Archive for the 'restaurant review' Category

Flower Drum Restaurant, Melbourne

Have you ever had to run as if your life depended on it? Or more accurately, as if your long weekend in Melbourne depended on it? Let me tell you, it isn’t a pretty sight. And neither are the after-effects.

Usually super-organized, I’ve gotten Frank and I to the airport hours before our flights were due out. Not wanting to miss a flight (as that would be horror!) I had everything printed in advance and planned the journey to leave us time to deal with any possible eventuality. Once, on our way from the UK to Kenya, we had a giant crane wheel over and block all the lanes on the road. We still managed to get to the airport with two hours to spare.

beautiful silverware

Frank and I have been looking forward to going to Melbourne for some time now, but it appears I have been affected by the chilled Aussie attitude. I ensured we were checked into our flight and had the boarding passes ready in my handbag, but as it was a domestic flight I figured we would only have to be at the airport 40 mins before departure. And as our flight left at 9:40, it was perfectly fine to get to the airport at 9:00. Unfortunately I realized on the train that our flight was actually due out at 9:20, and our train was running late, which left us 15 mins to get from the train to the gate and through all the security checks.

Frank is naturally fit, and bounded through the airport like some sort of deer. Sadly I cannot say the same for myself. Panting, some distance behind Frank, our names were called out over the intercom; and despite yelling “I’m coming” down the hallway I didn’t seem to run any faster. Needless to say when one of the Jetstar employees looked down the corridor and saw me walking to the gate she was less than impressed…

teeny teapot of soy sauce!

The great news is they let us on the plane and we got our weekend in Melbourne! (I was coughing and spluttering all the way though) I know Melbourne is famous for its shopping, but it is also famous for its food. And I love food! Initially I was keen to give The Press Club a try, and despite Frank finding the owner incredibly annoying, he agreed to go. When trying to book a table three weeks in advance (on a Sunday night) I was made to “hold the line” for 15 minutes, which rapidly changed my mind about wanting to go. (Have they ever heard of online booking systems?)

fresh chilli, and some tasty chilli sauce

I did some research into which other restaurants are great in the CBD, and found a charming restaurant called The Flower Drum situated in the heart of Chinatown. It has been awarded two chefs hats by The Age for the last four years, and for very obvious reasons – the service was impeccable, the food was amazing, and the restaurant was filled with atmosphere. They serve the most incredible Chinese food Frank and I have ever tasted!

When we arrived we were shown to our table by a charming waiter called David. He took our coats and pulled out our chairs, and filled glasses in front of us with complimentary iced water. After choosing from the extensive wine list, David brought over menus and explained their layout. On offer was either a 5- ($149) or 4-course ($99) buffet dinner menu, or the normal a la carte menu. Wanting to try a few dishes, Frank and I chose the 4-course buffet menu. Little did we realised it wasn’t four courses, it was actually six! We were allowed to choose 2 starters and 2 mains out of a selection of 3. For dessert we could choose anything off the menu, and it was followed by coffee and hand-made biscuits. Delicious!

For first starter dish Frank and I both chose a portion of freshly steamed dim sum. They were soft and moist, and the most delicious dim sum I have tried. They came with a tasty chilli sauce with complimented them perfectly.

steamed dim sum

For second starter dish Frank chose minced quail and I chose fried St George whiting. The whiting was dipped in a light tempura batter and was accompanied by spicy salt and lemon juice. The quail was fried and served in a lettuce cup, and even though it was fried it had amazing flavour and no taste of oil. So far so good! Throughout the meal we had silver service and we never had to top up our own wine or water.

St. George whiting

quail in lettuce cup

For the first main dish Frank and I both chose the Flower Drum’s signature dish – Peking duck. The waiter assembled the pancakes in front of us with only two spoons (and one hand!), and we were told to just tuck in with our hands. The duck breast was juicy, and the pancakes incredibly light. Frank was in heaven!

peking duck, what's left of it...

