HOT: The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014 awards

good cafe guide HOT: The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014 awards

The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014 awards were announced tonight – did your favourites make the cut?

These cafes won top honours and * indicates a cafe that I’ve reviewed previously:

Top Paddock* (Richmond) – eftpos best cafe

Stagger Lee’s* (Fitzroy) – best new cafe

Dakdak (Moorabbin) – local hero award.

Seven Seeds (Carlton) – best coffee

Pellegrini’s (CBD) – Hall of Fame

Ora* (Kew) – best food cafe

Brunswick East Project (Brunswick East) – best barista James Kilby

Everyday Coffee (Collingwood) – best brew bar

Guerilla Espresso* (Footscray) – best small cafe

Industry Beans* (Fitzroy) – best boutique roaster

The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014 will be available for $5 with The Age for Saturday 21 June and in selected bookshops and online at theageshop.com.au for $9.99.

Check out the award winners for 2013. 

HOT: The Drifter’s Table, Small Block, 130 Lygon St, Brunswick East

The Drifters Table Small Block Lygon St Brunswick East 6 HOT: The Drifters Table, Small Block, 130 Lygon St, Brunswick East

I love a good pop up as much as the next Melburnian, but a pop up one-night-only dinner that I found out about via Twitter? I had to get myself to The Drifter’s Table!

The Drifter’s Table is a project by Zac Nicholson, Robbie Bell and Keelan Gallogly – three chefs with experience from Quay, Rockpool Bar and Grill Melbourne and The Fat Duck – who decided to start hosting pop up dinners in Melbourne at the beginning of this year. Their team inhabit the kitchens of cafes and restaurants around town, bringing normally daytime-only venues to nocturnal life with their Mod Oz/British/European influenced food and friendly service.

For each event they have a set menu of four courses for an amazing price of $65 a head or you can choose to match each course with a sparkling wine and three wines for $100. I reckon you can’t get a better deal than that in inner city Melbourne at the moment! The constantly changing location and one-night-only menu adds to the mystique of the whole experience.

I attended their third pop up dinner and their first at Small Block cafe in Brunswick East. We arrived earlier than their allotted start time of 7:30pm so had a quick drink at The Alderman a few doors down (which by the way is an awesome little local bar). I didn’t realise at the time of booking but while they state that dinner starts at 7:30pm you can actually book for whatever time you like – some tables were only starting their first courses as we were leaving.

The Drifters Table Small Block Lygon St Brunswick East 5 HOT: The Drifters Table, Small Block, 130 Lygon St, Brunswick East

The menu for our dinner started with an amuse bouche of pressed ham hock, pease pudding and a pornographically positioned cornichon. The dish was much more substantial than a traditional amuse bouche which I’d normally expect to be just a tiny taste to get the taste buds kickstarted. I didn’t love or hate the dish, other than noting that the terrine was too firmly pressed in my view, but that’s a matter of personal preference.

The Drifters Table Small Block Lygon St Brunswick East 2 HOT: The Drifters Table, Small Block, 130 Lygon St, Brunswick East

The entree was a perfectly poached silken fillet of blue eye with black olives, red capsicum, samphire and pine nuts. It was my favourite dish of the night as it showed real finesse in cooking technique and the combination of flavours, with the hard-hitting olives not overpowering the delicacy of the seafood. I know it’s a bit faddy but I loved the textural contrast of the crispy twist of fish skin cracker as well.

The Drifters Table Small Block Lygon St Brunswick East 1 HOT: The Drifters Table, Small Block, 130 Lygon St, Brunswick East

The main course was a huge serving of rotisserie lamb – fillet and cutlets, I felt like a nomadic hunter! It was served with a bulb of roasted garlic, perfect smeared onto the meat, a bed of cavolo nero with its bitterness cutting through the fattiness of the meat and an equally huge side of mixed roast vegetables – spuds, heirloom carrots and onions.

