HOT: Bibelot, 285 – 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 2 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot is a dessert boutique, artisnal paitisserie and gelateria that’s just opened in South Melbourne thanks to the creative team behind Chez Dre.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 11 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot is located next door to its sister cafe, with entry from Coventry Street. From the plain glass outside it’s hard to imagine all the amazing sweet things but once you step inside the room expands out into a Alice in Wonderland/Willy Wonka fantasy of chocolate, cake and ice cream.

I was invited to the preview night and returned on Mother’s Day of my own accord to try their high tea.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 21 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

It’s hard to know where to start. On the right there’s a whole wall of artfully presented chocolate bars, packages of enrobed fruit and nuts, buttery biscuits, preserves and coffee and teas.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 22 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

On the left is the gelati station, with a changing rotation of house made gelati and sorbets housed in pozzetti tubs – plus TWO chocolate taps.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 4 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

I highly recommend the pistachio gelati, which is creamy, flavoursome and studded with real nuts.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 5 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Top it with some dark chocolate sauce that crackles as soon as it hits the cold and you’re onto a winner.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Head along the patisserie for delicate and beautifully presented jewels of cake, rows of pastel coloured macarons and hand made chocolates.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 6 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 3 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 7 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 1 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 9 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 20 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 10 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

At the back of the store is the ‘high tea salon’ though you’re welcome to sit for a drink and a cake there as well. The plush emerald velvet banquettes and armchairs and matching greenery give it an opulent yet inviting air. If there’s no space left in the salon then you can still enjoy your treats on the outside tables or standing by the narrow bench, European style.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 12 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot’s Mother’s Day high tea offering was a test run for their future high teas, which will start Thursday to Sunday from June. For $95 (kids under 7 are free) I received a platter of gourmet savory treats with a bread basket filled to the brim, a mixture of French and Australian cheeses, Istra charcuterie and Mt Zero olive tapenade.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 13 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Next up was a pretty strawberry pot au creme then a quick roll into a platter of petits gâteaux (miniature versions of what’s available in the cake cabinet) and curiously flat miniature scones.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 15 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 16 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 17 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 18 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

To end, two handcrafted bonbons plus throughout there was tea, coffee and a glass of champagne.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 19 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

I was bowled over by the quantity and quality of the food – but at $95 I thought it was expensive compared to other high teas around town which are equally fancy. Other than the price my only other misgiving is that high tea at Bibelot is not a quiet, restful experience as the salon is at the back of the busy shop.

Bibelot brings the sensibility of a French patisserie to South Melbourne and it’s my new favourite destination for all things sweet. Judging by the roaring trade on Mother’s Day, it may already a favourite for other Melbourne sweet tooths (teeth?).

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 8 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot, 285 – 287 Coventry Street, South Melbourne

Open 7 days, 10am – Late

minilink HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

HOT: Humble Patisserie, 140 Auburn Road, Hawthorn

Humble Patisserie 4 HOT: Humble Patisserie, 140 Auburn Road, Hawthorn

Humble Patisserie is a sweet little cake shop and bakery in Hawthorn. While the store is humble in size (there are only a few tables and chairs tucked inside and on the pavement), the cake, pastry and  confectionery spread certainly is not.

Humble Patisserie 3 HOT: Humble Patisserie, 140 Auburn Road, Hawthorn

I love the super-cute fit out, with Orla Kiely wallpaper behind the counter and riotously up the ceiling and a large storybook rabbit wielding a baguette and wallpaper matching scarf.

Humble Patisserie 2 HOT: Humble Patisserie, 140 Auburn Road, Hawthorn

It’s the kind of place where it’s impossible to choose just one thing to eat. Everything is baked fresh daily on site. They are justly famous of their pastries, especially the almond croissant, and their homage to classic Australian biscuits and sweets such as the Wagon Wheel and coconut ice.

