Panda Wedding Fun!

Hey Guys!

So relating to my previous post of being MIA – one of the main reasons was because I was busy planning a wedding and got married back in June 2015. We have been lucky enough to be nominated for Wedding of Year 2015 and would greatly appreciate your support. If you could click on the link below and Vote for Shazrina & Nik – that would be awesome.

I had a really fun time organising and planning all the details of the wedding – from the quote on the bottom of my shoe to the personalised thank you tags for guests, the photo collage in the shape of our initials – I really did love it all. Of course my favourite aspect was the food tasting and selecting of dishes for my guests on the two different nights.

For our Indian reception we had catering done from Topaz Catering – a delicious Sri Lankan banquet.
For the reception at Encore in St Kilda – we had the lovely staff provide our guests with a 3 course meal of dishes we selected.
Entree:
Spanner Crab with Avocado, Apple Puree, Daikon and Puffed Wild Rice
Slow cooked Buttermilk Chicken with Crisp Jerusalem Artichoke, Goats Curd and Figs

Main:
Truffled Chicken Breast with Boudin Blanc, Sweet Corn Polenta and Popcorn
Slow Cooked Salmon with Prawn Colcannon and Pea Puree

Dessert:
Caramel Ice Cream Paddles with Chocolate and Praline Hazelnuts
Passionfruit Tarts with Soft and Crispy Meringue
Wedding Cake

What I also enjoyed was cake tasting – and picking the different flavours for our – not one but TWO wedding cakes. My choices were White Chocolate Raspberry (which was my all time favourite), Caramel, White Chocolate and Chocolate Fudge.
We had the lovely Vinu from Vindya Boutique Cake Studio – https://www.facebook.com/Vindya-102326746613223/ (for the Indian Reception) and Jo from Splendid Servings – http://splendidservings.com.au/ (for the Encore Reception) creating our beautiful cakes.

If that wasn’t enough sweetness – we also had a beautiful blue themed dessert table created by ever talented Ngoc from The Dessert Parlour – http://thedessertparlour.com.au/. Our table was filled with homemade and personalized cookies, marble heart shaped chocolates and meringues – along with a variety of lollies and candies.

Shazrina_Nik_Cultural-Wedding_005
Our Wedding Cake by Vindya Boutique Cake Studio (https://www.facebook.com/Vindya-102326746613223/)
Shazrina_Nik_Cultural-Wedding_SBS_013-600x900
Our Wedding Cake by Splendid Servings (http://splendidservings.com.au/)
Shazrina_Nik_Cultural-Wedding_016-900x600  Shazrina_Nik_Cultural-Wedding_SBS_014-600x900
Our beautiful Dessert Table from The Dessert Parlour (http://thedessertparlour.com.au/)

If you could head to the following link(s) and Vote for Shazrina & Nik – that would be great!

http://www.easyweddings.com.au/real-weddings/competition/december-2015-nominees/

http://www.easyweddings.com.au/real-weddings/traditions-combine-shazrina-niks-three-day-cultural-wedding/

Thank you all so much for the support

Much Love

Grazing Panda xx

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Switchboard Cafe – The Cutest Retro Cafe Ever!

panda 4 rating

Switchboard Cafe

Switchboard Cafe

The Hole in the Wall Cafe

The Hole in the Wall Cafe

Latte at Switchboard Cafe

Latte at Switchboard Cafe

I was meeting C for a catch-up the other day and was looking for a coffee place located somewhere near City Square in the Melbourne CBD. C suggested Switchboard Café which I hadn’t heard of before and boy am I glad she introduced me to this quaint and cute little place.

Switchboard Café is located in a somewhat drafty arcade laneway on the ground floor of the Manchester Unity Building – located on the corner of Collins and Swanston street. It literally is what you would call a hole in the wall type of café – fitted out in a Retro style feel complete with green and white floral wallpaper and brass framed glass windows. There is the world’s smallest “living area” glass box where patrons can sit inside and avoid the cool drafts that flow through – that can seat about 7 to 8 people max (Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of this). Literally across from this hole is another hole in the wall – which used to be the building’s old switchboard cupboard (hence the name) where the coffees are made.

I ordered a latte to have in and took my seat in the tiniest living area while waiting for C. It almost felt like being down the rabbit hole on the set of an Alice in Wonderland movie! The latte was absolutely perfect – full bodied with a great nutty after taste. I would definitely recommend this place for a good hit of caffeine when you feel the need – or for anytime for that matter.

I didn’t get to try out their breakfast or lunch range – but C did tell me that it was really great tasting food. Think warm soup, toasties, baguettes (Smoked Salmon) and bagels – you can choose from melted Haloumi, Tomato and Avocado just to name a few. For breakfast there is also Bircher Muesli or Fruit Toast available.

Definitely go and check out Switchboard Café – especially if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of a busy day at work! Next on the list for me is to come and try out their food!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – A choice of soups, toasties, baguettes and bagels
Atmosphere / Ambience: Retro, Unique and Fun!
Service: Friendly!
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
Ground Floor
Manchester Unity Building
220 Collins Street, Melbourne

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Saturday: 9:00am – 3:00pm

Switchboard Cafe on Urbanspoon
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Switchboard-Cafe/158990604124405?ref=ts&fref=ts
Twitter: @switchboardcafe
Instagram: switchboardcafe

Form Cafe – Suburban Treat

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Form Cafe Menu 1 Form Cafe Menu 3 Form Cafe 2

Form Café is located in the suburban streets of Essendon and has been on my list of cafes to try for a while. I found myself in and around that area on a Saturday so decided to pop by for something to eat before running more errands.

