Posts Tagged ‘Melbourne restaurants’

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Proud Mary

ProudMary_lowres.It seems that no expense has been spared when creating this elaborate space, from the standout powder blue coloured six group Synesso coffee machine – which is the only six group machine of its kind in Australia – to the quirky hand-crafted coffee handle door handles on the front door. Attention to detail is apparent everywhere and no where more so that in my coffee cup – which is where you would want it to be!

That’s the thought that was on my mind as I ploughed through my piccolo ($3.5) at Proud Mary recently. The barista behind the machine on the day was in fine form as the first coffee, made from the house espresso blend, exhibited notes of caramel and pistachio on a rich and creamy palate. And my second coffee – made from a Single Origin Costa Rican – featured aromas of almond, hot buttered popcorn and coconut cream, on a savoury palate with traces of tobacco and spice predominating.

Interesting menu touches such as a Seared tuna with grilled asparagus on a warm potato salad with a caper dressing ($17.5) make for appealing luncheon items, whilst items such as Crushed avocado on toast, served with a roast tomato salsa, rocket and lemon ($12.50) – available on the breakfast menu – also offer excellent value!

The space itself is wide and spacious, and filled with natural light due to its corner location, , and a swag of Mazzers on the counter, combined with the seemingly obligatory Clover and Syphon, Proud Mary’s coffee credentials are firmly stamped on the Melbourne scene. Was there ever any doubt?

Proud Mary

172 Oxford St

Collingwood VIC 3066

Tel: (03) 9417 5930

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Cafe 120

Cafe_120_smallYou could be forgiven for not immediately noticing Café 120 on your trek to coffee nirvana [or someplace else] as it’s tucked away in a remote and somewhat obscure location – located as it is at the end of the 96 tram line, just around the corner from Ceres eco-village.

But to bypass the place altogether would be to do so at your peril, as the food good and the coffee is too.  Serving Coffee Supreme, I enjoyed a well-made half latte, which was smooth, creamy delicately textured, with caramel and roast almond aromas, which followed through on a butterscotch-infused palate!

The space itself is small and compact but well-built with high ceilings, distressed blonde timber flooring, and whitewashed walls featuring eclectic artwork, such as a vintage collection of skateboards and related paraphernalia dating back, I would guess, to at least the 1950’s.

There’s also a good selection of panini with fillings such as smoked chicken with rocket, shaved parmesan, and Japanese mayo, along with plenty of vegetarian options from $8.00.

It’s all pretty stripped back at 120 with an unfussy menu and friendly service – which puts the emphasis back on the coffee – but with prices starting from $3 for a cup of Joe, this café is well positioned to meet the needs of those who have come to the end of the line. [PS]

Café 120
120 Nicholson St
Brunswick East, 3057
(03) 9387 0010

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Foxy Brown

FoxyBrown-smallFoxy Brown is one of those rarest of things: a cosy corner cafe in a former house that actually still feels like someone’s living room. Original 70′s furniture pieces provide a cosy backdrop in this long and narrow space, as does mood lighting and front and rear courtyards – which are just the thing for the kids to muck around in!

In fact the space itself has a long history servicing the local community, dating back at least until the 1920′s when it traded as a general store and in its most recent successful incarnation, as an eclectic community-based cafe run by a brilliant if somewhat flawed musician, prior to being taken over by Patrick Sloane, aka Askthecoffeeguy, of the Crema Forum.

Patrick spent six months fine tuning the coffee blend with master roaster Joshua Bailey, who, interestingly flies somewhat beneath the radar in Melbourne – roasting as he does from his lounge room on Errol Street in North Melbourne – and the blend is a combination of high altitude shade grown ingredients which are also available individually as ‘Foxy Bean of the Day’ components. Patrick pulled over 2000 coffees through his coffee machine prior to be opening, to be certain that it was working properly and to thoroughly assess the coffee that he is using – such are his coffee credentials.

In fact one of the first things that you notice about the place is the massive coffee blackboard which dwarfs the kitchen’s daily specials board – which says something about the emphasis on coffee here, as does the two page coffee menu which sits on top of the all day breakfast menu.

Foxy prides itself on being mostly organic and FairTrade wherever possible and uses a unique DEMTER certified biodynamic un-homoginised milk – which is in such short supply that Patrick had to go on a two month waiting list and was interviewed vigorously for several hours before passing muster, and the cafe is still one of only a select few able to stock this product.  The milk itself is not cheap but is an integral part of the coffee equation and the coffee itself needs to be experienced to do it justice!

Foxy Brown Espresso Bar & Cafe
31 South Crescent
Northcote VIC 3070

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Il fornaio

Forneao_tinyUp the ‘wrong’ end of Ackland St, Il Fornaio has been a St Kilda institution as long as this reviewer can remember. They do a wide range of tasty offerings, but as the name suggests, the main reason you come to Il Fornaio [‘The Oven’ in Italian] is that they bake everything on the premises: from quiches, tarts and muffins to desserts, and of course, their own bread!

