HOT: Foxtrot Charlie, 359 Sydney Road, Brunswick

foxtrot charlie

When you walk through the door of Foxtrot Charlie, look up. The soaring model aeroplane will explain the name of this Brunswick cafe.

foxtrot charlie

The cafe’s typically narrow frontage on Sydney Road expands out into a surprisingly spacious area divided into two segments. Basically, there’s the adults area and a kids area and it’s all uber-stylish thanks to local Brunswick designers ZWEI (who also designed the amazing ninja-esque Code Black Coffee).

foxtrot charlie

foxtrot charlie

The kids area isn’t designated as such but it’s the light-filled extension to the dimly lit concrete-and-brick front section. Even if I didn’t have kids I think I’d prefer to eat amongst the cheerful short stools and tables.

foxtrot charlie

The menu is quite inventive, with twists on the standard-issue cafe offerings. I went for the creamed cod on toast, sesame seed crust, caponata and a poached egg ($17). It’s sort of a British, Italian, Chinese prawn toast fusion dish and it works, with a pan fried crusty base or organic sourdough wielding a thick slathering of smoky fish paste and a hearty stewy accompaniment. The egg is perfect and apparently all their biodynamic eggs are cooked at 62.5 degrees.

foxtrot charlie

So for dessert I share the spelt and almond waffles with sabayon cream and spiced strawberries ($16). It’s a pretty dish of mulled spices and the waffles are more of the dense, Belgian style rather than fluffy American versions. My only quibble was that I think for the serving size perhaps the dish was a couple of dollars more expensive than I’d expect.

Foxtrot Charlie roast their own coffee and use organic biodynamic milk, so I’d expect the end product to be good given the amount of care taken in the ingredients.

I really enjoyed my delicious and relaxed lunch at Foxtrot Charlie and was a bit surprised that it wasn’t busier. The staff were all friendly, the food was high quality and the setting was stylish and comfortable.

Foxtrot Charlie 359 Sydney Road, Brunswick (03) 9387 3397

Mon to Fri 7:30 am – 4:00 pm

Sat to Sun 7:30 am – 5:00 pm

Foxtrot Charlie on Urbanspoon

HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote


SONY DSC

I am a gelato snob. Nothing gives me more joy in a gelateria than seeing a row of gleaming metal pozzetti tubs – because it’s the best indication of good quality gelati without actually tasting it. As soon as I walked into Il Melograno (‘The Pomegranate Tree) in Northcote I knew that I was in for a treat.

il melograno

Gelati made the traditional way contains real fruit and nuts, high quality cream and no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. It disintegrates quickly and the metal containers help preserve the gelato in its best condition. An Australian gelateria that takes the time and expense to import pozzetti from Italy cares greatly about the quality of its product. And they’ve imported a Sicilian gelato maker to boot!

il melograno

I tried the pure milk fior di latte, the vibrant pink strawberry with crushed pips still evident and the exotic sounding Iranian pistachio and hazelnut, nubbly with crushed nuts. They were all fresh-tasting and had a fluffy lightness in texture that comes with being just-churned. Plus you can even eat the cups!

The gelati was so good I knew I wanted more of it…but I thought I’d probably better have lunch.

il melograno

I found a sunny nook in their narrow Italianate courtyard, complete with a lemon tree, and settled down in inspect their mostly Italian inspired breakfast and lunch menu.

il melograno

The sandwiches come on super-crusty loaves and traditional fillings such as melt-in-the-mouth San Daniele proscuitto, buffalo mozzarella, tomato and rocket ($14).

il melograno

I also tried a bowl of their hand-rolled fusilli, thin cigarillos capturing a creamy sauce of swiss brown mushrooms, pancetta and rocket ($17).

il melograno

For dessert instead of gelato again I compromised with the oven-baked pancake which came with a dollop of gelato. This was a rather dense and wet cake and while flavoursome probably not one of the better whole-pan style hot cakes I’ve had in terms of texture.

il melograno

If you’re still in the mood for sweets then a family friend of the owner makes all the authentic Italian cakes and pastries on the counter top. The coffee comes from the wood bean roaster housed inside a glass room.

