Pod @ Post Industrial Design, Footscray

638 Barkly St, West Footscray | 0438 074 934
We went: Sat Nov 15 2014 | Rating: 23/25

Liked: 

I thought I had never seen Niccolo coffee before but it turns out I have (it’s scattered throughout Melbourne, including Mighty Boy in Fitzroy). I am really loving long blacks at the moment for a couple of reasons. One, I’m off milk. Two, I can do filter at home. Three, with a long black you get to taste the bean at its best (providing it’s done right). Four, it packs a punch!

chai

Pod didn’t disappoint with its coffee. My Niccolo long black was nutty with a touch of citrus. Loved it. We also had a Calmer Sutra chai with honey, which came in a generous pot that poured three cups worth.

poached egg

I ate the Israeli Eggs, which was a lighter version of the run-of-the-mill baked eggs you get everywhere these days. Spicy and sweet, the sauce and yoghurt really worked well together. We also had the poached eggs, asparagus with panchetta and truffle oil. We couldn’t fault either of these.

niccolo coffee

Sometimes it’s the little things that please. Sounds funny but I loved the water jug, the saucers, the quirky hanging light shades, the unusual furniture and the big window facing Barkly Street.

In short, this place is a real gem. Footscray is fast becoming Melbourne’s sleeping giant of cool. (But don’t tell too many people). I loved that the staff knew many of the customers by name. And the big communal table in the middle speaks volumes for the community vibe they’re promoting.

israeli eggs

Attached to Pod is a VERY HIP arts and crafts store called Post Industrial Design. Here you’ll find anything from t-shirts to furniture to books to jewellery to home-made beer kits.

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Disliked:

The menu is not overly extensive but they are good at what they do, which is important.

Ka-ching: $43 (two people food and drink)

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store

 

 

 

 

 

Ratings: Coffee 5/5, Staff 4.5/5, Vibe 5/5, Food 4/5, Price: 4.5/5

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Cornershop, Yarraville

9 Ballarat St, Yarraville | 9689 0052
We went: Sat Oct 18, 2014 | Rating: 23/25

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Liked:

The cool beats playing in the background that created an upbeat vibe – yet we could still hear each other.

Buzzing vibe. The place was packed on a Saturday morning. Despite this, food and coffees came out lightning fast and everything was top notch.

Bacon steak, potato hash, apple sauce and poached eggs ($18) hit the spot nicely – the smoked bacon combined nicely with the apple puree.

The baked eggs are reliable here. We had the Merguz sausage, roasted tomatoes and peppers with labneh and grilled turkish bread ($15.50). Loved the runny eggs – all too rare (no pun intended!) these days in baked eggs – and the turkish bread to mop up the delicious left-overs at the end.

Papa Smurf ordered the Ricotta hotcakes, blueberry compote and mascaprone ($15). He said, “they were very different because they were ricotta hotcakes and had a soft, creamy texture. There were plenty of blueberries and a dollop of cream. Everything was lovely and fresh.”

Lastly, we had the Melbourne Pantry cold smoked salmon with sweet potato cake and charred corn salsa ($18) which “was very nice but I think there should be a piece of bread or something else because it wasn’t very filling”.

Coffees (Supreme Coffee) was fine. No issues.

Service is unobtrusive; efficient.

There is a decent selection of beers, spirits (including Lark whisky from Tassie) and wine if you fancy an afternoon tipple before a movie at the Sun.

The village atmosphere around this place is the envy of surrounding suburbs.

Didn’t like:

Very hard to fault this place. They get most things right, though I do like the option of ordering a single-origin coffee, which I didn’t see here.

Ka-ching: $82 for four meals and coffees.

Ratings: Food 4.5/5, Coffee: 4.5/5, Service: 4.5/5, Vibe: 5/5, Price: 4.5/5

The Cornershop on Urbanspoon

The Little Man Cafe, Seddon

158 Victoria St Seddon | 9687 8881
We went: Sat Oct 11, 2014 | Verdict: 19/25

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Liked:

Food was consistent, delicious and beautifully present. We had the French toast, the Fritters and the Mexican Pot Eggs. Fritters were the pick of the bunch.

Coffee, by 5 Senses, was good. We had flat whites and a long black. No complaints.

The place was buzzing at 9am on a Saturday. Not a huge space (fits about 40 at capacity).

Loved the minimalist decor and subtle colour scheme. Baby blue on white works. Fresh.

Well-lit space… plenty of natural light.

Staff were pleasant.

Close proximity to Sourdough Bakery and Seddon Wine Store.

Local street art on Victoria Street (below).

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Disliked: 

Furniture looks like it came from Ikea.

No outside seating.

No specials.

Ka-ching: $82.40 for four people (food and drink).

Ratings: Food 4/5, Coffee: 3.5/5, Staff: 3.5/5, Vibe: 4/5, Price: 4/5. Total: 19/25

The Little Man Cafe on Urbanspoon

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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

Ascot Food Store on Urbanspoon

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

 
Hammer & Tong on Urbanspoon

Twenty and Six, North Melbourne

594 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne 9329 0298
We went: Sun March 22, 2014 
Verdict: 16/20
http://www.twentyandsix.com.au/

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In a nutshell: popular, trendy café that is almost too small to cope with the ever swelling numbers that want a piece of it. Has an outdoor area that resembles an inner urban backyard… which is a good thing (though it may get a wee bit chilly in winter if they don’t invest in a few heaters).

The brunch team: me, wife, two female friends.

We ate:
–       Smoked ham hock with pureed peas
–       Fried polenta, braised mushrooms, asparagus, ricotta, salsa verde, poached egg

Fried polenta

Fried polenta… food envy!

Conversation topics:
–       relationships
–       family
–       comedy festival

Food:

I had the smoked ham hock with pureed peas, as did my friend. It would have to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing brunch options in Melbourne (perhaps even the world!). But at the end of the day, what is it? It is ham, toast, eggs, peas and pureed peas. Maybe I am being cycical, but then I was hungover (again!). My less-hungover friend told me to “ease up about the food” when I sent her a draft of the review. She had the smoked ham hock too and said “it was delicious”… so she’d be a better judge than me.

Smoked ham hock

Smoked ham hock… an aesthetically-pleasing dish.

I do remember suffering a little food envy for those who chose the fried polenta. Reports on this were favourable although nothing to write home about. The salsa verde was “yummy” and the fried polenta had “nice texture”. The menu has a fairly English feel about it (although the fare is a cut above what you’d get at a corner ‘greasy spoon’, that is for sure).

Do yourself a favour and order a donut. We had a salted caramel one, which was delicious. Not dissimilar to the jam donut that goes around at the local footy but with a rich salty filling. There is also the option of the peanut butter jelly flavour. The wife suggested heating the donuts wouldn’t hurt. 

Food rating: 4.5/5

Donut

Mmm… donut

Coffee:

Living in a city renown for good coffee certainly has its perks. Having lived in London for a while, finding a decent coffee can be like finding a cab after midnight in Melbourne on a Saturday night. The problem with it is our baristas are quite protective about their craft – perhaps rightfully so – and are quite particular about certain aspects of said craft. Let’s take milk temperature, for example. Some sources state the milk should be heated to 60C with a pouring temperature of 65-70C. I’ve even seen some (slightly wanky places) put a sign up telling customers “We serve our coffee at 53C because this is the optimum temperature for heating milk in coffee” BLAH BLAH BLAH… yeah, we hear you. You’re special. The thing is, milk has a lower boiling temperature than water (80C vs 100C) so the last thing you want is to boil the milk. You just want to heat it. Also, the temperature of the milk affects the chemical composition of the coffee when they are combined so there is a heat ‘range’ that will get best results.

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My point is, sometimes baristas err too much on the side of caution when heating milk and it’s on the cold side of warm. It could have been due to us being seated outside but our coffees (plural) at Twenty and Six were a little on the cold side.

After brunch, I ordered a cup of filtered coffee (7 Seeds, Guatamala). I am a filtered coffee convert, I must admit. It seems to have much more character than milky coffee and doesn’t leave you feeling bloated yet still gives a nice buzz. Plus I like it when coffee places offer something that’s a bit off the beaten track, like Single Origin, cold drip or filtered options.

Coffee rating: 4/5

Price: ~$120 (four pax)

Ambience:

I guess you have to expect a bit of a wait if you go to a place that is popular. But perhaps that’s what sorts the wheat from the chaff… a good brunch place is one that can pump out quality food and coffee, at pace, even when there’s a crowd. Or maybe us folk at MBS are just a bit fussy? We like good brunch and value fast enough service that doesn’t have us wondering when the food is coming. We did the Sunday Age quiz then waited another 15 minutes before our meals arrived. Some from our team said that was fine… perhaps I am too impatient.

It was a little chilly out the back where we were seated. The furniture is not overly comfortable but it’s all made from recycled materials so that’s commendable. As winter digs in its icy claws, you’d hope they invest in a couple of tall heaters… I’m sure they were on order when we visited.

At the end of the day, it’s a standard backyard… with an outside loo.

We sat out the back because it was chockers inside, as it is most of the time on weekends (so this part will just be about the outside area).

Ambience rating: 3.5/5

Service:

The wait staff were very nice and smartly dressed. One gentleman even had mustard-coloured trousers that matched the coffee mugs. Asked if it was intended, he indicated that’s what he was going for. That’s dedication! The guy with the beard (the one who was wearing the mustard trousers) was very good.

Service rating: 4/5

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