Eat here: BARRY, Melbourne (cafe)

BARRY, Northcote, Melbourne
http://barrycoffeeandfood.com/

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High Street, Northcote. Man, how it’s changed… I took dad out for dinner at Seoul Soul a few weeks ago, and he was amazed that an area that was so crappy when he was my age was now the place to be, full of quirky little hipster cafes and boutique stores, second hand bookstores and shops full of vintage tea cups and dresses. An area that you couldn’t have paid a young couple to live in 20 years ago is now completely unaffordable for said young couples. It’s one of my favourite areas of suburbia, starting up at Ruckers Hill (home of many a great food truck, like 1090 Burgers, and also home to this killer view of the city) and dropping down right to the end of High St where you’ll find Barry.

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I’ve been to BARRY a few times with my lovely best friend E, but hadn’t yet taken husband along. Thought it was time to fix that, so we took a recent weekend visit. When you go, expect a possible wait – BARRY is always busy! Don’t be put off by this – there’s a good reason for it.

They do an amazing breakfast, and the menu is full of fresh, healthy ingredients; lunch is much the same. Favourite dishes of mine include the Californian Superfood Salad (below) which I’ll most likely order again the next time I visit, because it’s amazing, and also cucumber & gin cured ocean trout. This time, I thought I’d try something a little different, dishes that weren’t quite so “health conscious”, and we ordered two dishes to share…

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Wagyu beef burger: with pickled cucumber, cheese and onion rings, plus chips and chipotle mayo ($19.00). This was surprisingly nice! It was a simple burger, soft bun, great cheese and absolutely loved the onion rings. The chips were the huge winner though – perfectly cooked, the best mayo I’ve had in a very long time; husband agreed.

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Eight hour lamb shoulder with pomegranate, mint, cumin labne, pickled onions and cauliflower rice ($18.00). The lamb was phenomenal – so tender it fell apart at the fork, the mint and pomegranate were perfect, and I loved the cumin labne! The cauliflower rice was a bit meh, but the rest of it was amazing.

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BARRY also makes a killer coffee, according to those in the know, as well as stocking a beautiful selection of cakes by the counter. It’s a big place, but always packed out, and the staff work like machines to ensure everyone is happily fed and caffeinated. It’s also consistent – I’ve eaten here numerous times, and the standard has never dropped, which I think is a big reason for BARRY’s continued popularity. Make sure you stop by for a damn good breakfast/brunch/lunch – it’s always delicious at BARRY!

Barry on Urbanspoon

 

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Eat here: Red Door Corner Store, Melbourne (brunch)

Red Door Corner Store, Northcote, Melbourne
http://www.reddoorcornerstore.com.au/

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Well if this isn’t the cutest little place in the northern suburbs, then I just don’t know… I think I’ve found another favourite cafe to add to my list! Self-described as a cafe/milk bar/corner store type neighbourhood set up, they’re doing the breakfast/brunch/lunch/coffee thing, and doing it bloody well. They have a few little tables set up out front, a beautiful indoor area, and a gorgeous little courtyard out the back; you really feel like you’re dropping in to an old friend’s place for a cuppa, which is a really good feeling to have particularly when you’re visiting an establishment for the first time!

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I absolutely fell in love with the decor inside – the beautiful, vintage baking utensils and equipment framed on the perfect white walls put a huge smile on my face and made me feel right at home (also made me wonder how I’d be able to make that look work in my own home… I’ll work on it).

Anyway, food. A friend (a fellow foodie) and I were overdue for a catch up last weekend, and thought it’d be a good opportunity to try somewhere we’d never been before, which is how we came to eat here. We both wanted a bit of everything, so we decided to order a few things and split them all, to maximise tasting ability and stomach space – great option! Here’s what we made our way through:

Cold-pressed fresh orange juice ($5.50) – yeah it was pretty pricey for OJ, but honestly it’s probably the best cafe OJ I can remember having. Worth it.

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We grabbed a potato rosti each ($4.50 each), because who can resist crispy potato? They were delicious, would highly recommend them and think they’d be a great accompaniment to your bacon and egg breakfast dish!

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Next up was the pulled pork roll with red cabbage and chipotle aioli ($10.00). This was a huge winner – the pork as incredible, super soft and very tasty, I really liked the aioli, and the bread from Dench was right on point. Would definitely order this one again!

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Lastly was a serve of the crumpets ($9.50). How could you not?! I think this is one of their signature dishes – the crumpets were clearly baked fresh, soft and fluffy and soooo good! The Myrtleford butter was incredible, so creamy. The honey was a big hit with my friend, and I loved the jam – one of the best I’ve tried! You can actually buy the jams to take home, which I think I’ll have to do next time. I’m also going to have to learn to bake crumpets!

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It sucked that we were so full from breakfast that dessert wasn’t a very intelligent option, because the dessert cabinet was absolutely magnificent… I’ll be back for cake. Multiple cakes, actually.

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So, if you live in the area, don’t make any excuses. Cancel plans if need be and make a breakfast or lunch or brunch date ASAP. If you don’t live in the area, it’s a beautiful little suburb, so get out there and eat some beautiful food. Also, the staff were so lovely – they were really friendly, were all smiling, and were very accommodating. It just added to that comfortable feeling and happy vibe of the place, and one of the things that’ll bring me back again 🙂

 

Red Door Corner Store on Urbanspoon

Eat here: Seoul Soul, Melbourne (Korean)

Seoul Soul, Northcote, Melbourne
http://www.seoulsoulgroup.com/

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Another delicious lunch with my best friend. She’s the one that put me onto Ascot Food Store and Nieuw Amsterdam, she knows her food, so no pressure when it’s my turn to choose somewhere to eat! I chose well this time with Seoul Soul in Northcote. I’d heard a lot of good things about this little Korean eatery, the second of it’s name, with the first having opened in Abbotsford. It’s a simple, industrial-type set up, high bench communal seating, and shiny metal chopsticks lined up and ready to go.

We ordered a serve of the deep fried prawn dumplings to start with ($6.00 for 4) and they were amazing. Really nice and crisp without that sickly deep-fried taste, the dipping sauce was fantastic too. Would definitely want to eat these again!

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Mains were dosirak, one each. The “meal buckets” basically entail your choice of protein (I went with teriyaki chicken, which was a bloody great choice), rice, and assorted other goodies including a spring roll and a mixed salad. At only $11.00, this is probably one of the best valued meals in Melbourne at the moment. The chicken was magnificent, tender and juicy. Tons of teriyaki sauce. Liberal serving of rice. Lots of other tasty bits and pieces in there too, which I loved. Already planning another visit to have this again. Seriously, one of the best things I’ve eaten (that didn’t break the bank) in quite some time.

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Melbourne’s northern suburbs are really stepping up the food game at the moment, and those of us who live in and around those suburbs are so very thankful. Amazing food at a reasonable price – not sure what else you can ask for! Well done Seoul Soul, I’ll be back.

Seoul Soul Plus on Urbanspoon

Eat here: Ascot Food Store, Melbourne

Ascot Food Store, Moonee Ponds, Melbourne
https://www.facebook.com/ascotfoodstore.com.au

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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.

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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.

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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: D.O.C. Pizza & Mozzarella Bar, Melbourne (Italian)

D.O.C. Pizza & Mozzarella Bar, Melbourne
www.docgroup.net

I’m Italian, and proud of it. Yet, as you may have noticed, I rarely frequent Italian restaurants. Why? Because I find it really hard to find good, I mean really, authentically good Italian food. I know there are some beautiful Italian restaurants out there, but I’ve also grown up eating my family’s home cooking, both here and in Italy, so I know what it should taste like. And very rarely does anything live up to those standards. Good Italian food is simple. It’s very high quality ingredients, put together in a very simple way. It’s avoiding fancy cooking techniques and extra embellishments, so as not to take away from the amazing ingredients being used. So, when mum vouched for D.O.C., I knew it’d be worth a visit.

We finally got there for lunch last weekend, and in complete honesty, it was the best Italian meal I’ve had since actually being in Italy last year. Visiting their website, you immediately see D.O.C.s mission statement:

D.O.C. is real Italian eating and age old simplicity refreshed with contemporary flair. A celebration of heritage. A joy in sharing. Authentic, exuberant and outrageously Italian.

And that is exactly what we got. You can read a lot more about what they’re all about on their website, so I won’t waste your time regurgitating it all for you. I’ll let the pictures of our food do the talking.

First up, like the proper wog I am, was the salumi board with fior di latte cheese drizzled with a little olive oil ($24.90). I’ve had some pretty amazing cured meats, thanks to my grandparents who do a lot of it themselves, but this would have to have been one of the best meat boards I’ve ever had. The cheese was even better. Oh my goodness. Husband (now an honorary Italian) was half way through and already asking if we were free next weekend to come back.

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Next up was the pizza – resplendent with San Daniele prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes, with the typical Italian drizzle of oil ($23.50). We both agreed, best pizza we’ve had outside of Italy. But seriously, would we have time to visit again before I flew off to Vietnam next weekend?? For food this good, you make time.

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We spent the meal talking about how much fun we’d had in Italy, Rome and Florence in particular the previous year. Being the insatiable wanderluster I am, I’ve already planned trips up to 2019 (I’m not kidding, I have a problem), with the next big one being back to Europe. I asked how he’d feel about hiring a car and driving around Tuscany for a week. Absolutely! How about moving to Rome for 6 months? It was up for debate before we started eating; we were ready to pack up the house that afternoon by the end of the meal. We felt like we were back in Italy for a while, over that meal. And it was amazing. There really aren’t many restaurants that can so effortlessly transport you around the world like that. If you’re in Melbourne and like me in that you want something real and authentic to eat, you’re going to love D.O.C. I really can’t praise it highly enough, and I really can’t wait to get back again.

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DOC Pizza on Urbanspoon

Eat here: Gypsy Hideout, Melbourne (cafe)

Gypsy Hideout, Northcote, Melbourne
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gypsy-Hideout/

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For those of you playing along at home, husband and I took a lovely 10km walk last weekend, which was punctuated with photo stops (the results of which you can see here!), which ended at Gypsy Hideout for lunch.

There’s no way to put this diplomatically – Northcote has been overrun by hipsters. And I couldn’t be happier. An insane amount of cute little cafes have opened up on High Street, which are primarily inhabited by bearded men who button their shirts all the way up and bespectacled women writing in notebooks, vintage jars filled with water sitting on the school-desk like tables. I’m really happy about the hipster revolution, because you can be whoever and whatever you want to no judgement. Nerd has become cool again; ironic, because I was picked on for being a nerd soooo much in my younger years. Apparently that’s kinda cool now. Anyway, back to the hipster food.

Not a bad menu in this place – they seem to cater mostly to your coffee addicts and breakfast/brunch crowd. The lunch menu looked pretty delicious too – lots of sandwich type options, with the opportunity to go gluten free or vegetarian, naturally.

20140615-164849-60529316.jpgHusband went with the club sandwich, and I went with the BRAT, below (bacon, rocket, avocado and tomato with kewpie mayo on a brioche bun).

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It was really good, actually. The insides were delicious and plentiful (unfortunately that meant a lot of it kept sliding out!), and the brioche was magnificent – it’s a rare and spectacular bun that doesn’t go soggy under the weight of all that it held. It was a really good sandwich, but at $16.00 I felt it was very overpriced for something I could have probably prepared myself at home for a lot less money. Husband’s club sandwich was basically the same, with the addition of fairly bland and dry grilled chicken. He was pretty disappointed.

I think this place would do a great breakfast and wouldn’t mind going back for some smashed avo on toast (it looked really good!), and the coffee selection looks phenomenal (I’m not a coffee drinker so I can’t judge personally), so I’d say it’d be worth going back for that, but I don’t think I’d go back for lunch in a hurry at those prices!

 

Gypsy Hideout on Urbanspoon

Real tacos. In Mexico.

For someone who hates spicy food, I actually really love Mexican food. I’m still a sook and don’t put any hot sauce or anything on my meals, but I do very much love the flavours and freshness of a properly prepared, legitimate Mexican meal. You can’t get many of those in Melbourne, where sugary fish bowl margaritas at Mexican-by-numbers restaurants seeming to be what most people think of when you mention Mexican food.

I was lucky enough to spend a weekend in Mexico through a work thing last year when I was still working in the travel industry. Mexico is a really freakin long way to go for only a weekend when you’re travelling from Melbourne – the flight from here to LA alone is around 14 hours! But we eventually landed in Cancun at around 6am, and after checking into our hotel, were granted a free day before the non-stop official obligations and conferences started later that evening. So a group of the girls I worked with hopped on a boat and headed off to Isla Mujeres, one of the most stunning places I’ve ever visited. You can see some of the photos I took that day right here, but this post is about the food. After a morning of traipsing around this precious little island, we naturally got pretty hungry. An A-frame sign advertising 3 tacos and a beer for 85 pesos seemed like a pretty decent lunch venue (for those of you playing along at home, 85 peso is around AUD$7.00 – that’s amazing for those of us who usually pay $7.00 for a beer, or around $5 per designer, hipster taco at home!).

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In we piled, a pack of Aussie girls delirious after 26 hours on a chartered flight full of other travel bunnies, which was the equivalent to a flying party bus. We’d boarded the flight after working a full day, had a few (or more) drinks and chocolate chip cookies on the flight, no sleep, and nothing but a mango margarita on arrival for breakfast. We were handed menus by a bemused Mexican, who probably wasn’t sure whether to call his mates around for a laugh at us, or the cops to get rid of us at that stage. Shenanigans ensued, laughs (by both parties) were had, and food was somehow ordered.

Best tacos of my life.

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The tortillas were soft and fresh and tasted like nothing I’ve ever had called a corn tortilla. The fillings were so ridiculously simple and at the same time so full of flavour. Everything seemed to just work magically. Including the brown slop on the side – re-fried beans. Make friends with this stuff when you’re in Mexico. It’s not like the crap you get out of a tin at home. This stuff is unbelievably good.

It’s a real pity that so many people conjure up images of cheap, shitty food and bad tequila experiences when you mention Mexican food, because it’s not all like that. It’s also funny that so much Mexican food you get in Australia is smothered with greasy melted cheese, because over a table full of tacos ordered by us 8 ladies, not one taco had cheese on it! I blame the Americans (sorry!) and their Tex-Mex for this generalisation. Real Mexican food is fresh and light, it shouldn’t make you feel sick and heavy and greasy and disgusting! If it does, you’re doing it wrong!

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It was a big weekend and we didn’t really get a chance to stop and breathe after this meal and the quick visit to the beach that followed. But it’s stayed with me as one of my best food experiences while travelling, because it really changed the way I looked at Mexican food.

My challenge now is going to be to find it again when I go back in January with husband! I’m very much looking forward to my few days on this little island slice of heaven after 6 weeks of non-stop travel, and plan to eat my weight in tacos in that time!