Thursday, 23 August 2012

Rita is back!

Once again, I apologize for my very distinct lack of posting over the past few months. It has been a time of frustration, and extremes of illness for me, which don’t rest easily with this little Aries black duck! Us Aries people are renown for just jumping in and doing things, so for me to have had to quietly and calmly sit in hospital beds, doctors waiting rooms and airports, as I have had to do over the past months, has not rested at all easily with a normally active, animated and social human being such as myself!

However, enough of the maudlin!

My main (and probably, only) topic of interest – food!

Firstly, I’d like to wholeheartedly congratulate Katrina from Garagistes, for winning the title of Australia’s Best New Young Restauranteur. A well deserved accolade. Also to Garagistes for their win with the Gourmet Traveller awards for Best Restaurant in the state. It would appear that everything you guys touch turns to gold!

Spring is in the air, and with it, I have noticed some new eateries opening up round town. I wish them luck, and hope the proprietors don’t make some of those mistakes many others have made in the past. A hint: look after your customers (and staff) first and foremost and you’re almost certainly on a winner.

A business that certainly didn’t tick those boxes for Rita recently was the Tas Coffee Roasters shop in Sandy Bay. I popped in there to take up their advertised offer of an egg and bacon roll and coffee, for the princely sum of $12.50. Being the only customer in the cafe, having made my order, I walked over to the open kitchen and in a friendly manner commented to the fair-haired, middle aged cooking guy that if he wanted to err on the side of crispy to burnt bacon I wouldn’t mind at all. I was totally ignored by him.
Having subsequently been handed my roll (with scrambled egg!!?? WTF?) and coffee, I pleasantly walked past him, (trying desparately to eyeball him) to thank him….but still absolutely no indication or acknowledgement of my existence on this planet! If that cafe is floundering, I can tell you why!

Travelling to Melbourne for yet another heart operation at the beginning of this month, I decided to arrive two days earlier and have a bit of down time, trying to relax before the upcoming ordeal. I had pre-booked a lunch at Maha (the middle eastern Shane Delia restaurant in the city), plus another wonderful lunch at St Katherines in Kew, which, as regular readers will recognize, is where we lunched last time I was in Melbourne for the same reason. St Kats is a Shane Delia/George Columbaris restaurant, and George himself was there during our lunch there this time.

Both lunches were excellent. I found the atmosphere at Maha a bit too stilted and formal, highlighted by the fact that the restaurant is situated in a basement area, so generally is a ‘darkish’ place to be. I prefer a lighter area to dine in, such as at St Kats.

We stayed in a Mantra hotel in Chinatown, so partook of the odd Yum Cha, which, it has to be said, tops every meal for me! Melbourne Yum Cha’s shit all over any other food offerings anywhere, I reckon! For $16.50 per person, for all you can eat of good quality, fresh, hot food being constantly bought to your table unsolicited, you simply can’t beat it.

We also had a beautiful meal in Chinatown with good friends, and ex-Tassie food blogger(s), Victor and Steven, who have relocated to Melbourne. We left the ordering of food to Victor, as he is Malaysian, and if HE doesn’t know his stuff, no one does! We most definitely weren’t disappointed, having had the opportunity to sample all manner of Chinese food which we wouldn’t have normally ordered through not having knowledge of the dish. A boring-sounding fried rice dish turned out to be THE best dish ever, and we will definitely be returning to that restaurant for that particular food next time we’re in Melbourne.

Feast Magazine, SBS’ foodie magazine, this month produced a little booklet enclosed within the magazine, naming each state’s best venues for various foods, like Best Laksa (Chatterbox, North Hobart; runner up: Suwan Thai in Salamanca), Best Baklava (ABC Foodstore, North Hobart; runner up:Anatolia, North Hobart), Best Pad Thai (Vanidols Macquarie St; runner up: Ivory Café, city), Best Fish & Chips (Fish Frenzy, Eliz St Pier; runner up:Manning Reef Café, Sandy Bay).

