Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Noodle Palace

328 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

My lack of enthusiasm in the kitchen seems to be on a never ending run. I think I've hit a mid season lul or something of the sort. On this particularly non-enthused Tuesday eve I wandered down to Noodle Palace.

Noodle Palace offers a stock standard menu of pan-asian dishes. Curry Luksa - check, Singapore Noodle - check, Mee Gorang - check etc etc. Not exactly the most exciting menu, but seriously, how exciting can noodles be? They kind of fall in to the category of cheap take out. However, tonight I decided to dine in.

I ordered vegetarian fried kway teow and the man in black had seafood curry luksa. Inspired choices.

Both dishes were ok. There was nothing horrible about them but there was also nothing to rave about. The veggies were a little soggy in the kway teow and a bit of chili would have gone a long way. The seafood actually looked a little revolting, it had those scary fake fish balls and tiny little pizza prawns (exactly why I order vegetarian).

On the bright side, I didn't leave feeling like I had eaten something cheap and nasty. At $10 a head, we got what we paid for. Overall, I rate Noodle Palace 8/20 and would recommend it as a takeout joint. Don't bring a date here, as they might spontaneously self combust when Lincoln Park plays on the stereo.

Service- 2/5
Menu- 2/5
Atmosphere- 1/5
Value for money- 3/5

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lomond Hotel

225 Nicholson St Brunswick East

I feel really odd writing a review about my local pub. Obviously I like the place, I have been going there on a semi regular basis for 3 years. But I feel that this steak is worth talking about...seriously its an excellent piece of meat.

The Lomond Hotel is situated at the end of the 96 Tram line, conveniently located across the road from 3RRR Radio Station and a minutes walk from my home. They sever counter meals in the front bar, and have fresh flowers and white linen table cloths in the restaurant. Its a pretty stunning contrast, but it seems to work exceptionally well. 

Our visits here are pretty routine these days. A bottle of wine, the eye fillet with sweet onion jam and potato gratin, medium and a porterhouse with mustard, medium/rare. Occasionally we will order the oyster killpatrick. The steak is without question, the juiciest, best tasting beef I have had anywhere else in Melbourne. It is always cooked perfectly, and I am rarely disappointed. I will almost never order a steak at another restaurant. The only rival  I have had was at Punch Lane in Little Bourke St over a year and a half ago. This is the kind of consistency that makes a local so special.

Besides the steak, the rest of the menu is pretty top notch, but does lack in vegetarian mains. You could have a herb crusted rack of lamb, a Roo fillet, pork belly or chicken wrapped in prosciutto with sage butter. The wine list is also worth a mention, there is a good range of local and NZ wines and are generally priced between $26-$45. If you don't know what to choose, ask for a recommendation from James.

The Lomond is like the little place that could. Its not the fanciest Pub out there, but it give the local community what it asks for. There might be a few undesirable characters lurking out the front or in the bar, but this is Brunswick! These are the people that live here. If you give this place a miss because you don't like the look of the guy smoking out the front, you are only cheating yourself, because he might be eating the best steak this side of the Yarra.

I don't want to rate the Lomond, but I will give it the honour of being my Local.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bebida Bar and Cafe

325 Smith Street, Fitzroy

One of my favorite things to do on a Saturday night is go out for dinner with friends. On this particular evening, we were farewelling a friend, chosen destination, Bebida.

Bebida is a lovely little place on Smith Street which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner 6 days a week. The atmosphere on a Saturday night is upbeat and welcoming with some local live music on offer. We were treated to a little  banjo playing and disco ball action. An interesting combo. In such as small space, the performance was quite intimate. There is also a cozy courtyard out back with plenty of seating and a fire.

To be honest, the live music was a little bit of a surprise, we had come for the food! The tapas menu has quite a lot on offer. We chose a number of dishes to share:
  • Sugo di Bologna, Rich bolognaise sauce with fresh grated parmesan on fried polenta wedges.
  • Spanish tortilla, Traditional style with potato and onion.
  • Calamari, Pan fried salt & pepper calamari with a citrus aoli.
  • Fried Haloumi with za’atar, Pan fried cheese served with pomegranate molasses.
  • Patatas Bravas, Potatoes tossed in spicy tomato salsa.
  • Chickpea salad.
  • Russian salad.
  • Trio of dips (pea and sage, beetroot and mint and tuna wasabi) served with pide
This really was an amazing feast. One of our diners was vegetarian, which caused no problem in selecting yummy dishes. The only slightly dissapointing dish was the Spanish tortilla, which was a little bland. To pick a standout dish is almost impossible. Each one was uinque and delectable. If I had to chose a stand out, it would be the Haloumi. The texture was beautiful and the za'atar complitmented perfectly. The Sugo di Bologan was rich and morish, the calamari was soft and juicy, the salads were fresh and light and the Patatas Bravas were rich and fulfiling. I find that Patatas can occasinally be a little lacking in flavour, not in this case. In the trip of dips, the stand out was the pea and sage. I really love when you taste something new, and you are totally blown away by the flavour. The pea is creamy and the sage offers a lovely earthy undertone. In addition the the Tapas, we also had room for 2 carafs of Sangria and a dark chocolate fondue.

I would love to post some pics of the feast, but my crappy iphone wasn't up to scratch in the dim warm light.

At the end of the evening, we were pleasently suprised with a tab of just $120. I'm not sure if maybe they forgot to tally everything up, but for 2 litres of Sangria, dessert and a huge meal, this is excellent value.

On this visit I offer Bebida 16.5/20 and would gladly return!

Service- 3/5
Value for money- 5/5
Menu- 4/5
Atmosphere- 4.5/5

Saturday, October 17, 2009


322 Victoria St

For me, reviewing Ray goes a bit like this "long time eater, first time reviewer". And to be honest, I'm not really sure were to start. Back in the day, I had no idea what the place was called, and referred to it as No Name Cafe for an embarrassingly long time.

Like any long term relationship, we have had our ups and downs. Sometimes I loved, it sometimes I hated it. Sometime I don't mind waiting for a table, sometimes I CBFed. Sometimes I don't mind having my coffee forgotten, sometimes I do. All that said though, today was a good day, we came late, and there were tables free.

The menu is as eclectic as the interior. I guess you could call it middle eastern infused cafe fare.  Today I chose the toasted roast pumpkin pide with olive paste, feta, pinenut and rocket and a latte. My sister had the poached eggs with mushroom and parmesan pesto and fresh OJ. The quality of the food is consistently good and very fresh. Meal portions are fair, and not overly huge.  

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thaila Thai

Thaila Thai- Royal Thai Cuisine, 82 Lygon Street, East Brunswick

I recently found myself discussing the perks of the East Brunswick food scene with a work friend/neighbor. We often talk about food, exchange tips, give warnings and the like. My friend has just returned from a five week stint in Spain, France and Italy and is carrying on about how much he missed Asian food during his travels.My sympathy can only stretch so far... but I'm listening. Thaila Thai is where he is heading, he is craving the Chicken with basil and chili. Come to think of it...maybe I am as well.

So upon being rejected from the Moroccan Soup Bar last night, my sister and I decided to give Thaila Thai a go. We both like Thai food a great deal, and were excited to try a new place. Now, I have recently had take out from here, but I strongly believe that its really not the same experience (the take out was good).

Thaila Thai is one of those places which instantly smacks you in the face. Its warm, its noisy and a little chaotic. The entrance is the take away section, and the restaurant is in the back, upstairs and out the front. Every possible nook and cranny which could fit a table is utilised. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I probably wouldn't recommend bringing a first date here.

We are seated upstairs on a shared table. I'm not the biggest fan of this style of dining. I find it a little intrusive, particularly when juicy gossip is in need of being shared. However, I digress. We order vegetarian spring rolls, chicken with basil, chili and cashew and red beef curry.

