy, sour and savoury at the same time where this sauce combines well with the deep-friend crunchy fish.

Pepper okra battered and fried with garlic and chilli $18.80

Pepper okra battered and fried with garlic and chilli $18.80

A battered okra is similar to a salt and pepper style dish where there is a big of crunch with deep fried onions and chilli.

Spicy pork ribs $25

Spicy pork ribs $25

The spicy pork ribs is another dish with a twist where there is no escaping without using your fingers.

Pick up a pork rib and start ripping off the meat with your chompers is the easiest and best way to eat these ribs, not forgetting a cold beer to wash it all down.

Pandan crepes $8

Pandan crepes $8

Blue Chillies is a commendable Malaysian and its point of difference is in strong and robust flavours.

Forget the once dish wonders like laksa and char kway teow, you would want to come here and try their dishes but you’ll need a fair bit of hot steamed rice to balance the flavours.

Blue Chillies
182 Brunswick street, Fitzroy
Melbourne
Tel: +61 3 9417 0071

Business hours:

Daily lunch: 12pm – 2.30pm

Dinner:
Monday to Thursday 6pm – 10.30pm
Friday & Saturday 6pm – 11pm
Sunday 6pm – 10pm

Blue Chillies on Urbanspoon

~~~~~~~~o~~~~~~~~

5. Pho Huong, Preston

On the following night,  KG suggest we visit his friend’s casual Vietnamese restaurant right in the heart of the commercial strip along High street in Preston, a suburb 10km north of Melbourne CBD.

I have been here on numerous occasions and one of the tried and tested on the menu is the rare beef Vietnamese pho.

Beansprouts, lemon and fresh birdeye chillies

Beansprouts, lemon and fresh birdeye chillies

Rare beef and brisket pho

Rare beef and brisket pho

It’s cold tonight and this blooming Melbourne weather is good for this steaming hot bowl of comfort food.

The rare beef is succulent and the texture of my beef brisket yields like a tender slice of roast beef. The soup is piping hot and it cooks the raw bean sprouts within seconds.

Vietnamese pork sausage with roasted peanuts

Vietnamese pork sausage with roasted peanuts

KG tells me this restaurant is doing extremely well and I can see why with simple food cooked extremely well.

Pho Huong
447 High street, Preston
Tel: +61 3 9470 1588

Business hours:
Lunch and dinner 7 days

Pho Hung on Urbanspoon

~~~~~~~~o~~~~~~~~

6. Pantry, Brighton

After our episode with De Clieu, both my cousins YB and WY are pining for more cafe style food that is a little different. Upon the recommendation by Elaine, we head south for lunch at Pantry in Brighton on Mother’s Day.

Most restaurants are fully booked and we are chuffed when the restaurant said there is no booking but we should be able to get a table within half hour.

The restaurant was in full throttle when we arrived and after a forty minute wait, we are finally seated and have already read the menu.

Pantry is an interesting concept where chef Shane Delia combines hints of Mediterranean cooking with modern Australia style. Continental products such as olive oil are on display along the rack and both locals and tourists seem to be captivated by a menu that combines innovative cooking with the freshest of ingredients.

The restaurant also hold cooking classes as well as cooking shows which showcases some of the top chefs in Australia.

Caesar salad - crisp bacon, poached egg, baby cos, parmesan, croutons, white anchovy dressing $19.50

Caesar salad - crisp bacon, poached egg, baby cos, parmesan, croutons, white anchovy dressing $19.50

I spot a table having a Caesar salad and knew we had to order this dish.

A whole bunch of baby cos lettuce is drizzled with the classic Caesar dressing and topped with shaved parmesan, a whole poached egg, Italian style white anchovies, bacon that is caramelised with maple syrup and crispy croutons.

To me, this is a Caesar salad with an attitude and a creative point of difference.

Linguine, Mooloolaba king prawn, crab, garlic, chilli, cherry tomato, EVOO, parsley $32.50

Linguine, Mooloolaba king prawn, crab, garlic, chilli, cherry tomato, EVOO, parsley $32.50

A plate of linguine with king prawns and crab meat is boldly al dente. This simple dish is one of my favourites pastas to cook at home on a week night.

