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

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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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Barry – Fantastic Variety of Breakkie Dishes

panda 4.5 rating

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Menu:

Barry Menu

Barry Menu

Barry Lunch Menu

Barry Lunch Menu

There is a wealth of experience behind the creators and owners of Barry in Northcote. Matt, Kael Sahely and Loren McBride are the geniuses behind Pillar of Salt and the Richmond café Touchwood. I must say that Barry has become one of my favourite café’s for brunch!

On this Saturday – as expected – Barry was bustling with activity and every table was full. We didn’t have to wait too long for a table for three though which was great. The venue is casual, light and airy – and you just feel like you want to be part of the action the moment you step inside. The interior fitout is done by Techne Architects – there are wall to wall custom shelving and crates that function as drawers located under the main coffee counter – which is great for storage! The wooden shelving along the wall have colourful potted plants amongst them for bits of colour amongst the wood and white washed brick walls.

There is a mix of high communal tables, low wooden tables for sets of 2, 3 and 4s as well as outside seating. I really loved the style of the communal table and kind of want one in my own place! =p I also loved the abstract lighting above the communal table – a bow and arrow shape if you will with filament lights on the end of each point.

The menu is designed by Stephen Svensen and serves Breakfast all day (WIN!). Breakfast dishes consist of your basics as well as the basics with a difference such as the scrambled red chilli eggs with bacon, spring onions, parmesan and toast (this comes from the sister café Pillar of Salt), as well as the Benedict poached eggs with potato rosti, slow braised ham hock, apple cider hollandaise and granny’s apples. See different! There is also a very interesting dish – inspired by Matt and Kael’s dad – which is Crunchy peanut butter, heirloom tomatoes, salt and pepper peanuts on toast – the menu says to trust them so it must really work. I am not a huge fan of peanuts so I didn’t venture into this dish – but would love to know people’s thoughts on it. The lunch menu which can be had from 11:30am onwards consists of a daily tart, a superfood salad and even a Korean sub and a beef wagyu burger just to name a few.

While trying to decide from the extensive menu of what we wanted to eat – we ordered some coffees. Coffee here at Barry is from 5 Senses and made on a schmick Synesso machine. There are akso Single Origin, Aeropress and Pour Overs available as well. My latte was great – it had a creamy, nutty almost smoky hit all in one with an end note of caramel.

I decided I needed something sweet instead of savoury so ordered the Brioche, Pistachio, Mascarpone, Rose Scented Raspberries, Halva dish. The dish came with two massive pieces of brioche – sitting on top of a rose scented raspberry coulis and topped with the halva and pistachios. The combination was quite good – although I wasn’t a huge fan of the halva – so I avoided eating that. I can see how the flavours of all the components could work well together though. The sweetness of the mascarpone and raspberry together with the softness of the brioche and the crunch of the pistachios was tasty. It is rather a filling dish – and I struggled to finish my dish.

N ordered the Cripsy Korean Chicken Sub, House made Wombok and Coriander Kimchi, Nori Mayo. The way this dish was plated up was impressive – it came out on a board with the Chicken Sub taking up half of the board and the house made wombok and coriander kimchi in a separate round side bowl, as well as the nori mayo in another separate bowl. N loved this dish! He is a massive fan of subs and this one did not disappoint – the chicken was crispy on the outside whilst being juicy and flavoursome on the inside. The kim chi had some of his favourite ingredients – coriander and wombok and had a great heat to it as well. Overall a huge and great tasting dish.

T ordered the Californian Superfood Salad – Tri Coloured Quinoa, Shredded Kale, Wild Organic Rice, Charred Corn, Salted Ricotta, Black Turtle Beans, Heirloom Tomatoes, Jalapeno, Gojis, Spicy Lime Vinaigrette. Just look at the number of elements in this dish! It sure is a superfood dish – and it was quite a generous serving as well! I did get to try some of this dish and if you had to describe this dish in just a few words it would be – packs a punch! All the elements worked really well together and you really didn’t feel as if you were eating a really healthy dish – it was fresh and tasty! And that charred corned was perfect!

You can tell by the crowds that seem constant that Barry is a sure winner, and after just one visit you can definitely tell why. The menu will suit just about everyone – there are gluten free options available and they do try and cater to any other requirements. The atmosphere is casual, loud (from all the chatter of the happy customers) and welcoming. I love the lightness to the place. Even if it not near you – make the effort to get down here!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://barrycoffeeandfood.com/ or refer to menu above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Fun, Light filled, Casual and a Great place to relax at
Standout Dish: Californian Superfood Salad
Service: Friendly and Warm
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://barrycoffeeandfood.com/
85 High Street, Northcote
Tel No: 9481 7623

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7.30am – 3.30pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8am – 4pm

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