Hortus x Seven Seeds – Bringing Green to Docklands

panda 4 rating
Latte at Hortus Latte at Hortus

Melbournians are always on the lookout for great coffee and where I work at Docklands we are always on the look out for places serving up delicious coffee. Enter Hortus café brought especially to Docklands from Seven Seeds.  It is an initiative by The City of Melbourne and Places Victoria designed to give the residents and folk of Docklands a place to meet.

Hortus which means “garden” in Latin is a new temporary pop-up space complete with greenery and coffee, located near the famous “Cow in a tree” by the water at Docklands. The café is a collaboration between Carlton Seven Seeds and art/architecture studio Utopian Folk. This pop-up venue is in the form of a greenhouse which features a garden that showcases native and edible plants from local artist Lauren Berkowitz and can seat up to 50 people – both indoors and outdoors. The theme is light, airy and welcoming – thanks to the streaming of fresh light and the lightly coloured wood used.

Hortus is run by Jake Sullivan who is head barista at Seven Seeds, and is predominantly here for its great coffee. Coffee consists of Seven Seeds espresso blend, alongside rotating single origin coffees. There is also room to play around with different coffee varieties, extraction methods and machinery. There are some foodie treats such as sweets from Matt Forbes’ famous Yarraville Cobbs Lane and sandwiches etc from Fitzroy’s Rustica bakery.

I ordered a latte which was perfectly made and had a crisp and punchy flavour. The creaminess and softness of the milk made for a delicious combination. It is fantastic to be able to sit outside, enjoy a great cup of coffee whilst overlooking the waterfront. A great addition to the Docklands area.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Atmosphere / Ambience: Great view of Melbourne’s Waterfront and great to just chill out.
Restaurant Details and Location:
131 – 141 Harbour Esplanade, Docklands

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 7am – 4pm


Place Holder – Pop-Up Coffee

panda 4 rating
Latte at Place Holder

There are many pop-up venues arising around Melbourne and the arrival of Place Holder – located in Smith Street – is another one to add to the list. Place Holder is all about coffee and great coffee at that. It has been brought to the lucky people of Melbourne by former baristas – Sam King (Seven Seeds) and Sonam Sherpa (Top Paddock).

Place Holder is located in the foyer of Neometro’s Number Nine Smith Street building – and will be around for about a year until construction on a new development begins. The end result for Place Holder will be a not for profit gallery out the back by Slopes as well as a community garden by 300Acres. Such a great idea and concept for this funky space.

Coffee is of course the main premise of Place Holder, but there are small bites on offer as well in the form of cookies, cakes, lamingtons as well as small pots of muesli from Silo by Joost (Refer to my blog post at http://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/a-healthy-but-delicious-green-option-silo-by-joost/ ). Coffee is from Seven Seeds and Small Batch with single origin specials from Market Lane, Everyday Coffee and Top Paddock will be rotated seasonally.

The fit out is simple and they have made use of the space they have with little wooden tables and stools to sit an enjoy your coffee. There are also some higher stools overlooking the coffee machine to make you feel part of the creation process somewhat. It is a very intimate space with the fresh sunlight streaming in – nothing better than the combination of smell of fresh coffee and sunlight.

I ordered a latte – which to put simply was delicious – there was a balanced fruity acidity coupled with the creaminess of the milk which resulted in a great taste left on your palate. Really does make you want to have more than one coffee at a time. Check it out for yourself. Who knows they might even be popping up elsewhere after the year or so of being at Smith Street ends.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual and Relaxed. Especially gareat on a sunny day!
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.placeholdersmithstreet.com/

9 Smith Street, Fitzroy

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7am–3pm
Saturday and Sunday: 8am–3pm

East Elevation – A Definite Favourite!

panda 4.5 rating

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My sister and I headed over to East Elevation for brunch on a Sunday after playing a round of tennis. We got there around 12ish and were told it would be about a 10-15minute wait. We were told we could put our number down and they would give us a call. We wondered around looking at the funky shops around the area – and ended up only having to wait only about 5 minutes!

The moment you step into East Elevation from its large unmarked red doors, you are wowed by the space and lightness of the area, as well as the scent of chocolate. There are still a lot of tables and seating available yet it feels so roomy and not squashed at all. The coffee counter which also houses more of the important things such as the muffins and cakes is situated at the back of the venue, with the centre piece of the venue being the second hand machinery which sits behind a glass wall. If you are seated in this area you can watch as the machine does it work. It also doubles as a workshop to allow you to peer into going ons. There is also a shop area near the counter where you buy a variety of chocolates, which are also made on the premises.

East Elevation is the second venture of Jade Bentley of Monsieur Truffe. Here there still is a focus on the amazing chocolate produced – after all there are not many brands in Australia where the chocolate is made completely on site from the bean. Even if you aren’t a chocolate lover, you simply must try their hot chocolate. There are several varieties available with a special offered daily. Here there is no powder involved – solid pieces of rich chocolate is melted down and mixed with steaming milk for the perfect creation. The percentages range from 69-85% cocoa and they can be identified by country of origin. They come in cute little Japanese style cups – and are a warm, rich, gooey, heaven filled liquid. It really is a must-try!

