Recipe: Best Gravy for Roast Beef


Here is it, my first recipe ever! Well, perhaps not my first recipe ever, but certainly the first time I have bothered to include one of my creations on my blog!

One of the things I miss most about working in a commercial kitchen is the sauces, and the world of flavour that this opens up. This is truly the thing that separates home cooking from restaurants. After much trial and error, I have come up with a cheats version of beef gravy that can easily be done at home, in less time than it takes to roast the meat! (FYI, beef/veal stock in restaurants is prepared over a number of days in an exhaustive process that is more about time than effort.)

You will need:

2 large brown onions;

2 large carrots;

2 large portobello or field mushrooms;

75ml (half a glass) of red wine – Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon work best with their bold flavours;

2 litres of beef stock (available in liquid form from any supermarket);

75g butter;

75g plain flour;

Optional extras:

8-10 sprigs of thyme;

2 bay leaves;

(Herbs always add extra flavour, but are not absolutely necessary to make this sauce a success. If you have these readily available, or growing in your garden, this is a perfect opportunity to use them.)


Cut onions and carrots in half, leaving the skins, cores and everything intact.

Using a BBQ, or heavy based pan or saucepan, put the cut side down and cook until blackened, without turning (an outdoor BBQ is clearly the best option in the home kitchen!). Also include the whole mushrooms in this process, although do not worry if they do not blacken as much as the other veg.

Once blackened, add to a large pot with the stock, wine and optional herbs. Boil until reduced by half. Strain the reduced liquid to remove the vegetables.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter, then add the flour and cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes together and the raw flour is cooked. This is the “roux” that is used to thicken the sauce.

Add 1-2 ladles of the reduced stock to the roux and whisk, removing any lumps. Once combined, stir this mixture into the rest of the stock, and bring to the boil to thicken the sauce.

Serve on top, the side and everywhere else you care to slather this delicious sauce!

Look at that amazing piece of meat ready for roasting:


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I’ve been to Milkboy a number of times. It’s a bit of a “local” in terms of being close to my work – a desert in terms of good coffee. We often do venture probably further than is allowed by our 30 minute lunch break. This is no exception, although it is within the bounds of being acceptable. The service here can be a little hit and miss, but after eating here a few times the kitchen is at least consistent.

I have a weakness for breakfast dishes, so this was the first time I have ordered from the lunch menu. Apart from the fact they called it a “burger” when in fact it is a sandwich, I was very happy with my choice. Ok, I get it. If they did properly call it a sandwich, then some idiot would complain that it was not served between sliced bread, but I think the education needs to start somewhere, doesn’t it?

The brisket was not meltingly tender, but this was not unexpected. The only real way to achieve that is to carve it straight from the smoker. As with all cafes, there are practical considerations and the brisket would be pre-cooked and reheated to order. No complaint here from me. The barbecue sauce I have to say was a really good one. Plenty of vinegar to compliment the variety of spices and the richness of the beef. Perhaps the balance of the dish was skewed too far towards the acidic, with the capers and pickles in with the smashed kipflers, but I wouldn’t want them to change the sauce recipe. Just a small change to the side is all that is required here.

The coffee is getting better the more I visit here. There have been some up and down experiences, but they seem to be getting things under control in this area. The coffee machine has the digital timers for all to see in this setup, and I have noted a wide variety of extraction times being achieved while I sit and watch. Sometimes this has a noticeable effect on the coffee taste, but the beans here are top notch.

Based on the competition in the immediate area, I think that Milkboy has it about right. There is room for improvement, but I will keep coming back. I’m not convinced the burbs are ready for the inner city experience this far out. I think they are pushing it as far as it can go for the regular clientele in Cheltenham.

Milkboy Espresso and Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Belle’s Hot Chicken (Windsor)


As a (somewhat) fan of the Fitzroy original, I was happy to satisfy my Saturday post-ride hunger with a feed at Belle’s newest outlet in Windsor. I knew that the chicken sandwich was a real signature of this place, so that was the only way to go.

Despite the slightly odd-looking oblong shaped bun, it was a thing of beauty. The chicken is almost unnaturally crisp, despite being dipped in some spicy concoction post-fryer. The whole thing was a beautiful balance of ingredients to form an amalgamation of deliciousness that is a true thing of beauty.

Somewhat disappointingly, there is no option to come in here and just get the sandwich. At $17, you might be relieved that there is a side included with the sandwich. However, I would prefer they were forced to try and upsell me to that option. For dinner, that quantity of food might be appropriate. But, at lunch I am not convinced. I left with food uneaten on my plate, which is unusual for me! Now, I know that to make a hospitality establishment work financially, you need some strategy to maximise the spend per head. But ultimately I think this requirement will see me visit here less. No doubt they have a popular following, so can dictate terms to a certain extent (not full on a Sunday at lunch though). Still a gripe for me.

