Where do all the carnivores go? Well, Hunter & Barrel of course. The launch of Eastland’s town square, brings to Ringwood a new dining precinct that embraces Melbourne’s food scene. Hunter & Barrel is one of the dining offerings – courtesy of the Seagrass Boutique Hospitality Group – aka the folks that brought us The Meat & Wine Co and Ribs & Burgers across Melbourne & Sydney. The concept of the ‘Hunter’ evokes imagery of taxidermied trophies. The concept of the ‘Barrel’ summoning thoughts of endless craft beverages and boutique wines. Never fear, the carnivorous appeal is not as macabre as an American dentist off to his next kill. The atmospheric ambiance is warm and buzzing, with communal groups clinking wine glasses and sharing ginormous platters of meat. This one is definitely for the meat lovers.

Diners can expect a mix of artisanal food, combined with inventive cocktails. The evening began with a fat-washed vodka, a contemporary cocktail technique that adds savoury flavour to spirits. The end result is a fruity-sweet concoction, with a hint of smoothness emanating from the fat-wash. Starters began with chicken wings in a sweet & sour sauce, the crusty sourdough ideal for soaking up the meaty juices. Combined with cultured butter, smother to your heart’s content, with a side of juicy corn. The Hunter’s Feast gives diners the option of choosing 4 salads/sides. The impressive platter arrives with coiled sausages and an array of meats, cooked over a signature coal grill. Think slow-roasted beef rib falling off the bone, coal roasted chicken, and crispy pork belly. Slice open the cheese stuffed Kransky and enjoy the slight spiciness of the wagyu sausage. The platter arrives with all sorts of saucy accompaniments to liven up the meaty profile. This surely is a carnivore’s heaven?

Dessert is reminiscent of S’mores melted over a crackling campfire. The pornographic dish arrives in a hot pan, with a layer of marshmallows melted over a hidden layer of chocolate. Slightly toasted, the end result is a sickly-sweet mess of overindulgence. Check out that ooze…

Hunter & Barrel takes shopping centre dining to the next level. Steve Scott, operations manager says the focus is on ‘creating a unique, comfortable and fun experience for our guests at Hunter & Barrel – every choice we have made, from the cooking style to the plateware to our sequence of service were designed with this spirit in mind.’ With its unique hunter-esque decor combined with a buzzing atmosphere, the objective has certainly been achieved. Grab a couple of your meat-loving mates and get ready to enter a carnivorous food coma.

Rochford Winery – Yarra Valley

Escaping into the Yarra Valley for indulgent food and wine is a favourite pastime for Melbournians. It’s a place for indulging in life’s pleasures, without driving too far from the CBD.  Journeying to   Rochford winery, there are plenty of ‘ooohs’ and ‘awwws’ as we drive past newborn calves and lambs. The air is crisper. The pastures are greener. Clouds piercing Mt Dandenong adds to the picturesque setting. But our objective isn’t to sightsee, we’re here for the swirling of wines, the clinking of glasses and a produce-driven menu, sourced locally from the beautiful Yarra Valley.

Rochford  has undergone a major renovation to create a stunning open design that includes a cafe, restaurant and store.  The addition of four new tasting stations, means wine enthusiasts can speak one on one with sommeliers. The appointment of head chef Raki Adriana has reinvigorated the menu, transporting Rochford into the casual fine-dining space.  “I am actually a local lad – having grown up in the foothills of the Dandenongs – at Montrose and after spending time during my apprenticeship years at De Bortoli Winery – I really wanted to return and make my mark on the Yarra Valley”, said Raki. Plates are meticulously plated with French and Mediterranean influence.  90% of the produce is locally sourced, with suppliers minutes away from paddock to plate.  Head chef, Raki has certainly made his mark.

Starters celebrate the veggies of the region. Thin shavings of asparagus are a novel way to eat the spears, scattered with a piquant manchego and black garlic. The distinctive richness of the cheese, a perfect partner for the mildness of asparagus. The heirloom carrots are inspired by a garden bed, with a multiplicity of colours and textures, elevating the simple root vegetable. Next on the agenda – seafood. The smokiness of the confit octopus, matched with a cauliflower skordalia –  a smooth nutty emulsion had us on our knees. Throw in cured kingfish and I’m in seafood heaven.

