Posts Tagged ‘cafe’

Paul Jewson’s Fitzrovia opens in St Kilda

Sticky Lamb Ribs

Since moving on from Outpost, Paul Jewson has been a busy man. I’ve seen him in the kitchen at St Ali, he’s been working at St Ali in London and turns out he’s and partner Marco Pulagni have been turning the Waldorf in St Kilda into the beautifully rendered Fitzrovia. At 155 Fitzroy St, it’s just near the newly opened Golden Fields, Baker d Chirico and Miss Jackson in what’s becoming a fine-food hotspot.

I’ve long been a fan of Paul Jewson’s food. It ticks all my boxes (I don’t really have boxes to tick), it’s generous, has big flavours and is always seasonal. It’s hard to say what the plan is, but when we dropped in on Sunday the daytime menu was poorly printed on the dodgy computer printer. We were told it was “temporary”, but I’m not so sure it was, not in the sense that it will ever be “fixed” anyway. It was the same at Outpost and the ever-changing menu works perfectly, especially when the food has this sense of style. I just wish they’d get a good printer.

The dinner menu, though, is a far more refined affair in presentation and substance.

The restaurant comprises 2 separate areas. At the front, a 2 level, minimally lit, glass atrium, perfect for breakfast or brunch and come evening a perfect place for a pre-dinner aperitif or glass of wine. The dining room is a more traditional dining area with a huge open doorway into the kitchen. Currently the walls are sparse, but trimmings are coming and it won’t take much to turn it to a understated, classic dining room.

The kitchen itself is somewhat of a feature, it has a huge marble-topped island table crowned by a rustic, hanging pot rack. It doesn’t have the carefully manicured design of Outpost, but it is far more functional and will provide a great vibe on a busy night.

The 2 brunch dishes we had were sticky lamb ribs on a smoked corn salad and scrambled eggs with bacon and tomatoes. The ribs were in the no-fork-required territory with the sauce overpowering the flavour of the meat. The scrambled eggs were as good as they get, endless folds of soft, rich egg with a tomato chutney with a nicely balanced tang. The chutney was so good that I ended up eating the last of it on toast.

The REAL Melbourne top 30 (or perhaps 15) cafes.

As ridiculous as that article from the Melbourne Magazine was and how seemingly random it is, I’m going to produce an equally ridiculous list which I hope you’ll agree is marginally more accurate. There’s no real criteria except for me making shit up.

  1. Monk Bodhi Dharma. Balaclava.
    Despite the fact they only serve vegetarian food it is great. The coffee is second to none with a real focus on roasting light and letting the beans speak for themselves.
  2. Brother Baba Budan. City.
    They don’t serve food here, but it isn’t important. Consistently pumping out the most consistent coffee in Melbourne despite the fact there is usually a massive line up of people waiting for their takeaways.
  3. Auction Rooms. North Melbourne.
    With a well executed, refined menu, and an in-house roastery ensuring a supply of great coffee this cafe has been at the pinnacle of Melbourne cafes for quite some time.
  4. St Ali. South Melbourne.
    Like each of the previous cafes, (except Brother Baba) food and coffee are on equal footing. Each day sees a different single origin on, selected from a range of exceptional coffees.
  5. Seven Seeds. Carlton.
    The menu here is more of a light lunch menu and the food is well-made and considered. But you can really forget about the food and just come for the coffee. In my eyes, the Sevens Seeds blend is the best black coffee blend in Melbourne.
  6. Duchess of Spotswood. Spotswood.
    The food at Duchess is closer to a high quality restaurant than a cafe. Sometimes a touch rich, and not for everyone, but the quality is outstanding and worth trying.
  7. Proud Mary. Collingwood.
    Absolutely jammed full of the coolest people in Melbourne all weekend, the food rocks (try the Pork Belly Sandwich) and the roasting and production of the coffee showcases some rare and expensive coffee that are full of flavour.
  8. Market Lane. Prahran.
    Market Lane is one of the few places in Melbourne that focuses on coffee and only coffee. Attached to the premier coffee importer, they have access to the best coffee and roast it to show the fruit.
  9. Three Bags Full. Abbotsford.
    I’m not sure how many times I can say, good food + good coffee = good cafe. Three Bags Full does well to maintain quality even though it gets ridiculously busy.
  10. Deadman Espresso. South Melbourne.
    A short but sweet menu, and good, well-made coffee are enough to put this on the list. The all day breakfast menu on weekends sells this cafe short as it all too often does.
  11. East Brunswick Project. Brunswick.
    As far as the higher quality roasters in Melbourne goes, Padre roasts their coffee much darker. The specialty coffee ground doesn’t like it, but the everyday punters love the Padre lattes cause they taste how they expect. People come in droves to the East Brunswick project for this exact reason.
  12. Captains of Industry.  City.
    A quirky little spot, right in the middle of the city. The big windows and the light make it a perfect place to relax for a late lunch or afternoon tea. The food is simple, fresh and pleasing.
  13. Pope Joan. Brunswick.
    Like Duchess, the restaurant quality food is backed up with solid coffee. Chef Matt Wilkinson manages to cook eggs more ways than you thought imaginable and still keep them interesting.
  14. Brunswick St Alimentari. Fitzroy.
    As much a deli as a cafe, the nicely portioned Italian food is the perfect winter lunch food. The chicken schnitzel rolls are great and sold-out very early on, so get in quick.
  15. Miss Jackson. St Kilda.
    I’ve written before about why I like Miss Jackson. It’s a cafe by the hungover, for the hungover.
  16. MART. Middle Park.
    Long has MART been on the edge of Albert Park in the old stationmasters house. Though it’s hardly changed, the corn fritters still rock and the eggs never fail.