As per my last Belle’s visit, I am still disappointed in the beer selection. Nothing particularly crafty here, and the whole Melbourne Bitter thing makes no sense to me. (I do understand that hipster thing; and it’s equivalence to Pabst Blue Ribbon, but drinking a beer because it is cool, rather than tastes good is just plain stupid). Sadly, I do know people who think that this is a perfectly acceptable beer for drinking, although they would likely do a massive double-take at the stupid prices some places try to charge for this now popular beverage. In the end, I was not wanting beer on this trip, so the beer thing really didn’t annoy me too much.

A cool place. Totally hipster, but perhaps not when it becomes a formula that is transported south, and then south again. Working it’s way from Fitzroy, to Richmond, to Windsor. Perhaps there is a good chance this will be coming to a shopping centre near you? Congratulations on your success. Despite the obvious question: is it still cool when it becomes too popular, I don’t really care. The food is good. Really good. I might complain, but I will keep coming back for this chicken.

Belles Hot Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Mammy’s Boy


The sign on the door says “Mammy’s Boy Chip Shop” and I guess I thought this meant fish and chips, not burgers and chips. To be fair they do sell fried fish, and perhaps they have morphed into the burger thing from a starting point of fish and chips? Anyhow, they are clearly firmly into burgers right now, which is in keeping with this enduring phase of the Melbourne food scene.

There has been a slight hiatus in my burger journey, but I had always meant to visit this place at some point. About 12 months ago I moved to St Kilda, and tried a few of the burger joints in the area. I was somewhat underwhelmed. Now that I am on the cusp of moving again, I thought it worthwhile to check this place out and see if I had been missing anything…

Straight into the burger, and there is a lot to like here. Patty cooked nicely, with a nice pink blush left in the centre of the patty. The bun was soft and a little sweet. That sweetness was buffered nicely by a vinegar hit from the mustard and ketchup sauce combo. I love a little bit of salad in my burger, so thank you very much for the lettuce and tomato to give this a freshness kick. Cheese is there because, cheeseburger. My only complaint would be the excessive use of onion. Onion breath!

This is not a stand out burger experience. But that’s not saying I was disappointed. This is a solid burger that ticks a lot of boxes. And it is far and away the best burger to be had in St Kilda in my opinion. They have managed to put together something that I would be interested to come back to time and again.

Mammy's Boy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Hawker Hall


Right off the bat I am going to get it out there… This place was nothing short of amazing. I felt it necessary to say that straight away, just so there was no confusion. For the 2 hours we were in the place, the only word I was able to utter was mmm! Does that even pass for language?


There are a number of people that have been a little harsh in their criticism. They’ve been to Asia and eaten the Hawker style food there and it was cheap. How can Hawker Hall charge so much. Let me clear that up for those that can’t see this is completely obvious:

  1. It’s Chapel St, and this is no small venue
  2. The staff are incredibly well trained and provide the best service I have ever experienced in a place as fast paced as this
  3. The kitchen operates like a well-oiled machine

They charge not because they can, but because this is what it costs to operate a venue like this. And it is worth every cent, without any doubt. The whole thing is seamless. This is no cram-in-as-many-seats-as-we-can kind of place. Every detail has been considered and planned to make this a true experience.

It may not be to everyone’s taste. There are some who say that they are trading on the success of Chin Chin. Yes, they are. Chin Chin is incredibly successful because the same applies. Put together the best team of professionals and wow the audience on a consistent basis.


I have no idea if the food was authentic. But I loved it. Every bit of it. Each dish was familiar, and yet each dish took that familiarity to a new level that left me wowed. I was so entranced that I completely forgot to take photos of the majority of the dishes. We chose the “Feed Me” option, and this was just a smart choice from the get go. The food was never ending. They basically keep it coming til you say stop, then bring out dessert.


Toasted coconut meatballs; amazing. Popcorn chicken; perhaps just ok in the context of this meal. Pork and chive wontons; that sauce! Satay chicken ribs; oh my god these are good! Roast duck salad; a perfect combination of so many flavours. Economy noodle; a marvelous understatement. Beef rendang; who knew it was possible to make this dish this good?! Chickpea curry; not my favorite, but vege friendly. Roast pork belly; those little lettuce cups with a divine plum sauce (although the skin was not crispy enough for some). And just when the bellies were full to bursting out come the desserts. Milo dinosaur sundae; such a great mix of this Aussie classic and the coconut ice-cream (not to mention the chocolate OMG so good!). Roti apple pie; the burnt caramel ice-cream will hit you like a freight train – in a good way. Banana sundae; custardy sago that is better than any other sago pudding I have tasted.


