Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Review - Hare and Grace

Hare and Grace
525 Collins Street 

Cuisine: Modern Australian
Taste Rating: 7.5/10   Value Rating: 7.5/10

Tues, 30 Apr 2013

Hare & Grace on Urbanspoon

Hare and Grace nestles the side of  The Rialto, the iconic building at the corner of King and Collins Streets. You walk up a short flight of stairs from Collins Street, turn right into the outdoor eating area, then left down several steps leading to the entrance. 

Outdoor Dining Area

Entrance  to inside dining areas
The first dining area as you step inside is called the Mini Bar. Here, there are several tables and a bar. Further inside is the Restaurant. The ambiance is subdued lighting with an interesting ceiling feature of hanging branches. Windows look out onto King St.  

Mini Bar dining area
Looking out onto King Street

Eight of us had lunch here on "Steak and Frites Tuesday". It didn't take much arm twisting for everyone at the table to decide they wanted to order the steak and fries.

Cutlery and tea towel Napkin

Good first impression. The french fries were piled high in terracotta pots lined with grease-proof paper. The 180g steak is a nice size for a meal where you don't want to overdo the meat food group. Dark green parsley completes the ensemble. 

Steak and Frites (French Fries)
French Fries

For the steak, we were told there are only 2 choices of done-ness - medium or well done. 
I chose 'medium'.  As you can see from the photo below of my meal, the meat is quite pink and nudging medium rare. I liked the flavour of the steak.  A member of the party found his steak had a large portion of girstle. Mine did have slight gristle on one side but overall it was tender and juicy. I would order this dish again.

The fries were nicely done - crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. 
The waitress brought around the table a choice of Dijon mustard, English mustard and Seeded mustard. For those who like tomato sauce, there was Heinz tomato ketchup on the table.

Medium Steak, Dijon Mustard, French Fries, Parsley garnishes

The service was friendly, prompt and attentive. Glasses of water were provided and then refilled without having to be requested. The meals arrived quickly, and at the same time, so we could all start eating together.  

Overall, Hare and Grace.is a good place to have lunch. The food is good, based on today's meal. Prices are not low, but are consistent with the other venues close by.  The ambiance is cosy. The staff are friendly and efficient.


Sunday, 28 April 2013

Review - Olinda Tea House

This place is closed. Note on their website says "From the 31st JAN 2014 onwards, the Tea House will be closed until further notice. For wedding and functions venue hire, .. "

Olinda Tea House
86a Olinda-Monbulk Road

Cuisine: Modern Australian, High Tea, Tea
Taste Rating: 7.5/10   Value Rating: 7.5/10

Sat, 27 Apr 2013

Olinda Tea House on Urbanspoon

We drove along the single-lane road winding up into the Dandenong Mountains. It was a beautiful autumn day. At this time of year, it is normally cool in the mountains but I didn't need a jacket today, even when outdoors. The sun shone through the lovely autumn foliage. Yet there was plenty of shady greenery from the grand trees and huge ferns along the road. It was the best of both worlds, creating a sense of cool and calm as we cruised along. Our destination was Olinda Tea House.

First impression was good. Lovely old trees with autumn leaves and dappled sunlight overlooked the car park in front. 

First Impression
Dappled Sunlight through the trees
Next was the feature wall with a gateway. I had not read anything of the history of this place before this visit. There is a subtle oriental feel to the place upon entering the gateway.  It was only later when I spoke to the lady at the counter that I learnt this tea house was a family-run place, with her parents and her working there. Later, I read a short history on the Olinda Tea House website of how this place came to be.

Wall with Gateway

Front Entrance

We arrived about 2.30pm on a Saturday. I had made a booking as the person who answered the phone said they were very busy. Sure enough, the place was bustling, even at this late hour. We were running late and our table had been re-allocated to someone else - which is perfectly understandable as they would have needed all the tables that day. We waited about 20 mins before a table was allocated to us. I believe the kitchen closes at 4 pm for main meals, but scones and tea are still available after that. There were people arriving as we left about 4 pm.


Front Counter

The inside dining room has plenty of natural light. Tables near the windows would have a view of the beautiful tree views surrounding the restaurant. There is a dining area on a balcony outside but we were told by a staff member that there were a few wasps about so we opted for the inside dining area.

We ordered the duck confit, pan-fried salmon and rump lamb. There were a good number of staff working and they all seemed very busy taking orders and delivering meals to tables. Our meals arrived about 30 mins after ordering. More than enough time for me to take photos of the surroundings. I have to say the meals were worth the wait. All three dishes were delicious. The attention to detail is good and little touches make the side salads and accompaniments interesting.

I had the confit duck with braised puy lentils and pancetta, with a salad of pear, rocket and blue cheese with hazelnuts. I enjoyed this meal. Even though confit duck is a rich dish, this meal feels healthy with the lentils and salad. The duck was well cooked with flesh that falls off the bone, with crispy outer flesh and skin. The salad was nice with a variety of flavours and textures. Leafy and crunchy. The puy lentils were interesting with the colour of pebbles and a firm texture, almost like chickpeas in texture and taste. The pear strips were crispy and sweet. Surprisingly, the hazelnuts were crunchy even though they were covered with the dressing. The only thing I didn't like was the pancetta - but that is only because I don't like fatty meat. Oh, and I am not a fan of raw onion rings which were in the salad but again that's a matter of personal taste, and these were finely sliced. Blue veined cheese is not my first choice in cheeses so it turned out well that I couldn't detect this in the salad.

Confit Duck
Duck Confit - another view
The pan-fried fillet of salmon was served with buttered baby leeks, saffron potatoes and salsa verde. Though not mentioned on the menu, the salad also includes slices of ruby  grapefruit which gives a nice tangy touch. There was a generous large juicy lemon half, not the tiny lemon slices that some places give you. They even shaved off the bottom of the lemon half - I assume this is so that it would sit properly on the plate without rolling off. As I mentioned, attention to detail. The salmon was well-cooked and tasty. The salsa verde is not bad - a touch salty but works well with the dish. The saffron potatoes were a big hit.

Pan-fried fillet of Salmon

The rump of lamb was served with a salad of broad beans, peas, mint and fetta cheese, and rosemary roasted kipfler potatoes. The lamb was cooked very well - tender and juicy - and was well appreciated. The thinly sliced potatoes were not bad but would be nicer if sliced thicker so they are softer on the inside while crunchy on the outside. 

Rump of Lamb

Overall, the prices are what you would expect to pay for a good meal in beautiful surroundings, and are not more expensive than what I pay in several city or suburban restaurants minus the view. The dishes were delicious and well presented.  Factor in extra time on busy days for your meals to be served. I would be happy to return, and also to bring guests for a day out  in the Dandenong Mountains culminating in a nice meal at Olinda Tea House.

Menu - Salad, Mains

Inside and Outside Olinda Tea House

Rock sugar, with mini tongs
Nice touch - your bill arrives in a tea cup and saucer like these
Pond near the Front Entrance
Tea Varieties
Tranquil Balcony

Peaceful Autumn Scene at the back of Olinda Tea House
Colourful Toadstools - POISONOUS, DO NOT EAT!