Switchboard Cafe – The Cutest Retro Cafe Ever!

panda 4 rating

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!

panda 5 rating

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

Tomboy – Vintage Chic

panda 4 rating

Tomboy is the creation from co-owners Pia Hambour (ex Movida) and Georgina March (Box Brownies) whose initial dream was to create a shopfront to showcase the wholesale baking business Box Brownies – a business all about gluten-free and dairy free sweet treats! Currently these goodies are provided daily to cafes such as Seven Seeds, De Clieu and Brother Baba Budan.

Located in Smith Street, Collingwood, Tomboy has a rustic charm to it with a variety of pieces around the venue sourced from the Adelaide Hills (near where the girls grew up). There are many stylish one-of-a-kind pieces here at Tomboy – you will definitely find something that peaks your interest from any seat you sit at.

As you step inside you will see a vintage milk bar sign that hangs over the front counter which came from an old Collingwood business as well as an old school white scale. The counter itself is quite unique – there are 1970s speakers built into the counter and surrounded by brick. These speakers belong to March’s stepfather. The communal table located at the back of the venue against the brick wall is my favourite – it is reminiscent of a workman’s bench complete with dents, scratches and metal vise’s. The surrounding tables remind me of garden bench tables coupled with seating to match. There are little touches that bring the whole recycled, vintage, relaxed feel together such as jars filled with flowers, a ladder that houses magazines and newspapers, mint green light shades hanging from thick shades and wooden boxes that house vintage books. Most fittings and décor items come from ops shops, antique stores and friends. There is a small courtyard located at the back for those wonderful summer or spring days.
Both the owners are supportive of local artists and have one wall of the café dedicated to rotating exhibitions – the right wall has been plastered and painted white. The current feature comes from local street artist Drab and features a tattooed gangster “baby” with a mopey face and moustache, wearing a beanie – it is quite a feature and adds a great point of difference. I really love the décor and styling of Tomboy! This painting on the wall seems to tie into the front page of the menu and their takeaway coffee cups – which have portraits of the staff & friends illustrated. You then join in the fun of trying to find a portrait that resembles yourself- well at least I did anywhere.

The menu (which tends to have a vegetarian flair) changes seasonally but generally always has the main staples such as fruit toast, multigrain toast, a sweet dish (either brioche French toast or waffles), breakfast bun, Poached eggs with sides, bagels, selection of sandwiches and a Tomboy Tart of the Day served with a Salad, along with additionally dishes that vary with each season. These dishes could include Spicy Red Wine beans with Goats Fetta and a Poached Egg on Toast ( you could add a pork and fennel sausage if you wish), Roasted Swiss Mushroom with Meredith Goats Fetta, Sautéed Kale, Hazelnuts and a Poached Egg or Lentil and Wild Rice Salad with Pistachios, Almonds, Roast Capsicum, Currants and A Lemon Harissa Dressing (you can add Poached Chicken). You can either find the menu located on a giant reel of brown butcher’s paper attached to the wall, as well as a more detailed menu that will be given to you at your table.
The idea is to use vegetables that have been grown from the duos own vegetable patch as well as sourcing local suppliers. The meat dishes will be of the sustainable type which fits in with the healthy living ethos the duo follow.

I order a latte to start whilst deciding on what I want to eat. Coffee is from Seven Seeds pumped out through a Synesso Hydra espresso machine, with a single origin also being. My latte is strong yet smooth with both nutty and fruity hints and was brewed to perfection. A really great tasting coffee.

I was tossing up (once again) between a sweet or savoury dish – Elvis Waffles (Buttermilk Banana Waffles, Whipped Peanut Butter Mascarpone, Maple Syrup and a Peanut Brittle) and Crispy Potato Hash with Parsnip Puree, Grilled Asparagus, Kale Chips and a Poached Egg. In the end the savoury side won.

The dish was well presented with the Parsnip Puree spread as the base of the dish with the grilled Asparagus artfully placed on top with the Crispy Potato Hash in a rectangular shape placed to its side. The Poached Egg sat on top of the Potato Hash with the Kale Chips placed around all the components described. The egg was poached perfectly and the gooey golden yolk drizzled over the crunchy potato hash. The grilled asparagus was perfectly seasoned and flavoured with the creaminess of the parsnip puree adding the perfect complement. The Kale chips added some extra saltiness to the dish and were sublime. All the components on the dish worked well together and overall it was a truly superb dish that I would recommend anyone to try.

Looking for something sweet to eat then look no further than the front counter where the delectable delights from Box Brownie can be found – cakes, brownies and other bakes goods. All treats are gluten-free however you cannot tell by tasting them.

If you needed another reason to come and try out Tomboy – then you should check out the quarterly publication the duo have put together – The Tomboy Paper – which keeps diners up to date on all things to do with Tomboy, Box Brownie and Collingwood. They have enlisted the help of creative directors Emily Gillis and Camille Moir-Smith from Yolk Studio.