The Drifters Table Small Block Lygon St Brunswick East 4 HOT: The Drifters Table, Small Block, 130 Lygon St, Brunswick East

The dish was comfort food at its best – warming, weighty and wafting juicy robust flavours. Even though our stomachs were bursting to capacity I simply could not leave a single skerrick on the plate.

The Drifters Table Small Block Lygon St Brunswick East 3 HOT: The Drifters Table, Small Block, 130 Lygon St, Brunswick East

…but of course there’s always room for dessert! After stuffing us like a turducken for three courses I was amazed by the size of the chocolate, salted caramel and peanut tart. It was the size of a small saucer! Nevertheless we managed to clear our plates as the thin chocolate crust held together a wonderfully oozy caramel filling that was so sweet that you really couldn’t resist licking each spoonful clean. Good idea balancing all that sugar with a hit of salt as well and I liked the presentation with the crunchy praline reaching like a waterfall towards the sphere of ice cream.

The Drifter’s Table next event will also be at Small Block and is on Friday 24 May. The menu will be as follows:

  • Chicory, Blue Cheese and Walnut Salad
  • Roast Quail with Muscat Grapes and Chestnut
  • Red-wine Braised Beef, Carrots, Bone Marrow Toast
  • Pumpkin Pie

I’m not sure how they go with dietary requests so best to ask on booking. The menu will continue to be four courses for $65 per person and local wine and beer will be available on the night. Seating is limited so send an email to thedrifterstable@hotmail.com to make a booking (and if you miss out on this event watch for future announcements on Twitter and Facebook). You’ll love it!

The Drifter’s Table, Small Block, 130 Lygon St, Brunswick East

HOT: Sugardough Panificio & Patisserie, 163 Lygon St, Brunswick East

P1080583 540x354 HOT: Sugardough Panificio & Patisserie, 163 Lygon St, Brunswick East

Sugardough Panificio & Patisserie is a great little find on Lygon St – cafe-like quality, service and atmosphere with bakery prices!

B and I met up there for lunch and the pretty pastel place was teeming with hip singles, students studying and mums and bubs – some dining in, others swinging by to buy their fresh crusty bread. Most of the lunch offerings are in the glass cabinet and are standard bakery items such as quiches, pies, sandwiches and cakes which are reheated. The difference is that everything is made on site and they advertise that they ‘strive to keep their ingredients free range, organic, fair-trade and seasonal where possible’.

P1080582 360x540 HOT: Sugardough Panificio & Patisserie, 163 Lygon St, Brunswick East

The front room is pretty squeezy so wheel yourself down the corridor to the spacious back courtyard, with more tables and a large square communal table placed under the shade. Potted plants, kitschy knick knacks and mis-matched chairs abound.

P1080577 359x540 HOT: Sugardough Panificio & Patisserie, 163 Lygon St, Brunswick East

B and I shared a slice of quiche and two pies (yes the pies are that good!), all around $7-8 from memory when they could easily be over $10 at a cafe.

P1080572 409x540 HOT: Sugardough Panificio & Patisserie, 163 Lygon St, Brunswick East

P1080579 540x364 HOT: Sugardough Panificio & Patisserie, 163 Lygon St, Brunswick East

All the baked goods were housed in delicious buttery pastry and with fresh piping hot ingredients inside. No microwaved sogginess here! You can choose to accompany them with a scrunch of daily changing salad (in this instance, roast pumpkin, rocket and Israeli couscous) and a pot of homemade tomato relish.

P1080575 540x360 HOT: Sugardough Panificio & Patisserie, 163 Lygon St, Brunswick East

As for the sweet stuff, the girl behind the counter took great delight in introducing me to the many of the nibbles on offer (love it when staff are enthusiastic about their product). I hear that the bomboloni and cornetto are the way to go, but I was swayed by the treacle tart. Made move – it was a sticky, overly sweet failure in a very blah shortcrust. So unexciting I didn’t even bother taking a picture (brown, brown and more brown). Next time, bomboloni!

