Tea time: Naked Espresso Bar, Melbourne (eat here, too)

Naked Espresso Bar
390 Little Bourke St, Melbourne
http://www.nakedespressoco.com.au/

Another Friday, another week down (almost). Come Friday, I feel like I’ve really earnt my lunch time break, and love heading down Little Bourke Street or Hardware Lane for a pot of tea and some reading and writing and people watching. Sometimes, if I’ve got a bit of extra cash (because eating in Melbourne costs a bloody fortune), I might even treat myself to lunch, like I did on this visit to Naked Espresso.

They’re one of my favourite go-to places to a good lunch time pot of tea, mostly because they’re lovely and friendly, play great tunes, and give me a chocolate dipped Tiny Teddy with my tea. How can you not love a place that does that?!  Thanks, guys, you make long work weeks so much better  : )

Food is also top notch, particularly the toastie menu for which they’re so well known. Is there anything better than a really well made ham, cheese and tomato toastie? Really? Good bread, well filled (not stingy on the ham, yay) and  a nice little pot of tomato relish on the side. Also, at $8.00, it’s a pretty good Friday lunch option if you don’t want to spend a small fortune and save your cash for after work drinks.

While I’m not a coffee drinker, I do know that they make a damn fine brew; one can only assume as much when you see the absurd amount of Naked Espresso take away coffee cups walking up and down Little Bourke Street first thing in the morning/at lunch time, as well as the constant line at the front door for them. And Melbournians are pretty fussy about their coffee, so if they’re happy to wait in line for a cup, it must be good! And one of my favourite mid week time out spots in the city  : )

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Eat here: D.O.C. Pizza & Mozzarella Bar, Melbourne (Italian) – V.2

D.O.C. Pizza & Mozzarella Bar
295 Drummond St, Carlton
http://docgroup.net/

Following on from Friday’s not-a-Valentine’s-Day post, I thought I’d keep going with lunch. While we often go out for lunch or dinner on weekends, it’s usually pretty simple and inexpensive stuff; a bowl of noodles from a local Vietnamese place or a burger off the back of a truck, or maybe a nice little breakfast or brunch.

We don’t really spend money on extravagances – I couldn’t tell you the last time I bought full price clothing, let alone designer stuff, I paint my own nails instead of getting a $40 manicure every week, I work out at home instead of paying for a gym membership, and I’ve happily had the same car since my 21st birthday. We’ve learnt recently that we put a lot more value on experiences rather than material stuff, and we’ve been a lot happier since we started really prioritising that. And with all that saved money going straight into our travel fund, every now and then, we don’t feel too bad about treating ourselves. Last Sunday (and yes, it was Valentine’s Day!), we decided to treat ourselves.

After a lovely morning tea and coffee stop at Juno & May, followed by a good trawl through Camberwell Market, we  made our way into Carlton. I always like to drop into the Reading’s book shop when I visit Lygon Street, so we stopped by there and picked up another few travel books. When I blogged about our first visit to D.O.C, I mentioned that I had some crazy travel ideas floating about in my head. Like the fact that I’d already plotted out the next few years worth of travel in my head. The thing to know about me is that while I’m not at all a competitive person, I am incredibly stubborn and head strong. If I decide I want to make something happen, it’s happening. Like the Egypt/Europe trip. And the 6 week USAdventure. A logical, reasonable person might have thought hey were impossible tasks; challenge accepted. The next big trip is going to make those two look like cake walks. We have a few smaller trips between now and then, but, as per our last discussion at D.O.C., this next big one is going to involve a good chunk of time in Italy, a hire car, and some little towns that I visited many years ago and want to go back to. Towns like Asolo. Bassano del Grappa. San Gimignano. Lucca. Vinci. Cittadella. Oh my God. I CANNOT WAIT! So, with our travel books and dreams in hand, we enjoyed another amazing D.O.C. lunch while taking another step in turning this next “dream” into reality.

Lunch was amazing, though, as expected. First up was the mixed antipasto platter, with all of my favourites, including bresaola, artichoke, rockmelon with prosciutto (if you’re not Italian, this is going to sound weird, but I promise it works), grilled fix stuffed with gorgonzola, … all of the good stuff! It was a perfect starter to share, and deceptively filling.

When it came to picking a pizza, it was the San Daniele, again. Because it’s the perfect pizza for us. The perfect pizza dough topped with sweet San Marzano tomatoes, melt-in-your-mouth San Daniele prosciutto and those incredible chunks of mozzarella, drizzled with oil… Can’t get better than that! We also thought we’d throw in a salad (not realising how big or filling the antipasto board would be) and went with the pesto smothered baby spinach with pine nuts, bocconcini and cherry tomatoes. Perfect match with the pizza.

It’s places like this that combine friendly service and the absolute best produce in a simple way that make me so proud to be Italian  : )  I’m also really thankful to have found someone who loves and appreciates my heritage, too. It’s something that’s a big part of me, and I really feel honoured to be able to share it with my husband in ways as small as sharing a meal like this, and in ways as big as being able to travel with him to the beautiful country where so much of my family still live. If you’re looking for a little taste of Italy this week, it’s probably time to visit D.O.C… And if you can recommend any other places that do “your” food particularly well, please share!

Eat here: Kitty Burns, Melbourne (brunch)

Kitty Burns
24 Acacia Pl, Abbotsford
http://kittyburns.com.au/

OMG it’s Thursday. I’ve been hanging out for today for almost 2 months. I desperately need a break from everything, so I’m finally getting some hard earned days off in lieu and heading to Warburton (AKA my special happy place) for the next few days… YAY! I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to today, but last weekend I had the pleasure of brunching with the loveliest bunch of ladies, and that pumped me up to get through another few work days 🙂

Let me be frank and honest here (because, let’s face it, when am I not?); I love hanging out with these girls. They make me feel like I’m part of a T-Swift girl squad. They’re all intelligent, fun, funny, talented women. And at a time where it seems a lot of women sadly want to compete with and one-up each other (and the blogging world can be surprisingly “mean” and competitive), I cannot tell you how refreshing it is that I’ve fallen into friendships with these ladies where it’s all fun and giggles and absolutely NO competition or egotism whatsoever.

We try to catch up semi-regularly (or as regularly as six busy women can manage), and chose newbie Kitty Burns for our latest brunch. Tucked into a cute little nook off the main road opposite Ikea, Acacia Place is beautiful. Lots of open space and big trees, fresh air and bright sunshine, it’s the ultimate spot for a brunchery. And the menu is every bit as incredible as the setting; there was a LOT of indecision before we finally just dove it, surprisingly all ordering something different…

Sheena (Chasing a Plate) went with Meet Mr Burns, the meat platter from the heavens… That slab of bacon looked amazing!

Terri (Little Wanderings) had the awfully pretty french toast…

Tian (Eat More) had the spiced Togarashi avocado with toast and a mac & cheese croquette (actually, I think we all either ordered or tried the croquette – it was creamy, cheesy, fried happiness)…

Mon (Mon’s Adventure)  went with the Omelette “Arnold Bennett” with slow poached smoked rockling, which she kindly let me taste (delicious and creamy) and a very cute little bottle of coffee…

Cass (Hungry Cookie) picked the Eton Mess with coconut yoghurt and strawberry textures and spiced meringue – also kindly gave me a taste test and, again, amazing! The flavour of the strawberries and cherries were pure Aussie summer to me 🙂

And I couldn’t go past the coconut chia pudding. With mango. And strawberry bits. And aerated coconut. And activated buckwheat clusters. And magic. I dunno how they get theirs to taste that perfect, I need help with this at home! It was rich and thick and creamy, the coconut yoghurt was probably the best I’ve ever tasted, and the crunchy buckwheat clusters were the perfect addition – need these to add to my oats at home!

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I was a bit apprehensive before visiting, as I am with all places that blow up with attention on opening, but the praise is well deserved. The cafe itself is stunning, with high ceilings, enormous windows to flood it with natural light, and surrounded by trees. The company was obviously top notch, with conversation ranging from new jobs to travel adventures to the many uses for the humble potato to ballerinas at weddings and I think literally everything in between. And the food was fantastic. It was just the kind of menu I fall in love with and want to sample everything from. I just wish it was a little closer to home so it could be my regular!!

Kitty Burns Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Treat yoself: The birthday edition part 1, Fitzroy – iPhoto tour | Rustica | Glitz & Glam Nails | Rice Paper Scissors | Tattoo Magic | Slowpoke Espresso

So, as promised, here’s the first round of suggestions on how you can bring a little “treat yoself” to your day/week/weekend…

First up: go for a walk around the suburban paradise that is Fitzroy.
Walk slowly, be curious, peek around corners and deviate off the main streets…

 

 

Next up: brunch at Rustica
402 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
http://www.rusticasourdough.com.au/

Look, if we’re honest, there’s no such thing as a bad choice here; everything is amazing. However, I’d highly recommend one of the golden, flaky pastries, like this particularly magnificent matcha strawberry cronut. Countless numbers of pefect, crisp pastry filled with silky smooth matcha cream, and a bit of tangy strawberry jammy glaze on top. And a matcha marshmallow. Golden…

 

Then, get pampered at Glitz & Glam Nails
355 Smith St, Collingwood
https://web.facebook.com/glitzandglamnails.melb/

I’m not a girly girl. I don’t fake tan, I don’t get my nails done, I don’t even colour my hair. I take terrible care of my nails and feet, so I thought a little mani pedi action would be a nice treat. That said, I didn’t want to spend an absolute fortune and end up thinking “I could have done that myself at home.” Enter the ladies at Glitz & Glam – only $50 got me a relaxing hour of nail care (with a billion odd nail colours to choose from, including what looked like the majority of the O.P.I catalogue!), and they did a fantastic job 🙂 They made me feel right at home, and the massage chair they set me up in while my nails dried was the best thing that happened all week! If you need a little low maintenance girly pampering time, I’d highly recommend them!