For the second main dish I chose Singapore prawns in a sweet chilli sauce, and Frank chose rib-eye steak in a black pepper sauce. Both the prawns and the steak were so soft they melted in our mouths, and my sweet chilli sauce was a perfect accompaniment. We were given two portions of special-fried rice to go with the mains, but we forgot and hoovered them up at the end!

Singapore prawns

rib-eye steak with special fried rice

Dessert time! Frank had been talking about deep-fried ice-cream for days, and was the first to pick it off the menu. I chose banana fritters, just to be different. The deep-fried ice-cream had a thick crunchy shell around it and was served with berry sauce, whereas the bananas were dipped in a light tempura batter and served with thick maple syrup and ice-cream. Both desserts were amazing, and I would go back weekly if we lived in Melbourne…

banana fritters with maple syrup

deep-fried ice-cream with berry sauce

Finally We were given the choice of tea or coffee, along with some delicious hand-made almond biscuits. After polishing them all off, we happily paid the bill and pottered out. I would rate this 11/10 lollcakes if possible, it was the best meal Frank and I have ever had!

(P.S. Apologies for the less-than-impressive photos, I used my phone as I didn’t want to intrude with the flash…)

The Flower Drum Restaurant

17 Market Ln
Melbourne VIC 3000

03 9662 3655

coffee and biscuits


The Baker’s oven cafe – The Rocks

My chiropractor told me that my body doesn’t like change. Despite me insisting that I love change and that change is good, she says my body doesn’t share my joy and likes to let me know it. I’ve always believed that because I had a lot of change in my childhood I enjoy it (and actually crave it), but being given this news made me ponder. And guess what I have deduced on my very own? I don’t like change!

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s always fantastic getting new things and seeing new places, but I seem to naturally resist big changes initially. On the plus side, having the memory of a goldfish allows me to adapt to things very quickly. So even if something changes, it only takes week or two and I’m feeling like it’s been that way forever.

“Why on earth is she telling us this?” you ask? Well, I started a new job on Monday. “And why is she telling us that?” you ask? Well, the job has longer hours at the moment, and I haven’t had a chance to get in the Pig Palace kitchen and cook anything because ‘my body is resisting’ and I am almost as tired as a hippo on a marathon. So, to make up for not cooking anything blog-worthy this week, I would like to share with you the most wonderful bakery/café that I found just down the road from where my new office is.

the Harbour bridge, in the diiiiiiistance...

The Rocks is a beautiful area of Sydney that is nestled against the Harbour Bridge. It is a tourist mecca, for obvious reasons, and despite that it is a wonderful spot to work in. According to The Rocks Website, the area encompasses the past, present and future. The Indigenous Cadigal people inhabited the rocky headland and surrounding shoreline for thousands of years. Then in 1788, Australia’s first European settlers-British convicts and their overseers-claimed the land and built their camp atop the sandstone cliffs.
The Rocks eventually grew from an open-air gaol into a vibrant port community. Its colourful history-filled with tales of ‘shanghaied’ sailors, rough gangs, and gritty life-can still be traced in the many surviving buildings from the last two centuries. But today the renovated former warehouses, sailors’ homes, and dens of iniquity house a unique mixture of fine restaurants, one-of-a-kind shops, and galleries showcasing both established and emerging talent.

The Bakers Oven café is situated at the end of George Street. It has a huge selection of fresh slices and Turkish delight in the window, and a spectacular display of muffins inside. This week alone I have had three muffins, three slices and two sandwiches. I am addicted to baked goods! The owner works alongside the staff, and everyone seems genuinely pleased to be working there. When I asked for permission to take a photo of the muffins, the owner was more than happy to agree. (Although I think she’s used to all the tourists taking photos by now…)

fresh slices in the window

I have had my fair share of slices and muffins in my time, but the Baker’s oven café’s are the best yet. My banana muffin this morning almost had me attacked by a seagull it was so good (again, I blame the tourists. DO NOT FEED THE BIRDS!) and the slice I took home to Frank had him silent for almost 10 minutes! The chocolate muffins are packed with chocolate chips, and the staff is always willing to warm them up for you without having to ask.

