Mocan & Green Grout

Friday, 24 October 2014



Spring is the in the air(!) and like a moth to a flame, I've found myself straying to the nation's capital once again. Canberra really is a magnificent place at this time of year (and during Autumn for that matter) and what makes it even better is the hipster revival that it has undergone in the past 18 months. With several new hot spots on the map including Kingston Foreshore and the New Acton precinct things are looking up in the ACT. Recently dubbed the best place to live in the world (although I beg to differ when you're scraping ice off your windscreen in the dead of winter) and with a write up in the New York Times, the sleepy Canberra of old is making a name for itself. My next few posts will attempt to explain why. 

A cappuccino keeps the grumpy away. Lapping in the sunshine on a Sunday morning is what it's all about.

Mocan and Green Grout (there's some sort of accent there somewhere) has stayed the course since 2011, with ever increasing popularity from the early morning cyclists to non-chalant Bohemians. Starting out as a hole in the wall (basically), they have come a long way now with a dinner service to boot and a bonafide waitlist to get a table (say, whaaat). Perched on a corner of a fancy apartment complex in New Acton, Mocan & Green Grout makes a fair go of serving fair trade coffee and sourcing local produce. Eggs from the South coast, anyone? They also make bikes, if you're into that kind of thing. 

Sun drenched and lovely, the front is a hodgepodge of greenery. The vibe, genuinely laid back

Let's face it, this café is inescapably small but the wait is brief as the turnover is speedy. There's no need to join a mob ready to swoop, like there is in the big smoke (atrocious). It's all rather civilised and relaxed, the people watching is a bonus. The café features reclaimed materials along with commissioned artworks, fostering local creative talent. Kind of like chilling at a friend's house, but appreciating the extra effort that's gone into the coffee and eggs ;)

There's only one word for this and that is: cosy. A place where the kitchen and dining space happily blend

Smashed egss, mushrooms, Goats curd, black garlic. Just a few of my favourite things rolled into one dish. The black garlic was a rather funky addition, roasted and creamy (one only wishes there was more!). The eggs were just the way I like them, runny enough so the toast can mop up the rest

Fried eggs, chorizo, corn, avocado, hot sauce. Another rendition of a brunch classic, the chorizo was cooked well. The avocado features as more of a purée, dotted daintily on the plate

If there's one thing that's reassuring about Mocan and Green Grout is their confidence in doing their own thing. Starting out 3 years ago, they already have a head start and the queues speak for themselves. The food is exactly what is says and isn't pretending to be anything fancier; simple with a streak of refinement. Do be wary though that the wait for food during peak times can be somewhat drawn out (be patient though and it will pay dividends). What's nice at M&GG is the lack of pretension or hype which can make Sydney brunches almost traumatic (I simply refuse to wait 1.5 hours for breakfast). Don't be disheartened if you can't don't get in because that's the other thing, there are now options!

The herb garden right at the entrance, freshly picked and in your breakfast!

My fascination with signs and typography continues; no doubt this one was hand painted, with love

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
Mocan & Green Grout on Urbanspoon

Public

Monday, 13 October 2014



Public is leading the charge on Brisbane's dining scene. Championing a shared plate revolution in the Sunshine State, this smartly placed restaurant has retained one chef's hat since its opening in 2012. You wouldn't know this place was two years young, with a rather snazzy interior and a nice energy which certainly exudes from the kitchen. Set on the first floor of the 400 George St skyscraper, this is a fancy departure from the laid back vibes that scream Brisvegas. Public is here to shake things up and prove a point.

A modern, rather sedate venue by day. At night, the mood lighting strikes (again) and the requisite taxidermy animals make a bold show of it Source: Time Out

Chef Damon Amos is obviously a man of few words because the menu is positively monosyllabic, and not in a bad way. Share plates are the name of the game and each dish is listed as a few ingredients, letting your imagination do the rest. This style of food is instantly recognisable and perfect for groups. What you get is a happy union of ingredients that aren't traditionally paired, with the inclusion of a few oddballs like Black ants and sea lettuce (where does one acquire such things?). Keeping the diner on their toes, which I like. The result is that Public is a jack of all trades, for a quick drink and pre-dinner snack or a full blown banquet - anything's possible. And as a location for private functions, it's an emphatic yes (from me, anyway).


Public Nuisance. Fresh strawberries combined with cucumber and elderflower, Beefeater gin and sparkling wine. A rather refreshing sup in a champagne saucer i.e. old school. Those who know me understand my devotion to gin as a beverage

Beetroot, cumquat, dukkah. Side dishes are notoriously boring but this one was a side for the ages. Beetroot done several ways with a smattering of powder. A cumquat puree at the bottom, dukkah and labna. Everything you could possibly ever need

Prawn, Jerusalem Artichoke, Sea Lettuce. A delicious prawn dish, the sauce at the bottom had this beautiful rich, nuttiness (thanks to the peanuts, duh. Greatness!

