Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012

I’ve decided to aggregate my restaurant invites into monthly or quarterly invite round-ups in a similar way like I do with my brunch posts. Yes, the meals were free, but my write-ups are still honest, candid, and impartial. This winter, I ended up visiting three places: Shed 5, Henry and the Fox and Spitiko.

Shed 5

37 Dukes Walk
South Wharf, VIC 3006
03 9686 1122
shed5.com.au
GoogleMap
Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012

Date Visited: Early August
PR Company: Gunn Communications

Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012

Shed 5 was only opened for three weeks when this menu-sampling dinner happened. The restaurant forms part of Southwharf’s burgeoning food and bar landscape. I can foresee Melbourne’s business district extending towards this direction to include the Docklands and Southwharf.

From what I gather, the restaurant seeks to serve Mediterranean / Greek cuisine with a modern twist. A traditional high-heat wood-fire oven forms the basis of cooking for many of the dishes.

Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012
Flatbread & Fava Puree 10
fried chickpeas, shallots, hazelnuts
N’duja & Mozzarella Croquettes 4ea

oregano & rosemary aioli

We started nicely with a fava purée dip that went well with the breads. The candied hazelnuts and pickled shallots gave great flavour counterpoint to the creamy puree.

I was less excited by the croquettes because I’m generally not a fan of deep fried foods (unless it’s ayam goreng). I found the croquettes very salty, with a spicy kick in the filling.

Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012
Smoked Eel 15
ocean trout, capers, sherry rillettes
Saganaki Cheese 15
grilled onions, roasted peppers, barberry

Continuing with our starters, the seafood rillette was an absolute delight to eat, although the accompanying biscuits were very salty.

The delicious saganaki started off also tasting quite salty to me (I admit my tolerance for salt is low), but after awhile I got used to it. As it cooled down, it got more firm, meaty and chewy, with a very nice milky flavour. The roasted peppers gave great flavour counterpoint.

Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012
Cyprian Lamb & Pork Meatballs 15
tomato & cinnamon sauce, truffled pecorino
Slow Cooked W.A. Octopus 17
saffron kipflers, capers, sorrel mayo

The lamb and pork meatballs was a winning dish for me. Moist, juicy with a strong presence of fresh herbs.

For the octopus dish, I was quite happy with its meaty texture but generally thought the dish was on the heavy side and could afford some tangy counterpoint. The sorrel mayo was very interesting though, with a fresh, green-leaf herbaceous character to it.

Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012
King Green Prawns 31
barrell aged feta, tomatoes, sorrel

On to mains… First up, this wood-fired king prawn dish was divine…!

I’m a newbie to Greek cuisine, but this combination of ingredients put under a wood-fire just worked fabulously. Prawn flesh… so freshly cooked and charred by the wood-fire, with its glorious juices spread all over the hot plate. Delicious.

Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012
Greek Village Salad 14
fennel, peppers, olives, barrel aged feta
Slow Roasted Lamb Neck 32
dates, pinenuts, capers

The unctuous slow-cooked lamb dish tasted earthy sweet, with hearty and robust flavours. I was not as keen on the presence of dates as it pushed the dish into the territory of having too much sweetness. But thankfully, that serve of classic greek salad helped cleanse my palate.

Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012
Bannockburn Half Chicken 29
green raisins, pinenuts, roasted chestnut dolmades

I was a lot more keen on this lighter main dish. The wood-fired chicken came really succulent and juicy with an interesting hit of aniseed flavours from fennel seeds. The bits where there were chargrilled chicken skin were especially delicious. It took a mere 16 minutes in the wood-fire oven to roast the chooks.

Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012
Goats Milk Crema 13
walnut baklava, chocolate & coffee sorbet, metaxa jelly
Spiced Halva Semifreddo 13
quince sorbet, salted caramel, ricotta doughnut

The night ended gloriously with two beautiful desserts. I can’t even explain why they were both so good, nor can I tell you which one I preferred. But all I can say is just order them! OMG OMG…

Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012
Head Chef Vas Donoudes (previously at Cicciolina, Enoteca)

I really enjoyed my meal here. Great setting, good food and the whole affair was conducted very well by the staff and organisers.

Henry and the Fox

525 Little Collins St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9614 3277
henryandthefox.com.au
GoogleMap
Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012

Date Visited: Mid June
PR Company: Gunn Communications

Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012

This meal happened a few months prior to Shed 5. Regrettably, I did not bring my dSLR then, so I only have 5 Instagram pics to show for this event. This won’t be a comprehensive post, but I’d just like to share it anyway.

