Review: Up In Smoke, Footscray

I lied. Sometimes, just sometimes, I will venture outside of my East/South-East bubble for food. If you’ll allow me to co-opt a musical classic: I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more, just to be the one who walks a thousand miles, to gorge myself on smokey American BBQ meaty goodness. 

When a friend came and visited from Sydney earlier this year, we decided to make our way to Up In Smoke in Footscray for some finger-licking goodness. I would recommend making a booking if you have any more than four people (we had five), as there is a slight wait without a booking. As it was, we ended up seated outside on a high table in the beer garden – which under normal circumstances wouldn’t be so bad, but was a bit difficult considering it was a very warm day.

Guacamole with tortilla chips, $12AUD

We started out with some smaller bits and pieces to share – the Guacamole with Tortilla Chips first. I enjoyed the guacamole, but others thought it difficult to share as it was still very chunky. There certainly weren’t enough chunks of avocado to go with the number of chips provided – somewhat of an oversight.

Hush Puppies, $8AUD

The Hush Puppies were ridiculously crispy and crunchy, almost exceedingly so. The ratio of batter to actual creamy goodness inside was a little off, and I think it would have benefited from a lighter hand with the deep fryer. 

The Big Tray (pulled pork. brisket, pork sausage, apple slaw, succotash, milk buns, pickles) $48AUD

This is the piece de resistance – a sharing platter of the Big Tray including pulled pork, brisket and sausage. While it doesn’t look like much, it’s actually quite filling and more than suitable for a group of five people. My highlight was probably the brisket – smokey, and tender to the point of almost melting in your mouth. It went remarkably well with the soft sweetness of the milk buns.

Apple, fennel and dill slaw

One of the sides with the Big Tray is the Apple, Fennel and Dill Slaw. While fennel isn’t an ingredient I would normally use as I’m not a big fan of aniseed-type flavours, this was surprisingly fresh and mild in flavour, pairing well with the sweet apple and stronger dill. A lovely refreshing salad for a summer’s day.

Smoked chorizo succotash

The Smoked Chorizo Succotash is another side that comes with the Big Tray. This is my favourite type of easy salad mix that I make quite often at home, with a good mix of beans, corn and capsicum. The spicy chorizo and fresh spring onion in this mix was a real winner.

Up In Smoke is a prime example of an eatery that does their specialty very very well. The smoked meats, brisket in particular, were superb but the non-meaty entrees we ordered were mediocre at best. If you’re to visit Up In Smoke, I recommend gorging yourself on smoked meat goodness, and giving non-meaty entrees a hard miss. Sorry vegetarians and vegans!

Up In Smoke is located at 28 Hopkins St in Footscray, Melbourne.

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.