Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Melbourne 22.0

I hereby present to you the twenty-two places in which created an impression on me during my 5-month stay in Melbourne. In no particular order of favour ...

1. Seven Seeds, Carlton

This was one of the first few coffee places I visited in Melbourne. I remember the latte being fairly satisfying but that ain't the highlight of this place...

Their hot chocolate comes with a stick of pure dark chocolate, the perfect cuppa for the winter. Guilt-tripping brought to another level!

The environment is quite like a warehouse type in which you'd be able to find in most coffee places in Melbourne. This type of interior design has also been increasingly popular for coffee and burger outlets in Malaysia.

Seven Seeds on Urbanspoon

2. JP's Espresso Lab, Mount Waverley

Probably located the furthest from CBD compared to the rest, this restaurant has been my second home as I visit fairly often for brunches. It is located just off my residence within the grounds of Monash University; a place I got to call my home for 5 months.

Their french toast which never ceases to put me to disappointment for the price of S6.00.

The Mushroom Meltdown of roast chicken, swiss cheese, mushroom and roast potatoes.

My personal favourite: Good Chemistry comprising homemade chicken schnitzel, avocado, swiss cheese, the lot of veggies and snow peas. I usually ask for mushrooms instead of snow peas because I'm personally not very fond of raw snow peas. 

Another personal favourite: Ocean's 7 of smoked salmon with avocado, cream cheese and the lot of veggies.

If you're feeling light, go for their croissant. Have it toasted as it goes nicely with butter and jam. 

$1.50 absolutely delicious fresh homemade muffins of various flavours made daily. Yes, $1.50!

If you have a huge appetite, go for their Big Bang Brekkie. This picture isn't doing any justice but I can assure you that the portion is HUGE.

Click here to visit their Facebook page.

3. Nikos Quality Cakes, Oakleigh

Located within a Greek community, there is no way you'd not want to go into this cafe...

A storey-high display of all sorts of local and Greek pastries and desserts. See what I mean?

Spiced chai latte.

Iced Mocha with ice cream for $5.00 which I think is worth the price.

Simple English muffin with egg and ham.

 You probably guessed it already - soy cappuccino.

THIS is what you should go for: the New York Cheesecake. Probably the best cheesecake I've ever had in my life.

On the side note, this place has different prices set for dine-ins and takeaways. 

Nikos Quality Cakes on Urbanspoon

4. Snag Stand, CBD

Believe me when I say I've been avoiding as much fast food as I can. This hot dog stand just made it much harder.

Not a place to miss when you're at Melbourne Central, located at the corner of Swanston St and La Trobe St nearby the State Library of Victoria and RMIT University. 

Fairly satisfying onion rings if you're not a fries person.

Snag Stand on Urbanspoon

 5. Green Refectory, Brunswick

It takes me almost up to two hours to get here but yet I still go. Just a twenty-minute tram ride from CBD, this is one of the cheaper alternatives for brunches I would say.

Chai latte.

French toast drenched in more than just an egg batter with a whole poached pear and topped with a generous scoop of ice cream.

The Breakfast Stack. The towering ingredients from potatoes to eggs and bacon will only cost you $11.00. 

Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon accompanied by nicely done sautéed mushrooms and toast.

Passion fruit vanilla slice.

Strawberry sponge cake if you're leaning towards something light and fluffy.

Carrot cake.

There is ample space in the restaurant but because it's a very popular place for brunch, you have to be on your feet looking out for tables. Be quick or you'll never get to sit down as they do not have reservations and what not. Also, try to avoid the usual brunch hours if you can help yourself.

Green Refectory on Urbanspoon

6. The Hardware Société, CBD

This is Melbourne's most talked-about brunch place ever. It is also said to be the most overrated.

Just a cappuccino.

Special dish of the day: pork sausage, duck and poached eggs all on one plate. I was really satisfied with this dish probably because I was craving for duck at that very time.

Baked beans with chorizo sausage, churchy almonds and goats milk cheese.

Twice-cooked pork belly with poached eggs, chorizo and sweet potato cake.

My friends and I waited literally over an hour for a shared table. As much as I enjoyed it, I personally think it's not worth making another trip.  

Unfortunately, Hardware Société is temporarily closed until further notice due to a fire from the neighbouring shop.  