You might have realised, but there’s only 16 cafes here. My top 16, I’d love to hear what’s missing, comments on the ranking and who shouldn’t be there. Perhaps I’m too focused on the new and the specialty coffee? Let me know.

Duchess of Spotswood

It’s a funny place, Melbourne. We say we are open-minded and progressive, yet we are creatures of habit, refusing to leave our suburbs for anything but the most special occasions, drinking at the same coffee shop day-in-day-out and being bemused when someone sits in our seat at the local. In saying that, there’s nothing better than having a reason to leave – to make the trip, not only across the river, but across the Westgate.

And what a reason there is. In an effort to not mince my words, Duchess of Spotswood is off the charts. It’s armed with a combination of amazing food; great coffee; a comforting space; the friendliest staff; and something only it’s “remote” location can explain, a lack of crowds. It’s so good, I saw a house for lease across the road and for more than a fleeting moment considered calling the agent.

Putting your finger on what makes a place tick can is tricky. Though the mere fact that nothing in particular is outstanding is a sure sign of quality. While there is no clear intention, everything works well to provide the illusion of a olden English home. The quiet location, the white-washed walls and the airy and bright space complements perfectly the concept of the menu. The staff are friendly and familiar and take the time to remember you were here last week, even so far as remembering your order.

Of all the highlights though, the food that Chef Andrew Gale is dishing up is the crowning achievement. He has taken a mix of seasonal ingredients (white asparagus), complex flavours (black pudding, and smoked eggs) and some instant crowd pleasers (house special bacon and pork belly) and rolled them into a menu that works for everyone from the everyman to the most conceited food nazi. Add to this a couple of specials and leaving unimpressed simply isn’t an option.

The food is in the style du jour – english. There’s the Duchess of Pork – crispy pork belly with a fried egg and truffle sauce; the lancashire hash – black pudding wrapped in a potato hash, served on a bed of beans with crispy pork neck; field mushrooms and white asparagus toppped with a smoked egg and crispy pork neck; a ploughmans lunch, pickles and cheese. None of this is to mention the specials, like a school prawn salad with toasted quinoa, walnuts and blood orange segments which take seasonal to another level.

Salford Lad’s Club, Port Melbourne

Salford Lad's ClubFor a place that was featured in The Age on Tuesday, it’s remarkably hard to find the location of the Salford Lad’s Club. There’s no website and a quick Google reveals very little. It’s on the corner of Fennell and Bridge St, Port Melbourne – a little bit of an oddball place between the freeway and Bunnings. That doesn’t stop it being a great little lunch location, and as was mentioned in the Epicure will probably be a popular stop for the weekend bike warrior crowd.

The fitout is great, it pays homage to the fact that the building was (and I suspect still is) a car workshop. On one wall there’s an assortment of bicycle odds and ends, a car hubcap and assorted other mechanical style bits and pieces. On the other, are some skateboard decks and some interesting but slightly out of place artworks. The requisite communal tables are lovely pieces, not over-the-top expensive and big enough that your copy of The Age isn’t in someone else’s dinner.

Apparently the lunch menu changes each day, but today was hearty stews – comfort food. We had a beef, mushroom and wine braise with a smashed potato salad and a tagined lamb stew with cous-cous. They were both $13.50 and perfect sized portions. If I had one complaint, it was that the potatoes weren’t well enough suited to clean the sauce from my bowl.

Finally the coffee – made from Coffee Supreme beans, our milk coffees were strong, very strong (this isn’t a problem, just a preference) and mine had a hint of unwanted bitterness, and a few stray sedimentary coffee grounds. Similarly, my espresso had the same bitterness and grounds. Neither was unpleasant, but there’s some definite room for improvement.

At $33 for a lunch for 2, not too far from home. I’m going to be going back; probably on my bike; I recommend you do too.

[flickr album=72157624966522182 num=20 size=Square]

Miss Jackson, St Kilda

Miss JacksonEvery time I’m on my way to Miss Jackson all I can think about is that song, “I’m sorry Miss Jackson, I am for real” it’s really annoying because I should be thinking how Miss Jackson is going to help me from my hangover, you know, for real. After watching the film clip, now I’m going to expect someone to be washing their pimped out car out the front and dogs nodding their heads at me as I walk up Gray St. All of this and no hallucinogens.

Wedged down an alley between halfway houses, backpacker travel agents and a few seedy nightclubs, Miss Jackson is a shining beacon of class in an otherwise classless (apologies to the Melbourne Wine Room, none such to the ever-so-trashy George lane-way bar) area. The café itself is a converted house that reminds me more of a rabbit warren than a café, the smaller nooks don’t quite fit the tables that they contain. It’s nowhere near as cramped as Wall 280 in Balaclava and there it adds “character”. Nonetheless the place has character and the larger communal tables are comfortable and spacious. There’s also an outdoor area, which thankfully parents seem to utilise to entertain their wild children.

TMiss Jackson: Corn Fritters, Bacon and Tomatoshe menu is everything you would expect without being outstanding. Corn fritters, steak sandwiches, and eggs every which way. But what the menu lacks in excitement it makes up with in the execution. While you might cook everything on the menu at home, it simply won’t be as good.

The portions are great, the food looks amazing and best of all it tastes spot on. In fact, of all the cafés around, Miss Jackson is my favourite for a comforting, hangover curing breakfast – morning or afternoon. Perhaps this is cause of a subtle focus on booze. There is beer and wine on the menu and a few bottles of spirits peeking out from behind the bar – important for my personal favourite menu item.

Bloody Mary, Miss JacksonThe “superstar DJ” bloody mary is everything you could want in this breakfast cocktail – good spice and acidity and a healthy sprig of celery. A bloody mary is tricky to get right at the best of times and they come out with amazing consistency.

The guys that run this place (Steve and Matt) are clearly drinkers – it shows – they know what’s good for you.

More photos on Flickr.

Wall Two 80, Balaclava

Outside Wall CafeIf  we were all rabbits, the Wall Cafe would be the kind of cafe we would all love. There is no order, there are random little tables and chair jammed in every nook and cranny, seemingly spilling out onto the street. The cafe seems to have been jammed into an old butchers shop that it doesn’t really fit into. Much like the rabbit warrens of my dreams.

Apparently people like this claustrophobic feeling. The place is packed and nobody seems to care that you have to push past someone to get to your table, or that there is newspaper strewn all over the biggest table in the place. Or perhaps it is that the food is great, the service is surprisingly quick and the prices are rock bottom.