What makes this dish delightful is the fresh cherry tomatoes, a generous sprinkling of chopped parsley, a squeeze of lemon juice and good EVOO that combines all the flavours beautifully.

Mushroom and pea risotto with duck confit and triple cream brie $31

Mushroom and pea risotto with duck confit and triple cream brie $31

The dish that remains truly memorable for me during this food safari in Melbourne is the mushroom and pea risotto, confit duck and triple cream brie.

This risotto is the perfect answer to a cold wintry day in Melbourne, where the triple cream brie gives the rice so much flavour and substance. The duck confit is an added bonus when the meat is so flavoursome having been cooked in its own fat.

Spiced slow-cooked pork ribs and cabbage salad $29.50

Spiced slow-cooked pork ribs and cabbage salad $29.50

A slow-cooked pork ribs with cabbage salad revealed the Middle Eastern influences of this elegant cafe with its spices and aromas.

I found the meat a little dry although it is soft and tasty. I am thinking some kind of cumin and coriander seed gravy poured over these ribs would elevate it to another level.

Spiced slow-cooked pork ribs and cabbage salad $29.50

Spiced slow-cooked pork ribs and cabbage salad $29.50

Nevertheless, I carve up each rib and in no time, the four of us are licking our fingers and the large platter is soon replaced with cleaned meatless rib bones.

Warm flourless chocolate pudding and ice-cream $14

Warm flourless chocolate pudding and ice-cream $14

We finish our lunch with a chocolate pudding with a warm and melting centre. A dollop of ice-cream  adds a delightful warm and cold feeling with each mouthful.

Pantry
1 Church street, Brighton
Melbourne
Tel: + 61 3 9591 0393

Business hours:

Breakfast and Lunch
Monday – Wednesday 7.30am – 5.00pm
Thursday – Friday 7.30am – 4.00pm
Saturday 8.00am – 4.00pm
Sunday 8.30am – 5.00pm

