HOT: Agathé Pâtisserie, Stalls 63 and 64, South Melbourne Market, cnr Coventry and Cecil Streets, South Melbourne

agathe patisserieIf you walked into South Melbourne Market last week your nose will have detected the new aroma of fresh, buttery pastry in the aisles. That’s because Agathé Pâtisserie, a Parisian-inspired patisserie and croissanterie, has just opened a permanent kitchen and retail store in South Melbourne Market.

Agathé Kerr’s pastries have gained a cult following since she started a little Saturday market stall in Prahran Market last year. The Parisian gained her professional pastry chef qualification at the prestigious Ecole de Boulangerie et Patisserie de Paris and had been making all her wares in a pop up store/lab in Windsor.

The new double-sized stall is clean and white, with the exposed kitchen baking fresh items daily behind the tempting pastry counter.

agathe patisserie

I ordered a classic pain au chocolat (with two luxurious sticks of chocolate inside), a brightly striped infused raspberry croissant, a classic escargot and almond croissant.

agathe patisserie

All excellent quality, with a buttery crumb, subtle flavours and airy layers of pastry.

agathe patisserie

There is one must-eat item on the menu. Agathé Pâtisserie’s famous cruffins ($7) are now piped to order with vanilla creme patisserie and topped with your choice of filling – on my visit, Nutella, salted caramel or peanut butter caramel.

agathe patisserie

agathe patisserie

agathe patisserie

For now Agathé Pâtisserie is focusing on their new premises and retail offering so there’s no wholesale orders to cafes. That means the only place to try these amazing pastries is at South Melbourne Market. Warning – on the first day of opening at South Melbourne EVERYTHING was sold out in 1 hour (9am!). So if you want to sample some of Melbourne’s best pastries you’ll have to set your alarm clock and get in early.


 

Agathé Pâtisserie, Stalls 63 and 64, South Melbourne Market, corner of Coventry and Cecil Streets, South Melbourne 0403 222 573

Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday 8am-4pm or until sold out.

HOT: Lygon Food Store, 263 Lygon Street, Carlton

Lygon food store

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.

Lygon food store

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

Lygon food store

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.

lygon food store

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.

Lygon food store

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.

Lygon food store

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.

Lygon food store

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.

Lygon food store

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

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HOT: Proper & Son, Shop 13-14 South Melbourne Market, 322 Coventry Street, South Melbourne

proper and son south melbourne

Proper & Son is a handsome new market deli and cafe within South Melbourne Market.

The space brings a bit of the country to the city, with modern white subway tiles offset by a provincial-style patterned wallpaper cleverly disguising chickens, pigs and cows.

proper and son south melbourne

The stylish cafe seats around 35 people max and at around 10am on Sunday there was a short lineup before a table become available. Once we sat down everything was brought us promptly.

All the food is made on site (breakfast until 11:30am, lunch from 11:30am) and the owner Eugene Lavery is also behind the stove. A owner-chef tends to bode well for the quality of an eatery, as he/she will really care about what comes out of the kitchen and how the service is managed.

Given Proper & Son’s location it has the privilege of being able to change the menu weekly depending on what’s in season and what’s available within the market. So you can be assured that all the produce is as fresh as fresh can be.

As we were visiting on Mother’s Day we tried their special ‘Proper High Tea’ menu where we received a hot beverage and a selection of sweet and savoury treats for $20.

proper and son south melbourne

Half the fun was discovering what was presented on the wooden platters – a fat brioche bun with smoked salmon and dill, a slice of  creamy pumpkin frittata, a rosy coconut cupcake and some sort of fudgy chocolate brownie. The only disappointment was the flat disc of a scone, though it was served with some delicious house made preserves and cream.

proper and son south melbourne

The creamy coffee was made with Toby’s Estate beans and my hot chocolate was by Mork Chocolate.

