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: Akachochin, the best lunch deal you will find.

Eating Out: Akachochin, the best lunch deal you will find.

03 9245 9900
33 Dukes Walk
South Wharf, VIC 3006

Moving away from Melbourne has its perks. I get to explore a new city, find new treasures and learn to open my heart to more than just Melbourne. But the downfall to that would be the fact that I can no longer keep up with the amazing new places that are popping up around Melbourne like mushrooms after a heavy rainfall. I’m told that even folks living in Melbourne find it hard to keep up, such is the pace of growth in the restaurant population, but that just spells doom for the out-of-towners like me.

Still, I try my best. Which is why my last trip to Melbourne found me walking to Akachochin from Etihad Stadium as I had gotten quite lost. Perseverance is the key, my grumbling stomach and my yearn to meet my mates I-hua and Agnes saw me sticking it out and I was rewarded by my friends laughing at my misery through a glass window as I realised I had to walk around the building to get to the door. Damn.

Akachochin (so named after the red lanterns that usually adorns the doorway of Izakaya restaurants) is an Izakaya-style Japanese restaurant. That means that their menu consists of small dishes that are designed to be shared. And while this was normally not an issue (never an issue, really) I was there for lunch, and it was the lunch set menu that we had our sights on that day.

Akachochin offers lunch sets at $20 per pop between 12 – 4pm. You get: steamed rice, miso soup, yasai ohitashi (seasonal marinated vegetables in dashi stock) served with your choice of sashimi (salmon or kingfish) and a main option. I was pleased to see that if you didn’t fancy meat options, there was at least one option that catered for that. All too often you find that restaurants forget vegetarians exist…

I ordered Option 1 as option 2 just didn’t look all that exciting. For my main option, I went with butabara yakimono – grilled pork belly with spicy teriyaki sauce. And as I write this, I am salivating as I remember just how amazing the meal was. Damn being 7 hours drive away!

I could find nothing wrong about this meal. The kingfish was fresh, sweet and incredibly yummy. If I had to complain, I’d say that there just wasn’t enough of it! I could have eaten loads more of that and then some. It was so good. The rice was also well cooked. It wasn’t dry, nor was it soggy: just the right texture without being too sticky. Perfection!

As for the pork belly, if I could eat this everyday, I’d die happy! The spicy teriyaki sauce really got the appetite going and how can one ever say no to pork belly? Impossible. The skill and techniques applied were apparent and the care taken in preparing the dish was clear in every bite. The portion was generous but no portion can be quite generous enough when it comes to a hungry stomach and an amazingly prepared dish of pork belly. Ah, I’m a greedy pig, that’s what I am.

These chicken wing dumplings $15 came highly recommended by the ever-knowing tummies who shared my meal table. In them, I trust so I happily took a bite into my chicken wing. Immediately I was drawn to the fact that it had been skillfully deboned, wrapped and stuffed into a little dumpling with a wing. And somehow still preserving its shape as a chicken wing. Skill, this is what I need in my life! I-hua regretfully informed me that they weren’t quite as deep fried as they had previously tried them before, so I guess I will have to head back to Akachochin again to try them once more, hopefully with it more fried. Ah, such a tough life.

These desserts didn’t come with the set lunch (neither did the chicken wings) but we just couldn’t leave without some sweets to wrap up the already amazing lunch. I opted for the Sweet Potato Brulee $12 while the others went with Black Sesame Pannacotta with Green Tea Ice Cream $14. I should have gathered something was up when both couples ordered the same thing, as their dessert was seriously the bomb. The black sesame pannacotta was the best thing I’ve ever eaten, so silky smooth, so beautiful and so filled with black sesame. While my own sweet potato brulee was sadly lacking in the brulee department. There was no satisfying crack (it was more like a weak, half-hearted squeak), and while nice it didn’t have the wow factor that the black sesame pannacotta did. Oh well, next time!

If you are in town, you need to head to Akachochin. Without a doubt, it has one of the best lunch deals you can get for $20 in town. I know for a fact that the next time I’m in town with a bit of time to spare, that’s where I’m headed to again. Oh, Akachochin, you have stolen my heart.

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Eating Out: Luxbite @ South Yarra, Melbourne

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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Eating out: Blue Moose Cafe @ St Kilda Road, Melbourne

The Blue Moose Cafe
03 9804 5605
Ground Floor, 436 St Kilda Rd
South Yarra
Melbourne, VIC 3004

When you are in a location that is surrounded by high rise buildings filled with office workers, there are just 2 things that I believe you need to fully grasp for your cafe / restaurant to stay loved.

It needs to be:

1. Good and tasty.
2. Fast.

And Blue Moose Cafe is both. I’ve been a few times now, mostly with K when I used to visit her during lunch hours. I was blown away by how busy it was, the little cafe was practically humming!

Once you taste their food, it’s not hard to see why. An array of meals is offered at the counter for those who are short on time but they do offer a fairly good menu for ala carte as well. I’ve never tried ordering from their menu – everytime I’ve been, the counter meals have suckered me in because they tasted amazing. With names such as Tandoori Risotto, how could I even begin to resist?

Their servings are not stingy either. With quite a team of wait staff available, they jump to attention when you need their service and efficiency seems to be their middle name. They understand their clientele and they answer to their customers needs by speed and more speed. Takeaway meals were flying out the doors as I sat there having my lunch and the turnover of tables would have made any Diner Dash player proud.

I’m not a regular, and it has long left my memory just how much I paid for my meals, but I remember marvelling at how reasonable the pricing was. Especially given the kind of clientele they get, they could have charged a lot more and gotten away with it. Good food, good prices, good service – what else can you ask for?

We tucked into our food eagerly, salad, pasta, risotto, pie alike were all equally tasty. I wouldn’t say that their asian-inspired risottos tasted much like what they were named after but they certainly were tasty. And when you are trying to get a bit of food into you in between meetings, tasty is more important than authenticity, in my very humble opinion!

So if you are in the area and wondering where to eat, go to Blue Moose Cafe, grab a meal and sit back and let it all flow over you. Amazing.

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Eating out: Coin Laundry @ Armadale, Melbourne

Coin Laundry Cafe
03 9500 1888
61 Armadale St
Armadale, VIC 3143

In my ideal world, I want to live next to Coin Laundry. Good food, good atmosphere, and good eye candy. Ahhhhh….

Coin Laundry is my favourite breakfast haunt, hands down. It’s named after what the original space used to be, with the decor taking inspiration from that: from the chairs hanging off the walls, to the fabric hanging from the ceiling. I really adore it!

Specials are written on the brown paper roll, which is a fabulous idea, but my complaint with that the folks sitting on the other side of the restaurant can’t actually see what’s written without walking over to the other end of the restaurant. I’m one of those who just can’t concentrate when the wait staff rattles off the specials, I prefer to read it myself.

If you are heading to Coin Laundry, be prepared to wait. My first visit there had me waiting for 45 mminutes! But it was well worth it, as the food was incredible. They change their menu regularly and so the dishes I’m putting up here are no longer on the menu. That said, ingredients for dishes are sourced locally and are always so amazingly fresh. I have been back a fair few times now, and it has never disappoint!

The coffee is pretty decent, so’s the hot chocolate. I’m happy enough to sit back and relax into the atmosphere in the little cafe, and watch the world go by… that’s how relaxing the place is! Plus, it really helps that the wait staff are always so hot. Ahem.

I have to say though, that out of all my visits, my very first breakfast with Coin Laundry will always be the best. The dish House cured ocean trout, potato croquette, pickled zucchini, beetroot puree and lemon yoghurt was an explosion of flavour right from the word go. Every single mouthful saw me alternating between swooning or squealing. It was a truly orgasmic experience and it took an incredible amount of willpower not to order another plate right away. The potato croquettes especially have set a new record for what croquettes should taste like. The amazing crunch on the outer layer of the croquette that gives way to a fluffy inside that just melts away sent shivers down my spine!

The boy prefers something a little more hearty when we eat breakfast out, so his usual choice would be the Coin Laundry Breakfast. Delightful and definitely hearty! The poached eggs were always done to perfection, and you can just close your eyes now to imagine the oozy goodness that happens when the knife cuts open the egg…..

Again, in the ideal world, I’d be living next to Coin Laundry. I’d go everyday if I could!

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