Thursday, April 13, 2006

Marvellous Melbourne

Melbourne really has a great showcase of food. Maybe its not the very best. Maybe its not the very cheapest. But its got it all- and its pretty damn good.

This from the Age Epicure section - the only reason to buy the Age which I think is only available on Tuesday?

Here's some excerpts from the article.

Brett Crittenden, wine buyer, left Melbourne in 1998 for Argentina:

"One of my absolute institutions is to go from the airport directly to Prahran Market. We go straight to Claringbold's and buy three dozen Coffin Bay oysters - we buy them unopened because I love to eat them absolutely fresh. I love that market.
"Or we head straight for the middle of the deck at the Stokehouse. Up on the veranda in the sun with a bottle of Champagne. France-Soir is also absolutely mandatory - for the oysters and the salmon, and the steak tartar.

"A lot of our life revolves around food and wine, and to me (these places) are institutions. It's food you can eat every day of your life. Food that is brilliantly simple but in a classic way. And that's what I love about Melbourne - it's sophisticated, it's alive, it's got a real pulse, and it's got a real heart."

Geoffrey Johnstone, hotelier, left the Meridian Rialto in 2005 to head up Moscow Country Club, one of the Russian capital's premier hotels. For Johnstone, Russian caviar can't replace the appeal of a great Melbourne pizza.

"There's just such a variety in Melbourne. You can go from the very expensive, like the Flower Drum, to some nice, inexpensive Italian place. One of our favourites that I started going to way back in the '80s, and it's still there today, is Pizza Napoli in Russell Street. I think that's just about the best pizza in Melbourne."

Anthony Reynolds has cooked on four continents, from Melbourne to Europe, India, Dubai and now Bermuda at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, but he still can't refuse a Bannockburn chardonnay.

"For me, Melbourne cuisine is fresh and it's fast. It's not laboured over, and that's something I miss. Like Caffe E Cucina in Chapel Street. That is great food, fantastic coffee, good wines, great service. And it's still going for, well, must be 10 years now.

"And the markets too. I mean, I love hanging out at the Vic and Prahran markets, with the fresh pasta and all the organics.

"My dream Melbourne food day? Breakfast would have to be on Southbank, then a nice long brunch at the Windsor or the Regent Hotel. Those two places I love. And dinner, um, Mietta's in Queenscliff.

"I do take things back. Last time it was a box of mangoes from Melbourne and a box of Bannockburn chardonnay to give to all the staff here.

"To bring it in through importers is a nightmare. And I have a friend up in the Yarra Valley who makes a great pinot noir. I brought back six bottles of that and paid a heap of duty. But it was worth it."

Chef Lucas Glanville left Melbourne four years ago for Singapore and later Bangkok.

"There're about 16 million people in Bangkok and it's probably built to hold about half of that, so it's non-stop. The city never sleeps. For us, a normal day would probably be 3000 meals.

"So I'll tell you what I miss about Melbourne - going out for breakfast on a Sunday. Going to Acland Street for a hearty brunch, good coffee and catching up with a newspaper.

"The cafe society here hasn't really kicked in yet. Most stand-alone restaurants are either hawker style or pretty ordinary. You know, (there's) a local guy trying to do Italian food and he's not really pulling it off. So that sort of leaves the five-star hotels, which takes the fun out of it a bit.

"And to be able to go to a winery restaurant in Red Hill with your family, that's a million dollars coming from a city like this. Lounging out on the lawn, eating the local products, and drinking the local wine while enjoying views of the bay."

Justin Bernhaut joined New York's food photography scene a year ago. He has had plenty of opportunity to discover the pleasure of a perfect bagel and just how much he misses burnt backyard sausages.

"Last week, I had a one-inch-thick slab of sashimi - generous, but it kind of missed the point. Melbourne has a great Asian influence and there is a subtlety that I miss. Not to mention Cascade beer - as rare as a thylacine in New York.

"But I really think Melbourne food is as good, if not better, than anywhere in the world.

"There's Cheese Freaks cafe in Yarra Glen, Daniel Chirico's bakery, the Vic Market early on a Saturday, and mangoes, mangoes, mangoes. And I really miss barbecues in a backyard.

"The perfect day for me back home would be brekkie at The Galleon: espresso, poached eggs with avocado, fresh juice, another espresso and the Good Weekend. Lunch at home - linguini with fresh prawns from South Melbourne market - and dinner at Shira Nui way out in Glen Waverley.

The Times Cook in London and Epicure contributor Jill Dupleix has no trouble finding great pubs in her adopted home. But great coffee? That's what trips back to Melbourne are for.

"It's funny, having first moved from Melbourne to Sydney for six years, moving to London was a lot like moving back to Melbourne - the two cities have a lot in common.

"But while London has great pubs, there is no real cafe scene (except for one cute little Antipodean caff in Soho called Flat White). And you wouldn't believe it, but it's hard to find good tea here in all but the best places.

"My dream day would start with Cafe Racer, so I'd start there for either porridge or fruit or a toastie. Then I'd pick up some bread at D. Chirico in St Kilda, go to the farmer's market by the Yarra, and then get a tram over to Mario's in Brunny Street for a coffee.

(You know what my dream day would be?- Walking in Rathdown Park, drinking coffee and feasting on good quality Danish Butter Cookies... the ones with the big huge chunky sugar bits.)

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