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Life

My City Melbourne with Adam D'Sylva

Chef Adam D’Sylva, who runs the highly acclaimed Coda and Tonka restaurants reveals the places he likes to eat, drink and be merry in his hometown of Melbourne.

Melbourne is without doubt the food capital of Australia. It is buzzing 24/7 with phenomenal culinary offerings, great wine bars and wonderful places to meet friends. For me (right now) it is all about Asian, and there are some gems across the city. The best place to start is the renowned ‘Golden Mile of Food’ in and around Flinders Lane in the CBD. It is here you’ll find my two restaurants (my work life pride and joy), Coda and Tonka, as well as a bunch of fantastic eateries serving delicious food from early breakfast to late night feasts.

Cumulus Inc/Supernormal

My first port of call most mornings is Cumulus Inc for the breakfast bacon bap roll with relish – my personal heart starter. Chef Andrew McConnell is a genius and you’ll find lots of great dishes across his many restaurants, including Supernormal  or the wine bar-inspired Cumulus Up. The ricotta dumplings are off the charts (when available), while the nudi version of gnocchi are just sweet pillows of love and I just can’t go past the signature lamb shoulder. Madelines baked to order, rum baba with endless rum. What’s not to like?

The One and Only Flower Drum

To enjoy upmarket Chinese with great service, perfectly executed food and an awesome dining room, go to Flower Drum. There is generous space between tables that allows you talk freely and not be part of the conversation on the nearby table. The ‘must have’ dishes are the Peking duck, assembled at the table, as well as an appetiser of the dim sum selection followed by pearl meat. The mud crab and seafood dumpling are also amazing. I always feel like a king when dining there, either for a boys’ lunch or a romantic dinner. I recently celebrated my 40th birthday there with a magnificent lunch that somehow (too easily) progressed all the way through to an early dinner. Great times.

Trunk call

Trunk restaurant and bar is a funky beer garden, and a great place to catch up with friends, grab a bite to eat or even just take a break for a quick coffee.

An oasis amongst the laneways of Melbourne, Trunk’s main dining room serves fresh and fragrant flavours of the Middle East and Mediterranean flavours. The beer garden is great for catching up for drinks after work or dropping past for a bite and the cheeky beer during the day.

I like it so much, I got married there.

Pacific House - Quick and Easy

For a cheap and cheerful Chinese that you can BYO, go to Pacific House, either in Richmond or Toorak. Consistent and affordable food including bullet proof Peking duck, soy chicken, crispy pork belly and whole steamed fish of many varieties from the live tanks.

I Love Pho

For the cleanest, tastiest pho, I Love Pho is a twice-a-week ritual for breakfast for me. I’m there when it opens at 9am for a hot aromatic broth with Thai basil and heaps of fresh chilli to kick start the day.

Groceries at Minh Phat

While down Victoria Street Richmond, one of my favourite places to shop for Asian groceries is Minh Phat. It has everything you need.

New Bar

Owned and run by the famous Grossi family, Arlechin is a new hot wine bar serving late night supper and snacks. A world class cocktail list is curated by Joe Jones of Romeo Lane and Tonka fame. I like to dine upstairs at Grossi Florentino then pop round the back for an after-dinner drink at Arlechin.

Tried and True

For a romantic night, enjoy one of the cosiest dining rooms in the city at Il Bacaro in Little Collins Street. An institution for over 20 years, it has service that’s always impeccable and never fails to impress.

An old favourite

Out St Kilda way, Café Di Stasio is an institution and a place for all occasions. Top service with food to match.

Stay and play

For an overnight stay when heading to the city or coming from interstate, Crown Towers is the perfect port of call. Luxury at its finest. Fantastic spa treatments and a range of excellent restaurants.

Get away and relax

There are lots of parks and great spots by the Yarra to relax, but when I want to get away from it all, I head down the coast to the Mornington Peninsula, which I do on a weekly basis to have a hit a golf. After a quick round, I like to ease all the pain (from slicing all day) with a relaxing dip at Peninsula Hot Springs, natural outdoor thermal springs, before kicking back for the night at Polperro Winery. Their luxurious villas are stunning with open fire places – perfect for sipping winemaker Sam Coverdale’s world class Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Merchant and Maker in McCrae is the place for breakfast, the donuts are to die for. Their coffee is the best on the Peninsula and their short blacks are accompanied with a shot of sparkling mineral water. Nice touch.

