Northern Light

Northern Light
102 Smith Street
Colllingwood
Vic 3066
+61 3 9416 0698
Northern Light on Urbanspoon

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Fakebooo wasn’t my first gay boyfriend. I had a wonderful solid relationship with Juds during our pre-uni days. Movies after school, KTV sessions on public holidays, heck, we joked about marrying each other if we were still single by the age of thirty. But of course, The Angmoh came along and I was a goner. Anyway, when Juds finally announced that he would visit me in wintry Melbourne, I was elated! And to make it even more exciting, he was getting into the food scene, having watched the American, Canadian and Australian versions of Masterchef and experimenting and learning from his mum in the kitchen.

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(Left) Freshly shucked oyster, Yuzu sake $4
(Right) Whipped tofu, broad beans, soy, edamame, gai lan $16

I wrecked my brain trying to come up with a dinner location to take him to. I wanted it to be simple yet well-executed, easy to comprehend yet delicious and stylish without the drama. I had come across many a positive review about Northern Light and decided that yep, that would be it.

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Smoked eel, sushi rice croquette $6

There’s a never ending list of eateries along Smith Street and Northern Light is amongst them. A handsome bar occupies most of the narrow space of the restaurant, topped with a maze of twisted wires and lights. The menu leans strongly towards Asian fusion with most of the dishes designed for sharing.

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Pork crackle, warm cheese curd, togarashi $9

Juds left the ordering up to us but he did insist on a serve of pork crackle. The Angmoh, as usual, had a lone oyster to start his dinner. Typically laconic when it comes to describing his food, he simply slurped it up and nodded in approval. The whipped tofu with Asian veges came next with a heady scent of sesame oil. Dressed in light soy, it was an elegant yet humble Chinese dish. I thought the broad beans had been cooked beautifully, for they were soft and lacked bitterness. Juds described the whipped tofu as “squashed tofu that’s been whipped, lor” and almost had me snorting out the light airy soy curd. The smoked eel croquette was a stunner. The slivers of eel provided a mild smokiness and the dill gave the rice an unexpected but pleasant aroma. Juds couldn’t get enough of the lush rich mayo that came along with the croquettes.

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(Left) Xinjiang style lamb ribs, bbq peppers, chilli $25
(Right) Wild mushroom okayu, WA truffle, comte $32

Our mains of lamb ribs and mushroom okayu were set down, shortly followed by the pork crackle. The ribs were finger-licking good and fell off the bone without much effort. The flavour of the lamb was sealed within the charred edges, making it one very tasty dish. The okayu turned out to be similar to congee. It was salty and could possibly use more truffle, or at least truffle oil for a bit more pizzazz. The crackle had Juds full attention. It was the most sinful keropok I’d come across, with the deep fried pig skin covered with lashings of mayo. It was good but I’d rather a plate of roast pork belly crackling anytime.

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Broken ice cream sandwich $15

For dessert, we decided to sample the broken ice cream sandwich and the tteok (pronounced “tok”). The former turned out to be vanilla ice cream topped with velvety chocolate mousse surrounded by shards of cocoa biscuits. I loved every bit of it. Juds was really interested in the tteok as he had been living in Korea for a little while. Usually a savoury dish, he reckoned the rice cakes had been steamed and then fried to achieve a soft and fluffy texture, while retaining the expected chewiness and crisp outlines. It was drizzled with maple and topped with sesame seeds for a savoury contrast.

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Fried Tteok, maple syrup, sesame $7

Dinner at Northern Light was extremely enjoyable. The food, although lacking a wow factor, is consistently pleasant. Service is exemplary and makes the overall experience a night to remember. We capped our evening off with a stroll while checking out some of the art works from the Gertrude Street Projection Festival. This was my favourite.

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Filed under Asian, Collingwood, Modern

Admiral Cheng-Ho

Admiral Cheng-Ho
325 Johnston Street
Abbotsford
Vic 3067
+61 3 9534 7250
Admiral Cheng-Ho on Urbanspoon

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It was on a Monday public holiday when The Angmoh and myself met up with Libby (The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar) for brunch at Admiral Cheng-ho. Sister to Monk Bodhi Dharma, the younger cafe maintains its vegetarian ethos with the menu being extremely animal-friendly, with most items being vegan. This was perfect for Meatless Monday.