Tomboy exudes bucket loads of character and charm. The food displays uniqueness with its combinations of ingredients, the coffee is exceptionally brewed and the staff are friendly. Make Tomboy next on your list to visit.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to pictures above as well as at their website http://www.tomboymelbourne.com.au/#!food_menu/cl69
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Lively and Chilled Out
Standout Dish:
Service: Friendly
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.tomboymelbourne.com.au
356 Smith Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 9486 0162

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 7:00 am – 4:00 pm
Sunday: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Tomboy on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tomboymelb?ref=ts&fref=ts
Instagram: tomboymelbourne
Twitter: @tomboymelbourne

Banoi – A Piece of Vietnam in Docklands

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Food Menu Drinks Menu

If you work around the Docklands vicinity you would have noticed the recent influx of Vietnamese food ventures opening up. Banoi is one of these Vietnamese venues that have opened up in this area and is located opposite the brightly coloured NAB building on Bourke Street.

Banoi is owned by a Vietnamese team and is all about offering a contemporary dining experience all whilst staying true to the Vietnamese heritage and culture, using quality local fresh Melbourne produce.

The fit out is fantastic – modern yet vintage with touches which are reminiscent of the Saigon markets back in Vietnam. There are timber feature walls, vibrant use of colours, detailed light fittings with filament light bulbs, hand painted works and imported tiles in the bar and coffee area. There are timber tables inside – both communal and individual tables – some with stools fixed with bicycle pedals (how awesome!) – as well as seating outside. The tables are set up like any other Vietnamese restaurant whereby there is easy access to cutlery and condiments.

The food menu is set out like a lunch order menu where you place the number in the box alongside the item that you want. The Menu is broken up into a number of sections – Rice Paper Rolls (there are 6 to select from), Snacks (consisting of spring rolls mostly and one skewer dish), Noodle Soup (Pho – either beef or chicken), Banoi’s Lunch Special – there are two that you can choose from A or B, Vermicelli Noodles (there are seven different flavours to choose from) and Salads (either a Wagyu Beef Salad or Chicken Salad). The menu also highlights which dishes are Vegetarian and Gluten-Free.
At just $15 the Banoi’s Lunch Special are a smashing deal and great value for money. Lunch Special A consists of a Beef Pho Cup, Banh Mi Half together with Imperial Spring Rolls of which you get 3. You can also select a drink of either a Vietnamese Iced Coffee or Kumquat Lemonade. Lunch Special B consists of Vietnamese Beef Curry Vermicelli with your selection of a drink as above.

The drinks menu is quite extensive and consists of a selection of drinks such as Kumquat Lemonade, Vietnamese Ice Coffee, Coconut Crush, Lychee Crush, Custard Apple Smoothies etc. There is also a selection of beers and wines, as well as the usual soft drinks and tea.

Banoi gets really busy during lunch times and I would suggest getting there at 12pm sharp in order to get yourself a table. They do take bookings but only if the booking is for 12pm, as they want to cater for walk-ins after that time. For those on the go there is a separate line / window where you can order rice paper rolls and drinks to take away.
The first time I tried Banoi I used this take away line and tried out two different types of rice paper rolls. I ordered the Fried Salt & Pepper Tofu with Kim Chi Sprouts as well as the Grilled Salmon with Avocado. Each serving comes with 2 rolls per serve. You also get your choice of sauces. The rolls were delicious and are fresh (as they are made fresh daily) and full of flavour and crunch thanks to the inclusion of traditional Asian herbs. My favourite out of the two was the Salt & Pepper tofu roll which had some added spice thanks to the use of Kim Chi sprouts. These rolls are quite generously sized and I had enough for dinner time as well!

The second time around we booked a table for 12pm and were seated inside. The atmosphere is buzzing and does make you feel like you are in downtown Vietnam in the markets. As I can only eat Halal meats the lunch special option was out for me so I decided to order the Silken Tofu Vermicelli Noodles – with wok tossed fried silken tofu and vegetarian spring rolls. I did ask the waitress if she could change these vegetarian spring rolls to the imperial spring rolls (which had crab & prawn inside them) however she said this couldn’t be done.

I ordered a Kumquat Lemonade drink which was refreshing. I really loved the flavour combination of kumquat and lemonade and had to stop myself from finishing the drink all in one go. A ordered the Coconut Crush which was just as good and had fresh pieces of coconut through the drink.

The Silken Tofu Vermicelli Noodles comes out presented beautifully – the salt and pepper crusted tofu sitting on top like soft pillows amongst the colourful greens, Kim Chi sprouts and spring rolls all served in a blue and white bowl, with the Vermicelli hidden underneath. There is sweet soy sauce on top in a separate dish as well. Just from the look of the dish I can barely contain myself to take picture of the dish without wanting to tuck into it. I pour the sauce throughout the dish and take my first mouthful and am not disappointed. It was fantastically delicious! The crunchy outside of the tofu together with the soft silkiness inside along with the coriander, herbs and spicy crunch of the sprouts was a match made in heaven. I literally devoured the entire dish. The vegetarian spring rolls were full of flavour and added depth to the dish as well.
Around the table everyone was talking about how good the food was. J got the Lunch Special A and said the Beef Pho was delicious – with the quality of the beef being top notch together with a tasty broth and quality noodles. He also commented on the Banh Mi being flavoursome with the bread being crunchy and fresh. I got a chance to sample the Imperial Rolls which have a delicate netting on the outside which I loved the look of. The rolls were superb – with a great texture of crunch on the outside and soft flavoursome prawn and crab meat on the inside. These rolls are a definite must order for anyone and everyone.

