Thursday, 29 November 2007

Gum Do

Gum Do is a very reliable local Chinese take-away. Actually, after eating Gum Do takeaway many, many times we're yet to have a bad meal.

Ok, so it doesn't look like the swankiest place from the street. But you aren't here for the atmosphere or fancy fit-out. Although there are tables and chairs at Gum Do, it really is a take away place.

There are all the usual suspects here, with a few chef's suggestions to spice things up.
To start off with, try some spring rolls (6 for $4.20) or maybe a BBQ pork wonton noodle soup ($6.50).

Given that the takeaway containers here are always struggling to keep their lids on, we usually skip the entrees and head straight for the main course.

Favourites off the menu include chicken in chilli sauce ($8) which has a little bit more bite than usual Chinese take away or beef with ginger & shallots ($8.50) that always has a good ginger tang and is packed with fresh vegetables.

There is also a great selection for vegetarians. Vegetable hofan $7.50) comes in an enormous container, full of noodles and veges and could easily feed 2 people, or at least leave you with a good stash of left overs. Other tried and tasty vegetarian options are Chinese seasonal vegetables in garlic or oyster sauce ($6.50) and the vegetable Hokkien noodles ($7.50).

And that's not to mention other dishes such as salt & pepper squid ($9.50), crisp skin chicken ($8), king prawn omelette ($11.80) or the scallops with garlic ($13.50).

Unfortunately there are lots of very average Chinese take aways in Brisbane. Gum Do isn't one of them. Their food is fresh, tasty and ridiculously good value.

Be warned though, they only take cash. But you can't go wrong at Gum Do.

What does all this mean? Tasty, fresh Chinese take away at prices you won't believe.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - N/A
Ambience - Its take away, forget about the ambience
Value for Money - Top Shelf
Vegetarian - Great

Gum Do
31 Blackwood Street
Mitchelton 4053
P - 07 3355 7506

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Next Blackwood Street Markets

If you haven't already been, there are monthly food markets at Blackwood Street, Mitchelton.

They are part of Jan Power's farmers markets, and have a great selection of food, drink and craft stalls. But get there as early as you can - some of the more popular stalls are sold out before 9am. The markets make a great breakfast stop, with Merlo & Di Bella coffee, German sausages, Greek yoghurt, cakes, pastries and even gelati.

The markets are on the last Sunday of every month. The next markets are on Sunday 25 November 2007. If you are looking for a park, there are plenty at Brookside shopping centre, which is less than 5 minutes walk away.

Mitchelton Farmers Markets
Blackwood Street
Mitchelton, Brisbane

Wild Pepper

Wild Pepper is a pizzeria in the busy strip of restaurants on Hardgrave Road at West End.

There are tables inside and out. If there are large tables of hungry pizza eaters, like on the night we were there, inside can get a bit noisy. So if you are there for a quiet night for 2, sitting outside might be the better bet. The surroundings are modern, clean and casual.

To kick off your meal, try one of the pizza breads - herb, chilli, jalapeno, pesto or garlic - which are all $10.

We gave the starters a miss, and went straight to the pizzas. There are a good selection of vegetarian, meat and seafood pizzas. If you are looking for a more traditional Italian pizza, then go for the "Margarita" (no its not a cocktail, its a Margherita) with tomatoes, basil and parmesan, at $9 for a small, $12 for a medium or $15 for a large, or a Pepperoni with pepperoni, green capsicum and chilli at $10/$13/$16.

If you're not one for traditional Italian toppings and are looking for something a bit different, you won't be disappointed. Try the "David's own" with red kidney beans, salsa jalapeno chili, guacamole, sour cream and cherry tomatoes at $14/$17/$20 or the Roast Chicken with chicken, roasted pumpkin, feta, pine nuts, spinach and harissa at $15/$18/$21.

Aside from the standard menu, there were also two special pizzas available on the night we were there. Unfortunately, we didn't see the blackboard until we were walking out (and weren't told about them when ordering) so we missed out on those.

Best of all, they offer all their pizzas with gluten free bases for all those Coeliacs out there. Although the gluten free bases aren't as crisp and thin as a real pizza, its great to be able to order any pizza off the menu. Gluten free pizzas only come in one size, and are charged at the large pizza price.

I went for half an "Oscar Wild" (Italian sausage, caramelized onion and parmesan) and half a Chilli Prawn (prawns, basil and chilli). Both halves were really tasty, topped with fresh ingredients. The Oscar Wild was particularly good - the salty sausage, sweet caramelised onion and tangy parmesan combining well. We also had a small Margherita, which was excellent. Simple, but crisp and tasty. Sometimes its hard to go past a good Margherita.

There are also salads on the menu. We ordered the pumpkin salad ($8) with our pizzas. The salad was enormous and was listed on the menu as baby spinach/rocket, roast pumpkin, pine nuts & parmesan. Unfortunately it was absolutely caked in a seeded mustard dressing. There was so much mustard in it, that after a few attempts at scraping off the mustard from the spinach and pumpkin, we just gave up. If you are ordering a salad with your pizza, it's probably best to order something other than the pumpkin one, unless you haven't had your mustard fix for the year.

Finally, if you haven't had your fill of pizza for the night, there are also dessert pizzas. We had eaten more than enough, so didn't even consider one. But if a banana or strawberry dessert pizza is your thing, then dig in.

Wild Pepper is BYO, and there is a bottle shop right next door, which is extremely handy. Serve was adequate and relaxed.

If you are looking for tasty pizza at good prices, then Wild Pizza is definitely worth a visit. And if you are a Coeliac, then you'll find it's one of the few pizza places in Brisbane where you can have just about anything off the menu. You can also order the pizzas take away if you are lucky enough to live close by.

What does all this mean? Tasty, fresh pizza at very reasonable prices.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - OK
Ambience - Modern casual
Value for Money - Great
Wine - BYO

Vegetarian - Great
Gluten Free - Top Shelf

Wild Pepper
75 Hardgrave Road
West End
P - 07 3844 1262
W -

Wild Pepper on Urbanspoon

Monday, 12 November 2007

Bar Lourinha

Are you looking for the perfect wine bar? Then look no further. I know its not in Brisbane, but next time you are in Melbourne, make sure you don't miss Bar Lourinha.

Its a fairly small room, and you either sit at the bar, or at high communal tables. We chose the bar, mainly to eye off all the great spirits behind the bar. The room is decorated with a few eccentric knick-knacks, to give the place a bit of atmosphere.

So first up, drinks. The wine list is one page, but its a great page. There are a small amount of wines available by the glass, but don't expect what you would see in many Australian restaurants. Here you'll see Spanish, Greek, German, Italian and a few French wines. Don't know your albarino from your touriga franca? Well then you've come to the right spot. Bar Lourinha is all about immersing yourself in these fantastic European wines. And the prices are reasonable, which makes the whole thing even more attractive. Start with a manzanilla sherry, move on to a vinho verde, then a tempranillo, and you're set for a great afternoon.

If you're not into wine, then there's Kirin beer on tap, and a great range of spirits.

So what's the food like? Perfect portions to have with a glass of wine. These dishes are great for sharing, so pick a few and start nibbling away. We started with the Wagyu carne cruda ($15) and the cabbage salad with feta and mint ($13). I don't eat a lot of rare meat, but was willing to give the carne cruda a go. It was a generous serving, paired with some shaved horseradish, beetroot, radish and flat leaf parsley. The beef was extremely tender, but it was a very rich dish, which I just managed to finish. Needless to say it was a great match with my joven tempranillo. The cabbage salad was zingy and herby that was the perfect starter. The menu made no mention of the coriander, dill and flat leaf parsley that was also in the dish, but it was a fantastic salad. My dining companion was a bit narked to find her despised coriander appear, but it was removed and the dish disappeared pretty quickly.

Then for the next round, which was the house made chorizo with apple cider ($15) and the asparagus with labneh ($15). The chorizo was my favourite dish, served swimming in sauce. It was everything chorizo should be - salty, savoury and completely moreish. The crunchy pieces of apple that accompanied the chorizo gave the dish a good contrast of textures. The asparagus with labneh was solid, but nothing memorable. I thought it was a bit strange that it was served cold, but I'm finding that its now almost becoming mandatory to ask if a dish is hot or cold when ordering, because sometimes you just don't know. Anyway it was a decent selection of green and white asparagus, but there are probably more interesting and tasty options that may be a better choice.

