HOT: Truck Stop Deluxe 98 Watton Street, Werribee

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Truck Stop Deluxe is a new burger joint parked (pun intended) right in the centre of the Werribee.

It’s been created by three of Melbourne’s best-known burger pioneers –  Josh Lefers (Grand Trailer Park Taverna and Pawn & Co.), Dani Zeini (Dandenong Pavillion and Grand Trailer Park Taverna) and Jimmy Hurlston (Jimmy’s Burgers and Easey’s).

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This time, instead of trailers, the theme is trucks!

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The bright, brash and cheeky venue is inspired by an American truck stop diner and it’s sure to shake things up in a relatively quiet suburban restaurant strip.

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I was invited to the launch and got up close and personal with some excellent burgers and a lion’s share of Kinder Surprise milkshakes made with ice-cream, chocolate, Frangelico and Baileys. Oh my.

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The menu is all about fancy burgers, cocktails and alcohol-spiked milkshakes.

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About 70% of the menu from Grand Trailer Park Taverna is replicated here, with some fried chicken and breakfast brioche rolls on weekends and ice cream doughnuts thrown into the mix.

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While the food is fun it’s the interior that really gets the party started. Trucks have been built inside the restaurant…and you can sit in them if you like! Complete with fluffy dice!

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Up the back of the inside area are larger leather booths with big screens replicating the experience of sitting inside a truck cab watching the scenery go by. Out the back is a covered courtyard.

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Truck Stop Deluxe is bringing amazing burgers to the west from Wednesday 29 July. If you’re local, heading west or a truckie – don’t miss it!


 

Truck Stop Deluxe 98 Watton Street, Werribee (03) 9741 4000

Wednesday to Sunday 11.30am until late

 HOT: Truck Stop Deluxe 98 Watton Street, Werribee

HOT: Adriano Zumbo Patissier, 12-14 Claremont St, South Yarra

Zumbo1 1024x694 HOT: Adriano Zumbo Patissier, 12 14 Claremont St, South YarraSome days when I’m feeling blue, I thank god for Adriano Zumbo. His eponymous patisserie in South Yarra is a Willy Wonka riot of mirror, neon and cake and the long pastry cabinet never fails to lift my spirits.

When faced with so many fantastical desserts it’s hard to know where to start. But if you go on Tuesday I have a tip for you – for the foreseeable future you can buy one tart get one half price as part of ‘Two Tart Tuesday’.

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With that in mind I order the precisely swirled lemon meringue tart and the luxurious ‘Me So Nutty’ with gianduja caramel, milk chocolate gianduja soft ganache and topped with golden hazelnutsZumbo3 1024x755 HOT: Adriano Zumbo Patissier, 12 14 Claremont St, South Yarra

I also can’t resist a ‘Zonut’ with flavours that change every week. So popular are Zumbo’s version of the croissant/donut hybrid that customers are limited to only four at a time.

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As I bite into one I can understand why! The outer crust is so crisp and light I create an explosion of pastry crumbs with every mouthful, and the filling is so smooth and rich with  a Mexican dark chocolate – whipped ganache with hints of cinnamon and chilli. The topping? More chocolate and marshmallows!

For other treats I have also been known to queue for Zumbo’s macarons (Zumbarons) on occasion and they are one of the best I’ve ever tried due to their consistency and precision in texture. There is also hand-crafted ice cream or savoury pies, sausage rolls and quiches.

There are a few small tables and chairs inside the bakery where you can enjoy your coffee and cake on the spot, though during busy period it can get crowded so it’s more of a takeaway place. Taking one of the distinctive orange boxes out on the street will bring a spring to your step, I promise!

Adriano Zumbo Patissier is a joyride for Melbourne sweet tooths and if you enjoy those treats make sure you visit Fancy Nance around the corner, Zumbo’s new high tea salon which turns afternoon tea on its head.

Adriano Zumbo Patissier, 12-14 Claremont St, South Yarra 1800 858 611

Open 7 days 7am – 7pm

 HOT: Adriano Zumbo Patissier, 12 14 Claremont St, South Yarra

HOT: The Green at St Columbs, 5 St Columbs St, Hawthorn

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The Green at St Columbs is a social enterprise cafe set amongst the unique church grounds and a stone church hall of St Columbs Anglican Church in Hawthorn.

