Review: The Mill, Melbourne CBD

Nobody likes a good bargain more than me – have you ever heard of me extolling the virtues of the Entertainment Book? (Of course you have, I talk about it all the time!) While I don’t use it as often now that I’m not dining out all the time, by splitting the book with my brother, I still get some good discounts when I do go out to eat.

A family dinner at The Mill Restaurant in Hardware Lane earlier this year is a good example. We stopped in for a quick dinner after K and I finished work, and before we dropped my dad off at the airport before his late night flight overseas for Chinese New Year. With a 25% off offer (up to $35 value), it essentially meant that one person in our group of four dined for free – bargain!

We managed to grab a table by the window overlooking Hardware Lane. While it was a mid-week evening, there’s still always lots of people-watching to be had in one of the busier food precincts in the city.

Pan-seared salmon with fennel and Jerusalem artichoke puree and garden salad, $22AUD

First main – the Pan-seared Salmon. If there’s one complaint to be made about this main (and honestly, with all the mains we ordered), is that there’s very little focus on what goes on the side. While the salmon was cooked adequately and had a nice crispy skin, the side salad was absolutely pitiful. 

Special of the day – Bacon-wrapped steak with black pepper sauce and chips

The daily special of the Bacon-Wrapped Steak is precisely what your doctor would tell you to avoid to maintain better health. Who can turn down crispy bacon and juicy steak though, especially when served with a generous amount of crispy and crunchy golden chips on the side?

The Mill Burger with a homemade patty, prosciutto, cheddar and pickles and Chips, $21AUD

The house-made Mill Burger was served with the same crunchy chips on the side but surprisingly, it was the burger itself that was the highlight. The fat and juicy burger patty was seared to perfection with just the slightest hint of a charcoal crust, the cheese was melted and the extra hit of prosciutto really brought it all together on the soft sesame-crusted bun. Great example of a simple burger done well.

Roasted chicken breast with crushed potatoes, glazed peach, beans and broccoli, $25AUD

We finished off with the Roasted Chicken Breast, which was unfortunately a tad dry. Again, four limp green beans and half a potato do not make a great veggie side – and the glazed peach was a strange addition that didn’t add much to the dish overall. 

The Mill Restaurant offers a fairly standard modern Australian menu with the requisite steaks, burgers, chicken, fish and Italian pasta options. While you won’t find anything particularly innovative or mind-blowing on the menu, the prices are reasonable (especially if you dine with a discount) and the atmosphere can be quite cheery with the noises and laughter of Hardware Lane spilling into the restaurant. Just make sure you order some veggies on the side to share!

The Mill Restaurant is located at 71 Hardware Lane in Melbourne CBD.

Recipe: Pressure Cooker Chicken, Chorizo and Chickpeas (adapted from Serious Eats)

Note: this recipe is adapted from Serious Eats 30-Minute Pressure Cooker Chicken With Chickpeas, Tomatoes, and Chorizo Recipe to better suit an Australian audience on a budget using the Phillips All-In-One Cooker. Budget and grocery shopping notes are in italics.

Total cost for six serves: approximately $19 (not counting vegetable and carb sides), or $3.17 per serve.

Ingredients

  • Tablespoon of olive oil
  • Two chorizo sausages
  • Two medium-sized brown onions
  • Tablespoon of paprika
  • Tablespoon of dried chilli flakes
  • Drop of liquid smoke
  • Two cans of chickpeas
  • Two cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1kg of chicken pieces
  • 350ml of chicken stock
  • Half a lemon
  • Parsley to garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Slice the chorizo into thin slices.
You can buy chorizo on half-price sale at least once every two months at either Coles or Woolworths. When they go on sale, I’ll usually buy a dozen and freeze them to use over the coming weeks. This takes the cost down to $1.50 per chorizo, rather than $3 per chorizo.

Set your pressure cooker to Sauté/Sear – High Temp for two minutes. Heat up the olive oil in the pot, and leave the chorizo in to fry until slightly crispy.

Slice the onion into thin slices, and add to the pressure cooker. Add another three minutes to the Sauté/Sear – High Temp mode.

After three minutes, add the washed and rinsed chickpeas, diced tomatoes, and chicken stock and stir.
Canned goods like chickpeas and diced tomatoes go on sale regularly, it’s worth stocking up when they hit about $1 a can. Alternatively, you can buy them for about 90c a can regularly at Aldi. You can also make your own chicken stock to save money, or buy it from Aldi for about $2 for a litre. 

Add the paprika, dried chilli flakes, and a drop of liquid smoke. 
The original recipe calls for fire-roasted tomatoes – as that’s a bit harder to find in Australia for a good price, I added a drop of Tone’s Liquid Smoke instead. You only need a single drop or two for it to add a wonderful smokey flavour to whatever you’re cooking. A $6.99 bottle can last you an entire six months because you use it so sparingly!

