South of Johnston – Relaxed and Enchanting

panda 4 rating

My first impression of South of Johnston or SoJo as it is affectionately known as was that it had a really vibrant yet relaxed country feel to it. It was a place that you could literally spend hours and hours and feel like you are away on a day trip, yet you are located in the inner city suburb of Collingwood. Stuart McKenzie (from Mart 130) spent a lot of time finding the perfect venue to open his café and wonderfully transformed the once old valve-repackaging factory into the venue that it is today with some help from Carver Design.

SoJo is quite a large venue, in Oxford Street, and is made of multiple spaces that you can pick to choose from to sit. There is an outside covered quadrangle located at the front, which looks out onto the street and lets the bright sunshine in. What is super cool as well is the “urban orchard” that is located at the front of this area – with herb and fruit trees located in planter boxes. What was also great was that there were blankets placed on each chair – perhaps if you got a bit cold – such a novel idea. There is a covered courtyard area located at the back as well as the main area where the bar / coffee bar is located that is quite large (and where bookings can be made as well). This main area also consists of a fireplace with comfortable looking lounges located around it. If you think its hard deciding on where you want to sit, wait till you get to the food menu – there is a huge variety to select from!

I love the combination of the wooden tables and chairs with the simple, modern and pastel pieces of artwork. As well as the colourful cushions that are tossed across the comfy looking couches. At the entrance there is a table with knick knacks and various elegant artifacts which adds a classy touch.

South of Johnston has an all day dining menu to offer and consists of classic breakfast dishes with a contemporary twist, and they can cater for all dietary requirements as well. There really is a little of everything on the menu and like I said you will spend even longer than you did deciding where to sit. There are egg breakfasts: scrambled and folded with goats’ cheese and truffle oil; fried eggs and kaiserfleisch; or soft-poached and saucy with sugo, black olives and spicy chorizo. The usuals such as Bircher muesli with poached seasonal fruit, crunchy granola and vanilla bean infused yogurt can also be found. Two dishes that most people seem to talk about is the French Toast served with Brioche and the Corn fritters – where the corn cobs have been oven roasted to get that smoky flavour – mm yuum!

It was quite a warm day and I felt like fresh juice and the waitress informed me that they had a special for that day which was a grapefruit juice – so I thought I would try it out. It was quite refreshing albeit a bit bitter. Towards the end I did have to add some sugar in it to cut some of the bitter taste. After much deliberation I decided to have the Pancakes served with Mixed Berries and Vanilla Infused Mascarpone with Pistachio Nuts as I felt like something sweet. The pancakes come with a maple syrup bottle that you have all to yourself – so you can put as much or as little as you want around the pancakes. There hasn’t been a place yet that I have been to that does this. The dish was quite sizeable and it seemed like there was a mountain of pancakes to get through (I couldn’t finish the whole dish) – the pancakes themselves were delicious – soft and flavoursome.  The combination of the tangy berries with the vanilla mascarpone and crunch of the nuts against the fluffy pillows was fantastic. The addition of the maple added more sweetness to the dish.

SoJo is a relaxed and inviting café (in fact they almost encourage you to sit and stay the whole day), that has a great selection of tasty dishes coupled with a variety of drinks. The menu is for All Day Dining and the multitude of options of where you can sit add to the homely feel of this space. I will definitely be back and this time I will sit in a different section of the café =)

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://southofjohnston.com.au/spring-summer-menu-13.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Relaxed, Comfortable, Warm and Inviting. Great place to just chill and hang out and spent most of your day. (There is free WiFi as well)
Standout Dish: Didn’t try it but the French Toast Brioche and the Corn Fritters seem to be a hit
Service: Friendly, Helpful and Warm
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
southofjohnston.com.au
46 Oxford Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 9417 2741

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 7:30 am – 5:00 pm

South of Johnston on Urbanspoon

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Prospect Espresso – Small Space But Packs a Punch

panda 4 rating
prospect expressoTruffled Brioche – Sauteed mushrooms, Asparagus, Poached Eggs and Truffled Hollandaise and a Latte

J and I were catching up after ages and decided to check out Prospect Espresso located in Camberwell. Prospect Espresso is owned by Matt Ward and Mitch Haworth. The setup is a mix of modern and vintage – with exposed light bulbs and exposed brick walls as well as large front window letting loads of light in while you are sipping on that perfect coffee and savouring the delicious but simple food. There are bursts of yellow which add to the fun and relaxed vibe Prospect Espresso has.

There is a large communal wooden table at the centre of the small space which is where J and I managed to nab a seat on this busy Saturday morning. To the right of us was where the coffee magic from the Mistral machine is created, along with showcasing some tasty treats from Red Door cakes. Coffee is from Rosso and there are also a number of single origin varieties. I ordered a latte and J ordered a cappuccino.

The latte was exactly what I needed after having being stuck in traffic and being late to meet J – it was refreshing and had a strong kick to it but with a good balance of smoothness and creaminess – topped off with a bit of latte art. They also serve tea from Somage Organic tea and even have a Vietnamese Iced Coffee – talk about versatile.