Form Café resides on Albion Street in what used to be a milk bar, then a house, then an artists’ studio and finally a café. Owned by Rob Cecchinelli and Jason Currie (both from Ray) – this café has a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere where you can see yourself spending lots of time without even realising how much time you have spent. I especially love the wheelbarrow garden located at the front of the restaurant coupled with a chalkboard sign with its name on it.

The interior is mostly white with splashes of wood throughout. I love the island bench that houses the terracotta jugs where you can self-serve your own water – it actually makes self service cool! Carrying on the self-service theme are the cutlery and serviettes that are clustered in the middle of each table held in a tomato soup tin – how vintage! Carrying on the vintage vibe is the menu that is written on brown butcher’ paper. There are three main sitting areas – one as you walk in, another as you go up the stairs (almost like a raised living area) and then outside in the courtyard.

The menu begins with the classics that you expect to find on a breakkie / brunch menu such as Fruit Toast, Pet (Poached Eggs on Toast), The Good Stuff (Bircher Muesli with Poached Fruit, Cream, Pistachios & Honey) and then moves onto the more unique dishes such as Shane’s Sardines (Tinned Sardines on Toast with Pickled Fennel and Salsa Verde), Cheese & Onion Square (Leek & Onion braised in White Wine on Toast, sat under Grilled Messy Valley Cheese) and Smash (Avo, Tomatoes, Danish Feta on Multi-Grain Toast with Grilled Corn) – just to name a few. There is also Gluten Free bread available.

I order a latte while I decide on what food I want. The Latte is perfection in a cup – strong with nutty flavours and just the right amount of milk and foam. I decide to order the Trout – Petuna Smoked Trout, Potato Cake and Lemon Scented Zucchini and Poached Eggs. I was surprised at how quickly the dish appeared at my table not long after I had ordered. A few tables down – the patrons made the same comment as well – the quick delivery of food once their orders had been placed. Efficiency at its best!

Food is served on recycled plates (they really are looking out for the environment) – which I don’t mind at all! The Potato Cake sits on the bottom with the beautifully smoked trout layered on top followed by the lemon scented zucchini and finished with rocket leaves. It looks like a Christmas tree that I can’t wait to devour. The poached egg is placed to the side surrounded by peas, pepitas and dukkah. The Potato cake is soft on the inside with a crisp and delicious tasting crunch on the outside – it is not what you would expect normally when you think potato cake – but is fantastic nonetheless. The combination of the fresh cool trout with the warm potato and hint of tang from the lemon scented zucchini is a divine combination. The egg was poached nicely and the addition of the peas and pepitas added extra texture. The dish was consumed just about as fast as it arrived.

The service is a bit varied but overall friendly – especially the barista as you leave – which makes your experience a whole lot better and makes you want to come back. Form Café is a great addition to the area and I will definitely be back to try out Shane’s Sardines!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Comfortable and Casual
Service: Friendlyish…
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Form-Cafe/184897851654353
32 Albion Street, Essendon
Tel No: 9375 3232

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 6.30am – 4:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00am – 4:00pm

Form Cafe on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Form-Cafe/184897851654353
Twitter: @ForMCafeMelb
Instagram: @formcafe

5 & Dime Bagels – NYC Goodness in Melbourne

panda 4 rating

Menu:
5&Dime Menu

5 & Dime has finally launched in Melbourne bringing New York style bagels into Melbourne CBD, and we have Zev Forman to thank. 5 & Dime is located in Katherine Place, near the Spencer Street end of the city.

Forman formerly from New Jersey grew up having bagels everyday with his grandparents in New York and started baking his own bagels and selling them in markets such as Flemington and Coburg Farmers Markets. For research he travelled to America to work with the most celebrated bagel makers in New York, to ensure he had the perfect recipes and techniques.

5 & Dime is a dedicated bakery and carries a simple fit-out by Brand Works and Beyond the Pixel – with wooden accents, tables and clear circular glass display for the bagels. Seating is limited but available for those who wish to have breakfast and lunch.

The bagels themselves are a labour of love – it begins with a starter that sits for 24 hours, then they are rolled into rings and fermented for another 24 hours. The last steps involve being boiled, baked and finally served fresh. The current flavours are Dill, Poppyseed, Everything, Cinnamon & Raisin, Onion, Plain, Salt, Sesame and Rye.

The usual spreads are available – Cream Cheese, Butter, PB&J – along with some different spreads – Strawberry Cream Cheese, Spring Veg Cream Cheese, Bacon Maple Cream Cheese, Smoked White Fish Cream Cheese and Vegan Cream Cheese. You can also get extras with your bagel – Tomato, Red Onion, Pickled Shallots, Capers, Radish, Vegemite, Avocado and Cured Salmon. All ingredients are of the highest quality with Foreman smoking his own salmon, curing his own Gravlax and using Goldfields real cultured cream cheese.

Coffee is also served and is provided by one of Collingwood’s new comers – Promised Land. They serve batch-brewed filter coffee (which can be available immediately to serve) and offer rotating single origins as well.