tasty muffins

The sandwich I ordered today was packed with veggies and made on the most delicious Turkish bread. Popped in the toaster, it was filled with melted cheesy goodness, and even managed to make me full. (A hard thing to do, I eat a lot) I decided to only eat half the hazelnut slice for dessert, but I had to try it as the owner recommended it as the best slice in the window. If you like hazelnuts, you’ll love this! It is packed with nuts and chocolate, and is the perfect ending to lunch. I rate the baked goods 10/10 lollcakes and will be popping in there at least 3 times a week…

veggie & cheese on Turkish - $8

hazelnut slice - $5

The Baker’s Oven Cafe

121 George St
The Rocks 2000 NSW

Phone: (02) 9247 9978

Pub cha – the Annandale Hotel

I was born in South Africa, which not only makes me proudly African, but also made me sad that we lost at the rugby on Saturday. Especially after Frank’s brother Dazza made me sing the national anthem on my own in front of 4 loyal Wallabies fans. Well, at least I can sing the whole thing, which not a lot of South Africans my age and older can proudly boast. 🙂

empty bowl, full tummy

When I grew up there weren’t many different cuisines available to the general public. We had pizza and pasta, and wonderful Indian curries, but no-one had really heard of pesto or gnocchi until I was into university. Chinese food was very basic, and the first time I encountered dumplings or dim sum was when I had been living in London for over a year. I’m heart-broken to know that I missed out on so many years of dim sum, so my mission is to make up for it as fast as possible!

building towers

It was Ferret’s birthday on Sunday. Being a purveyor of delicious food, she and Pistol once again picked a fantastic place for lunch. For 24 people. The Annandale Hotel is well-known for being the pub in which many famous bands had their gigs before they became signed. Attached to the back of it is a little food area that produces Thai during the week, and yum cha on weekends. Appropriately named ‘Pub cha’, the restaurant allows patrons to place their order at the counter and pay the same way.

fresh tofu spring rolls - $7

steamed beef dumplings $7

Having had some delicious dumplings at Shanghai Nights and Greenwood Chinese Restaurant lately (thanks to NQN’s great reviews), Frank and I didn’t have breakfast in anticipation. Arriving late, the staff managed to squeeze us in to the already-heaving table. We were handed check-lists with the dishes and  prices, and we marked down all the dishes we wanted to try. Only 15 minutes after handing the list to the bar our delicious dishes started coming out of the kitchen, and despite being on a table of 24 people they gave us the correct dishes we ordered.

prawn & spinach steamed dumplings - $6.50

soft-shelled crab - $16

Now I’ve had quite a few dumplings since I’ve moved to Sydney, and these were the best I’ve had! The steamed dumplings were delicate, the pork buns were fluffy, and the money bags had the tiniest hint of chilli. The calamari was melt-in-the-mouth, and the veggie spring rolls were packed with goodness! Frank and I put the food away in no time. Having only tried soft-shelled crab for the first time on Frank’s birthday, we ordered a plate with hesitation. It was so delicious that it is now our new favorite dish! Who would have thought little spidery legs would taste so good!

chicken satay skewers - $5

pork buns - $3

If you like yum-cha but are put off by the pushy trolley ladies, the Annandale Hotel is the place to go. It is one of the only places you can get a schooner and a spring roll, and has a wonderfully social atmosphere. I give it 9/10 lollcakes, and Frank and I can’t wait to get back there!

Our table of 5 had 12 dishes and edamame beans to share, at a cost of $25 per person.

Pub cha @ the Annandale Hotel
17 Parramatta Road
NSW 2038

La Grande Bouffe, Rozelle – my first restaurant review!

Online communities have been growing vastly over the years, and they have become valuable places to find information on various topics from how to make proper Pavlova to finding a tasty restaurant in your area. People want to read other diner’s reviews that would be similar to their own, and not some fancy restaurant critic’s. Frank is a techy geek, out and proud, and he firmly believes that the more information there is out there the better for everyone.

I initially started this blog to document my daring cook’s challenges, and quickly it evolved to display the recipes I’ve found that are fool-proof (as they are thoroughly tested by a fool…) When we were invited to go for lunch by our equally foody-mad friends Pistol and Ferret I knew the place they’d chosen had some good reviews. So, following Frank’s mantra of sharing information, I thought I would review the restaurant on my blog! Wow, I am certainly growing up! 😉

One thing I should make clear now is that I am an Accountant by nature. I believe in getting value for money, no matter what it is. I am loathe to spend money on something that isn’t worth it, so if food is expensive I expect it to be delicious. Frank and I had a rather shocking experience in London, the restaurant was expensive and the food was terrible, and my blood still boils slightly thinking about it after 2 years. I will always pipe up if the food is bad, and I will always happily hand over my hard-earned notes (or perhaps not-so-hard earned notes if you ask my line manager) if the food is worth it.

La Grande Bouffe - street view

On this glorious Sunday morning, Frank and I took the truck to Rozelle, one of my favorite suburbs. We had always passed a cute restaurant on our way to the Essential Ingredient and were keen to try it, so luckily Pistol and Ferret suggested it for an early lunch. La Grande Bouffe is a french restaurant, with wonderful decor and genuine French chefs. Pistol had booked us a table by the door, and despite the cool breeze it was the perfect spot. Our waiter came by soon after we were seated, and brought out drinks order over within 5 minutes. So far so good!

a tasty cup of T2 peppermint tea - loose leaf of course

The lunch menu had a wide selection of meals: sandwiches, mains, light meals and all-day-breakfasts. Ferret and Pistol had been out for breakfast, and I had only woken up an hour before, so we chose light meals. Frank needed breakfast, so he chose one of the main meals. We placed our orders and waited about 30 minutes for the food to arrive. We didn’t notice the time too much as the company was fantastic, and the wait was certainly worth it.

ham hock, puy lentils and poached egg - $16

I ordered the ham hock with puy lentils and a poached egg. When my food arrived, the accountant in me was slightly shocked at the small portion, but as soon as I tucked into it I was happy. The ham hock was very tender, and the poached egg was done to perfection.

octopus salad - $14.50

Pistol and Ferret chose the octopus salad to share. The portion was a good size and the greens were fresh off the farm. Normally petrified of octopus legs, I bravely tried some of Ferret’s, and they were the most tender I have ever tasted. A+!

twice-cooked pork belly - $23

Frank chose a main of twice-cooked pork belly, and it was the dish of the day. The crackling was done perfectly and the pork just fell apart. Despite it being a small portion, Frank said it was rich enough that  he wouldn’t need anymore than he had. Pistol and I tucked into some of it and were amazed.

warm baguette - $4

When I was initially given my food I thought I better get some baguette in case I was still hungry after. The waiter brought it to the table very quickly, and it was warm and fresh. The butter was soft and easy to spread, and Ferret and I used it to mop any remaining sauce on my plate.

Now, when I do get value for money, I get very excited. And I was rather pleased with myself after our tasty lunch. (This might also have been due to Frank promising that we could pop into the Essential Ingredient afterwards.) Keen to check out the new goodies, Pistol asked for the bill. And this is where the shine disappeared off our great experience – we had to ask the waiting staff three times for the bill, and waited 25 minutes to finally pay it. To be fair, the staff were very busy, but I was not pleased to be denied those valuable 25 minutes which could have been spent perusing the isles of my favorite store!

All in all the restaurant was great, and I would rate it 8/10 lollcakes. Ferret and Pistol are keen to go back when they have more room in their stomachs!

La Grande Bouffe
Shops 1 & 2
758 Darling Street, Rozelle NSW 2039
T: 9818-4333 F: 9810 5025

Open 7 days, Breakfast from 7.30am, Lunch from 12pm, Dinner Tuesday – Saturday nights from 6.30pm.

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