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Life
My City Brisbane
Words by Ben O'Donoghue on 14 Aug 2017
A lot has changed in brisbane over the last decade with the food and wine scene taking off to make it one of Australia's most vibrant destinations The first time I came to Brisbane was in 1994 on a wild road trip from Sydney in a mate’s Bedford van to indulge in the Livid festival at Davies Park (now home to one of the best farmers markets in South East Queensland). My next foray to Brisvegas was in 2000 when I journeyed here with my good friend Jamie Oliver, promoting The Naked Chef 2 and the accompanying cookbook, both of which featured yours truly...an unremarkable experience I recall! So, on returning in 2008 from London, Brisbane seemed an unlikely place to move. But I’d been told good things by some close friends and a recent move north by my mother-in-law was enough to tip the scales in Brisbane’s favour. Brisbane was a city hungry for new things and in the subsequent nine years has matured into a uniquely independent city with some amazing food, beverage and lifestyle opportunities. On the south side
If you’re after some serious liquor and cocktail therapy, head to The Gresham , an old bank building at the bottom end of Queens Street. These guys know their spirits, reflected in the fact they’ve won Best Bar in Australia. Once the hunger sets in after a few stiff well mixed old fashioneds stumble next door to Red Hook, a well-executed New York-style burger joint. They knock out a classic cheeseburger and do some damn fine things with ground meat in general. Now, if you find yourself in South Brisbane's West End I would be remiss not to direct you to my new wine bar, Billykart Bar & Provisions adjacent to my newest restaurant, Billykart West End . The wine focus is on Australian and NZ producers, spirits from boutique Australian and imported distilleries, and Australian craft beers, both on tap and bottled. The food focus is tapas-style dishes with a global influence. It’s a great place to relax and for intimate gatherings and functions. But if you’re after something more substantial, pop next store to Billykart West End. Still on the south side, venture out to Annerley. There loads of new places popping up around here. This is where you’ll find the original Billykart kitchen. A renovated 1930s Queensland corner store turned café restaurant, it’s open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week and Friday evening for a monthly changing menu with a specific cuisine focus Still in Annerley, on Dudley Street, is the Dudley Street Café , serving some of the best coffee on the south side and yummy toasted sambos. Northern Necessity You might be starting to realise I live south side and in Brisbane there is a bit of north-south rivalry. But when it comes to bread and pastries, you’ve got to head to the Brisbane MarketPlace at Rocklea and visit Lutz and Rebecca from Sprout Artisan bakery. They produce some of the best bread in Australia and the quality of Lutz’s croissants is legendary – we’re talking layers and layers of buttery goodness! Eat, move, repeat
Now after eating and drinking all this food and booze, you’ll need some park life and Mt Cootha offers great hiking within 5km of the city! There are great views across the Brisbane River Valley from the lookout and you can grab a bite to eat at the cafés. The walks range from easy to mildly difficult and it’s great to go after some rain when the creeks are flowing. Also check out the botanical gardens at the bottom of Mt Cootha. Recent development in south Brisbane has seen the precinct come to life. The Aria group have made it their mission to revitalise Fish Lane. Running parallel to Melbourne Street in the heart of South Brisbane, the laneway features some great bars and restaurants. They run an awesome street festival in May, where all the local operators put on food with live entertainment. At the bottom end of Fish Lane on the corner of Grey Street, you’ll find Julius restaurant and pizzeria . It's always buzzing, the pizzas are awesome and the menu is simple and tasty. It’s a great family favourite of ours and my son Herb can smash the nutella calzone by himself! They do a good negroni as well. Just opened on Melbourne Street is the Sydney icon Messina Gelati . You know what you are getting with Messina – dedication to quality and the most amazing flavours of gelati. They even own their own cow, controlling the product from the bottom up! For art's sake
