Pastuso (CBD)

September 14, 2018

“A prophet once said ‘Don’t tell me what a man says, don’t tell me what a man knows. Tell me where he’s traveled?’ I wonder about that, do we get smarter, more enlightenment as we travel? Does travel bring wisdom? I think there is probably no better place to find out than Peru.”— Anthony Bourdain

Perhaps I have been spoiled by Melbourne’s amazing offerings but I was in the mood for “something different” and that “something” was becoming harder and harder to find. Years of hanging out in ACDC lane between bands at Cherry Bar had me wondering about the place further down the laneway, Pastuso, which always seemed to have an ebb of flow of people coming and going.  I had never eaten Peruvian – so I was very curious.

A quick glance at their menu and I was instantly intrigued. Pastuso devotes a whole section  to ceviche –  I was won over.

Inside, the interior of Pastuso is chic, classic with bursts of colour. The waiter was friendly and knew how to help us navigate the menu with expert finesse.

The kingfish ceviche with aji mirasol and miso dressing, crispy nori seaweed and flying fish roe was first to arrive. A pleasant palate wetter for what was to come. The kingfish was light, juicy and the light rice crackers added a textual delight to the cured kingfish.

We ended up ordering 2 dishes from the ceviche menu – it was too hard to stop at the kingfish. The red prawn ceviche was creamy, zesty and light. The strips of pickled seaweed added a salty vinegar to the dish which was a great balance.

I’d never tried Alpaca before – in fact, I hadn’t really considered alpaca could be used in a dish. So of course we ordered the alpaca croquette just to feed my desire to try something new. The croquette was a crisp, deep-fried square, containing pulled, smoked alpaca meat. Reminiscent of pulled, spoked pork with a whiff of gaminess. Scooped up with the spicy XYZ sauce rounded out the dish.

The corn bread with whipped feta was the unexpected star dish. The zesty topping, creamier than creamy feta and spongy corn bread was amazing and would be the perfect accompaniment to any dish.

Those who know me well know that I am never one to turn down fried chicken. Ever. The fried chicken starter featured four lightly battered but super crisp boneless pieces of chicken on top of a lima bean and aji amarillo puree, topped with a mild-spicy salsa.  The lima bean puree was smooth and silky. This was a solid dish but unfortunately didn’t have the wow factor compared to the other dishes we had ordered so far.

The grilled pork was the last to arrive, from the Fuegos menu. Sliced into succulent slices, this was melty, grilled pork executed to the finest degree. I think that all diners should at least try an item from this menu and I couldn’t help but ogle the smoked chicken that was plonked on the table next to us.

Our dinner at Pastuso was such a fabulous experience. The service was great, knowledgeable but not at all pretentious.  The menu was unique and there wasn’t a menu item I didn’t want to try which is always a sign that I need to return to sample the other offerings. If you’re in the mood for something that is intimate, interesting and good for a dinner spent over a few hours, then I would highly recommend adding Pastuso to the wish list.


El Mirage (Brunswick East)

June 25, 2018

El Mirage is one of those places that when walking past you blink and you miss it. Set back from busy Lygon st, inside El Mirage is adorned with warm wood and small details that impress a homely feel. Out the front are scatterings of tables which is great when dining with a canine companion or if you’re like me, watching the world go past.

On a chilly Sunday afternoon, we wandered into El Mirage in search for delicious, yolky eggs. But first, coffee and chai;

I ordered the Jalapeno Corn Fritters with salmon, which arrived as three, plump, crispy fritters with 2 goopey eggs waiting to be pried open. This dish checked all of my boxes; jubes of haloumi, charred corn, corriander puree, smokey salmon and eggs poached to perfection. It was a well-rounded, substantial dish but didn’t leave me feeling heavy. Perhaps my only gripe was the lack of jalapeno spice given the name of the dish.