Lib had the Pizza with Onion Jam and Fetta, while I tried the Lamb Shanks. Both were excellent, although if anything, I thought I did slightly better with the Lamb Shanks, which were perfectly cooked and on a bed of mashed potato – excellent winter fare!

As for their scrummy-looking desserts, it was a difficult choice between the white chocolate tart, the berry and almond torte and the flourless chocolate cake. I went for the latter, which was very good, although suffered a little in terms of the final presentation – the accompaniments option was runny cream, which just didn’t do it for me; in the end I asked for ice cream, but since the cake was served cold, it really didn’t work either.

Coffee, by Queensland roaster de Bella, was creditable although for some reason, the barista insisted on offering the milk at a too-cool 50 deg. C.  [AF]

2 Acland St
St Kilda VIC 3182
(03) 9534 2922

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

The Maling Room

A lot has been said [and written] about the Maling Room – including rating in the Melbourne Top 5 in both of Crema Magazine’s annual Melbourne reviews – but we thought it was time to revisit Andrew Lew’s iconic café.

We visited on a Saturday morning and the place was hopping – loud, crowded and buzzing.  This time, we determined to review Maling Room from a normal all-round cafe point-of-view, including things like ambience, and of course food! The menu includes a great range of offerings, including Smoked Salmon Eggs with gruyere cheese, eighteen month aged Truffle Eggs, and Banjo Eggs with Hickory Smoked Bacon with HP sauce. We ordered the Akoori Scrambled Eggs – Indian-spiced with cumin, coriander onion and tomato, and kasundi chutney, and the Smoked Salmon Eggs, both of which were delicious.

My first short black was well-rounded, full-bodied and smooth, the second was a little thinner, although with a velvety mouth-feel; when I asked the barista the reason for the difference, he let on that the first was their house-blend, and the second was a different blend – a Rwandan, that had only been roasted a few days earlier. This is my kind of place; I thought: I can handle being tricked like this!

Probably the only downside is that when it gets busy, things at Maling Room can get a little noisy, due to the wide-open space and the wooden floors. However, this is a small price to pay for what is clearly one of Melbourne’s premier café experiences. Highly recommended. [AF]

The Maling Room

206 Canterbury Rd


Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Appetite on Errol

appetitieonerrol_smallSituated on the south end of Errol Street in north Melbourne is Appetite – a small café with a big reputation for its all day brunch menu.

I arrived at about 11:30 on a Sunday morning and ordered Poached Eggs and Bacon on toast, along with a creamy latte. The staff were very friendly and the service was very good. The coffee arrived and I was greeted with a mug of nice smooth coffee with a dark and slightly nutty flavour and a velvety mouth feel.

A few minutes later, the food arrived – a plate of nicely presented wholegrain hand-cut toast with bacon and poached eggs on top, accompanied by baby spinach and seasoned with a sprinkle of ground parsley and cracked pepper.

The eggs were superb and were matched by the bacon, which was rindless and beautifully smoked; the whole piece was a wonderful chewy texture throughout, without being rubbery or dry. I am sure they must get the bacon from the deli at the Queen Vic markets down the road!

The food is fantastic, the coffee is good and the staff are wonderful. If you are on your way to the Vic markets, stop by Appetite, it’s just a short walk up the road and well worth the trip.

Appetite on Errol – Errol Street, North Melbourne

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

Obscura [Melbourne]

obscura_webreadyThere’s a new gun in town and the word going around is that only the Laotian will do! If you haven’t been to Kensington recently then you should probably do so, as a plethora of cafes beckon and none more so than the aptly named, Obscura, located somewhat obscurely at 1 Bellair Street, Kensington, just outside the train station. However, as I write, plans are afoot to relocate the café across the tracks sometime in April, so get in quick if you want to experience the best of what’s on offer at the current location.

The café itself is only seven months old and already they’re looking to relocate to larger premises, which will also hopefully be a bit more resilient to Melbourne’s notorious weather. After cycling furiously around Kensington for 40 minutes trying to find the cafe on my mobile gps, I eventually found Obscura nestled in the comfortable confines of the train station.

Still, the wait was worthwhile because what I discovered was a speciality coffee shop that imports its own coffee from Laos, roasted to order, and flown direct to Melbourne via Thai Airways. Now I’m not sure how many readers have been to Laos, but I have and I can tell you that the coffee there is fantastic, and is poured dark and strong over ice, but be sure to tell the locals to leave the condensed milk out of the mix!

I enjoyed a piccolo latte at Obscura made from the Bruno blend, which Tom describes as medium to full-bodied and as his ‘Melbourne-Italian style espresso blend.’ My piccolo was well made and flavoursome with caramel and biscuit notes predominating, combined with a hint of exotic Asian spice.

It’s all about the coffee at Obscura, with 7 blends to choose from, most of which are rotated on the coffee machine. According to the JCFC website the coffee is, ‘cultivated from antique Arabica rootstock planted by French colonists in the 1920′s,’ and the coffee is shade grown in jungle forests of the Bolven Plateau in Southern Lao. You can also purchase whole beans for home use, and all of the coffees are certified FairTrade, from the Jhai Coffee Farmers Coop of Lao.

