Weekday cafe The Deli Counter is the place to get a healthy, tasty lunch in the legal and financial centre of the CBD.
The Deli Counter sets itself apart from the pre-packed sandwiches that abound in that part of town. The kitchen specialises in the owners’ recipes of Israeli food with some general Mediterranean influences and everything is made fresh daily, on site. You can even draw up a chair and watch the kitchen preparations while you wait for your meal or climb upstairs to the view of Queen Street’s treeline.
For lunch I ordered from..um..the deli counter…the ‘seenya’ a traditional Israeli moussaka, plus a selection of the overwhelming choice of fresh salads on display ($16.50).
The moussaka was layers of minced beef and spiced eggplant and I particularly liked the substitution of the nutty tahini for the traditional bechamel. I’m not even sure what salads were on my plate as I just asked for a bit of everything! It was a roasted veg and grain melange.
Their wholemeal pitas are famous and so I decide to try a vegan version with charred cauliflower, cucumber, parsley and pickles, slathered with tahini ($11). The pocket was huge and so stuffed to the gills that after a time the package became unwieldy and soggy to eat and hold. I hate to think what all that escaping tahini would be doing to the pinstriped suits! About half the amount of sauce and I think the balance would be better. Just be warned that it’s also incredibly filling.
The service was friendly and when the lunch time rush had died a bit the owners were keen to find out what I thought of my lunch (I told them about the disintegrating pita disaster). They then proceeded to scoop up the remainder of their salads into a takeaway container for my kids! That’s hospitable for you.
The Deli Counter is a charming, colourful eatery in a somewhat drab part of Queen Street which serves nourishing, well-priced food. Good for your body, good for your brain, good for your wallet.
South Melbourne Market is not a market I frequent often so the tour was a fun and delicious way to discover interesting gems and meet some of the stallholders and characters behind the long-standing market. Here are some of my favourites:
Georgie’s Harvest is one of the market’s favourite stallholders. It’s run by a husband and wife team and they specialise in spuds and vegetables generally. I’ve been to a cooking class run by Georgie’s Harvest and learnt all about the different ways to prepare potato!
At St George’s Sourdough Bakehouse we tasted some of their organic sourdough bread. I highly recommend the seeded loaf and to avoid the stodgy looking pastries (which aren’t organic).
We dived into the deli aisle and to Alka Polish Deli where we tried a variety of different cured meats. I doubled back later on to stock up on pierogi, ham and sausage – the owner was very helpful about helping me choose what to buy from the large range.
At Rita’s Nut Shop we met jolly Rita herself who sliced pieces of her giant handmade Turkish delight for us to try. I highly recommend the almond Turkish delight studded with fruit and nuts.
A unique space within South Melbourne Market is SO:ME Space with clothing, art and lifestyle retailers plus pop up stalls. I bought a quirkly paper towel dispenser from The Supercool, a shop where you can find things to make you and your home nice! The Supercool recentlywon Best Trader in the Melbourne Market Awards.
After the tour I headed to Simply Spanish for paella. You can smell the food as they cook up huge paella pans on Cecil Street and I got a generous helping of Valencian paella for $14. The rice was a bit overcooked for my liking and there was no crispy base at all, so I didn’t love it. On the Spanish waitress’ recommendation I also ordered the croquettes ($6). They were beautifully crisp morsels ejecting an oozy mass of cheese, potato and pork inside.
For dessert I visited Pardon My French, a mobile creperie serving freshly made crepes. They source their ingredients from the market and being strawberry season I decided to deviate from my usual Nutella to add strawberries. A huge triangle of sweet crepe for $8. They’ll be setting up a permanent stall at the market once a site is finalised.
Even though Market Week is over for 2014 you can still join the same tour of South Melbourne Market every month. To Market To Market tours run on the third Saturday of every month and the next tour is tomorrow, Saturday 20 September. A ticket is $35 and includes a coffee, tastings and a market bag. Sign up or give a tour voucher to a food-loving friend or family.
South Melbourne Market tour, 322-326 Coventry St, South Melbourne
From little things, big things grow….So the story goes with Dr Morse, a cafe/restaurant in Abbotsford that started out as a coffee window (dubbed Jr Morse) by Victoria Park station. It has now expanded into a spacious interior overlooked by an original 1930s mural advertising ‘Dr Morse’s Indian Root Pills’ and a secluded beer garden.
The main kitchen opens for an early lunch late into night. In the daytime the one page menu is split into sandwiches, salads, meals and sweets.
On our lunchtime visit we ordered some fried chicken with slaw ($16) and an organic quinoa, avocado, pistachio, pomegranate, corn and egg Salad salad ($14) in an attempt at health.
The fried chicken was generous portions of crunchy, juicy chicken with a hint of Asian influence thanks to the accompanying salad of iceberg and coriander and mango chutney. (Note that it’s been removed from the new Spring menu – a tragedy!).
The colourful salad was really fun texturally, with lots of popping going on thanks to the corn and pomegranate seeds and crunchy quinoa.The egg was perfectly poached to just runny on the inside. A really filling dish on its own so I suggest sharing it and trying something else as well.
Deciding to throw healthiness out the window we opted for both choices on the dessert menu! The favourite was the squishy chocolate brioche pudding in a pool of salted caramel and creme fraiche ice cream ($12), a rich combination of gooey flavours heightened by the cool silkiness of the ice cream.
The cheesecake with lemon curd and rhubarb was more of a deconstructed affair, with a hemisphere of creamy cheese with a hint of tang, a swirl of lemon curd and cubes of pink rhubarb ($11).
Dr Morse is a great addition to Abbotsford on a part of Johnston Street where there’s not much choice in terms of good quality eating options. The food is fun and tasty and the service is friendly, making the place a great local hangout.
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