Despite waving our hands around, people seated after us were served before us and after several failed attempts at delivering the right meal, the spring rolls arrive. I find myself being a little pushy with the waitress, "no we did not order satay chicken squares, no we did not order satay chicken stir fry, we did not order satay anything! thank you, it looks lovely, but its for the girls next to us...seriously!" I really despise having to insist like this, alas, everything arrived, no one missed out on anything.

Other than that, our meals were fab. The curry was rich and spicy,and the beef was tender. The chicken was light and the veggies were very fresh and tasty. I was pleasantly surprised to see pumpkin in the stir fry. Pumpkin! I was over the moon. Be warned, the portion sizes are HUGE. Two mains could easily feed three people. At $36 in total, this was pretty much a cheap eat. Between three people, its would be super.

Overall, I enjoyed Thaila Thai. I will definatly go back, but will probably avoid eating in the restaurant. The service really lets the place down. On this visit I can only really offer 11/20.

Menu- 3/5
Service- 2/5
Value- 4/5
Ambience- 2/5

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Black Ruby, Carlton North

344 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North

My Sunday brunch is scared. I want eggs, I want bacon, and I want coffee. Good coffee. I tend not call in on a lot of places when it comes it this meal. I like to know what I'm getting. I can laugh off a sub par midweek meal. I can even try to forgive and forget a less than impressive Saturday night dinner, but screw up my Sunday brekkie, and you are no friend of mine.

I would like to introduce you to my friend Black Ruby. She is located on lovely Rathdowne Street in North Carlton. Her breakfast menu isn't going to blow your mind, there is nothing overly adventurous, but everything seems so nice. The french toast comes with caramelised banana, the big breakfast comes with a lamb chop. The bread is house made. You get the picture.

Now, I  mentioned earlier that I don't like to step to far out of the square, so today I ordered poached eggs on toast, with tomato relish, avocado and crisp bacon. With a Bloody Mary. The Man in Black ordered the big brekkie, lamb chop and all. While the eggs were fab, the Bloody Mary was not. No celery, no Mary. No worcestershire, no Mary. Take these things away, and you really have is spicy tomato juice with vodka. And that will just give you a tummy ache.

Like most places on Rathdowne St, there is a bit of a snobby under tone to Black Ruby. The cutlery is heavy, the fit out is dark wood, and the linen is crisp. Not your most casual of Cafe's. But is really is quite beautiful.

On a Sunny Sunday, I give Black Ruby 13/20 and recommend that you get the paper and a window seat and make yourself comfortable.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hellenic Republic- East Brunswick

434 Lygon Street, East Brunswick

Feels a little cheesy reviewing a restaurant that has had such overwhelming media attention, but here goes.

As is tradition, I rocked up at Hellenic Republic on Thursday night without a booking. Now I know this is a little risky, but, I attempted to make a booking several weeks ago, and was assured I would get a call back...the phone never rang. I'm not exactly one to sit around twiddling my thumbs, so I took my chances. On this occasion, the risk payed off and we were seated in the lovely court yard.

Next to us was a party of 6, who seemed to have opted for a set menu. While the food looked lovely, there appeared to be a lot left over. Unnecessary waste is a bit of a pet hate of mine, so at $49.50 per head, not including drinks we opted not to go with this option.

At this point, I really must point out just how ridiculously friendly/helpful/professional the wait staff are. At some places, showing up with no booking can almost guarantee you pissy service and a bad table. This is simply not the case at Hellenic Republic.

It was not difficult to decide what we would eat. We had come for the Lamb. I must disclose that I have eaten here before. Just once! And I have been dreaming/raving about this Lamb spit ever since.

You really can't just jump straight into the lamb, you would only be cheating yourself. There are so many other lovely things which can accompany the center piece of the meal.