For the record, the Laotians refer to their homeland as Lao (and not Laos), apparently it was those pesky French colonists who decided to call the country Laos, as is their habit of putting a redundant ‘s’ on the end of everything. In the words of the local Lao people; ‘Khob chai lai lai! (which means thank you very much)’. [PS]

1 Bellair Street,
Kensington VIC 3031

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

Birdie Num Nums (Melbourne)

Birdie Num Nums occupies an interesting space in Melbourne’s cafe lexicon in that it caters specifically for young families, whereas many cafes do not. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of arty-types and groovy young things here as well, especially in the front section of the cafe, which is warm and welcoming with recycled timber and interesting nic nacs softening the space.  Conversely the back section, with its shade cloths and central sand pit, is ‘kid central.’

Food here is modern bistro with Greek influences, reminiscent of Pireaus Blues, the enduring Greek restaurant on Brunswick Street, which was founded by the same family.  The food is rustic and pleasantly plated – my crispy squid on Vietnamese-style shredded salad with crushed peanuts and sweet roasted chilli dressing ($16.5) hit all the right notes. Coffee is pretty good too, which comes as a bit of a revelation considering the generic brand (Grinders ‘Giancarlo’ Blend); a word of caution though, on the day I visited both the coffee and service out the back – in the ‘family friendly’ area – were not quite up to scratch, whereas out the front it was a different story altogether, where the service seemed to hum, and the coffee was of a noticeably higher standard.

Still, good food and a great kid-friendly atmosphere provides welcome relief for busy mums, and who knows, maybe you will even hear the occasional ‘howdy partner’ within these hallowed walls?

Reviewed Nov’08 [PS]

Birdie Num Nums
745 Nicholson Street
Carlton North

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

Ceres (Melbourne)

The festive season is upon us here in Melbourne and what better way to celebrate than to make the most of the great outdoors? Ceres (Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies – pronounced ‘series’) Community Environment Park is a sustainable eco-centre and farm community on the banks of Merri Creek in Brunswick East and it is a treat for families, indeed anybody, who is hoping to escape the relentless rush of the city for a little while.

There are a number of cafes here – including a small makeshift cafe operating out of the organic fruit and vege market (open on Wednesdays and Saturdays) offering good coffee and a selection of yummy cakes – usually to the accompaniment of a folk band and lots of little munchkins running around! The main café is a more sophisticated affair, encompassing a large sprawling wooden complex with a timber veranda overlooking the courtyard and the communal dwelling areas. It has to be said that it’s hard to get a bad seat here – every seat has an interesting view, surrounded by happy activity, no matter where you sit.

The food is good in an ‘all-day breakfast menu’ kind of way. There’s also a number of daily specials, and most items are made in-house using excellent produce. The coffee is good too, with both spaces serving Supreme’s Organic FairTrade Blend which, correct me if I am wrong, has a strong Columbian base which makes for good caramel/nutty and biscuity flavours.  Artisan coffee it is not, but it is still consistently well-made by passionate staff and I’m yet to have a dud coffee here. Plans are underfoot for a new conference centre and a sustainable restaurant, but most folks just come for coffee and conversation, while the kids happily entertain themselves.

Reviewed Nov ’08 [PS]

8 Lee Street
Brunswick East VIC 3057

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Cafenatics (Melbourne)

Located somewhat obscurely down a side alley, just off of 500 Collins Street, you could be forgiven for thinking that the patrons here were visiting some sort of illicit drug den, as they come and go with apparent glee. So what’s the attraction then? It could have something to do with the stunning La Marzocco Mistral coffee machine on the front counter, which looks more like a lunar recreational vehicle from the 1970′s, than it does a coffee machine!

And the coffee is good here too, running with a boutique blend from Veneziano, one of Melbourne’s top specialty coffee roasters. My latte was wonderfully rich and dense, with complex palate structure, and a rounded mouth-feel. Coffees prices start from a modest $3 and is highly recommended. The grub’s not bad either, with a variety of panini and roti wraps available for $8.90 ea, along with soup and salad of the day. I had Salad of pan-seared ocean trout with Caponata Pesto oil, served on a bed of wilted spinach and chopped tomato – which was good value at only $16.90. The salad was fresh and the trout was generously proportioned and cooked to perfection, but I would’ve liked a bit more pesto oil to flavour the whole dish up a bit.

The store itself is very well presented with concrete surfaces softened by timber cross beams, and a green fleur-de-lys mosaic adorning the far wall. The space is divided between a casual coffee area with a communal table, and a more formal separate dining area, which seems to be just the space for a high powered meeting, or a casual luncheon.

Reviewed Oct ’08 [PS]

500 Collins St, Melboune CBD
(located on Church Lane just off Collins St)
Tel: (03) 9629 4440