A La Folie – Magnifique Macarons & More

panda 4.5 rating
a la folie

Our Order with the Valrhona Hot Chocolate

Our Order with the Valrhona Hot Chocolate

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I have previously been in the South Yarra area and walked past the colourful and breathtaking A La Folie. You will find that people taking a glance at the window and then double back and stop and take a detailed look, and most of the time walking into the store to observe the delectable sweets up close and personal.

A La Folie which can loosely be translated to mean ‘madness’(in the context of love to mean that a person is madly in love) showcases Mercédé Coubard passion and love for baking and creating unique small French treats. Located in Chapel Street, South Yarra, A La Folie is a store that creates wonderful tasting Macaron, Petits Choux, slices and delicate French pastries. Coubard was trained at the Alain Ducasse culinary school and uses A La Folie to showcase her brilliant talent – even catering for special events such as weddings, engagements and birthdays – creating Petit Choux towers.

A La Folie is a type of place that makes you feel like you are in a cute little café right on the streets of Paris – complete with a backdrop of the Eiffel Tower coupled with cute little tables and chairs to match; dotted with red accents of color. Magnifique!

You cannot help by ooh and aah whilst looking through the glass display cases of the colourful macarons, slices and Petit Choux. All products are made in on offsite location and brought to A La Folie.
There are around 17 different macaron flavours to choose from which can include – Valrhona Caraibe Chocolate, Salted Caramel, Vanilla / Soft Caramel, Dulce Chocolate, Pistachio, Matcha / Red Currant, Guanaja / Orange Juice, Passionfruit Ganache, Coconut (Malibu), Grapefruit, Lemon Ganache, Fairy Floss, Blueberry Ganache, Strawberry Mint, Raspberry Ganache, Rose Delight and Champagne.
There are also a number of dainty looking Petit Choux to choose from – Chocolate Coconut, P125 Chocolate, Coffee, Madagascan Vanilla, Pistachio, Raspberry, Mango & Passionfruit, Salted Caramel and Praline – as well as daily special flavours for you to try out in combinations like Lime & Coconut.
A La Folie’s latest creations are the introduction of impressive looking Tarts – which can range from Mixed Fruit, Berry, Lemon Meringue just to name a few. There also is a combination of giant sized macarons and normal sized macarons; which come laced with extra buttercream/ganache in the centre and topped with a delicate decoration on top to match.

It really was a tough decision that A and I had to make to select which flavour macaron and petit choux we wanted to try – after much deliberation I decided on the Vanilla / Soft Caramel Macaron and the Pistachio Petit Choux. A picked the Soft Caramel Macaron and chose the flavour of the day special for her Petit Choux – Lime & Coconut. We also both chose to have the Valrhona Hot Chocolate which sounded amazing when Mercédé described it to us.

We were there on a Saturday around lunch time and thanks to the striking and colourful front window it really does draw in a crowd. Whilst we were there a tour group came in which was great as we got learn a bit about Mercédé and how she got into her love for baking. We even got to meet her daughter (who was working in store).

The macarons were perfect any way you looked at it – from the crispy thin egg-shell like meringue crust complete with chewy almond biscuit to the soft, smooth and flavoursome filling. My Vanilla / Soft Caramel macaron was divine – the perfect level of sweetness and the flavours of vanilla and caramel in perfect balance of each other.

The Petit Choux was decadent. The choux pastry was somewhat crunchy on the outside but light, soft, airy and tantalising on the inside giving way to the silky crème patissière. The crème patissière adds the vibrant burst of flavour once you take your first bite. My pistachio Petit Choux was blissfully delicious; the pistachio flavour delicate and vibrant all at the same time – topped with pistachio fondant and finished with a pistachio nut.

The Valrhona Hot Chocolate is definitely one for Chocoalate lovers – rich, silky and thick, finished with shavings of Valrhona chocolate. Both A and I needed some extra milk to dilute the richness – which allowed us to enjoy and appreciate the drink.

A La Folie also works together with Anthony Hart (Don’t Lose Your Temper – check out his website at http://dontloseyourtemper.com) – who has previously worked at Vue de Monde and The Press Club creating delightful, unique looking desserts – to create Premium Chocolate made specifically for A La Folie. Flavours include Poppin’ Bubble Gum Raspberry and Choc Riso Pops, as well as their very own version of a Wagon Wheel – made of marshmallow, raspberry jam, Turkish delight, rice shortbread and coated with white chocolate and popping candy.

