Eat here: Longhorn Saloon, Melbourne (American) V.2

Longhorn Saloon
118 Elgin St, Carlton
http://www.longhornsaloon.com.au/

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Disclosure: I was generously invited to dine as a guest of Longhorn Saloon’s, however I will never endorse a place I wouldn’t pay for my own meal at, and the opinions contained herein are completely based on my own experience.

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A few months ago, husband and I visited Longhorn Saloon for dinner, to celebrate his birthday. We landed on Longhorn because they do American BBQ-style food, and have some serious Southern charm; it took us right back to our time in New Orleans, chowing down on well cooked meat and listening the the Rebirth Brass Band over the sound system. We went with a pretty basic dinner, enjoying a brisket reuben and a cheeseburger, but spent some time eyeing off the other offerings, and promised to return to try out more another time.

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Fast forward 4 months; we’re planning our next big adventure, including a return to New Orleans, when I receive a very timely invitation to return to Longhorn, where menu change is in the air and they’re getting some exciting new plates on the menu. We were lucky enough to sample a few dishes, starting with the smoked brisket nachos (Le Bon Ton pit smoked brisket, grilled cheese, pico de gallo & crema), which I didn’t expect to love as much as I did! I’m usually not a fan of mega loaded nachos, because you just end up with soggy chips, but the majority of these chippies stayed crisp the whole way through. The brisket, as you’d expect, was amazing – soft and tender and falling apart. I’m a big fan of Le Bon Ton’s brisket anyway, so I was stoked to get to try this. Special mention to not only the grilled cheese, but molten, melty cheese on top of it – perfect.

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Next up, we were presented with a newbie – the Cajun Dog. A flame grilled, proper Andouille sausage, just like the stuff we ate in New Orleans, in a perfectly soft hot dog bun (I mention this specifically because I’ve had a few rubbish “hot dogs” recently in cardboardy rolls, and that just doesn’t cut it) with slaw and a hot Cajun mustard. At this point, I should also mention that husband had the Rogue Dead Guy Ale recommended, a German maibock beer from Newport, Oregon, with buttery, brioche notes. Hot dog and beer. His two favourite things. They had no way of knowing this, but my God was he stoked! For the beer drinkers, he wanted it mentioned that this was the best new beer he’s had in…. he couldn’t remember. Highly recommended. But the Cajun dog – it tasted like New Orleans! While the mustard was a bit strong and hot for me, that Andouille sausage tasted just like the one we had at K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen.

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With the dog came the steak; the 300g New York strip steak (served with mashed potato, green beans and jus), to be exact. We were told that the New York strip steak, coming from that area behind the ribs in the short loin region, gets a pretty good run in the US and the UK, but not so much in Australia. We were also told that pit-master Jeremy, however, is a beef specialist, knows hit cuts, and knows exactly what to do with them. Very evident upon cutting into the buttery soft steak, still nice and pink inside, and well rested. It’s not a cut I’d have ever ordered ordinarily, but husband and I both agreed that we’d both eagerly return for it should we be craving a good steak. It’s amazing how good a little known cut of meat can be in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing.

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And, of course, despite incredibly full stomachs we couldn’t leave without dessert – enter this little piece of heaven. Chocolate brownie topped with coconut encrusted ice cream, swimming in a little pool of liquid heaven. While hot dogs and beer might be the husband’s favourite due, chocolate and coconut would be pretty close to mine, and this really hit the spot. The brownie (warmed up, thank you!) was thick, fudgy, suuuuper chocolatey and full of crunchy walnuts. That ball of ice cream was perfect to break up the thick chocolate brownie and sauce, and toasted coconut is never a bad idea!

