Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Abbey

Photos are less shiny than usual today, as I foolishly forgot the camera, so was running on phone photography.  The lighting inside The Abbey is not bright, so... I hope you can see enough.

The plan was a casual snacky dinner with J, who was in town for the night while headed south.  We decided on The Abbey because their beer is good, and a pot of mussels seemed about right.

It was.  We chose the chili coriander broth for them, and it worked a treat.  Nicely presented in a solid round pot, lid for the shells, tasty, flavoursome broth.  $18 for a kilogram pot.  Frites on the side came with mayonnaise and gravy (picture below). ($5 more - $23 for moules-frites)

Of course, moules-frites isn't complete without  beer, and they have a good range of (surprise!) Belgian beers, both on tap and bottled.  I opened with a Leffe Brune (500ml).  It came in the traditional Leffe glass, which at 500ml sizing, looks just a little bit absurd.  The beer within, however, tastes just as good as it should.  Which is, not the best Belgian you will have, but definitely worthwhile.  Expensive, at $15.

Sharing a pot of mussels and some fries wasn't quite enough, and as the mussels had been good, we went back to the menu, and picked out a couple small dishes.  Mussel fritters ($14) and Pork Belly ($14).  The Mussel fritters were well spiced, well cooked, and very tasty.  I would have liked a bit more of the aioli along with them, but the fritters were good enough without that this wasn't a big blow.

The pork belly was exactly as described on the menu.  Crispy sticky pork, mustard sauce, creamy mashed potatoes, and a rich gravy lurking in the bottom of the dish.  This especially seemed pretty good value at $14.

I couldn't sneak away without having another beer, either, so I went for a bottle of the Forbidden Fruit, a tasty tasty strong ale (clocks in at 8.5%, I believe).  I didn't enjoy this as much as I have in the past. Not sure exactly why not, but it has been a while since I had one, and I have been leaning ever more towards the heavier/stronger beers, so maybe this just lacks that really deep,  punchy flavour for me now?

The service was friendly and attentive, the food was good, and the fitout of the place is nice.  Food prices, too, are reasonable, although the beer could stand to be a couple dollars cheaper all around.  The other places in town which sell interesting Belgian beers (Gothenburg, for one), have the Abbey beaten on price.  Still, worth a meal, especially if your drinking budget isn't that tight.  I hear a rumour that Sunday afternoons offer very cheap mussel pots and small tap beers, at $5 each, which sounds like a tremendous idea to me.

The Abbey
186 Victoria St, Hamilton
(07) 839 5152

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hop Zombie (2012)

I should mention, I tried Epic's 2012 Hop Zombie.  See the triumphant announcement of its return here.  Its worth being excited about, provided that you want hops enough to eat your brain.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Chim Choo Ree

I gather that this is the big one, as Hamilton goes.  Where to eat, when you want good food.  M and I went there on a Saturday night.  It was very sensible to have booked. We might have been able to park at the bar without a booking, but even that wouldn't have been certain.  We went all the way, tasting menu with matched wines.

Seared tuna in a delicious light broth, as an amuse bouche.  Amazing broth, delicate flavours, well complementing the tuna.

Pumpkin + goats curd ravioli, garnished and spiced up. Also excellent.

Tuna tartare was a highlight. Brilliant flavours, holding together well, wonderful texture on the tuna.

The above are two sides of a single dish.  Pork belly with a boudin noir tortellini.  I have no idea which I liked most, as both were sensational.  Again, the purees and splashes of flavour, decorative though they seem, perfectly complemented the flavours of the dish.

I went one way, M the other on the lone option they give you with this menu. For me, eye fillet, med-rare (or rare, I forget which, as I order between the two based on whim when asked). Some delicious braised cheek on the side, and brilliantly flavoured and cooked.

While M had lamb, and it too was impeccable.  Really, by this stage we were just drooling in anticipation of each course.  Did I mention that we had matched wines with them?  These were all excellent as well.

Finally, to dessert. I have to admit, I forget entirely what this was, other than good.

Best of all, to someone still mentally operating on Melbourne food prices, the whole thing was a steal.  The food was great, the service consistently friendly, if relaxed, the wine pairings all worked remarkably well with the dishes, and the atmosphere was trendy and entirely on point.  Go here.  It is clearly worth it.  More than that, it looks no more expensive than any of the other top end places in town, and while I hope that some of them come close, I will be (pleasantly) surprised to find a meal this good anytime soon.

Chim Choo Ree
244 Victoria St, Hamilton
07 839 4329