Eat here: Little Flock, Melbourne (café/brunch)

Little Flock
81 High St, Northcote
https://facebook.com/littleflocknorthcote/

I hate to say it, especially as a Melbourne northern suburbian, because my area is basically ground zero for hipster cafés, but I’m a bit over the Melbourne brunch scene at the moment.

I’m not over going out for brunch, I still do that every weekend, I’m just over the pretentious menus of a lot of new places. I’m over waiting in line for an hour to get a $28 plate of organic vegan eggs sprinkled with unicorn tears. I’m over the smug attitudes of staff talking about their coffee sourced from a Venezuelan cave harvested by elves. So I haven’t been trying many new places out lately.

But a few weeks ago, I drove past Little Flock, and it looked like a cute little place, so I investigated. Turns out it IS a cute little place, run by Michael Coates & Miroslawa Kotowska, who named it after their chooks. They serve free-range eggs, traditionally smoked bacon, and homemade rugbrød (Danish rye sourdough). And the interior is gorgeous – pale blue walls, hanging greenery, simple wooden tables and chairs, perfect.

Husband went with the avocado, smoked bacon, goats cheese, and nuts & seeds on sourdough toast. Generous amount of bacon, great sourdough, and the bacon was seriously unreal.

I went with the cold smoked ocean trout with rugbrød (both made in house by Michael), with crème fraîche, capers, dill and lemon salt. Honestly, it was probably a bit overpriced at $19 for such a small serve, but it was absolutely delicious! Michael said it was basically them on a plate, and the pride he takes in the dish is well founded.

Husband liked his cappuccino so much he had a second one to go with the almond croissant we wolfed down after breakfast (freshly made and sourced from Brasserie Bread). And I couldn’t have been happier to find out that instead of my $5 getting me a small teapot that would make just one cup of tea, I got a huge cast iron teapot that kept me going all morning.

With a much bigger and well known café a few doors down, it was really lovely to have the option to eat such good food in a smaller venue where the owners were floating around and actually chatting to the customers. Already looking forward to my next visit so I can try some eggs!

Little Flock Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Drink this: beers from a Lievita X Fury & Son collaboration

Last week, husband and I attended Lievita’s MEET THE MAKER Pizza & Beer Degustation night. Pizza and beer… clearly didn’t take much to get us there!

Fury and Son Brewing Company are relatively new on the scene, and have been working with Luca from Lievita over the past 12 months or so on their beer range. They decided to celebrate the launch of their new American Red Ale in style, with an exceptional menu of insane pizzas matched with the range of beers they stock and sell. I’m not a beer drinker, so I’m letting husband step in here, to tell you a bit more about the liquid gold…

 

ROUND 1
Pizzas:
* Baccala marinated with lemon & garlic, and chickpea cream
*Smoked salmon, stracchino, shitake mushrooms and dill (one of my favourites!)

Beer: Pilsner


Was really nice. A lot of pilsners just taste like mass produced lagers that don’t have a lot of flavour, however this one did. Plenty of flavour but still easy to drink. Keen to get my hands on a slab ASAP.

 

 

ROUND 2
Pizzas:
* Fontina, onion, white anchovies and hot chilli
* Coppa, roasted eggplants, roasted peppers and stracciatelle

Beer: Pale Ale


Was said to be full of flavour but I found it to be a bit lacking in that department. Stock standard pale ale, nothing too exciting, no different to other pale ales on the market, a sentiment echoed by Chicago Steve (also present – friend of Jess’s dad, fellow beer lover).

 

ROUND 3
Pizzas:
* Slow roasted eye fillet and potato (my other favourite!)
* Slow roasted pork belly, box choy, pickled red cabbage and fig jam

Beer: American Red Ale


I’ve only ever tried two red ales; this and the one from Beechworth. I thought this one was heaps better than Beechworth’s. Strong flavour, suited to the winter months, would stay away from it on a summer day. Yet another one I’d be happy to part with a bit of cash for.

 

 

ROUND 4
Pizzas:
* ‘Pizza fritta’ fried mini dough balls with salted caramel sauce and macadamia nuts

Beer: Scotch Ale


The pick of the bunch and my personal favourite (Jess liked this one too!) but be warned – at 7.5% alcohol, it packs a punch. One or two of these watching the footy at home on a cold night would be perfect! Really strong, malty flavour.