There is a breakfast and lunch menu – created by head chef Will Manning – which consists of your favourites such as  Fruit Toast, A Breakfsat Roll and a choice of three different omelettes and of course eggs which you can build on your own. There are also some interesting dishes such as Chorizo Croquettes, Buttermilk Pannacotta and Warm Coconut Rice. Their Lunch Menu consists of solid favourites – there is a S oup of the Day, as well as the Prospect Beeft Burger.

I ordered the Truffled Brioche – which had Sauteed mushrooms, Asparagus, Poached Eggs and Truffled Hollandaise. It was a simple and small dish but tasted truly amazing. I loved the addition of the truffle to the hollandaise and combined with the mushrooms on top of the sweet tasting brioche – the dish really pulled together well. The eggs were poached as you would expect as well.

Prospect Espresso was consistently busy in the time that we were there and there is a good reason for that. The service is friendly and inviting, the coffee is delicious and the food is simple yet tasty and will leave you wanting to come back. The location is fantastic and the vibe fun. Check it out for yourself.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu : Can be found at http://prospectespresso.com.au/?page_id=10
Breakfast Menu : http://prospectespresso.com.au/?page_id=12
Lunch Menu: http://prospectespresso.com.au/?page_id=16
Drink Menu: http://prospectespresso.com.au/?page_id=14
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Busy, Inviting and Friendly
Standout Dish: Truffled Brioche – Sauteed mushrooms, Asparagus, Poached Eggs and Truffled Hollandaise
Service: Friendly Service and always happy to help
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://prospectespresso.com.au/
2a Prospect Hill Road, Camberwell
Tel No: 9882 7359

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7am – 4pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8am – 4:30pm

Prospect Espresso on Urbanspoon

Saint Crispin – Heavenly Dishes

panda 3.5 rating

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Menu:
Menu at Saint Crispin

It was time for our regular work catchup dinners and Saint Crispin was the venue of choice. We had to see what the recently awarded “Best New Restaurant” by The Age Good Food Guide 2014 was all about. Saint Crispin is located on Smith Street in Collingwood and has taken over where Cavallero used to reside. Saint Crispin is named after the patron saint of cobblers, tanners and leather workers and also ties in with the buildings original use as a cobbler’s workshop.

Scott Pickett (The Estelle) and Joe Grbac (ex-The Press Club) form a partnership to create this one hatted restaurant. As you walk in through the strong wooden doors which are flanked by cast iron black lattice you enter a classy yet casual venue. There is an exposed brick wall on one side and the long marble bar on the other side. Towards the back is the open kitchen, where you can see chefs creating each of the dishes that go out. The tables are strong wooden non polished tables and I like this – adding to the rustic feel which links it to the surrounding area – paired with leather comfortable seating on one and wooden chairs on the other with cushioning. There is seating at the bar as well on high stools which allows you view the kitchen from a better vantage point. The interior was designed by Leah Hart.

The menu is centred around using seasonal and fresh local produce and covers a variety of types – there are seafood, food, chicken, pork and vegetarian dishes on offer. There is also Alba White Truffle available for an extra $40 a serving which we were told was flown in that morning. The way the menu is designed is that there is a selection of three a la carte combinations. There is the two course ($50), three course ($60) and the chef’s tasting menu ($120) – which comprises of seven courses – five savoury courses and two desserts. There is also the option to order Little Bites and Sides. The Little Bites consist of charcuterie. Crudites, Oysters, Eel Croquettes and an interesting named dish called Snap, Crackle and Pop (which I learnt was the Pork Crackling in a Prawn Cracker format).

There for four of us and three of us decided to go for the three course menu and one person did the two courses.  Before deciding to order – we were given small starters that arrived on a wooden circle piece of wood. On this day we had Chickpea squares with Marshmallows. The squares were really delicious bite sized morsels and the marshmallow provided a sweet palate and was very soft and cloudlike. Once we had ordered our food we were served bread which came with a serving of butter and the yummiest Caramelised Onion and Cream Cheese spread. It really is a spread that makes you go ‘WOW’ and my only qualm would be that we received too little of the spread.

What I do like about Saint Crispin is when each dish is placed down they explain what each dish is and what is in it. I like this personal touch. For entrée I ordered the Sand Flathead, Mussels, Sea Vegetables and Crème Fraiche. I was interested to know what Sea Vegetables were and when I asked the waiter – he didn’t offer much of an explanation other than “things that you find by the sea shore.” The fish is the centrepiece of the dish, with the sea vegetables around and on top of the fish with the mussels on the side. The Crème Fraiche comes in a separate little jug which the waiter then pours on top of the fish for you. The fish was cooked just right and came in two pieces – however I felt that it could have been seasoned a bit more as I couldn’t eat the fish on its own – it needed the addition of the Crème Fraiche. As a whole the dish with all its elements especially the mussels, worked well together and the Crème Fraiche was delicious and perfectly seasoned. The sea vegetables were interesting and I am still not quite sure what each of them were called.

