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

Advertisements

Around The World In 15 Tea Shops

When one spends 4 months travelling the world with the majority of that time spent in beautiful (but freezing cold) winter cities, one must drink a hell of a lot of tea to keep warm!

While it might not be hard to find somewhere to get yourself a cup of tea (or coffee, for that matter) – hello, Starbucks – a true tea shop is a thing of beauty. It’s always a lot more calm and pleasant than a chain hurry-up-and-caffeinate-me outlet, the customers are much happier to slow down/stop completely, and in winter especially, there’s no where better to cosy up for a timeout from the cold. For me, personally, the tea shop signifies a retreat and sanctuary; I’m an anxiety-afflicted introvert, and I like nothing more than tucking myself away into a corner with a pot of tea and a book or my journal. So having travelled non-stop for 4 months, the tea shop stops were like a signal for my mind to calm down and decompress.

Needless to say, there were many tea shops visited while we were away, but some stood out more than others; here’s a little compendium of my favourites 🙂 Oh, and not all of them are your traditional sit down and order shops – I’ve listed a few where you can buy the tea without sitting down to drink a pot first.

1. Clement & Pekoe, Dublin, Ireland

50 South William St, Dublin
http://clementandpekoe.com/
Visit: Creaky old wooden floor boards, lovely helpful staff who are more than happy to recommend a brew, delicious scones with jam, and that general warm, cosy, homely feel you want from your Irish tea shops!
Variety: 50+ teas to choose from.
Try: Assam ‘Corramore’ – a 2nd flush Assam that makes for an indulgent morning cuppa.

————————————————————————————————————

2. Twinings, London, UK
216 The Strand, London
https://www.twinings.co.uk/about-twinings/flagship-store-london-216-strand
Visit: London’s oldest tea shop and Twinings flag shop store, the narrow walls are lined with bag and loose leaf teas from the Twinings range. You can purchase boxes of tea, or just single tea bags if you want to sample a few flavours. And as a bonus, there’s a teeny tiny ‘museum’ at the back of the store!
Varieties: just about everything Twinings makes… which is a LOT of variety!
Try: The salted caramel green tea… wow…

————————————————————————————————————

3. Nakajima No Ochaya Tea House, Tokyo, Japan
Inside the Hama-rikyu Gardens, Tokyo
http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/hama-rikyu/outline.html
Visit: This beautiful tea house sits overlooking the water in the middle of the gardens, and they offer a simple tea ceremony; you can have your matcha with or without a typical Japanese sweet, and you can buy some to take home with you.
Varieties: Just matcha.
Try: What you’re given!

————————————————————————————————————

4. Fortnum & Mason, London, UK

181 Piccadilly, London
Visit: When in London… I couldn’t leave without taking high tea, and the Fortnum & Mason Tea Salon was perfect. Their tea salon menu is quite extensive, and most of their teas are available to purchase after you’ve stuffed yourself full of finger sandwiches and scones. Excellent quality tea, and exceptional service.
Variety: 50+ teas.
Try: I loved the Royal Blend for a good, rich black tea – yup, took a bag of that home, too.
————————————————————————————————————
5. Alice’s Tea Cup, New York City, USA
Chapter I: 102 West 73rd Street, NYC | Chapter II: 156 East 64th Street, NYC | Chapter III: 220 East 81st Street, NYC
https://alicesteacup.com/
Visit: An Alice in Wonderland themed cafe, they have the a deliciously extravagant variety of sweets served up by the friendliest staff to go with the brilliant tea collection. And you can buy after you’ve tried, by weight.
Varieties: 50+ to choose from.
Try: Mauritius black tea with a hint of vanilla, and of course their signature Alice’s tea, a blend of Indian black and Japanese green teas with rose petals and berries.