Dinner & Takeaway

Thursday – Saturday from 5.00pm

Pantry on Urbanspoon

~~~~~~~~o~~~~~~~~

7. Movida Aqui, Melbourne

Movida business card

Movida business card

One of the highlights of our food safari is undoubtedly my lunch at Movida Aqui with Mysaucepan. She had wanted to come here for a very long time and I can see why after the first few tapas.

Click on any of these photos of Movida Aqui and read about our lunch at this tapas bar that has given Melbourne food lovers so much to rave about.

Imported products at Movida Aqui, Melbourne

Imported products at Movida Aqui, Melbourne

Camerones $14.50 at Movida Aqui

Camerones $14.50 at Movida Aqui

Anchoa $4.50 at Movida Aqui

Anchoa $4.50 at Movida Aqui

I leave you with one of the most distinctive tastes that left a lasting impression on my taste buds during this food safari – that of the Anchoa from Movida Aqui –  a tingling of the chilled smoked tomato sorbet against the salty sliver of anchovy complemented with the crispy crunch of a wafer-thin crouton.

Thank you Melbourne for a whirlwind few days of sensational tastes and flavours. We know that we have only scratched the surface of a gastronomic iceberg so we shall be back for more.

Movida Aqui
Level 1, 500 Bourke street
Melbourne (Access via Little Bourke street)

Lunch & Dinner:
Monday  - Friday 12 noon till late.
Saturday – 6pm until late.
Sunday – Closed.

Tel: 03 – 9663 3038 for reservations.

MoVida Aqui  on Urbanspoon

So dear readers, have you been on a food safari and if so, where did you do it and what was your most memorable dish?

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28 Responses to Food Safari in Melbourne

  1. Nice wrap up! It’s almost like a mini Melbourne checklist for our stomachs!

  2. Charles says:

    Mmmmm, so much awesomeness :D Your post is reminding me that I haven’t actually had pho in ages. I know a great place in Chinatown in Paris – must head back there soon!

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Charles,

      Eating pho in Paris is a pretty romantic picture for me and I bet it’s pretty good too.

  3. I adore Melbourne eats. Looks like you were really well fed on your trip :)

  4. heidi says:

    I’ve never experienced anything like this. I’m dying to taste everything that you have photographed! The closest I’ve come to this kind of “safari” is when we travel into a new country or region and I visit all the bakeries I can find! Or when we decided to try all the tea shops within 50 miles of our vacation home. :)

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear heidi,

      A tea safari sounds pretty exciting to me too, especially if there is good artisan bread and jams!

  5. Baby Sumo says:

    The Pea and ham soup with slow cooked hen’s egg is absolutely gorgeous…. I wouldn’t mind eating that everyday! Hubby and I also went on an “eating spree” in Singapore a couple of weeks ago.

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Baby Sumo,

      This dish looked so elegant and the slow cooked hen’s egg was really a brilliant idea in elevating this simple soup to a different level.

  6. msihua says:

    Glad you enjoyed Melbourne so much.. Melbourne is so much of a home to me because of all the different food and cultures.. and you’re right, a lot of the time.. with Sydney places the views are better than the food!

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear I-Hua

      I really think Melbourne has so many good cafes and mid-tier restaurants serving good, honest food at very reasonable prices.

  7. Carolyn Jung says:

    I’m eyeing that pork neck. You don’t find that too often, and it’s got such amazingly flavorful meat on it.

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Carolyn,

      You are right. I have never cooked with pork neck but I loved the flavours and also the segmented texture of the meat.

  8. Hotly Spiced says:

    How long were you there? That’s a lot of restaurants! I’ll have the risotto followed by the pandan crepes. But then again, it all looks so tempting. I’d have to agree that I think for too long Sydney restaurants have got away with over-charging and serving less than up-to-standard food, just because they have a pretty outlook. Melbourne restaurants cannot rely on pretty outlooks so have to do better in the kitchen – and they do! xx

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Charlie,

      I was there for 6 days. The risotto was one of the standout dishes so I thought it was worthy of it being my header pic for this blogpost. Melbourne has some seriously honest food and with some really creative cooking too.

  9. Wow you saw so much in your trip to Melbourne – even places I have not been! Putting De Clieu on the must go list.

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Cara,

      You have to check out De Clieu. Apparently they also have awesome French toast which they ran out on the day we were there.

  10. Cheah says:

    Wow, a mouth-watering round up of yummy food in Melbourne. Will keep this in mind when I next hop over for a visit.

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Cheah,

      It was just a sample of some delicious food and I bet there is even more that we missed.

  11. Sissi says:

    I think it’s too many emotions in just one post. I will have to look back at these gorgeous photos at least ten times more before my head stops spinning.
    I have never made a bar/restaurant safari in my life but now it’s one of my plans for the next trip I make! It sounds like an unforgettable experience.
    For me also the important view is in my plate and not outside (although I wouldn’t complain if both were excellent…)

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Sissi,

      At first I thought about splitting them all up but decided I will put it all into one blogpost for easy reference of our trip. We didn’t really plan on a safari either, just that we wanted to make sure we try some interesting places with every meal that we have to eat anyway and it worked out this way! :)

  12. tigerfish says:

    Despite the array of cuisines, I am somewhat spell-bounded by comfort in dishes such as Hokkien Noodles, Nasi Lemak and Wat dan Hor. The food in Jade Kingdom looks so so scrumptious! Maybe I am not so adventurous after all. I am not even keen in the pho! :O

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear tigerfish,

      To me, you are the ultimate comfort food chef. You give me so many happy memories and creative ideas with your simple yet homely recipes that I never fail to be inspired every time I visit your blog. I agree with you because I love Jadey for what it is every time I visit Melbourne.

  13. Absolutely! I love a good food safari and you have chosen some fab sounding dishes there on yours! :)

  14. I almost fell off chair by ALL of this delicious dish. It’s great food overload (in positive way of course). I am SUPER hungry right now and I just ate breakfast not a long ago. My gosh, I have been thinking about going to Australia to try all the food I have been seeing, but I think I need to move there now. I really wish!!

  15. Winston says:

    This is a GREAT guide for people visiting Melbourne, Chopin. Even I want to go on this food trail too. Am sure a lot of people will find this helpful. Hope you come back again to have more great meals in Melbourne!

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