There are also chocolate appreciation classes that you can sign up for if you want to learn more about the world of chocolate.

The tables are untreated wood and complement the concrete floors and exposed brickwork – to create a relaxed and laid back feel. The exposed brick and concrete floors add the warehouse feel – but the bright colourful yellow sunflowers at the main counter and other plants around together with the sunlight streaming in creates an alluring and welcoming space.

The menu is created by Brian Edwards and covers such a vast variety that there is definitely something for everyone. There are lots of Gluten Free, Vegan and Vegetarian options available as well. Double win! There are your usual dishes like a Veggie Breakfast, The Full Breakfast, Fruit and Sourdough Toast as well as Organic Granola. Dishes with a difference include the Fresh Mango & Coconut Tapioca and Ricotta and Rose Stuffed Crepes – for the sweet dishes – and Black Pudding with egg, Corned beef hash with a fried egg or Heirloom Tomatoes with Grilled Olive Bread – for the savoury dishes just to name a few. At their lunch type of menu there are dishes that include Slat Beef Brisket Toasted Bagel, A savoury Crepe with Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraiche. There is also Smoked Ocean Trout, Chicken, Smoke Sardine Fillets and of course Croque Monsieur. As you can see the menu utilises interesting elements put together to create a dish that sounds delicious – the problem is that you will take quite a while to decide what you want to eat. I absolutely love the variety of choice available and would love to be able to try a little bit of each dish. There is also a Kid’s menu as well as a whole array of extras to choose from.

What is also great to note – especially for the chocolate lovers – is that there is a Monsieur Truffe Chocolate fondue for two people that comes with dark or milk chocolate together with fruit, brioche and a brownie to share – all for just $16.

After looking at the many mouth watering dishes on the menu I settled on the King & Swiss Brown Mushrooms with Baby Spinach, Goats Cheese on Grilled Rye AND the Fresh Mango & Coconut Tapioca with Lime, Strawberries, Pistachio & Passionfruit. What did I tell you about wanting to try a bit of everything =p I ordered a coffee which came with a piece of their signature chocolate on the side. The coffee was delicious – strong, creamy and nutty all at the same time. The coffee comes from Padre and there is also a Cold Drip available.  My sister ordered Freshly squeezed OJ.

My sister ordered the Organic Granola with hazelnuts, Dried Fruit, Honey, Dark Chocolate, Cocoa Nibs, Fresh Nectarine and Natural Yoghurt. I love how this dish was presented. The granola mix was in one large sized bowl, with the nectarine and natural yoghurt in a separate ramekin – and the best part of the presentation – the milk came in a cow shaped pourer (!!) – and all the components sat on a wooden tray/board. Loved it! My sister did enjoy the dish and usually isn’t a fan of yoghurt but really liked the flavouring and the taste of this one.

The King & Swiss Brown Mushrooms with Baby Spinach, Goats Cheese on Grilled Rye – came on a rectangular plate with the rye bread at the base and the mushroom, baby spinach, goat’s cheese all placed on top and around. I added a poached egg which was at the very top of the dish. The poached egg was perfectly cooked and the runny yolk worked well with the flavouring of the mushrooms and the tangy saltiness of the cheese. Overall a really tasty and filling dish!

The Fresh Mango & Coconut Tapioca with Lime, Strawberries, Pistachio & Passionfruit came served in a glass and was a mighty colourful dish. The glass allowed you to view the layers of coconut, mango and then coconut again topped with strawberries, pistachio and peach. The dish was refreshing and delicious – the flavours worked well together as well. The milkiness of the tapioca with the burst of lime and strawberries completed with the crunch of the nuts. My only negative comment would be that the tapioca in some places were a bit “hard” and not as smooth in certain areas. It also came with an extra serving of coconut milk in a little jug on the side if you wanted extra moistness.

I really enjoyed my time at East Elevation – from the food, to the vibe to the friendliness of the staff – it is a fantastic place to just chill out and enjoy the weekends. There is also a cute wheelbarrow out the front where herbs are planted as well as in a planter box at the entrance. East Elevation is on the list of my highly recommended brunch / breakkie places to go – check it out! I will definitely be back to sample some of their other dishes.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://eastelevation.com.au/menu/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Light, Airy, Welcoming and Casual
Standout Dish: Hot Chocolate and King & Swiss Brown Mushrooms with Baby Spinach, Goats Cheese on Grilled Rye
Service: Fantastic and Friendly.
Online Booking: No. They accept bookings Mon-Fri 8am-3pm. Strictly no bookings on weekends.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://eastelevation.com.au/
351 Lygon Street, Brunswick East
Tel No: 9381 5575

Opening Hours:
Breakfast & Lunch
Monday tpFriday: 8am-4pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8.30am-5pm

Dinner 
Thursday & Friday: 7pm -10pm

Space is also available for Event Hire

East Elevation on Urbanspoon

Zaatar – Cheap and Delicious

panda 4 rating

Menu:

Sweet and Coffee Menu at Zaatar Pizza and Pide Menu at Zaatar Menu at Zaatar

Zaatar is located on Sydney Road in Brunswick and is a Lebanese bakery and café – run by brothers George, Ameen and Wadi Choueiri. Their dad Chafic Choueiri was the founder of Coburg’s A1 Lebanese Bakery which was open for almost 20 years, and was only sold as a result of him getting ill.

