Dining Review – Syrup Cafe Watsonia

Syrup is what I believe to be the gem of Watsonia.  Syrup is run by sister duo Denise and Kathy and for what this small café lacks in size, amongst the surrounding mediocre offerings in the area, Syrup certainly makes up for by serving up high quality food and beverages. To walk in and spot the Allpress coffee cups stacked up in a high tower alongside the coffee machine is always a good sign, but to taste the well prepared, good coffee was even more comforting!

(On a side note, I recently downloaded the Allpress Espresso Coffee Roasters smart phone app! You can use the ‘café finder’ app to locate your closest stockist or café using Allpress coffee no matter where you are! Now available free in the Go Store and iTunes store.)

Breakfast options included variations of eggs, as well as a selection of melts and toasted sandwiches. The menu appears a little limited, but don’t forget to take a look at the baked goods including freshly baked , house-made muffins, scones, cakes and slices.

I was drawn towards the description of the Avocado Smash, ‘fresh avocado, feta, parsley, mint and chilli flakes topped with a poached egg on quinoa and soya sourdough. This dish was really enjoyable; a winning combination of ingredients and the egg was cooked to perfection. Eggs may seem easy to cook, but as someone who gets squeamish at the site of an unappetising string of translucent raw egg white amongst an otherwise presumably ‘cooked’ egg, I was so happily surprised at the perfectly poached egg that was served as well as the use of high quality ingredients.

Avocado Smash at Syrup Watsonia

Avocado Smash at Syrup Watsonia

The owners shared their preference to use locally sourced, organic produce and use bread from South Melbourne bakery Brasserie, and jam from Yarra Valley. The Devonshire scones deal was fantastic value. For $10 you get two lovely home-made scones with jam and cream and one great coffee.

Devonshire Tea Scones at Syrup Watsonia

Devonshire Tea Scones at Syrup Watsonia

If I had to stress a point of improvement, it is this. I understand this cute little café is a casual eatery and the owners are quite approachable and friendly, but I found it a bit uncomfortable to be told to have to call one of the workers when we were ready to order, and then asked to call out our order across the café as our order was taken by the lady who continued to remain behind the counter. However, that being said, I think Syrup has set itself up wonderfully in a great location, close to Watsonia station if you need to grab a quick coffee before heading to work and it is a stand out addition to the area.

Allpress Coffee at Syrup Watsonia

Allpress Coffee at Syrup Watsonia

Syrup Watsonia Menu

Syrup Watsonia Menu

 

Syrup Watsonia Menu

Syrup Watsonia Menu

 

Syrup Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Ben & Jerry’s Openair Cinema Melbourne – Review and tips to help you plan your visit

Summer has arrived and if lounging outdoors on a warm night with your friends, eating ice cream and watching movies sounds like one perfect summer night to you, then you’re definitely going to want to check out the Ben and Jerry’s Openair Cinema. Running from 1st December – 22nd December, the Ben and Jerry’s Openair Cinema has set up its own sectioned off area of St. Kilda’s South Beach area.

With a great selection of both new releases and all your favourite oldies, you can take a look at the listing of movies planned to screen each night. Gates open at 6pm with local DJs supplying some chill out tunes while you find a spot on the lawn and get comfortable with bean lounges and deck chair hire as well as the option to enjoy the Italian food offering from Ladro, or the drinks and snacks at the bar before settling in to watch a movie once the night sky falls at about 8.30-9pm.

Sundae Sessions take place each Sunday from 5pm, described as ‘music by day, movies by night’ you can enjoy the tunes of a live band, and have a go at the lawn games set up in a fun and chill atmosphere whilst savouring some complimentary scoops of delicious Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream!

Thanks to the Ben & Jerry’s Openair Cinema, I attended the Opening Night – Sundae Sessions Charity Launch and it was great fun. I advise that whatever night you decide to go, make sure you try to get there early to ensure you reserve yourself a good viewing spot. This is also a good idea to allow for a good amount of time to catch up with your friends and enjoy the atmosphere before watching the sunset and getting ready to watch the movie.

Ben & Jerry's Openair Cinema

Ben & Jerry’s Openair Cinema

You can pack a picnic and bring your own food, or if you get there extra early you can even take a walk down Ackland Street beforehand and pick up some takeaway (I did see some people bring in Grill’d bags) as well as bring along non-alcoholic beverages like a bottle of water. However you are not allowed to bring in any alcohol or glass to the venue, but you can purchase alcoholic beverages on site. It is good to note that the bar did serve complimentary water in plastic cups as an alternative to buying bottles and I enjoyed the tangy and citrusy Aperol Spritz on offer!

Restaurant Ladro does cater inside the venue, serving up a selection of Italian food. I tried the ‘Gamberi’ prawn pizza which was nice, albeit the burnt edges of the base  and the tomato sauce and pea overload, but it was the addition of the lemon and garlic prawns that made the pizza worthwhile. If you don’t like pizza, they also served smaller hot snacks like calamari and aranchini. You can view the menu on offer at the event here. For one dollar extra all pizzas can be made on a gluten-free base. Of course you can also sample one or more of the wonderful flavours of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream which can be purchased at the snack bar.

Ladro Gamberi Pizza

Ladro Gamberi Pizza

You can hire deck chairs and bean lounges on site, but it is still a good idea to bring your own picnic blanket and perhaps an extra blanket if you get cold. Being the beautiful but moody-weathered city of Melbourne it would also be smart to bring along an umbrella or light, emergency raincoat, as we all know how unpredictable the weather can be. While cinema screening can be cancelled due to foreseeable bad weather (in which case pre-puchased tickets will be transferrable for another night) it is noted that screenings will go ahead during intermittent showers. So it’s always better to be prepared!

The Ben & Jerry’s Openair Cinema and it’s laid back, festival like atmosphere makes the perfect setting to catch up with friends and make the most of warm summer nights. Check out their website for more information, session times and booking information.  Don’t forget its only on for three weeks so get your friends together and organise those tickets soon so you don’t miss out!

 

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Dining Review – Gelato Messina Gelateria Melbourne

I think it’s fair to say Melbourne’s excitement for gelato has just increased at least 3 fold. I feel I can justify this because as a city we’ve recently been introduced to nitrogen gelato, we hosted the Gelato World Tour last month and this past week we finally reached the anticipated opening of Sydney gelateria, Gelato Messina which opened its doors on Thursday, 14th November.

The shop façade on Smith Street, Collingwood features a very modern, sleek and minimalistic design, with dark tinted windows and its name gilded in thin gold lines above the door, it would be easy to not notice this place if there weren’t such a long line of people stretching out from its front doors. I visited on Friday night, the day after it opened and the line wrapped down the outside of the store to the next door front, so were quick to snap up a spot in line before actually deliberating whether or not we were willing to wait in such a long line. However, it didn’t take long for us to notice the helpful implementation of crowd control that Gelato Messina had in place. That’s right, this gelato bar needed crowd control. Gelato Messina would be no stranger to long lines and eager crowds, I have heard that the enthusiastic masses that flock to their Sydney stores can almost be compared to the level of hysteria that would normally be saved for tween girls at a One Direction concert. However, their highly organised method of handling the line was great. There was one gentlemen who had the task of who working his way down the line, handing out menus and pointing out the flavour ‘specials’ of the day as well as guide the flow of traffic into the store at a reasonable time.

Gelato Messina Store Exterior

Gelato Messina Store Exterior

I applaud Gelato Messina for their well organised crowd control outside their store, but once I made it to the front of the line (I am going to say it took about 10 minutes maximum) I was shocked at how quickly the atmosphere turned to a manic free-for-all where waiting to be served became an entirely different story. I was directly in front of the window encasing the high pillowed mountains of gelato where behind it stood a dozen employees in cute Breton striped tops. I was patiently waiting to be served but ended up being numerously ignored as ice-cream servers gravitated towards the most pushy, forceful, demanding customers first, despite order of arrival or length of time spent patiently waiting. So, after my experience, take this lesson from me; once it’s your turn to order, speak up, smile and be quick to lock eyes with the next available server to rein in their attention like a lasso wielding cowboy before you get trampled on or pushed back by overly brazen folk.

Gelato Messina Interior

Gelato Messina Interior

You are certainly spoiled for choice when it comes to flavours at Gelato Messina which gets another favourable tick for the number of variety and level of creativity when it comes to their flavour assortment. A full listing on the regular flavours on offer can be viewed online, as well as their top 10 flavour combinations. They also Gelato Messina won first prize in the Gelato World Tour with their ‘Cremino’ flavour – salted caramel gelato with Italian meringue, gianduia fudge, fresh meringue and crushed amaretti biscuits. Once I spotted this the Specials menu, I was sold. I also tried the ‘Pannacotta with Fig Jam and Amaretti Biscuit’ and what I learnt to be another extremely popular flavour, their ‘Gianduia Bianca’ – white chocolate & hazelnut gelato with hazelnut praline, pictured below.

3 scoop gelato cup at Gelato Messina

3 scoop gelato cup at Gelato Messina

Gelato Messina were thoughtful in their approach to cater to a variety of customers and specific dietary requirements. The menu’s helpful addition of the allergy checklist ensures to state which flavours contains nuts, gluten, egg, or alcohol and in addition to their indulgent ice cream selections, the menu also feature a large selection of refreshing, dairy free sorbets. They are not shy to promote their use of high-quality, fresh ingredients and this was further promoted though the design of a glass window through to their kitchen where you can watch the gelato masters churn their confectionary creations. Also look out for their cabinet of gelato cakes. I did not get to try one but they look incredible! You can see their full range of cakes online.

Gelato Messina Cake Cabinet

Gelato Messina Cake Cabinet

I found the prices were reasonable, but for the length of effort it took to order my gelato I was not settling for one measly scoop or limiting myself to sampling only one flavour (by that I also mean I apologise I do not remember the price of 1 scoop!) but at $6 for 2 scoops and only one cheeky dollar extra at $7 for 3 scoops, you can easily be persuaded for going all out and you won’t regret it later. What really makes the gelato so special is not only the unique and hyperventilating level of exciting flavour combinations. Although the flavours sound decadent and rich to the possible point of being overpowering, the gelato has such a surprisingly delicate texture and incredibly soft, smooth, buttery consistency, juxtaposed to the luscious explosion of taste bud frenzy it produces. They could have been a little more generous with their servings and the ultra-soft consistency caused it to melt in rapid time, resulting in all the gelato combining into one soupy flavour surprise. That being said, it was one amazing treat, Gelato Messina really does serve a superior level of quality gelato and I dare say that if you decide to make the trip here, I can guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Gelato Messina 

237 Smith Street, Fitzroy.

Sunday to Thursday 12pm-11pm
Friday to Saturday 12pm-11.30pm

Gelato Messina Fitzroy on Urbanspoon

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Melbourne Darling’s Top 5 Picks for the Queen Victoria Wednesday Night Market

The Queen Victoria Night Market is back to excite your Wednesday night plans from now until the end of Summer. But before you race on down and make a bee line for the spiral fries like everyone else, read my wrap up of the top  5 things to do at the Wednesday Night Market this season:

1. Hammer and Tong’s Soft Shell Crab Burger

Last week I reviewed Hammer and Tong and their ever popular contribution to Melbourne’s gourmet burger scene with the Soft Shell Crab Burger. Well firstly, I advise you make the first thing you do when you arrive at the Night Market is to pinch yourself a table early, while you still can. I find the Night Market only gets busier and busier each year and the later the night gets, the increasing number of people flock to the dining areas and begin their hunt for a seat.  So before you go exploring the market stalls, I suggest you find a table with your group first and eat early in the evening.

That being said, if you were looking forward to trying the Soft Shell Crab Burger for yourself, the Wednesday Night Market is a great opportunity to do so. Hammer and Tong’s market stall is especially dedicated to pumping out those delicious burgers all night, so you’re getting the same delicious meal as you would if you were to order it in their restaurant, but for a few dollars cheaper too!

Hammer and Tong Soft Shell Crab Burger at the Night Market

Hammer and Tong Soft Shell Crab Burger at the Night Market

2. Vintage Hub

Among the sea of regular market stalls at the Queen Victoria Night Market – cheap sunglasses, handmade soaps, band t-shirts and jewellery - coconut watches anyone? This year it was refreshing to see the addition of the ‘Vintage Hub‘. Hosted by Vintage Garage, The Vintage Hub is a cluster of stalls selling an assortment of all things vintage from pre-loved and reworked clothing to retro homewares. Check out Grandma-Funk for her one-of-a-kind collection of vintage European leather patch jumpers and Vonruby for a gorgeous Vintage hairdo and makeover.

Vonruby

Vonruby Vintage Hair and Makeup at The Night Market

 3. Live Music

Your perfect summer evenings at the Wednesday Night Market are made complete with festive tunes hosted by Multicultural Arts Victoria. Each week features a selection of the diverse mix of performers. From my experience, some bands are extremely funky and engaging and will invite the crowd to get up and dance. A couple of sangria’s later and you may just be more than eager to get up and join them! You can view the full program of gigs for the 2013-2014 season here.

4. Dessert

After all that walking and talking (and perhaps after the last point, some dancing too?) you would have most likely worked up your second (or third) appetite for the night, and with so many exciting and exotic variations of food on offer, you’d be glad you did! There are so many food stalls you are bound to find something to tickle your fancy, but if you are having trouble deciding, try the Creme Brulee or Lemon tart macaron from Macaron De Paris, the Dutch Pancakes or the French Crepes (just look out for the giant tubs of Nutella)

Macarons from Macaron De Paris at The Night Market

Macarons from Macaron De Paris at The Night Market

5. Sangria!

It just wouldn’t be right if you didn’t put Sangria on your list of things to do at the Night Market! Not only do Running Bull Sangria offer a red and white wine variety, but they now have a couple of stalls set up around the market space, so you can sip on your fruity wine mix whilst browsing the market stalls in delight until…

oh! Whats that? You’ve finished your cup already and you’re already on the other side of the market by now? Oh look! There’s another sangria stall conveniently located two stalls down! And on it goes…

(Or for a non alcoholic sipping treat, try the original Lemonade stands instead!)