Sugardough Panificio & Patisserie, 163 Lygon St, Brunswick East +61 3 9380 4060

Tue – Fri: 8:00 am – 4pm
Sat: 7:30 am – 5pm
Sun: 7:30 am – 4pm


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minilink HOT: Sugardough Panificio & Patisserie, 163 Lygon St, Brunswick East

HOT: CERES Organic Cafe, CERES Community Environment Park Cnr Roberts and Stewart Streets, Brunswick East

P1090233 540x295 HOT: CERES Organic Cafe, CERES Community Environment Park Cnr Roberts and Stewart Streets, Brunswick East

CERES Community Environmental Park is arguably Melbourne’s hippie hub. CERES stands for Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies and it’s a not-for-profit, sustainable urban farm located on the banks of Merri Creek in East Brunswick.

But whether you wear hemp fisherman’s pants or carry a designer label handbag, I think everyone would enjoy a trip to CERES. There’s an organic cafe, shop, nursery, community garden, adventure playground, bike shed, conference venue, function restaurant and organic markets every Wednesday and Saturday.

P1090230 540x338 HOT: CERES Organic Cafe, CERES Community Environment Park Cnr Roberts and Stewart Streets, Brunswick East

The CERES Organic Cafe is a great pit-stop for your visit to CERES. A big wooden hut houses the kitchen, which cooks mainly organic food with many of the ingredients coming straight of CERES‘ organic market garden. Seating is scattered around the cafe’s wrap-around verandah, under the plastic marquee or by the shade of tea trees within sight of the kids’ sandpit. Though it’s all pretty relaxed so if you decided you wanted to louche around on a picnic blanket with your kids and pets I think that’d be ok too.

To start – iced dandelion tea ($5). I wasn’t expecting it to come with ice cream but the sweet vanilla scoop was needed to temper some of the bitterness of the tea.

P1090241 357x540 HOT: CERES Organic Cafe, CERES Community Environment Park Cnr Roberts and Stewart Streets, Brunswick East

The breakfast menu is very eggs-heavy (there are chooks living on site) with the most interesting version being the Indonesian eggs ($15.60). What came out was a large wholesale selection of brown rice, Asian herbs, crisp salad greens, a sweet soy sauce and a sprinkle of peanuts, all finished with two fried eggs sunny side up.

P1090250 540x348 HOT: CERES Organic Cafe, CERES Community Environment Park Cnr Roberts and Stewart Streets, Brunswick East

Poke your knife through the cheerful yellow yolk, cut up the whites into bite sized pieces and then toss the whole lot together with the dollop of sambal for a breakfast that’s hearty, filling and a spice sensation. Having chilli for breakfast is not for everyone but if your stomach can deal with it, I highly recommend this dish.

While I was very full, I was intrigued by the fact that the muffins were $5. I haven’t seen muffins break the $5 barrier in Melbourne before and wondered whether there was a reason they were unusually expensive. A taste test of the milk chocolate and hazelnut muffin revealed that we would have been better off saving our $5 and the calories. Amongst four people the verdict was unanimous – the muffin was too solid and dense for our liking – maybe all that almond meal inside it was what made it such an expensive item relative to everything else on the menu?

P1090252 540x446 HOT: CERES Organic Cafe, CERES Community Environment Park Cnr Roberts and Stewart Streets, Brunswick East

Apparently their gluten free orange and almond cake is considered one of the best in town so I’ll be trying that next time instead.

The kitchen is open until 3pm and the lunch menu looks as healthful and appetising as the breakfast options. I will definitely be returning to CERES and the CERES Organic Cafe – it’s a great day out for urbanites wanting to get in touch with their inner hippie.

For other locations where you can experience the country in the city, try the Farm Cafe at Collingwood Children’s Farm.