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Chai latte – spices roasted and ground in-house and blended with organic coconut syrup $6

As we sat on the communal table deliberating our choices, I couldn’t help feel the heat built up. The morning rays coupled with the small space made it warm and almost stifling really quickly. We started with drinks with The Angmoh’s magic and Libby’s café latte looking like a great way to wake up, and my chai being wonderfully spicy with strong notes of cinnamon and ginger. Yum!

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(Left) Magic $3.50
(Right) Café latte $3.50

I’d initially worried about The Angmoh’s carnivorous appetites but he seemed really pleased with his bircher. Having had one from the Admiral’s older sister, I can vouch for the deliciousness of this popular breakfast dish. The muesli is pre-soaked in apple juice without losing crunch. The crisp green apples and yoghurt provide a tangy and textural contrast. It may look small but it sure was filling.

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House bircher – house made bircher muesli soaked in organic apple and raspberry juice topped with organic yoghurt and freshly diced seasonal fruit $12.50

Libby ordered the Umami mushrooms and for those who have yet to discover the taste of “umami”, this dish will explain it all. The mushrooms were bursting with flavours and the goats cheese and chilli oil enhanced all of that earthiness. I thought the accompanying polenta bread was a little on the dry side.

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Umami Mushrooms – slow roasted king oyster, shiitake, oyster and swiss brown mushrooms on a house made pumpkin, spinach and sun dried tomato polenta bread. Served with goats cheese, thyme and red chilli oil $18.50

My dish of zucchini fritters comprised of different components that worked well as a whole. The fritters weren’t too soggy and the tangy beetroot provided an uplifting contrast. My favourite bit was the basil cashew cream, which tasted so smooth and creamy, making it hard to believe that it didn’t contain any actual cream!

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The Admiral – zucchini fritters on sautéed kale with seasonal vegetables with tangy beetroot relish and basil cashew cream served with locally foraged wild fennel $18.50

Admiral Cheng Ho is a great place for vegans, vegetarians and carnivores too. The food is wholesome and delicious and I think even meat-loving folks will walk out feeling full and satisfied.

2 Comments

Filed under Abbotsford, Brunch, Chai, Coffee, Vegan, Vegetarian

Marumeru

Marumeru
Shop 6
672 Glenferrie Road
Hawthorn
Vic 3122
+61 422 782 988
Marumeru on Urbanspoon

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Every once in a blue moon, The Angmoh pulls a rabbit out of a hat and suggests a new eating place to check out. An eating place that even I am not aware of! So one of my RDOs, I made my way to Hawthorn and joined him for lunch.

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Marumeru is everything kawaii. The name, the pale yellow and white fit out and the scattering of dinosaurs that overlook the café. The menu pays homage to Japanese street food, with takoyaki and okonomiyaki, and for the sweet-tooths: Japanese crepes with an assortment of sweet flavours.

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Takoyaki original octopus (4 pieces) $5.30

Both takoyaki and okonomiyaki offer a variety of fillings and we decided to have octopus for the former and beef, cheese and potato for the latter. I suspect both dishes stem from the same batter and both are truly delicious and well-cooked. The takoyaki brings back memories of high school when the fad first appeared in Singapore, resulting in long queues of uniform-clad students awaiting these crisp lush balls. Marumeru’s version is spectacular. The batter has a faint taste of Japanese curry and hides a morsel of fresh crunchy octopus. The topping of wavy bonito flakes, spring onion and finely julienned ginger complete the dish.

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Okonomiyaki marumeru – seasoned beef, potato, cheese $10.90

The okonomiyaki is also very good and definitely one of the better ones in Melbourne. The batter is far from soggy and the odd combination of cheese and beef and potatoes work really well together. I would have preferred for it to have sat just a tad longer on the hot plate to crisp up slightly more.

Although we were too full to order dessert, I still had to peek at what was available. There’s simple options of Nutella or strawberry and gourmet mouth-watering ones with snickers and even durian! You can definitely bet on it that I’ll be back!