The cafe is a project of Jesuit Social Services’ Ignite program. The program provides training, support and employment pathways to long term unemployed, young or old, through teaching them hospitality skills. The social enterprise also run small operations (without a full kitchen) at Hawthorn Library and Camberwell Library. On each table there is a bottle with a small scroll revealing the positive stories of some of the participants in the program.

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A lot of thought has gone into the operation, including in the sourcing of produce. Many ingredients are sourced from The Yard, Jesuit Social Services’ garden project nearby and raised garden beds on site also overflow with herbs and vegetables. To the extent possible items are made or grown on site, from the house baked ciabatta to the jams filling the doughnuts. Anything else has been sourced from local farmers and producers. They are committed to operating a closed loop system to manage their resources and to work towards a zero-waste operation.

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The charming two-room fitout has been designed by Brunswick’s ZWEI Interiors (of Code Black Coffee BrunswickCode Black Howard St and Wide Open Road fame) and the coffee beans similarly come from Code Black. A small gas fireplace and overhead heaters warm the high ceilings during winter and seating is in the form of long communal tables and smaller two-person tables.

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A stunning chandelier overlooks the coffee station.

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The seasonal menu has all day breakfast options – a roll call of bread, grains and eggs – and larger meals which are also available all day. So if you want you can have Nonna’s Lasagne for breakfast!

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I order ‘Morock the Kasbah’ a wholesome warm salad with generous chunks of slow cooked Moroccan lamb shoulder tossed with a mass of greenery, quinoa, lentils, chickpeas and hummus ($16.80). It is so substantial that I almost bypass the cake cabinet…but it is so enticing.

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I decide on a fig and almond tart as the fig jam is made on premises. The tart is crumbly and moist, with a smear of not-to-sweet jam filling in the middle.

DSC06762 1024x701 HOT: The Green at St Columbs, 5 St Columbs St, Hawthorn

The mission of Jesuit Social Services is to help work towards a just society. The Green at St Columbs is one way they aim to achieve that goal. The cafe is a welcoming place for people to come together and they’re welcoming of families, they source and use their produce in a way that cares for the natural environment and the training program enables people to realise their potential and to contribute to the community.

Visit The Green at St Columbs to enjoy great food, good coffee and a warm fuzzy feeling that you’re helping others.

The Green at St Columbs, 5 St Columbs St, Hawthorn, 9819 0890

Tue-Sun 8-3pm

 HOT: The Green at St Columbs, 5 St Columbs St, Hawthorn

HOT: Two Birds One Stone, 12 Claremont St, South Yarra

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Two Birds One Stone is an award-winning cafe underneath an apartment block in South Yarra. It mirrors the same winning formula as the owners’ other establishments Top Paddock and The Kettle Black, with slick design and a creative menu presented with Instagram-worthy panache.

The lofty space is split into two – maybe the reason for the cafe’s name?  The coffee station serves Five Senses coffee includes a neat takeaway area and a stunning flower lit panelled wall.

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The other side is divided by high upholstered banquettes, though you can also choose between window-facing stools, a high communal table and the coveted partitioned round table booths which can be booked for tables of 4+ people on weekdays. The palette is blonde oak, grey concrete and greenery with distinctive stick lighting by the owners’ regular collaborator Christopher Boots.

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Both breakfast and lunch are served all day which means there’s no real reason to divide the menu – so for breakfast I try the rare yellow fin tuna with potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, aioli and crispy poached egg ($20). It’s a play on a classic Nicoise salad, with a trail of vibrant vegetables topped with generous slices of melting tuna and a lightly coated egg that’s still gooey inside. It’s healthy without being sanctimonious and head-turning pretty.

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In the breakfast menu there are a couple of sweet dishes which makes it hard to choose, but I’m intrigued by the passionfruit and yoghurt pannacotta – dessert as breakfast, why not? I’m expecting the usual upturned ramekin sized number but in fact the whole bowl is one big wobbly pannacotta, making it a bargain for $13.

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It reminds me of a giant sweet chawanmushi (steamed Japanese custard) and the silken texture is flawless underneath the lemongrass and saffron scented pineapple, fresh passionfruit and nut granola. I’m just sad that I’m so full that I can’t finish the dish.

There’s a reason that Two Birds One Stone is full constantly – the sophisticated menu and friendly service means that it’s a place worth travelling for.