The mains arouse the taste buds, with a carnivorous lamb shoulder, shaved into a rectangular mass of meaty goodness. The meat is succulent, moist and juicy. A far cry from your local kebab joint. The corn fed chicken is demure, with a splash of meaty jus, farro grains and a thin crispy ribbon of guanciale (Italian cured meat).  Desserts are a classic salted caramel tart with embedded pears and baked apples in a modern interpretation of an apple crumble. Instead of boring ol’ oats, there’s freeze dried custard and a milk sorbet.

Diners can choose from 2 courses ($55) or 3 courses ($65) –  a reasonable price considering the calibre of the food. With the transformation of the new menu in an idyllic setting. It’s difficult to imagine the old Rochford. This was our first time visiting Rochford and standing on the balcony admiring the views,  following a completely satisfying meal, made us wish that Monday would never come.

Hungrycookie Giveaway – Win a $100 Dining Voucher

Prize : Win a $100 Rochford Wines dining voucher. A wonderful opportunity to experience premium wine and food within the luscious greens of the Yarra Valley. See our previous review of  Rochford wines for a look at the wonderful food and scenery.

To enter: 

1) Follow @hungrycookiee & @rochfordwines on Instagram

2) Like the Giveaway image 

3) Tag 2 friends

Terms and conditions: Competition is only open to Australian residents. The voucher expiries 4 months from date of receipt. The winner will be drawn randomly. Competition will be redrawn if winner does not respond in 72 hours. Voucher can be used for lunch (not valid on Public holidays).

Igni – Victoria’s best new restaurant

Igni sees Victoria’s prodigal son return to the realm of regional dining. As quarter life and mid life crises ensue, a stint overseas is a natural cure for monotony. So off Aaron Turner went, to the BBQ capital of the world – sweet Tennessee. If you know a G-town resident or a chicken fan, Belle’s hot chicken, induces fond finger-licking memories. Chef Turner returns, opening a degustation only restaurant, with a Noma-esque feel. Seems the best chefs are moving away from the city lights?

Despite Aaron’s credentials of Michelins and hats, Igni is ‘casual fine-dining’. With its intentional obscurity, it’s easy to miss. What feels like the backside of Geelong,a medieval rack of smoked and cured meats, hangs in the entrance. Inside, it’s minimal and unpretentious. IMO, there’s nothing worse than an awkwardly silent restaurant, diners dressed in gowns, waiters ready to scrape your bread crumbs – yes this is ‘fine dining’ in NYC.

Igni Snacks: Duck Breast, Dried Angus, Salt & Vinegar Salt bush, Chicken skin, Zucchini flower mussels

The ‘Snacks’ at Igni are superb. The crispy chicken skin, is slathered in whipped cod roe – aka, gastronomic cocaine and chicken’s answer to a crispy pork crackling. Suddenly, the hanging meats make sense. There’s Angus Beef jerky, grissini wrapped in cured duck breast. Salt and Vinegar salt bush, is a native spin on chips. Pickled mussels wrapped in seared zucchini flowers. Plenty of dark, smoky flavours.

From smoky aromatics, we move to acidic flavour profiles. Mackerel wrapped in mustard leaf – pop with trout roe and a cucumber pour-over. The potato noodles are a signature, cooked in chicken fat, blanketing plump pippies and a yolk that screams ‘pop me’. The notion of potatoes cooked in fat, scream comfort flavours and umami. Therefore, I was surprised with the acidic flavour profile. By no means, is it a bad dish, more so… expectations did not match ingredients normally associated with comfort.

Back to the smoker. David Blackmore’s wagyu is a grade 9. Observe the distinctive white flecks of fat, weave through the meat. A perfect blanket for soft Jerusalem artichokes, seeped in potato starch. Fermented carrots are blackened and cooked in carrot juice, the char seeping through the carrot underbelly. Slow-cooked Raven farm pork, is wonderfully tender. Dessert is the Australian bush, flowering gum ice cream, tainted with the sweetness and sourness of dehydrated berries and Davidson plums.

Diners have a choice of an 8 ($150) or 5-course ($100) degustation. $100 for 5 courses is incredible value, for the calibre of food. Igni does not disappoint, but don’t expect comfort flavours. Geelong is lucky to share residence, with a restaurant well-worth the road trip from Melbourne.

Rating: 3.9 cookies out of 5
Must order: Degustation only but the snacks are a winner!


