Popol Nah – Latin American in Carlton

panda 3.5 rating

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After the footy one evening N & I needed a place for dinner and decided to venture to the Carlton area. We used to frequent this area quite a bit back in the uni days, but as of late this hasn’t been the case. Carlton (Lygon Street in particular) is best known for its abundance of Italian restaurants filled with pizzas, pastas and gelatos – and lesser known for other cuisines such as Thai, Latin American or even Modern Australian. I had come across Popol Nah a Latin American fusion restaurant located at the city end of Lygon Street and decided to try it out on this night.

Popol Nah – which can be roughly translated to “The Peoples House” occupies a medium sized space – set amongst the Italian competition of course – and has an interesting design element to it. There are wooden planks running along one wall, overlapping each other in a haphazard style that oozes creativeness along with a modern version of a moose head. On the other is a textured crinkled white wall, together with two antlers hanging. There are large sticks placed in a vase of water which is located at the bar. Quirky, fun and a tad bit strange but it works. There is a communal table at the front of the main dining area, along with wooden tables that seat from two to larger parties. There is also seating at the front on Lygon street itself, as well as small courtyard at the back. Popol Nah can seat around 80 people. The interior is created by Peter Strateas and Mario Luca Carlucci of Strateas (a Brunswick based label). Popol Nah is open 7 days a week for both brunch and dinner.

The menu is created by New York based, Honduran born Cali Rivera and constitutes of South American and Latin fusion cuisine. The dinner menu is split into three sections – Chicos (Small dishes), Intermedio (In Between dishes) and ends with Carnes (Meats). There is also a Desserts menu with a selection of 5 different dishes such as Dulce de Leche, Rice Pudding, Chocolate Cake and Poached Quince just to name a few. There is also a Brunch Menu available which is split into 7 sections – Licuados (Smoothies), Huevos (Eggs) – you can choose from Baked Eggs or Scrambled Eggs, Ensaladas (Salads) – you can choose from two different vegetarian salads such as Mixed Seasonal Fruit with Mint and Ginger or Zucchini, Kale, Cucumber and Pickled Veggies, Bocadillos (Sandwiches), Empanadas (Baked Pasties) – there is a vegetarian option – chickpea, sweet potato, silver beet with crème fresca or one with chorizo and potato with coriander mayo, Anafres (Hot Plates) – which constitute of cheese fondue and lastly Mas Comida (More Food) – which have dishes such as Lamb & Beef Meatballs, Patatas Bravas and Prawn skewers.

There is also an extensive drinks menu – from Sangrias, Cocktails to a variety of Wines – from countries like Spain, Chile, Argentina and Australia – to an interesting selection of non-alcoholic drinks. Carolyn Brown the sommelier has a great understanding and knowledge of drinks and has put together a great selection. I decided to try the Chicha Morada – a non-alcoholic drink which had Purple Corn, Pineapple, Cinnamon and Cloves. The drink was purple in colour – due to the use of purple corn of course. I have never had purple corn before – but I think that it essentially tastes the same as yellow corn but has better health benefits and a higher amount of antioxidants. The combination of pineapple, cinnamon and cloves made for an interesting taste – not too sweet with spicy hints. It was a non-alcoholic version of a sangria and I really enjoyed it.

The first dish we ordered was the Empanada De Chorizo Y Papa – Chorizo and Potato in Baked Pastry with Coriander Mayo. N really enjoyed this – the pastry was crisp, crunchy and tasty on the outside with the chorizo and potato filling on the inside flavoursome and light. The mayo was creamy and a delicious addition.

I ordered the Ceviche De Camaron – Carribean Style Ceviche – Shrimp, Red Onion, Lime, Coriander, Tomato and Chips. The combination of ingredients was refreshing – I especially liked the addition of the coriander and lime. My favourite part of this dish was the chips – they were crispy, crunchy and tasted delicious. They had just the right amount of seasoning and worked well with the ceviche. I also liked the presentation of the dish – it came out in a stone mortar and pestle and the way in which the ceviche and chips were positioned reminded me of a bouquet of flowers.

The last dish we ordered was the Cordero Ranchero – Slow Cooked Lamb Shank in Spicy Tomato, Fresh And Dried Peppers with Quinoa, Kale and Cucumber Salad. The lamb was cooked beautifully and fell off the bone – just what you want from a dish like this. The sauce looked spicy and N said it did have a hint of spice to it. I tried the Quinoa, Kale and Cucumber Salad – which was fresh, flavoured with a tang as well as a hint of chilli – the perfect combination. The dish was presented well again – the contrast of the blue background of the rectangular plate against the bright browny red sauce was magnificent.

The service of the staff is great – everyone that served us was really friendly and happy to offer us suggestions and ensure we had everything we needed.

The brunch menu looks really interesting and I will definitely be back to try out some of their dishes. The décor is interesting and very different to anything you would normally find on Lygon Street. Head down and check out some great tasting South American fusion food.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – For the Brunch, Dinner and Drinks menu refer to http://popolnah.com.au/?cat=2
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Interesting, Unique and Funky. Great relaxed feel.
Standout Dish: Empanada De Chorizo Y Papa
Service: Friendly, Helpful and Warm
Online Booking: No, but Popol Nah takes bookings.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://popolnah.com.au/
171 Lygon Street, Carlton
Tel No: 9347 3293

Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 11:30am – 10:00pm
Friday & Saturday: 11:30am – 11:00pm
Sunday: 11:30am – 10:00pm

Popol Nah on Urbanspoon

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Hawk and Hunter – Ripponlea Gem!

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Menu

A and I were heading out on our usual brunch catch-ups and this time we were checking out Hawk and Hunter. We trekked down to the south east part of Melbourne – Ripponlea to be more specific – and after ordering enough for all three meals in a day, were happy with our decision to make the trek down.

Hawk and Hunter comes courtesy of owners Ben Avramides, Tommy McIntosh, Luke Holt and Simon Winfield – who are also responsible for The Little Ox (located in Brighton and is on the list of places that I have yet to try), as well as catering company Tommy Collins.

From the moment you step into Hawk and Hunter – you feel like you have been transported into another land – the interior is beautifully quirky and mismatched. There is a combination of wood, steel, neon mesh sculptures, artwork of old newspaper clippings, birdcages, ducks and a large cut up tree – but it all works amazingly well together. There are a plethora of tables at this large venue – with tables for groups, singles and couples.

A and I had to wait about 5-10 minutes for our table (you will need to queue up on the weekends – this place is highly popular with the locals) – but this meant that we got to take in the atmosphere and also peruse the counter with its baked cookies. We already made a mental note that we wanted one of each on display – there was a cookies and cream brownie, two different varieties of pops, granola and white choc truffles, orange blossom meringues and macaroons just to name a few. What also caught my eye was their fridge filled with home made ice-cream with flavors such as Ferro Rocher and Mango.

We were seated at the end of the communal table – which gave us a view into the kitchen and the dishes being prepared. We ordered coffees to start from our super friendly waiter – who was very keen to have chit chat. Always love great customer service! Coffee is from Red Star Coffee. I ordered a latte and it was quite tasty – smooth with plenty of fruity flavours and resulting in a crisp taste. A ordered a hot chocolate. We also saw the fresh juices and decided to order them. It came in a jar and was a mix of orange, passion fruit and watermelon – a really refreshing and tasty combination.

The menu consists of an all day breakfast menu which comprises a mix of sweet (there is banana bread, waffles) and savory dishes (scrambled eggs done in different ways, fritters, smoked salmon tartare) to choose from. There is also a lunch menu which is served from 11:30am onwards and includes a wagyu burger, chicken burger and a variety of salads. There are also daily specials for each category to choose from as well as a soup of the day.

After much deliberation I decided on the Corn and Zucchini Fritters, Avocado, Fetta and a Poached Egg. I was tossing up between this dish, the Salmon Tartare, the waffles and the special French toast. A and I decided to share the French Toast so that made the decision a little easier. My corn and zucchini fritters were plated up well – the fritters at the base, with the avocado and poached egg placed on top, with the fetta, pomegranate molasses and chilli sprinkled around. The fritters were smooth and soft and filled with flavour. Paired with the fetta, avocado and a hint of chilli worked well.

A ordered the Big Ed’s Scrambled Eggs, bacon, Chilli, Basil, Garlic Toast and Salsa Verde. The Scrambled eggs sure was a large and generous serving and A couldn’t finish it all. I did try some of the Garlic Toast – which wasn’t overpowering with garlic and was crunchy and buttery. The salsa verde was fresh and worked well I thought with the garlic toast.