Two Birds One Stone, 12 Claremont Street, South Yarra (03) 9827 1228

Mon to Fri 7:00 am – 3:30 pm

Sat to Sun 8:00 am – 3:30 pm

 HOT: Two Birds One Stone, 12 Claremont St, South Yarra

HOT: Giddyup Mule, 177 Stephen St, Yarraville

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Giddyup Mule is Yarraville’s latest cafe opening. It’s part of the growing trend in serving healthy, raw, organic, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free food that’s permeating through Melbourne’s cafe scene -perhaps as a reaction to the opposing trend of burgers, fried chicken and doughnuts!

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Giddyup Mule takes over the space that used to be a more simple coffee bar at Art of Cycling, an indoor spin training studio. It’s a little hard to find as the doorway and signage is hidden behind a street umbrella, so just look out for the Art of Cycling sign.

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The two young owners and westie locals Magarethe and Jodie have built a new kitchen, store room and brought their own spin (pun intended) on the space, with a roaring wood heater, a paint job and a kicking (pun intended again) menu of interesting dishes.

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The drinks list includes Axil coffee, Mofo hot chocolate, silky Chai Walli chai made with milk (or soy) and honey, a range from Tea Tonic, juices, smoothies and kombucha on tap by Grateful Harvest.

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The kombucha is freshly brewed in Melbourne and the ginger and tumeric is tangy and fresh ($5). I’m told the orange is sweeter if you’re not familiar with the fermented taste of kombucha.

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I try the pulled pork cigars with apple and walnut salad and smoky sauce ($18.50). It’s a decadent dish with melting strips of pork rolled up in a fried parcel – can’t really go wrong! The crunchy apples and nuts provide a textural and flavour contrast to the meat.

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The bircher muesli is a wild palette of colourful elements and totally delicious, especially the coconut yoghurt which they infuse with acai and berries. It’s good value for money at $12 as you won’t be able to fit in much else afterwards.

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You can’t go past a cafe menu these days without seeing smashed avo and this version comes with house-marinated feta and smoked cherry tomatoes ($16.50). It’s a generous tumble of vibrant freshness and the kombucha vinaigrette adds an interesting tangy twist to an otherwise ubiquitous menu item.

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For dessert there is a selection of organic raw desserts by Torquay’s Life Seeeds. I am in love with raw desserts at the moment as it seems like a healthier way to indulge my sweet tooth. The salted caramel joy bar ($7.50) contains ‘Aztec superfoods’ but all you need to know is that it’s decadent and rich.

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Giddyup Mule is a fun, friendly and healthy addition to the inner west cafe scene. If you’re a bike rider / gym-goer it’s even more convenient, with Art of Cycling spin classes, DCPT personal training and group fitness and Western Velo Works bike repairs in the same building.

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Plus if you need an early caffeine hit they’re open 6:30am on weekdays!

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Giddyup Mule 177 Stephen St, Yarraville 0405 788 253

Mon – Fri 6.30am to 4om

Sat 7- 4pm

Sun 8-4pm

 HOT: Giddyup Mule, 177 Stephen St, Yarraville
 

HOT: Din Tai Fung, Emporium Melbourne, Level 4, 287 Lonsdale St, Melbourne

Din Tai Fung Emporium Melbourne Level 4 287 Lonsdale St Melbourne 10 HOT: Din Tai Fung, Emporium Melbourne, Level 4, 287 Lonsdale St, Melbourne

Melbourne dumpling-lovers, start your engines. Din Tai Fung Melbourne has arrived.

This famous, and long-awaited, restaurant chain has taken up the whole of level 4 inside Emporium Melbourne. You can’t miss the entrance as there will be crowd of hungry people outside.
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Inside the decor is a surprising combination of Scandi-chic with an Asian sensibility designed by Design Clarity.

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It’s not often you spot filament lights in Asian restaurants and they combine together with other ‘hipster-cafe’ features such as an abundance of blonde wood, a long retro blue banquette, curved lines and wall-hanging greenery.

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Particularly Asian elements still creep in though – waiters wield bag stands to protect your handbags and shopping and coat covers for the back of your chair.

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You order by ticking off a paper menu with over a hundred items. Daunted, I call my (Chinese) mother to provide ordering advice (though there is a picture menu available to assist). She says ‘every visit to Din Tai Fung would not be complete without their famous xiao long bao’.