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I was stoked to get back to Longhorn, and will gladly keep heading back – the service is friendly, genuine and helpful, the setting is gorgeously Southern – homely and welcoming with a touch of fancy at the same time. And the food is fantastic. It’s generous, warm, comforting and both times I’ve eaten there now, it’s taken me right back to the food I ate in New York and New Orleans  : )

 

Longhorn Saloon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cook this (in bulk to stock the freezer): Mississippi Roast

I’ve developed a new habit to make life easier for myself; on weekends, I bulk cook a meal, so I end up with dinner for us both on Sunday night plus 3 or 4 meals each extra, which I freeze. Then, mid week, if I’ve had a stressy few days and the thought of cooking gets me anxious, I just pluck out a zip-lock baggy from the freezer in the morning and dinner is ready for when I get home!


I’ve got a few favourite recipes for my frozen meals, but I wanted to find some new ideas, and in my recent lunch break Googling I came across this recipe from founding editor of New York Times Cooking, Sam Sifton. I love using chuck steak – cooking it low and slow, ending up with soft, tender chunk of beef, it’s perfect cold weather food. And winter is coming. I whipped it up for dinner on Sunday with some changes to Sam’s recipe and my own touches, and it came out surprisingly well – juicy, tender, fall-apart meat with an amazing flavour from the DIY ranch sauce. And SO cheap – the 1.7kg of chuck steak I used to make 12 meals only cost $20! Here’s how to do it…

Ingredients:
– ¼ cup plain flour
– salt & pepper
– 1.5 – 2kg chuck steak, any particularly large chunks of fat removed
– 30g butter
– 4 tbsp mayonnaise (I use low fat)
– 2 tbsp apple cider or white wine vinegar
– 1½ tsp dried dill
– ½ tsp sweet paprika
– 5 large potatoes, diced
– 3 large zucchinis, diced
– 4 large green capsicums, de-seeded and diced
– 500g button mushrooms, quartered
– pasta to serve
Method:
1. Sift the flour into a large bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Add the steak and rub the flour in well to coat.

2. Heat a non-stick frypan over high heat and spray with cooking oil. Add the steak and cook for 5 minutes or so on each side, to form a brown crust. Then, take the piece/s of steak off the pan and place in the bottom of your slow cooker. Add the butter, in chunks, on top of the steak, replace the lid and set to low heat.

3. As the slow cooker heats up, make the dressing by whisking together the mayo, vinegar, dill and paprika in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the steak and pour in a cup of water around the bottom of the steak. Replace the lid, and cook on low heat for 6 – 8 hours – it should easily shred once it’s done!


4. While the meat is cooking, prepare the veggies by placing on 2 large roasting trays, drizzling with a little olive oil, sprinkling with salt, and roasting in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes on high heat.

 

I decided to serve mine with pasta, so I cooked up a few cups and then divided it up between 12 zip-lock bags. I did the same with the veggies and meat (once I’d shredded it), and poured the ranch gravy from the slow cooker over each serve. Easy!

Read this: Diner by Andrew Levins

Diner
by Andrew Levins

Written by Andrew Levins, a DJ turned restauranteur, back in 2012 when American BBQ was just starting to gain popularity in Melbourne, this is the perfect cookbook for getting started in the craft.

Full of mouth-watering photos and well explained recipes, I’ve been using this book semi-regularly since buying it a couple of years ago – he’s got some great salsas, dill pickles, and some unreal sandwich ideas. He’s also got some intimidating looking low & slow style recipes that I’d been avoiding.

But having won a gorgeous new Weber BBQ at the McCormick’s American BBQ Masterclass last year, husband and I decided to use the ANZAC Day public holiday to finally put our fears of meaty failure aside and give it a crack. We used my own personal special dry rub concoction with Levins’ recipe for smoked ribs, and I can’t believe I can say it, but they turned out magnificently!

This book also has really great and helpful tips on everything from how to get the perfect burger to how to slow cook properly; once I actually read through the tips, those intimidating recipes weren’t as scary.

If you’re into your American food, this is a fantastic book to have – everything from mac & cheese and hot dogs to fried chicken, cola & beer braised short ribs and ribwiches are covered, and they’re all doable; they also make for one hell of a feast!