I order a latte and a Cinnamon & Raisin Bagel with Cream Cheese. I love the toastiness on the outside together with the soft pillow like texture on the inside. The combination of the crunch and softness is brilliant. The Cinnamon flavour is vibrant throughout the bagel with accents of sweetness thanks to the raisins. The cream cheese is the perfect accompaniment. The latte is strong, rich and full of coffee goodness that packs quite a bit of kick.

If bagels are your thing and you want to watch them being made – via a huge machine that has come all the way from Canada – then I suggest you try out 5 & Dime Bagel.

NOTE: 5 & Dime also supply their products to various cafes around Melbourne – you can find a full list on their website – http://5dimebagel.com.au/great-places-using-5d-bagels-1/. You can also purchase bagels from a variety of places other than their CBD store – this info is also on their site – http://5dimebagel.com.au/great-places-using-5d-bagels/

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$$
Menu – Refer to Picture above or you can find the menu at http://5dimebagel.com.au/5-dime-cafe/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Modern and Welcoming
Standout Dish: BAGELS
Service: Friendly and Welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
5dimebagel.com.au
16 Katherine Place, Melbourne
Tel No: 0433339367

Opening Hours
Monday to Friday: 7:00am–3:00pm

5 & Dime Bagels on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/5-and-Dime-Bagels/451649908200685
Twitter: @5dimebagel
Instagram: 5dimebagel

The Grain Store – European Dinner Flair

panda 4 rating

Menu:
The Grain Store Menu for the night

I have been a HUGE fan of The Grain Store ever since its inception (check out my previous blog here for them – https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/the-grain-store-honest-cooking/ )– initially starting off with trying their breakfast menu (a few times!) and then branching out to try their lunch menu. I loved all of their food, ingredients and plating up of dishes. So naturally I was excited when I received an invite from Zilla & Brook,  to try out their latest dinner offering at an intimate bloggers’ dinner.

On arrival we were all greeted and asked to select from a choice of drinks. I opted for Hepburn Mineral Springs Organic Lemonade which was refreshing and perfect after walking from Southgate to the venue.

As the rest of the bloggers started to arrive, we received small starters which were elegantly presented in clear egg shaped glass cups. You could see the distinction of two layers through the clear glass – a savoury mushroom jelly topped with a layer of pumpkin foam and finished with a crisp triangle of chickpea biscuit. The combination was delicious – the vibrant mushroom flavour paired with the sweetness of the pumpkin. The silky jelly combined with the smooth foam was a texture party for your senses.

Once we had all sampled the starter we were led into an intimate private dining room which had been set up especially for us. It was a cosy group of about 15 of us – which was the perfect size. When we were all seated, head chef Ingo Meissner came out to say hello and gave us some information about the Grain Store – its background, philosophy and ideologies. Meissner himself is from Europe and hence there are many Mediterranean and French influences throughout the menu – that utilise both traditional and new techniques.
The Grain Store sources local produce – for example the Burrata is from Carlton, the duck is from Daylesford. But their main point of difference is that they have their very own Rooftop Garden where they grow seasonal produce – as well as the pretty flowers, petals for that little bit of jazz when plating up – that ends up on your plate. What a great idea!

The night started off with Entrees which was a selection of three small dishes – all plated up on the one plate which I thought was a great idea to showcase a variety of their dishes succinctly. These dishes included:
Green asparagus, burrata, char-grilled orange, black barley, hazelnut, rosemary sablé
Poached veal fillet, avocado, tuna mayonnaise, charred shallots, white anchovies, caper berries
Pan seared scallops, smoked eggplant, butternut boudin noir sandwich, ricotta lemon curd, crisp leeks
As I couldn’t have the Poached Veal Fillet – I was substituted with a salad consisting of a variety of ingredients.

The plating up of this dish was done really well – with the standout definitely being the bright purple cauliflower; everyone was wondering what taste they would have when they took their first bit into it. The cauliflower had been beetroot cured and therefore had a bit of tang to it – really good! Each of the components worked well together and I especially loved the black barley – which not only added texture but a great earthy tone to the dish. I loved the addition of orange to this dish to add an element of sweet and citrus.

The scallop component was definite highlight amongst the other dishes on this Entrée plate – the scallop had been seared to perfection and flavoured well. The butternut boudin noir sandwich was a welcome component adding a sweet touch to combine with the ricotta and lemon curd. I enjoyed the finish of the crisp leek – adding depth to the dish.

Next up was the mains – we were served alternative dishes between a Fish dish and a Duck dish – Free range Aylesbury duck breast, fennel slaw, Nicola potato, crème fraiche, caramelised carrot and pine nuts. There was a resounding “delicious” for the guests in the room that had this dish – with the duck being succulently cooked and the flavours of the fennel furthur enhancing the duck flavour. The Nicola potato component that it came served was glistening and looked divine!

I had the Lakes Entrance Dory fillets, new season asparagus, soft herb spätzle, charred corn salsa. This dish was plated up simply, yet it was a colourful visual spectacle. The star attraction was the fish which front and centre and sat on a green bed of soft herb spätzle (I asked Ingo later how it was made and he told me that it was made much like that of pasta – with flour and eggs, with the addition of herbs to give it that vibrant green colour), and surrounded by the asparagus and the charred corn salsa. Each component added flavour and texture to the dish. The Dory fillets were lightly battered on the outside and cooked well – resulting in soft white kernels of delicious fish on the inside. I loved the look, feel and taste of the spätzle – it was the first time I was eating this and I was highly intrigued – it is the type of dish that you keep going back for more as it is easy to eat and tastes great. The charred corn salsa had the perfect level of smokiness that worked well with the simple flavours of the fish. I would definitely recommend this dish!