Humble Patisserie 1 HOT: Humble Patisserie, 140 Auburn Road, Hawthorn

If you have to whittle down your choices, I highly recommend the Kingston and one of their mini tarlets, a buttery biscuity crumb filled with creamy lemon curd or a rich peanut butter and chocolate ganache.

Humble Patisserie 140 Auburn Road Hawthorn HOT: Humble Patisserie, 140 Auburn Road, Hawthorn

Humble Patisserie wholesale to a few other cafes in town but I suggest you make a trip to visit this nostalgic little bakery for a sweet treat and a coffee using Axil beans.

Humble Patisserie, 140 Auburn Road, Hawthorn (03) 9818 2463

Mon to Sun 8am – 4pm

minilink HOT: Humble Patisserie, 140 Auburn Road, Hawthorn

HOT: Le Jolie, 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale

Le Jolie 438 Gaffney St Pascoe Vale 10 HOT: Le Jolie, 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale

Get your waffle on with Le Jolie, a French cafe hidden in a small shopping strip in Pascoe Vale.

Those in the (waffle) know may have heard of Waffle Jolie, wholesalers of Belgian style waffles that sold out time and time again at Flour Market Fitzroy. Le Jolie is the permanent retail operation for the Waffle Jolie crew.

Before you say anything…yes, it’s not spelled the grammatically correct way ‘La Jolie’ but is Le Jolie because it’s an extension of Le (Waffle) Jolie.

Le Jolie 438 Gaffney St Pascoe Vale 9 HOT: Le Jolie, 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale

Le Jolie serves breakfast and lunch with a French twist. Prep starts at 4:30am and all the items are made on site, with exception of the buttery flaky croissants which are bought in par-baked then baked every morning. The simple menu includes sweet and savoury tarts, tartines and daily lunch specials such as casserole and quiche.

Le Jolie 438 Gaffney St Pascoe Vale 8 HOT: Le Jolie, 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale

The setting is just very charming. Inside is warm and cosy with dark timber floors, a nook of leather couches and a fireplace.

On a sunny day head out the back (past the small doorway to the hairdressing salon) and settle into the bucolic courtyard, with its lush canopy of vine leaves, a babbling fish pond with goldfish and wooden pallets turned green wall.

Le Jolie 438 Gaffney St Pascoe Vale 3 HOT: Le Jolie, 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale

I tried the Croque Monsieur with a rich bechamel sauce made with roasted garlic and fresh herbs from the garden pots ($13). It’s served with a rather limp leaf salad which could be made more interesting.

Le Jolie 438 Gaffney St Pascoe Vale 6 HOT: Le Jolie, 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale

Make sure you leave for waffles – in fact, order them when you order your main meal. On our visit all the waffles had sold out by midday and we were lucky to get the last one because we’d ordered it with our lunch.

The waffles are made with a secret recipe of 10 ingredients and are Belgian style, meaning they have a lovely caramelised sugar crust and are denser than American waffles. Le Jolie’s waffles are almost biscuity in flavour and texture and not so dense that you couldn’t maybe fit in two…I also recommend not drowning your waffle in too many toppings – the simple house-made chocolate sauce is enough, or even plain to really appreciate the texture and flavour.

Le Jolie 438 Gaffney St Pascoe Vale 2 HOT: Le Jolie, 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale

For other sweets I also highly recommend the pistachio croissant, a croissant slathered in pistachio paste inside and out and studded with raspberries and almond flakes.

And don’t miss their French hot chocolate ($4.50) which is a frothy whisked couverture concoction rather than a thick, gooey, Italian-style hot chocolate.

Le Jolie 438 Gaffney St Pascoe Vale 11 HOT: Le Jolie, 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale

Coffee is from the award-winning Melbourne microroaster Bambaleros and Le Jolie serves the No 6 blend.

Le Jolie is a lovely neighbourhood cafe which hits all the right notes in terms of food, setting and ambiance. The husband-and-wife owners work in the kitchen and on the floor and it’s obvious that they really care about their customers. The waffles alone are worth a visit!