Service is great with staff friendly and always happy to assist if you need anything. Banoi also has a strong focus on good coffee – they work with Campos coffee – and use a La Marzocco machine to pump out smooth tasting and full flavoured cups.

Banoi is all about Vietnamese food and Vietnamese food done well – the ever growing queues and crowds at lunchtime and dinnertime are testament to this. The trek down to Docklands is definitely worth it.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to pictures above or the website – http://www.banoi.com.au/#menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Laid Back, Funky. Has a market like feel to it that reminds you of the Saigon Market in Vietnam. It is great for a casual meal and catch up drinks.
Standout Dish: Silken Tofu Vermicelli Noodles and Imperial Spring Rolls
Service: Friendly, Warm and Helpful
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.banoi.com.au/
807 Bourke Street, Docklands
Tel No: 8080 9699

Opening Hours:
Monday: 11:00am-4:00pm
Tuesday to Saturday: 11:00am-9:30pm
Sunday: CLOSED

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/banoi.com.au
Twitter: @BanoiDocklands
Instagram: banoidocklands

Banoi on Urbanspoon

Little Creatures Dining Hall – Simple Food – Simply Delicious!

panda 4.5 rating

I have been to Little Creatures many a time before and have always enjoyed it – both the food and the atmosphere. It is definitely a place that you find yourself coming back to because it is just that great. There is a chilled, relaxed and welcoming vibe attached to it and the food is simple yet memorable and tasty.

Little Creatures Dining Hall is located in Brunswick on Johnston Street and is a large venue – and I don’t lie when I say large – it can seat up to 200 people! The way in which this open, expansive space has been sectioned off is quite smart. There is a somewhat cosier room located at the front which overlooks the street, another casual drinking area with tables and high bar stools and the main large dining area (located at the rear of the space) together with the open kitchen located at the back this area.
There are booth styles seats as well as wooden tables in this area – these can seat from two people right up to larger numbers depending on your party size. The look and feel is warehouse industrial chic complete with exposed brick walls and steel roof beams. There is a lengthy bar stocking Little Creatures on tap (as you would expect from the name). There are nice vintage touches on tables in the form of grouped brown bottles with a twig of flowers and finished with a candle for the light aspect of things. There are other splotches of colour laced through the venue as well which further add warmth and cosiness.
There is also a loft area which holds bikes which you can hire to ride around the area if you wish. Pretty cool I must say.

The menu is designed to go well with beers and consists of some snacks “to start” off with such as chorizo, peanuts, fries and breads with dips, followed by a “to share” section – which include dishes such as mussels, spiced lentil dip with bread, jamon and salaami board. Then there is a “side”s section, followed by a “pizza” section, a “fly solo” section (if you aren’t in the mood to share) and ends with a sweets section. There are 10 pizzas to choose from which consist of toppings such as kipfler potato, spiced meatball, salami just to name a few.

There were three of us on this night and we decided to share some snacks and order pizzas for our mains.

The first dish to arrive was the Fresh Cut Chips, Garlic Aioli. These were seriously the best chips I have EVER TASTED! They were absolutely amazing and writing about them now is making me wish I had some in front of me right now. These chips were literally potato pieces that had been cut up directly from the farm – there were bits of skin still left on which added a rustic edge to them – and lightly fried. Add the garlic aioli with a dusting of salt and you have a dish made in heaven.

We also ordered the Glazed Carrots, Silverbeet and Sesame Seeds – another dish that blew my mind. When you are reading this dish on the menu it sounds very simple but the taste is mind blowingly delicious. The dish had a sweet element to it in the form of honey in which it was laced with. This worked well with the crunch and juiciness of the carrots. Another really great dish!

The three of us ordered a pizza each for our mains. N ordered the Spiced Lamb, Sweet Potato, Tzatziki, Mozzarella, T ordered the Pumpkin, Spinach, Dukkah, Goats Cheese and I ordered the Prawn, Salsa Verde, Mozzarella. The pizzas are very generous in size and after seeing them come out – I knew I wouldn’t’ be able to finish the entire pizza (especially since I ate most of the chips *drool*). The pizza crust was thin and somewhat crispy on the outside – which is the way I like my pizza.

My pizza had a generous serving of prawns which had been flavoured well. I would have liked a bit more of the salsa verde on the pizza but overall it was a great tasting pizza – the coriander in the salsa verde worked well with the cheese and the prawn combination. I would have also liked a hint of chilli added.

The pumpkin pizza had large soft chunks of pumpkin which dominated the pizza amongst the spinach and cheese. The mix of the dukkah and the pumpkin were well suited to each other. The lamb pizza which had lamb in the form of mince was generously placed, with thin slices of sweet potato and tzatziki around the lamb. N said the lamb needed a bit more flavour – perhaps more salt – but overall it was quite tasty.