A La Folie is a cute café that oozes French sophistication – the staff here are friendly and Mercédé herself is delightful to talk to. She really does love what she does and the fruition of her ideas that emanated into the standalone A La Folie store is magnificent. The sweet treats are delicious and made with natural and fresh ingredients wherever possible. Put some joy, fun and France into your life and visit A La Folie.

Disclaimer: Grazing Panda (& a guest) were invited to dine at A La Folie as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – A great variety and selection of sweet treats – including Macarons, Petit Choux and Tarts
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Feels like you are in a cafe on the streets of Paris
Service: Friendly, Warm and Welcoming
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.alafolie.com.au/
589 Chapel St, South Yarra
Tel No: 9827 3337

Opening Hours:
Sunday to Thursday : 10:00 am – 5:30 pm
Friday & Saturday : 10:00 am – 7:00 pm

A La Folie Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-La-Folie-Macarons-Petits-Choux/217631421649508
Instagram: macaronsandpetitschoux

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Polēpolē Bar – A Taste of Africa

panda 3.5 rating

Menu:
Pole Pole Menu

I had heard about Polēpolē – a new East African inspired bar and kitchen – opening up in the Melbourne CBD and four of us decided to check it out on a Friday night.

Polēpolē (which translates to “go easy” or “take it easy” in Swahili) is the creation by Dean and Jeanelle Mariani (former co-owner of award-winning café The Petty Officer and Deans brother), who quit their jobs and went travelling. Polēpolē is a result of their love and admiration for the culture, food and people of East Africa and wanting to share their experiences with Melburnians.

I arrived much later than the rest of us on a Friday night and the place was buzzing – it was really loud! N had told me prior to me arriving there that the place was packed and that it would be about 20 minutes to get a table for food (Polēpolē don’t take bookings for dinner). The venue was designed by Votre Monde and has resulted in an earthy and rustic vibe to it. As you ascend the stairs from Little Collins Street you are greeted by a painting of an African woman seated in black and white, against the red of the wall background. To the right is where the kitchen is located as well as booth seating for dinner – which is paired with a wall of zebra stripes. To the right is the bar which takes most of the length of the venue has tones of burnt orange, coupled with untreated woods and funky filament lighting. Next to the bar is a wall with a single golden acacia tree painted on it with high tables and more seating available. The building has a second level, which they expect to open in the coming months.

Food at Polēpolē is based around sharing plates which are broken into three main sections – “Not Ribs”, “Ribs” and “Dessert”. The menu was designed by consulting chef Andy Mac (Axil Coffee). There are 9 dishes to select from in the “Not Ribs” section which include Spiced Chickpeas and Pepitas, House cured Biltong, Lentil and cauliflower fritters with whipped Tahini and Lemon Zest. The “Ribs” section consists of 4 dishes including Braised Beef Short Rib, Sticky Chicken Ribs, Smoked Pork Ribs and Harissa Lamb Ribs. There are only 2 choices for dessert – Rum and Raisin Mousse Cake with Crème Brulee or Banana and Date Bread with Salted Caramel, Banana Crumble and Cashew Parfait.

Drinks include a showcase of brands such as Tusker (Kenya), Dashen (Ethiopia) and Windhoek (Namibia) as well as German and Dutch style lagers. It is also great to note that a proportion of all beer sales go to YGAP who support social entrepreneurs in Africa, as well as Women for Women in Africa who support Kibera (Africa’s largest slum). There are a range of cocktails which have taken inspiration from their travels as well and consist of combinations such as ginger, honey, coconut and banana.

To begin the night I ordered a mocktail – which had minty and lime flavours laced through it and was quite tasty. As the other 3 had already been there for a while before I had gotten there – there were some leftovers from the “Not Ribs” section that they had ordered – Mount Zero Olives marinated in Lemon and Chilli as well as the Spiced Chickpeas and Pepitas. I loved the Spiced Chickpeas and Pepitas – the flavours and the combination of textures from the soft chickpea and the crunch of the pepitas was great.

We decided to order a selection of dishes from the Not Ribs section to share; and then the other 3 ordered a dish each from the Rib section (as their mains). As the meat wasn’t Halal I couldn’t eat any of the dishes under the Rib section.

We ordered the Chickpea and Corn Cakes with Okra and Kusandi (which came in a serving of 4) – with each cake being topped with the okra and kusandi. The chickpea and corn cakes on its own didn’t have much of a flavour to them and really needed the strong and vibrant flavours of the kusandi to liven up the dish. An addition of some spices or even salt to the chickpea and corn cake would have made a difference.

