Friday, July 17, 2009

Coda Bar & Restaurant

We had dinner at Coda last night. It was perfect. The combination of a first class chef Adam D'Sylva, with Mykal Bartholomew, former manager of MoVida, and Kate Calder, ex-floor supervisor of Taxi, means that all the t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted.

The interior is more Asian hawker meets industrial chic than French bistro. The food however isn’t as easy to characterize. We asked for Adam to design our menu, it is always a privilege to put my eating experience into such able hands.

We were graced with delicacy, texture, and innovation. I was starving after having had a massive day at work, so I must admit we scoffed our first few plates, juices dribbling down our hands and without a care for the coriander stuck in our teeth.


I won’t run through our entire evening, rather I’d just like to highlight a few favorites.  The Spanner crab, galangal, roasted chili encased in a lime bettle leaf balanced the subtleties of the silky crab with the punch of the galangal and roasted chili. The juices were sweet and a hint of acid brought it all together. I would have bribed the waiter to bring another if we hadn’t have been presented with the Coffin Bay scallop with pearl tapioca and Yarra Valley salmon caviar so promptly. The pop of the caviar and the buttery creaminess of the pearl tapioca were a 180 from the vivaciousness of the crab we’d just had.


Getting my hands and chin dirty with the blackened quail, daikon and shiso salad was the ultimate pleasure. There’s something delightful in being able to lick your fingers in a beautiful restaurant.  


As I write, I realize that I can’t judge which was my favorite dish. The yellow duck curry with lotus root was confronting, sweet, and Moorish. The sizzling plate of prawns, roasted chili, kingbrown mushrooms, fresh green peppercorns and Thai basil had me scraping the plate and licking my fork and the taste plate of baked lemon tart with Yuzu marshmallow for me and the Valrhona chocolate custard pot with hazelnut brittle & pumpkin foam meant for once Hamish and I didn’t have a fight at the end of the evening.


Our sommelier was knowledge and charming. And don’t even get me started on the beauty of being able to order half bottles and even half glasses. That, in itself, would have me return again and again.


My all time favorite restaurant – Cumulus, may just have met its match.


Disclaimer: I know and quite like Adam D’Sylva.


Friday, June 19, 2009

No more packets

Well, I'm all full of broken promises aren't I. Saying I'll deliver then cowering away into the abyss that comes from not being online. That's actually a lie, I've been online, but too lazy to work on mybelly. All will change. First instalment - here we go. This is a VERY loose interpretation of Sheppard's pie. But it is heads and shoulders above the packet shit I caught in one of the girls at works offices. Their version was so unfaithful to the original that I thought I might cry. Why cook when you can create my ass. So this version here, you can't really call it a Sheppard's pie per se, but well... I did. 

Sheppard’s Pie or something like it.


500 grams mince (lamb is better but beef will do - or even better - a mix of the two) – If you want to be a purist – then use the left over meat from a lamb roast. But seriously – who knows anyone who ever has left over’s from roast lamb –nom nom.

1 onion

2-3 cloves garlic

1-2 cans tomatoes (with no stupid added flavours – get the Italian ones)

1-2 tablespoon good quality tomato paste

1-2 teaspoon paprika

Salt & pepper

1 carrot

1 -2 sticks celery (if you want)


½ cup stock or water (I usually just rinse the cans of tomatoes to get the extra juice) – This might not be needed if you use two cans of tomatoes

a couple of sprigs fresh rosemary 

a small handful parsley 

a bay leaf or two 


Milk and butter for mashing taties

Parmesan/tasty cheese


Chop onion, celery and garlic finely, grate carrots then cook in a little bit of oil until soft.

 Add mince and paprika and cook until broken up and browned.

 Then add both cans of tomatoes, tomato paste, water/stock, herbs and salt and pepper.

 Simmer on a low heat for as long as possible (minimum about ½ an hour) til thick. Add peas. 

 In the meantime, roast 4-5 potatoes with a little olive oil and sea salt - or boil in salted water until tender if you're short on time. Once cooked, mash with a bit of butter, milk and salt.

 Once the meat is nice and thick (taste it for seasoning i.e add more salt/pepper if need be) – add the juice of one lemon, stir through then put in dish.

 Cover with mashed potato and then grate some Parmesan (or Tasty or something) over top – or if you’re fancy – use Keata’s (girl from work) method and mix the grated Parmesan cheese with breadcrumbs so it’s’ extra crumbly and delicious)

 Cook until mash is golden (about 20 - 30 mins) at 180.

Serve with a salad of bitter greens or some steamed veges.

Couple of tips:

-          Instead of canned tomatoes – you can just use beef stock (or chicken for that matter) – I just like the flavour from the tomatoes

-          If the sauce needs a bit of thickening (it shouldn’t if its simmered for long enough) – mix 1 tablespoon of flour with a little water in a cup til smooth and then add to sauce – that should thicken it up.

-          If you’re using lamb left over’s definitely only use one can of tomatoes and keep it on a really low heat

-          Taste for seasoning  - add more salt and pepper if need be



Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No more packets

So, something I’ve been doing recently is sending the girls at my work recipes. In brief, the ladies of my office are packet girls. Packet sauces, packet stews, perhaps even packet meat. THIS HAS TO STOP. If you’re reading this blog, I’m pretty sure you’re a food lover, and accordingly, I probably don’t need to explain the reasons behind my hate of all things packaged.... sooooo I won’t. But if you are busy – which I presume you are – because isn’t everyone? Then watch this space. Over the next few weeks I’m going to post up some of the “end of packet food” recipes I’ve been giving the girls at work. They suggest to me a dish they usually cook using a packet – and I suggest (firmly) how they should be cooking it properly. My guarantee is it’ll taste better, cost less and impress their boyfriends. Win win.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Breakfast Out

Now, one of the reasons this blog isn't as plump as my own belly, is that I have been busy writing for Melbournes first online food magazine - breakfast to be specific -
You can find my reviews under the Melbourne section - search Francesca Fogarty, Fran Fogarty or Fran - I should pop up.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Well. I never wrote that Maha review round two did I. But can I say, it was just as good as round one. Nuff said. Particularly when I am writing a blog entitled "Libertine" not Maha

Now, I did something naughty today. Not naughty naughty, but naughty. I took the afternoon off (legally of course), I submitted a leave request form, got it signed, and even put my out of office on. Crickey!

So what did I do on my afternoon off? Well, I waltzed up to Libertine on Victoria Street and had a beautiful lunch. 

Hosted by my friend Sarah, of fame and Zoe Ladyman - one of the two owners of Libertine, we had a beautiful three course lunch. Just what the doctor ordered on a lazy Tuesday (!) afternoon. 

The food was beautiful.
We started with scallop tartere, a gentle combination of scallops, lemon, a so cute its almost naff potato salad (there was a fancy name, but lets face it, potato salad it was) topped with Salmon cavier. It was very light, very fresh and very subtle. A lovely start to the lunch. 

The highlight was the twice baked souffle - a mound of Roquefort that would melt the soul of any hardnosed cheese critic, this was served with a roasted pear and carmelised walnuts. Devine.

Lunch was the "famous" so said Richard (I think), the flamboyant and passion filled waiter (if he reads this I'm sure he'd laugh) free range duck a la orange. A Libertine mainstay apparently.

We finished off with a beautiful desert, now you'll have to forgive my memory (I wasn't planning on writing anything, so didn't take notes, or steal the menu, out of character I know). Put simply, it was a stunning chocolate mousse, topped with a light and tart sorbet with a beautiful wafer thin thingee on top - you know, the sugar, caramel type thing? Think Desperate Housewives? Anyway, it was stunning.

Each course was matched with a beautiful selection of wines, again, I apologise, notes weren't taken, but if you go there, I'm sure their able staff will be able to help you find the gorgeous wines we had. 

Now, a word on the staff, or more specially, on Zoe. Zoe is a incredibly knowledgeable, passionate woman. This passion is reflected beautifully in her restaurant. Produce is chosen with care, and the wines are hand picked. The place gives the impression that no short cuts are taken. An example for us all.

Au revoir. 

Monday, March 23, 2009

A journey to Maha - 2008

This is an old review that I did in 2008 - we went to Maha early March, just a couple of weeks after it had opened. I went there again last night, so I'm planning on writing a new and improved review ... here is the first version:

My uncle is German. A lovely guy, but well, he’s German. I’ll say no more. My uncle had come to Melbourne from New Zealand with my aunty and parents. As a German he consumes three things. Meat, cheese and beer. When I was asked where I’d booked dinner for that evening, the words “Maha” choked out of my mouth. “I want Prawns” said my uncle. Gulp, I responded, I thought he only liked meat! “Um, surely they have prawns?” I said. It was definitely more of a question than an answer and my dear old uncle saw through me instantly. Please god, let them have prawns I thought. “What type of food do they serve?” he asked, he’d seen the fear in my eyes and he was suspicious. “um…. Well, its sort of a mix between um, middle eastern um.. type foods?”, again, more of a question than an answer. “It’s from the team who run ‘The Press Club’”. I got an icy stare from my uncle. He’s not from Melbourne. He doesn’t know what ‘The Press Club’ is.
Ten minutes later we were wandering down the dark stairs of Maha. I was seriously nervous. My uncle, lets call him Hans, is the scariest food critic ever. If the food and wine weren’t up to scratch, we’d know about it. Despite having an eight o’clock booking, there was certainly no chance a table was ready for us, the place was packed, and people looked like they were enjoying themselves. Just before nine we were seated. Our waiter was knowledgeable and charming. He recommended a couple of Israeli red wines to have with our meal, the 2005 Recantat, Shiraz Gahlee from Israel and the 2003 Yatir, cab/merlot/shiraz from the Judean Hills, Israel. Hans looked incredibly skeptical, “if I don’t like these you’ll hear about it”, our lovely waiter smiled and said “oh sir, I expect too.”
As a few members of the table weren’t hungry and others were, we decided against the set menu, which looked stunning by the way, an opted for a few shahen zghir (small meals), shahen kbeer (large meals) and mouabalet (sides). Hans chose the slow roasted lamb shoulder, harr battata and the lamb special, the tenderist of tender lamb on top of grilled Halumi cheese. We were trying to choose the other meals and to everything Hans said “I won’t eat that. I just want lamb.” My aunty chose the grilled sardine, chickpea, tomato and mint salad whilst my parents chose the John Dory with hazelnut and rosemary mahkroun and an Arabic mushroom sauce. Hamish and I settled on the ma’ahani sausages with cumin roasted pumpkin. After some discussion we decided we also needed the pomegranate cured tuna with an apple and cardamom foam, the fattoush salad and green beans, feta and pine nuts as sides.
Well, the wine arrived, and as Dad and I are complete crowd pleasers (in the sense that we consider a failure in food or wine a personal failure – regardless of who choose it) we were both incredibly nervous as it was poured. I think Dad may have even squeezed my hand slightly – I felt like I was walking down a plank and the sharks were circling. But, we needn’t have worried, it was stunning. Hans was quiet after his first sip and then exclaimed “this is good.” So too was the food. So good in fact, I am not sure what the best was. What shocked my uncle was the slow roasted lamb shoulder. As he kept exclaiming – it fell off the bone. Now when I say that, I don’t mean that in a ‘it fell off the bone” (Imagine that being said in an annoying voice), no, it SERIOUSLY fell of the bone. Just a gentle caress with the fork and the meat was yours. The sausages and tuna were so different, yet the qualities were identical, subtle, balanced and well thought through. Shane Delia is a genius. Seriously, I want to marry him (no offence to my darling boyfriend) but really, can I meet him? The beans were almost the highlight, and I don’t think I’ve ever said that about a side. They were so fresh, so sweet and so perfectly complemented by the feta, roasted pine nuts and the drizzled oil. Now, as I’m sure you can tell by now, I could go on and on, but I won’t. (I haven’t even got to the lemon meringue with saffron yet) and I won’t, you’ll have to find out for yourself. If you want to know how good Maha is, don’t ask me. Ask Hans.

Air Kisses and cheese

Sunday night I went to the Block Party at Guiseppe Arnaldo & Sons.

Aside from the fact that WAY too many people were in attendance, it was a great evening – good food – for those lucky to get it, wonderful company, and enough celebrity foodies (my favourite type of celebrity) to have me drooling all over the show.

Highlights were the lemon meringue tart – heaven and the arancini balls. There is nothing like the ooze of the centre of a hot, crisp arancini ball to fill you with giddy joy. Bring on dinner tonight – Maha. Will let you know how I go.