 

 

It was great to see so many people there to support both Lievita and Fury & Son, which in turn means supporting local producers, and that’s something we all need to be doing a bit more! And more great news – when you drop in to pick up your pizza, you can also take home some beers with you; their range is all available to take home as well as enjoy in store!

Eat here: Yamato, Melbourne (Japanese)

Yamato
28 Corrs Lane, Melbourne CBD

It’s been a while since my last visit here, and I was so excited to get back again (this time with husband in tow); this is exactly the type of place I look for when I’m travelling and in search of an authentic food experience without the bells and whistles. And while that’s great, it’s important to remember to look for these places in your own backyard, too.

Yamato is located down a tiny little alleyway in a spot that is the definition of nondescript – a small, rundown-looking building with a plain, almost tacky (especially at night when it’s all lit up), sign bearing its name. Get inside and the space looks even smaller, with tables shoved in close together and the walls decked out with cute little trinkets and printed paper signs advertising the day’s specials stuck onto the walls with tape and blu-tack.

The menu is pretty broad and delicious looking, so we decided to pick and choose a few plates to share. The seaweed salad I started on was delicious (but then I’m a bit weird and really love seaweed salad!), and the tempura was so good I completely forgot to take a picture of it… But after that, there was sushi.

The salmon and tuna sushi combo was super fresh; melt-in-your-mouth fresh. And the salmon avocado rolls we followed them up with were even better, mostly because of the healthy dousing in Kewpie mayo 😉 my favourite!

Husband also asked if they had cold soba noodles with dipping sauce on the menu; he’s heard me talk about how much I loved eating it when I was on Tokyo, and was keen to try it before we head over together in January – thankfully, he was not disappointed. While the noodles weren’t quite as chewy or the broth quite as punch as the stuff I had in Tokyo, it was still fantastic. It’s amazing how delicious a simple dish like cold noodles can be when you’re do it right 🙂

While it did get a little annoying having to repeatedly ask for water (they fill your glass for you rather than just leaving a bottle on the table), the staff are very efficient and polite, and a good part of the reason I suspect they’re always so busy! They don’t have room for many, so I suggest getting in early for dinner before the crowds hit, and relaxing into a nice long evening of Japanese deliciousness… and maybe a little plum wine!

And Melbourne people – if you have any other suggestions for sweet little places like this one, please share them around! I’d love to discover a few more eateries like this 🙂

 

Yamato Japanese Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eat here: Miss Margaret, Melbourne (café/brunch)

Miss Margaret
14-18 Gilbert Rd, Preston

http://www.missmargaretcafe.com.au

I’ve not been food blogging much lately; I’m getting a bit over it, to be honest. While I appreciate a creative menu and nice interior design, I am finding that I’m just not interested in being the first person to rush into a new place and sample the fancy menu in an uber-shiny new space anymore.  More and more, I’m valuing local places with a warm, homely feel, a less pretentious menu and actual friendly staff.

Enter Miss Margaret, in Preston. The neighbourhood is slowly but surely gentrifying, a far cry from the more working class suburb that my Italian family first settled into. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly when it brings places like this.  Turning up on a Saturday morning  (when cafés are usually at their busiest and staff at their most stressed), we were greeted and seated not only with a smile, but with a genuine “how’s your morning been?” and a poured glass of water (as opposed to the usual huff and slide of the glasses and water bottle across the table at you). Unexpectedly and pleasantly surprisingly good start!

After our water was poured, we were offered hot drinks to start – they were ordered and brought out very quickly. Husband was very happy with his Cartel Coffee Roasters brew, and I was stoked with a good strong pot of Australian Tea Masters’ English breakfast. Food was ordered, too – usually there’ll just be one item that’ll jump out straight away, but there were quite a few we had our eyes on this time…

Husband went with a savoury option, smashed avo and saganaki on sourdough with a poached egg, grilled asparagus and lemon pepper. He loved it – first time we’ve seen saganaki with smashed avo, and can’t understand why now; it’s unreal!! Even the vegetable element that would usually get a cursory taste before being dismissed was entirely devoured. Well done Miss Margaret; you’re the first one to successfully get my husband to eat asparagus!

