I love dropping into ABC Radio Melbourne to chat about food with Clare Bowditch and her lovely audience of talkback callers. This time it was to discuss ...
Ned Radojcic didn’t get the memo about South Yarra being a gluten-free suburb and he somehow accidentally opened a bakery here. In come the locals, shimmering in their activewear, bemoaning the problematic and pesky presence of flour. Radojcic, a Yugoslav aircraft engineer who arrived from Belgrade in 1989 with $238 in his pocket, begins his ‘breaducation’.
It doesn’t matter how many times I lug myself up the steep stairs to Panama Dining Room, I’m always made at least as breathless by the city views as I am by the long staircase that got me there. This is a quarter-acre-block-sized bar and restaurant, so large that the billiard table and booths look like dollhouse furniture. Enormous windows face east (to the burbs and hills) and south (through plane trees to town). In a town of bolt-holes and boutique hideaways, it’s nice to take a turn in a place that has room for dozens of cool cats to swing, swig, swagger and dine.
Unfortunately, humans haven’t evolved with the ability to hibernate so we need to deal with winter. Luckily, Good Food has patented a 27-step process to make winter so cosy, delicious and rewarding that you may end up cursing the sweet, green shoots of spring.
Sometimes a restaurant’s trappings are so many layers of distraction. At ESP, they serve to shine an ever more focused light on the food. Yes, there’s crisp service and excellent, interesting wines. Yes, you’ll be cosseted in a gleaming, comfortable dining room replete with gorgeous furniture and tableware. And yes, these accoutrements are all profoundly enjoyable. What you don’t get is smoke and mirrors. This is a chef’s restaurant and the trappings are there to support the sublime efforts of the kitchen.
When Han Kim was a boy in south Korea, his father insisted he get up at 5am to come to the fish market. There Han had his first lesson for the day, choosing seafood for the family’s Japanese restaurant before heading to school. By the time he was 16, Han was working alongside his father, on track to take over the family business.
It’s 2009. You’re a young chef working at a hot restaurant in London. You’re charged with a serious duty – making the bread sauce that’s served with partridge. Overtasked and distracted, you make a terrible mistake: you leave the sauce too long and instead of being smooth and silky it becomes sad and sludgy. The bollocking rings in your ears for days.
I’m eating compost for dessert and I couldn’t be happier. Shiraz lees (a yeasty debris of the wine-making process) have been repurposed as a heady purplish granita. Grapefruit peel is blitzed into a powerful citrus paste. Coriander stems and roots are the flavour base for an insistently herbaceous ice cream, and egg whites are whipped and baked into crisp shards of meringue. It’s a curious, pretty, highwire balance of sweet, tart and fragrant. I’d love it even if it wasn’t an environmental statement.
I’m eating duck waffles for brunch and I’m thwacked over the scone by a thought: geez, Melbourne is good. I’m in a well-loved four-year-old Brunswick cafe and the food is so plainly at the standard of a very good restaurant that I blink a few times, take a bite break, and look around.
I walked into Pigro on a Friday night and instantly knew I was in a good neighbourhood restaurant, the kind of place real estate agents might reference at local auctions. The place was busy but a waiter saw us straight away, smilingly acknowledged us even though she was busy, and arranged a table with swift cheer. It set the right tone.