Next up was the House-made Flat Bread and Three Dips – the dips were beetroot, eggplant and hummus. The serving of the house-made flat bread was very generous and I really enjoyed this dish. The bread had been cut into triangles, and had a crunch to them and had a flavouring of wholemeal without tasting overly healthy. I couldn’t pick a favourite out of all the dips – they were all just as good as each other. I loved the vibrancy of the pink that came through with the use of beetroot. The smokiness in the eggplant dip worked well with the flavouring in the bread.

We also ordered the Eggplant Chips with Yoghurt and Zataar. I am usually not a huge fan of eggplant chips but the difference with these was the crumbed coating which made all the difference. The hint of spice and herbs (zataar) worked well with the flavouring of the eggplant and the tangy yoghurt. I also liked the fact that they left the chips the same length as the eggplant itself rather than cutting up the pieces into bite size pieces. My only criticism would be the oiliness of the dish.

The last of the “Not Ribs” dishes we ordered was the Apple, Cabbage, Fennel and Mint Salad. This salad was good but not great – for me it was missing a proper dressing to coat the salad. However I think dish is a great dish to have amongst all the meatiness of the ribs – acts as a palate cleanser.

N ordered the Harissa Lamb Ribs, Red Pepper Salsa, Tahini Yoghurt and Mint – which were simply yet beautifully presented on a rectangular plate with the lamb ribs criss-crossing each other and topped with the red pepper salsa and tahini capped with a mint leaf. The lamb delicately fell off the bone and had smoky barbeque and spicy flavouring to them.

We were all quite full at this stage so decided to skip on having dessert. As it was a Friday night it was getting quite loud in there, and even though we were sitting quite close to one another we were finding ourselves having to yell to hear each other talk.

Polēpolē has a great vibe and feel to it and is clearly a popular choice to have a drink especially with its variety of drink options available. The service is brilliant – with the wait staff going above and beyond what is expected of them. The food is tasty and is set out to work well with drink options. Want to trial a Taste of Africa – then head to Polēpolē.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to picture above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Rustic and Earthy. Great for a catch-up celebration.
Standout Dish: Spiced Chickpeas and Pepitas
Service: Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.polepolebar.com.au/
1 / 267 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9650 2811

Opening Hours:
Sunday to Thursday: 4:00pm–11:00pm
Friday & Saturday: 4:00pm–1:00am

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/polepole.bar.melb
Instagram: polepole_bar
Twitter: @polepole_bar

Polēpolē Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Little Bertha – Sweet Treat Heaven!

panda 4.5 rating

Little Bertha Delivery

Little Bertha Delivery

BOX OF GOODIES!

BOX OF GOODIES!

 

Lil Bertha Cakes

BOX OF GOODIES!

Little Bertha is a cake and boutique catering service that bakes fresh every day to order for a multitude of customers, that vary from a large number of cafes around Melbourne, corporate catering as well directly to you at home.

Little Bertha was established in 2005 and is all about the local produce – using free range eggs from country Victoria (Healesville) mixed together with locally sources sugars, flours and premium quality ingredients. They also use real butter instead of margarine as well as no premixes or preservatives in all of their products. Another major plus point is that they offer products that are gluten-free.

There is a huge variety of sweet treats to choose from – cakes, cupcakes, biscuits, slices, muffins – which can be delivered as individual portions, slabs or petit fours. If you refer to the Little Bertha website there is a convenient shop for both wholesalers and online shoppers with orders being delivered anywhere in and around Melbourne – be it to your front door at home, at your office workplace or even for corporate purposes. You have the option of also collecting your order directly from Little Berthas wholesale bakery kitchen in Abbotsford.

Across the road from where I used to work was a restaurant called Non Solo Posto (NSP for short) and whenever I was craving something sweet, I would make my way there and order the Pistachio & Raspberry Teacake – this became my favourite and most craved dessert. This heavenly cupcake was a combination of almond meal together with a rich pistachio flavour and laced with raspberries through the soft and cloud-like cake – topped with a very generous offering of white chocolate cream-cheese icing finished a single vibrant red raspberry. It is the most divine thing you will taste right up until the last bite. I try to eat half at a time – and save some for later in the day but that never worked as it just tastes too damn good! This was my introduction to Little Bertha cakes and I was hooked.

It was to my great pleasure that I received an email from Little Bertha regarding a mention of their products on Grazing Panda and asking if I wouldn’t mind if they sent me a box of their sweet treats to try out some of their other products – who would say no to sampling of cute and delicious looking treats? Of course I didn’t mind!

I was expecting a few of their sweet treats being delivered home but never expected a whole entire boxful to arrive – with over 20 treats to sample! It was a great colourful surprise. Below is a picture and a description of each of the cakes that I received. Along with the box of cakes that I received there were cute picture cards with the name of each item on them so I knew what each cake/slice/biscuit was – such a brilliant idea. The pictures on the cards done in a watercolour style – which I loved – represented and looked exactly like the real life item.

Beetroot cake
Beetroot Cake
A small sized cupcake made of shaved beetroot, cardamom and topped with icing and finished with toasted salted beetroot chips and pepitas. The cake was quite dense (as a result of being butterless) yet moist and had an interesting flavour – you wouldn’t have been able to tell that this was a beetroot cake unless you read that it was – it was subtle. I love the combination with the cream cheese icing and the combination of the crunch of the pepitas and the toasted salted beetroot chips – the saltiness was a great addition to the sweetness of the cake and icing.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
Chocolate & Zucchini Cake
A larger sized cupcake that you would definitely mistake for a chocolate only cupcake – complete with chocolate icing and a golden almond praline. The cake is made with a combination of almond meal, freshly grated zucchini, cocoa and cinnamon. The combination of chocolate icing, cake and the crunch of the almond praline is magnificent. The standout is the almond praline – gooey, crunchy golden goodness!

Carrot Cake
Carrot Cake

This was another of the smaller sized cupcakes which was topped with cream cheese icing and finished with pistachios and candied carrot. The cake had a mix of nuts which included walnuts and was soft, light and bursting with flavours. A really tasty version of a carrot cake.

Hazelnut & Cranberry Meringue
Hazelnut & Cranberry Meringue Cake

This is an impressive cupcake made of meringue and hazelnut meal topped with white chocolate cream cheese icing and finished with a beautiful glazed glistening hazelnut praline. I have never experienced a cupcake made of meringue and loved the idea of this – from the moment you bite into this cupcake you are in heaven – there is the initial crunch followed by the soft gentle taste of the meringue together with the burst of tang from the cranberries. Yum! The smoothness of the icing works well with this combination.

Fig & Ginger Cake
Fig & Ginger Cake

This cake looks very pretty from the onset – it has pistachios and dried flowers on top of the yoghurt cream cheese icing. This cake is in a rectangular shape and is a soft flourless cake made with almond meal and flavoured with fig and ginger – a perfect combination. Such a tasty cake capped off with the tang and sweetness of the icing. One to try!

Lamington
Lamingtons

Everyone knows about lamingtons – buttery sponge filled with strawberry jam and coated in dark chocolate icing and finished by being rolled in toasted coconut. The Little Bertha lamington was cloud soft and literally disappeared in your mouth almost like fairy floss – divine!

Lime Yoghurt Syrup Cake Lime Yoghurt Syrup CakeLime Yogurt Syrup Cake
Another stand out cake with an exhilarating combination – lime and yoghurt! The tangy butter cake has had yoghurt folded through together with blueberries and finally dropped in lime syrup. The end result was a full on tangy flavour (people that enjoy the lime flavour to things would love this cake) however still made for quite a refreshing cake – the addition of the raspberry did compensate for the tang.

Mandarin Polenta Cake Mandarin Polenta Cake
Mandarin & Polenta Cake

This cake would have to be one of my favourites (*drool*) – a round golden, moist and overly delicious flourless cake made with fresh mandarins. I love the little texture bits that you get to bite through once you bite into this cake – thanks to the polenta and almond. I am usually not a fan of citrus in my desserts or sweets but was pleasantly surprised when I tried this cake. Really great!

Passionfruit and Poppy Seed Cake
Passion Fruit & Poppy Seed Cake

This rectangular cake is made of poppy seeds and top with a zingy passionfruit icing and finished with two Mimosa sugared pearls. I found this cake to be a tad on the dry side with the poppy seeds providing an added crunch, however the flavours worked well together – the tang of the passionfruit was refreshing – which was needed to liven the poppy seed cake.

