Category Archives: Carlton

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

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

Chimac, Pidapipo

chimac

Chimac
Shop 1 39-47 Peel Street
West Melbourne
Vic 3003
+61 3 9939 5916
Chimac on Urbanspoon

Chimac has been on Liz’s and my wishlists for a while. After hearing good reviews from Fakebooo, a double dinner date was arranged.

Chimac focuses on fusion Korean street food and with the slogan “I love chicken and beer”, we knew we were at the right place for some finger-licking KFC.

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Draft by Jiaro HITE (jug) $18

Apparently Hart is a major lightweight so he stuck to Coke while the rest of us indulged in the appropriate beverage. The Korean draft was pleasant and light, perfect for the deep-fried madness that was to come.

The first dish to grace our table was an interesting combination of melted cheese, firm tofu and kimchi on a hot plate. We loved it. Grilling the kimchi intensified its depth, working well with the neutral tofu.

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(Left) Joeeon burrito – spicy pork $15
(Right) Seafood pancake – prawns, squids and scallion $17

We also enjoyed a seafood pancake and a burrito. While the pancake was alright and nothing to shout about, the burrito wrap, Chimac’s take on the popular Mexican snack, made for a delicious mouthful. It was stuffed with rice, jalapenos, sour cream and spicy pork belly and it worked.

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(Left) Chimac Chicken (including salad and pickled daikon) – mix and match of Ultra Crispy and Wonder Soy $38
(Right) Tofu on kimchi field – tofu, cheese and caramelised kimchi $22

The star of the night had to be the fried chicken. We chose a mix of “ultra crispy” and “wonder soy”. The latter was a lighter version of teriyaki and still leant towards the sweet side. I do not want to imagine how insanely sweet the ‘bloody sweet’ version will be. We all agreed that the ultra crispy was the preferred choice. No secret herbs and spices needed, this blew us away as soon we crunched in. I loved how little batter is used, as opposed to the usual thick-battered chicken from other Korean joints. Hart even declared it the best Korean fried chicken he’d come across.

Needless to say, all of us had a bloody delicious time at Chimac. Hart’s so smitten by the chicken that he’s already made plans to return the following week. As for myself, I’m curious about the rest of the Mexican/Korean menu (ta-kors anyone?) and I can never say no to good ol’ fried chicken.

pidapipo

Pidapipo
299 Lygon Street
Carlton
Vic 3053
+61 3 9347 4596
Chimac on Urbanspoon

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(Left) Fior di latte $4
(Right) Ricotta, honey and cinnamon $4

Despite being stuffed to the max, I thought ice cream will be the perfect way to fill in the gaps in my stomach. What better place to check out than the newly opened Pidapipo? There was a queue, as expected, but it moved along pretty quick. I got a scoop of the Christmas special: ricotta, honey and cinnamon, while the Angmoh lapped up some fior di latte. Oddly the gelato wasn’t as good as how we’d remembered it. Was it because our expectations were set too high or was the quality truly compromised by the crowd and pressure? I’ll probably let the excitement settle down before heading back for 2nds at Pidapipo.

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Filed under Carlton, Gelato, Korean, Mexican, West Melbourne

Epocha

Epocha
49 Rathdowne Street
Carlton
Vic 3053
+61 3 9036 4949
Epocha on Urbanspoon

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I think I’m in love. With Epocha, that is. From the moment I stepped foot into the Victorian terrace and gasped at the rustic tiled tables and the antiquated mantels, my heart was stolen. And as the night progressed, each sip of wine, each deep inhalation, each bite and swallow made my heart skip a beat and had me drowning in a deep pool of heady intoxication.

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(Left) Oyster (shucked to order) $4.50
(Right) Beetroot, goat’s curd, pecan, honey $16

Let’s start off with the bread, such a simple everyday staple and yet wrapped in pale muslin, it was dark and soft, with just a hint of sweet molasses to awaken the palate. Gentle spices of caraway and anise play peek-a-boo and the smear of house-churned butter had me closing my eyes in sheer enjoyment.

