Ascot Food Store, Moonee Ponds

320 Ascot Vale Rd Moonee Ponds | 9370 2649
We went: Sun July 27, 2014 | Verdict: 19.5/25

corn fritters front menu two menu1 outside ramen

Ascot Food Store on Facebook

 

In a nutshell: smart location, smart set-up, however still a few kinks to iron out before this new player is a smooth-running machine.

Food: we had the corn fritters and the ramen. The corn fritters, though a bit doughy, were fried to perfection and had ample condiments that were finger-lickin’ good. One poached egg was one too few, in our opinion.

When the ramen arrived, there was something missing… where’s the broth? Ah, there it is… delivered by another waiter seconds later and drizzled over the naked noodles, mushrooms and two prawns. We appreciated the theatre! “Careful, it’s REALLY hot,” warned the waiter. Um… no it wasn’t. In fact, the heat was an issue with the ramen; it was cold within a minute. Then there was the taste. Perhaps it was foolish of us to order it given how spoilt we had been with ramen in Tokyo recently. Of course a cafe in Moonee Ponds isn’t going to deliver Japanese-standard cuisine. That said, on wintry Sunday morning, you do want a steaming-hot broth that will maintain its heat for at least five minutes. Additionally, it lacked seasoning. Needed salt yet there was none to be found on the outside tables.

Maybe we went a bit ‘safe’ with out order. There are some delicious choices on offer. Looking at food pics on their Facebook-page is a mouth-watering activity. Food verdict: 3.5/5

Coffee: coffee is by Proud Mary. The barista knows what he’s doing. While the filter was ‘unavailable’ despite being advertised, our strong flat white and soy flat white were demolished in seconds. They do need to sort out the point of service area for coffees. When we went the barista was getting a bit grumpy with staff for not getting coffees out quick enough. Not completely their fault though as customers are queuing to pay in the same area. This, I suspect, will be sorted soon. Coffee verdict: 4/5

Service: coffee took about 20 mins to come. Food was pretty quick. Staff were pleasant even though they were under the pump. Service verdict: 4/5

Vibe: strange old area the little zone between Moonee Ponds and Ascot Vale. Young, middle-class families/emerging hipster scene meant the place was buzzing when we went. Unfortunately we think they would be more efficient with 20 or so less seats and focused on quality for fewer people. That said, it’s fantastic to see what they have done with what was previously a bit of an eyesore on Ascot Vale Road. I have little doubt Ascot Vale Food Store, which plans on doing dinners down the track too, has huge potential. There is nothing like it on the street and there are plenty of residents all around it who seem prepared to support it. Vibe verdict: 4/5

Ka-ching: about $40 for coffees and brunch. Price verdict: 4/5

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Streat, Flemington

307 Racecourse Road, Flemington | 9372 3288
We went: Sat June 28, 2014 | Verdict: 22/25

http://www.streat.com.au/

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In a nutshell: some people talk about making a positive difference to the world and some people actually make a meaningful difference. The folks at Streat walk the walk. Here you will get quality brunch, served with a smile, and pay knowing your dollar is making a difference to Melbourne’s homeless population. Read more about the great things Streat is doing for the homeless here.

 

Food: chef Rob Auger has designed a classic brunch menu with some little surprises thrown in. I had the Korean Tacos, which were delicious and filling. The corn tortillas are sourced locally from La Tortilleria in Kensington, who make their tacos on site. There is a general serving of pork, spicy sauce and a fried egg in each of the tacos. These are priced at $17, or $8.50 per taco, which is a steal in my opinion. Good for sharing or, if you’re like me, hogging them for yourself.

 

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The Gatherer (below) consists of poached eggs, wilted spinach, mushrooms, hash brown, grilled tomato, salsa verde on seeded sour dough. “The hash brown was awesome,” said my friend. “But there was nothing sensational about it except the hash brown.”

 

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The Hunter (below) is pretty much the same as The Gatherer except it has bacon instead of spinach. “The mushrooms and hash brown were the best. Everything else was nice. Could have had more relish,” was the feedback.

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Lastly, someone ordered the Avocado Smash (below) and added the coffee cured pork belly and chorizo. “Simply amazing. Loved it,” the wife said. Food verdict: 4/5

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Coffee: Formally Social Roasting Company, Streat now has its own coffee brand. Matt Hampton is in chief roaster and seems to  know what he’s doing, taking out a medal at the recent Golden Bean Awards.