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These darling 18-times pleated soup dumplings (6 for $10.80) are made by an army of mask-clad chefs in the large kitchen and then carried in a sky-high tower of bamboo steamers to be distributed to expectant folk.

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Din Tai Fung’s XLB are superb. The weight of the piping hot broth, the thin pouch of dumpling skin, the the perfect balance of texture and flavour, all go towards making these some of the best xiao long bao you’ll find anywhere in the world. What’s amazing is the consistency of the product – I’ve had Din Tai Fung’s XLB in Sydney, Hong Kong and Shanghai and each time they send me into a food orgasm.

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Din Tai Fung are also famous for their noodles, and my mum suggested trying the braised beef noodle soup ($16.80). It’s a steaming bowl consisting of a fat wad of handmade noodles sitting underneath four slices of beef shank in a flavoursome broth. The pliable noodles are a highlight though the beef could be more tender.

Din Tai Fung Emporium Melbourne Level 4 287 Lonsdale St Melbourne 4 HOT: Din Tai Fung, Emporium Melbourne, Level 4, 287 Lonsdale St, Melbourne

Finally, I try one of their steamed buns ($3). The vegetarian bun comes so beautifully pleated I don’t want to touch it. I take a bite and discover the fluffiest of pillows with a loose mixture of shredded vegetables and mushrooms nestled inside.

Din Tai Fung Emporium Melbourne Level 4 287 Lonsdale St Melbourne 5 HOT: Din Tai Fung, Emporium Melbourne, Level 4, 287 Lonsdale St, Melbourne

Din Tai Fung may be a global restaurant chain but it’s one that’s of consistently high quality and reasonably priced. It’s an exciting addition to Chinese dining in Melbourne and it was telling that on my visit 95% of the patrons were Asian, young and old. It’s safe to say they know a good dumpling when they eat it (and are willing to line up for it).

My final tip is to arrive 5-10 minutes before opening time. The kitchen is quick but each table still takes around 45 minutes to turn around. So if you miss the first tranche of the 230-odd seats you’ll have to hang around salivating over your paper menu until there’s room.

Din Tai Fung, Emporium Melbourne, Level 4, 287 Lonsdale St, Melbourne 9654 1876

Mon-Wed 11.30-2.30pm, 5.30-9pm

Thu-Fri 11.30-2.30pm, 5-10pm

Sat 11-3pm, 5-10pm

Sun 11-3pm, 5-9pm

 HOT: Din Tai Fung, Emporium Melbourne, Level 4, 287 Lonsdale St, Melbourne

HOT: Lygon Food Store, 263 Lygon Street, Carlton

Lygon Food Store 263 Lygon Street Carlton 1 HOT: Lygon Food Store, 263 Lygon Street, Carlton

Lygon Food Store was a pioneer in Melbourne in the 1950s. This iconic Carlton cafe and food store opened 63 years ago as one of the first suppliers of imported products from Italy and it was the first shop in Lygon Street to serve Lavazza coffee.

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This unpretentious establishment has long been a favourite with uni students and academics for a casual breakfast or a hearty lunch.

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Their huge ciabattas and baguettes are excellent value (all under $10) and the glass cabinet holds a rotating mouth-watering selection of Italian meals, soups and salads.

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The cartoccio, an oval mass of pizza dough, squidgy mozzarella and laden to overflowing with antipasti and charcuterie, is one of their specialities. It’s big enough to share between two or three, making it an economical lunch for $14.50.

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About a month ago Lygon Food Store opened its doors for dinner on Thursday to Sunday evenings.

I was invited to sample some of the dinner menu, which has an emphasis on Southern Italian cuisine mainly from Puglia, the region that owner Pasquale Coco knows best. Some of the recipes are from his family, some have been devised by Pasquale who is also the chef.

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The highlight of the preview was the serves of pasta and the risotto Milanese, all cooked al dente and adorned with the simplest of sauces to highlight the freshness of the ingredients. All the pastas and stone fired pizzas are under $20.

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There are just four main dishes to choose from – a veal osso bucco, rockling fillet, crunchy eggplant polpetta with spicy caponata and couscous and in a nod to on-trend ingredients, a light quinoa salad. Again, each of the mains was very reasonably priced under $30.

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While bright new eateries ensure that Lygon Street is ever-evolving it’s always nice to revisit old favourites. Lygon Food Store is a Melbourne institution for a reason and now you can enjoy their wares (and do your deli shopping) morning, noon and night.

