In Melbourne, a city full of food and obsessed by coffee, I cook, I eat, I share the good news and the bad. essjay eats

Event: Nuffnang’s Blogger’s Banquet at the Hyatt


FreebieALertRecently I was invited to dinner at the Grand Hyatt Collins Kitchen by nuffnang, the blog advertising people.  It was nice to get together with some bloggers I know well, some I’m getting to know, and some I’ve not met before.  It didn’t take long for us to be engrossed in a conversation about food (der!).   Somehow the Hyatt gang managed to shut us up for a few minutes and we moved from the bar to the restaurant proper.

It’s a nice room, I like the booths over Russell Street a lot – very cosy.  We split into two (noisy) tables and settled in.  We shared out table with David Li, Director at nuffnang, and the other table was hosted by Sarah Stokely from nuffnang and Lucy Owens from the Hyatt.

On reflection, it was a little bit silly to go for Chinese New Year Yum Cha for lunch (as yummy as it was…), as the nuffnang / Hyatt team really fed us well.  First we were introduced to Executive Chef, Jason Camillo who didn’t seem phased by the food nerds he was talking to, and we all joined him for a tour of the open kitchens.  I’ve seen a bit of the “food station” action in Singapore 5 star hotels, but this is the first time I’ve seen it in Australia.  I’m keen to return for breakfast /brunch to see the dimsum station in action, and to check out their omelettes.

For food nerds though, the ability to walk around the open kitchen stations was enticing, and we were all invited to do so, with Jason as our guide.   It did feel a bit strange to be invited to look at the kitchen and take as many photos as we wanted.  I’m normally pretty discrete with my photo taking, and getting more discrete nowadays as everyone is a “blogger” it seems, so it was positively relaxing to be encouraged to take photos.  Rather than the kitchen staff being “exhibits”, it felt a bit like we were being stared at by the staff (not in a bad way – but with curiosity and politeness)  heh.  Bloggers in their natural habitat!


Fresh wasabi waiting patiently to be grated and gobbled!

So of course, the wasabi was noticed and commented on as soon as we entered the kitchen (did they place it there on purpose?) Even the price per kilo didn’t phase most of us, we just wanted to know where to get our hands on some! This gave Jason the perfect opportunity to tell us about how they like to source their produce as locally as possible – but I was surprised that their mozzarella comes from Queensland, when there are Victorian makers (Shaw River for one, and another I will write about soon).

Anyway, the wasabi showed up a bit later on a platter of some of the best sashimi I’ve had in Melbourne.


Sushi Station at Collins Kitchen


Sushi and Sashimi Platter

Next station along was seafood grill.


Four little bugs, a school of prawns and some angasi


Seafood grill tasting plate

Ahead – the good ship “sliced smoker and cured meats”…


The huge mirror hanging over the deli section

My favourite, smoked meat, dried meat, tomotoes roasted in the wood fire oven, lots of cheese…a hand cranked slicer…


Jason looking pretty relaxed about talking to us food nerds – and a shiny red thing!


Antipasto platter produced by the deli section

The rockmelon was delicious and sweet and a great foil to the proscuito; next the “liverwurst” though (almost a terrine) was fan-bloody-tastic  and worth a trip back for it alone;  air dried wagyu; some grilled vegies; and roasted tomatoes with some of the afore-mentioned mozzarella.

And I’ll got back to have a decent go at their “cheese fridge” as well…


Fridge of cheese! 


Funky heat lamps

Around the back of the pizza oven (half wood fired, half gas) we walked past the Jet Woks (the large S/s things behind the plates).  These made an amazing sound everytime they were brouight into action, we could hear them from our table quite a bit further away.  This got us all a bit excited about wok hei, and we were also quite excited by the large number of steaming plates and the thought of too many dim sum.  The platter representing this station was a selection of Chinese roast meats; pork belly, chicken, duck, roast pork- some wokked greens.


Chinese roast meat platter


Steamers, begging to be filled with dim sum


Teeny weeny cast iron pots

So next stop – the grill station.  I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t slabs of meat on display to choose from (or did I miss them?) but these darling little red post were destined to be filled with creamy, buttery mash and served alongside an 800gm hunk of aged, grain fed porterhouse.  Grain fed isn’t usually my favourite meat, and that opinion wasn’t changed by this slab’o’meat, but it was nicely cooked and smelled amazing! Cooking it on the bone ensure it has a decent flavour, and it was nice to be presented with the bone on the plate, but removed for easier eating.


Slab ‘o’ beef


Dessert platter – thankfully to share!

Back past the patisserie section which boasted a delightful smell and a slightly bemused chef…we returned to our tables to eat the platters of food from above.  By the time we got to dessert it was *groan* time.  Thankfully, David studiously ignored that the banana millefuille was only really divided into 4 pieces (and that was a technical skill beyond many!), next to it is a chocolate fondant, some gelato (pistachio was my favourite), a “melba” which looked like a pannacotta but wasn’t, and you can’t see the rhubarb and strawberry crumble at the end.

*oomph* – stuffed!

I’m not sure if the open stations concept will capture the imagination of “middle suburbia”, but I’m fairly sure the quality of the hotel breakfasts wont have suffered any for the transition.  I was quite surprised at how swank the Hilton looks these days, and will be trying to tempt workmates in for the lunchtime special next time we plan an outing.


A “blogger” of DSLRs?

Also poking around the kitchen and whipping out the DSLR were a whole bunch of other bloggers…

Agnes from Off the Spork
Maria from The Gourmet Challenge
Sarah from Sarah Cooks
Adrian from Food Rehab
Penny from Addictive & Consuming
Thanh from I Eat Therefore I Am
Melissa and Danny from Tummy Rumbles
Shellie from Iron Chef Shellie
Billy from Half Eaten
Neil from At My Table
Joyce from Melb: Hot or Not

I stuffed myself courtesy of nuffnang and the Collins Kitchen.

Collins Kitchen, Grand Hyatt

123 Collins Street

Melbourne VIC 3000

Phone: (03) 9657 1234


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