Category Archives: Coffee

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

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

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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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

Ora Cafe

Ora Café
156 Pakington Street
Kew
Vic 3101
+61 3 9855 2002
Ora Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Fakebooo invited me along to brunch with his colleagues one day. Since we used to work together and we were all in the same industry, I decided to crawl out of my well and do some socialising. The venue was Ora, which both Fakebooo and I last visited at least 2 years ago (on separate occasions). I remembered that the brunch fare was excellent and Fakebooo enjoyed it too, commending the coffee.

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Piccolo latte $3.80

Ora occupies a small space and patrons spill over onto the pavement to dine along the narrow strip. Fortunately for us, we managed to get a table inside and avoided the initial fat raindrops, followed by warm dense humidity. The menu is small but unique with interesting dishes incorporated from Asian flavours, such as sesame prawn toast and spiced tiffin eggs. The coffee is from a roaster I’ve not come across: Maker, and that morning, Fakebooo and I enjoyed our piccolo lattes made from Ethiopia “Konga”, a single origin which boasted notes of blueberry, florals and peach. The blueberry was indeed prominent on the first taste, which mellowed softly into the summer sweetness of the stone fruit.

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(Top) Mork hot chocolate $4
(Bottom) Chai $4

Roen, Jac and Jean carpooled to get to the café and as soon as they arrived they swiftly ordered their drinks. Hot chocolate for Jean, a chai latte for Jac and a citrus fizzy for Roen. They too settled quickly on their food choices and once our order was placed we got cracking with our exchange of gossip and ranting. The kitchen service did take a little while but our conversations had us killing time anyway.

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(Right) 2 scrambled eggs on sourdough $9, add The Melbourne Pantry bacon $5
(Left) prawn toast – sesame, avocado whip, lime, egg $20

Roen and Jean customised their breakfasts with a simple eggs and bacon on toast, with Roen getting his egg poached and Jean opting for scrambled. Jac had the prawn toasts which, I assume, Ora borrowed the idea from the popular yumcha dish. Unlike the petite dim sum version, Jac’s dish came as a thick sandwich. While I thought the combination of poached egg, avocado mousse and prawn toast a little odd, Jac apparently didn’t find any fault and devoured it without complaint.

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(Left) Salmon gravlax – lime, beetroot, cucumber, rye $17, add poached egg $3
(Right) Beetroot on toast – goats curd, beetroot crisp, torn egg $17

Fakebooo’s brunch of rye bread, house-cured salmon with added poached egg was delicate and a perfect dish for summer. I couldn’t go past the combination of beetroot with goats cheese and the beetroot chips were a wonderful way to add texture to the dish.

Ora turned out to be just as good as I’d remembered. Portions while not gargantuan, are not stingy either and the food reflects a well-thought blend of ingredients and flavours.

 

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Filed under Brunch, Chai, Coffee, Kew

Mr Hendricks

Mr Hendricks
469 Whitehorse Road
Balwyn
Vic 3103
+61 3 9830 7579
Mr Hendricks Cafe on Urbanspoon
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It’s great having a dog. The kitchen floor never needs cleaning and table scraps don’t go to waste. Oh, it also gives me an excuse to have doggy brunch dates. I had a lovely catch up with Ashley at Industry Beans last year with The Sausage meeting Chai and recently, Daisy and I arranged for brunch so that The Sausage could finally get to meet Cupcake.

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With few options down Daisy’s burbs, we decided to check out a relatively newcomer in the brunch scene. Mr Hendricks looks smallish from the entrance but extends into a brilliant spacious dog-friendly courtyard.

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(Left) Chai latte $4 (Right) Magic $3.50

While poodle and dachshund sniffed each other out, Daisy’s partner, Ricky, had coffee and Daisy had a soy chai latte.The beans are by Padre and Ricky thought it was a pretty good cuppa. Prana chai is used, with whole spices and tea leaves steeped to infuse into a spicy nutty milky tea. I had a simple orange juice.

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House toasted granola with strawberry and rhubarb compote and vanilla yoghurt $12.50

The Angmoh had the only breakfasty dish amongst us. The granola came with 2 mounds of yoghurt and rhubarb compote. The toppings, while generous, were excessive and caused the entire dish to be too gluggy.

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Breakfast cassolet with confit duck, Toulouse sausage, persillade, ham hock and fried eggs $21

Ricky had a slight kitchen mishap in his dish of confit duck cassolet. A few bites into his dish had him discovering a blond hair. A waitress niftily swept up his dish, apologized profusely and had the kitchen prepare a fresh one. Despite the accident, the dish was excellent, rich in flavour and protein heavy from the legumes, sausage and duck.

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Crispy eggs with smoked ham hock, sweet potato puree, fennel, radish, walnuts, sourdough toast $18

Daisy has a soft spot for sweet potato and ordered crumbed poached eggs on sweet potato puree. The poached eggs spilled their yolks onto the orange mash, and with the tender flavourful pork hock, made a beautiful brunch item. IMG_9368
Tempura soft shell crab burger with fennel, radish, cabbage, avocado, kewpie $16.50

I went for the softshell crab burger. The minimal use of kewpie mayo was well-appreciated on my part and the thinly sliced cabbage and fennel helped cut through the richness of the crab.

