Switchboard Cafe – The Cutest Retro Cafe Ever!

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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

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Pop Up Scroll – Bringing Scrolls Back Into Fashion!

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Menu:
Drinks Menu Menu at Pop Up Scroll Close up of Menu at Pop Up Scroll Close up of Menu at Pop Up Scroll.

Amongst the entire Doughnut, Cronut, Dossiant, Cruffin hype comes the latest craze – SCROLLS! Enter Melbourne’s first new scroll boutique – Pop Up Scroll – located in Smith Street, Collingwood. Serving up freshly baked swirls of goodness made each morning alongside some delicious, carefully prepared coffee – which has been supplied by Coffee Supreme. Coffee and scrolls – a perfect combination to kick off your early morning start or for an afternoon treat.

Pop Up Scroll was created by trained cook, baker and now full time pastry chef Julian Chew together with his wife Tammy Chew. They are both not new to the food industry, having previously owned the popular Lip Café in Ivanhoe. Julian has previously apprenticed under Matt Moran (of famed restaurant Aria) and done stints at Loafer Bread and Da Noi – firmly cementing his niche as a pastry chef.

Here, the focus is on coffee and scrolls only and they do it very well. The idea came about when Julian used to prepare Cinnamon and Cream Cheese scrolls for his former café and he was finding that he would be selling out of these delicious goodies on a regular basis. People would come from near and far to sample these tasty scrolls. Due to its increasing popularity both Julian and Tammy thought it would be a good idea to expand the concept and invest in this idea further – and Pop Up Scroll was born!

Pop Up Scroll has a philosophy to take customers back to their childhood by producing beautiful, fresh scrolls in unique flavour combination by utilising some of the lost arts of cooking. Each scroll is made using techniques that Julian has learnt throughout his impressive fine dining pastry training and is made free of any chemicals and additives, and with the use of organic ingredients.

Eat a Scroll bake two batches of scrolls daily – one in the morning for the pre-work rush and another in the afternoon for the afternoon tea & coffee crowd. Currently there are six different flavours on offer – Traditional Cinnamon Bun with Cream Cheese Frosting, a Malaysian inspired scroll of Shredded Coconut and White Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Banana, Chocolate and Caramel as well as a Chocolate and Custard flavour – all of which are on a brioche base. The brioche base scrolls come in two sizes – large and mini – with certain special flavours available as well – the day that I went there was the Cherry, Cream Cheese & Gingerbread. There are also flavours available that are baked using a croissant base (similar to an escargot) – these are Pistachio and Cherry or Apple and Frangipane, Traditional croissants and almond croissants are also available for your eating pleasure.
There are the traditional coffees available as well as Affogato, Ice Coffee and House Blend Chai (which can be served Hot or Iced) served with Bonsoy & Coconut Milk if needed.

The vibe is blissfully charming, complete with a retro fit-out. I love the pastel shades that are used along with cute retro style girl and boy doll decals on the main wall, together with the words EAT A SCROLL and DRINK COFFEE. Simple yet effective styling. There are two mint green cabinetry units – one which displays packets of Callebaut Chocolate and King Island Coconut Milk Creamer, along with coffee cups and the other displaying Parker’s bottled drinks – Ginger Beer, Cola etc along with an old school radio. There is minimal seating available (seats around 15 people)– in the form of small round tables, as well some seating along the window, overlooking the main street. The simplicity together with the playfulness works well together.

When it came to ordering I decided to order a mini original cinnamon and cream cheese scroll and was tempted into getting the Gingerbread, Cherry & Cream Cheese scroll as well. I mean just have a look at the picture – how can you say no?

I had the mini original scroll as well as a latte to eat in and decided to take the bigger scroll home for later. The coffee was delicious – creamy, nutty and strong all at the same and really did make my day. The scroll was absolutely divine – the dough is moist, light and fresh and is of the perfect sweetness. The cinnamon flavoured rolls are topped with cream cheese frosting and infused with cinnamon and brown sugar. It really does feel like you are biting into the softest pillow and are light and airy, allowing you to have more than 2 and still keep you wanting more. You really need to try one to understand the pure indulgent feeling you get.

Pop Up Scroll is a great addition to not only the Collingwood area but to Melbourne in general. They bring together the simple concept of sentimental baking together with great coffee and delicious, light fluffy scrolls. One visit here and you will definitely be coming back for more.

As the name suggests, Pop Up Scroll is only around for a short time (until May 2015) but there are already big plans in the pipeline for the next project due to open straight after the pop up closes its doors. EAT A SCROLL will be located just around the corner from the current location and will be a more permanent scroll house.

Rating : 5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Charming, Classic, Retro and Welcoming.
Standout Dish: Seriously any of the scrolls!
Service: Friendly and Warm
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.eatascroll.com.au/
86 Smith Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 0433 849 281

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 8:00am–4:00pm
Saturday: 9:00am–4:00pm

Pop Up Scroll on Urbanspoon

Facebook: facebook.com/Pop-Up-Scroll
Instagram: popupscroll
Twitter: @EatAScroll

Firechief – Chief of all Pizzas?

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It was Tuesday night catchup dinner with some of the guys from work and I picked Firechief. I had read up on this place as it had been rated quite highly in terms of having one of the best pizzas going around. I hadn’t made a booking but luckily we arrived around 6:15-6:30pm and got one of the last tables as it filled up pretty quickly after this.

Firechief comes to you from entrepreneur Paul Mathis (he also owns Coffeehead, Goldilocks Cafe to name a few) together with initiative of head pizza chef Daniel Baresse. When you walk in you think you are in a renovated fire station, however it is not. There are high ceilings completed with the centerpiece of the venue – a massive low hanging chandelier – made of timber and brass fittings. There are bright yellow metal beams which are framed around the room complete with red and white checkerboard tiles on the floor. From the main dining area you have a view of the open kitchen and you can see the chefs busily making your food for you in a flurry of activity. It looks and feels like quite a fun place to just hang out, with a family friendly atmosphere.

The pizza and the other food here is authentic to the extent where Mathis sent his head chef Gabriel Espinoza and head pizza chef Daniel Barrese to Naples to attain accreditation from Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana – an international body established to protect the heritage and tradition of the Neapolitan pizza. There are only 3 other accredited chefs in Australia and only around 370 world wide are permitted to use the DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, or controlled designation of origin) certification.

To add to this Firechief has a trio of Italian-made overs – a Valoriani volcanic-clay wood-fire over, a Moretti twin-deck, stone-based model and a modern conveyor-belt oven – each of which cook at different rates and temperatures. The differences between these ovens are written in the menu and helps to provides the patrons with information on what they want to order. I think in doing this it allows us to also learn more about the different styles and how pizzas can be prepared.

From each of the three different ovens, there is a selection of 8 different pizza’s to choose from. It is quite tough making a decision on what pizzas you want. There is a choice of the common pizzas such as Margherita (you can choose a Margherita pizza from each of the three different ovens in fact), Mexicana, Hawaiian and Vegetarian. Then there are the interesting pizza’s which consist of a mixture of different ingredients such as Egg&Bacon, Fresh Sardines, Melanzane & Peperoni and Braised Lamb just to name a few.

There were three of us at dinner, so we decided to go with 2 pizza’s and a pasta dish, as well as a side – all to share. Due to my diet constraints we got the Prawn & Pancetta pizza minus the Pancetta, the Fresh Sardines pizza and the Tagliatelle Prawn. For the sides we were tossing up between the Pea & Spinach Salad and the Warm Chickpea Salad – we settled on the Chickpea Salad. Both the pizzas we chose came from the Moretti oven – which is worked on hand & shovel, cooked on a stone floor at 360 degrees for four minutes. This is one of the most popular types of pizzas in Italy.

The pasta is made fresh everyday at Mathis’ Coffeehead. The Tagliatelle Prawn came with cherry tomatoes, chilli, garlic, fresh herbs and of course prawns. The flavours were perfectly balanced and prawns fresh. My only critique was that the pasta stuck together and was hard to separate. Indeed the pasta was made beautifully and tasted delicious. There is a total of 3 different pasta dishes that you can try out.

The Prawn Pizza was my favourite dish of the night – the base was not too thick – just the way I like it and is made as per the DOP tradition and comprises of 00-flour, yeast, salt, purified water and no additives. Healthy and delicious  – the perfect pizza! The base was chewy and had the right amount of crisp to it. The Prawn pizza consisted of fior di latte cheese on the base which is topped with garlic marinated tiger prawn cutlets and topped with a mojo dressing and completed with fresh rocket. The prawns were marinated deliciously and tasted fantastic – it is one of the yummiest prawn flavours I have had – simple yet tasty. My one gripe would be that there was too much of rocket on top of the pizza, which made the great flavours get drowned out by the pepperyness of the rocket. But overall it was a super yummy pizza.

The Fresh Sardines pizza consisted of crushed tomato, fresh sardine fillets, shallots, capers, garlic, chilli & fresh parsley. This pizza was good, but not great. The Sardines were definitely fresh, however the flavour of the sardines for all of us was too strong. Not really a fan of the major fishy taste. What did help was adding some of the natural yoghurt (from the warm chickpea salad) – it helped cut through the strong fishy flavour. The capers added a tang and the chilli and parsley completed the mix.

The Warm Sauteed Chickpea Salad was another winner- it came with lemon spinach and natural yoghurt. The chickpeas were sauteed and had just the right amount of saltiness, together with the acidity of the spinach and the yoghurt it was a great mix. The warmness of the chickpeas and together with the coldness of the yoghurt further enhanced the dish.

Even though Firechief does specialise in Pizzas but they do have a section aptly titled “plates other than pizza..” with dishes like calamari, sausage, chicken breast just to name a few.

If you are a reader of my blog, you will know I am big fan of desserts, but tonight I was way too full to try any. Having to come back to try the desserts wont be my only excuse to come back to Firechief, the pizzas and pasta dishes do that all on their own. Their techniques are world class and the end result is delicious and authentic dishes. What more could you ask for?

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – can be found at http://www.firechiefpizzeria.com.au/wp-content/firechief_uploads/FC_Menu-8April13-PDF.pdf
There is also a take away menu – http://www.firechiefpizzeria.com.au/wp-content/firechief_uploads/FC_Takeaway_Menu_030313-.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Fun, Family Friendly and Welcoming. Its great for a chilled out catchup with friends and family after work. It truly is a great place to just relax and enjoy great food.
Standout Dish: Prawn(&Pancetta) Pizza from the Moretti Oven
Service: Friendly and happy to help explain any dishes that you might have a question about.
Online Booking:No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.firechiefpizzeria.com.au/
169 Camberwell Road, Hawthorn East
Tel No: 9831 1700

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Monday to Sunday: 12pm – 3pm
Dinner
Monday to Sunday: 5pm – Late

Firechief on Urbanspoon

John Gorilla – Great Summery Cafe for Catchups

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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

Estelle Kitchen & Bar – Retro Cool!

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The Estelle is located in Northcote and is a funky space which combines retro and classiness. This restaurant mixes vintage looks from the 50s with uber coolness. The walls are tiled with pink, black, grey and white tiles that reminds you of dance studio, mixed together with retro looking metal chairs (which are quite comfortable) and wooden floors. Seating consists of seats at the bar, at tables or the little courtyard out the back. The Estelle is owned by Scott Pickett and Ryan Flaherty – who are also the chefs, and can be seen in the kitchen or even delivering dishes to your table for a chat. I think more restaurants should be like this – allowing you to chat to the people that are creating the food you eat.

The Estelle starts off with appetisers which you can enjoy whilst deciding on the Degustation Menu. The Estelle only offers Degustation Menus which come in either 3, 5, 7 or 9 courses (Refer to the section below for prices). The appetisers is lovingly called “Fossils” and is compromised of mashed sardines and are tapioca fried to a white crispness to resemble a prawn cracker. The taste is interesting but a but was too fishy for me, however, the crunch is quite great. This comes with a whipped sour cream which together, helps to offset the fishiness. The presentation in a martini glass is fantastic (refer to picture above). With this “Fossils” dish, comes Chickpea Chips which are shaped into perfect rectangles and dusted with Black Olive Salt. Dipping these in the whipped sour cream also tastes great!

We chose to have the 3 course Degustation menu. My first dish was the Beetroot and Ashed Goats Cheese. This was a colourful dish, where the colours of the beetroot were enhanced by the black plate. The standout of the dish was the Ashed Goats Cheese – which was covered in “edible ash” which is made from crushed and dried black sesame lavosh. This gave an earthy taste to the cheese but combined with the beetroot and radish it tasted amazing, mixing the sweetness of the veggies and the tanginess of the cheese. The Smoked Eel, Carrot & Camomile was definitely a standout dish. There were so many different elements on this plate where you could tell were done with precision and care individually. There was a Carrot Reduction, a Pale gel which was made from Milk infused with Camomile and dusted with Black Salt, as well toasted Brioche Crumbs and to finish the dish off – Celery which has been compressed with apple juice. The combination with the Smoked Eel, which was cooked to perfection left a crunchy yet soft sweet peppery taste in your mouth.  The “main” I had was the King Fish, Peas and Shisho. The King Fish was warm and cooked perfectly so that it simply melted in your mouth. This was served with a Quail Egg and Asparagus in a Shisho Dressing. The dish was not just pretty looking, offset with a lavender flower, but had a taste to match just how good it looked.

The final course was dessert – Rhubarb, Rose & Musk – this was a special for the day. I must say I love dessert, but this didn’t leave any lasting impressions on me. The Rose flavoured custard like jelly was nicely flavoured, but the musk meringue I think didn’t do any favours to to dish. This might be because I am not a huge fan of Musk, but overall I think the mix was a bit strange.

Overall, I enjoyed seeing how what the menu had in words translated onto the plate. The dishes were not just plated up with care, but mixed a variety of interesting ingredients which worked most of the time. The atmosphere is laid back and casual, and the wait staff as well as the chefs are friendly and really do make you feel at home. I left wanting to come back and try out the larger Degustation menus.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Degustation Menus: Three / Five / Seven/ Nine Courses: $50 / $70 / $90 / $110
Fullness: 80%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cool , Funky, Retro and Relaxed. A good place to hang out with friends and chatter.
Standout Dish: Smoked Eel, Carrot & Camomile
Service: Fantastic and Friendly, and most time you will get the chefs themselves bringing the dishes out to the table and to have a chat.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.estellebarkitchen.com.au/index.php#/index.php/contact
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.estellebarkitchen.com.au/index.php#/index.php/
243 High Street, Northcote
Tel No: 9489 4609

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Thursday: 6pm to Late
Friday to Sunday: 12pm to Late

Estelle Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon