Gazi for lunch

Al & I enjoyed our dinner visit to Gazi so much that on a quick overnight visit to Melbourne to see a show, we returned for a celebration birthday lunch with our friends Mr & Mrs H.

Gazi is fun, the atmosphere on a Friday lunchtime is buzzing. The staff are super friendly and efficient.  The food is simple but absolutely packed with flavour. We love it and wish Gazi was in Brisbane!

While we waited for Mr & Mrs H we ordered three dips and bread. We just couldn’t wait. Beetroot and feta, hummus, cauliflower skordalia and the best flat bread I’ve ever tasted.

The lunchtime ‘Bend over Box’ is savoury to sweet, quick and fast, Monday to Friday till 3pm. For $27.50 it’s great value and lets you try a little bit of different parts of the menu. A great introduction to Greek food. Mr & Mrs H were suitably impressed with this lunchtime offering. The staff will run through what’s normally on the box and if you don’t like a particular food they’ll happily adjust the box to your liking. For example Mrs H had the chicken with white beans from the wood fire spit while Mr H had the pork belly with apple skordalia. One of my favourite items from the menu is also on the box. Called Marouli, it is a very simple dish of iceberg lettuce, lemon, olive oil and oregano. These ingredients together make the most delicious salad and I’ll definitely be trying to recreate this dish at home.

Bend over boxAl ordered the confit duck souvlakakia and I the beef brisket souvlakakia. Both were tender and moist with a mustard mayo, parsley, red onion and chips all encased in the softest most comforting bread. Heaven, and at $8.50 each, an absolute lunch bargain. We also ordered the grilled corn with Aleppo mayo, seeds and kefalograviera and some grilled prawns. Again, mouth-watering.

After a very satisfying lunch Mr H and I were presented with two pistachio and lemon macaroons. Attention to detail and making people happy is high on the list of priorities at Gazi. Whether you are a mad foodie or just enjoy good honest food at a reasonable price, you’ll love Gazi.

Lemon and pistachioGazi

2 Exhibition St, Melbourne

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Proud Mary

I guess if you are the best at what you do, you don’t need to shout about it and that’s what we found when visiting the best boutique coffee houses in Melbourne. They have next to no signage and are a little off the beaten track but are filled to the brim with a mix of young hipsters and savvy coffee lovers from all over the world.

No doubt the International Coffee Expo in Melbourne helped to draw crowds to these boutique coffee establishments, creating an extra buzz, but our experience at Proud Mary was so personal and unique we walked away feeling like we’d had a one of a kind coffee experience.

Al was keen to try the El Roble HR61 pour-over from Colombia, so armed with our coffee map, we eventually found Proud Mary. No sign but a line-up of people outside confirming we were definitely in the right place. Only 18kg of this coffee was produced and Proud Mary bought it all. The pour over cup wasn’t cheap, $30, but a once in a lifetime experience for a coffee aficionado.

Al asked a staff member what filter coffees were on offer and was given an iPad with information about each coffee available. Despite the cafe being crazy busy, once the HR61 was ordered, the staff went out of their way to impart as much information as possible, bringing out the grounds to smell and explain why this coffee was so special.

For non coffee lovers, filter coffee or a pour-over is a great introduction to the delights of this brew. In fact, it is almost like a steeped tea. The complexity of flavour develops the longer the brew sits. It’s a very different way to enjoy coffee, experiencing the real taste without the milk. Check out the video on the Proud Mary homepage. It shows the process of a pour-over and the philosophy behind Proud Mary.

This really was just a coffee visit so unfortunately we didn’t get to experience the breakfast menu, although it did look very good. The meals that were coming out were huge. Of particular interest the smokey spiced black beans, cashew sour cream, corn and mint salsa, coriander pistou, poached egg ($16), the roasted mushrooms, chipotle butter, brioche, whipped goats cheese and a poached egg ($16.50) and the bircher muesli with slow braised rhubarb, burnt orange yoghurt and toasted hazelnuts ($11.50).

With our coffee with enjoyed the espresso brownie and the carrot cake, both moist and delicious.

There is definitely a buzz about Proud Mary or maybe it was the fact that we got to chat with the Italian Barista champion, Francesco Sanapo but either way, I’m pretty sure, even on a quiet day, there would be a certain energy created by the knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff. It certainly was a fun visit and I’m pretty sure we’ll be back next time we are in Melbourne. A must do for serious coffee lovers.

Proud Mary

172 Oxford St, Collingwood

Gazi

On a recent trip to Melbourne with Al to attend the International Coffee Expo, we had one of the best restaurant experiences we’ve had in a long time. George Calombaris’ latest offering Gazi had a lot to live up to as we are big fans of his other baby Mama Baba. At Gazi you feel like a valued guest, you eat gorgeous contemporary Greek food and you just have a really good time.

