Norma Loves Joe – You Will Love It Too!

panda 4.5 rating

I happened to stumble across the newly opened Norma Loves Joe on my Instagram and was happy to note that it was only a short drive from home. Norma Loves Joe is located on Whitehorse Road in Balwyn, just down from the iconic Balwyn Cinema, and is opened by Courtney Ludlow and Kristie O’Donoghue who have been friends since kindergarten.

Norma Loves Joe is named after the passionate and addictive affair between Norma Jean and Joe DiMaggio, that remained everlasting and honest – which is the formula that this newly opened café will follow. The aim of this café is to create a relaxed space with an all day brunch menu for the surrounding residents of Balwyn – and further.

I love the interior of Norma Loves Joe – a combination of wood, tiles and metal brought together in perfect harmony. The tiling on the main back wall reciprocates that of a brick wall in angular formation, with the tilling around the bench and kitchen area being a patterned contrast. Minimalist light bulbs light up one wall with lighting for the kitchen and coffee areas being provided by under beam lighting. Seating is available both inside – on low wooden tables in front of the coffee & kitchen benches as well as along the window; and outside – both at the front of the venue as well as in the courtyard out the back.

Coffee here is served by Axil Coffee Roasters – one of my favourite roasters! I ordered a latte which was crisp, nutty with caramel tones and made to perfection. Tea here is by The Slow Tea Co. with 8 different flavours to try including Booze Hound (which is meant to aid with cleansing), Spicy Vanilla Chai, Chamomile & Mint. Other drinks include Karma Cola and Lemmy Lemonade both of which are fair trade & organic, as well as drinks and smoothies from the Emma & Tom’s range.

The breakfast menu consists of all your favourites together with showcasing some flair in some different dishes – I’m talking about you Red Velvet Waffles! These aforementioned waffles are at the top of the breakfast list – and how could you not order them when you see this combination? Other savoury dishes include a Big Love Breakfast, a Brunch Salad (Kale, cauliflowers, avocado, ruby grapefruit, poached egg, bacon) as well as a Super Salad (Brown rice ,red quinoa, roasted sweet potato & beetroot, broccoli, toasted seeds & lemon hummus), a Yankee Burger (lean beef, Swiss cheese, pickled red cabbage, tomato & caramelized onion) and a toastie (Double Smoked Ham & Swiss Cheese) and pide (Pulled Chicken & Red Slaw) available too. Norma loves Joe caters for the little ones as well – with two dishes aptly named Little Joe and Little Norma – both served with chocolate milk.

There were four of us on this Saturday morning and we scored a table in the main dining area. We all couldn’t go past the waffles so decided to get that as our sweet dish at the end to share. I was deciding between the Mixed Mushrooms and the Breakfast Quesadillas and in the end ended up going with for the latter.
The Breakfast Quesadillas came with scrambled eggs, cheese, spinach and black eyed beans – however I am not a fan of black eyed beans so I asked to have the dish without these and asked for mushrooms instead. This dish coves in a very generous serving – you get four triangular pieces stuffed with the filling together with a little serving of sweet chilli sauce. I really enjoyed this dish – NLJ has taken a simple idea and turned it into something special. The scrambled eggs form the base later with the spinach, cheese and mushrooms placed above it – this is encased in a quesadilla. The flavours were simple but the overall flavouring was delicious – the juice from the succulent mushrooms worked well with the crunch of the quesadilla finished with a hint of hotness with the sweet chilli sauce. Yum!

S ordered the Mixed Mushrooms – on grilled sourdough with parsley puree and she asked for a side of salmon. This was quite a cute dish and despite looking smaller when compared to the other dishes everyone had ordered; was quite filling. The parsley puree was unique and something that I haven’t seen anywhere else and was quite tasty and really did complement the flavour of the mushrooms.

T & S (another S) both ordered the Shakshuka – two eggs baked in tomato sugo, capsicum, basil & feta served with grilled sourdough. The Shakshuka itself was served in a terracotta dish and placed on a wooden board where the grilled sourdough was also placed. The Shakshuk was perfectly made and tasted fantastic – the combination of the sweet tangy tomatos with the basil and feta together with a hint of chilli was scrumptious! If you are a fan of tomato and Shakshuka in general – NMJ does a really great version!

Once we had finished our savoury dishes – it was onto the sweet part of the day in the form of waffles! Norma’s Red Velvet Waffles – with cream cheese dressing and seasonal berries was visually stunning dish – individual red heart shaped waffles – topped with cream cheese and finished with berries and icing sugar – DIVINE! The flavour was exactly what you would expect – the rich velvety taste with the not too sweet cream cheese dressing – it really was like eating a cupcake but in a waffle version. This is one dish I would definitely recommend anyone to try!

The service here at NLJ is exceptional – staff are friendly and always with a smile and you can tell that they genuinely love everything that they do and every dish that they put out. Norma Loves Joe is the type of place that you can find yourself spending a whole day at without even realising – it is just that comfortable and chilled out. I am so glad that it is close to home – will definitely be back!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to pictures above or visit http://www.normalovesjoe.com/menu.html
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Comfortable, welcoming and laid back – great for a relaxed weekend catchup
Standout Dish: Norma’s Red Velvet Waffles – with cream cheese dressing and seasonal berries
Service: Fantastic – very friendly and helpful
Online Booking: No
http://www.normalovesjoe.com/
239 Whitehorse Road, Balwyn
Tel No: 9817 2576

Opening Hours:
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00am – 4:00pm
Tuesday: CLOSED

Norma loves Joe on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/normalovesjoe
Twitter: @NormaLovesJoe
Instagram: norma_loves_joe

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Göz City – Gözleme Charm

panda 4 rating

Menu:
The Menu Gözleme menu halal (1)

One of Grazing Panda’s readers emailed me about Goz City to let me know that it was a restaurant that I should add to my Halal Restaurant tab – and from that time onwards I was keen to check it out. Having visited Turkey earlier in the year I was looking forward to eating one of Turkey’s famous age-old foods.

Goz City is the first of its kind – the first standalone speciality gözleme store in the Melbourne CBD, well just Melbourne even – and was opened in January by Taylan Aksoy. Aksoy together with his dad Alan also owns Koy in South Melbourne – where you can purchase gözlemes as well; and on a busy day they can sell upwards of 300!

Goz City is a smallish store located near the corner of Little Collins and Williams Street in the Melbourne CBD, complete with a cosy, homely and relaxed vibe. What I love is that you can stand out the front and watch through the front window as the gözleme are made. You can watch their swift, efficient process as they churn out these traditional flatbreads. The process involves the yufka pastry being rolled, flattened, filled with your choice of topping and cooked to order.
The menu consists of four different varieties – Cheese & Spinach, Herbed Chicken & Mushroom, Minced Meat (Beef) or Mushroom & Vegetables – which are $10 each (or if you want to purchase it with a drink $12). These are complemented weekly, with unique and seasonally-driven gözleme flavours.
There are also Boreks ($4 each or if you order it with a coffee for $6) available in the same flavours, as well as Pides (such as Tomato & Egg or Sucuk Sausage & Egg for $5 each or $7 with a coffee). There is also the option of House Made Soup served with a toasted Turkish Bagel (when I visited the soup of the day was Mushroom). There is also a great selection of Turkish, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern inspired salads such as Cypriot Cauliflower or Quinoa Tabouli.
Coffee served is from Tobys Estate and comes in a House Blend as well as a Single Origin.

Their main focus is on takeaway – but if you get in early and beat the rush there are around 14 seats available – both inside and outside – there is a high bench for seating as well as some lower wooden tables. Lines are out the door especially if you arrive after 12pm with the wait time not too long (you are getting fresh, made to order gözlemes after all!).
Earthy, rustic and warm tones are used throughout the venue coupled with black and white pictures. Gözlemes are presented on a wooden board – with the gözleme cut into convenient mixed sized rectangles and served with sour cream. The serving size is very generous (I struggled to finish the entire serving!) – and the dish is very very filling. I ordered the Herbed Chicken & Mushroom gözleme – which had been seasoned perfectly and tasted great. The bread was cooked just right as well – crispy on the outside and soft on the lower layers. My only critique would be that instead of the gözleme being served with sour cream I would have preferred it to be garlic sauce.
I also had a minced lamb borek – which was a tad bit on the oily side – but was succulent and delicious. The pastry used for the borek is thin, light and crunchy.

There are also Homemade Turkish sweets such as Baklava and Turkish Delight available for sale as well as Turkish Coffee.

Goz City combines the age-old gözleme tradition with a distinct modern twist – offering a unique Turkish food experience. Gözleme is fast becoming the latest street food craze to hit town and if the queues are anything to go by – it will be one to stick around for a while to come!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to the pictures above or go to http://www.gozcity.com.au/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy, Homely and Relaxed
Service: Friendly
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.gozcity.com.au/
502 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9041 5667

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:30am – 4:-00pm
Saturday & Sunday: CLOSED

Goz City on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gozcitycbd
Twitter: @GozCity
Instagram: Goz City

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

The Moor’s Head – Pide and Pizza with Variety!


The Golden Terrace Pide – Minced Beef, Fresh Tomato, Chilli, Almond, Lemon

The Moor’s head is the latest venture of Joseph Abboud and John Farha and is the sister restaurant to the well known and delicious Rumi (check out my review here – https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/rumi/). The Moor’s head specialises in Lebanese – Turkish pizza’s and has the tag line “inauthentic pizza” – combines their love of Italian pizza’s with their Lebanese heritage.

 The restaurant was previously an old warehouse and has high ceilings with black interior and wooden tables together with Arabic styled posters around the place. This all adds to the casual and comfortable atmosphere that makes you want to return.

The menu consists of starters, pizzas (manoushe and pides), salads and sweets. Manoushe are your standard type of pizzas – round and flat, and Pides are canoe shaped with raised crusts. When you look at the menu, you are greeted with wonderful and quirky names staying true to their Lebanese heritage such as The Golden Terrace, Omar Sharif, The Bosphorus and Sultan Mehmet.

I ordered the Golden Terrace which comes with minced beef, topped with fresh slices of tomato, the perfect amount of spiciness in the form of fresh chilli, coriander  lemon and almonds. The dough is perfection – soft and crunchy all at the same time. The mince beef was perfectly seasoned with spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, and the lemon and almonds added an extra tang and texture. It is a pity I didn’t get to stay for dessert – I definitely want to come back and try the dessert menu and dessert pizzas.

There are also many vegetarian options available using various combinations of interesting ingredients.

The Moor’s Head uses simple and well put together flavours, with greatly made dough for a very reasonable price. Together with the friendly service, this is a place I will be coming back to.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Consists of Pizza’s and Pides – can be found at http://www.themoorshead.com/?page_id=87
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Vibrant, Lively and Casual
Standout Dish: The Golden Terrace, Omar Sharif
Service: Friendly and Informative
Online Booking: No, but they do accept bookings via phone
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.themoorshead.com/
Rear 774 High St, Thornbury (Enter via Collins St)
Tel No: 9484 0173

Opening Hours:
Dinner only
Monday to Sunday: 5:30pm – 10:00pm

Takeaway also available.

The Moor's Head on Urbanspoon