The Hardware Société on Urbanspoon

 7. Platform 3, Carnegie

Aside from this salmon florentine and the interior design of the restaurant, I don't recall anything else being very memorable. I had my first ever salmon florentine here and was quite happy with the dish in terms of its presentation and colour.

Platform 3 on Urbanspoon

 8. Manchester Press, CBD

Another highly talked-about Melbournian brunch place known for their bagels.  I am personally not a huge fan of bagels but I must say their menu looks good. 

Generosity in fillings can be demonstrated by their bagel with 12-hour roasted pulled pork.

Here's a simple one perfect for smoked salmon lovers. Just look at the amount of salmon!

And of course there's no way this place would survive without coffee. Aside from the usual choices, they have a special version of chai latte called the Calmer Sutra chai latte (refer to image above) which comes with honey. 

Manchester Press on Urbanspoon

 9. Fitzrovia, St Kilda

One of the few places with great service. The waiter who entertained us smiled a lot and put on a very cheerful attitude which instantly brightened up my day.  

I had to drop them a Facebook message (in which they promptly replied to) inquire the name of this dish. These homemade rare breed pork, sage and onion sausages were only available in their spring menu a couple of months back which was when a couple of friends and I visited the restaurant. Accompanied by molasses braised beans, fried eggs and sourdough, this dish doesn't fill you up to the brim (which is good news for dessert) and I absolutely loved how the sausages were done.

Their crème brûlée french toast seems to be a popular choice among visitors. It comes with banana, whipped mascarpone, toasted pecans and grilled Istra bacon with vanilla verjus syrup.  

They say these Polenta chips are a must-try when you visit. If you're looking for something out of the ordinary, go for this. 

Note: Their coffees are handcrafted using St Ali coffee beans (see #14).

Fitzrovia on Urbanspoon

10. Laksa Bar, CBD

I only ask for you to try one dish here:

The soft-shelled crab laksa. Two of my favourite foods in one bowl. 

It is about $15 for this particular bowl and I thought it was really worth my money seeing how there is an extra ingredient to it. Of course, nothing beats the original curry laksa in Malaysia. This laksa is more towards the sweetish side but still excellent for a Malaysian dish in Melbourne. 

They have a skinny version of curry laksa for those who prefer their laksa to not be so heavy.

Laksa Bar on Urbanspoon

11. Proud Mary, Collingwood

Call me a weirdo but I love this place just for its coffee served in baby blue cups.  

I had my usual soy cappuccino with their honeysuckle blend which tasted fruity and sweet. You may visit their website here to view their variety.

Potato hash with grilled bacon, spinach and a poached egg (behind) served with bagna cauda, a traditional Italian sauce of anchovies, garlic and cream. 

The Gnudi Run. Also, that this was my first time trying gnudi which is basically a "nude" ravioli made with ricotta cheese and a little flour. If you like gnocchi,  you should find this to your liking as well.

Proud Mary on Urbanspoon

 12. The Grain Store, CBD

The waitress asked with glee, "do you see it? It's a face!"

Buttermilk french toast served with poached peach, peppermint caramel, lemon curd, sweet basil and oreo crumble.

And I thought this part of the plate had a rather impressive presentation. 

I managed to lay off the extra calories on these beautifully displayed cakes and pastries, thankfully. But I bought a cookie in the end.

Probably the best seat in the house if you like the sun. I did want to be seated there but it was for a table of four.

The Grain Store on Urbanspoon

 13. Captains of Industry, CBD

Walking up the stairs to this place felt rather dodgy as it wasn't very well lit; what more on wooden steps. The interior design and decoration gave off a slight musty atmosphere as the entire place is filled with unusual and old objects to fulfill their barber shop-tailor-shoemaker environment. 

Nevertheless, it was an interesting place to consume coffee. Their cups are smaller than the usual size so I had to order two cups. 

I was only in the mood for a good and quick breakfast as I was going to head to the State Library to study for my finals. So, I ordered this. The scrambled eggs were salted and peppered perfectly to my liking and I was one happy customer.

Captains of Industry on Urbanspoon

 14. St Ali, South Melbourne

Well known for their coffee beans used at many other cafes aside from theirs, St Ali is one of my favourite top coffee places in Melbourne.

Traditionally done cappuccino in which is to my liking. It is with soy milk, of course. 

Due to its popularity, this place was swarming when I visited but because I came with one friend, it didn't take long for me to be assigned to the table. 

My friend and I ordered two of the Wednesday specials as recommended by the attentive waitress; of which one is the pan fried gnocchi with pea puree, spring vegetables and house smoked salmon ... 

... and the schnitzel sandwich with pickled green tomatoes, fried egg and mozzarella served with potato chips. So glad it came with chips rather the usual oily fries for the sandwich itself was already relatively heavy.

St Ali on Urbanspoon

* #15 - #17 are in chronological order. 
I visited those three coffee places and had a soy cappuccino at each location in one day for the sake of having a coffee spree (coffee addict alert!).

15. The Final Step, South Yarra

This was the first stop and I was a little surprised at the size of the place. It was small yet cosy but definitely ain't suited for crowds. They cater more to takeaways and you shouldn't bring a party when you visit. It's good for those who like to be alone or perhaps looking for a place to meet up with one or two people. Three is a crowd in the context of this place.

The Final Step on Urbanspoon

 16. Oscar Mike, Hawthorn

Stop number 2 was just off the Glenferrie station. The area was pretty quiet and peaceful though it was located in an alley somewhat. 

I was recommended a "magic size" soy cappuccino (which comes in a 3-inch tall cup) with the Costa Rica La Trinidad beans.This version is particularly stronger than a usual cup of soy cappuccino because of its size. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't done to be like a dry cappuccino. I would describe this as "small and strong".

Oscar Mike on Urbanspoon

17. Axil Coffee Roasters, Hawthorn

It seemed as though I was visiting the places in particular order of favour. This was the third, final and best stop.

I love love love their soy cappuccino! Best one I've ever had so far, and I ain't kidding.

 This was made using their seasonal espresso blend comprising coffee beans from El Salvador (San Cayetano), Costa Rica (Cerro Alto) and Ethiopia (Yirgacheffe Aricha). The fruity flavour was strong but did not overpower the flavour of the coffee and you can barely taste the bitterness without sugar. 
* I don't typically put sugar in my soy cappuccinos.  

It was brunch hour and I was super hungry so I decided to order their baked eggs in spicy roasted capsicum sauce served with goat's feta cheese, dukkah (or also spelled as "duqqa", an Egyptian side dish of herbs, nuts and spices) and multigrain toast. I've never had dukkah in my life so this was a spicy difference compared to other baked eggs I've seen.

I highly recommend this place for coffee if you can afford to travel to Hawthorn. 

Axil Coffee Roasters on Urbanspoon

 18. Chez Dré, South Melbourne

I came here the first time in the midst of exams. I mean hey, there was a 6-day break and the weather was perfect to head out to get some quality time to myself.

By now you should know what this is. Not the best, but good enough of a cuppa.

And I needed a break from journals.

I read the tips on Foursquare which said that the breakfast platter is highly recommended. Little did I know it would appear as such ...

Looks quite like fine dining to me. I absolutely love the way they position everything on the board!

There was a soft-boiled egg (I thought it would be hard-boiled but I was wrong), strawberries, grapes, melons, sweet biscuits (partially seen on the left behind the egg) and granola in yogurt. 

A beautiful mini croissant and some baguette in which I was so afraid of chewing on because I have permanent retainers. I don't know why I still risked it but thankfully managed to not break any wires or they would've costed me a bomb to fix in Melbourne. 

This is the best part of the platter because of the smoked ham and gruyére cheese. Oh, that yellow cylindrical-shaped item happens to be butter. 

I made a second trip after exams with my friends and ordered this dish that round:

The Grand Petit Dejeuner: poached eggs on sourdough, glorious bacon, spicy lamb sausage, potato rösti, excellently done sautéed mushrooms, slow roasted tomato, avocado and tomato relish. I was so stuffed after consuming this and I barely had space for dessert. 

Look how beautiful that is!

I insist you should know what drink this is.

Their fine display of cakes and lineup of macarons oh! 

Chez Dré on Urbanspoon

 19. Pie in the Sky, Olinda

Only having a banana digesting in my tummy that morning, a friend and I made a road trip to Dandenong to firstly encounter the 1000 steps of the Kokoda Walk. To my own surprise, I actually made it to the top by lunch time despite wanting to give up in the midst of the leg-torturing fight against gravity. I was motivated by my friend who encouraged me to move on and was also put to endless shame by passers by like one elderly man who walked by me at least four times and little kids who were effortlessly making their way to the top.  

Yes, they look like peanuts in the picture but these are indeed stairs to hell heaven.

So, back to the topic, the pie place is located in the middle of a little town in Olinda which is just a short drive from the steps. My friend and I ordered three choices of pies of which we opted for a balance between spicy and not spicy.

Beef rendang pie, a multiple silver medal winning pie. On the menu, this pie has four chili symbols next to its name indicating that it would be extremely spicy. As a Malaysian, I beg to disagree at the indication. Other than that, the texture of the beef was pretty decent.

The country pie which did not bring me through a country life experience.

Korma chicken pie, a multiple gold medal winning pie. Probably the "middle child" amongst the three pies.

Proudly displaying their pies for takeaway orders.

The pies were $6.90 each which is considerably expensive for the portion size. You'd probably want to order popular ones for that matter i.e. beef rendang.

p.s. if you were to walk down the road a couple of shops away, you should visit Soap Opera. It's a non-commercial brand for soaps, face scrubs, creams, lip balms, oils etc. and their gift boxes make wonderful presents!

Pie in the Sky on Urbanspoon

 20. The Sky High Bistro and Restaurant, Dandenong

Never got to visit this place because of how difficult it was just to get to Dandenong by public transport. But thankfully, I had my friend to ship me around with her and I got to see what the hype about these scones was.

The biggest, softest, fluffiest scones I've seen in my life going up to about 3.5 inches tall.

And no tea is complete without ... tea! 

I can't tell you much about the other dishes and desserts they have but judging from the looks of its rating on Urbanspoon, it ain't doing well. So just go for the scones, tea and coffee, take a walk around the gardens, and if the weather is pleasant, sit by the lawn and enjoy the view of Melbourne from Mount Dandenong.

Note: It is $5 per entry if you wish to drive in and park within their grounds. Sigh.

Sky High Mount Dandenong on Urbanspoon

 21. Fandango, North Melbourne

I've already reviewed this place in my previous blog post but these are the photos of the soy cappuccino and the absolutely gorgeous french toast for your viewing convenience. 
Click here for the full review.

I made a second trip with my family and decided to order a simple brunch dish of scrambled eggs on sourdough. The pancakes may be tempting from the way the dish is worded in the menu but because I've seen the dish leaving the kitchen before and also taking the price into consideration, I reckon I would've ended up being disappointed.

Fandango on Urbanspoon

 22. Le Miel Et La Lune, Carlton

Phew. The final place to share! 

I heard from a friend that the french toast is to die for but from the looks of its location on the map, it seemed too far to travel from my place so I decided to lay it off. 

Funny story. I was on the way to Lygon Street for food with my family and for some reason, I decided to tell them to get off a stop before the actual one. As we walked along Cardigan Street,  I spotted this place, jumped at my discovery and was at the same time disappointed in myself for not making the effort to come seeing how it was so easy to spot.

Determined to try the french toast before flying back to Malaysia, I woke up early (and by early I mean 10.00am. Don't judge me.) to make my way there.

If you still don't know what drink this is, well ... uhm ... you have a good day, mate.

So here's what I've been laying off for months ... 

Tell me this is ain't gorgeous.

You'll most definitely regret telling me this is not gorgeous and you know it.

This is their ultimate french toast with caramelized bananas, bacon and drowning in butterscotch. If you read my review on Fandango's french toast, I probably made you think that their version was the best. However, since trying this one, I've been put into a serious case of dilemma weighing the two. I only dare say that these two are your best bets if you're looking for superb french toasts in Melbourne in my opinion. 

Le Miel Et La Lune on Urbanspoon

* * * *

Three solid days to filter and compile all the pictures as well as to write this whole thing out, this is, by far, the longest post I've written with the most amount of pictures in one article. I hope you all have enjoyed reading it and have probably a couple of good ideas as to where to head to in Melbourne. 

If you wish to go on a serious coffee spree, I recommend dropping an email to They replied me with a list of 13 coffee places to visit but I only managed to strike off 6 of them namely St Ali, Proud Mary, Chez Dré, Axil Coffee Roasters, Oscar Mike and The Final Step. 

I am back in Malaysia and will be getting back on track soon with my Malaysian food stories. I'm still trying to deal with a bit of reverse culture shock and I was told to give it about a month (this is going to be fun). 

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!  

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