MSG: The Melbourne Social Guide

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Posts Tagged ‘Cafe

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.

Auction Rooms

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Auction Rooms

103-107 Errol Street
North Melbourne VIC 3051
(03) 9326 7749

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Auction Rooms on Urbanspoon

Auction Rooms is a cafe that I’m quite familiar with as I’ve been going there regularly since its opening in 2008. Since then, it’s come a long way, both food menu and coffee roast-wise. Back in the old days, Auction Rooms (given that it occupies an old Auction House) used to have a very auction inspired menu with names of dishes such as ‘opening bid’, ‘counter bid’, ‘shady bid’, etc. These have given way to new dishes, some of which are much improved on the old ones. One of these newbies is the Smoked trout with a poached egg, and bubble and squeak. A delicious dish that has a rustic English flavour to the name but that is surprisingly elegant, despite perhaps a little too much olive oil. The richness of the trout doesn’t overpower the ‘bubble and squeak’, and the single poached egg seems to complement the dish perfectly.

Coffee-wise, Auction Rooms roast its own under the name Small Batch. They have two mini-roasters on site and one 12kg roaster off-site (but nearby) allowing them to play around with different blends and single origins quite a bit. I had a strong latte in their regular blend which was good, solid, with coffee cutting through the milk well and fairly balanced. I also had an espresso in their Costa Rican Finca La Pira which had a strong body of chocolate and malt, a very pleasant coffee. I’d like to add that the latte had a pretty decent rosetta in it, impressive latte art for a random pour served to a random punter.

All in all, I feel the Small Batch roast has come a long way since its inception and I was fairly impressed. If you haven’t been here yet, now is a great time to head over, these guys may well be doing big things and very soon.

PS. Check out our fellow food blogger reviews here and here.

Alex’s Review

Food Taste: 8/10.

Coffee Taste: 9/10.

Service: 8/10.

Ambience: 8/10. I’ve always been a fan of the whole exposed brick, warehousey, airy, wood-panel-based, roofbeam thing that Melbourne does so well.

Overall: 9/10. One of Melbourne’s best.

Coffee Culture – St. Ali Laneway Party & Latte Art Comp

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St Ali
12-18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne
(03) 9686 2990

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Sun-Tues 7am-5pm
Wed-Sat 7am-11pm

Coffee Culture in Melbourne is massive. Coffee  is an obsession to many, with coffee aficionados chasing every latest cafe to pop up in Melbourne. It’s a cult following that ensures that any cafe which produces an excellent coffee will not have an empty seat.  As Alex posted earlier, Three Bags Full had only been open a couple of weeks before we made it down and it was already packed out, and had been since day one. I think at one point they were even running out of beans. A cafe, specialising in coffee, running out of beans? Like, what the fuck?!

Alex, whom I fondly refer to as monosodium (much to his disgust) and I spent the first glorious weekend of February 2010, reveling in the the amazing coffee culture that exists in our truly wonderful city. It was a celebration of coffee, held in the tiny laneway that houses St Ali.

St Ali is one of the pioneers in bringing this new wave of trendy cafe/roasters which have been popping up all throughout Melbourne in the past few years. It is housed in Yarra Place and has been there for years but on February 6, 2010, the laneway was rechristened with a bang with graffiti artists painting all along its sides.

The colourful laneway was pumping, with DJs and a BBQ and even a bike race.

White rabbit was on tap

this one's my favourite

We followed this up with a latte art competition in the Sunday evening, with some of the best baristas in Melbourne pitting Slayer against Synesso (or at least their milk wands as all shots were put through the Slayer) producing some excellent pours, judged by the Australian latte art champion, Will Priestly.

what a great tshirt

Rosetta vs. Rosetta with hearts. Not bad for two random ad hoc pours.

the winner, the enigmatic Henry.

National Latte Art Champ Will Priestly schools us on how it's done.

A swan... and a massive tulip poured into a demitasse (machiatto cup), count those leaves! Nice one Will!

I thought I knew coffee, but Alex, assures me that I do not. Whatever. I love my coffee, but Alex knows his coffee. So I’ll let him have that. Coffee is his forte, booze is mine 😉 So, rather than offend MS by how little I know, I’ll just post some pics that we took of the weekend. Interestingly, our weekend devoted to coffee involved very little coffee drinking 🙂

Alex: it’s all a journey of discovery for all of us, there’s so much to learn about coffee. I’m just a n00b like everyone else.

But also check out this great post  this great post from Alvin with a photo documentary of the graffiti festival.