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Brioche French toast with vanilla poached pears, caramel sauce, double cream $14.50

Dining with Daisy meant that we could indulge in a sweet dish. We shared the brioche French toast, which appeared as a slab of buttery eggy bread, drenched in caramel sauce and topped with sweet poached pears. I loved the texture of the bread but found the overall dish way to sweet. Daisy, however, thought it was just right. She certainly has a sweet tooth! As we ate, the dogs carried on with their canine shenanigans, sniffing about and batting puppy eyes for a drop of food. I came prepared with milky chew bones and that kept them entertained for a while.

Brunch was a lovely affair with both humans and canine counterparts enjoying every minute of it. I wish more cafes will have dog-friendly spaces that are not just limited to tables on pavements.

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Filed under Balwyn, Brunch, Chai, Coffee

A weekend in Sydney

Once a year, I dedicate a weekend to Sydney. One weekend of pure gluttony, where getting full is not an option and optimising every last bit of space in that second stomach is very much mandatory. Last year Fakebooo and I flew up for a weekend of pastries, cakes and brilliant Argentinian food and you can read all about it here. This year my itinerary was pretty much the same, except this time round, The Angmoh came along as my dining companion.

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His only request food-wise was to have yumcha. That’s how we found ourselves in The Eight Restaurant, gorging on prawn dumplings, steamed pork ribs and glutinous rice as soon our plane landed. The restaurant was quiet when we rocked up close to 11am, with trolleys piled high with steaming bamboo baskets. By the time we left though, it was packed and rowdy, the way every reputable yumcha restaurant ought to be. The food was pretty good: slippery fresh prawns housed in silky translucent skins, smooth beef balls with the delicate crunch of water chestnut and velvety soy curd in a gingery syrup.

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We walked out lugging our backpacks and hiked across town towards Woolloomooloo, for the one and only and my Sydney-must-have Flour and Stone. Here I indulged in a rich chocolate tart while The Angmoh nibbled on some fruit toast. Deciding against the panna cotta lamington to save space for dinner, we headed towards our hotel for an afternoon siesta.

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alfajores

At 5pm, we were the first in line for Porteno. Having inadequate figures for a table booking, we decided to be kiasu and started camping an hour before the doors opened. Was the wait worth it? Hell yeah! Porteno panders to every carnivore’s wet dream where meats are grilled to perfection. Served in generous portions by cute waiters in leather aprons, every dish a sight for sore hungry eyes. My absolute favourite item, ironically, is a vegetable one. The grilled peppers are an absolute delight. Their skins blistered from high heat slip off to reveal soft flesh, succulent and sweet. Desserts here are excellent too, and I split an alfajores with The Angmoh. This was an amazing dish with crumbly buttery shortbread sandwiching a sticky caramel-like dulce de leche, all smothered in chocolate and then topped with an incredible brown butter ice cream. I was in dessert heaven.

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IMG_9417The next morning, we squeezed ourselves into a tiny café. Room 10 is a hole-in-the-wall which we’d chanced upon during our brief stroll in Kings’ Cross. We were counting the number of strip joints where a turn led us onto an unassuming laneway which had a handful of cafes and bistros. The morning crowd built quickly and we were lucky to get a table right away. The coffees were served hot and leant towards bitter. While The Angmoh enjoyed a slab of homemade banana bread with Pepe Saya butter, I worked off my morning gym session with a protein-heavy sandwich of smoked ham, triple cheese and smashed egg. Both dishes ticked all our breakfast boxes.

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Next on our agenda was another of my Sydney must-haves: Blackstar Pastry’s strawberry, watermelon cake with rose-scented cream. This has to be one of my all-time favourite cakes. Feminine in description and appearance, this cake is pure heaven with just the right amount of sweetness and perfect combination of floral and fruity flavours. It’s not only this cake that excels at Blackstar. The pastries too, are sensational. The Angmoh, after sampling the sausage roll, declared it to be “the best sausage roll of his life”. The flaky pastry is loaded with butter and filling was packed with flavour and spice, and even retained a resilient chewy texture. We took a couple of these bad boys back to Melbourne and The Angmoh’s dad proclaimed the very same.

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To kill time before dinner, I catched up on my zzz’s while The Angmoh enjoyed “Locke”. These odd arty-farty movies aren’t quite my thing but our final meal totally is. Gumshara Ramen sits in a foodcourt in Chinatown. The broth here is one of the best I’ve come across, with depth and stickiness achieved from boiling pork bones till kingdom come. The noodles and egg are cooked without any fault, retaining bite and wobble respectively. I enjoyed mine with a hit of black garlic and less salt. Needless to say, it went down a treat.

Sadly this concludes our weekend in Sydney. I’m already anticipating another foodie trip that will challenge the waistline and loosen the belt. Please hit me up for any mouth-watering delectable recommendations!

The Eight
9-13 Hay Street,
Haymarket
NSW 2000
+61 2 9282 9988
The Eight Modern Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Porteno
358 Cleveland Street
Surry Hills
NSW 2010
+61 2 8399 1440
Porteño on Urbanspoon

Room 10
10 Llankelly Place
Potts Point
NSW 2011
Room 10 on Urbanspoon

Black Star Pastry
277 Australia Street
Newtown
NSW 2042
+61 2 9557 8656
Black Star Pastry on Urbanspoon

Gumshara Ramen
211/25-29 Dixon Street
Hawmarket
NSW 2000
Gumshara Ramen on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Argentinian, Brunch, Chinese, Coffee, Japanese, Noodles, Pastries, Ramen, Sweets, Sydney, Travels, Yum Cha