Le Jolie, 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale (03) 93799886

Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri 7.00 am – 3.30 pm

Sat-Sun 8.00 pm-3 pm  

Closed Wed        
minilink HOT: Le Jolie, 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale

HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 4 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

If you enjoyed going on Easter egg hunts as a child then going on a gourmet chocolate tour has got to be the next best thing when you’re an adult!

For the last 20 years Chocoholics have run daily chocolate walking tours through Melbourne’s CBD, winding through laneways and arcades to find the artisan chocolatiers for which Melbourne is famous. I was invited to attend one of their tours, the signature ‘Bittersweet chocolate tour’ which included tastings of milk and dark chocolate at five different chocolate stores.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 21 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

The tour started off with a brief spiel by our personable guide about the origins of chocolate and the process of growing, harvesting and processing cacao. We were given some raw cocoa beans and cocoa nibs to try and then the real business of chocolate tasting began.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 19 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

First stop was Cacao Lab, a chocolatier opened by Frenchman Laurent Meric  designed to look like a new age laboratory.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 16 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

At Cacao Lab we were treated to a decorated milk chocolate with a nut ganache and a small shot of their intense hot chocolates, silently churning behind the counter.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 5 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 8 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

The bright colours and beautiful packaging of Cacao Lab lured me to purchase a half-dozen carton of their Belgian chocolate eggs. I also snapped one of their hot cross buns, recently crowned one of the best hot cross buns in Melbourne.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 11 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

Second stop was Alison Nelson’s Chocolate Bar, an American company with a few stores in New York, one in Dubai and one in Melbourne’s Emporium since October 2014. The store is very large, with lovely ironwork walls and a pastel and chocolate palette.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 14 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 12 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

The company is American but all the product is made in Melbourne and I noticed that they were selling Ingrid Tufts’ ceramicware as well.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 17 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

The recipes have been tweaked where necessary to accommodate Australian palates and some of the super-sweet American flavours haven’t made it on the menu. They use Callebaut chocolate and the aim of the founder, Alison Nelson, is to introduce American (and Australian) audiences to European style chocolate at a mid-range price.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 20 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

We tried some of their iced chocolates with a small slice of red velvet brownie, a cake-like morsel rather than a dense, gooey slab that I usually equate the American style brownies. Then we had a tasting of a very sweet peanut butter and jelly milk chocolate and a lavender milk chocolate.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 9 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

I also purchased a chocolate dipped Oreo (kind of like a Tim Tam actually) and my favourite, one of their selection of Asian flavoured chocolates, the bamboo macadamia jasmine dark log.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 25 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

Our third stop was Koko Black, a European style chocolatier which is credited with inspiring Melbourne’s love affair with high quality couverture chocolate over a decade ago.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 2 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 7 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

We watched the chocolatier in action by the window and then tried a strawberry milk chocolate and a silky drop of raspberry ganache inside a dark chocolate cup. Extremely rich without being cloying and so smooth on the tongue.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 13 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

The fourth stop was Haigh’s, an Adelaide-based chocolatier which is celebrating it’s 100th birthday this year.

When I first moved to Melbourne I was a bit bemused about how everyone raved about their chocolate frogs, which I thought were ok but not the sort of amazing quality I’d experienced in Europe. While their tour tastings were very generous – a dark chocolate palette, a milk chocolate palette and cinnamon and merlot chocolate – I’m still not a Haigh’s fan.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 18 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

Our final stop was Ganache, my favourite chocolatier in Melbourne. While I like the ambience of Koko Black’s flagship store in Royal Arcade, particularly the big cushy lounge chairs upstairs overlooking the passing crowd in the historic arcade, I think the quality of the product at Ganache is second to none. I have attended a masterclass at their South Yarra chocolate kitchen and seen how their work is done, so I am fully confident in the quality control of their product.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 15 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

At Ganache we were offered a hot drink and a full slice of one of their signature cakes, the hazelnut fan slice. I was desperately chocolated-out at that point but could not let such a beautiful cake go to waste.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 22 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

I had a wonderfully decadent afternoon with Chocoholics and I think that $49 is a very good price for the tour. A lot of ground is covered in the 2.5 hours, there’s a good selection of specialty chocolatiers to try and compare and you’ll certainly not leave hungry.

