Melina on the Rooftop

Melbourne has entered into the depth of Winter without a warning, but here I am, still clinging onto rooftop bars. Although it’s nothing like bathing in the Summer sunshine with a cocktail in your hand, there is still something charming about sitting snugly under some heaters with a view. All that is to say, we decided to have dinner at Melina on the Rooftop recently.

Crispy Saganaki Cheese – $18.00

We decided to grabbed a few dishes to graze on, with the first being the crispy saganaki. The crunchy batter on the saganaki added some texture to the soft cheese, and the sweetness from the drizzle of the balsamic glaze paired nicely prevented the saganaki from becoming overly salty.

Fries – $12.00

The shoestring fries was golden brown, and the Greek season on the fries were quite addictive. The feta cheese dip on the side was an interesting addition, although the crumbly texture and the thinness of the fries meant that it wasn’t the easiest to dip in.

Antipasto – $34.00

The antipasto had your usual suspects with a Middle Eastern twist with the addition of some grilled halloumi. The meats were all quite average, with the smoked ham seriously tasting like it was bought from a supermarket deli. It was nothing really worth writing home about altogether. The bread served on the side was also quite dry, and the balsamic glaze drizzled over top seems like more of an afterthought.

There’s no question that the vibe is quite intimate and romantic at Melina on the Rooftop, definitely a place that’s good enough to take a date. That being said though, I did find the food to be quite overpriced, especially considering the portion size. We made a booking on EatClub, which took 30% off our bill, making it quite reasonable. I still think that the food was quite average even after the discount. All in all, Melina on the Rooftop might be better suited for a couple of drinks after dinner than a proper sit-down meal.

How to get here:
Melina on the Rooftop is located on Lonsdale Street, a 5 minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

Melina on the Rooftop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Grand Lafayette

Grand Lafayette has relocated from Port Melbourne to Prahran late last year, taking over a large industrial space and expanded its menu to include an all-you-can-eat Japanese dinner option. We visited for Sunday brunch on this occasion, saving the dinner menu for another day.

The cafe was extremely airy and well-lit, with plants and pops of colours scattered through, making it sophisticated and stylish, a perfect place to brunch the weekend away.

Iced Green Tea Latte – $8.00

The dark green colour of the iced green tea latte looked promising, and upon mixing it through, it was a well-rounded drink, with a good amount of earthiness coming through from the matcha.

Soy Cappuccino – $4.50

The soy cappuccino, though less visually stunning, also hit the spot with its caramel and berry notes.

the full spread
Chicken & Waffles – $22.80

Chicken and waffles has become one of my go-to dishes whenever I can find it on a menu, the combination of sweet and salty is just right up my alley. Grand Lafayette’s take on this American classic is definitely one of the most extravagant I’ve seen to date. While the waffle was more on the soft side, the batter on the fried chicken was substantial and crunchy. The most surprising part on the plate though was the berry coulis, making it a combination I hadn’t seen before. It’s a clever twist on the traditional maple syrup, and although it may sound a bit strange at the beginning, I actually really enjoyed the mixture of flavours. This is definitely not a dish for everyone, but if you are a fan of chicken and waffles with just maple syrup, I’d say give this one a try.

Confit Duck – $26.80

Confit duck is an extremely time-consuming and technical dish, so I was keen to try it out. The crispy broccolini had a nice charred flavour, and the black rice was well-seasoned with diced chorizo and onion mixed through. The star of the show was certainly the duck itself. The meat was falling off the bone, yet the exterior was extremely crispy, offering a juxtaposition of textures in every bite. It was a much more refined plate than the chicken and waffles, and was more a lunch or even dinner dish than brunch, making me feel like the heftier price tag was justified..

Braised Pork Belly Gua Bao – $10.00

We also got some cute little gua baos on the side. The soy-braised pork belly was tender and flavoursome, and the pickled greens helped to cut through the richness of the meat.

Although the two dishes we tried at Grand Lafayette both were at a higher price-point than what I would pay for brunch typically, I can appreciate that they were probably more labour intensive than say, smashed avo, which is actually $16.80 at the cafe, making it fall within the reasonable range price with, which is also the case for all other non-signature dish brunch options.

Price aside, I did have an enjoyable brunch at Grand Lafayette, and it might be a place to visit if you’re looking to splurge a little and treat yourself for a nice and relaxing meal on the weekend.

How to get here:
Grand Lafayette is located on Clifton Street, a seven minutes walk from Prahran station.

I dined as a guest of Grand Lafayette.

Grand Lafayette Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Meatball and Wine Bar

Let’s talk about balls. I mean, meatballs. Yes I have the maturity of a 10-year-old.

So, what makes for some great meatballs? They can’t be too dry, and have to be the perfect size with a good amount of garlic and herbs thrown into the mix. When done right, although simple, it’s what comfort food is all about.

With meatball in its name, I was ready to be hit up with some world class meatballs at The Meatball and Wine Bar. How many times can you throw meatball into a sentence? Meatball meatball meatball.