————————————————————————————————————

6. Le Valentin, Paris, France
30 Passage Jouffroy, Paris
http://www.restaurantparis9.fr
Visit: Tucked away in one of the city’s undercover walking streets, this little bakery is one of the best places to do tea in Paris. The selection of cakes kind of necessitates more than one visit, as does the tea list. And if you’re not sure what to pair with your cake, just ask one of the lovely staff for a recommendation.
Varieties: I can’t find a menu online for a definitive number, but there were a few dozen from what I remember.
Try: A classic Earl Grey pairs up pretty well with a lot of the sweets.

————————————————————————————————————

7. Ippodo Tea, Tokyo, Japan 

Kokusai Bldg. 1F 3-1-1 Marunouchi Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo
Visit: The Tokyo store has the added bonus of  tea room on site, so you can sample some of the teas before you shop. It’s all quite a hands-on experience, where you’ll be taught the intricacies of brewing the tea youve chosen, so you’ll know exactly what to do at home.
Varieties: 30+ green teas.
Try: Mantoku Gyukuro green tea.

————————————————————————————————————

8. Sir Harly’s Tea Shop, Vienna, Austria
Mariahilfer Str. 45, Vienna
https://www.harly-tea.at/shop/
Visit: We actually didn’t get the chance to visit the tea house itself, because we found them set up at one of the Christmas market we went to! They had a pretty impressive range for a market stall, though, so I imagine there’d have been even more to choose from in store. You can order online, though, which is nifty!
Varieties: Around 200 teas.
Try: I went with the Bourbon Orange Christmas Tea, because it reminded me so much of the mulled wine we drank at the markets!

————————————————————————————————————

9. The Spice & Tea Exchange, New Orleans, USA
521 St. Louis Ave, New Orleans
https://www.spiceandtea.com
Visit: This isn’t unique to New Orleans – there actually heaps of stores scattered around the United States. It just so happens this is where I first found them! Along with tea, they also have a heap of different herbs, salts, spices, salts, seasonings and oils – it’s a gourmand’s heaven. The New Orleans store itself is cosy and welcoming, with very knowledgeable staff for when you just can’t choose.
Varieties: 50+ teas.
Try: Coconut oolong.

————————————————————————————————————

10. McNulty’s Tea & Coffee, New York City, USA

109 Christopher St, New York
Visit: This is one of the most perfect little tea shops you’ll ever find. Hidden in plain sight, it’s like stepping back in time. It’s organised chaos as you navigate through cardboard boxes on the floor and dozens of glass jars on the benches. And the smell is absolutely extraordinary! And if, like me, it all gets too much and too overwhelming, help is on hand to help you pick the perfect leaves.
Varieties: Hundreds!
Try: I love the Golden Assam Khongea Estate for a rich black tea.

———————————————————————————————————–

11. Da Rosa, Paris, France
62, Rue de Seine, Paris

Visit: We found this place utterly by chance, when one afternoon in Saint Germain, we were getting tired and needed a rest stop. We turned down a street and saw this place, and it looked too warm and cosy to pass up on a frosty winter’s day! Mr José Da Rosa’s establishment is a gourmet grocer/bar/tea house where he offers teas of his own creation (after being certified as a tea master). And if tea isn’t your thing, there’s always beer and wine!
Varieties: A dozen or so (for now).
Try: No.13 mint & green tea.

————————————————————————————————————

12. Wall & Keogh, Dublin, Ireland
45 Richmond St. South Portobello
Visit: This was the sort of place that would be my regular if I lived in the area – a gorgeous little nook downstairs has space to get comfy and read, write, drink and catch up withy friends. Upstairs hosts a tiny café so you can be fed as well as watered, and the staff were some of the nicest and most knowledgeable I’ve ever come across.
Variety: 150+ blends
Try: I took some coconut milk mate and some milk oolong – both phenomenal!

————————————————————————————————————

And, because this wasn’t the first big trip we’ve taken that involved many litres of tea, here are a few more tea shops worth checking out that we’ve found on our travels…

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

Eat here: Sookie La La, Melbourne V.2 (diner)

Sookie La La
593 High St, Northcote
http://www.sookielaladiner.com.au/

It’s hard to believe it was September 2015 when I first visited and blogged about this place… since then, it’s become our favourite Sunday breakfast nook and feels like a second home 🙂

Almost 18 months since that first visit, nothing about Sookie La La is slipping. The service is wonderful, prompt, and most importantly, welcoming and friendly. The booths are perfect – your own private little breakfast nooks. And the standard of the food is still top notch – it’s simple, homely, comforting food that makes you feel like you’re in a favourite aunt’s home.

Husband’s new favourite thing in the world is their fried chicken on waffles. You can probably see why. But tasting it is another story – the waffles are soft and fluffy, and the chicken is perfectly white and tender on the inside, with the perfect crunch on the outside. We’ve eaten a bit of fried chicken, but Sookie La La’s is both of our favourite.

I went with the reuben sandwich, the towering king of bread and corned beef and sauerkraut and pickles and cheese and Russian dressing. This is a proper sandwich. For breakfast or lunch, it’s just magic.

After a long week, when we roll up to their glass front door on a Sunday morning and slide into one of the beautiful wooden booths, it really feels like home. We both seem to sigh in relief as we sit down to a hot pot of strong tea for me and a chocolatey coffee for the husband, always brought over by the ever-smiling lady of the house, and we know that no matter what we order, it’s going to be delicious. We’ve spent many hours planning our #👫WorldTour there. Talking about our weeks at work. Mulling over problems that need solving. Discussing our plans for the future and remembering all of the good and bad from the past. We eventually look out at the street through the shuttered windows with the Sunday morning light streaming in, and reluctantly slide out of our booth to get on with the day. Always knowing we’ll be back soon 🙂

Sookie La La Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eat here: Jethro Canteen, Melbourne (café/brunch)

Jethro Canteen
385 – 389 Burnley St, Richmond
https://www.instagram.com/jethrocanteen/
img_1469

Sunday morning breakfast dates are my favourites. And living in Melbourne means there is always a new spot to check out; yesterday, it was Jethro Canteen in Richmond. It’s still relatively new, but is already pretty popular with the locals given the amount of people streaming in and out for coffees.

The space was beautiful;  yes, it was a little bit Melbourne-hipster-cafe-by-numbers, but that exposed brick + bright tile and tea on shelves + bakery style pastry display had me from the get go. Big windows meant we were drenched in summer sun, and it instantly felt like the perfect place to bunk down with a pot of tea and a good book for the morning. Or coffee – husband said it was fantastic.

Unfortunately, the people didn’t feel quite as warm and comfortable as the physical space to start off with. The staff all seemed a little preoccupied and sour, until someome stopped by with a cute dog. The little fluffball seemed to put a smile on everyone’s dials and made them all much more pleasant. The menu, like the cafe, was exciting straight away – husband struggled to decide between the chili dog and the Louisiana plate,  but the jalapeño popper won out in the end. Also on the plate was thick cut bacon steak, poached eggs on corn remoulade smothered toast, chili prawns and guacamole. Other than a slightly overdone egg, no complaints, and his plate was mopped clean. The jalapeño popper was definite highlight, though.

img_1473

I struggled to pick between the waffles with cereal milk pannacotta, the white chocolate & almond crumble porridge or the chia pudding, but the latter won out. Coconut and almond milk soaked chia, topped with elderflower jelly, berries, mango puree, vanilla bean cashew cream and granola. I was really disappointed that the granola was pretty much non-existent, because the tiny bit that was on there was amazing! The chia was perfect, the berries were fresh, and the cashew cream was the perfect surprise addition – thick, creamy,  strong vanilla flavour – loved it.

img_1477

Despite a few bumps, we both absolutely loved Jethro – the beautiful space and the creative menu (so nice to see something other than smashed avo toast and chili scrambled eggs!) make it the perfect addition to our brunch scene;  we will be back!