The others ordered the Atlantic Salmon, Shaved Calamari, Oyster, Squid Ink and Saffron for their entrées. I was lucky enough to try some of their dish. The dish was an extremely colourful dish set against the backdrop of a large black plate. The Salmon was cured and poached and as a result was tender and flavoured very well. There was shaved calamari and an oyster which was hidden underneath the salmon, together with a crisp tapioca coloured with black squid ink placed on top of the salmon which gave an added crunch. The combination of all the elements together with the saffron sauce and squid ink sauce created a truly magical dish.

After our entrees we were asked if we wanted more bread and how could you resist more of the Caramelised Onion and Cream Cheese spread – sadly however this never came.

For mains I ordered the Swordfish, Maloolabah Prawn, Nicola Potatoes and Kohlrabi. The swordfish came out beautifully presented. The piece of swordfish was thick and juicy and wasn’t dry at all – which is a sure good sign of a fish being cooked well! The addition of the balsamic sauce really made the dish and paired really well with the fish. The potatoes were creamy and smooth and added further compliments.

The others ordered the Bannockburn Chicken, Kalamata Olive, Cos and Spring Garlic. This was essentially chicken done in three ways – a popcorn chicken style – with crumbed and fried chicken which they all enjoyed, a coiled piece of chicken and a large thick seasoned piece of chicken with crispy skin. They seemed to like the dish but not love the dish and said elements needed to be worked on  or a different combination of ingredients added.

With our mains we ordered Sebago Potato Crisp, Seaweed Mayonnaise which was as expected really delicious. I did love their take on the seaweed mayonnaise – and it worked well with the crispy and crunchy potatoes.

Next up was dessert – which is the part of the meal that I look forward too. There were really great options to choose from but I opted for the Mango, Coconut, Vanilla and Verbena on recommendation from the waiter. He informed me that it was a pannacotta – and that was all he had to say to have me order this dish. I LOVE PANNACOTTAS. This dessert came out in a bowl and had a wafer like biscuit on the edge which looked like a spoon which I thought was quite funky. The Mango, foamy Coconut and other elements which included pretty pink and purple verbena flowers sat on top of the pannacotta. There were additional white chocolate balls which added crunch and texture. As a whole the dish worked really well together – I love the combination of mango and the creaminess of the pannacotta – it really is a great summery dessert. My one gripe though was for me there were too many white chocolate balls – and it made the dish too sweet for me, so towards the end I had to avoid eating them and just enjoy the other parts of the dish.

V ordered the Blood Orange Parfait, White Lemon, Yoghurt and Mandarin which I must say was the best dessert of the night. The dish when it came out looked fantastic – the presentation was amazing. – the rectangular parfait was topped with a colourful array of ingredients all placed on top of a white lemon smear. The parfait was creamy and smooth and had a really tasty cake crumb at the bottom and together with the acidity of the blood orange and the mandarin was the perfect balance of flavours. It was one of these desserts that you could eat a lot of and still not get sick of.

C ordered the Chocolate, Earl Grey, Milk and Ginger – which once again was nicely presented. This dessert was a chocolate mousse slice which was rich but light and airy just as a mousse should be. The Earl Grey ice cream was a great combination and worked well the rich and creaminess of the chocolate and really was the perfect addition. As a whole a really great dish for any one that loves chocolate.

As we were seated near the kitchen area, for most of the night we heard the head chef yelling out for the orders and telling the staff when the dishes were ready, which made it harder to keep a conversation going with people on the table. However, it did showcase the efficiency of the kitchen. To finish as we were waiting for the bill a wooden box made to replicate The Bible was placed on our table with a set of sweets inside – on this night we had a nougat – which had the perfect amount of stickiness and tasted delightful. It was a great way to finish off a good meal.

Saint Crispin delivers good food, presented exceptionally and provides great atmosphere. They provide interesting combination of ingredients together with some hidden surprises and familiar flavours. Desserts are definitely their strong point, as well as entrees following suit. I would like to see what dishes they serve up in the next menu change.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to the menu in the link above. You can also look at http://www.saintcrispin.com.au/menu.pdf. There is a choice of a Two Course ($50), Three Course ($60) and a Chef’s Tasting Menu – 7 courses ($120)
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Relaxed yet classy and very enjoyable. Great place for a catch-up dinner with friends or family.
Standout Dish: Atlantic Salmon, Shaved Calamari, Oyster, Squid Ink and Saffron and  Blood Orange Parfait, White Lemon, Yoghurt and Mandarin
Service: Friendly and Attentive although sometimes forgetful?
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.saintcrispin.com.au/
300 Smith Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 9419 2202

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Thursday: 6pm – Late
Friday to Sunday: 12pm -3pm and 6pm – Late

Saint Crispin on Urbanspoon

Rosa’s Kitchen – Sicilian Homely Treat

panda 3.5 rating

It was time for another one of our regular catch ups for A and I and this time our destination was Rosa’s Kitchen. As we were going to watch King Kong after dinner at the time of booking I told the restaurant that we needed to be out by a certain time which worked well with their sitting times.

Rosa’s Kitchen is located in Punch Lane – a wonderful side street in the heart of the Melbourne CBD – and is a venture by Rosa Mitchell (ex-Journal Canteen), David Mackintosh and Peter Bartholomew (Coda, Movida Group, Pei Modern). The venue itself is quite dark yet warm thanks to the soft glow of the lanterns, cosy and playful at the same time – this is evident with the mismatched and colourful chairs at the mix of timber and black plywood tables. There are polished concrete floors together with a whitewashed brick wall to match and there is a red glow through the whole venue.