The staff is fantastic – and despite the many different areas to service and the large space they need to cover  – it isn’t a hassle to get their attention. They are friendly and helpful in anywhere possible.

Little Creatures is a great place with equally delicious food and is great for any celebration – small or big! There are other locations – Fremantle (where it all started) and Geelong (only the brewery) as well. Get down to Little Creatures and if you had to eat just one thing – get their Fresh Hand Cut Chips or the Carrot Side. You cannot go wrong!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer here for the Food Menu https://littlecreatures.com.au/system/venue/food_menu/0000/0002/Melbourne_menu.pdf
Refer here for the Drinks Menu
https://littlecreatures.com.au/system/venue/drink_menu/0000/0002/stash_list_august13.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Cosy, Chilled and Funky. Great for any function or celebration, also great for drinks or food or both!
Standout Dish: Fresh Cut Chips, Garlic Aioli AND Glazed Carrots, Silverbeet and Sesame Seeds
Service: Fantastic – Friendly and always with a smile
Online Booking: No – they don’t take bookings
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.littlecreatures.com.au
222 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Tel No: 9417 5500

Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 10:00 am – 11:00 pm
Friday: 10:00 am – 12:00 am
Saturday: 8:00 am – 12:00 am
Sunday: 8:00 am – 11:00 pm

Little Creatures Melbourne Dining Hall on Urbanspoon

Two Lost Boys – Brilliant Food & Coffee

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Breakfast Menu Lunch Menu

G and I headed to Two Lost Boys for brunch one Sunday and despite being quite busy didn’t have to wait long at all for a table. Two Lost Boys is café located in a small street, overlooking Windsor station – in Windsor (duh!) – by Justin Kony and Michael Almagor (ex Hobba and Dukes Coffee Roasters).

Despite being almost hidden away on Maddock street, the size of this café is impressive – from walking in from its ceiling to floor glass doors you are greeted by the central counter, which is located just to the left of the kitchen window – it almost deceives you with how big it actually is. This counter is definitely the star attraction – it uses recycled parts of vintage stained-glass doors (from Gumtree!) as its frame and is completed by the impressive Synesso coffee machine pumping out coffees for the patrons.

The feel of the place is fun, lively yet relaxed and happy. Thanks to the surrounding glass windows of the place – the place feel light, airy and welcoming. In terms of seating there is a communal table located directly right of the kitchen, with other seating located past the main counter to the left of the kitchen. There are wooden benches that you can perch yourself on along the wall of windows which overlooks the small street and Windsor station, with tables that seat from 2 to 4 people in the main dining area. There are also some tables located outside – great for a nice sunny day!

Coffee – both filter and espresso – comes from Monk Bodhi Dharma 0 an East St Kilda boutique roster, and they use Schulz Organic Farm milk, which is located in Timboon. You can choose from a house blend as well as two ever-changing single origin blends. There is also a good selection teas and juices.  I order a latte to start which was the pick me I needed – full bodied and had a mixture of a fruity and nutty taste, ending on a creamy note. Perfect!

The idea behind Two Lost boys is to create the perfect balance between great tasting coffees with emphasis on organic locally farmed produce, with the aim to create an environment where quality produce is of the upmost importance. That is such a great value to uphold to and I think the menu here at Two Lost Boys is a real testament to this. The menu has an All Day Breakfast, as well as a Lunch menu which can be served from 11:30am onwards. The chef is Moshe Ittah, and touches of his middle-eastern background can be seen in the menu.

The All Day Breakfast menu consists of the usual’s that you would expect to find but with a Two Lost Boys touch such as Toast, Fruit Bread, Porridge (Coconut Quinoa porridge served with fruit compote, mixed nuts and cinnamon spice), Avo Smash which is served with Labneh and topped with zaatar. There is also a choice of Stuffed Mushrooms, Two Lost Boy Fritters or Baked Eggs – with an option to change it up by adding a Mediterranean Sausage or extra chilli – love this option of adding extra chilli!

The Lunch menu consists of a soup of the day, as well as a selection of salads – salmon, cauliflower or chicken. There is the necessary burger dish which here is served on a brioche bun, as well as a selection of tasty sandwiches.

After much contemplation (I was deciding between the fritters, baked eggs and stuffed mushrooms) I settled for the Two Lost Boy Fritters – Sweet Potato and Beetroot Fritters with House-Cured Salmon Carpaccio, Spinach, Horseradish & Walnut Cream served with Two Poached Eggs. I love the fact that this dish comes with not one but TWO poached eggs. I loveee poached eggs and to have two with my fritters was brilliant. The dish comes out plated up beautifully – the square shaped corn fritter at the base, topped with poached eggs, spinach, salmon in the shape of a rose and a quinelle of horseradish & walnut cream. To start both the eggs were perfectly poached with the silky golden yolk in just the right consistency. I think this was a great interpretation of the usual fritters you find – the combination of sweet potato and beetroot worked well together especially combined with the tang and zestiness of the horseradish and walnut cream. A must try dish!