Eat here: Roxy Kebab & Café, Melbourne (Turkish)

Roxy Kebab & Café
26 The Link, Mill Park

It’s Monday, guys. You’re already thinking about how tired you’re gonna be in a few hours. You already can’t be bothered cooking dinner tonight, can you? If you’re lucky enough to live in Northern suburbia like me, that’s ok. You can get dinner organised for you by someone else’s family instead.

Before I start, full disclosure – I only know about this place because my husband knows the family that runs it, but that most certainly hasn’t influenced my thoughts about it (if I didn’t like it, I’d have just not written about it!). If you didn’t know about it and weren’t looking for it, you’d unfortunately be very unlikely to come across it by chance – it’s tucked away behind a big obnoxious Maccas in an otherwise pretty uneventful suburb.

But it’s worth visiting, because this is properly amazing Turkish food. The menu is enormous, and it’s really hard to make decisions, because it all looks so damn good, and the smells coming from behind the counter, where the big slabs of meat are slowly turning, are something else. After much deliberation, and having tried some of the other menu items before, husband and I decided that we wanted meat and lots of it, so we each ordered a small platter ($15.00) that comes with either lamb, chicken, or a mix of both, salad, and your choice of 2 dips.

I went with the lamb + eggplant dip + spinach dip, husband went with the mixed meats + hummus + spicy chilli dip. Hello, meat coma. It’s everything you want from an enormous pile of meat – it’s soft and juicy and tender and perfectly seasoned. And the dips were magic – creamy and smooth, the eggplant dip especially was probably the best I’ve ever had.

Then, because our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, we thought we might also need a spinach and cheese pide ($10.00). We didn’t need it at all – we barely got through the first round of food, but it was the kind of thing you make space for, anyway. Perfect dough, lots of gooey, melty cheese, it’s comfort food.

We were also kindly given dessert to take home with us free of charge; some lady fingers and a birds nest, because those are a few of my favourite things, and they make em good. Drenched in syrup and full of sugary flavour, if you’re going to indulge, you may as well finish the meal off properly with one of these! If you’re a coffee person, they also do that, too, with a cafe set up within the store to compliment the food.

This is one of those places that I could have so easily missed out on without word of mouth, and that would have been heartbreaking. The constant stream of people of all ages and ethnicity, families and groups of friends, take away with the kids and eat in with the husband, was pretty indicative of just how good the food (and service) is there. And that good food doesn’t necessarily need huge marketing campaigns, just good word of mouth!

Roxy Kebabs Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

McCormick’s Grill Mates American BBQ Pitmaster Class & Dinner!

I’ve written before that this blog was started first and foremost for me. It was always designed to be my online journal, a place to record my food and travel adventures. So when my little blog is seen by others and my work deems me worthy of being invited to special events like this one, well it’s just a little bit exciting for me!

I received an email a few weeks ago with a generous invitation to attend a special American BBQ pitmaster class and dinner, in celebration of and collaboration with McCormick’s and their new Grill Mates American BBQ sauces, seasonings, dry rubs and marinades. I was absolutely thrilled to attend, because properly done American BBQ meat is something I love to eat and there’s plenty of it around right now as it’s been gaining massive popularity in Melbourne (particularly at places like The Gem, Le Bon Ton and Nieuw Amsterdam), but I actually don’t have a heap of knowledge on how to do it properly at home.

We arrived at Beer DeLuxe in Hawthorn on Monday night for an evening presented by the McCormick Grill Mates range, which are finally making their way to Aussie shores. We were greeted with big smiles, some pretty nice aprons, and a warning that we’d be getting our hands dirty throwing some food together and eating a LOT of meat! Chef Eric Luhning, his wonderful BBQ cohort Cassie, and their assistant Kat from BBQ School gave us the heads up that one of the several courses of the night involved 16kg of brisket. THAT’S a party!

And as if all that wasn’t amazing enough, I was over the moon to realise that one by one, some of the amazing women I’ve become friends with through blogging were turning up too – Terri at Little Wanderings (and her lovely partner who really knows his way around a salad table), Tian at Eat More, Mon at Mon’s Adventure (and her very irresponsible photographer who you shouldn’t allow in your tent while camping) and Karma at Good Food Good Karma. Let the good times roll!

