Monday, May 30

Le Cirque (Fine Foods)

There was a good deal, $10 for $20 voucher at Stardeals worth of food at Le Cirque Fine foods, a pretty little cafe in Docklands (Melbourne CBD). Mmm we ate a lot for this meal.


Location: 27 Star Crescent, Melbourne (this is within the Harbourtown at Docklands) - see map

Website: official website, reviews on urbanspoon

Price: ~$10 for breakfast items, ~$17 for mains (lunch) and $5 for milkshakes - see full menu

Food:


Eggs florentine - poached eggs with a generous serving of spinach and Hollandaise sauce, on English muffin. Standard breakfast stuff, nicely cooked, good runny yolk in the middle, sauce balanced nicely with the ingredients. Mmm quite filling.


Calamari salad - ah perhaps this is what I had in mind when I ordered the salad at the Homestead recently. This was a great serving of lots of calamari, lots of salad and a yummy dipping sauce. I don't usually order salads (because leaves are cheap to buy in the supermarket) but felt this was worth the price.


Atlantic salmon - "cooked medium rare served on potato mash and spinach topped with lime beurre blanc". Decent slab of salmon, but I'm sure the salmon was overcooked rather than medium rare! Still tasted good together with the potato and the sauce was quite sour, sort of strange.

Other:


Lovely indoor decorations, I love chandeliers, and we sat next to a nice striped wall painted in black and white. Apart from the items on the menu, there were little gifts for sale, and other salads, pastries, and cakes available at the counter.

Rating: 5/5 one of the best cafes I've been to, nice food, reasonable prices (even better price with the vouchers!), and a good atmosphere. Salmon could have been cooked better but the rest of the experience made up for it. Well worth a visit!

Le Cirque Fine Foods on Urbanspoon

The Boatshed Restaurant

The Boatshed Restaurant was one of the first restaurants I visited in Ballarat, before living here. I remember having a lovely lunch and wondering why the restaurant was called a Boatshed when I couldn't see a boat or any water nearby. That was the days before Ballarat started to rain constantly, and during the time when the lake was just a dry bed of grass!

Sorry about the photo quality, there was minimal lighting indoors (haha that we really couldn't see all that well what we were eating).


Location: 27A Lake Wendouree Foreshore (Ballarat, Victoria) - see Google map

Website: official website and a couple of reviews on menulog

Price: ~$30 for mains for dinner, full menu for breakfast lunch and dinner are also available

Food:


Leek and potato soup - ah soup of the day. I love dipping bread in hot soup on a cold Ballarat day. Didn't look very appetising, but was tasty. And a huge, very filling bowl!


Fillet of atlantic salmon - "on buttered cous cous with mussels, prawns in a Moroccan tagine sauce". Well, that's a lot of ingredients! But from what I remember, the mussels had a funny, not so fresh taste. Sauce wasn't spectacular.


Oven Baked Lamb Rump - "cooked medium served on a roast pumpkin, prosciutto and pea risotto, finished with a house jus". Lamb wasn't particularly tender, and the quite large chunks of lamb rump were a bit bland. Again, nothing really special about the risotto.

Other: the Boatshed is set in a lovely place, next to the lake. The interior was slightly too dark for my liking, but was quiet and a comfortable place to dine. Mmm I remembered feeling hungry and waiting a long time for the mains (although there were maybe only another two pairs of twos dining at the time).

Rating: 2/5 perhaps I was paying too much attention to the company that I didn't pay enough attention to the food, but this was one of the least memorable meals I've had from eating out on "special" occasions. I do however remember my first meal here, a few years ago for lunch to have been reasonably priced, decent meal, with comfortable bright lighting and an.. interesting view (it would be a nice view now with the water back in the lake). Perhaps daytime dining would give a better experience.

The Boatshed on Urbanspoon

Chat for Tea (Vegetarian Tea Garden)

Our visit to Chat for Tea was a few months after we settled in Ballarat. Being a restaurant that served vegetarian only meals, it was a good choice for a group with a couple of vegetarians amongst us. This was the first Asian (Chinese) restaurant I visted in Ballarat, and we were surprised that it was a stylish and lovely place.


Location: 25 Armstrong Street North (Ballarat, Victoria) - see on map

Website: Chat for Tea's facebook group, urbanspoon reviews, a blog review with lots of pictures, and a vegan's review

Price: ~$7 for entree, $10 to $20 for mains, $5 for bubble tea

Food:


Gyoza (Japanese style dumplings) - I was surprised to find that these vegetarian dumplings were quite comparable to regular pork dumplings (the type of dumplings I'm used to eating). Lightly pan fried in the proper Chinese way. There was a good balance of flavours in the filling, and there was a reasonable amount on the plate.


Fried noodles - some of my friends had this. The sauce was sweetish and soy based, quite similar to the teppanyaki noodles below. With a lot of vegetables.


Teppanyaki noodles - this was one of the more expensive mains (near $20), which was thick noodles fried with the sweet soy sauce, vegetables, and fake "meat" served on a sizzling hot plate. Liked the idea of the hot plate, noodles had good texture but the sauce it self was a tad strong.


