Mornington Peninsula.

You just have to love living in a spectacular country like ours. Incredible scenery, the cutest wildlife (and some that want to eat you), friendly folk and of course an array of mouth watering food, wines, ciders, spirits, you name it.

At this time of year, we are all heading back to the daily grind, and of course, planning our next holiday because, let’s face it, we all love to get away. Enter, Mornington Peninsula. The getaway that’s on your doorstep with so many opportunities to explore.

Late last year I was invited along to a spectacular garden party at the ever beautiful Botanic Gardens to enjoy what the Peninsula has to offer. Yep, tough gig, I know. On this particular day, in late November, I packed a leather jacket, sunglasses, an umbrella and ended up getting burnt. Oh, Melbs. We love you, but try keep it together.

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On arrival, the lovely group that had gathered were greeted with a ‘Spiced Seaside’  cocktail. This tasty little treat was a concoction of Bass & Flinders gin, lime, star anise, fresh mint and cucumber. And yes ok, I took the shot from that angle as I was so in love with it I drank half of it before taking a photo. #badfoodie

The day was put on to show guests the amazing variety that the Mornington Peninsula offers. And it delivered. I think I went home that day and immediately started planning our next weekend trip to the beautiful area.

I like to think of myself as a professional grazer and therefore I was very much in my element at the garden party. Produce was brought in by Red Hill Bakery, Main Ridge dairy, Peninsula organics, Woolumbi Farm, Harts Farm, and my favourite, Red Hill Cheese. Anyone who reads this or follows the ‘gram would know I have a love for cheese that goes beyond regular food enjoyment. We’re involved. And I’m totally ok with that.

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Side bar – take a look at the size of those strawberries! 

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The antipasto table was probably where I spent most of time that afternoon. Who can say no to salumi from Woolumbi Farm? Especially when there are layers and layers of it in front of your eyes. Ahhh.

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Under all my cheesey goodness love, I am a carnivore at heart and the day was filled with brilliantly bbq’d delights. There were even mini sausage sandwiches (yes ok, I’m from NSW, I refuse to call it sausage in bread). SO much iron splendour.

I had brilliant company on the day and loved that the ever gorgeous Lisa (Lisa Eats World) understood my portion control issues and my need to continually return to the cheese boards.

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For those who prefer the splendour of the sea (under the sea, under the seaaa), there were terrific fish tacos as well as a whole baked snapper. That big boy would have been a treat to reel in.

One of my favourites of the day was the scrumptious white wine marinated mussels. The Mornington Peninsula is a treasure trove for seafood lovers, so I implore you to visit before I eat it all.

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That’s not a chocolate mousse….THIS is a chocolate mousse.

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We all have that other stomach reserved for dessert time. Hell, sometimes we all could have three courses of dessert. It’s just the way we’re programmed. So when two strapping young lads (geez I’m getting old) walk out with a crate-sized platter of chocolate mousse, two words, chick magnet. Our eyes were glued on the size of the mousse covered in brilliant strawberries from Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm. I really just wanted to roll around in it. Imagine….

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Not to be outdone, we were also treated to cloudy apple juice jelly with poached Red Hill cherries and honeycomb brittle. I tell ya, this was a really hard going afternoon. I was just glad I chose the super flowy eating-dress.

If you are yet to venture to the Peninsula or have a limited exposure to what it offers, please go there. Eat ALL the food. And enjoy this bloody spectacular country of ours.

 

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Grand Grandeur.

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I believe it is a well documented fact that I have a love for the Grand Hotel in Richmond that goes beyond regular food love. It seems that whenever the work girls ask me where I’m off to on the weekend, the Grand will always be involved in some capacity. The atmosphere, service, the wine and the food. Oh the food. Everything has always been top notch and recent visits have been no exception.

As I have visited multiple times of late I thought I’d collate them into one food coma inducing post and I’m sure by the end of it you will be wanting to book in your next Italian food fest.

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Recently I have visited for various occasions including the 130th birthday celebration, various meals (just because) and most recently the brilliant ‘Grand Air’ event held for Good Food Month, which was also supported by the ever brilliant Vino Bambino. On a side note, if you can get to this event in 2016, please do so! The Grand team throw everything at this event and it is so ridiculously entertaining.