CERES Organic Cafe, CERES Community Environment Park, Cnr Roberts and Stewart Streets, Brunswick East +61 3 9389 0100

Monday to Friday 8.30am – 4pm
Saturday 8.30am – 5pm
Sunday 9am – 5pm


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minilink HOT: CERES Organic Cafe, CERES Community Environment Park Cnr Roberts and Stewart Streets, Brunswick East

HOT: Carolina, 11 Nicholson St, East Brunswick

File0001 373x540 HOT: Carolina, 11 Nicholson St, East Brunswick

Carolina is a new cafe in East Brunswick where pram-pushing mums, bike riders and hip young things collide (or sometimes, in my case, I like to think I’m all three).

What was a former Italian shoe store called ‘Invicta’ has been transformed into a casual cafe with all the right elements to appeal to their three-prong target demographic. The owners have kept the shop’s original gold decal on the window so look out for the tiny curbside blackboard pointing you in the right direction.

File0018 540x360 HOT: Carolina, 11 Nicholson St, East Brunswick

For the hipsters – a small room with a smattering of tables, a high-walled bar and cosy wooden booths lining up one side. There are cute knick-knacks dotted around, including antique shoe moulds harking back to the premises’ original purpose.

File0021 363x540 HOT: Carolina, 11 Nicholson St, East Brunswick

For the parents – walk down the corridor and find yourself in a gorgeous courtyard with a backdrop of reclaimed wood. The spacious setting includes garden beds filled with herbs and vegetables, tangles of trellised vines and overhead, swatches of hessian that pull along wires to create shade where needed. In one corner, a clean little sandpit with toys!

File0014 360x540 HOT: Carolina, 11 Nicholson St, East Brunswick

For the cyclists – turn off the Capital City Trail near the bike shop Velo Cycles, take a left down the cobblestone laneway and enter the cafe through the gate for the back entrance. Plenty of space to park your bike or even wheel it in if you’re particularly precious about it.

Now, to the menu. The coffee comes from Seven Seeds and breakfast staples like eggs, muesli and French toast all make an appearance, but with a twist. I tried a half-serve of housemade fruit brioche toasted with poached peaches, a squiggle of orange blossom spiced syrup, a large dollop of marscapone and fresh mint ($6.50 for half, $13 for whole). The bread was quite dense, all the better to soak up the syrup which I would have liked more of. The mint was a welcome addition to a reasonably rich dish.

File0015 451x540 HOT: Carolina, 11 Nicholson St, East Brunswick

From the lunch menu, which starts at 11am, I chose the Tunisian-style brik pastry rolls filled with mozzarella, basil and pinenuts ($14). This was served with some summery ratatouille, the slight sharpness an effective foil for the cheesy, nutty, finger-licking oily pastries. I hope that in future they might let you choose one of their wholefood salads as an accompaniment – I particularly liked the sound of organic quinoa, roast pumpkin, apple, snowpeas and tamari pepitas ($9).

File0007 540x351 HOT: Carolina, 11 Nicholson St, East Brunswick

There is lots to like about Carolina – both the breakfast and lunch menus are wholesome and inventive, the service is friendly and the setting is wonderful. I’ll be back, pushing a pram or riding my bike.

For other kid-friendly cafes near the Capital City bike trail, try Farm Cafe, Small Block and Squirrel Cafe.

Carolina, 11 Nicholson St, East Brunswick
Tue-Fri 7.30am-11pm
Sat-Sun 8.30am-11pm


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minilink HOT: Carolina, 11 Nicholson St, East Brunswick

HOT: Easy As Vegan Pie Cooking Class, Milkdwood, 120 Nicholson St, Brunswick East

I think it’s pretty obvious from this blog that I’m not vegan.

However, I do have an interest in vegan food and vegan cooking, in the same way that I have an interest in any food that tastes good. So when Carla from vegan blog Easy as Vegan Pie advertised that she was starting beginners vegan cooking classes I jumped at the chance to learn some more about things you can do with tofu (amongst other things).

DSC03453 HOT: Easy As Vegan Pie Cooking Class, Milkdwood, 120 Nicholson St, Brunswick East

A group of us gathered around a large table at Milkwood’s front room while Carla held court with her trusty eBay-ed food processor, a portable gas stove and frypan and a plethora of ingredients I’d never heard of – Japanese silken tofu, umeboshi, liquid smoke, ‘nooch‘ (nutritional yeast, a cheesy tasting parmesan-substitute).

DSC03464 HOT: Easy As Vegan Pie Cooking Class, Milkdwood, 120 Nicholson St, Brunswick East

We were all handed recipe sheets to follow and passed around a plate of vegan sausage rolls to get us going. Over two hours we worked our way through demonstrations of vegan versions of caramalised onion quiche, basil pesto, pate, dill sour cream, bolognese and dark chocolate tart.

DSC03444 HOT: Easy As Vegan Pie Cooking Class, Milkdwood, 120 Nicholson St, Brunswick East

I think the key thing to keep in mind with vegan food is not ‘does it taste like the non-vegan version?’ but ‘does it taste good?’. My favourite dish of the night was the basil pesto, followed closely by the dark chocolate tart. In fact, I’ve just stocked up on a bag of nooch :–)

DSC03446 HOT: Easy As Vegan Pie Cooking Class, Milkdwood, 120 Nicholson St, Brunswick East

At the end of two hours I’d had a great night out – Carla was full of useful information and a relaxed and funny host (she’s very forthright with cutting corners in her cooking ‘who can be arsed?’). Everyone came with an open mind and a willingness to share, so it’s not like we were just sitting in silence during a 2 hour lecture.

DSC03470 HOT: Easy As Vegan Pie Cooking Class, Milkdwood, 120 Nicholson St, Brunswick East

I learnt about new ingredients, new shops and new methods of cooking. Apparently Homebrand food is often vegan and USA Foods is the place for all your (accidentally) vegan junk food needs. Finally, the food was tasty too :–)

DSC03476 HOT: Easy As Vegan Pie Cooking Class, Milkdwood, 120 Nicholson St, Brunswick East

The class is geared towards helping non-vegans tackle the basics of vegan cooking though I think vegans (a handful in our class) can still learn something new by sharing recipes, cooking and shopping tips.

Carla’s next classes are on Thursday 3 November and Sunday 27 November. Places are limited to 13 people so booking early is essential – the first class is already filling up. For more information, click here.

 

 

HOT: Pope Joan, 77-79 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East

P1080262 HOT: Pope Joan, 77 79 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East

At last count, there were 19 blog reviews of Pope Joan on Urbanspoon. So I’m far behind with my visit and now I’m not sure why I’ve waited so long.

Pope Joan is the kind of neighbourhood cafe for which you’d be willing to travel. Which is why it has found success despite being located in the most non-descript, smoggy section of Nicholson Street. The names behind it probably help draw in the crowds too – Ben Foster (ex-Kent Hotel) and Matt Wilkinson (ex-Circa) own it.

P1080253 HOT: Pope Joan, 77 79 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East

There are lots of different spaces for diners depending on your mood. The front room is cosy timber and houses the most amazing carved lantern from the centre of the ceiling. Through the sliding doors is an undercover corridor of high wooden benches, communal picnic settings, wrought-iron park benches and Astroturf, with a cul-de-sac kitchen garden blooming a giant rainbow chard centrepiece.  The crowd is just as eclectic, ranging from families with young kids to ladies-who-lunch to construction workers.

P1080260 HOT: Pope Joan, 77 79 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East

The menu specialises in breakfast/brunch/lunch options, with a whole section dedicated to eggs proudly sourced from Green Eggs. On my lunch visit I decided to bypass the eggs for a sandwich – it was a difficult choice but you had me at ‘slow cooked’ then ‘pork’ then ‘Cuban style’ ($12). Next time I’m trying the The Cornish: Milawa chicken, stuffing, jalapeno pepper ($12).

P1080251 HOT: Pope Joan, 77 79 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East

On the plate was a fat La Madre ciabatta stuffed with tender roast pork, lettuce, carrot, gherkin and some sort of mayonnaise/aioli. It was a-mazing. Really. I could have had a second one.

But instead I decided to fill up my remaining appetite with bread and butter. Not just any old bread and butter, but two slices of spiced, lightly toasted gingerbread with a pot of smoked maple butter (although I confess I couldn’t taste or smell any smoke or maple flavour).

P1080256 HOT: Pope Joan, 77 79 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East

The cake cabinet presents more temptations from brownies to muffins to cookies. I nursed home a high-topped carrot cake ($4.50) which was very moist and nutty with a sweet lemony cream cheese frosting.

P1080265 HOT: Pope Joan, 77 79 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East

I will be sure to return to Pope Joan – the menu is a step away from standard brunch fare and it’s obvious that they care about the quality of the ingredients they use. They’ve just received their liquor licence for the next door space (to be called Bishop of Ostia) and will be opening for dinner soon.

Pope Joan, 77-79 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East +61 3 9388 8858

minilink HOT: Pope Joan, 77 79 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East

HOT: Small Block, 130 Lygon St, East Brunswick

P1080117 HOT: Small Block, 130 Lygon St, East Brunswick

Small Block is a cafe particularly well suited to the urban professional/hip and arty/young parents demographic of East Brunswick.

To whit:

  • attention to coffee – the blackboard shows the single origin bean of the day and gives a description of its particular qualities;
  • an extensive all-day breakfast menu which has the locals lining up on the weekends;
  • functional industrial chic decor, from the wooden tables to vintage metal and wood school chairs. The seating ranges from tables, benches and a narrow outdoor area with stools;
  • dedicated bike racks for cyclists, of whom there are many in the City of Moreland; and
  • child-friendly features such as a toy box, high chairs and change tables to cater for the Brunswick baby boom.

P1080129 HOT: Small Block, 130 Lygon St, East Brunswick

P1080124 HOT: Small Block, 130 Lygon St, East Brunswick

Local resident B and I met up for lunch during a weekday on B’s recommendation. She’d tried a lot of the items on the menu and decided on an old favourite, the Summer Breakfast – eggs on toast, avocado, spinach, persian feta and beetroot relish ($15). The waiter asked her how she wanted her eggs cooked (scrambled) – a refreshing change when menus commonly take an opposite approach and warn that there are to be no substitutions.

When I see corn fritters I inevitably order them and so it was this time – sweet corn fritters with bacon, rocket and tomato chutney ($14.50). The lunch menu also features four different sandwich fillings, a pasta of the day, a soup of the day and two burgers (lamb burger and steak sandwich).

P1080104 HOT: Small Block, 130 Lygon St, East Brunswick

The Summer Breakfast looked like a very satisfying vegetarian option, with a steaming mass of scrambled eggs atop a chunky piece of toast, a large hunk of feta and vibrant red relish. B gave it a thumbs up.

P1080110 HOT: Small Block, 130 Lygon St, East Brunswick

My corn fritters tasted just as good as they looked – densely packed corn kernels, crispy (but not too crispy) bacon, a generous handful of fresh rocket and a very sweet, almost apricot fruity, chutney.

P1080123 HOT: Small Block, 130 Lygon St, East Brunswick

While the tarts and cakes in the tall cabinet sounded appetising (particularly the lime syrup cake) frankly I was up for a second course – so I doubled back to the breakfast menu to order the ricotta hotcakes with saffron pears and barbados cream ($15). The hotcakes were not as fluffy and light as I would have liked (maybe it was the buckwheat flour I think they used?) but the mixture of pears and cream whipped with yoghurt and brown sugar did hit the sweet spot.