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Once we all got settled, we were introduced to pitmaster Eric, who gave us an education on BBQ, using some of the 6 BBQs set up for the night – from what equipment to use, how to heat your coals, what to wrap your meat in and how to measure the done-ness of your meat, he covered it all. We thankfully also all got sent home with recipes and further instructions, we got to enjoy the show instead of worrying about writing notes!

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After round one of fun learning time, we made our way back inside to watch our entrees come together, using the Grill Mates range. Before I go on, let me give you a quick rundown of the range (which will now be available at Coles and some independent supermarkets):
Slow & Low BBQ Rubs
– Tennessee Smokehouse
– Smokin’ Texas

Burger Seasoning
– All Star
– Jalapeño & Cheddar

Dry Marinade
– Chipotle & Roasted Garlic

Sauces
– Sweet Pepper Steakhouse BBQ Sauce
– Brown Sugar Bourbon BBQ Sauce
– Vintage Smokehouse BBQ Sauce

For our entrees, we used that Jalapeño & Cheddar seasoning on some chicken along with a little coriander, which was thrown on the grill and cooked up for our quesadillas, and we got the All Star seasoning in with some beef mince and onion for our sliders. I followed the suggestions on the menu above, and put some of the Sweet Pepper Steakhouse BBQ Sauce on the slider, and tried the other two out with the quesadilla.

Let’s pause here for a second and talk product:
1. That Jalapeño & Cheddar seasoning is seriously delicious. Oh wow… strong enough to give the chicken an amazing flavour, subtle enough to allow the chicken to still taste like, well, chicken – perfect! I’m also thinking it’d be a perfect savoury popcorn seasoning…
2. Vintage Smokehouse BBQ Sauce – this will now be the BBQ sauce against which all other sauces shall be measured. For me, it was the perfect, smoky BBQ flavour which you could use with just about anything. I love.

Ok, let’s move on to more food for now. We got a crash course on brisket preparation, being encouraged to lovingly and thoroughly rub that slab of meat with reckless abandon. Mon certainly seemed to enjoy herself under some very passionate guidance from Chef Eric…

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While the meat that Chef Eric lovingly started cooking at 9am for our 8pm dinner was pulled off the heat and brought inside, a men versus women salad challenge was going down. 3 on 3, taking turns to choose two ingredients each. I hate to betray my fellow ladies, who certainly gave it a good crack, but the boys smashed it with their choices which included charred corn off the cob, lime, coriander, fresh chili, tomato and red onion. Top notch salad, boys!

But let’s get to the good stuff. The meat. The most tender pork imaginable, which had been marinaded with Chipotle & Roasted Garlic dry marinade was pulled and doused with BBQ sauce. A big, sexy lump of brisket, which had been paired off with the Smokin’ Texas BBQ Rub was sliced like butter. And the ribs, rubbed with the Tennessee Smokehouse, came out so tender that a knife wasn’t entirely necessary to separate them.

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Quick side note: I’ve also been reminded as I’m typing this that there was beer matching going on throughout the meal. Husband was the official beer taster, there was a pale ale, an IPA and a stout involved, and they were all very good I’m sorry I can’t tell you more – I’m not a beer girl, myself! He was also a happy man because he got the “money muscle,” that sexy bit of flesh below, all rendered and fatty and marvelous. Happy anniversary, love!

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Cassie and Kat kindly covered the table in deliciousness, and we just got stuck right into it…

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Not to state the obvious, but holy wow the food was INCREDIBLE!! Surprise dish of the night for everyone, I think, would have been the babyback ribs… I’m comfortable saying that they were the best, most magnificently cooked pieces of BBQ meat I’ve ever had the honour of eating.

