EightyOne Fine Food & Wine, Berwick

Charcuterie Platter for 2 inc Ham Hock Terrine, Fennel and Garlic Salami, Butifarra Negra, Grilled Sour Dough, Pickles, Jam, Cauliflower, Artichoke.
I actually blogged about EightyOne restaurant almost 2 years ago (click here to read that blog post) and wasn't sure if I would come back to the restaurant. I am so glad I did, because the food has improved tremendously and I walked away a really happy (and full) customer last night.

Interior and ambience wise, not much has changed. The restaurant itself was still that same intimate, quiet, beautiful place I remembered. The service was still prompt and friendly. The menu has changed, but the selection was still quite limited. There were still only three desserts to choose from, but personally I was very happy with the options they offer for entrees and mains - they were all "my kind of food" and I would quite happily eat any one of the dishes offered in the menu. That's just my opinion, I love meat and they offer a dish of each type of meat which I love. For someone who maybe has a preference for vegetarian dishes or pasta, they might struggle!

EightyOne also offers a Tapas menu, which is again rather limited. We did not order anything from the tapas menu though, so I won't say anymore!

I started by ordering the cocktail that was on special that night, the "Tipsy Teddy" which was basically a jar packed with Midori, Malibu, Vodka, Lemonade, Strawberry and Gummy Bears! It was a delicious treat and I went easy on it and sipped it slowly all throughout the 3 hours I was there in the restaurant.

Between the three of us ladies, we quite comfortably shared the Charcuterie Platter for 2. The platter offers a nice selection of terrine and sausages and accompanying jams and pickles, etc to go with the grilled sour dough. Some elements were better than others, but overall it was quite a nice start.

I couldn't go past ordering an Entree for myself on top of the platter (so I ate less of my share of the platter to make room for a separate entree. I knew I just had to order the Twice Cooked Crispy Ham Hock, and was so glad I did! The ham hock was basically slow cooked first so the meat is super tender and melts in your mouth, then fried to crispy perfection.

Twice Cooked Crispy Ham Hock with Sweet Pear & Tendrils, Smoked Parsnip Puree, Ham Veloute && Jamon Dust
The sauce that came with it, apparently the smoked parsnip puree, is to-die-for! It went so well with everything else. I was savouring every bite of my amazing entree. Yum yum yum.

Confit Pork Belly with Pear Gastrique, Pomegranate, Radicchio, Fennel & Pear Slaw
Pork again for my main? Why of course! Like I said, their menu may have limited choices... but I would happily eat ANY item on their menu. It was as if the chef had my kind of taste in food, hehe. Anyway, the pork belly was deliciously tender and was quite an appropriate portion. Not too big, not too small. Sometimes I feel ripped off going to these "fancy" restaurants that serve only a tiny little piece of meat. This pork belly was the perfect size. I loved the fennel and pear slaw that came with it, but wasn't a big fan of whatever it was that sat underneath the pork. It was... not my cup of tea. Overall, a great dish! Would've preferred a bit more crunch to the crackling.

Slow Braised Wagyu Brisket with Lentil and Root Vegetable Jus, Soft Polenta, Wild Mushroom Crumb & Asparagus
Parpadelle with Chorizo, Rocket, Tomato, Olive & Yarra Valley Fetta
My dinner companions, two wonderful friends I met through Mothers Group and have kept in close contact ever since, ordered the wagyu brisket and the pasta which was on special that night. Both were pretty happy with their mains, we all had a great time sharing stories and eating delicious food so cannot complain!

Deconstructed Candy Bar - Milk Chocolate Nougat, Peanut Mousse, Bitter Chocolate, Almond Nougatine, Salted Caramel.
Technically, I didn't NEED to have dessert but I thought what the heck - let's do this. How often do I get to do this anyway (not very often these days) so I ordered the deconstructed candy bar. Oh. My. Goodness. It was DIVINE! First scoop was of the peanut mousse and a bit of salted caramel. More more more! A bit of this mixed with a bit of that. Need more salted caramel sauce! It was just the perfect finish to the night. I was very happy. If there were little imperfections in the previous dishes, this dessert fixed them all. I forgot. All I remember then at the time of eating this dessert was how bad it was for my hips but how good it tasted. I will worry about my hips tomorrow haha.