From my reading on the internets it seems that people’s experiences of the service at Small Block varies widely. I found the service to be very friendly and prompt. When I entered I was immediately asked for a coffee order and given a glass of water and when B arrived our waiter came to ask us for our order three times before we were ready because we were too busy chatting.

For other great cafes in East Brunswick, go further up the road to L’Atelier de Monsieur Truffe.

Small Block, 130 Lygon St, Brunswick East +61 3 9381 2244

Open Weekdays 8am-5pm; Weekends 8:30am-5pm

minilink HOT: Small Block, 130 Lygon St, East Brunswick

HOT: L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe, 351 Lygon St, East Brunswick

P1070681 HOT: L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe, 351 Lygon St, East Brunswick

Three words to cheer up your Monday.

New. Chocolate. Shop!

Collingwood favourite Monsieur Truffe has opened bigger and brighter establishment in Brunswick East and it has all of the charm of the original plus more.

Thibault Fregoni, the ‘mister’ of Monsieur Truffe, has set up his own old-fashioned cocoa bean roaster and bean press, which means that he will be making his own chocolate. The machinery takes a good chunk of the exposed brick room (you can draw up a seat by the glass and watch the process at work) and there are plans to offer tours at a later stage.

P1070688 HOT: L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe, 351 Lygon St, East Brunswick

For the moment though, look out for the come-hither lipstick red door which opens out into the bustling cafe. There’s indoor, undercover pram/bike parking at the entrance (yeah!), wooden communal tables prettily adorned with cherry blossom branches and depending on what time you go, a bit of a wait list. Don’t worry though, the warm aromas of chocolate will keep you company.

P1070685 HOT: L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe, 351 Lygon St, East Brunswick

Of course, the thing to order is one of their wonderful hot chocolates. You can choose between 69, 70, 74 and 85% cocoa (ranging from $4.80 to $5.20), with 70% being the house blend and the most popular mix. I went for the 74% Santo Domingo (was too timid to try the 85% African blend – next time) and it had definitely had a more intense, savoury note than the 70%. All the hot chocolates are served in gorgeous Japanese ceramic hug mugs and carved wooden spoons for licking the chocolate that’s coated on the very bottom.

P1070689 HOT: L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe, 351 Lygon St, East Brunswick

There is a short savoury and sweet all-day menu with a French influence (with some interesting options for little tummies and fingers). I ordered the field mushroom brochette ($16)- sort of a miniature mushroom burger with olive tapenade, braised cos, melted scarmoza bianca cheese and all speared with a sprig of rosemary. I’m stealing that idea for my next sandwich!

P1070702 HOT: L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe, 351 Lygon St, East Brunswick

RM devoured his French toast in record time, probably so I wouldn’t get to it first. This wasn’t just eggy bread but an unusual combination of baby apple sous vide, bacon foam and mandarin syrup ($14).

P1070699 HOT: L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe, 351 Lygon St, East Brunswick

On your way out you can pick up a bar or bag of chocolate or continue your indulgent French experience with some of the cakes and pastries displayed in the glass cabinet. My recommendation is the wonderfully rich and moist flourless chocolate cake and the best pastry (yes it’s true) in Melbourne – the buttery, flaky, chocolatey delicieux.

P1070703 HOT: L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe, 351 Lygon St, East Brunswick


L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe, 351 Lygon St, East Brunswick, +61 3 93804915
Tuesday to Friday 8am till 4pm
Saturday 8:30am till 4pm
Sunday 9am till 4pm

minilink HOT: L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe, 351 Lygon St, East Brunswick

HOT Chat: Shannon Heitmann of The Rabbit and the Duck

I first met Shannon Heitmann when I came across her cushions, wallets and notebook covers, sold under the label The Rabbit & the Duck, at the Magnolia Square Market back in August. If you were at Finders Keepers market last weekend you may have seen Shannon’s stall as well.

Today’s HOT Chat is about Shannon and her lovely business. I’m inspired to hear that she trained to do a ‘proper’ job but then found a much more satisfying creative outlet through her business. Thanks Shannon!

ashannon2 HOT Chat: Shannon Heitmann of The Rabbit and the Duck

Shannon, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to start your craft business The Rabbit & the Duck?

I’ve always been a crafty girl; from as early as I can remember there were either knitting needles in my hand (thanks Mum!) or some other project on the go. My first experience with sewing was with my Grandma, we made a pencil case that I still use today!

Despite this crafty upbringing I ended up in a town planning course at university and after graduating worked in various offices for a few years. It was not a good fit at all and I soon felt the urge to do something more creative. I then moved to retail and sold kitchens, homewares, and then stationery – the list goes on! But still something was missing…

One day I decided to take up sewing again and bought myself a second-hand machine. Soon there was fabric taking over the house and a big pile of finished projects that I didn’t know what to do with. I had heard about Etsy being a great place to sell handmade things so I opened a store and haven’t looked back!

From these small beginnings I now have over 20 stockists across Australia and run my business pretty much full-time – I sometimes have to pinch my arm to remind myself that this is my job!


buttons HOT Chat: Shannon Heitmann of The Rabbit and the Duck

The first thing I noticed about your products were the beautiful printed fabrics you used. Where do you source your materials?

I love hunting out unusual fabrics. Most of the fabric I use comes from Japan, but I also use a lot of local hand printed fabrics, such as those from Ink and Spindle. I’ve also started a collection of vintage fabrics for an upcoming project!

What’s your favourite The Rabbit & the Duck product?

Definitely the snap to it! wallet. I love the simplicity of its design – it can be used as a coin purse, passport holder, business card pouch, or for many other things. I have about 3 of them in my handbag right now!

snap wallets HOT Chat: Shannon Heitmann of The Rabbit and the Duck

Where do you turn for art and craft inspiration?

Inspiration is everywhere! I love getting out to the countryside around Melbourne – the open space clears my mind and I am always in awe of the beauty of nature. I also find inspiration in my favourite magazines (such as Frankie and Peppermint) and love seeing what other designers are up to. And sometimes just a pretty piece of fabric will inspire me!

What has been the most challenging thing you’ve faced in starting up your own business? What advice would you give to a small business owner?

It can be quite daunting when you realise that as a small business owner you are now fully responsible for generating your income! The highs and lows from month to month can be tricky and can also be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.

My advice is to surround yourself with a network of like-minded people – I have found the craft / handmade community in Melbourne to be a wonderful support, both in terms of offering advice and providing a social outlet (I work from home so it can be isolating at times!).

And don’t give up! Building a business takes time. Set your goals but be flexible – things can change (and they will!) but the beauty of running your own business is that you can change with them.

IMG 1710 HOT Chat: Shannon Heitmann of The Rabbit and the Duck

What are your next plans for The Rabbit & the Duck?

I would love to see The Rabbit & the Duck stocked overseas, perhaps in each of my favourite cities so I can plan ‘business’ trips to them! I also have other plans for a new venture, but that is all I can say at the moment, as it’s still top secret….

Finally, where are your HOT places to visit or things to do in Melbourne?

CERES Environmental Park (Cnr Roberts and Stewart Streets, Brunswick East +61 3 9387 2609) Just like visiting a farm but in the middle of Melbourne! They have a great café and a twice-weekly organic farmers market.

The Vintage Shed (93 Mornington Tyabb Rd, Tyabb +61 3 5977 4795) If you love all things vintage then it’s worth a trip down the Mornington Peninsula to visit The Vintage Shed. They have the most amazing collection of vintage clothes – I never leave empty handed!

Gertrude Street, Fitzroy – My favourite shopping street with a great collection of small boutiques, cafes and galleries – the perfect way to spend an afternoon! (Joyce – the Gertrude Street Shopping Guide from The Design Files may help you).