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Yes I was invited to a couple of those functions, but I would be going there 4768735 times a year regardless. The hotel out the back is brilliant on a sunny afternoon and the pub fare is far from your average parma.

Barnie Bouchard is the king of this castle and is such an asset. The entire team know service, from the laid back nature of the back beer garden, to the ‘upmarket’ fine dining experience in the Dining Room. Hey, I’m heading there this Friday. That’s how convincing this post has been. I convinced myself to return asap.

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Look at that risotto. Ah I’m drooling. Every dish you get has so much love. It’s like a cuddle for your tummy. The food is so impressive yet doesn’t seem overworked. The team have set menus that flow so well with a wine list that compliments every dish imaginable.

 

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Side note, this carpaccio was one of the best dishes I have had at the grand. They’ve picked the best produce, and let it do the talking. Nothing better than that. Unless it’s a bombolone. Then I’ll make an exception.

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I wanted to write about the Grand as my first post of 2016 as they were by far my favourite destination in 2015. Service for me, makes or breaks a place, and yes I know that sounds super wanky but it’s true. No matter how good the food is, you need the atmosphere that makes you want to bring every relative, including the great uncle that slurps his spaghetti (only way to do it!), to sample the fine fare and enjoy the experience.

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And of course, a brilliant italian destination means mouth watering desserts. Whether it be a semifreddo, crostoli, or my forever-favourite bomboloni (that I ordered twice), those with a separate stomach for dessert, will not be disappointed.

Yes I believe I am in love with a restaurant and yes, it is possible. As Mr Meldrum would say, go and do yourself a favour, call the crew on Burnley St, sit back and embrace the deliciousness.

 

Grand Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

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Squat goose can’t boogie. Round bird can’t fly.

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I never wrote about the bird! How could I have missed them. Well, the menu has probably changed since I ventured there a couple of months ago, but I implore you to venture to the land of Lilydale for this terrific little gem.

Round Bird can’t fly. Firstly, it’s one of the best cafe names ever in my opinion. So they had me on side before I even walked in. I visited on a Saturday on my lonesome whilst Husband was out exercising. He does the work and I eat the donuts. Balance. The perfect partnership.

The place was packed and I squeezed into a spot on the front bench. Perfect people watching position. You get to see the people walking past and those in the cafe tucking into their tucker and discussing first world problems. Brilliant.

Service from the beginning was fantastic. The entire team were so friendly and were keen to chat about their food, their produce and the vibe (it’s the vibe, it’s Mabo, – ha oh JP, you need new material).

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I was in a shakshuka kinda mood and their option sounded very different to the tomato based deliciousness I have come to love. Greens, ahoy. I was excited.

Coffee is Chum Creek Coffee, roasted by Greg Liney, and the baristas sure can make a smooth long black. So good in fact, I had two. Ok I may have had a takeaway as well. Mhm I was bah-zing that day.

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The shakshuka was probably the best I’ve had and it was so different to the others I’d tried. A gazillion different greens, perfect eggs and the flavours were so well thought out. The house made rye that accompanied the dish was really different again. By itself I thought it might have been a tad sweet, but when used as a ‘spoon’ it was just a party in my mouth.

I was very sad to see the bottom of the plate as I knew the food celebration was near the end. It was really a brilliant way to start the day and I felt uber healthy after all my greens. So in typical JP fashion, I knew this healthiness needed to be balanced out with something sweet. Enter house made donut.

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Take a look at that bad boy. I’ll admit it, my donut radar was blaring as soon as I stepped into Round Bird. I could sense I was in the presence of greatness. This house made donut was filled with a tart, delicious mandarin curd that I had never tried before and will definitely choose again. The donut was probably slightly over done on the outside as it wasn’t as fluffy as anticipated, but I still devoured it as expected.

I was soon a very round lady who had to roll out of Round Bird. Can’t compliment the staff enough. Such a homey feel and all so welcoming. I’m heading back to Round Bird this weekend with my visit parentals and I think you fly in soon, too.

 

Round Bird Can't Fly Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Hunters’ Roots.

The eternal question; what am I going to have for lunch today?

Yes I try to be good and prepare the lunches but when you work smack bang in the middle of Melbourne’s CBD, the food choices call to you. Eat the fried chicken, eat the burger, eat the sashimi, eat the delicious 7 tiered cake that will cause you to suffer severe food coma as soon your done. Food, you evil temptress.