In addition we ordered the buttermilk hotcakes, a substantial dish of three fluffy pancake rounds heaped with fresh fruit, pecans and a huge ball of lemon curd ($13.50). A peek at our neighbours indicated that serving sizes seemed to be in on the generous side overall.

proper and son south melbourne

For lunch Proper & Son turns into a carvery, with roast meat rolls made to order and a selection of four fresh salads. I’ve heard lots of raves about their ‘Market Roast Roll’ made with free range roast chicken with a sage, onion and cranberry stuffing or corned wagyu brisket with pickles, cabbage and mustard.

Proper & Son is an exciting addition to an otherwise lacklustre food court in South Melbourne Market and you could visit it weekly without eating the same thing twice. It’s a great place to stop with before or after your shopping.

Proper & Son, Shop 13-14 South Melbourne Market, 322 Coventry Street, South Melbourne, 9699 7057

Wed, Sat-Sun 7:30am to 4pm

Fri 7:30am to 5pm

Proper & Son on Urbanspoon

HOT: Piggery Cafe and Burnham Bakery, Burnham Beeches, 1 Sherbrooke Rd, Sherbrooke

Piggery Cafe

Shannon Bennett, chef-restaurateur and perennial entrepreneur, is developing heritage-listed Burnham Beeches into a a biodynamic farm and self-sufficient village in Sherbrooke in the Dandenongs.

Piggery Cafe

Phase 1 of the 22 hectare site is the Piggery Cafe and Burnham Bakery, the commercial bakery which supplies all of the bread and pastries for Bennett’s many restaurants, including Cafe Vue at Heide, Bistro Vue and Vue de Monde.

burnham beeches

Unfortunately we chose a very wet day to visit Burnham Beeches which meant that indoor tables were in scarce supply. Luckily we snagged one of the remaining available wooden/marbled ended benches at 9:30am (it opens at 9am). Yes it’s that busy even on a wet Sunday morning!

burnham beeches

We found the former pigsty and barn quite cold and its high ceilings and polished concrete surfaces meant that it got really loud once the tables filled.

burnham beeches

The breakfast menu mixes between cafe standards and some of the Vietnamese influences found at Jardin Tan. There’s a lot of pork on the agenda, an apt choice for a place named the Piggery Cafe.

Piggery Cafe

burnham beeches

We tried the house made banana bread with whipped honey butter ($7) which was really just glorified cake, the bircher muesli with bircher muesli, poached fruit and Schulz yoghurt ($12) and the BBB – a brioche bun slathered in sweet tomato relish with bacon, a slab of slow-cooked pork and a fried egg with a sunny, runny yolk ($16). All of the food was delicious but I did think the servings were on the measly side.

burnham beeches

Luckily it meant more room for dessert and it would be remiss to drive all this way without trying one of the amazing cakes (even though it’s only 10am).

burnham beeches

The lemon tart ($9) was my favourite, with a rippled short pastry crust housing a soft but not runny lemon curd filling and perfectly burnished squiggle of meringue tinted with flavours of honey. The meringue perhaps was a little bit too soft but it was probably due to the damp conditions.

The caramel slice ($8.50) was not too sickly sweet (the reason I tend to avoid caramel tarts) and was adorned by a cute little quenelle of chocolate mousse.

We also particularly enjoyed the springy canele ($3), which contained surprising Green Goblin hued centre of pistachio encased by a sugar-coated crust.

burnham beeches

The kids loved their shortbread piggy biscuits ($2) dipped in chocolate ‘mud’ and babycinos with a chocolate on the side ($2). There’s plenty of room to park prams and several high chairs available.

From the bakery we took home a loaf of golden, buttery brioche. Note that it’s $6.50 at Burnham Bakery, $7 at Jardin Tan and $8 at Cafe Vue at Heide (yes we buy it everywhere we go!).

burnham beeches

If it gets too busy or the sun is shining you can get sandwiches and sweet things to go and laze around the lawns instead. I’m told the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens next door are particularly spectacular but it was freezing and wet on our visit so we had to miss them.

Burnham Beeches is lovely short trip from Melbourne and the Piggery Cafe is a foodie destination if you’re not only after cream teas and crochet. The 2 and 3 course lunch menu looks particularly appetising and seems more adventurous than the breakfast fare.