Streat is the only not-for-profit coffee roaster in Australia, with every cent made from coffee sales put back into supporting Australia’s homeless population. Tip of the cap for that!

The coffee itself is vibrant and tasty. I ordered the trio of single origin taster (below) which comes out on a little tray. You get a shot of espresso, a small latte and a small cold drip. It was nice but it’s fair to say I was bouncing off the walls after it. 4/5

 

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Vibe: 
laid-back and friendly, this place isn’t pretentious like some of the trendy cafes you get around Fitzroy and Collingwood. This place knows what it is and doesn’t try too hard. We sat around a communal table, chatted and did The Age quiz. Would definitely return. 4.5/5Image
Service: 
friendly and unobtrusive, the staff did a splendid job. 4.5/5

Ka-ching: About $100 for the five of us. Good value! 5/5 

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ImageSTREAT on Urbanspoon

 

Hammer & Tong, Fitzroy

412 Brunswick St Fitzroy | 9401 6033
We went: Sunday June 15 2014 | Verdict: 17/25

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Mon 7am-4pm | Tues – Sat 7am-11pm | Sun  7am-4pm
http://www.hammerandtong.com.au/

In a nutshell: waiting to go there, waiting for a table, waiting for awesome, still waiting… Given the daily queues for this place I doubt this review will hurt them one bit.

Food: four words… SOFT SHELL CRAB BURGER.  Pretty as a picture, if you can leave it long enough to take one. At $12, this could be Melbourne’s best and tastiest brunch bargain.

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We also ordered the duck egg, oyster mushrooms, truffle butter etc. Again, points for presentation, however this one didn’t live up to the hype. It wasn’t offensive – quite the contrary, it was highly edible. It just wasn’t ‘WOW’. The oyster mushrooms seem to be more of a texture choice, not really adding any real taste to the dish.


Lastly, which in hindsight may have been a mistake, we had the corn. Why go to a fancy cafe and order corn, you ask. I think I am a sucker for a well-described dish. This didn’t appear as merely ‘corn’ on the menu, it read bbq corn cob, popcorn butter, pecorino, lime ($9). I think the popcorn butter and pecorino (which I had no idea was cheese) got me. Another underwhelming dish. 3/5

Coffee: didn’t catch the beans they use. I ordered a single origin pour over. It was a little bit hot which caused the coffee to be bitter. It settled down when it cooled and was acceptable. 3/5Image

Vibe: they’re clearly going for uber-cool. Whether they achieve it is debatable. It’s a weird space… narrow and a bit cramped. Wait staff look like they just stepped out of a modelling audition. That said, they are friendly and served us well. The door guy doubles up as a waiter and is pretty frantic as he moves on people once their meals are done and invites new people to fill the void. We got a little tired of waiting, especially when this place doesn’t quite deliver on its reputation. 3/5

Staff: one guy started name dropping, saying he used to work at Vue de Monde. Who cares?! Just make us tasty brunch, dude! 3/5

Ka-ching: < $40 for two pax… surprisingly outstanding value. 5/5Image

 
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Wee Jeanie, Yarraville

50 Anderson Street, Yarraville | 9687 7187
We went: Sun May 25 2014 | Verdict: 21.5/25

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Tues – Sat 7am- 4.30pm
Facebook page

In a nutshell: sister cafe of Yarraville staple Cornershop that punches well above its weight for food and coffee.

Food: I had the pulled ham hock ciabatta which was delicious. Served with spicy tomato kusundi, cheddar and cos, this fancy toasty was crunchy and tasty.

ciabatta

The braised white beans with poached gammon leg and fried egg was as pretty as a picture. The fried egg sits neatly atop the mound of white beans and then, dotted throughout the sauce are exquisite morsels of poached gammon that just melt in your mouth. Great combination of flavours.

white beans

These guys don’t seem too perturbed by having such a tiny kitchen. For this reason, they don’t have the most extensive menu. However, what they do have, they do well and quickly.  3.5/5