Written by glutamatejess

February 20, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Three Bags Full

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Three Bags Full
56 Nicholson St, Abbotsford
(Cnr Nicholson & Mollison Sts)
(T) 9421 2732

(PS. Don’t go to http://www.threebagsfull.com.au like I did, they’re suppliers and manufacturers of top quality sheepskin and equestrian products. Right.)

Three Bags Full is the new cafe from the team that brought you Liar Liar in Hawthorn and based on those credentials (and not much else it seems but word of mouth) some serious serious buzz has been generated. I’d been hearing stories about this place packing out regularly. Nick from Broadsheet had to wait for 20 minutes in line for a seat six days after it opened, no mean feat for a cafe. Even the baristas weren’t prepared for the smashing they received, and all this at a time when you wonder whether this city can accommodate yet another specialty coffee outlet (in an industrial style, as usual it seems). The answer to that wondering is a resounding, Obama-style YES WE CAN.

The cafe is decked out in what we’ve come to expect. Mazzer Roburs, 3 group Synesso, Pour Over cups/filters and a Clover (this is a bit of a coup these days, so difficult to hunt one down since the company was bought by Starbucks). The decor is the same industrial, warehousey, gutted old building feel that we’ve come to know and love from such usual suspects as Seven Seeds, Auction Rooms and St. Ali. The coffee menu features a selection that includes their house espresso blend and several single origins offered through either the Clover or by Pour Over, all roasted by WA-based 5 Senses coffee in Cheltenham.

Coffee-wise, to start I had a strong flat white in the house blend. It included some adequately executed latte art (nice to see that despite how busy they were, the barista was still prepared to serve me something that looked interesting). I’m not sure what milk they’re using but it was lacking a little in texture, the mouthfeel wasn’t as pleasant as with the milk used by Seven Seeds for example. Nevertheless, the espresso came through the milk ok and was pleasant and fairly well balanced.

The single origin on offer through the Clover was the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, a bean that most people who taste coffee would be very familiar with. A washed coffee, the one we tried was particularly light on body, and it was a little too much on the sour/acidic side for me with a lot of orange coming through in the aroma and flavour. Jamie, the head barista, let us preview some of the Sidamo (another Ethiopian bean) that they had sitting out the back, a dry processed coffee, this one was much more pleasant to drink, more full-bodied and with a lovely earthy taste to it with a hint of berries.

The food menu was pretty impressive, a full page for breakfast (all day) and a full page for lunch. I had the smashed avocado, served on bread with fetta and pinenuts pumpkin seeds, Jess had the cauliflower fritters with halloumi and kasundi. Both dishes tasted good but not perfect, I felt my avocado could’ve been a bit more ‘smashed’, there should’ve been more fetta and the pinenuts pumpkin seeds didn’t necessarily mesh well with the rest of the dish. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the kasundi, but that could be because kasundi isn’t really a breakfast thing for me.

Nevertheless, overall, an excellent start for Three Bags Full, a commitment to coffee, good food, good service and good design, something we’ve come to expect here in Melbourne from our cafes and something we’re increasingly getting more and more consistently.

Alex’s Ratings:

Food Taste: 7/10 still some imperfections with the execution but the menu looks great and as it’s honed over the coming months it should improve a great deal.

Coffee : 8/10 with considerations given for the varied menu, all executed quite well.

Service: 7/10 still a little on the slow side with food and the strain was definitely visible, but carried off well overall

Ambience: 9/10 a great fit-out, attention to detail with bright yellows adding some spark to the warehouse feel, and a variety of seating options including a communal table, individual tables, booths and even a small side room with a big table for a larger party.

Overall: 8/10


Jess’ Rating:

I love love love this place! In a beautiful building, I love the way they’ve fitted it out with a warehouse feel. The plants in the windows are a cute touch, and the teacup light fixtures are adorable.

I really enjoyed my cauliflour fritters, Alex doesn’t do tomato in the morning, I don’t do avo or cream in the morning – but my kasundi perfectly complemented the fritters and the whole dish truly did hit the spot created from a night of drinking too much.

Food Taste: 8/10. There were so many things on the menu we wanted to order! Loved my fritters.

Coffee : 9/10

Service: 9/10. I don’t mind slow service, provided it’s warranted. Each dish seemed well thought out and carefully placed together. Food cooked with love. The staff were super friendly too, and came over to chat to us more about the coffees they had on offering.

Ambience: 9/10. Like I said.. . love love love it!

Overall: 9/10

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