Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Le Grand Cirque

Le Grand Cirque
21 Daly Street
South Yarra 3141 

I seem to have a knack for reviewing restaurants that close soon after!  I must say I am very surprised that this is one of them.  I visited Manu Feildel's restaurant, (backed by George Calombaris' Made Group), a little while ago and really enjoyed it.  I was planning on returning soon and was going to blog about it after that, (with hopefully better quality photos), but it has just been announced that the restaurant will close next week.  After some consideration I decided to publish my post anyway. 

You enter the restaurant to a 'ticket box' reception/cloak room and billowing black curtains which part to reveal the restaurant proper. In keeping with the 'circus' theme a bowl of popcorn was offered whilst we perused the menu.  I liked this idea though the spice could have had more bite.

There were four of us and we shared a number of dishes.  The ham croquettes with cauliflower cream were delicious.  Cheesy, creamy, crunchy. They were the pick of the entrees.

The baby fish burgers with tartare sauce were very tasty. I liked the brioche bun. The school prawns served with aioli were fine though they didn't overly excite me.

For mains we shared the traditional cassoulet which was hearty and delicious.

And the beef cheeks in red wine sauce which was lovely.  My photo really doesn't do it justice. Beautiful tender meat in a rich, hearty sauce.

For sides we had the creamy potato puree. Divine! Pure comfort food.


We also enjoyed delicious baby green peas with lettuce, leeks and lardons.  
Meat, potato and peas elevated to great heights.

Of course we had to have dessert.  The salted caramel crème brûlée was rich, sweet and delicious.

Our final dish of the night was the highlight for me and one that I would have happily had as my main course! Melted goat's cheese on toast.  Rich, creamy and superb.  I became slightly obsessed with goat's cheese when I was in France last year and seriously could have made a meal of this dish.  Yum, Yum, Yum.  For this alone I would have returned to Le Grand Cirque!

So, all in all we liked everything we ordered, some more than others.  I can't remember exactly how much we paid but with a couple of bottles of wine and coffee I think it was around $70 a head.

I certainly hope we see Manu take another chance on the Melbourne food scene one day!

Le Grand Cirque on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 14, 2014


Last June I travelled to Europe with my friend and work colleague Lucy. We had a stop over in Dubai, 4 nights in Paris and 4 nights in Barcelona before flying back to Paris to join the Avalon Cruise for Mates where for 16 nights we floated through France visiting beautiful places, meeting amazing people and eating delicious food. Lucy then returned to Australia whilst I spent two weeks in St Remy de Provence with my sister and her family.

In November Lucy collapsed at work and was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour. Tragically Lucy passed away on Australia Day 2014. It has been a struggle to post anything and writing about our trip is painful.  However it was a wonderful holiday and an amazing experience that I was so privileged to have shared with Lucy. Lucy was an avid traveller and she said this was one of the best trips she had been on. Hopefully I can share some of how wonderful it was with you. 

I have managed to write two posts about the trip so far.  One detailing our visit to the home and garden of Claude Monet and another documenting the amazing way the French celebrate their National Day.  The visit to Monet's garden was during the cruise part of our trip and Bastille Day was part of my time in St Remy.  But now I am going to try and document our travels in a logical manner and start at the beginning of our trip - which brings us to magical, amazing Paris.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Notre Dame on Rue Danton in the 6th Arrondissement. We loved the location.  Surrounded by cafes and restaurants, minutes from the Seine, Notre Dame (naturally), Boulevards Saint-Germain and Saint-Michel and close to a number of metro stations.  The hotel also had an amazing rooftop bar/terrace which had a panoramic view of Paris.  The sunsets were breathtaking.

We packed a lot of exploring, shopping and eating into our four days.

Breakfast was enjoyed people watching either in the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg or at a local cafe.

Lunch was generally something quick, consumed in transit - including an amazingly fresh pre-packaged sandwich purchased at a train station!  The French do fast food very well!  

However, one day we indulged in a very special lunch at 58 Tour Eiffel on the first level of the Eiffel Tower.

Perrier with a twist and a view!

Naturally the view was amazing...

Lunch was described as a 'chic picnic' and reasonably priced.  Waiters served the food in cute baskets, bread came in a paper bag and my chicken dish (chicken fillet, divine mash and jus) was served in a glass bowl! The food was delicious but really it was all about the view and the experience.

I loved the interior of the restaurant.  The feeling of being tucked into a corner of the tower was very special.

It was still light until about 10pm so after a full day of sightseeing we would just wander abound our local area and pick a restaurant that appealed.

Of course you have to have crepes in France. One night we stopped at Creperie de Cluny.  I kept it simple, Crepe Maison - Jambon, fromage, champignons (Ham, Emmental cheese, mushroom).  Thin, cheesy, delicious.

Lucy wanted to find the perfect French onion soup.  I don't know that we succeeded but we certainly had some delicious versions!

This was a very cute restaurant. I loved the jug my wine was served in and the quaint decor.

Where ever possible we would sit outside and soak up the atmosphere.  I loved sitting on the cobblestone sidewalk watching the world go by.  

As I mentioned we managed to do a bit of shopping whilst in Paris. One afternoon we headed to Boulevard Haussmann and the beautiful Galeries Lafayette. I loved the interior of this stunning department store.  

Another day we went to Le Bon Marche on the left bank.  Less opulent, but still with gorgeous interiors and a magnificent gourmet food hall.

And we walked and explored...

The beautiful Sorbonne University just off Boulevard Saint-Michel

'The Thinker' in the gardens of the Rodin Museum
Due to time constraints we didn't actually go into the Musee Rodin. For one euro you can explore the gardens and they are magnificent.  Full of amazing sculptures including 'The Thinker'.

The clock window at the Musee d'Orsay

Notre Dame Cathedral viewed from the terrace

And again - looking across the Seine

A very wet Place de la Concorde

Champs Elysees looking back towards the Arc de Triomphe

Majestic Montmartre

The stunning view from Montmartre

Sunset casting a beautiful glow over rooftops

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of our time in Paris.

Next - colourful Barcelona!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Spicy Corner's Hoppers

Spicy Corner
49 Dawson Street
Tullamarine 3043

Spicy Corner is an unassuming Sri Lankan restaurant in suburban Tullamarine.  I went there late last year with a Sri Lankan friend and her family.  We went for one reason - to have the traditional Sri Lankan street food, hoppers.  My first time.  In fact, I hadn't even heard of hoppers before this meal!

Spicy Corner's menu describes hoppers as bowl shaped crispy crepes with soft centres made of rice flour.  Basically, edible bowls.  By all accounts they are not easy to make and you need a special pan.

Our Hopper meal consisted of plain hoppers, egg hoppers which had a fried egg cooked into it, a choice of chicken, beef or lamb curry and spicy sambol.

In this picture the egg hopper is sitting nestled in a plain hopper.  To eat you just break off bits of hopper and scoop up your curry and sambol.  I loved the hoppers.  Light and tasty, almost wafer thin. The egg hopper was my favourite though. This can be a messy process as you just use your hands, but that is part of the fun of the experience!

The curries and sambol were served in bowls to share. We had beef and lamb.  The curry was fine but the hoppers were the star of the meal.

I believe we had two sambols, onion and chill. A tip from my friends - if the sambol is too hot, (which, in this case, it was for me), mix a small amount of butter with it.  Sounds strange but works - the taste of the sambol still comes through but without the intense heat!

I definitely want to return to Spicy Corner and try more of the very reasonably priced menu.  I am fascinated by the sweets menu - Love Cake?  Potato Toffee?  As for the Milk Toffee.. well that's a bargain! ;)  I was intrigued by Wattalappan - a google search revealed that it is a coconut custard pudding.

If you are interested in the Hopper meal it is probably best to ring first as I believe it is not always available.  

Spicy Corner on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Bastille Day in Saint Remy de Provence

This is my first post in quite a few months.  I won't go into all the reasons why I wasn't blogging over this time but if you are reading this I just want to thank you for coming back to read my blog after such a long time.  I really appreciate it :)  I hope you enjoy this, my first post, of hopefully many, for 2014.

A few days before I left France they celebrated Bastille Day or as they call it La Fête Nationale, French National Day.  The last two weeks of my holiday was spent in a gorgeous town in the South of France - Saint Remy de Provence. You will see more of Saint Remy in my next few posts but July 14 deserves a post all it's own. The French know how to celebrate!

Our morning began with the Running of the Bulls!  This was a  'controlled' running where the bulls are escorted by horsemen through the town streets but still exciting as random bulls escaped the pack and headed for the crowd!  Whilst the streets were lined with sturdy barriers a lot of people were outside of these barriers.  I was not that silly!  If I had of been my photos would probably have been better so sorry about that ;)  I couldn't believe people were standing outside the barriers with children!!

Escaped bull on the sidewalk scattering the crowd!

It was a very hot day so once the bull extravaganza was over we walked back to our rented 300 year old villa and spent the afternoon in the pool.

In the balmy early evening we walked back into town for evening festivities.  St Remy's old town centre is circled by a boulevard.  This boulevard and all the internal streets were blocked off to traffic.  Bands played at various intervals along the street. Restaurants extended their tables onto the road and the overall atmosphere was one of a carnival.

Part of the remnants of the circular 14th-century wall that protected St Remy

After checking out some of the restaurants we chose to dine at Brasserie Les Varietes which is located on Boulevard Victor Hugo.

I loved the hot pink accents of the restaurant.

We began with an entree of zucchini flowers stuffed with goat's cheese. This was delicious - a simple dish made with quality ingredients.

For main I had fried scallops, prawns and pasta. It was delicious - the seafood very fresh.  (Of course all our meals had lovely french names but I am afraid I didn't write them down!)

My brother in law had Monkfish on risotto with a 'red fruits sauce' whilst my sister had seafood served over risotto.  I had risotto envy - it was beautiful, soft and creamy.

For dessert we shared Creme Brulee.  It was divine. Perfect 'crack'.

My nephew and niece enjoyed their chicken nuggets and chips.  Kids restaurant meals seem to be the same no matter where you are!

After dinner we followed the crowd into the center of town where they were giving out candle lit lanterns.  

We then joined a procession through the streets which ended at the Town Hall.

A makeshift stage was erected in front of the Town Hall with bands and singers entertaining the huge crowd whilst there were rides and carnival games to keep the children happy.

Fireworks capped off an amazing day. 

Vive la France!