Despite what many may believe, I do have other interests beside food and one of those is music. So much so that we hopped into the car for an hour and a half road trip down to Bendigo for the annual Groovin the Moo festival, hosted by triple J and featuring both Australian and international artists. The festival was sold out and the atmosphere was buzzing.
And what is a roadtrip without the mandatory Maccas drive-thru breakfast? Yes, even foodies like myself eat at McDonalds occasionally.
There is something special about Groovin the Moo. I’ve made the trip to Bendigo twice before and there is a sense of community. Everyone has either travelled from Melbourne, or lives in the country, but it takes a level of dedication and commitment. Everyone is there for the music, which I might add was fantastic. Standout acts from Australian bands like Hungry Kids of Hungary, Flume and Tame Impala studded a lineup of international stars including The Kooks, Temper Trap, Frightened Rabbit and Example. While music is a passion, it’s not my area of expertise. I’m sure you can read some great reviews of the festival at the Triple J website.
My specialty, of course, is the food. At the festival there were some familiar faces (or wheels) but I promise a post in the future dedicated to these.
It wouldn’t be a weekend away without breakfast out at a local cafe. We stayed in the lovely Goldfields town of Castlemaine. In the past few decades, this small rural town has become much more popular. Only half an hour from Daylesford, it has become a second Toorak outside of Toorak. The weekends are booming with those travelling from Melbourne for a regional getaway just two hours out of the city. It began as a town of the gold rush, around 1851, and has since established itself in arts and culture. The ‘trendy’ factor has settled in, and with this the opening of many new cafes and restaurants. Apple Annie’s isn’t quite like what you find in Melbourne but it is a wonderful mix of patisserie/bakery, organic vegan and lazy Sunday brunch.
Apple Annie’s isn’t on the main street which makes it slightly more exclusive. When you first walk in, you have to pass the bakery section. This is a very clever tactic as the pastries look incredible, and you can watch the pastry chef at work while you decide. Handmade croissants, danishes, eclairs, tarts, panna cottas: I suggest you sit down to have breakfast but make sure you have a bit of extra cash to buy yourself a croissant for later.
The atmosphere in the cafe is relaxed. You order at the counter and nothing is done in a hurry, which is a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the city. The menu is an interesting combination catering for the simple country life, the health nuts and rich decadence. The coffee is their own blend, and completely organic (as is the milk). The drinks menu offers LSD (soy and dandelion latte: not the hallucinogenic) and elderflower spritzer made from their very own tree. My long black was smooth and pleasant.
For food, my sweet and savoury teeth were at war between brioche French toast with poached apple and dulce de leche or the scrambled tofu with grilled tomatoes. Savoury won out and my dish came piled high with deliciously spiced, perfectly fried soft tofu and a mini mountain of fresh rocket.
My other diner ordered something a bit more indulgent with mushrooms on toast in a rich and creamy white wine sauce. If the country knows anything, it’s value for money and both the dishes were huge. We both struggled to finish. Never fear, your avocado on toast and poached eggs haven’t been forgotten and also appear on the menu.
At the end of the meal, I took my own advice and grabbed a croissant (which I couldn’t eat for a few hours thanks to my very satisfying breakfast). It was beautiful and buttery served warm, with a crispy crunchy exterior and soft, delicate interior: a perfect snack for blog-writing.
Apple Annie’s is a gorgeous combination of trendy and traditional. Don’t expect the level of trend that we consider in Melbourne: the definition is a different one out here. The space is small and cosy, with an outdoor courtyard for those sunny days. Most of the produce is local, organic or homegrown (or a combination of these), so you know you’re getting a Castlemaine treat. If you’re passing by on your way to or from Bendigo, stop by for a Paris Breast (choux pastry, brandy cream and almond praline) or a handmade almond croissant. You’ll need to keep up your energy for the drive.
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133 Domain Rd
(03) 9866 5627
Sometimes, it’s fun to stereotype Melbourne’s suburbs. I don’t do it all the time, and I know it’s a broad generalisation. I know that not everyone in Carlton is a student, nor everyone in Fitzroy a hipster. It’s the same to say that not everyone living in Kew goes to a private school or everyone in Richmond is on heroin. However, if you want an argument for stereotypes, head to Louie on Domain Rd in South Yarra. When I think of South Yarra, I think of wealthy middle-aged women who care about their appearance. When I walked into Louie, there were a lot of middle-aged women in exercise attire. This may have had something to do with the fact that if you sit out the front, you’re looking straight into the Botanical Gardens and the tan running track.
It may have something to do with the drinks list. My long black was strong and piping hot, and there’s the trendy new addition to most coffee menus: cold drip. The process involves ground coffee beans steeped in room temperature or cold water and is usually served over ice.
The cold drip at Louie is served in the most gorgeous little corked flask. My “cute” sensors were going right off. The citrus and acidic tones were much more subdued in this blend as opposed to others tried. My juice was served in a jar. I’m a sucker for presentation and Louie ticked all the boxes. I went with the green detox: a sweet, but not too sweet, blend of apple, kale, cucumber, celery and flaxseed with just a hint of bitter to remind you that you are indeed drinking vegies. It was refreshing and I felt pretty cleansed afterwards. The other juices include ‘Mother Earth’ and ‘Tan Health Shake’ so you’re pretty pressed to find something that won’t boost your morning antioxidants.
The South Yarra crowd may also have something to do with Louie’s breakfast menu. When I first arrived, I was a little disappointed. The menu was extraordinarily brief, with few menu items and all incredibly healthy or simple. When I head out for breakfast, I’m rarely looking for simple so I chose the most complex thing I could. Sweetcorn fritters. As I said, the menu was brief. My dish, however, was not. Two large fritters were topped with a tomato herb salad, smooth smashed avocado, soft and silky goat’s cheese and a poached egg. The sweetness of the corn, the slight resistance of the fritter, the saltiness of the cheese: the flavours had a hint of Mexican and was all delicious. The dish was surprisingly large and I was not disappointed.
My dining partner, inherently male, wasn’t quite as impressed by the significant lack of meat on the menu (it can only be ordered as a side) so he just stuck with poached eggs on toast with a side of woodsmoked bacon. I have to say, from watching him first open up the eggs, that they were poached superbly. There was nothing particularly exciting about the dish, but you can’t go too wrong with a classic.
Walking into Louie felt a bit similar to my post on LBSS, as it is a converted residential home in which the rooms have been retained. As I wanted the view of the gardens, I failed to wander inside until after my meal. This was a mistake, as I couldn’t fully appreciate the wonderful mural on the wall with Melbourne well-wishes.
I really enjoyed Louie. The food was all real, all healthy and all simple but delicious. It’s probably not somewhere to go with a meatloving, carbcraving male (oops) or with a hangover, but better off with the girlfriends or other health conscious individuals. As the Sunday morning went on, the place began to overflow and clearly they are catering to the right crowd for their area. It may not be somewhere to drive long distances for but if you’re in the area get decked out in your exercise gear, go for a walk around the botanical gardens then go reward yourself with a health shake and breakfast at Louie.
8-10 Railway Pde
(03) 9831 1400
When I discovered that a good friend of mine, Oscar Rigo, was a chef, I got excited. I’m a foodie, he’s a chef: clearly this would work. Well, I proceeded to learn a little more. Oscar began training in Toorak’s fine dining restaurant Da Noi and since has worked in the kitchen of Church Street Enoteca, establishing his skills in Italian cooking. At twenty, he became the head chef at the beloved Journal Canteen on Flinders Lane, where his skills only broadened. His latest endeavour, an appointment as head chef at Camberwell’s Coffeehead and redesigning their menu, has allowed him new heights in creative ingenuity. So after a brief chat with Oscar, I headed to Coffeehead to both support a friend and relish in the opportunity to be one of the first to sample a new menu.
The love of coffee at Coffeehead is evident from the moment you walk in to the moment you leave. The wall is lined with a huge range of beans available for sale along with plungers, filters and other coffee related merchandise I couldn’t even begin to name.
The coffee machine is a flurry of activity and at any one time there are five different beans grinding and ready. The baristas are introduced by name, like they’re your best friends, and by the end of your visit they will be.
As the long black and cappuccino were brought to the table, we were informed that they were Ethiopian single origin and 1961 blend respectively. As the name suggests, they take their coffee seriously here and trust me, it pays off. Mine was strong, bitey and just what I needed on this cold and rainy autumn morning.