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Coffee: Brazilian single origin through the v60 pour over filter. Quite fruity. Very drinkable. Their blend is Supreme (organic and Fairtrade). 5/5

soy latte

Vibe: two options for dining, inside and out. While there is only a handful of seats inside, it’s a pleasant vibe. The baristas are good at what they do so it’s a good spot for watching them, observing the Yarraville foot traffic or diving into a paper. There are plenty of tables outside. It can get windy out there and it’s quite shady but on a warm day it’s a good spot. 4/5

 

barista

Service: very good service on the two occasions we’ve been here. Waiters are inconspicuous, which is how you want them sometimes. 4/5

Ka-ching: under $40 for two meals and coffee. 5/5

Wee Jeanie on Urbanspoon

Farm Cafe (Collingwood Children’s Farm), Abbotsford

St Heliers Street Abbotsford | 9415 6581
We went: Sat May 24 | Verdict: 16.5/25

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Open daily 9am-4pm
www.farmcafe.com.au/

In a nutshell: plenty of people rave about this rustic farmyard cafe and we wish we could too but, sadly, it was a letdown.

Food: I don’t mind a cold brekky though I prefer a hot one. What I absolutely detest is getting a cold brekky when it’s meant to be hot, or at least warm. I ordered the Goat’s Toast which is described as “creamy goat’s curd, house beetroot relish, avocado, a poached egg and herbs on toast”. For $4 you can add a side of bacon, which I did. Let’s begin with the temperature of the dish. It was cold. Ice cold, like it came out of the fridge cold. As someone else wrote on Urbanspoon, the beetroot relish is excessive and not really relish. I think it should be served as a smaller quantity and as a side rather than lumped on the toast, which was soggy and cold by the time it made it to our table. The poached egg and the bacon, which were meant to be hot, were not. And the avocado was kind of listlessly lumped on the side. The goat’s curd was nice but there probably wasn’t enough. The dish looked good, which probably makes this experience even more disappointing. For $21, this is one of Melbourne’s biggest brunch rip offs.

goat's curd toast

My wife ordered the Green Eggs (broccoli and almond pesto, spinach, quinoa, herbs, poached egg, parsley aioli and crispy fried onions) for $16.50. This was a healthy, tasty dish. The broccoli and pesto pesto was fresh, the aioli zesty and the crispy fried onions a nice touch. To be honest, I was relieved because after my Goat’s Toast debacle, I wanted to be able to say good things about this place.

green eggs

My friend had the Swiss Brown Mushrooms (polenta with oven roasted swiss brown mushrooms, goat’s curd, sauteed silverbeet and a poached egg). She was rapt with her meal and kept telling me how “mine was good. Don’t write bad things about them. Mine was good.” So there you go… two out of three dishes were good. Maybe it would be best to avoid the Goat’s Toast. 3/5

swiss brown mushrooms

Coffee: the coffee was OK. They serve 5 Senses, which is usually really nice coffee. But there were limited options. No filter. The mugs, which reminded me of camping in my youth, were a nice touch. 2.5/5

coffee

Vibe: nice farmyard feel that would be hard to replicate. A country vibe just a km or two from the CBD. 5/5

Ka-ching: $70 for three. Not great value. 3/5

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Service: staff are trying their best. Our coffee order got muddled up. They looked a bit under the pump. 3/5

Farm Cafe on Urbanspoon

Premises, Kensington

202 Bellair Street Kensington | 9376 7565
We went: Thursday May 22 | Verdict: 22.5/25

ImageMon-Fri 7am-4.30pm, Sat-Sun 8am-4pm
http://thepremises.com.au/

In a nutshell: the best brunch cafe in Kensington bar none.

Food: I scanned the menu up and down but couldn’t seem to find anything that took my fancy. Then I laid eyes on the corned beef and potato hash with sauerkraut, mustard aioli and a poached egg. I probably don’t need to tell you how delicious this was for the description alone inspires salivation. But I will. The charred corned beef were like nuggets of gold buried amongst the sauerkraut, which by dish’s end was smothered in gooey fiery red egg, which minutes earlier perched proudly atop the brunch masterpiece. An aioli moat lay at the base of the food fortress, however would have been of little use in battle given how tasty it was (and the fact there was nothing to protect after just five minutes). This was one of my favourite Melbourne brunches.

