Archive for the ‘Collingwood’ Category

Provenance 2

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Since my original visit to Provenance we’ve been back a few times – once for dinner, and a couple of times for breakfast.

While it looks like a run of the mill cafe, the standard of the dishes at dinnertime is certainly restaurant quality, with prices to match. When we visited for dinner my girlfriend ordered the fish of the day – a generous serving of perfectly cooked rockling fillets, which came with brocoli. I had lamb rump, roasted medium rare and served with mint peas and potatoes. It had been cooked slightly beyond rare, but was delicious nonetheless.

A side of broccoli with almond butter was cooked well, retaining just the right amount of crispness, although the waiter probably should have warned us that the rockling also came with brocoli. In another service glitch, the waiter neglected to mention the $18 burger and cider special. A few people of nearby tables ordered this, and the burgers looked fantastic.

Nonetheless, the service has certainly improved, with our orders arriving quickly on each occasion. I always feel a bit weird using Zoupon vouchers when eating out, as we did on a couple of occasions, but the staff here make you feel comfortable doing so.

I hope the Zoupon deal is working out for Provenance, and it attracts repeat business. The standard of the food certainly warrants it.

288 Smith St

phone: (03) 8415 0700

Easy Tiger

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Whoever did the interior design for the new modern Thai restaurant, Easy Tiger (96 Smith Street, Collingwood), certainly did a good job. Look up the word tasteful in the dictionary, and I’d expect to see a photo of the interior.

It’s stunning at night, and during our two hour dinner, there was a continual stream of passers-by stopping and doing a double take. What catches your eye, or at least mine, is the row of coloured drinking glasses along the illuminated shelves that span each of the side walls.

Even more important than a nice fit out is the food, and while I can’t vouch for its authenticity, having never been to Thailand, I can wholeheartedly vouch for its deliciousness. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a meal this much.

As is the case with most Melbourne restaurants these days, there are a number of small dishes, designed for sharing. We started with three – the larp gai, kingfish sashimi with potato and miso, and betel leaves with prawn and fresh coconut – and all were fantastic. The highlight though was the latter, which was rich and clean (a difficult combination), and had beautiful texture.

Then we moved on to the larger dishes. Salted salmon in coconut cream was basically a really well executed, red curry. Cucumber and cos lettuce on the side were a nice addition, as they providing a contrast to the richness of the coconut cream.

A hot and sour Thai beef salad, cherry tomatoes, coriander and fresh lime was equally good. On paper it’s a pretty standard Thai dish, but what I wasn’t expecting was the texture of the beef, which was almost jerky-like. That may not sound appetising, but it actually worked really well.

The single bum note was one son in law egg, which had been cooked beyond soft boiled. Happily, when I pointed this out, they brought out two more, and this time the yolk was a perfect consistency, although the outside of the egg wasn’t quite as crispy as I would have liked.

While desserts are not usually the strong point of Thai menus, in my experience, Easy Tiger offers three interesting options. I had chocolate and pandanus leaf dumplings with melon, which is a visual surprise and a taste sensation. My girlfriend had the equally good steamed duck egg custard, rice ice cream with poached dragonfruit.

There’s a basic wine list and a really good beer list. The latter features the fantastic Hitachino Nest White Ale, which I think goes perfectly with Thai flavours.

The tables are well spaced, and the floor is covered in a thin carpet, so despite it being quite busy when we were there, noise levels were absolutely fine.

Surprisingly, and thankfully, it’s not one of those no reservation restaurants, although there are two sittings (at least on a Saturday night), which contributed to a feeling of being slightly rushed by the staff, who were otherwise fantastic.

Speaking of reservations, you probably want to book soon. I have a feeling that, given the location, style of eating, quality of food, initial reviews, and amount of Twitter buzz, it’s going to be very popular, very quickly and deservedly so.

Related posts: Mamanee Thai Restaurant

Easy Tiger on Urbanspoon

Proud Mary

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

The whole ‘third wave of coffee’ thing irritates me. To begin with, the term ‘third wave of coffee’ is pretty pretentious, but what’s worse is that a lot of the places don’t actually deliver the goods. I’ve tried places like Brother Baba Budan and Seven Seeds a number of times, and I’m yet to have an above average coffee.

There is an exception though, and it’s Proud Mary (172 Oxford St, Collingwood). I’ve been here quite a few times, and coffees have ranged from good to amazing. And that’s just the espresso-based coffees, I’m yet to try the Clover or Syphon.


I haven’t eaten there much, but the food I’ve had was worthy of the coffee. Recently I tried the scrambled eggs on damper with onion jam, bacon, roasted tomatoes and pork & fennel sausages. The highlights were the tomatoes, which were nice and sweet, and the crisp bacon. Unfortunately the onion jam was as quite sweet – too much so, in my opinion. Fennel wasn’t overly obvious in the sausages, but they were still pretty good.

There’s always a danger with a place as popular as this that the staff will have a too cool for school attitude, but thankfully this is not the case here. They’re friendly, knowledgable and helpful.

Fox Hotel

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

Inspired by a review by Fitzroyalty, we decided to try the Fox Hotel (351 Wellington St, Collingwood) for dinner. It’s located on the corner of Alexandra Parade, and we’d passed it many times without thinking much of it as it looks fairly nondescript.

Once you get inside and see the huge collection of beer cans, it’s apparent that it’s not just a run-of-the-mill pub. There’s a large selection of bottled beers, as well as some non-standard beers on tap, including one of my favourite wheat beers, Erdinger.

It was food we primarily came here for though, and the menu provided a number of tempting choices. My girlfriend ordered the gnocchi with wagyu ragu, which was a mixed bag. The ragu was fantastic, with tender chunks of beef bathed in a wonderfully rich tomato sauce. Not so good was the gnocchi, which rather stodgy.

I played it safe and ordered a parma, which was both generously proportioned, and well cooked. The chicken was moist, and the parma elements – cheese, napoli and proscuitto – were balanced. Still, it was just a parma, and next time I’ll try something a bit more interesting from the rather lengthy and wide ranging menu.

Grace Darling Hotel

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

The Grace Darling, not to be confused with the Grey Starling, has served up pretty good pub grub for some time. It’s only recently however, with some new faces behind the scenes, that the quality of the food has translated into bums on seats.
The hipster crowd has flocked to it, like seagulls to a hot chip. On the Saturday night that we visited, it was particularly noisy, even for a pub.
I order the seared yellowfin tuna with anchoiade (caper, mustard sauce) and baby potatoes, which also arrived with a nice unadvertised addition of asparagus. A generous slab of fish was cooked to perfection, coloured on the outside, and nice and pink in the centre. The not-too-salty anchioade was a perfect complement, and butter potatoes provided some welcome carbs. Fantastic.
My girlfriend, who is a fairly harsh critic when it comes to meat dishes, ordered the burger, and could barely stop talking about how good it was for the next hour. Most dishes sit around the $20 mark, which is very reasonably for food of this quality.
Drinks aren’t quite so cheap, with the good range of beers let down a bit by some fairly hefty pricing. That’s a minor issue though, for the Grace Darling has gone from good to very good.

Bluebird Espresso

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

Prompted by a couple of very positive reviews, or more specifically the photographs of the dishes, we ventured down the Bluebird Espresso.
I certainly agree with the comments in the reviews. The food, although there are not a lot of options, is excellent. My ham, cheese and tomato pide was superb, and by all reports, the spinach, prosciutto and egg pide is equally good. And as, Peta points out, the staff are very friendly, as is the dog outside the back door leading to the bathroom.

Gigi Baba

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

If ever a restaurant should be called ‘hot’, Gigi Baba (102 Smith St, Collingwood) is it. When we arrived right at opening time, on a Tuesday night, there were already about 3 groups, totaling about 10 people, waiting at the door. This is largely due to the no-bookings policy, which encourages diners to arrive early to ensure a seat.

Once we were seated at the bar, we ordered a couple of beers from the small, well chosen selection. I tried one I’d never heard of, the very tasty Schmucker Bio-Pils. Every wine on the list is available as a glass, a 300ml carafe, 500ml carafe, or a bottle. This is a great idea.

The menu is relatively brief, and very economical with words. Some dishes are not described at all, despite not necessarily being well known. For instance, no information is given about the Sultan’s Delight. When I inquired, I was told it was slow cooked lamb. I asked how it was different to a dish called something like ‘Slow cooked lamb’. The answer was that it was cooked longer, and spiced differently, but that’s about as much information as I could extract.

Small dishes tried included the Esme, a fantastically flavoursome tomato and capsicum-based dip, served with delicious bread. Though I’m probably being generous when I say the serving (for 2) comprised 3 tablespoons of dip. Slightly more substantial was the minced lamb in vine leaves, although curiously, the serving for 2 came with 5 pieces. A serving of runner beans were nice, as was the lamb kofta. The latter started off tasting like run-of-the-mill kofta, but finished with a fantastic lemon flavour.

We ordered two ‘large dishes’, the aforementioned Sultan’s Delight, which was a couple of large chunks of lamb, sitting in rich sauce with some sort of cheese over the top. The meat came apart using just a fork, although it was a little drier and fattier than I had expected.

The other ‘large’ tried was blue eye with potatoes and beetroot. This arrived as a small fillet with a few pieces of boiled or steamed potato, along with some baby beets. Again, as with all the dishes, this very well done.

With the suspicion that bill was already quite high, and with very little information about what was on offer proffered, we decided against dessert.

In the end it only worked out to around $110 (including 2 beers and a glass of wine), but that’s about the minimum 2 people would get away with ordering.

Koliba Czech & Slovak Restaurant

Monday, March 30th, 2009

I’ve noticed Koliba many times, but it had sat ‘idle’ for so long I assumed that it was never opening. So, I was more than a little surprised to see it bustling with activity one day, and immediately began planning a trip there.

When we finally made it there, it was a coolish autumn day, perfect for hearty middle European cuisine. Based on this review I was going to order goulash, and looking at the other items on the menu, this indeed seemed like the best option.

After a couple of Czech beers, served a little warm for my liking, it arrived, together with side of shopska salad. It seemed like an authentic goulash in that it didn’t include any tomato, just a rich brown ‘gravy’ over beautifully tender beef. It’s served with bread dumplings, which are like a thick, spongy white bread, and at less than $20 is good value and filling.

The shopska salad was a slight letdown compared to those I’ve had in Europe, with average tomatoes and an overly mild cheese.

There are a few desserts on the menu, but with the size of mains, I think a lot of people would have trouble fitting them in.

Koliba is a worthy addition to the Collingwood restaurant scene, and I’m sure I’ll be back, particularly as the weather cools down.

Provenance Food & Wine

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Another day, another review of somewhere recommended by Fitzroyalty. And another place I can recommend with qualifiers. Provence Food & Wine (288 Smith St, Collingwood) is a newish cafe occupying the former home of Delish, on the Collingwood side of Smith Street.

The decor is neither particularly modern or particularly traditional, with a beautiful pressed metal ceiling, and the same could be said of the food. Fitzroyalty praised the French Toast, and it is very good, topped with hazelnuts for beautiful texture. The Eggs Benedict were of an equally high standard, with the free range eggs cooked to perfection, and sitting atop spinach and crispy bacon, on a single piece of bread (two would have been better). The hollandaise was a little unusual, but not unpleasant. And the coffee is well made.

Now to the qualifier. The service is extremely slow. Maybe we just caught them on a bad day, but we had to wait too long for our coffees, and it didn’t seem to be for a lack of staff. Still, I’d certainly go back.

MamaNee Thai Restaurant

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

I’m always on the lookout for good, cheap Thai that’s closer to home than Thaila Thai, so the arrival of Mamanee (324 Smith St, Collingwood) definitely peaked my interest. It’s got a fresh-looking shopfront, and the food is prepared up the front, which is generally a good sign.

A quick glance at the menu, and I could see it ticked another box on price, with most curries and stir fries at $13.50. This is a little pricier than Thaila Thai, but rice comes free with these dishes at Mamanee. Vegetarian dishes are

With the food prepared up the front, I could see the raw ingredients were on display, which gave me further confidence. Everything looked good quality, including the meat. Tick.

I ordered a green chicken curry and a chili basil beef stir fry, and I’m pleased to say that both were great. The curry had a bit of filler vegetable in the form of large chunks of carrot and potato, but was well cooked and there was a bit of fire to the rich green sauce. Likewise, the stir fry was equally good, with the vegetables quite crisp, not having been overcooked or fished out of a freezer as is the case at some Thai restaurants. Tick.

Servings are generous, both the main dishes and the ‘complimentary’ rice. Tick.

Related posts: Easy Tiger