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.

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Filed under Brunch, Coffee, Richmond

8Bit, Humburger

2013 had me compiling a list of burger eats but there’s no such thing as being burger-ed out. Early this year, I was exposed to Fat Bob’s. Located towards the bayside region, it hit the jack pot being named in The Age’s Top 10 Burgers. I had to check out the fuss of course and oh yea, it sure was awesome.

8Bit
8 Droop Street
Footscray
Vic 3011
+61 3 9687 8838
8bit. on Urbanspoon

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I now add in 2 more burger hits to my growing, don’t-think-will-ever-end compilation. First up, 8Bit caused quite a stir when it first opened doors. I heard down the Instagram grapevine that they’d sold out for lunch on a weekday. My ears shot up, my tummy grumbled and when I discovered that it was located in Footscray, I zipped across the West Gate Bridge faster than Roadrunner chirping out “Beep Beep”. Burgers, in Footscray?! Now this is a first!

8bit

I visited on a Thursday smack at lunch time and a queue had developed. As I stood in line deliberating my choices, I checked out the bistro. The open kitchen allows any sticky beak to perve into the grilling actions happening, while the main dining space consists of colourful tables and chairs contrasted against the stark grey floor. There is even a comfortable couch present for those awaiting takeaway.

After Burner
After Burner – Beef, tomato, red onion, lettuce, cheese, chilli sauce, jalapenos, chipotle mayo $9.50

I do love my burgers spicy and ordered the After Burner, complete with jalapenos and spicy mayo. I almost asked for the chilli cheese fries but got lured by the peanut butter shake instead. If only I had the metabolism of a teenage boy…

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Peanut butter milkshake $6.50

The burger comes half-wrapped, propped up sideways in a container, standing longitudinally. The heat was detectable but I found the salt levels a little on the heavy side. The patty was also over cooked and turned out a tad firm. The milkshake was sweet and powdery but had the perfect amount of thickness.

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I didn’t really agree with nearby patrons about the orgasmic feeling they’d experienced with their burger but 8Bit is a great introduction to a suburb of ingeras, phos and banh mis. Oh and do have a go at the arcade game at the back of the bistro, in all its 8-bit glory.

Humburger
789 Glenferrie Road
Hawthorn
Vic 3122
+61 3 9818 3881
Humburger on Urbanspoon
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2 weeks later, I met up with The Angmoh during his lunch break at Hawthorn. We decided to stray off the $10 cheap Asian meals and take a stab at Humburger. Humburger is situated on the Barker Street-side of Glenferrie Road. Don’t let the small entrance and counter seats fool you, the bistro boasts a lovely courtyard and a large communal table.

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Once again I chose the option of a spicy burger while The Angmoh had himself the basic, with added caramelised onion and bacon. We waited at the communal table with the company of 3 female foodies, initially in an animated discussion of dumplings (we were shamelessly eavesdropping) that quickly turned to cries of thankful moans as soon as they bit into their burgers. One was so enthusiastic that she immediately picked up her phone to notify a mate that she was having the best burger somewhere in Hawthorn.

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Melbournian – Beef, spicy mayo, jalapenos, tomato, lettuce, onion, chunky garden mayo $11.50

Our burgers were set down before us and I oohed at all its prettiness: the golden buns studded with brown flaxseeds, the crisp green lettuce and the charred patty. Photo-taking done, we took a mouthful, only to turn to each other in silent amazement. It was incredible. The buns were soft and buttery sweet, and the patty, made from grass-fed Angus, was cooked to a rare perfection and dripping non-stop. The seasoning of the patty was just right though I could use more heat in my burger.

Hum
The Hum – Beef, cheddar, pickles, mustard, mayo/tomato sauce $9
Add caramelised onion $2
Add bacon $2

Having consumed the calories burned in the morning’s 8km run, I had to forgo milkshakes and sundaes. But I’ll be back, for there is the ‘peanut butter cup’, a concoction of ice cream, peanut brittle and crumbled brownies that has my name written all over it

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Filed under Burgers, Footscray, Hawthorn, Milkshakes

Pidapipó

Pidapipó Gelateria
222 Faraday Street
Carlton Vic 3053
+61 3 9347 4596
Pidapipó on Urbanspoon

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This year, it seems that my must-have dessert is gelato. I used to settle for cakes or pastries as a sweet satisfaction but nowadays I find myself craving cold creamy lick-a-licious ice cream or gelato. My favourites so far are Spring Street Grocer, N2 Gelato, Helados Jauja and Jocks. In my fussy opinion, the ice cream must capture the real, essential taste of the ingredient and the only way of achieving this is by using the actual ingredient itself. That means real fruit or nuts and a big no no to extracts, chemicals and any other fake sh*t.