Running-Bull-Sangria-at-The-Night-Market

Running Bull Sangria at The Night Market

The Queen Victoria WednesdayNight Market

Every Wednesday night from 5pm-10pm

November 6th – February 26th (excluding December 25th & January 1st 2014)

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Ask Melbourne Darling: Bachelorette Party / Hens Night Ideas for Melbourne CBD

Hi Melbourne Darling,

A few friends and I (aged late 20′s early 30′s) want to organise a fun filled hens night for our work friend who is getting married in October. We’d like a fun girl’s night out, but want to keep it classy. We’d like to start in the CBD for dinner and then head out for drinks and dancing (the bride to be likes RnB). Any recommendations will be really appreciated! Also any suggestions of what we can do to make the night a memorable one will be great.

I think there some great options you can choose from in the CBD for a fun (but classy) girl’s night out on the town for your friend’s Hens Night.
Wherever you choose to go for dinner, because there will be a group of you, I strongly suggest you choose a restaurant where you can book a table in advance, as a lot of popular restaurants in the city usually have a no booking policy, so I haven’t suggested many of these, as unless your group is extremely patient, you will not want to spend the majority of your night lining up for dinner!
I’ll  provide suggestions for three places, restaurants, cocktail bars and clubs. I think going to different venues is an exciting change of scenery and hopping from one venue to another becomes a bit of an adventure in itself to make it an exciting night! But don’t worry, I’ve tried to keep the places fairly close to each other so they are as stiletto friendly as possible!
Please note I have provided links to the Urban Spoon website entries for all restaurants and bar locations, as I find you get a more honest judgment of the venues through the reviews and votes on Urban Spoon, as I’ve been to most of the places noted, I haven’t yet written a review on my own blog about them all yet! All Urbanspoon entries also have links to the venue’s official website.
Here are my suggestions:
Restaurants:
A wide range of different cuisines, depending on the preferred tastes of your friends, please note that calling at least a week before hand to secure a booking is ALWAYS advised…
(Popular Asian eatery)
(Thai food, similar to Chin Chin, also do great cocktails)
(Mexican food, festive atmosphere, similar to Mamasita but take bookings)
(Asian fusion cuisine, again, similar to Chin Chin, delicious cocktails!)
Cheaper options:
(great Japanese sushi train venue, small intimate space, you may be seated on a bar setting ie. not facing eachother as a group, so if you don’t mind that its a great, fun place with delicious food!)
(Authentic modern Italian and pizza restaurant)
Gingerboy. Image Via.

Gingerboy. Image Via.

Cocktail Bars:
I like to suggest girly cocktail bars for Hen’s nights, because a girly night out is what Hen’s Nights should be all about!
All gorgeous venues, and full of yummy cocktails! The Emerald Peacock is notorious for being strict on entry so it’s always good to have a back up option, just in case!

Madame Brussels. Image Via.

Clubs:
Younger crowd (18-28)
Modern Rnb and Hip Hop Music
Live Jazz / Soul band playing before 11pm
Guestlist recommended ($10 entry charge before 10pm, $15 after 10pm)
Contact Nathan on 0431 237 553 for all your guestlist needs or group packages at Club YoYo.
Older crowd (25-35)
Mix of dance music
Guestlist recommended
Cover charge (generally $15)
Older crowd (25-35)
Very pretty and elegant venue (used to be a bank!)
RnB music and Top 40
Guestlist recommended
Cover charge ($15-$20)

Silk Road. Image Via.

That being said, I’ve some of these options together a couple of suggested itineraries to help you plan out your night:
1.
Restaurant: Sakura Kaiten Sushi or Gingerboy
Then
Cocktail Bar: Lily Blacks or Madame Brussels
Then
Club: Spice Market

 

2.

Restaurant: +39 Pizzeria , Red Spice Road, Cookie or Touche Hombre

Then

Cocktail Bar: The Emerald Peacock or Seamstress

Then

Club: Key Club

 

Here is a link to a Google maps I created to help you see how close each place is to one another and help you plan your night.
Place the below link in your browser to access it:
In addition to that,  I think a good combination of delicious food, exotic, girly cocktails and lots of dancing will be a perfect Bachelorette Party / Hens Night for the modern cosmopolitan woman! There are always little things you can do as a group if you want to make the night a little more fun. For example, your group could all wear a matching accessory ie. a playful beaded necklace or bracelet. It doesn’t even have to be a typical flashy, borderline tawdry piece, it could all just be the same cute but inexpensive cocktail ring or wearing the same flower in your hair or flower crowns (visit Colette, or Lovisa for some cheap and chic pieces) for a nice alternative to a hot pink flashing sashes or tiaras. Alternatively, if you did want to incorporate small games into the night, it could be as simple as getting the bride-to-be and or/ guests to try an exotic food item or making the bride-to-be hold the cocktail menu and closing her eyes, she must order and drink the first cocktail her finger lands on!
Hope these suggestions assist and inspire you in planning your fun and memorable night!
Love,
Melbourne Darling xo

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Dining Review – Lip Cafe Burger Night

Lip Café is one ever busy little spot and a dear favourite amongst loyal locals for a very good reason. The next time you are in Ivanhoe, do yourself a favour and bypass the main strip of Upper Heidelberg Road and head straight to Lip Café. Located amongst a small shopping strip on Waterdale Road, this café is small in size but large in what it has to offer in delicious and high quality food and coffee.

Lip Café are usually open for breakfast and lunch, but recently they have been hosting ‘Burger Nights’ on Fridays from 5.30pm to 8.30pm. I came in one Friday night to try the burgers, as Lip is already a dear favourite spot of mine. I visited at about 6.30pm, there was no table service for Burger night, so you can take a look at the menu by the counter and order there. I am guessing this is the case because of the large amount of takeaway orders the kitchen was pumping out all night! Despite this, I found the service to be prompt and generally good.

I tried the ‘No.1’ (cheese burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, tomato sauce and mustard), the ‘No.2′ (double beef patty and cheese with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, tomato sauce and mustard), the ‘Pulled Pork’ (8 hour slow smoked pork mixed with barbeque sauce and coleslaw) and the ‘CFB’ (Vegetarian burger – corn and chickpea fritter with avocado, tomato salsa and chipotle sauce). I was pleasantly surprised to hear that all burgers are also made on house made brioche buns. We also ordered a large serving of chips of French fries to share and for drinks, I ordered a ‘Pineapple Fizz’ (a mixture of pineapple juice with soda, lemongrass, mint and ginger).

These burgers were the most non-greasy burgers I have ever eaten. They weren’t overly massive (excpept the No.2 was quite a large serving), but are the same size as you find at other gourmet burger bars around Melbourne,  however they were on average a few dollars cheaper than other places ($11- 15 dollars as oppossed to $17 +). The No.1 and No.2 burgers tasted exceptionally fresh, there were no single overpowering flavour, they were just authentically tasty burgers where you could taste each of the fresh ingredients along with the perfectly medium cooked patties and the brioche buns were soft without being too overly buttery or oily. The Pulled Pork burger was wonderful also. The pork was heavenly tender and juicy. I particularly enjoyed the full flavoured, smoky barbeque sauce that brought back food memories of the barbeque dishes I had tried on my travels in the U.S. The Vegetarian burger was equally as delectable as its meaty counterparts. The corn fritters already features on Lip’s daily menu, so even if you miss out on attending one of the Burger nights, I can highly recommend the fritters! The spicy and zesty fIavour combination of the fritters, the salsa and the chipotle sauce is brilliant. I also like that the fritters are not overly fried or crispy, the consistency is more similar to a Japanese pancake. Even if you’re not a Vegetarian, you won’t be disappointed with these fritters, and I personally prefer them over Hammer and Tong’s ever popular vegetable fritters too!

I really enjoyed the Pineapple fizz. I usually don’t like super bubbly or fizzy drinks, but with the mixture of the juice with the soda, as well as the ginger, mint and lemongrass, the Pineapple Fizz was a perfectly refreshing and tangy beverage to accompany the filling burgers. Amongst this high level of amazing food (and drink!), I will say that the French fries were pretty average. I didn’t find them to be anything special. They were quite cheap ($3 for a small serve of $5 for a large) but I would recommend skipping the fries and if you still have room left over, order the dessert instead! I didn’t get to try the pie, but it looked pretty good!

Lip Café only has two burger nights left! TONIGHT, Friday 8th November and Friday, 15th November, 2013.


I already know I want to return before Friday Night Burger Nights are officially over, so make sure don’t miss out and head down to Lip Cafe tonight or next Friday night!

Pulled Pork Burger at Lip Cafe Friday Burger Night

Pulled Pork Burger at Lip Cafe Friday Burger Night

Fries-at-Lip-Cafe-Burger-Night

Large Fries at Lip Cafe Friday Burger Night

Lip-Cafe-Interior-Burger-Night

Interior at Lip Cafe Friday Burger Night

No.-1-burger-at-Lip-Burger-Night

No.1 Burger at Lip Cafe Friday Burger Night

No.2-Burger-at-Lip-Cafe-Burger-Night

No. 2 Burger at Lip Cafe Friday Burger Night

Pineapple-Fizz-at-Lip-Cafe-Burger-Night

Pineapple Fizz at Lip Cafe Friday Burger Night

Lip Cafe

226 Waterdale Rd,
Ivanhoe, 3079
9499 1162

Hours:

Monday – Saturday 8am – 4pm

Sunday 8am – 2pm

 

Burger Nights:

Friday 5.30pm – 8.30pm

 

Lip Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Dining Review – Hammer and Tong 412

I had been particularly looking forward to dining at Hammer and Tong 412 after reading and hearing about the multitude of glowing reviews it has received from many happy diners. Some even claimed it was the best brunch they had ever had! The result of a partnership between two prominent chefs who created a partnership after working at Vue de Monde together, Hammer and Tong is located just off Brunswick Street, at the rear of 412 Brunswick Street to be precise, which is across the road from Brother Burger and the Marvellous Brew and just behind Karton, the cardboard furniture store. The main entrance and seating areas overlook Westgarth Street, so unless you know specifically where Hammer and Tong is, you would most likely miss it as if you were just strolling down Brunswick street.