Pistachio & Raspberry Teacake
Pistachio & Raspberry Teacake

My absolute favourite!! (Refer above to my description)

Berry Crumble Cheesecake (2) Berry Crumble CheesecakeBerry Crumble Cheesecake
This cheesecake slice was highly intriguing and had a lot of flavours running through it – so it was a fun cake to try and decipher. Made of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries together with cream cheese and sour cream on a biscuit base and garnished with a crumble top. Everything about this cake was delicious but my favourite would have to be the biscuit crumble on top – I could eat an entire bowl of this! The combination of the berry tang and the crunch and smooth flavours of the biscuit was delicious.

Louise Cake Louise Cake
Louise Cake

To me this isn’t really a cake but more so a slice – complete with a coconut shortbread base, followed by layers of a fruity berry filling with a crusty coconut meringue top and finished with icing sugar and freeze dried berries. When you take one bite and get a cross section of all the layers the combination of flavours do work well together – from the coconut, meringue, berries and punchy lemon hit. A great textured dessert.

Strawberry Brunch BarStrawberry Brunch Bar
Strawberry Brunch Bar

This strawberry brunch bar is another one of my favourites. There is a biscuit base with a cream cheese centre layer that is topped with a strawberry filling and finished with a brown sugar and puffed cereal grain topping. When looking at this beauty – you would expect the top part to be crunchy, however it is soft and melts in your mouth. The strawberry is the hero of this slice as it adds a tanginess to the overall sweet taste.

Granola Bar (2) Granola BarGranola Bar
This is one of your healthier options complete with fresh nuts, seeds, dried fruits and puffed grains. Even though this looks mighty healthy it still has a very tasty and delicious flavour to it thanks to the combination of cranberries, coconut, apricot, pistachio, golden syrup, almonds, macadamias, hazelnuts and vanilla paste used. The bar was chewy and the textures altogether made for an enjoyable experience.

Monte Carlo
Monte Carlos
The Monte Carlos had a strawberry centre in between two soft and delicious short bread circles, which had been dusted with icing sugar. The combination of the buttery short bread that literally crumbled in your mouth with the not-too-sweet vibrant strawberry filling was brilliant!

Salted Caramel Cookie
Salted Caramel Chocolate Snap
This Salted Caramel Chocolate Snap was another one of my favourites – the caramel centre was soft, sweet and gooey with rock salt placed on top to create the salted caramel effect. The biscuit itself made with brown sugar, dark chocolate, Dutch cocoa, pistachios, white chocolate and all spice was soft and malleable – which made it so easy to eat (more like gobble down!). It almost tasted like a spiced walnut biscuit. Try it for yourself!

Litte Bear-Tha Gingerbread
Little Bear-tha Gingerbread
These gingerbread men / women biccies were adorable – almost too cute to eat! As they were gingerbread – you would almost expect a bit ginger flavour hit – however the ginger flavour was quite subtle which I liked. The biscuit itself was quite soft and overall it was an enjoyable bear treat to eat.

Mexican Chocolate Chilli Cookie
Mexican Choc-Chilli Cookie
The Mexcican Choc-Chilli Cookie had a surprise in the centre – soft chocolate ganache – which would make anyone’s day. The biscuit reminded me of marzipan in a way and the chilli flavour hits you at the end of your mouthful which creates a fiery zing. The cookie is not overly sweet thanks to the addition of cinnamon and had some crunch due to the almonds. A fun tasting cookie.

Pumpkin Sandwich Cookie
Pumpkin Sandwich Cookie
The Pumpkin Sandwich cookie is made with a combination of the pumpkin, brown sugar, cardamom, nutmeg, salt and vanilla paste and comes with a cream cheese centre topped with pumpkin seeds. From the first bite the flavours reminded me a lot of the gingerbread cookie. The cookie was soft with the added crunch from the pumpkin seed. I was a little disappointed as I was expecting more of the pumpkin flavour to shine through.

I would highly recommend anyone who enjoys a great tasting sweet treat or for that matter even people who aren’t big fans of sweet treats to check out Little Bertha for themselves – there really are options for everyone. They even cater for gluten free and vegan requirements.

If you check out their website you can have a look at the very long list of cafes in and around Melbourne that stock their beautifully handcrafted products. Or even better – order a box delivered fresh straight to your front door!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to http://www.littlebertha.com.au/ for a great selection of cakes, tarts, slices, tarts, muffins, slabs, roulades and petit fours
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.littlebertha.com.au
44 Duke Street, Abbotsford
Tel No: 9421 6663
More contact details can be found at http://www.littlebertha.com.au/contact

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/littlebertha1
Twitter: @littlebertha1

8Bit – Burgers, Gaming & Milkshakes!

panda 4 rating

Burgers are still very much the rage in Melbourne town – in fact I think all around the world. 8Bit is the new kid in town and the brainchild of chef Shayne McCallum and Alan Sam (both of Captain Melville) and Sam’s high-school mate, Long Tran.  It is located in Droop Street in Footscray – known for its usual crowds of Vietnamese people.

