Monday, May 12, 2014

28th Birthday in Melbourne, Part 1

Every year regardless of what day of the week my birthday falls on, I ensure that I don't have to work. This year, 11 April was on a Friday so I decided to celebrate my birthday in Melbourne with my hubby and enjoy an extended weekend full of shopping and eating!!

I took an early flight from Sydney to Melbourne with carry on luggage only. Then hopped on the Skybus from the airport to Southern Cross station and headed for my first stop: breakfast!! My SIL: Ms Tjak, recommended the Hardware Society amd raved about their baked eggs. Since the cafe was not gluten free friendly I decided to eat there myself. In usual Melbourne fashion, it was raining and I ended up taking the free city tram to the cafe.

Using my awesome navigation skills (Gaffa would laugh, but Melbourne is one of the easiest places to get around since it's a grid like network) I found the Hardware Society tucked away in a small lane and waited for a table for 1. I ordered the baked eggs with chorizo and a hot chocolate. 

The baked eggs were pretty popular as every table had at least one person order the dish. The hot chocolate came out first and was just divine. Full of chocolatey goodness and ended up being about 3 cups worth. The eggs: so yummy! Definitely worth it.

After refueling, I headed to the city for some shopping. Gaffa told me to go to H&M because he didn't want to go with me (he hates the store). When I got to the H&M building I noticed the extremely long line just to get in. I decided to wait, since I had time to kill. About 20 minutes later I was in! Woohoo. Pulling my little suitcase around I browsed the 2 main levels. Didn't find much except for a pair of blue denim jeans for $27. I spent over half an hour waiting in the fitting room line to try them on. I think when it gets less busy it'll be better, it was just way too crowded!

After browsing some other stores I headed to our hotel, the Rydges, as it was almost check in time. When I checked in Gaffa was already in the city on his way to the hotel so I waiting for him to eat lunch.

Beforehand I had picked out a few lunch spots. One was across from our hotel but was closed by the time we went for lunch (sushi sandwiches). Next stop was Ms Chu, a Viet tuck shop that sold rice paper rolls, salads and other small dishes. Because it was after the normal lunch time rush we were able to get a table easily and sat down to order some rice paper rolls, beef vermicelli salad and some refreshing iced coconut juices. Gaffa also ordered some char-sui baos, his favourite! The final stop was Ferdydurk, a pub that sold $3 hotdogs. We ordered 2 but they weren't very nice.

Afterwards we headed back to the hotel for a quick rest and then into our gym gear for a pre dinner workout at Fitness First. Our hotel allowed guests to use the Fitness First gym for free since their gym was erm well, crap to say the least. We headed to FF for an intense back, shoulders and ab workout.

We rushed back to the hotel room to get ready for my surprise birthday dinner. Gaffa had booked a restaurant a few weeks back and I didn't have any clues as to what or where it was. I wore my Popcherry dress and my hight heels and we walked from our hotel to the European. It was a quaint little restaurant with dark mood lighting, that had an extensive wine list and amazing food to match. Or should I say they had a great wine to match the food?!?!

Upon looking at the menu, there was a lot of dishes that sounded very apetising... and being the indecisive person I am, had a very hard time deciding. For starters Gaffa chose, and we each ordered an entree, a main and dessert. For the wines, Gaffa always asks the waiter to recommendations. We started with some sparkling while waiting for our starter of peppers and chorizo - reminded me of Spain. Next came our entrees. I just had to try the bone marrow dish. The first time I tried bone marrow was in the Napa Valley at Morimotos restaurant and it was amazing. This dish did not disappoint. It was probably my favourite dish of the night. I could've eaten it again for my main. Gaffa had a soup that was on the specials board. The waiter recommended some wines to match our dishes. Since the bone marrow was quite heavy I was given a light wine. I opted for half glasses while Gaffa had whole ones.

The restaurant was pretty packed but food came out pretty quickly. With enough time in between each course to let the food settle and to enjoy the rest of our glass of wine. For mains I ordered the pig. Anything pig related (mainly pork belly) I tend to order it. Gaffa went for the cassoulet which reminded him of our time in France. Again we were recommended matching wines which complemented our dishes nicely.

Then came dessert! The special was a twix recreation with salted caramel, which of course I jumped on since twix bars are one of the few chocolate bars I enjoy; Gaffa wanted to try the soufflé. My dessert was my second favorite dish of the night, with its rich salted caramel and crispy biscuit layer, just so moreish! We then finished off with a kir royal for me (which reminded me of our time in France again) and some after dinner aperitif for Gaffa recommended by our awesome waiter.

This birthday dinner was an amazing night of culinary delights and one I will definitely remember and talk about for a long time. Gaffa will have to work hard next year to top it! I would certainly go back to the European for dinner again when I'm next in Melbourne. Service was great, and prices were not mega expensive. I think our bill was under $260. For 3.5 courses with matching wines, that's pretty good!

To finish off the night Gaffa took me to the Whiskey Bar. The bar is hidden behind a blank store front with only a small sign above the door to identify it. Inside it is small and dark to match, only the most dedicated whiskey lovers would know about the hidden gem. Gaffa was recommended this place by the bartender at the Gin Palace.  I had a Glenmorangie Nectar D'Or while Gaffa again askes for a recommendation. The whiskey list is huge!

Stay tuned for part 2, for more food delights and some shopping adventures!

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