My nomination for Best Thai Beef Salad (which wasn’t a category of Feast’s, but should have been!) is Shoebox Café in Hobart. Ivory Café used to do one which was head and shoulders above any others in Hobart, but they’ve taken it off their menu now (and, yes, I HAVE expressed my horror and disappointment at that decision to them!!) so if you want to taste a true spicy Thai Beef Salad, get in to Sammi at Shoebox and take one back to work for lunch!

That will be enough catching up for today. I have darted round a fair bit in this post, but hopefully given you some proverbial ‘food for thought’!

Posted on by Rita


sir grumpy said...

Yaaay, welcome back Rita.
Scrambled eggs on bacon and egg roll, oh dear.

Rita said...

Thanks for the warm welcome back Sir G. Yes, scrambled egg in the egg and bacon roll! I have checked with friends since about whether this is usual or not. No one had ever been presented with scrambled egg in their roll unless they'd specifically requested it. The consensus was a fried egg, and that's what I had expected! I wasn't going to tell Mr Grumpy about it though! It was obviously my fault for not being so specific!

auntyvida said...

We were 'frequent stoppers' at Coffee Roasters but for all the reasons given by Rita we are now travelling to Ari's in the city. Great value, good coffee and FRIED egg.

Christina said...

Welcome back my friend. I have missed you so. xxx
We're off to Melbourne in October and would love to try St Kat's
Do you recall the name of the place you went to with Victor and Steven? Glad you got to catch up with them and I do hope they're well.
We must do likewise soon and have a catch up. Just say where snd when. I have 2 weeks of in September if you're free. xx

Rita said...

Thanks for your comment Auntyvida - interesting that we had similar experiences!
Hey Christina - lovely to see you commenting again here. Please do go to St Kats and check it out. Bec says the Chinese we ate at with Victor and Steven was Jade something (maybe Palace?), and was diagonally opposite the 7/11 on corner of Little Bourke and Russell Streets. The boys are both well, and in fine form, and it was great to catch up over a leisurely meal. They're currently in Malaysia again.
Am happy for a catchup any time in the school hols. I'll call you, or you call me, or email. Love to Phil. x

Michelle said...

How wonderful to be able to eat out with Victor and Steven in Melbz, Such great company and with delicious food, I bet that cheered you up. I hope you are on the mend.


Victor said...

Hi Rita - good to see you back blogging again. It was lovely to catch up with you and Bec and catch up on old times. The restaurant name is Crystal Jade. Here is their website,
We must catch up again when you are next in Melbourne. Next time, we should go to either Richmond or Footscray for some really good authentic ethnic Chinese Vietnamese or Vietnamese food.

Christina / Michelle - I am always happy to see anyone else from Hobart who are visiting Melbourne and like to catch up for a bit of a foodie scene.

Btw, I am still very new in the food scene here. Still finding my way around tasting new things! Too many choices and too many places to visit. But, my pocket is not deep enough. Cheers, Victor :-)

Georgia said...

Welcome back Rita! I'd almost given up chcdking your site! Big disappointment this morning. I had held high hopes for the Westend Pumphouse breakfast and ordered "Muesli with poached fruit and yoghurt" A simple and promising dish. I wondered what the fruit would be...pears maybe? a compote of some sort. In short. None paoched fruit at all. It was a bowl of largely rice puffs, some seeds and misc dried fruits. It was topped with fours slices of what resembled fetta cheese, but I was told it was a frozen yoghurt. (i can visualise the container at the supemarket) I asked for real yogurt and after a wait it came in a side bowl with an atttitude that I was a real problem. (So there was yoghurt in the kitchen...) I then asked for the poached fruit as promised on the menu. A long wait. Two piecse of poached pear came in a small bowl clearly from a dessert menu as some sort of sweet filling was still lingering on them. No apology. They must think they can serve anything and get away with it.