Lygon Food Store, 263 Lygon Street, Carlton 03 9347 6279

Monday – Wednesday, 7am – 6pm
Thursday – Sunday, 7am – 10pm

 HOT: Lygon Food Store, 263 Lygon Street, Carlton

HOT: The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

The Grand Masters The Grand Hotel 333 Burnley St Richmond 1 HOT:  The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

Melbourne has so many eateries opening week after week that it’s easy to get caught up in the fervour of chasing new dining experiences.

But we musn’t forget the stalwarts of the city’s dining scene, places like The Grand Hotel in Richmond that have been serving happy customers for more than twelve years in Burnley Street.

I confess that despite moving to Melbourne twelve years ago myself I have never ventured to The Grand until last week. I was invited to attend one of The Grand’s special monthly events, The Grand Masters dinner to celebrate the old guard of Melbourne restaurant scene for AFR’s Australia’s Top 100 Restaurants, the only peer voted restaurant list in Australia.

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Branco Cokesa, Alex Almatrah and Peter Watt  are three front of house staff that have worked in the hospitality business for over 40 years and together garnered over 165 (!) chef hats between them. While they served the diners in one of The Grand’s upstairs function rooms, they regaled us with anecdotes about ACDC, Billy Joel, Alan Bond and other celebrities, shared stories about their love for hospitality and the special place The Grand had in their hearts.

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The night highlighted the skill of The Grand’s co-head chefs, two young Italians in their late 20s with Michelin-starred resumes.

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First course was a Battuta di Tonno, a simple tuna tartare inspired by Olimpia Bortolotto’s dish served at Cafe Meni’s in St Kilda.

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The pasta course was a dish that Stephen Downes rated as one of the 100 things you must eat before you die – chef Valerio Nucci’s Vincisgrassi Lasagne. It’s a traditional dish from the Marche region of Italy and not one you’re likely to find on many restaurant menus. The secret ingredients? Pot roasted chuck steak slow-cooked with vegetables and herbs, chopped kidneys brains and liver and lashings of butter!

The Grand Masters The Grand Hotel 333 Burnley St Richmond 8 HOT:  The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

The main course was a melting roast porchetta with baby carrots, beetroot and spinach inspired by Bill Marchetti’s Latin, THE place for the rich and famous to dine in the 80s and 90s.

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The finale was developed by the The Grand’s ‘Young Guns in the Kitchen’ a white chocolate semifreddo with caramelised rock melon. It’s not often you see melon on dessert menus these days and the refreshing sweetness was a perfect counterpoint for the richness of the previous savoury dishes.

The Grand is the kind of place that families visit over generations and it has consistently been awarded one hat since 2006.  It’s not flashy or cutting edge but serves authentic Italian food in a warm and inviting environment where you know you’ll be taken care of. Treasure it, Melbourne.

The Grand Masters Wednesday 20 May and Wednesday 27 May

The Como Room, The Grand, 333 Burnley Street, Richmond (03) 9429 2530

Mon – Sun 12pm till 11pm

Fri – Sat 12pm till 1am

minilink HOT:  The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

HOT: Small French Bar, Shop 3, 154 Barkly St, Footscray

Small French Bar Shop 3 154 Barkly St Footscray 10 HOT: Small French Bar, Shop 3, 154 Barkly St, Footscray

The layers of immigration that make Footscray such a fascinating place have now placed Small French Bar, a French fromagerie, charcuterie and cafe (and later wine bar) on the main street.

Small French Bar Shop 3 154 Barkly St Footscray 6 HOT: Small French Bar, Shop 3, 154 Barkly St, Footscray

It’s a small storefront set incongruously amongst the pho joints, wig shops and money exchange offices and you’ll just be able to spot it with the help of a little snail over the door.

Small French Bar Shop 3 154 Barkly St Footscray 4 HOT: Small French Bar, Shop 3, 154 Barkly St, Footscray

Stephane Armentano is a new Footscray local and comes to Melbourne via a successful tapas bar in Fremantle. The space inside the Royal Hotel redevelopment has been completely rebuilt by Stephane and his family and transformed into what he hopes will become a little community bar like those in most French villages.

Small French Bar Shop 3 154 Barkly St Footscray 5 HOT: Small French Bar, Shop 3, 154 Barkly St, Footscray

The sweetly humble space is a Gallic haven. French music plays gently in the background and the small menu is available throughout the day, every day.

