Saturday, November 29, 2008

Villa Romana: Italian Food in Melbourne

I use to stay a 101 Grattan Street, which is a stone's throw away from Lygon during my undergrad and masters uni years. It wasn't intentional but I was happy there cos it was close to good food, particularly Italian.

It's good to be back here, & the food is still as good as ever, especially in certain restaurants. But do be careful, Lygon does not equate good food. So dont expect gourmet delights without prior research or recommendations and by just walk-in. We have been throwing challenges at Roger and so far he has been doing well in accomplishing his tasks set before him - designated driver, designated food planner & food tour director.

Tonite, on our 3rd nite in Melbourne, after the heavy lunch at Tuck's Ridge vineyard, we went to a place called Villa Romana, along Lygon St. We don't know how we managed to tuck dinner in but we did after all. Guess that is why my face and waist are growing 2 inches wider in just 3 days.

For those of you who are not familiar with Melbourne, Lygon has been featured in almost all Australian travel articles and promotional video clips.

It is a whole street full of restaurants and cafes featuring mainly Italian, Greek and some Mediterranean and a handful of French cuisine places. Restaurants are quite competitive for business here. As we passed a stretch of other restaurants before this one, there were people calling out to us all along the way.

We had to take a photo of this thing here. It's basically a heater that looked something like a crossover between an oil lamp & a lampost. It was a cold night, freezing to be exact, & this was just perfect. And I think it ran on gas cos it's quite bulky at the bottom.

Roger has been quite adventurous as of late, & he kept harping on about this possibly Italian alternative Coke-like drink called Chinotto.

Greg liked this. It has a bit of bitter lemon taste to it & it's perfect with heavy meals & for a hot day (which wasn't tonite). It did taste a bit like Coke.

And then there was the Strawberry Daiquiri, which was like a thick 100% all-stawberry juice without sugar. It's definitely something that you can't find in Malaysia - the land where all drinks have sugar.
Another substitute for Zapple, the Appletizer! Guess where it is made -South Africa!

The Duck Salad ~ Really crispy duck breast, with a bed of garden salad tossed with mangos and macadamia nuts ~ Seriously Beautiful!

Linguini Vongole ~ An upgraded version of Aglio-olio. Very well done and balanced, clams were fresh and not overpowering and it was very tasty for a simple dish like this!

Fetuccini Villa Romana ~ The restaurant's signature dish.

Very interesting cream based pasta with roasted chicken, apple and mustard seed. Wonderful idea of balancing the richness with apple and mustard! But it was slightly dry when we had it. Roger was a little disappointed. He mentioned that if we didn't like it, he would pay for dinner. Well he did not have to. It was good, just not perfect!

The restaurant had a good ambience. Waiters were not pushy and service was relatively good. Decorations were warm and perfect for a night out. Edit: I forgot to mention that Villa is strict about no take aways for their pastas.

To get there, take any tram from Swanston St, which stops at Grattan St. Get off and walk towards Lygon. The restaurant is a few shops before you hit the corner of Grattan and Lygon.

Friday, November 28, 2008

At the Tip of Mornington Peninsula

I guess you could say that we were at the tip of the peninsula, although we weren't exactly at the very end of the tip per se.

We got as far as Portsea, which would be the very last stop at the end part of the peninsula, afterwhich we turned back, otherwise we would have driven straight into the ocean.

The scenery along the coastal stretch was just breathtaking, especially when we drove through the hills.

There were quite a few scenic checkpoints where you could just stop by, park your car, & get down to take pictures.

This stretch of hill was named as Arthur's Seat, not because it resembled some grandpa's chair, but because it resembled a hill at Edinburgh.

This was another checkpoint further up as we made our way back. In case you might be wondering, Chapman was a farmer who made the first track up the summit in 1896.

Standing there, feeling the cold wind, & looking out into the ocean, I felt like I wanted to pee. I finally really understood what they meant by nature's call. And at that moment, I really felt like answering to it, into the valley below. But of course I didn't.

This was Sorrento.

It's a quiet seaside resort town where the rich keeps holiday & retirement designer houses.

Sorrento was also the first European settlement back in 1803.

But that day, I only saw fat & hungry seagulls which weren't really afraid of me.

And a funny sign for dogs.

I mean for the dog owners.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Late Lunch at Tuck's Ridge

When we got to Tuck's Ridge, it was already 2.30pm & I felt like I could eat a horse plus the whole grape vinyard with the leaves, bark, roots & all. Roger was starting to get cranky. The 3rd vineyard and if there is still no food, we will eat grass.

This is the entrance to Tuck's Ridge, a fine example of a lousy signage design with wrong colour coordination. You can hardly read what's written there.
I didn't know who Tuck was & I didn't care cos at that point I only wanted to eat.

As usual, do not be misled by the emptiness & quietness of the place, cos it was packed inside with loud & drunken people who had too much high class fermented Ribena.

Since we had to wait like 10 minutes or so, & had time to kill, we decided to go for the wine tasting. Cellar doors were opened till 5 pm at this time of the year.

Nee tasted 5-6 samples, & when you do that on an empty tomach, it gets to you quicker. But anyway, we thought that the Vues Sparkling Chardonay was the best & we ordered a bottle for lunch.Oh, I'm not one who's big for wine. This cartoon strip says it all. It's pretty obvious which one would be me.
This is how the interior of the place looks like. All of these restaurants have glass doors/windows that overlook the vineyard down the hill.

And this is how Nee looks like when she's analysing & dissecting the menu.

For entree, we ordered the charcuterie plate with coppacolla, prosciutto, smoked salmon, char grilled chorizo, duck rillettes & caper berries (in simple English: Ham platters). And also Chicken and Taragon Terrine. Both were equaly good but then again, we were starving.

The heavy duty char grilled aged porterhouse, chunky chips, parsley salad, garlic & cape butter for the guys. Very nicely done. Thick and juicy!

Asparagus, as a side vegie dish. Sweeeeeet!

Nee's roasted ocean trout fillet on warm spring vegetable salad, smoked tomato dressing & olive tapenade.

For dessert: Excellent Coffee Creme Brulee with ice cream.

Parfait, which has quickly become my new favourite dessert.

Like the other restaurants, Tucker's Ridge sits on a hill overlooking the vineyard down below.

I can just imagine how it's like in summer or autumn, when it's warm enough to sit outside with a laptop under a tree somewhere.

But right now, it's just too cold to do anything outdoors.

If you dare to try, you'll just find yourself shrivelling up like a dried raisin.

Simply beautiful.

I would just love to sit there, but at this moment I wouldn't want to freeze my backside off.

I think I've never seen Nee look so satisfied before. Or maybe she's just a bit floaty with all the wine.
We capped the whole thing off with a warm glass of thick frothy latte and some peppermint tea (not the tea bag type by the way).

Even though this wasn't planned, we had a good lunch which lasted us till almost four thirty. Come visit us. We have the Tuck's Ridge Sparkling Vue going home with us. Generally food is of good standard and we have no complaints.

Ahhh, C'est la vie!

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