Piggery Cafe and Burnham Bakery, Burnham Beeches, 1 Sherbrooke Rd, Sherbrooke 03 9021 2100

Mon-Fri 10am-5pm

Sat-Sun 9am-5pm

Piggery Cafe on Urbanspoon

HOT: Meatballs & Sons, 266 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Meatballs & Sons, 266 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Who would have thought there would be such a thing as a Melbourne meatball ‘scene’? Well, the latest entrant on the meatball market is Meatballs & Sons in Fitzroy.

I first dined at Meatball & Sons through an invitation but I liked it so much that I returned with my family a few weeks later for Sunday lunch. This review is based on the latter meal.

The restaurant has been designed by Kano Hollamby (who also designed the look and feel of Miss Chu) and the double storey building is inspired by one of the owner’s grandmother’s general store back in Old Blighty. The tall shelves are stacked with jars,  flour canisters and bread baskets, with a tempting penny lolly jar beckoning the kids.

Meatball and Sons

Meatballs and Sons

Period elements have been retained, from the fireplaces to the tinted glass windows. You’ll find timber panelling and pastel tiles as well as a huge blow up of a vintage poster of a Victorian era ride with the word ‘meatballs’ emblazoned on it.

Meatballs & Sons, 266 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

The ethos of Meatball & Sons is a commitment to tasty, wholesome food. The meat is organic, grass fed or free range, produce is mainly local and there’s even a herb garden for the kitchen in the narrow gap along the outside wall.

When I think of meatballs I usually think of Italian food but on the menu at Meatball & Sons you’ll find international flavours, all $16 for 5 balls.

Meatballs & Sons, 266 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

As a benchmark we started with the traditional meatballs of slow braised beef. The kitchen brought out all the elements separately in case the kids didn’t want to include the spinach or have the meatballs rolling in sugo. An unexpected surprise of oozing bocconcini was found at the centre of each meatball.

Meatballs & Sons, 266 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Next up with the Achiote Mexican beefballs with a mild chipotle chilli sauceand soft mini tortillas. The flavours of garlic, onion and coriander gave the meatballs an aromatic base topped off by a hit of chipotle chilli sauce. Not spicy at all if you fear heat.

Meatballs & Sons, 266 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

My favourite were the Thai meat balls. The loosely packed meatballs contained the classic combination of ginger, coriander and lemongrass but the highlight was the slice of crunchy tempura eggplant on which each meatball was placed.

You can pair the meatballs with a classic pappardelle or even better go for the decadent whipped potato mash. For a more unusual greens combo try the succotash, a Native American salad of warm broad beans and corn.  Incidentally, all of the sides are $4-5 which I thought was very reasonable.

Meatballs & Sons, 266 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Lighter options include sliders and salads though M thought her chicken salad was pretty small for $16 and it wasn’t particularly exciting.

Meatballs & Sons, 266 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Meatballs & Sons, 266 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

The house soft drinks ($4.50) come from giant glass dispensers, with a pretty cherry and basil crush and a minty lemonade on offer.

Meatballs & Sons, 266 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Desserts depart from the ‘ball’ theme, except if you go for the Rickett’s Point Ice Cream Cones ($12, 3 cones). The presentation was stunning and it’s definitely a dessert to share – the difficulty is choosing between cherry ripe, vanilla caramel and chocolate orange. The cones had been dipped in chocolate and nuts and inside contained cubes of jelly.

Meatball & Sons have taken a simple, homemade dish and made it restaurant quality. It’s a great local to have – you can pop in for an after work drink and a bite, enjoy Sunday lunch with the family or have a party in the private dining area. They even deliver to locals when the weather’s too inclement to venture outside.

Meatballs & Sons, 266 Brunswick St, Fitzroy +61 3 9416 3006

Mon – Sat11:00 am – 11:30 pm

Sun11:00 am – 10:30 pm

Meatballs & Sons on Urbanspoon (03) 9416 3006

HOT: Cô Thư Quán, Shop 22, 63 Nicholson Street, Footscray

co thu quan

If you like pho and rice paper rolls then you’re spoilt for choice in Footscray. But visit Cô Thư Quán  in Little Saigon market and you will experience the kind of Vietnamese food that I suspect you won’t find anywhere else in Melbourne.

Cô Thư Quán is tucked away in a quiet nook inside crazy shouty Little Saigon market. There are only a handful of tables but guests turn over quickly as the restaurant is all about cheap and tasty street food.

The menu is relatively small and honestly I’d be happy to eat all of it. If you’re unsure of what you’re getting then there are helpful pictures for every dish. On my visits I’ve been ordering after surreptitiously checking out what my neighbours were eating.

co thu quan

What do I like to eat there? First off, the Banh Trang Cuon. These are mini rice paper wrappers stuffed with an intense mixture of fried shallots, beef jerky, sour mango and dried shrimp, ever-so-lightly fried to wafer crispness. It comes drizzled with kewpie mayonnaise which I think is a bit odd but the sweetness does help offset the strong flavours of the rolls.

Rickshaw Run Footscray

Another popular starter is the Bap Xao – sauteed sweet corn with dried shrimp, fresh spring onions and butter ($5). A simple yet effective dish enhanced with an optional squirt of sriracha.


Cô Thư Quán, Shop 22, 63 Nicholson Street, Footscray (5)

My favourite large dish so far has been the Com Am Phu, a feast for one featuring marinated freshwater baby crabs and a variety of exotic and unidentifiable side dishes ($10). Never before have I seen these crabs available and if you like soft-shelled crab then these crunchy little morsels will be right up your alley!

co thu quan

Their signature dish is bun dau mam tom. It’s a straw platter of three mounds of vermicelli, some slices of fatty steamed pork belly, fried tofu, a fried pork patty and herbs, all dipped into some intense fermented shrimp sauce. There’s a lot to eat for $10 and even an old Cantonese lady passing by was impressed by all the food.

co thu quan

Diners with less adventurous palates may like the Xoi Xa Xiu – Sticky rice featuring BBQ pork and Chinese sausage. It was not the best example of the dish as it was a little dry, but it will only set you back $5.

I have to admit I’m a bit confused by the drinks menu – there are fruits and ingredients that I’ve never heard of in there. Every time I’ve asked for a recommendation and depending on who you get they may or may not understand English.

Anyway, when faced with a confused waitress I revert to ordering Nuoc Dau Rang, a creamy drink made from five different roasted beans ($4). It’s like drinking nut milk but without the extra sweeteners and you can have it hot or cold.

The service at Cô Thư Quán is always friendly, if somewhat confused at times due to the language barrier. I like the decor too – while the ubiquitous karaoke TV is still enshrined in the restaurant the mass of dangling conical hats create a striking ceiling feature.

Cô Thư Quán is probably my favourite place to eat in Footscray and that’s a tough call. The food is unique, well-made and full of fresh and punchy flavours. Exploring the menu has been an exciting discovery of taste sensations and I drop in semi-regularly when I go grocery shopping at Little Saigon.

Cô Thư Quán, Shop 22, 63 Nicholson Street, Footscray (03) 9913 9692

Open 7 days, 10:30 am – 8 pm

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HOT: Goz City, 502 Lt Collins St, Melbourne

Goz City

Gözleme is a simple, satisfying filled flatbread from Turkey which has found its way to our markets and festivals….and now Goz City, Australia’s first gözleme store.

Before you turn your nose up at Turkish street food being given a permanent residence in Melbourne’s CBD, consider trying the gözleme being served at Goz City. I was invited to sample some of their menu and I can honestly say that Goz City’s gözlemes are the best gözlemes I’ve had in Melbourne. It’s all because of the incredibly crisp pastry they used to house the myriad of traditional and non-traditional ingredients.

Goz City

When I asked Goz City owner Taylan Aksoy how they achieved that superb flakiness he told me that they stretch their dough as thin as possible then fold it over nine times so that the pastry is as delicate as filo. Folding the pastry over so many times also allows them to stuff more filling into the pocket.

Their method is unlike the gözlemes you might find from your nearest food truck or market stall, which are normally of a more bready texture and folded over only once.