As for the McCormick range that was used on the meat, A+. I’ll state the often unsaid obvious here, that when you’re invited to something like this, you’re usually a little skeptical about just how good the product is really going to be. Having tasted it myself,  I’ll quite happily join Burger Mary (AKA Jess Pryles) in endorsing this stuff, and I’m not even being paid to do it! The whole point of the range is to make American BBQ easier, less intimidating, more accessible and a little more entry level for us mere mortals who do not possess the mad BBQ skills of guys like Eric. Their aim is to take the really hard parts like making sure your proportions of seasonings are right and getting your apple wood chips to infuse smoke into your meat out of the process by ensuring that smoky flavour is already in the seasonings. And that’s something I’m all about – yes, it would be amazing to be a fully fledged pitmaster and do EVERYTHING from scratch, but the reality is that we don’t all have the time, knowledge or confidence for that. By having the right seasonings for the meat, you’ve already got a massive head start in making it all taste good, which means more people might be willing to give it a crack themselves!

After all of that, when a bleary eyed glance around the room showed the meat sweats and comas already kicking in, dessert was served – a cinnamon and chili BBQ brownie, which used some of the Grill Mates seasoning and was actually cooked using the BBQ! Amazing!

To cap of an amazing night, we were all spoiled with a gift box full of Grill Mates seasonings and sauces, and I was also lucky enough to walk away winning a shiny new Weber grill – cannot wait to get back from Japan so I can test this out!!! And thank you SO much McCormick’s – I honestly don’t win things very often/ever, so this was one hell of a prize for me, and such a great end to an amazing night!

Cook this: mini meatloaf with roast veggies (gluten free, low FODMAP)

Know what really sucks? When you’re sick and can’t eat your usual “sick day” food. You know what I’m talking about? That thing you make every time you’re really, really feeling crap – the only thing you can stomach, the one plate of food you know will make you feel a little better. Mine is a bowl of pasta (preferably penne or spirals) with a little melted butter and salt. That’s what my grandmothers used to make me when I was sick as a little person, and that’s what I still crave, even now. Just plain, boiled pasta, with a bit of melted butter. Stupid low FODMAP crap won’t allow it, though (ohh gluten, my good friend, can’t wait to get you back in my life!), so I’m suffering through this stupid bloody flu without it.

That’s ok though – a few weeks ago, I found this amazing recipe for a FODMAP friendly meatloaf on Strands Of My Life – I played around with it a little and now have a back up, sick day, winter comfort food dish – happy days! It’s not a gourmet dinner (we take advantage of tinned tomato soup here), but it is warm and comforting, and, more importantly (particularly when you’re sick), it’s quick and easy. It also makes for pretty good left overs, and you can mess around with the herbs and spices as much as you want to get whatever flavour you feel like. So, here’s how we do mini meat loaves with roast veggies for winter-flu-feel-like-crap dinner!

Ingredients (makes 4)
– 2 slices gluten free bread (or a cup of oats if you don’t have any bread)
– 1 tbsp paprika (I like the sweet smokey stuff)
– 1 tbsp dried basil
– 1 tbsp dried oregano
– salt & pepper
– small handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese
– 1 egg, lightly whisked
– 300g beef mince
– 300g pork mince
– oil (any is fine, but my preference is garlic infused olive oil, to give it all a bit more flavour, seeing as I can’t actually use onion or garlic in the meatloaf)
– 2 tins tomato soup (just check the ingredients – don’t want any FODMAPs in there, and gluten, lactose, onion or garlic are the usual offenders)
– veggies of choice to roast (I like zucchini and eggplant)

 

 Method
1. Put the bread (or oats), herbs, spices and cheese into a food processor, and process until crumbs form. Also, now is a good time to pre-heat the oven for your veggies.

2. Pour the crumbs into a large bowl, add the egg and meat, and mix together well with your hands, then shape the meat into 4 small loaves.

3. Heat a large pot over medium heat with a little oil, and brown off the loaves until they all have a nice, golden brown crust.

4. Reduce the heat to low and add the tomato soup. Place the lid on the pot and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through – it’s a good idea to turn the meat loaves every now and then so they cook evenly.

