First up, this is not a sponsored post. This is my way of recognising all the amazing people and businesses that helped make our wedding so special. As I mentioned in a previous post, we had two weddings, which spanned across a weekend. On Saturday, we had our traditional Hindu Bengali wedding, and on Sunday, we had a rustic garden civil ceremony followed by a reception. Both these weddings took immense amounts of work to organise and it neither would have been possible without the tireless efforts of our friends and family.

When we first started planning the Bengali wedding, we very quickly realised that this event was not just for us, but for my parents. It was their chance to hand over their daughter to her new family, and introduce their new son in law to everyone. This is very different to the Western concept of a wedding, but one that is accepted, and respected, in subcontinental culture. As a result, I quickly realised that things would run a lot smoother if I refrained from constantly voicing my opinions on things, and just run with what my parents wanted. Lucky for me, I have a mother with excellent taste, and I agreed with almost all her decisions!

We decided to hold the Hindu ceremony, followed by a luncheon reception at The International of Brighton. This venue is one of the few in Melbourne that have their own dedicated Indian chef, and for the Indian weddings we have attended there, the food has always been magnificent. The staff at the International were terrific. I think all Indian weddings involve high levels of chaos and we were no exception. We didn’t have our guest lists finalised until the night before, we dropped our bonbonieres off a few hours before the tables were being set up, we changed our booking hours on the last day, infact we were probably the worst clients. But The International of Brighton handled all the craziness that we brought with ease, and always managed to make things work.

A special mention must be made about Chef Raj. Food is an essential element of an Indian wedding, and so we had a specific meeting with him to discuss the menu. We applied a collaborative approach to design a three course menu, plus canapes during the ceremony, and together we came up with dishes that we were really pleased. Chef Raj brought many new and innovative ideas that we hadn’t thought of, things like a tandoori spiced chicken sausage rolls as a canapé, or serving buttermilk alongside the drinks, both of which were big hits with the guests. We also had a new dhal recipe on our menu, dhal bukhara, and this this was a highlight of the meal for both vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

A Hindu wedding takes place under a mandap, a canopy held up by four pillars. The four pillars have various symbolic representations including the four Vedas (sacred Hindu texts), or the parents of the bride and groom, who are integral participants in the marriage.  Our mandap was rented from Wedding Mandaps that services all of Melbourne. Bob from Wedding Mandaps was extremely helpful and extremely reliable. He provided not only the mandap, but a lot of the decorations around the venue. He worked extremely efficiently, having set up everything the night before in only a few hours, so that nothing needed to be done the morning of the wedding. We cannot speak highly enough about Bob, and would definitely recommend him to others.

My wedding sari was chosen by my mother in India. I didn’t even see the sari until she got back, but because I tend to always agree with her taste in Indian attire, I wasn’t too worried, I knew she’d choose well. It was bought from a shop in Kolkata, called Traders' Assembly. It was a red Benarasi silk sari, which is traditional for Bengali brides, with rich gold thread work. It was very heavy, so by the end of the day I was very exhausted carrying it around, but it was gorgeous, so definitely worth it.

Most of my jewellery was passed onto me by my mother and grandmother. This was quite special for me, as much of it was worn by my mother for her wedding. I wore special upper arm ornaments that had a real vintage feel about them, which was expected given that they had been worn for three generations of brides. These are rather indulgent pieces of jewellery, and so it was an honour to be given these for my wedding.

Our photographer for both weddings was Ian Cooray from I.C. Captured. I had seen Ian’s work from other friends’ events and the photos that he had taken captured the mood perfectly. I had also seen him at work, photographing dance concerts for my dance school, and I was impressed by his commitment and professionalism. We were lucky enough to have a pre wedding photo shoot with him included in our package. Whilst we were not very keen on any pre wedding photos, this opportunity proved invaluable as both we and Ian were able to see what kind of styles and poses worked for us, which helped the photo shoots at both the weddings run smoothly. I.C. Captured also had a very quick turnaround time, and only a week after the wedding, we were sent a link to a hundred photos taken across the weekend. We will receive the remainder of the photos in the months to come, but it was very exciting to see snippets of the celebrations so quickly, and also to be able to send them to friends and family living overseas.

