Saturday, October 28, 2006

Zaleti at QV, Melbourne

Rating: 11110
My last brunch in Melbourne was at Zaleti located in QV (corner of Swantston and Lonsdale).

It felt to me like an American diner because of the booths, the hand-written menu on the blackboard and no-frills decor. Most of the people were quietly enjoying their coffee while reading the day's paper.

I would have sat outside and dined al fresco under the sun but it was too chilly for me so I tucked inside, ordered the risotto with chorizo and capsicum (AUD $14.50) and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice ($5.50).

The risotto was beautiful and was as good as the pumpkin risotto I had at Matthew Flinders. The spicy chorizo went well with the sweet capsicums and I ate it slowly relishing every bite while I helped myself to the complimentary newspaper.

Four pawikan points for an affordable brunch that hit the spot.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Tony Starr's Kitten Club, Melbourne

Rating:4/5 11110
I didn't really know that the inconspicuous green door along Little Collins St. (which is just a short walk from Swanston St.) was Tony Starr's Kitten Club.

No, no it's not a strip club. It just sounds like one. It's a nice cozy two-storey bar and I daresay one of my favorites in Melbourne because of the everybody-welcome ambience and zero cover charge.

I headed over to the second floor called the Galaxy, plopped on one of the couches near the stage and enjoyed the funky, happy-people jazz music. Thank God that it wasn't one of those indescribable artsy pieces and I could tap my feet and dance to it. During the night I was there, the band called this young German guy who just happened to bring his sax and they started an impromptu jam session.

Four pawikan points for an unpretentious good time, friendly waters, reasonably priced drinks and a rocking, jazzy good time.

Cookie, Melbourne

Rating:0/5 00000
According to my city guide, Cookie is the quintessential warehouse-style big disco. I imagine it to be something akin to Singapore's Ministry of Sound. However i'll have to leave the inside of Cookie to my imagination because the huge, European-looking bouncer did not let me in.

Yup. He didn't let me in on grounds that 'there are already too many guys inside. Sausage fest. Sorry mate.' Now WTF kind of a reason is that?

I was in an ordinary pair of blue jeans, collared shirt and jacket, the same attire that got me courteous, excellent service at the posh Deanery. If I were taller, whiter and looked more expensive, would there still have been too many guys inside?

Zero points. I've never given a zero before, but then again, i've never been denied entry to a club before because of the delicate gender equilibrium had been upset. Looking back, I guess I was fortunate not to have stepped into Cookie because then I wouldn't have stumbled upon Tony Starr's Kitten Club!

The Deanery Wine Reserve, Melbourne

Rating: 11110
The Deanery served me the best porterhouse steak meal I've had here in Melbourne. Served on a parmesan polenta with porcini relish (AUD$34), grilled asparagus (AUD$8) and a glass of a Cape D'Estaing red wine (AUD$8.50). The flavors were new to me so it was like there was a party in my mouth and everyone was invited!

The Deanery doubles as a wine bar where I spied upon some fashionably dressed people. When I entered, I wasn't sure if they served dinner but the bartender was all smiles and he ushered me to their dining area up on the second floor.

It was actually their wine cellar (is it still a cellar if it's on the second floor?). The climate-controlled wine room lined the full length of the room separated only by floor-to-ceiling glass. I could see the boxes and bottles stacked rather disorderly, but its industrial look complemented the white table cloths, bare ceiling and the single-flower-in-a-vase that each table had.

Four pawikan points. Visit them at 13 Bligh Place. It's a small alley seemingly cut into the street and it's easy to miss so pay attention. If you get lost, give them a call at 9629 5599.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, Melbourne

My search for live music in Melbourne brought me to the Bennetts Lane Jazz club off Little Lonsdale St. between Russel and Exhibition street (map).

During the night I visited, I was supposedly in for a treat because Australian tumpeter Scott Tinkler (winner of the 1996 National Jazz Award) and his drum, piano and bass trio would be playing. They're described by the Sydney Morning herald as “more intense and exciting than almost anything else coming out of America” and for just AUD$10, I would be treated to his Aria award winning performances.

Unfortunately (and I know this may sound a bit insulting coming from an amateur like me who knows nothing about the intricacies of such award-winning jazz) they sounded like they were tuning their instruments during the hour-long piece!

There was no discernible rhythm, no melody, no beat that you could tap your feet to, just great individual performances mashed one on top of the other. I'm sure they are all excellent players in their own right (and you could definitely tell because of the fast fingers flying and hitting precise notes) but to my ear, they just didn't jive. Maybe i'm too used to usual structured music and this is a wee bit unconventional to my taste.

The ambience is tres-jazzy! No bar-room chatter, no food (they only sell drinks) and no ringing cellphones here. Partly because of the room's small size and also respect for the performances, the audience assumes a hushed reverence while the music plays. This isn't a place where jazz is just background music-- here, it is the main event.

Three pawikan points. I'd definitely be back but I mean no offense to Mr. Stinkler when I say that next time, I'll try to catch a more conventional band (maybe something along the lines of The Frim Fram Four). Some jazz is just a wee bit too hardcore for me.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Greco Caffe Espresso, Crown Casino, Melbourne

Rating:2/5 11000
Everybody who passes by the impressive cakes displayed outside Greco Caffe stops to oooh and ahhh at the mouthwatering choices. So my colleagues and I went in for dinner to see if the cakes were as good as how they looked.

The lady at the front who was in charge of seating the diners was indifferent and had this haughty air about her. I thought it was a fluke but then our waiter also had the same demeanor. Maybe working in close proximity to expensive food makes smiles expensive, too.

I ordered the lamb souvlaki while my companions ordered the pizza. My meal was so-so but I'm not convinced that it was freshly grilled because it was lukewarm. I have a strong suspicion that it was pre-cooked and just reheated. According to my friends, the pizza was so-so. I didn't try it because it did not look appetizing to me at all.

On to the main course-- the cakes. All four of us shared a double chocolate and coffee toffee. We all preferred the latter to the former and we all unanimously decided that they definitely look better than they taste. I think the cakes were victims of their own beauty and my high expectations set me up for a big disappointment.

Just two pawikan points for this over-priced cafe. Minus points for the snobbish service and dry cake.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Meat & Wine Co, Melbourne

Rating: 11100
By far, The Meat and Wine Co. at Queensbridge Square, Freshwater Place (9696 5333) was the most expensive meal that I've had during my short visit in Melbourne and I'm not sure the cost is justified.

As the server suggested, I had the 300g milk fed veal (AUD$39) and a glass of Cockfighter's Merlot ($8.50). The meat was tender with lots of fat and the spicy wine was a great combination but at those prices, I was expecting something at least at the level of Cottonwood Grille's steak, but this was just above average.

Three pawikan points. If you're looking for value for money, then this isn't the place to be. Plus points for the classy dimly lit interiors and the waiters who know their meat and wine.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Manchester Lane, Melbourne

Rating:3/5 11100
After that satisfying dinner at Il tempo, a night of live music was just a couple of meters away at Manchester Lane, which is both the name of the bar and the small side street it's on.

Just like Il Tempo or C&B, this is in a small alley so get in via Flinders lane on the side of Swanston street. You'll see a small velvet rope and a well dressed bouncer who graciously gave me a small tour of the place because I wasn't convinced that there was anything going on during that night.

From the outside, you wouldn't have guessed that it's spacious inside, dimly lit with a small stage at one end. They've got live music most nights and there's a cover charge (waived for diners) that ranges from AUD$10 to AUD$25, depending on who is playing.

During the Saturday night I was there, club regular Matt Dwyer's little big band (AUD$10) was playing and the place was packed with young revelers! In stark contrast, I went again during a weekday evening and disappointingly, there was only a handful of us listening to Jon English (AUD$25).

Three pawikan points for Manchester lane. Maybe next time i'll try their food. Minus points because they don't have pint sized beer so I had to keep on going back to get my glass refilled.

Il Primo Posto Kouzina, Riverside Quay, Melbourne

Rating:3/5 11100
It was a beautiful day out so I decided to walk along riverside quay and have lunch beside the river at Il Primo Posto. (Bldg 2, #4 riverside quay, southbank victoria 3006. 9682 6841)

I ordered their 300g porterhouse steak ($25.50) topped with caramelized onions and served on a bed of mashed potatoes. The plating of the steak could still be improved as it looked like they just slopped the whole lot on the plate.

The steak was tender, mildly flavoured and it hit the spot. Laman tiyan is how I would describe it in Filipino. (Still doesn't compare to the best steak I've ever had at the Cottonwood grille in Idaho)

Three pawikan points. Plus points for the "i'm-eating-al-fresco-under-a sunny-spot-enjoying the-cool-breeze" vibe.