Zaatar is buzzing from the moment you walk in through the doors and are greeted with the fresh smell of baked bread together with the open and light filled room thanks to the windows all around the venue. There are tables of all different sizes, you can move them around as well to allow many people to sit and there are communal tables which come complete with Moroccan style tiles. Colourful wallpaper located on the back wall, which shows a mural of different doors from all around the Middle East brings a colour pop to the venue.

Zaatar is a Middle Eastern spice blend as well as being a type of herb pizza. Here at Zaatar you can get one of these Zaatar pizzas for just one dollar – definitely bang for your buck! And the taste is fantastic – you get the great blend of spices, salt and oil all cooked to perfection. You can eat it using a fork and knife or simply just fold it over and chew it down using one hand!

There are pies, pizzas, salads as well as small bites available to purchase. Also available are Zoccacias – which is basically a foccacia but done Lebanese style using the Zaatar bread – they include fillings such as Bastouram and Haloumi. Have a look at the pictures for more of the flavours. The favourites such as spinach and Bulgarian feta triangles, and haloumi pies are staple and made with love. There are around 6 – 7 different pizzas to choose from and they even have a Cheese and Vegemite option available. Another feature on the menu is the KAAK – which is the Lebanese bagel – for only $2 and you add any topping you like from 50c to $1. Cheap!

There is also a Lunch Mezza Menu – where you can pick from 3 to 6 different mezza with a dip and a salad for a very reasonable price as well. What caught my eye was the Big Breakfast – which came with eggs, Soujok, Labne Dip, Mint, Olives, Tomato, Cucumber, Lebanese Bread and Classic Lebanese Breakfast Spread.

There are the usual drink such as Coffees, Teas, Ice Chocolate, Hot Chocolate as well as interesting drinks in the fridge such as Vimto – a sparkling grape juice – which made me re-live my childhood. There is also ice-cream available to be bought in very interesting flavours. There are sweets available as well such as Namoura (Semolina Cake) and Mammoul, as well as Muffins and Baklawa.

The Big Breakfast comes with the components all separated out on a wooden board. There is a stone pan which houses the soujok, another one that houses the scrambled eggs and the Salads and Lebanese bread and dip are on a plate. The size is quite over whelming. The soujok was delicious and not dry and combined with the egg and the fresh Lebanese bread was delightful. I did really enjoy everything in this dish – although I must admit – I did leave quite a bit of the “healthy” stuff – like the tomato and olives.

The Meat Pizza – which came with Minced Lamb, Onion, Tomato and Spices was also really delicious. The slices were thin and fresh, combined with the spiciness of the lamb. You really could see yourself eating more than one of these. They were that good that I had to order some take away for later.

Zaatar is comfortable, family friendly venue that has tasty, high quality products and are very reasonably priced. I would love it if they were open for dinner and see what types of dishes they could produce. Catering is also available here at Zaatar. If you haven’t done so already – definitely check this place out.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to http://www.zaatar.com.au/zaatar/menu.html  or look at the Menu pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Family friendly, Modern and Relaxed
Standout Dish: Lamb Pizza
Service: Friendly
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.zaatar.com.au/zaatar/
365 Sydney Road, Coburg
Tel No: 9939 9494

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 7am – 8pm

Zaatar on Urbanspoon

Supernormal Canteen – Another McConnell Gem!

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:

Menu at Supernormal Canteen

T and I were heading out to dinner and decided to check out Andrew McConnell’s latest venture and temporary pop-up in Gertrude Street, Fitzroy. The name of his new place, which is located right next door to Cutler and Co. is called Supernormal Canteen – which is due to open in March next year at its permanent location in Flinders Lane in the heart of the Melbourne CBD.

As you walk in you are greeted with an open space filled with wooden communal and individual tables with Japanese characters saying “Suupaanoormaaru” (Supernormal) all along the table top. To the left is a white washed brick wall with its name – half in neon red lights. The centrepiece is the hundreds of lanterns complete with googly eyes that line the ceiling. Spectacular. The design gurus Projects of Imagination are to thank for the design here. The whole vibe of the place is relaxed and fun and has a food and drink menu to match. There are two main dining areas, as well as some seating out the front.

Supernormal Canteen was launched in November as part of The Age Good Food Month and was only meant to be open until December 21st, but due to its overwhelming popularity was extended till the beginning of March. Supernormal Canteen serves Japanese/Chinese food together with sake and Asahi beer, and gets packed by about 6:30pm – where you would then expect a wait for a table.

The menu consists of about 18 dishes to share which vary in size, as well as 4 different desserts. The dishes range from Wood Grilled Cabbage, Pepper Cured Blackmore Brisket, the famous Lobster Roll, Chicken & Prawn Dumplings and Szechuan Lamb just to name a few.