Sweet, tangy and spicy – Melbournians have had an enduring love affair with Thai cuisine. For Richmond locals, you will be pleased to hear that you can obtain your weekly Thai fix at Sabai. Newly opened, in replacement of Mamame Eatery & Bar, owner Manpreet wants to bring “Modern Thai cuisine served in a relaxed setting”. ‘Sabai’ means to relax in Thai. With soft mood lighting, bottles of wine and copious amounts of tasty sharing plates – you will have no trouble settling down with some fragrant curries and a glass of white. Julia Childs was right, ‘People who love to eat are always the best people’. Husband and wife team shared this enduring love of food, meeting in culinary school, working in kitchens and finally kickstarting their food dream. With the wife manning the kitchens and Manpreet serving front of house – great relationships can translate to great food.

The signature dish is no doubt the Massaman. A carnivorous portion of lamb shank is slow-braised for 5 hours. The meat falling off the bone with the tenderest touch. Sitting in a bed of dense, hearty massaman curry – this was exactly what we needed on a cold winter’s day. The cinnamon stick adding warmth and depth, the sprinkled cashews adding crunch and texture. Of course, what would Thai cuisine be without Roti bread to soak up all that fragrant goodness. The Lamb Shank is quick becoming the local favourite.

Starters are also tasty. You can never go wrong with soft shell crab sliders, sticky pork ribs and dumplings. The spicy twist coming in the form of a chilli jam and red curry glaze. Finish off your meal with a cup of coconut ice cream – creamy and divine with shavings of fresh coconut and kaffir lime. If you’re in the Richmond area, or looking for some comfort food, be sure to visit Sabai for a touch of tasty Thai.

Imbue Food & Wine Opens in Maribyrnong!

Imbue Food & Wine opens in Maribyrnong. Being a local, it’s fair to say good dining options are sparse. Footscray is the destination for Vietnamese and a big bowl of steaming pho. Yarraville and Seddon, is for weekend brunches. Flemington is for laksa. Maribyrnong? Well.. there’s Highpoint. The opening of Imbue, ushers much-needed gastronomic love, to the ho-hum franchises that dominate this riverside burb. I love living in Maribyrnong, the views of the river, the proximity to good Vietnamese. The one thing that’s missing, is an up-and-coming food scene. Let’s hope our mates at Imbue, can get the westside train rolling. 

The eatery is headed by Phong Nguyen. The ex Movida chef, bringing small-plate dining and his Asian repertoire, to the cosy Imbue kitchen. The style of cuisine is Modern Australian, with traces of Asian influence. The food is designed to showcase produce. A feat most prominent, with Imbue’s signature dish. A seemingly simple whipped feta dish, achieving a harmonious flavour balance, with the addition of fresh honeycomb and dukkah. The honeycomb balances the creamy pungency of feta. The three cheese croquettes, emit concentrated cheesy goodness, crispy and tasty with a capital T.

Beef is sourced from Gippsland, the Great Southern Porterhouse making a meaty appearance, with charred corn. Seafood is another hallmark for Imbue. Mild seared scallops, elevated with smoky pancetta and silky cauliflower puree. Cubes of Tuna, matched with acidic ponzu and wafer thin rice crisps. Keep your eye out on the specials menu, for a rotating selection of seasonal dishes.

For the calibre of food, the pricing is highly reasonable – 3 courses for $40 or 5 for $60. Service is friendly, you can’t miss the jolly restaurant manager. I’m pretty stoked that Maribyrnong finally has some decent food, on par with inner city offerings. Matched with the clinking of wine glasses and cocktails, Imbue Food & Wine raises the Westside foodie scene. Let’s hope the locals embrace Imbue.


Welcome to Melbourne, Din Tai Fung! (affectionately known as DTF) Unless you reside under a rock, DTF’s signature xiao long baos have arrived at the Emporium. Originating from Taiwan, the iconic dumpling chain has gathered fans worldwide, opening franchises globally. Sydney was lucky enough to secure the first Australian location. With a creative menu and world-famous dumplings, it’s easy to see why the brand has gathered substantial fanfare.


The art of making the perfect Xiao Long Bao is a precise process. Picking up these soupy parcels of deliciousness will reveal a paper-thin translucent skin, constructed with meticulous detail (eighteen folds more or less). It’s that Asian precision that has made this dumpling chain world-famous. That silky smooth skin, stuffed with piping hot soup and premium minced pork, it’s worth every single calorie.The secret to the soup? It’s actually solidified jelly that melts at steaming temperatures.


Admittedly, it’s not all about Xiao Long Bao. The Truffle Pork dumplings (OMGAwsh truffle) will satisfy the gourmands. A must order for truffle lovers. The pineapple prawns, dressed in creamy mayonnaise and pineapple were an ideal balance of sweet and savoury. The mango shrimp roll arrived with big chunks of fresh mango encased in a crunchy crumb. Unfortunately, the crab roe dumplings sold out, but DFT’s version of soupy Shao Mao were a worthy replacement.


Overall Verdict? It’s busy, incredibly busy. Melbournians, we love to eat. We love to queue. Did I mention that we love to queue? Without a doubt, I expected this chain to explode with popularity and explode it did… Wait times on opening night were 45 minutes. Wait times on the second opening night were 1.5 -2 hours. Despite a seating capacity of 235, these numbers are pretty mind-blowing. It seems the whole of Melbourne are Din Tai Fung devotees. There was so much more we wanted to taste, but alas, we’ve only got one stomach. In comparison, the international chains have a slight edge, but they’re still better than anything you can find in Melbourne. Consider the following:

  • There are no bookings;
  • If you find queues abhorrent, wait for the hype to die down (it’ll be awhile);
  • Lunch times on weekdays are less busy;
  • To beat the queues, arrive before opening time (11:00 -11:30 am) and before the after work crowd;
  • The rainbow gems are limited in stock (arrive earlier during the day for a taste);
  • Complete the crossword for a free Mango pudding;
  • Collect a buzzer from front-of-desk, this will vibrate when your table is ready. Tick off the menu whilst you wait, now standby for those funky vibrations.

Final words – Asian franchises are known for horrid service, but the staff at DTF exceeded expectations. Dealing with massive crowds, whilst remaining courteous and patient was beyond impressive. Big kudos to the DTF team. Please also note, that Hungrycookie doesn’t normally queue, but the first DTF in Melbourne is a worthy exception.

South American cuisine on the West-side

Authentic South American cuisine – with emphasis on Mexican, Peruvian and El Salvadorean flavours are at the fingertips of the Western Suburbs. Mexican and Latin cuisine were one of the big food trends in Melbourne with ‘Los Latinos’ and ‘La Tortilleria’ taking the spotlight in the Western suburbs.

La Tortilleria 

Taco enthusiasts will revel in the existence of La Tortilleria. La Tortilleria produce corn tortillas on premises, using the traditional ‘nixtamal’ method – stone grinding the corn and baking them fresh daily.  In addition to supplying the restaurant with its daily amount of freshly baked tortillas, La Tortilleria also supply tortillas to the hugely popular Mamasita and are also available for purchase for home cooks.  The tortillas are also:

  • Gluten Free
  • Preservative and Additive Free
  • Cholesterol Free
  • No Saturated or Trans Fat
  • Vegan
  • 100% Locally-Made from Australian Ingredients

We shared the ‘ Amigos Share Plate’ that included a selection of 8 ($40) or 12 items ($60) served with guacamole and unlimited salsa. Being a big eater, the amigos share platter left me a tad hungry, but flavours were fresh and tantalising.

Los Latinos 

Los Latinos first opened in Maidstone. At first glance it is unexpected that a dingy Maidstone street would be the location for a pretty authentic South American restaurant. Los Latinos represents nothing fancy, but is reminiscent of a mexican joint I previously visited in East L.A.  The quesadilla is better than the one at Mamasitas and the Papusas were a special find. My favourite dish was definitely the Arepas. These little seared corn cakes were delicious!! The taste of corn was vibrant and the cakes were topped with fresh melted cheese, grilled chorizo and a dollop of sour cream.

We finished off with a satisfying Tres Leches – a soft sponge cake soaked in three kinds of milk. On the negative side, the larger meat dishes tended to be on the overcooked side, so stick to the smaller dishes if you can. Los Latinos has since expanded to an Ascot Vale location, but the original Maidstone location is superior.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink

Melbournians are self-confessed coffee snobs, contemptuously turning up our noses at Starbucks and professing our undying love for Australian independent cafes. ‘I can’t start the day without my coffee!’, a common outcry on Monday morning, with the dawning realisation of a new working week. Coffee is integral to the Melbourne lifestyle, and with that comes a myriad of new openings with exceptional food and coffee. The Vertue of the Coffee Drink is no exception. Naturally, it’s located down a laneway (Raffa Pl).

A seemingly dilapidated white door opens to reveal a modern interior, with custom made wooden furniture, planter boxes reaching the ceiling and futuristic isometric globes from Lucretia Lightning. We sat on the mezzanine level, looking down on the beast itself – a gleaming new coffee roaster with copper plumbing, churning out freshly roasted coffee beans. A very impressive interior, where open spaces and natural lighting is king.

