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.

Lygon Food Store 263 Lygon Street Carlton 7 HOT: Lygon Food Store, 263 Lygon Street, Carlton

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

Lygon Food Store 263 Lygon Street Carlton 4 HOT: Lygon Food Store, 263 Lygon Street, Carlton

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 263 Lygon Street Carlton 9 HOT: Lygon Food Store, 263 Lygon Street, Carlton

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 263 Lygon Street Carlton 3 HOT: Lygon Food Store, 263 Lygon Street, Carlton

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 263 Lygon Street Carlton 2 HOT: Lygon Food Store, 263 Lygon Street, Carlton

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 263 Lygon Street Carlton 6 HOT: Lygon Food Store, 263 Lygon Street, Carlton

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 263 Lygon Street Carlton 5 HOT: Lygon Food Store, 263 Lygon Street, Carlton

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: Queensberry Pour House, 210 Queensberry St, Carlton

Queensberry Pour House 210 Queensberry St Carlton 1 HOT: Queensberry Pour House, 210 Queensberry St, Carlton

Queensberry Pour House in Carlton is the kind of cosy hangout I wish I’d had back when I was a uni student.

While my uni days are long behind me now, I can still pretend I’m part of the cool crowd that use Queensberry Pour House for their caffeine fix, meetings and a quiet study session.

Queensberry Pour House 210 Queensberry St Carlton 5 HOT: Queensberry Pour House, 210 Queensberry St, Carlton

The small cafe is on the corner of a main street but it still feels tucked away, its whitewashed facade dwarfed by the modern steely colours of surrounding high rises. The place has a quaint, handmade feel to it and it turns out that the couple who own the cafe made their own ceramics and hand built much of the cafe’s furniture. I particularly love the distinctive sideboard now cash register and their bone-handled cutlery.

Queensberry Pour House 210 Queensberry St Carlton 4 HOT: Queensberry Pour House, 210 Queensberry St, Carlton

The coffee (black, white or short) is a rotating selection of single origin coffee that is roasted on-site every Sunday. The filter coffee is bottomless!

For non-coffee drinkers they make their own nut milk so it’s worth trying the nut milk smoothie ($7) with different flavours every week. Mine was green smoothie, a sweet and creamy concoction of spinach, kale, banana and nut milk.

Queensberry Pour House 210 Queensberry St Carlton 2 HOT: Queensberry Pour House, 210 Queensberry St, Carlton

The menu takes a simple and healthy approach. I go for the grazing bowl with a mixture of quinoa, chunky tabbouleh, roasted capsicum, smoky hummus and labne ($15.50). You can choose to add a soft-boiled paprika spiced egg for an extra $2.

Queensberry Pour House 210 Queensberry St Carlton 6 HOT: Queensberry Pour House, 210 Queensberry St, Carlton

I also try the mushroom toastie, inexplicably called the ‘Vladwich’. It’s a melting squish of provolone, grano padano, spinach, field and enoki mushrooms, spiked together with a jaunty pickle ($12.50).

The sweets cabinet was very enticing, with fresh cakes and biscuits coming straight out of the oven a few steps away. I dithered over the coconut muffin ($4) but decided that my stomach couldn’t handle any more.

Queensberry Pour House is a cafe full of cosy charm, a place to linger or hunker down with the books. The owners made and work in the place, and that care and consideration shows in the end result.

Queensberry Pour House, 210 Queensberry St, Carlton 03 9347 1277

Monday to Friday: 7am – 4pm

Saturday: 8am – 3pm

Closed Sunday

minilink HOT: Queensberry Pour House, 210 Queensberry St, Carlton

HOT: Hotel Lincoln, 91 Cardigan St, Carlton

Hotel Lincoln 91 Cardigan St Carlton 7 HOT: Hotel Lincoln, 91 Cardigan St, Carlton

Hotel Lincoln (sometimes known as The Lincoln) in Carlton is one of the oldest pubs in Melbourne. Its most recent incarnation has turned it into a destination gastropub since new owners took it over late 2014.

Hotel Lincoln 91 Cardigan St Carlton 1 HOT: Hotel Lincoln, 91 Cardigan St, CarltonThe outside of the hotel still looks much the same ie slightly seedy and dim but a light refurbishment has turned the Art Deco front bar into a gleaming place for a drink and a chat, while the remainder of the space invites a proper sit down meal.

And the food by chef Lachlan Cameron (ex MoVida Aqui, Supernormal) is attention-grabbing and stunning. It’s not pub grub for uni students – this is fine dining done at affordable pub prices. There’s not a parma or burger to be seen.

The menu spans small plates (7 oz) to medium sharing dishes (schooner) to large meals (pint). Given I wanted to try EVERYTHING I left it in the chef’s hands – $45 for 5 courses of the chef’s choice (they can cater for dietary requirements). They also do a more extensive version of 8 courses for $60 but trust me, you will be very full after 5 courses.

Hotel Lincoln 91 Cardigan St Carlton 2 HOT: Hotel Lincoln, 91 Cardigan St, Carlton

First course was from the ‘7 oz’ section – tersely described as ‘spanner crab, corn crackers’. It was a mixture of fresh creamy crab scooped into a delicate and aerated corn shell. Sublime.

Then onto a generous charcuterie platter of local and imported cured meats, including a melt-in-the-mouth jamon serrano, lap cheong-like peasant sausage with a hint of sherry and chilli, a ventricina and squid ink sausage which didn’t have any seafood flavour for me. All accompanied by some hunks of crusty bread and whipped butter.

Hotel Lincoln 91 Cardigan St Carlton 3 HOT: Hotel Lincoln, 91 Cardigan St, Carlton

The vegetable dish was a lightly scorched cauliflower with crisp and salted dehydrated cauli leaves – a most unusual way to present a part of the vegetable I normally discard.  The underlying sauce was made of parsley with chunks of roasted almonds.

Hotel Lincoln 91 Cardigan St Carlton 4 HOT: Hotel Lincoln, 91 Cardigan St, Carlton

From the main meals I received the only fish dish – salmon, chorizo, clams and stormy lager sauce. Lest you start worrying at this point about your pants spitting, the cut of salmon is about half size. Crispy-skinned and juicy it pairs well with the fattiness of the sausage.

Hotel Lincoln 91 Cardigan St Carlton 5 HOT: Hotel Lincoln, 91 Cardigan St, Carlton

The main course comes with a pot of triple cooked chips, perfect in their fluffy/crisp ratio and a nest of cos hearts with house made curd. I’m not sure whether I receive one or two people’s portion of the sides but they were enormous and could not be finished, sad to say.

Hotel Lincoln 91 Cardigan St Carlton 6 HOT: Hotel Lincoln, 91 Cardigan St, Carlton

Because I needed to leave room for a dessert – a deconstructed lemon meringue pie. Flaked shortcrust pastry, dabs of lemon curd, cubes of soft meringue and freeze-dried raspberries, all artfully arranged on an ice-chilled plate.

As befits a good local the service was friendly and accommodating. I had stupidly only parked in a 1 hour parking spot so had to rush through my meal – and everyone was fine with that. They even let me take home a doggy bag of the chips!

While I didn’t delve into the drinks list a quick scan showed attention to craft beer and inexpensive wine.

Hotel Lincoln has got to be one of the best gastropubs in Melbourne and I’m floored by how reasonably priced it is. Get there quickly before it becomes over-popular and you can’t just walk in.

Hotel Lincoln, 91 Cardigan St, Carlton

Sundays to Thursdays – Noon to 11pm

Fridays & Saturdays – Noon to Midnight

7 Days Lunch & Dinner

Kitchen closes at 10pm

All Day Dining on Weekends

minilink HOT: Hotel Lincoln, 91 Cardigan St, Carlton

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.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 11 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

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

HOT: The WW1 Centenary Exhibition – The War That Changed the World, Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson St, Carlton

The WW1 Centenary Exhibition The War That Changed the World Melbourne Museum 11 Nicholson St Carlton 10 HOT: The WW1 Centenary Exhibition   The War That Changed the World, Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson St, Carlton

The WW1 Centenary Exhibition is an outstanding touring exhibition developed by the Imperial War Museum in London to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. The world premiere of the exhibition opens Saturday 18 April at Melbourne Museum and I was invited to a media preview.