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Start your day with a bargain $5 croissant and coffee or French hot chocolate.

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The croissants and pain au chocolat are wafer crisp on the outside and so very airy on the inside – and it turns out that they have been made with French butter and other French ingredients and come direct from France (par-baked), along with the baguettes.

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Stephane simply couldn’t find the consistency in quality in any products here so for the moment you can enjoy these treats as if you were in the streets of Paris.

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For a main meal try the home made duck confit ($18), a moist maryland of duck with meat that falls off the bone and served with creamy potatoes dauphinois and steamed green beans. It’s an authentic brasserie meal which will warm your cockles in winter. You may see confit duck legs for sale in the near future, along with the  existing selection of French cheeses and charcuterie.

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To end don’t miss the house made chocolate fondant. The weight of the vanilla ice cream helps the melting chocolate centre flow out from the shell and it’s a luxurious treat for only $8.

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At the moment opening hours are still in testing mode as Small French Bar is a one-man operation. Generally you can expect the cafe to be open from 10-4pm every day, sometimes opening earlier, sometimes closing later. The liquor license will hopefully come through in a few months so there will be an authentic wine bar in Footscray!

Small French Bar is a lovely neighbourhood addition and Stephane has obviously put his heart and soul into this venture so go support him!

Starting next Tuesday there will also be a regular French conversation class. From June 2 meet at Small French Bar  7pm till 9pm for charcuterie, cheese plate and a tete-a-tete. Limited tickets available, ring Stefan 0402952078.

Small French Bar, Shop 3, 154 Barkly St, Footscray 0402952078

Open 7 days 10am-5pm

 HOT: Small French Bar, Shop 3, 154 Barkly St, Footscray

HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 2 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink is a handsome cafe hidden in a laneway – behind a laneway – next to a servo in Carlton.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 3 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

While the entrance to the former horse stables is small (and positively teeny tiny when they only open the bolthole in wet weather) once you get inside it’s like the Tardis.

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The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 8 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

 A busy coffee bar greets you, then you walk back a bit further and the ceilings suddenly rise, cathedral-like.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 4 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

The lofty space is so amazingly bright that it’s hard to believe that there are no windows. The skylights that form the ceiling diffuse the light so beautifully across the wood and copper decor that even on a gloomy rainy winter’s day inside the cafe it feels like a spring day.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 5 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

 I take a seat at the banquette and I’m immediately enamoured of the greenery frothing over the custom-made metal wall planters. They were designed by Glasshaus in Richmond and are irrigated using a narrow pipe and drip system harnessing water from the roof.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 1 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

As the name suggest The Vertue of the Coffee Drink is a shrine to coffee. The unusual name comes from a promotional handbill from 1652 s advertising the first coffee house in London and the benefits of the brew.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 10 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

There’s a glossy roaster on site, a temperature controlled glass cabinet displaying various beans and coffee paraphernalia lined up along the wooden stairwell that leads up to nowhere.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 12 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

But if you’re a non-coffee drinker (like me) then there’s still a tea by Chamellia ($4.50), Mork Hot Chocolate ($4-5) and the Mad as a Hatter Chai with soy ($6) which comes in a hand beaten copper vessel.  They’re also licensed.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 6 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

And then there’s the food. Oh my. A series of all -day breakfast dishes that you’re unlikely to find on every second menu around town – plus I like the fact that their lunch menu starts at 10:30am!

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 7 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

After some dithering between the scotch egg and chickpea chips I decide on the latter ($18). It’s an artistic array of charred zucchini, preserved pops of cherry tomatoes, shaved parmesan and two poached eggs, plus some unexpectedly fluffy sticks of deep-fried mashed chickpea. Even if you’re not vegetarian this is a dish worth trying.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 9 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

From the ‘something sweet’ section I try the warmed spiced fruit loaf ($14). It’s a hearty serve of almost cake-like fruit bread toasted into wedges and served with a hemisphere of poached peach, vanilla gelato and an amaretti crumble.

I feel like I want to keep The Vertue of the Coffee Drink a secret hideout just for me . But this oasis from bustling Lygon Street is so fabulous in every way – decor, service, food, drinks – that I just have to share. Enjoy!

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton  (03) 8060 6987

Mon-Fri 7am-4pm

Sat-SuN 7.30am-4pm

 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton