Melbourne adventures – Topolino’s, St Kilda

I don’t get home to see my folks much as we live in different cities and life continually manages to get in the way. But when I do, it’s a pretty fantastic opportunity to hang out with the olds over food. Eating it, cooking it, looking at it, talking about it – it’s all good. Our family is a bunch of foodies and living food it what we do.

I first went down to Melbourne before my parents moved there, when I was a teenager, and my mum took me to this restaurant along Fitzroy Street in St Kilda, Topolino’s. I think it’s one of those restaurants that’s been there for the last 30 or 40 years. It’s not fancy, it’s not particularly expensive, but there’s a good reason it’s been there that long. Over Christmas I was down in Melbourne for the holiday and, having a lot of food to eat and cook in a small amount of time, what better way to re-live good memories than to hit up Topolino’s again.

We started off with a couple of drinks – a Heineken ($7.5), Coopers Sparkling ($7.5) and glass of the Merlot ($7.9) as we pondered the menu, facing the challenges of dining out: pizza or pasta? Creamy or tomato? Seafood or not? First world problems.

At an Italian restaurant, mum picks one dish and one dish only: the fettucine marinara. Topolino’s version ($19.9 for a main size, or $16.9 for a very, very generous entree size – mum wisely went for the latter) did not disappoint. As the blogger of foods, I took on the labourious task of trying everyone’s meal (if I must….). The marinara sauce tasted sufficiently seafoody and was well-seasoned and rich. The squid gets mega points for its incredible tenderness – no rubber bands here! The seafood was altogether plentiful, as you can see. In fact, we felt that the only difference between the main and entree sizes was the amount of pasta – we thought that the amount of seafood was probably the same in both.

Finding nemo

Finding nemo

Dad followed suit, with a marinara pizza ($13.9). My initial thoughts of “a small? soft!” were batted away when a dinner plate-sized “small” pizza arrived, smoking hot out of the oven and teaming with huge prawns and mussels. This, of course, brought up the debate of the thin-crusted wood-fired pizza versus the normal commercial oven-cooked with a thicker base conundrum. My love of the sparsely-topped, super crunchy wood-fired version has officially been knocked off its podium by Topolino’s crunchy, chunky, seafood-filled, sufficiently charry explosion of deliciousness.

IMG_0190

I like to be under the sea

I went for one of the specials of the night – fettucine with spicy sausage and peas ($16.9). I have to admit that whilst mine was rich, delicious and altogether plentiful…it just wasn’t possible for it to stack up to the two marinaras. That said, the sauce was very well flavoured. The peas provided a nice interruption of lightness to the dish and three plump, slightly spicy sausages were intertwined with the mass of well-cooked pasta.

itsa spicy sausage

itsa spicy sausage

We were all sufficiently stuffed by the end; I couldn’t finish my incredibly generous serving of pasta. We took a super pleasant walk around the back streets and down to the esplanade while the sun was still out. An amazing night 🙂

Topolino’s
87 Fitzroy Street
St Kilda VIC 3182

Food? 9/10…what the hell, let’s go 10/10. Great value for money, expertly cooked food and delicious as hell.
Drinks? 8/10 – not a bad drinks list at all. A good range of wines both by the glass and bottle, over a decent array of prices. Probably could have been a few more interesting beers, though
Atmosphere: 8/10 – the fun, friendly, relaxed, welcoming atmostphere of the restaurant draws a range of clientele – parties, families, a group of young lads, casual dates. Too many bratty kids…but hey, they’ve gotta eat and I’m sure I was one once.

 Topolino's on Urbanspoon

Advertisements

Christmas delights – rum balls and cherry & walnut shortbread

I reckon I’ve well and truly missed the boat on this article being useful for Christmas festivities this year, what with my delay in blogging being caused by the grand and outrageous excitements of celebrating the holiday with my retirement-aged parents and all (hi guys!).

Nevertheless, in the interests of next Christmas, Australia day, Easter – hell, do you really need an excuse to eat something delicious? What’s with rum balls being restricted to Christmas anyway? I say Easter has as much right to be fueled by rum as that drunkard Saint Nick.

But, as always, I digress. Onwards and upwards to the main point of this article: two deliciously festive treats that are sure to please the crowds – rummy rum balls and an old favourite from my youth, cherry and walnut shortbread.

Rum balls
I may have just been plain gratuitous with the amount of rum used in these. I always appreciate a good chug of the stuff so feel free to use less if you’re less of a raging alcoholic! You can double the recipe (as I did) in order to bribe / suck up to family, friends and various in-laws. When I doubled the recipe, I think I probably got about 70-80 rum balls.

You will need (for the original quantity…which would probably yield you around about 30-40):
– 250g plain sweet biscuits. For those playing in Australia, I used those arrowroot biscuits
– 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder
– 2/3 a cup of dessicated coconut (plus extra for dusting)
– 1 can of sweetened condensed milk. Nestle makes a can that’s around about 400grams? 395 to be anal retentively precise
– rum. Here is the part where you use as much as you like. I used around about 6 tablespoons
– 3/4 cup of sultanas

Step 1 – juicy lucy: The sultanas are optional, but I think they add a nice juiciness to the rum balls. I started off by putting my rum balls in a little bowl and filling with rum up to the top of the sultanas. I left them overnight (but I don’t think it’s really that critical – leaving them for a while just means that they get all rummy and soaky and juicy and altogether delicious). If you don’t want to add sultanas, then just add the rum at step 2.

Step 2 – grinders: place your biscuits in a blender and grind ‘er up. Grind into a fairly fine powder. If you don’t have a blender, or if you are having frustration issues, you can just put the biscuits in a bag and bash the sh*t out of them! Pour into a bowl and add the cocoa powder, the 2/3 cup of dessicated coconut, the condensed milk and the rummy sultanas. Like a true alcoholic, I actually added another glug of rum at this point. But, again, that’s just gratuitous. Mix the lot together – don’t be shy, really get your hands in there.

Step 3 – roly poly: now comes the fun part – formation. You can make these rum balls as big or small as you like. I went for about a tablespoon for each, so it’s a nice mouthful-of-a-bite. A good tip is just to wet your hands a little, so that the mixture doesn’t stick to them and get all gluggy. Form into a ball and then roll in extra dessicated coconut if you like. Refrigerate to firm up and enjoy!

Eat up!

Eat up!

Shortbread
There’s this major bakery in Australia called Brumby’s. They’ve been around for years and as a kid, once or twice a year, I was treated to a cherry and walnut shortbread biscuit. It was basically the time of my life, every six months, when I would bite into this delicious morsel. I now realise that Brumby’s makes pretty average shortbread, but back then, it was awesome. In a moment of nostalgia, I decided to recreate these little morsels…but with a (hopefully) more delicious and buttery shortbread. Here goes…

Again, I doubled the recipe for the bribery reasons above and yielded a mountain of about 50 biscuits, but the below will give you around about 25-30.

You will need:
– 250g unsalted butter, softened
– 3/4 cup icing mixture (in this case, the combination of icing sugar and corn flour is a good thing!)
– 2 cups of flour
– a pinch of salt
– 2/3 cup of walnuts, dry toasted in a pan. I chopped my walnut pieces in smaller bits (like, 1 square cm)
– 2/3 cup glace cherries (with the cherries and walnuts, add as much or as little as you like)

Step 1 – just beat it: Beat your butter and icing mixture until paler and creamier-looking. This might be a choice time to crack out that electronic mixer, unless you’re building up your biceps. Then mix in the flour and salt – it’s a good idea to turn it out onto a board and give it a light knead. Once this is all combined, relatively gently fold in the walnuts and cherries so they don’t smoosh about too much. Roll your mixture into a log shape, with the diameter being however big you want your cookies – I went for about 5cm across. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate until firm.

Step 2 – cookie cutter: Preheat your oven to about 150 degrees celcius fan forced. Unwrap your shortbread log and slice at the thickness of however thick you want your cookies. I went for about 1cm thick. Bake for about 15-20 minutes. You want them to not be coloured golden, and be relatively firm (but know that they’ll firm up some more when cooling). Let cool and enjoy!

Your ticket to heart attack station

Your ticket to heart attack station