T & I decided to order some dishes to share. For drinks I ordered the Iced Coffee – which comes with a little aluminium cup with extra sugar syrup for you to add when you feel like it. The coffee was strong but delicious and I loved the addition of the extra sugar syrup for later. We were also given some roasted peanuts (in place of where most restaurants would give out bread) to nibble on whilst we waited for our dishes to arrive. They were deliciously flavoured – and you had to stop yourself from eating the whole bowl in one go.

The first dish we got was the Bonito Sashimi, Dashi, Radish & Seaweed. The dish comes with the Kingfish at the bottom of the plate with the radish on the next layer and finished with the seaweed on top. The Kingfish was fresh, thick and just perfect, paired with the dashi and the crunch of the radish and seaweed it really was quite delicious. A really great combination.

Our next sharing dish was the Fried Mussels, Egg Mayo, Lettuce. The sauce was interesting as on the bottom there was chilli and the egg mayo was placed on top – so when you dunked in the mussels you got a combination of both the sauces – really great! The Fried Mussels itself were delicious and the first time that I was eating mussels this way! The mussels were crisp on the outside and just still moist and juicy on the inside. The way you were meant to eat it was to wrap the mussels in the lettuce and dip it into the sauce. Any which way you eat it – this dish is just fantastic and I would highly recommend it.

Next up I ordered a Lobster Roll – I mean how could you not order one especially if you have tried one before (I had my last one at Golden Fields). The bun was sweet as was he lobster and combined with the tang of the mayo was just delicious. It definitely kept me wanting more. I would have loved a bit more lobster in my roll though.

We went with some of the larger dishes as well with T ordering Grilled Ox Tongue, Tomato, Yuzu & Potato for her and we also ordered the Steamed Snapper, Ginger, Coriander. T said the Ox tongue was cooked well and she did enjoy the flavours. The Steamed Snapper dish came out with the snapper being buried under the coriander and radish – you had to push that all aside to reveal the snapper. The snapper was perfectly cooked – not too soft, not too tough – and the flavours of ginger, spring onion together with the fresh coriander was quite good. It smelt great and tasted Just as it smelt – it was also a very generous serving.

Even though I was quite full I had to have dessert – and lucky I didn’t skip it as it turned out to be the yummiest and one of my most favourite desserts ever. I ordered the Yoghurt Cream, Lychee & White Chocolate. When it comes out it looks like berries and lychees have been buried in a powdery snow like substance – and it really doesn’t look like much. Just wait till you dig into the dish. The powder was an awesome texture and as you dig further you get the hit of the white chocolate. Combined with the freshness and tang of the berries and the “yoghurt”, sweetness of the lychees and the white chocolate – the result is absolutely divine! I really do hope they keep this dessert on the menu when they move to Flinders Lane.

I really enjoyed the vibe and the atmosphere at Supernormal Canteen. They serve really delicious, casual Asian inspired dishes and have a great drinks menu to go with it. The staff are super friendly and very knowledgeable about the food. There are rumours that when the new permanent venue opens up it will also house a karaoke bar – for extra added fun! I for one cannot wait to see the permanent venture opened.

 

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Menu consists of shared dishes and a great drink menu – refer to above section for Menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Fun and Relaxed
Standout Dish: Yoghurt Cream, Lychee & White Chocolate
Service: Friendly and very knowledgeable

http://supernormal.net.au/

Supernormal Canteen will be opening in Flinders Lane sometime around March 2015

Supernormal Canteen on Urbanspoon

Lolo and Wren – Worth the Trek!

panda 4 rating

Menu:

Food Menu at Lolo and Wren   Croque and Roll Menu at Lolo and Wren  Food Menu at Lolo and Wren 2  Sides at Lolo and Wren  Drinks at Lolo and Wren  Drink Menu at Lolo and Wren

N and I made the trek down to Brunswick West to check out Lolo & Wren. Frank Caruso (ex- Richmond Hill Café & Larder) together with his wife Karen are to thank for this lovely café. The main focus behind this café is for it to become the people’s local – where they can come to get great food and coffee and most importantly to put a smile on people’s faces. I love this motto.

Lolo & Wren serves all day breakfast, as well as having a lunch menu and is located in Albion Street. The café sits under a newly built apartment building amongst a strip of shops. There is lots of parking available in the adjoining parking lot to the left of the café.

The décor is simple yet warm, with a strong focus on the use of recycled materials. The result is a light open and airy space to enjoy the perfect cup of coffee and some tasty morsels. The main feature is the counter and the communal table – both made out of wooden crates. I especially love the counter and really feel like it adds character and charm to Lolo and Wren. The high communal table is in the centre, and allows you to peer into the kitchen watching the chef’s pump out the meals. Frank used the help of his friend and cabinetmaker Craig Goodison to create this fantastic design and styling – even down to the painting of the venue! There are low tables situated around the main communal table, as well as outside under some shade.

The food comes from local and organic product from places like Fenton Farm, Jonsey’s Dairy Fresh, Flinders Island Meat, Melbourne Rooftop Honey, cheese from Savour and Grace and Coffee from 5 Senses. The menu has a focus on Spanish flavours and there really is something tempting for everyone to try.

Before trying to work out what we wanted to eat – N and I ordered coffee – he a long black and me a latte. Both our coffees came out and we were surprised to find a chocolate covered coffee bean on the side – a nice addition to the coffee. N’s long black came out with sparkling water on the side and he enjoyed the strong acidity. My latte was delicious – low acidity, nutty and creamy – just the perfect way to start out the morning.

The menu consists of dishes under the “Classic L & W” heading and includes dishes like Sweetcorn and Zucchini Fritters, Baked Beans, Roast Duck Breast Salad, ‘The Goodison’ Breakfast and two sweet dishes – the Peach Melba’ish’ Pancakes and Brioche French Toast ‘St Clements.’ There are also the usual Bircher Muesli, Banoffee Porridge and Organic Quinoa and Vanilla Soy Porridge available. There is also a selection of Toast and Eggs however you want it. There is a “Croque and Roll” menu – which consists of some rolls, a Cripsy Croque Monsiuer dish as well as Bruschetta. You can also alter most of their dishes to Gluten free or Dairy free options. Drinks include Juices from Market Juices as well as drinks from Hepburn and Daylesford Mineral Company. As Lolo and Wren have their liquor license – there is also a selection of beers available.

I decided to order the Sweetcorn and Zucchini Fritters – with peperonata ,Meredith Soft Goat Feta, pebre salsa, chilli jam and avocado. The dish came out presented very well – the fritters being the main component of the dish and all the other elements placed artistically around them. There was also a mix salad placed on top of the four fritters. The fritters were crispy on the outside and soft and textured on the inside. The addition of the stewed peppers and the chilli jam, salsa and avocado made for a very flavoursome dish. The Goat’s Feta was fresh and brought the tang element to this dish. It is quite a generous serving size and you can get quite full on this dish.

We also ordered the Peach melba’ish’ Pancakes – Caramelised peach and strawberry pancakes, macerated peaches, strawberry, fresh mint, almond praline, vanilla mascarpone and pure Canadian maple syrup. This was to be like my dessert dish at brunch time, and lets be honest was more for me than for N. This dish was a mighty colourful dish as well – the reds from the strawberries, mixed with the orange of the peach and speckles of green from the mint, against a white backdrop from the plate. There were two quite large sized pancakes together with a little yellow jug filled with the Canadian maple syrup. The pancakes were rich, sweet and delicious – the strawberry and peach were infused into the pancake itself yet the result was fluffy and soft. The hardness came in the form of the almond praline. This is a very sweet dish and the vanilla mascarpone helped to cut this sweetness a bit whilst adding a creamy and smooth flavour. This really is a dish for all sweet and pancake lover’s to try out.

‘The Goodison’ Breakfast – Potato and rosemary rosti, bacon, baked field mushrooms, sausage, homemade tomato relish, 2 free range eggs and organic sourdough. This is one huge breakfast dish and is great for anyone with an appetite. It has all your basic elements and cooked really well and comes with not 1 but 2 eggs!

Lolo and Wren is great café that sources local produce to create interesting dishes with a twist in generous portions. Lolo and Wren is also open for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights, and have also created a tapas menu. Bookings can be taken before 10am or after 1pm. Have to head back and try out their tapas menu. Trust me – its worth the trek!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to the pics above. There is a Croque and Roll Menu, Class L&W menu – which has your breakkie dishes, Through the Mill and Toast Menu as well as a Drinks menu. There is a newly created Tapas menu as well (which I do not have a picture at the moment)
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual and Laid Back – very warm and inviting as well.
Standout Dish: Too hard to pick really but the Peach Melba ‘ish’ Pancakes were delicious!
Service: Friendly but sometimes when it is really busy it does take you a while to get their attention.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
facebook.com/LoloWren
484 Albion Street, Brunswick West
Tel No: 9383 3712

Opening Hours:
Monday – Thursday7:00 am – 4:00 pm
Friday7:00 am – 4:00 pm, 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Saturday8:00 am – 4:00 pm, 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Sunday8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Lolo and Wren on Urbanspoon

Mugen Ramen – City’s First Tsukemen Ramen

panda 4 rating

I love Ramen so when I heard about Mugen I had to check it out. Mugen speciaiises in Ramen and is owned by Yoshi Kurosawa – who is also the owner of Robot bar which is located directly opposite. Mugen is located in a laneway off Flinders lane in the heart of the Melbourne CBD.

Mugen (meaning infinite) is a schmick looking two-level venue which includes a basement izakaya which has seating and drinks available. At street level you can see into the kitchen as the chefs prepare your meals and there is two bench rows available to sit at. There is a black and blue theme running which adds a touch of elegance and warmth.

Mugen specialises in the Tsukemen style and is the first Tsukemen joints in the city. Tsukemen is a type of deconstructed ramen. It consists of the dipping house-made noodles which are plated separately and are served cold with warm charshu pork, sheet of nori and pickled bamboo shoots. To the side there is a small bowl of pork, chicken and fish sauce into which you put your ramen. The dish is available in two different sizes – 300g and 420g.  The menu has two types of Tsukemen – Wafu and Curry as well as two different types of normal Ramen – Miso and Wafu.

