A chocolate waterfall on Phillip Island

28 09 2011

The second day of the bloggers’ trip to Melbourne, made possible by Tourism Australia, Jetstar and omy.sg, looked to be an exciting one, even for the less adventurous ones who decided against going on a helicopter ride or hurtling down the snow lined slopes of Mount Buller. There was the promise of penguins of course – but what was to start a visit to Phillip Island, a two-hour drive south-east of Melbourne was a visit to a chocolate waterfall near Newhaven. At the start of the trip, the wet and wild morning that was very evident threatened to give us a real waterfall instead as heavy rain pelted on the windscreen of the rental that Tourism Victoria’s Media and Trade Relations Coordinator, Tony Poletto, drove us in. The grey skies accompanied us throughout the drive up to the point that we reached San Remo, from where a bridge connects the mainland to Phillip Island and what welcomed us to the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory were bulls and brilliant blue skies.

The brilliant blue skies that greeted our arrival at the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory.

The overhead lines of the trams seen against the backdrop of the grey skies through the rain pelted windscreen of the car as we started the journey.

The coastline close to San Remo on a wet and wild morning.

Stepping inside, we were greeted by Panny Letchumanan, whose brainchild the chocolate factory and Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate is. Panny who hails from – would you believe it – Klang in Malaysia, after a short introduction, led us through a corridor lined with mock chocolate into his Amazing World of Chocolate, but not before we were reminded not to lick the very real looking mock chocolate lining.

A reminder not to lick the walls.

Inside, we first came to an educational exhibit of the steps in the chocolate making process from the harvesting of cocoa to the finished products we see on the shelves, which anyone, chocolate lover or not, would find interesting. Further in, we were greeted by some amazing chocolate creations. These include an eye-catching 12,000 piece chocolate mosaic of Dame Edna Everage – a popular Australian TV character, a huge one tonne block of chocolate, and a miniature village crafted completely out of chocolate complete with working model trains. It is also in Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate, that we encounter Phillip Island’s chocolate waterfall. Some 400 kg of molten chocolate flows over what should really be called a chocolatefall once every three minutes – an amazing sight!

The 'chocolate waterfall' over which 400 kg of molten chocolate flows once every three minutes.

A wheel indicating when the chocolate would fall over.

A mock cocoa tree at the Educational Exhibition section.

A mosaic of Dame Edna created entirely out of chocolate.

A miniature chocolate village.

We were also able to try our hand at our own creations – which we could eat. Valyn, of the Best Fashion Blog fame tried her hand at something better – a weird combo of wasabi and cola flavoured chocolate made at the press of a few buttons and the pull of a lever at Panny’s Amazing Chocolate Machine. One bite of that was certainly enough to clear the sinuses! As we walk through there is also a section where we are able to see chocolate being moulded and it was at this juncture that the short but thoroughly enjoyable tour of Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate ended and it was time to say our goodbyes after a quick look around the retail shop and Pannys Chocolate Café.

Valyn making her cola-wasabi bar at Panny’s Amazing Chocolate Machine.

Chocolate making.

The Retail Shop.

Phillip Island Chocolate Factory
930 Phillip Island Rd
Newhaven VIC 3925
Tel: (03) 5956 6600
Fax: (03) 5956 6823

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

Brief history of Pannys and the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory

A tin shed on a busy road may not the ideal spot for the next big thing on Phillip Island, but Panny Letchumanan has been able to turn an underperforming coffee shop into a stunning tourist attraction in just a few short years. The Phillip Island Chocolate Factory at Newhaven is home to Pannys, both the chocolate brand and the man himself, and has become a key destination for chocolate lovers.

Panny has led a fascinating life. Born in Malaysia of Indian heritage, he trained as a Mechanical Engineer and worked extensively in his chosen field throughout the coconut and cocoa plantations of Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. He moved to Australia in 2000 to join his family, who had relocated earlier, and purchased a chocolate manufacturing business in Queensland.

The brand Pannys was born. In November 2005 he relocated the business to the tin shed in Newhaven and commenced his relentless evolution of his business.

A true mechanical engineer just cannot leave something alone. Panny started to tinker with the chocolate making as soon as he bought his business, driven to perfect the process.

The secret behind the best chocolate is the blending of ingredients and the tempering process and Panny was keen to crack the formula. Tempering is where the fats naturally found in cocoa are crystallised through gentle heating. If the blend is right, and the tempering process achieves the right type of crystallisation, the chocolate becomes glossy, firm and snaps crisply. It also tastes superb.

Once Panny had perfected the art of chocolate tempering, the ideal fillings were the next challenge. His signature chocolate is a white truffle, a sample of which is given to each visitor as they enter the building. Its name is a bit of a misnomer, as it is neither white nor a fungus. It is a milk chocolate bud with a soft and gently sweet filling that cannot be described. It is only after tasting one can you learn how skilled Panny has become as a chocolatier.

Pannys offers a range from traditional bars through to chocolate truffles in a wide range of unique designs and flavours. There is a vast assortment of hand made delicacies, ranging from traditional creams through to the exotic. A favourite for those in the know is a chilli infused truffle that starts sweetly and finishes in a warm, spicy sensation.

Pannys daughter, Nithia, is the custodian of the chocolate truffles and spends many hours lovingly creating tray after tray. She also sculpts chocolate creations that are works of art in their own right. Currently there are six chocolate people on display, one of which is an accurate replication of Panny himself, a range of houses, and a collection of designers shoes that should get every fashionable girl in a bit of a tizz. Should they eat the shoes, or start collecting the full range?

The tinkering hasn’t ended with the chocolates. Panny’s passion is to develop an A to Z chocolate experience, the first stage of which open last December. Pannys Amazing World of Chocolate is a fascinating, interactive and educational celebration of all things chocolate. Visitors move through a series of display spaces, each dedicated to a facet of chocolate, where they are invited to get “hands on” in the process. Chocolate in history, chocolate in advertising, chocolate in art and chocolate in play are all explored in this unique and wondrous world. The chocolate factory can also be observed in action, with the entire production facility on full view with Pannys team creating chocolates non-stop.

The self guided tour concludes with the opportunity to make your mark in chocolate on the Swirl machine and design your own combination of flavours using Pannys Amazing Chocolate Machine. With flavour combinations of milk, white or dark chocolate coatings and fillings that can consist of any and all combination of strawberry, cola, vegemite and wasabi, there is the chance to see if you have the flair to create a signature chocolate.

Pannys team includes two other leaders of their industries. Geoff Moed from Amaze N Things and Keith Tucker from Megafun have partnered with Panny to develop the Amazing World of Chocolate. In a highly competitive market it is refreshing to see businesses working together, proof that a joint venture can provide a greater result than the sum of the individuals.

Pannys current focus is the re-engineering of his café and retail outlet. Pannys Chocolate Café has recently been extended and reopened with much acclaim. A new menu of chocolate desserts combined with ever popular favourites can now be enjoyed in a bright and airy café. The deck has been extended, providing the chance to enjoy the fine Phillip Island weather when enjoying a fine Pannys feast. And every coffee is served with Pannys white truffle, making it even more tempting to stay for a feed. The retail area is the next focus, and is about to be doubled in size.

Panny is not about to slow down. His vision for The Chocolate Factory has many more stages ahead of it, although for the next twelve months the focus is on building the skill of his team and delivering the ultimate chocolate experience to his customers.

Pannys is open 7 days a week from 9:00am and is located at 930 Phillip Island Rd Newhaven. Ph 03 5956 6600 or email info @ phillipislandchocolatefactory.com.au.


Low and slow at The Atlantic

22 09 2011

From the highs of the Eureka Skydeck 88, we moved on to our next stop where we explored the lows of The Atlantic – our dinner destination where we were to savour the low temperature cooking genius of one of Melbourne’s celebrated chefs, Donovan Cooke. The Atlantic, a restaurant sited at a prime waterside location at Melbourne’s Crown Entertainment Complex, draws its inspiration from the famous meat packing district of New York, as well as the hustle and bustle of the fish markets of yesteryear and may perhaps be the jewel of restaurants in the Crown. Donovan returned last year to Melbourne, a city that remembers him well for his previous stints there, after a spell as the chef de cuisine at the Derby Restaurant and Bar at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, to helm The Atlantic as its Executive Chef and partner.

The Atlantic is set in a prime waterfront location in the Crown Entertainment Complex.

Donavan Cooke the Executive Chef of The Atlantic.

Walking through the bustle of the restaurant’s floor and past the open kitchen and oyster bar designed by none other than Donovan is enough to get the gastric juices flowing in anticipation. We sat down in a private room surrounded by fish nets, lit by the glow of the wine cooler that served as the wall on one end. Studiously examining the pre-selected menu, I saw that a four course dinner awaited us, starting with a Yellowfin Tuna Tartare – which I somehow couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into.

The open kitchen designed by Donovan Cooke.

Fishnets add to the ambience of the restaurant.

The reverse side of the menu. The Atlantic strives to provide the diner with a true ocean to plate experience.

As always, there was some excellent wine to accompany the meal – we started with a sparkling 2006 Yarrabank Cuvee selected to complement the started of raw tuna, horseradish and Iberian ham and the excellent company perfectly. Donovan Cooke then made an appearance; giving us the low-down on the low temperature cooking techniques that he employs which was to feature on the next two dishes on the menu.

We started with a 2006 Yarrabank Cuvee.

The Yellowfin Tuna Tartare we started with.

The first of the two, Citrus Marinated Olive Oil Confit King Salmon, cooked at low temperature for a long eight minutes appeared on the table. Orange and served with a slice of orange, the piece on the plate bore the colour of raw salmon. Half expecting the taste of raw salmon, which I often enjoy, I was pleasantly surprised to bite into a very smooth textured piece of fish which was oozing with the rich flavours of the citrus marinade – a heavenly piece of perfectly cooked, albeit raw looking, salmon that seemed to melt in my mouth. The salmon was accompanied by 2008 Gioiello ‘Reserve’ Chardonnay.