As we were both aware, Indian weddings are filled with chaos and craziness, but this is what makes them so much fun. In amidst all the commotion, we still managed to have an amazing time, and we hope all our guests did too.

Photo credits: IC Captured and Shubroto Bhattacharjee
Barry is a bit of a Northcote institution. It feels like it’s been there for ages, and is always busy, with people spilling out onto the tables on the sidewalk if the weather is nice. Funnily enough we’d never been there, but on one morning when we were told there would be a ninety minute wait to get a table at Tinker (yes, you read correctly NINETY minutes), we decided it would be safer for all concerned if I was fed sooner rather than later. And so we strolled down High Street to Barry, found ourselves a spot at the communal table and realised how much better I felt already, just knowing that food would be present in my very near future.

As usual, I started with a coffee, Five Senses, and I was suitably satisfied. It provided me confidence that my breakfast would be good.

I decided to go for a relatively healthy breakfast choice and settled on a breakfast salad.  My bowl was lined with slices of pan fried caciocavalo (which is the Italian version of haloumi), and balanced with crisp spring vegetables, pomegranate jewels, two poached eggs and dressed with lemon juice and dukkah. As someone that loves cheese, eggs and vegetables, this really was the perfect dish for me. The dukkah was lovely and nutty and the acid of the lemon brought the dish together.

Of course, all opinions were subject to the yolk porn test, which Barry passed with flying colours. On a side note, the gooey yolk was delicious to mix through the salad as an additional dressing!

The other half decided to completely indulge and chose one of the sweet specials. His breakfast was house made donuts, served with plum curd, pistachios and fresh blueberries. Naturally, he thought it was delicious, (how could you not when every element sounds delicious!), but it was a very small serve. He could have easily eaten about three serves before he was full!

A special mention must be made about the service we received. Despite being busy, the staff were very attentive and constantly making sure our needs were met. The fabulous staff, the bustling atmosphere and the creative and delicious food made for a lovely brunch adventure.

Barry Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
The team behind We Are Kerala and Host Brunswick have joined forces to present a series of collaboration dinners, showcasing Indian food from the state of Kerala with a fusion twist.  Mischa Tropp together with Laura Neville create a beautiful 4 course meal, focusing on South Indian flavours and these are matched with curated drinks by the team at Host. The food is dominated by flavours of curry leaves, mustard seeds and coconut, but are complimented with a modern twist to bring them into the fine dining world.

Mischa is of Keralan descent, and both he and Laura have spent time in India learning about ingredients and flavour combinations, which was evident in our meal. Our dining experience commenced with a trio of starters. We were served a passionfruit half with chilli salt, a steamed South Indian rice cake known as idli paired with chickpea and  a parcel of goat’s curd, pickled pumpkin and curry leaf. There were also non vegetarian variants of these dishes, which included chicken liver instead of the chickpea gravy and boarfish to replace the pickled pumpkin. These dishes gave us a taste of what was to come and left us eager for the meal to continue.

The next course was a little more substantial and consisted of two small plates. The first was smoked tomatoes served with coconut, Kashmiri chilli and ruby grapefruit, with the non vegetarians served raw kingfish instead of the smoked tomato. This was a fresh dish, with punchy flavours. The second plate was grilled eggplant served with a spicy sauce made with a spice blend called recheado. There was a slight amount of heat in the recheado, but it warmed the palate up for the next course.

Main course was an array of dishes served on the table, almost like a mini banquet. We received a traditional cabbage curry, known as thoran, an okra pachadi, which is okra in a creamy yogurt based sauce, chickpea curry (or beef fry for the non vegetarians), and ghee rice. We were also served some epic sized pappadums which were amazing. The highlight of this course for me was the okra pachadi. Okra has long been one of my favourite vegetables, and when served in the creamy gravy with the strong flavours of spices, it really was a perfect match. I later found out that the recipe was from Mischa’s mother, so it was no wonder that it tasted so good, everyone knows that mums are the best cooks!

By this time we were getting close to ridiculously full, but we activated our dessert stomachs to enjoy the last course. Served on a ginger sable, was a ball of carrot sorbet (or halwa for the Indians!) coated in goat’s yogurt, and topped with cumin praline. The yogurt cut through the sweetness of the sorbet, and it provided a refreshing end to the meal.

Host provided the perfect surrounds to enjoy this meal and the curated drinks were also carefully thought out. We tried the iced soy chai mocktail, but there were alcoholic options on offer too. We Are Kerala are doing beautiful, creative food and I look forward to seeing what the menu holds at their next collaboration dinner in April! This dinner is already sold out, but keep an eye on the We Are Kerala website and Instagram to see what other delicious adventures they will be involved in.

Note: I was invited to dine at Kerala x Host , however all opinions are entirely my own. 

*A version of this article was first published on The Plus Ones website.
I should start with an apology. The first quarter of the year is over, and I think I've only managed one blog post. But I have a good reason. Seriously. I got married! So in between planning two weddings (that's what happens when an Indian marries an Italian), buying a house, selling a house, and just trying to get through life, the blog has fallen by the wayside :( But now that it's almost over (we just have to move house and we'll be done!) I'm hoping that things will pick up, and I'll be back into it. But in the meantime, I think it's only fair that I do a bit of a review of what's been happening, using the questions from the lovely Meet Me At Mike's blog....

Making: Lists. Lists of things to pack. Lists to things to get rid of. And also lists of people to whom we need to send thankyou cards for the wedding!

Cooking: Not much. We've hardly been at home. Instead I've been spending lots of time at Tamil Feasts, who always send me with leftovers galore, plus we have two sets of parents who love having us over for dinner.

Drinking: Water. Detox imperative.

Reading: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. I'm only of the very few people who have never read or watched the Harry Potter series, so I thought it was about time that I rectified that.

Wanting: Sleep. I am ridiculously sleep deprived. Daylight savings couldn't have come at a better time for me.

Looking: Forward to moving into the new house!

Deciding: What songs to use for our wedding video. I want some western music and some Indian music.

Enjoying: Looking at our wedding photos. I can look at them multiple times a day and it always makes me feel so happy! As cheesy as it sounds, it really was the perfect weekend.

Waiting: For the rest of our wedding photos. Unfortunately we will be waiting for at least another five months :(

Liking: Married life. It's nice :)

Wondering: What the Tamil Feast menu will be this week. I'm lucky enough to have a volunteer shift, which means I get to spend time with some awesome people, and eat some delicious food.

Loving: The fact that we got our first wedding invite addressed to us as Mr and Mrs Russo. It's a bit special :)

Considering: When is a good time to change my surname. I've already decided that I will change my name, however given that we have a lot of bank paper work to sign regarding the house transfer etc, I figure I should wait until all of this is over to avoid any confusion.

Buying: A new drink bottle and a new wallet. Both my old wallet and drink bottle have died, and it's a perfect opportunity to replace these items with sustainable, environmentally options. I'm open to suggestions...

Watching: Not enough. I am so behind on all my TV shows, plus I've added to the list of shows I need to watch. At some point I need a week of downtime so I can sit there and watch Grey's Anatomy, The Leftovers, Black Mirror, Big Little Lies, Riverdale and Suits.

Hoping: For another holiday soon.

Marvelling: At how we and our families managed to get through our crazy wedding weekend in one piece and smiling on the other side!

Needing: Time. We have been so busy, that we really just need some time to relax and do nothing.

Smelling: The gorgeous eucalyptus type scent of my Burt's Bees lip balm. I love it.

Wearing: My DeJour jeans. I love them. If you haven't got a pair, get yourself down to Brunswick and get a pair of custom fitted jeans for a ridiculously reasonable price.

Following: Lots of different podcasts about my favourite TV shows.

Thinking: About writing our wedding thankyou cards. We really need to get onto it.