With the restaurant named after the 8bit video games – the theme follows inside from the décor to the names on the menu – they are named after video game characters – and is completed by the arcade games (which you can play for free) located out the back. What I love as well is the table numbers which are constructed with video game characters – from PacMan to Donkey Kong to Super Mario.

The outside is very different to what you would normally find in that area  -a very modern, new age looking building. There are signs of what used to be with the Vietnamese lettering peeling away and new 8bit patterned black and white burger logo pasted all over the front façade. The modern bi fold doors create the entrance – and you walk in feeling like you are stepping into a  modern day cave – complete with white plaster that peels away to reveal exposed brick work – almost giving it an aged look and yet another reminder of what used to be. I love it.

There are seats available at the main front counter which allows you to look right into the kitchen – where there is a whole barrage of staff (I haven’t seen so many staffing working at the one time in a kitchen ever! You can also sit along the window where you can sit on high coloured stools. As you go further inside the venue towards the back there are a few lower wooden tables, and the back room is once again filled with high seating complete with a wooden  bench tops. The kitchen is stainless steel and has a backdrop of tiles that have a Tetris effect with colourful tiles splattered amongst the white tiles. There are filament lights to complete this modern day look.

The menu consists of Burgers, Hot Dogs, Sides, Desserts and Milkshakes. There are six different burgers to choose from — Beef, Chicken , Beef & Bacon and Portobello Mushrooms burgers. There are four hot dogs to choose from – 8bit Dog (Smoked Frank with onions and pickles), Wonder Boy (Smoked Frank with Bacon and Onions), Fatal Fury (Jalapeno and Cheddar Sausage with Chilli Beef) and 1942 (Grilled Bratwurst with Pickle and Slaw). There are six different sides to choose from – each coming in two different sizes – small and large. Sides include Beer Battered Fries, Onion Rings, Potato Gems, Cheese & Bacon Fries, Chilli Cheese Fries and Loaded ( which is a choice of Fries or Potato gems, Chilli beef, Cheese sauce, Bacon, Pickle relish, Grilled onions,, Jalapeños). Desserts include various flavours of Soft Serves. Milkshake flavours include Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter, Strawberry Cheese Cake Shake and Chocolate Bar Shake – with a different chocolate bar flavour each day.

The only burger that I could get was the 1 Up Mushroom Burger – Crumbed Portobello Mushroom, Cheese, Tomato, Red Onion, Green Tomato Relish, Lettuce, 8BIT Sauce. The burgers are perfectly sized – not as small as a slider but not as large as a oversized burger that you would find at the likes of Grilled. My burger is filled with the crumbed Portobello mushroom along with all the other ingredients that is put between two buttered and toasted organic Lievito brioche buns. You would expect the brioche buns to be sweet of nature, however these ones did not have much sweetness to them which I quite liked. I loved that the mushroom was crumbed – it added more flavour, texture and crunch to the whole burger. The combination of all the elements was fresh and delicious – the 8BIT Sauce was scrumptious as well, however I would have liked a bit more sauce in my burger. Overall – it is one of the best veggie burgers that I have had in Melbourne.

N ordered the After Burner – Beef, Tomato, Red Onion, Lettuce, Cheese, Chilli Sauce, Jalapenos, Chipotle Mayo. N enjoyed his burner but said that the burger could have been a tad bit spicier. The beef burger was crusty on the outside but stayed juicy on the inside – just how you would want your burger to be.

We also ordered two different sides – onion rings and fries. The onion rings I found were mostly batter and not much filling, so I didn’t enjoy them as much. The battering, crunchiness and texture was tasty.

I also ordered a chocolate bar milkshake – the chocolate bar for the day was mars bar. I loved the milkshake – it was literally like a “chocolate milkshake only crunchy”. There were bits of the chocolate bar mixed in with the milk and ice cream and it was beyond delicious. I would definitely recommend trying the milkshake – next time I want to try out the different flavours. I’m sure they are all just as delicious. There is also a range of canned beers and soft drinks such as Dr. Pepper, Mountain Goat and American craft producer Sierra Nevada.