G ordered the Stuffed Mushroom – Ricotta Stuffed Mushroom with a Poached Egg, Spinach, Spiced Bread Crumbs, Prosciutto and Peperonata Served on Brioche Bread. G did enjoy her dish – the combination of the spice bread crumbs together with the saltiness and creaminess of the ricotta against the smooth mushroom was delicious. The textures and flavours were great – G did let me try some.

We also ordered the Lemon and Ricotta Pancakes – Pancakes with Berry Mascarpone, Fresh Blueberries, Topped with Berry Coulis to share. This was actually a generous sized dish and I am not sure how one could eat all this on their own – I am glad we decided to share this dish! There were 3 Lemon and Ricotta Pancakes piled up on top of each other in a pool of berry coulis, topped with fresh blueberries and mascarpone. The pancakes were light, fluffy and a dream to eat – the tanginess of the lemon worked well with the sweetness of the berries and the mascarpone.

 

The staff are friendly and vibrant, with the service being professional. I love their focus on building relationships with farmers and sourcing organic produce to prepare meals. The food is fresh, delicious and you can tell it is made with care. There are also house made sweet treats which are located at the main counter that can be purchased such as Alfajoes, Mixed Brownies, Mini Date and Oates Crumble just to name a few that were available on the day I visited.
Two Lost Boys is a hidden away gem off the hustle and bustle of Chapel Street, that is well worth your time and effort for a visit. The fit out is simple and welcoming and it really is a place that you could lose track of time in.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Breakfast and Lunch menu – refer to Menu above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Funky and Relaxed
Standout Dish:
Service: Fantastic – Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.twolostboys.com.au/
20/2 Maddock Street , Windsor
Tel No: 9939 9313

Opening Hours:
Monday to  Friday: 6:30am – 4pm
Saturday & Sunday – 8am – 4pm

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The Bell Jar – Vintage Style Cafe

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Food Menu Lunch and Drinks Menu

The Bell Jar café is located on the Clifton Hill side of Smith Street (almost near Queens Parade), almost hidden between a battery shop and few garages. I actually drove past it and had to do a u-turn and come back around.

The Bell Jar is a very vintage, unique and welcoming café – from the moment you step in you are greeted with a cheery hello from the staff. There are tables located out front that you could sit at – inside there are wooden box seats that line the window, as well as mismatched and vintage tables and chairs in the main dining area. Out the back there is another room which has a communal table perhaps for a larger party as well as a courtyard. Styling is minimalist but it works with the look and the feel of the place – the main highlight is definitely the shiny coffee machine which is placed front and centre of the counter. This counter in itself is quite intriguing – made of wooden floorboards, there is a selection of cakes and muffins that you can buy placed on top here too.

Coffee is by Five Senses – ‘Dark Horse’ and includes blends of Ethiopian, Guatemalan and Sumatran beans. There is also Calmer Sutra Chai, Larsen & Thompson Teas, as well as juices from Emma & Tom’s and Sunzest Fresh OJ. While I mull over the menu I order a latte – which is strong, fragrant complete with the nutty flavours – it was a real pick me up!

The Bell Jar has an interesting menu which starts of with dishes under the ‘x’ section, followed by ‘xx’ and ends with ‘xxEXTRAxx’ – which is a really unique and great concept. The starting dishes include Toast, Breakfast Bruschetta, Porridge and Muesli dishes. Some of the larger dishes include Baked Beans, as well as an interesting dish consisting of Spiced Pumpkin and Avocado – there is also a fritters dish, as well as a Bell Jar Breakfast – their take on the Big Breakfast. There are a list of specials which are located on the blackboard as well – when I visited there was a Parmesan toast with roast tomato and basil dish, an eggs Benedict dish as well as ricotta hotcakes. There is also a separate lunch menu which consists of six different sandwiches to select from – a combination of vegetarian and meat options available. Refer to the menu pictures above for more detail.

I was tossing up between getting the fritters or the hotcakes and in the end decided I felt like something sweet. So I ordered the Ricotta Hotcakes with Banana, Mixed Berries and Maple Syrup – sans the bacon and I asked for some cream on the side. The dish did take quite some time to come out (and the waiter did apologise for the wait) – but I think the wait was well worth it.

The dish was well plated and against the stark white of the plate – the pancakes and the colourful shades of reds of the berries was delightful. The banana was layered in between the pancakes – so it created a wedding cake like appearance. This was topped with strawberries – with a mix of blueberries and raspberries off to the side, enveloped with maple syrup. The pancakes were delicious and fluffy and I loved the thickness of them – perfect! The combination of bananas, tangy berries and the pancakes together with the sweetness of the maple syrup and the cream was fantastic. You felt as if you wanted to savor every mouthful. If these are on the special board again – try them out! Hopefully they move it onto the main menu so it’s there all the time!