If it's arts you want, stay south side where the Goma Gallery is one of the most visited galleries in Australia. There's always something on and during the holidays the kids are well catered for. For music, one of my fave destinations in Brissy has to be The Triffid – one of, if not the, best live music venue in Australia! Whether it's a gig you're after, or just a good beer and burger in the beer garden, The Triffid is a must when you're hanging in Brisbane for a few days. If you're self catering and you need some supplies of the continental variety, head to Panisi on Balaclava Street for everything from antipasti to tacos and Italian/Spanish/South American products. For more up market eating, Gerard's Bistro in Fortitude Valley is my pick, or Esquires for something long and indulgent! For good vino, head to 1889 Enoteca in Woolloongabba is the go. And for a long standing icon, Phillip Johnson at e'cco. There's so much more to the real Brisvegas and so much on its door step. So, as they say, what are you waiting for? Get amongst it!
Wine
Behind The Vine At Helen's Hill
To celebrate the  Helen's Hill Ingram Road Pinot Noir 2015  being our April Wine of the Month, we caught up with Allan Nalder from  Helen's Hill . What makes the Ingram Road 2015 Pinot Noir so appealing? To answer that I need to take a step back. All of our wines are 100% single vineyard and are all made at my winery. Only fruit that we grow on our vineyard goes into the wines that we make. It's not that we don't trust anyone, it's just that we don't trust anyone. We think this is super important. Come visit and I can take you to the very vines that make the wine you are going to enjoy. Call us "control freaks". I'll take it as a compliment. The  Ingram Rd 2015 Pinot Noir  benefits greatly from this approach. Pristine  Yarra Valley  single vineyard fruit, French oak maturation, careful "hands-off" winemaking and a great vintage all combine to produce a wine that expresses hallmark  Pinot Noir  characteristics. And its price point is extremely compelling. You have over 50 acres of Pinot Noir, what makes you so enthusiastic about this often-difficult grape? You're right, Pinot Noir is a difficult grape to grow and can really only grow well in specific, little tucked away corners of the world. The Yarra Valley, and the little patch of dirt I call home, is one of those places. It also helps to be a bit of a Pinot Noir fanatic. To me, it is one of the most remarkable red wines in the world. I once saw a quote about Pinot Noir growers from a wine writer: "its makers are lunatic-fringe, questers after the holy grail…" - Marc de Villiers wine writer. We fit that mould. Who is the Helen of the hill? We bought the property from Mr. Fraser in the mid 90s. He had owned the pasture land from the early 1950s. The reason he bought the land was because he fell in love with a woman called Helen, who wouldn't marry him unless he owned a farm. True love prevailed and he bought the farm. Sadly, Helen passed away some 6-7 years after their marriage. Mr Fraser never re-married and throughout the property inspection, he recalled many stories of Helen and her time there. From his stories, it was obvious that she had a passion for the land. We share that passion and thought it appropriate to name the vineyard after her. What makes Scott McCarthy a standout winemaker? To be blunt, the fruit. We live by the very old, well used, but absolutely true saying: "great wine is made in the vineyard". The most important decision we make in the winery is deciding when to pick the fruit. The rest of the process is relatively simple. Pristine quality fruit allows us to rely on natural fermentation, minimal filtering and minimal winemaking intervention. Our ethos is not to describe "perfection" as when there is nothing left to add, but rather, when there is nothing left to take away. We feel this is the key to winemaking. Ensure that we do as little as possible so we can deliver mother nature in the bottle. You also  make a range of beers  - why did you decide to go into brewing and what do you think makes a top beer? It gets pretty hot and sweaty picking grapes. Added to that, I ain't getting any younger, so after a big day in the fields a nice, cold craft beer is a perfect tonic. As winemakers and vignerons go, we drink a lot of beer, so it wasn't that hard to come up with the idea of brewing our own. Getting the recipe right, the choice of hops and quality malt is critical and keeping the fermentation process under control. The rest depends on what you like. We serve our brews at Cellar Door and luckily our customers reckon they're pretty tasty. What are the top 3 attractions you'd recommend to a first-time Yarra Valley visitor? The great thing about the Yarra Valley is the diversity. You can visit the  YV Dairy  and sample a variety of cheese, the Chocolate Factory, world class art museum, on-farm produce stores for things such as apples, strawberries, etc, 6 top golf courses, mountain biking, bush trails, historic buildings, micro breweries, gin distillery and of course the odd cellar door and vineyard restaurant. The valley really has a huge range of things to do. Obviously, a great place to start is Helen's Hill. Full al-carte restaurant on top of the hill with sensational views or our Cellar Door and casual dining nestled down in the winery amongst the vines.
