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One of my all time favourite burgers is the amazing Full Blood Wagyu Hamburger from Rockpool Bar and Grill – Crown Complex Southbank in Melbourne. I’m salivating just thinking about it. Friends (You know who you are) – we need to go again soon. Neil Perry, the chef behind the famous Rockpool brand is more than just a fine dining expert – although it must be said he’s amazing at that… He is also a bit of burger genius. So when I heard that he was opening a burger bar, well, you might say I got a little excited. It’s been tough to get out of the house in recent times, and I know that Burger Project has been open for a while in Melbourne. My Instagram feed has been making me jealous for the last 10 months… However, with things settling down, I finally decided that I needed to set off on another food adventure.

Joining me on this adventure were Katie, Taz and little Lucy. Lucy got excited as soon as I mentioned there might be chippies – and then she cried because there were no chippies immediately available. Note to self: 19month old toddlers clearly don’t like to wait.

Getting to Chadstone was a journey in itself.The weather was terrible, so traffic was appalling and the parking around Chadstone felt like the Christmas rush. I don’t know if it’s because of all the new shops opening up, but it was just crazy busy inside. After 30mins of stalking people to get a car park we eventually managed to snag one and were able to make our way through the hordes of shoppers to our dining destination. Arriving at Burger Project at 3:00 we were greeted with sign stating that the place was closed from 3:00 to 4:00pm. I noticed the manager and had only just finished putting said sign up and I managed to negotiate our way into the restaurant. Katie was at this stage getting pretty snappy and Lucy needed to sit down and have some food, so thankfully we managed to avoid a full scale meltdown.

Confronted with the menu, the first thing I noticed was the prices – Very reasonable and much cheaper than expected. $8.90 for the classic burger and only $13.90 for the most expensive burgers. Considering that this is a Neil Perry joint, I was happily surprised – although I was worried it might mean a lower quality burger.

I decided to go for a standard Cheese and Bacon burger – $10.90 – comes with Cheese, bacon, onion, pickles, tomato, lettuce and a secret sauce. Taz went for the same and Katie opted for the double. I also ordered a salted caramel thickshake $7.50 (Amazing) and we shared two large chips $5.50 each (Average).

You order and then collect when it’s ready – so we are talking more of an upscale fast food joint than a real restaurant. The décor feels more fast food style as well.

The burgers took a little while, but we didn’t mind as we were still getting over the journey in. Soon enough the buzzer was jumping off the table and I was jumping out of my seat. Burgers collected, I began the business of tucking in…

First impressions – it’s smaller than I though it would be. Not a huge burger – and it looks fast food. A McDonalds style bun – soft, spongy, the burger is juicy and dripping as soon as I pick it up. First bite and you get the soft sweet bun, but then a really savoury beef hit. The patty is really well seasoned – a good American style beef hit that you just don’t get that often here in Australia. Our beef often tends to the sweeter side, but this was salty and savoury and actually really good. It was a fatty mix and probably a chuck blend – it had that sort of fast food style. But I have to say I was impressed. The cheese was well melted, a standard American style – a good match for this burger. The bacon was an Australian style – not smoked, or smoked very lightly. It was crispy though and was a nice savoury crispy addition. The beef/cheese/bacon combo complimented the sweet soft bun – you then got the sharp sweet/sour tang of the pickle cutting through the fattiness and the fresh crisp lettuce, onion and tomato balancing the burger nicely. The sauce was ok – but I didn’t get a lot of it and to be honest it didn’t seem to add a lot. The burger was juicy enough with the patty and the cheese.

Overall, the taste was really good fast food style burger. The kind you get in good fast food places in the states. This is no gourmet burger, and it sits on the fatty salty side of things, so if that’s not your thing,  you probably wont love this burger. That being said, the ingredients are good quality – not blow your socks off quality, but at least you know you are eating real food and not something created in a factory.

Price wise it’s $17.90 for a burger soft drink and small chips – so it’s well positioned and cheaper than some other high end fast food style burger places.

I’d give it an 8 – and although I wouldn’t go during peak times again, if I was just wondering around Chadstone there’s no doubt I’d make some sort of excuse to wind up here again for a sneaky burger.