I had a great time at The Bell Jar – the vibe is fantastic and the coffee and food are delicious! Check out this hidden little vintage and quaint gem!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Breakfast and Lunch menu – refer to pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Chilled out, relaxed. Has a very vintage feel. You can sit outside or by the window. There is also a communal table in the back room as well as a courtyard area to sit in.
Service: Friendly and Welcoming
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.thebelljar.com.au/
656 Smith Street, Clifton Hill
Tel No: 9482 7980

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7am – 4pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8am – 4pm

The Bell Jar on Urbanspoon

Tall Timber – Great Courtyard to Enjoy the Sunshine

panda 4 rating

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Menu:
Tall Timber Menu

The guys behind Armadale’s Coin Laundry and Port Melbourne’s Station Street Trading Co. have recently opened Tall Timbers, serving a versatile breakfast and lunch menu sourced with local produce.

As I walked into Tall Timber on this Saturday arvo I was greeted by the sweet smell of coffee together with the sounds of many conversations and laughter – it really seemed like the place to be! The main room is filled with sunlight thanks to the massive windows on two of the walls and the main feature is the back wall which houses timber planter like boxes and shelves which stores things like glasses, jars and teapots– a real rustic feel. The front counter has an array of sweets to choose from as well housing one of the most important pieces of equipment in a café – the coffee machine. The tables are wooden and there is one communal table to the right. The front room was quite full so I was told to venture to the outside sheltered courtyard. The courtyard was a real winner for me – it was a HUGE communal table with umbrellas over the top for protection – from rain or sun. What was the real difference of this table was that in the centre there was a herb garden accentuated with little spades – almost inviting you to pick your own herbs to add to your dishes – not that you need to as the food is delicious all on its own – but more on that later.  This courtyard area is great on a summer’s day – you get to enjoy the sunshine in the surrounds away from the main road – and would suit anyone from mothers with bubs to catch-up’s with friends or even a brunch date.

Breakfast is served all day and there is a lunch menu from 12pm. There are also options available for people who need gluten free or vegetarian options. What caught my eye on the menu was the Breaky Board – which comes with a poached egg on pumpkin loaf with beeroot relish & goat’s chese, muesli with natural yoghurt and fresh berries as well as a small OJ – all for just $14.50. Bargain! Little sets like these I think are a great idea and allow you to experience a bit of variety of what the café has to offer. The Breakfast menu consists of the usual favourites such as selection of toast with jams, bircher muesli, eggs and toast and smashed avocado. There are also other diverse combinations such as smashed peas served with pumpkin loaf as well as sautéed kale, asparagus, beans on a quinoa loaf.

As good as the Breaky Board sounded I couldn’t resist trying the pumpkin fritters (followers will know I do love my corn fritters – so trying a different type of fritters was highly appealing). I also love anything to do with or has pomegranate – it is one of my favourites fruits so when I saw that the fritters came with pomegranate labneh I was sold. Whilst deciding on my food order I ordered a freshly squeezed OJ – which comes with a stripey straw.

The pumpkin fritters formed the base of the dish, avocado on the next layer and lastly the poached egg finished with a dusting of fetta and herbs. The poached egg was cooked perfectly (refer to pick) and had oozing running yellow yolk. The fritters were cooked perfectly showing off the orangey colour of the pumpkin and was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside – and flavoured just right. The combination of the four elements – the fritters, egg, avocado and fetta was great – with the fetta adding a texture and sour element to the dish which complemented the sweetness of the pumpkin fritters. Another winner was the pomegranate labneh which was found under the fritters – a hidden treasure almost – which acted like a dressing to the fritters. It was an overall really great dish.

The staff are friendly and helpful and always not without a smile, wearing navy blue and canvas aprons. Despite being really busy they do remember all their customers from the front room to the courtyard. When we were initially seated we were told to take a seat in the courtyard and someone would be us and I was a bit sceptical as they were really busy but low and behold within 5 mins someone was out there.

The coffee is from NIccolo and will be roasted on site. I was tempted by the sweet selection at the counter as I went to pay but resisted – they really do look good and the staff are quite knowledgeable in what everything is.

I love the use of wooden timber furniture and the brightness of Tall Timber – the outside courtyard is fantastic for the summer to bask in the sun and enjoy some really great wholesome and tasty food. Try it out for yourself!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – There is an all day breakfast menu as well as a lunch menu from 12pm. Refer to picture above for breakfast menu.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Relaxed and Fun! The courtyard out the back is an awesome place to hang out and chat the afternoon away!
Standout Dish: Roast Pumpkin Fritters with Avocado, Pinenut and Cranberry Salsa, Pomegranate Labneh & Poached Egg
Service: Friendly, Funny and Welcoming –  but sometime it is hard to get the attention of staff.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
60 Commercial Road, Prahran
Tel No: 9676 9333

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

Tall Timber on Urbanspoon

Mixed Business – Relaxed & Delicious

panda 4.5 rating

Menu:
Drinks at Mixed BusinessBreakfast at Mixed BusinessLunch at Mixed Business

N and I were heading out to breakkie on a Saturday morning and decided to try out Mixed Business. This cute café is located in Clifton Hill (neighbouring Northcote) and comes to you by Lauren Bieber and Tom Crowe. The look and feel of the place is casual and relaxed thanks to the light and airiness nature of the venue, complete with an outside sitting area amongst the back garden. There is a combination of vintage and retro touches throughout the venue which includes old tea towels used as curtains over cupboards, wooden tables with mismatched colourful chairs as well as the feature piece which is huge workbench which doubles as the coffee counter, cake serving area and payment station. There are also old school vintage signs which are attached to the walls. It really does pay homage to the venue’s former life of a second hand furniture store.