Next up, the drool-worthy Mac & Cheese Benny. This was one of the more inspired brunch dishes I’ve had the pleasure of eating in Melbourne.  A mac and cheese croquette (yes!), covered in pulled, juicy beef atop of a truffle cauliflower puree made for a delightful flavour combination. At first, the pungent flavour of truffle dominated the dish, but once the gooey egg was mingled with the other components and the decadent hollandaise  sauce served on the side, the dish really shined.  The pulled beef fell-apart in each mouthful, in juicy surrender.

I really enjoyed brunching at El Mirage. The service was friendly and the menu was a refreshing break from the onslaught of smoothie bowls that seem to be dominating the scene. I will be returning for the Mac & Cheese croquette…this time in stretchy pants.

El Mirage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Le Jolie (Pascoe Vale)

May 27, 2017

‘Black as night, sweet as sin.’ – Neil Gaiman

Le Jolie is a charming café located in Pascoe Vale, right next to Pascoe Vale train station. Le Jolie’s menu gives a positive nod to French delights, featuring sweet and savoury crepes, and for those who revel in cheesy, calorific delights, there’s the Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame.


I ordered the avocado tartine, which featured smashed avocado, marinated feta, fresh tomato salsa, olive oil, salad greens, multigrain toast. I added a poached egg on the side because what is the point of breakfast if it doesn’t feature a gooey egg? The flavours were fresh and light and perfectly balanced.


My ma went with the “Le Jolie Bacon and Eggs” which was served in a sweet, bouncy brioche bun. It was brimming with delicious cheese and scrambled eggs and a good go-to when you want a big breakfast served up in a bun.

The coffee at Le Jolie is deeply robust and creamy . We each knocked back down 3 cups each which is an unprecedented amount of caffeine so early on a Saturday morning.

Le Jolie will be soon offering art classes run by the owner, Guy Trinquet, whose wonderful art adorns the walls of the café. While not a local to the area, I will be sure to return whenever I find myself in Pascoe Vale again.

Le Jolie Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Bluebonnet (Fitzroy North)

April 12, 2017

“If God did not intend for us to eat animals, then why did he make them out of meat?” – John Cleese

Bluebonnet has moved around Melbourne, slinging their delicious trays of meat from venue to venue before discovering home in a revamped pub in the too-cool suburb of Fitzroy North.

We decided to share a selection of meats and a couple of sides.  Pro-tip; the beef brisket is an absolute must order when visiting Bluebonnet, or any smoke house for that matter.


The tender, smoky brisket had a pleasing hint of pink ring dotted along the spice- rubbed edges. The lamb ribs had a crispy exterior which, when gnawed upon,  exposed a flavourful, lardy and meaty interior.


The beef cheek was the highlight of the meal; barely resisting the pull of my fork to reveal a juicy, gelatinous mass of smoked beef. If you are only able to order one meat at Bluebonnet, for whatever heartless reason, the beef cheek should be your go-to. It’s what dreams are made of.

The potato salad at Bluebonnet is on the smaller side, however, it is superbly creamy. The herbs interspersed added a fresh offset to the smoked meats.

The brisket chilli cheese grits with pickled jalapeno , sour cream and cheese is a hearty mush of well-ground corn kernels and cheese. This is the epitome of comfort food. The pulled brisket was very generous and we struggled to conquer the entire side.

We managed to get through about 4/5 of the tray before the meat sweats and side cramps could no longer be ignored. The fabled meat sweats is truly a scientific phenomenon and is also known as thermogenesis.

The thermogenic effect of protein is higher than carbs, and so the temperature of the body will rise after consuming copious amounts of meat giving rise to the sensation of “meat sweats”.  We decided to admit defeat and our server generously gave us a take home box to ensure we could enjoy a midnight snack of brisket and grits.

Bluebonnets service is quick, friendly and knowledgeable. You can tell that everyone involved has a shared affection for all things smoked meat. This is my third pilgrimage to Bluebonnet to enjoy their tasty offerings and I doubt it will be my last.