Scotch Eggs w/ Piccalilli Mayonnaise, Onion Marmalade, Crispy Pig Skin, Brioche Soldiers

The Scotch Eggs wrapped in sausage meat, coated in a textured crumb, reveals an oozy golden yolk within. The tang of the Piccalilli Mayonnaise and onion marmalade was the perfect accompaniment. Who knew that Pig Skin could be so fluffy and light? It’s a far cry from the heaviness of a pork crackling.  A calorific surprise, indeed.

Eight Hour Lamb Shoulder w/ Tabouleh, Baby Broccoli, Dukkah, Tahini

The shredded slow-cooked lamb was alive with Meditteranean flavours. A rustic winner that reminded me of an open kebab mixed with Tabouleh, Dukkah and Tahini. Simply put, the Eight Hour Lamb shoulder is a carnivore’s brunch. Perfect for your gym bro.

Chickpea Fries 

Now, we can’t forget the vegetarians can we? Finely mashed chickpeas, crumbed and fried, formed an asymmetric stack of fried goodness – soft & sweet on the inside and golden brown on the outside. Eaten with shavings of parmesan cheese and crisp asparagus, this dish is perfect for lovers of a good chip.

Pancetta Wrapped Terrine – Pork, Ham Hock, Black Pudding, Shiitake mushroom, Quail egg, Toasted Brioche

The Pork terrine is all things porcine. A terrine of Pork, Ham Hock and Black pudding wrapped in a thick slice of pancetta is a meaty option indeed. If you’re after a hot brunch, this may not be the best option. However, if you’re a lover of delicatessen meats, the terrine is a satisfying choice.

The menu is innovative and tasty at Vertue of the Coffee Drink. If you’re an avid coffee lover or a fan of brunch (who isn’t), this modern Carlton cafe is a definite crowd pleaser. No doubt, this cafe will cement itself as a Melbourne favourite. Get here before the crowds do.

Try Breakfast Pasta at Small Axe Kitchen – Brunswick

What do you get when you combine cafe credentials with Sicilian flavour? Enter Small Axe Kitchen in Brunswick, putting the ‘delizioso’ in Sicilian brunch. Chef Adam Pruckner – formerly of Code Black, partners with wife and long-time friend, to introduce Sicilian flair into the grungy streets of Brunswick. The signature ‘Breakfast pasta’, has jaws dropping. The seemingly simple concept, has thrusted Small Axe Kitchen into the spotlight. ‘Breakfast’ and ‘Pasta’, are probably two words I’ld classified as two of my favourite in the English vernacular.  Combining the two is holy matrimony. Carbs and yolk porn? Yes, please.

Pops of spring flowers, brighten the wooden window panes. Opt for the courtyard to bask in the spring sunshine or choose the indoors, laced with suspended greenery. We first read about Small Axe Kitchen, in ‘Just Open’ by Good Food. Our potato filled legs couldn’t run fast enough. The signature ‘ Breakfast pasta’ takes inspiration from the creamy, bacon-esque flavours of Carbonara. A more sophisticated version exists at Small Axe Kitchen. The lesser known maccaruni pasta, is al dente. The twisted hollowed out shape, is shaped by a piece of wire. Instead of bacon, there’s Guanciale, an Italian cured meat. The melting of fat, creates a great depth of flavour, combining harmoniously with the light creamy sauce. A final snowstorm of salted ricotta and the pop of golden yolk from a slow cooked egg, finishes the masterpiece. The concept is a simplistic one, harnessing  bold flavours, that makes this dish irresistible.

Don’t let the breakfast pasta detract you, from the rest of the menu. Octopus is a Sicilian favourite. Small Axe Kitchen’s version is charred,  producing a gorgeous smoky flavour. The tentacles are tender, without being overcooked. Our ocean friend swims in a tangy green sauce, speckled with heirloom beets, olives, celery and raisins. For a sweet end, consider triangles of grilled brioche. A generous dollop of Espresso mousse and scatterings of Torrone, edible flowers and pistachio covers the brioche. The blood orange jelly provides a tartness, amongst the sweetened bitterness of the espresso. Lovers of the bean, will enjoy this dessert.

Small Axe Kitchen respects traditional Sicilian flavours, with touches of modernisation. The dishes look deceptively simple, but Chef Adam Pruckner, displays an understanding of flavour profile, that doesn’t require unnecessary bells and whistles. If anything, visit for the ‘Breakfast pasta’, but don’t forget the rest of the menu!

Breakfast Pasta w/ Maccaruni, Guanciale, Peas, Mint, Salted Ricotta, Slow cooked Egg