With several tastings at every stop there is a lot of chocolate to eat in one continuous sitting, so my tip is to skip lunch, drink a lot of water and bring a plastic bag/box to store away some of the tastings – they’ll be appreciated more later.

Note that one of the benefits of buying chocolate via the tour was that we received a discount at every chocolatier (other than Koko Black) which meant an extra excuse to indulge later!

HOT: Mork Chocolate Brew House, 150 Errol St, North Melbourne

Mork Chocolate Brew House 150 Errol St North Melbourne HOT: Mork Chocolate Brew House, 150 Errol St, North Melbourne

It’s about time there’s a dedicated place for non-coffee, chocolate drinkers like me. Hooray for Mork Chocolate Brew House, a specialty cafe in North Melbourne brought to us by a Swedish chocolatier and her Australian partner.

Mork Chocolate Brew House 150 Errol St North Melbourne 11 HOT: Mork Chocolate Brew House, 150 Errol St, North Melbourne

Mork Chocolate Brew House 150 Errol St North Melbourne 12 HOT: Mork Chocolate Brew House, 150 Errol St, North Melbourne

Mork Chocolate was previously only sold wholesale and you would have seen their cardboard canisters stocked in cafes and shops all over Melbourne. I’m such a fan that I even own one of their tea towels!

Mork Chocolate Brew House 150 Errol St North Melbourne 2 HOT: Mork Chocolate Brew House, 150 Errol St, North Melbourne

Mork Chocolate Brew House is a shop and 18-seater brew bar that only serves hot and cold chocolates, with a few house-made sweet nibbles on the side.

Mork Chocolate Brew House 150 Errol St North Melbourne 1 HOT: Mork Chocolate Brew House, 150 Errol St, North Melbourne

Yes you read right. It’s a cafe with no coffee.

Mork Chocolate Brew House 150 Errol St North Melbourne 15 HOT: Mork Chocolate Brew House, 150 Errol St, North Melbourne

The beautiful space is a light yet warm haven, with brass and wood finishes and curved benches and taps. Even the water taps for still and sparkling water are beautifully moulded and the carafes are miniature and super cute.

Mork Chocolate Brew House 150 Errol St North Melbourne 5 HOT: Mork Chocolate Brew House, 150 Errol St, North Melbourne

Mork Chocolate Brew House serves hot chocolates of the likes you’ve never seen before and some of them are only available dining in. The classic chocolate and milk drink is available with 50%, 65%, 70% and 85% cacao ($5). The 70% cacao is their original and signature blend.

Or you can try a water-based chocolate, where the delicate notes of the 100% pure cacao Venezuelan chocolate really stand out ($5.5 for hot, $8 for a chilled chocolate soda).

But I think the drink to try is their selection of signature chocolates ($5.5-$8) where the chocolate is mixed unusual ingredients such as oat milk, warm custard…and smoke.

Mork Chocolate Brew House 150 Errol St North Melbourne 6 HOT: Mork Chocolate Brew House, 150 Errol St, North Melbourne

For pure theatre you must try the Campfire Chocolate ($8). It’s a porcelain beaker of hot chocolate served with a caged glass of beech wood smoke, a sprinkle of smoked salt and a house-made pillowy marshmallow, also smoked.

Mork Chocolate Brew House 150 Errol St North Melbourne 17 HOT: Mork Chocolate Brew House, 150 Errol St, North Melbourne

 

Mork Chocolate Brew House 150 Errol St North Melbourne 9 HOT: Mork Chocolate Brew House, 150 Errol St, North Melbourne

You lift the glass, inhale the fumes then pour your chocolate inside while stirring it with the marshmallow skewer. You then finish it off with a sprinkle of salt.