Whilst we were eating our mains we were also given polenta chips topped with herbs and salt – which came out stacked like a jenga game. They were really tasty as well – crispy on the outside with a dense softness on the inside. A really great side dish addition to enhance your food experience.

It had been a great night of conversation and simply designed tasty food so far but my favourite part of any meal was still to come. For dessert we lucky enough to be served a selection of desserts which included – Black forest gateau, chocolate ganache, cherries, vanilla kirsch panna cotta, coca nibs together with a Grain Store Soufflé (Strawberry with Goats Cheese sorbet and fresh strawberries).
It was a tough choice of deciding where to begin on this sweet delight. I started with the black forest gateau – dense, rich and with added flavour from the berry centre. The chocolate ganache was the bomb – smooth, silky and full of chocolate goodness – you could seriously eat bucket loads of this ganache. The vanilla panna cotta came in a pyramid bite size piece – it was creamy and yet another delicious component.
The Grain Store Soufflé was delightful – light, soft, melt in your mouth and filled with a strawberry flavour. A truly great dish! I wasn’t a huge fan of the goats cheese sorbet that was its accompaniment and felt soufflé on its own was all that was needed.

The night was a fantastic event to meet new people and exchange stories, compare notes – all in the name of food – and more! The Grain Store should be a place that should be added to your list of restaurants that you must try in Melbourne – be if for breakfast, lunch or dinner. All dishes that I have tried here are delicious and well worth the effort.

Disclaimer: Grazing Panda was invited to dine at The Grain Store as a guest by Zilla & Brook, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Homely, Elegant and Inviting
Standout Dish:
Service: Friendly and Attentive
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.grainstore.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.grainstore.com.au/
517 Flinders Lane
Tel No: 9972 6993

Opening Hours:
Breakfast & Lunch
Monday to Friday: 7:00 am – 4:00 pm
Saturday to Sunday: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Dinner
Wednesday to Saturday: 6:00 pm – 9:30 pm

The Grain Store on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/grainstore517
Instagram: GrainStore517
Twitter:@GrainStore517

Cherry and Twigs – Hidden Delight

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Food Menu Drinks Menu
I had heard a lot about Cherry and Twigs and it had been on my list of places to try for a while – eventually I had a chance to actually take a lunch break at work and went to check it out. When you look up Cherry and Twigs it gives you a Flinders Lane address (towards the Spencer Street end), however upon arriving at this address I couldn’t find the café and wondered if it had been closed down. But the actual entrance for Cherry and Twigs is hidden in a laneway – called Downie Street (near Holiday Inn)– lookout for the glass to floor folding style doors.

Cherry and Twigs has a Scandinavian minimalist theme running through it – complete with blonde wood tables and two large wooden cut-out of a tree. Choose from individual tables, communal tables or a bar seat along the wall to sit. The café is small yet spacious and thanks to the bi-fold doors –quite light filled. I love the décor of terrariums on the communal table – it really suits the whole relaxed and chilled out vibe of the venue. Most of the seating in the venue allows you to view into the kitchen to watch

The menu compromises of an All Day Breakfast menu as well as a Lunch menu. The All Day Breakfast menu comprises of your usual favourites with a twist – these include Avocado Breakfast Pudding (with honey, homemade granola and fresh cut fruit), Oats Porridge (with banana, cinnamon and raisin served with panela sugar on the side) as well as B.L.T, Breakfast Roll and Eggs Benedict with an option to have it with bacon instead of smoked salmon – just to name a few.
The Lunch menu samples a few cuisines such as Moroccan and Thai – consisting of salads, wraps, sandwiches, burgers and a green curry. Coffee here is by Market Lane and The Mailing Room with options such as cold drips and pours overs available as well. Tea is by Tea Craft and there are milkshakes, iced coffee, iced chocolate and the usual soft drinks and juices available. They have their liquor license so beer and wine is also available.

I order a chai latte (which comes from Prana Chai) which was perfectly made – with just the right amount of foam on the top. From the very first time I read the menu I knew that I wanted to try out their French Toast – with berry compote, poached pear, mascarpone cheese and mint – so that is exactly what I ordered.

The dish comes out with each of the components beautifully plated up. The two pieces of French toast were artfully placed on top of each other with a layer of berries between them; topped with a dollop of mascarpone cream. The poached pear was delightfully fanned out to the right side of the French toast and topped with thin slices of apples and cut up strawberries. Maple syrup was criss-crossed over the whole dish together with shards of fresh mint. The dish as a whole worked really together and I really enjoyed the addition of fresh mint – the flavour enhanced the dish. My only one really tiny qualm would be that the poached pear could have been poached for a bit longer as it wasn’t as soft as I was expecting. Overall I was impressed with the flavours and it really was more than what I was expecting.