If the above didn’t convince you, I will say it one more time. This was one amazing feast and an experience that I am so glad I had. To top this off, they have a great list of beers and wines (tap and bottle) that you couldn’t help but smile uncontrollably. So there you have it… GET ON IT!

Hawker Hall Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Tall Timber


Another great Prahran cafe that ticks all the boxes. With the beginning of summer upon us, it was the perfect time to check this place out. With a number of outdoor seating options – on the street or in the rear courtyard area – surely this is one of the premium summer options in the area. Melbourne being Melbourne, perhaps it was too soon for an early Sunday breakfast in shorts and t-shirt, but nonetheless I was determined to celebrate the beginning of the warmest season.

The coffee was solid. An Allpress blend. Not outstanding, but nicely executed. I was slightly disappointed that the single origin had not arrived – apparently the delivery was late. I will reserve final judgement until I can get a taste of the specialty brew on offer.

Of course I was enticed by the smashed avo. A solid example of this fine dish, with a twist or two to keep you interested. This one comes with beetroot hummus (not so innovative and more of a thin puree rather than a hummus) and chimichurri (this is different!). I really liked the idea of the chimichurri, and it was the reason I ultimately went with this dish – I am going through a chili obsession faze right now. Interestingly the waitress chose to describe it as an “Asian pesto” which is odd for an Argentinian sauce with nothing much to link it to Asia. Unfortunately, the condiment failed to bring much impact to the flavour of the dish. It looked pretty, but I was hoping for some punch-in-the-face action to wake me from my Sunday slumber.

And then I began to wonder… Is it possible to create a true point of difference when it comes to cafe breakfast? Indeed, is it possible to innovate? Perhaps we are all just stuck in our habits that see a vast majority of us eating the same thing each morning, and then repeating that by ordering the same thing each time we breakfast/brunch in cafes on the weekend. Certainly, there are some differences that chefs are coming up with to try and make things interesting for themselves and their customers at breakfast. Although I suspect that people are happy with the choices on offer, and may even balk at anything that strays too far from the norm.

Tall Timber is a place that I would happily come to on a regular basis. A solid cafe that offers everything you would expect, and with an outdoor setup that is sure to delight during the warmer months. There is ample space for larger groups, although based on the popularity with locals on the weekend, it would be normal to expect to wait even for a small table at peak times. You would be proud to invite your friends here.

Tall Timber Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Hanoi Hannah


Given my recent and rising affections for Pho; proximity to Windsor/Prahran area of deliciousness; and my great experiences at sister restaurant Tokyo Tina; it was no surprise that I would lob onto the doorstep of this fine establishment. With a kind of grunge cool that is typical of this breed of hawker style restaurants, it was sure to satisfy my Vietnamese cravings.

The flavours of Vietnam are both varied and complex. On the face of it, you could be forgiven for thinking that all Vietnamese food is a combination of garlic, chili, lemongrass and ginger. Amp up the heat and you have it right there. However, if you look at the offerings available here, you will see that it is far more.

I have been guilty of oversimplifying the Vietnamese cuisine in the past, but my fascination seems to grow with each new restaurant I visit. For sure I can’t comment on the authenticity of each place – having never visited the country – but I do know what I like.


Despite being already full on arrival, starters were a temptation too good to resist. There were so many that I wanted to try, but we settled on the Hanoi spring rolls. These were meaty, crunchy, deep fried goodness. Of course they were coupled with a fish sauce dipper, lettuce leaves and Vietnamese mint. And of course what better way to wash it down than with Bia Ha Noi. I am very fond of this lager, especially with Pho.

Unfortunately they were out of my first Pho choice: spicy beef brisket. I went with the suggested alternative XO Pho with crispy pork and prawn. Not the traditional choice, coming with egg noodles rather than rice noodles, but that broth… The addition of the prawns gave a pleasant fishy aroma to the broth and the rich, fatty, crispy pork was a delight. The subtle hint of the spices in the beef broth was a great match to the chili punch from my liberal use of the condiment tray. I always love to get some hoisin sauce in the broth too.

I will be back for the spicy beef brisket, as I think the more traditional version would be on a whole new level. And the starters… I need them in my life too. Hanoi Hannah is set to be a regular on my list, and with prices that let you afford to go there on the regular, it’s a win-win!

Hanoi Hannah Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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