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

Advieh, Seddon

71B Gamon Street, Seddon | 0432 241 276
We went: Sun March 15, 2014
| Verdict: 17/20

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In a nutshell: Middle-eastern/mediterranean fusion that makes damn good brunch and really good salads to go. People who live in Seddon refer to it simply as ‘our fave’.

The brunch team: five of us went one Sunday morning in March; three gals, two blokes.

 We ate:

–       chorizo with poached eggs
–       beans
–       Turkish omelette
–       Open avacado

Food:

The chorizo with poached eggs was spot on. The tomato-based sauce was rich but not over-bearing and the eggs were poached to perfection. One of my co-reviewers said he thought the fetta was too salty given there was ample salt in the dish already (with the chorizo and sauce). I didn’t have the same problem and would happily sit up to another serving this Sunday (if I didn’t have another place to review!) It’s quite a saucy dish and two small pieces of toast are provided… another piece would not go to waste! They give you the option to add chilli flakes, which we did, and it was de-lish! Other dishes enjoyed were the beans and the Turkish omelettes. Not a morsel was spared on either plate, suggesting they hit the spot. The open avacado, while not a very large dish, was ‘fresh’ and tasty. The combination of feta, avacado, fresh tomato and basil worked really well with the poached eggs.

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After brunch, I wandered down the back of the café to the display fridge, where to my delight, I discovered a number of freshly-made middle-eastern/mediterranean inspired salads. There were three take-away sizes so, naturally, I took home a large container full of three different salads and home-made hommus which did the job for two days of lunches. Ripper! All the cooking is done by the mother-son owners who have Maltese roots. Rating: 4/5

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Coffee:

5 Senses is a tried-and-tested wholesale Melbourne roaster and Advieh do it justice by pumping it through their very snazzy La Marzocco machine, which does not look one piece out of place atop their Turkish themed tiled bench. Rating: 4/5

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Price: about $100 for the five of us.

Ambience: For mine, the ambience is the drawcard of this place. “Rustic”, “homey” and “love the hanging lights” were some reactions from the brunch team when asked what they thought of the place. I loved the attention to detail… the heavy brass containers containing the cutlery, the tiles, the hanging lights. Loved it all. Rating: 5/5

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Service: other “reputable” review sites feature comments from patrons who claim the service here is slow, careless and a bit ho-hum. Either they’ve had a clean-out at Advieh or we got them on a good day, we found the staff to be attentive, knowedgeable and helpful. Maybe they knew they would be featured on MBS! Rating: 4/5

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Family friendly? I wouldn’t take kids there… but then again, I don’t have any. No families were there when we dined. But there is a park closeby that looks pretty good. And a very expensive shop that sells stuff for your house that you don’t really need.

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Advieh on Urbanspoon

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.

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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

Karulo Cafe on Urbanspoon

Luca Haus, Seddon

86a Charles Street, Seddon

P: 03 9687 0039

In a nutshell: under-rated and very reasonably priced, this brunch spot is often overlooked among more well-known players in Seddon’s brunch scene. Pop out the back on a warm morning and enjoy the quality food and coffee… Oh, and remember not to tell too many people how good it is!

We ate:

– pumpkin toast with hummus, avocado, beetroot relish, rocket, lime and two poached eggs
– eggs benedict with homemade hashbrown (special)
– pikelets with nectarine jam and creme fraiche

Coffee: single origin latte (East Timor), soy flat white and cappuccino.

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Food: The pumpkin-poached eggs combo was a winner… the beetroot relish complimenting the hummus and eggs. Eggs were poached to perfection and were definitely free range due to the fiery red yolk that oozed out. Everything that was meant to be hot came out hot and pumpkin toast still had its crunch despite being smothered with delicious (home made?) hummus. A slice of lime was provided with added a nice citrus zing to the dish.

The egg benedict, while described by the waitress as something more exotic, was stock standard brunch fare but there were no complaints from this one either. The meat was bacon and the hollandaise sauce had a good balance of sweet and sour while not being too gluggy. Again, the eggs were poached well (read: were runny) and were served on English muffins. This all came with a home made hashy, which went down a treat. The ideal hangover cure, I’d say!

Another member of our party had the pikelets with nectarine jam. He said it was “lovely” although if you are a savoury person you’d best stick to the savoury dishes as this was quite sweet. He said the creme fraiche and jam complemented the pikelets quite well.

Coffee: My strong single origin latte was quite strong (which is what I asked for… but would probably order regular next time) but had a unique flavour that was distinct enough from the common types around Melbourne (sorry my coffee vocab isn’t strong). Milk was on the hot side of warm, which is how I like it (but not too hot). Beans weren’t burnt. Wife’s soy flat white was very good.

Price: Very reasonable… $60 for four meals and four coffees.

Ambience: footpath dining out front, a few tables inside and plenty of space in courtyard out back. We sat out back and were comfortable on warm morning under umbrella. Plenty of Age and Herald Sun newspapers to go round.

Service: friendly and polite. Waitress initially did not know coffee options but was no trouble for her to check. Was patient with in-laws.

Overall rating: 8/10
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Agree/disagree with my review? Don’t hold back; tell me. Email: melbournebrunchscene@gmail.com or Tweet @BrunchMelb or simply leave a comment below.

This blog is a conversation about Melbourne’s brunch scene – our goal is to review every Melbourne brunch place worth reviewing.

Luca Haus on Urbanspoon