Goz City

Goz City’s small menu contains a couple of staples – cheese and spinach, spiced minced lamb, herbed chicken and mushroom and veg – and then every Thursday they experiment with specials, including the infamous ‘Ryan Goz-ling’ with a warm, rich filling of dark chocolate, strawberries and walnuts. My recommendation is to order one of the spicier fillings as I found the relatively bland fillings less interesting – although there’s always the option of adding hot sauce, chilli flakes and lemon juice to give your palate a kick.

Goz City

The place is small as it mostly caters for takeaway trade. While you’re waiting I suggest you watch the theatre being performed in the front window as little old Turkish ladies expertly roll, knead, spin and fold dough then cook your gözlemes to order on the flat grill. When it’s busy there are two women in the window making dough and one lady flipping, making the production line quite entertaining for the suits of Collins Street.

Goz City

Goz City is a family owned business (the pictures on the walls are of Aksoy’s grandparents having a laugh in the kitchen) and it’s clear that they care about what they do. I hope they do well as their gözlemes are a cut above your average festival fare and they are only $10 or $12 with a drink, making it a cheap, filling lunch. They also serve burek, salads and a few sweet treats but my recommendation is to order what their named for – the goz.

Goz City, 502 Little Collins Street, Melbourne (03) 9041 5667

Mon – Fri: 7:30 am – 4:00 pm

Goz City on Urbanspoon

HOT: Kinfolk, 673 Bourke St, Melbourne

Kinfolk Cafe, 673 Bourke St Melbourne

Kinfolk is a place that makes you feel good about eating out. That’s because the café is a social enterprise run mostly by volunteers and all profits go towards four Australian and international development projects. Customers can even choose where their money goes by popping a coffee bean into one of the project jars.

Kinfolk Cafe, 673 Bourke St Melbourne

The space is small but lovingly decorated with books, bric-a-brac, blooms and an ecletic mix of furniture. Tradesmen, artists and designers all volunteered their time to fit out the café with donated and found materials and the atmosphere that’s created is one of arty charm and cosiness.

Kinfolk Cafe, 673 Bourke St Melbourne

In line with this ethos to care for the community and the environment, most of the food at Kinfolk is locally sourced, often organic, bio-dynamic and/or fair trade and mostly vegetarian.

Kinfolk Cafe, 673 Bourke St Melbourne

Kinfolk Cafe, 673 Bourke St Melbourne

The handwritten menu of wholesomeness changes daily and we tried a warming bean and lentil bake with aromatic curry flavours with a small (though sizeable) side salad of barley, brown rice, cranberries and watercress, and an open sandwich of kale, rocket, haloumi and walnuts which was a bit dry and on the small side.

Kinfolk Cafe, 673 Bourke St Melbourne

The sweets were provided by Little Bertha, including a highly recommended gluten-free pistachio and raspberry almond meal cake topped with a swirl of white chocolate cream cheese icing, and if you order tea or chai it comes in a deliciously oversized vintage teapot. 

Kinfolk Cafe, 673 Bourke St Melbourne

The service was a bit haphazard and there were lots of blank looks and ‘I don’t knows’ but it was easily forgiven when you know they are volunteers. Kinfolk is a warm and busy hub of students and office workers, all looking for a great feed for a good cause.

If you’re wanting to experience Kinfolk in the evening, they are launching ‘Speak As You Eat’, a series of not-for-profit dinners between April – July curated by Kinfolk’s chef Paolo Arlotta. Your hosts include a  jazz singer, a life coach, a sustainability consultant, an architect, a filmmaker and an actress and each guest speaker will host the event while you enjoy a five-course, vegetarian, fine-dining meal with 20 strangers prepared by Paolo and a guest chef. As expected, all guest chefs, speakers, kitchen and floor staff will be volunteers and all profits from the dinners will support local and overseas charities.