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Filed under Hawthorn, Japanese

Oscar Mike, Cherry & Twigs, Brother Baba Budan

As much as I love coffee, fortunately I’ve never been addicted to the stuff. Unfortunately though, I’m getting more sensitive to it. Previously I used to be able to down a cuppa and fall asleep just with the snap of my fingers but now the caffeine stays in my system, leaving me wired like a Duracell-powered bunny. Nowadays, my already minimal caffeine intake has been reduced to almost non-existent. And because of this, whenever I go out for coffee, I have to make sure it is bloody good. So in that vein, here are 3 places I’ve recently tried that have had the goods:

Oscar Mike
Don Arcade
Shop 9
672 Glenferrie Road
Hawthorn
Vic 3122
+61 431 248 302
Oscar Mike on Urbanspoon

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Oscar Mike sits on a narrow alleyway off the hectic street of Glenferrie Road. It’s quiet, it’s cosy and it’s warm, perfect for ducking away for a private moment to yourself. The brew is by 5 senses, one of my favourites and my skinny magic arrived intense and punchy, with the expected dark cocoa flavours. Food is simple and I had no complaints about my ham and cheese toastie. The peanut butter cookie that I took away was crunchy and not too sweet, a perfect snack to satisfy a mid-day peckishness.

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Magic

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(Left) Magic with ham and cheese toastie $6.40
(Right) Peanut butter choc chip cookie $2.80

Oscar Mike is an excellent option for those in need of a pleasant caffeine fix or a bite to eat, with the option to linger just a little longer.

Cherry & Twigs
Shop 1B
555 Flinders Lane
Melbourne
Vic 3000
+61 3 9614 7096
Cherry & Twigs on Urbanspoon

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The Angmoh and I hardly venture into the city on the weekends. Brunch options are limited and come with a price of queuing a good hour or so. However, one Saturday, we decided to give the CBD a go and strolled along the Yarra hand-in-hand.

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Magic $3.50

Our destination was Cherry and Twigs, which Fakebooo had recently mentioned and had me itching to check out. As soon as we arrived, I was instantly charmed. The soft amber lights cast a warm hue onto the treated wood and the tan tree on the wall lightened the café with a slight whimsical feel.

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Piccolo latte $3.50

The coffee was sensational. Symmetry beans from The Maling Room is used and the coffees were beautiful, with a rich rounded creamy roll on the palate, finished with dark tones of honeyed macadamia nuts.

I highly recommend that Cherry and Twigs be on your “where to have coffee in the CBD” list.

Brother Baba Budan
359 Little Bourke Street
Melbourne
Vic 3000
Brother Baba Budan on Urbanspoon

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Last but not least is Brother Baba Budan, a classic Melbournian hangout. It’s in a laneway, it’s teeny-tiny, there’s no obvious signage and the coffee is heaven-sent. Easily recognisable by the jigsaw mess of hanging chairs, BBB is the little sister of Seven Seeds. The beans are light and lean towards the floral side and each cup is consistently made with love, care and precision.

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Piccolo latte

So there you have it, three spectacular cafes that churn out some bloody good coffees!

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Filed under CBD, Coffee, Hawthorn

Quick Bites: Pho Nom, Cacao Lab, Depot de Pain

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Venturing into Emporium feels rather surreal to me. It’s super bright, enhanced by a lot of white, stark in a sense and the myriad of elevators that do not connect directly with each other contribute to a general feeling of stepping foot into a sort of spaceship. But never mind all that, for when there’s food, all is good.

Emporium houses 2 dining spaces, one in the lower ground level and a vast food court up on the third. Most of these are franchises of famous establishments. Each were approached by the higher-ups of Emporium, who were striving for a sense of exclusivity and quality. To name a few from the food court, there’s Earl Canteen for sandwiches, Jimmy Grants for souvlakis, I Love Pho Express for pho (duh), and Chinta Ria Soul for Malaysian food. Down below pays homage to established names too, like Dumplings Plus and Ramen Ya.

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Pho Bo Saigon – sliced rare beef, brisket, meatballs $12

My sole purpose one afternoon, however, was a new introduction into Melbourne’s dining scene, Pho Nom. Pho Nom offers popular Vietnamese street food, from banh mis to Vietnamese spring rolls to pho. It was the latter that I was after, a piping hot soulful bowl of slurpy rice noodles and tender slices of beef in a flavoursome beefy stock. This is comfort food at its best, especially in the heart of a bitingly cold winter.

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Due to its locality in a shopping mall, it’s pretty much a self-service set up. Diners place the order at the cashier, wait in line for their food and take it away to their seats. Even the basil and beansprouts are piled high at the end of the counter, take as little or as much as you need. Thankfully, the seasoning sauces are generously scattered around the dining tables, if not, I can imagine a never-ending wait during peak times.

