Review: Pontoon @ St Kilda Beach, Melbourne – Best Eggplant Fries Ever!?

Melbourne is widely touted to be one of the world’s most livable cities – and for good reason. Not only does the city play home to a vibrant arts and culture scene, it also has gorgeous nature and sandy beaches just a stone’s throw away from the city centre.

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One of these beautiful spots – also Melbourne’s most popular beach – is St Kilda. A short tram ride away from the CBD, the beach’s deep blue waters are popular with surfers and swimmers, and the beachfront is lined with trendy eateries and chic restaurants. There is, of course, the beach’s iconic pier, and if you’re lucky, you might spot some of the local wildlife like penguins wading around the water at sunset.

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It was late afternoon by the time my friend Stephen and I got to the beach, and many of the shops were closed after lunch service. We ended up at Pontoon, which has an all-day kitchen. Like its namesake (pontoon is a type of small boat), the restaurant boasts a chill ambience with a nautical theme – wooden tables that look like the decks on a boat, hues of blue and yellow, and an outdoor patio where diners can enjoy their food and drink in the sun. Apparently the building where Pontoon is located, which also includes fine dining resto Stokehouse and casual kiosk Paperfish out front, was razed in a fire in 2014 – so the version we’re seeing today is a refreshed design.

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If you’re into drinks, Pontoon offers a wide selection of wines, beers and cocktails. I believe this was a Negroni of some sort – not a big fan of alcohol tbh gasp.

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Stephen’s order of Lamb sausage with fennel compote, charred capsicum sauce and herb salad. Huge and juicy, with a slight char on the outside – what more can one ask for?

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We were there on Steak Wednesday, so I got the 300gm Porterhouse with Chimichurri sauce (20AUD). Good, affordable steak is hard to find in Malaysia, and its even harder to find a place that does it rare just right (they’re either raw or overcooked), so I was glad to be able to enjoy this in Melbourne!

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Perfect degree of doneness, and the chimichurri’s salty, garlicky flavours really helped to accentuate the taste of the meat.

 

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The highlight of the meal was the Chips De Berenjena – eggplant chips and pomegranate molasses served with aioli dip – which Stephen ordered as a snack. I ended up filching most of it. Eggplant chips are easy to make but notoriously difficult to perfect, as they absorb oil and get soggy, but the ones served here were top notch. Crisp on the outside thanks to the light batter, whilst still being moist and soft on the inside. Possibly the best eggplant chips that I’ve ever tasted anywhere!

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Pontoon is located next to Paper Fish, facing the beach front at St Kilda’s Beach.

PONTOON 

30 Jacka Blvd, St Kilda VIC 3182, Australia

Opening hours: 12 PM – 11PM (Mons – Thurs), 12 PM – 12AM (Fri – Sun)

Reservations can be made on pontoonstkildabeach.com.au

Empire Steak, Teacher’s Village Quezon City

BY the time we got back to Manila from Tagaytay, it was already dark. E and I decided to go to Teacher’s Village in Quezon City for dinner. We ended up at a small, unassuming shop called Empire Steak, which was filled with customers (>people = good food, right?)

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It was already 8pm and we were both very hungry since our last meal was at 1pm. The wait for seats took about 15mins.

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Basic decor, simple tables and chairs that could fit about 15-20pax max. We placed our orders and waited eagerly, our stomachs rumbling….

…..and waited

……and waited

…..and waited

It took a whole hour for our food to arrive. It wasn’t just us as the other patron who arrived before us was also getting impatient. I mean, how long does it take to cook for a group of 20pax in your shop? I can’t imagine how long the waiting time would be if there had been more.

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To be fair, their steaks are cheap (PHP250)  – I got mine with rice, their ‘premium gravy’, some stir fried beans with onions and runny eggs atop a slab of steak, done medium rare. The gravy wasn’t good as it had an odd, ‘soapy’ taste; like it was trying to hard to be mushroom or black pepper and failing at both.

The steak was okay; a little overdone….but I’m definitely not waiting a whole hour for a steak that tastes meh.

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E skipped the eggs. He was pretty annoyed too lol and that’s saying something, since he’s the patient one among the two of us.

Reviews on the net have been positive; it was even touted one of the best places to get steaks under PHP500. I don’t deny it’s cheap, but the service and waiting time leaves much to be desired.

EMPIRE STEAK

154-D Maginhawa Street Brgy. Sikatuna Quezon City, Manila, Philippines

Phone: 63 917 612 2912

Opening hours: 11am-3pm, 5pm – 10pm – 11pm (Fri-Sat).