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Mini crumpets, honeycomb $10

The next dish of crumpets was heaven-sent. Each little nugget was warm and steaming and the use of honeycomb made it extra special. I topped my share with more butter, honey and a quick drizzle of salt and popped it in whole. It was like waking up to golden sunshine spilling through the windows… I really could have this for breakfast every day.

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(Left) Cote de Boeuf, 500g $66
(Right) Charred broccoli, roast garlic $9

The seamless marriage of rich goats curd and sweet beets had us ready for our main. The rib eye was perfectly cooked and each sliver of meat blushingly pink, full of flavour and oh so juicy. The accompanying bone marrow jus with subtle notes of currants from the red wine accentuated the entire experience.

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A dessert tray is set down and my heart fell, just for an instant, when I was told I had to choose. “What do you mean I can’t have it all?” I wanted to yell and wail like a broken-hearted lovesick damsel. But ever composed, I picked a chocolate number to soothe my sorry heart. It consisted of a crunchy hazelnut base layered with a sweet dense chestnut marzipan paste and crowned with a smooth velvety chocolate mousse and intense ganache. It was chocolate bliss. The crème caramel was marvellous too, eggy and smooth in a moat of tangy citrus syrup.

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(Top) Citrus crème caramel $12
(Bottom) Chocolate and chestnut $12

All good things must come to an end and as I bade Epocha farewell, my heart knew that this night wasn’t over. Epocha, I’ll be calling on you soon.

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Oh and by the way, The Angmoh was there that night too but because his heart had already been captured by yours truly, he couldn’t quite fall in love the way I did. Still, he had a wondrous time.

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Pidapipó

Pidapipó Gelateria
222 Faraday Street
Carlton Vic 3053
+61 3 9347 4596
Pidapipó on Urbanspoon
(now closed)

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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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Cup of Truth, Pardon Coffee, Stovetop Cafe

Cup of Truth
12 Campbell Arcade
Degraves Street Subway (below Flinders Street)
Melbourne
Vic 3000
+61 498 256 786
Cup of Truth on Urbanspoon

Pardon Coffee
Shop 4
155 Greville Street
Prahran 3181
Pardon Coffee on Urbanspoon

cup of truth

Last year, Fakebooo and I did a coffee CBD trail and discovered a literally hidden gem. Cup of Truth was a delightful surprise located underground near Flinders Station. We were bestowed 2 excellent magics brewed with Axil beans. As we nursed our coffees while perched on rattly plastic milk crates, I reflected on how different beans can produce a different coffee in the hands of different baristas. The fact that there can be so many variables factored to produce one single cup of excellence can be mind-boggling.

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Magics

Fast-forward 365 days and some, we learnt news that Cup of Truth was going to have a sister in Prahran. Like coffee groupies that we are, Fakebooo and I journeyed across the Yarra and located the café in the hipsterdom of Greville Street.

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It is small, seats just about the number of people you can count on both hands and is furnished in eclectic randomness. The only thing that makes real sense is the coffee. The Axil brew was beautiful to look at and savour. Bright notes of zest and citrus lay dormant under vibrato fabricated latte art.

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Food options are minimal but boasts of Matt Forbes’ delightful creations. We split a lemon olive oil cake between us. It was tart and fruity and made a faultless pairing with our coffees.

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Magic $3.70

Pardon coffee is more easily accessed, has more comfy seating and offers consistent delicious coffees. There’s certainly no need for pardoning.

Stovetop
100 Leicester Street
Carlton
Vic 3053
+61 3 9347 2010
Stovetop on Urbanspoon

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Cookie Monster and I caught up for brunch at Stovetop recently. We opted to sit outside and soak up some Vitamin D. It also allowed the parking cheapo in me to keep an eye on my car, which was parked in one of the few ½P, unmetered lots. (By the way, I did move my car 35 30 minutes later, so ha!)

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I was debating between having chai (by Prana) or coffee (by 5 Senses). I succumbed to the latter, which turned out milk-chocolatey and light.

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We gossiped, reminisced and discussed birthday celebrations. We went vego that morning, sticking with simple scrambled eggs for Cookie Monster and baked duck egg with vegetables for me.

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Piccolo latte $3.60

The scrambled eggs were fluffy and had good texture but could do with less salt. My baked dish had lovely flavours from the za’atar and feta. I generously dumped all the pumpkin onto Cookie Monster’s plate. She ate it all without any complaints.

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Scrambled Green Eggs with toast $9

While we both agreed that our dishes were pretty good, they could do with a gentler amount of seasoning: both dishes were salty and the slices of bread were saturated with melted butter.

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Duck egg baked in sautéed spinach, roast pumpking, Persian fetta with house za’atar and toast $13

Located in the Carlton section of the University of Melbourne, this campus café is bound to attract hungry uni kids.

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Filed under Brunch, Carlton, CBD, Coffee, prahran

An Über Sweet Post

Beatrix
688 Queensberry Street
North Melbourne
Vic 3051
+61 3 9090 7301
Beatrix on Urbanspoon

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I have always had a sweet tooth but the ironic thing is I don’t like my sweets too sweet. One of my absolute favourite sweet places in Melbourne is Beatrix. Cakes here are done the old-fashioned way, with classic sponge and cream and chiffon being the most common. Other delectable goodies include brownies, tarts and cookies. Beatrix is not just a sweet-tooth’s paradise, the ciabatta sandwiches are to die for as well. A limited number of sandwiches are offered on a daily basis, and they are handmade to order. The ingredients are of top-notch quality and the sandwiches are stuffed to the brim, resulting in the need for fork and knife.

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The Beggbie (half) – $10.50

I visited Beatrix three times in two weeks. If I lived next door, I’d be in everyday (except Sunday and Monday, for that’s when she’s closed) and be the size of a house. Although the café is small and seats just a handful, there are a few tables and chairs scattered outside for warmer days. I love the tantilizing display and the aroma of sugar and butter.

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The Chairman (half)

I have tried a couple of sandwiches, the Beggbie and the Chairman. The former had sweet beetroot and apple aioli topped with a perfectly fried sunnyside-up and peppered with fresh roquette leaves. The latter consisted of a slab of soft fatty pork belly marinated in charsiew sauce and Sichuan pepper, topped with fresh green snow pea shoots and crunchy lettuce, all of which was bracketed by mayo-slathered ciabatta. These sandwiches, by golly, are worth waiting and paying for.

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(Left): Lime tart, Orange chiffon, Anzac cookie
(Right) Lemon chiffon, Whoopee Pie

The desserts that I’ve tried so far are the lemon chiffon, orange chiffon, whoopee pie, lime tart and Anzac cookie. Yes, I finished every mentioned sinful item mar the Anzac cookie. No, I did not eat all of it in one sitting, although I probably could. Probably. The cookie was for the Angmoh, which he single-handedly devoured without offering me a taste. I had also gifted Fakebooo with a rhubarb tart which he undoubtedly enjoyed.

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Lemon chiffon

Amongst all the mentioned goodies, the lemon chiffon wins hands down. I love citrusy desserts and while the chiffon has fluffy insides, the edges and bottom are saturated with sweet tangy lemon juice. Mmm, yum. I’ve heard that Beatrix has produced many a lemon tart and I have yet to set my greedy hands on one, but I predict I won’t be too far along from satisfying this craving.

Parisian Patisserie Boulangerie
19 Keilor Road
Essendon
Vic 3041
+61 3 9379 3815
Parisian Patisserie Boulangerie on Urbanspoon

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Parisian Patisserie Boulangerie is another place that I wish I lived next to. Thank the lord I’m more than a suburb away. It can be a tad troublesome to get there so I’ve only been a couple of times, during airport runs, despite my enjoyment of their products.

Situated amongst the wide traffic-confusing shopping stretch that encompasses two huge round-abouts in Essendon, Parisian Patisserie Boulangerie is rather easy to find once you get past navigating said round-abouts and turn onto the right road. It is identified by a bicycle, of which its basket nestles the iconic symbol of French bread, the baguette.

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I have yet to sit in and dine in this little café but coffee, sandwiches and of course pastries can be enjoyed on site. My most recent takeaway stash consisted of the famed almond croissant and an escargot for The Angmoh.

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(Left) Escargot $4.80
(Right) Almond croissant $5.90

The almond croissant is slightly bigger on average and is also a tad pudgier. It is generously stuffed with sweet buttery almond pate. The flaky layers of croissant are somewhat lost due to the moist filling but it still makes one hell of a wicked treat.

I have previously tried the vegetable brioche. It is tasty, buttery and goes against the mindset that everything vegetarian is healthy.

The next time you’re headed to or from the airport, take the longer route to step into this lovely café.

Cupcake Central Workshop
Level 2, Dining Hall
Melbourne Central
Melbourne
Vic 3000
+61 3 9077 4542Cupcake Central Workshop on Urbanspoon

cupcake central

Food fashions are like waves: they come crashing in, cause a lot of fuss and then fade out with a gentle evanescence. Melbourne has had many food ebbs and tides; there was the Mexican wave, the macaroon movement, the uproar on doughnuts and cronuts and of course the cupcake craze.

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Cupcake chains shot up like wildflowers in a dung-laden farm in recent years. These little morsels are delicate, intricate and far too pretty to be eaten. They are basically sponge cakes prettied up by a hat of swirled frosting. Throw in some flavour, pile on the make-up and voila, a cupcake is made.

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(Left) Chocolate malt milkshake $4
(Right) Mint choc chip$4

Cupcake Central has to be the pioneer and reigning queen of the cupcakes. While many a franchise have diminished, the original Cupcake Central holds court in Melbourne Central. Several factors contribute to her clout: the open window in which customers can watch the action is beckoning, as is the comfortable lounge sandwiched between her and Plantation. Furthermore, workshops are held for those interested to perfect their cupcake making and decorating skills.

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Lemon $4

But what about the cupcakes? The cupcakes, of course, are delicious. The sponge base is moist and soft and the frosting finger-and-lip-licking good. There are more than 15 different flavoured cupcakes to appeal to the masses.

I took away the chocolate mint, lemon and chocolate malted milkshake one day and also sampled a peanut butter one sometime ago. The flavours of each cupcake came were unmissable and the textures of both sponge and icing were perfect.

The bottom line is, if you have managed to hide yourself in some tiny dark well and have yet to open your heart to try one of Cupcake Central’s cupcakes, do yourself a favour. Get one of these babies and I guarantee, it’ll be hard to stop at just one.

Helados Jauja
254 Lygon Street
Carlton
Vic 3053
+61 3 9041 2927
Helados Jauja on Urbanspoon

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One might wonder what a Patagonian ice cream shop is doing in the middle of Melbourne’s Little Italy. Although dotted with gelato bars aplenty, Helados Jauja is the only place I’d settle for ice cream on Lygon Street.

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It combines real fresh ingredients with Patagonian techniques, lovingly handmade in Australia. Doesn’t matter how you go about eating your ice cream, be it taking a big bite and getting brain freeze or swirling your tongue to catch melting rivers, the taste of the ice cream is pure and true. The texture of the ice cream might not be as creamy but the unadulterated wholesome flavours more than compensate for it.

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(Left) Vanilla Bean [classic] $4.70
(Right) Hola! Mi Amor – rosewater with swirls of raspberry, roasted pistachios [deluxe] $5.30

There are 2 categories of ice cream, classic and deluxe, with the latter a touch pricier. There are also a variety of sorbets to choose from. You pick the number of scoops you want and decide if you’d like to have it in a cup or cone. I normally go for 2 in a cone. So far, I’ve tried black sesame, peanut butter, mint, yerba mate, vanilla and rosewater. My favourites so far are the black sesame and mint.

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Helados Jauja now does brunch on weekends and is currently having a promotion titled “A Date with Jaujas”. For $50, you get to sample all 24 flavours, enjoy 3 scoops of any choice and take home a regular pack of ice cream. The date is set for 9 Nov, so ice cream fanatics should book this one in.

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Filed under Carlton, CBD, Cupcake, Essendon, Gelato, North Melbourne, Pastries, Sweets