Finally this weekend it seemed like summer has arrived. It must have been a relief to the organisers of Taste of Melbourne after a soggy start to the annual food and restaurant festival. The outdoor Albert Park location is fabulous when the sun is shining but not so lovely when it is knee deep in mud. By the time I visited on Saturday most of the mud had dried up and judicious use of wood chips made all the pathways passable.
The stand out dish for me this year was Uncle’s goat banh mi ($8). I loved the sweetness of the bun it was served in which only highlighted the sticky caramelisation of the slow cooked goat. Thanks to this dish Uncle, which recently opened in St Kilda, is top of my list of new restaurants to visit.
The crispy pork salad ($12) from Saint Crispin also impressed with the red, crunchy crackling contrasting with the juicy pork and tangy coleslaw.
The dish which was voted as best of the festival was Albert Street Food and Wine’s calamari fritto ($12). The calamari was tender with a crisp bread crumb coating which really made it pop. It was cleverly served in a cone with kernels of char grilled cone and a dollop of jet black squid ink mayonnaise.
But judging by the queues, probably the most popular dish of the festival was Huxtaburger’s mini burgers ($6). A bite sized take on the restaurant’s famous burgers, this was a real people pleaser although I felt a bit short changed by the size of the burger. In contrast, Mamasita’s corn on the cob was probably the best value dish of the festival at only $6 and no real queue, going to Taste of Melbourne is the easy way to get your Mamasita hit.
On the sweets front, Burch & Purchese were a stand out as always. Darren Purchese is a dessert genius and I absolutely loved his exploding raspberry ice-cream ($6). Biting through the crack of chocolate to uncover smooth berry ice-cream which snap, crackled and popped in your mouth was both delicious and entertaining.
I was also excited to test out some dishes from Cobb Lane which is set to open in Yarraville in the next few weeks. Run by Matt Forbes, former pastry chef at Vue de Monde, I can highly recommend the ice-cream sandwiches. Forbes’ take on an Oreo was delicious with Forbes’ interpretation of the ‘Oreo’ slightly bitter, dark crumbly cookies provided a great foil for rich salted caramel and cardamon ice-cream.
When it came to drinks, lots of wineries had stalls to browse around in and the Sensology cocktail making classes ($12) were a hit. Sitting in the sun sipping on a mojito and the gin based “aviation” was a great way to relax.
The downside of Taste of Melbourne is the price. I had a media pass so didn’t have to pay the $30 entry but managed to spend $100 in crowns with Meat-and-Three Veg. Entry on top of that makes it a very expensive afternoon.
Gourmet Chick attended Taste of Melbourne on a media pass but paid for all food and drinks personally.
Details: Taste of Melbourne, Albert Park Lake, Melbourne. 14-17 November 2013.
Damage: Pricey. Entry is $30 and then you have to buy “crowns”to purchase food and drink. Each crown costs $1 and leftover crowns are not refundable.