Having some Greek heritage, I was curious to try George Calombaris’s take on the cuisine whilst in Melbourne. The Press Club has been transformed into the more relaxed Gazi, which has a bold menu, including souvlakakias and fries with fetta that literally every table seemed to order. I started with the chicken souvlakakia ($11), with onion, mustard mayo, chips and parsley. Whilst I found the bread a bit dense, everything else about this was perfect. I loved the charred, smoky, tender chicken, which was included in generous quantities for the price. I loved the thin chips and the plentiful mayonnaise and the parsley that brought a waft of tabouleh to the whole thing. I loved the casual, hands-on experience of enjoying this delightful wrap. Mum ordered the 400g baby snapper ($28), which was an impressive whole fish we ended up sharing. The walnut crust on the outside was utterly divine, and the snapper meat just melted in your mouth. We enjoyed the slower pace of working our way through the fish, and greedily lapped up every last morsel on the plate. With equally good service and food, Gazi is an affordable, fun, tasty must-visit for any Melbourne trip!
Gazi, 2 Exhibition Street, Melbourne VIC, http://gazirestaurant.com.au/
Despite the odd name, Eliana Lulu lured Mum and I in with its cozy buzz on a chilly Melbourne morning. We managed to snag a table against the wall, which was perfect for people watching. We both started out with fresh orange juices, which came in giant glasses and were beautifully sweet. We also both ordered the same thing, wanting a hearty, warming breakfast – the Spanish eggs ($16.50), with poached eggs in a chorizo, jamon, pea and tomato ragout. Served in an iron pan, the portion was huge and accompanied by two slices of thick bread – perfect for dipping. The eggs were perfectly poached and oozed into the ragout. I was really impressed by the quality of the chorizo and the jamon – these were clearly high grade meats and they shone amid the simple ingredient mix. The tomato ragout was exactly what you want on a cold morning – rich and well-seasoned – the kind of dish that warms you to the bone. Neither of us talked very much as we ate – a sure sign of excellent food – and Mum deemed this her favourite meal of our whole trip! Yum, yum, and yum.
Eliana Lulu, 7-9 Centre Place, Melbourne VIC, no website
I met a couple of dear friends for a catch up at The Tea Salon, although I was feeling a bit under the weather at the time. Luckily, the tea menu had something to cater for my cold-befuddled taste buds. While my friends ordered lovely-looking scones and sandwiches, I browsed the extensive tea menu until I struck gold – a ginger, pear and lime tonic ($5.50). “Loaded up on anti-oxidants and vitamin C”, the menu said. Exactly what my sore throat and tired immune system needed. The tisane was served in a gorgeous teapot, and the strong scent (mostly of ginger) was heaven to my blocked nose. Sweetened with agave syrup, the tea is a potent mix of ginger, pear and lime, although the ginger flavour is the real stand out. I was glad for the sweetener, given the strong flavours that could tend towards the bitter without something to soften them off. The pot lasted nicely as we caught up on news – I got a good 3 cups out of it. Whilst the wooden floor and busy vibe can make it hard to hear, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.
The Tea Salon, Emporium Melbourne (Level Two), 287 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne VIC, http://theteasalon.com.au/
No-one warned us that Gami sells their Korean fried chicken by the whole chook. Seriously. We spent a good minute freaking out before seeing the smaller serves (phew!). Mum and I were hurriedly shown to a table upstairs, where we were ignored for quite a while before having our order taken. Yes it was busy, but the vibe wasn’t exactly customer-friendly. We ordered the half chicken ($18) with soy garlic sauce plus a kimchi pancake ($14) (because I have no willpower). We snacked on the complimentary pickles until the pancake arrived – it was perfect, with just the right amount of spice and a great dipping sauce. Yum, yum, yum. The chicken came out not long after, with 9 pieces (assorted cuts). My first impression was that the sauce may have let the dish down – it left some of the skin soggy rather than crispy, taking away the contrast with the tender meat within. However, it was sweet (honey-like), and so moreish. On the downside, the chicken was very oily and also quite salty. I would give them another try as you can order the chicken without sauce, but I was disappointed by the service and the ‘churn them through’ vibe, so it’s probably not at the top of my ‘to revisit’ list.
Gami, 100 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne VIC, http://www.gamichicken.com.au/
When I saw on Instagram that Doughnut Time, of the delightful Vegan Fox doughnuts, was offering a new flavour with an equally fun name, I couldn’t help but stop by. The Melon Degeneres (get it?) ($6) is exactly what it sounds like – a vibrant doughnut iced with a watermelon flavour and dotted with cacao nibs. We lined up at the cute Degraves Street shopfront, eyeing off all of the delicious, temption options – but no, we stuck to the mission. We actually carried this one around for a bit before eating, which may account for the oozy nature of the icing by the time we got around to eating it. The main feature of these doughnuts is that the doughnut itself is light, delicious, and not oily at all. This flavour was no exception to that rule, the icing hiding a perfect, tasty doughnut. Unfortunately, I found the watermelon icing a bit artificial, especially compared with the lovely vegan chocolate on the Vegan Fox. Yes, you can definitely identify the flavour as watermelon, but the sort of lolly ot candy watermelon that doesn’t quite do justice to the fruit. The cacao nibs added a nice touch, with a bit of textural contrast. I’d probably try something else next time, but I will be back.
Doughnut Time, 5 Degraves Street, Melbourne VIC, http://www.doughnuttime.com.au/#doughnut-time
I couldn’t only go to Gelateria Primavera once. I mean really, their gelato is that good, I was eager to try more of their exciting flavour range. We stopped by after dinner one night, joining the queue before the theatre crowd arrived for an intermission treat. This time I opted for the plum sorbet, putting it in the category of exotic flavours hard to find anywhere else. For $5, the scoop is generous and the quality is outrageously good – their sorbets are just so creamy! The plum sorbet has a beautiful, saliva-inducing tartness that is rounded out nicely by the natural sweetness of a sorbet. This flavour is enhance by the tiny flecks of plum skin throughout – for me, this is the mark of a good flavour, showing it has been derived from authentic, rather than artificial, sources. The intensity of this flavour was impressive, not fading at all throughout the portion. Whilst there aren’t a lot of seats, we enjoyed pulling up a stool inside Spring Street Grocer to enjoy our dessert. I wish I lived in Melbourne, to be able to treat myself to a take-home pack. Yum, yum, yum. Gelato perfection found.
Gelateria Primavera, 157 Spring Street, Melbourne VIC, http://www.springstreetgrocer.com.au/
Hello, souva of my dreams. Greek food isn’t really a big thing in Canberra, so on this visit to Melbourne it was near the top of my list. I stood in queue at a busy lunchtime and ordered the Mr Papadopoulos ($12.5), a souva with lamb, mustard aioli, chips, onion and parsley, with a side of chips ($4.50) served with fetta and oregano (swoon). The food did take a while, but was clearly cooked fresh, and served nicely for dine-in enjoyment on an Emporium plate. I must confess, this souva had the nicest, softest pita wrap of any souva I’ve had (including the one at Gazi), and it wasn’t overly dense. That left me free to enjoy the melt-in-your-mouth, smoky pieces of lamb, which were plentiful and utterly divine. The parsley and onion added a tabouleh-esque touch, and the chips within were great, although not quite as great as the side of chips. Oh my, I was so full from the souva (which I couldn’t finish), but I kept shovelling those chips in. Yum. The fetta was lovely and salty, the chips crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside… A very filling and very tasty lunch. Greek food craving satisfied.
Jimmy Grants, Emporium Melbourne, Level Three, 287 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne VIC, http://jimmygrants.com.au/