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A few months ago, I heard about a fabulous little Melbourne organisation called "Scarf Community." For those of who you don't know about this brilliant organisation, let me tell you a little bit about it... Scarf provides hands on hospitality training to marginalised youth who might not otherwise be able to afford or get access to training or employment. They "borrow" restaurants around Melbourne from some very kind, generous owners who are willing to lend their venues to the Scarf crew on Monday nights (the traditional hospitality night off) for a 10 week period, over which the students are able to hone their skills in providing a real dinner service to real, paying customers, while being helped along by their mentors.
The mentors involved in Scarf are all people who currently work in the hospitality industry, and volunteer their time to guide their charges along their way, providing them with both industry knowledge and connections. Upon finding out about this amazing organisation, I knew I had to get involved, and immediately emailed to arrange a dinner booking.
We arrived at Mixed Business (486 Queen's Parade, Clifton Hill) at 8:30pm on a cold, Melbourne night for our dinner booking, and wondered on in just as a large group was leaving, so we stood around for a minute or two before someone realised we weren't with the departing bunch. We were quickly shown to our seats, just by the bar/counter.
Our table was set with an eclectic mix of plates and knitted napkin holders, which I loved - it had a very homely, welcoming feel.
After a few minutes, our wonderful waiter took our drink order, and then presented us with our menus. A two-course set menu for $35, we had the choice between three entrees and three mains.
With our orders placed, we waited another five minutes or so before our waiter came back with some bread and olive oil for us... great way to get our hunger happening!
We waited only another five or ten minutes before our entrees came out. Sous-Jeff ordered the potato, leek and bacon soup with crispy parmesan, and I ordered the risotto with roasted salmon, basil, fetta, lime and spinach.
Sous-Jeff enjoyed his soup, especially the crispy parmesan. It tasted like a beautiful, comforting, home cooked meal, which was perfect for the freezing cold night.
|Potato, leek and bacon soup with crispy parmesan.|
I'm actually not at all a salmon eater, but the combination of lime, fetta and spinach made me decide to give the risotto a try. I am soooo glad I did! Although there wasn't a strong fetta or lime flavour, it was creamy and the salmon was perfectly cooked. I really enjoyed this dish, even more so because I was so apprehensive about it!
|Risotto with roasted salmon, basil, fetta, lime and spinach.|
Next out were our mains. Sous-Jeff went with the braised chicken with fig and pomegranate molasses and cous cous, and I went with the Osso Bucco Milanese.
The chicken wasn't at all what we'd expected - we thought it might come out as a chicken breast or thigh covered in sticky, fruity sauce, on a bed of cous cous. What Sous-Jeff had placed in front of him instead was a stew-type bowl of chicken with a bowl of cous cous on the side. The chicken had a strong cinnamon flavour and was well cooked, and again Sous-Jeff felt like he was eating a beautifully home cooked meal.
|Braised chicken with fig and pomegranate molasses and cous cous|
My Osso Bucco had high standards to live up to, and it didn't disappoint. The veal was so tender and soft, it just fell off the bone. The sauce was delicious too, but lacked a flavour punch - it was just a bit under seasoned.
|Osso Bucco Milanese|
With dinner done and dishes cleared, we were handed a dessert menu. Well, I just can't say no to dessert, so we decided upon a piece of cake and a shared plate of home made sweets.
The raspberry cake was beautifully presented, but unfortunately for me, had quite a bit of cinnamon in it. Sous-Jeff was happy to capitalise on my misfortune and gladly polished it off! Thankfully, he left the berry compote for me, which went down very, very nicely with the small bowl of vanilla ice cream that was served with it. At an additional $12.00 for the cake, we did however feel like it really wasn't very good value for money.
|Raspberry cake, $12.00|
The plate of homemade sweets was gorgeous! A pink little meringue (which tasted a little like rosewater...), a yo-yo with a creamy, sugary filling, and a delicious little chocolate chip cookie all disappeared in the blink of an eye, and they were all beautiful! Perfect way to finish a meal, and at only $2.00 for the plate, it was a winner for us!
|Plate of homemade sweets, $2.00|
After dinner, I met up with the lovely Jess, who is one of the mentors and leaders at Scarf. She showed me into the kitchen, where our wonderful waiter was preparing to take out his next round of dishes. We also said hello to some of the other happy faces around the Scarf kitchen, the wonderful people who brought us our fantastic meal.
Our receipt for dinner, along with some Scarf info and business cards came out to our table in this gorgeous little, homemade pocket, which pretty much summed up our evening; warm, comfortable, homely.
It was a fantastic evening, and I really was impressed by the level of quality food and service provided by the Scarf team, remembering that they're not yet professionals. It truly is a credit to the hard work put in by the wonderful volunteers and students, and I was so happy to have the opportunity to support such a fantastic cause. If you haven't yet had the pleasure, I can't recommend attending highly enough. A lot of hard work, care and love went into our meal, and it was evident on everyone's faces that both the diners and the "staff" were truly appreciative of the opportunity. Our waiter, in particular, was a perfect gentleman; we were greeted upon arriving, farewelled upon leaving, and approached with a smile throughout the entire evening. A huuuuge thanks must go to him for making our night so lovely :)
If you'd like to support this wonderful organisation, a 2 course set menu dinner will only cost you $35.00 per person, with a range of beer, wine and soft drinks, as well as desserts available to you.
Email Jess at email@example.com or call on 0488 777 527 to make a booking!
Would rate it 7 out of 10.