Eat here: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, Melbourne (brunch).. and a visit to CJ Hendry’s 50 Foods In 50 Days

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink
8 Raffa Place Carlton, Melbourne


So, rumour had it this place could do a decent muffuletta, a sandwich particularly close to my heart; it was the first thing I ate in New Orleans, at Central Grocery. Theirs are reputed to be the biggest and best not only in New Orleans, but the entire universe. Never heard of them? You’re not alone; neither had I until I started researching this trip. You’re also going to hear a bit more about them tomorrow and see what their muffuletta looks like.. But first things first. The Vertue.

It’s tucked away behind a Shell petrol station around the corner of Lygon and Elgin streets, and it’s a gorgeous space; wooden floorboards, big open space with heaps of natural light, and gorgeous little touches like the little jars of flowers set on the tables and bench tops…


The next thing that stood out was the level of service; we were greeted as we rounded the corner off the street and into their little restaurant nook space. We were seated, handed menus, poured glasses of water, all with a real smile and a bit of a chat. I’ve said it before, but truly happy and genuine staff make the biggest difference in the highly competitive world of Melbourne’s cafes and restaurants. Top marks to the gentlemen who looked after us while we were there, you guys are awesome!

We went in assuming we’d just get a muffuletta each, but then we spotted the meatball sub on the menu and decided to get one of each and share them so we could try a bit of everything. The meatball sub ($18.00) was a little pile of delicious; pork meatballs in a brioche roll, with napoli sauce, jalapenos, provolone cheese and pancetta, with a side of golden onion rings, apple slaw and crispy sage leaves. Fantastic decision to get this one; the meatballs were perfectly cooked and had a great flavour, really well matched with the buttery brioche and the melted provolone. The onion rings were remarkable, and I loved the creamy slaw with the crispy sage leaves. Would more than happily go back for this again!


And then, the muffuletta ($16.00). Other than a few variations in the meat/cheese department and the bread (Central Grocery’s came on a round bun rather than rectangular, roughly the size of a car tire and sprinkled with sesame seeds instead of herbs; that said, I actually really enjoyed the herbed bread and thought it complimented to fillings particularly well), it was pretty good! Piled high with salami, smoked ham, capicola, provolone, gouda and olive salad, it was the filling, delicious sandwich that it should be. The only other big difference we noticed was that the olive salad was no where near as oily as the NoLa versions – you’ll see in the photo tomorrow how much the oil soaks through the bread at Central Grocery, which makes it a bit more of a “moist”/not as dry sandwich. Not saying one way is better than the other, they were both good, just different!

Yeah, it was a little different to the original, but as far as I know it’s also the only one in Melbourne, and a damn good sandwich. It took us right back to New Orleans, the little differences weren’t that big a deal because it still tasted right, and we both agreed we’d go back for more, especially when we feel a little nostalgic about our favourite city.

I wish I could say we were done, but we weren’t. With a few travel brochures and books we’d taken along to lunch, we decided to hunker down for a little longer, grab a coffee and tea, and start researching a new adventure. Also, the dessert window was calling to me. How could it not be?!


One of those incredibly lovely and very helpful staff I was talking about earlier saw me standing in front of the pastries looking a little unsure, and recommended his favourite – the salted caramel donut. Husband and I also love a good almost croissant, and these looked way too good to pass up, so we got one of those too. Great decision – the croissant was buttery and soft, amazing filling. And the donut. Well. That almost burnt salted caramel was the stuff sugar dreams are made of. This is why you should listen to the guys that work there – they know what’s worth spending your money and calories on!

IMG_8381I’ll be back for more, without a doubt; the food was absolutely on point, the prices were very reasonable for the quality and serving sizes, and the staff just made it. Get off the main drags in Carlton this week and hit up The Vertue of the Coffee Drink instead – even if it’s just for a coffee and a donut!

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink on Urbanspoon
We also took a quick stop through Gertrude Street on the last day of CJ Hendry’s gorgeous 50 Foods in 50 Days exhibition; this extremely talented artist took inspiration from an article about what prison inmates requested for their final meals, and then proceeded to draw 50 foods in 50 days on 50 Hermès plates with just a felt tip pen. Seriously. The attention to detail is beyond incredible – I’d never consider myself as someone with an appreciation for art galleries, but her work really blew me away. If you weren’t able to get to the exhibition, check out her work on Instagram – she actually documented her work day by day as she drew each piece, and it’s AMAZING!

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Eat here: Short Round, Melbourne (cafe)

Short Round, Thornbury


Ohhh its FriYay! Thank goodness! That means it’s basically the weekend already, which means it’s just about time for a sunny weekend brunch, which means happy days  : )  If you, too, are loving a good weekend brunch, here’s another one to try: Short Round in Thornbury. We don’t live too far from here, drive past it very regularly, and yet still haven’t been to try it out for some reason; last weekend, we finally decided to enjoy some breakfast there.


Look, another coffee photo! Amazing! Husband enjoyed it, by all accounts. I had the tea (duh, nanna), and it was actually really nice! I didn’t actually realise that Short Round have a surprisingly fabulous tea menu, which I was kicking myself for not having checked properly before ordering my English Breakfast. Great to know, because there aren’t a ton of cafes around that cater for the avid tea drinkers as well as the coffee addicts.

Breaky: I wanted the toasted coconut and macadamia, but cinnamon doesn’t agree with me, so that was out. I ended up going with an oldie but a goodie; poached eggs on toast with avocado. Don’t know where the bread came from, but it was delicious, the avocado was fresh, ripe and plentiful, and the eggs were, to my great pleasure, perfectly poached. Oozy, drippy, organically orange egg yolk porn. Happy.


Husband’s breakfast was the clear winner though: the brioche sliders with bacon and cheese scrambled eggs. Ummm…. WOW. I know everyone thinks they’re totally overrated, but I love a good brioche bun, and these were buttery perfection. The scrambled eggs were just right, the bacon could have maybe been a little crispier, but if that was the only thing “wrong,” you can see why it was so amazing! I was grateful for a few nibbles, I will order my own next time, I liked very much.

IMG_7889All up, a really nice breakfast, absolutely gorgeous space to enjoy it in, lovely staff, and a dessert display that made me wish my toast wasn’t so big. I’ll be back for those sliders and some cake!


Short Round on Urbanspoon

Eat here: Levain Bakery, New York, USA

Levain Bakery
167 W 74th St, New York

If you’ve been following me for more than a week, you may have noticed I’m a bit of a sweet tooth. It’s not my fault. I’m Italian. And I inherited it from dad. Uncontrollable. Anyway, I really love sweets. Unfortunately, I’ve also been pretty sick, on and off, for the past 12 months or so. Initial investigations have proven that my infant-lactose intolerance has returned, and my body also isn’t a massive gluten fan. Low FODMAPS investigations shall continue post holiday, in the mean time, I’m trying a bit of everything, sharing it all with the husband, and trying to note what I’m feeling crap after (this trip is kind of a last splurge for me, after much thinking and life analysing, I know I need to make a lot of changes after this trip, including my diet!). Chocolate and pastry is up there on the “feel shit later” list, but a sweet tooth can’t visit New York without trying a famous Levain cookie!

They do four types of cookies only, and they do them bloody well, which draws the well deserved crowds. When we walked in not long after opening time this morning, there was already a small queue, and the human traffic didn’t stop or slow up the whole time we were in there.

Because we hadn’t had any breaky before we got there, we grabbed a cup of tea each and decided to grab a pastry, too (they have a mouth-watering range on brioche/pastries/scones and what not to go with the cookies). The brioche with chocolate chips was rich, full of chocolate chips and really good.

The cookie I went with was the chocolate chip and walnut, the favourite of the people from what I gathered. Fresh out of the oven (the chocolate chips were still a little melty), it was every bit as perfect as the hype claimed; I’d struggle to think of another purchased cookie I’ve eaten as good as that one *slow claps it out* absolutely magnificent, wish my stomach could have tolerated another, totally worth feeling a little ill for!! Anyone else visited and tried the other flavours??

Eat here: Ascot Food Store, Melbourne

Ascot Food Store, Moonee Ponds, Melbourne


I love catching up with my friend E. She’s a no-bullshit, tell-it-like-it-is, hysterically funny, absolutely gorgeous, loyal to a fault kind of girl. She’s my best friend and one of the only people I’m always in the mood to hang out with. When she suggested a lunch date at the Ascot Food Store yesterday, I was pretty stoked. See, she works in the hospitality industry, and knows all the good places to eat at. I trust this lady. Off we went.

A gorgeous little house-turned-eatery, the Ascot Food Store is open daily for delicious breakfast, brunch, lunch, and sweet options. Headed by David Stewart (top notch bloke, formerly of Tender Trap), it’s managed to garner a reputation pretty quickly for amazing food, beautiful presentation and super friendly staff; now that I’ve finally managed to get there, I can tell you, believe the hype!

We both ordered the pork belly with fried egg, green mango salsa and peanut praline , which was as incredible as it sounds and looks. Tender pork, fresh salsa, crispy praline, creamy egg – it was all utterly perfect.


Then, because we’re damn pigs and can’t help ourselves, we also decided to try the brioche with spiced raspberries, strawberries, toasted macadamias, Pedro Ximinez syrup and creme fraiche. This was just wow. The brioche was the size of a house brick, unbelievable soft and melt-in-your-mouth. The berry/macadamia/creme fraiche combo was perfect. Don’t think there’s really much else that needs to be said – it was one of the best brunch dishes I’ve had in recent memory, to be perfectly honest, I could not fault it.


And not only does the food here taste incredible, as you can see, it looks stunning! Everything is presented deliberately and delicately, every element looking as though it was purposely and thoughtfully set in its place. There was also the option of indoor or outdoor seating, a fantastic beverage menu (heaps of tea options, which made me, a non-coffee drinker very happy), and brilliant, happy, quick service! I can see why this place is being touted as the new place to be, and I already can’t wait to head back again. Huge thanks to David and the lovely team there for making it such a great lunch!

Ascot Food Store on Urbanspoon

Eat here: The Breakfast Club, Melbourne

The Breakfast Club, Northcote, Melbourne


As promised on a recent post, I had to share my favourite breaky spot, The Breakfast Club. Located in Northcote, it’s tucked away from any of Melbourne’s typically busy breakfast suburbs like Fitzroy and Brunswick, which is part of why we love it so much. It’s a decent walk from our place, so we get a bit of much needed exercise on a Sunday morning as a trade off for our delicious breakfast. It’s also a really pretty walk down St George’s Rd..

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

Anyway, they have a little shop front on St George’s Rd, a gorgeous, homely little cafe inside, and a fantastic little hipsters-paradise corridor courtyard, our preferred seating area.

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

I’m usually pretty predictable and order the same thing for breaky here, the thick multi grain toast with poached eggs and avocado, but I decided to go something a little different today – the heirloom tomatoes on brioche toast with toasted almonds, mozzarella and olive oil jam (oh. my.)… light breakfast, but absolutely delicious!

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014


Husband tried the fried chicken and avocado sandwich – he didn’t rate it super highly as he said the bread got pretty soggy after the first few bites. Good flavours though!

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014


After breakfast, we usually hang around a while for a pot of tea and some cake – our absolute favourite is the lemon meringue slice. Biscuit base, silky smooth lemon curd, topped with chunky, chewy coconut macaroon… ahhhhh SO GOOD!!

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014


And with full, happy bellies, we pay the bill ($40 for all of that), and start the walk back home… We’ll be back next weekend!

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

P.S. Most of my pictures can be found on Instagram too – find me at @_jc_08_  : )


The Breakfast Club on Urbanspoon