Review: The Mess Hall, Melbourne City

Review: The Mess Hall, Melbourne City

the mess hall

the mess hall

the mess hall

Breakfast in Melbourne city. I haven’t done that in awhile as I moved out of the city many years ago and driving all the way in for just breakfast really seems like a waste of time. Plus, everybody knows there’s a ton of other Melbourne brunch places that are way more exciting anyways. Right? RIGHT?

I ended up in The Mess Hall for brunch one morning, not entirely by choice. I was there because I had just been to Cumulus and was told that I had just missed their breakfast hour. Taking pity on me and my disappointed face, the helpful waiter directed us to The Mess Hall, which was how I ended up there.

The Mess Hall is an italian food restaurant that had signage that I couldn’t see. I nearly walked straight past it but the patrons sitting outside in the lazy morning sun clued me into the fact that a restaurant must be around the place somewhere.

Once inside, we were greeted with friendly smiles that lead very quickly to a table and menus.

Service however was a little slow. After what felt like forever, our food finally arrived: Hollandaise eggs with ham, spinach, hollandaise & dukkah on a sweet bun and Corn fritters served with avocado, cherry tomato, cream cheese and chilli.

The food was pleasant enough, though I wasn’t overly taken by the Hollandaise sauce. It seems nobody can beat homemade hollandaise sauce yet (made by Sefie, not me), ah well. The eggs were well poached, the corn fritters tasty.

Would I head back? I doubt it. While everything was pleasant enough, it just didn’t pack enough wow factor into the place, service and food to warrant a re-visit especially since I have moved out of Melbourne and am now one of those annoying tourists who tries to cram too much eating into one stomach. Oh wait, that’s really everybody. Never mind.

The Mess Hall on Urbanspoon

Eating Out: Bar 9 @ Glen Osmond, Adelaide – The beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Eating Out: Bar 9 @ Glen Osmond, Adelaide – The beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Bar 9
08 8373 1108
96 Glen Osmond Rd
Parkside, SA 5063
Bar 9

Sometimes, relationships grow over time. Sometimes, it’s love at first sight. My relationship with Adelaide is definitely of the former, rather than the latter, and Bar 9 in Glen Osmond was definitely one of the reason for that relationship with Adelaide to grow favourably.

Breakfast is one of those meals that I tend to skip. I know it’s not exactly the healthiest thing to be doing, nor something I really should be all that proud of (I’m not!) but between sleep and breakfast, I tend to vote sleep. During weekends and holidays though, that’s a different thing. I love having breakfast and it usually starts my day on an incredibly positive note if I have a breakfast that I’m happy with.

On that particular morning, I sat in Bar 9 with the boy and Sherry. We had trekked to the other side of the city for breakfast because Sherry had highly recommended the place. She was nervous, she said, of recommending places to me. Nervous that I wouldn’t like the place. I didn’t think she needed worry as her favourite breakfast place didn’t disappoint, Bar 9 was really quite superb!

The decor of Bar 9 is that of a quirky nature. With their mirrors painted over with images of cups and coffee machines, I couldn’t help but relax into the easy going atmosphere. It really reminded me of Melbourne and its easy going breakfast cafes and I felt right at home instantly. Already in love with this place even before the food and the coffee, this can only mean better things are yet to come, right?

And come it did.

House Cured Ocean Trout – served on creme friache and dill on rye – $16 was Sherry’s dish. I couldn’t help feeling a pang of jealousy when the waitress popped this dish in front of her, it looked spectacular! Luckily, my table of friends seem to have adopted the unspoken rule of breakfast sharing and I managed to get a share of this absolutely beautiful breakfast as well. And just as well I did, as the freshness and cleansing feeling the dish contains needs to be tried to be believe. Incredibly refreshing, this is a breakfast dish that is destined to wake anybody up with a burst of sunshine in the mouth with just the nice touch of sea breeze to give you that extra morning kick.

Creamy Truffled Mushroom Ragu – on toast with poached eggs and finished with truffled honey. $17. Nothing screams indulgence more than truffles, and definitely nothing is more rich in the mouth than this creamy truffled mushroom ragu. I was rolling about in my ecstasy and couldn’t stop bragging about how amazing my breakfast dish was to my companions. Not that I really had anything to brag about, since their breakfasts were equally as good and I was going to have to share my breakfast with them anyways. But for that first few minutes, I must admit to a tinge of: “Ha Ha, this is awesome and you have none!”