Mork Chocolate Brew House 150 Errol St North Melbourne 7 HOT: Mork Chocolate Brew House, 150 Errol St, North Melbourne

The liquid is silky smooth with a hint of smokiness and the ritual lends a tea-ceremony delicacy to the drink, with a little bit of cheekiness thrown in.

Mork Chocolate Brew House 150 Errol St North Melbourne 14 HOT: Mork Chocolate Brew House, 150 Errol St, North Melbourne

Mork Chocolate Brew House 150 Errol St North Melbourne 4 HOT: Mork Chocolate Brew House, 150 Errol St, North Melbourne

For little people you can order a chocolate foam, effectively a babycino ($1) or a mini Junior (50% cacao) hot chocolate with a marshmallow ($3). It’s served in the same fragile Japanese porcelain that’s been imported from Arita, Japan, the birthplace of Japanese porcelain – so do be careful with little ones!

Mork Chocolate Brew House 150 Errol St North Melbourne 3 HOT: Mork Chocolate Brew House, 150 Errol St, North Melbourne

The small sweet delicacies are either made in house or made off-site with Mork’s recipes. The canele ($4) had a egg-shell like crunchy shell on the outside, though not quite airy enough within to count as an absolutely perfect canele specimen.

Instead for $4 I recommend trying one of the delicate and moist financier cakes, either hazelnut or lemon on the day of my visit.

mork chocolate brew house 150 errol st north melbourne 2 HOT: Mork Chocolate Brew House, 150 Errol St, North Melbourne

Mork Chocolate Brew House 150 Errol St North Melbourne 18 HOT: Mork Chocolate Brew House, 150 Errol St, North Melbourne

The most substantial offering is the brioche with chocolate spread ($6.5) which comes buttery warm and with a generous pot of Mexican chocolate. There’s enough spread to share between two brioche so be prepared to order extras (or you could just eat any leftovers straight with a spoon!).

Mork Chocolate Brew House 150 Errol St North Melbourne 10 HOT: Mork Chocolate Brew House, 150 Errol St, North Melbourne

Mork Chocolate Brew House is currently open during the day only but they will be shortly introducing some early evening hot chocolate tasting flights for those interested in chocolate education. Keep a lookout on their Facebook page for when those classes launch.

Mork Chocolate Brew House 150 Errol Street, North Melbourne +61 (03) 9328 1386

Tue-Sat 8am-5pm

Sun 9am-5pm

HOT: Qua’n 888, Shop 24, Little Saigon Shopping Centre, Ryan and Leeds Streets, Footscray

Qua’n 888 Shop 24 Little Saigon Shopping Centre Ryan and Leeds Streets Footscray 6 HOT: Qua’n 888, Shop 24, Little Saigon Shopping Centre, Ryan and Leeds Streets, Footscray

Thanks to a tip-off from the on-the-pulse Footscray Food Blog I dropped into Qua’n 888 on my last grocery shop to Footscray’s Little Saigon market.

What we’re used to in Australia is generally southern Vietnamese cuisine with a smattering of northern Vietnamese dishes – but food from the middle region doesn’t tend to get much of a look in.

At Qua’n 888 they specialise in food from the cities of Da Nang, Hoi An and Hue. You can find the small restaurant in Little Saigon market, at the opposite end of the crowded chaos of the fresh food stalls.

The decor is serviceable and filled with neon, food posters and random Vietnamese/Chinese bric-a-brac. The service is very friendly and the young owners speak English, which helps if you need guidance through the menu.

Qua’n 888 Shop 24 Little Saigon Shopping Centre Ryan and Leeds Streets Footscray 4 HOT: Qua’n 888, Shop 24, Little Saigon Shopping Centre, Ryan and Leeds Streets, Footscray

They have two noodle best-sellers – Bun Cha Ca Da Nang (Da Nang style vermicelli fish cake soup) and My Quang (Quang Nam style noodle with sauteed pork, prawn and quail egg) (both $10). I tried the former, which came out with the pungent purple shrimp paste and additional chilli and garlic thoughtfully presented to one side along with the crunchy bean shoots and mint leaves.