It was a typical Melbourne day – rain one minute, sunshine the next. When we walked in the place was quite busy so we were offered a table in the back garden and the friendly waitress told us that it was under cover if that Melbournian rain happened to come back. Sitting in the back amongst the pot plants, trees and herbs was really pleasant and I feel like this is one of the best tables at the venue. You get to enjoy the brightness and be surrounded like you are in your very own back garden – even on a rainy day! The centrepiece of the table would automatically brighten anyone spirits – it was a colourful duck shaper pot holder which house a striking cactus. Really cute and chirpy – I want one for my place!

Once we were seated we ordered our coffees and proceeded to look at the menu. I already had decided that I wanted something sweet so reading the description of the waffles had me sold. I like how they have a selection of combinations that can come with the free range poached eggs such as pork belly and sausage, potato and rosemary rosti or smoked salmon, pickled beetroot, dill and creme fraiche. Most places just pick one or two selections that come with poached eggs. The coffee by Seven Seeds was delicious and was a welcome necessity for this morning.

When my waffles came out they looked delicious and I could barely spend enough time photographing them as I wanted to devour them straight away. They looked fresh and the aroma was enticing. There were three pieces of waffles arranged at the bottom and topped with the apple, blueberries and pecan crumb with the ice cream off to the side. The pecan crumb was absolutely delicious and the coating literally melted in your mouth. The combination of the warm waffles coupled with the spiced apple and cold ice cream was fantastic. Definitely a dish I would recommend.

From the other dishes that were ordered I got to try out the potato and rosemary rosti and the picked cabbage. The potato and rosemary rosti tasted even better than it looked – when it came out it looked glossy, crispy and accented with the perfect amount of rosemary – it was delicious, crispy on the outside and soft and aromatic on the inside. The house made relish had a smoky and spicy hit to it as well and was quite nice. The pickled cabbage was another win – don’t let the bright pink colour put you off – the flavour is amazing.

It’s not always simply about the great food and customer service, but the little additional touches – like the colourful duck pot holder – and the simplicity of the back garden seating that truly do make the experience at a place not only memorable, but recommendable. Mixed Business is definitely one of these places.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to the Menu above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Relaxed and Welcoming – great chill out place!
Standout Dish: Applie Pie Waffles – Buttermilk Waffles with Maple Baked Apples, Pecan Crumb and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Free Ranged Poached Eggs on Sourdough with Potato and Rosemary Rosti, Avacado and House Relish
Service: Friendly and Helpful – although we never did get asked if we wanted another round of coffee after we had finished our first coffee’s.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
486 Queens Parade, Clifton Hill
Tel No: 9468 1606

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 7:30 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

Mixed Business on Urbanspoon

Epocha – Tasty & Wholesome Food!

panda-4-5-rating4

halal (1)(ONLY THE CHICKEN IS HALAL)

Epocha which means ‘a new or distinctive era’ in a variety of European languages is a newly opened restaurant in Rathdowne Street, Carlton. It is located in the stunning heritage listed Victorian terrace which overlooks Carlton Gardens. And as owner Angie Giannakodakis, researched and discovered that it was commissioned by gentlewoman Hannah Mabel in 1884 – and the upstairs bar pays homage to her and is aptly called Hannah’s Bar.

Epocha is European inspired restaurant and bar brought to you by Angie Giannakodakis (former front-of-house manager The Press Club) together with business partner Guy Holder. The head chef is Mick Bolam who is the former head chef of Restaurant Sanctuary at Peppers in the Hunter Valley. The main focus of Epocha is around its main philosophy – sharing tasty and wholesome food. It is home style food that pays tribute to its European traditions with touches of Greek, English and French influences (such as the charcuterie and cheeses).

As you walk up the stairs to the terrace house entrance you know that you are about to expect something that you will be awe of – and you wont be disappointed. A elegant and rustic dining room welcomes you complete with wooden floors (that are creaky for authenticity), low hanging lights, dark wooden furniture with a colourful tiled table top, a huge old school style clock on the wall and homely olive green chairs. It really has a homely feel to it and you know you are in good hands as the service is impeccable, warm and welcoming – you just fit right in.

In addition to the main downstairs dining area, there is an upstairs area / function room with a balcony – this is Hannah’s Bar. You can come here for casual drinks as well as play games of backgammon.

We were seating in the downstairs dining area and the first thing that caught my idea was a wooden trolley which had a variety of cheeses as well as desserts on offer. What also caught my eye on the trolley was the wooden frame which housed honeycomb and honey. Such a great idea which once again makes it feel more homely. The menu is split into different sections such as snacks, small shares, large shares, accompaniments, dessert & cheese. There is also a sharing menu which is $68 per person where the Chef will pick what dishes your table gets. We decided to pick some dishes from each of the snacks, small shares, large shares and accompaniments. The waitress was helpful in letting us know if she thought we had ordered too many dishes, and assisted us in choosing our dishes as well.

Whilst we waited for our food we were given warm bread which comes in a knotted cloth bag which is something different. The bread (rye and caraway seed) was freshly made, soft and delicious. I got an oyster to start off with – fresh and tasty. We also got Mushroom Aranchini and Jamon, Fior Di Latte Croquettes to start off with. The Mushroom Aranchini was crumbed and crunchy on the outside and the filling on the inside was perfectly seasoned, and the mushrooms were moist and tasty. My friends did enjoy the Jamon Croquettes as well, and they were on the large side so that was an added bonus. We also got the Spiced Chickpea and Bread Crisps. The spiced chickpea was quite tasty and had a great balance of tanginess and spice. I loved the addition of the bread crisps – I enjoyed the crunchiness against the chickpea dip.

Some of the smaller share dishes that we selected were – Spring Asparagus with Slow Cooked Hens Egg, Tarragon and the Baby Carrots, Honey, Goat’s Curd, Sesame, Beetroot and Skate, Caper, Lemon, Parsley, Fava and lastly the Confit Duck Leg, Peas, Lettuce. The asparagus dish was a very different and interesting dish  – the asparagus was simply sautéed and absorbed the flavours of the tarragon, the hens egg was perfectly cooked and once you cracked it open the yolk oozed out and served as an additional sauce for the asparagus. The flavour combination was a mash of flavours that worked.

The Beetroot and Honey dish was my favourite dish and to this day I talk about it. I LOVED IT. The honey together with the goats curd was a great mix and was delicious – add in the sweetness and softness of the beetroot and carrots and you truly have a memorable dish. Highly recommended.

Skate is a type of large marine fish and this dish came with capers, lemon and fava – which is a type of bean. The sauce was tangy and creamy all at the same time. The skate was cooked fantastically and was still moist and mild in flavour. You really did need the addition of the capers and the sauce to really make the dish and make them it did. Another really tasty dish.

Once we had finished our snacks and smaller share dishes, it time for the larger shares. First up we got the Bird – which consisted of the breast, wing, thigh and leg. Crispy and crackly on the outside, moist and simply seasoned on the inside. This dish was served with a swig of rosemary. The whole fish that we got was Flounder – this came with Fruit Rub, Dill, Lemon and Salsa Verde. The dish comes out to the table as a whole fish and then we get to watch our waitress de-bone the entire fish for us. It’s a great process to watch as they seem to glide through the process – I could never do it with such ease. The fish is buttery and cooked amazingly, the salsa verde and fruit rub give it a mix of tangy and sweetness – you could add lemon if you needed an additional tang. We did order another larger dish but it was never brought out – and we were actually alright with that anyway as we were all so full and still had dessert to go.

Dessert time meant that the trolley was wheeled over to us for us to decide – they all cost $12. We settled on getting one of each dessert – Crème brulee, Chocolate Gateau, Tiramasu and Lemon & Ricotta Cannoli. The Crème brulee was smooth, sweet and small with a delicious crackling on top. The Lemon & Ricotta Cannoli was crunchy and the pastry was delicious – the lemon filling was buttery, sharp and strong all at the same time. The tiramisu ( I couldn’t have this as it had lots of alcohol in it) was quite alcohol filled as my friends told me but delicious nonetheless. The Chocolate Gateau was a clear winner – from the brownie bass to the centre chocolate mousse filling and topped off with a ganache chocolate topping. It looked as rich as it sounds but was such a great way to finish a fantastic meal.

Epocha is a fantastic place that everyone should definitely check it out – be it for a casual drink upstairs or if its a meal at the dining room downstairs. The atmosphere is homely, welcoming and quaint and the service is one of the best that I have experienced in Melbourne. There is antique silverware, vintage cutlery and crockery, colorful table tops, wooden creaky floors all which add to its uniqueness. There is also an international wine selection and the staff are happy to assist in getting you the right selection. If there is one place that should be on your list of places to try out it should be EPOCHA.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Dinner Menu – can be found at http://epocha.com.au/pdf/Epocha-Menu.pdf
On Sundays there is a four course menu available for a Family Sunday priced at $45 pp
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience:
Standout Dish: Baby Carrots, Honey, Goats Curd, Seasame, Beetroot (this is my new fave salad – IT’S THAT GOOD!!)
Service: Fantastic and Attentive and Friendly. We asked our waitress quite a bit of questions and she answered all of them and if she didn’t know the answer, she found out. They are also very inviting and hospitable. All round great service!
Online Booking: They are currently updating their website so it is best to call or email at eat@epocha.com.au
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://epocha.com.au/
49 Rathdowne St, Carlton
Tel No: 9036 4949

Opening Hours:
Closed Mondays
Lunch
Tuesday to Saturday: From 12pm
Dinner
Tuesday to Saturday: 5:30pm to Late
Sunday Roast Lunch: 12pm to 4pm

Hannah’s Bar
Tuesday to Saturday: 12pm to Late

Epocha on Urbanspoon