Day 2 in Melbourne started with breakfast in the newly renovated hotel restaurant here at the Grand Hyatt. They have gone with a beautiful, open design conveying the feel of a working kitchen, with the chefs working and doing their prep on the stations and service areas around them. Everything was really fresh and well prepared, and because the prep areas are right there, always fully stocked.
After an initial morning meeting, we started to plan our week here, and most importantly where and when we would eat. I had my list of places that I had scouted, and our hosts had a number of additional suggestions in the city and surrounding areas. After a quick visit to one of the culinary schools here, we picked up a business associate at the airport and headed back downtown for a late lunch.
The European, aptly named, is a narrow restaurant nestled beside the historic Princess Theatre, directly across from the Parliament buildings. As you walk through the tall doors, you would swear you were in an old French bistro, small wooden tables and a long bar gracing the dark wood panelling, and chalkboards with the daily specials, and wine selections.
Features included two kinds of local shellfish, a couple of pastas, two daily fish dishes, and a veal scallopine. After perusing the menu and wine list, We ordered some of the featured Coffin Bay oysters to start, which I hear were exceptional, briny, and plump. (due to a reaction years ago, I haven’t eaten oysters in years, but I enjoy hearing about the nuances of them from those who do.) I ordered some of the crispy School Prawns, a small shrimp quickly deep fried and served with a romesco aioli and fresh lemon. They were very fresh and tasty, with a briny sweet finish.
For main courses, a few at the table ordered mushroom risotto, while I had the farfalle alla siciliana, bowtie pasta with ripe tomato, basil, and anchovy with garlic and olive oil. Simple but delicious, with a glass or two of pinot grigio to wash it all down. For dessert, we elected to share two offerings, a parfait with a fig and pecan crust and roasted fruit, and a tiramisu.
Following an afternoon of work, we retired to the hotel, and then regrouped for a beverage before heading out for the evening. I had scoped out the local music scene, and we headed to a small club in West Melbourne called Spenser’s Live to see a quartet of some of Australia’s finest fusion musicians: Brett Garsed, Phil Turcio, Craig Newman, and Gerry Pantzis. They played a fantastic 90 minute set of inspiringly tight, textured, and smooth instrumentals, after which we were famished.
It was creeping onto midnight, so we decided to follow a recommendation I had read about online. Anytime a restaurant is touted as the place the local chefs go after work, you know two things: the food will be good, and reasonably priced. We headed over to Supper Inn in a deluge, the first rain in awhile here, and after scaling a narrow staircase, came into just what I would expect, a busy room full of bodies young and old, and the smells of great Chinese cooking.
We ordered 5 things:
Hot and sour soup, which was packed full of meat, shrimp, and vegetable, crispy skin chicken with special sauce, which was crisp on the outside, moist and tender inside, with a light but very tasty glaze, fried rice with pork and shrimp (enough said), pork spareribs with mandarin sauce, which were crispy with a sweet sticky sauce clinging to them, and shiitake mushrooms and shanghai bok choy, caramelized and so packed with flavour one of my dining companions described them as the best shiitake mushrooms she had ever tasted. I would have to agree, and after a night of several beers, great music, and finally another great meal, we settled in for the night.