Il Melograno is the perfect Italian pit-stop enroute to Westgarth Cinema but it’s so good that it’s worth a special trip. It’s one of my Top 10 places to enjoy gelato in Melbourne, check out the rest of the list.

Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote, 9482 2092

Tue to Sun 11am–10.30pm

Il Melograno on Urbanspoon

HOT: Hard Pressed, 76 Wellington Pde, East Melbourne

hard pressed cafe

Did you know wikipedia has a listing of sandwich names from around the world? Head down to ‘C’ and you’ll find the Cuban. It’s the best-seller at Hard Pressed, a daytime cafe in East Melbourne nestled in small strip of shops near Hoddle Street.

 The split level cafe is bright and welcoming, with dangling bulbs, concrete blocks creating intimate spaces and a back mural of a (Cuban?) jungle. It’s bustling with locals on a weekend morning – couples, joggers, young families, retirees.

hard pressed cafe

Hard Pressed specialise in French Press coffee and Latino inspired sandwiches – but in fact they also serve cold drip and pour over coffees plus the menu is not all sandwiches.

hard pressed cafe

Nevertheless even though it’s only 9am I head straight to the main game. Hard Pressed’s version of the Cuban sandwich ‘El Cubano’ gathers large slabs of charred 12 hour braised pork neck with just a touch of citrus, a slather of dijon mustard, bubbly Swiss cheese and a sliced pickle, all nestled between two pillowy grilled buns.

It’s juicy and full of flavour and I intersperse every bite with a forkful of salad comprising charred corn kernels, pickled vegetables and smashed avo ($8). Either the promised lime dressing was missing or there just wasn’t much of it as the flavours would have been enhanced with more zing. Nevertheless the salad was a light, crunchy counterpoint to the intensity of the pork roll.

hard pressed cafe

My stomach is well full by now but in the interests of research I proceed to a second course of breakfast. Unless you count the granola and the cake cabinet, the only sweet option on the menu is a caramelised banana crepe with lime and dulce de leche ($13). Oh go on, twist my rubber arm!

hard pressed cafe

A large crepe is folded over chunks of melting caramelised banana with a large nugget of dulce de leche on top and a drizzle of honey syrup on the side. The waitress instructs me to squeeze the fresh lime juice all over the pancake cut through the sweetness.

 The crepe is perfect – slightly stretchy on the inside and crispy on the edges. I am sparing with the rich dulce de leche as the bananas and syrup are already very sweet.

I enjoyed my breakfast at Hard Pressed and given East Melbourne’s paucity of good cafes it’s a welcome addition to the neighbourhood. Their menu is limited but they aim to do a few things really well rather than be a jack-of-all-trades.  If you’re craving variety there are seven sandwiches to choose from, which means you could have a different one every day!

Hard Pressed, 76 Wellington Pde, East Melbourne  +61 3 94174414

Mon-Sun 7am-4pm

Hard Pressed on Urbanspoon

The HOT List: Where to celebrate Chinese New Year 2015 in Melbourne

chinese new year

This year the Lunar New Year is Thursday 19 February 2015 and it will be celebrating the Year of the Goat (or Sheep).

Even if you’re not of Asian descent it’s a great time in Melbourne for festivities and yummy food!

Here’s a list of free Chinese New Year events in Melbourne in date order:

  • Victoria Street Lunar Festival Richmond – Sun 1 Feb, 11am-10pm. While technically the Vietnamese celebrate Tet there’s a large enough Chinese-Vietnamese population for Victoria Street Richmond to hold a CNY celebration. It’s very popular and gets a bit crowded but the street is closed off for food stalls and performances.
  • East Meets West Lunar Festival Footscray – Sun 8 Feb, 10am-10pm Hopkins St Footscray. This is the celebration we’ll be attending as it’s in our neighbourhood! Food stalls, games and rides will fill the street.
  • Crown’s Riverwalk Hawker’s Bazaar – Fri 13 Feb – Sun 22 Feb 11am-11pm Outside Crown Complex, Southbank. Chinese street food and entertainment by the Yarra. Some Crown restaurants will also have special CNY menus.
  • Box Hill Street Festival – Sat 14 Feb, 1pm-1am Market St & Main St, Box Hill. Box Hill is another Asian enclave in Melbourne and they’ll be celebrating CNY with cultural performances, game,  amusement rides and food.
  • Springvale Lunar New Year Festival – Sun 15 Feb, 9am-9pm Buckingham Ave, Springvale. Springvale has a large Vietnamese/Chinese population and this CNY festival coincides with Australia Day, so two holidays in one! See martial arts displays, lion dances, folk dancing and of course lots of Asian food stalls.
  • FCA Melbourne Chinatown Chinese New Year Festival – Mon 16 Feb – Sun 1 Mar. The big celebration in Melbourne, with the opening ceremony on Sun 22 Feb followed by the Dragon awakening ceremony and parade.
  • Prahran Market – Sat 21 Feb 163 Commercial Rd, South Yarra. The Market is offering a range of free cultural activities including children’s cooking activity, lion dance, Chinese music.
  • Chinese New Year at Noble Park Racecourse (Sat 21 Feb – Sun 22 Feb) – Chinese Lion Dance, Firecrackers, Traditional Folk Music, Dancers, Martial Artists and much more.
  • Chinese New Year at Federation Square (Thu 26 Feb – Sun 1 Mar) –  interactive performances, make your own dragon and free Tai Chi and Health Qigong demonstrations, mahjong lessons and a full stage program on 1 March with live music, dancing and a colourful performance.
  • Glen Waverley Chinese Lantern Festival – Sun 1 Mar, 10am-9pm. Kingsway, Glen Waverley. International food stalls, cultural performances and activities.

Also try these Chinese restaurants for a special CNY meal:

David’s 4 Cecil Street Prahran

Tao Tao House 815 Glenferrie Rd Hawthorn

Golden Dragon Palace 363 Manningham Rd Lower Templestowe

Shark Fin House 131 Little Bourke St Melbourne

How will you be celebrating The Year of the Goat in 2015?

HOT: Fox in the Corn, 4 Droop Street, Footscray

fox in the corn

It’s a good thing my paleo diet experiment died in its early stages (‘Faileo?’), as it means that I can eat my way through the fresh pasta available at Fox in the Corn in Footscray seven days a week.

Fox in the Corn is a new venture from the founders of Millgrove Pasta in Williamstown. Five years after establishing their wholesale pasta business, they’ve decided to re-inject Mediterranean fare back into Asian and African-dominated Footscray.

Fox in the Corn, 4 Droop Street, Footscray

The space is handsome and light-filled. Plywood black padded booths hug a U-shape around the white-subway-tiled bar (they’re still waiting on their liquor licence and will serve craft beers as soon as it’s approved). There are a few subtle hints of greenery here and there, including a giant terrarium.

fox in the corn

The menu is a one-page affair. There are three simple starters – olives, jamon, pickled octopus – a green salad and a caprese salad. The main event is the pasta and you can choose between fettuccine or ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta or beef (+ $3).

The difficulty is in selecting a sauce. There are eleven to choose from, with a pasta served with house made napoli starting at $12.50 to most expensive dish being smoked salmon cream, rocket and capers ($18).

fox in the corn

I decided on fettuccine with slow cooked beef ragu with spring onion ($17.50) and ravioli with pancetta, leek and tomato with panko and parsley ($16.50). Both dishes were generously sized and two dishes could easily feed three people.

fox in the corn

The fettucine ribbons were squiggly and slightly chewy, as good handmade pasta should be. The ravioli had a good proportion of filling vs casing and was similarly cooked al dente. Of the two sauces I preferred the pancetta as it had a complexity of flavour from the chunks of smoky pancetta that the ragu (what most of us know as bolognaise) lacked. Though I was impressed by the beef, which is minced in house.

For dessert there’s a range of Gundowring flavours ($4.50) but we were so full from our pasta that we didn’t need anything else.

Fox in the Corn is one of a kind in Footscray and I think it will do well. They’re open 11am-11pm which means we could have a kid-friendly dinner at 5pm. The pasta is excellent quality and the sauces are vibrant and fresh, with enough options to suit every taste. If you’re not in the mood for a meal then they also serve a weekly rotation of coffee beans from Monk Bodhi Dharma.

Fox in the Corn, 4 Droop Street, Footscray

Daily 11am-11pm

Fox in the Corn on Urbanspoon

HOT: Royal Croquet Club, Birrarung Marr, Melbourne

royal croquet club melbourne

Royal Croquet Club is a pop up food, entertainment, sporting and lifestyle festival open for just 2 weeks until Sunday 1 February. I reckon it’s the hottest place to hang out this summer.

royal croquet club melbourne

Picking up where the Night Noodle Market left off, the area by the Yarra River at Birrarung Marr features some of Melbourne’s favourite restaurants – along with a full size croquet pitch. I was invited along for a tasting.

 

Food-wise you’ll find the Broadsheet Summer BBQ featuring D.O.C, Mr Claws, Meatmother, Miss Chu, St Ali and Gelato Messina. So much choice, so little stomach room….so if you don’t mind eating dessert first then my tip is to head straight to one of the Desserts in a Can by Gelato Messina ($9)! You’ll skip the queues and have enough room to enjoy the highlight of my meal.

royal croquet club melbourne

What is the Gelato Messina International Soup Kitchen? Basically the famous gelateria has devised some ingenious dessert concoctions all served up in a fake Campbells soup can – very Andy Warhol. I tried the Zuppa Duppa, with hazelnut gelato, wild strawberry preserve, pistachio crunch and amaretti biscotti – creamy, crunchy and oh so decadent and the kind of ice cream innovation that Gelato Messina is known for. Other flavours include ‘Black Forest Bisque’, ‘Faux Pho’ and ‘American Chow Down’.

royal croquet club melbourne

Back to the savouries each restaurant has a small selection of menu items, all hovering around the $10-$15 mark. You’ll probably eat two or three items so expect to pay around $40 for food.

royal croquet club melbourne

If you like your meat then grab  Meatmother’s ‘Burnt Ends’ – slippery cubes of slow cooked pork belly with jalapeno slaw and Mother BBQ sauce ($12).

royal croquet club melbourne

Lobster lovers must try Mr Claws lobster rolls filled with chunky lobster flesh in a soft buttery bun ($12). You can choose your lobster dressing from classic mayo base, chunky miso wasabi to spicy sriracha.

The drink of choice has go to be a Pimms cup – otherwise Yalumba wines or Heineken beers are on offer.

royal croquet club melbourne

The croquet action is pretty laid back. Basically just pick up a free mallet and off you go!

royal croquet club melbourne

royal croquet club melbourne

Royal Croquet Club is a really fun, relaxed place for eating, drinking and badly played ball sports – a great place for post-work get-together, a date or to hang out with friends. I’m hoping to visit the Royal Croquet Club at least three more times before it closes so that I can try each of the Gelato Messina’s International Soup Kitchen flavours!

From tonight Friday 23 January Royal Croquet Club will be celebrating the Australia Day long weekend with a Truck-A-Palooza festival with nine food trucks in attendance from 5pm and a special headline guest performing at sunset each night. Don’t miss it!

Royal Croquet Club, Birrarung Marr, Melbourne

Fri 16 Jan – Sun 1 Feb

Free entry event from Sunday through to Thursday. Friday and Saturdays are $5 after 7pm.

Monday – Thursday: 4pm -11pm

Friday: 4pm – 1am

Saturday: 12pm – 1am

Sunday: 12pm – 11pm

Extended Trading hours for the Australia day Long Weekend & Closing Weekend:

Sunday 25th: 12pm – 12am

Monday 26th: 12pm – 12am

Closing Night Sunday 1st Feb: 12pm – 12am

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