8Bit is a great addition to the Footscray area – and sells some great tasting burgers!  The staff are friendly, helpful and look like they enjoy what they do.  We were lucky when we went and managed to beat the crowds and get a seat by the window – so one thing to be mindful of is that dependent on the time you go you might have to wait a while for your burgers. There is no better place than a place where you can play some old school video games, sip on some delicious crunchy milkshakes and smash down a tasty burger!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to http://www.eat8bit.com.au/ for the list of burgers, hot dogs, milkshakes, sides etc
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Fun, Casual and Welcoming
Service:
Friendly and Enthusiastic
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.eat8bit.com.au/
8 Droop Street, Footscray
Tel No: 9687 8838

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11am – 11pm

8bit. on Urbanspoon

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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Tivoli Road Bakery – Doissant Heaven

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
The Menu

Tivoli Road Bakery has re-opened in the same location as what was once MoVida Bakery – with Michael James and his wife Pippa running the show. James has been the head baker with the MoVida group since the creation of Movida Aqui so this transition to owning what is now Tivoli Road Bakery was perfect.

The question on every ones lips (including mine) was regarding the famous Doissants that MoVida Bakery has been come to be known for – and indeed it is still for sale. As part of the change, the original products – and more – are definitely here to stay. This was my main reason for visiting Tivoli Road Bakery on a very rainy Melbourne day. I even called up beforehand to make sure they had some in stock, as I know they generally sell out by lunchtime.

As well as being known for these Doissants and Donuts, their main priority (as is for any Bakery) is Bread. There is a huge variety to choose from – sourdough, brioche, olive, rye, spelt, soy and linseed and multigrain being amongst the selection. There are also delicious pies, sandwiches, sausage as well as coffee from Small Batch. And of course for all the sweet tooths out there – croissants (plain, almond or chocolate, with the option of serving with jam), fruit Danishes in both pear and apple varieties, fat slabs of chocolate brownie and chunky as well as the famous donuts – with flavours such as the famous salted caramel, lemon custard, rhubarb and others. For lunch there are also additional specials such as soups and sandwiches.

Customers can also buy Myrtleford Butter and MountZero olives, as well as Small Batch Coffee that they use in store.

Back to the Doissants. What are they you ask? In New York, Ansel Bakery discovered the perfect balance between a crossiant and a donut and named it a “Cronut” – and had it trademarked. Here in Melbourne we have dubbed it the Doissant – how smart! – switching around the order of the two products. Here at Tivoli Road Bakery there are changing flavours and on this day that I went they had the Vanilla Bean Custard and Raspberry flavour as well as the Chocolate Custard. I was very tempted to order one of each but settled with ordering just one of the Vanilla Bean Custard topped with a freeze dried raspberry. The Doissant consisted of multiple layers of flaky pastry which had been fried (as a donut would) and filled with the delicious creamy vanilla bean custard. It really was like biting into heaven. They are quite rich and filling and as good as they were I definitely would have struggled at eating two in one sitting – but definitely take one home for later.

Tivoli Road Bakery is a warm, cosy and welcoming bakery and there is seating inside as well outside overlooking Tivoli Road where you can watch passer byers. There is a communal table with a fresh bunch of flowers where you can sit and overlook the kitchen and see where all the magic is made, or sit by the window – whichever you choose you are sure to enjoy your time here.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to picture above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Relaxed and Welcoming
Standout Dish: THE DOISSANT!
Service: Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
tivoliroad.com.au
3 Tivoli Road, South Yarra
Tel No: 9041 4345

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Sunday: 7:30 am – 6:00 pm

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Gelato Messina – A Bit of Italy in Fitzroy

panda 4.5 rating

Gelato Messina has come to Melbourne and taken everyone by storm. Newly opened in Smith Street, Fitzroy it has received a warm welcome with lines snaking out of the door and along Smith Street. Gelato has been a long love affair for many Melbournians especially people that frequent Lygon Street in Carlton. There are many different Gelato stores which serve up the classic traditional Italian style of ice cream but none quite like Gelato Messina. The main difference is that Gelato Messina pushes the boundaries when it comes to the rules of Gelato in the sense of being more inventive with flavours and combinations, combined with old-school techniques to maintain the integrity of the original gelato recipe. The Gelato Artisians or Gelartisans as they are fondly referred to as, have created flavours that have your mouth drooling just from reading what’s contained in each flavour.

