A handful of our 2014 favourites.
1. Hot nutella on tap at Pidapipo Gelateria, Melbourne
If the staff at Pidapipo have any self respect they would have done what every customer fantasises about doing – put their face under nutella tap and let the hot oozing chocolate flow freely and disgracefully into their mouth, Augustus Gloop style. But nutella tap aside, the gelato itself at Pidapipo is worth going out of your way to sample. Flavours like Ricotta & Fig, Hazelnut & Banana, Rockmelon, and Croccante (caramelised peanuts in milk gelato) await in those secretive metal pozzetti chastity belts that I have endless $4 keys for. Find Pidapipo Gelateria at the end of Lygon st in Carlton – look for the neon signs and hot Italian staff.
2. Shaved calamari, oyster cream, dill & fermented apple juice – The Town Mouse, Melbourne
Silky tendrils of squid that entwine themselves seductively around your tongue before pretty much melting away and leaving you in taste oblivion. Added to the experience is umami boost of oyster cream, a little earthiness and tang from the apple juice, and grassy aromatic dill. This dish is brutally good.
3. Small and medium plates – Lee Ho Fook, Melbourne (in particular the Raw kingfish with leek, radish, white fungi & scallion oil, the Warm scallop with silken tofu and soy butter, the Crispy eggplant with spiced red vinegar aka eggplant churros)
I accosted Rene Redzepi after seeing him speak at the Wheeler Centre last year and demanded to know where he was going to eat while in Melbourne. He said Flowerdrum, Lee Ho Fook and Attica. They were all on my list, but Lee Ho Fook the most locationally and financially feasible. However, after hearing mixed reports about Lee Ho Fook it took me a while to get there, even after the endorsement of said Danish food god. After I went, I went 2 more times in 2 weeks. Whoever had given me negative reports was need to have a long think about things. Standouts were definitely everything on the small and medium list (it’s a small – medium – large shareplate set up). Beautiful presentation, soft and delicate textures, and a real balance of sweet, salty and savoury flavours that are subtle but remarkable.
4. Prosecco on tap – Neighbourhood Wine, Melbourne
It’s like Midas came in and kissed a beer tap at Neighbourhood Wine – blessing the bar and its customers with glorious sparkling golden rivers of prosecco, at the pull of a handle. This ingenious contraption is now firmly locked into the dream house design blueprint, which we discovered when we stopped in for some sneaky Saturday afternoon oysters and charcuterie platter. A glass of prosecco turned into several litres as we capitalised on the novelty, then ended up at Town Mouse for dinner. Finally had to balance it all out all the fine dining with a sweaty dancefloor at a Mad Decent trap night in the city.
5. Meat on stick – Smokestack, Dalston yard, London
Maybe the best BBQed meat we’ve had. Apparently it’s brined for days, then smoked, then bbq’d. We were stationed at the Gin Palace working our way through the different distilleries and popped out for some sustenance.
6. Hernö Gin Martinis – Corner Club, Stockholm
In June we had a family trip to good friends in Stockholm. The last night we booked a table at The Flying Elk (little sister restaurant of Fraaken) and arrived a little early to have an apperitif at Corner Club upstairs. The martinis we were made were so lively and juicy we had to ask the bartender for some details them. Turns out the martinis are made from a local gin – Herno – which uses all fresh botanicals, as opposed to the dried botanicals used in commercial gin.
7. Snacks while you shop – Prawn on the Lawn, Islington
Prawn on the Lawn is a fishmonger just near the Highbury & Islington Tube station. We stopped in to buy some seafood one afternoon and couldn’t resist a dozen oysters and a glass of bubbles that was on offer, as we waited seafood to be wrapped. How civilised. A couple of hours, several glasses of bubbles and a few more plates of food later we left with double the amount of seafood we came for. And we’re obviously not alone in this. Originally opened as a fishmonger, Prawn on the Lawn had the idea to have a limited menu of drinks and oysters available for customers, which they’ve now expanded to a full menu of shared plates and busy restaurant. Genius.