Admiring: My wedding bouquet, and all the wedding flowers in general. One of my husband's cousins took the lead on arranging all the flowers and she was seriously amazing. We gave her no brief, no clues on what we wanted, and let her have free reign, and she delivered beyond our expectations. We are so lucky to be related to such talented and generous people.

Sorting: My wardrobe. I need to do a purge before we move house.

Getting: Excited for Easter. I'll be glad to have a few public holidays and hopefully some time to rest.

Opening: Emails. My work inbox is a mess. I really need to clean it out.

Giggling: Thinking about various comedians I've already watched at the Comedy Festival. I'm lucky enough to be seeing a lot of shows this year as part of a media team. I've made a point to go and see smaller shows, by unknown comedians, and some of them are bloody hilarious. We saw Jeeves Verma last night, and I haven't laughed that much in a  long time.

Feeling: Exceptionally lucky. Life is good.

Snacking: On cheese. Our wedding cake was a cheese cake. Like literally, wheels of cheese, and we still have a lot of the hard cheese leftover. This is great news for me, it means I can spend the rest of my foreseeable future eating cheese and crackers with quince paste. It is not so great for my waistline though.

Hearing: The office hum. I miss being on holidays.

What’s been going on in your life?
Bang Bang at the Rifle Club in Elsternwick is the latest venture from head chef Matthew Dunbar. Formerly of Longrain, Chef Dunbar’s reputation precedes him, and given the popularity of the short pop up Bang Bang venture at South Wharf towards the end of last year, people have been long awaiting this new permanent home.

I, together with the other half, was lucky enough to attend a blogger dinner that was hosted as part of their opening launch. The weather gods were definitely smiling upon Bang Bang, as they turned on a glorious day. Designed to take advantage of the location, the concertina doors were opened up to create a spacious combined indoor and outdoor area that was basking in the afternoon sun. It was easy to see that this would be a perfect space for a summer evening, or a few cheeky Sunday bevvies.

We were treated to a selection from their menu. Focusing on Indochine cuisine, the flavours of Vietnam and Thailand were predominant, with a clear influence from the French evident, as a homage from their colonised days.

The dishes are all designed to be shared, encouraging a warm and friendly atmosphere. We started with an array of smaller dishes including little parcels of confit duck wrapped in a betel leaf. There was a vegetarian version too, which replaced the duck with pomelo.

We also had chargrilled prawns served with a roasted shallot and lime sauce, kingfish sashimi with caramelised cashews and trout roe, and crispy chicken ribs with Bang Bang sriracha. Vegetarians need not fear though. I had some special dishes made for me with the standout being a take on an egg salad served with a son in law egg, green mango and a basil and lime dressing. It was amazing and I could have easily eaten about eleven serves of this alone.

After the starters we moved onto the larger dishes including a tofu, avocado and sesame seed salad, with a mint, black vinegar and ginger dressing. This had all the carnivores at the table rethinking their opinions on tofu, and everyone was in agreement that you could definitely make a lot of friends with this salad.

We were served a roasted pumpkin curry with kipfler potatos and spiced with cinnamon and anise. It was creamy and warming, and we were all piling rice onto our plates to mop up all the sauce. The last dish of main course was a chargrilled Cape Grim short rib, served in a wild ginger and holy basil broth. The other half said it was was soft, melted in your mouth, and took the phrase ‘falling off the bone’ to a whole new level. 

The serving sizes were very generous, and by this stage we were all fairly full, but there was no hesitation in activating our dessert stomach were we were served gorgeous plates of black sticky rice with mango, pandan cream, and coconut sorbet. Asian desserts are not usually my favourite, but this dish was lovely, with the fresh fruit and sorbet adding a refreshing contrast to the sweet, heavy black rice.

To finish off the meal, we had watermelon with chilli salt. It was an interesting combination, although I think the chilli salt would have been better paired with a sour fruit like green mango, or even a tart pineapple.

Bang Bang is a beautiful space with equally beautiful food. It is a great place to catch up with friends and I will definitely be back to try more of the menu and perhaps have another serve of the tofu salad.

Bang Bang Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Note: I was invited to dine at Bang Bang as part of a media dinner, however all opinions are entirely my own. 

