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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Grandpa Joe, Ascot Vale

197 Union Road Ascot Vale | 9078 0595
We went: Friday April 18 2014 (Good Friday) | Verdict: 18/25


In a nutshell: small, busy trendy cafe on happening Union Road. Good coffee and cool vibe. Unfortunately food and service was a little lacking on the day we visited.

We ate:

– ham and egg pizza
– potato hash

Food: when it finally arrived, the ham and egg pizza was everything you would want in a brunch pizza. The base was clearly homemade and, while on the crunchy side, was delicious. The tomato sauce blended beautifully with the cherry tomatoes, and grilled cheese. Unfortunately the egg was like a plastic film attached to the pizza’s top but I can overlook this given the quality of the rest of it.


The wife at the potato hash which I also sampled. The hashbrown was the star of the dish the rest was a bit tasteless. “It needed a bit more seasoning,” she said. I said, “there’s the salt, stop complaining.” What impressed us most was the kitchen’s ability to tweak the dish — we asked for no poached eggs and no coleslaw. This was no problem. It does say “vegetarian and gluten free options available” but not all places deliver on their promises. GPJ does.


The menu is not overly adventurous. I was curious about the wasabi cured salmon but wasn’t brave enough for raw fish at 10am. The honey-glazed bacon also looked good. Everything at GPJ is very reasonably priced. 3/5

Coffee: no pour-over option but they did have aeropress and cold drip filter options. I ordered a single origin aeropress filter from Ethiopia, which was tasty and hit the spot. Actually, the aeropress at Reverence was inferior to this! It came in a 250ml clear jug and the cups were cool too. The wife had a chai soy latte, which was also good. Impressively, they have cold drip coffee in trendy little bottles available for take-away. Perfect for those warmer days or when the coffee at work tastes like dirty bath water. Two thumbs up there. Coffee brand is 5 Senses. 4/5


Vibe: I don’t really like the vibe here but my wife does and that’s important because she has good taste most of time. I can definitely see what GPJ is trying to do. (I know how wanky-patronising that sounds but I review brunch places which by its very nature is the epitome of just that). They seem to be going for the old, laid-back, retro feel with the record player and wall art and hodge-podge of mixed furniture. Some people like that. I usually do too. The reason I don’t think it really works is because it’s so new and in my head I know all this stuff hasn’t been here for ages, like in an old place, but has just been placed there for trendy cosmetic appeal. “That’s no big deal,” my wife says. She could be right. But I write the words. Outdoor dining is better than inside, IMO. However, not when it’s cold and windy, which it was when we went. Inside, there isn’t much room (it’s bigger than Little Bird, but smaller than Reverence). There were heaps of people ordering take-away coffee on Good Friday, which generated a healthy buzz. 3/5


Price: about $50. Really good value. 5/5

Service: a bit of a let down. Yes, it was Good Friday and they were crazy busy. But as I have said before on MBS, the sign of a good brunch place is how well they can deal with the mania. OK, drink orders were taken swiftly: tick. Took a while to arrive but it took even longer for our food orders to be taken. Then, perhaps because I ordered the pizza, food arrived about 30mins later. By then the leg of the table looked appetising. Staff were polite without being warm. 3/5


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Karulo Cafe, Moonee Ponds

Cnr Darling St and Athol St, Moonee Ponds

P: 03 9326 2212

In a nutshell: Tucked away in a backstreet of Moonee Ponds, this converted milk bar is buzzing on most weekends, catering to people of all ages. The recently updated menu and their enthusiasm for coffee make this a brunch gem of the west.

We ate:

–       Omelette
–       Baked eggs

Coffee: Filtered coffee (La Linda, Columbia) and soy latte (Bathyspere blend, Thornbury)

Food: I love a twist on an old fave and Karulo’s interpretation of the Baked Eggs is exactly that. Rich and generous amounts of prosciutto line the small hot pan and a small amount of napoli sauce cushions the eggs. Basil is an interesting addition – something you don’t often see in baked eggs – but it works, contributing a freshness and a visual element. A sprinkling of dukkah on top is smart; I initially thought it to be pesto but alas. For cheese, they’ve gone for haloumi, which I usually adore. Unfortunately prosciutto plus haloumi, in this case, equalled a salt overload and had us reaching for water to quench our thirst. The crunchy ciabatta toast and butter was a great accompaniment, however we could have done with one or two more bits.

baked eggs

The omelette (wild mushroom and goat’s cheese) was subtle in comparison and a welcome relief once my wife and I swapped dishes. Less salty, the mushroom and goat’s cheese work a treat in tandem and the side of relish tops it off beautifully.

Coffee: Bathysphere blend from Thornbury-based roasters, Wide Open Road, is their house blend. Coffee is alternated regularly with guest roasters. I had the filtered coffee, which was La Linda from Columbia. Rich in colour with a pleasant, subtle nose, this coffee boasts deep fruity notes of strawberry and grape acidity not uncommon for beans of that altitude. Wife was suitably impressed with coffee art applied to soy latte – no mean feat on soy!

soy flat filter coffee

Price:  $37 (two pax).

Ambience: There are tables as you walk in, in the ‘milk bar’ section. They’ve done a great reno here but I would have liked to see them retain some of that rustic milk bar feel (if it wasn’t for the old ‘Herald Sun’ signs out the front, you wouldn’t know it was an old milk bar. We sat out the back were there are a number of tables. Was comfortable and atmosphere was buzzing once the crowd built.

Kid friendly: not a lot for kids to do but there were plenty of children about and all seemed happy and provided for. There are a number of options on the menu that are targeted specifically for children.

Service: waitress (who we presume was owner) who served us was great. Provided explanations of why items weren’t available with the reason usually related to them making more from scratch – they do care about quality here, which is good to see. They didn’t have single origin coffee because they were still roasting the beans… you can’t criticise that.

Verdict: 7.5/10

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