Eat here: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, Melbourne (brunch) V.2

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink
8 Raffa Place Carlton, Melbourne
http://vertuecoffee.com.au/

While we’ve been back numerous times for tea, coffee and cake, it’s been a while since our last sit down and relax meal at Vertue. And, with a brand spanking new winter menu, I thought it was time for a fancy Sunday breakfast to try it out!

Nothing’s changed on the surface, with the same beautiful high ceilings and flooding light, and the same delicious, hot tea and coffee to start off on…

But after that, things have changed dramatically. I took a while to pour over the menu, but husband made up his mind straight away, choosing the crispy pork belly with soft duck egg, spiced sweet potato puree, black pudding and quince gel ($22.00). Black pudding is his new favourite breakfast item, and this one definitely didn’t disappoint! It was a very pretty breakfast, but it had guts, too – the pork was incredible, both soft & fatty and crispy at the same time. Big winner.

After much deliberation, I ended up going for the matcha panna cotta with finger lime, coconut chia pudding, house made granola, adzuki bean paste and kiwi fruit ($17.00). Because I love every single one of those things. And I, too, made the right choice – this is a little cup of heaven (and actually not that little). There’s nothing more disappointing than receiving a matcha dish that doesn’t actually taste like matcha, but the flavour was absolutely there in this. Creamy coconut chia pudding, amazing lime zing, and whatever is in that granola is magic. Would definitely order again.

By-passing the sugary window to heaven that is the cabinet full of sweets on the way out was not easy, but it gave us a good excuse to head back (again). As last time, beautiful setting, amazing food, great atmosphere, make time in your weekend schedule to visit!

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Eat here: Gypsy & Pig, Melbourne (Japanese/pork)

Gypsy & Pig
Shop 3, 391 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne CBD
http://gypsyandpig.com.au/

Monday again – how quickly it comes around! This weekend was a bit more exciting than usual though, because it was a long weekend (good work, Melbourne, giving us the day off in preparation for the footy), which happened to fall on our five year wedding anniversary, which we therefore took advantage of with a night away (which gave me a chance to put together another get away mini-guide 🙂 ). But we were back in town on Friday night and decided that instead of token gifts (we’ve been together for 11 years now, we’ve run out of crap to buy each other), we’d go out for a good dinner instead. Because why would you want another necklace when you can have all of the pork?!

I actually can’t for the life of me remember how I came across Gypsy & Pig (some random Zomato or Google search?!), but I’m stoked I did – tucked both obviously and totally inconspicuously on the corner of Little Lonsdale and Hardware Sts in the middle of the city, it’s signage basically consists of a glowing pig out the front. Because that’s what they’re all about; pig. Kurobuta, to be more specific, which is a particularly prized type of pork to the Japanese (coming from the ancient Black Berkshire breed), and considered to be the best pork in the world.

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Chef Kenji Higuchi is a one-man machine, running his business and kitchen with the most captivating silent precision; it’s only a little place, seating around 24 people if I had to guess, and Chef Kenji feeds everyone pretty much single handedly. We were seated with the best view in the house, in my opinion, facing the very open kitchen and enjoying the whole show.

The menu is incredible – very Japanese, very pork-centric, and each item sounding more delicious than the next, making it really hard to only pick out a few things. We decided to maximise tasting opportunities and ordered a few dishes to share…

Seared salmon nigiri sushi ($4.00 per piece)
Smoky, fresh, incredible. The perfect way to kick off the night!

Potato croquettes with Kurobuta mince ($18.00)
Landing in front of us literally fresh out and piping hot, they were delicious – smooth and almost creamy centre, perfectly crisp coating.

Deepfried crumbed Scotch Egg ($8.50)
This is their signature entree, and it wasn’t hard to see why – thick, golden coating with a flawlessly soft inside.

Deepfried crumbed Kurobuta hamburg with melted cheddar cheese ($21.00)
We were expecting an actual hamburger, but got this instead; it’s all the good bits of a burger without the lettuce, tomato and bread! Extraordinarily soft and crumbly mince tucked inside yet another perfectly crisp and golden shell, with just the right amount of melty cheese in the centre. Wow.

Crispy Kurobuta belly and vegetables ($19.00)
Actually the best pork belly I’ve ever eaten to date. No words can describe the perfection of this dish; the meat was literally melt-in-your-mouth soft and tender, the fat flawlessly rendered away… I mean, there’s just nothing I can say that can do this justice. Just go an eat this. Just eat it.

 

The service was faultlessly attentive, the food was just incredible, every little detail was impeccably attended to. Yes, it’s a pricey night out, but when you’ve eaten your way through this menu in this beautiful, intimate little space, I can guarantee you won’t regret the cost. It was such a great night out, and I genuinely already can’t wait to return!

 

Gypsy & Pig Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eat here: C-Culture, Melbourne (Chinese)

C-Culture – Seafood & BBQ Chinese Restaurant
Shop 1, 437 High St, Preston
https://www.facebook.com/pages/C-CULTURE/342458736114

It was one of those nights on Friday night. It had been a really long, really shitty week. I was freezing cold and starving hungry, and I was craving some sort of comfort food. Something rich and filling and warming and substantial.

Walking down High Street in Preston is a good position to be in when you’re feeling like that, because everything is there. Italian, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, Indian, Chinese, I mean, pick a cuisine and chances are you’ll find it. The original plan was Noodle Kingdom – their Shanghai fried noodles are comfort food perfection. But, on the walk, the C-Culture sign caught me eye, like it has almost every other time I’ve been past it. Friday night, I just felt like I needed to get in there and try it out; I suddenly realised I was craving duck. I don’t know why, I just was. One glance through the front window to see a whole lot of golden roast duck as well as a crazy busy restaurant service in full swing, and husband agreed to go with my hunch that the food would be good.

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Nothing special outside or in – it’s like the dozen other Asian eateries on the street. We were immediately seated at basically the last empty table in the place, and handed menus written half in English, half in Chinese. After a quick scan of the menu, husband left the meat ordering to me, and he picked out a noodle dish to go with it…

The noodles we got were the fried egg noodles with BBQ pork; they were nice, but not amazing. That’s probably because we were both comparing them to those Noodle Kingdom noodles that we both love so much. These were still really nice though – crispy fried noodles which softened in the delicious oyster sauce, with a good amount of pork and veggies. A good size dish to share if you’re getting some other dishes too, which I’d highly recommend.

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Next up, to satisfy my duck craving, we got a serve of Peking duck pancakes. Amazing. The duck was delicious, with lashings of hoi sin sauce and super soft pancakes. They were more like thinner tortillas almost than other pancakes I’ve had with Peking duck before, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, they were delicious!

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Finally, the pièce de résistance. Crispy skin pork belly. Would you believe this was apparently the entree serving, which cost all of $9.00?! It was a mountain of pork, and it was perfect. Holy wow. We both agreed that we’d go back JUST for the pork, it was THAT good! Super soft and tender meat, beautifully rendered fat, golden crispy tops. It’s the stuff dreams are made of. I can’t overstate the deliciousness of this pork enough.

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This is the biggest blessing of living in such a multicultural area; the food is amazing. So much of it is family run business, and the fact that so many places on High Street have been around for SO long says a lot about the quality of the food. If you’re lucky enough to be like us and live close to Preston, venture out from your usual same old spot tonight and give C-Culture a try. And if you don’t live in the area, make the effort to visit; I promise you won’t be disappointed!

 

Click to add a blog post for C-Culture on Zomato

Eat (& drink) here: Munich Brauhaus, Melbourne (German)

Munich Brauhaus
45 S Wharf Promenade South Wharf, Melbourne
http://www.munichbrauhaus.com/

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Winter is coming! Finally! I’m not a summer girl. My pale, porcelain doll complexion, love of tea drinking and book reading in my PJs, serious lack of body confidence required for skimpy summer attire and generally introverted nature are far more conducive to a perfectly cold European winter than a sunny Melbourne summer.

I’m not really sure what it was about the winter I spent in Italy with my family when I was 17, but ever since, cold weather has always made me think of Europe. They know how to do winter right: beautiful warm coats and leather boots, gorgeous markets in snowy town squares, and properly warming and comforting food. While most people would probably think of Oktoberfest at a place like Melbourne’s Munich Brauhaus, all I could think of was how nice it was to come out of the cold after an exhausting week into such a big, warm place with some great friends and food that just screams “let me warm you up!”

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An already large front bar gives way to a cavernous dining hall, where the appropriately dressed staff and continuously flowing drinks promise you a good time before you’ve even made it to your seat. We settled in and ordered a pretzel each ($4.50) to get started while we read through the menu. Dense, warm and doughy, perfect way to start the meal! It was also nice to know that my pretzel recipe is actually pretty spot on comparatively!

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The menu choices, both food and drinks, are extensive, so we decided to try it all with the tasting plate. We had the option of one tasting plate each, or we could have it brought out on one big, communal board. “They ring the bells when they bring it out to you!” Sure, let’s get the giant sharing board…

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And to the accompanying ringing of the bells, a procession emerged from the kitchen, carrying the board of carnivore dreams. $41 per person will get you a selection of five different types of sausages (I don’t really know what they all were, but everyone really enjoyed them!)…

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… a pile of pork that included a big, juicy pork knuckle which is what you can see front and centre below (after having sat there for an hour, we realised that around 80% of the other diners had ordered pork knuckles of their own. It’s bloody amazing, and if you’re only going to get one dish when you visit, make this it; juicy, tender pork shelled in salty, crispy, golden skin. It’s all your meat dreams come true), crispy golden schnitzel, and the most heavenly crispy skinned pork belly with the most perfectly rendered fat and tender meat…

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… oh, and don’t forget the sides! Mashed potato, sauerkraut,red cabbage, apple sauce and bier jus, to create the absolute perfect package.

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For $41 each, we rolled out absolutely and completely stuffed. But don’t be tricked into thinking it was just quantity; this is one of those rare instances that you’re getting absolute quality as well. The tasting plate is the best way to get a proper taste of it all because when faced with the menu choice of pork knuckle OR sausages OR pork belly, I mean, how do you choose between children like that?! Everything was cooked perfectly, and there wasn’t a single thing on that monster board that any of us really disliked.

Another big plus was the staff – I’ve been here more than once now, and they do such a great job of making sure everyone is looked after (no mean feat in such a massive place); as soon as an empty stein was placed on the table, a checkered shirted staff member would magically appear to offer another one. They helpfully offered the boys the cheaper happy hour beers when they ordered more expensive ones initially, and knew the dessert menu back to front, with helpful suggestions thrown in, too. They do such an awesome job of being insanely professional and still creating such a fun atmosphere at the same time – you wouldn’t believe what a well-oiled machine they are unless you’ve seen them at work!

So, as the weather turns colder in Melbourne and you and yours are looking for a place to warm up with some steins and sausages on a Friday night after work, make your way over to Munich. You know, if you can’t quite afford a plane ticket to Germany for real. It’s a solid substitute for the night!

Munich Brauhaus on Urbanspoon

Eat here: Two Little Pigs Charcuterie & Grind (brunch) & All Day Donuts, Melbourne

Two Little Pigs Charcuterie & Grind
146 Sydney Rd, Brunswick, Melbourne
https://www.facebook.com/twolittlepigscharcuterieandgrind?_rdr

You know those friends who you can just text out of the blue to tell them about the guy on your train wearing double denim and know they’re gonna get why that’s funny? Are you lucky enough to have a friend you can talk to when everything is crap and they won’t get huggy or emotional, but will just hate the world with you until you feel better? I’ve got one of those friends, and she’s awesome! We also share the same name, shared the same hellish job for a while, and a deep love for food, among many, many other things. So when she suggests a lunch date, I know I’m gonna be getting the chance to wipe the fake smile off my face and vent about the week’s crap, put a real smile on my face and a laugh about something funny she tells me, talk travel, and eat some damn good food. Two Pigs Charcuterie was the latest venue to host one of our lunch dates.

The Sydney Road deli-cafe specialises in all things pig. And coffee. But we were there for the pig. Cold cuts, sausages, terrine, bacon, pork belly, pulled pork, it’s all there! And not only that, but slow cooked lamb, burgers, eggs, bagels and salads, too. My only issue with the menu was it had too many good looking options on it, which made my life a little difficult! It was a tough call, lots of “ummm”s and “hmmm”s, but in the end, my friend went with the roasted crispy skin pork belly roll with coleslaw and mustard aioli, and it was a good looking sandwich with plenty of filling.

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As for me, it had to be the pork belly salad – citrus glazed pork belly with blackened pumpkin, rocket, fennel and raspberry vinaigrette. This wasn’t “salad.” This was crispy pork belly perfection. Little nuggets of super tender pork belly with a crispy top, perfectly sweet and soft pumpkin, and the best raspberry salad dressing I’ve ever had. I wish I could get my salads to taste this good – that’s all I’d eat if I could!! There were so many other things on the menu I’d like to try out next time I visit, but I think I’d find it hard to go past this again!

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Sydney Rd is a busy area for cute little cafes, so you know these guys are doing a damn good job to stand out and keep the crowds coming. I’m going to have to try to restrain myself next time so I’ll have room for the pancake/donut hybrid dough cakes. Because they looked and smelled so good, and I want a plate of these on an empty stomach!

Two Little Pigs Charcuterie and Grind on Urbanspoon

 

 

All Day Donuts
12 Edward St, Brunswick
https://instagram.com/alldaydonuts/

So we started walking after lunch and ended up at All Day Donuts. Not sure how that happened… hahaha  ; )

It had been a while since my last visit, and my lovely friend actually hadn’t visited before, so our hands were tied. Since opening almost a year ago, they’ve been keeping a pretty steady line up, with the occasional rotation; here’s what they had on the day I visited with my camera last year, and here’s what they had last weekend:

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I actually really love the lack of variation. Know what you’re good at, and keep doing it. This time around, I grabbed me a lime brulee to eat in the sunshine while our chattering continues, and an OG and a raspberry rubble to take home for later. Still as amazing as my first (second, third, etc) visit; fresh out of the oven, perfectly soft and airy dough, everything delicious.

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All Day Donuts on Urbanspoon

 

So this weekend, call that one special, irreplaceable friend of yours, and take them on that double pork & donut date you know you want and need to do.

Batman Market, Melbourne

Batman Market
http://batmanmarket.com.au/

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I’ve been looking forward to this market – it’s had plenty of advertising and word of mouth leading up to opening weekend (October 11th & 12th), so I was pretty excited to find out I had nothing on and was free to eat and shop my way around. The fact that it was opening weekend and a sunny 24 degrees was just the cherry on the cake!

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You can read a bit more about the market on their website, but the basic premise is that the team behind the Batman Market are working to build a new iconic multicultural market for Melbourne to enjoy, representative of the “Australian weekend lifestyle.” They’re hoping in the future that it’ll be a site that can be used to host events for the community, as well as celebrating multiculturalism through food and creative locals selling their wares. Stalls will cover the spectrum from street food style sellers to health food and groceries, as well as homewares, jewellery and second hand pieces.

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I visited on opening day, last Saturday, and the atmosphere was fantastic; there were people of all nationalities, all ages, all walks of life. Hipsters, nannas and babies in prams co-existed in happy harmony, absolutely packing the sunny market place. There were seriously good vibes coming out of the place! The stalls I looked at were well set up, with heaps of gorgeous little trinkets for sale – the jewellery stalls in particular caught my eye, there were beautiful handmade pieces, and I’m looking forward to another visit after pay day so I can make some purchases!

The food was the big draw card for me, so with husband’s help, I ate my way through as much as I could. Here’s what we devoured..

 

Nuoc Mama’s
https://www.facebook.com/NuocMamasFoodTruck

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It reallllly upsets me to have to give this place such a bad review, because I so wanted to like it… I realise that opening weekend for an event this big presents teething problems, and you have to anticipate there are going to be some waits while the teams in the trucks find their feet. But this is not a new food truck. They’ve been around for long enough to be able to pull it together, and they didn’t on Saturday.

We ordered a crispy pork belly pancake and proceeded to wait for 45 minutes for a dish that I can cook at home in 10, having learnt in Hoi An. After watching the lady in front of me ask for her money back and walk off pretty frustrated (understandable), I was getting ready to do the same, but was told my pancake was next up. The pancake we finally received was raw in the middle (I’m not a big fan of raw batter) and I found the pork to be pretty bland. Not only that, but when I went back to tell the guys in the truck that my pancake was raw, all I got was a shrug of the shoulders and “oh… sorry…”

Unacceptable; you CANNOT serve RAW food to your customers. You also CANNOT tell them to expect a quick 10 minute wait and keep them waiting for three quarters of an hour. We were disappointed and frustrated beyond belief; if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’d know that I rarely have a bad word to say about people working hard in the food industry because I know what a tough gig it is, but this was ridiculous. Hopefully they can take it and learn and up their game next time!

Nuoc Mama's on Urbanspoon

 

Now that that’s over and done with, let’s get to the good food, of which there was heaps!!

Not sure what this place was, but they did BBQ pork belly on a stick. With some really delicious cumin salt sprinkled on top. It only cost $3.00 per stick, the fat was so nicely rendered and it was just a meat lollypop of loveliness. They had some other great looking stuff, like the soft shell crab and calamari, that was flying out of the place.

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Ayomo Frozen Yogurt – but I was there for the waffles
http://www.ayomo.net/

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This was possibly the best waffle I’ve ever had, no exaggeration. You pick a base, 3 toppings and a drizzle on top – I went with peanut butter base, oat crumble, chocolate pearls, peanuts and hazelnut chocolate drizzle. Best $8.00 I’ve spent in a while. Massive points for the lady and gentleman working, who were still smiling and genuine with each customer despite the hot sun and the long day they’d already had. Oh, and to offset the crap food and service at Nuoc Mama’s, when the lovely lady who took my order here realised she’d lost it, she apologised quickly and pushed my order to the front. From first order to receiving our waffle, we clocked no more than 6 minutes.  Won’t be my last visit to these guys. Make it a priority when you visit.

Ayomo Frozen Yogurt & Juice Bar on Urbanspoon

 

Strawberry iced tea. No idea where this came from because husband went to buy this while I was waiting in line at Nuoc Mama’s; it was soooo good! Ice cold, neither the tea nor the strawberry flavours were overpowering – it somehow magically tasted equally of both. $5.00, do yourself a favour and track this down! Delicious!

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Señor BBQ
http://www.argentineanbbq.com/

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Chorizo choripan. Chorizo sausage in a crunchy roll, smothered in chimichurri. This was pretty delicious. Nothing special, nothing I’d rush back for, but it was very good.

 

Aaaand a little bit more dessert…

Queqedjoe
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Queqedjoe/577441329049302?sk=info

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Indonesian handcrafted mini no-bake cheesecake pots. Yeah. This little cup of love is the mango and salted caramel cheesecake, and it was really, really good. Silky smooth, the caramel was salty but still sweet, and the biscuit crumb base was perfect. Amazing dessert, so unexpected, but I’d definitely be keen to try some more flavours!!

And one I didn’t get a photo of.. or catch the name… which I’m cursing myself for. There’s a bakery, they had chocolate croissants, probably the best chocolate croissant I’ve had, including the one I had in Paris. Whoever you guys are, you are FANTASTIC!!

 

So, worth a visit this weekend? ABSOLUTELY!! Get around the Batman Market; the team behind it are doing really great things and they need the support to make this market as big as it potentially could be! They’re open Saturdays and Sundays, 9am – 3pm, so head down this weekend and enjoy it!

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