The stomach starts rumbling and attention diverts to the food menu. To me, coffee and breakfast go together like salt and pepper, or pork and apple. So when I told Oscar that I was coming to check out his new menu, I naturally assumed to come in for breakfast. After I saw the lunch menu, I kicked myself (just a little) because it looks fantastic. Oscar’s Italian training and influence is evident, with dishes revolving around calzone, risotto and house made rigatoni. It was the kingfish carpaccio salad that caught my eye but alas, the day called and lunch kicks off at 11.45am. As much as I’d have loved to, I couldn’t spend three hours drinking coffee and waiting.
Oscar’s new menu, when compared with the old, comes back to quality over quantity. The options aren’t endless but are diverse enough to please the fussy and the extravagant. I’m not usually one to choose something sweet for breakfast but I saw poached rhubarb and was sold. Sweet burst of dried fruit and gluten free grains make up the muesli, which was served topped with unsweetened dollops of labne and poached rhubarb, served with a cute little jug of milk for my own pouring pleasure. The muesli is sourced from one of the Porgie and Mr Jones crew, Georgie, and her new muesli range. The poached rhubarb is the perfect combination of sweet and tart.
When it comes to savoury options, Coffeehead offers your favourites: eggs your way on toast, salmon and cream cheese bagel, the big breakfast, pork rillette croquettes with and apple and walnut salad…wait, what? My dining partner, also being a bit of a foodie, couldn’t help but order this. The shredded pork was crumbed and fried and the saltiness was set against the sweetness of the apple, with the added crunchy walnut texture. It looked delectable, and I was informed that it was an unusual, but hearty and delicious, choice for breakfast. What did I say earlier about pork and apple?
Oscar’s passion for the food is evident when you speak to him. All the ingredient are specially sourced. The grilled ham dish uses Andrews Choice, from Yarraville, and was voted best ham for 2012. The salmon is cured in house and the process takes two days, which presents as a problem when it’s so popular that they sell out. The bagels are five and dime and the muesli is so local it’s from the next suburb over.
Nothing is left to chance here. The food and coffee is treated with an ultimate respect. No ingredient is subpar and the baristas would rather die than serve you a poor coffee. The service is attentive and the space is big and bustling. Coffee buffs definitely shouldn’t miss and those who go to a cafe for the food, you won’t be disappointed either.
Many uni students will understand the despairs of finding good food, and good coffee, on campus. The irony of course is that studying minds need nourishing and copious amounts of caffeine. Instead, we are met with mass produced snacks and burnt coffee beans. However, those adventurous enough to meander past the boundaries of learning, especially at Melbourne University Parkville campus, may find themselves pleasantly surprised.
Le Miel et La Lune is only five minutes away from the university and is a great place to drop in on your way to class for your morning takeaway coffee hit, or sit down and have a meal if you have an hour or two to spare. It can be translated directly as Honey and the Moon. Once you know this, the gorgeous logo of a bear makes a little more sense. The cafe itself is small but the bustling atmosphere is testament to quality, despite not-so-student-friendly prices. Table and counter tops, along with the chairs, are all wooden and the fit out is clean and simple. I loved the plant-trimmed hangings, bringing a spot of nature to the city otherwise minimalistic fit out.
There were no tables when I arrived, so I drank my skinny cappuccino from a bar by the service counter: a great idea for a quick stop. The beans are from Proud Mary and the coffee smooth as silk. I was kindly informed when a table for two was ready and felt by the attentiveness and friendliness of all the staff.
The menu itself is interesting and yet simply presented. Lunch and breakfast tend to combine in an ‘available all day’ fare. The menu has a surprising Asian twist. The osso bucco is described as a “Korean ragu” and pickled daikon, or tofu and miso sauce pop up in otherwise western dishes. Never fear. You’ll also find classics like poached eggs or French toast.
I opted for the Yuzu chicken salad and was served a tangy, crunchy salad atop pieces of crispy, marinated chicken. The flavours were undoubtedly Asian, with strips of cucumber and bean sprouts combined in a tangy, citrus dressing. I tasted the orange before I saw the shredded pieces and the end result was fresh and punchy.
“I really regret having a breakfast dish for lunch,” said no one ever. So my partner decided to give in to her sweet cravings and ordered the fruit bread with honey ricotta. Despite the slices being small, the bread was dense and studded with dried apricots, dates and raisins. The presentation was immaculate. The bread was served on a wooden board with a fresh, golden dollop of ricotta coated in honey. The simplicity is ingenious and sometimes the my desire to try the most interesting, complex or signature dish on the menu means I forget about that the classics are so for a reason.
If you do want to go for complex, I would suggest the pork belly. It comes served with potato hash, three types of mushrooms, a wasabi dressing, a poached egg and is served pile high on the plate. It is something to behold, and eating with my eyes, I got a bit of food envy.
Unfortunately, the price holds me back from frequenting regularly. It is, however, great for a catch-up with an old friend that you haven’t seen in a while or other small special occasions. The coffee is great, the food is delicious, the space is light thanks to a huge window and the atmosphere is welcoming. I would recommend as a treat to yourself if you were in the area.
Le Miel et La Lune
330 Cardigan St
(03) 9043 9767
I know that when I walk down down a deserted alley, head up a set of dimly lit stairs lined with intricate photo frames and find myself at the doorway of a dark bar with jazz music, candle lit tables and a balcony onto Swanston St, I know I’ve stumbled on something good. I first ventured to Cabinet Bar and Balcony over three years ago, only because a friend’s boyfriends older brother had been recently employed there. Since then, the secret has leaked and what was once a quiet, exclusive and hidden gem is now bustling with people and overflowing with life. Never fear, the newfound popularity has only done the place wonders and the quality is as good as ever, if not better.
The location is prime. Rainbow Alley juts off Little Collins St and you’re smack bang in the middle of Melbourne’s CBD. My most recent visit was a Tuesday, and I was quick to make the most of all day happy hour. $5 house wines and $3 draft beers: the student’s dream. If your tastes are more refined, the large blackboards display an extensive wine and cocktail list. It was not my drink of choice on this night, but the Michelle’s Moment cocktail (named after a bartender and a signature at cabinet) is my ultimate favourite.
The bar menu at Cabinet is small but satisfying. Lamb shanks, gourmet toasties and cheese platters all feature. I opted for a bowl of the eggplant chips, recommended to me on my first visit all those years ago. I’ve never looked back and a trip to Cabinet isn’t complete without them. They’re served hot, I mean really hot, so try to wait a minute before digging in. The crunchy fried breadcrumbs contrast the fleshy roasted eggplant, the chips are thick sliced and the aioli has the perfect amount of tang. What’s even better? You can justify eating chips because the basic ingredient is a vegetable. That’s what I tell myself anyway.
On top of the bar finger food, Cabinet is (or at least should be) famous for its flatbreads. They come served on a wooden board and have a pita bread base. The topping options are sophisticated and my choice (duck with blue cheese, mushrooms, spinach and a plum sauce) set sweet with salty and the textures were divine. The four other combinations are just as tempting and, I can say from experience, just as tasty.
I’ve always thought of Cabinet as a great place to catch up with old friends in Winter with a glass of red wine, or the best way to make a good impression on a first date. The food is good, the drinks are better, it’s easily accessible, it’s warm, it’s comfortable and it’s relaxed. Despite being full, the service was superb and the food served quickly. Cabinet was one of Melbourne’s best kept secrets, but now I’d just call it one of Melbourne’s best bars.
Cabinet Bar & Balcony
11 Rainbow Alley
(03) 9654 0915
There are so many elements of Melbourne that I love. I love its cultural diversity; I love its alleys and laneways that are impossible to navigate, blanketed by street art. Mostly I love that regardless of where or at what time I’m wandering through the CBD, I know I can find something delicious, different and affordable to satisfy my hunger cravings. It’s not really a surprise that Wonderbao fulfils all these loves in one extremely delectable hit.
Wonderbao can be approached from two entrances, both of which are as obscure as the other, and the view from the window is a deserted, cobbled Melbourne laneway. The menu is simple and specialises in what the name suggests: bao. For those who don’t know, bao is a type of Chinese bun filled with various stuffings and steamed in large bamboo steamers. The dough is soft and sweet and the fillings can range from sweet to savoury, meat to veg.
I was feeling particularly hippy, so I decided on the vegetarian options. The choi bao was filled with cabbage, mushrooms and tofu. You watch as the staff pull it straight from the steamer and serve straight to you in a little cardboard tray. You know it’s fresh when you tear open the delicate bun and the fillings are steaming. The Asian flavours of soy, garlic and chilli blend with the shredded veggies. It’s definitely tasty.
Probably the more interesting menu options are the gua bao. Literally meaning “sliced wrapper”, it is considered as the Chinese sandwich but looks more like a mini, thick taco. The fillings of are more intricate and layered. The fried silken tofu sat on a bed of coriander, topped with a thick, sweet soy sauce and crushed peanuts. The wrapper is chewy, the tofu is soft, the peanut is crunchy and the coriander enhances the flavour. It’s a party in your mouth but prepare to get it everywhere in your attempts to fit it in.
The meatlovers of my party informed me that the roast and braised pork belly gua bao options are similar. The meat is exquisitely tender, flavoursome and cuts through the sweetness of the sauce. The Char Siu bao, filled with BBQ pork, was described as the best ever eaten and is probably closest to the classic bao we know and love from local Chinese dumpling houses. However the meat was more tender; the flavour more complex.
They do serve drinks too. The fridge is filled with a selection of Chinese iced teas, but more unique is the homemade soy milk served in a takeaway coffee cup either hot or cold. If you don’t like soymilk, this probably isn’t for you but I’m a huge fan and enjoyed the sweet, nuttiness of the beige coloured brew.
For a great cheap snack or lunch when passing by, Wonderbao is the place to experience some of the Asian culture around Melbourne’s CBD. There is very limited seating, just one small bar with a couple of stools, but if the weather’s nice sit in the alleyways behind the store and take in the street art, just like the local RMIT hipsters.
19-37 A’Beckett St
(03) 9654 7887
Welcome to my very first post.
But let’s not dilly-dally. Let’s get stuck straight into it. This is what you’re here for, this is why you popped by and even if it’s not, have a read anyway. You may learn something new.
Little Big Sugar Salt
You may ask what drugs I’m taking, or how many knocks to the head I’ve taken recently but no, I don’t have Tourette’s and am not screaming out random words. LBSS, or Little Big Sugar Salt, is the newest addition to the Abbotsford/Richmond cafe scene. Brand-spanking new in fact. Less than a week ago, they opened their doors to the likes of Victoria St and are, in their words, ‘Next to all the heroin’.
At first, I felt like an intruder walking in on something private. The cafe is tiny and in a converted residential home. This quickly changes when greeted by the more than friendly staff. I was offered a menu, told to sit wherever I liked and asked straight up my drink of choice. Despite most of the owners being Australian, most of the beverages (and the cafe’s manager Jesse) hail from our neighbours (New Zealand, not my actual next door neighbours) including a local delicacy, Six Barrel Soda. If you haven’t heard of it or tried it, have a look here. Much deliberation got me a vanilla creme flavour (a bit like creamy soda with hints of plum) but there’s also cherry and pomegranate or lemon. It was served in a little glass with a stripey straw. I was already charmed. The coffee also hails from New Zealand, with a fair trade brew known as People’s Coffee.
When it comes to food, LBSS has stuck with the KISS principle. Keep It Simple Stupid. There are only eight items, two each of combinations of little or big, sugar or salt and it veers away from your typical Melbourne fare. Firstly, it’s not egg based and you’ll find items like crumpets with peanut butter and blue cheese, or lemon curd and marscapone (items that definitely require tasting in the future).
Read the fine print on the menu and have a bit of a giggle. I opted with a Little Salt, or ‘The Health’, to justify drinking soda with breakfast. Chunky, smashed avocado mixed through acidic tomatoes, crunchy green beans and herbs, served on gluten free toast (the good kind, not the cardboard kind) with vegemite. Wait, what? Those that haven’t discovered the vegemite and avocado phenomenon, it’s worth the punt and the saltiness rounds out the plate.
My significant other went with a Big Salt, the hash cakes. This was a bit of a gamble, as the menu tells you nothing. However, it pays off. Thick hash cake squares are served with thickly sliced, cured, double smoked, free range pork (from the belly), delivering stacks of flavour. It’s presented on a sauce of curried caramelised onion and all that salt is cut by an apple and pomegranate salad. I did ask about the meat, and I did get the general idea but the details were lost when I got distracted by the gorgeous Kiwi accent. It may have been due to the nature of the lazy Monday morning and the priority was not to pump customers through the door, so the food took its time but it was well worth the wait. There was no need to ask if we were done. The plates were essentially licked clean.
The vibe is casual, if not a little bit indie. There is modern artwork, an old Black Keys vinyl sounds through the cafe and the resident Black Moor fish swims in circles in his fishbowl. The space is small and most tables are communal, so the environment is inclusive and friendly but it’s probably not the place to come with a big group. If you’re nearby, or even if your not, duck in for a refreshingly big hug (metaphorically, of course).
Little Big Sugar Salt
385 Victoria St
(03) 9427 8818