Fish soup - I can't remember the name of this dish on the menu but basically it had fish shaped mock meat complete with a dark layer of fish "skin". Again, dish ordered by a friend, not sure about the taste.


Bubble tea - I had the milk bubble tea which is the one shown in the photo. Whilst I was disappointed that none of their bubble teas had tapioca pearls (it's so fun to chew on the pearls!) I was surprised by the quality of the bubble tea here. A milky drink with a mild green tea base, with just the right sweetness. So, it's not your normal milk tea but it's a great milk tea! This was definitely the best part of my meal.

Other: there were old tea sets and various Chinese calligraphy set up around the restaurant. The seats at the back were in comfortable rows. And the restaurant, whilst cosy, easily seated about 20 of us that night.

Rating: 4.5/5 great place to visit, or stop for a drink of tea. But 5/5 if you're a vegetarian! My only reserve is that the taste of the flavours weren't 100%, probably partly because we're used to those dishes having the meat taste, which obviously wasn't going to be there when you don't use meat haha. Great concept, good value for money, great variety of unique dishes, and I didn't expect to find mock meat in Ballarat, or quite good quality Asian food. Relaxed and pleasant setting. Definitely much better than many of the pseudo Chinese food places around town.

Chat For Tea on Urbanspoon

Tokyo Grill House

A birthday party, and a different style of Japanese cuisine in Ballarat.


Location: 109 Bridge Mall, Ballarat - see map

Website: official website (currently not very useful, under construction), urbanspoon reviews

Price: $15 to 25 for mains, $25 to $45 for set meals per person (which is what you would have, if you were eating the teppanyaki). For teppanyaki, you needed to have a minimum of 4 people required.

Food:


Set menu - can't recall which set we opted for but there were about 5 choices, we had the standard most non expensive one (but not the vegetarian option). There were "deluxe" options which included tempura, other more expensive options with seafood and wagyu. The set menus come with a salad and miso soup as entree, chicken, beef and lots of vegetables which are cooked on the teppanyaki, and is finished off with tea or coffe, and a small ice cream.

Picture above is the chicken we had, teriyaki sort of flavour, quite tasty and juicy. Beef tasted similar and the fat portions of the beef were cut up separately - some of my friends found eating the fat quite revolting. The fat was tasty, but a little too chewy haha.


Above is our chef frying up the vegetables, which had beansprouts, lots of lettuce, and carrot. Same sort of seasoning as the meats. Below is the green tea ice cream that we had for dessert, flavour was a bit weak but it was still a good finish to a filling meal.


Deluxe option with tempura - fried prawns and vegetables in tempura batter that some of my friends ordered.


Other: the inside had a strange warehouse feel with bare brick walls and floors, no ceiling so all the pipes and everything were visible. The teppanyaki was a fun way to get together and slowly enjoy the different courses in a meal. Note: you probably want to wear something that you wouldn't mind smelling of food and smoke by the end of the meal! Vegetarian friends had a difficult time getting their teppanyaki to be cooked separately. Oh yes the staff are Chinese, and whilst it's reassuring to have Japanese people cooking Japanese cuisine I don't really mind as long as the food doesn't remind me of Chinese takeaway meals.

Rating: 3.5/5 good place for a gathering, food was reasonably tasty but lacked variety (the vegetable tasted the same as the chicken, and the beef). Also relatively expensive for the quality we paid for. However, I would go back and try some of the other items on the menu if I were to live in Ballarat for a longer period of time.

Tokyo Grill House on Urbanspoon

Kambei Japanese Restaurant

A stylish, newly opened Japanese restaurant near Sovereign Hill.


Location: 501 Main Road, Ballarat (Victoria). The restaurant is across the road from Sovereign Hill.

Website: official website and AGFG review (limited information available)

Price: $10 for entree salad, $15 for the sashimi shown below, $35+ for mains

Food:


Tamago (egg) salad - I had this as an entree, a surprisingly large bowl of salad leaves, with the usual Japanese sesame dressing. Topped with a tasty egg and creamy mayonnaise mixture.

Sashimi (three kinds - in the plate behind the salad bowl) - two or three slices of each type of fish. There were salmon - which is always my favourite, and this salmon looked beautiful and tasted just as good. Tuna, and kingfish which were ok but I should have really had a whole serving of salmon because it's the only raw fish I love. Main complaint is that there wasn't much fish for $15.

Unagi - a few of my friends had entree sized unagi for around $10, it was a decent sized eel and was soft and flavoursome. I would get this if I were to go again!



Wagyu sushi - just including this picture for interest. Flame seared wagyu on top of rice, $15 per plate!

Other: Kambei feels and tastes like authentic Japanese cuisine, which is a surprise for us to find in Ballarat. But it is really out of the budget range of us poor students. A few of us decided to fill ourselves up with KFC after we left the restaurant. The restaurant also had a deal on certain days which was about $45 for a three course meal, perhaps that would have been more filling.

Rating: 2.5/5 is my personal opinion because whilst quality is important, I always feel disappointed if I'm still hungry after paying for an expensive meal! Having said that, it would be a delightful place to visit, if you're looking for somewhere a little classier and you don't mind spending a little extra.

