The Raw Trader – Guilt Free Joy!

panda 3.5 rating

Menu:
Menu

Raw Trader is a newly opened café and specialty dessert that whose main focus is on healthy eating! They offer organic, raw, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, sugar-free, gluten-free and Paleo healthy desserts and treats. They make the dream of eating desserts guilt-free come true! It also brings the dreams of people who have food allergies or reactions to particular foods come true as now they too can enjoy and experience the joys of delicious tasting desserts without any reaction.

Raw Trader is located off Latrobe Street in Melbourne CBD on Sutherland St, conveniently located near Melbourne Central and Emporium. It is run by Emily Samyue who is a former food technologist who left the corporate world to start this great idea!

The fit-out is brilliantly designed by Studio Y – there is a combination of raw wood together with a slick modern warehouse vibe. There are baby blue table tops which contrast well with the feature wooden wall panelling. The metal baby blue stools topped with resin sack covered cushions complete the look. There are also high light wooden tables located towards the back, with baby blue poles running thru the middle to the high ceilinged venue. The space is light and airy. The main attraction of course is the polished concrete counter (brown with touches of baby blue), which houses the La Marzocco coffee machine as well the star of the counter – the desserts display. Each variety of dessert has its own name board and is displayed upon a wooden board.

Raw Trader makes ALL their products on site (even the nut milks), using the best selection of ingredients with bucket loads of love and care used to create the delectable treats. Along with desserts, they also offer organic coffee – Red Star coffee – tea and hot chocolate. There are also a selection of home-made organic whole fruit and vegetables juices and smoothies available such as Immunity (Orange, Carrot, Kale, Spinach, Acai, Ginger) and Calming (Almond, Raw Cacao, Blueberries) – just to name a few.

There is a vast array of desserts to choose from – raw cheesecakes, slices, bliss balls, chocolate bark, muesli bars, chia puddings just to name a few. There are flavours such as Cherry Ripe Slice, Apricot & Mandarin Slice, Chocolate Pudding, Carrot Cake, Tiramisu, Deconstructed Lemon-Mousse Tart, Apple Crumble, White Chocolate and Berry Layer Cake, Chocolate Banana Slice, Black Forest Cake, Kiwi Layer Cheesecake, Choc Orange Bliss Ball. As you can see there are a variety of options available, with the menu changing daily – you never know what you will get when you arrive at Raw Trader – it all adds to the fun!

You can see from the pictures above the selection that was on offer to me when I visited Raw Trader. I decided to order the Deconstructed Orange Mousse Tart. I am not usually a huge fan of orange flavoured desserts – but I really enjoyed this version! The Orange taste was light and airy as was the mousse. The chocolate crumble that was added around the mousse – added a soft texture and further enhanced the orange flavour. Overall, it was a scrumptious treat that I would recommend you try out. The deconstructed lemon mousse will be next on my list to try! I also had a latte – which was strong, intense and full bodied – just what I needed for the perfect pick me up! I didn’t try their almond like but I think I will give it a try next time around.

You can also buy products from Raw Trader – they offer a range of house-made retail products, such as organic raw granolas, organic teas, organic activated and raw fruit and nuts mixes as well as home-made organic raw almond and hazelnut milks. They also make specialty cakes to order so if you are looking for your next celebration cake then look no further than Raw Trader.

Raw Trader is a great addition to the city for what is a growing raw movement and health-conscious trend. It might be a tad on the pricey side however for what it caters for and the quality of ingredients they use it is quite reasonable. What is great as well is that they are open till late from Wednesday to Saturday which allows you to enjoy these sweet treats and great tasting coffee late into the evening. You can either dine in or takeaway – whichever you prefer!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to Picture above for list of smoothies and juices. Desserts vary on a daily basis
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Fun, Modern and Relaxed
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://rawtrader.com.au/
10 Sutherland Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 0478 692 008

Opening Hours:
Closed Monday and Tuesday
Wednesday to Thursday: 7:30am – 8:30pm
Friday: 7:30am – 10:00pm
Saturday & Sunday – 10:00am – 10:00pm

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rawtrader14
Instagram: rawtrader
Twitter: @rawtrader14

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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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Lolo and Wren – Worth the Trek!

panda 4 rating

Menu:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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