Beef Balls, Red Sauce, House Pasta

Anyway, balls for all is a simple but clever idea. Choose a ball, choose a sauce, and choose a sotto palle, i.e. something for your balls and sauce to sit on. The first combination we chose comprised of beef balls, red sauce, and house pasta, so essentially spaghetti and meatballs – but not really, because they actually do a version of this at The Meatball and Wine Bar.

Back to the dish at hand. The only ingredient listed under the beef balls was pasture-fed angus beef, and I get it, the chef’s gotta keep their secret and all, but seriously, list a few more things so I can at least attempt to make this at home! The beef balls were extremely flavoursome, benefiting from a generous use of herbs and spices, and the al dente pappardelle was the perfect vehicle for the balls and sauce.

Chicken Balls, White Sauce, Super MB Potato Mash.

I was worried that the chicken balls might edge on the dry side, but this was not the case at all. The chicken balls were milder in flavour compared to the beef, especially when put together with the creamy white sauce and the mashed potato, but it was still miles ahead of any ball you could have elsewhere. The pistachios in the balls added some texture, and all in all, this was a delightful plate.

Jokes aside, The Meatball and Wine Bar is the great place for date night. Dark and moody, pasta and wine, I can’t think of a better way to guarantee a second date. Restrain yourself from making too many balls pun though, that might not fare too well. Then again, if they don’t laugh at the word balls at least three times throughout the night, are they really the one?

Yup, this restaurant review has officially turned into some grade A dating advice, thank me later.

How to get here:
Meatball and Wine Bar has three locations across Melbourne, CBD, Richmond and Collingwood, I visited the CBD restaurant, located on Flinders Lane, seven minutes walk away from Flinders Street Station.

Meatball & Wine Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Radio Mexico

Situated right by the beach, Radio Mexico is a great place to hit up for dinner after a day in the sun. In saying that, the changing weather at Melbourne didn’t stop us from satisfying our taco cravings.

Guacamole – $10.00

Radio Mexico is said to have some of the best guacamole in town, making it a must-order for us. The guacamole was probably some of the smoothest I’ve had, and was also light and refreshing. The homemade corn chips were delightful too, but really, I would eat that guacamole all on its own off a spoon if I could.

Hongos – $7.50

I love anything mushroom, and this mushroom taco was definitely a winner. The roasted mushrooms were dark and flavoursome, with the creaminess from the crema poblano acting as its perfect counterpart.

Carne Asada – $7.50

The BBQ hanger steak was juicy and tender, and although less intense in flavour when compared to the Hongos, it was a simple but delicious taco nonetheless.

BBQ Pork Belly – $7.50

There was definitely plenty of crackle to go around in the BBQ Pork Belly taco, giving it a giant boost of texture. Pineapple is a common partner of pork in Mexican cuisine, and it did a great job of adding some sweetness to the taco.

Babacoa De Res – $17.00

Radio Mexico’s take on nachos came in the form of chilaquiles, and we went for the slow cooked beef option. The beef packed some heat thanks to the ancho chilli, and the lettuce helped to cool it down when things got a little too spicy.

Roast Chicken – $20.00

The ever humble roast chicken was not so humble at Radio Mexico, being served in a mushroom and jalapeno broth, which was absolutely delicious, and great to spoon over the green rice.

Pork Belly Al Pastor – $24.00

We knew that the pork Belly Al Pastor would be good after the pork belly taco, however, this still blew my mind away. The dark broth was full of flavour, and the meat, having been roasted first and then placed in the broth, was able to take on the flavours extremely well.

Radio Mexico has been a popular dining spot for both locals and tourists, and it’s not hard to see why. Serving up some of the best Mexican food I’ve had to date, it’s definitely a place I’d venture out to more often, especially when Summer comes around again.

How to get here:
Catch tram #16, heading towards St Kilda Beach, from Flinders St or Melbourne Central, and get off at Luna Park/Cavell Street, and the restaurant is two minutes walk away.

Radio Mexico Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Papa Gino’s

Papa Gino’s is a no-frill Italian restaurant in a sea of Italian restaurants on Lygon Street, and we decided to drop in for a quick lunch on a weekday.

Ai Funghi w Penne (Entree) – $14.50

Feeling like a white sauce, we ordered the mushroom in creamy sauce with penne. The penne were perfectly al dente, and although the mushroom sauce was quite run-of-the-mill, it was reminiscent of a comforting home-cooked meal nonetheless.

Capricciosa (small) – $13.00

The capricciosa was also quite pleasant. Its base was crispy enough to create texture, but sturdy enough to not sink under the topping of mushroom, ham, olives and cheese. Again, nothing to write home about, but it did the job.

Papa Gino’s does not pride itself in offering gourmet and authentic Italian food, however, its selling point are its family-friendly atmosphere, no-frill menu and friendly service, making it perfect for large gatherings of sorts.

How to get here:
Papa Gino’s is located on Lygon Street, catch any of Swanston Street trams heading out of the city from Flinders Street Station or Melbourne Central and get off at University of Melbourne, and Papa Gino’s is 5 minutes walk away.

Papa Gino's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ribs & Burgers

American BBQ was all the craze a few years back, and Ribs & Burgers was one of the first few restaurant that introduced the cuisine to Melbourne. A lot has changed since then, and Ribs & Burgers is a fully fledged chain restaurant at this point, with four joints sprawled across Melbourne.

Pork Baby Back (Large) – $34.90

The full rack of baby back ribs smelt amazing when it landed on our table. The meat was falling off the bone, and the sweet caramelisation from the grill added an extra layer of flavour to the ribs. This was definitely worth the inevitable sticky fingers.

Chips

The chips were nothing to be scoffed at either, golden and crunchy, this may push the meal from being rich to decadent, but hey, you’ll never find me complaining about chips this good.

Beef Ribs – $23.90

The beef ribs were basted in the same signature BBQ sauce of Ribs & Burgers, but the result was completely different. The meaty flavour was a lot stronger in this case, and although it lacked the tenderness of the pork baby back, it would be ideal for someone who is a serious carnivore.

Apple and Cabbage Salad

Balance is key, and the crisp and light apple and cabbage salad was the logical counterpart to the rich beef ribs. Eating bites of the salad between the ribs ensured that your arteries aren’t too overly clogged by the end of the meal.

Compared to some of the more upscale steakhouses, Ribs & Burgers is a no-frill sort of deal, and the ribs remain tasty after all this time. It may not be an ideal setting if you’re trying to seriously impress someone, however, the laid-back vibe makes it perfect for a quick weekday dinner, and that’s clearly been working out for Ribs and Burgers.

How to get here:
I visited Ribs & Burgers at its Hawthorn location, which is located on Glenferrie Road, about 10 minutes walk from Glenferrie Station.

Ribs & Burgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Enter Neighbour

Enter Neighbour has recently celebrated its first birthday, situated in Camberwell, where there are plenty of cafes, it certainly takes something special to stand out. In an attempt to do so, Enter Neighbour revamped their menu to focus on high quality produce, while also jumping on the boozy brunch train, where for $35, you are able to have an unlimited number of cocktails with your food.

The space may initially seem small, however, there is another room down the back as well as a courtyard, allowing the cafe to accommodate both smaller and larger groups.

Soy Flat White – $4.30

I’ve recently changed my coffee order to soy flat white, purely because I enjoy the nuttiness from soy milk, but also not enough to have it in the fridge at home, not being a soy milk drinker myself. Although there was no fancy rosetta present due to the difficulty of creating decent foam with soy milk, Enter Neighbour uses quality beans from Axil Coffee Roasters, and the resulting drink is full and robust.

Summer Passion

Onto the boozier side of things, we had the cocktail special called Summer Passion. This was seriously Summer in a cup, or rather, a cute jar in this case. A mix of passionfruit, pineapple, gin and spritz, it was light, refreshing, and easy to drink without being overly sweet.

Nanban Chicken – $18.5

The Nanban Chicken at Enter Neighbour has all the essential elements that are present in the traditional Japanese dish, however, the changes made by the chef meant that it was a lot lighter and healthier. From the light batter of the chicken to the use of black rice, which also added a ton of texture to the plate. The gribiche sauce, which is typically found in French cuisine, went surprisingly well with the dish, offering some acidity to brighten everything up, and tied it all together nicely.

Benedict Cumberbatch – $19.00

The benedict featured pulled lamb, which was tender and flavoursome, and I also really enjoyed the contrast between the pickled cabbage and the rich hollandaise. Although the hollandaise did lack the sweetness from the saffron which was promised on the menu. The pumpkin puree also felt like an afterthought, which I don’t think matched particularly well with the other flavours on the plate. However, each element was executed well, and with some small changes, this has the potential of being a winning dish.

Hand Cut Chips w/ Sriracha Aioli – $7.5

The chips at Enter Neighbour were of the rustic variety, and while they were cooked well, and the centre was quite fluffy, I did find the portion size to be on the smaller side, especially considering the price tag, which was surprising considering that everything else we’ve tried by this point was quite well-priced.

Being away from the hustle and bustle of Camberwell means that Enter Neighbour has the benefit of holding the charm of a local cafe, but with a menu that is much more sophisticated than your average brunch hotspot down the road. The offering of boozy brunch gives it another edge, and is something that will be especially enjoyable for a birthday celebration or the like.

If you are feeling like avoiding the crowd, why not venture out a bit further and give Enter Neighbour a go?

How to get here:
Enter Neighbour is located on Camberwell Road, catch tram #75 and get off at Summerhill Road/Toorak Road, and the cafe is just two minutes walk away.

I dined as a guest of Enter Neighbour.

Enter Neighbour Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato