Providence is a bright new cafe in Carlton in a part of Rathdowne Street that’s not currently well served by cafes. It’s located in the lobby of Australian Unity’s new aged care facility Rathdowne Place but you wouldn’t know it.
The fit out is contemporary, airy and cheerful and there’s not a hint of granny mustiness to it. Though it’s charming that the nonnas of Carlton enjoy taking their extra-hot English breakfast tea in its sunny surrounds.
Providence is the work of entrepreneurial and enthusiastic hospitality duo Elena and Michael Tan (Hero Subs, Reading Room Cafe, The Grain Store). The cafe’s mantra is to source and serve local and seasonal produce, primarily from the farmers markets around Victoria.
They are a mere hop, skip and jump from the new fortnightly farmers markets inside the grounds of Carlton Primary School so they are well-placed to access the freshest ingredients and to know their producers intimately.
I was invited to sample some of their breakfast dishes and was impressed by the fresh combination of ingredients and their acknowledgement throughout the menu of their producers.
Morning rituals for many people involve either a tea or coffee and Providence source their teas from Larsen and Thompson ($3.50 a pot) and coffee from Brunswick organic small batch roaster Code Black Coffee ($3.50 small, $4 large). I particularly admired the ash coloured crockery by Melbourne ceramist Ingrid Tufts and the cheerful tea pots from T2 Tea.
For those who aren’t tea or coffee drinkers I recommend the breakfast smoothie of almond milk, blueberries, banana, oats and dates ($6.50 full size). It’s not too sweet and deliciously smooth – a perfect breakfast on the go for weekday commuters as it’s very filling.
Breakfast is served until 3pm (cafe closes at 4pm) and includes a small selection skewed towards savoury items. Thankfully, it’s not just eggs, eggs and more eggs.
Having said that, my favourite breakfast dish was the egg and bacon pie ($18). This huge English style shortcrust pie was filled with a surprisingly light concoction of egg with shreds of Gamze Smokehouse’s bacon inside. The pastry was a standout, buttery and flaky without being greasy and heavy. The pie was accompanied by some housemade tomato chutney and a mass of fresh salad leaves tied with a ribbon of prosciutto.
My other favourite dish was the breakfast salad ($17), an unusual result given that I’m not much of a salad fan generally and normally not for breakfast. This salad was a riot of grilled Barham Avocados, chunks of sticky ham hock, a huge mass of greenery, peas and pats of goat curd with a small roll of flatbread on the side. Fresh, salty, creamy and crunchy – plus I never realised you could grill avocados and not have them turn into a smashed mess!
We also tried two other savoury dishes. Slices of Gamze Smokehouse’s hot smoked trout and herbs were packed atop a crunchy and creamy bubble and squeak patty with two perfectly poached eggs ($20) and some pumpkin and Burrum Biodynamic’s lentil fritters with chilli tomato pickle, coconut yoghurt and leaves ($17).
I found the fritters a little bit dry but I suspect it wouldn’t hold together otherwise. The texture was aided by a thick slather of chilli tomato pickle which you can also buy by the jar for $10.
To finish we tried a miniature version of the breakfast berry clafoutis ($17), sort of like a baked pancake or pan-fried hotcake that I’ve been seeing around Melbourne cafes lately. This version was a light batter studded with berries and topped with toasted almond flakes and a scoop of Gundowring’s rhubarb ice cream and a shard of ruby rhubarb.
Lunch changes day to day depending on what’s fresh and good at the moment so you can be assured that everything will be inspired by the season.
I was impressed by all the food at Providence and particularly to the passion of the owners and the commitment by the chef Cate Hardman to support local producers. Given its menu and its location next door to Carlton Primary School and across the road from the recently reopened Carlton Baths, I think it will draws a crowd of all ages. Use it as a pit stop before or after the Carlton Primary School farmers markets and be inspired!
I’ll let you in on a secret I discovered on a Foodi tour – you can get excellent $5 gourmet hotdogs at Ferdydurke! I don’t think even the fast food chains can beat that price, and the hotdogs at Ferdydurke are certainly a whole lot better.
Ferdydurke is a upstairs bar in Chinatown run by the same people as iconic Melbourne container bar Section 8. They are actually neighbours on grungy Tattersalls Lane and overlook a breathtaking street art mural by Adnate, except that to reach Ferdydurke you need eagle eyes to spot the tiny sign and you then you walk up a set of narrow winding stairs.
The top of the stairs lands you in a surprisingly spacious, high-ceilinged space overlooking Section 8 and Lonsdale Street. The effect is a bit reverse Alice in Wonderland and certainly the decor is kooky, from gothic lamps to axes by the fireplace.
Ferdydurke’s focus is on cocktails, beers, wines, hotdogs and live local electronic music producers and djs. You can slake your thirst from 12pm to 1am every day and feed your stomach from 12pm to 9pm.
The frankfurters are Polish Parowka and made by Rob the ‘Sausage King’. The sausages are cooked in craft beer and saukerkraut broth then popped into glossy brioche buns from Grant’s Crust, a wholesale bakery business in Rowville.
The simplest Frank and bread is only $3 and comes with tomato sauce, mustard, HP sauce or daily hot sauce special. My advice is to up the stakes to the $5 hotdogs and fill your dogs with some of the house-made chillifire beans (which aren’t too spicy actually), cider onions and/or the Pico de Gallo salsa made with tequila, tomatoes, onion, coriander and chilli.
They even cater for vegans with vegan sausages. Or if sausages aren’t your thing they offer a special ‘Big Lebowski’ burger with pulled pork for $9, nachos for $6 or other bar snacks like house made jerky and pork crackling for $4.
The service is friendly, the atmosphere is cool yet cosy and it’s not so crowded, especially in the daytime, that you feel you can’t move or breathe. Ferdydurke is a winner – a well-stocked bar, cheap satisfying food and a funky little hideaway in the centre of Melbourne.
Ferdydurke, 31 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne(03) 9639 3750
This warm weather heralds my first pedicure for Spring and a chance to wear my new sandals from Melbourne-brand Bared Footwear.
I’m on my feet a lot more these days which means that shoes need to be comfortable, supportive and last more than a few rides around the block. My search for the perfect sandals led me to Bared Footwear.
Bared Footwear is a unique footwear brand because every shoe has been designed by a podiatrist, Anna Baird, but they are not clumpy, sensible ‘grandma’ shoes. They are fashionable shoes that happen to be good for you as well!
The sandals all have a built in footbed which is moulded around the heel, arch and toes, much like a pair of Birkenstocks. Their closed shoes have a removable footbed which means you can customise the fit even further if you have narrow or wide feet or need to wear orthotics. You can read more about the benefits of Bared Footwear shoes here.
I bought a pair of Finch sandals, with an upper made of soft leather straps and a rubber sole. The ankle strap secures the shoe around the ankle so I don’t have to claw my toes to hold on to the shoe as I walk. The sole has a very slight heel for extra support.
They have been fantastic for my day-to-day routine, which includes heaps of walking, cycling and running after kids!
I bought the black and brown pair as I still wear black in summer (like a true Melburnian) although it was a difficult decision between them and the rose gold.
I also bought a pair of Pipit sandals, a cream pair of strappy heels with a subtle python print on the arch (they come in black too). The heels are comfortable for walking thanks to the stack heel, padding and the ankle strap. They are actually particularly great for cycling as the upper straps are at just the right locations so your foot doesn’t feel like it’s sliding forward or falling out when you pedal. These are shoes that transition from day to night and are about as comfortable as heels can get when I’m no longer used to wearing heels for long periods.
Bared Footwear only have a single store, in High Street Armadale, so I bought my shoes online (free shipping over $150) and they were delivered very quickly. They are more expensive than what I’m usually used to spending on shoes, but I’m now at a stage when shoes must be practical first and stylish second. Thankfully with Bared Footwear my shoes can be both!
The decisive guide to Melbourne
Reviews of what's HOT and NOT in the city.