Eat here: Tinker, Melbourne (café/brunch)

Tinker
235 High St, Northcote
http://tinkernorthcote.com.au

Another weekend, another breakfast. I used to say brunch until husband pulled me up and said that when we’re up, dressed, out the door and seated with menus in hand by 8.30am, its not brunch. Touché.

Anyway, I decided to have a little browse to check out the new openings in our area (we have high attendance rates at Sookie La La, but do occasionally like to see wha else is going on), and I remembered passing a new looking place when I went to the Northcote Kris Kringle Night Market last week: Tinker.

Online investigation led me to their Instagram page, which told me that Tinker was another product of the team that gave us Legacy Camberwell and Temperance Society. That’s all well and good, but proving yourself in the Northcote brunch scene is no easy feat. So, off we went to see for ourselves.

If I was unsure when we were parking the car, the welcome at my feet swept away most of my fears. It seemed I was certainly in the right place. We were promptly greeted and seated, and had tea and coffee in no time at all. Tea was hot and strong, husband loved the coffee. Off to a solid start.

Ordering was tough for husband, tossing up between chilli scrambled eggs, smashed peas, and eggs benedict, but the eggs benny clinched the win with the jalapeño rosti instead of plain old toast, and Kaiser bacon over ham. Perfectly poached eggs with molten yolk, golden crisp rosti, and a proper slab of bacon. Winning.

I was an easy decision; jaffa hotcakes with orange curd, vanilla mascarpone and chocolate swirled meringue pieces. Just wow. Two thick, dense hotcakes swimming in an incredibly generous pool of tangy curd, heaps of chocolate meringue pieces, and mascarpone that wasn’t too sweet or too cheesy. That was the sweet breakfast I’ve been craving!

The space itself is very clean and crisp, sparsely decorated, which I thought was a bit odd to start with, but once the food started to appear, these bright, colourful dishes looked evennbetter against the basic interior. I understand now, well done interior decoration team.

This whole being spoilt for choice in the breaky and brunch department is not getting even remotely old yet… welcome to the north, Tinker!

Tinker Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tea time: Tao Dan Park Bird Cafe, Saigon, Vietnam

Tao Dan Park
110Bis, Nguyễn Du, Bến Thành, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

This café stop on our last morning in Saigon was probably the highlight of our time in Saigon. Another suggestion from our wonderful Cu Chi Tunnels guide, she told us about the “bird café” in Tao Dan Park; each morning, from around 6am until around 8 or 9am, a corner of the park becomes a meeting place for men around 30 – 50 years of age, and their pet birds. Sounds odd, right? It is, but in a really beautiful way.

img_6514

Keeping pet birds is quite popular in Vietnam – you notice cages everywhere, beautiful, old, vintage-looking bird cages, with gorgeous little feathered creatures sitting inside. The café at Tao Dan Park is a real social event, where the men of the city roll up on their motorbikes with their covered birdcages perched on the back. They park their bikes and carefully lift the cages, bringing them to rest on the floor in the middle of the outdoor “café.” The covers are removed from the cages, and they’re delicately hung from the hooks on what looks like a collection of big metal trees with braches especially crafted for the cages.

img_6512

While the women are off presumably raising the kids, cleaning the house, running the shops and doing whatever else needs to be done, the men sit around for a few hours enjoying their coffee and listening to their birds sing. We pulled up a little plastic table and joined the growing crowd, husband with his Vietnamese condensed milk iced coffee, and me with my lemon tea and journal. While the tea is nothing to write home about (just a Lipton tea bag, boiling water and a squeeze of lemon), husband said the coffee was amazing, and that’s what everyone else seemed to be drinking, too. I got a lot of strange looks, being the only woman around, but probably no stranger than the perplexed look on my face when I first arrived trying to work out what the hell was going on. Travel is like that – we might all be a little weird to each other, but you learn to adapt to anything 🙂

img_6504-1