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To celebrate the end of a week at my new job we decided a few drinks might be in order… This lead to an epic night of noms and Melbourne In Winter treats….

To start, we met at Henry and The Fox on Little Collins Street.  It was here that we decided the night was right for mulled wine, served in coffee cups and surprisingly good value at $5.00 a pop!  This was perfect to warm the cockles and to brace us for heading back out into the cold Melbourne air to walk down to New Quay at Docklands where fireworks happen on Friday nights until the 29th August.

Mulled wine from  Henry & The Fox

Mulled wine from Henry & The Fox

After walking across to Docklands, we joined the crowds gathered at New Quay to watch the fireworks which started at 7pm.  Due to school holidays it was pretty crowded but it was great and you could see the residents in Docklands lining their balconies to watch the show.  It’s also a fabulous spot to have them as the fireworks reflect in the buildings around the dock.

Once the show was over, it was time to find food and on the tram ride back to town it hit us that we hadn’t gone back to Hardware Lane to the ” place we had awesome dessert” so we quickly jumped off the tram and headed to Il Nostro Posto.   Now, if you aren’t from Melbourne, Hardware Lane is amazing, there’s always a great vibe, there’s a range of amazing restaurants and bars and there’s nearly always live music.

Hardware Lane

Last night was no exception, with a great trio on piano,drums and sax to serenade us.

Il Nostro Posto serves traditional Sicilian fare and their food is to-die-for.  We were squeezed in and despite long waits for the food (due to a huge group they had that night), it was worth the wait.  We ordered gnocchi with scampi, the lamb shanks and for dessert, their panacotta and cannoli filled with ricotta.  All of this was washed down by a lovely bottle of chianti – the winning dish of the night was a dead tie between the oh my god gnocchi and the panacotta…..

It was a night of spontaneity, but proved that Melbourne, even at it’s coldest is still amazing.

Over the past few months, I have been meaning to blog about several places I have stopped to eat. So in effort to be efficient, here is a quick summary of three of those places.

Seven:am at 155 Bay Street in Port Melbourne is a great little cafe with a fabulous piece of string art on the wall.  We stopped here for a quick breakkie and were pleased to find great coffee and equally great food on offer.  Pictured here are two of the offerings that we tried: smash 3.0  – avocado with walnut & feta pesto, rocket & lemon on multi-grain toast and the poached egg special with chorizo.  Seven:am is a great and popular spot for brunch and will be a return visit for me for sure.

Chilli Express is a tiny “hole in the wall” at Melbourne Central on the ground floor in a laneway sandwiched between Chilli Padi and Max Brennar.  We have walked past this a number of times and the amazing smells have always had us wanting to stop.  And so we did, and we gorged ourselves on dosas – south Indian thin rice pancakes.  It is always busy, you may sometimes have to wait for a table but I promise it is worth it – the food is fabulous and if you are looking for great Indian food in the city at a great price, this is your place. (Try the saag, it is delicious!!!)

And finally, Acustico is located at 32 Union Street Brunswick, right next to Jewell railway station.  My visit to Acustico was another catch up with the lovely Marnie and was her suggestion (she finds the BEST places) and it proved to be very much a Brunswick style cafe.  It was quirky, fresh and there’s a great space to the rear of the cafe to eat, chat and relax.  On the day I tried the carpaccio which was great and the coffee, FairTrade Expresso Syndicate was moreish.  This place is a must visit if you are over Brunswick way.

After months of being insanely busy, I finally got to have lunch today with the lovely Marnie (or “she of Brunswick Booteh” fame).  We met at East Elevation on Lygon Street in East Brunswick – a fab cafe housed behind a red door which is extremely popular with locals.  It was another of those places I had been meaning to go to and Miss M had told me that she had never had anything but awesome noms there – and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

The interior is fabulous, all exposed brick and beautifully lit and the space is shared with the chocolate factory Monsier Truffe.

For lunch today I chose the Smoked Sardine Fillets with Pickled Tomato, Radish, Watercress and Artichoke and Miss M ordered the Hot Smoked Ocean Trout and Quinoa Salad.  Both were amazing (there may have been some ” you HAVE to try this”, “no YOU have to try THIS!!” going on.)

And just because I have a dessert stomach, I managed to squeeze in a slice of cake – something of purple carrot and cream cheese origin.

The entire time we were lunching, a steady stream of hungry patrons moved in and out of the space – the place was impressively busy for a Monday late lunchtime.  East Elevation is very busy on weekends (judging by my drive-bys in the past) but would be well worth the wait and I will certainly be going back again very soon!  East Elevation is located at 351 Lygon Street East Brunswick.

Today was a great day.  I have been hearing about the soon to be opened Cat Cafe and have been following them on their Facebook page.  Through this, I found out that they were looking for volunteers to spend time with the cats that reside at the cafe. After shooting an email off last week, I was excited to hear from the owner inviting me to come in today.  The concept of the Cat Cafe is based on similar set ups overseas where patrons can have a coffee/food in the cafe and spend time with some lovely cats.  The Cat Cafe is located in a beautiful old bluestone building on Queen Street that was formerly a restaurant and once the renovations and fit out are complete, is sure to be a beautiful space.

There are a couple of very important points to make.

  • All of the cats are rescue cats from shelters that have been adopted and are extremely friendly.
  • The owners have the support of local regulatory bodies such as local council and follow strict health guidelines.
  • The owners, Myles and Anita are lovely, passionate people who you can tell genuinely love animals.
  • This project has been a long time in the pipeline and the cats will have a wonderful environment to live in.
  • In the best interests of the cats at the Cafe, the owners have made the decision that children under the age of 8 years will not be allowed to enter the cat space.  This age limit is to ensure the safety of the cats as well as babies and young children as some of the cats would become frisky during play or if startled.  Parents with children 8 years and over will be asked to closely supervise their child.  I have to say, I really respect them for making this decision as it will not be without criticism for some and I think it is a very responsible choice to make that the cat’s comfort and children’s safety comes first.
Just one of the rooms at the soon to open cat cafe

Just one of the rooms at the soon to open Cat Cafe

Having volunteers come in during this initial set up period not only frees Miles and Anita up to work on the renos for the cafe but also to expose the cats to new people and introduce them to interacting with them.  Today, I got to play with the cats and to talk to Anita about this wonderful business.  Anita told me that not only were local animal control bodies very supportive of this idea but that they had shared that they hoped this would provide a solution to a problem they were encountering where international students and short-stay residents in the inner city areas get a cat as a pet and then dump it when they leave Melbourne. Anita shared with me that animal control bodies have reported that some people simply leave the pets in the empty apartment or communal areas when they leave expecting that someone else will take on the animal and at times, tragically, these pets aren’t found until they have died due to lack of food and care.  This horrified me, and like Anita, I hope that people having the opportunity to interact with cats without having to get a pet may stop this happening.

The cats I met today were wonderful.  There was a mixture of breeds, ages and personalities and being able to just sit there and play with cats was great fun.  Some of the personalities are already clear – there’s Burma who is a beautiful burmese who wanted nothing more than to park on a lap and stay there; Lotti, who was the life and soul of the party and a very pretty kitten;  Lopez the energetic and cheeky Bengal cross; Braveheart, the one eyed kitten who is a big snuggler and Sherlock who could give SamHasEyebrows a run for his money – and that’s just a few of the beautiful cats at the Cafe.

Kitty Heaven

Kitty Heaven

I am already looking forward to my next volunteer session where I can play with these lovely rascals and can’t wait to see Anita and Myles’ cafe open.  It will give many people the opportunity to interact with animals who may not be able to have pets at home and will give these gorgeous cats the love and attention that they may not have received if they had not been adopted.

now I feel like the Pied Piper

now I feel like the Pied Piper

Late in 2013, I stumbled across Zumbo – Adriano Zumbo’s latest patisserie in South Yarra.  And it was seriously a stumble, I looked across the road and saw it and was drawn in by the lighting.

ImageNow you will have all seen Adriano and his insane desserts/pastries on television, and I have always wanted to try them out.  I have heard about long lines outside the Sydney store to buy macarons and was surprised that there were only several people there.  Admittedly, it was only a couple of weeks after opening and being in a side street in South Yarra, the foot traffic was limited.  I am sure this isn’t the case now and that it is well-known and gets a hammering.

The interior is like Willy Wonka meets Xanadu; electric pink neon and melted candy furniture in a riot of colour;  and then there’s the cabinets.

ImageI was particularly fascinated by the shiny glaze on the fondants/cakes.  The photos don’t do them justice – in person they are even more beautiful to look at.

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Every item is a piece of art.  Seriously beautiful,edible art.  And then there’s the macarons he is famous for in a myriad of flavours – known as Zumbarons! The photo below is of about a third of the Zumbarons on offer.

ImageFinally, after dithering for quite some time, I settled for a Salted Butter Caramel Zumbaron and a Strawberry, Wasabi and Green Tea Zumbaron.  These macarons are amazing… there is no other way to describe them and whilst the wasabi one wasn’t quite my cup of tea I am glad I tried it.  The salted caramel one, well, there was much eye closing and swooning as I was nomming on it.  This is definitely a place to visit, and will be a place I take my out-of-town friends when in Melbourne!

Zumbo is located at 14 Claremont St, South Yarra and is open Monday to Sunday from 7:00am – 7.00pm (or until sold out).

Friends of Ours – a review

It’s been a long time between posts…. but I am back, in a way, and today I got some inspiration from a great little cafe in Essendon Village – Friends of Ours.

This was a “lets find somewhere for breakfast” whim and I am so glad we stumbled on it. From the caged chandelier to the pull down specials roll, the decor is pretty funky.

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Loved the signage on the kitchen window :)

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So today, it was  “The Bomb” – poached eggs, sourdough toasted topped with smashed avocado’s  bulgarian fetta, tahini &  dukkah (sans eggs and with bacon instead with no problem to cater for my fussiness!), and The Sunday Morning Cure – turkish bread, melted cheese, ham, poach eggs and homemade hollandaise sauce.  Both were a great size (not stupid large) and a fabulous balance of flavours – I think I am now a dukkah addict.  On a whim on the way out  I grabbed a box of homemade muffins for the girls at work which were probably the nicest muffins I have had in a longgggggg time!

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photo 4(7)Apparently there is also a Friends of Ours Restaurant down the road which I think might get a look in at some stage but for now I think I can safely say I have found a new favourite place for breakfast!!!!

This is not a recipe for someone who is trying to control their cholesterol via diet choices.  It is evil personified but damn it tastes good and whilst the process is a little involved, it’s a relatively easy recipe to prepare.

photo 4(1)

Ingredients

  • Eggplants – 2-3 large ones
  • 3 eggs
  • Breadcrumbs (gluten free if you prefer)
  • 2 x bottles of Passata
  • One bag of baby spinach leaves
  • Oil for frying
  • 1 tub of marscapone
  • Pecorino or Reggiano cheese
  • Grated mozzarella cheese

Method

  • Slice eggplants into rounds approx 2-3cm in thickness
  • Egg and breadcrumb each slice and set aside onto a separate plate – I find it easiest to set up a production line  like the picture below (but then again, I am completely OCD)

photo 1(5)

  • Once all slices are crumbed, start to fry off eggplant slices until golden brown on both sides.  The eggplant does not need to cooked through as this will happen in the oven later.
  • Place fried eggplant onto paper towel to remove excess oil
  • Now start to assemble in a lightly greased oven tray.  Start with a layer of eggplant followed by passata then fresh spinach leaves.  Drop dollops of marscapone on the top (this will melt through as the layers cook) followed by your hard cheese (pecorino or Reggiano) grated on top and finish with light sprinkling of grated mozzarella

photo 2(6)

  • Repeat layers until tray filled
  • Top with heavier layer of grated mozzarella and cover with foil.
  • Cook in a moderate oven for 45-50 minutes removing the foil for the final ten minutes to brown the top.

Serve with salad…….  And a glass of red…… and possibly a defibrillator machine

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