5. While the meat loaves are cooking, get the veggies into the oven to roast, as well.

6. Serve up your mini loaves with roast veggies and the tomato soup poured over them.

 

P.S. apologies for the poor quality of photos – they were just still too hot and steamy, and I wanted to dig in and eat before they cooled down hehe

Eat (& drink) here: Munich Brauhaus, Melbourne (German)

Munich Brauhaus
45 S Wharf Promenade South Wharf, Melbourne
http://www.munichbrauhaus.com/

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Winter is coming! Finally! I’m not a summer girl. My pale, porcelain doll complexion, love of tea drinking and book reading in my PJs, serious lack of body confidence required for skimpy summer attire and generally introverted nature are far more conducive to a perfectly cold European winter than a sunny Melbourne summer.

I’m not really sure what it was about the winter I spent in Italy with my family when I was 17, but ever since, cold weather has always made me think of Europe. They know how to do winter right: beautiful warm coats and leather boots, gorgeous markets in snowy town squares, and properly warming and comforting food. While most people would probably think of Oktoberfest at a place like Melbourne’s Munich Brauhaus, all I could think of was how nice it was to come out of the cold after an exhausting week into such a big, warm place with some great friends and food that just screams “let me warm you up!”

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An already large front bar gives way to a cavernous dining hall, where the appropriately dressed staff and continuously flowing drinks promise you a good time before you’ve even made it to your seat. We settled in and ordered a pretzel each ($4.50) to get started while we read through the menu. Dense, warm and doughy, perfect way to start the meal! It was also nice to know that my pretzel recipe is actually pretty spot on comparatively!

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The menu choices, both food and drinks, are extensive, so we decided to try it all with the tasting plate. We had the option of one tasting plate each, or we could have it brought out on one big, communal board. “They ring the bells when they bring it out to you!” Sure, let’s get the giant sharing board…

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And to the accompanying ringing of the bells, a procession emerged from the kitchen, carrying the board of carnivore dreams. $41 per person will get you a selection of five different types of sausages (I don’t really know what they all were, but everyone really enjoyed them!)…

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… a pile of pork that included a big, juicy pork knuckle which is what you can see front and centre below (after having sat there for an hour, we realised that around 80% of the other diners had ordered pork knuckles of their own. It’s bloody amazing, and if you’re only going to get one dish when you visit, make this it; juicy, tender pork shelled in salty, crispy, golden skin. It’s all your meat dreams come true), crispy golden schnitzel, and the most heavenly crispy skinned pork belly with the most perfectly rendered fat and tender meat…

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… oh, and don’t forget the sides! Mashed potato, sauerkraut,red cabbage, apple sauce and bier jus, to create the absolute perfect package.

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For $41 each, we rolled out absolutely and completely stuffed. But don’t be tricked into thinking it was just quantity; this is one of those rare instances that you’re getting absolute quality as well. The tasting plate is the best way to get a proper taste of it all because when faced with the menu choice of pork knuckle OR sausages OR pork belly, I mean, how do you choose between children like that?! Everything was cooked perfectly, and there wasn’t a single thing on that monster board that any of us really disliked.

Another big plus was the staff – I’ve been here more than once now, and they do such a great job of making sure everyone is looked after (no mean feat in such a massive place); as soon as an empty stein was placed on the table, a checkered shirted staff member would magically appear to offer another one. They helpfully offered the boys the cheaper happy hour beers when they ordered more expensive ones initially, and knew the dessert menu back to front, with helpful suggestions thrown in, too. They do such an awesome job of being insanely professional and still creating such a fun atmosphere at the same time – you wouldn’t believe what a well-oiled machine they are unless you’ve seen them at work!

So, as the weather turns colder in Melbourne and you and yours are looking for a place to warm up with some steins and sausages on a Friday night after work, make your way over to Munich. You know, if you can’t quite afford a plane ticket to Germany for real. It’s a solid substitute for the night!

Munich Brauhaus on Urbanspoon