Image Credit: Zilla and Brook

*A version of this article was first published on The Plus Ones website.
Axil is a name that is almost synonymous with coffee in Melbourne and so when I was trying to plan a breakfast catch up with an old friend in the eastern suburbs, I figured Axil Coffee Roasters in Hawthorn would be a good choice. At the very least, the coffee should be good!

The coffee was indeed excellent, with rich aromas and full bodied flavour. It was the coffee that I had come to expect from Axil.

Taking a look at the menu though, I found it to be rather standard and not very creative, especially when considering the savoury options. Whilst there were some exciting sweet choices like Ferraro Rocher waffles or red velvet pancakes, I have always preferred a savoury breakfast. These days, breakfast menus are full of inventive options but Axil clearly prefers to focus on basics.

I ended up choosing the fritters (duh), which were made with zucchini, corn and haloumi, and then topped with avocado, spinach, a poached egg and relish. Rather than a few small fritters, they served up one large fritter. This meant that there was less crunch, and the fritter was more cake like which was a bit disappointing. Still, the flavours were very good, and anything with haloumi makes me happy. The eggs were poached well, and whilst there is no photo, you can trust me when I say that I had great yolk porn material.

My breakfast companion settled on smashed avocado on toast with sides of scrambled eggs and salmon pastrami. (Lucky he’s already got a house, otherwise there would be no chance he could save for one!) There was a little bit of confusion with his eggs order (only one scrambled egg came out, when he specifically asked for two) but it was quickly resolved.

The space inside Axil is huge, with tables a plenty, and despite the large crowd, the service was still very good. However, with Melbourne’s café game so strong, and so many places really pushing the boundaries with their offerings, personally I am more inclined to try them rather them returning to Axil. But if you are a traditionalist, and like your standard breakfast options, this is certainly a place you should visit.

Axil Coffee Roasters Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Breakfast in a weekday is an indulgence that I don’t often get to enjoy. But when it’s a Monday that you’ve taken off work, because you’ve run your first full marathon you definitely take the opportunity to take advantage of the fact that the cafes are empty and you can easily get a seat. Unfortunately the marathon had taken a major toll on my feet, leaving then battered and me unable to put any weight on them, so we had to go to a cafe where we could park straight outside the front door.

We settled on Son of a Pizzaiolo. I knew they had recently revamped their dinner menu, but I was keen to try them out for breakfast. As expected, the café was almost empty, and so we had our pick of the seating. There were some standard tables, but we decided to sit in a booth, American diner style!

The other half started with a flat white, but I declined and stuck with water. Given that the marathon had most likely dehydrated me, I didn’t think coffee would be a good idea. I did have a taste of the flat white though, and I was suitably impressed. Son of a Pizzaiolowas certainly doing the Italians proud. The pretty latte art was also a nice touch that put a smile on our faces.

The menu was full of creative options, that looked delicious but neither of us could go past the cheesy scrambled eggs. Set atop two polenta hash browns were scrambled eggs with aged pecorino, grilled mushrooms and crispy kale, all dressed with chives and red sea salt. The other half went for the standard version also had chorizo, but the staff were more than happy to swap that out for avocado for me. Rarely do we order the same dish, but this time we made an exception.

Our opinion of the dish was also almost identical. The cheesy scrambled eggs were a hit, lots of cheese, lovely and creamy with the right amount of seasoning. The mushrooms and the crispy kale were also important elements to the dish and when combined with the eggs created a beautiful blend of flavours. Unfortunately the polenta has was a bit of a let down. Perhaps it was the fact that in my head, I was hoping for something like a potato hash brown, but unfortunately the polenta was was rather heavy and stodgy, and lacked flavour. In retrospect, if I couldn’t have a potato hash, I think I would have preferred this dish with toast, but hindsight is a great thing indeed.

Nevertheless our experience at Son of A Pizzaiolowas lovely and we will definitely consider going back. The service was impeccable and I was very impressed at how friendly the staff were. The flavours they combined worked well, and left me keen to try their dinner menu some time in the future.

Son of a Pizzaiolo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato