Eat here: Yamato, Melbourne

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 & drink here: Buck Mulligan’s, Melbourne

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

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: Sookie La La, Melbourne V.2

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: The Old Milk Bar Cafe, Thornbury

The Old Milk Bar Cafe
144 Dundas St, Thornbury

Back in Melbourne and back to weekend brunches! And don’t I feel just a bit silly not having visited this place sooner… We’ve been living a stone’s throw from the Old Milk Bar Cafe for a few years, now, and it’s one of those places that’s been on my radar but I just haven’t gotten around to visiting.

We finally made it to the sweet, little, old milk bar converted into a cafe over the weekend. High Street in Thornbury is getting to be a pretty popular location for cafes, but this one’s tucked off the main drag. If you don’t know about it, you’re not likely to stumble upon it, and that was instantly obvious – staff were greeting a lot of customers by name, which was really lovely to see 🙂

I adored the space itself – little touches like the old THE AGE sign on the wall under the kitchen were the perfect throw back to the old days. While the inside of the cafe isn’t enormous (with seating for around 8 on small tables and one larger communal table that seats another 8 or so), the outside patio seating was pretty spacious. And the menu looked great! Husband’s choice was made quickly; he went with the smashed avo – 2 slices of toast with an absolute mountain of smashed avocado, goats curd, and a panko crumbed egg on top. He gave big points for the amount of avocado and how perfectly oozy the egg yolk was, but was a little sad the panko crumbs didn’t stay crunchy.

My choice was even easier again – lemon lime ricotta hotcakes with blueberries. Yes, please!! These were hands down the lightest, fluffiest, most delicious hot cakes I’ve ever had. No competition. No other was to describe it. Absolutely perfect. Swimming in the most delicious citrus curd, and plenty of juicy blueberries. I was told these were a new addition to the menu, and I hope they stay on the menu – I’ll be back for them again. They were magic.

Vietnam was a good time, but no one does brunch like Melbourne. And when places like this are making food this delicious, it’s good to be home 🙂

The Old Milkbar Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eat here: Gellibrand Cafe, Melbourne

Gellibrand Cafe
16 Gellibrand Cres, Reservoir
https://web.facebook.com/gellibrandcafe/?fref=nf&_rdr

They’ve been open less than a month, and I managed 2 visits in less than 24 hours – I think I’ve found my new local! Tucked away in a little suburban pocket of Reservoir, it’s not the kind of place that’s going to get crazy foot traffic, so they’re going to have to rely pretty heavily on good word of mouth. That shouldn’t be too much of a problem…

The space itself is beautiful – it’s modern and minimalist looking, but the little touches like the Globo posters behind the counter give it a bit of a throwback to the past and makes it feel more homely.

Our first visit was last Saturday afternoon; they close at 4pm, but we thought we’d try to sneak in a quick coffee/tea date around 3pm on our way out. It’s incredibly how many places get narky when you roll in an hour before closing on a Saturday afternoon, so we braced ourselves for an icy reception. Which was completely unnecessary; we were welcomed with smiles and open arms. Massive points there, because another similar cafe in the area is quite the opposite when you arrive within 90 minutes of closing time.

We asked for tea, coffee and donuts, and while we sat waiting for them, we picked up on seriously happy vibes. The staff were laughing and joking around with each other, they were happy to chat with us instead of ignoring us, and it felt more and more like hanging out at a friend’s or extended family member’ place rather than a shiny new cafe.

Oh, and they stock Doughboys Doughnuts, which makes me very happy, because I love them!! Husband loved his coffee, my tea was hot and brewed just right, and the doughnuts were magic. Salted caramel that was properly salty and sugary, and a gorgeous little key lime number filled with lime curd and a toasted meringue hat. Perfect afternoon tea. Also, as the clock ticked closer to 4pm, more big points for not starting to turn off light and clean around our feet – sorry our timing was crap, guys, but thank you for not making us feel like a total inconvenience!! We decided then and there that we’d return for breakfast the next morning.

And so we did. Sunday morning rolled around, and we turned back up to Gellibrand again. A pretty simple menu with plenty of options to keep everyone happy, husband went straight for the smashed avo with chilli on toast, with a poached egg and bacon on the side. He’s fussy with anything that claims to have chilli in it (his tolerance levels are bordering on unnatural), so he was a pretty happy camper when his avocado came out with actual pieces of chilli mashed through it. He was even happier when he opened his egg up and found it all molten lava yolk (he’s has some sub-par over poached eggs lately). He also commended the amount of bacon.

I was hovering over the porridge, until I caught a glimpse of the specials board. There is something oddly satisfying about being able to order pancakes and ice cream for breakfast, for a few reasons:
1. When you’re a kid and you want pancakes and ice cream for breakfast, your parents laugh at you and give you cereal and fruit instead. As an adult, if you want ice cream for breakfast, you can.
2. When you’re a highly disordered eater, any time you can override the mechanism that tells you to order eggs and vegetables for breakfast and not to finish the toast, that’s a big win.

And it was a bloody good decision – they were proper, home made pancakes, not the perfect round cookie-cutter ones. They were full of blueberries, plenty of salted caramel toasted almonds, more blueberries and top, and that ice cream was the perfect side. I don’t often order pancakes because they’re such a special treat meal to me, and I don’t want to waste a special treat breaky on crappy pancakes, but these were exactly what I felt like – hope they make their way back onto the specials board again!

I’m feeling really fortunate to be living out in the northern suburbs these days; back when I was a kid, Preston and Reservoir weren’t the nicest areas. Now, as the suburbs next in line for gentrification after Northcote and Thornbury, they’re starting to become prime locations. I just hope that the new places opening up keep the friendly neighbourhood attitudes and a few little throwbacks to the past, like Gellibrand have. See you again soon, guys 🙂

 

Gellibrand Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eat here: Pizzaly, Melbourne

Pizzaly
132 Wood St, Preston
https://sites.google.com/site/pizzalypreston/

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When your head pizza maker has recently been crowned Australia’s best pizza maker at the annual World Pizza Championships, you know you’re doing something right.

Mr Silvio Serpa holds that title now, for his margherita pizzas, which he’s producing by what I imagine must be the truckload at unassuming little hole-in-the-wall Pizzaly, tucked away in Preston. Being an Italian girl who grew up around the family business which was based in Preston, I was feeling proud as punch that this couple from my family’s homeland were doing so incredibly well, even though I don’t actually know them 🙂

Pizzaly, to me, is a real pizza place. No Hawaiian, Aussie, Americana crap here. It’s real, proper, Italian pizza, sticking with that golden rule of less is more, providing it’s all quality. And they have San Pelegrino Aranciata Rossa soft drinks, which is basically the taste of childhood to me. Good start!

They have around 20-odd pizzas on offer, half on traditional tomato bases and half on white bases (AKA no tomato sauce base), and picking one or two out is not easy. Made even harder was our seat right by Silvio’s counter, where we watched him fire out pizza after pizza, completely unassisted. Watching him was like watching poetry in motion – he was in a pizza-making trance, and it was incredible!

Eventually we decided on the margherita ($15.00), obviously, and a prosciutto crudo e rucola ($20.00) which was a white base with prosciutto, rocket, and mozzarella.

The margherita deserved the title. I’m sure this won’t make a lot of Melbournian’s happy, but I liked Silvio’s margherita a lot better than the other award-winning margherita from 400 Gradi. That dough is unbelievably thin and light, and the simplicity of good quality tomato, cheese and oregano is pure magic.

The prosciutto was equally impressive, again because of the freshness and quality of the few ingredients on there. The prosciutto was sliced thin enough that you could have held it up and seen through it, there was just enough of everything to balance; it was just the way pizza should be.

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They were actually not super filling (despite the large plates they came out on) because of the thin bases, so I took that as a green light to get dessert. The window counter out front was filled with deliciousness, but under a mesh cloche, I spied an old favourite – crostata. Basically, it’s just a tart shell filled with jam and topped with lattice pastry, but it’s a traditional Italian dessert and one that I absolutely LOVE to eat. I had a piece of the raspberry one, and it was the perfect end to the meal.

I had to stop on our way out to thank Mr Serpa for the magnificent pizza, because it really was. And not only the pizza, but everything about Pizzaly – it felt like dinner at Nonno’s house out in the suburbs; comfortable, warm, unpretentious, inviting. That’s how Italian food should be. And seeing as it’s not far from home for us, I think we’ll be eating there a lot more often now!

 

 

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