We ordered the French Toast with Apple and Pear Compote, Pecans and Salted Caramel to share and boy am I glad we decided to order this dish. The dish was quite generous in serving once again and was plated up on a long white oblong dish. It had an Eaton Mess style of plating up – with the taste just divine. The Apple and Pear had been poached perfectly and had the right amount of softness. The addition of the salted caramel together with the other sweet elements and the crunch and texture of the pecans worked well together. This dish was a special the day we went, but if it does appear when you visit – definitely try it out.

Hawk and Hunter is a great place to try out for brunch – from the friendly staff to the very cool fit-out to the amazing array of sweets to try out, as well some home made ice cream to take home to remember the visit by. Well worth the travel I say!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to pic above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Quirky, Fun, Relaxed – great to spend hours chatting and enjoy the weekend! Light-filled and great for people with kiddies.
Standout Dish: French Toast with Apple and Pear Compote, Pecans and Salted Caramel
Service: Fantastic – Friendly and Fun!
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.hawkandhunter.com.au/
8-10 Glen Eira Avenue, Ripponlea
Tel No: 9528 2719

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 6:30 am – 5:00 pm

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Flipboard Cafe – Cubbyholes and Fun!

panda 4 rating

Awesome stool made of recycled papers

Awesome stool made of recycled papers

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Menu:
Food Menu Today's Food Specials
I have found my new favourite café in Melbourne – Flipboard Café – located near the top end of La Trobe Street, near the RMIT City Campus as well as the scenic Carlton Gardens. Flipboard Café is the brilliant idea from architect Martin Heide together with interior designer Megg Evans after seeing potential between their studio – Brolly Design – and the rear of the jazz institution Bennetts Lane.

It literally resembles that of a Jenga game – the café is fit into a 20 square metre split level café that the duo built themselves. There is so much fun, seating all packed into such a little space. The highlight is definitely the outside row of cupboards at street level – where the doors open inwards to reveal cute little cubbyholes that seat two. Each little cubbyhole / booth comes with a “table” made out of recycled papers – these are uber cool and I want one in my house – as well as a beautiful filament lightbulb to set the mood.

Inside the café is all about the use of wood and smart use of space for seating – there are wood panels that flip down to produce seating, as well as a meeting space / platform on the top floor that you get to via the central staircase. Upstairs you can get bench seating that overlooks onto the bustle of La Trobe Street if you wish.

The coffee and food counter is located in a little corner with barista Lincoln Walker (ex Wide Open Road) at the helm. Coffee is from artisan local roaster Joshua Bailey and the La Marzocco coffee machine is used.

Flipboard Café offers a small variety of food – there are a few baguettes made on site, as well some quiches, pastries and soup. There is also a selection of gluten free options in terms of the sweet stuff available from Miss Si. There is a chocolate brownie that is all wrapped up but looks amazing! Next time I will have to try it.

On this visit I ordered a latte and one of the pastries with egg, spinach and fetta. The coffee had a great taste – sweet and nutty with the perfect amount of froth at the top and swanky artwork. The little pastry was divine – the pastry was flaky, buttery and you just wanted to savour each bite. The filling was tasty and flavoured well, and I liked the hit of spice in the form of pepper. Together both the pastry and the coffee worked well together.

Flipboard Café has successfully utilized the minimum space that they have to create a quaint, fun and unique style of venue. It really is a life-size version of a play house with some great tasting coffee and tasty treats. The little booth/cubbyholes are a brilliant idea and a great use of space and makes for a fun experience.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to pictures above. There is a selection of baguettes, pastries, quiches and soup, as well sweets from Miss Si.
Atmosphere / Ambience: Fun, Relaxed and Chilled out!
Service: Friendly
Online Booking:No
flipboardcafe.com.au
141 La Trobe Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9691 3888

Opening Hours
Monday to Friday: 7:00 am – 4:30 pm

Flipboard Cafe on Urbanspoon

John Gorilla – Great Summery Cafe for Catchups

panda-3-5-rating2
Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice at John Gorilla Toasted Bagel filled with Smoked Salmon, Fresh Spinach, Sliced Avocado, Dill, Boiled Egg & Mayonnaise
Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice and Toasted Bagel filled with Smoked Salmon, Fresh Spinach, Sliced Avocado, Dill, Boiled Egg & Mayonnaise
French Toast made with Brioche & Served with Fresh Strawberries, Kaffir Lime Leaf infused Raspberry Couli, Toasted Macadamias and Vanilla Bean Mascarpone
French Toast made with Brioche & Served with Fresh Strawberries, Kaffir Lime Leaf infused Raspberry Couli, Toasted Macadamias and Vanilla Bean Mascarpone
Braised Field Mushrooms on Sourdough toast, finished with shaved Pecorino, Chervil and Truffle Oil
 Braised Field Mushrooms on Sourdough toast, finished with shaved Pecorino, Chervil and Truffle Oil

John Gorilla is relatively new cafe in West Brunswick that was opened up by Joanna Wilson (owner of the much loved Mart 130 cafe in Middlepark).  Wilson posted on an online fund-raising platform Pozible to assist in the funding to build this solo venture. Through the website, people could sign up for vouchers for coffee and food in exchange for donations. She quickly managed to raise almost $7K and the rest as they can say is history. This place has been full of patrons from day one and after visiting this place I can see why.

As you walk towards John Gorilla – which is located on Pearson St, which just your regular neighbourhood street – you are greeted with big windows and rulers which line the bottom front wall – which is the main design feature – in all types of colourfuls. This feature runs inside the cafe as well under the main countertop. The main countertop features some of sweets on sale such as cupcakes and muffins. Along the entrance there are a few tables and as you continue inside there are two main rooms, together with an Astro-turfed back garden to enjoy more of the sunshine.

The decor is colourful vintage chic with a few modern twists in the form of colourful wall mural (which is hand painted by Melbourne artist Beci Orpin)  – to keep with the colourful ruler theme. The lightshades are a main focal point made of wire and exposed bulb filament (I LOVE!). There is also a painting of John Gorilla himself which overlooks the coffee area – such a cute feature.

My girlfriends and I got seated in the outside courtyard area which had wooden table and soft spongy chairs that reminded me of classroom days back in primary school – not to say it wasn’t comfortable. The weather was beautiful and this arrangement surrounded with some of my best friends was great. We ordered coffee (John Gorilla serves Padre coffee) and fresh juices as we chatted and looked over the menus.

Shane Beazley is the head chef of John Gorilla and has created a menu that covers all bases and is enticing and appealing. The menu is broken up into 5 parts – Cereals Fruit &Toasts, Breakfast, Eggs, Sandwiches and Lunch. Breakfast dishes consist of French Toast, to Lamb fry to breakfast combinations such as eggs with mushrooms or baked beans but with additional ingredients to make the dish pop. Sandwiches aren’t your normal sandwiches – there is a bagel with smoked salmon, a steak sandwich and vegetarian option of an open toasted sandwich with pumpkin dahl, tomato and basil. Told you the menu covers all bases =p

I ordered the Braised Field Mushrooms on Sourdough toast, finished with shaved Pecorino, Chervil and Truffle Oil which was quite a large sized dish! The mushrooms were plump, juicy and fresh and the combination of ingredients did work well. The shaved Pecorino wasn’t as “fresh” as I thought it would be and would be my only complaint. I struggled to finish my dish. I also tried some of my friends French Toast which was really delicious! I am a huge fan of vanilla bean and loved that this was the main flavour in the mascarpone. A definite must try!

My girlfriends and I continued to sit around in the courtyard chatting and sipping coffees for a good 4 hours and the staff were friendly and didn’t at any time tell us to leave – simply asked us if we needed anything else.

John Gorilla is a colourful and quirky cafe that serves great food and tasty coffee. It is a great place to come to spend a sunny afternoon or even if it is just for a quick coffee (which can be served through the front windows). This place is a definite must visit and a return to place on my list.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Great Breakkie selection – refer to http://www.urbanspoon.com/u/menu/1699339
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Retro, Comfortable and great for a Summery day catchup, especially in the outside courtyard
Standout Dish: Braised Field Mushrooms on Sourdough toast, finished with shaved Pecorino, Chervil and Truffle Oil
Service: Friendly and Attentive
Online Booking: No – Cafe doesn’t take bookings
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.johngorilla.com/#
49 Pearson St, Brunswick West
Tel No: 9005 8680

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 7:30am – 4:30pm

John Gorilla on Urbanspoon