At this stage, we didn't really need any more food. But we'd ordered it, so kept going. To finish up we had ordered the tallegio with celery and apple salad ($10). A couple of small, very cool china plates were brought out to us for this course and together with a cheese knife and silver forks really added to the character of the dish. Anyway this was a great way to end the afternoon - some fairly young tallegio with a great, crunchy salad of celery and apple.

For those that need some dessert, there are sweet options too, or you can order a selection of cheeses.

Finally, the service is informal, relaxed and completely unpretentious. The waiter at the bar will be more than happy to guide you through all those wines you've never heard of, or heard of but never had the chance to try.

All the ingredients are here for a very long afternoon or night. At the end, the bill was $117, and that covered 5 dishes, 4 glasses of wine and 2 spirits. At those prices, its hard not to enjoy yourselves.

Get along to Bar Lourinha. As much as I love Anise in Brisbane, this place is even better. I'll definitely be back next time we are in Melbourne.

What does all these mean? Fantastic wine, food to share and a long, lazy afternoon.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Good
Ambience - Understadedly Eccentric
Value for Money - Great
Wine - Top Shelf

Vegetarian - Good
Gluten Free - Good

Bar Lourinha
37 Little Collins Street
Melbourne VIC
p - 03 9663 7890
w -

Bar Lourinhã on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Era Bistro

Era is a great example of what can be done with food in Brisbane. Era offers a choice of venues.

First there is the cafe, if you are after breakfast or brunch. If you're planning on having a glass of wine with your brunch, then there is a wine list to accomodate you.

Next is the bar, where not only is there a great selection of wine and beer, but the tapas sound delicious. It would easy to get stuck here for a few hours munching on tempura soft shell crab or peking duck pancakes with hoi sin sauce.

But we were here for a celebratory dinner, so it was the bistro we were after. Calling Era a bistro is probably a bit of a misnomer. The food is definitely a higher standard than what you'd expect from a bistro. As far as I'm concerned, its some of the best food I've had in Brisbane this year.

Its a fairly modern, stark room. There isn't much of a view of anything, other than the road outside. So no-one is going to be there for the amazing views. But don't let that put you off, because the food is something else altogether.

After choosing a couple of glasses of wine, a selection of bread were brought out to the table, which is always a nice touch. Then it was time for the entrees. I had the seared scallops, braised oxtail, cauliflower & feves with braising jus ($22). It was one of the more interesting sounding options. It was a good entree, although I am not convinced that the scallops really paired well with the oxtail. The oxtail was a big, rich flavour, which completely overwhelmed the scallops. Each part of the dish was declicious, however the overall taste was a bit disjointed. My dining partner, a vegetarian, had the warm salad of baby beets, goat cheese, wild rocket & blood orange ($18). This was a terrific dish, which had us scraping up the beetroot and goats cheese. If anything the other parts of the salad were a bit hidden by the mass of rocket, but the taste was excellent.

Time to order another glass from the great wine list, then on to main course. I asked our friendly waitress about how the tasmanian ocean trout, Queensland red claw & baby vegetables ($31) was cooked ‘en Papillotte’. After being told it basically meant they were all cooked together in a plastic bag, which didn't sound particularly appetising, I still went ahead and ordered it. I am glad that I did, as this dish was spectacular. The trout in particular was beautifully succulent, its delicate flavour not overwhelmed by the other parts of the dish. Overall this was a very clean, bright seafood dish. It really was memorable. Our other main course was the artichoke & mushroom pithivier with wild mushrooms and cep consomme ($26). This was a much richer, earthier dish that was very good. There was a great depth of flavour with all the mushrooms and a good contrast of textures from the artichoke.

So far, the night was progressing very well. It was unfortunate that it was let down by our desserts. As it included a number of my favourite dessert items, I went for the
white chocolate semi freddo with roasted strawberries & balsamic and glass biscuit. The semi freddo was ok. The strawberries however were just overpowered by the balsamic, which tasted really thin and just too vinegary. I quickly swapped my dining companion for her lemon verbena scented crème brulee, mandarin sorbet and coconut tuile, which was better. The creme brulee itself was of the good, shallow variety with a great crunchy top.

Service throughout the meal was excellent. Our waitress was very friendly and approachable, but also highly knowledgeable and professional. She had the perfect knack of being at our table when required, whilst otherwise leaving us to enjoy the high quality food.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the wine list, which in my opinion is great. There are plenty of wines by the glass (from $6 for a fino sherry to $19.50 for Louis Roederer NV) and also a whole page of local and imported beers. The wine list here should keep everyone happy. It has a few fairly safe choices, but there are some great options for the more adventurous, such as the Salomon gruner veltliner ($49) or the Pérez Cruz reserva carmenère from Chile ($64). The mark ups aren't as noticeably unreasonable as some other CBD restaurants.

And if, at the end of the night, you haven't had enough wine, then check out the great Era bottle shop. Pick up a few bottles that you didn't get to try during your meal and you'll get 10% off with your restaurant receipt.

All up, Era Bistro is a very welcome addition to the Brisbane food scene. If the quality of food can be kept consistent, Era should quickly attract a solid following. We will certainly be back to graze on their tapas menu with a few glasses of wine.

What does all this mean? Very good modern Australian food, washed down with an excellent wine list.

Food Bling Ratings

Food - Great
Service - Top Shelf
Ambience - Modern, Minimalist
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Great

Vegetarian - Good
Gluten Free - OK
Other - Entertainment Book, Great Bar

Era Bistro
104 Melbourne Street
South Brisbane
P 07 3255 2033

Era Bistro on Urbanspoon

Ciao Baby

Ciao Baby is an Italian restaurant at Albion, which has been around for a while. Although its been on the list of places to go, its taken us until now to finally make it there.

The restaurant looks good. Not everyone is going to like the decor, but as far as I am concerned, better bright than bland. Anyway you're not there for the decor.

The food was great. Not spectacular, but very tasty Italian staples. There were 4 or 5 specials of the day, which helps change the menu around. The staff were very friendly and looked after us well.

Entrees were reasonably priced, and our table went for an assortment of breads & garlic pizza. That got the night off to a good start. Other entrees include soup of the day, bruschetta and scallops.

Mains are a choice between pizza or Italian classics. Both of which are not skimpy on the sizes. The pizzas will keep even the hungriest diner happy. Other meals include lamb, fish, eye fillet and rabbit. I had the rabbit (coniglio alla cacciatore) which was braised with herbs and olives. It was very rich and the rabbit melted in my mouth. Terrific Italian comfort food. Then there are the pastas, which also sounded delicious. The special spaghetti with prawns and scallops sounded fantastic.

There are desserts too, which are presented on a very big blackboard. The panna cotta with caramelised pear was one of the best desserts I have had for a long time. The slightly wobbly panna cotta was sublime. Other desserts included a chocolate meringue with strawberries, and a chocolate and nut brownie, which was a bit disappointing.

The restaurant is BYO wine, but also has a wine list for those that aren't prepared. We eventually were brought enough glasses for the table, but that was the only slight delay in the service all night. Given that we were on a large table, the food came out surprisingly quickly.

The food here is good, honest Italian fare. Servings are big, the service is friendly and its hard not to have an enjoyable night. Its probably going to be a bit noisy for a romantic night out, but the perfect place for dinner with friends.

Finally, a word on the prices. Its not cheap, with some of the main courses up to $34. Sure the food isn't mind blowingly good, but its pretty solid. I didn't mind at all parting with $34 for the rabbit, which was delicious. So long as you aren't expecting main courses for $20, you will be fine. Its a shame that their website doesn't post up the prices of the food, to help out anyone that might be considering going along. But if you take your own wine, you'll won't have to worry too much about the prices. There is a BWS bottleshop almost next door at the Albion Hotel.

What does all this mean? Good, tasty Italian food.

Food Bling Ratings

Food - Good
Service - Great
Ambience - Striking
Value for Money - OK

Vegetarian - OK
Gluten Free - Limited
BYO - Wine only
Other - Can be noisy, Entertainment Book

Ciao Baby
340 Sandgate Road
P 07 3862 4200

Ciao Baby on Urbanspoon


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