What is strikingly different from any other place is that there is no menu given to you to decide what you want to eat – you have to look at the blackboard along the sides of the walls as well as above the bar/kitchen area and decide what you want there. Specials are spoken out to you by the friendly staff. The way the menu works is that it rotates fortnightly – all depending on the ingredients which come from Mitchell’s 140 acre farm near Yandoit – keeping with the fresh produce theme that Mitchell wants to achieve. The cuisine is Sicilian influenced in the form of homely and comforting dishes by Lucy David (ex-Coda, Pei Modern) and consists of four pastas and five mains generally, such as Orecchiette alla Trapanese which has a Sicilian-style pesto with almonds sauce or Meatballs with fresh tomato sugo. There is also a great drinks list which has been put together by sommelier Lazlo Evenhuis (ex-The Crimean), as well as snacks menu to go with the drinks.

We ordered the Calamari with potatoes and herbs for “entrée” but really this dish could have been a main on its own. There was a tangy taste combined with the soft and crunchy in parts potato which served as a wonderful combination. I ordered the Bugspasta which was cooked beautifully with the combination of oil, garlic and parsley and topped with toasted breadcrumbs which added texture, flavour and crunch. The Bugs were cooked perfectly and really complemented the other flavours of the dish. My friend A ordered the lamb special which she enjoyed but couldn’t finish due to the generous serving size. The lamb she said was soft, tender and full of flavour.

We were running out of time and were both quite full so decided to share the Canoli as I had heard that this was a must try. And I can see why. The Canoli had crispy pastry casing which was filled with whipped ricotta and combined with honey, sugar and lemon zest and finished with toasted and crushed pistachios on the outside.

The food at Rosa’s Kitchen is rustic and really does feel like you are in a Sicilian town eating food that has been created with a feeling of love and happiness. They don’t try to make the dishes overly complex – just simple home style cooking at its best. Try it out for yourselves.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – The food menu – http://www.rosas-kitchen.com/Rosas%20Kitchen%20Full%20Menu.pdf
The drinks menu – http://www.rosas-kitchen.com/Rosas%20Kitchen%20Drinks%20Menu.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Warm, Homely and Cosy
Standout Dish: Spaghetti with Breadcrumbs, Parsley and Garlic
Service: Friendly and Accomadating
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.rosas-kitchen.com/
22 Punch Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9662 2883

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 12:00pm – 11:00pm

Rosa's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Gelato Messina – A Bit of Italy in Fitzroy

panda 4.5 rating

Gelato Messina has come to Melbourne and taken everyone by storm. Newly opened in Smith Street, Fitzroy it has received a warm welcome with lines snaking out of the door and along Smith Street. Gelato has been a long love affair for many Melbournians especially people that frequent Lygon Street in Carlton. There are many different Gelato stores which serve up the classic traditional Italian style of ice cream but none quite like Gelato Messina. The main difference is that Gelato Messina pushes the boundaries when it comes to the rules of Gelato in the sense of being more inventive with flavours and combinations, combined with old-school techniques to maintain the integrity of the original gelato recipe. The Gelato Artisians or Gelartisans as they are fondly referred to as, have created flavours that have your mouth drooling just from reading what’s contained in each flavour.

Gelato Messina began in 2002 by by Nick Palumbo and is now co-owned by Donato Toce, Declan Lee, Danny Palumbo and John Stephens. Nick Palumbo comes from an Italian Messina background and it was visiting his grandparents in Messina that brought on his connection and love for gelato. Gelato Messina has many different locations around Sydney and even has one opening up in Hangzhou, China! It is no wonder that they have won many awards for their amazing Gelato. Just recently at the Melbourne Gelato World Tour they won first prize for a flavour called Cremino – salted caramel, gianduia (hazelnut chocolate), fresh meringue and amaretti.

What makes Gelato Messina different to other traditional Gelato stores is that they use real ingredients to make the gelato and it is hand churned on site. Everything is made fresh on the day without the artificial colours. The chocolate mint flavour uses actual mint leaves, the apple pie flavour consists of baked apple pies – and the list goes on. There is a list of about 40 permanent flavours and weekly specials. New daily flavours appear and they are constantly inventing bigger and better combinations to keep things intriguing. There are also fruity sorbets and dairy-free options for people who are in need of these. How great is it that they cater for one and all! Additionally, Gelato Messina makes ice cream cakes which are displayed in store as well – the infamous toadstool cake is present!

What is great about Gelato Messina is the connection that they have with the consumers – they have a huge online following and allow for people to submit and suggest different flavours. Allowing this personal interaction makes people wanting to keep coming back and trying out the different flavours and best of all bringing friends along to share in the experience.
Another great fact is that all the Gelartisans have a wealth of experience and knowledge in the world of Gelato making – like Simone Panetta (who is a partner in the Melbourne store) who has been making Gelato since he was 11 and was chosen to be a “Gelato Pioneer” at Carpigiani University in Bologna. They have recently put out a cookbook called Gelato Messina which can teach you how to make Gelato!