Burger Project Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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I’ve been hearing good things about this place for a while now – it’s been up the top of my to do list, but since I’ve been on a bit of a burger break, it’s taken a while to make it down to Mick Adams.

Lucy and I were out and about, enjoying the mid spring sunshine when I decided it was time to make the trip. Lucy didn’t mind, I mentioned there might be “chippies”, and she was all for the adventure.

Mick Adams is located just out front of the Oakleigh shopping center, at the end of the Eaton Mall. We were there in the late afternoon so it wasn’t actually too busy -I was able to find a table with enough space to leave Lucy in the pram and not feel like I was annoying anyone. Settled in, I had some decisions to make. After careful consideration of the menu and discussions with Lucy, I decided to go for the The Big T, add bacon (obviously), and a bowl of beer battered chips. Not cheap – the total with a can of soft drink came in at over $30. At this price point I was expecting a premium burger experience. The Big T with Bacon is a $19 burger – and when it arrived I could understand why. This thing was pretty big. Good thing I hadn’t eaten yet. As you can probably tell from the photo, this baby is pretty easy on the eyes – a well put together burger.

First bite in – you get a nice soft bun, a little sweet, but not too much. Just picking the thing up suggest that this is going to be a hard burger to keep together – quite heavy in the hand and already dripping. Probably the first thing you notice is the meat – it’s a really beef driven burger – the meat shines through, well seasoned, beefy, juicy, a good meat to fat ratio, and cooked medium – just a hint of pink – which is always a good thing. The bacon was a little strange, it was sliced really thinly and reminded me of times that I’ve cooked thin sliced ham – It can get a little tough. Too much of the short cut and not enough of the fatty bit. It didn’t add what I wanted in this case, so I was a bit disappointed.

The burger is a fairly simple affair, cheese, tomato, fresh crunchy iceberg lettuce and pickles – sauces are aioli and ketchup. I really noticed the absence of the onion. For me it normally creates that sharp back note that balances the fatty beef , It was missed in this burger. The elements themselves were all good quality, and well put together, however, I wanted something more – more sauce, mustard, onion, better bacon??? I’m not sure, but something was missing…

Perhaps they wanted to create a burger that let the meat standout – and they certainly did that. It really was the key element. But after a while, it became a little too one note for me. I wanted some sort of contrast/compliment to the beef. Don’t get me wrong, the meat was a really good quality – but it was no aged Wagyu sirloin. I wonder if this is just because it was a double meat patty burger. I’ve experienced this before, and I find that sometimes the double can really throw out the balance of the burger. If it’s not done right the double patty can just be – too meaty. Did I just say that? I know right – too meaty. Can that even be a problem? But a good burger has to be about balance. I think next time I’d try the single patty version – which I think would probably work better.

Overall, a well put together burger, quality ingredients, just lacking in something – I’d give it a solid 7.5.

Mick Adams Burger Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Decided to head off on a road trip to the Sunshine coast with a detour to Sydney to catch up with some friends and family. My brilliant cousin Alyssa decided that if I was making the effort to drive up then the least she could do was point me in the direction of a reasonable burger joint. She suggested a few places, but since it was a Sunday lunch, we were limited in choice. Thankfully The Horse in Surry Hills was open.

The Horse has some sort of deal with Chicken and son’s – I’m not sure how it all works – but the result is the Whitehorse hotel in Surry hills has an amazing selection of burgers on the menu. Alyssa had heard that the burger to go for was the big bird – add bacon. She’s the kind of girl who does her research – so my burger selection was made the moment we sat down. The rest of the table ordered more sensibly sized burgers – except for my mate Shane. When the time came for him to order, he sheepishly shook his head and mumbled that he was fine – he’d had a salad before he came. He had a salad… It was one of those moments where there’s a dip in the background noise just at the exact point in time that the words are uttered. The whole table wasn’t sure what to say. It’s was pretty awkward – I was immediately concerned about his mental heath of course. I think my daughter started to cry. We tried to move on, but there was a lingering weird vibe to be honest.

Anyway, I should probably talk about the burger – I normally don’t go for the chicken, but in this case it was the chicken that they were known for, so I had my excuse.

