Collins Kitchen – Afternoon Tea

123 Collins St (Grand Hyatt), Melbourne
Phone: 9653 4671

Some things are worth waiting for. High tea appears to be one of them. My cousin C and I had been planning a high tea get-together for about two years. First I ran off to Viet Nam, then she had another child while I was gone, and well, one thing after another kept popping up, so back in September, we booked it in our calendars for Nov 20th.

The day arrived, and we managed to rope in my sister and our other cousin T, so it was going to be a ladies’ day out (well, plus me). Cousin T had also brought her daughter T along, so there was much cooing and talk of child-rearing to be had. While she’s already adorable at 8 months, from all the stories I hear, I think my plan is to adopt a three year old, so I can skip the baby stuff and enjoy the toddler years. Am I being naive? Probably.

I’d been to Collins Kitchen before, so I knew it was a stylish and sleek atmosphere, and that the quality of the food was going to be good. I’d contemplated booking at the Langham or the Windsor, two places renowned for their high tea, but on weekends, their prices seem rather exhorbitant. Collins Kitchen offers ‘Afternoon Tea’ for $38 per head on weekends, with finger sandwiches, scones, waffles, and a buffet dessert bar.

The one thing I will say about traditional afternoon tea is don’t go unless you have something of a sweet tooth.

The finger sandwiches are the oasis of savoury respite in a sugary desert of, well, desserts! The sandwiches on offer were a smoked salmon and cucumber on rye, air-dried wagyu (bresaola?) with a touch of mustard on white, and a traditional egg salad with cress on multigrain. They were all a little lacklustre, to be honest.
The dessert buffet, on the other hand, was anything but lacklustre! The scones were good, and that berry compote – although a little unwieldy armed only with a butter knife – was delicious! The macarons, however, were something of a disappointment. There was a lack of chewy inside, and the ganaches and creams which held them together were altogether too runny. It seems I have become one of those macaron snobs.

Of course, it being a buffet, and me being me, I went back for more. Cute little tarts (the apple one had a touch too much honey in it, the strawberry and pistachio one was much better) and creme brulee were next up!
The creme brulee had an excellend toffee lid, but the custard beneath was a bit too thick for my liking. All the ladies seemed to love it, however!

I finished the afternoon off with some pineapple and strawberries, and a decent caffe latte. It was a wonderful afternoon; refined, civilised and altogether sweet to catch up with family. We’ve decided that our next get-together will be a more traditional (for us, anyway) yum cha outing. Sweetness is great, but we’re all sweet enough anyway, so bring on the savoury! 😛

Collins Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Collins Kitchen – Nuffnang Foodbloggers Dinner

Collins Kitchen @ The Grand Hyatt, 123 Collins St, Melbourne CBD
Phone: 9653 4831

I was the guest of Nuffnang and Collins Kitchen.

Last week, the good folk at nuffnang worked with the generous people at the Grand Hyatt put on an event for Melbourne foodbloggers. I was lucky enough to score an invitation (although it still feels a bit funny to think of myself as a bona fide foodblogger).

After a quick drink in the adjoining RU-CO bar – which is a hidden gem for those of us who prefer a bar on Friday evenings that isn’t fully packed, and you can almost always find a seat – we were given a tour of the kitchen from which we were about to sample food by Chef Jason Camillo.

The Hyatt’s Collins Kitchen restaurant is powered by an open kitchen, roughly broken up into five specialty stations. There’s a sushi and sashimi section, where all the fish looked amazingly fresh, and the sushi chef adeptly worked his craft as we were told about the restaurant’s ethic of sourcing, wherever possible, local produce. Everyone got rather excited when the fresh wasabi from Tasmania was spotted. Apparently it’ll only set you back $180 a kilo!

Next, there were grill and deli sections, the grill with an impressive ‘crustacean bowl’, and the deli with a good array of cured meats – to be honest, I got a little distracted by the sushi chef working and fell behind the group at this point in the tour. Hence I have no pictures of the meats, and just a quick snap of some yabbies.

Then we moved around to the ‘wok’ section of the kitchen, which was a pretty standard (if somewhat immaculately clean) Chinese kitchen set up. Woks, steamers and noodle pots, all fired by turbo gas burners which roared like jet engines when cranked up to full power. There were also the requisite roasted meats (ducks, chicken and pork) hanging on racks, ready to be carved up on demand.

Finally, there is a patisserie/desserts section, but at this stage of the tour, I also neglected to take photos. Don’t worry though, plenty of dessert photos to come below!

The Feasting
Once the tour was complete, we sat down and were promptly presented with freshly baked sourdough rolls, which were closely followed by an amazing sushi and sashimi platter, an equally impressive antipasto plate, and a freshly baked foccacia-style pizza, simply topped with tomato, basil and mozzarella. The speed of the service was dulled a little, however, because with a table full of foodbloggers, there was a longer than usual pause for photography before we could dig in!

Everyone was excited to sample the freshly grated wasabi, to the point where impromptu fusion occurred on the plate – the liverwurst from the antipasto was adventurously paired with the fresh wasabi, with pleasing results!

For me, the highlight of this course would be the lightly seared scallops on the sashimi platter – so sweet and fresh! – and I was also a big fan of the liverwurst. The tricky thing about foods like sashimi and antipasto – essentially raw (or cured) dishes, is the quality of the produce is immediately apparent. It was immediately apparent all of the produce in front of us was exceptionally good.

Next on the menu was a Cantonese style BBQ platter – roast belly pork, soya chicken, roast duck, and char siu (I secretly sniggered inside when the waiter pronounced it “char shui” but that’s just me being a bilingual elitist – shame on me!). The platter was presented with pretty traditional dipping sauces – plum sauce, sambal, and my favourite since I was a child, a ginger and spring onion oil. It was also accompanied by choy sum and fried rice.

Now I will happily admit to being somewhat of a snob when it comes to Cantonese cuisine. So please take what I say here with a grain of salt, because this course was still a cut above most restaurants. That being said, most restaurants would probably charge about a third of what Collins Kitchen would for this fare. Still, I wasn’t paying, so that didn’t necessarily factor in my appraisal.

The roast duck was beautifully succulent, and the skin was remarkably crisp, though I found it a touch on the salty side. I really like to taste the gaminess of duck when I eat it. The roast pork was again perfectly cooked, though the crackling was a little chewy, and not quite crunchy enough on the slice I had. The soya chicken was stunning. Beautifully tender, and a nicely balanced soy marinade which had just penetrated the unbelievably thin chicken skin – this was a quality chook! I was a little disappointed with the choy sum and fried rice, both were a bit pedestrian, and suffered from too much oil. The rice was interesting in that it was a medium grain, instead of the usual long grain jasmine rice.

Next up was a grilled fruits de mer (seafood) platter, and a gargantuan grilled porterhouse for two (weighing in at 900gm on the bone). Luckily this was being shared between five of us. These came with a inspired side of sauteed mushrooms with hazelnuts, wilted broccolini and a deliciously creamy potato mash.

The seafood was all spectacular – again, scallops were a standout for me – I think I may be biased – and the salmon was cooked to perfection. The tuna, however, was a bit of a mystery. It was cooked all the way through, which seems something of a cruel way to treat tuna. We had to ask twice what fish it was! We thought it might be swordfish? Because surely a restaurant like Collin Kitchen wouldn’t serve tuna this way.

The porterhouse was beautifully juicy, though leaning on the medium-rare edge for me (I prefer my steak blue-rare). It came with a choice of green peppercorn sauce or a red wine jus. The peppercorn sauce was better, in my opinion.

And then there was dessert. Or should I say, desserts. A sharing platter of five desserts came out, much to the delight (and yet trepidation) of us all.

In order of tasting, there was a selection of mixed sorbets and ice cream (the pistachio was clearly the stand-out for me); a banana mille feuille (wonderfully delicate pastry, and I love cooked bananas in anything); a devilishly rich and gooey chocolate fondant; a strawberry and rhubarb crumble (I’m not a fan of rhubarb, but I WAS a fan of the crumble – I think almond meal was the special ingredient? – that tasted somewhat like the fresh almond cookies you get in the streets of Macau); and finally an apricot melba which was incorrectly identified as a pannacotta, and then roundly criticised as so, until we checked against the menu what the dessert actually was! It was actually quite nice though, just not a pannacotta. But then it never claimed to be a pannacotta!

Props must be given to Adrian of Food Rehab for ‘taking one for the team’ and polishing off the desserts after everyone had tasted to their satisfaction.

Thanks go out to nuffnang and Collins Kitchen for organising the event, a great way to get a better insight into one of these ritzy restaurants, and to meet up with more like-minded foodbloggers.
Here’s a list of the other foodbloggers who were there on the night:

Penny from Jeroxie
Joyce from Jetsetting Joyce
Suzanne from EssJay Eats
Adrian from Food Rehab
Melissa and Danny from Tummy Rumbles
Maria from The Gourmet Challenge
Shellie from Iron Chef Shellie
from Off the Spork
Sarah from Sarah Cooks
Thanh from I Eat Therefore I Am
Neil from At My Table

There were more, but I didn’t get to meet everyone, and I don’t have everybody’s blog URLs. *sadface*

And Nuffnang’s post about the night.

Collins Kitchen on Urbanspoon