I happen to love the strong, stinky aroma of shrimp paste and if you choose not to tip in the whole dish of condiments the soup becomes less rounded in flavour and frankly less interesting. The fishcakes were squishy and chewy, like fried tofu puffs, and very distinct from the bland pouffes you often get from commercial packets.

Qua’n 888 Shop 24 Little Saigon Shopping Centre Ryan and Leeds Streets Footscray 5 HOT: Qua’n 888, Shop 24, Little Saigon Shopping Centre, Ryan and Leeds Streets, Footscray

I also tried the banh selection, which offers three different forms of steamed glutinous rice cake with various fillings ($10). I particularly loved the mouth feel of the slippery, translucent banh loc, the shorter of the two rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves and filled with prawn and pork. The banh nam, the longer of the wrapped parcels, was too mushy for my liking and contained prawn, pork and mushrooms. The banh beo in the little bowls were freshly steamed to order and sort of an in-between in texture topped with shrimp, fried shallots and shards of peanut. You dip the rice cakes as you wish in a nuoc cham.

To drink I tried the homemade corn milk, a refreshing concoction of freshly squeezed corn juice, condensed milk, cow’s milk and sugar ($4). Next time I’m going to try their homemade soy milk ($4).

When I paid the friendly owner told me that I must return on a weekend to try the Cao Lau Hoi An, Hoi An style noodles with roast pork. There’s only limited availability because the noodles are hard to source, while the pork is apparently similar to char siu.

Like Co Thu Quan next door, I love that Qua’n 888 is introducing Melburnians to the distinctive regional flavours of Vietnam. You won’t find their style of food everywhere and if you’re keen to explore more than pho and rice paper rolls then try it out.

Qua’n 888, Shop 24, Little Saigon Shopping Centre, Ryan and Leeds Streets, Footscray

10am-6:30pm daily

HOT: Where the Wild Things Sing by Black Hole Theatre, Summersalt Outdoor Arts Festival 2015, Southbank

Where the Wild Things Sing Summersalt Arts Festival 2015 Southbank 11 HOT: Where the Wild Things Sing by Black Hole Theatre, Summersalt Outdoor Arts Festival 2015, Southbank

Summersalt is Melbourne newest arts festival centred around Southbank’s Dodds Street/Sturt Street area, with five weekends of art, dance, music and theatre in February.

I bought tickets to ‘Where the Wild Things Sing’ which was billed as an ‘urban safari through the streets of Southbank where opera and puppetry collide in an adventure full of surprises’.

The hour performance was certainly a surprising experience, not least of which it introduced me to some beautiful street art and buildings in an area that I’ve often visited but never really explored fully.

Where the Wild Things Sing Summersalt Arts Festival 2015 Southbank 10 HOT: Where the Wild Things Sing by Black Hole Theatre, Summersalt Outdoor Arts Festival 2015, Southbank

There were about 30 adults and children on our family-friendly performance of the show and I very much enjoyed an hour of kookiness and unexpected encounters accompanied by some beautiful singing. The evening (non-family-friendly) performances are apparently ‘naughtier’ with adult themes and are for people 15+ years.

The 60 minute experience was led by raconteur Bernard Caleo who, along with series of mermaids, guided the group to a series of intimate performances in unexpected places.

Where the Wild Things Sing Summersalt Arts Festival 2015 Southbank 7 HOT: Where the Wild Things Sing by Black Hole Theatre, Summersalt Outdoor Arts Festival 2015, Southbank

Where the Wild Things Sing Summersalt Arts Festival 2015 Southbank 2 HOT: Where the Wild Things Sing by Black Hole Theatre, Summersalt Outdoor Arts Festival 2015, Southbank

Where the Wild Things Sing Summersalt Arts Festival 2015 Southbank 9 HOT: Where the Wild Things Sing by Black Hole Theatre, Summersalt Outdoor Arts Festival 2015, Southbank

I won’t reveal too much but the roll call included a gorilla, giant maggots barbecuing, a panda reading a pamphlet, tiny surreal sculptures, a bed-bug ridden beardy man and some crazed synchro swimming in a tub.

Where the Wild Things Sing Summersalt Arts Festival 2015 Southbank 1 HOT: Where the Wild Things Sing by Black Hole Theatre, Summersalt Outdoor Arts Festival 2015, Southbank

Where the Wild Things Sing Summersalt Arts Festival 2015 Southbank 4 HOT: Where the Wild Things Sing by Black Hole Theatre, Summersalt Outdoor Arts Festival 2015, Southbank

Where the Wild Things Sing Summersalt Arts Festival 2015 Southbank 6 HOT: Where the Wild Things Sing by Black Hole Theatre, Summersalt Outdoor Arts Festival 2015, Southbank

The whole surreal experience made me laugh, kept me fascinated and made me look at my surroundings in a new light.

Where the Wild Things Sing Summersalt Arts Festival 2015 Southbank 3 HOT: Where the Wild Things Sing by Black Hole Theatre, Summersalt Outdoor Arts Festival 2015, Southbank

Tickets are $5 from Melbourne Recital Centre and numbers are strictly limited for their last performances on Friday 20 February and Saturday 21 February.

Where the Wild Things Sing by Black Hole Theatre, Summersalt Outdoor Arts Festival 2015, Southbank 

Family performance Sat 21 Feb 3pm

Evening Performances (for 15+ years
, adult themes) Fri 20 Feb 8.30pm

Tickets $5 each. 

HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote


Il Melograno 76 High Street Northcote 15 HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote

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.

DSC08899 540x404 HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote

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 76 High Street Northcote 8 HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote

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 76 High Street Northcote 5 HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote

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 76 High Street Northcote 10 HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote

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 76 High Street Northcote 1 HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote

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 76 High Street Northcote 2 HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote

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 76 High Street Northcote 12 HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote

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

minilink HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote

HOT: Top 10 Best icecream and gelato in Melbourne

DSC08288 540x540 HOT: Top 10 Best icecream and gelato in Melbourne

Melbourne, welcome to your heat wave.

Cool down with my Top 10 best ice cream and gelato in Melbourne, a difficult (but delicious) list to compile. In no particular order:

  1. Gelato Messina , 237 Smith St, Fitzroy

I used to live around the corner from Gelato Messina and god do I miss it. When it’s busy it’s like a nightclub, but the ice cream there is worth the wait. Their ice cream cakes are unbelievable – we’ve had them several times for special occasions and they always elicit oohs and ahs.

Messina 1 HOT: Top 10 Best icecream and gelato in Melbourne

  1. N2 Extreme Gelato 329 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

Watch your ice cream being made as the custard is frozen using clouds of liquid nitrogen, resulting in a very smooth and light consistency. They serve up a rotation of bizarre flavours weekly.

n2 extreme gelato HOT: Top 10 Best icecream and gelato in Melbourne

3. Jock’s Ice Cream and Sorbets, 83 Victoria Ave, Albert Park

A favourite with Albert Park locals and an ice cream store worth travelling for – just look at all the prizes on the wall.

4. Gelato Primavera / Spring St Grocer, 157 Spring St, Melbourne

Classic Italian gelateria with clean, fresh flavours and a lovely view of Parliament House.

Spring St grocer HOT: Top 10 Best icecream and gelato in Melbourne

  1. Helados Jauja, 254 Lygon St, Carlton

Argentinian ice cream store with a selection of unique South American and Asian flavours (the owner is Asian).

