The Vertue of the Coffee Drink

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink
8 Raffa Place
Carlton
Vic 3053
+61 3 8060 6987
The Vertue of the Coffee Drink on Urbanspoon

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If Melbourne is renowned for laneway secrets and excellent coffee, The Vertue of the Coffee Drink is one the best representations. Hidden behind the Shell petrol station off Lygon Street, what seems to be a narrow opening suddenly enlarges into a brilliant well-planned café space. Sparkling coffee machine, check. Beaming coffee roaster, check. Giant printout of one very wordy coffee advertisement, check. Delicious well-poured coffee, triple check.

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My first visit to this concealed Carlton café took place when my brother’s family visited sometime in March. We were done with the magnificent Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show and were famished, so we went to check the place out. After I had knocked back one very smooth and rounded magic, we got down to the business of filling our tummies.

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(Left) Scotch Egg, smoked pork belly, pig skin cracker, piccalilli mayonnaise, onion marmalade, brioche soldiers $21
(Right) Chickpea Chips with charred asparagus, preserved cherry tomato and basil salad, shaved parmesan, poached eggs $18

The menu is clever and creative, quite a far call from the usual brunch items such as eggs benny or smashed avo. Instead, there’s scotch eggs, which my Sister-in-law took a liking to, and chickpea chips which were calling out to me (in hangry halicunation).  The former was an indulgent porky platter of belly and crackling. Apart from the salty meat, the rest of the dish was spot-on. My dish was a vegetarian number involving crisp yet fluffy chickpea chips, sweet sweet roasted cherry tomatoes and charred asparagus. Had the poached eggs been taken out of the heat a second or two earlier, it would have made for a perfect brunch dish.

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Smoked Fish Chowder, Old Bay spiced squid, Port Arlington mussels, quail egg, barbequed corn $18

My brother ordered the seafood chowder, an item from the lunch menu. It was rich with seafood flavours and cream and had a generous serve of par-cooked vegetables that added crunch to the soup.

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Magics $4 each

The Angmoh felt left out and so we visited a week later. He enjoyed the coffee so much that he ordered 2 that very morning. We also got to sample a couple of sweet treats that were supplied to the café. The Butterbing peanut butter chocolate chip cookie is incredible in terms of texture. Brownie-macaron cookie is how I’d describe the cookie to be, with its crisp shells harbouring an insanely rich fudgey center. Take 2 of said cookies and smear in a rich decadent peanut butter filling and you have one helluva dessert. I also made do with a Kwak cinnamon scroll that originates from Oregono Bakery in Sydney. Smothered with a mountain of icing sugar, it was dense and chewy but could use a little chopped apple or raisins in its layers.

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Chocolate peanut butter cookie

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Kwak cinnamon scroll

The Vertue of a Coffee Drink is pretty much what Melbourne café culture embodies: hipster name, hidden location, excellent coffee and alternative delicious brunch fare.

 

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Filed under Brunch, Carlton, Coffee, Sweets

Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen

 

 

 

 

Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen
Basement
27 Russell Street
Melbourne
Vic 3000
+61 3 9650 3708
Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen on Urbanspoon

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The Angmoh and I were invited to attend to dine at Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen. A chorus of “Irrashaimase” hailed upon our descent into the restaurant. Unlike a couple of other basement Japanese restaurants, Ikkuryu Fukuoka spares no expense with lighting. It’s bright, spacious and welcoming.

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Ikkoryu Original Tonkotsu – Ikkoryu original hearty tonkotsu ramen garnished with charshu, green onion, bamboo shoots, woodear and dried seaweed $15

We randomly chose a table to peruse the menu. The ramen offers plenty of customisation: the type of soup, the hardness of noodle, the amount of ramen oil, the amount of shoyu and so on. I decided to have hard noodles in original soup, with light ramen oil and light shoyu. The Angmoh was intrigued by the yuzukosyo spice and had his ramen with the yuzu tama tonkontsu broth and his noodles cooked to the original degree of hardness. As we were one of the first to arrive, we got to enjoy our noodles pretty early and were ushered to sit at the counter to dine on them. Accompanying the noodles were some gyoza which were excellent. The skins were crisp and thin, and the filling juicy with some sweetness coming from the pork.