Kambei Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 29

Chocolate Mill

We've had several Daylesford daytrips and stopped at the Chocolate Mill each time. The Chocolate Mill is a small chocolate "factory" where chocolate is imported from Belgium and moulded or made into the different products at the store, or cafe.


Location: 5451 Midland Hwy, Mount Franklin, Victoria (see map)

Website: official website, reviews on urbanspoon, a blog review with many lovely pictures, an entertaining post about the establishment and a description their truffles, and more lovely photos of the chocolates by a fellow Ballarat blogger!

Price: ~$5 for a mug of hot chocolate, or an iced chocolate, or an ice cream with chocolate topping, or a large slice of carrot cake. Chocolates themselves are about $1.30 each (similar to Koko Black or Max Brenner's in the city).


My friends pondered on the origins of the word "chocoholics".

Food:

Hot chocolate (milk chocolate shown below): from what I remember there were four flavours, milk, dark, white and spicy dark chocolate. The hot chocolate is essentially a large chunk of melted chocolate on the bottom with the rest of the glass filled with milk. Would have liked a thicker hot chocolate but you could really taste the chocolate, which is always a good change from powdered hot chocolate. Differences between the different flavours were that milk was a little too sweet, dark was nicer, and spicy dark wasn't spicy in the sense of having a strong taste of chilli, but spicy with... well, spices (eg. cinnamon). In summary, Koko Black would still come first on my preferences for hot chocolate but these hot chocolates were better than most.


Ice cream with chocolate topping (below is chocolate ice cream with spicy dark chocolate topping): there were a choice of chocolate or vanilla ice cream topped with a generous amount of chocolate (again milk, dark, white, spicy dark) and cream. The ice cream tasted good (Streets, according to my friend), and went well with the chocolate which became hard similar to the Magic Ice topping, only tastier. Another way to sample the same Belgian chocolate!



Other: Seating is either under cover or outdoors on wooden benches. There is a playground there too, and my sister enjoyed sitting on the slide and just gazing into the surrounds. Some of us bought some chocolate and truffles. Quite good to give as gifts. Daily tours run at 11am and 2pm that talk about the Chocolate Mill and give demonstrations on how they mould and decorate the chocolate. Interesting to listen to the first time, but you can see chocolate making happening throughout the day even if you miss out on the tours.


Rating: 4.5/5 a fun little place to visit if you're travelling to Daylesford or Hepburn Springs. Quite unique hot chocolate that we enjoyed, similar price to similar cafes in the city.

Chocolate Mill on Urbanspoon

Point Cook Homestead (Scrumpy Brown's)

I've been back in Victoria for almost an entire year and haven't posted a single thing on my food experiences here. Perhaps there are too many existing reviews about food in Melbourne, especially in the CBD and surroundings. Anyway, here is a pleasant day trip I made this weekend to the Western suburbs of Melbourne.


Location: 1 Point Cook Homestead Road, Point Cook (Victoria, Australia) - see map

Website: official website, urbanspoon reviews, and a blog review of breakfast at the cafe

Price: full menu is available here, there are extra items/daily specials available. Our meal was $15 for the risotto, $22 for calamari salad (main), $6.50 for milkshakes.

Food:


Smoked salmon risotto - this was from the specials menu. Creamy risotto served with smoke salmon and pickled capers. I've never had capers, they taste pretty much the same as olives which I still haven't acquired a taste for. But I liked the risotto - it was tasty, not too creamy, smoked salmon pieces were scant but added colour and flavour to the dish. Only downside of the dish was that it didn't have much in the way of ingredients. We like getting our money's worth haha.


Calamari salad - my mains was the calamari salad with chunky chips and garlic aioli. The calamari salad was only in the entree section of the menu (for about $14 - mm expensive entree) The calamari was hot and crispy, salad was your regular salad leaves without dressing. Would have liked a bit more salad and a little less chips. I enjoyed dipping the calamari in the fragrant olive oil taste of the aioli, and wished there was more to go with the chips too.

Vanilla milkshake - strange tasting milk or ice cream, but plus side was that it didn't have a sickly sweet taste or an excess of vanilla favouring. Getting a milkshake is always a gamble.

Other:


Wow the building looked old from the outside. But indoors decoration was casual, comfortable. Seating was also available outdoors on the lawn. A kids party was happening in a table nearby and the cafe was bustling, with at least one other function happening. I guess not the best place if you're looking for somewhere quiet! The staff were friendly and attentive.


The best part about Point Cook Homestead was the surroundings, and being able to walk around, see the few turkeys, ducks they had on site. A short walk away is the beach, from which you can see an outline of Melbourne city. Disappointingly, there wasn't much to see in terms of old buildings or living quarters, you would need to go to Werribee Mansion for that!


Rating: 3/5 the food was expensive for the quality, and quantity you get. I might have been still hungry if I hadn't had a decent sized breakfast. Nevertheless, it's worthwile visiting at least once, and enjoy a peaceful walk after lunch.

Point Cook Homestead on Urbanspoon