The very raw low temperature cooked Citrus Marinated Olive Oil Confit King Salmon that melted in my mouth.

Next came another melt-in-your-mouth delight – Braised Wagyu Cheek, which did not just melt in the mouth, but provided me with a sensory treat, even if I thought it might have been a little too salty. The Wagyu cheek was another that was prepared with low temperature, braised for a total of eight hours until it literally dissolved as I bit slowly into each and every bite of it. This was complemented by a Shiraz – a 2006 Moortangi ‘Old Vine’.

The Braised Wagyu Cheek - another one that melted in the mouth.

The sommelier explaining the selection of wine.

Pete was his usual animated self, as Eric looks on somewhat bemused.

Donovan Cooke at work.

After that wonderful treat of salmon and beef, it was time for dessert – Vanilla Panna Cotta – my second panna cotta of the day. This was served with Persian fairly floss and strawberries and was perfect to bring what was a perfect end to a thoroughly enjoyable first day in Melbourne. There were to be two more days of adventure that awaited us, but for the moment – the meal was all that I wanted to remember Melbourne for.

A sinful end to a perfect evening - more panna cotta ...

... and coffee ... to keep me from falling asleep ...

The Atlantic
Crown Entertainment Complex
8 Whiteman Street
Southbank VIC 3006 Australia
Tel: (03) 9698 8888
Fax: (03) 9698 8899

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

The post has also been featured on the Atlantic’s website:

The Merchant of Venice

15 09 2011

I am just back from an extended stay exploring the world’s most liveable city, Melbourne and the area around it, first with nine other bloggers on a 4 day, 3 night adventure courtesy of Tourism Victoria and Jetstar, and then on a self-drive adventure of my own. Although it wasn’t my first visit to Melbourne, I did come away with a collection of wonderful impressions, that included some of its best in dining, an appreciation of its friendly people, vibrant culture, and rich heritage, and the what lies beyond greater Melbourne and its environs. It is probably too much to really describe, but it will be something that over the next few weeks, I will try my best to do.

A selection of cheeses greets the visitor to the Merchant which is inspired by the culture of Venice and the Veneto.

The serving counter at the Merchant.

Some of the Venetian inspired fare on offer at the Merchant.

The adventure started with a delectable treat at an Osteria inspired by the rich culture of Venice – a perfect way to start the short, but what proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable time in a city which is informally referred to as the dining capital of Australia. The Osteria, the Merchant, was founded last year by one of Australia’s leading chefs, Guy Grossi and Grollo family, both of whom have links to the Veneto. The Merchant, set in a red brick historic building within the forecourt of the Rialto Towers which once served as a trading house, provides an ideal setting for the Osteria, and one that certainly provided a welcome to an excited group of ten bloggers. Accompanied by an excellent selection of wine, a three course meal awaited us, one that included some of the finest ingredients.

The Merchant is set in a historic red brick building which is now part of the Rialto Towers forecourt off Collins Street.

We started with a King Valley La Zona Prosecco.

Chrismont La Zona King Valley Wines accompanied the meal.

The choice of a starter wasn’t difficult – I can never resist a mouthful of prosciutto. That, Parsuto on the menu, came served on a wooden board and a tong – an interesting way to start the meal, and the rich flavour of thin slices of dry cured pork in the form of nothing less than Prosciutto di San Daniele seemed to be brought out by the prosecco which accompanied the starter. The main course for me was fish of the day, flat grilled – Il pesse de uncuo alla piastra – grilled to perfection – each mouthful was a pleasure. Dessert was Spuma di Castagne con pera cotta, a delightful but very sinful chestnut panna cotta served with slices of pear poached in amarone.

Choice of a starter, Parsuto - Prosciutto di San Daniele served on a wooden board.

Choice of Main Course - Il pesse de uncuo alla piastra - flat grilled fish.

Spuma di Castagne con pera cotta, a delightful but sinful chestnut panna cotta served with slices of pear poached in amarone.

Bloggers and Tourism Victoria representatives were able to mingle over the wonderful lunch.

A double espresso that saved me from the effects of lunch.

With a belly full of scrumptous Venetian fare, fine wines and prosecco, it wasn’t had to be transported to the Veneto, and for a while, it did feel like I might have been floating through the canals of Venice in a Gondola and passing under the Rialto. But that did not last long as we all too soon had to make a move, not under the white arch of the Rialto Bridge, but the glass and steel of the towering Riato Towers – the next adventure awaited some of us braver ones – a bicycle ride through Melbourne, and that I will ride through in my next post.

A very satisfied customer - Valyn Lim, winner of the Best Fashion Blog.

The Merchant
495 Collins Street
Melbourne Vic. 3000.
Tel: (03) 9614 7688
Fax: (03) 9614 7211

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.