In a past life, I would have definitely not been excited at being on the corner of Kings Way and Albert Rd because it meant that I was going to school (yes, I’m a Mac.Rob girl!). Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t really hate school, but there were much better places to be. This time, I’d made the trek into the city, on a Saturday morning and lined up for 40 minutes to get myself some brunch. How times change.

I had no idea how popular The Kettle Black was when I picked it as a brunch destination, but when we got there, we found that tables were in high demand and we had to put ourselves on a waiting list, with an estimated wait time for about half an hour! We decided to persist, after all, if so many people were willing to wait, then surely the food had to be worth it!

Located on Albert Rd, between St. Kilda Rd and Kings Way, The Kettle Black makes the most of the waiting line by setting up a little stall that serves coffees and cakes. The stall was doing a roaring trade, after all, the only way to make waiting in a queue on a cold Melbourne morning tolerable, is with a quality Melbourne coffee.

Our patience and hunger thresholds were well and truly tested before we heard our names finally called and we rushed up for fear that we may be booted off the list by someone else pretending to be us. Don’t laugh, we seriously contemplated doing this, so it’s not an unreasonable thought. We were seated inside at a big shared marble table which formed the centre piece of what would have been the lounge room in a previous era.

Inside, it is very apparent that the cafe is converted from an old house, with the layout of the hallway, lounge room, and possibly another bedroom still intact. The decorative plasterwork, and original fireplace is still there and serves as an artistic touch. The interior is light and cool, with white playing a large part.

We quickly ordered some coffees, and went about trying to choose our dishes from the menu. There were two vegetarian options that stood out for me. The first was mixed beans with basil pesto, red peppers, house made tomato sauce and served with toast. I’m still wondering what the difference is between something that is house made, and something that is home made. Perhaps it’s just hipster terminology. The second option was cooked and raw mushrooms on toast served with goat’s cheese. Normally I would choose the mushrooms, but on this occasion I opted for the beans.

Our meals arrived fairly quickly and our first comment was about the generous portion size. None of us wasted any time and proceeded to dig in.  My beans were delicious. Whatever house made tomato sauce is, and regardless of which house it was made in, it tasted amazing. It was rich and hearty, well seasoned, and the strips of grilled capsicum added a lovely flavour. The basil pesto also added an extra dimension, creating bursts of freshness against the tomato. The bowl of beans was so large though, that I would have appreciated another slice of toast, but maybe that’s just me, I like my carbs.

We had another vegetarian at the table (woo hoo, I wasn’t the only vegetarian!), and she ordered the mushrooms. Looking at her dish, I admit I did have a little bit of brunch envy. The mushrooms were varied and piled high, and I am a sucker for cheese of any sort. But my beans were very good, and I was happy with my choice.

If there was one criticism of The Kettle Black, it would be the noise. Because it was so busy and bursting with patrons, the noise levels were a little above my preferred range, to the point where it was hard to have a conversation across the table. But the food was excellent, worth the wait, and I really shouldn’t complain about other people being loud, because that would make me the pot calling the kettle black. Boom tish.

The Kettle Black on Urbanspoon
I had never heard of Köy Restaurant until it appeared in The Age list of top ten Turkish eats. At $35 per head for a 7 course Turkish banquet this seemed like a real steal, and so I set about trying to secure a booking. The banquet night is held on the last Wednesday of every month, where a special menu is arranged and features some new dishes that the chef is experimenting with. Being extremely keen and rather impatient I rang immediately hoping to get a table for the banquet on the following week, but alas it seemed that The Age had given Köy too much publicity and there wasn’t a booking available for the next three months! All I could do was put my name on a waiting list and hope!

Luckily for me, I received a call on Tuesday afternoon telling me that they had a few vacancies for the next day! I was given the choice between a table outside at 7pm, or a table inside at 8:45pm. Given that Melbourne weather is highly unpredictable, I didn’t want to be eating outside in the pouring rain, or a gale blowing, so I opted for the later sitting inside. Whilst 8:45pm for dinner is very late for me (I’m usually eating at 6pm if I get my way!) I figured that building up my hunger was potentially a good strategy to tackle a 7 course banquet.

When we got there at 8:45pm on the dot, we were told that there was no tables inside and that we would be seated outside. I was not a happy camper, especially since I had chosen this later timeslot to have an inside table, but unless we were prepared to wait 20 minutes, there was little choice but to sit outdoors. By this stage I was starving, and 20 minutes seemed like an eternity, so I refrained from throwing a tantrum and reluctantly took the outdoor option. Much to the credit of Köy, the outdoor area really was quite comfortable. It was lined with fake grass, covered, and had outdoor heaters. Melbourne was also cooperating, and it was a still night with no rain, and not too cold either. And so I was proven wrong, eating outdoors in winter didn’t seem to be all that bad.

A lovely waiter handed us a sheet with the menu for the night. He ran through each of the courses and then explained the alternative vegetarian options for me. I was a little too excited at the prospect of launching into a Turkish feast so I really didn’t pay attention to the details, and decided that it was best to just let the dishes arrive and enjoy them as they came!

Our first 'course' arrived almost instantly. It would be a bit generous to call this a proper course, it was more like a canape, but nevertheless it was delicious, and a good sign for things to come. The standard option was cured trout served with avocado puree in a canape spoon. My vegetarian option was sigara boregi. This was a Turkish spring roll filled with feta and herbs like parsley and mint. It was served with a rose flavoured jam and was delicious. I am a sucker for anything deep fried so I was very satisfied with my option.

Second course was a typical Middle Eastern staple, bread and tip. But make no mistake this was no ordinary dip. We were served Turkish bread with smoked hummus with pine nuts and dates. The hummus, whilst not tasting smoky, had an amazing depth of flavour, and the dates provided a lovely sweetness. Pine nuts are always a luxury and they added a lovely crunch to the dip. The other half remarked that this was the best hummus he had ever tasted, and I have to say that he was probably right. A generous serve of bread was provided and we used this to mop the bowl of dip completely clean. It was pretty clear that we liked this dish!

Third course was a lentil and spinach soup, flavoured with tomatoes and spices. As with most lentil soups, my Indian heritage always causes me to see them as variations of dhal. Dhal is, however, one of my favourite foods, and so I really enjoyed this dish. It was served piping hot and full of flavour, although I felt it could have benefited from a little more seasoning. I would have also appreciated a piece of Turkish bread to dunk in the soup too, but this was just a small criticism on an otherwise great dish.

The standard option for the fourth course was a saffron scallop served with cauliflower puree. This was another course that really could have been called a canape, and according to the other half, was a bit lack lustre.

My vegetarian option was a stuffed mushroom, filled with haloumi and herbs. I couldn’t identify all the herbs but I’m sure I could taste spring onion and parsley. Mushrooms are one of my favourite vegetables, and haloumi is one of my favourite cheeses, so I’m pretty sure that I was the winner in this course!

We continued our separate ways for course number 5. The standard option was a dish called Pastirmali Kadayif. Neither of us had any idea what this dish would entail  but it turned out to be a little pastry. The pastry looked just like kataifi pastry which I often see in the Greek sweet shops, so I’m guessing that kadayif is the Turkish equivalent. The filling was the Turkish equivalent of pastrami, and the whole serve was brushed with the same rose jam that I was served with my feta spring roll, and a little dollop of herbed yogurt. There was also a sprinkling of smoked paprika on the plate, but this didn’t really seem to fit in with the rest of the dish. Overall this course was deemed to be good, but not spectacular.

In place of the kadayif pastry, I received a dish of a Turkish tomato based stew. This dish was full of flavour, with softened onions, garlic, lots of vegetables, and even more tomato. It was served with herbed yogurt which added a creaminess to the dish. In what became a theme for the night, like the lentil soup, I felt the dish could have benefited with a bit more seasoning and a piece of bread to mop it up. I was however pretty full by this stage, and I’m sure my body was glad that no additional bread was involved.

My final vegetarian savoury course was another stew, which I believe is a regular menu item, titled Pirasa. This dish consisted of braised leeks and other vegetables, bulghur and a lemony broth, and it was also served with the herbed yogurt. This stew had a very unique flavour, and was a refreshing way to end the main meal before dessert. Once again however, I felt the dish was lacking a little seasoning.

The other half received what he decided was his favourite dish of the night. Unfortunately he dug into it so fast, that I didn’t have time to photograph it. It was a braised lamb and lima bean stew with sucuk, which is a Turkish type of sausage, almost like chorizo. His exact words when we were debating who got the better course was, "I don’t know how many vegetables are in your stew, but it can’t be better than what I’m eating!" 

By this time neither of us could move. I felt like I had gained about 10 kilos, and I would have to be rolled down the street to the car. But there was a dessert course to be eaten, and my separate dessert stomach kicked into gear. The menu stated that we were to receive a deconstructed rhubarb cheesecake, but I’m almost certain that what was placed in front of us was a deconstructed strawberry cheesecake. Regardless of what it was, it was delicious. The cream cheese had the right balance of sweetness, and the crumb had a lovely butterscotch flavour to it. The berry coulis had little chunks of what we believed were strawberries, and together it made for a beautiful dessert.

Over all this was an amazing meal and definitely one of the best cheap eats in Melbourne. I’m so glad I got that last minute call telling me that I’d been bumped up the waiting list, and I would definitely go again, just to see what experiments the chef was up to!

Köy Restaurant on Urbanspoon