Saturday, 1 November 2014

Melbourne Series - Flower Drum - exquisite Chinese in the heart of Melbourne

Melbourne is a city where the restaurant rules, a place where there is almost a never ending supply of fantastic dining spots to enjoy.  You could literally eat at a new restaurant every night and never need to revisit any.  But it's refreshing to know that in the hotbed of Melbourne eating, there are some stalwarts that almost transcend the dining scene and enter legendary status.  There is a restaurant that has most certainly reached legendary status in Melbourne that I've had on my list for such a long time, one that I've just never been able to get into....  The Flower Drum.

'Flower Drum' is known in China as a traditional dance, famous for its beauty and elegance and it's these traits that have been incorporated in philosophy of the restaurant.  One of only three The Age Good Food Guide three hatted restaurants at the moment, The Flower Drum has pretty much been the major constant in fine dining in Melbourne.  You only have to look at it's history to understand the scale of it's magnificence.  Not only accredited as restaurant of the year by the Good Food Guide from 1999 to 2002 and again in 2004, it topped the Gourmet Traveller restaurant of the year in 2002. Flower Drum also made the world's top 50 list by Restaurant Magazine in England from 2002 to 2005.  And of course its kept either two or three chef's hats for as long as anyone can remember!

The magic of the Flower Drum started when in 1975, Gilbert Lau opened his soon-to-be-famous restaurant in Chinatown on Little Burke Street.  Setting high standards for himself and his team, Gilbert brought Cantonese food to the people of Melbourne and was able to compete with the more established European fine dining establishments.  Looking to capitalise on its popularity, Gilbert moved the Flower Drum to larger premises in Market Lane and appointed Chef Anthony Lui as the restaurant's executive chef.  It was in 2003 that Gilbert sold his beloved restaurant to his three employees,  including Chef Anthony Lui, and they have continued to provide Melbourne with the finest of Cantonese cuisine.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Melbourne Series - Gradi at Crown - The Best Pizza in the World

It's been a pretty good year for me, both personally and professionally. Earlier in the year I was lucky enough to have travelled to Singapore to compete in the World Contact Centre Awards, where my business did very well.  More recently, I was able to represent this great state in National Awards for my business, where we also did pretty well....  So yeah, its been a good year.  Whenever I travel, I always make it my business to try to check out the local restaurant scene, which included some amazing restaurants in Singapore (see posts here).  One of my favourite places to travel to, especially for the food, is Melbourne, so I used my time recently to continue to check out some amazing restaurants.

My flight into Melbourne saw me arrive at the hotel right on lunch time, so it was only natural that I sought out decent spot to have a quick lunch.  I'd initially thought that the Nobu lunchtime special would be the way to go, but as I was walking through Crown, I'd recalled that a very special new restaurant had opened.  I couldn't remember the name, just that it was a pizza place and that it had only just opened.  It only took me a few seconds to 'Google' the parameters to come up with the name Gradi and as luck would have it, I was only a few meters away.

You might be wondering why I was so keen to check out a pizza place and why it might have left such an impression on me, and it's a good question.  Gradi is not just any old pizza restaurant, it's actually the new restaurant from Johnny Di Francesco 'VPN', who apart from his family hailing from home of pizza in Naples, is also the guy who took out the 2014 title for 'world's best' pizza.  In fact, Johnny is the first Australian ever trained in Naples to the 'Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana VPN' rules and he's the association's Australasian principal, travelling the region ensuring pizzerias are of the highest standard before officially inducting them into the Association.  Quite an honour.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Casual Dining - The Wickham Hotel

If you've visited the Valley over the last twenty years(ish), then you would know about a little corner of the trendy inner city suburb that has an interesting and checkered past.  The Wickham Hotel is well known in the Valley as being a traditional gay venue (LGBTI) since 1996 and it's fair to say a rollicking good time has been had by many an adventurous Brisbanite.  While it's recent past has been dominated by the Big Gay Day and if memory serves me correct, Boy George spinning some tunes on the 'ones and twos', the Hotel has been around for a lot longer.

Originally estabilished in 1885 by famous Brisbane architect Richard Gailey, The Wickham began it's life as the Oriental Hotel and for all intents and purposes was one of the 'grand old pubs' of Brisbane.  It's a pub that SC had spent a bit of time in 'back in the day' when it would be Sunday beers between Ricks Bar and the Wickham Hotel.  The hotel has been ever changing and if you frequent the Valley or drive down Wickham Terrace, you would have noticed that the next incarnation of the hotel has been underway.

We were pretty excited to be invited along with a number of Brisbane bloggers to check out the renovations and get a peek of the new renovations.  Given that the Valley is a short walk for us, we'd taken the opportunity to have a nice easy walk into the Valley for our Wickham experience.  We'd entered through the new 'car park' area, which used to be the Wickham's car park but was not an outdoor dining area.  It was a large space with lots of share dining tables spaced about, as well as some group seating around different sized cable 'barrels'.  It wasn't until we walked through to the main part of the pub that we saw the magic.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Casual Dining Lunch - Marchetti Cafe in Tattersall's Arcade

I've talked a lot about my love of wandering around Brisbane and noticing the changes, both big and small.  There have been many, many changes to our fair city in the last twelve months, many of which involve the completion big new buildings, many with food offerings. It's not just the big changes that get me excited, but the small changes, the little additions, the tweaks that, if you weren't paying attention to, you would miss.

One of Brisbane's older arcades is the Tattersall's Arcade, which houses a number of specialty shops that cater to the well heeled of Brisbane, including Longchamp.  I often use the arcade as a short cut from Edward Street to the Queen Street Mall and noticed one of Brisbane's little tweaks a few months ago.  In one of the few vacant spaces in the arcade, a cute little cafe had sprouted, which was very reminiscent of European and Melbourne style cafes.   Owner Michael Makras, owner of nearby Optiko, had spotted an opportunity and teamed up with architect Stephen Cameron to develop a perfect little space for relaxing in one of Brisbane's most elegant arcades.

Tucking away this fact for a future visit, I'd wandered past the little shop numerous times, and each time I'd made the mental note to get along to see what was on the menu.  It wasn't until I found myself with a spare hour for lunch that I'd resolved to get in and check out the Italian diner and bar.  I'll let you in on a dirty little secret though, I'd actually initially been looking to buy some KFC in MacArthur Central before being confronted by a queue that was way too long.  Now, don't ask me why I'd been going to KFC to begin with, I couldn't rightly say, but I did have a hankering for some chicken nuggets.


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