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Usually when my wife and I do brunch, one of us gets food envy. Not so at Premises. Both of us claimed to have the best dish. She ordered the Mushies and Greens, which consisted of delectable mushrooms scattered amongst kale, seasonal fungi and a poached egg – all on buttered, crunchy organist multi-grain toast. “It was just literally delicious,” she said. “It was well seasoned and had this chilli kick. It was amazing.” The menu appears a little “salt heavy” with plenty of salty options, but this shouldn’t be viewed as a bad thing. There is an ad in the window for a new chef. Seems the current one is doing ok. 5/5

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Coffee: the folks at Premises take a lot of pride in their coffee. When we went they had three single origin options, two from Africa and one from South America. The providers were Seven Seeds and Market Lane. I ordered the Rwandan one from Market Lane. I have heard good things about Market Lane but never had their coffee. Fair to say, I’ll be having them again. The V60 pour over was brewed to perfection, bringing out the rich raspberry character of the beans without being too overpowering. I will be back to try the other ones. 5/5

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Vibe: this place probably won’t win any awards for interior design but what it does have going for it is there are a number of spaces to sit plus about 10 tables on the footpath. It’s a great place to sit in the window and watch the Kensington locals go about their business, or just chill and chew the fat. 4/5

Service: decent enough. The girl behind the counter (owner?) came out to apologise for the lack of tasting notes (I must have looked like a wanker) after they had all been stolen by other customers. She was manually typing up more (respect!) 4.5/5

Ka-ching: meals, plus coffees = around $60. 4/5

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Three Bags Full, Abbotsford

56 Nicholson Street Abbotsford | 9421 2732
We went: Sat 17 May | Verdict: 23 / 25

ImageMon-Fri 7am-4.30pm, Sat-Sun 8am-4.30pm
http://www.threebagsfullcafe.com.au/

In a nutshell: slick operation in superb-an Melbourne brunch pocket. Queues out the door on weekends.

Food: the folks at Three Bags Full pride themselves on “keeping it simple”. Their recipe alchemy is all about imaginative dishes where the flavours of every ingredient complement each other beautifully.

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Our evidence: pulled pork shoulder brioche ($13), one of the specials – the Zucchini French Toast ($17) – and the Veggie Brekky ($19). I had the pork brioche. It seems I’m on a mission to try every pulled pork bun in Melbourne. This one is up there. Simple, creamy slaw complements the pork really well, and they give you a small side of pickles that you can add yourself. The lemon wedge was also a nice touch.

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The Zucchini French Toast was quite a heavy dish. The relish was “delicious”, the poached eggs “perfect” but overall, “the dish was just a bit much”. The Veggie Brekky was “a bit pedestrian”, said my mate. “It would have been nice to see them do something a bit special with it. I could have done that at home.” 3.5/5

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 Coffee: Not as many single origin options as neighbouring cafe Admiral Cheng Ho, but that doesn’t mean these guys don’t take it seriously. Quite the contrary. As you can see from the pictures below, my pour-over filter brew arrived on a wooden tray and in what looked like an medieval glass medicine container. Accompanying it was what I thought was a small glass of Jamison whisky with ice (never too early, especially before a bucks day!)… Alas, it was a palette cleanser. That’s right, the wank-o-metre just exploded. I needed to know what it was. “It’s called cascara,” our waiter said. “It’s the berry of the coffee that has been processed and we’ve infused it with sparkling water.”

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The coffee in the brown jar is a single origin from Ninety Plus Gesha Estates from Ethiopia. What makes it special is it has been ‘dry processed’ (sometimes called ‘natural’ coffee), meaning the beans were dried inside the fruit rather than after the fruit has been removed, as is the case with wet-processed or washed coffees. The taste, like most African single origins, was very fruity/citrus without being bitter. Very smooth. A nice drop. And extended tasting notes to boot. This bad boy meant to set me back a tenner, but I was only charged $8 (for some reason). 5/5

Vibe: Good vibe but it can get so busy that it’s hard to hear the person next to you. If you don’t like crowds or congestion, best avoid. 4.5/5

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Service: Service with a smile. Good coffee knowledge. Staff look like they want to be there and enjoy working there. 5/5

Ka-ching: $86 for the four of us, which included a $10 coffee and an extra chai. 5/5

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