The menu is written on the wall and comprises mainly of gourmet pides with a few other bits and pieces. The coffee was good, a really dark blend which made my strong latte a little too strong flavoured. My second was a regular latte.

Baked Beans and Ham Hock at Wall CafeBaked beans and ham hock ($10) with basil and fetta.  This is such a great combination, the gritty texture of the ham hock contrasts really well with baked beans. The basil and fetta ($1.50 extra) adds an extra layer of flavour.

Avocado on Rye at Wall Cafe

Not the best photo, this avocado on rye was really good. Very fresh avo, great rye bread with cottage cheese and a slice of lemon. Very filling for a small serve and only $8.

It was a quick breakfast, 4 coffees and 2 meals for $32. Can’t really complain when the food is this good.

Dead Man Espresso

Dead Man Espresso's single origin beansThere has been a massive amount of buzz since Dead Man Espresso opened on Market St in South Melbourne. There is a lot to love about this cafe, especially the staff and the coffee. But I’m in 2 minds about the menu. There are 2 menus, a reasonably limited brunch menu, served till 12 each weekday and all day on weekends and a lunch menu, served from 12 till 3 each week day. There is a bit of overlap between the 2, but the lunch menu is definitely a bit more diverse. Sadly, I only just realised it existed as it’s normally a weekend haunt. I’ll have to rectify that.

With the exception of the omelette of the day, the food is not your typical cafe fare. The menu is technical and refined and although each item is interesting, they aren’t long lived. Let me clarify, I’ve tried most of the brunch menu and feel as though I’ve exhausted all the options and unless the menu changes, probably won’t return for the food on the weekend. Thankfully, it seems like the lunch menu will keep me going for a little while longer.

Dead Man Espresso, Pour over coffeeThere is no such problem with the coffee. There are 2 options for espresso, the Dead Man blend and the 7 Seeds blend. The Dead Man blend is super smooth, slightly sweet with a bit of berry coming through and the 7 Seeds blend is a much darker, regular style espresso blend.

Most of the single origins are sourced from 7 Seeds but the also regularly have guest appearances from Market Lane and Coffee Supreme. These coffees are available only as pour-over, but I suspect with a little cajoling the barista would pull them through the Synesso. This makes for a great range and doesn’t disappoint. The stand out is the Panama Esmeralda Geisha, this was the best coffee I’ve had for weeks. It had a full palate and a ridiculously oily texture with flavours of honeycomb and dark chocolate.

In a city where every coffee fiend is talking about the Slayer and ordering single-origin siphons, the focus on pour over is refreshing. It is a far more subtle style of coffee, with a very gentle texture which helps to highlight the subtle flavours of the beans. I think pour-over and siphons are the perfect way for people new to non-milk coffee to cut their teeth.

Smoked Salmon, Confit Tomato, Sourdough and Avocado Salsa

This is the sourdough, smoked salmon,  avocado, mimolette and grapefruit salsa and a confit tomato. Sadly I didn’t get to taste this but I was assured it was amazing. The confit tomatoes are out of this world. It’s hard to describe but they have a beautifully fragrant flavour while still tasting like tomato.

French Toast, Sesame Seed Caramel, Grilled Pancakes and a Confit Tomato

The brioche french toast with grilled pineapple, bacon and sesame seed caramel (I added a confit tomato). This is possible the richest dish I have ever tasted. The caramel is dark, and quite acidic but works really well with the grilled pineapple and the bacon.


This is the deconstructed BLT. Pork belly and spinach puree on brioche with gazpacho. As with most dishes this is quite rich and very flavoursome. I’m not convinced pork belly belongs on a sandwich, I think it kind of hides the amazingness of the cut of meat and to some extent this deconstruction removed some of the great texture of a regular BLT. It is a really interesting take though and I would definitely recommend it.

Panzanella with Paprika SausagePanzanella with pesto, smoked paprika sausages and poach eggs. This is an amazing dish, the bread has been lightly soaked in a light olive oil and slicing into the egg self sauces the salad. This is the star performer.