Melbourne October 2014 – Day 1. Nieuw Amsterdam & Pie Face Cameo
We were in Melbourne last weekend for the Sydney Labour Day long weekend and it was amazing. And if we were away last weekend, why has it taken so long for me to up any post about it? Well, things went sideways nearly immediately as soon as we got to the airport for our flight home. It started paying an extra $48 because of over baggage fees (like 80% of the other travelers, ahem, money grab, ahem) and then ended up with a multi-day illness where I could literally eat nothing more than apple sauce, crackers and broth.
Alas, I can eat solid foods again, there is hockey on our TV, things are looking good.
Let me tell you about our weekend in Melbourne – or at least Day 1 since we did a lot of eating.
We caught a very early flight to Melbourne on Saturday to ensure we would be on time to the birthday party we were attending and got Pie Face for breakfast. I don’t know what time Pie Face normally opens, but in the airport, they’re ready to serve you at 5am. Pie Face is something of an airport tradition for us now, we’ve gotten some each time we’re in the Sydney airport whether it’s meal time or not.
Anh got a lamb and rosemary sausage rolled (not pictured) which appeared to be a new variety. I went with a usual steak and mushroom pie. As with other fast food places in Australia, your energy investment is displayed in kilojoules with is enlightening and alarming. The pie was very satisfying with flaky pastry and more than ample filling with real chunks of meat and mushroom throughout the gravy.
We landed, and took a taxi to the birthday party where we were overwhelmed with children and cuteness. After the cake was cut and birthday presents opened (so many presents!) we took our leave and headed into our hotel in the city.
We were able to snag a great spot in a laneway right in the CBD that was very central to all of our eating. After a nap to offset our 3am wake up, we had the heavy task of deciding where to eat for dinner. I had a few places on the list for desserts but we had left most of our meals free for whatever we felt like.
Perusing Urbanspoon we stumbled upon reviews and photos for Nieuw Amsterdam, an acclaimed restaurant with an intriguing menu and apparently pumpkin donuts from a diner’s photo. As I am obsessed and deprived of pumpkin currently it was decided. The only issue was that it was one of the hottest restaurants in Melbourne and we were without a booking on Saturday night. Anh called in and was advised that if we go there “right away” before 5:30, we could get a table for two or else they were fully booked. We made ourselves look presentable and very nearly ran over to the restaurant about 3 blocks over in Hardware Lane, right beside another hotspot Hardward Societe. We breathlessly burst into the restaurant and exclaimed we got the last table in the house to two people who had no idea what we were talking about but figured we had spoken to somebody named Dave (Thanks Dave!) and led us to a table in the corner.
The menu was limited but there was more than enough for us to find some very interesting choices. We decided to share a starter, a couple of proteins and sides for the mains.
Looking nothing like I expected this was the standout of the meal. Small toasted waffles topped with chicken terrine, smooth and rich pate with salty crispy chicken skin with just a bit of orange to break through the richness this was a decadent starter. Anh and I loved this dish, taking very small bites to savour the flavour and play of textures.
The proteins were moist, delicious and fall off the bone. It was the first time I’ve had lamb ribs and they were very flavourful if a little fatty for my tastes. The pork belly chops were perfectly cooked with the well rendered pork crackling skin on top for again a mix of textures. As for the sides, the potato salad was outstanding, studded with pickles and red onions throughout. The cole slaw on the other hand was pedestrian with nothing special about the dressing, we enjoyed it for the crunch it provided but not much else.
For dessert they didn’t have the pumpkin donuts we had seen in a photo, but they had something better – pumpkin pie. I love all things pumpkin and to finally find some in Australia was amazing (this kind of pumpkin, everything else is just a type of squash, FYI Aussies…).
To quote Anh, “It’s like eating your candle“. Perhaps he was just marvelling at the perfect balance of spices and pumpkin custard in the flaky crust. Topped with some toasted pumpkin seeds and clotted cream, it was a delicious representation of all things Autumn and just for a little bit, it reminded me of fall a whole ocean away.
It was a great first day of eating but it was just the beginning – stay tuned for the rest of our food discoveries in Melbourne!