When you walk into the Melbourne store, the fit out has been done to keep in with the Fitzroy theme – there are exposed brick walls to give it a somewhat warehousey feel, together with colourful graffiti style wall mural by Jeremy Neale and a somewhat modern pressed metal enclosure which encases the gelatos. There is also a window where you can view the Gelartisans creating the many flavours on sale. You get to get a brief glimpse of the colourful and fresh gelato amongst the masses of the crowds. The staff are friendly and always have a smile on their face despite having to face an overwhelmingly large crowd throughout the day. Whilst waiting to order we are handed menus which was a good idea as after reading each flavour you are confused as to which one you want as they all sound sooo great. There is a list of special flavours on the wall (the same flavours get released in Sydney and Melbourne on the same day) – where as they get sold out a sign is placed to let people know until a new batch is made up. After much deliberation I decided to go with the Salted caramel and white chocolate as it was their biggest seller. N got the Mango Sorbet and Mint Chocolate Chip and M got the Twixed flavour.

You can either select if you want the gelato to come in a cup or a cone – I went with the signature green and orange cup for my scoop of gelato. The result was smooth and creamy consistency with accents of salted caramel and textured bits of white chocolate. The mix of the saltiness and the sweetness of the chocolate combined beautifully and this is the reason why it is their best selling flavour. I did get to try N’s mango sorbet which was tasted just like a mango in creamy smooth form and the chocolate chip mint gelato had a minty hint that I have never tasted before – in a great way! You can tell that fresh ingredients were used. The Twixed flavour was phenomenal – it was wholesome chocolaty goodness all in one scoop – rich and mouth watering! It also had shortbread and caramel mixed through it. I want to go back and try out the Cremino, Pistachio and Coconut & Lychee flavours – just to start..and eventually work my way through all the flavours! =p

Gelato Messina has so many flavours (in fact about a 900 flavour catalogue) to try out and with summer just around the corner there is no better time to try. I think Melbourne is lucky as it is currently their largest store to date which means more flavours to try out! Bring on summer and the year of Gelato!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to the attachment above. Also look at http://www.gelatomessina.com/flavours/ and http://www.gelatomessina.com/flavours/our_top_10_flavour_combos/

Also refer to http://www.gelatomessina.com/ for the different Gelato Cakes which are made to order
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Chilled Out and Fun
Standout Flavours:
● Salted caramel and white chocolate (their biggest seller)
● Chocolate fondant
● Pandan and coconut
Service: Despite the long lines and queues, the staff are friendly and always have a smile on their face
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.gelatomessina.com/
237 Smith St, Fitzroy

Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 12pm – 11pm
Friday to Saturday: 12pm – 11.30pm
Sunday: 12pm – 11pm

Gelato Messina Fitzroy on Urbanspoon

30Kerr65 – Dimattina Espresso Bar

panda 4 rating

30Kerr65 is a newly opened Coffee Expresso Bar brought to you by the Dimmatina family – John and Robert Dimmatina (Robert founded 30Kerr65 and John manages it). Dimmatina coffee has been around Melbourne for a very long time and supplies many different coffee houses and cafes all around Melbourne, including regional Victoria. It all started in the 1950s with their father roasting coffee – they now have a plant located in Reservoir, as well as a training school and café in South Melbourne and now the newly opened 30Kerr65 which also has coffee courses and is a wholesaler.

The name 30Kerr65 is a play on two different things as John explained to me – 1) the address is 30 Kerr St and the postcode in the Fitzroy area ends with 65, 2) the ideal coffee is made with 30ml shot of coffee and the ideal milk temperate is 65 degrees. From speaking to both John and Robert you can tell– they are proud and have a true love for coffee and the coffee industry. They speak fondly of the history, to their different outlets and how they came to finding this perfect venue and location in the side streets of Fitzroy.

The venue is warm, open and inviting and from the time you step inside you get the wonderful coffee aroma in the air. The centrepiece of the venue – a hut style enclosure which houses the coffee bar and coffee machines, together with the friendly and always smiling baristas. There are communal long timber tables to sit and enjoy your coffee as the wide windows in the front let the sunshine in. On the wall to the right is a large picture which shows you the coffee process. There are chalkboards present, which displays their gold medal award at The Golden Bean for 2011/12 as well as showing the days coffee blends and speciality single origins on offer. Underneath this, is a selection of coffee machines, grinders and accessories that are for sale, together with interesting magazine and books to flick through.

30Kerr65 has several different blends on offer which include the house blend Prima Tazza (which is a combination of five origins) , a Hyper Hyper blend – a strong Italian blend, as well as an Utopia blend – which is both strong and smooth and a Decaf blend – all produced from a new Kees van der Westen Mirage Duette espresso machine – Mirage coffee machine in short. The main focus here John tells me is on coffee and small little sweets for the moment and creating just the perfect cup of coffee, but he is not ruling out having food in the near future. He tells me about their South Melbourne branch which does food as well as the delicious coffee – another café to add to the list to try out!

