A while ago I visited the original Rustica Canteen in Fitzroy with the other half, for breakfast. We were both rather impressed with the food and so, when my girlfriends wanted to organise a girls brunch sans boys and kids, I quickly suggested the Rustica branch in the CBD. Like many cafes, Rustica don’t take bookings for weekend breakfasts, but I was assured that the wait for a table on a Sunday morning wasn’t usually more than 15 minutes.

I had already checked the menu and it seemed that there were lots of common items across the two outlets, and given that I had massive food envy on my Fitzroy visit, I thought it would be a good opportunity to sample some other things.

Like most groups of more than 4 women (we were a group of about eight or nine) we ended up arriving one at a time for about half an hour until we all got there! Rustica were kind enough to not make us wait for the full group before they sat us, and instead gave us a big high table at the back of the café which we all joined as we arrived. However, they also took our order as we arrived, which meant that our food was arriving at all different times, and chaos ensued.


I chose to order the chilli scrambled eggs on their infamous Rustica sourdough but minus the bacon. I had ordered almost immediately after I sat down, and about twenty minutes past before I had received my drink or my meal. As I looked around, I realised that people who had arrived after me were having their meals served, so I flagged down a waiter and asked him if my order had been missed. I think he might have been knew, because he took my query to another waitress, there was some discussion between them, and then he came back to tell me my food was on its way. Fast forward another ten minutes and the senior waitress comes to me and tells me that my order has been mixed up and to confirm what I ordered. I tell her that I ordered the chilli scrambled eggs and she tells me she will be back. This time she returns quickly with my meal, chilli scrambled eggs, but with bacon. When I tell her that I had specifically requested for the bacon to omitted, she looked really confused. I did eventually receive my correct meal, but it was about an hour after I placed my original order. Don’t get me wrong, the food was delicious, but I could have done without the delay and confusion!







 

Luckily I was the only one on our table who had a mix up with their order. Everyone else’s food arrived on time, and correctly, and everyone loved their meals. As expected, the bread was the highlight, but equally important were quality ingredients and punchy flavours.

Rustica Canteen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
I have often said that eating breakfast out is a huge indulgence. A meal which normally costs about $1.50 a home, can often increase to over $20 when you eat out. But admittedly, the options you receive at a café far outweigh the bowl of weet-bix I would ordinarily be having. So when you receive a message on a busy Saturday night asking if you want to catch up for breakfast on Sunday, it’s an offer I rarely turn down. After all, how can you say no to indulgence?!

A bunch of us met up in Middle Park with no clear plans of where we were given. I was happy to take a back seat and let someone else do the organising. Given how windy it was, there was a general consensus that we should avoid the beach and instead strolled along Armstrong St trying to find somewhere that looked exciting. We were a group of 7, so we needed a place that had a free table that was large enough for all of us, and we came across the Victorian Wine Centre.

At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking that this was a bar, or a wine shop, but it is infact a café or restaurant that takes their wine very seriously. However it was only 10am, and it would have most likely been frowned upon if we started our day with a champagne so we stuck with the traditional approach and ordered coffees.

Run by Italians, the Victorian Wine Centre clearly take pride in their coffee. Between us we ordered a variety of coffees including a flat white, a latte and a macchiato, and everyone was impressed.


The menu was heavily focused on eggs, with a few sweet options, but as usual I was in the mood for a savoury breakfast. In the end I chose a breakfast wrap. When it arrived, it looked huge! It was definitely not a wrap I could pick up, a knife and fork was essential.


Whilst the wrap was nothing exciting it was still nice. There was eggs (duh), cheese, salsa, and a dollop of sour cream. The serve of eggs was super generous but the cheese was not as apparent. The salsa was described as spicy, but it was fairly limited with the heat. Despite this, it was still an enjoyable breakfast, but nothing spectacular.

The other half chose to have house eggs. Served on a slice of sour dough was slices of tomato, spinach, feta, and two poached eggs. The plate was dressed with pesto and there was dukkah sprinkled on top. The dish was a flavour hit however it was deemed to be a little on the small side. However, we have big appetites, so perhaps it isn’t fair to use us as benchmarks!


Our morning at the Victorian Wine Centre was a good one. The company was great, the food was good and the coffee was excellent.

Victorian Wine Centre Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
June is so full of birthdays for me, which means that a lot of meals are consumed at restaurants outside the kitchen. This is great because I love eating out, but it also means the potential of leftovers is significantly reduced which is a problem because leftovers are my staple food for work lunches. I spent the bulk of this weekend cooking up big batches of food that I can freeze to last a little while.

I made these infamous fake sausage rolls that I have blogged previously. I made a double batch of the filling, and froze half of it, so I can pull it out when I need it. These sausage rolls are always a hit with vegetarians and meat eaters alike, and are pretty healthy too. I can’t go without crediting Where’s The Beef, which is where I originally found the recipe, and years on, it is still a staple dish in my kitchen.



