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Espresso Alley

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Espresso Alley

5 Separation St

Northcote Victoria 3070

Hours: Tues – Fri 7am – 4pm, Sat – Sun 8am – 4pm

Espresso Alley sits right opposite Northcote Shopping Centre on Separation Street, in a refurbished house with a deceptively small shop front which accommodates 5 bike posts, for those inclined to bike it.

Full of natural light and fitted with a mezzanine level, the illusion of space works in Espresso Alley’s favour. For those on the lower level of the cafe, it gives a whole new meaning to “looking up” to the coffee machine.

With the food-prep area proudly located in the middle of the cafe, the piadinas, tiramisus and vegan-friendly friands are displayed for all to see.

The quirky tables were a highlight for me, simple wooden tables given a lick of black paint with silhouettes of various food-related implements left bare and a clear lacquer applied over the handiwork. I guess the Vinces Mazzone & Colosimo, or their decorators, have a good eye!

Food-wise, they’ve stuck to a short, simple menu which includes toasties, somethingh I consider an entirely underrated cafe food.

I chose to have smashed avocado on toast, a personal favourite of mine. My avo was mashed to the perfect consistency of “smashed”, smooth enough to spread chunky enough that I can spear a hunk of avocado should I choose to, the cheese was salty and herby and perfect and the mixture was worked through so I couldn’t throw anything out.

The only letdown was that my toast was slightly burnt around the edges and difficult to cut through due to over-toasting.

In their defence, I did rock up far too early on a Saturday morning (8.30am!) on a 39 degree day.

They take great pride coffee-wise, with the barista personally coming out with my cappuccino in order to apologise for the “slight bubbles”. Apparently it’s calving season and they’re giving the cows a different feed, leading to more bubbly milk (?).

I didn’t mind. The (Coffee Supreme) coffee was fantastic overall and if the cows don’t want to cooperate,  I’m not one to shoot the barista.

Overall, I’d go back. It’s very early days yet and I can see potential.

Written by Becca Z

April 2, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Syracuse

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23 Bank Place, Melbourne

Phone 03 9670 1777

Hours: Mon-Fri: 7:30am til late
. Sat:           6:00pm til late

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Syracuse is a delightful little wine bar hidden away in an old Victorian building in Bank Place. It’s one of those places I’ve walked past a gazillion times without even noticing it. Despite google-mapping it before I got there, I still struggled to find it on my first visit.

I took the delightful M there for her birthday in July (yes, I am very slack with these posts), so forgive me if these items are no longer on their ever changing seasonal menu.

As you walk through the arched doorways in Bank Place, it feels as though you are transported to Europe. This small dining room is nothing short of grand, with soaring ceilings, pillars and arches. There are racks and racks of wine, which allude to the fact that this is a place which takes their wine seriously.

The wine list is extensive, and well thought-out, with a good mix of new and old world wines. We ordered a bottle of Domaine Wachu Gruner Vetliner – an Austrian wine varietal that I am a huge fan of.

The menu consists of some wine snacks, some sharing plates and only a few mains, all chosen undoubtedly with an emphasis on food that may be enjoyed and enhanced by wine.

We begin with

A spanner crab remoulade, which consists of delicate pieces of spanner crab with a tart creamy sauce, topped with a boiled egg. A nice refreshing way to begin our meal.

Next was the pig’s head, which was one of the specials of the night. I had images of chunks from the head (hey – I’ve never had pig’s head before..!), but in fact it seemed like little morsels of fried almost creamy meat. I’m not sure how it was prepared, but they were yummy, and if you hadn’t have told me it was pigs head, I would have been none the wiser. These worked well with the little fried quail eggs they were served with.

We also had mussels which were cooked with chorizo – adding a nice smokey spice to the dish. The sauce was promptly soaked up with the bread.

Overall we had a great night, I love this little bar – good food, good wine, how can anyone complain.

I have since revisited, however I only had pitiful photos from my phone camera, but the experience was just as good.

Jess’ Rating

Taste: 8. Food is very rustic, prepared well.

Value: 8.

Ambience: 9.

Service: 7.5.

Overall: 8. A hidden gem in Melbourne. I rate it.

 

For other reviews, check out petit-miamx, Mel: Hot or notI’m so hungreeeee and spatula spoon and saturday.

Syracuse on Urbanspoon

The MSG does Sydney – Ryo’s, Klink and Menya

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While the Melbourne vs. Sydney rivalry will probably never die, I do occasionally visit our northern cousins and revel in the things that they do lord over us. We may have better coffee, bars, arts, sport, character and various particular cuisines, but unquestionably, Sydney has its fine dining scene, beautiful harbour, beaches, Thai food and ramen to lord over us.

Here is but a smattering of the places I visited in Sydney that I feel like writing about.

Ryo’s

125 Falcon St
North Sydney NSW 2060, Australia
(02) 9955 0225
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Ryo's on Urbanspoon

You may be familiar with our hunt for the best ramen in Melbourne, and while I’m still a huge fan of Ramen Ya, Sydney has us beat on the ramen front. Ryo’s Noodle was pretty amazing. The place is tiny and not easy to get to if you’re based on the other side of the harbour, but the ramen was authentic, delicious and full of glorious chashu. The tonkotsu broth is very much on the salty side, and they do have less saltier options, but I found the saltiness pleasant and not overwhelming. This place is surely a must visit, quite possibly the best ramen in not only Sydney, but Australia.
Alex’s Ratings
Taste: 9
Value: 9.5
Authenticity: 9
Ambience: 7. Small, cramped, long lines and backless seating, but what can you expect?
Service: 7.
Overall: 9.

Klink Handmade Espresso

281 Clarence St,
Sydney NSW 2000
0415 118 505

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Klink Handmade Espresso on Urbanspoon 


Klink is a tiny place located in a fairly cool art gallery in Sydney’s CBD. I actually recommend you check out the art gallery as well, it has some interesting modern pieces, but I’m no art expert so I can say little more about that. As for Klink, I love the place itself and felt very comfortable there despite the hated backless bar stools they use. The place seats about 10 people, it’s that small, but very interestingly designed. There’s a window next to the coffee bar which dominates the space and is used for takeaways. The other dominant element is the massive wall of mounted empty coffee sacks, from various different green varietals. The machine is a 2 (or 3? I forget) group La Marzocco and the coffee is roasted by The Golden Cobra, who I believe are run by an ex-Campos guy. The coffee wasn’t amazing. It was drinkable, but nothing approaching the quality of Mecca Espresso or The Source. But the staff are super friendly and even remembered me from one visit, which I find quite impressive. All in all, a pleasant place that’s somewhat different and with drinkable coffee. Why not?

Alex’s Ratings:
Coffee Taste: 7
Ambience: 8.5. This would be 9 if not for the backless stools.
Service: 9
Overall: 7.85

Menya
Shop TG8, 8 Quay Street,
Haymarket NSW 2000
(02) 9212 1020
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Menya on Urbanspoon 


MOAR Ramen! Menya in fact has three outlets – Chinatown, CBD and Circular Quay – and I selected one that was both convenient and fairly highly regarded. The place has an entirely different feel to Ryo’s. Ryo’s felt secluded, familyish, cosy and authentic whereas Menya felt professional, a business-style churn out of ramen with a snappy girl at the front desk and a tendency to herd diners into the massive communal tables that comprise most of the restaurant’s space. Needless to say, Ryo’s was a much more pleasant experience.
The same goes for the ramen. While Menya also provided a quality tonkotsu, the chashu just wasn’t as good as at Ryo’s and neither was the broth as falvoursome. Having said that, Menya could still compete with the best ramen joints in Melbourne and probably be superior to all of them except for maybe Ramen Ya, so that makes it well worth a visit.
Alex’s Ratings:
Taste: 8
Ambience: 5. Cramped, herded like cattle, backless benches at an overcrowded communal table. This is Sydney at it’s finest. No discernible quality or attention to detail in the design either. But hey, it was clean!
Service: 6. Impersonal, snappy and fast.
Value: 7.5. Still can’t beat such great ramen for a lunchtime meal.
Authenticity: 7.5. The place seemed far more authentically Chinatown than Kyoto but the tonkotsu was solid.
Overall: 7.5. Wouldn’t make it if not for the taste, which is what matters at the end of the day.

Spring Lazy Grazing @ The Commoner

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In Winter, I had thoroughly enjoyed Melbourne Food and Wine’s Put Victoria on your table Roast Collection festival, so when I was excited when I saw that to wave good bye to the winter blues, Melbourne Food and Wine was putting on a Spring Graze festival.

Full listing of events.

The event that most appealed to me was the Saturday Lazy Grazing at the Commoner.

“Join us at The Commoner for Lazy Grazing in September in the form of plates of beautiful seasonal Victorian produce to share with people you like.
Celebrate Spring and the best that Victoria has to offer. It has been an awfully long winter… Why don’t you say goodbye to it in style….”

When Lunch every Saturday in September.

Cost $55.00 Food cost per head

I had been to the Commoner a couple of years ago and had been extremely impressed. I’m not sure why it took me so long to go back, because my memories of the place were of fantastic food  and  exceptional service.

We nestled into the small but very homely little cafe. I love the way the place is fitted out, with exposed brick, heavy wooden tables and random yet thoughtful trinkets and tools adorning the walls and shelves.

It doesn’t feel like you’re at a restaurant or cafe, it feels more like you’ve entered into someone’s home.

The waitress began by asking us if there was anything we didn’t eat – to which we all shook our heads.

One of the many reasons I love these friends – we all love our food and we’re not picky.

We started with a lovely bottle of French wine – a  2009 Bernard Defaix, Petit Chablis which was recommended to us by the waitress. It went down surprisingly well considering we had all been out for A’s birthday the night before and we were all somewhat a little worse for wear.

The first course –

Boccerones - Sicilian white anchovies with sweet pepper, aioli and parsley

These were delightful. After we had all shaken our heads to our lack of dietary requirements, M exclaimed that she didn’t eat anchovies. I normally would say I don’t eat anchovies either, as I hate the fishy salty flavour of standard anchovies.

These however, were not your regular anchovies – they lacked that yukky unappetising fishiness, rather – they were really light and delicious. It was complimented well with the aioli and the perfectly roasted sliver of capsicum. A simple, yet perfectly executed dish – a nice refreshing way to began our meal.

house bread

The house bread was toasted and very moreish and came served with olive oil and toasted sesame.

smoked cod dip, mount zero olives, roasted spring vegetables

Our second course – the smoked cod dip was wonderful, and the spring vegetables which included baby carrots, spring onion, asparagus and red onion were perfectly executed.

To quote A “Who would have thought that carrots could taste so good”.

house black pudding, potato tortilla

Onto our next course – the house black pudding.

Black pudding is one of those things that can be hit or miss. Being a sausage made out of blood it is very easy for this dish to be overpowering. Black pudding is something I very rarely order because it can often have a very strong ‘iron-y’ flavour to it, though I am always game to try it, particularly at great eateries because when done well it can be fantastic as it was at Attica.

This specimen certainly did not disappoint – lightly pan-fried to perfection to produce a crisp crust encasing insides which had a wonderfully smooth texture – so smooth it seemed almost like pate.  This paired well to the tortilla, which despite being potato based was not heavy at all.

Pan fried semolina gnocchi, fresh peas, broad beans, goats curd

The next course was probably my favourite – the  gnocchi was delicious, again pan-fried to create a perfect crust,  and resting above a cloud of light fluffy goats curve and sprinkled with fresh peas and broad beans.

The goats curd was neither heavy nor stinky, but light and delicious, and my god were the peas good. I’ve always enjoyed peas – but so rarely eat fresh peas (I’m not sure why!). They had the perfect texture, and just ‘popped’ in your mouth when you ate them. When I was a child I loved peas, particularly the peas in snow-peas, but I hated the pod they rested in, so much to my father’s horror I would suck the peas out, then put the pod back. Thankfully I’m a little older and a little less picky now. The broadbeans were also delicious – I thought I hated broadbeans! but I think I just hate dried broadbeans which are salty and yuck.

roast lamb served with house yogurt

And onto our main course – and another bottle of wine – the 2008 Pennyweight Shiraz from Beechworth.

I’m not a huge fan of lamb, so when I have a lamb I enjoy I’m always impressed.

This one was amazing, perfectly cooked to pink perfection, but the ribs were the star. Seriously, so so good. The house yogurt perfectly complimented the lamb, which was also served with a spicy harissa which gave a wonderful kick and roast jeruselum articles cooked with rosemary.

jeruselum artichoke, harissa

tangerine tart

Our final dish – we each received individual tangerine tarts which consisted of pieces of tangerine resting on custard encased in perfect pastry. And by perfect, I mean perfect. This is the best tart pastry I have ever had, it was thin and wonderfully crispy, such that we could hit the pastry with the back of our spoons and it would crack! And it tasted amazing – not overly sweet, but simply perfect. The custard was light and smooth and whilst I didn’t love it, everyone else in our party loved it.

chocolate coated candied grapefruit

To finish off, we were given a few pieces of candied grapefruit which had been covered in dark chocolate.

A wonderful meal, we all left very satisfied and extremely pleased. Excellent value for only $55, it was the perfect way to spend a lazy Saturday.

On the bill – our meals were listed as “Feed me.”

I love this concept of letting the restaurant take the reigns and just being fed. I was recently called a control freak by one of my friends – maybe sometimes I am a bit bossy when it comes to where and what we eat – though I do love giving restaurants free-reign to just “feed me”. Provided the restaurant is deserving ;).

The commoner do something similar for Sunday dinner I believe – I can’t wait to try it!

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Jess’ Ratings

Taste: 8.5. Food was delicious.

Value: 8.5. You’d be hard-pressed getting the quality of the food for what we did for $55. Events like these at restaurants are generally great value.

Service: 9.0. Personable, but not in your face. Nothing to fault.

Atmosphere: 9.0. Great little dining room, like I said earlier, it really felt like you were in someone’s home.

Overall: 9.0. Love it. I’ll make sure I won’t leave it another two years before I return.

122 Johnston Street, Fitzroy

Phone: 03 9415 6876

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Hours: Wed-Fri Dinner 6:00pm-Late
Sat-Sun  Lunch 12:00pm- 3:00pm
Dinner 6:00pm- Late

Written by glutamatejess

September 17, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Cafe Vue @ Heide

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Heide

7 Templestowe Road
Bulleen
Phone: 03 9852 2346

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Day: Tues-Fri 10am-5pm,  Sat-Sun 9am-5pm
Dinner:                      Thurs-Sat 6pm-9pm

Catching up with the lovely ladies, we decided to try the latest addition to the Vue family –  Cafe Vue @ Heide, the museum of Modern Art, tucked away in the eastern suburbs.

We opted for the Menu du jour which gives 2 courses $35, or 3 courses $45.

(We didn’t actually have a choice – we booked a table, booking ensures you have to order the menu du jour. If you take your chances and just rock up, then you can order a la carte from the cafe menu, which is a little more inexpensive).

The three of us decided to go entree + main, and bypass dessert.

Menu du jour for July was a entree choice of

Pearl Barley Risotto

duck and pistachio terrine

The risotto was perhaps a little too ‘al dente’ for my liking, but that’s more my preference than the way it was cooked. It tasted fine, however a little too ‘healthy’ for my liking, like brown rice.

The duck and pistachio terrine looked fantastic, the flavours were good but lacked depth in flavour.

For mains, choices were the

skate salad

which was slices of tender skate  served ontop of mousselines of pomme purree, roasted baby beetroot, fennel, olive oil, fennel and capers
or

lamb ragu with pappardelle

The skate was cooked to perfection, with generous slices of tender fish. However, although this dish had nice clean piquant flavours, witch each individual component being perfectly cooked, this dish lacked a certain ‘je-ne-sais-quoi’. It looked amazing, texturally it was perfect, with the nice bite from the skate, the crunch from the fennel, the tender beets  and the perfectly smooth pomme purree, however it just didn’t wow me.

Similarly with the ragu. The pasta ribbons were cooked to perfection, the dish again looked amazing, but it lacked depth of flavour. The sauce was slightly watery.

Having said that, it was overall a very pleasant experience. The cafe is charming, with big open windows, the crockery delightful and the service was faultless. The food is by no means bad, but it just lacked a ‘robust-ness.’ Definitely keen to return and see what else they have on offer, and also to have the famed Café Vue Lunch Box.

Jess’ Ratings

Taste: 6. The flavours were almost there. It just needed to go to the next level.

Value: 6.5. $35 is a tad pricey considering the standard of the food. However, the ingredients used were of excellent quality. The cafe brunch menu is excellent value though.

Service: 8.  No problems with this.

Atmosphere: 8. A great place to spend a lazy weekend afternoon.

Overall: 7. I’ve been to the other Cafe Vues and have been more impressed with the food. I’m just going to put it down to the menu not suiting my taste. Definitely will return.

Written by glutamatejess

August 12, 2010 at 12:22 am

Mitte

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Mitte

76 Michael St (cnr Rowe Street)
Fitzroy North
Ph: 9077 7379

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Hours: Mon & Wed-Fri 7.30am-4.30pm
Sat-Sun 8am-4.30pm

Located in the sleepy Fitzroy North, it is hard to believe that Mitte is only a stone’s throw away from the bustling Brunswick and Smith Streets of Fitzroy and Collingwood. Mitte is hidden in the back streets, and is a charming neighbourhood cafe. Much can be said about a cafe that is hard to find yet is full to the brim.

Winner of The Age Cheap Eats 2009 breakfast of the year, the breakfastblog claims these are the best poached eggs in Melbourne.

I ordered;

Poached eggs with Smoked Salmon - $18

Splitting a poached egg and watching the yolk ooze out from poached eggs to me is as visually satisfying as hearing the ‘crack’ when you break the burnt sugar topping in a creme brulee. This dish did not let me down, as these eggs, perfectly poached, once I put knife and fork to them released a delightful bright yellow stream of yolk.

perfectly poached eggs, oozing yolk

The eggs sat atop a couple of slices of Dench multigrain bread, with a generous serve of smoked salmon and an apple and fennel salad and a dill creme fraiche. A delightful way to start the day.

Potato and Chorizo Omelette - $15.50

C ordered the omelette as above, and I stole a taste. Nice flavours in the omelette, and again, visually very appetising. The homemade relish was delicious.

Jess’ Ratings

Taste: 8. Good, clean flavours, making use of fine, fresh produce. Didn’t blow my mind, but not much to fault.

Value: 7.5. Not cheap, though nothing is in Melbourne these days. Though the smoked salmon poached eggs were relatively pricey for brekky at $18, I got heaps of salmon.

Service: 7. Typical trendy hipster cafe. Service is not overly friendly, but not unfriendly.

Atmosphere: 8. Love the cafe, small, but high windows allow lots of natural light coming through. Cafe has a relaxed, lazy feel to it.

Overall: 8. Good breakfast in a nice cafe. Can’t go wrong. Try it!

For other reviews; breakfastblogBreakfast outepicure


Written by glutamatejess

May 28, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Demitri’s Feast

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Demitri’s Feast

141 Swan St
Richmond, 3121
(03) 9428 8659

Hours: Tuesday – Sun, 7:30am-5:00pm
Breakfast until 3pm

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So, I visited the Age Cheap Eats 2010 winner for the Best Breakfast Place in Melbourne 2010.

I love the Philosophy as stated on their website.

Greek food by a Greek guy
made with Melbourne’s freshest, seasonal, organic and free range products”

It was extremely busy, as the Demitri’s Feast had just been crowned the title for The Age Cheap Eats 2010 Best Breakfast last month. Fortunately the wait wasn’t too long, and we managed to secure a seat in the charming courtyard garden out the back.

How cute are the stools – made from olive oil tins! Clever, cute and environmentally friendly.

My dining companion ordered

Scrambled Eggs w. goat’s cheese feta and oregano roasted tomatoes on toast $13.5 (with extra bacon)

This consisted of a luscious pillow of scrambled eggs,  wonderfully soft and creamy, topped with herbs and fetta and sweet juicy roasted cherry tomatoes, still on the vine. All this lay on top of sourdough toast from Dench. I would say this dish gave me massive food envy, though as L pointed out, you can’t get food envy when you practically eat the whole thing. It was so delicious I think I ate more of it than she did.

I ordered the

Zucchini Fritters w. free range bacon, and oregano roasted tomatoes $14.5

Unfortunately, my dish could not invoke anything like  the dreams of floating in scramble-heaven that L’s dish could. The fritters consisted of grated fresh zucchini and fresh herbs (dill and mint I believe). The flavours were ok, however, texturally, the dish was gluggy and dry, and simply unpleasant to eat. The fritters were also very small, and served with bacon which was overcooked (L’s were cooked fine) and less tomatoes. It really needed something else on the dish that was moister, like poached eggs, cheese,  relish, or even butter. It really did not need the bread as it was already too dry. A real disappointment, I put part of it down to the cafe being very busy and struggling to cope, hence overdoing the dish.

Taste: 7/10. Massive thumbs up for the scrambles, points off for the fritters. Can’t wait to try the baclava french toast that everyone raves about.

Authenticity: 9/10. Simple, but good Greek food by a Greek guy. Showcasing some hearty home-cooked style Greek food.

Ambiance: 9/10. Love the philosophy, love the concept, love the use of recycled goods, from the tins converted into stools to the cardboard menus. Real family ambiance.

Service: 9/10. Fantastic. A bit slow, but the staff were extremely attentive and apologetic for the delay (which wasn’t any more than what one would normally experience on a Saturday around lunchtime). Super friendly.

Value: Well priced for the scrambles, serving was large and quality was excellent. Fritters were small for the price. Coffee

Overall: 7.5/10. Can’t wait to go back and try the rest. Even though the fritters were supremely average, just goes to show that good service and great atmosphere really does make your food taste better.

Written by glutamatejess

April 7, 2010 at 1:33 am