I ordered a House Blend latte which was smooth and creamy yet strong and delicious. It really does go down a treat and you can drink it really easily which leaves you with wanting more. It comes out to you by the friendly baristas. Whilst I was at 30Kerr65 there were many locals and people working around the area that came in that had already established a relationship with the place and were on first name basis and had the baristas knowing their order without them having to say anything. This was ideally the premise of having an inner suburban unique Espresso bar.

You can also purchase coffee at 30Kerr65 by the kilogram and can select from the different varieties. Additionally, each bag comes with a personalized touch – your name handwritten on the front of the bag.  As well the coffee beans you can buy top quality coffee machines, grinders and coffee making equipment in a variety of brands. You can even purchase the famous Giotto machine for your home from here.

Both Robert and John are passionate about coffee and know that having a great coffee is having great coffee beans – and this can be seen when you try out the Dimattina coffee. They also explained to me how they sourced the perfect milk to complement the coffee – by trailing a whole range till they found just the right one.

At 30Kerr65 you can learn about coffee as well – there are two different coffee courses which run on Thursdays or Saturday mornings and are by appointment only. The Barista Basics course ($120, 2 hours) covers use of commercial coffee machines and grinders, as well as texturing milk and coffee menu selection. The second courses offered is the Introduzione Al Caffe ($150, 2 hours) which teaches you about the history and origins of coffee, as well getting to practice making different styles of coffee and milk texturing.  Contact 30Kerr65 if you want to make a booking or you can email them at 30kerr65@dimattinacoffee.com.au.

30Kerr65 is a great addition to the bustling Fitzroy area, but somewhat hidden away in its location it has managed to find clientele who keep coming back. And just from speaking to both the Dimattina brother’s and staff working there – it is not only the delicious tasting coffee that makes people return but the friendly and impeccable service. Definitely check it out and experience some great coffee and service for yourself.

30Kerr65 is currently only open Monday to Friday but who knows what the future could hold.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual Relaxed place with great sunshine coming in through the front windows. Great way to start the morning!
Service: Super Friendly, Welcoming and Fantastic
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.30kerr65.com.au/
30 Kerr St, Fitzroy
Tel No: 9416 2077

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 8am – 4pm

30Kerr65 on Urbanspoon

Oscar Cooper – Pet Friendly & Tasty Food

Oscar Cooper – Pet Friendly & Tasty Food

N and I were heading to breakfast on the weekend and decided to try out Oscar Cooper in Prahran. I love places that have all day breakfasts – Oscar Cooper serves breakkie till 3pm – close enough! Oscar Cooper is … Continue reading

Two by Two – Chic Breakfast Style

panda 4 rating

G and I decided to head to Two by Two located in High Street, Northcote for our much anticipated catch up. Two by Two is owned by Jessica Fitzgerald and Ben Sanders and Jono Mackie is in charge of the meals. The result is welcoming and roomy restaurant which delivers high quality and seasonally produced food that is presented in a beautiful manner.

When you walk into Two by Two you are greeted by the main dining area which houses a communal table in the middle surrounded by tables. At the very back is where the bar/barista is located as well as the kitchen area. The feature of Two by Two is the glossy wooden wall that has a series of wooden dimples arranged randomly along the wall – which is really quite different to anything I have seen at a restaurant. There are wide windows located at the front where patrons can sit and enjoy the view of bustling traffic or people watching. Colourful and dainty flowers are placed in vases on tables to add further colour and vibrancy.

The brunch menu consists of simple favorites such as Bircher Museli, Avocado smash, pancakes and bacon and eggs as well some interesting combinations such as Poached Ocean Trout, Watermelon & Rhubarb with Chia seed granola as well as a Breakfast Charcuterie that includes Jamon Serrano and Black Pudding.

I ordered the Poached Ocean Trout, Pickled Avocado, Citrus Salad, Caper & Dill Creme Fraiche, Rye Toast and added a Poached Egg as well. This dish came out like as you would expect a dinner dish to come out – perfectly presented. On the backdrop of a white plate, the individual ingredients were colourful and every care seemed to have been taken in placement. The Rye Toast was the base of the dish with all the elements being placed on top. My only qualm was that I was interested in finding out what pickled avocado tasted like, but when I tasted it, it simply tasted the same as any other avocado would. This could be due to the mixture of other flavours tainting the taste but I am not sure. The dish not only looked great, but tasted fantastic. Each element mixed together in one bite-full was a great mix of flavours in your mouth – I love the burst of citrus from the orange segments. The poached trout was perfect and the mix of the salad with the dill flavoured crème fraiche was delightful. The egg was poached to perfection and was gooey and runny – just like how you would want it to be. A must try dish for anyone!

G ordered the Mushroom – Sauteed Selection, Creme Fraiche, Pecorino, Truffle Oil on Sourdough. Once again the dish was presented well and G did say she enjoyed the dish, however said that the serving size could have been a tad more generous.

Whilst we continued to chat, both G and I ordered the fresh mix juice was available as we were both intrigued by the combination. The combination was Apple, Ginger, Celery and Carrot.It was a great tasting combination and was quite refreshing. Coffee here was nutty and creamy and quite nice as well. The staff were friendly and inviting and always seem to have a smile on their face. They are very patient as well – our waitress had to come back four times before we were ready to order as we were too busy chatting rather than looking at the menu – oops!

Two by Two serves breakfast and lunch from Tuesday to Sunday, and dinner from Thursday to Saturday. The prices are very reasonable for the high quality and seasonal produce they provide. Seeing as I enjoyed the breakfast dishes served, I am intrigued to what dishes are served for dinner – so I have to make time and revisit Two by Two.

Whichever meal you prefer definitely go and check out Two by Two for yourself.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to http://www.twobytwonorthcote.com.au/?page_id=15 – there is a Brunch, Dinner and Wine Menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Comfortable, Modern and Relaxing. There is lots of sunlight and the venue is bright and inviting.
Standout Dish: Poached Ocean Trout, Pickled Avocado, Citrus Salad, Caper & Dill Creme Fraiche, Rye Toast
Service: Friendly and Warm
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.twobytwonorthcote.com.au/?page_id=19 – there is a DIMMI online reservation at the bottom of the page
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.twobytwonorthcote.com.au/
235 High Street, Northcote
Tel No: 9486 5885

Opening Hours:
Monday & Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday to Saturday: 08:30 – 11pm
Sunday: 08:30 – 3pm

Two By Two on Urbanspoon

Jimmy Grants – Chill & Have a Souva

panda 4 rating


halal (1)ONLY THE CHICKEN IS HALAL

I visited Jimmy Grants during a day off during lunchtime as I had heard about their souvas. Jimmy Grants is the latest opening from the Made Establishment group – which also consist of Gazi, Mama Baba, St Katherine’s and HellenicRepublic and headed up by none other than Greek King George Calombaris. It is located in just off Smith Street in Fitzroy. There are more stores planned to open with one in CBD and one in Ormond. Another focus in the future is also to have a delivery service.

The name comes from the rhyming slang name for the Greek, Italian and Middle Eastern immigrants to Melbourne and pays homage to them in the naming of dishes. For example the Patris is named after the migrant ship that carried assisted migrants from Europe to Australia – and is souva which comprises of prawns, attiki honey, mayonnaise, cucumber, mint and coriander. Yum! Jimmy Grants has a very short and concise menu which consists of souvas, rotisserie meats, salads, sides and of course dessert.

The main focus here is on souvas (souvlakis) all of which are under $10. The souvas come in a warm and fluffy wholemeal pita which is stuffed with either free range chicken, lamb, prawns or falafel together with other additions that you would finding a souvlaki such as onions, parsley as well as delicious, crispy,crunchy chips! There are also the “Jimmy Dimmy” which is their take on the humble Dim Sim. I wanted to try this out but was too full after my souva so I definitely have to come back and try it out.

In addition to the souvas, there are also salads available such as the simple iceberg salad with oregano, lemond and oil, the Hellenic Slaw with honey and Balsamic as well as a Grain salad that has a combination of pulses, nuts and grains mixed with parsley and Greek Yoghurt.  You can also order either the free range chicken or the spit roasted lamb shoulder from the rotisserie together with pitas and a side (a kind of do-it-yourself souva if you will)  at $15 and you can also add a salad or extra pita breads for an extra $5 – the choice is up to you.

The menu of course has to finish with Desserts and these ranges from the Greek doughnuts with walnuts and honey (made by chef  Travis McCauley), to a Greek Yoghurt, honey and white chocolate “choc top” as well as their version of the Wagon Wheel (filled with strawberry marshmallow (all of which are made by Darren Purchese).

I ordered the chicken souva and it was quite tasty but slightly smaller in size than your standard kebab. I loved the addition of the chips for the extra crunch and the sauce used was delicious. Sometimes I found the chicken sizing to be too big to fit inside the kebab (but then again who would complain about that =p) The chicken is moist and tender at the same time and is flavoured perfectly.

For dessert I ordered the Wagon wheel which was chocolate filled with a strawberry marshmallow gooey centre. It was decently sized as well and I couldn’t eat all of it in one go – but it was certainly just as delicious as biting into it the first time.

The space in which Jimmy Grants was created was designed by Techne Architects and features low table seating in the front room, followed by high bar stools and high communal table in the back room. The historical and cultural references can be seen in the décor with splashes of the Greek blue against the white washed brick walls. There are also feature walls done by Dan Wenn which show a DC-3 aircraft as well as The Patris (the tall ship with silhouettes of friends and family waiting for their loved ones in the foreground).

Jimmy Grants is a licensed bar, diner and takeaway all in one where the staff are warm, welcoming, friendly and funny! Jimmy Grants delivers quick, easy and tasty Greek food that doesn’t cost much at all. It’s a no fuss souvlaki bar which is soon to open up in other locations and I cannot wait for a branch closer to me.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to http://jimmygrants.com.au/menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Friendly, Welcoming and A piece of Greek in Fitzroy
Standout Dish: Any of the Souva’s
Service: Fantastic and Attentive. The wait staff are super funny as well!
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://jimmygrants.com.au/
113 Saint David Street, Fitzroy

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11am – 10pm

Jimmy Grants on Urbanspoon

Brutale – Homely Croatian Food

panda 4 rating

It was time for another catchup dinner with A and I selected Brutale as both of us had never eaten Croatian food before. Brutale is located in a laneway in the heart of Melbourne CBD in Corrs Lane – and is under Berlin Bar (where the old Eurotrash nightclub was). It is the latest restaurant from chef Daniel Dobra (ex-The Aylesbury and St Ali), and he gets to share and promote his Croatian heritage by showcasing delicious Croatian food which he grew up with.

Dobra is all about family and Brutale is his way of sharing a piece of his family with us. The restaurant could almost be mistook for his very own family living area – aside from the disco ball bomb, soldier helmet lightshades, not to mention the full pig’s carcass hanging behind the glass at the entrance as well as the interesting artwork (such as huge pictures of broads with the faces of pigs) around the room and a DJ playing records in the background.

The menu consists of appetisers, larger dishes and finishes with desserts and consists of genuine family recipes handed down to him by his father and grandmother. Dishes like his Dad’s oxtail goulash are an example, where it is cooked in the restaurant just as his dad would at home. There are also dishes such as Grandma’s Greens – which is a simple stew of vegies that his grandmother cooked with every meal- and Father’s Chips which pays homage to his family. The Cabbage Rolls and Croatian Donuts are also a recipe passed down from his grandmother. Additionally you can select the ‘Dobra Family Banquet’ and be one of the family for the night. Most of the dishes are cooked in the tailor made kitchen and are cooked over wood and coals to give it a truly authentic flavour. There are other Croatian homestyle techniques such as spit-roasting, pickling and cooking in the peka – a roasting dish with a domed lid.

For drinks there is a selection of unusual Croatian wines, including some grape varieties that aren’t grown anywhere else. The most famous is the Rakija – a spirit distilled from plum and other fruits. This variety continues with their non-alcoholic drinks with drinks such as Cokta – which is described as the Croatian version of Coca Cola. I ordered this and despite not being a huge fan of Coca Cola – this drink was refreshing and addictive (and has the added bonus of having vitamins added too!). A ordered the *orange* drink and said it was an interesting flavour.

We were told by the waiter that most of the dishes were designed to share so that is what A and I decided to do. We weren’t sure if we had ordered too little or too many dishes, so the waiter helped us out with that as well.

We ordered the Pierogi – Polish Dumplings, Soured Cream – which was stuffed with wild mushrooms. This was a really great dish and the sour cream really complemented the dish. The dumpling casing was cooked perfectly and tasted just as good. Another dish that we ordered was the Grilled Calamari with Garlic, Parsley and Olive Oil . This was yet another stand out dish – the calamari was charred perfectly and the combination of the garlic, parsley and olive oil added moistness, flavour and tang. The serving was quite a huge size as well.

The Father’s Chips with Salt, Pepper and Dobra Spiced Mayonnaise was really great as well, although I found that it had a bit too much salt. The Dobra Spiced Mayonnaise was definitely a hit – I could eat this by the spoonful! It was smooth and creamy with a hint of spice and I think you can use it as an addition to any dish really.

We also ordered the Shopska Salad which was very colourful dish and contained Tomato, Cucumber, Pickled Onion, Paprika, White Cheese. The dish was tangy and salty all at the same time and was quite a refreshing dish that I quite enjoyed. The serving size is very generous and we couldn’t finish this dish in its entirety.

The last dish we had was an eggplant dish that had red onions with paprika and coriander on top of it. Usually I am not a fan of eggplant dishes but this was really great. The eggplant was soft and easy to eat and the flavoring complemented the eggplant.

At this point we were really quite full, but decided to share a dessert as well. I sure do love my sweets! We went with the Croatian Doughnuts – Flavoured with Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Raisin, Vanilla and Served with Walnut Rakija Cream. Seriously these are the best donuts I have ever tasted. They were served warm and cinnamon, nutmeg, raisin combination was fantastic. This is definitely a dessert you have to try and after all it is Dobra’s Grandmothers recipe.

What is also quite different about Brutale is that there is no bell to let the floor staff knows that a food dish is ready, they just clap their hands and the staff know to go and pick up the food. I really like that idea. The service was great – friendly and helpful but sometimes it was quite hard to get the attention of the waiter if we needed to order something or ask something. And one more downside is that if you want bread you need to order it off the menu, it isn’t served otherwise. Overall Brutale serves delicious Croatian food that is both authentic, simple and delicious in an atmosphere that makes you feel at home.

PS The dish that is highly sought after and talked about is the free-range organic pig – hand-reared on a farm in Bendigo – which is spit roasted for five hours then served with crackling and  jugs of apple purée and roasting juices. I of course couldn’t eat this dish, but is a must try for most people that have been to Brutale.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to http://www.brutale.com.au/#!food/c1rcm
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Warm, Inviting and Homely. There are also interesting pieces of artwork and objects that will keep you amused through dinner
Standout Dish:  Pierogi  and Croatian Donuts
Service: Frienldy and Helpful, but most times it was hard to get the attention of the wait staff.
Online Booking: Yes via http://www.brutale.com.au/#!bookings/chva
Restaurant Details and Location:
brutale.com.au
18 Corrs Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9654 4411

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Sunday: 6pm–1am

Brutale on Urbanspoon