8. Pimientos de Padron, Tomàtiga de Ramellet,Jamón – Majorca
It may have been the peppers or it may have been the situation (deckchair, snorkelling, naps, reading, mini bottles of cava and freshly made mohitos delivered to our deckchair along with the peppers, cured meats, tomato bread). Whatever it was, it worked a treat and it earned it’s place in our memories as one of the best food experiences of the year!
9. Prawn salad, Eggplant Escabeche – Majorca
After 2 days of laying beside the beach drinking fruity beverages, napping & swimming on rotation, but keen keen adventuring seeking Australian tourists, we thought that we should get out and about and explore some of Mallorca’s more hidden beaches. Our trip turned into a comedy of errors, from missing buses to bike pedals falling off and never actually making it to the beach, one positive thing is that it did lead us to a great lunch spot. We dined on prawn salads, eggplant escabeche and pints of white wine. We also learn an important lesson that day, when in Mallorca, do as other tourists do, sit by the beach and drink fruity beverages, nap and swim on rotation.
10. Haddock Wings in Soy & Clementine – The Clove Club, London
Stopping in at The Clove Club for ‘a’ cocktail as we had a wedding the next day, we left several cocktails, bottles of champagne, wines and 10+ plates later. Everything was outstanding – but the standouts were Haddock wings in soy & clementine and the brik pastry with chevre & snow peas. After that everything got a little hazy. Thanks Daniel and team!
11. Maxie’s butterflied pig – Hobart, Tasmania
We bought Dad a piglet for Christmas from a local farmer in Tasmania, so that by the time his birthday rolled around in May it would be time to eat the pig. Sounds grim, but remember folks all the meat we eat was once living. Maxie had been living in Tas for about 9 months, working at Ethos and had gained some srs pig cutting skills. She singlehandedly butterflied the pig. We had a team picking up a giant grill and drum barrell on loan from Mona, and invited a handful of locals plus a few friends interstate flew in for the occasion. We also had chef David Moyle helping us out on the pig cooking front, which was imporkable. Crispy, juicy, golden, pink.
12. Squid in Squid Ink – Saboc, Barcelona
On the way back from a morning dip and juice at XX in Barcelona, we strolled past a discreetly modern yet cosy looking restaurant and were intrigued enough by the menu to come back for lunch. It is temperature controlled, divided into the following;
20 ºC: Raw: Marinated, dehydrated or simply raw food in fresh and unexpected combinations. Crisp flavours that mix in your mouth and not on the plate.
80 ºC: Low temperature: Cooking at a low temperature, the taste concentrates and food maintain its original nutrients. You will discover new textures to foods you have already tasted.
100 ºC: Stove: On the firm heat of the stove the different flavours fuse together to create a new, more intense and complex flavour. A seemingly classic dish will surprise you.
200 ºC: Griddle: Toasted on the outside and juicy on the inside. Griddled, foods are sealed enclosing all the flavour inside. Really hot dishes to eat in the moment.
You take your tastebuds on a journey, starting at raw and ending at grilled (you at me at hello). Highlights include the sea egg and squid with squid ink and caramelized duck cannelloni with fresh soya and Korean barbeque sauce.
13. Ale bread and beef dripping candle – Restaurant Story, London
The name says it all ‘Restaurant Story’ and what good story doesn’t start with a candle… amen. Our 10 course beverage matched degustation started (officially after 10 rounds of ‘snacks) with a candle made of beef drippings that you dipped fresh baked bread into….. whilst sipping on dark ale,the rest is history.
14. Pigeon Pastilla – Marrakech
Pigeon pastilla has mastered the balance of sweet & salty and was the first mover in the whole ‘sweet meat’ movements of 2014 (candied bacon). We enjoyed it some much. we were inspired to make our own version. Find the recipe here.
15. Chilled plates – Au Passage, Paris
Au Passage is a freshing break from the rich traditional food you find in French fine dining restaurants. Set inside an old pub, Au Passage offeres a smaller seasonal tapas style menu where you can order as many or as little plates as you like. The kitchen blasts music and the chef dance around… its a restaurat with a great vibe and an insight into the way the next generation of french chefs are heading. We recommend the burrata cheese (which is always available).
16. Charcuterie plate – Saint Crispin, Collingwood
Saint Crispin bridges that gap between casual and fine dining. It’s accessible, concept and financially wise, but feel special. Dishes are pretty (read: flowers, foam), decor is Schlick and wait staff are dressed formally and treat you well. You can sit in for a tasting plate or just drop in for dessert and a glass of sticky, a charcuterie plate, or some oysters and bubbles. All behavior seems welcome. I recently had the charcuterie plate – various cured meats, an incredible duck liver pate and duck terrine. You get bread while you wait with their delicious Caramelised onion butter.
17. Maple Bacon Cheeseburger – Mother Flipper, London
Whether it was the burger or the hangover not quite sure, but really fff good.
Everything I ate in Japan deserves a spot on this list, from chicken lungs, duck hearts, sea slugs and raw octopus, for better or for worse, eat dining experience left its mark on me. One of the most memorable (and probably life saving meals) was a big bowl of post karaoke ramen at 7am. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up goes to shallots wrapped in wafer thin pork then BBQ’ed on a char grill from a tiny place in Shimokitazawa. This district (one stop from Shibuya, dubbed the ‘bohemian part of Tokyo’) make your way to a bar called Please Stand Up, MoMo and the florist that turns into a bar at 5pm.
19. Lune Croissanterie, Melbourne
Who would make a better croissant than an ex-formula one aerodynamic engineer? Croissants are famed for their technically intense baking process, making engineer baker Kate the ideal croissant making candidate. Get in early, as within several hours of opening there’s barely a golden buttery crumb left behind.
20. Everything mum made
In particular, her Beetroot gnocchi with Rocket Pesto (which owned our Instagram account) and her Australia Day pie “I’m just going to briase these lamb shanks with sweet potato and potato until the meat falls off the bone, then we can use the meat for a pie and make a mash with the potatoes”.
21. Cheese Platter – 10 Williams St, Sydney
Cheese and quince paste complete with toasted bread and a token soft piece for mopping the plate. Intelligent food, simple, beautiful ingredients. Chef Daniel Pepperelle was named one of the young chefs to watch in Australia in 2014.
22. Dessert – Ethos Eat Drink, Tasmania
Chef Iain Todd and the team at Ethos Eat Drink offer up the best that Tasmania’s produce has to offer. Serving up a 6 or 8 course tasting menu, everything where possible is made in house and the menu changes daily.
23. Maine Prawn Roll with a Bloody Mary – Rockwell & Sons, Collingwood
You could substitute the prawn rolls for a Double Pattie Smash, the Bloody Mary for an old fashioned lemonade, and any of the sides you would be infinitely pleased with your decision. Either way, fries are a must. It’s an American-style diner (iceberg salad, mac & cheese, buttermilk biscuits) but with hints of Korean and Japanese flavours (furikake, nashi, ssamjang, red dragon sauce coriander). Try your hand at making them yourself, recipe up on Gourmet Traveller
24. Tapas, montaditos & the house sherry – Quimet & Quimet, Barcelona
A classic, that regardless of the write ups in every Barcelona travel to-do list for years somehow manages to maintain it’s authenticity. Walls are lined bottom to top with bottles, the owners are friendly and the food and beverages delicious. We scored points with the owner when we ordered sherry and they served us from the label-less bottle of house-brewed sherry. We did our best to try everything on offer, and got through an assortment of flavour combinations like Salmon, yogurt and truffled honey, white anchovy and baked red pepper, fresh anchovies and dried tomato, foie-grae and mushroom, plus many plates of pungent cheeses served with fruit jelly.