The staff here are super friendly and always have a smile on their face. Cherry and Twigs is a must visit place be it for good tasting coffee, great tasting dishes or even some delicious dessert treates which are displayed on the front counter. It definitely is worth the trouble finding it!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – An All Day Breakfast Menu as well as a Lunch Menu – refer to picture above.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy, Casual and Chilled out. Great for work meetings and catch-ups
Service: Fantastic, Attentive and Friendly
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
18/555 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9614 7096

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 6:30am – 5:00pm
Saturday: 7:30am – 2:00pm
Sunday: Closed

Cherry & Twigs on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cherryandtwigs
Twitter: @cherryandtwigs
Instagram: cherryandtwigs

 

STREAT – Doing It For The Young Kids – Great Cause!

panda 4 rating

Information & Menu:
About STREAT More About STREAT Food Menu Coffee & Drinks

G and I were meeting up for brunch on the weekend and we decided to check out STREAT in Flemington. STREAT is a place with a story – they are a non-profit social enterprise that provides homeless youth with life-skills, work experience and training that they require to start a career in the hospitality industry. STREAT literally translates to Street youth + Street Food + Street Culture.

STREAT is founded by Rebecca Scott and Kate Barrelle. They got the idea after being inspired by KOTO – a training program in Vietnam that provides street youth with job opportunities. STREAT has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 2010 from two small food carts located in Federation Square in Melbourne to now having three stores – Flemington, Melbourne Central and McKillop St in the Melbourne CBD. They have grown rapidly have sold around 500,000 meals and coffees and provided almost 5,000 days of training and work experience to over 100 local street youth. Two of their trainees from the very first class are now fully qualified Chefs in Melbourne. They have also recently won an award for being Australia’s Most Innovative Social Enterprise.

The vibe at STREAT when you walk in in buzzing and it really does have a homely and welcoming charm about it. As you walk in there is communal table directly to your right, with wooden tables and mismatched chairs along the left hand side. There is the main counter area where you can order takeaway coffee or grab a sweet treat to go. The vibrant electric blue Marzocco coffee machine sits proudly on top at the front counter, adding a burst of colour amongst the black chalkboard and brown tiled walls. The kitchen is located at the very back of the venue. We are seated at the communal table – and the way in which we are facing allows us to read the menu off the chalkboard wall. The menu is displayed both on the wall of the venue as well as in booklet form which the friendly staff hand to you as you sit down and place your coffee order.

Coffee here is roasted on site in their vintage Probat coffee roasted, and you can have a choice between Single Origins – Colombia, Primavera, Tolima as well as Cold Brews – Honduras, Santa Marta, Pacamara. These of course change week by week and give the customers a chance to try coffees from different countries and regions.
STREAT also offers two blends – their Signature Social Blend as well as a darker Deluxe Blend. The blends are seasonal and change as new crops come through, altering the flavour ever so slightly.
I ordered a latte from their Signature Social Blend – which has notes of nuts and caramel with a creamy end note (thanks to the milk being frothed to perfection). It was a delicious and tasty coffee that exuded warmness.

What also caught my attention (as the couple next to us had ordered it) was the Hot Yuzu Tea (Hot Citrus). When it comes out all it is – is boiling hot water with the citrus kernels at the bottom of the glass. Once you stir it is when all the magic happens – the liquid is no longer clear but a warm yellow colour and the flavour is reminiscent of lemon, orange and grapefruit all mixed together. It was brilliant and perfect for my sore throat.

The menu is in booklet form and I love that it has a whole section dedicated to everything about STREAT as well as information such as what type of support they offer, who their major targets are, some facts and how you can get involved if you want to help out. What I also think is great is their Pay It Forward scheme – usually when you buy coffees and have a coffee card, the 9th or 10th coffee is free, instead at STREAT this 9th coffee or meal (if you have had 8 previous meals then a meal will be given instead) is given to a homeless person. What a fantastic idea!

The food menu has a great variety and changes seasonally. When G & I went it was all about their autumn menu. You can find the usual suspects such as Eggs on toast where you can have added extras such as grilled tomato, bacon, avocado etc. There are also two different types of Baked Eggs, a French Toast dish (think cinnamon ganache, poached pear – yum!), Cauliflower cheese croquettes as well as a dish they called “The Hunter” (Poached eggs, bacon, chorizo, tomato relish) and “The Gatherer” (the vegetarian alternative – Poached eggs, Spinach, Mushrooms, Hash Brown). For the dishes that ebb ore on the lunch side – Salt Beef Bagel, Lamb in filo pastry, Beef Burger, Chorizo and Egg Roll, BLT and Seoul Sanga just to name a few.
Their food is handmade fresh every day and tries to use local produce from local suppliers where they can. They are also very happy to cater for whatever dietary requirement you have – G can’t have sesame seeds or nuts and they were happy to change the bread on her dish to avoid this.

I ordered the Kasundi Eggs – House made Eggplant Kasundi, Avocado, Dukkah Paneer, Fresh Herb Salad and Poached Egg on Sourdough – which was a special for the day. The dish came out looking like a breakfast tower – the bread at the base of the dis with the avocado, poached eggs piled on top with the eggplant kasundi drizzled on top and finished with coriander. The Dukkah Paneer was placed sporadically around the dish. The poached eggs were cooked perfectly and oozed rich golden yolk which worked well with the smooth avocado. The eggplant kasundi was delicious with a hint of spice – I would have liked more of it on my dish. Overall the dish was well flavoured and I loved the added texture combination thanks to the dukkah and the seeded sourdough.

G ordered the Baked Eggs with Hash Brown, Cherry Tomatoes, Olives, Spanish Onion and Basil with Toasted Pide with Chorizo – which came out looking rather impressive. The baked eggs came out in a black pan which was placed on top of a wooden board. The dish looked bright and colourful thanks to the yellow yolk, redness of the tomatoes and green herbs. The dish is quite filling and a very decent serving size which G enjoyed and said tasted good.

The service at STREAT is fantastic – we had an awesome waiter who was chatty, warm and welcoming (you can see him in one of the pics I took with his thumbs up). The vibe is buzzing and it really is a great place to come, sit and enjoy great tasting food and drinks – and what makes it even more worthwhile is the great cause they are supporting!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to Menu pics above. Flemington Cafe Menu – http://www.streat.com.au/food/flemington/flemington-menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Funky and Relaxed.
Service: Friendly, Welcoming and Inviting
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.streat.com.au/

Flemington Cafe
307 Racecourse Road, Flemington
Tel No:9372 3288
Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00am – 4:00pm

STREAT on Urbanspoon

McKillop Cafe
5 McKillop Street, Melbourne
Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:30am – 4:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: CLOSED

STREAT McKillop St on Urbanspoon

Melbourne Central Cafe
Ground floor of Melbourne Central next to the escalators to the trains
Opening Hours:
Monday to Wednesday : 7:30am – 7:00pm
Thursday & Friday : 7:30am – 9:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 9:30am – 7:00pm

STREAT Melbourne Central on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/streat.melbourne
Twitter: STREATmelbourne, Streatcafe, StreatMcKillop, Bec_Scott

Little King Cafe – Cute Inner City Cafe

panda 4 rating
Latte at Little King Smashed Avocado and Fetta on Sourdough

G told me about this little café located near her workplace that I should try out called Little King so at lunchtime I thought I would go and check it out.

Little King is set up by Ellie King together with her mum Jessie – and named after her nickname at high school – and is located under the archways of St Paul’s Cathedral (just off Flinders Lane). Their main aim is to serve the best seasonal, local and organic produce to create tasty food options, catering for vegetarians and vegans in the process.

Little King is tiny but has a homely feel to it where you can see yourself spending hours just enjoying the ambience and the smell of delicious coffee and home cooking. It is quaint, cute and bursting with energy and life complete with low ceilings, wooden furniture and lace curtains. It reminds you of your grandma’s living room really. There are a few seats located inside as well as a number of seats outside on the pavement just at the front of Little King.

The menu changes daily and is based on whatever King feels like cooking each morning – from soups, salads to yummy homemade baked treats such as cakes and muffins. The coffee is from Padre and all the bread and pastries are from Dench Bakery.

The day that I go there is a Quinoa Supersalad available as well as Smashed Avocado with Fetta on Sourdough, along with sandwiches ( lots of vegan options available). I opt for the Smashed Avocado and order a Latte to match. The latte is strong with a nutty caramel hit all in one with notes of creaminess to finish. The Smashed Avocado is fresh, creamy and with the tang of the Feta was just what I needed.

Little King is brilliant and is a great addition to Melbourne. It allows you sit, enjoy and watch the hustle and bustle that happens around the Flinders Street area all whilst enjoying delicious coffee and some great locally produced, home cooked food.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Soups, Salads, Sandwiches, Homemade Baked Treats
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cute, Cosy and Homely
Service: Friendly
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.littlekingcafe.com
Shop 4/209 Flinders Lane
Melbourne
Tel No: 9654 0030

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:30am – 3:30pm

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LittleKingCafe
Twitter: @LittleKingCafe

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Stagger Lee’s – Vintage Cool

panda 4 rating

stagger lee

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Menu:
Stagger Lee's Menu
Stagger Lees Drinks

It was a long awaited catch-up for the four of us – G, J, M and myself – and we decided to stick to something that was central between the four of us. This place happened to be Stagger Lee’s – located on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy.  I have heard many good things about this place ever since it opened up and was keen to check it out for myself.

Stagger Lee’s is brought to you by the people of Proud Mary – it is a collaboration between Proud Mary owner Nolan Hirte, former Proud Mary general Manager Monica Chhay, Head Chef Chris Hamburger (ex The Aylesbury, St Ali North) and Mun Soon of MGS Architects and owner of Krimper Cafe (refer to https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/krimper-cafe-hidden-warehouse-style-treasure/ for my blog review of Krimper Cafe).

Stagger Lee’s is named after a pimp / bad-ass from St Louis – he infamously shot a cell mate in the 1900s for stealing his red Stetson hat and since this time over 400 musicians have retold the story of Stagger Lee. Here at Stagger Lee – this story reinforces the fact to “stick to your guns” and to “stand up for yourself” and most importantly are being the “bad-ass” of Ftizroy when it comes to great coffee and ingenious food.

The vibe is typical of what you would expect of the Brunswick / Fitzroy area – but with a whole lot more fun and excitement. There are exposed brick walls, concrete floors and huge glass windows which let the morning sunlight stream in. It’s a bit industrial, a bit indie – but rest assured feels welcoming and warm. There are wooden slatted tables for parties of varying sizes, as well as two large communal tables at the front – paired with metal chairs. There is both inside and Outside Street seating as well – they utilise their space well in terms of catering as many seats as possible without being too squishy. There are splashes of green thanks to the weatherboard effect around the kitchen window at the back of the venue, as well as the salt and pepper grinders placed on the tables and the coffee cups by the coffee machine. There are the usual filament lights that hang for lighting that I love as well.

The coffee here is a little bit different – they do not serve blends – only single origin espresso and filter coffees are being offered – and are pumped out of the stark white Synesso machine. They also use a EK 43 grinder which means they are getting the best extractions possible for the customers – allowing them to deliver some of the best coffee in town. I ordered a latte which was full bodied, strong and nutty and was perfect to wake me up first thing in the morning. The creamy after taste thanks to the fresh milk was also great. The decision not to blend comes from the work Proud Mary has been doing with the farms in Brazil and the quality of the single origin beans that work well with the milk without needing to be blended – and from my experience with their coffees this is working fantastically.

Another difference from Proud Mary is that they have a liquor license and look to open a few nights a week down the track.  They serve up wine, local and international beers and specially made cocktails – there is even one that contains cold drip coffee! Aside from specialising in coffee – they do also have an interesting list of juices, smoothies and milkshakes – with interesting names to match. Juices include Lance Armstrong (Carrot, Beetroot, Lemon, Ginger) and The Regulate (Apples, Strawberries, Coconut Water), there is a milkshake called Gangsta Milkshake, Crooks ‘n’ Creams – which is of course based on cookies and cream.

The food menu designed by Chris Hamburger (what a cool name!) is described as simple and sexy comfort food – and it really does comply.  The menu is split into a breakfast and lunch menu – both of which are available all day and there are gltuten-free, vegan and vegetarian options. There are dishes that covers all the main protein dishes that you would want to eat including lamb, bacon, beef, quail, chorizo and ham hock. From reading the menu you might not think these dishes really cut it – but trust me they do! There are your usual suspects such as Toast, Fruit Toast, Bircher Muesli, Granola and Porridge – but what makes it unique is the offerings that come with these basics. For example the porridge is buckwheat porridge together with chia, banana and honey. The first dish that caught my eye was the Coco Pop and Salted Caramel French Toast – I mean they had me at Coco Pop! The four of us quickly decided to share this amongst ourselves, thereby reserving some space for a proper savoury breakfast (and trying out more of the menu – win!). There are also dishes such as Shrooms ‘n’ Truffles which comes with Truffled Polenta, Poached Egg and Pepito, a Roasted Cauliflower and Quail dish, a Roasted Lamb dish that comes with Humms, Raisins and Toast as well as a Stacked Burger that comes with croquettes and greens.

When we arrived on this Sunday morning (around 10:30am) Stagger Lee’s was packed out already and we had to wait about 10 minutes for a table for the four of us. Initially we were given an area on the communal table all in a row – which would have made it hard for us to chat. However the staff had miscounted the number of seats and promptly moved us to a table which suited us better – making it easier for us to chat. Most of us ordered coffees to start and G ordered a juice whilst we decided what we wanted to eat. G ordered the Nice Pear – Apple, Pear, Mint, Lime. Juices come served in a generous size jar, with two big fresh mint leaves for more flavour- the juice was refreshing, tangy and produced a great flavour combination. M ordered the Frank ‘n’ Beans – Saffron Baked Beans, Smoked Ham Hock, Chorizo, Soft Poached Egg, Herb and Garlic Crumb Toast. The dish comes out presented well – the saffron baked beans together with the ham hock are at the base of the dish, with the poached egg and chorizo placed on top and finished with the garlic crumb toast. The Garlic Crumb Toast smelt and looked delicious – crispy on the outside and soft and filled with flavour on the inside. M seemed to enjoy her dish and the flavours – the poached egg was cooked to perfection with golden gooey goodness.

G originally ordered The Mexican – Soft Shell Corn Tortillas, Charred Corn, Lime and Tomatillo Salsa, Avocado, Fried Eggs, Creme Fraiche, Herbs. However, she has an allergic reaction to sesame seeds and some nuts, and although I don’t think that this dish had any of that, she started to get a reaction and therefore had to order something else. The dish came plated out with two tortillas, with the fried egg placed in side and topped with the charred corn, lime and tomatillo salsa and avocado, and finished with crème fraiche. The flavours were typically Mexican and the addition of the fried egg with its gooey runny yolk gave it the breakfast element.

J ordered the Smoked Trout Salad – House Smoked Ocean Trout, Grilled Asparagus, Soft Poached Egg, Butter Poached Potatoes, Shaved Fennel, Preserved Lemon Aioli and Green Goddess – which was quite the colourful dish thanks to the salmon colour of the ocean trout, purple colour of the radicchio, green colour of the salad and the white colour of the poached egg and lemon aioli. J did enjoy this dish and rated it better than The Mexican – the smokiness of the trout, together with the grilled asparagus and brilliance of the poached egg was a winner.

I ordered the The Fitz Royale – Grilled Asparagus, Cashew Cheese, Avocado, Fresh Herbs, Pea Tendrils and Citrus with a Poached Egg. The dish comes out with the fresh herbs being the centre of attention on the plate – the other components – toast, cashew cheese, avocado, grilled asparagus hidden underneath. The poached egg and the lemon slice are placed to the side. My favourite part of this dish was the cashew cheese which was placed like a spread on the toast – it was tangy and creamy all at the same time. Together with the subtle flavours of the asparagus and the softness of the avocado the flavours worked in perfect harmony. A great dish for asparagus lovers.