Henry and the Fox sits on the quiet end of Lt Collins St and the restaurant was opened by the same person who’d recently opened The Sharing House, Akachochin, Coffeehead and Goldilocks. I think this dinner was organised because being on the quiet part of the city, the restaurant wasn’t getting much thoroughfare, so here’s a go at getting some social media presence.

Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012

Jamon & Manchego Croquettes 4ea | Fried Zucchini Flowers 4ea

Said owner, Paul Mathis (pictured above), gave us an introductory speech before the food started coming. We learnt that the head chef here is Michael Fox, who was The Age 2011 Young Chef of the Year.

Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012
Top: seared scallops, apple & celeriac remoulade, caper & raisin puree, toasted pumpernickel 24.5
roasted moreton bay bug tails, cauliflower puree, spiced cauliflower 24.5
Middle: rabbit terrine, rhubarb compote & salad, toasted brioche 23.5
cured kingfish, coriander & fennel seeds, mandarin, coriander shoots
Bottom: confit ocean trout, salted cucumber, radish, horseradish cream
goats cheese, roasted baby beets, pickled shallots, shiso, raspberry vinegar 18.5

We were served nearly all of the entrée dishes on the menu, they were all pretty good. I’ve forgotten the dishes in detail, but I do remember enjoying the seafood-based entrées more, especially the cured kingfish and the confit ocean trout.

Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012
poached chicken breast, quinoa, pistachio, fig, sorrel | crispy pork belly, fennel, dill, orange 30.5
mulloway, avocado, chickpea, chorizo, red pepper
Sides: spiced carrots 10 | brussel sprouts, smoked bacon, chestnuts 10 | salad of rocket, pear, roasted walnuts 8

The mains, however, we a bit of a let down. The pork belly was quite salty, and the quinoa salad that came with the chicken was also many notches too salty. I wonder whether it was because the kitchen struggled with serving such a large group of diners simultaneously. The fish main and the side dishes were alright otherwise.

Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012
passionfruit cheesecake, passionfruit mousse, jelly, granita, yoghurt sorbet 14
chocolate panna cotta, strawberry cream, strawberry sorbet 16
doughnuts with chocolate sauce
quince, pear, custard, coconut crumble, coconut ice cream 14

But the night ended on a high with several very good desserts. My favourite was the deconstructed passionfruit cheesecake, it had such a crisp tangy punch because of the granita, and the yoghurt sorbet was gorgeous!

It was a well organised event and we were served a crazy amount of food. I think if you enjoy share-plate dining that’s similar to Cumulus Inc., Henry and the Fox is a good alternative spot, only less crowded.

Spitiko

270 Park Street
South Melbourne, VIC 3205
03 9690 2600
spitiko.com.au
GoogleMap
Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012

Date Visited: Late July
PR Company: Harvey Publicity

Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012

When I received this invite, I mistook it for a sit-down type meal. Turns out it was more of a media launch event, where most of us were standing and it’s mainly finger food.

I will need to read event invites more carefully next time, because I did not enjoy this event that much. Standing with a glass of wine in hand and ‘working the room’ is just something I’m not that good at. There were quite a lot of publicity people there… editors from The Age and other newspapers, cameramen, and even George Columbaris made an appearance!

Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012
Crisp hot flat breads and dips

But what I liked about this restaurant relaunch was the strong Greek family themes. One wall of the restaurant had a series of beautiful portraits of chef (ex-Masterchef 2010 contestant) Philip Vakos’s nonna. Even the menu was designed using various old family photos. The concept behind this place revolves around how dining there is like entering the comfort of a Greek home to eat.

Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012
Calamari – lightly fried
Dolmades – rice filled vine leaves | Patates Tiganites – Hand cut chips

Small nuggets of beer food started coming from the kitchen. Because of the huge amount of people, you had to be fairly quick to get your share of food. I remember enjoying the calamari, but Fakegf and I thought that a few of the other nibbles (like the sausages – not pictured) were very salty…

Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012

I did not stay for long. I did, however, look longingly at the whole lamb turning on the spit. But alas, those souvlakis were being churned out at a very slow rate, so it did not distribute to us. Fakegf did, however, nab a chicken souvlaki, but sadly, it was again crazy salty. We left after that.

Winter Restaurant Invites: 2012
Garides Kataifi – angel hair pastry wrapped prawns | chicken pieces for souvlaki

I think this media launch wasn’t that representative of the restaurant’s food, it’s more geared towards generating publicity and interest. The kitchen went quite overboard with seasoning in some of the dishes, although some of my fellow bloggers who stayed reported that the other dishes later in the night weren’t over-seasoned.

A Greek colleague at work has mentioned that the food here is very good. So despite not enjoying the nature of this launch event, I’m still keen on visiting Spitiko for a proper Greek meal, and blog it properly then.