Street showdown – Essex St, West Footscray

Brother Nancy (182 Essex St)
vs
West 48 (48 Essex St)

First it was Footscray with its myriad Asian eateries. Now the cool crowd has moved further west in search of the latest cafe brunch buzz.

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WEFO (West Footscray) real estate is going gangbusters and, not surprisingly, brunch cafes are popping up like meerkats in the West.

In our first Street Showdown Melbourne Brunch Scene pits two new WEFO stars through their paces to find who is Lord of Essex Street when it comes to brunch.

FOOD

Brother Nancy chef Jordi Boyer may not make the most photogenic food but what it lacks in sex appeal, it oozes in flavour.

As mentioned before, the brekky menu is somewhat slim but that’s ok – just as long as what they do is done well. We went for the Savoury Crepe ($10.50) and Chapin Breakfast ($16) and were not disappointed. Both of these boasted a noticeable Central American twist, a legacy from Boyer’s eight-month stint in Guatemala. Dodging this place based on the modest photography below would be a mistake. Yes, bland would aptly describe both dishes’ appearance but take into account the clandestine maneuvers required in stealth reviewing and our absence of a quality camera. Take our word – the food was scrumptious. A salty nirvana for the tastebuds.

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Ok, moving onto West 48, where the bar is set quite high when it comes to food. Well, presentation, at least. We can only assume they were fussing over presentation during the 30 mins we were waiting for it to come. (You need to consider the chefs are working in a shoebox kitchen). I ordered the Fritters with a poached egg ($20), while the others built their own around scrambled eggs and other sides (about $20). Let me say the portion sizes are quite generous and, while on the steep end of price compared to Brother Nancy, it is good value. Everything was spot on but the highlight was the jalepeno-infused salsa-smoked salmon-feta combo that came with the fritters – a combination worth making the trip to Essex St for.

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DRINK

Right, down to business. West 48 probably had the lead until the OJ (below) arrived. I won’t be publishing the price of it here. I’d hate to impact their business like that. The price is just one issue. Let’s deal with the other. This photo was taken seconds after it was placed in front of me. No explanation they were running low leaving me to assume this is how it’s meant to be served. Gobsmacked. Words fail me. Akin to theft. You can see the OJ in question below. Notice its smarmy grin as it sits arrogantly with its ‘I’m so cool’ straw peering out. I’m still thirsty. Do you think I was charged for half (being generous saying it’s half) an OJ? No.

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They made up some ground with the Red Rooibos tea. We have Rooibos at home – but not like this! West 48 serve All Press coffee – and do a good job.

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Down the street Brother Nancy is also having a go at slippery slope that is the OJ game. Their offering, Parker’s, claims to be the ‘best orange juice you will ever taste’… fighting words. Clearly the folks at Parker’s have never been to Charlton for some of mum’s finest freshly-squeezed OJ circa 1990. At least we didn’t have to re-mortgage the house for a sip and there were more than two mouthfuls. Brother Nancy serves Proud Mary beans. I had a long black and enjoyed it immensely.

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VIBE

This was a contest of light vs dark. The pics (again) don’t do justice to the light in both places. Brother Nancy is a well-lit and bright space characterised by fresh white walls and simple decor whereas West 48 is an edgy-looking space with industrial light fittings and trendy benches. Both places were buzzing – locals come here because they clearly feel comfortable here. It speaks to them.

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STAFF

Brother Nancy wins this category. Maybe it’s because they’ve only been open for five weeks but the staff here were far more attentive, caring and had more personality. The food didn’t even take that long but our lovely waitress was still apologetic, unlike West 48 staff who dumped and ran despite the 30-min wait. West 48 staff certainly weren’t offensive – in fact I think they do remarkably well to maintain such a chipper mood when they have nowhere to hide (three chefs are operating in a 3m x 2m space behind the counter).

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PRICE

Again, if you are a value hunter (aka tight-arse) Brother Nancy takes the prize here with its outstanding value-for-money food menu. We had change from $40 for food and drink. West 48 hit us up for $76 for the three of us, which still isn’t too bad – especially if you’re used to south-side prices.

 

THE WINNER IS…

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Could Brother Nancy be the inaugural winner of 2014 Surprise Packet of the West* ?

Cheap, quality brunch served with a smile. West 48 must consider itself unlucky. It would win most  Street Showdowns against weaker opposition.

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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

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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

 

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.

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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.

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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

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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

 

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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