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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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.

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

Pod @ Post Industrial Design on Urbanspoon

Wee Jeanie, Yarraville

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

menu

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