Gelato Messina began in 2002 by by Nick Palumbo and is now co-owned by Donato Toce, Declan Lee, Danny Palumbo and John Stephens. Nick Palumbo comes from an Italian Messina background and it was visiting his grandparents in Messina that brought on his connection and love for gelato. Gelato Messina has many different locations around Sydney and even has one opening up in Hangzhou, China! It is no wonder that they have won many awards for their amazing Gelato. Just recently at the Melbourne Gelato World Tour they won first prize for a flavour called Cremino – salted caramel, gianduia (hazelnut chocolate), fresh meringue and amaretti.

What makes Gelato Messina different to other traditional Gelato stores is that they use real ingredients to make the gelato and it is hand churned on site. Everything is made fresh on the day without the artificial colours. The chocolate mint flavour uses actual mint leaves, the apple pie flavour consists of baked apple pies – and the list goes on. There is a list of about 40 permanent flavours and weekly specials. New daily flavours appear and they are constantly inventing bigger and better combinations to keep things intriguing. There are also fruity sorbets and dairy-free options for people who are in need of these. How great is it that they cater for one and all! Additionally, Gelato Messina makes ice cream cakes which are displayed in store as well – the infamous toadstool cake is present!

What is great about Gelato Messina is the connection that they have with the consumers – they have a huge online following and allow for people to submit and suggest different flavours. Allowing this personal interaction makes people wanting to keep coming back and trying out the different flavours and best of all bringing friends along to share in the experience.
Another great fact is that all the Gelartisans have a wealth of experience and knowledge in the world of Gelato making – like Simone Panetta (who is a partner in the Melbourne store) who has been making Gelato since he was 11 and was chosen to be a “Gelato Pioneer” at Carpigiani University in Bologna. They have recently put out a cookbook called Gelato Messina which can teach you how to make Gelato!

When you walk into the Melbourne store, the fit out has been done to keep in with the Fitzroy theme – there are exposed brick walls to give it a somewhat warehousey feel, together with colourful graffiti style wall mural by Jeremy Neale and a somewhat modern pressed metal enclosure which encases the gelatos. There is also a window where you can view the Gelartisans creating the many flavours on sale. You get to get a brief glimpse of the colourful and fresh gelato amongst the masses of the crowds. The staff are friendly and always have a smile on their face despite having to face an overwhelmingly large crowd throughout the day. Whilst waiting to order we are handed menus which was a good idea as after reading each flavour you are confused as to which one you want as they all sound sooo great. There is a list of special flavours on the wall (the same flavours get released in Sydney and Melbourne on the same day) – where as they get sold out a sign is placed to let people know until a new batch is made up. After much deliberation I decided to go with the Salted caramel and white chocolate as it was their biggest seller. N got the Mango Sorbet and Mint Chocolate Chip and M got the Twixed flavour.

You can either select if you want the gelato to come in a cup or a cone – I went with the signature green and orange cup for my scoop of gelato. The result was smooth and creamy consistency with accents of salted caramel and textured bits of white chocolate. The mix of the saltiness and the sweetness of the chocolate combined beautifully and this is the reason why it is their best selling flavour. I did get to try N’s mango sorbet which was tasted just like a mango in creamy smooth form and the chocolate chip mint gelato had a minty hint that I have never tasted before – in a great way! You can tell that fresh ingredients were used. The Twixed flavour was phenomenal – it was wholesome chocolaty goodness all in one scoop – rich and mouth watering! It also had shortbread and caramel mixed through it. I want to go back and try out the Cremino, Pistachio and Coconut & Lychee flavours – just to start..and eventually work my way through all the flavours! =p

Gelato Messina has so many flavours (in fact about a 900 flavour catalogue) to try out and with summer just around the corner there is no better time to try. I think Melbourne is lucky as it is currently their largest store to date which means more flavours to try out! Bring on summer and the year of Gelato!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to the attachment above. Also look at http://www.gelatomessina.com/flavours/ and http://www.gelatomessina.com/flavours/our_top_10_flavour_combos/

Also refer to http://www.gelatomessina.com/ for the different Gelato Cakes which are made to order
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Chilled Out and Fun
Standout Flavours:
● Salted caramel and white chocolate (their biggest seller)
● Chocolate fondant
● Pandan and coconut
Service: Despite the long lines and queues, the staff are friendly and always have a smile on their face
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.gelatomessina.com/
237 Smith St, Fitzroy

Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 12pm – 11pm
Friday to Saturday: 12pm – 11.30pm
Sunday: 12pm – 11pm

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