The last dish that we all got to sample was the Coco Pop and Salted Caramel French Toast – Coco Pop Cream Pat, Vanilla Ice Cream, Honeycomb and Raspberry Crumb. I don’t think much explaining needs to be done to understand how good a dish it really was. The plating wasn’t as clean as I had expected, as the Coco Pop Cream Pat resembled a messy blob, but I guess the consistency and texture of it didn’t help. I loved the mix of textures from the softness of the toast, cream pat and ice cream mixed together with the harder and grittier textures in the form of the tangy raspberry crumb, sweetness of the honeycomb and the pop of the cocoa pops sprinkled around. Overall I thought the flavours worked well together (I would have liked more raspberry crumb) – and was a great colourful dish that was the perfect way to end our meal at Stagger Lee’s.

The staff are quite accommodating and helpful, but are hard to get a hold of due to the sheer number of people they have to cater for. However, the wait to get their attention wasn’t too long. If you get a seat near the back of the venue – you can peer into the kitchen window and watch the chefs busily keeping up with the incoming orders. Even with the volume of orders –they keep a cool, calm and collected exterior and get on with the job.

There are also sweet treats that you can purchase from the counter – lamingtons, cupcakes, tarts and friands just to name a few.

Stagger Lee’s is a great addition to the grungy Fitzroy area and brings a somewhat homely and funky venue here. The vibe is buzzing, the place is warm, the menu is simple and unique and the staff friendly and always with a smile. Get down this weekend and check it out for yourself. The next time I come back – I am definitely trying the Shrooms ‘n’ Mushrooms.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – There is an all day breakfast and lunch menu – refer above to the pictures or look at http://staggerlees.com.au/food/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Casual and Welcoming – a great place that you can spend of your day in.
Standout Dish:
Service: Friendly, sometimes it can be hard to their attention.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://staggerlees.com.au/
276 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Tel No: 9419 5564

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

Stagger Lee's on Urbanspoon

The Bell Jar – Vintage Style Cafe

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Food Menu Lunch and Drinks Menu

The Bell Jar café is located on the Clifton Hill side of Smith Street (almost near Queens Parade), almost hidden between a battery shop and few garages. I actually drove past it and had to do a u-turn and come back around.

The Bell Jar is a very vintage, unique and welcoming café – from the moment you step in you are greeted with a cheery hello from the staff. There are tables located out front that you could sit at – inside there are wooden box seats that line the window, as well as mismatched and vintage tables and chairs in the main dining area. Out the back there is another room which has a communal table perhaps for a larger party as well as a courtyard. Styling is minimalist but it works with the look and the feel of the place – the main highlight is definitely the shiny coffee machine which is placed front and centre of the counter. This counter in itself is quite intriguing – made of wooden floorboards, there is a selection of cakes and muffins that you can buy placed on top here too.

Coffee is by Five Senses – ‘Dark Horse’ and includes blends of Ethiopian, Guatemalan and Sumatran beans. There is also Calmer Sutra Chai, Larsen & Thompson Teas, as well as juices from Emma & Tom’s and Sunzest Fresh OJ. While I mull over the menu I order a latte – which is strong, fragrant complete with the nutty flavours – it was a real pick me up!

The Bell Jar has an interesting menu which starts of with dishes under the ‘x’ section, followed by ‘xx’ and ends with ‘xxEXTRAxx’ – which is a really unique and great concept. The starting dishes include Toast, Breakfast Bruschetta, Porridge and Muesli dishes. Some of the larger dishes include Baked Beans, as well as an interesting dish consisting of Spiced Pumpkin and Avocado – there is also a fritters dish, as well as a Bell Jar Breakfast – their take on the Big Breakfast. There are a list of specials which are located on the blackboard as well – when I visited there was a Parmesan toast with roast tomato and basil dish, an eggs Benedict dish as well as ricotta hotcakes. There is also a separate lunch menu which consists of six different sandwiches to select from – a combination of vegetarian and meat options available. Refer to the menu pictures above for more detail.

I was tossing up between getting the fritters or the hotcakes and in the end decided I felt like something sweet. So I ordered the Ricotta Hotcakes with Banana, Mixed Berries and Maple Syrup – sans the bacon and I asked for some cream on the side. The dish did take quite some time to come out (and the waiter did apologise for the wait) – but I think the wait was well worth it.

The dish was well plated and against the stark white of the plate – the pancakes and the colourful shades of reds of the berries was delightful. The banana was layered in between the pancakes – so it created a wedding cake like appearance. This was topped with strawberries – with a mix of blueberries and raspberries off to the side, enveloped with maple syrup. The pancakes were delicious and fluffy and I loved the thickness of them – perfect! The combination of bananas, tangy berries and the pancakes together with the sweetness of the maple syrup and the cream was fantastic. You felt as if you wanted to savor every mouthful. If these are on the special board again – try them out! Hopefully they move it onto the main menu so it’s there all the time!

I had a great time at The Bell Jar – the vibe is fantastic and the coffee and food are delicious! Check out this hidden little vintage and quaint gem!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Breakfast and Lunch menu – refer to pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Chilled out, relaxed. Has a very vintage feel. You can sit outside or by the window. There is also a communal table in the back room as well as a courtyard area to sit in.
Service: Friendly and Welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.thebelljar.com.au/
656 Smith Street, Clifton Hill
Tel No: 9482 7980

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

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