The chook rules

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Miss Katie’s at Rochester Hotel, 202 Johnston Street, Fitzroy. Phone: 9419 0166

Approaching the Rochester Hotel, my mind is full of dark thoughts.

When Consider The Sauce hit Miss Katie’s Crab Shack in its previous carnation in North Melbourne, the pervasive gloom wasn’t just a hindrance to photography – it also lessened the enjoyment of our food.

It was bit a like a food version of Dating In The Dark.

My heart sinks when I enter the bar area of the Rochester – it, too, is gloomy.

Exploring a bit further, my mood lightens when I discover the dining room “out the back” is considerably brighter.




My spirits veritably soar when I receive my bloody mary ($18) as I await my friends.

It’s sensational, delicious and worth every cent of the admission price.




Off we happily troop to the dining room to sort out or collective order.

We go two starters, two star-attraction mains and one light, vegetarian option.




Deep-dried pickles are, initially, a surprise as I have been expecting the heavily battered discs I’ve had in New Orleans.

But these lightly-battered spears are very good.

It seems as if the cooking process has lessened the vinegar factor, as they’re mild of sourness.




Crab dip is, well, very crabby.

And also very rich and yummy.

The accompanying bits and pieces -including biscuits that are more like cookies – fall a little short, however, of being substantial enough to handle all the pot of dip.




I go the seafood boil.

The basic price of $25 includes a blue swimmer crab, kransky pieces, chat spuds and corn.

From there, more crab – or oysters, clams, mussels or prawns – can be added for extra $.

I go with oysters for $10.

I get only three, bathing in seasoned butter, but they’re fabulous.

The hot-dog-style kransky pieces are a highlight.

I have a splendid time extracting sweet, delicate crab meat.

But here’s the rub – despite the high quality of its individual components, my dish is lacking a knockout punch.

I suspect that could only be had, under current arrangements, by adding a lot of extra seafood that would make it prohibitively pricey.

Which means …





… we reckon Miss Katie’s fried chicken ($24), which comes with either mash or waffles, is this establishment’s outstanding dish – and excellent value.

Yes, in a crab shack.

It’s a good thing, then, that one of my companions orders it.

It’s an even better thing that it is so very, very good and such a substantial portion that we all have a good taste.

The coating is light but wonderfully seasoned and the meat itself is perfect.

Could this be Melbourne’s fried chook champ? Or, more accurately, Melbourne’s non-Korean chook champ?




My other pal’s hasselback potatoes with jack cheese and slaw ($15) do the trick for him, though I suspect he’s very appreciative of the couple of chicken pieces that come his way.




Our finale – banana split ($12) – is enjoyable though a bit rich price-wise for an American-style fantasia that is little more than fluff.

Good stuff in a gloomy shack



Miss Katie’s Crab Shack, Public Bar, 238 Victoria Street, North Melbourne. Phone: 9329 9888

On our way to Fancy Hank’s BBQ the previous week, Bennie and I had stepped in to Miss Katie’s Crab Shack just for a look-see.

It was  a toss-up in terms of our desire for American-style tucker that night, so we kept on walking to the other.

As we did so, I remarked that the Shack’s aroma reminded me of nothing so much as a typical funky local joint in New Orleans – just that magic blend of frying food and seasonings.

So I am very happy to return with pals Nat and Rob to check the place out in more depth.

As we settle in, place our orders and relax into good company, it occurs to me that also in terms of decor, general all-round vibe and attentive, unfussy service, the Shack is like a Crescent City joint in more ways than just the smell.

It’s a cool place!




Unfortunately, it’s also utterly gloomy in a cheerful way – and a nightmare for “available light” photography. So take these CTS pics as an indication of only the very vaguest kind!

(An adjoining and more brightly-lit room is rapidly filling with a gang of retro-hipsters busily sharpening their minds up for Tuesday night trivia … Rob and I note that the questions are to be of topics on the “fun stuff” such as music, movies and TV, and ponder entering ourselves in the comp at some future date.)




Rob likes his Chesapeake Crab Burger with blue swimmer crab cake, slaw, herb mayo and dill pickle ($15) . I don’t have a taste, but merely note that he says it reminds him of a similar set-up his mum used to produce.




Nat’s jambalaya ($22) is a bit of a puzzle – for it is neither the rice dish of that name nor a gumbo, but something like a mixture of the two, soupy and with lots of rice and a couple of fat prawns among other bits and pieces.

He likes it. And based on the sample taste I grab, it certainly has the right, smoky and deep flavour.