 

Time to eat again, at Rice Paper Scissors
307 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
http://www.ricepaperscissors.com.au/

This place felt like the fancy home I wish I had from the moment I walked in – an amazing space that was just the right balance of laid back and too-gorgeous-for-my-life. The staff were all lovely; every single one of them on the floor and behind the bar made an effort to speak to me at one point. The menu is up around the same special standard, using an Asian hawker food model to produce a menu that’s street food at the heart, but way sexier. I got me a mango, coconut, mint crush to get started…

… followed by some delicious pork belly bao and the day’s special: crispy duck with Asian herb salad, chilli jam & coconut dressing.  The photos basically speak for themselves; the bao buns were pillowy soft with magnificent chunks of perfectly tender pork belly. And the salad was a bowl of flavour – the duck was amazing, and the herbs were fresh and punchy – this is one of the only salads you wanna be making friends with.

 

You’ve been tenderly pampered and fed, so now’s a good time to go and get tattooed at
Tattoo Magic
100 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
http://www.tattoomagic.com.au/

I was reading my book on the tram and realised that the design on my Lillytales bookmark was exactly what I wanted to add to my airplane tattoo on my right forearm. After my morning noms and pampering, I made my way to Tattoo Magic on Gertrude St, spoke to lovely lady manning the front desk – 10 minutes later I was sitting with Sean Jackson, working out sizes. 20 minutes after that, I was freshly inked, for the… eleventh, I think, time. $130 all up for the book and tea cup, superstar bloke, gorgeous shop, awesome experience, highly recommended!

 

And now that that’s all done, time to kick back for one more cup of tea at
Slowpoke Espresso
157 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
https://web.facebook.com/Slowpoke-Espresso-221714874514535/

There’s nothing like a hot pot of tea and a chocolate chip cookie to end the day, and Slowpoke does a bloody good chocolate chip cookie. Those little black specks on top are salt flakes, and they’re like fairy dust on top. The cookie is soft and chewy, which was a massive relief to me (I hate dry, chalky, crunchy cookies). And the chocolate was super sweet and creamy. Couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my day!

Eat here: Good Ovening, Melbourne (Korean/cafe)

Good Ovening
200 Queen St, Melbourne CBD
https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009533791754&fref=ts

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I started a new job a few weeks ago; with a new job, naturally, comes new territory. I found myself based in a different pocket of Melbourne’s CBD for this new role, and as a creature of habit, set out quickly to find somewhere to spend my lunch breaks with a pot of tea and a book or notepad and pen. I found Good Ovening.

This adorable little cafe is tucked into a nook on the corner of Queen and Little Bourke Streets, with an adorable astro turf and pastel lawn furniture set up outside, and a gorgeous, homely wooden table and 70’s pleather seat situation inside. I’m a regular visitor now, enjoying several pots of tea (which are served with delicious, complimentary little scone/biscuit hybrids), but the other day curiosity finally got the better of me and I decided to have lunch here, too.

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The specialty is their Korean style chicken fillet steak – chicken thigh fillets baked with a bit of golden crispness on the outside and super juicy on the inside. I went with the Pizza Yola ($13.50), which saw my chicken topped with a tomato and onion sauce, salami, olives & mozzarella, with sides of mashed potato, salad & slaw. Unreal! The chicken was incredible, very tender and juicy… I really hate this word for some reason, but I guess “succulent” would be the right word for it. The sides were all delicious, too, and it was a pretty filling meal for the price!
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Good Ovening is the perfect urban paradise; the food is great, but the place has some soul to it, too. The service has never been anything less than 5 star, with everyone who comes in being greeted with a smile and “hello” from one of the staff who always walk over to meet them. The exposed brick walls, vintage suitcase in the corner holding a flower pot and the old books on the shelf are all out of the home of my dreams, and the mellow music is always playing; this place is just begging you to come on in, pull up a seat and relax for a while! It might not be on top of the hipsters’ top places to eat list (yet), but trust me, its well worth a visit if you feel the need to treat yo self to lunch or tea this work week – I might see you there!
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Good Ovening on Urbanspoon

Eat here: Cheshire, Melbourne (brunch/cafe)

Cheshire
583 Gilbert Rd, Preston
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cheshire/279630092053515

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Wednesday morning! You know what that means? If you make it to lunch time, you’ve made it half way to another weekend! Congrats in advance! It’s about this time of the week that I’m starting to think about said upcoming weekend, which generally means I’m thinking about a nice relaxing weekend brunch. If you’re thinking about that, too, allow me to introduce you to, and recommend, Cheshire.

Located in a relatively quiet pocket of Preston, Cheshire is filling a desperately needed gap of good brunch spots in the suburbs. They’re a fairly small space (the outdoor seating out front/around the corner helps a little) with tightly packed tables and bench space inside, so expect a bit of a wait on weekends; we visited on a Saturday afternoon around 12pm and were politely warned to expect about a 20 minute wait for food, which was fine -as long as you’re told in advance, it’s not so bad.

Husband went with the avo on toast with goats fetta, tomato, fresh herbs, to which he added a poached egg and side of chevap sausages. His verdict: perfectly poached egg, the avo was delicious with the fetta and plenty of it, great chevaps, brilliant breaky.

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I went with the baked eggs and chorizo, in a tomato sauce, with pecorino cheese and fennel crust, rocket, and toast. Possibly one of the best breakies I’ve had out in recent memory. Usually with these things, you get just a little bit of chorizo; they used what seemed to be an entire chorizo sausage in this dish. I couldn’t finish it all, so a happy husband got quite a few pieces, which had been fried up to golden. The tomato sauce it was baked in was phenomenal, I absolutely loved it… SO tasty, and the pecorino and fennel crust was magnificent! Was very grateful for the toast to mop it all up with! Nicely cooked egg with oozy yolk to top it all off for the win.

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We had no where to rush off to so we decided to stay for a little longer and ordered a St Ali coffee for husband, a pot of tea for me, and some cutie pie cakes, both gluten free (read: thick and moist). The brownie was pretty good, I loved the pile of chocolate chips on top, but the mandarin cake was the real winner. Dense with an incredibly sweet mandarin taste, it was a perfect end to the meal. It’s hard to get a citrus cake with that much flavour that doesn’t have that bitter aftertaste – they nailed it here. Extra points for the frosting.

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It was so great to find this little gem so close to home – massive thanks to a friend of husband’s who recommended it! All that food (two breakfasts, a coffee, a tea and two cakes) cost us around AUD$50.00, which was actually really great value for money – we were stuffed by the end of it and didn’t eat dinner until around 7.30pm! If you live it the area, put it on the “must visit” list. If you feel like escaping your local area this weekend and trying something new, consider Cheshire, too. Amazing food, friendly service, happy weekend! Only 3 days to go…

 

Cheshire on Urbanspoon

Eat here: CH James, Melbourne (brunch)

CH James
86 Station St, Fairfield, Melbourne

http://www.chjames.com.au/

Saturday. Lunch. Best friends. Melbourne. Gossip. Cafe. And really good food. All the ingredients for a great start to the long weekend. Happy days!

We all needed some girl time and a delicious feed, so the ladies and I decided to lunch at CH James in Fairfield – it’s a still relatively newish spot, and a welcome addition to suburbia, headed by a super star team hailing formerly from Pope Joan, Taxi Kitchen and Auction Rooms – solid start. The menu is simple but delicious, using heaps of local suppliers to provide fresh, quality ingredients for the dishes they serve up to the hungry masses, of which there were plenty! Saturday lunch on a long weekend, clearly a busy time – so busy, in fact, I think we were actually momentarily forgotten about… we had a lot to catch up on, though, so not the end of the world! Once we were rediscovered at our corner table, though, orders were placed and the food was out pretty quickly. The girls both ordered the gnocchi with roasted tomato, asparagus and broad beans – looked amazing and they both enjoyed it!

I had a craving for eggs, particularly after watching this dish coming out of the kitchen over and over again since our arrival – I got the ricotta and smoked trout scrambled eggs with chive coriander pesto on toast. This was one of the best scrambled egg plates I’ve ever had, easily. The soft scrambled eggs were perfectly cooked, absolutely perfectly. The ricotta and smoked trout through it were well proportioned, thick slice of toast that held it’s own and managed to be noticeably delicious even under the eggs, and the pesto was just the icing on the eggy cake. There were plenty of other enticing items on the menu, but I think I’ll just order this again next time I eat at CH James – if it ain’t broke…

CH James is the perfect brunch spot for Fairfield, filling the much needed gap: something to get the younger crowd in the area amongst all the longer-standing family businesses. With Preston, Reservoir, Fairfield, Thornbury, Northcote all starting to develop, we’re finding more and more that these northern suburbs are starting to look like the Brunswick/Fitzroy/Collingwood of 20 years ago, before they got hipster and cool. Makes me really happy we’ve invested in a house in this area while it was still affordable! Also really stoked that I’m less than 10km away from a place like CH James; great food, gorgeous space, heaps of potential to be the meeting place in Fairfield. Looking forward to many more brunches with the ladies there!

 

C.H. James on Urbanspoon