Hammer and Tong 412 is open from 7am til late Tuesday to Saturday and 8am til 5pm Sunday, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. When I arrived the café was already bustling for an early morning. You may recognise the bright, white interior which previously housed the restaurant ‘The Brix’ in a bright, very long and narrow setting where each square centimetre was used to fit in as many tables and chairs as possible (probably more of an issue for staff having to walk through the tight walkways all day than for patrons). We were seated quickly on a share table, luckily we didn’t have to move but I did feel sorry for the other party next to us that were made to do a couple of reshuffles each time the staff tried to fit a few more diners onto our share table. If I were to eat here again, I would recommend sitting by the windows if you don’t mind sitting adjacent to your fellow diners, as the bar seating that ran across on one side of the café was directly under open windows, which was lovely on a sunny day.

Our waiter provided us with menus and proceeded by immediately asking us if we would like to order coffees. Now, is it just me or do other people also get annoyed when they are asked for their coffee order as your backside barely hits the chair, let alone having been able to possibly even sneak a quick glance at the menu? I like to take a look at the beverage menu first and see what coffee blends they have on offer in addition to other drinks. Yes, I may be a caffenatic, but I can still function for two whole minutes to read the menu before I crash without a morning coffee. I was happy to find out that Hammer and Tong use Duke’s Coffee, but found it odd that they charge a small but never the less, additional charge of 50 cents to choose the single origin blend as usually there is no additional charge for this option.

Hammer and Tong feature two menus, a daytime menu and dinner menu. We were offered the daytime menu which featured some really interesting items including the ‘yabbie tail omelette’, ‘duck egg’, ‘pork belly’, ‘lamb ribs’ and their take on the ‘french toast’ all sounded like interesting choices but we couldn’t go past the Soft shell crab burger and corn & zucchini fritters, both which had a been majorly talked up by diners before me. I don’t think I have ever eaten a burger pre-noon before, but having heard the praise for this soft shell crab burger, I had to give it a go.

The food was served extremely fast, especially considering how busy the café was. I will admit that plated up, the soft shell crab burger appeared a little underwhelming, small and sloppy. I know it’s a burger, but in comparison to the delightfully presented fritters, maybe the presentation of the burger could’ve been helped with a small side or at least a skewer to help hold it upright and look a little more appealing. Luckily however, all hope was not lost as the taste test considerably saved the appeal of the coveted Soft Shell Crab burger. The crab meat was delicious and substantial and the brioche buns were extremely soft and buttery. In all, the burger featured a fantastic combination of flavours that tasted succulent and juicy. I’ve had beef and pork burgers but this is definitely the best seafood burger I have ever had (and actually a worthy competitor to my favourite beef and pork burgers also).

Soft Shell Crab Burger at Hammer and Tong 412

Soft Shell Crab Burger at Hammer and Tong 412

On the other hand, the fritters ended up having the opposite effect to the burger. While they was presented very well, the fritters themselves were a little bland and dry. They possibly could have done with a more corn, less zucchini ratio, as I felt the zucchini didn’t translate too well in the fritter. It just ended up tasting like a dense, bland and dry stuffing. The fried coating was also a little too thick, oily and hard for my liking. However, that being said, the dish did taste good, but I believe this all came down to the winning accompaniments of the manchego cheese, avocado and chilli tomato relish that really created that delicious pop of flavours.

Zucchini and Corn Fritters at Hammer and Tong 412

Zucchini and Corn Fritters  (without egg) at Hammer and Tong 412

Prices were average for what you’d expect for the increasingly popular breed of oxymoron dining variety, what I like to refer to as the ‘fancy casual ‘ eateries, or hipster eateries if you will. Service was quick and to the point (although maybe some better planning would have prevented the case of musical chairs I spoke about earlier). The coffee was good, although not as good as Story in Docklands who also use the same, Dukes coffee. The Soft Shell Crab burger was definitely the highlight for me, but I also enjoyed the interesting ingredients that starred on the menu, the bright sun room and the buzzing atmosphere.

Coffee at Hammer and Tong 412

Coffee at Hammer and Tong 412

Hammer and Tong 412

03 9041 6033

Tuesday – Saturday 7am – late

Sunday 8am – 5pm

Rear 412 Brunswick St.
Fitzroy, Vic 3065

View menu online

Hammer and Tong on Urbanspoon

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Roule Galette French Crêperie – Dining Review

It’s said that there is a little piece of Paris can be found in Melbourne if you were to head to the ‘Paris end‘ of Collins Street. Well I am here to debate that claim because I just had a wander down a little Melbourne laneway off Flinders Lane that I found to be très bohème and très Parisien. Scott Alley and the laneway across from it, Manchester Lane are fine examples of the cutest little laneways you can find hidden amongst the Melbourne CBD. Manchester Lane is where you will find hip new not-for-profit cafe Shebeen (which I can’t wait to try for myself!) and Lady Petrova, a store akin to a Polly Pocket pastel wonderland filled with one of a kind designer pieces handcrafted by fashion designer and store owner extraordinaire Petrova (whom you might recognise from the 2008 season of Project Runway Australia).

Across from this store is a quaint little French crêperie lined with colourful lights and a wooden facade called Roule Galette. Upon being seated we were greeted by a French gentleman who provided us with menus and water for the table. The menu was extremely extensive for a crêpe place and there was an extensive selection of sweet and savoury options in addition to a list of extra toppings you could add to your selection as well as a specials board. I will point out that it is worth reading the entire menu as we found it quite entertaining to see some of the names and descriptions of menu items possibly a little lost in translation… For example, goat’s cheese just doesn’t have the same appeal when it is translated literally from French to ‘goat dung’  and some descriptions in attempting to come across as poetically descriptive just ended up sounding a little odd, for example;  ‘where fresh strawberry prepared by my grandma flirts with the whip cream’, ‘where vanilla ice cream meet with melted chocolate under a rain of almonds’ or ‘where hot chocolate try to come in a pouch full of whip and ice cream’. But owners of Roule Galette, if you are reading this, please do not change these adorably funny descriptions in your menu, we loved it and felt it added to the authenticity to the foreign roots of the place, as though the crêpe store was freshly plonked here in a Melbourne laneway straight from the streets of Paris. To complete the romanticised European atmosphere, we could even hear the sounds of a jazz band floating through the night air. Well played Melbourne, very well played.

Roule Galette Exterior

Roule Galette Exterior

The staff we encountered at Roule Galette were entertaining and accommodating, happy to make alterations to the menu items. I ordered ‘The Piaf’ crêpe from the specials board with toppings including caramel sauce, bananas, almonds and ice cream. The waiter was friendly and jovial, serving my order but not before asking me if I knew who Piaf was and jokingly telling me I had to sing one of her songs before I could have my food (don’t worry, ears were saved that night and I was actually served my meal without having to belt out Non, je ne regrette rien). The crepe was beautifully presented and tasted delicious and decadent. The crepes were soft and with a nice, even consistency which I was thankful for after a recent visit to Breizoz French Creperie in Gertrude Street where the crepes looked fantastic but tasted what I imagined to be like eating paper thin crunchy autumn leaves through mouthfuls of air… not good.

Piaf Crepes Special at Roule Galette

Piaf Crepes Special at Roule Galette

On my visit I was dining with a large group of and staff had no problems when we had an extra few people join us later, and we didn’t feel any pressure to pay and leave right away. This is the cutest little place to wander to after dinner in the city for a scrumptious dessert. The crepes I had at Roule Galette were the closest thing I have so far found to the authentic French crêpes I encountered in France and I am so glad to now know of this sweet little spot. Collins Street can keep its ‘Paris End’; Manchester Lane and Scott Alley are my little pockets of Paris in Melbourne!

Roule Galette on Urbanspoon

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Frolic Yoghurt Fitzroy – Dining Review

When the trip to Yo-Chi was too far and the line at N2 was too long, I headed to Frolic Yoghurt Fitzroy for a fro-yo fix on a hot night. Self serve frozen yoghurt bars have recently been popping up across Melbourne like the rising popularity of those brightly coloured clay bead necklaces everyone is suddenly wearing.

Gossip Girl Fro-yo on the Met steps. Image Via.

Gossip Girl Fro-yo on the Met steps. Image Via.

I first came across self serve fro-yo spots in New York and if anyone watched Gossip Girl you’d certainly be familiar with Queen B ordering her mignions to fetch her favourite fro-yo treat. The stores generally follow the same set up, yoghurt is self serve, followed by the opportunity to add your choice of toppings. The price is determined by the weight of your yoghurt creation, where possibilities are only limited by your creativity and your budget. That being said, don’t forget about that last factor before you go crazy with flavours and toppings only to have the cashier hit you with a double digit price, because its not fro-yo etiquette to ask if you can take some yoghurt out! My advice is that if you’re not sure what the price is coming too, you can always start off with less rather than more yoghurt and ask an employee to weigh your cup before returning to add more if you wish.

Frolic Yoghurt Fitzroy is the second Frolic location in Melbourne (the first store is located in Camberwell) and it follows the same traditional setup. The aspect I most liked about Frolic was that while the toppings table included your usual chocolate and nut varietys including chocolate chips, lollies, M&M’s, Reece’s Pieces, almonds, and hot chocolate sauce, (where adding the element of heat makes all the difference) they also added a good dose of fresh fruit amongst their selection.On my visit they had caramelised bananas, rhubarb sauce, strawberries and lychees added in the mix and they didn’t overdose on Popping Boba / Tapioca Pearls / Caviar on steroids / artificial flavour balls I’ve seen at many other fro-yo locations that try to mimic the flavours of a burst of fresh fruit. Frolic had a good flavour selection of yoghurt to choose from, including coconut, strawberry, vanilla, chocolate and vanilla chai, which tasted exactly like a hot cross bun to me, so if you love a punch of cinnamon then you’d enjoy this flavour. I do want to go back and try their salted caramel with figs flavour which sounds delicious! Although at $2.20 per 100 grams, I thought the price was a little steep, considering this selection came to over $10.

My Frolic Creation - Strawberry, Chai and Coconut yoghurt with caramelised bananas , strawberries and hot chocolate sauce

My Frolic Creation – Strawberry, Chai and Coconut yoghurt with caramelised bananas , strawberries and hot chocolate sauce

The interior was bright and youthful and the late night opening hours will be handy for summer, so if you like your frozen yoghurt bars and don’t want to head out too far (or wait too long) than Frolic isn’t a bad choice.

Frolic Interior

Frolic Interior

Toppings Bar at Frolic

Toppings Bar at Frolic

Yoghurt Self Serve at Frolic

Yoghurt Self Serve at Frolic

Frolic Yoghurt Fitzroy on Urbanspoon

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The Lab Nitrogen Gelato – Dining Review

Walking down Bourke Street in Melbourne’s CBD I had to do a double take when I walked by a store that claimed to serve nitrogen gelato that didn’t appear to be N2. I was surprised to see the presence of nitrogen gelato spots in Melbourne suddenly double before my eyes!

On the surface, The Lab looked to me like a hastily put together rip-off of N2, trying to get in on the sudden trendiness of nitrogen gelato. The Lab featured the same concept as N2, the same science lab set up, staff wearing white lab coats and protective eye wear, and a display of empty glass beakers. The Lab featured the same black walls and uninviting, slightly awkward seating area (though in defence of The Lab, at least they actually had tables and chairs, albeit a limited number of them and there was no AstroTurf in sight.) They were also a little more technologically adoptive with their menu displayed on screens above the counter, but the menu phrasing ’1 scoop = $6, 1 serve = yumminess’ sounded all too familiar. The first time I saw this place I walked past with my nose in the air thinking ‘Ha! Imposter! You are no N2!’ But the second time I walked past a week later I thought, ‘Well until I’ve tried it myself, who am I to judge!?’ It’s only fair.

The Lab Menu

The Lab Menu

The Lab

The Lab

The menu offering was not as exciting as N2. On my visit the flavours on offer included ‘Milky chocolate with homemade brownies, Black Sesame, Salted Caramel Popcorn, Raspberry and Yuzu Sorbet and Ice Lemon Tea Sorbet’. I went with the Salted Caramel Popcorn. There were a handful of people inside the store, staff were friendly and the wait time was not long at all. The ice-cream was presented well, with popcorn dotted on top of the ice-cream and finished off with a swirl of caramel sauce. The taste test was where the Lab could have really made me ‘eat my words’ with my snooty comparisons of it to N2, but unfortunately for The Lab, I stood corrected. The ice-cream had a wonderfully smooth consistency but it lacked flavour and tasted horribly artificial. The cute looking toppings also didn’t help when it came down to the ‘crunch’. The caramel sauce was sickly sweet and overly runny and the popcorn tasted stale and nasty. I felt sympathetic for the guy who ordered before me, as while waiting for our order, he turned to me and said ‘I keep hearing about how good nitrogen ice-cream is, so decided I just had to try it!’ But after I tasted The Lab’s contribution to nitrogen gelato in Melbourne I felt like running back to find that man and reassure him, ‘it’s not all like this, I swear!’

Salted Caramel Popcorn at The Lab

I don’t mean to be too harsh, it’s not the worst ice-cream I’ve ever tasted and if you were like that gentleman in line before me who was new to the concept of nitrogen gelato, you would still find it exciting and intriguing to watch your ice-cream being prepared and suddenly appear out of a cloud of smoke. But just as N2 would not survive long term based solely on the novelty factor of nitrogen gelato, (the difference is their exotic and mostly amazingly delicious flavour combinations like their outstanding Crème Brûlée) once the novelty appeal disappears, The Lab’s ice-cream just does not cut it for me.

However, The Lab’s convenient city location is an advantage and if their menu changes weekly, hopefully they start to serve some more enticing flavours. I’d give it another try in a few months, as I think that would be the true test to see whether they are just trying to cash in on the sudden hype over nitrogen gelato or if they are actually serious about serving good quality ice-cream.

The Lab

188 Bourke Street,
Melbourne

(03) 9077 5354

Open Monday – Sunday, 12pm til late

The Lab Nitrogen Gelato on Urbanspoon

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