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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Fiesta Mexican – Spicy, Lively & Fun

panda 4.5 rating

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Menu:
Dessert Menu                       halal symbol
There is an increasing amount of halal restaurants that are opening up all around Melbourne, in fact all around the country! When we first came to Australia many years ago, halal restaurants were quite scarce – and to see them growing at an exponential rate is fantastic! And what I love is that it is not only restricted to the cuisines that you would normally associate with “halal” food such as middle eastern cuisine – but the cuisines itself have quite a variety as well – from Italian to Steakhouses!

When Bill Bilwani from Fiesta Mexican contacted me about coming to try out his restaurant and that the meat was entirely Halal I was wrapped! I am a huge fan of Mexican food and usually have to always stick to the seafood and vegetarian versions of the enchiladas, tacos etc – but with this restaurant being Halal I could experience what every other person gets to – the meat enchiladas, tacos etc! I headed down with my parents to experience this wonderful Mexican place for myself.

Fiesta Mexican has been around for just over 30 years and is located in Toorak Road in South Yarra. It is a family run business owned by Bill Bilwani with his son Shaheen helping out. The venue has had a makeover in the recent months and the result is a vibrant, colourful, mini-Mexico in Melbourne theme complete with psychedelic artwork which includes a hawk to the right when you enter as well as a woman with an eagle as her hair near the bar and counter area. There is mood lighting thanks to the Mexican Steer Bull shaped light shades – these look really cool lined up on the wall and further adding to the Mexican feel. There are wooden tables – each which have engraving on the table top – ours had a dancing Mexican lady – that can seat from 2 right up to 8 people depending on how large your group size is. We were seated at the front of the restaurant by the window – which allowed us to take in the whole length of the restaurant. There are stairs at the back which lead to a function area upstairs that can be booked out for celebrations. An interesting fact to note is that they have had celebrities like Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi and even the Williams sisters come to dine here and there are some menu items named after them – the Agassi or Hewitt Burrito.

We were given our menus and I was overwhelmed by the choice and varieties before me – there were pages and pages of food to choose from and from reading the description of each I almost wanted a little taste of everything. There is an extensive range of tacos, burritos, fajitas, quesadillas, enchiladas as well as a good selection of desserts. There is also a separate Gluten Free menu, and they also cater for vegetarians, coeliac guests and vegans too. The Dine in Menu is split into different sections – Apertivos, Soft Tacos , Entremese (Entrees), Ensaladas (Salads), Comidas (Main Courses) as well as Paellas. The Paellas however need to be ordered 2 days in advance and there are two different options – Chicken or Seafood. There is also a banquette menu – one for $35 and one $45 – the latter has a more seafood feel to it and includes 2 desserts, whereas the other has only one dessert and more of a beef and chicken feel to it. There is also a section that lists out the Vegetarian Main courses. Fiesta Mexican also has a takeaway menu and provides a delivery service as well – further extending out their clientele.

Whilst trying to decide what to order I ordered a drink from the list of Mocktails they had to offer – Mango Margarita. This came out in a larger than normal cocktail glass with a green stem – which contrasted really well with the yellow drink – there was salt around the rim of the glass in true margarita style. The drink was refreshingly sour and I quite enjoyed it.

We decided to order the Wingettes – fiery red hot marinaded chicken wingettes with chipotle and adobe mix, as well as the Carne Enchilada de Cheddar – Oven baked 6” corn tortilla rolled with slow cooked shredded topside beef, Monterey Jack cheese, white onion and mild smoked cayenne sauce to share. The chicken wingettes were delicious and tasted – they had a smoky, spicy yet sweet taste to them with the chicken cooked perfectly. The chipotle added a refreshing hit to those who would find the wingettes spicy.

The Carne Enchilada was soft and really easy to cut into – almost like butter. The beef inside was just as soft and tender – and flavoured deliciously. The combination of the beef, onion and smoky sauce on top was like a flavour hit in your mouth. A great way to start the meal. Each of these dishes came with a side salad consisting of salad leaves, red onions, cucumber and tomato.

For mains we ordered three dishes to share. The first dish was the Fiesta Autentica – the house specialty, a combination of beef, chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, serrano chilli & fresh cilantro, delicious with flour tortillas, arroz verde & leaf salad. This was my favourite dish out of the three mains. The combination of both the beef, chicken and potatoes was fantastic and it had a great addition of spice. It actually reminded me of a dish that my mum used to make when I was younger so the memories it brought back were special too! The flour tortillas added the perfect addition to envelope this spicy tender mix and savor the flavours. Both the chicken and beef were tender and soft. If you love spicy dishes this is definitely one to try out.

The second of the mains we had was the Pollo Cajun – chicken breast coated in a blend of paprika, red pepper & garlic, served with, arroz verde & mango salsa. The coating on the chicken was delicious and really worked well with the texture of the chicken. The chicken wasn’t as tender as in the other dishes, however was still brilliant. The mango salsa was amazing as well – the spiciness mixed in with the sweetness of the mango worked well together. The rice – arroz verde -that came with these dishes were also really tasty – the rice grains were easily separated and was cooked pilaf style – my fave style of rice.

The last of the mains we ordered was the Carne En Tiras – two beef enchiladas with mild cayenne chilli sauce, served with brown rice & pico de gallo. This was similar to the entree that we had and was just as delicious – soft, spicy with a touch of smokines. The addition of the brown rice and pico de gallo was a great addition, and together with the enchiladas was tasty mouthful.

For dessert there was an interesting combination on the menu titled ‘Sensation is Mother of Invention’ – which had jalapeno, Rose Petal with Crunchy Candy Ice Cream – served with White chocolate and raisin sauce – however I wasn’t brave enough to see what that was about. We decided to order the ‘Crazy for Chocolate’ – chocolate mousse, chocolate dipped strawberries, chocolate heart and vanilla ice cream with chocolate flakes. This dish was plated out differently to most other desserts I have come across. The chocolate mousse was in a square glass cup, the vanilla ice cream was in a black espresso cup topped with a strawberry, the chocolate dipped strawberries were placed around with the chocolate heart in the centre of the plate – which served as the “tray” for the dessert. I really liked the presentation and thought it was unique. The chocolate mousse was to die for – creamy, smooth and full of chocolatey goodness. The dipped strawberries had dark chocolate used and the bitterness of the chocolate worked well against the sweetness of the strawberry.

The staff are really friendly and lively which really does add to the complete the atmosphere of the place. From the moment you step in, you are greeted with a happy hello and shown to your table. They seem to really enjoy what they do. We also got to chat to Shaheen for a bit and learnt more about of his passion and drive for being in the food industry despite completing a law degree. He is very engaging and full of smiles, and goes from table to table ensuring all the guests are looked after. Great customer service! Despite being a Wednesday night – the place got really full – with the crowd ranging from couples to larger groups out for dinner.

There were other really interesting dishes around the room that other diners had ordered – such as the sizzling hot plates, and a drink that was flamed. The food was great and stayed true to the authentic Mexican flavours, the atmosphere was fun and lively and the staff friendly. There really is nothing more you can ask for when you go to dine out. The fact that the meat was all halal was a massive bonus for me. If you love Mexican food and want a huge variety to choose from, either way Fiesta Mexican is definitely a place for you!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://www.fiestamexican.com.au/food_menu.php. If you want to order online you can do so on this link – http://www.menulog.com.au/order/fiesta-mexican-restaurant Refer above for the dessert menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Lively, Fun and Welcoming. You can definitely experience the Mexican vibe be it in the main dining rom or even in the function room located upstairs
Standout Dish:Fiesta Autentica – the house specialty, a combination of beef, chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, serrano chilli & fresh cilantro, delicious with flour tortillas, arroz verde & leaf salad
Service: Fantastic –  Friendly and Welcoming. They also are great if you need any recommendations on what to order
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.fiestamexican.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.fiestamexican.com.au/
175 Toorak Rd, South Yarra
Tel No: 9827 4593

Opening Hours:

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Taco Truck – Delicious Mexican Food Truck

panda-4-rating1Taco Truck

20121207_200738The Potato Taco, The Fish Taco and two Chicken Tacos

20121207_200753Fish and Potato Tacos

Food trucks have been all the rage in America, and it has taken over Melbourne. Ever since I heard about the Taco Truck I wanted to try it. The Taco Truck is the mastermind of Raph Rashid (who also owns the Beatbox Kitchen – check out https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/trucks-and-burgers-good-mix/for my review). I finally got my chance to try out the Taco Truck when it was at the Big Designers Market at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. In order to track down the Taco Truck you need to decipher clues that are given out or follow them on Facebook or Twitter. The Taco Truck’s usual haunt is generally the inner city suburbs such as Carlton, Northcote, Brunswick.

The Taco Trucks sells ..you guessed it TACOS! You can individual tacos for $6 each or you can get a Taco Plate which comes with 2 Tacos  (of any combination) and a serving of house made corn chips for $12. There are three different types of Tacos – Fish, Potato or Chicken.

I ordered a Taco Plate with a fish and potato taco and N had a Taco plate with 2 chicken tacos. The potato taco comes with jalapeno, ‘slaw with salsa verde in a crispy tortilla topped with ricotta. This was the most interesting out of all the tacos, due to its crispy tortilla. The salsa verde and ricotta complimented the potato and the crunch perfectly. The fish taco is lightly battered and fried Rockling fillets, with rough ‘slaw, a squeeze of lemon and poppyseed aioli. The poppyseed aioli was fresh and had the right amount of tang and worked perfectly with the fish. These are cooked to order in the van, and have a glorious crunch when they come out. The chicken taco came with grilled chicken, fresh corn, baby spinach and a smoky chipotle mayo. I love how the corn in this taco just oozed out – it is one of the first times I have seen corn in a taco.

All the tacos are cooked to order and therefore have that fresh, unpretentious air about them and boy are they packed with flavour. If you love mexican food and love tacos, definitely hunt this truck down and try it out.

Taco Truck Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Taco-truck-melbourne/187938917910211

Twitter: @tacotruckmelb

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – 3 different types of Tacos – Chicken, Potato and Fish as well as House made Corn Chips
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Fun !!
Standout Dish: ALL THE TACOS!
Service: Friendly, inviting and fun!
Online Booking: No…you will need to track them down!!
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://tacotruck.com.au/
15 Keele St
Collingwood
(this is where they were intially based, but they go around to the inner suburbs, check their Facebook and Twitter for locations)
Tel No: 8060 6664

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