My fried chicken is definitely the big winner.

For $17, I get seven pieces, including a couple of drumsticks, meaning there is more than enough to share some with my friends.

The coating is dark and full of curiously musty, lusty flavour – I endeavour to discover the nature of the seasonings, but quickly give it up when I realise the menu describes them as a “secret blend of herbs and spices”.

I reckon I’ve heard that phrase before … but the chook meat is all good, especially lightly dabbed with the piquant house-made sauce (only one of several sitting on each table).

It’s a fine thing to order and eat beaut fried chicken that is not Korean, Japanese or franchise.

The fries ($5 with the chicken) are merely good. The menu lists them as coming with “Old Bay seasoning” but we find there’s no discernible such flavour. Still, I’m once again happy there’s more than enough for all three of us.




We enjoy a couple of serves of house-baked corn bread ($3), but find its presence and sweetness mostly excess to our requirements.

Like Fancy Hank’s BBQ just up the road, Miss Katie’s Crab Shack does a fine job of providing hands-on southern-style-food. If you’re particularly hongry, it’ll cost ya – but the satisfaction factor is there.

Check out the Miss Katy’s Crab Shack website here.



Jolly Rogers redux

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 306-308 Melbourne Rd, Newport. Phone: 9399 5499

UPDATE 26/1/12: This restaurant has closed down. Becoming, according to a post on Urbanspoon, a Subway! Booo!

It doesn’t take much venturing into the world of Australian food blogging to discover passions, threads, posts, discussions, debates and controversies.

Some of the topics such hot air revolves around include blog adverts, paid posts (in which a blogger writes a post about a product or service for payment) and freebie meals.

For the time being at least, we like the clean, uncluttered look of our site so it will remain advert-free.

As well, we are somewhat horrified at the sense of entitlement some bloggers display.

As hopelessly naive as it may seem, we continue to consider ourselves customers, food fans and amateur sleuths who have more in common with anoraks of the train-spotting variety than with any sort of professional restaurant reviewers.

Yet when an American friend asked, “Are you a restaurant reviewer?”, well I had to concede that, yes, we write restaurant reviews, so …

Still, we try to do our thing as discreetly as possible when enjoying our outings.

Truth is, many places simply ignore – or couldn’t care less about – the surreptitious note-taking and photography going on.

Plenty more, though, pick up on it straight away, which can sometimes lead to comical standoffs over our determination to pay for our meals.

It’s a fine line we’re trying to tread, but some situations seem to require a degree of graciousness, ones in which continual refusal could be considered plain rudeness.

This is especially so when we’ve returned to an establishment after posting a piece full of enthusiastic praise.

So, yes, we have accepted complementary coffees along the way – not to mention a single, superb gulab jamun and other sample treats. We hope like hell we have not become hopelessly compromised in the process!

Such a situation arose on a dark and stormy Thursday night on which I was very happy to take Bennie to Jolly Rogers as a follow-up to my own recent solo foray there.

On that visit, co-owner Anthony Scarlata had raved about his char-grilled calamari.

Sure enough, after we had placed our order for a burger ‘n’ chips meal, out came a sample plate of said calamari courtesy of the chef.

What were we meant to do? Send it back to the kitchen?

In any case, Anthony is right to be proud of this dish.

My calamari-loving son thought it was merely good; his dad thought it was sensational.

Resting on a bed of lovely brown rice, were about a dozen strands of ultra-tender and tasty calamari that had been grilled for about five minutes and then dressed with olive oil infused with lemon zest.

The char-grilled calamari comes in $9.95 and $13.95 sizes.

That “little bit extra” and our hearty appetites meant we over-ordered somewhat:

Bennie dug the onion rings ($4.95), which were done in the American style. Dad, being so enamoured these days with the lighter style of Indian onion bhaji, was not so impressed.

Large chips ($4.95) were, as on the previous visit, OK.

Our burgers – Jolly’s ($7.50) for dad, Lot ($8.95) for Bennie – were perplexing.

Burgers are routinely described as being a variety of sandwich – but these really WERE sandwiches.

Instead of being served in buns, our burgers were encased in some sort of flat bread that had been toasted and, seemingly, flattened in the process.

Look, we like to think of ourselves as adventurous and open-minded foodies.

But in this case, the product so defied a lifetime of conditioning about what burgers should look and taste like that we were left bemused.

The fillings seemed fine, though the flat-bread approach left dad coping with bits slipping and sliding beyond his two-fisted grasp.

Bennie did better with his one with the lot, which held together well and was so packed with goodies that he was stonkered about two-third of the way through.

