Eat here: Ampersand Coffee & Food, Melbourne (café/brunch)

Ampersand Coffee & Food
863 High St, Thornbury

I noticed this place what feels like ages ago on one of our long walks. A few weeks after that, I saw Ashley’s review on I’m So Hungree, and this girl knows her food, so I made a mental note to get around to it. 4 months later, I finally did (the only down side to this Melbourne hipster apocalypse is the ridiculous amount of good food popping up and no extension of weekends to accommodate it all).

We were greeted by the requisite fancy coffee menu on old-school board, ironic décor of a bike hung behind the counter covered in vines, and completely random neon light/art installation. But, I quite liked it all – it’s a beautiful, light space, and everything worked to make it a really comfortable place.

We were quickly seated with drink orders taken – while still new to the bean scene, husband loved the coffee (Padre coffee, for those who understand these things) and noted how many people were dropping in just for a cup to take away. I was happy to see Larsen & Thompson tea on the menu, and got me some Good Morning tea. Nice.

The menu, while not enormous, does have all the basics that you’re wanting. It should also note that they cater exceptionally well for special dieters, vegetarians and vegans, so big points there. Husband was recovering from a big Saturday night, and went with the breakfast burrito ($16.00), filled with scrambled eggs, Mexican rice, bacon, rocket, and chipotle mayo. He didn’t look too impressed when it came out, saying that it looked a bit on the small side, not realising how full of bacon and egg and rice it actually was – he didn’t finish it, in the end!

I was feeling a bit crap and was after comfort food; when I saw that the porridge ($9.00)  was made with soy milk (I think these guys are the only ones who offer a lactose free porridge…), I knew that was for me. Also came with poached pears (which I can’t really eat due to fructose issues), pistachios (yum) and toasted coconut (favourite). I was expecting something a little on the small side for the price, but this was a deceptively big bowl of porridge! I know I probably should have, but I did nibble on a bit of pear, which was soft and delicious. And heaps of pistachios and coconut. Just really good winter comfort food – loved it!

Cute café, great food and coffee, quick (albeit a little cold) service, and close to home – I wouldn’t mind another visit for the waffles with honeycomb, ricotta and chocolate sauce next…


Ampersand Coffee and Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eat here: Cheerio Cafe, Melbourne (café/brunch)

Cheerio Cafe
323 Lennox St, Richmond

Long weekends are great opportunities to squeeze in extra brunch dates, and this long weekend, brunch we did. Sunday saw husband and I pass through Richmond on our way to a movie at the Jam Factory, and we decided to stop at Cheerio for a late breakfast after seeing it’s very high ratings on Zomato.

A pretty standard cute-little-hole-in-the-wall type cafe, it was actually really well set out considering how small it was inside. A little coffee machine/dessert cabinet island dominated the middle of the room, and with the heater going on a cold Melbourne winter morning, it felt like home. Even more so with the tea and coffee we ordered promptly brought out to our table.

Unfortunately, that’s where the familial hospitality stopped; with room for maybe 20 people tops and 4 staff floating around, it still took half an hour for someone to take our order. I know, Sunday morning on a long weekend, I’m sure they had lots to catch up on and chat about, but we weren’t the only ones kept waiting – it wasn’t hard to overhear the frustration coming from other tables. We finally gave up and hailed a  sulky waitress down to take our order, and settled in for another 15 minute wait for our food.

Pity it was such a crappy start, because the menu read so well. Husband was pretty excited to see a more than decent toastie menu on offer, and went with the pastrami reuben toastie with pickles, provolone, red onion, rocket and housemade reuben dressing ($10.00). Excellent value for money; for $10, it was stacked high and full, and very delicious. Husband’s only complaint was that there was way too much red onion, but otherwise a great toastie.

I loved the sound of the coconut, quinoa and rice porridge with roast quince and toasted coconut ($12.00), and that, too, delivered. Warm, thick and richly coconutty, with heaps of chunks of quince and lots of toasted coconut. It was a nice, big bowl, the perfect winter’s morning breaky; even husband, who hates porridge, loved it.

It’s a real shame that the service was so slow (waiting almost an hour for porridge and a toasted sandwich when there were only 6 other tables of people there was really disappointing) and kinda rude, because the food was fantastic!


Cheerio Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

How my dog saved my life… Cook this: coconut matcha porridge

Summer might almost be here, but we’re still getting some cooler mornings in Melbourne, which means there are still a few chances left for warm breakfasts. But to get to that, let me first rewind a moment…

This weekend hasn’t been amazing. We were meant to stay in Geelong last night and take part in Run Geelong this morning, a 6km fun run husband and I entered together. It was not to be.

After 48 hours of vomiting, I took my fur baby to the vet on Friday morning. There had been a big fat storm the night before which meant the little guy didn’t sleep, I’d only had 3 hours myself, and was exhausted… I expected (hoped for) a check up and maybe some antibiotics for a tummy bug; he ended up staying overnight. After a physical examination found him to be in a fair bit of tummy pain, the vet said it could be anything from having eaten something he shouldn’t have (being part beagle, this was highly likely) to something more serious.

She couldn’t have been more kind and understanding as she gently explained that he would be sedated for his ultrasound, a drip inserted into his little paw to keep his fluids up, and through-the-night monitoring. I cried. Bless her, she gave me a box of tissues, a pat on the arm and the assurance he’d be ok. I just cried harder as she led him out of the consulting room with his tail between his legs, leaving me there with a hand full of tissues and a face full of snot and tears. I proceeded to bawl my eyes out for the next four hours until I had nothing left.

This may seem like a bit of an overreaction to a sick dog, so let me explain. He’s not just a pet, he’s not just family. Depression entered my life in my late teens; by the time I moved out of home straight out of uni, I was in a pretty shitty state. Having never been allowed a dog growing up because my mum doesn’t like them, the first thing husband and I did when we got our own place was to go puppy shopping. Enter little tiny Marley…

He was the best thing possible for my depression; he dragged me out of my bad states because I had to look after him. I couldn’t just sit in a corner and cry, because this little fur blob needed me to look after him. He was totally dependent on me, and I, in turn, became totally dependent on him. He saved my life. When I’m at home, he’s never more than a few steps away from me. When I’m sitting down, he’s sitting on my lap. When I’m depressed or anxious, he senses it and sits with me silently. When I cry, he nuzzles my neck with his nose to wipe away my tears. When I get home from work, the yelping is deafening. He’s my best friend and my shadow and my constant, loyal companion in every sense of the word.

So having to bring him to the vet and leave him there and imagining him waking up from his anesthetic scared and alone was more than I could handle. So I reacted the same way any rational, fully grown woman after dropping her dog off at the vet for an ultrasound; I cried my eyes out. And texted my dad, who called me immediately, and cried to him even harder. It wasn’t pretty.

Anyway, back on the recipe track, we were told we could collect him yesterday morning. It was cooler than it had been in a while and I wanted comfort food for breakfast, which meant porridge. Checking the fridge to make sure there was enough almond milk left, I noticed the matcha jar I’d brought home from Tokyo and thought I’d give that a try…

To make one bowl of porridge:
– scant half cup of rolled oats
– 1 tbsp chia seeds
– 1-2 tbsp shredded coconut
– 1 scoop protein powder – I use Amazonia’s raw vanilla protein (optional)
– 1 tsp matcha powder (more if you prefer a stronger flavour)
– 1 cup milk – I prefer almond milk for this

1. Put all ingredients except the almond milk into a tub and shake to combine.

2. Pour the tub into a small saucepan over medium heat, along with the milk, and bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat to a simmer, and stir constantly until it thickens to a consistency you’re happy with (somewhere in the vicinity of 4 – 8 minutes).

4. Serve immediately – enjoy 🙂

After that warm bowl of love, we collected our fur baby (with a bag full of medication) and took him home to rest. As you can see, he got real comfy, real quick… 🙂 here’s to a better week ahead for my poor little bug, and I hope everyone else has a great week, too! And if you need a warm, comforting breakfast at any stage, I hope this recipe helps! xo

Cook this: coconut chia oatmeal with maple blueberries (low FODMAP)

Winter may be officially over in Melbourne this weekend, but it’s still kinda cold right now! And, still recovering from the world’s nastiest throat infection, I’m still craving comforting and warming breakfasts in the mornings, like this one you have have seen on my Instagram feed last week and have been eating almost every morning since!

I absolutely love a good bowl of oats, be it in porridge/oatmeal form, baked, granola or overnight – hearty and filling, healthy and delicious, and wonderfully versatile, can’t really go wrong! Here’s my new favouritr way to do them (and yes, still FODMAP friendly).

To make one serve:
– ½ cup rolled oats
– 1 tsp chia seeds
– 1 tbsp shredded coconut, plus more to top
– 1 cup milk (I use Zymil)
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– ¼ cup blueberries (frozen are fine)
– 1 tbsp pure maple syrup

1. Combine the oats, chia seeds and coconut in a small bowl or tub, then pour over half a cup of the milk mixed with the vanilla (optionally here, you can mix that half cup of milk with protein powder – I like to use half a scoop of Nu Zest chocolate, best stuff ever!), then cover and rest in the fridge overnight.

2. In another small bowl or tub combine the blueberries and maple, and again cover and refrigerate overnight. Not essential (you can obviously just throw the berries and maple on top when you’re done cooking your porridge in the morning), but if do you remember the night before, the blueberries taste even better!

3. In the morning, put the soaked oats and the other half cup of milk in a small saucepan over low heat, and cook, stirring constantly, until it’s thickened up to a consistency you’re happy with. If you don’t have access to a stove/want a quick fuss-free breaky , microwave for about a minute and a half, take it out to stir and then give it another minute.

4. Serve immediately, topped with the maple soaked blueberries and a little more coconut on top.

Cook this: T2 Lamington Tea porridge


Monday morning, ready to take on another week! But not without a good breakfast. And this one is an absolute beauty. But before I get to that, let me explain how the ridiculous idea of making porridge with a cup of tea came about. I stumbled on a great find last week in the Extraordinary Routines site. This project, put together by Madeleine Dore, is exploring the daily routines of creatives such as writers, artists, designers and other who “bring a unique spirit to the world around them.” It’s really interesting to read how these successful and happy people run their days, and has some fantastic inspiration if you’re looking for a bit of a change!

Being food-minded though, it wasn’t long before the RECIPES menu caught my eye. The first image I saw was what looked to be a pretty little bowl of porridge or overnight oats or something, so I clicked on that to find myself face to face with a recipe for earl grey porridge. Sorry, WHAT?!


It’s no secret that I love my tea. As you may be able to tell from the picture above: that’s all of the tea. No, that’s a lie – there’s more in the pantry And more tea cups and mugs. So many more.  I also love oats, in just about any form. So the idea of combining these two of my favourite things? Yup. All sorts of yup.

I mentioned this earl grey porridge idea to husband, to which he replied, “I bet it’d taste good with that Lamington tea you’re so obsessed with at the moment.” Damn, why didn’t I think of that?! Done deal! I love T2’s teas (their Melbourne Breakfast is a HUGE favourite in our house), but they’ve really outdone themselves with their Lamington Tea; as you can see below, it’s a gorgeous black tea with coconut flakes, cocoa nibs and tiny little chocolate drops. Heaven!

I’m sure whatever the recipe on the site was was perfectly good, but I didn’t actually bother reading it. Once I’d seen the title, I figured I’d be able to get it right myself. And surprisingly, I actually did (not all of my ideas work out so well)! Here’s how you can make your own bowl of lamington porridge breakfast happiness..

For one bowl of porridge, you’ll need:
– 1 cup of tea. T2’s Lamington is perfect for this, but if you don’t have any/can’t be bothered buying any, just use your favourite black tea. Brew it with ¾ cup boiling water, steep for a few minutes, then mix it ½ cup milk.
– ½ cup rolled oats
– Toppings of choice – I used a few raspberries, crushed toasted almonds, shredded coconut and toasted cacao nibs


To cook it:
1. Combine the tea and oats in a pot over medium heat. Bring to boiling point, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until porridge reaches your desired consistency. Serve immediately with your toppings of choice.

A one step recipe. So simple. So delicious. It’s also the perfect starter meal for the day for me, being gluten and lactose free (I use almond milk), as well as low FODMAPs. So much stomach can’t bitch up later on. And just to get a bit more tea in, I made a cup of the English Tea Shop’s organic green tea to go along with it.That, my friends, is the way to breakfast.


Cook this: Breakfast – chocolate & peanut butter porridge! (gluten free, low FODMAPs)

Thanks for re-visiting Vietnam with me over the past few days 🙂 I’m heading back to the real world for the weekend and thought I’d share something that I’m obsessed with, yet haven’t actually blogged about yet: breakfast!

I don’t understand non-breakfast people. How anyone can operate on an empty stomach first thing in the morning is utterly and completely beyond me. Maybe it’s that I’m a crappy sleeper, and 5 interrupted hours is a good night. Maybe it’s that I get up at 5.45am almost every morning to workout before work. Maybe it’s just that I’m Italian, so food is a big thing. But I cannot physically leave the house in the morning to face the day without eating breakfast.


My weapon of choice is (and has been for a long time now) oats. I’ve been known to make my own muesli, and recently got completely addicted to the overnight oats thing. I thought I’d have a change for a week or two though, and go back to making my own porridge each morning, which is actually no where near as difficult or time consuming as it sounds. If you want to make this really easy, do as I do and combine all your dry ingredients in a jar or tub the night before, so you can just tip it all in the saucepan with the milk in the morning without having to worry about spending time measuring it all out!

I love to play around with different flavours with both porridge and overnight oats; some favourite combos have been pistachio, fig & honey, raspberry & coconut, and chocolate, vanilla & almonds. This time, I decided it had to be my good old favourite – chocolate and peanut butter. If there’s a better combination of foods in the world, I don’t believe you, nor am I interested.

To make a most spectacular breakfast for one, you’ll need…
– ½ cup oats (wheat free, if you want to keep it low FODMAPs)
– 1 tbsp chia seeds
– ½ tsp cocoa powder (or raw cacao powder if you prefer)
– 1 cup milk of choice (I used almond milk)
– 1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
– 1 tsp cacao nibs (or chocolate chips!)

1. Combine the oats, chia seeds, cocoa powder & milk in a small saucepan over high heat.
2. Bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook, stirring constantly until your porridge is at your preferred consistency – mine usually takes around 3-4 minutes of simmering.
3. Remove the pot from the heat and stir through the peanut butter. Pour it into a bowl and top wth cacao nibs and/or anything else you want! Enjoy 🙂