Wednesday 15 February 2012

The Mornington Peninsula, Australia - Gluttonous Travels

Gluten free margherita at T'gallant

The Mornington Peninsula is stretch of coastline just over an hour's drive from Melbourne. Not only beloved of surfies and those with fond childhood beach holiday memories, it also has plenty to interest wine lovers with a penchant for chardonnay and pinot grapes. Increasingly, it's upping the ante on the food stakes too. You'll find lively farmers markets, beach front, brunchy cafes, high end modern cuisine and old fashioned fish 'n chip shops galore. And, when you've just bought a new car, it's the perfect place to go for a cruise through the rolling hills and pine trees, where you'll feel like you're in a Mercedes commercial (minus the Mercedes in my case).

One of my favourite towns is Red Hill, snuggled among the hinterland. There are some lovely cafes, artisan cheese makers and bakeries in the town itself. And on the fringes, some stunning wineries.

View over the vines at T'gallant

We took a day trip and arrived just in time for a laid back Sunday lunch at nearby T'Gallant. With live acoustic music, gorgeous views and crunchy thin based pizzas coming at a slick pace from the woodfired oven, it's easy to see why the big communal wooden tables are packed to the rafters. The food is simple but good, and there's plenty of wines by the glass. (Pizza also comes gluten free.) Afterwards, don't miss the free tasting at the cellar door.

The Australian Spuntino - the big shed at T'gallant

Ten Minutes By Tractor is one of my all time favourite wineries, and so their cellar door was our next stop. Right next to its upmarket (and highly regarded) restaurant, pay $10 (redeemable on purchase of a bottle) to try the full range of their delicious wines - the Pinot Gris every bit as good as their better known Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.

Horse riding tour of the wineries - the back yard at Green Olive cafe

Next, we stopped at Green Olive cafe, farm shop, olive grove and vineyard for a restorative, well made flat white, elbowing the local kids out of the way for a sneaky bounce on the trampoline overlooking the vines. They run coffee making and cooking courses here too, which might be worth checking out.

If it's summer, you'll need a swim. There's a long stretch of coastline to explore. I love Dromana beach with its silky white sand, clear light blue water and fading beach boxes. These are the kind of beaches you dream of in Europe, but they're totally low key  - not a Prada beach bag in sight.

Greedy Diva super tip - best to drive home at 3pm or after dinner on a Sunday to avoid the bumper to bumper traffic on the road back to Melbourne. I learned the hard way.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Naked Japan, Albert Park, Melbourne

Unagi don

Misuzu's up the road may look the part, with its coloured lanterns bobbing prettily in the treetops, but the prices have soared through the roof.  So on a balmy summer's evening,  crack open an Asahi just down the road, in the far more laid back Naked Japan.

This is not gourmet, and the chopsticks may not be as shiny as those at Misuzu's. But its reasonable quality at "cheap eats" prices. The unagi (eel) sparkles in a saucy glaze, filling the mouth with oily freshness, and although there's a little too much dressing on the seaweed and sesame salad,  hotpots of beef are big, rich and soothing, tempura is light and crisp and udon noodle soups come steaming and loaded up with goodness. 

Seaweed salad

True, this is not one to cross town for, but if you're after a decent casual midweeker on the shady streets of Albert Park, a stones throw from the beach, you won't find much better value around. Service is always sweet, and it's BYO.

Naked Japan on Urbanspoon

Saturday 4 February 2012

Freestyle Espresso, South Melbourne

Black walls, '60s armchairs, cool tunes and a hideaway lane way location - Freestyle Espresso is another gem in Melbourne's cafe scene.

It's another one to wander into to escape the throng of the Saturday morning market. There's a big communal table loaded up with newspapers and magazines, and a few smaller tables inside or outdoor seating to catch the morning sun. But it's quiet and cruisy - totally freestylin'.

The brew here is good - quite heavy on the crema but strong, rich and full bodied. The all day brunch menu includes things like smashed avocado on toast and corn fritters with bacon and relish, while the front counter is stacked with thick sourdough sandwiches, tarts, salads and cakes.

Go for the coffee if nothing else. Open 7 days.

Freestyle Espresso on Urbanspoon

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