Runcimans Breakfast – breakfast of champions: bacon, eggs, tomatoes and swiss brown mushrooms $17. This is the boy’s standard breakfast fare. If there’s a big breakfast of sorts on the menu, he’s bound to get it. Perfect really, that way he gets to gauge a cafe on a standard that is found in almost every breakfast cafe. This big breakfast was quite nice. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was definitely right up there with one of the best big breakfasts. Yummy bacon with juicy mushrooms, can’t get any better than that really.

Bar 9 definitely has something special going on. Even though it’s on the other side of the city to where I live, I’d still happily trek over on a weekend and indulge in some incredible food. Yum.


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Eating Out: Brown Dog Cafe, Goodwood, Adelaide.

Eating Out: Brown Dog Cafe, Goodwood, Adelaide.

Brown Dog Cafe
08 8172 1752
143 Goodwood Rd
Goodwood, SA 05034

I don’t remember who recommended Brown Dog Cafe to me anymore. But in my hunt for more good breakfasts around Adelaide, this suggestion popped up from somewhere and never being one to turn down a recommendation, today found me nursing a chilli hot chocolate at Brown Dog Cafe.

The decor of Brown Dog Cafe is really quite homely and enchanting. There’s something about the place that just seem to ooze with ease and gently nudges you to relax into the embrace of Brown Dog Cafe. I noted with amusement the fact that they were licensed and wondered who would be drinking quite that early in the morning. (Then of course, I remembered that I was in Australia.)

There’s not too many tables in the rather small establishment. However, as more and more customers were ushered through their backdoor, I came to the realization that there was outdoor seating outback. “With a real good heater!” came the sales pitch from the staff as I watched them try to sell the idea of an outdoor seating to their customers in the midst of winter. I should point out that they were hugely successful in this pitch as all of the customers disappeared through the backdoor in search of this heater.

There’s been many mixed reviews about the service at Brown Dog Cafe. Mixed reviews make me nervous as it feels like I’m gambling. Will today be my lucky day? As it turns out, it was. The service could not have been better. Attentive staff that snapped to attention even with the slightest wrinkling of the brow, keen to ease out your pretty forehead with the beautiful aromas of coffee.

I went with a Chilli Hot Chocolate and the boy opted for his usual Cappuccino . I’ve never been all that pleased nor impressed with the chilli hot chocolates I’ve tried around the place. It’s never quite enough heat for me, and it feels rather lame to be drinking a hot chocolate that touts itself as having chilil and not being able to taste the chilli nor feel the heat. But I was bent upon my quest to find a good chilli hot chocolate so in went the order, with hopes that this would be a good one.

The verdict? This was one of the best, if not the very best chilli hot chocolate I’ve ever had the fortune to taste. Flavourful, not overly rich, and yet still bursting with heat. The sprinkling of cayenne pepper over the top brought life to the hot chocolate and I smiled contentedly over my hot chocolate over at the boy. Life was good.

The boy ordered the Spanish Dog Breakky – eggs, paprika flavoured baked beans, chorizo sausage, roasted tomato, relish and toast $16.90. He also requested for extra hash browns ($3.50). I suspect that the many elements on his dish was ultimately the fault of our long wait. Tables around us that had ordered after us received their order before ours even made an appearance, which was a little depressing. Still, you couldn’t fault the generosity of the portions on the plate. They were huge!

The hero of the dish for me was definitely the relish. Tasting decidedly homemade and very delicious, I could have eaten the relish on everything. In fact, I ended up buying a takeaway container of the relish to bring home! (I’ll be making burgers with it, yum!) The baked beans were also very tasty, none of that mushy overcooked baked beans stuff you get from cans! I marvelled continually over the skill of cooking they had shown to the hash browns and the chorizo sausage, they were impeccable and so very tasty!

The downfall of the dish, I am sad to say, was the eggs. The boy had requested them poached, and one would normally expect a gush of rich golden yellow yolk as the knife broke open the white. But this was not the case with his poached eggs. Sadly overcooked, the yolk made a pathetic attempt at being runny, but failed short of being anywhere near spectacular. The bread was also nothing remarkable. Pity.

For myself, I had ordered Miss Florentine – poached eggs, baby spinach, smoked salmon, hollandaise & toast – $15.90. I tend to opt for a more delicate breakfast and I couldn’t go past the hollandaise and smoked salmon. If those are on the menu, then they belong in my tummy. In fact, this particular menu item seemed to have been very popular as I saw multiple copies of this dish making their way around the cafe.

As a whole, I think the dish worked together nicely. However, I was disappointed by the hollandaise sauce. While the texture was beautifully silky and smooth, it also didn’t taste of hollandaise. There was no richness, no flavour. I think I am eternally spoilt by the homemade hollandaise sauce Sefie made. Nothing will ever compare.

And similarly, the bread was a bit of a letdown.

The eggs weren’t as overcooked as on the boy’s plate, but they were still more cooked than I’d normally have them. Ah well.

So while this dish had been pretty spectacular visually, and was generally pleasant, there lack any sort of wow factor to it. Still, I finished up my dish and smiled happily as I wiped up the rest of my chilli hot chocolate. Maybe sometimes, you don’t always need a dish to wow. Maybe sometimes, being pleasant and generally yummy was enough.

As I got up to pay, I saw this corkboard filled with pictures of different dogs. I had read on Yelp that this cafe had been named by the owner in reference to his own labrador retriever and such a show of love for our four-legged friends filled me with warm fuzzy feelings.

So while this place hadn’t wow on so many levels, it also fulfilled me in so many corners of my heart that other cafes hadn’t. The beautifully warm atmosphere, the caring environment, that wonderful chilli hot chocolate….

Would I come back? Oh yes, I would. Some things, you can’t buy with money, and this is one of it.


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Eating Out: Zedz Cafe @ Adelaide Central Market, Adelaide

After going back to Zedz Cafe for the umpteenth time for the Laksa Sorbet I decided it was high time I actually tried some food there. After all, Zedz does serve more than sorbets and smoothies. The trouble was, where to start? The menu looked absolutely scrumptious.

Do I try the breakfasts, or the lunch soups? Do I go for more sweets or try something savoury? There was obviously more to Zedz than just their Laksa Sorbet, so it was really hard making that decision. As it turns out, I had my decision made for me by pure virtue of the fact that I went at the wrong time. After much angst, I decided that I’d go try their lunch soups, but turned up at the wrong time. So take note, diners. Lunch only starts at 11.30am. I was there much too early, and that was how I ended up with breakfast.

Bacon and Eggs – $13.90 to be precise. I was alone that morning as the boy was busy learning how to make tofu at TAFE and my friends were busy. It’s relatively rare for me not to have a dining companion when dining out these days, so I busied myself watching the hustle and bustle of the Adelaide Central Market while waiting for my order.

My dish didn’t take too long to come. Not having a dining companion for me to wax lyrical about the appearance of my dish with, it didn’t take me too long to tuck in. Two snaps and I was straight into it. The bacon was well cooked, the mushrooms ($2 for it to be added on, I believe) were juicy but oddly cold. In fact, my entire dish was oddly cold. But I put that up more to the fact that I was practically sitting in a wind tunnel and the central market really isn’t the warmest place there is during winter than anything else. The temperature of the dish didn’t really bother me too much. What would be more cause for concern would be how the eggs had been poached. Time for the truth.

A sigh of relief, as the beautiful golden yolk comes gushing out. It’s a gorgeous sight to see! Happy now, I proceeded with my breakfast. And realised to my dismay that the eggs hadn’t been drained properly. Maybe I’m overly sensitive, I know that you do have to poach eggs in water, but draining eggs are such a simple act, and these had not been drained well at all.** A very small flaw, but it ruined my eggs for me. Water and eggs do not mix. Sadface Celeste.

Eggs are my everything. I adore them in any form and I would eat five a day if I could. In fact, that used to be my staple when I was doing exams during school days. And to have my eggs ruined meant that the rest of the dish just didn’t go down so well anymore. I left Zedz feeling unsatisfied and disappointed. Was Zedz a one trick pony?

**I am well aware that this could be a one-off thing.

As luck would have it, Zedz had invited me to try some of their soups. (This invite had nothing to do with my breakfast since they had no idea I had been there for breakfast.) Seeing as my initial attempt to try their soups had been thwarted by my own poor grasp of time, I accepted.

Zedz does a range of soups for their lunch hours along with other menu items. Seeing as it was winter, soups were their hot items on the menu and Franjo the owner of Zedz has been diligently coming up with new recipes and new soups to wow his diners.

There are five soups that are currently on offer: Potato & Leek, Moroccan Spinach & Lentil, Winter Vegetable, Pea & Ham, and Beef Potato Paprica. They are all priced at a very reasonable $9.90 each and comes with two slices of bread.


Pictured: Pea and Ham Hock

I won’t be putting up a photo of every soup they have there. Instead, I will give you a quick run down on them. I was fortunate enough to have been given the chance to taste test all of them, but be quick as Zedz do change their menu every so often so if you see something you like, you better get there quick.

Potato & Leek

This was oddly grainy. The texture was off-putting and the flavour didn’t come through. Definitely the most unmemorable of the lot. I wouldn’t recommend it. Plus, the boy makes a better one, if I do say so myself.

Moroccan Spinach & Lentil

I was impressed to hear that this soup had been on the menu since Day 1 of Franjo taking over Zedz Cafe. That’s a whole 8 years ago! It’s one of their popular soups and taking my very first sip, I can immediately see why. Punches of flavour, generous use of spices, the serving was generous and with the soup overflowing with lentils, it was definitely a substantial lunch. I loved how filled with spices it was which was in line with what you’d expect from a soup claiming to be Morrocan.

Winter Vegetable Soup – pictured above.

Easily my favourite soup of the lot, hands down. Brimming with flavours, you could smell it coming a mile away as it was that fragrant! It wasn’t just my favourite, this was the boy’s favourite as well. The ingredients of the soup can sometimes change according to what Franjo finds in the market. This time round, we were fortunate that he had been able to obtain Kale and the soup was chock-full of it. Yum! The carrots gave the soup its sweetness and this incredibly tasty soup found its way back home with me to be eaten that night as dinner. Highly Recommended.

Pea & Ham

A beautiful soup that was also gorgeously peppery. Very suitable for a winter dish, this soup had the boy spellbound and you could easily see why as the flavours were honest and true. It was surprisingly heavy for a pea soup though not as heavy as the Moroccan soup. Another bowl? Don’t mind if I say yes.

Beef Potato Paprica

When you taste this soup, the first word that comes to mind is hearty. The next word that comes to mind is wine. Quickly followed by open log fireplace. It’s the kind of soup that you want to curl up with on a wintery night with a glass of wine to savour. The beef is tender and the different flavour elements of the soup meld together well to form a beautiful soup that would have made anybody weak at the knees and asking for more. My second favourite from the range! Highly recommended

The ingredients that Franjo uses are clearly top notch. Through my conversations with him, his passion for food is clear to be seen and his excitement and enthusiasm is both catchy and inspiring. While there were hits and misses in his soups, I do think that the winter vegetable soup is an incredible show of skill and also displays his deep understanding for how flavours work together.

Through my numerous visits to Zedz, the service has been consistently top notch. Friendly wait staff that were quick to respond and fast thinkers on their feet, whether or not the boss was around. I know that Lucia’s and Zuma are usually at the tip of people’s tongues when it comes to eating at the Central Market, but I do think that Zedz is rather underrated and needs some love as well as they do serve good food with quality ingredients.

And if you need more proof of his attention to detail, Franjo slices up various fruits and vegetables to pop into the water jugs to flavour the water. Just water? Think again! Now that’s smart thinking right there.

Do say hi to Franjo if you pop by Zedz. Tell him Celeste sent you. And sit back and soak in his knowledge while you embrace the love in his food. There is nothing quite like it.

There are gluten free, vegan and vegetarian options available at Zedz Cafe.


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Eating Out: Luxbite @ South Yarra, Melbourne

LuxBite
03 9867 5888
38 Toorak Road
South Yarra, VIC 3141
Luxbite Online
Luxbite Facebook

I remember my first visit to Luxbite. I was with a friend, I was there for the macarons and I really wasn’t all that taken by them. Instead, I fell in love with the beautiful teaware, the gorgeous mango dessert that looked like a flower, and the beautiful clean and white decor that was oh-so-incredibly classy and yet cute at the same time.

But I hadn’t tried any of their savoury foods. And while I had fallen in love with their decor, I hadn’t like their macarons enough to warrant a return visit. K was of a different opinion. She said I had to go back for the savouries, that I should give them another go, and finally after much uhm-ing and aah-ing and juggling off time slots in the schedule, I was off to Luxbite for a second chance.

Here’s an obligatory shot of the macaron display cabinet. It all looks rather fancy and very wow, but unfortunately I still maintain to this day (after a few return trips just for macarons) that their macarons are not really the highlights. Sure, they have loads of flavours, but they tend to be inconsistent and the famous ‘Kaya toast’ macaron really doesn’t taste like kaya toast to me.

Let’s skip past the macarons. If you are staying to dine, you really should order a pot of tea to go with it. Absolutely divine tea and glassware that had me drooling from day one. I desperately want a set like that in my collection! The teas they offer are good too, though I really think that tea drinking at Luxbite is more of a visual spectacle than a gastronomical treat.

Open sandwich: goat’s curd, fresh fig, rocket, pomegranate dressing $12 was my main for the day. And what a main it was. Simple flavours really are the best as the care and thought that went into this dish really shone through. The figs were in season at that time of year and were really brought to their best by the goat’s curd and pomegranate dressing. Every bite was a burst of flavour, and I was in 7th heaven and inhaled my dish in a matter of seconds.

Ciabatta of the day: roasted chicken, tarragon, spanish onion, olives, rocket, marinated tomato $12 Can’t say too much about this since this wasn’t my dish. Does look quite substantial tho!

Mix & Match: feta potato cake, maple infused bacon, poached egg, garlic roasted mushroom, wilted spinach, burnt butter hollandaise $15 The Mix & Match option is quite an interesting one. There are a range of options to choose from that allows you to come up with a savoury dish or a sweet dish depending on which options you pick. Or maybe even a combination of both if you feel particularly adventurous. The boy put this combination together for himself and was mighty pleased with it. He wasn’t super fond of the bacon though the rest of dish was a roaring success. The burnt butter hollandaise in particular was bowl-licking good. I did have a try as well and we quickly agreed that we needed to figure out how to make our own. Yum!

So, for a place known for their sweets, their savouries were quite delish as well. From what I know, they change their savouries from time to time, so you probably won’t be able to order these anymore (aside from the Mix & Match) so I’d love to hear what you thought of their mains if you tried anything else on offer.

Having satisfied ourselves on the quality of the mains, we decided to proceed with the sweets. All in the name of research, of course!

K had the Bread & Butter pudding – served warm with a twist of Pandan Anglaise Froth $8.50. She was waxing lyrical about this dish, so I couldn’t not give it a try. Stuck a spoon and came out wishing I had ordered this for myself. This was really, really good! I think I’m sold on bread and butter puddings from now on. I used to dislike them, but after the last Jamie Oliver bread and butter pudding we made, and after this one at Luxbite, I’m sold. Yum!!

Oriental Love – caramelized bananas with passionfruit curd and pandan cream together with coconut macarons $8.50 After a lot of uhming and aahing in front of the dessert cabinet, I finally decided on the rather yellow Oriental Love. Really a massive macaron with fruit filling, I liked it but didn’t love it. Would I have it again? Probably not as there are others I’d love to try instead. If you like bananas, this is the one for you.

Caramel Cravings – Sweet caramel lovingly placed between chocolate and a coconut base, topped with a salted caramel macaron $8.50 The boy’s choice of dessert. He’s a huge fan of the salted caramel macarons from Luxbite so this was quite the winning dish for him. Being a caramel lover as well, the slice went down really well, and given half the chance, he’d get that again in a jiffy. Personally, it wasn’t quite my thing, but hey, it just goes to show that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Next time, Luxbite, next time I’m coming back for that bread and butter pudding!


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