The menu is really interesting and has a comic – or manga as they would call it in Japan – on the back which pokes fun and tells you how to eat the Tsukemen, which I think is a innovative and great style of the menu. In addition to the Ramen, there are smaller dishes available such as Gyoza, Aburi Chasu, Potato Salad, Chips and more. When we went there was also a JAPAS (Japanese Tapas) menu that was coming soon. There were no desserts on the menu at this time – but I really do hope they expand into this as well. There are also a great selection of drinks – beers, sake and liquer– available. The beers include Codeo which is essentially a sweet potato lager – how interesting!

Unfortunately despite loving Ramen the fact that I can’t have any pork dishes, meant that I couldn’t try any of the ramen available. The waitress was very friendly and told me that I could get some Soba noodles with tofu made up – and this would the only vegetarian option available. I was happy to order that ( I do love tofu as well). N ordered the Tsukune and Tebasaki from the small dishes section.

The Tsukune – Japanese Grilled Chicken skewers made from tenderloin thigh and soft bones with Teriyaki sauce and egg yolk on the side to dip. There were four skewers that came out and N loved the flavours and softness to the chicken. The addition of the dipping egg yolk was different and further enhanced the flavour.

The Tebasaki – Japanese deep fried chicken wings. This came served in a stainless steel frying basket and was coated with a glaze of honey and sesame – they were crispy on the outside and juicy and delicious on the inside.

My vegetarian soba noodles with tofu, chilli and salad was a generous serving. The noodles were fresh and silky smooth and cooked perfectly. The dish overall was tasty and despite really wanting a dose of ramen hit the spot.

The vibe at Mugen is fantastic and it is a great place at the basement to enjoy drinks. The food smells delicious and I cannot wait to see what type of dishes will be on their Japas menu. The staff are friendly and really accommodating. Will definitely be back, even though I can’t eat their signature dish!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to above picture
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Classy, Elegant and Fun
Service: Friendly, Helpful and VERY accommodating
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://mugenramenbar.com/
11 Bligh Place, Melbourne
Tel No: 9620 3647

Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday:
Lunch
11:30 am to 2:30pm
Dinner
6pm to 11pm
Sunday – Closed

Mensousai Mugen on Urbanspoon

Chuckle Park – Caravan and Simple, Great Food!

panda 4 rating

ChucklePark is funky little eatery / bar which is located in a hidden alleyway off Little Collins Street, near Elizabeth street. It is located under the New Guernica’s entrance and is cosy outdoor space complete with its very own caravan style serving kitchen. Inspired from their holiday experiences in Phillip Island it is the brainchild of Dominic Lococo, Kyle Bush, Marcus Motteram, Steve Costa and Jaff Tzaferis.

As you enter, there is a lot to take in – from the hanging plants, the lights in jars that look like stars up high, to the main feature – the caravan with a colourful Jesus statue and surrounding flowers. There is also synthetic grass, high wooden tables as well as low tables – all made to resemble a park – hence the name ChucklePark. There is also gas heaters and awnings to protect the customers from the unpredictability that is Melbourne weather.

There is a simple menu with something on it to eat for everyone. The highlight of the menu – and there are many testaments for this is the Chuckle Park Pulled Pork Roll. Some of the other dishes included are the Albondigas  – which are Spanish meatballs – which comes served in the hot stoneware pan itself, as well as paella, Spanish Lentil Salad and Elote (think char grilled to perfection Corn on the Cob). For drinks there are canned beverages (Coke, Sprite etc) as well jugs of Sangria, aperitifs, beers, ciders and the usual hot drinks – coffee, tea etc.

We went to ChucklePark on a Friday at lunchtime – and we made sure that we got there by 12pm – lucky we did as it soon started to fill up after this time. Most of the boys ordered the Pulled Pork Roll and one guy ordered the Albondigas – the Spanish meatballs served in a hearty vegetable broth. I ordered the Frittata Roll – which was Spanish Style Vegetable Tortila Sandwich with Cheese, Spinach, Mayo and Eggplant Relish. I couldn’t have loved my Frittata Roll more! The patty made of veggies was delicious and flavoursome – you could almost even just eat it on its own. I loved the addition of the eggplant relish – it was the perfect complement to all the other ingredients. For any vegetarians out there you really must try this.

Suffice to say everyone loved their Pulled Pork Rolls – and the size of these “burgers” was HUGE! Its hard to imagine where one would start to eat this. The Albondigas was tasty as well and W who ordered the dish was quietly enjoying his dish.

ChucklePark is great for home-style dishes sourced from local produce that has superb flavourings. It is great for lunch and especially great for afternoon or late night drinks. The staff are hospitable and friendly and the place intimate, casual and cosy. Head down there now!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Food menu can be found at http://media.wix.com/ugd/190d00_a321c5f811c34bb0ad19147e87d561c3.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Relaxed and Funky! How many places have a caravan located with astro turf and lights in jars strung up !
Standout Dish: Fritatta Roll – DELICIOUS!
Service: Friendly, Welcoming and Accommodating! Always happy to help and turn on the heaters if you get cold.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.chucklepark.com.au/
322 Little Collins St, Melbourne CBD
Tel No: 8654 9954

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 12:00pm – 1:00am

Chuckle Park Bar and Cafe on Urbanspoon

Stables of Como – Historical Country Style Cafe

panda 3.5 rating

The ICKE and IGBY group – who are behind the popular Friends of Mine (Richmond), the great Snow Pony (Balwyn) and one of my favourites Porgie and Mr Jones (Hawthorn) – have opened up a café in the former stables building in the heritage listed and historic Como House – called Stables of Como, located in Toorak.

The Stables of Como café is located at the rear of the main Como House building and is situated in a secluded courtyard area and reminds you of visiting a farmhouse. The aim was a country house style chic with a rustic charm and from the moment you step foot inside you realise this brief has definitely been met. Stables is very popular and usually there is a wait for a table, the atmosphere inside is lively and fun – you can tell people just genuinely enjoy being here.

The theme is white, green and wooden – from the 6 metre long rustic counter which houses sweets, cakes and slices of almost every type and variety – to the tables, lights and coffee machine! Back to the counter of sweetness – there are things such as Raspberry and Pistachio Tea Cakes, Christmas Mince Pies, Honey Joys, Lamingtons, Giant Freckles, Choco Crackles and soooo much more!! They provide not only a colourful but enticing look complete with flowers and greenery, that you are almost tempted to skip eating a proper meal and just ask for one of each. There is also an option of high tea available as well as picnic baskets to take out into the gardens and enjoys. There are even rugs and Frisbees included! How awesome is that!

There is a homely feel attached to the Stables, it looks like a cross between a country kitchen and an olden day tearoom, with modern accents along the way.

The menu is from Jason Flygenring and covers the basics such as Toasted English Muffins, Bircher Muesli, Granola, Toast and Egg anyway you like it. There are also Crumpets available however they aren’t made in house and seem to be store bought. Most of the produce comes from the venues very own garden – there are chickens that lay the eggs that are used in the egg dishes! There are Stables Staples such as Smashed avocado, Toasted banana bread, Three egg omelette and Gardeners Breakfast which their take on the Big Breakfast.

The Lunch menu consists of Toasted Piadini – Honey roasted pumpkin and Prroscuitto, Baguettes – Ham as well as roasted veggies and Sourdough Sandwiches – Poached chicken and rare porterhouse beef are options. There are also smaller dishes such as Bruschetta, Soup, Smoked Salmon and Quiches as well as Main plates which include Lamb Loin, Tuna Nicoise and a CapeGrim fillet minute steak.

As mentioned before there is High tea (Devonshire Tea) available and the cost is $15 per person – and you get the famous Aggie’s lemonade scones, tea or coffee and you get to select one Jill Cross chocolate truffles to finish.

To start off with I order a vanilla bean milkshake and A orders an OJ. The milk shake comes out in a metal cup with extra milk on the side if you want to dilute the milkshake. The syrups are made in house and the milkshake was delicious and you could taste the freshness of the vanilla bean. Just what was needed on this warm morning. A’s OJ came served in a brown glass bottle with a straw and was fresj;u squeezed.

For food I decided to go with the Smashed Avocado with thyme buttered mushrooms, marinated feta and torn basil on wholegrain toast.  The dish came out with the toast acting as the base, with the avocado placed on top, followed by the thyme buttered mushrooms and topped with a poached egg (this was an addition I made) and finished with the feta and basil sprinkled around. The combination of all these ingredients was really good – the flavours were perfectly balanced and the mushrooms were fresh. My only gripe was that the toast was a tad bit hard. The feta was creamy and tangy and worked well with the basil and avocado.

A had the eggs from happy chickens folded with herbs and served on toasted, buttered ciabatta.  I loved who the omelette looked when it came out – the way in which it was cooked it resembled a rose or flower, with the herbs sprinkled on top. A dish that not only looked great but tasted the same.

The staff are generally friendly and knowledgeable, although the first waitress we had seemed kind of lost and had to take our order twice as she didn’t get it the first time.

I do have one gripe though – the very first time I went to eat at Stables was with my family for my sister’s birthday, and we arrived on a Sunday at 9:30am only to find that it was opened at 10am. My sister had to go to work by 1pm, so we would need to have left by 12pm at the latest. We were located at the main entrance which required us to walk thru the gardens to get to to the cafe, and this entrance was opened at 10:10am and by the time we got to putting our names down for a table of 4, the list was quite long, as the side entrance to where the cafe is situated had been opened at 10am. I do understand that there is a list that people put their names down for, and I explained to the girl at the front that we would need to be out by 12pm at the latest and she said she would wait and see the best that they could do. I also explained that we were here at 9:30am and we were at the main entrance which was clearly opened much later than the side entrance, but she really wasn’t listening. There were many tables of 2 going at a rapid pace, but after an hour of waiting and seeing lots of sets of 2′s we had to leave. It was really disappointing and I guess that is why it has taken me so long to actually come back and give this place a try. I get that busy café’s have a process that they follow, but I have seen other café’s be accommodating in circumstances like this, and Stables just wasn’t.

So just to note my rating that I have given is to do with the food, venue and atmosphere of the place, and not really for service.

Overall, Stables is a great addition to the historic Como House Building and I do love that they allowed people to have access to this beautiful site. The Picnic Basket idea is a wonderful idea and I think I will come back to try it out – along with more of the sweets!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – There is a Breakfast menu served all day, a Lunch Menu and an Afternoon Tea Menu as well as a High Tea Menu which can be found at http://www.thestablesofcomo.com.au/#!menu/ckiy
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Homely, Cosy and makes you feel at home. Great for a summery day to sit outside.
Standout Dish: Any of the sweets that are located on the 6 metre long rustic counter!
Service: Friendly and Knowledgeable in general, but had a pretty bad experience the first time I went there.
Online Booking: No. There are generally queues on most days. 
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.thestablesofcomo.com.au/#!home/mainPage
Corner Williams Road & Lechlade Avenue, South Yarra
Tel No: 9827 6886

Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

The Stables of Como on Urbanspoon

Touchwood – Great Place for Good Food and Relaxation

panda 3.5 rating



Touchwood is collaborative effort from the partners – Matt Vero and Steve Rowley  – behind Coin Laundry (Armadale), Station Street Trading Co (Port Melbourne), Tall Timber (Prahran), Pillar of Salt (Richmond) and Barry (Northcote).  They have enlisted Tristan White (ex-Ladro and Red Door) to look after the food side of things. Touchwood serves coffee from 5 Senses and is served from the custom made Synesso Hydra coffee machine.

Touchwood is located at Bridge road in Richmond (quite close to its sister café Pillar of Salt). It is located in an old recycled timber furniture store and takes on a MASSIVE SPACE – it can seat 120 people. There are large glass windows at the front which let lots of light and air into the venue, this entrance opens out into the main dining area. As you keep walking through the brick archway there is a back room with more seating and then finally outside at the back, there is a bright, sunny and open courtyard which seats 40.

The whole look and feel of the place – which kind of pays tribute to its former life – is wooden yet clean, casual and warm. There are concrete floors with white washed brick walls, planter boxes and hanging plants and finished with wooden tables and chairs. There are short tables as well as higher tables – take your pick of where you want to sit. The feature is of course a crate styled counter-top which houses the coffee machine as well as the sweet bites and takeaway savoury bites.

The menu consists of the breakfast favourites with the addition of components to creatively change the dish. There is a morning grain salad, as well as a tequila and citrus cured salmon dish, as well as the breakkie board which is featured from Tall Timber. If you are really hungry there is always the Touchwood Massive – which features just about everything including a lamb chop! A highlight on the menu is the much talked about peanut butter and jelly wholemeal waffles complete with peanut butter ricotta and brittle.
The lunch menu is just as enticing with things like Brioche Wagyu burgers, pulled pork tacos and toasted Po’ boys as well as a Mexican inspired salad. There are also two fresh juice combos to choose from – one with kale, celery, cucumber, apple, lime and parsley and the other with watermelon and mint.

I order a latte while I wait for L to arrive. The latte was smooth and creamy and a great start to this rainy day. There are many coffee options available such as cold drip and pour over. I wasn’t quite sure what to order to eat – I was tossing up between the Avocado toast, the omelette with shaved asparagus and goats cheese or the morning grain salad. I ended up getting the Avocado toast – with Beetroot Relish, Burnt Lime, Pickled Red Onion, Coriander, Mixed Seeds, Sumac Salt and I added a poached egg.

The dish came out and was quite colourful thanks to the black background of the plate, together with the bright pink/purples of the onion and beetroot, the green colouring from the avocado and coriander and the yellow from the burnt lime. I really enjoyed the addition of the beetroot relish together with the coriander as additional components to a normal avocado dish – I thought that they worked really well together. Even though I am not a fan of pickled onions, I did try some with all the other elements and it went quite well with the dish, you almost don’t realise that it was once an onion. The dish overall was a really well thought out dish and was quite filling as well.

The atmosphere at Touchwood is quite relaxed and chilled, and you can see yourself losing track of time. There is warm and inviting feel to the place thanks to the openness and the lighting. Add to this great coffee and some really delicious food combinations and you really do have a winner. Have to come back and try the peanut butter waffles!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – View the menu at http://touchwoodcafe.com/Touchwood_Menu_06.pdf - Breakfast, Lunch and Drinks
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Elegant and Chic. Has a relaxed feel thanks to vast openess, lighting and feel of the venue. The courtyard out the back is perfect on a sunny day!
Standout Dish: Avacado Toast with Beetroot Relish, Burnt Lime, Pickled Onions, Mixed Seeds, Sumac Salt with a Poached Egg (extra)
Service: Friendly and Welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://touchwoodcafe.com/
480 Bridge Road, Richmond
Tel No: 9429 9347

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:00 am – 4:00 pm
Saurdayt to Sunday: 7:30 am – 4:30 pm

Touchwood on Urbanspoon