Add 1kg of chicken pieces, and close the pressure cooker. Set it to Manual Pressure Cooker mode for twenty minutes. 
The original recipe calls for an entire chicken cut into pieces – that’s a bit too fiddly for me, so I used 1kg of chicken thigh cutlets (six cutlets in total) instead. This was $8.50/kg, but you could go even more budget and opt for chicken drumsticks, wings or maryland (ranges from $3.50/kg – $6/kg).

While the pressure cooker is doing its thing, prepare your sides. I like to just steam up whatever veggies are on special that week – green beans, asparagus, broccoli, etc., or you can prepare a simple salad instead. You’ll also want some carbs to soak up the yummy sauce – rice, cous cous, or use spaghetti as I did as I had an unused half pack. 

Release the pressure in the pressure cooker, and open the lid. Keep it on a high temperature (back to Sauté/Sear – High Temp Mode) and stir until the sauce thickens up. 

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the pot, and more salt and pepper to taste if needed. 
The recipe calls for sherry vinegar to taste, but I’ve substituted with lemon juice. I don’t know about you, but sherry vinegar isn’t an ingredient that I cook with regularly, so lemons off the neighbour’s tree is my preference!

Serve topped with parsley in bowls on top of your carb base, with veggies on the side.

Review: Marche Board Game Cafe, Melbourne CBD

While I wouldn’t call myself a board game aficionado, I do know my Pandemic from my Ticket to Ride, my Settlers of Catan from Dominion, and my Codenames from Cards Against Humanity. I have a soft spot for board and card games that align with other interests (Marrying Mr Darcy and Lords and Ladies for example), and can’t wait for my latest Kickstarter-backed card game Polite Society to arrive.

However keeping up with all the latest release board games can be an expensive habit, and one that can challenge the storage capacity of our relatively small apartment. 

That’s where Marche Board Game Cafe comes in. Located on the city fringe, it’s a Taiwanese-run cafe where you can sit and enjoy a drink or a full meal while playing one of the many board games they have in stock – all the fun without the commitment of buying the game yourself. Priced at $12 per person for three hours, you get a free drink as well.

They are relatively flexible on this pricing though. For instance, we were there with some friends for about five hours early on a Saturday afternoon when the cafe was quiet (it gets busier at night), ordering a meal and a drink each (approximately $16 each) and were able to stay for the full five hours.

Ice Matcha ($6) and a Black Bubble Tea ($5)

I opted for an Iced Matcha Latte and K chose the Black Bubble Tea as it was a steaming hot day when we visited. Both drinks were weaker than we would normally prefer with the barest hint of matcha in mine. While it does the job in quenching one’s thirst during an afternoon of gaming, it’s nothing to write home about.

Taiwanese Lurou Fan ($9)

As we got there around lunchtime, we ordered some meals as well, starting with the Taiwanese Lurou Fan – or Braised Pork Rice. Most Taiwanese will tell you that this is generally considered to be typical comfort food with each family having their own twist on the standard recipe. Truth be told, I was a bit disappointed with this dish as the pork wasn’t as juicy as I would typically like and the egg wasn’t braised and seasoned as strongly as usual. 

Taiwanese Sausage Fan ($12)

The Taiwanese Sausage Fan / Rice is self-explanatory, a bowl of rice with some pickles on top, along with a generous serving of Lurou and slices of sweet Taiwanese sausage. Very simple and deceptively filling even though it does look like a smaller serve. 

If you haven’t tried Taiwanese sausage before, it tends to be a much sweeter sausage with a higher sugar and fat content. You can sometimes find it at Cantonese-style BBQ shops – the ones with roast duck, roast pork and soy chicken hanging in the windows. 

Taiwanese Paigu Fan ($12)

Finally the Taiwanese Paigu Fan – or Spare Ribs Rice. Again topped with Lurou, the pork spare ribs were a bit on the dry side unfortunately. 

Combo A with chips, chicken nuggets, calamari rings and spring rolls ($15)

Towards the end of our gaming session, we got a bit hungry again – so I ordered a Combo A sharing plate of chips, nuggets, calamari and spring rolls. No doubt most of this is straight out of the pre-packaged freezer section of the supermarket. Suffice it to say it helps to staunch any hunger pangs sustained through intensive gaming.

Marche isn’t somewhere that you would go specifically for the food or drinks. The quality is indifferent at best, but it more than fulfills its primary mission – keeping one fed and watered during a long afternoon of playing board games. 

Marche Board Game Cafe is located at 64 A’Beckett St in Melbourne CBD.