Whatever – we like Jolly Rogers a lot and will be returning.

Certainly for more of the char-grilled calamari, maybe for the fish and chips enjoyed first time round.

Bennie opined as we left that next time he’d like to try one of the kebabs.

The Jolly Rogers website is here.

Jolly Rogers with a twist on Urbanspoon

Flash With The Gran No.1: Waterfront Station Pier Restaurant

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1 Station Pier, Port Melbourne. Phone: 9676 9186

We do things differently when Grandma comes to town.

I’ve shared many a Melbourne meal with Pauline Ethel Weir, quite a few of them of the Chinese and Indian variety.

But there’s no way some of the more exotic regulars in our trick bag – chicken feet, laksa, pho and seaweed are just a few that come to mind – are going to fly when Pauline’s over for a visit.

This is especially so when time is of the essence, as it was last weekend when mum and my cousin Kaye flew in from New Plymouth for a quickie visit that revolved around catching up with family and seeing Mary Poppins.

So it was that we shared a number of meals over four days with a revolving cast of characters and in wildly different settings.

The first – a curry dinner at our joint – was a lot of fun. But blow me down – why is it that I can make such sublime dal of various kinds (even if I do say so myself), yet struggle with any sort of meat curry? In this case, the lamb doh piaza was dry, tough and bland, despite all that hand mixing of fresh spices.

Oh well …

For Sunday lunch, Pauline, her grandson and myself fronted Waterfront at Port Melbourne’s Station Pier. We’d had an enjoyable dinner there on her previous visit, it was a nice spring day and we were up for it.

We were the first to arrive for the lunch sitting and were shown to a glass-topped table that had an outdoor ambience but thankfully boasted sufficient shelter to protect us from a still nippy breeze. Ain’t Melbourne weather grand?

The first disappointment came when Bennie found out there was no burger on the menu. Frankly, I shared his surprise – Waterfront is a for-sure seafood establishment, but it looks and feels like the sort of place that would have a burger tucked away on the menu somewhere.

No matter – we were all bloody hungry, so we ordered a bowl of chips ($9) to bridge the gap. They were fabulous! I mean, really really really good. As was the creamy mayo they came with.

All three of us were conservative with our main meal choices – mum went for the fish and chips ($32), I went for the whole snapper with olive oil, lemon, oregano, rosemary potatoes ($38) and Bennie – a defiantly unfishy boy, that one – opted for the kids’ menu linguine bolognese.

Next disappointment: Having already stuffed our gobs with chips, I inquired whether it would be possible to switch my spuds for a salad. No sir, I was informed – you want salad, you order salad.

This proved doubly unfortunate, as the baby spuds that came with my snapper were bland, tasteless and seemed to be profoundly unseasoned in any way at all. The advertised rosemary amounted to a single tiny leaf as far as I could tell. There were numerous specks of some dried herb, but it was so devoid of flavour I was unable to identify it.

The snapper itself was pretty good – a little on the dry side, and could have done with more of the olive oil and lemon. But I have this sort of tucker so infrequently that enjoyed the hell out of it anyway.

Kids menus? Thankfully, Bennie has just about left those behind. But his pasta was a beaut – and he sucked up every last strand. Something of a bargain, too, at $12, considering the prices in general.

Pauline liked her fish and chips, but I reckoned the two pieces of whiting were too puny by far. The chips outnumbered our earlier meal-starting side serve by a large margin, which seemed a little perverse.

Our meal’s highlight came with the sweeties, Pauline ordering the hazelnut raspberry brulee ($13.50) and Bennie the chocolate mousse ($14.50). They were all class, scrumptious, smartly priced and smiles abounded.

Heaven forbid that as he leaves kids’ menus behind, Bennie develops a fondness for flash deserts!

By the time we left the place was packed and the staff were turning people away.

I’d recommend Waterfront for special occasions.

Next time – and we had a sufficiently nice time to know there will be a next time – I’ll see if I can usher those accompanying me towards more adventurous choices.

The paella at a nearby table looked interesting, as did the numerous Japanese-styled dishes that whizzed by us as our lunch drew to a close.

Our meal cost $146, which included a $10 glass of wine for Grandma, $4.50 Cokes for father and son, and a couple of OK $4 coffees.

Check out the Waterfront website here.

Our mixed experience is reflected by reviews ranging from scathing to rapturous found here and here.

Waterfront is undeniably a very nice space in which to spend some time, and given the kind of food it trades in and the kind of customers it attracts, I suspect it’s all but immune to criticism.