Life
Go West
Words by Jeni Port on 4 Jul 2017
Henty, the Grampians, Pyrenees and Ballarat – there are plenty of tasting treasures to be unearthed in the wine regions of Western Victoria. We need Western Victoria and its wine. We need its different taste and the perspective it brings: a balanced, middle-weighted, pepper-infused, mint-garnished, spicy, smooth, sometimes savoury, sometimes rustic kind of alternative taste. Vineyards are vast and isolated here, attached by dirt roads to country towns and sometimes just the smallest of hamlets. Wines are made by men and women of the land, people like John Thomson at Crawford River in the Henty region, who talks of his “peasant genes,” and who has four generations behind him who have farmed sheep and cattle on the land. He and his wife Catherine branched into wine in 1975. “I didn’t set out to grow grapes,” he says. “I set out to make wine.” There was, he adds, more money in the latter. It’s a common enough story around these parts. Western Victoria is a collective term for four independent wine regions:  Henty , the  Grampians ,  Pyrenees  and Ballarat. This is home to Shiraz (plenty of it) and Cabernet Sauvignon (less of it) along with Chardonnay and a little Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir with a gaggle of Italian varieties bringing up the rear. The Back Story
It’s the flagpoles out front issuing a kind of multi-national wave of welcome that stump first time visitors to  Taltarn i . There’s the Aussie flag to the forefront shouldered on either side by the American stars and stripes and the French tricolour. What does it all mean?   Like a few wineries in Western Victoria, it’s all about history and foreign influences.  Taltarni’s  story involves a wealthy Californian owner who set up the operation in 1972, and his long-time French winemaker who laid the foundations for its enduring, elegant wine style. The French were among the first to see the potential that lay in the Pyrenees, with Cognac-based Rémy Martin arriving at Avoca in 1960, ostensibly to make brandy, but wine quickly followed. They called their enterprise Chateau Rémy. We know it today as  Blue Pyrenees Estate . But the biggest influence on the region was gold. Discovered in the 1850s, it made towns like Ballarat and Great Western magnets for prospectors from around the world. After the gold, people like Joseph and Henry Best stayed and moved into wine. Joseph built a substantial winery and used unemployed gold diggers to carve out underground cellars. It was the beginning of what came to be Seppelt, one of the biggest Sparkling wine producers in the country. Henry Best planted vines fronting Concongella Creek at Great Western. But it was the purchase of the site by Frederick Thomson in 1920 that really saw the Best’s Wines story take off. The Grampians
Western Victoria is a land of wide plains running smack up against some pretty spectacular hills and ranges, none more impressive than the rugged National Park that gives the  Grampians   its name. Mountain walkers, climbers and cyclists really love this part of the world. With a range of B&Bs, hotels and camping sites to choose from, most make Halls Gap their HQ. Wineries like Mount Langi Ghiran and The Gap are just down the road. Mount Langi Ghiran is best known as the producer of archetypal  cool climate, peppery Shiraz , which first drew the industry’s attention to a budding new style in the 1980s. How pepper gets into the wines of Western Victoria to such a degree that it might be called a phenomenon has only slowly been revealed by scientists at Melbourne University working with the winemakers at Mount Langi Ghiran (it’s got to do with a cool climate and wet seasons). On paper, the region (19 vineyards, eight cellar doors) looks small, but its history and influence belie its size. The Great Western sub-region was the commercial cradle of Sparkling wine production in Australia at Seppelt and is synonymous with a great Aussie icon, Sparkling Shiraz. Grampians Estate and Seppelt lead the pack, but for added gravitas, tour the Seppelt underground drives to feel the history and finish with a glass of spiced-up red bubbles. One of the state’s great restaurants, the  Royal Mail Hotel , can be found in a highway town called Dunkeld. Five and eight course degustation menus star local produce, alternatively there is an informal wine bar. Or there are the local Mount Gambier wines to try, including up-and-coming Pinots, at Tosca Browns in Hamilton. Henty is a developing wine region as far west as you can go before you bang into South Australia. Volcanic, gravelly soils over limestone are the key to some of the best Rieslings in Australia made here at Crawford River Wines. And what a treat to find a one hat quality restaurant such as The Pickled Pig in Warrnambool. The Pyrenees
Major Thomas Mitchell, the 19th Century explorer, was a bit of a romantic, clearly. He named this part of the Great Dividing Range,  the Pyrenees , as the dense, blue-hued hills reminded him of the mountains dividing France and Spain. Given the hills outside the towns of Avoca and Moonambel rise to 800 metres compared to some 3400 metres in Europe, that’s a bit of a stretch, but point taken. This is a pretty part of the world. It is here that the wine lover will confront the Pyrenean wine character known in academic circles as 1,8-cineole. The rest of us call it eucalyptus, aka, mint or menthol (the cineole is sourced from leaves and stems that find their way into fermentation), and it’s often found on either a red wine’s bouquet or flavour, or both. Its usual vehicle of choice is the Shiraz grape, which dominates plantings, but it can be found in any number of red wines. That eucalyptus in wine should be such a powerful influence is not so surprising. Gum trees are everywhere around these parts. For those who applaud its inclusion in wine, it’s part of the land, a question of terroir. The Pyrenean red winemaking style is understated, medium-bodied and earthy. Best in Bubbles
And strange as it may seem when so many producers today seek the super cool regions like Tasmania for sourcing grapes for sparkling wines, the Pyrenees does an excellent job with bubbles. Blue Pyrenees Estate 2010 Midnight Cuvee  beat some of the country’s top Sparklings to be named World Champion Australian sparkling at the inaugural Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships in England in 2014. A 100 per cent Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs style, Midnight Cuvee’s success comes thanks to 10 years of refinement in the vineyard and winery by winemaker, Andrew Koerner. And, yes, the fruit is harvested at midnight at optimal coolness. Taltarni  is another leader in Sparkling wine, sourcing grapes grown on the estate in addition to Tasmania for its successful Clover Hill brand. The region’s great white, whether for still or Sparkling, is Chardonnay. It has undergone changes over the last decade or more, moving away from a rich heavyweight to a more fruit-powered, streamlined number. At Dalwhinnie, the importation of a Chardonnay clone from Champagne has served to highlight citrus and grapefruit qualities with sustained acidity and textural weight. It is a wine of great presence in the glass. While Mount Avoca’s early reputation was built on Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz, I suspect that it is the Italians coming through – Pinot Grigio, Nebbiolo,  Sangiovese , Lagrein – that now attract the drinker’s attention. The adjoining region of Ballarat is smaller again, but its focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay indicates that it is heading in a different direction to its neighbour. Eastern Peake Winery at Coghills Creek is a Pinot Noir maker par excellence, and is one of the few open for tastings seven days. Or, for a relaxed look at the wines of the west over a meal, head to Mitchell Harris Wine Bar in North Ballarat, part-owned by former Domaine Chandon Sparkling winemaker, John Harris. Events Out West Avoca Riverside Market   - Dundas & Cambridge Streets, Avoca, on the fourth Sunday of each month. Blue Pyrenees Estate Avoca Cup   - Avoca Racecourse, Racecourse Road, Avoca, each October. Grampians Grape Escape Food and Wine Festival   - Showcases regional wine and fare during a month-long festival in April, culminating in the Grampians Escape Weekend tastings, auction, grape stomping and live music in Halls Gap. Staying out West Pyrenees Eagles Nest at Dalwhinnie Vineyard, Moonambel  Redbank Chestnut Cottage Mount Avoca Vineyard Eco-Luxe Lodges, Avoca Warrenmang Vineyard & Resort, Moonambel Grampians/Henty Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld Boroka Downs, Halls Gap Aztec Escape, Halls Gap Links Retreat, Ararat   
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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