Gazi not only offers up tasty eats but also provides a visual treat for the eyes. From the outside the restaurant has a red and orange glow. Inside, the ceiling is simply stunning with hundreds and hundreds of what I’m guessing would be plastic ‘terracotta’ pots. You’d end up with a nasty headache if a real terracotta pot dropped on your head. The interior is urban cool with polished concrete floors and soft lighting. Detail is everywhere, from the custom made blue and white plates to the waiters handyman belts to carry the tools of their trade. It’s not a large space so tables are quite close together but this didn’t seem to bother us, we were too busy enjoying the Greek feast served to us.

The menu is designed for sharing so there really is something to suit all tastes here but after talking with our lovely waitress we decided on ‘Doing it Greek Style’, a feast of ten sharing plates of the chefs choice for $69 per person. It was the best way to sample a cross section of the menu.

Shortly after ordering our drinks (mine, passionfruit and chilli house-made soda), the bread and dips arrived. Bread and dips, no big deal, right?… wrong. I could have happily eaten this all night. The bread was warm and soft and the dips (tzatziki and hummus), creamy and full of flavour, so tasty I had to keep reminding myself that I had 9 other dishes coming.

Bread and dips

Next to arrive was the Saganaki Kumquat. Fried cheese (a mix of cow and sheeps milk) served with a sweet, slightly sour kumquat sauce. Just writing this is making my mouth water! This was quickly followed by beautifully poached salmon with a walnut crust, fat chips with feta and oregano an iceberg lettuce salad with a piquant dressing and two tasty plump king prawns (unfortunately I have no idea what the dressing was, I might have to ask George on twitter). Simple food but beautifully prepared with care.

Although we were starting to feel a little full, we were excited when the pork belly with white beans and apple skordalia and the crispy chicken with tirokafteri (capsicum and feta puree) was placed in front of us. The pork was juicy and the apple sauce tart enough to balance the rich meat but the star here was definitely the chicken. It was sensational. Moist and moreish, it’s worth going back for.

Pork belly and chicken

Thankfully, we had a small break before desserts were served; creme brulee and Loukomathes (deep fried donuts). The donuts were a little heavy for me but the creme brulee was light as a feather, the usual burnt sugar crunchy top replaced with nuts, praline, date puree and little pieces of Turkish delight. A heavenly end to the meal.

The enthusiasm of the staff is infectious, nothing is too much trouble. At the end of our meal we asked if we could sit at the bar stools overlooking the kitchen and they happily helped us move our coffee and wine. We sat for another half an hour chatting with a young chef and marvelling at the intricate choreography of a busy kitchen. For foodie lovers it was a real highlight and a great way to end a beautiful evening. We even had a visit from George who was happy to pose for a photo.

Gazi is good value for money. You won’t leave hungry and all your senses will be well sated. We’ll be back for a souvlaki lunch next time we are in town. Opa!

Gazi

2 Exhibition St, Melbourne

Phone: 03 9207 7444

Twenty & Six Espresso

It’s tiny, but perfectly formed and it was packed to the rafters so you just know it’s going to be good. Luckily a brunch booking didn’t turn up so we were able to pull up a primary school wooden chair to a bench looking out the front window. Twenty & Six Espresso is clearly for people in the know. It’s subtle branding doesn’t give anything away, in fact, it would be easy to walk straight past.

They serve Proud Mary and Seven Seeds coffee along with a fantastic little breakfast/brunch/lunch menu. We started with a flat white which was well made and hit the spot on this chilly morning.

I was hungry after my flight from Brisbane so I chose ‘The Russian’ which was a vodka and lemon house-cured salmon tartare with poached egg, toasted sourdough and dill and lemon creme fraiche ($16.90). It was light and fresh and danced on the palate. A perfect start to the morning. Al opted for the ‘Take a Bao’, slow roasted pork belly, caramelised five spice reduction, crunchy Asian slaw and peanuts in a bao bun ($16.90). Several times, I got the serious, glint in the eye, ‘this is really, really good food’ look. My mouthful was indeed a winner.

Salmon tartare

Take a bao

Other menu items that caught my eye included the ‘Organic Balinese black sticky rice’ with mango, salted coconut cream and finished with palm sugar ($15.90). ‘The Hunter’, balsamic, red wine and rosemary roasted portobello mushrooms, Spanish chorizo on sourdough, creme fraiche and truffle oil ($18.90) and as a nod to childhood ‘Sourdough Soldiers’, two free range soft boiled eggs with soldiers, butter and vegemite ($9.90).

I wondered why I felt so at home in this little space and discovered the following on the Twenty & Six Espresso website “A lot of people ask us why we named this little place Twenty & Six Espresso… Originally, the idea of Twenty & Six was to provide young designers, including ourselves, a space to collaborate, network and be creative over a drink or some food, let’s call it caffeine aided design…The name simply fell together from a typographical reference; 26 letters in the alphabet, which are essentially a graphic designer’s greatest tool…”

Melbourne is full of great cafes but there is something seriously special about this place. Great coffee, great food, staff with a great attitude. We’ll be back!

594 Queensberry Street,
North Melbourne
(03) 9329 0298

Mon/Wed/Thu/Fri – 7:30am – 3:30pm
Sat/Sun – 8am – 3:30pm
Closed Tuesdays