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Pidapipó is the latest addition of gelato shops to Melbourne’s Little Italy and the gelato there is truly sublime. When visiting for the first time it got me hooked immediately. I was back within the week and again the following. My 3rd visit had me leaving with a takeaway tub, for nights of TV indulgence, emotional comfort or just why-the-hell-not.

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(Left) 2 Scoop – Fior di Latte, Crema Rhubarb Vincotto Swirl $6
(Right) 1 Scoop – Chocolate $4

Bestie Yaps is a huge ice cream fan. She loves it so much, she had a scoop (or two) every day when she was in Italy. I introduced her to Pidapipo when she visited late last month. She had the Nutella swirl and concurred that it was pretty damn good.

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1 Scoop Nutella Swirl $4

So far, I’ve tried pistachio, fior di latte, chocolate, rhubarb swirl and watermelon. All of them are great and no doubt, I’ll be back to try other flavours.

 

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Filed under Carlton, Gelato, Sweets

Auction Rooms

Auction Rooms
103-107 Errol Street
North Melbourne
Vic 3051
+61 3 9326 7749
Auction Rooms on Urbanspoon

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Auction Rooms is one of Melbourne’s top brunch spots. Sporting a legend of a reputation, queues on the weekend can extend to a good two hour long wait. The Angmoh and I were fortunate to get a table for 2 on a Saturday morning after a mere 15 minutes.

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Auction Rooms is a veteran amongst refurbished warehouse cafes, being one of the earlier incarnations of the now commonplace design approach. The café has faded brick, a coffee brew bar, a sheltered courtyard dining space and a stunning dining space.

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Skinny magic $4

The Angmoh had a skinny magic, made from houseblend Small Batch beans. I find the Small Batch blend tricky to work with, with other cafes producing an astringent, harsh coffee. But at Auction Rooms…it is utterly delicious. My eggpresso was not too shabby either, mixing eggnog, a shot of espresso and a hit of brandy all into a scrumptious cuddly warm drink. Topped with nougat and cinnamon sugar, it was the perfect mulled beverage for a cold winter day. It had a quintessentially Christmasy feel to it, making it a highly appropriate addition for any Christmas-in-July festivities!

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Egg-spresso-nog – Brandy eggnog made with Candyman and served with nougat $6

The menu has changed slightly, with previous items such as “The Open Bid” missing. Sides, also known as side bids, are kept minimal but fancied up. There’s no bacon or smashed avo, but instead, there is coffee glazed bacon steak and avocado with a smear of lemon tahini, which is what The Angmoh chose to accompany his poached eggs on toast. His eggs were poached perfectly and he loved how the bacon steak was tender with a sweet caramelised crisp.

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Two poached eggs on sourdough $9.50
Add maple & coffee glaze bacon steak $5.50
Add sliced avocado with lemon tahini dressing $5.50

As for myself, I was lured by the words “fried poached egg”. How is that even possible? And paired with beetroot, I was sold. The beets came raw and pickled, providing a sweet and tart contrast respectively. The egg had the thickness of a poached egg but with the fried surfaces flat and crisp. The pesto of beet leaves and macadamia nuts was a brilliant and inspiring blend, somthing I look forward to replicating in my kitchen.

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Roasted & shaved raw beetroot salad with beet leaf/macadamia pesto, wild sorrel, garlic crisps and a fried slow-poached egg $15

I’ve always left Auction Rooms with a smile on my face and this visit was no different. Chirpy and perhaps slightly buzzed from the spiked eggnog, I had typed in silly notes such as “beet still my beeting heart”. Auction Rooms is a definite crowd pleaser, offering top-notch coffee and marvellous food.

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On a side note, I couldn’t leave North Melbourne without paying a visit to another of my favourite places, Beatrix. I fluttered and skipped my way to the little café and took off with 2 treats: Meyer lemon chiffon cake and sour cream doughnut. I may have devoured both treats in that very weekend and yes, they were no doubt heavenly.

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Filed under Brunch, Coffee, North Melbourne