The burger wasn’t cheap – well north of $20, but realistically it was at least 2 if not three reasonably sized burgers in one. It was pretty difficult to actually take the first bite – but being the professional that I am, I gave it a red hot crack and almost dislocated my jaw – first up you notice the Two buttermilk, double fried chicken fillets, crunchy and yet still amazingly tender and juicy, with just a hint of some spice. This burger is all about the chicken. The bun was quite soft and you get a middle slice of bread – so there’s a lot of bread when you consider the breading on the chicken. The burger comes with double American cheese – nicely melted and doing it’s job of holding the burger together. I added bacon – a good move to be honest, adding a nice smokey, salty note. There was a fairly generous layer of pickles – normally a good thing – although in this case they were a little sweet for my tastes. I think it needed a sharper element to cut through all that bread. The chopped red onion added a little bite and the lettuce was fresh and cold and crunchy and was a nice contrast. The sauce seemed like a slightly spiced aioli – but there was nowhere near enough. The burger was a bit dry to be honest, with all that bread it needed some sauce. In some of the other burgers there was a coleslaw – and I think that might have worked here. The chicken was amazing don’t get me wrong, but put together as it was, it was more of a gimmick than a well thought out burger. The two levels and extra bread really didn’t add anything but looks. I’d love to try the single level burger or even the beef burger – but as far as the big bird goes, I’d have to say it was a little bit of a disappointment. I’d say 7 out of 10.

The Horse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

It’s been a while…

Posted: October 8, 2016 in Uncategorized
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It got pretty bad there for a while…

Ok, so it’s been a very, very long time since I last sat down to write something for my blog. Turns out that having to look after a toddler is rather time consuming. Who would have thought… That and being broke kind of put the breaks on my little food adventures. Strangely I quite missed my blog. It’s not that I didn’t occasionally find the time to go out – there were moments – sure, but without the blog, eating just wasn’t the same – it was a muted, joyless experience. Like watching the big game on TV with the sound turned off. My dining companion might ask what I thought of the burger or whatever – I’d sigh, shrug my shoulders and mumble, “meh, it’s not bad”… Without the blog, I felt no obligation to experience the meal, no need to really savor every aspect, mentally catalog the finer details. Mine was a soulless, muted existence. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t THAT bad. It was pretty bad though…

Anyway, I’ve decided that now is as good a time as any to return to my blog and my inane food musings…

 

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Katie and I received a night at the Shores Resort in Daytona Beach as a Christmas present from Kathy and Mac – Katie’s Parents. We’d stayed here for 3 nights after our wedding before flying off to Hawaii for our honeymoon (almost 8 years ago!) so it was really lovey to go back for a night. And let’s not forget – It was nice to have a night off from the baby for once! We both made sure to sleep in the next morning. Ah, uninterrupted sleep…

 

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We did have a nice view from the room..

Anyway – so the in-house restaurant at the Shores is called Azure – I vaguely recall eating here on our honeymoon and thinking it was ok but it was a long time ago so my memories are somewhat vague. We had toyed around with going somewhere else but then decided it was all too hard and we should just eat in. Since it was very much the off season for Daytona Beach we didn’t worry about a reservation and had the pick of the best tables when we came downstairs around 8pm. Of course Katie made us move a couple of times until we got the right spot…

The first thing that hits you when you open the menu here are the prices – just a warning, they are astronomically high. I guess you have to expect high prices at a resort, but to be honest these seemed very over priced. Being as it was a special occasion we threw caution to the wind and ordered without thought of the prices… Well at least we told ourselves not to worry.
Katie opted for a starter and a side for two as her meal – she chose the lobster mac and cheese which was a side for two ($13) and the small plate of crab cakes ($17).
The Crab cakes were apparently very good – although you only get two – so small plate means small… The lobster mac and cheese was apparently a little fishy – just not that great, although you do get a generous serving – it would be more than enough as a side for two.

I decided to got all out and choose the New York Strip which came with brussel sprouts with bacon lardons and a parsnip puree ($37). I ordered my steak medium rare – although it was probably more on the medium side when it arrived (I’m not that picky if the steak is rested enough it should still be ok). The steak itself was nice – well seasoned and rested – a juicy enough steak, although as with all strip steaks (What we call the porterhouse back home) it is on the tough side. The pay off is that you get a stronger beef flavour and a lovely strip of fat. However, for some reason the chef had removed the best part of the strip – the fat. Coupled with the fact that the steak itself wasn’t the best quality, lacking in intramuscular fat – or marbling – the result was a fairly tame cut, with none of the buttery, sensuous mouth feel that you can get with a New York strip steak. The Brussel sprouts were actually just the leaves separated and toasted through with bacon pieces not lardons, scatted over the top of the steak and the parsnip puree – which itself was quite nice – smooth, rich and buttery. I probably didn’t help maters with my wine selection – the wine that I had ordered, a Californian Zinn, wasn’t great, far too jammy and on the sweet side, no real tannin or length either – just all fruit up front. But either was – at the end of the day the steak just didn’t deliver for the price they were charging. At half the price it would have been fine – just not at $37 before tax and tip!

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So dinner was ok, but nothing to write home about – the problem is that you really don’t have much of a choice down this end of Daytona Beach. It’s probably the only real option to be honest. We did order breakfast to our room the next day and that was actually quite nice and not ridiculously over priced. Look, if you’re here on vacation and staying at the resort, it’s a nice enough restaurant – just be aware of the prices. If you are not staying, then I’d stay away and find somewhere else up the other end of the beach.

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On our trip back from Key west we stopped by to visit Katie’s Aunt Cindy and her partner Mike in Miami. I’d never been to Miami and so I was excited to get a glimpse of the city itself. Although we only stopped overnight, I think I’ll be back to explore the sights and sounds of the city that I’ve heard so much about. Cindy and Mike have an amazing place which over looks the city itself. Unfortunately I was pretty sick with an ear infection and cold which little Lucy had been kind enough to share with me. Instead of heading out to check out the sights, I was in bed pretty early. Next time Miami, next time!

The view from Cindy and Mikes apartment

The view from Cindy and Mikes apartment

Anyway, the next day, Cindy wanted to take us out for Lunch to catch up with Katie’s Uncle Tim and her cousin Haley (Who’s about to do an exchange to Australia for Uni). Cindy had chosen a place in Ft.Lauderdale which was on the road back to Deland, so this gave us some time to allow Lucy to meet some more of her extended family and get on the road back home. Katie’s Mum’s side of the family all grew up in Ft.Lauderdale and so it was interesting to get a chance to visit, even if it was only fleetingly.

Tarpon Bend is a restaurant located in the downtown area of Ft.Lauderdale, right next to a burger bar – Cindy had suggested that I get a burger from the place next door – but I wasn’t really in the mood for moving around. Once I had sat down I wasn’t moving. On the plus side the menu at Tarpon Bend looked pretty darn good and they had what appeared to be a nice burger. Of course I ordered the burger – with the lot, and Katie opted for the Fish of the day BLT. The place was pretty busy and they seemed a bit understaffed so Lunch took awhile – not that I minded that much.

Eventually the Burger arrived and I have to say it was definitely worth waiting for. The Tarpon Burger comes with applewood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, sweet onion rings, tomato, lettuce, pickle, mayo, mustard and ketchup, and a huge mound of French fries – $12. On a first impression this burger looked the business. Even in my cold induced haze I could tell this was a well put together burger. First bite in and  knew I was onto a winner here. The meat was front and center – a nice thick and juicy patty – I had ordered it medium rare and then told the waiter, “pink” – just to ensure that it came the way I wanted it to. It seems like if you order a burger medium, your probably a 50/50 chance to see any pink in your patty over here – Listen to me, at least they give you the option in the US. Back home it’s the chefs way or the highway 9 times out of 10.

Anyway, as I was saying – the patty was juicy and delicious – well seasoned and tender, a nice amount of pink. Even without much of a sense of smell, and thus a limited sense of taste, I could tell it was good. The bacon was delicious, the cheese nice and melted and the sauces were generously applied. The whole burger managed to overcome my sickness and cheer me up for a couple of minutes at least.

How good this burger was, I have no idea – I couldn’t smell as I was pretty blocked up and so it’s hard to judge with such a taste impairment. What I do know, is that what I could taste, I really enjoyed. I’d love to have had a chance to try this burger out while I wasn’t sick… Ah well.

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Yet another venue suggested to us before we drove down to Key West – The Square Grouper, apparently they do one of the best Grouper Sandwiches in the keys. Having been underwhelmed by the last couple of Grouper Sandwiches that I’ve had the misfortune to ingest, I was looking forward to something… well, vaguely tasting like Grouper and not just fried fish generally. Thankfully I had come to an establishment that takes their fish, but not themselves, seriously.

Square grouper I have been reliably informed, is slang for a big square hessian bag full of the weed some people enjoy recreationally. Apparently if the, shall we say, “importer” is tipped off that the transport ship is about to be searched by the authorities, they instruct the crew of the to throw the cargo overboard. When it washes up on shore, people say they’ve caught a square grouper.

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Anyway, enough about the name of the place – let’s talk food. Katie and I had just driven 22 miles north of Key west and by the time we got there we were rather hungry. We actually arrived late in afternoon – which was probably a good thing as the crowds were starting to disperse and we didn’t have to wait long for a table. I had planned to get the grouper sandwich – but there was so much on the menu that looked good. I stuck to my guns on the sandwich front, though we decided to get the coconut shrimp to begin. My sweet lord, these crispy morsels were so fresh and delicious – 6 big prawns as I would call them, in a fairly light coconut batter, paired with a sweet mango dipping sauce. A great way to take the edge off the hunger pains.

Once finished with the appetisers (which didn’t take long) we were on to our sandwiches – Katied had opted for the fish of the day BLT – served blackened, with apple wood smoked bacon and I opted for the grouper sandwich. I have to admit I had plate envy just looking across the table, The BLT looked the business – that was until  tasted my sandwich.

The grouper sandwich was served with lightly fried onion rings and key lime tartar sauce. The fish itself was so fresh I would have believed that had just caught and filleted it moments before arriving on my plate. This was a grouper sandwich with the emphasis on the grouper. Lightly pan fried – the fish was cooked perfectly, it was the dominate force in the sandwich – nicely accompanied by the light house made key lime tartar sauce and the sweet and crunchy onion rings. This wasn’t the type of grouper sandwich I’ve come to expect in Florida – no lettuce or tomato – but I didn’t care – this was a fantastic sandwich. Katie though her sandwich was just as good. I’d highly recommend stoping off here if you are in the keys – I’m certainly glad we went for a drive to this place!

The Square Grouper Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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I’m not sure how it came up – but for some reason I was talking to Kathy about the amazing country fried steak I had last time I was in Texas, and how much I would love to find a place somewhere on this trip that offered a good country fried steak. For the uninitiated, the country fried steak – or chicken fried steak as it is also referred to – is a little bit like schnitzel. It’s also a lot different to schnitzel… Ok so I’m not doing a great job of explaining this. Lets see – you take a piece of pretty cheap steak – beat the hell out of it – bread it in a coating that you might use for fried chicken – fry said breaded steak. Serve with white gravy. Enjoy. It’s that simple. And yet, like so many amazing foods of the south, Australia for some reason, has not been introduced to the pleasures of the country fried steak. Now don’t get me wrong – we have lots of fried food – my Nana pretty much crumped and fried everything – and she had a thing called crumbed steak – it’s not same. It’s good – yes. Same – no.

Anyway, as they would say over here, I was jonesing for a nice piece’o’country fired steak. Typing this now I want one – that’s how good they are people!! Katie and I had decided to go out for Lunch while Mac was off getting the boat ready for a fishing trip and we thought we’d wander down the road to a nice little place called Capt’n Con’s. We’ve had breakfast there a few times and it’s always been nice enough – honest, no frills kind of food. This time we thought we’d try lunch – I thought I might grab a burger or a grouper sandwich. The place was pretty busy with all the snow birds in town (That’s tourist from up north), and so we grabbed a table inside. I noticed the lunch specials included country steak – my heart skipped a beat (Possible a clogged artery based on my diet here – who knows…), could this be the country fried steak I’d been looking for? I ordered the steak and Katie ordered some wings. And the lovely waitress – honestly the nicest lady we’ve been served by this trip – sped off to the kitchen with our orders. It was hard to wait I was so excited. Finally our lunches arrived and from a visual point of view I was not disappointed. Katie’s wings were also impressive – I though maybe they had used turkey wings as these things were huge.

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On this occasion though I didn’t have any sense of plate envy. I devoured my country steak like a man who hadn’t eaten for a week. It was just what wanted at that point in time. I don’t know what they put in white gravy, and to be honest I probably don’t want know – but what I do know is that it’s a tasty and delicious companion to the country fried steak.

You may well ask – was this the best country fried steak? The answer is no – it was good enough though. It just happened to be the right dish at the right time!

Capt'n Con's Fish House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Cuban sandwiches are pretty much an exotic treat for a man from Australia- Cuban cuisine (even the Americanised version) is not something readily available in the suburbs of Melbourne. So every time I have an opportunity to sample some I get pretty excited.

Down here in Key West you’d be forgiven for thinking that you had wondered into a tourist trap – if you stick to the resorts, landmarks and Duval street then you would be right.

Ana’s Cuban café is located in walking distance from the southernmost point Buoy. The café is actually located inside the southernmost deli and groceries – there’s a place to order out the front or you can order inside the deli. Either way you order and eat out on the veranda surrounding the shop. It doesn’t look particularly appealing, particularly considering that it’s surrounded by resorts and hotels and not far from the start of Duval street – you would be forgiven for assuming that this is just another overpriced café catering to the tourist crowds. However, in this case you would be wrong. Ana’s actually does a really good, reasonably priced Cuban mix sandwich. What’s that you say – especially if like me you are from the land down under you probably have no idea what a Cuban mix sandwich is. It starts with Cuban bread – or Pan Cubano – which is a long baguette style loaf with a crunchy curst and a really light dough. The next layer is mayonnaise on one side and mustard on the other, you have ham, pickles, Swiss cheese, and roast pork (often slow roasted in a mojo sauce). Sounds very simple – but like a lot of simple dishes, if executed well, it can be really good. In this case they do it well. Every time I go there I get a Cuban mix. $7.50 is not a lot considering the amount of meat you get. It’s one of my favourite sandwiches.

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Blue Heaven was recommended to us by a friend who had spent a lot of time in Key West, so we figured we’d better give it shot when we came down this time around. Jessica and Chris had gone off with their girls to visit the beach, but Katie was feeling the effects of a night out on Duval street and all she wanted was brunch so we decided it was a good time to give it a go.

When we arrived the place was very busy, there was a fairly decent line and the wait was at least 30mins inside and an hour to sit outside. We figured we’d wait and so we pulled up to the bar and had a refreshing beverage. There was a pretty decent live band playing and plenty of seating in and around the bar so it really wasn’t too bad waiting. Katie had a Bloody Mary that she said was quite refreshing considering (or perhaps because of) her condition. After about half an hour of waiting we got called and were seated outside just next to the stage where the bad was playing – this actually worked out well as it distracted Lucy who was bopping away in her highchair and clapping her chubby little baby hands after each song.

The food here is quite upmarket – although not cheap. I ordered the Eggs Benedict with ham and a side of bacon and Katie went for the Shrimp and Grits New Orleans style. The Eggs came with a Key lime hollandaise which was one of the most delicious hollandaise I’ve tasted. The eggs were perfectly poached, runny and delicious – I felt like the dish wouldn’t have seemed out of place in a trendy Melbourne café back home. Everything on my plate was executed perfectly. Katie loved her shrimp and grits – it’s not something that I would ever order so I can’t really comment, but Katie is a bit of an expert and she was impressed. We ordered a slice of key lime pie to finish with because we had heard they were good here.

The downside to such a lovely meal was the price – the check came in at a smidge under $60 and with tip it cost $70 – not including the $10 already spent at the bar. If I was back home in Melbourne it would be par for the course. Here in the USA, it felt a little bit expensive and when you take into account the exchange rate – very expensive. I’d probably come back because the food was excellent – but I think I’d skip the $9.50 slice of pie at the end (but then I’m not a sweet tooth so I’m sure Katie would disagree…)