  1. Candied Bakery, 81a Hudsons Rd, Spotswood

The soft serve machine at Candied Bakery smashes out some unique flavours every week, often coinciding with whatever festive occasion is happening at the time.

Candied Bakery HOT: Top 10 Best icecream and gelato in Melbourne

  1. Il Dolce Freddo, 116 Lygon St, Carlton

The best Asian flavours of gelato I’ve had in Melbourne. Their pandan is to die for and if you like durian ice cream, this is the place to get it.

8. Pidapipo, 299 Lygon St, Carlton

My new favourite gelateria, mainly for their creamy and clean-tasting hazelnut hidden inside the stainless steel Italian-built pozzetti fridge. According to this article you can always judge the quality of a gelateria by their hazelnut gelato, which is gram for gram the most expensive gelato to produce.

Pidapipo 2 HOT: Top 10 Best icecream and gelato in Melbourne

9.Fritz Gelato. Prahan Market

A trip to Prahran Market always ends with a taster of Fritz Gelato’s organic ice cream.

Il Melograno 76 High Street Northcote 8 HOT: Top 10 Best icecream and gelato in Melbourne

  1. Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote

Forget the choc tops at the Westgarth Cinema and save your appetite for a post-movie cone at this authentic Italian gelateria instead.

Where are your favourite place for ice cream and gelato in Melbourne?

HOT: 5 and Dime Bagel, 16 Katherine Place, Melbourne

5 and Dime Bagel 16 Katherine Place Melbourne 2 HOT: 5 and Dime Bagel, 16 Katherine Place, Melbourne

5 and Dime Bagel’s New York style boiled bagels have been gaining a loyal following from farmer’s market shoppers for the past two years.

 While you can still buy 5 and Dime Bagel at Flemington and Gasworks farmers markets, they have opened a permanent store in Katherine Place, near the King St end of Flinders Lane. They are one of half a dozen new, small, food enterprises that will hopefully turn that rather dead area of the CBD into a vibrant culinary destination. 

I love 5 and Dime Bagel for their chewy but not too dense texture and slightly crunchy crust. They are hand rolled, boiled and baked fresh every day on site and then distributed to other outlets as well as tumbled into wooden trays in their new premises. 

5 and Dime Bagel 16 Katherine Place Melbourne 1 HOT: 5 and Dime Bagel, 16 Katherine Place, Melbourne

The small cafe is reminiscent of an old-school American diner. Not the ones with kitschy, brightly coloured decor but the sort of subdued neighbourhood hangouts I can imagine found in tumbleweed Midwestern towns. When I walked in I was immediately reminded of the film The Last Picture Show. 

5 and Dime Bagel 16 Katherine Place Melbourne 4 HOT: 5 and Dime Bagel, 16 Katherine Place, Melbourne

The cafe offers bagels with a rotating selection of flavoured cream cheese (schmears) and fillings, all made in house. You can buy bagels to take away ($2 or 6 for $11) or sit down for a simple bagel sandwich and an espresso or filtered Promised Land Coffee. 

5 and Dime Bagel 16 Katherine Place Melbourne 3 HOT: 5 and Dime Bagel, 16 Katherine Place, Melbourne

My tip is to go for the dill bagel. The dill bagel has no added salt, which is unbelievable as it is so full of flavour. Combined with their house cured salmon/trout and cream cheese combo and it’s one heavenly sandwich.

They are purists with their bagels too. It is usual for bagels to be toasted in other cafes but here they don’t toast them because the bagels are so fresh. They bake constantly, throughout the day, so even if you arrive at the end of the lunch hour the bagels are still fresh.

 I can’t get on a plane to New York so 5 and Dime Bagel is the closest I’ll get to having a New York breakfast. And now you don’t have to wait for the weekend for your bagel fix!

5 and Dime Bagel, 16 Katherine Place, Melbourne

Monday to Friday 7:00 am to 3:00 pm

minilink HOT: 5 and Dime Bagel, 16 Katherine Place, Melbourne