On this particular day, Cmac and I ventured out and wanted to try to be healthy. Not an easy feat I can assure you. I was yet to try Hunters’ Roots and knew they sold Extra Mile Kombucha so figured it was a win win.

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Walking into this small space in the Archway off Flinders lane, you immediately feel like you’re doing good things for your bod. Crisp is the word I would use the describe the space. With a selection of organic salads, sandwiches and sushi, the decisions were very difficult.

I chose two salads being the poached chicken and the salmon and soba noodles. Mm so tasty. Everything was cooked brilliantly and even though I probably hadn’t chose salads that complemented each other, they were both delicious in their own right.

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The Lemon detox Kombucha from Extra Mile also went down a treat. If you prefer Kombucha a tad sweeter, try the Passionfruit variety. Tastes like a super healthy Passiona (minus the sugar high). It took me back to days of being 6 or 7, running under the sprinkler in the back yard in summer time and thinking that it was pretty much the best day ever. Ahem, my bad, back to the Roots.

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Cmac went with brown rice sushi and a poached chicken sandwich which he was raving about for days. No snap unfortunately as it was demolished in record time.

Healthy, light lunch options with produce that makes you feel good. Can’t get much better on a sunny lunch time in Melbs.

 

Hunters' Roots Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Gimme Jimmy.

Thousands of shoppers have been descending upon the new and improved Eastland and it would be fair to say one of the most popular places would have to be Jimmy Grants. Georgie boy is expanding his empire piece by piece.

About a week after the big reveal, I ventured into J.Grants as a newbie. I’d never been to any of the other stores but knew I was in for a Greek food feast.

I headed in on the dot of midday as I knew it would get busy. To be honest, it wasn’t the best first impression. Yes they’re teething, so you have to cut them some slack, but if you have customers waiting at the door, it might be a good idea to pause the ‘catchup convos’ happening at the door of the kitchen and help the patrons. We can see you. And it ain’t a good look.

I was seated at a long table sans menu, which was forgiveable. When that was rectified I was left to ponder my choice. Oh so many options. My foodie partner in crime, JW, had raved about the grain salad, but I’m not one to leave it at that. Mr Papadopoulos AND the grain salad. Locked in.

I was leaning towards an additional serve of Taromosalata but the food gods must have been monitoring my portions as I was informed they had run out.

Hopefully next time I visit, there will be a bit more organisation going on. No one really knew who was serving who or where orders needed to be sent. People around me commented that they had been waiting for a “solid 30” and were keen to “just grab whatevs.” I hoped it wasn’t going to get to that stage as I was in already in the early stages of hangry before I arrived.

Food came out in waves so I managed to get mine pretty quickly. Yes they ignored me and forgot to give me a menu and weren’t really sure whether their heads were screwed on, but boy did the food live up to the hype.

 

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The Mr Papa was so fresh and flavoursome and took me straight back to the streets of Santorini where I ate my weight in gyros each day. Quite an accomplishment I think. Bravo, JP.

My only negative would be the aioli. I’d definitely prefer it was lashings of Tatziki. But if that’s how GC does it, then we’ll roll with it.

The grain salad was a brilliant recommendation and one of which I will attempt to recreate at home. This would probably end with knowing mine didn’t taste as good, jumping on the bike and riding to buy some more at Jimmy Grants. That may or may not have happened already.

If you’re yet to experience Jimmy’s, it’s definitely worth it. Just maybe give the Eastland crew a few weeks to hit their stride. Mr Papa, I’ll be back for you.

Jimmy Grants Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Nothing/Everything fishy at Hunky Dory.

Eastland has arrived. The new Eastland. With a funky new logo that naturally means they are super modern and you should visit based on the logo merit alone.

Must admit I was uber impressed on my first visit. Like its massive counterpart, Chadstone, aka the centre of the Universe according to Husband’s nana, there is plenty of natural light and the shops available are pretty damn brilliant.

Now to the important stuff. The food. Eastland was promising big things in their open air food arena and they have delivered. Some of Melbourne’s heavyweights have come on in and there are food choices galore. Calombaris brought J.Grants, Mr Cammora brought his tacos from Paco and the Dan Wilson rolled on in with Huxtaburger. Yup. I am way too close to the food.

On my first visit to Eastland, there was one venue in particular that was pulling a crowd, and that my friends was Hunky Dory. (Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…I digress. But you were thinking it too)

Walking in, you can physically see the fish is fresh and everyone loves that hot chip smell. But I can reassure you; this place is far from your local fish and chip shop.

First up, the service was brilliant. This was their first day. First day! And things appeared to be working like clockwork. Everyone was smiling and super excited to feed you. I had found my people.

 

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I went with a grilled fillet of salmon, chips and Greek salad. Freakin delicious. And the portion size was one that goldilocks would have approved of – juuuust right. Aka perfect for me and probably massive for a regular appetite. The fish was cooked so well and just melted. Crispy skin, added bonus. They definitely knew how to whip up a damn good Greek salad and them chippies…ahhh.

Hunky Dory made a brilliant first impression and will definitely be able to take on the Ronda Rouseys of food land. Great spot for a pre movie dinner or if you need shopping sustenance. Head on in, grab a good feed and everything will be Hunky Dory.

 

Hunky Dory Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Fried Frydays. Market Time.

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Those summer nights are getting closer. Check out that sky. What a stunner. Spring time is here and it’s time to say good bye to the coat (we hope) for another year. Well, it is Melbs, so maybe keep it on the door knob for a couple more weeks. Just in case.

The warm nights are calling us to get out and about and enjoy this city of ours. There’s markets galore going on at the moment, but take my advice and head Queen Vic way this Friday. The crowd is definitely manageable and the food…oh the food! Stirfrydays are running every Friday until the end of November.

Husband and I were invited to Stirfrydays to check out the fare and embrace our portion control issues. Stirfrydays is a bit of a mixed bag with various food types but leans towards an Asian fusion approach. With burgers. No complaints here.

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Hoy Pinoy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The place has a great vibe with live music, a couple of bars and of course a whole lotta food. Walking in from the Fancy Hank’s end, it’s impossible to walk past the mouth watering Hoy Pinoy pork skewers. The sticky tangy bbq style sauce was delicious and I could have filled up with glass with it. Oh I’ve done it before.

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1090 Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Whatever you’re craving for a Friday treat, Stirfrydays has you covered. I was of course soon drawn to the 1090 team. I was yet to sample these bad boys and they did not let me down. They would have to be in the top ten Melbourne burgers for sure. Sweet bun, scrumptious patties with a brilliant sauce to meat ratio. Hai faive, guys.

Stirfrydays has really embraced the buzz of the Korean bbq and have offerings from Korean Fried Chicken, Digging for Fire Korean BBQ, Cali.Ko and Gorilla Grill. The smells were just. so. damn. good.

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Gorilla Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I stalked a few people carrying food and knew the fried chicken ribs from Gorilla Grill were on my radar.  If you’re looking for bang for your buck, this truck is where it’s at. About 5-6 ribs, salad and corn for $12 or so. My bad for lack of memory, think I am still suffering food coma. It’s a daily occurrence. I was a happy chappy and a rather full one at that.

The biggest crowd was at the Hammer and Tong truck with their signature soft shell crab sliders sliding out the door and there was sadly a ‘sold out’ sign up when we rolled over there. A foodie’s worst nightmare. Oh well, we will just HAVE to go to Hammer and Tong and eat all the things now.

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To help those with portion control issues chill out before dish number 456, Stirfrydays have a great bar set up supported by Coopers, Thatchers and Sidewood wines from the Adelaide Hills. We found a seat, ok it was a light post, and enjoyed people watching for a while with our bevvies. Ah the characters you see. Also, it is a brilliant place to spy on people stuffing their faces on the Fancy Hanks balcony. Note to self; when stuffing face on the Fancy Hanks balcony, remember people can see you…

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Lil Nom Nom's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Husband soon made a bee line for Little Nom Noms as he knew he needed the Fried a Chicken Bao in his life. Yes he waited for about half an hour but according to the man who usually hates waiting, it was well worth it. Look at that thing. Drool.

The options are awesome with offerings available from White Guy Cooks Thai, Gyoza records, Let’s do Yum Cha and Nem ‘n’ Nem (ha!) as well. So never fear, if you’re not a fan of fried chicken (weirdo), there’s plenty to keep you entertained.

We had an uber delicious time checking out Stirfrydays. Definitely worth a visit!

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