Monday, April 21, 2014

Shop. @ Emporium Melbourne

287 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne CBD 3000
Website for latest news :

The long awaited opening of Emporium Melbourne is finally here.   I have fond memories of the majestic Myer Emporium building as a little girl.   It is a beautiful building and I was excited to see this grand old Dame of Melbourne transform into a world class shopping Mall, yet still maintain it's charm and class.

I've visited Emproium twice since it's opening last Wednesday (16th April), once on Thursday, with Mini Me and Macaron Monster, and again on Easter Saturday with Hubby and the whole gang.  My first thought as I walked through the entrance from Lonsdale Street was that it felt like Westfield Sydney, which I really like as a modern, city shopping mall.  It is spacious, modern, and well, interesting looking, and felt like one of the shiny malls from overseas. 

The first shop I headed to was Uniqlo.  The much anticipated arrival of this famous Japanese affordable casual wear giant has stirred up much excitement  as it opens its first Australian Flagship store which spans 4 floors of retail space!  Some of the staff have been flown in from overseas Uniqlo stores to assist the local staff who have been in training for months to deliver the service that Uniqlo customers are used to.  There were lots of customers on Thursday, but the cashier and changeroom queues both moved quickly, and I actually like their policy during opening of only letting you try on 3 items, before you have to line up again.  On Saturday there was a long queue to get in the store, but again it moved quickly and we lined up for less than 5 minutes.  Most of their items were under $100, with jeans under $60 and most tops and shirts under $50.  I got some really comfy stretchy jeans and a cute jacket for work and it didn't break the bank (or my husband!)  I also got a couple of cute UT t-shirts for the kids which were $9.90 on special (usually $12.9) but even at full price they are good quality t-shirts and cheaper than Target!  If you're not in Melbourne you can now shop online at the Uniqlo website.

Next up we headed to Muji.  It's no secret I love Muji!  Their philosophy of unbranded, simple but well designed and good quality products has always been a favourite of mine.  This is their second store (their first opened in Chadstone last year) and they carry similar lines of homewares, clothing, stationery, kitchenware and storage.  I do hope they start carrying the large range of food items that Muji sells in their overseas stores!

The kids had a blast personalising their B5 notebooks with the stamps available in store.  At $3.95 each these were a good little treat for their patience with all the lining up that we did.

Then off for a spot of lunch.  The "Cafe Court" is no ordinary food court, and boasts many well loved foodie eateries including Earl Canteen, Esteller, Top Juice Cha Time, South Melbourne Dim Sims, Rice Workshop and Bingboy amongst others which are still to open.  

We shared "The Pork Belly" ($13.5) from EARL, the third branch of the Original EARL Canteen at 500 Bourke.  The pork is comforting and delish with a great bit of crispy crackling.  We also had the "Meatballs" ($11.5) , with really tasty meatballs and melted Jarlsberg cheese, tomato sugo, zucchini pickles and basil.  

As a side we had the Crispy Fried Potatoes ($4) with tomoato relish ($1).   This was obviously a hit with the kids (and the adults too!)  We also had a giant chocolate chip cookie ($2.5), a Lime Coconut Biscuit ($2.5) and a beautiful strawberries-topped honey panna cotta ($6) for sweets.  (Sorry there's no photos I think Bubs deleted them whilst playing with my phone!)  In particular I loved the lime coconut biscuit and had to make some myself the next day!

The kids have never tried a South Melbourne Dim Sim so we got one whilst the line was short.  At $2 each they were selling like hot cakes.  They only had steamed ones on Thursday but by Saturday 2 giant woks full of fried dim sims were selling like the proverbial hot cakes.

A quick wander around the basement level revealed more shops like the first Zoo York store, a Mr Simple store and The Face Shop which is a Korean Beauty shop.  There are also a few more eateries including the newly relocated Ramen Ya and Botica, an espresso bar.

Many of the shops are still yet to open over the coming weeks and months including Victoria Secret.  Top Shop and Nespresso are opening in the next couple of weeks.  The Cafe Court will also have an official opening with Becasse Bakery and Charlie & Co. Burgers (yay for Parmesan and truffle fries!) and also Jimmy Grants setting up an outpost here in May.

The Emporium feels like a piece of the missing puzzle piece which is finally in place.  Its location conveniently links up the shopping precinct nicely, with bridge walkways through to Melbourne Central to the North and the Myer Store (and Bourke Street Mall) to the South.  I love that Melbourne comfortably boasts a mix of global brands and large shopping malls, as well as our charming lane ways and little hidden shops and cafes.  This is the Melbourne I love!

Earl Canteen Emporium on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Eat. @ Top Paddock

658 Church St, Richmond 3121 ph (03) 9429 4332

Top Paddock opened last year and has been a popular breakfast, lunch and coffee spot ever since.  I have visited many times and each time have been impressed with the quality of coffee, interesting combination of fresh ingredients, and the beautiful presentation of the food. 

The interior of the cafe is modern, spacious and stylish.  The different configurations of smaller tables, bigger share tables and quirky stools accommodate families and catch ups as well as single diners looking for a coffee break equally well. 

The mochas ($3.8) I have are consistently good, and comes with beautiful latte art of course.

I love the sense of relaxation I get with a beautiful mocha on a gorgeous autumn day in the sun.

Here's a round up of some of the dishes I've had here.  The  Gin and Lime cured Ocean Trout ($20) is a dish that I've ordered over and over.   The trout is beautifully done, with the gin and lime giving it a subtle tang, served with poached eggs, little potato galettes, leaves and goat curd.  The pickled beetroot gives it a sweet but sharp lift that compliments the heavier components of the dish.  It's quite a decent serve as well and usually keeps me full all day as a brunch.

It's such a pretty dish I can't help taking lots of photos of it every time I order it! 

And of course some #yolkporn to show you the perfectly poached eggy goodness.

Apart from that we've also tried the White Anchovies and Jamon Serrano with fried eggs, padron peppers & manchego on toast ($19).  Another interesting combination using more exotic components than your usually brekkie fried eggs dish.

We also had a beautiful drunken ginger bread ($18) served with a berry coulis as a special on one of our visits (not currently on menu) adorned with pretty flowers and fruit that is an excellent sweet dish.

The lines can be quite long on weekends and if you're in a hurry a take-away coffee and one of the yummy cakes or pastries from the counter can hit the spot.

Toilets - Yes

Top Paddock on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 14, 2014

Eat. @ Fukuryu Ramen & Shop Ramen

My kids love noodles and we're always looking for good ramen/udon places.  Here are 2 recent finds that have been quite good.

Fukuryu Ramen
Level 1, 22-26 Corrs Lane, Melbourne CBD 3000 ph (03) 9090 7149

Fukuryu Ramen (don't let your kids say this too quickly!) is literally a new kid on the block.  It opened recently in a first floor warehouse space.  There's quite a bit of seating and the red feature wall is adorned with a giant black dragon. (Fukuryu means lucky dragon)  You order at the counter and the food is delivered to your table.

From the small plates section we ordered tried the Nori Tofu ($4.9).  A relatively light tofu, with a side of kewpie mayo.  Personally I thought this could be better with a dash more salt.

The Pork Gyozas ($5.9) were pleasant enough.  Didn't knock my socks off but quite serviceable as a starter.

The Signature Tonkotsu Ramen ($9.9) is what will bring me back though.  The soup base is meaty without being overly so, and not as salty as others around town.  The Ramen is pleasantly chewy and reflects the freshness of the noodles.

Hubby prefers Miso to Tonkotsu as a soup so he had the Miso Ramen ($9.9) and this was very nice, with a serve of buttery corn goodness.  The soft boiled egg was nicely done.

Lastly we tried the Shio Ramen ($9.9) which was a lighter salted broth.  It definitely is not as tasty as the Tonkotsu or Miso but did indeed feel a lot lighter.  This was served with a couple of dumplings and a slice of pork.

We were lucky enough to have gone when they still had their opening special with free green tea soft serve.  We had to wait for these as they had run out but they were worth the wait.  I'd be happy to pay for these next time we visit.

There was a queue intermittently for ordering but there was quite a rapid turnover of tables when we visited at 12:30pm on a Saturday.  By the time we left they had run out of the Tonkotsu Ramen!!  Upstairs location will mean you need help negotiating the stairs with a pram.  Verdict - good sized bowls of ramen with tasty broth at a reasonable price.  The ramen is the star and the soft serve a great palate cleansing after act.

Toilets - Yes
Highchairs - Yes

Shop Ramen
329 Smith St, Fitzroy 3065

Shop Ramen is the permanent incarnation of the successful pop-up Shophouse Ramen.  We stopped here for dinner on the weekend when the weather turned to autumn with a slight chill in the wind.  Yep,  Ramen weather!

The menu at a glance was ramen-shop-with-a-twist.  Offerings included ramen, buns, milkshake and pie!  

So of course we started with a Salted Caramel and Coconut Milkshake ($8).  It was quite pricey but delicious, and the 3 kids shared so as not to get too full.  

The waitress was super friendly, and she let us know that they offer kids sized ramen off-menu at $4 a bowl.  This was a great idea as both Bubs and Macaron Monster are fans of noodles but usually not so keen on the meat and seaweed.   Mini Me also had a bowl of noodles but added beef brisket extra ($4).   The size of the serving was quite good for the price.  All the kids were happy.

Hubby had the Shoyu Ramen ($14) which had pork belly, king oyster mushroom, spring onion, watercress, nori and organic shoyu.  The broth was quite tasty and the soft boiled egg is again excellent here.

I tried the Kimchi Miso Ramen ($14) featuring Cape Grim brisket, kimchi, peanuts, bean shoots, grilled spring onion and marinated egg (you can add Kraft Single Cheese slice for $1 - I think this is a Korean thing!)  An interesting twist to the traditional ramen that was quite delicious, although it might have traditionalists like my Hubby scratching his head a bit.  

The shop is not very big and became packed shortly after we arrived.  By the time we left there was a line.  We didn't get to stay for pie (next time!) as the kids wanted to go to Gelato Messina.  Verdict - good bowls of hearty noodles, a little bit pricey but decent broths with a few non-traditional twists and an interesting mix with milkshakes and pie - somehow it works, it is Fitzroy afterall!

Toilets - yes

Fukuryu Ramen on Urbanspoon
Shop Ramen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Eat. @ Chin Chin

125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD 3000 ph (03) 8663 2000

Hubby and I finally made it to the infamous Double Chin for dinner a few weeks ago.  It was a week after Valentine's Day, which we always celebrate late as we tend to like to avoid the the pressure of eating out on those "celebrated" days.  I've wanted to eat at Chin Chin for ages but have always been a bit apprehensive of risking a massive queue on our ever so rare date nights.  This year we organised babysitting early and headed to the city ahead of the White Night event.  I'm happy to report that we got there at 5:10pm, didn't have a wait and were seated at the bar for drinks and din dins by 5:15pm!

Their menu is quite extensive and there were lots of dishes of different sizes to share.  I contemplated the choices whist sipping on my mocktail of pineapple and coconut.

We ordered lots of little dishes to share, starting with the School Prawns ($14) with nahm prik pla gapi, herbs and crudites.  This was a much bigger serving than we expected and by the end of our meal we still had some left! 

The Chin Chin Pork "Roll Ups" ($19) were next, with red braised suckling pig which you self-wrap in pancakes, slaw and asian herbs.  An interesting and tasty twist to the "wrap and eat" dish which again was quite a big serve for 2 considering the price.

Next up, the most beautiful Tom Kha ($15) I've had.  The coconut, galangal, mushrooms and tahail basil soup had a really fragrant chilli oil, I could not get enough of this soup!

Then we had the Wok Fried Salt and Pepper Squid ($14), mostly because the couple next to us were having it and it looked fabulous, and it did not disappoint!

The Son in Law Eggs ($8) here are quite famous, served with an addictive chilli jam.  There were 3 eggs which is quite a decent sized serve.  The slightly crunchy skin gave way to a still runny centre, and the chilli jam gives it the spicy zing to counter the heaviness of the twice-cooked eggs.

Not having that many date nights, we *ahem* quite possibly over ordered and under estimated the size of the dishes!   The last dish we had was the Caramelised Sticky Pork with sour herb salad and chilli vinegar ($26)  This was perfectly paired with some steamed jasmine rice ($3) and I wish I could've eaten more!  Alas as much as I wanted to order dessert I literally had to roll off my barstool by this stage.  Next time!

Our dinner at Chin Chin did not disappoint and we were happy that our meal lived up to the hype from this now famous Melbourne hot spot.  The service was efficient and friendly, and as busy as the place was, we weren't at any stage made to feel rushed or ignored.  As we were arriving we saw a few young families with young children leaving after an early dinner, and I look forward to bringing our bunch of kidlets for a meal now that Bubs is older and much easier to handle at meal times!

Toilets - yes, and pretty awesome for the background "music" in the form of an instructional tutorial on learning to speak ?Thai ?Vietnamese.  I'm not sure but it did give me a giggle as I thought about patrons learning a new language as they peed!

Chin Chin on Urbanspoon