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Being a fusspot for pho, I was quite ready to critique and dismiss Pho Nom’s pho. Instead, I was blown away and left to eat humble pie. And boy did I lick and slurp every bit of it, well, not pie of course. The soup, boiled from Warialda beef bones, was compressed with an amazing amount of flavour and the beef was of the utmost quality. I’ll be honest and say it beats I Love Pho Express hands down (The Express, I’m afraid, is just not quite as good as the I Love Pho mothership in Richmond).

Pho Nom’s pho is my absolute choice in the CBD. But given an option, I’d rather journey to Richmond, for there’s nothing like having it in true authenticity: Ethnic suburb, cacophonic restaurant and proper non-disposable cutlery.

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(Top Left) Madagasca single origin chocolate eclair with crispy rice puffs $5.50
(Bottom Right) Audrey Hepburn – vanilla rose $5.50

But of course, no true meal is complete without something sweet. I weaved around corridors and landed at Cacao Lab for a couple of eclairs. Normally having an aversion to creamed sweets, I have no idea why I was craving these delicate pastries. But I was and so I indulged. I preferred the chocolate one, with its deep cocoa tones apparent throughout the dessert. The Audrey Hepburn’s white chocolate portrait had overwhelmed the subtle rose cream, much to my dismay.

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However, these just weren’t as good as the 2 that I’d sampled from Pain De Depot in Hawthorn. Pain De Depot’s choux pastry was fresh, light and crisp, despite eating them half a day after purchase. The rose and raspberry éclair was delightful with the pink flavours marrying well.

So this concludes what is most likely to be a continued series of quick bites with the remaining of Emporium food stores awaiting my tums.

Pho Nom
Store 33, Lower Ground
Emporium
287 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne
Vic 3000
+61 3 8609 8221
Phở Nom on Urbanspoon

Cacao Lab
Driver Lane
Melbourne
Vic 3000
+61 3 9662 4777
Depot de Pain on Urbanspoon

Depot de Pain
616 Glenferrie Road
Hawthorn
Vic 3122
+61 3 8803 7898
Cacao Lab on Urbanspoon

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Filed under CBD, Emporium, Hawthorn, Noodles, Pastries, Sweets, Vietnamese

Ms Katie’s Crab Shack

Miss Katie’s Crab Shack
238 Victoria Street
North Melbourne
Vic 3015
+61 3 9329 9888
Miss Katie's Crab Shack on Urbanspoon

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It was after a wild goose hunt that Cookie Monster, Hughey B, The Angmoh and myself finally found Ms Katie’s Crab Shack. We had keyed in the address into Google maps, which did not have such an address in North Melbourne. We were directed towards Errol Street, which was on the West Melbourne end of Victoria Street. Apple Maps, however, led us back on path and we found ourselves outside The Public Bar, with a greenish hue beckoning us in like a siren’s call.

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Decked in the expected nautical theme, Ms Katie’s Crab Shack was anything but a shipwreck. Despite turquoise light spilling over most of the restaurant, warm amber candles glowed softly; not the best for illuminating food on camera but nevertheless, providing the eatery with a marine ethereal glow. The produce is sourced fresh from Queen Victoria Market, just directly across the road.

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Katie’s Fried Chicken – Secret blend of herb and spices, golden fried with ranch $17

The four of us initially snagged a table with Jaws as our dining companion, but quickly moved to a different table for easier sharing. As the Angmoh made his way to place the order and pay (cash only, by the way), the rest of us were entertained by the newspaper dining mats strewn across the table. Cookie Monster was enlightened by a waistless thong; think of it as an inverted hairband, just with a much narrower middle.

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Katie’s Low Country Boil – Traditional crab boil. Australian blue swimmer crab, corn cob and smoked kranski, Old Bay and garlic butter $25
House Baked Cornbread $3 (each)

First up, the crab boil. This is the signature dish, with a blue swimmer crab, corn and kranski cooked in a delicious garlic and buttery sauce. I loved the sausage, it was spicy and full of flavour. A mallet is provided for hammering away at the crab shell, which I found rather unnecessary and messy. I managed to bite away at the shells; while most dentists will reprimand me for this, it totally got the job done. The meat was flakey, soft and lacked sweetness, entirely due to the type of crab used. I would prefer a mud crab, which of course would be a lot dearer. The sweet corn bread is a must for dipping and soaking up the sauce. It resembles a dense muffin with the occasional corn kernel in it, which thankfully, eluded my mouth.

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Chesapeake Crab Burger – 100g blue swimmer crab cake, fresh slaw, herb mayo, dill pickle, sesame bun $15

Cookie Monster indulged in the crab burger while the carnivores split the fried chicken. The burger turned out to be disappointing, with the patty fragile and crumbling easily and the mayo and slaw too overwhelming. On the other hand, the fried chicken was superb. It was really juicy and the batter perfectly seasoned and not too floury. It came with a light tangy ranch dip, although I instead helped myself to the hot sauce provided at each table and that certainly gave the dish a kick.

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Seasonal Jambalaya – Traditional southern dish consisting of rice, seasonal vegetables and a selection of meats $22

The jumbalaya was most well-received dish that night. Cookie Monster remarked that the texture of the rice resembled congee and I thought it was a watery, overcooked version of paella (in a good way). Either way, the soft rice had soaked up the rich seafood, kranski and tomato flavours, making each a spoon a delicious mouthful.

There were a few hits and misses at Ms Katie’s Crab Shack but the overall ambience, company and corn(free) bread definitely made it an enjoyable experience.

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Filed under American, North Melbourne, Seafood

The Fair Foodstore

The Fair Foodstore
135 Church Street
Richmond
Vic 3121
+61 3 9429 6008
The Fair foodstore on Urbanspoon

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The Angmoh and I have a Sunday morning ritual. He rows early in the morning and I run from home to the rowing club to meet him just as he’s about to finish. Depending on the weather, the Sausage will come along for the exercise. From there, we head to Prahran for Market Lane Coffee.

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(Left) Piccolo latte $3.80
(Right) Magic $3.80

One Sunday morning, however, we changed it up a little. The Angmoh had coffee at MLC the day before when I was at work, hmpf! So when Sunday arrived, we head straight to brunch, having left the Sausage at home.

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Magic $3.80

I have driven past Fair Foodstore many a time on my way to physio, and everytime I went by I noticed it was pretty busy. That morning, due to our early start to the day, we were seated straight away at the communal table.

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“Banoffee” organic crumpets with salted caramel, cream and banana $15

The space of Fair Foodstore is unique in that the main counter has split into 2 sections, allowing a spacious corridor in-between to lead to the kitchen. The counter on the left showcases baked goods for the day, including sandwiches, muffins and madeleines. A shiny coffee machine sits on the right counter with the available beans and brews chalked into the board up on the wall. The Angmoh liked the scenes of New York City interspersed around the café.

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Our coffees were brewed from Bathysphere beans, with my piccolo latte initially tasting biscuity-light but deepened to a cocoa bitterness. For breakfast, I was torn between having the healthy option of smashed peas on pumpkin toast and going decadent with bananas and salted caramel on organic crumpets. Well, I settled for the latter. Fruit, tick. Dairy, tick. Preservative-and-chemical-free wholesome breakfast staple, tick. The salted caramel was more dulce de leche and watching it bubble up when cutting into the crumpets made my heart go pitty pat. The fresh cream was speckled with vanilla and whipped into an airy consistency, giving the entire dish a much needed lightness. Topped with crunchy banana chips, it was a winner of a breakfast dish alright.

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Braised winter greens on toast with almonds, egg and ricotta salata $17
Add poached egg $3

The Angmoh went vegetarian with braised winter veg and poached eggs on toast. He was initially weirded out by the squiggly white bits all over his dish but gave a huge sigh of relief when I told him it was just grated cheese. The broccoli, cooked lovingly and slowly, was tender and flavourful. It went perfectly with the almonds, poached eggs and ricotta and for once, I had brunch envy over The Angmoh’s dish. My only gripe was that the toast had been slathered with too much butter, although most will argue there’s no such thing as too much butter.

Breakfast at Fair Foodstore was excellent and filling. I’d eyed a gorgeous golden lemon tart and was hoping to have a slice but my bananas on crumpets left me close to bursting. Looks like a repeat breakfast at Fair will have to be done soon enough.

2 Comments

Filed under Brunch, Coffee, Richmond