Rhubarb Cheesecake with spiced ginger bread, sesame crunch, rhubarb pearls & filaments, champagne jelly.
My friend had the rhubarb cheesecake and judging from her body language she enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed mine! I thought it looked beautifully presented in a glass, very pretty.

We truly did have a great night out. EightyOne finally redeemed itself, the food was so much better this time around and I really want to go back and try some of the other items on the menu. The restaurant may have gotten some average reviews in the past, but I can see a trend of people appreciating it more in the recent months. Perhaps they still need to be able to offer a more extensive menu and more variety to please more diners, or perhaps they should stick to what they do best and offer what they are good at - in my case, I am more than happy with the selection.

EightyOne is also one of the restaurants featured in the Entertainment Book so we got $40 off our total bill which made quite a significant difference to what we ended up paying! Basically we paid $55 per person for our 3-course meal including drinks. That was not bad at all for a fantastic night out. Just sad now that we've been there and used the discount, next time we go we won't be able to get that discount until next financial year... aawwww.

Eighty One Fine Food and Wine on Urbanspoon

O.MY Restaurant in Beaconsfield - Fine Dining and Degustation in the Suburbs

Is writing a review on a restaurant a year later a bit too late? Haha... not if I have recently returned to the restaurant just last week and realised it was exactly a year ago that I started drafting this blog post I never got to finish...

Before I get into the content, let me just explain to my readers (if you are still out there) why I have been MIA for a full year. Well, the short version is I went on maternity leave. The long version is, I had my second child, Silver in March 2014 and took 6 months prior to her being born off as a break, and a further 6 months after she was born because I was too busy being a full time mum to do anything else! Now that she is a little bit older and my daily routine is a lot more structured, I can finally re-focus on something other than parenting and what better than to go back to my passion in food! Super excited about blogging regularly again. It doesn't even matter if no one is reading this, I just needed a creative outlet and this is it!

Back to O.MY....

Who would've thought in the little suburb of Beaconsfield, 45 mins away from Melbourne CBD, is a little gem of a restaurant called O.MY. Our friends introduced us to this restaurant a bit more than a year ago after accidentally stumbling across the newly opened place back then. Much to their surprise, the food was of superb high end restaurant quality and the service was great. They didn't even realise they could enjoy a fine dining experience so close to home... they were driving around looking for a place to eat in their T-shirts and trackies!

So the second time around, they brought us. Our little party of 6 got all dressed up and suited up to celebrate our friend's birthday and enjoy this wonderful Five Course (now options are available for you to choose either 4-course, 6-course or 8-course) Degustation. The menu changes very frequently, so I won't even bother describing each dish we had a year ago and each dish we had last week... and just let the photos do the talking.

This little degustation experience includes almost unlimited homemade bread and butter, as well as several snacks and palate cleansers along the way. So, if you count the little exquisite dishes in between, it feels more like a 10-course meal!

The very talented young chefs at O.MY pay a lot of attention to detail when it comes to plating, and they demonstrate a lot of different cooking techniques in their dishes. Every dish is a surprise!

These individual photos above were taken from a year ago when I actually went to the restaurant with a proper camera. The mosaic photo at the very top are all photos combined from our degustation party last weekend. That was taken just on my camera phone. I didn't know last week that I would make the decision to return to food blogging so I didn't go prepared with my DSLR!

O.MY truly provides the fine dining experience and exquisite dishes. Personally, it is a "special occasion only" restaurant for me - as we don't usually spend $100pp (including drinks) when we go out to dinner. We are so lucky that we DO have a decent option like O.MY just 5 minutes down the road though, rather than making the trip out into the city and pay too much for parking and wasting precious babysitter time just driving to the restaurant etc.

Expect excellent service from the boys at O.MY, they will truly impress your date.

Expect exquisite food, although because it IS a degustation the portions are quite small and you may be left wanting a bit more by the end of it if you are used to having a lot more food in terms of quantity. I know last week I wished there were more of that succulent, tender beef cheek! I didn't feel like I had enough meat, mostly because I am a huge meat eater and quantity is quite important when it comes to my protein. I don't remember having that quantity problem last year as the servings were far more generous a year ago!

Overall, excellent restaurant. Keep up the great work, guys. I know you have lots and lots of happy customers and amazing reviews. I definitely recommend O.MY to all my friends, it is a wonderful food experience not to be missed especially if you live out in the South Eastern Suburbs. This restaurant is a GEM and needs to continue to be successful so they can stay in business for a long, long time!

O.My on Urbanspoon

Margaret Fulton's Lemon Cake Recipe

I haven't blogged in absolutely ages... and I am not saying I'm back, I just wanted to share this amazing recipe with my family and friends. What easier way to spread the good news than to write it in my blog - that way I have easy access to this recipe as well whenever I need it!

I had this random craving for Lemon Cake one day, so I looked through my collection of cookbooks on the shelves and got the Margaret Fulton's Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery book out. Sure enough, there is a recipe for a Lemon Tea Loaf! So I combined this recipe with a very simple Butterfrost Icing recipe and voila... yumminess! Enjoy :)

P/S: A few people have also asked me for the Brownie Cake recipe hubby and I recently used to make Micah's birthday cake. I will post that very soon, stay tuned!

Lemon Cake Recipe
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
125g butter
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
Grated rind 1 lemon

Lemon Syrup
Juice 1 lemon
1/4 cup caster sugar

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Rub in butter using fingertips. Mix beaten eggs and milk, stir into flour mixture, then fold in lemon rind. Pour into a greased and base-lined 21 x 15cm tin. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180C for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in centre comes out clean.

To make lemon syrup, mix lemon juice and sugar together. When cake is cooked and still hot, pour over the top. Allow to cool in tin.

Butterfrost Icing
1 cup butter, softened
3 1/2 icing mixture
1 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
Pinch of salt

Beat butter and icing mixture together. Add milk, vanilla essence and salt. Beat further until well blended and smooth.

When cake is fully cooled, spread butterfrost icing on top of cake and serve.

"Pak Loh Bak" Braised Pork Belly Recipe

OK so I have been very slack lately and haven't blogged AT ALL, so let me compensate by posting this recipe for "Pak Loh Bak" which is essentially a fragrant Chinese Braised Pork dish which can also be used to cook Braised Duck. Technically, this is not even my recipe, my dad only just emailed this to me today haha. But I'm so happy with how it turned out, I wanted to make sure I don't lose the recipe and also a few people have asked me to share the recipe already... so OK lah. Here it is!

(This recipe is completely unedited from my dad's original email... because I am a bit lazy... but I am guessing if you're interested you're probably Malaysian currently living away from home and would like to try and make this yourself so you would understand the "rojak" language anyway. If you would like me to revise this recipe into perfect, understandable English then please feel free to write a comment or send me a message and I will translate some of the random words)

Pak Loh Pork Belly

Pork belly sliced into pieces 6 inch long
Hard boiled eggs
1 tsp 5 spice powder
Pounded fresh galangal (lengkuas) fried until brownish.
2 stick cinnamon (kayu manis)
6 star anise
2.5 tbsp sugar
3 to 4 cups water
Dark soy sauce (kicap)

Marinate pork with 5 spice powder and some kicap. Keep for about half an hour.
Slow heat kuali, add sugar and kacau until melt (make sure not burned otherwise your dish will bitter). Add some kicap to the melted sugar and kacau for about 2 seconds and immediately add water into kuali. Increase fire until gravy boil. Add marinated pork, fried pounded galangal, cinnamon, star anise and some more kicap until gravy looks dark. Cover to cook in slow fire for about 45 mins. Once in a while turning the pork and add kicap to darken pork and taste. Scoop away the oil as you cook.  After 45 mins the gravy should be quite thick. Take out the pork.
Add some water into the gravy to boil. Add boiled eggs into gravy and slow boil until eggs look dark. Leave the eggs in gravy. Taste gravy to your liking taste.

Slice pork into smaller pieces and add eggs. Top with some gravy and timun or salad.

Note: I didn't have any galangal nor star anise around so just cooked it without those two ingredients and it still worked and tasted yummy!

Your Private Chef Experience, Melbourne

Last night, I was very fortunate to have been invited to an exclusive dinner party hosted by our friends to celebrate a great milestone for his career. When I say exclusive, I am not kidding - it was a full on "Suit Up!" occasion and they hired a private chef to do all the cooking! They even hired a waitress to serve the food, and they take care of all the cleaning up afterwards. Our hosts didn't have to lift a finger, and we had an epic evening of exquisite wining and dining.

How was I not made aware of such service prior to this? Honestly, I thought private chefs were only available to hire in Bali, lol. I have to admit, a night like this was not cheap. But was it worth it? Read on to find out.....

We were presented with a very mouthwatering menu carefully selected by our hosts. You can tell based on this menu that our friends have great taste in food. 

While we were having pre-dinner drinks, we were served with some delicious canapes. This meatball was full of flavour and was so deliciously juicy and tender. Gone in 3 seconds! It was like an explosion of meaty goodness in my mouth. So good!

The crab cake was tasty and flavoursome, but I personally would've preferred a more crunchier texture on the outside. It definitely had the right smooth and fluffy texture overall, but it did not have an outer layer of crisp. Still absolutely delicious though!

As we were seated for the start of our 3-course meal, our chef Darryn was busy cooking and plating up our entrees. The scallops were freshly pan seared for just the right amount of time and served while it's still hot.

So our entrees were served, delicious scallops with chorizo and cauliflower puree - my kind of entree! It did not disappoint, the scallops were perfectly cooked and how can we not love chorizo? The cauliflower puree and vinaigrette complimented the flavours of both the scallops and chorizo so perfectly. I wanted more!!! But we had to save room in our bellies for our mains....

And so while we were busy enjoying our entrees, the chef was still working hard in the kitchen getting the mains ready.

I loved just watching him work, and really amazed at how he just fits in and make every one of his customers' kitchens work for him. It really takes a unique skill to still be able to cook well in various different kitchens all the time.

Then the mains were served... and I am salivating just at the thought of that juicy and tender pork belly. Mm mmm!! The pork was soooooooooo good especially with that delicious pear puree. The potatoes were a little bit underdone, I would've liked it just slightly softer and fluffier on the inside but it had a really good crusty outer layer which was great. The pomegranate really held the whole dish together by adding a bit of acid flavour to the whole thing. It was just perfect. So wholesome, delicious, great for a cold winter's night.

Our dinner definitely ended on a high. Chef Darryn's chocolate souffle was absolutely flawless. It had the delicious runny centre and amazing crusty top layer with a little bit of sugar, the ice cream was sooooo smooth and yummy, I really cannot fault this dessert! I pretty much licked my ramekin, well the sides of it anyway, felt wrong to keep licking haha.

So, the verdict. Was it worth the money our very generous friends spent just for one night of exquisite dining? Well, let's put it this way... our friends could focus on just being hosts and having a great time without worrying about preparing, cooking and serving up the food. By the time we finished our meals and had more drinks, the kitchen was absolutely spotless. It was as if cooking in that kitchen never happened! We get restaurant quality food. It was quite an epic evening. So, even though I personally may not currently have the means to host such an epic evening myself, I actually think it was totally worth it. They wanted an epic night at home, they got an epic night at home. We were all truly jolly and had such a great night. It was definitely a night to remember. My photos are proof of that!

If you are interested to look into hiring a private chef yourself, check out www.yourprivatechef.com.au - they do everything from gourmet weekly meals delivered fresh to your door, exclusive dinner parties from 2 to 2,000 people, corporate catering and cocktail functions. They do the menu planning, shopping, preparing, serving and even cleaning up!

It was definitely a fuss-free evening for the hosts and someday, with the right occasion, I might host one of these fancy dinner parties with a private chef myself! Hehe.