Texas brisket, soft tortillas, chilli sauce. This one's a bit of a crowd favourite, slow cooked beef brisket with coleslaw and soft tortillas. This is an eat with your hands and juices-dripping-down-your-arms kind of affair. An extra  splodge of chilli sauce and I'm in heaven. Be sure to try this one

What's nice about Public is that they lose the pretension that so many restaurants down south are infamous for. The food is absolutely not to be sniffed at, with flavours that are bold and playful. Let's not forget the plating which is all about detail adding different textures of ingredients. And the relaxed atmosphere is there, from the moment you're welcomed to when last drinks hit the table. Even now, it's difficult to get a reservation at Public; we were lucky enough to secure seats at the bar on a weekday. Here they are, doing their own thing in Brissie and building a reputation for themselves. It's kind of refreshing.

Duck egg, truffle, toast. I had inadvertently requested extra truffle to be served on this rather posh piece of toast. The dish ended up being dense, but enjoyable (without a doubt). Be sure to soak up the runny egg yolk with the bread. The truffle itself was unmistakable, like a homecoming!
Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
Public on Urbanspoon

Snapshot: Omnivore

Monday, 6 October 2014



That ominous looking, zig-zag for a sign is the logo for the Omnivore World Tour, a 'little' known festival around these parts. Coinciding with the Labour Day long weekend and the start of Good Food Month, Omnivore is all about celebrating the up-and-coming culinary talents of the world. With a series of masterclasses and pop-up dinners over the weekend; the air abuzz with a youthful energy and excitement. This year (the second year the Omnivore tour has come to Sydney), the festival descended on the Australian National Maritime Museum for some harbour-side capers, a nifty concept unto itself.

O-MNIV-ore, or something...

Tonight's feast was hosted by chefs Pierre Sang Boyer, of Pierre Sang in Oberkampf (Paris) as well as our own Hamish Ingham of Bar H (Sydney) (another restaurant I still haven't visited yet!!!). Both like to work with Asian flavours in a rather modern way, delivering refined and innovative dishes. Pierre Sang launched himself into the spotlight after being named finalist in Top Chef 2011, France. Now, in 2014 he has two restaurants in Paris which are consistently booked out. Yet again, the great table tussle continues #firstworldproblems. Luckily this time, Pierre Sang has come to us!

You've got to love a long table and male models for waiters (pretty much)...can't complain!

Hamish Ingham, a local Sydney chef carved a name for himself at Bar H Dining, a dinky corner eatery in Surry Hills serving Chinese inspired food. With various appearances on Masterchef and a Good Food Guide chef's hat in the arsenal, Ingham is a worthy contender in this pop-up duo. This is the Eurasian dream team on paper but shall we move on to the food? The dinner consisted of five courses with matched wines, with a focus on locally sourced Australian ingredients (but of course)!

Sashimi of snapper with wasabi snow, okahjiki and shiso. My favourite dish of the night, already. We peaked pretty early here, but Ingham's combination of everything in the dish was an instant winner. A few strands of samphire, the hint of wasabi powder and the freshness of the fish - all gone in an instant!

Spinach and oyster, pomegranate. A rather curious dish for me by Boyer, a prawn cracker (not quite crispy enough) sits perched amongst diced fresh oyster and a bundle of vegetables (par cooked, slightly too textural haha) without much of a sauce. The oyster and the roe could just be there alone and I'd be happy!

Tuna andouille, bearnaise sauce. A rich sauce for a very rich and oily fish. This dish is a staple of Boyer's, a signature on the menu of In Oberkampf. The tuna itself was incredible, the grilled onion and radish just accessory

Rangers Valley wagyu rump cap shiro miso, sichuan beetroot. Ingham experiments a little by using a lesser known cut of wagyu which has been slow cooked. Perhaps more chewy than most are used to, I found the meat still be nice and tender and the sauce had a lovely depth of flavour. The spiced beets were a nice accompaniment

In the spotlight, the frantic assembly line for the dessert course. All done outside on a makeshift 'pass'

Rose geranium pavlova, yuzu curd, muntrie jam and dried strawberries. That oozy curd, I could just bottle that up and bundle it home. The meringue unfortunately was rather chewy at the bottom, possibly an issue with pre-cooking them offsite. For balance and lightness, I thought maybe a bit more whipped cream might have helped. The coriander added a nice, tangy touch to what would otherwise be a very sweet dessert

A quick Q&A with Luc Dubanchet (creator of Omnivore) and the crew, many of whom had flown in from France especially for the Omnivore program. Read: junket!

With Omnivore gracing our shores once again, here's hoping they make the trip Down Under for many years to come. It seems the Omnivore movement has been gaining some momentum and this dinner was a testament to that fact. You can catch some more glimpses from the night with the official coverage over hereAt its heart, Omnivore helps to connect young chefs from around the world, promoting a strong spirit of collaboration. The best thing about these events are that they are a golden opportunity for some of the young guns to establish themselves. Even one of Boyer's youngest sous chefs (at just 19) was mucking in. This is what Omnivore is all about...the future is here!

Adios to another great evening!

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
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