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Yuzu Tonkotsu – yuzu tama tonkotsu is flavoured with yuzukosyo, one of the spices that the Kyushu region of Japan is known for. A spice experience in ramen like no other $17

Back to our ramen, these were pretty good. The soups were well-balanced with both savoury and sweet notes. The yuzukosyo in The Angmoh’s soup gave it its green appearance and a good kick of peppery spice. The noodles were of good quality, although I thought mine had the exact same bite or hardness to that of The Angmoh’s. The pork was fall apart tender and the shoyu-seasoned soft boiled egg had a gooey yolk. The only let down was the absence of bamboo shoots in both our bowls, one of my favourite ingredients when having ramen. I also thought the portions were a tad small for the price stated on the menu. Perhaps due to the nature of the evening, portions sizes were meant for sampling.

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Apple sake

We were also offered some complimentary apple sake, which was basically apple juice with a shot of sake. It was light and refreshing.

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Gyoza (5 pieces) – $11

However, once we were done with our noodles, we had to give up our counter seats. This got a little awkward as the restaurant had now filled up and not many table seats were left. Guests started shuffling about, so we decided to avoid the chaos and left (which also meant we didn’t get to sample the rest of the sides).

The Angmoh and I thank Ikkoryu for having us on the night of their soft launch. I’m looking forward for a revisit to devour their excellent gyoza and trying out the rest of the ramen menu.

Disclaimer: The Hangry Bitch and The Angmoh were invited to attend Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen’s soft opening of their first Australian Restaurant in Mebourne.

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Filed under CBD, Japanese, Noodles, Ramen

Belle’s Hot Chicken

Belle’s Hot Chicken
150-156 Gertrude Street
Fitzroy
Vic 3065
+61 3 9077 0788
Belle's Hot Chicken on Urbanspoon

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After a tiring week, there’s nothing like a tucking into some good calorie-exploding artery-clogging apply-tongue-to-digits Southern fried chicken. The Angmoh and I got seated at the bar at Belle’s on a Friday evening after rocking up without having made a reservation. The restaurant does a modern take on the classic American diner, keeping the neon signage and booths with the latter decked in a handsome tan of treated wood. A turntable spins out some sleek vinyl tunes which is mostly drowned out by the buzz and chatter from patrons.

Belle’s specialises in fried chicken that comes in varying degrees of spice and heat. Never one to back down from a challenge, I ordered the hottest, the five out of five, the “really f***ing hot!”. Having had a spicy Sichuan meal the very night before, The Angmoh had to allow his stomach walls to reline and wussed onto a choice of medium heat. I did get a dipping sauce of ranch, just in case the habanero with ghost peppers were simply too much.

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(Left) House made sweet tea $6
(Right) Tenders, old bay fries $16

As we waited for our food, I sipped on some house-made tea. It was refreshingly icy, sweet and minty, another perfect cooler for the potential mouth-burning experience. Our meals came in little red plastic baskets, with a slice of white bread at the very bottom, possibly to absorb the oil and juices. Fat pickles adorned the meat with our choice of sides placed, well, at the side.

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Dark meat (drumstick and thigh), coleslaw $16
Belles ranch dressing $2

The Angmoh liked his chicken tenders but mentioned that, in future, will get a bone-in cut instead. There was much more going on in my drum and thigh cuts: more flavour, more juices, more crispy skin. As for my seasoning, it was indeed hot enough to induce some nose-sniffling and lip-tingling but I am proud to admit that not once did I reach for my tea and the ranch sauce barely had a dent in it when we left.

Belle’s fried chicken is pretty damn awesome. Grab a few mates who like a heat challenge and split a tub. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

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Filed under American, Fitzroy, Fried Chicken

Miss Jackson

Miss Jackson
2/19 Grey Street
St Kilda
Vic 3182
+61 3 9534 8415
Miss Jackson on Urbanspoon

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Brunch at Miss Jackson took place one Saturday morning with me finishing a CrossFit WOD and then jogging 2 suburbs south, while The Angmoh, Peach and Luigi all rocked up after tumbling out of bed, bushy-eyed and much less sweaty.

