Posts Tagged Southbank

Chatting with Bar Manager Alex Watson @ Sake Restaurant and Bar, Hamer Hall

Sake Restaurant and Bar opened at the new look Hamer Hall late last year. After drooling over the menu of its predecessor in Sydney (there is also one in Brisbane), I was a little excited when I heard it was opening in our fine city. With the back drop of Southbank and one of the best views of the river going round, they are really onto something. 


While the food menu drew me in (we will get to that a little later), the interesting Japanese inspired cocktail menu was what really sparked my interest. I chatted with Alex Watson, Bar Manager, about cocktails, his favourite drink and the beautiful lady that is Melbourne. After a meal matched with a Japanese twist on the Tom Collins, two types of sake, red wine and yuzu sake to finish, I trusted him when it came to food and drink matching.

Tom Collins

Amy: Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you came to work at Sake Restaurant and Bar?

Alex:  Before I moved to Melbourne I was Bar Manager of the Purple Bar with the Sanderson Hotel in London. Prior to that I worked for Gordon Ramsay and Langham Hotels. I have a huge passion for Japanese culture and cuisine and the timing of Sake Hamer Hall opening couldn’t have been better.

Amy: What is the focus of the drinks list at Sake?

Alex: We try to cover most bases with the wine list and we have a very premium selection of sake we exclusively import ourselves for all three sake venues. Other than Midori and Malibu we pretty much cover all other familiars.

Amy: How did you go about creating your cocktail and wine list?

Alex: My inspiration for cocktails has come from living in London & Manhattan. These two cities really pay attention to the classics. My list pays its dues to some classics twisted in a contemporary Japanese way.

Amy: Do you think Sake the drink is becoming more prevalent in Australian restaurants?

Alex: Yes absolutely. Certainly the concept of the modern Japanese restaurant has taken off globally in the last couple of years and sake comes hand in hand with that.

Amy: What do you want the bar at Sake to be for people?

Alex: Everything.  A night cap and some dessert with the family after a show. A couple of cocktails before heading to dinner in the city or a casual beer and some uber fresh sashimi after work. We cater for all.

Amy: What’s your favourite ingredient to use in cocktails?

Alex: It all depends on whom I’m making it for but right now we are playing with different types of bitters for our fall/winter cocktail list.

Amy: What is your opinion on cocktail and food matching?

Alex: I love talking to the chef about food and cocktail matching. For me a dining experience isn’t complete if you don’t have a great beverage match. Cocktails have a strong food matching ability in my book.

Amy: Where do you see the Melbourne food and drink scene in the next five years?

Alex: I would hope to think Melbourne would secure herself as one of the top food cities in the world… great chefs, great produce and amazing regional wines. Trends I think will be smaller venues opening up dedicating themselves to a much smaller spectrum of what is on offer but doing it brilliantly.

Amy: What is your go-to drink?

Alex: Negroni served straight up instead of on the rocks and a cold beer on the side.

Amy: What is your favourite cocktail on the list at Sake and why?

Utsukushi heru. It’s a twist on the French martini and perfect for summer quaffing. We use Tekkan shochu (Japanese spirit) made from sweet potato along with pomegranate and violet liqueurs and pineapple juice.

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While I got to pick Alex’s brain, I also got to sample the food. Now, did I mention that the food is to die for?

While we had an array of dishes, which left us all feeling more than satisfied, there were four favourites that I would be sure to order again.

The first dish of the evening was Hiramasa kingfish with yuzu soy, jalapeno and coriander.


The kingfish was soft as butter and had the perfect amount of kick from the jalapenos. A light and delicate start to the meal.

From here we made swift moves to the grilled miso-marinated Patagonian toothfish in lettuce cups. This was the standout dish of the evening for me. Perfectly cooked toothfish was sweet and sublte in flavour from the miso and the lettuce added crunch. They were the perfect mouthful.


A more hearty dish, the shrimp tempura with creamy spicy sauce and yuzu dressed salad was very morish. Crisp fried shrimp were doused in a creamy Japanese mayonnaise sauce and served with salad which provided a nice fresh element.


Now, when it comes to desserts at Japanese restaurants, I’m not going to lie, I don’t usually want them or like them. But as I took the first bite of the buttermilk pannacotta with passionfruit coulis I was converted. The texture of the pannacotta was not what I expected. It was full and almost grainy, which sounds odd, but it was divine. It was perfectly sweet which was balanced by the passionfruit and the expertly matched yuzu sake which was served along side it. Yuzu sake, a Japanese version of limoncello ( if you ask me), is a little bit special.


If you like japanese food, cocktails, or bar snacks you need to get yourself down to Sake Restaurant and Bar.

Disclaimer: I dined as a guest of Hot House Media and Sake Restaurant and Bar 

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Beautiful Birthday Dinner @ Pure South, Southbank

I hadn’t heard a lot about Pure South, but I new it was in the Good Food Guide and sourced all its produce from Tasmania. I figured couple that with the beautiful Southbank location, I was on to a winner.
Sunday night, after a rather large birthday weekend, a few of us headed to Pure South for a quiet birthday dinner.
You could tell from the menu that it really was all about the produce here, with calamari, scallops, and mussels all featuring on the entree menu alone. I couldn’t go past the baked scallops that were served with a cauliflower purée and an herbed breadcrumb topped with almonds. They were literally divine. The scallops, true to Tasmania were huge, fresh and with their roe on. The puree was so creamy and the almonds and herbed crumble added crunch that finished the dish. To freshen the palate it was served with pickled cucumber on the side.
The mains saw a range of options, from the beef burger to fish and chips, to lamb shanks served with lentils while a separate steak section offered a range of cuts and sizes. There was also a beautiful seafood special of Kingfish served with clams and mussels in a creamy sauce. I chose the chicken, which was served with home made herbed gnocchi, roasted onions, pancetta, black pudding, spring onions and a creamy jus. Again this was beautiful. The chicken was moist yet the skin was crisp. The jus that accompanied it was creamy and rich. The gnocchi, onion and black pudding accompaniment was interesting! The black pudding was strong and salty while the onions added contrast. The gnocchi provided softness not elsewhere seen in the dish. There was crunch provided by a garnish that I can’t recall. Tasted almost like dried apple chips!

A few of the others ordered the steak, which was accompanied with herbed butter, red wine jus, mustard and what appeared to be a mini potato croquette. They were blown away by their meals.

The table ordered the hand cut fries as well as the roasted pumpkin served with aged cheddar and hazelnuts. The Pumpkin completely outshone the fries. It was sweet and roasty from the pumpkin, then the cheese was sharp and creamy with crunch coming through from the hazelnuts. It was original and delicious.

Then to dessert…
There were a range of choices made on the table, from the beautiful cheese platter to the Espresso brulee which came with jam doughnuts and butterscotch popcorn, to the spiced pear and rhubarb crumble with salted caramel ice-cream.
I ordered the Apple tart fine with caramel sauce and vanilla-bean ice cream. Wow was this good! It arrived with a candle in it for my birthday (thanks to my lovely step-mum) as well as extra caramel sauce (thanks to them running out half way through the at the table topping). After the table sung Happy Birthday I dove into my dessert. The pastry was so buttery and crisp. Like an apple tart tatin, the pastry was topped with slices of apple. The creamy pastry with the sweet apple drowned in rich caramel sauce was unbelievable. The ice cream offered required relief from the richness. Accompanied with a Pedro Ximenez, it was the perfect end to a birthday weekend!

For more information:
Pure South
Gr2 River Level, Southgate Precinct,
(03) 9699 4600

Pure South Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

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Celebrating @ Rockpool Bar and Grill, Southbank Melbourne

A little while ago now, my boyfriend and I were talking about how we wanted to celebrate 6 months together. The decision? Extravagantly at one of Melbourne’s finest restaurants…why not??

Rockpool Bar and Grill, located inside the Crown complex on Melbourne’s Southbank was Neil Perry’s first Melbourne restaurant after unprecedented success seen from his Sydney Restaurant Rockpool.

As we walked through the front doors and down the dark hallway, we entered a different world juxtaposed from the busy crown complex surrounding it. Greeted with warmth we were escorted to our table.

The room, open and vast, manages to offer intimacy through the careful design and the use of rich dark woods and leathers.  It oozes class and history from the moment you step inside.

Wine lists, accompanied by servers with more knowledge than you’d imagine were provided in an instant. With a bottle of sparkling on the way, we were given our menus (dietary requirements marked on mine).

The service here surpasses most of my experiences, not only do they act with class and respect, they manage to do all of this with a warm unpretentious manner making you feel nothing but comfortable and looked after.

The menu just screams the freshest of ingredients.  Entrees consist of Cold starters of mostly seafood, often raw, hot starters of both seafood and meats as well as inventive salads and a pasta section.

I chose the Grilled king prawns, split and marinated to start which may have been the best prawns I have ever tasted. Cooked in only oil and an enticing mixture of herbs they managed to be rich and complex on the taste buds. It was creamy and intense without being at all too rich.

The mains again rely heavily on the freshest meats and seafood’s. Lobster, muscles, snapper, duck and flathead are features on the main menu, with chicken coming from the wood fired rotisserie. There is one vegetarian main for those who don’t eat meat.

Finally…the steak. Choose from 11 different types of beef from the wood fired grill ranging in type, size, age and feeding type. Once you’ve chosen your steak, choose from sauces and condiments to accompany you meat. Finally choose from the extensive and varied menu of sides from fried onion rings, and ‘mac and cheese’ to boiled greens and wood fired broccolini.

Neither of us could go past ordering a steak.  I accompanied mine with broccolini from the wood oven. Our steaks (mine carefully made for the coeliac), came sliced and accompanied with only a slice of lemon on large white plates…a very different experience to most restaurants. The focus here is on the quality of the single ingredient used and this is unmistakable in the taste.

I’m not a huge meat eater myself, living with a vegetarian, yet I do love a good steak when the opportunity arises. This however was something different… The meat, cooked on the rarer side of my usual medium, was incredible. Soft and tender and flavoursome.

Unfortunately, due to having a booking at the earlier seating, we took too long with our meals to have time left for dessert and were kindly asked to move to the bar so they could serve another party.

I do emphasise here that an entrée, main and a side for one can often come to over $100; however every bite is worth it! So… if your on a budget like most of us, save your pennies and take a night to experience everything that Rockpool Bar and Grill has to offer.

For more information:

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