  • Dinner 1: May 6 – Speaker: Michael Lutman, Melbourne filmmaker, Guest Chef: Travis Goodlet (head chef The Courthouse Hotel, ex Papa Goose)
  • Dinner 2: June 3 – Zvi Belling (Architect and jazz musician), Guest Chef: Stefano Rosi (head chef Hawthorn Common, ex Vue de Monde)
  • Dinner 3: July – Speaker: Cece Ojany, accredited life coach and founder of The Main Protagonist, Guest Chef: Clinton McIver (head chef Champions Grill Bistro at Clayton Bowling Club, ex Vue de Monde Head Chef)
  • Dinner 4: July – Speaker: Miguel Angel Oyarbide (Sustainability Consultant), Guest Chef: Christy Tania (Head Chef at Om Nom with expertise in the French art of pastry)
  • Dinner 5: Tariro Mavondo (actress, performer). Guest Chef: Francesco Castellana (Date TBC)

Kinfolk, 673 Bourke St, Melbourne

Open 7am-3pm, Monday – Friday

Kinfolk on Urbanspoon

HOT: Rickshaw Run, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014, Footscray

Rickshaw Run Footscray

I’ll admit that much of this year’s Melbourne Food and Wine Festival passed me by this year as I was caught up with packing up and moving house.

I did manage to make it to a few events though and one of the highlights was the Rickshaw Run, an annual sold out event held in the heart of the inner west, Footscray, and organised by the inimitable Lauren Wambach of Footscray Food Blog.

Rickshaw Run Footscray

The Rickshaw Run was an Vietnamese feasting extravaganza that spanned several hours, numerous venues and some burly rugby players from the Footscray Rugby Union Club who volunteered to pull our increasingly-heavy rickshaws.

Rickshaw Run Footscray

Our first stop was D & K Live Seafood (3/28A Leeds St, Footscray) which specialises in…live seafood of course. Inside there are tanks galore and you’re served on the slippery floor by brusque men in galoshes. Kenny of westside food blog Consider The Sauce introduced the group to the concept of the Rickshaw Run then instructed us to dig into the freshly shucked oysters from Coffin Bay and Tasmania.

Rickshaw Run Footscray

We then tipped ourselves into our rickshaws and were trundled around the corner to the Little Saigon market. To help orientate the group inside the bustling, somewhat overwhelming market, we settled down on some tiny stools at Northern Vietnamese cuisine specialist Cô Thư Quán (Shop 22, Little Saigon market
63 Nicholson Street).

Rickshaw Run Footscray

We were offered a sample of Bắp Xào, a simple yet delicious dish of sauteed juicy sweet corn with dried shrimp, spring onions, capped off with a squirt of sriracha. I’m quite addicted to this dish and have even enjoyed its pungent shrimpiness for breakfast!

Everyone then dispersed to sample the fruit and veg on sale while I visited the roast BBQ shop on the corner (sorry can’t remember the name) for a huge slice of their delicious mar lai gao (steamed cake). RM was shocked that I was buying more food on a food tour but…for $2.30 it’s pretty hard to resist stuffing my face with piping hot cake.

Into the rickshaw we went and then were dropped off at Sen, a newish Chinese Vietnamese restaurant (74-76 Nicholson Street). There we were given a lesson on rolling Gỏi Cuốn – rice paper rolls. The trick is not to be greedy and put too much filling inside (it’s not a burrito!) and to roll everything up tight, tight, tight!

Rickshaw Run Footscray

Another short trip on the rickshaw dropped us off at Phong Dinh (152 Hopkins Street) where we tried hu tieu – a clear rice noodle soup. It may be sacrilegious to say but I think hu tieu is better than pho.

Rickshaw Run Footscray

For my taste the broth is clearer and lighter and the noodles are chewier and springier. It doesn’t come with all the pho accoutrements such as bean sprouts and herbs but I actually don’t tend to add those items in my bowl. 

Rickshaw Run Footscray

Tummies were starting to get rather full now so we had a brief respite from the eating as we watched a taiko drumming performance by Wadaiko Rinko Noriko Tadano. And then masseurs gave everyone shoulder massages as we watched the show! As if we were the ones doing all the rickshaw pulling.

Rickshaw Run Footscray

Wait, we were fed during the drumming performance! Fortunately just mini servings of sugarcane juice and banh khot – mini coconut pancakes with prawn.

Our final stop was Sapa Hills (112 Hopkins St) one of the most popular Vietnamese restos in Footscray. We frequent it often because (a) their food is delicious; (b) the atmosphere is calm; and (b) they are one of the few places in Footscray that take EFTPOS!

Rickshaw Run Footscray

At Sapa Hills we had one of their signature dishes Bún Chả Hà Nội. The chargrilled pork they serve is particularly smoky in flavour and is combined with rice vermicelli and fresh herbs. I’ve not done an extensive survey of other Bún Chả Hà Nội but I think Sapa Hills make some of the best.

Almost 3 hours later, we’ve had a brilliant time eating, drinking, chatting and sharing foodie tips with our fellow rickshaw passengers. The Rickshaw Run is a marvellous event that showcases just a small slice of the culinary wonders to be found in Footscray and I look forward to exploring more. Eat Drink Westside – yes please!

Rickshaw Run Footscray

Rickshaw Run, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014, Footscray

Cô Thư Quán on Urbanspoon

Sen on Urbanspoon

Phong Dinh on Urbanspoon

Sapa Hills on Urbanspoon

HOT: Hellenic Republic Kew, 26 Cotham Rd, Kew

Hellenic Republic Kew

I was sad to hear that one of my local faves St Katherine’s had gone. Fortunately the site has been transformed into Hellenic Republic Kew and given that I’m a fan of the original Brunswick edition the change is not such a bad thing.

I think St Katherine’s and Hellenic Republic are branches of the same tree anyway. The food is very similar – generally Greek with a broader Mediterranean influence – the service is fast, friendly and welcoming towards families and the atmosphere is lively and convivial. There’s always lots of chatter and plate sharing and kids running around.

The only real difference I can see is that the famous St Katherine’s popcorn chicken (KFC) and other American diner-style dishes are gone and the formerly cavernous St Katherine’s has now been split into two separate dining spaces with the entrance running up the middle. Dividing the space lends the restaurant a more intimate, buzzy air and I like it.

Hellenic Republic Kew

Another thing that St Katherine’s and Hellenic Republic have in common is amazingly good value lunch sets. On weekdays you can order Yia Yia’s Tapsi – a tin metal platter filled with the kind of food apparently a Greek grandmother would serve. I consider it the ‘best of’ Hellenic Republic – even if I was ordering a la carte I’d go straight for these dishes.

Hellenic Republic Kew

That means olives, some deliciously salty taramasalata and fluffy char-grilled pita, some rotisserie meat (juicy chicken in our case) and floury roast spuds, some of George Calombaris’ famous nutty, sweet and healthy Cypriot grain salad with pomegranate and yoghurt on the top and a sweet treat at the end.

Hellenic Republic Kew

It’s a bento box for the senses and is a tasty, healthy and filling lunch for the budget price of $25. We actually had to take away our baklava because we were too full – the lady fingers filled with cashew and with a hint cardamom were perfect for afternoon tea though the filo pastry was not so flaky by that time.

Hellenic Republic Kew

I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better bargain that the lunch set at Hellenic Republic….except if you follow them on Facebook and nab one of the $12 lunch takeaway packs which they advertise on their page! We took some home for our dinner that night (just can’t enough of that grain salad, I’m telling ya). The pack included some grilled salmon, crunchy triple-cooked chips dusted with oregano, more of that grain salad and Risogalo – a creamy rice pudding with a swirl of salted caramel and crumbled with shortbread pieces and pistachios. What’s in the lunch pack changes regularly but follows approximately the same formula – some sort of protein, a side dish and dessert. It’s substantial and again we left the dessert for another night.

Hellenic Republic Kew

I imagine that while Kew locals have mourned the passing of St Katherine’s they’ll be very pleased with the new Hellenic Republic set up. With excellent food at prices like these, I’m sure it will be a local favourite.

Hellenic Republic Kew, 26 Cotham Rd, Kew 03 9207 7477

Lunch, midday-4pm Mon-Fri; 11am-4pm Sat-Sun;

Dinner 5.30-till late seven days

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