After going back and forth between sweet and savoury, I ended up going with the coconut crumpets with coconut yoghurt, toasted coconut and raspberries. I also asked for the peach syrup on the side, because fructose isn’t my friend. The lovely lady looking after us let me know that they were actually using plum syrup – I told her it didn’t really matter, all stone fruits are the enemy with fructose hating tummies, I’d be more than happy with just the coconut yoghurt and berries. She had a word to the chef who followed her out with our breakfast, carrying a little pot of maple syrup for me to use instead. These are the little things that make all the difference; by that stage, they were pretty full up and the kitchen was getting busy, but he still took the time to pop out and bring the maple syrup himself. That is why these sweet little local neighbourhood places win out over the hottest new place with the most OTT social media campaigns by the people that brought you X, Y and Z every single time.

And they were the best damn crumpets I’ve ever had!!! They will be happening again, believe me! 

If the good, honest food (in their own words, “Our food is made using ingredients that are good for the mind and body. Seasonal fruit and vegetables that are high in vitamins and minerals are transformed into delicious smoothies and salads, and seeds and grains fill you up and provide you with protein and fibre. We don’t want you to go without the sweet things in life so our cakes, slices and muffins are made on site so you know there are no nasty preservatives.“),  the homey atmosphere and some of the best servive around isn’t enough to convince you, these legends are also all about helping those less fortune in their community:

Miss Margaret is a social enterprise café born out of a strong desire to help those in need. Our aim is to bring like-minded people together over a cup of coffee and a delicious plate of food, so that collectively we can help even more people than any one individual could. We do this by fostering a community spirit, donating proceeds from our café sales to various charities, holding special fundraising events, and employing refugees to help them develop new skills and networks within the local community.

There is a lot of sadness and inequality in the world and something we are passionate about is access to education for women in developing counties. Women in the developing world are often denied opportunities for education. When women miss out on education their prospects are limited, overall family income is low, it increases the likelihood of ill health, puts women and girls at risk of trafficking and exploitation, and limits the economic advancement of entire countries.

Everything you buy from us helps us help others because we donate part of our profits to charity! All the spare change you give to us in the café gets donated to charity and if you attend a charity dinner which we hold once a month, then $20 gets donated – all because you are eating and socialising with us and others!

Keep doing what you’re doing over there, guys; consider yourself plus two new customers 🙂

Eat & drink here: Buck Mulligan’s, Melbourne (whiskey & bar food)

Buck Mulligan’s
217 High St, Northcote
http://www.buckmulligans.com.au/

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!! I thought today might be a good day to let you know about a special little place that’s managed to stay under the radar for the past few months. When we walked past Buck Mulligan’s a few weeks ago, we had a pretty strong inkling that it was going to be our new favourite place – whiskey bar AND bookshop? Why yes, I think so!

Following an afternoon movie at Westgarth (and a large bucket of popcorn ), we made our way up High Street to Buck’s, and immediately fell completely in love. Exposed brick fireplace, wooden bookshelves, comfy couches and dusk light pouring in through the windows, we knew this was our place.

Husband wanted to sample some whiskey, and they have a great list to choose from – including a huge selection of Irish whiskeys. Husband went with the Teeling Flight, a selection of whiskeys from the first new distillery in Dublin in over 125 years: Small Batch, Single Grain, and Single Malt. They all got glowing reviews, and there’s a very good chance we may be visiting them in Dublin when we’re there in November…

They have wine and beer and cocktails, too, if whiskey isn’t your jam. And food – when you gorge on popcorn, you only need a light dinner, so we picked a few plates from their menu of nibbles:
– Clonakilty Bites (black pudding, fennel bread and relish), $6
– Traditional Ploughman’s for one (ham, cheese, pickled onions and relish, with Irish brown bread), $14
– Continental Ploughman’s for one (cold meats, cheese, olives mix with white crusty white bread), $15


Perfect. Simple, quality food is all you need, and this is it. The black pudding isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but we love it if it’s done right, and this was. We were also super impressed by the serving sizes – for $15 and the quality of ingredients,  they were VERY good value for money.

And don’t forget thr books – a great selection of new and used books by Irish authors, a few from local writers and small publishers, and regular book reading and launch events. We’re already planning on spending many more hours tucked away at Buck’s,  sipping on whiskey and reading books… you might want to drop in, too 🙂

Eat here: Healesville Hotel, Victoria (Modern Australian)

Healesville Hotel
256 Maroondah Hwy, Healesville
http://www.yarravalleyharvest.com.au/index.php

Know what’s fun to do on a long weekend? Take a quick road trip. For those of us Melbournians with Monday off (hooray for Labour Day!), might I suggest a quick trip out to the Yarra Valley? You can even make it a day trip if you don’t have the time to spend a night out there; the views are stunning and the food is great!

Last weekend involved a road trip out to the Yarra Valley for a friend’s wedding, and we decided to make the most of it but heading to Healesville early for some lunch before the late afternoon ceremony. We were in the mood for nibbles, and saw some great options on the menu of the Healesville Hotel, so out of the hot midday sun and into the air conditioned and wooden floored hotel we went.

Sitting conveniently close to Kitchen & Butcher and Sanctuary Harvest (it’s actually an amazing little group of food-and-drinkeries), the produce available is amazing. K&B in particular is a favourite of mine – in their own words, think country butcher meets deli meets bakery meets charcuterie. Those are a few of my favourite things.

We went with the K&B Charcuterie Board with assorted meats and pickles, and the coal baked sweet potato, cashew & chili dip with grilled flatbread. And a beer for the husband and an Aperol Spritz for me. At $70.00, it was not a cheap feed, but it was a damn good one. It seems we’ve been saving non-stop for one trip after the other for the past several years, so we don’t often treat ourselves like this. But sitting there with this spread, it was really nice to indulge a little, appreciate the amazing quality of produce we have in Australia, and forget about budgets and saving for a little while 🙂

The Harvest next door is one of my favourite spots in Healesville, too – the most incredible pastries and cakes, and the best place to stop for a cup of coffee or pot of tea! And if you need a few other ideas on what to do with your time in Healesville, this might be helpful 🙂

Healesville Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eat here: Gontran Cherrier, Melbourne (pastry)

Gontran Cherrier
140-144 Smith St, Collingwood
http://www.gontrancherrier.com.au/

Around 7 months ago, renowned French patisserie king Gontran Cherrier brought his buttery operation to Melbourne. The bloggers and foodies flocked in droves; I personally couldn’t justify waiting in a line for half an hour to get an over-priced croissant. I finally visited for the first time a few weeks ago, and upon tucking into a golden delicious almond croissant, I finally understood what the fuss was about.

Eager to try more of the beauties in the display window, we made our way back last weekend for breaky. Rolling in for a late breakfast (for us) just before 10am on a Sunday morning, it was pleasantly quiet, with only a few tables occupied – muuuuuch better than the initial rush when they opened!

We ordered a few bits and pieces; husband chose the a quiche Lorraine studded with bacon and Gruyère cheese; I didn’t take a photos of it, but for $8.00, it was a little on the small side. Which was a shame because it was one of the nicest quiches either of us have ever tasted! We also went with a Croque Monsieur – again, not the cheapest toastie at $12.00, but, again, probably the best toasted ham and cheese sandwich I’ve ever had. Buttery and golden, crispy crusts and super soft bread, and that ham and cheese were magic.

I also spied a beautiful long piece of bread spread with Lescure butter and covered in some very pretty, colourful tomatoes. I added that to the order on a whim, not really expecting the husband to be too into it, but turned out he loved it, too. There’s something incredible about a simple bread, butter and tomato dish, when they’re all of the freshest and highest quality.

Those three dishes and a coffee for the husband set us back around $40 – not bad for a Melbourne breakfast, ridiculously over-priced for most other cities, but no regrets here; good food is worth paying more for, in our opinion.

 

We also couldn’t go past a sweet, and took a chocolate croissant home with us to tuck into with some tea and coffee. Nowhere near enough chocolate, but my goodness that pastry is something else. We’ve had the almond croissants there, too (we have a tendency to order an almond croissant whenever possible), and that was pretty spectacular.

We were a little sad that there weren’t any almond croissants left by the time we were leaving… the chocolate one wasn’t a bad back up option, though. Now that the crowds have died down, it’s probably time to head back a bit more often – it’s the perfect spot for a Sunday morning breakfast or coffee session; maybe not every weekend, but definitely those weekend you feel like being a little bit fancy and treating yourself 🙂


Gontran Cherrier Boulangerie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato