Monday, August 22, 2011


Finally, a delicious meal.

I had been pining for a delicious meal for quite some time. I mean, perhaps the notion of a delicious meal in itself is slightly contentious as it is such a personal thing. For what is delicious to me, could be intolerable to someone else. But to me, it's simple, delicious is eating well, being happy and knowing that it is what you needed at that very moment. Sometimes, it could be a freshly picked apple, or sometimes, the fifth coffee, but not tonight. Tonight it was Mercer's degustation.

After years of driving past Mercer's in Eltham, it was about time that I finally decided to eat there.
We opted for the degustation, which seemingly quite a bargain given the quality of food we received. We started with an amuse bouche of tomato and cardamon soup with a parsley foam. Deliciously warm on a still chilly night.
 The first dish was a terrine of roasted vegetables and a winter salad with whipped feta. This was a really a great light dish to start the meal. My only comment is that I'm not quite sure how tomato features in a winter salad. But that's a minor thing, as I note, I do have a few tomato plants that somehow germinated in late summer, and survived the winter...Should I pull them out as I have no further information on their genesis, their cultivar, or their potential performance in high summer. Space this year will be a premium. Anyway, I digress.

The next dish was a garfish filled with prawn fried in a tempura batter. Before dinner at Mercer's I had never tried garfish before. What a beautifully textured fish. The construction was also impressive with the dipping sauce perfectly complimenting the fish.

We opted for the duck as our mains. The duck breast itself was a bit dry, but the composition of the dish, with the polenta and confit sausage seemed to somewhat mask this minor fault. What more can I say? It was pretty damn good.

The first of the "desserts" was a "warmed Jean Perrin raclette cheese", which was like a sharp cheddar in my opinion. The bread was disappointing however, it was rock hard. I think it was meant to be rock hard, but I didn't want to be the subject of a mid-dinner drama.

The dessert plate was a meli melo of sorbet, ice cream, souffle, chocolate cake, custard and brulee. The custard was uber smooth and how can you not smile, when you taste the crispness of a pineapple sorbet. A hello from the summer to come.

Mercer's, 732 Main Road, Eltham
Mercer's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tutto Bene

What has happened to this place?

It used to be so good. The risottos were faultless, the food moorish and the atmosphere buzzing. I remember when they had an open "lasagna" and how amazingly deft it was in warming a winter day. I crave it to this day. But dinner here on a lazy Sunday evening turned out to be a major disappointment.

We started with the polenta gnocchi and fried calamari. Classics that have been on the menu since forever. Things which I've ordered time, and time and time again. But something's changed.

The gnocchi was fine - but denser than ever, however the intense tomato base which was full of flavour somewhat compensated for the other elements. The calarmi was ok but below expectations - almost arguably a bit greasy and lack lustre in texture and flavour. The aioli that came with it was shar and the dish seemed imbalanced and not as delicious as it used to be.

For mains, I had the lamb (I know, who goes to a risotteria and not eat risotto? But whatever), and my friend had the pork chop. My lamb was massive, but incredibly bland. I mean, seriously? Why? Denise had mentioned how salty her pork was and the "jus" had so much salt in it that I had to have a bit of a taste - because I always think people exaggerate about how salty their food is. But holy toledo! Did they mix up the salt with, I don't know, everything else that was meant to go into this dish? Not to mention, they forgot to remove the piece of string that tied the meat. Shame shame shame! I'm sure that wasn't in the masterchef masterclass!

I have to mention that the side salads were terrible. The "honey roasted" pumpkin salad was amateur at best. These are harsh comments, I know, if not my harshest to date. The dressing was single dimensional and lacked any depth of flavour. I mean, seriously, a good dressing of balsamic from home  or something - without adding anything else - would have been better. Note: adding things like "farro" doesn't make it exotic. The potatoes were...a serious disappointment. Hard skinned, bland - whatever. I can't be bothered writing anymore about this place, just a disappointment. That is all.

The dessert was ok, but did not compensate for the rest of the dinner.

* Note: in all fairness, we didn't have any of their risotto nor "complain" on the night. But that doesn't mean, they can do a crap job on the rest of their dishes - and maybe it was just an off night. But it was the night we ate.

Tutto Bene, Mid Level Southgate, Melbourne CBD
Tutto Bene on Urbanspoon