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.

Tartufo - this time its all about the Pizza

A couple of months ago, I started an adventure to try to find the best pizza in Brisbane (see posts here), but after eating a little too much pizza in such a short time, I paused for a moment.  After going without pizza for almost two months, I started to get that feeling in the pit of my stomach that can only be resolved with a dose of pizza.  Not just any pizza, margherita!

So far in my travels, I've had some great pizza with my favourites being Sorellina (see post here) and Beccofino, which to date had been my favourite by quite some distance.  It was time to get some hatted pizza and by that, I mean get some pizza from one of Brisbane's best restaurants, Tartufo.  I've been to the Tony Percuoco restaurant a heap of times and rate it as one of the best Italian restaurants around but it's only been relatively recently that I became aware that Tony had moved into another great love of his life - pizza!

Being a native of Naples, the home of the margherita pizza, following in the footsteps of the most famous pizzerias in the world, Brandi, Da Michele and Trianono Tradition, it was only natural that a pizza oven would grace the floor at Tartufo.  With a view of using only the freshest ingredients of the highest quality, Tony aims to be accredited through the 'Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana' (AVPN), an association dedicated to the protection and veracity of the 'true Neapolitan pizza'.

We'd been trying to get in to see Gone Girl for a couple of weeks, so we'd had a plan to get in to Tartufo right on pizza opening time of 5:30, so we'd have enough time to eat and then get over to the CBD for the movie.  Surprisingly, we were able to score a park on the street, right out the front of the Emporium, the Valley complex where Tartufo is located.  


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