Winter has well and truly started in Melbourne, which means that winter vegetables are in season. I picked up a couple of heads of broccoli at the market. I had plans to make Ottolenghi’s broccoli and gorgonzola pie, but I didn’t have some of the ingredients, so instead I decided to make a big batch of pasta. It’s a pretty easy recipe, and was a bit of a crowd pleaser.

Ingredients:
2 heads of broccoli, cut into small florets
500g of pasta, I used spirals, but I’m sure you could use anything
A generous amount of olive oil, say about 60ml
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 chilli (or more if you like the heat), sliced
About 60g of parmesan, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
1.    Put the broccoli in a big pot of salted boiling water, and cook for about 3 minutes. Once tender, remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon and set aside.
2.    In the same pot, cook the pasta according to the directions on the packet. Once the pasta is cooked, drain, reserving about ½ cup of the water.
3.    Heat half the olive oil in a large frying pan or skillet.
4.    Add the garlic and chilli, and fry off.
5.    After a few minutes add the broccoli and fry off for another few minutes.
6.    Add the pasta to the pan, and mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
7.    Add the remaining olive oil, the water you had set aside from cooking the pasta, and almost all the parmesan. Mix well. The parmesan should melt and coat the pasta.
8.    Serve into bowls and sprinkle with remaining parmesan.


My batch was enough for about 4 serves, but bear in mind we eat large serves. You probably could have easily made it five serves. You could also add a few extra flavours like capsicum or wilted spinach. It’s a great way to incorporate more veggies into meals, which is something I am quite conscious of doing.

I found this amazing Connoisseur Murray River Salted Caramel and Macadamia Nut ice cream. This is usually quite a pricey ice cream, definitely reserved for special occasions, but I managed to find it on a super special, and we’ve been devouring it after dinner almost nightly. It is bloody delicious and I might have to stock up the next time I see it on special.


This post is part of the In My Kitchen series hosted by Maureen from the Orgasmic Chef. Head over to her blog to see what is going on in other people's kitchens!
China Town is generally the go to place for Asian in the CBD, but unless you’re having dumplings, these places aren’t usually very vegetarian friendly. As a result, we decided to venture down to Swanston St so see what we could find. We were going to go and see The Sound Of Music, so we were on a strict time schedule, and only had about an hour for dinner.

We had no plans of where we were going, but instead hoped that we would stumble upon something that appealed to us. As we walked along, we came across Rice Paper, which was unrelated to the very popular Rice Paper Scissors where it is close to impossible to get a table on a whim!

With a sign that said they specialised in Vietnamese street food, and a menu that had vegetarian options, we decided this was the place for us!


Rice Paper had an ordering system that was very similar to Pappa Rich. There was a menu for us to peruse, and a note pad and pencil on every table where we could write down our order. I made a quick decision and settled on the vegetarian spring rolls with vermicelli. This is usually one of my go to dishes when we go to Springvale for lunch, so I was keen to try it out somewhere different.


The service was super quick, and our dishes arrived in a matter of minutes. The serving sizes were generous, and my vermicelli came with a side of flavoursome nuoc mam sauce which I drizzled over the top. I was impressed with the ratio of spring rolls to vermicelli which is always my first concern. But I was equally impressed with the flavours and freshness that the dish contained.


My dining partner ordered char grilled pork on vermicelli, which some additional chicken spring rolls. Whilst she enjoyed her dish, she did comment that the pork didn’t have the authentic charred taste that she was hoping for which was a little disappointing, especially when you can usually count on street food for smoky, charred flavours.


Nevertheless our dinner was an enjoyable one, and I will definitely put Rice Paper on the list of quick dinner venues in the CBD.

Rice Paper Vietnamese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been lucky enough to see a couple of great musicals. I saw Singin’ In The Rain, and also The Sound of Music. Both were great, and you should take the opportunity to see them if you can! This also meant that I had to find options for quick, pre-show dinners in the city and we managed to find some good offerings.

Down on Swanston St there are a couple of Asian restaurants that I like to put in the cheap and cheerful category. Your Thai Rice and Noodle Bar is located just near the Lonsdale St intersection and is spread across two levels. There is counter, a small amount of seating and the kitchen downstairs, and upstairs there is more seating. One the night we went, I was starving, and I was willing to settle for anything that was affordable and had vegetarian options so I was more than happy to give Your Thai a go.

The menu is set up like a typical Asian menu, with lots of pictures, and very affordable prices. Myself and the other half both decided to opt for rice options. I chose to have the vegetarian tom yum with Rice whilst the other half went for a beef massaman curry.

True to the cheap and cheerful tag, both meals were served on plastic melamine dishes that were sectioned into to compartments for the rice and the curry. Tom Yum is one of my favourite flavours, and true to expectation, my dish packed a good amount of punch. It was also quite generous with the amount of vegetables and tofu through the sauce so I was happy.


The other half was also reasonably pleased with his dish. Again, there was a generous amount of meat through the sauce and a good amount of flavour so he couldn’t complain.


Your Thai Rice and Noodle Bar is not a restaurant you would go to for a fine dining experience, or to impress a date, but it definitely does a decent meal at a good price point. The service is quick, the décor is basic, and the quick turnover of tables means that there are a lot of Melbournians who appreciate what they have to offer.

Your Thai Rice and Noodle Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
This sponsored post is brought to you by Nuffnang and Singin’ In The Rain. 

We often forget how lucky we are in Melbourne. We have some of the best restaurants, an awesome laneway culture, great shopping, and these days we are also privileged to have some of the world’s great musicals play here.

I was fortunate enough to go and see Singin’ In The Rain last Friday. After a sold out West End season, four Olivier Award nominations and a major UK tour, Singin’ In The Rain is set to delight Australian audiences starting with Melbourne, and following with seasons in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

Admittedly, I didn’t know much about the musical. I had never seen the movie, and my entire knowledge of the show revolved around the title track, after all who hasn’t seen a clip of Gene Kelly singing and splashing about in the rain?! I could have done some research and read up on the story before I went to see the stage show, but I decided to go in blind so that I could get a genuine experience without any preconceived expectations.

Her Majesty’s Theatre is one of Melbourne’s grand theatres, and as we walked in to the hall, I thought of all the hundreds and thousands of performers who had graced the stage there. Like I said, we are certainly lucky to be in Melbourne.

Singin’ In The Rain tells the story of two silent movie stars, Don Lockwood played by Adam Garcia, and Lina Lamont played by Erika Heynatz, whose careers coincide with the cusp of the sound being introduced to the movies. Don and Lina are famous as the ‘it’ couple of the silent screen, but alas, Lina’s grating voice and inability to sing means that their time as a duo is looking shaky. Enter Kathy Selden played by Gretel Scarlett who is enlisted to be Lina’s voice behind the camera, throw in a love triangle and some comic relief from Cosmo Brown, played by Jack Chambers, plenty of 1920’s glitz and glamour, and you have yourself a great musical!


Adam Garcia draws on his dancing skills that led him to being one of the founding members of the Tap Dogs, and in Singin’ In The Rain, he is given the opportunity to showcase his talents. The star of the show is however, Erika Heynatz. She perfected Lina’s grating voice to a tee, and when the other half turned to me and said, ‘man she’s annoying!’ I knew she had mastered her role!

The trademark scene where Don Lockwood is singing and dancing in the rain is done superbly. 12000 litres of water are used each show (don’t worry, the water is recycled and reused!) and the first three rows of the theatre have been dubbed the ‘splash zone’ with patrons being given ponchos to protect themselves from the splashes! It certainly makes for a fun experience, and a word of warning, the splashes travel further than just the third row!


Playing for a limited season in Melbourne, Singin’ In The Rain is definitely not to be missed!
Given the warmer weather was still hovering late into April, perhaps it is not surprising that my kitchen was still full of garden produce.

Firstly, the avocado tree at my parents’ place was fruiting like crazy this year. I think there was about a hundred fruit picked in total, with the tree still full. It’s just that the fruit was way too high to reach, even with a ladder. The thing about avocados is that they don’t ripen on the tree. They need to sit in a bowl for about a week until they are ready to eat. This means, that you will go from having no avocados, to having a bowl full of avocados that need to be eaten ASAP! Having said that, avocados are worth close to their weight in gold, so when I started handing out avocados to my work colleagues to ensure nothing went to waste, I ended up being very popular!


My parents’ chilli plant is also full of fresh, and super hot chillies. I have been packeting these up and giving them to family friends who I know love hot food! In the Bengali culture, we have a superstition that chillies should not be gifted to anyone. The story goes that if you give someone chillies, the heat and fire from them will translate into the relationship and the friendship will be in jeopardy. To circumvent the superstition, Bengali aunties ‘sell’ their chillies for a small fortune of 5 cents. The monetary transaction means that it is no longer a gift, but a sale, and the friendship is not risked! It’s funny, the logical part of me knows this is completely ridiculous, but yet, it is something I have seen since I was very young, and so the practice is almost inherent in me! I still have lots of chillies left for myself, so I’m thinking about turning them into a chilli paste or chilli sauce.


At the start of the year I spent a whole month strictly shopping local. Whilst I can’t say this practice has continued 100% (it’s just not always financially practical), I have made some changes to some of the products I buy. One of these products is milk. I did a lot of research, and came to the conclusion that milk from St. David’s dairy was the best choice for me. The cows from which the milk is sourced are located mainly in Eastern Victoria and the dairy is located in Fitzroy where the milk is processed and bottled, which means there are very few food miles. It is not a cheap milk, at $3.80 for 2L, but given that it lasts me about 10 days, I feel like it is worth spending the extra money on. On a side note, it is also bloody delicious. I can definitely taste the difference between St David’s and the el cheapo supermarket milk.


This post is part of the In My Kitchen series hosted by Maureen from the Orgasmic Chef. Head over to her blog to see what is going on in other people's kitchens!