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(Left) Long black $3.80
(Right) Iced coffee $6

Peach had a long black, while The Angmoh, not being a fan of Allpress beans, found a way to indulge in an espresso-based drink that morning. He ordered an iced coffee and the generous glug of milk and vanilla ice cream helped masked the chemical aftertastes of the beans.

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(Left) Potted avocado with goats cheese, a poached egg and pumpkin bread, with house cured salmon $20
(Right) Corn fritters with bacon, avocado and roasted vine tomatoes and house made chilli jam $16

Service was quick despite a bustling weekend morning. Peach had the potted avocado and poached eggs on pumpkin toast. The avocado came as described, pale green and moussey-smooth. Luigi’s corn fritters were lovely with all the elements working well together. The tomatoes were literally bursting with flavour and Luigi’s white top unfortunately bore evidence of that.

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Potato and leek hash with smoked trout, a poached egg and smashed peas $18

The Angmoh and I usually do not order the same dish. Our brunch preferences swing in opposite directions, with him enjoying generous meaty breakfast platters while I lean towards vegetarian options that included eggs and shrooms. That morning, though, we both ordered the smoked trout on peas with hash. We both agreed the hash needed more crisping up, but the overall dish was tasty and fulfilling. I particularly liked the liberal sprinkling of herbs like dill and parsley. It provided a lovely refreshing lift to the dish.

Miss Jackson is a stalwart café in St Kilda. With pleasant, decent food, it’s a reliable brunch option for the local residents needing a good feed.

 

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Filed under Bayside, Brunch, Coffee, St Kilda

Joomak

Joomak
Basement, 407-409 Swanston Street
Melbourne
Vic 3000
+61 3 9663 7123
Joomak on Urbanspoon
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Melbourne boasts of secret laneways and underground restaurants. Joomak is one such place, hidden in the basement of the Druids House along Swanston Street. Head downstairs and be welcomed by blue discotech fairy lights draped across each private dining cubicle, great for group huddling and gossiping over Korean nibbles and drinks.

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Pineapple soju $16

Toong organised a girls night out to celebrate her birthday and hens night. It was a small gathering of herself, Long Legs, Q and me. Toong had been here several times and loved the pineapple soju. It tasted exactly like pineapple syrup, sans the taste or smell of alcohol, making it an underestimated beverage that is pleasant-tasting and easy to drink.

Food is of a share-plate concept with no individual rice dishes such as bibimbaps gracing the menu. A button is located on the pillar and pressing it signals the waiter to your table. That night we shared 5 dishes amongst us 4.

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Rice cake with seafood $24
Ban Chan

The dish of rice cakes with seafood was the first to be set down. Normally involving cheese, Long Legs had requested that the cheese be omitted. It wasn’t quite my thing. Firstly, I’m not a fan of the Korean rice cake, which I find rather dense and chewy. Also the sauce was heavy and sweet, making it a combination not to my liking. Long Legs does like the Korean rice cakes though, and found no fault with the dish.

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Kimchi and squid pancake $17

The rest of the dishes captured my full attention, especially the kimchi and tofu soup (which is one of my favourite Korean dishes) and the kimchi and squid pancake. The soup, while nothing to shout about, ticks all the boxes of spicy, bubbling and comforting. Oddly enough I liked the pancake (I wasn’t expecting to), with its resilient chunks of squid and undetectable kimchi flavour.

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Beef short-rib soup $16

We also shared a beef short-rib soup and a chicken stew dish whose particulars I don’t fully remember. Both was tasty and full of flavour, heart-warming and would be perfect for winter.

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Braising chicken with spicy sauce $17

If you’re interested in some eclectic Korean food and love exploring Melbourne’s hidden spaces, give Joo Mak a visit when you’re next passing by.

 

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Filed under CBD, Korean

Addict Food and Coffee

Addict Food and Coffee
240 Johnston Street
Fitzroy
Vic 3605
+61 3 9415 6420
Addict Food and Coffee on Urbanspoon

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Brunch at Addict happened after the Booos and I returned to Melbourne after our Bhutan trip. We had had enough of sautéed veg in soy or oyster sauce and were hankering for a good decent Western brunch that included words like ‘sourdough’ and ‘poached’.

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(Top) Seasonal blend piccolo latte $3.80
(Bottom) Single origin Ethiopia Bulga piccolo latte $4.20

We zipped to Collingwood to check out Addict after having seen delicious tempting photos on Instagram. As we perched at the window seats watching the traffic on Johnston Street pass by, Fakebooo and I indulged in our coffees. Having gone coffee-free for the past 2 weeks, our first sips of Melbournian-coffee went down a treat with eyes-closed appreciation. Fakebooo’s Ethiopian single origin tasted of milk chocolate while my seasonal blend had notes of berries and biscuits. Yum.

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Corn fritters with kasundi, haloumi, poached eggs and a coriander and mizuna salad $18

Fakebooo had corn fritters, a Melbourne brunch classic. This was a dish loaded with flavour, with Middle Eastern spices in the fritters, sweetness from the corn and the haloumi and fetta providing some savouriness. The generous serve made Fakebooo’s tum very satisfied.

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Potato hash and mushroom duxelles with roasted field mushroom, a poached egg and caramelised onion $18

As for Fakebooobooo and I, we both had our eye on the mushroom on hash. The potato stack was a good inch thick with lovely crisp edges, topped with a buttery soft roasted field mushie and a gooey poached egg balanced on the peak, making one hell of a delicious tower. All the elements worked harmoniously, especially the sweet caramelised onion balancing out the salty mushroom duxelle.

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Having been deprived of Melbourne food for a few weeks, Addict certainly ticked all the boxes, satisfying our craving for quality brunch food and making us feel right back at home.

 

 

 

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Filed under Brunch, Coffee, Fitzroy

Nora

Nora
156 Elgin Street
Carlton
Vic 3053
+61 3 9041 8644
Nora on Urbanspoon

Nora

Fakebooo selected a café for one of our Thursday brunch sessions: Nora. He had yet to sample the famous charcoal-based tarts and promptly needed to rectify that.

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We stepped into the small-spaced café in Carlton and fell in love straight away. It was stark, it was clean, it was cute and the only the presence of the open kitchen and coffee machine prevented the café from appearing like an art gallery.

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Piccolo latte $4

As Fakebooo sipped on his decent Small Batch coffee, we contemplated the menu. It was hard to decide when everything sounded so interesting and alluring. In the end, we made our choices: “Dear Mitchell” for me and “Pig from the Ground it’s Raised From” for Booo.

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Pig from the ground it’s raised from – bacon, scallop, mushroom, watercress & taro puree, radish $18.50

If you thought the names of the dishes belonged to a degustation menu, wait till you see the plating! Fakebooo’s dish was just too beautiful to eat. The taro puree was a gentle smear at the rim, with the zucchini and radish artfully arranged to hide the slab of bacon steak. The taste of the dish was just as amazing. The pork was tender and full of flavour and topped with dehydrated scallop flakes that provided sweetness. The raw vegetables gave a refreshing green taste to counter the richness of the meat and the smooth taro paste bound it all together.

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Dear Mitchell – eggs our way, house chilli dressing, shallots, salted shrimps and Thai greens $14.50

Although my dish didn’t appear quite so pretty, it was bloody tasty. The beaten eggs were cooked in a 62 degree fashion, making it softer, more wobbly and more gelatinous than its boring steamed cousin. The dressing of sweet chilli and dried shrimp pumped up the flavours, giving simultaneous little bursts of sweetness and umami. The Asian vegetables of green papaya, Vietnamese mint and spring onion provided a little rawness and a little crunch.

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Both our dishes came with a side of wombok and a brown muffin. The wombok was glazed with house-made Thai curry paste, which confounded both Fakebooo and I. It just didn’t seem to go with either of our dishes. The bread on the other hand was well-received. It turned out to be a very eggy Yorkshire pudding-like bread, and it served well as our carb component to our brunch mains.

I loved everything about Nora: from goggling at the (t)art on display, to sipping on sweet tingly sparkling water (did I mention it’s free!), and awakening my tastebuds with the playful but delicious food. What about the tarts you ask?

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Charcoal tart – lychee, cheddar, Vegemite $5

This time, I tried the lychee, cheddar and Vegemite tart. The odd combination of ingredients meshed well in a pungent, sweet and salty manner. I liked it, although the true-blue Vegemite-lovin’ Aussie Angmoh refused to take a bite.

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Filed under Brunch, Carlton, Coffee, Modern, Sweets