We began with the Kefalograviera Saganaki with Peppered Figs and the Melitzanoslata (Eggplant Dip with red onion) and Pita. Really, these dishes are not accompaniments, they are little superstars in their own right. The Saganaki is incredible. In most cases, I'm not much of a fan, I find the flavour overpowering and unenjoyable. But at Hellenic, the cheese still has a powerful flavour but balance out by the mellow taste of the fig.

Everything was so fresh. The dips were beautiful and didn't have that came from a tub taste. The pita was soft and maybe even wholemeal?

Then came to lamb, with tzatiki and a village salad. It was everything I remembered and more. Juicy, tender, magic.

While the menu is centred around the seafoods and meats, there are plenty of vegetarian options.

On the whole, everything about the meal was enjoyable. While we may not have gotten as much variety and volume in food as those who go for the set menu, we had more than enough to eat. I literally rolled out of the place.

My only gripe, a little more selection on the wines would be nice. I felt a little limited for choice. What can I say, I like a bottle.

Every aspect of this Calmobaris venture is supurb. From the decor, to the service , to the website. It is easy to see that nothing happens here by chance. I'm not saying that it is impossible to have a less than fab time here, but on this occasion, it was exactly what I was looking for and I offer 18/20.

At $90 for two, including wine, I would say that value for money is pretty dam good.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Los Amates Mexican Kitchen- Fitzroy

34 Johnston St
Fitzroy VIC 3065

Los Amates Mexican Kitchen claims to be the best Mexican food in Australia. No Tex Mex crap to be found here. I suppose they thought they should get that off their chests from the get go. OK, I'm up for it. Lets just jump in head first.

This partucular Thusrday evening began with a rather grumpy phone call, "what do you mean your not coming home for dinner? Your out drinking? But I'm hungry!" the phone call was followed by a text "our boys are out drinking, we should go out for dinner!" a quick reply read "rad, meet me at work and we will go from there". Thank god, I will be eating soon, my blood sugar is dropping rapidly.

Los Amates was the chosen venu, and with no booking, we were lucky enough to be seated straight away. I really should learn to make bookings more often. Apparently there are many many organised people out there, making bookings for dinners two and even three weeks in advance. Sheesh, I need to get with the program.

Los Amates isn't exactly the prettiest restaurant, the tables and chairs are old and a little crappy, but the walls are covered in bright vibrant murals. The mood is quite festive and comfortable.

I'm not exactly fluent in Spanish and the wait staff were friendly enough to walk us through the menu. In addition to being unorganised, I am also indecisive. In my current state of starvation, there was no time to waste so the vegetarian combination platter ($30) was chosen and corona with fresh lime ($8) to wash it down.

Just as everything was settled, the boys phone wanting to join us. A bigger table is obtained with little fuss, and a meat eater platter is ordered. The food arrives as the boys do, for a chaotic evening, everything is going swimmingly.

The combination paltter was rather impressive. It had five selections;Sope, Quesadilla, Molletes, Tlacoyos and Tacos.Each item was different from the other. The platter offered bold flavours of lime, coriander and chili with contrasting crispy iceberg lettuce, beans, cheeses and tortillas. By the time I got to the second mouth full I was really excited. To he honest, for a $30 platter, there could have had more of each selection. A hungry man could easily finish this to himself.

Left not quite satisfied, the boys had another serve of tacos and the girls would try some dessert. We selected a Flan de la casa ($7.50).

The flan was like a very moist corn bread with a rich caramel sauce. It was unlike anything I have ever had before, and throughly enjoyable. There was definatly enough to share.

This is actually the second time I have dined at the Mexican Kitchen and I would definatly return. While I enjoyed the platter, I would not have it again. The second plate of tacos was a generous size, and I would go this option next time around. Between four people including drinks, desserts and extras the total was $130. Not to bad.

On this occasion I would offer 14/20.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Mess Hall- Melbourne

51 Bourke Street Melbourne

The top end of Bourke Street is one of my favorite places in the city. While it doesn't get the same kind of hype that the Paris end of Collins might, it encapsulates many of this things I love about this city. There is the stunning view of Parliament House, the beautiful classical sounds drifting out of Thomas Music, Florentino, Society, The Paperback Book Shop, Pelligrini and the iconic Plane Trees. Among these gems, you will also find The Mess Hall.

On a particularly lovely day in early Spring, I wondered down for a late lunch. At 2pm, there were still a few diners and almost everything on the menu was still available. On offer are mostly Italian inspired dishes, offering homemade pasta's, a range of insalatas, pizza and a separate breakfast menu. When I say Italian, I don't mean the kind that you typically find on Lygon Street. This is fresh, interesting and many of the dishes are seasonal. I chose a roasted veggie panino with feta.

I really love the Mess Hall. If I am meeting up with someone in the city its one of the places that I will always suggest. Even if you are lunching alone, it is a nice place to seek some solitude to 40 minutes. The service is friendly, the food is quick and reasonably priced and the coffee is wonderful. HOWEVER, on this particular visit, I was subjected to another helping of Kate Bush with my meal. What is it with Kate bush popping up all of a sudden? Maybe its just me, but I would have thought her musical stylings would put one off their meal, not contribute to the ambiance. Maybe I'm not hipster enough. Maybe it doesn't really matter.

Besides the Kate Bush offence, The Mess Hall ticks all of my lunch time boxes and I offer 17/20.

Gelobar obsession

I have been living in East Brunswick for almost 3 years now, and I have been vaguely aware that there was a Gelati Bar on Lygon Street called Gelobar. Nicole Jones of Bad Crumbs blog fame has raved about the place, but until recently I had never been. I have to be honest here, I love gelati. I could eat it twice a day, every day of the year. Gelati is not ice-cream. Its a far superior product, that is ALWAYS homemade, and should come from a small specialty store.

Five days ago, I went to Gelobar. In 5 days I have been there 3 times.

Back in the day, I would have gelati every Sunday from Il Dolce Freddo after working at Toto's on Lygon Street, Carlton.

My top five flavours are;
  1. Ferrero Rochet
  2. Panna Cotta
  3. Tiramisu
  4. Vanillabean
  5. Baileys Irish Cream
In recent times I have managed to curb my gelati obsession, limiting my intake to special occasions and really hot weather, or when I really really want some. NOT 3 times in one week.

The outlook is grim. I either have to move OR exercise some self control and step away from the gelait bar. Considering how prevalent gelati stores are in Melbourne, particularly in East Brunswick/Fitzroy/North Fitzroy/Carlton, I think the latter is more sensible and practical.

However, I thank my friends who have joined me on this indulgent ride, with a special shout out to my sister and Jones. Its always nicer to fall off the band wagon with a friend by your side, stuffing their face on the other side of the table.

I could really go a white chocolate and rapsberry waffle cone right now.

St Judes Wine Cellar- Fitzroy

389-391 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

Like any good Melbournian, I am an avid reader of the Age's Epicure, and will sometimes even visit the lovely looking restaurants that grace the hallowed pages, particularly if they are on my side of the river.

I was recently in dire need of treating my significant other to a fancy meal. Based on our mutual love of vino and the Epicure's recommendation, I decided to give St Jude's Wine Cellar a test drive.

St Jude's has been around since March 2008, and isn't really the new kid on the block anymore. There are many reviews out there, some good and some not so good. What really caught my attention was the concept of mixed business, bar/cellar/restaurant and the industrial looking warehouse fit out had also caught my eye when walking past some time ago. I managed to score a 7.30 reservation on a saturday night. It was on.

Despite being seated a little close to the door, my first impression of the space was wow. Firstly, its huge. The dim lighting contrasts magnificently with the cool polished concreate floors, and caged wine racks which house the cellar componant of the venue. I was errily reminded of the Japanese restaurant Industria, which Patrick Bateman visits with his girlfriend and her hipster friends in American Psycho.

I found the service to be friendly and professional. We were guided through the wine list, and took the recommendation of the St Jude's Pinot Noir. Regarding wine, you can either chose from the menu, or brouse the cellar and add $15 corckage. Brousing the cellar was quite fun and found the Somilier to be very knowledgeable and helpful. I didn't feel like I was being sold something that was out of my price range or not sure about.

The menu offers five enrte's, four mains and a range of sides, speicals and deserts. There was also a good balance of vegetain options. I opted for the Butternut pumpkin raviolo with sage butter, almonds and mustard fruit. My guest chose the duck breast with red wine jus. We also had a side of braised red cabbage and marmalaide.

Both meals were perfect winter selections. Hitting the right balance of richness and winter warmth. Considering that we had both picked reasonably safe main options, the braised cabbage offered a little quirky twist to the meal. Although, it was a ridiculously large serve. Very few people need to eat that much cabbage in one sitting.

With mains from $32+ and wines starting in the same region, there is the potential to rack up quite a tab. It might not be suitable for a casual mid-week meal, considering that we went out with seeking a little romance and something with a few frills on the side, St Jude's was a good choice. I felt well looked after, and was willing to pay the not so small cheque.

I would recommend St Judes and offer 16/20 on this occasion.

Monday, August 31, 2009

East Brunswick Top 5 take out

While I love to cook, I can occasionally suffer from bouts of severe laziness. Thus my top 5 take out options in Brunswick/East Brunswick. 
  1. Red Beef Curry-Mai Thai-Lygon Street-East Brunswick
  2. Butter Chicken with Garlic Naan- Sings Indian Cafe- Nicholson Street- East Brunswick
  3. Any of the wood fired pizzas at Carmela's Pizza- Brunswick Road- East Brunswick
  4. Vegetarian Curry Luksa-Sushi Noodle Guy-Sydney Road-Brunswick
  5. Vege 2 Go- Lygon Street- East Brunswick

Little Zephyr- North Carlton

563 Nicholson Street, North Carlton
On a very cold Tuesday night, my boyfriend and I decided to head down Nicholson Street to find a bite to eat. Our favorite mexican joint had recently closed, so we were a little lost for ideas. Luckily, we stumbled upon Little Zephyr.

The restaurant is one of those little places which is instantly welcoming. The polished wooden floors and the soft lighting make for a warm atmosphere. Not to over done, a perfect place for a quiet dinner for two.

The wine list offered a nice selection of mostly Australian wines with a few international selection's. We took the waitresses suggestion of a Richmond Plains Pinot Noir from New Zealand ($40). As for the food, the menu offers quite a few options. There a plenty of Mezze (little bundles of joy) options for sharing and a solid range of mains and salads. I went for the special of Risotto with baby spinach, roasted pine nut and feta. My guest chose the Atlantic Salmon filet topped with lemon garlic and prawn sauce.

The meals were wonderful and the service was friendly. With Bistro Flor just a few doors down, Little Zephyr stacks up to the local competition, and raises the bar. For a mid week meal, our selections were a little pricy, but you could easily choose cheaper.

Overall, Little Zephyr comes highly recommended. 16/20

Sunday, August 30, 2009

El Mirage- East Brunswick

349 Lygon Street, East Brunswick

Since landing in Melbourne six years ago, eating all day breakfasts has been a pleasure in which I regularly indulge. I just love eating poached eggs at 3pm.

Like anyone who lives in Brunswick, it has come to my attention that the northern end of Lygon Street is where its at. Precisely, it is where El Mirage is at. Situated in an old automotive garage, to say that the interior is funky would be passe. It is sleek and modern, but inviting and comfortable.

This is not the first time I have been to to El Mirage, I have actually been here many times, and tried may of their dishes. The menu is short and simple. There are also some seasonal selections. I really like the emphasis on eating seasonal produce, this can be something you don't see a lot of in cafe's.

I ordered Eggs Gringo, featuring 2 poached on whole wheat toast, breakfast beans, home fries and bacon. The verdict. Yum.

Over all, stopping off here for breakfast is a great idea. The waitstaff are friendly, the food is top notch and the coffee is consistently amazing. The prices won't send you over budget either.

I would offer El Mirage 15/20.

Mrs Parmas- Melbourne

25 Lt Bourke St Melbourne

At Mrs Parmas apparently size does matter. Your Parma will weigh no less than 230g and will be lovingly hand crafted by a Chef trained in the mysterious art of Parmology. I like a good Parma as much as the next person, but apparently not as much as some.

Days before visiting Mrs Parmas, my work colleagues had been talking up a storm about the place. Who could finish the whole thing? what flavor are you having?? I heard there is one called Parma'geddon? Indeed there is.

I once lived with a nice Kiwi chap who didn't really get what all the fuss was about, "Isn't it just cheese and sauce on a schnitzel?" he asked? Well yes, it is.

However, At Mrs Parmas the concept has been taken into an whole other stratosphere.
There are no less than 10 different toppings, on either chicken, wiener schnitzel or egg plant. And salad and chips are always served on the side, not UNDER the parma. Geeez, now its getting complicated.

Good news for those who don't wish to have a heart attack on the way back to the office, there is a menu offering bistro classics. The Polenta salad didn't look to bad, and the token vegetarian reported that it was edible.

Not only is Mrs Parmas a haven for those who love the deep fry, it is also a beacon for those who like a micro brew. In particular, a Victoria one. I really like this concept, and went for a Coldstream Cider. It was marvellous.

While the idea of devouring a parma the size of a dinner plate for lunch doesn't get me as revved up as some, I must say, it was pretty good. It is obvious that quite a bit of love has going into the operation of this place. Considering I dined in a rather large goup of 20, including gluten free and vego's, the service was efficet and friendly.

I probably wouldn't return to Mrs Parmas for a causal meal, but I just might pop in for a cider, or a Mildura Storm Cloud Ale. One this occasion I offer 14/20.

The Builders Arms- Fitzroy

211 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

For a foodie like myself, there is nothing more exciting than finding a restaurant which offers a menu so interesting and diverse, you simply must return to try as many dishes as you possibly can. And it doesn't hurt either if the dining room itself is so tripped out that you feel as if you have gone down the rabbit hole and entered some weird Alice in Wonderland like hemisphere. With chicken/rooster portraits lining the walls, my bird phobic friend would only be seated facing away from them. This dining room is really a shining example of how exceptional decor can heighten the dining experience.

This was my first and quite long standing impression of the Builders Arms. I literally dragged along every willing and sometimes unwilling dining partner I knew to taste the wonderful Middle Eastern inspired cuisine. As you could understand, after such a high rotation, it was time to give the old gal a break and expand my tastings. So it had been a while.

So it was Friday night, dinner was to be had somewhere, and the Builders Arms was thrown in as a suggestion. Sounded like a good idea, and the others didn't need convincing. Maybe we needed a booking? You can imagine my surprise to arrive to an empty dining room at 7pm. My first impression was, do they still serve food here? Hang on, there are menus on the tables. Something had changed....table service out, pub menu in, pay at the counter.

I can only imagine that the hospitality industry may have suffered many blows in the past year, and obviously Chefs move on, but seriously, has it come to this?

While the food was not terrible, in fact, my fellow diners report good things about the Atlantic Salmon on New Potatoes and the Pork Belly on Mash, my choice of Scotch Fillet with Salsa Verde and roast tomatoes really lacked any inspiration. And was overdone.

Along with the inspiration, the chook portraits are gone. Maybe this isn't the kind of place one goes to the be wowed anymore? Maybe I just chose the wrong dish.

In all honesty, I can only rate this at 12/20. The service was non existent, I could smell the waiters body odor, the menu was a down grade and the music was terrible. No. I would not like a side of Kate Bush with my steak. Thank you. The restaurant felt like a place where people scoff down a burger before hitting the bar. Oh well. Se La Vi.