World War I is a vast and complex topic to cover and The WW1 Centenary Exhibition does a great job in focusing on certain elements of the history. It’s an exhibition not just for military history buffs (though there’s plenty to interest them), as it also explores the political backdrop of the era, social issues particularly those relating to women, as well as revealing many personal stories of those who died and survived the war.

The WW1 Centenary Exhibition The War That Changed the World Melbourne Museum 11 Nicholson St Carlton 3 HOT: The WW1 Centenary Exhibition   The War That Changed the World, Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson St, Carlton

In fact, the Imperial War Museum does not consider itself to be a military museum – their mission is to tell the personal stories of war. The museum was born of World War I (it began in 1917) and many of the artefacts and memorabilia have been donated by members of the public.  Over 300 objects from the Imperial War Museum‘s collection are featured and some of the displays in The WW1 Centenary Exhibition have never left Britain and are considered some of the museum’s most treasured items.

For instance, the entrance of the exhibition holds a British-made artillery gun. It was the gun that fired the first shot by the British on the Western Front and thus has immense historical and emotional significance for the museum, the British people and their allies. In the museum people often lay wreaths and precious personal items at its base.

The WW1 Centenary Exhibition The War That Changed the World Melbourne Museum 11 Nicholson St Carlton 2 HOT: The WW1 Centenary Exhibition   The War That Changed the World, Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson St, Carlton

There are other pieces of impressive industrial machinery in the exhibition, such as a 7 metre long artillery gun (that took 12 hours to fit into place in the exhibition) and the engine from the plane that the Red Baron was piloting when he was shot down.

The WW1 Centenary Exhibition The War That Changed the World Melbourne Museum 11 Nicholson St Carlton 1 HOT: The WW1 Centenary Exhibition   The War That Changed the World, Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson St, Carlton

However, it was the more humble human objects that touched me. The German nightdress made of paper because blockades meant raw materials were no longer available.

The WW1 Centenary Exhibition The War That Changed the World Melbourne Museum 11 Nicholson St Carlton 4 HOT: The WW1 Centenary Exhibition   The War That Changed the World, Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson St, Carlton

The knives and clubs, sometimes homemade, used in primitive hand-to-hand combat when soldiers entered enemy trenches.

The WW1 Centenary Exhibition The War That Changed the World Melbourne Museum 11 Nicholson St Carlton 7 HOT: The WW1 Centenary Exhibition   The War That Changed the World, Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson St, Carlton

The beaten old shoes given to a POW by a farmer after the soldier’s release at Armistice.

The WW1 Centenary Exhibition is split into ten chapters  which explore different facets of the war, roughly chronologically. The overall themes relate to the scale of this global conflict, the immense devastation of new industrial warfare,  how the war impacted and threatened people’s previous way of life and how people came to terms with the legacy.

The WW1 Centenary Exhibition The War That Changed the World Melbourne Museum 11 Nicholson St Carlton 8 HOT: The WW1 Centenary Exhibition   The War That Changed the World, Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson St, Carlton

The visitor is guided through each section through a series of high walls which are meant to represent the trenches in a battlefield landscape. To further evoke to chilling effect of trench warfare overhead some specially developed graphics are projected onto large screens and the scenery changes from daytime to night time as a soldier in the trenches might see, looking above at the sky. The effect is quite chilling and it’s worth watching the whole loop for 18 minutes.

The WW1 Centenary Exhibition The War That Changed the World Melbourne Museum 11 Nicholson St Carlton 9 HOT: The WW1 Centenary Exhibition   The War That Changed the World, Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson St, Carlton

In the media preview we got a sneak peek at some of the content in the audio guide and I highly encourage you to rent one for your visit. It adds a particularly Australian narrative to The WW1 Centenary Exhibition, which means for many visitors the displays will create a connection with their own family history.

I think The WW1 Centenary Exhibition will strike a chord with every visitor. It effectively uses multimedia, artefacts, oral histories, projections and artworks to tell an emotive story of humanity, devastation and life going on. You will be informed, and moved.

The WW1 Centenary Exhibition – The War That Changed the World, Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson St, Carlton

Saturday 18 April – Sunday 4 October 2015 10am-5pm daily

Timed tickets (last entry 3:30pm)

 

 

 

 

HOT: Pidapipo, 299 Lygon Street, Carlton

Pidapipo 3 HOT: Pidapipo, 299 Lygon Street, Carlton

Pipapipo is a new addition to the Lygon Street ice cream/gelato strip and in a prime position across the road from Cinema Nova. You can’t miss it because there is a big red neon sign proclaiming ‘gelateria’ in the window.

According to this fascinating article, you can generally judge the quality of gelati from 15 feet, without actually smelling, touching or tasting the product. You just need to look for a couple of things:

  1. No fake colours in the fruit flavours.
  2. How the gelati is stored and displayed.
  3. Seasonal fruit flavours offered.
  4. Translucency in the lemon gelato.
  5. Do they offer fior di latte or fior di panna, which exposes the quality of the milk/cream?
  6. Do they offer hazelnut – gram for gram the most expensive gelato to produce?

Pipapipo scores 6 out of 6 but it really deserves a taste test.

Pidapipo 1 HOT: Pidapipo, 299 Lygon Street, Carlton

The marble counter curves around the width of the relatively small, pastel-coloured shop. There are a few tables inside and out but it’s more of a walk-in, walk-out scenario.

Every day up to twenty flavours fill stainless steel pozzetti, which keep the temperature of the gelato constant so it doesn’t freeze, melt and refreeze. Flavours range from traditional to modern, fruity to rich. Hiding the flavours under lids is a pretty good indicator of how good the gelato will be – there’s no need to show it off in high, brightly hued mounds.

Pidapipo 299 Lygon Street Carlton HOT: Pidapipo, 299 Lygon Street, Carlton

The owner Lisa Valmorbida is of Italian heritage and trained at Carpigiani Gelato University in Italy then worked in a gelateria in Vicenza. The gelato is churned daily on site using the best imported Italian and local ingredients. The pistachios are from Bronte, Sicily, the best hazelnuts in the world from Piedmont, Warrnambool Jersey milk, ricotta from La Formaggeria and the honey and fresh honeycomb from the rooftop hives by Honey Fingers.  Absolutely no artificial flavours or colours.

Pidapipo 2 HOT: Pidapipo, 299 Lygon Street, Carlton

Their hazelnut is powerfully nutty and velvety on the tongue, not a hint of grittiness or powdery aftertaste. The fior di latte is creamy and pure in flavour – it requires no adornment, not even vanilla beans (the traditional no-flavour flavoured ice cream).

Pidapipo 299 Lygon Street Carlton 2 HOT: Pidapipo, 299 Lygon Street, Carlton

I like my gelato simple but you can jazz yours up with a cone filled with liquid Nutella or Valrhona chocolate on top, sandwiched inside a fat Sicilian brioche bun or even thrown in a coke float (an ice cream spider in my vernacular).

For the quality of the goods the prices are   very reasonable too – $4 for a single flavour, $6 for two flavours and $7 for three flavours. 1kg take home tubs are $10 and prettily wrapped in their pastel-coloured geometric paper.

Pidapipo 299 Lygon Street Carlton 5 HOT: Pidapipo, 299 Lygon Street, Carlton

Pipapipo is my new favourite gelateria  – I was invited to their launch and have been back almost weekly since. With this heat wave we’re experiencing no doubt they will do very well this summer.

Pidapipo, 299 Lygon Street, Carlton, (03) 9347 4596

Mon – Sun: 12:00pm to 11:00pm

minilink HOT: Pidapipo, 299 Lygon Street, Carlton

HOT: Nora, 156 Elgin Street, Carlton

Nora 156 Elgin Street Carlton 5 HOT: Nora, 156 Elgin Street, Carlton

Nora is a Thai-inspired bakery cafe in Carlton recently opened by Thai-Australian couple Tong and Jean.

They have been supplying their distinctive charcoal tarts to various cafes around town and decided to strike out on their own with a minimalist shop filled with beautiful things.

Nora 156 Elgin Street Carlton 4 HOT: Nora, 156 Elgin Street, Carlton

What strikes you about the cafe when you enter is the dreamy, relaxing atmosphere created by the easy-on-the-eye blond wood and cute cartoon-coloured stool. Your eyes are immediately drawn to  the gorgeous still life set out in the sunny front window showcasing their famous tarts and the ingredients going into them.

Nora 156 Elgin Street Carlton 7 HOT: Nora, 156 Elgin Street, Carlton

 

Nora 156 Elgin Street Carlton 6 HOT: Nora, 156 Elgin Street, Carlton

What makes Nora‘s tarts unusual are the black charcoal crusts. The flavours are generally Asian, with glances at kaffir lime, star anise and lemongrass in the custard and toppings.

The all day breakfast/lunch menu is quite unusual too. There are only about half a dozen items to choose from and they vary from eggs done ‘our way’ ie 30 minute sous vide to ‘Pig from the Ground it’s Raised From’. The effect is whimsical and poetical and wow what comes out on the plate is a work of art.

Nora 156 Elgin Street Carlton 2 HOT: Nora, 156 Elgin Street, Carlton

I ordered ‘Churning of the Sea of Milk’ $19.50, an artful arrangement of Smoked Rainbow Trout, Coconut Ricotta, slithers of nashi and beets, succulents, Flying Fish roe, mizuna and a dabs of herb oil. A fresh, light, flavoursome dish with a particularly expert combination of textures and colours on the plate.

Nora 156 Elgin Street Carlton 1 HOT: Nora, 156 Elgin Street, Carlton

All their dishes come with a popover, sort of like a Yorkshire pud, plus a hunk of raw wombok with curry paste applied to it – an unusual side dish if I ever saw it. Based on the light and crusy popover I’ll be buying a loaf of their freshly-made sourdough bread next time.

To drink I couldn’t go past the Harry Potter-esque pumpkin juice, cold-pressed with carrot, orange and cinnamon ($6). Refreshing and super-healthy but a bit more cinnamon would have been welcome.

Nora 156 Elgin Street Carlton 3 HOT: Nora, 156 Elgin Street, Carlton

For dessert there are generally only four tart flavours at any one time and only about 100 tarts made a day. At middy on my visit already one of the tart flavours had sold out but no matter, because I had my heart set on sour cherry with kaffir lime custard. Mostly because I like the combination of colours against the inkiness of the tart base.

Nora 156 Elgin St Carlton HOT: Nora, 156 Elgin Street, Carlton

So imagine my surprise when the tart arrived, beautifully presented with a scattering of pistachios and crumble…but upside down. ‘I dropped your tart’ the waitress said cheekily, before explaining that they serve all their tarts, smashed and upended. Just for fun! I loved it. Shows that the kitchen doesn’t take themselves too seriously.

Nora‘s tarts are not traditional sweet shortcrust pastry inked with black – the casings contain charcoal made from coconut shells and are a different texture all together. The closest I can liken it to is filo pastry, but less flaky and more papery. As for the flavour I didn’t detect any particularly smokiness or burnt flavours in the tart, so it seems to be more for aesthetic (and apparently health) effect. And it was a bargain at $5!

Head to Nora for a twist on the standard cafe fare that you can find everywhere in Melbourne and prepared to be delighted and surprised by their attention to detail and imagination.

Nora, 156 Elgin Street, Carlton 9041 8644

Tuesday-Thursday 7am-3:30pm; Saturday-Sunday 8am-4pm

minilink HOT: Nora, 156 Elgin Street, Carlton

HOT: Le Miel et La Lune, 330 Cardigan St, Carlton

Le Miel et La Lune 330 Cardigan St Carlton 1 HOT: Le Miel et La Lune, 330 Cardigan St, Carlton

Lygon Street is a strip that’s so familiar to me that it’s a bit same old-same old, so I decided to ask readers for a tip for somewhere new to try. Le Miel et La Lune was a fabulous discovery! The cafe is in a sweet little spot just a block away from Lygon St which serves….Korean. I was expecting a French patisserie and got gochuchang.

Le Miel et La Lune 330 Cardigan St Carlton 2 HOT: Le Miel et La Lune, 330 Cardigan St, Carlton

Which is fine because I love Korean food and I love a kick of chilli in the morning. And while you can still order poached eggs and smashed avo on toast (yawn) I urge you to try the more unusual fare in the all day breakfast and lunch menu.

The Korean chef Jung Eun Chae has developed a menu where pickled vegetables (not necessarily kimchi), miso and enoki, shimeji and shiitake feature. I was so excited I didn’t know where to start!

Le Miel et La Lune 330 Cardigan St Carlton 3 HOT: Le Miel et La Lune, 330 Cardigan St, Carlton

I chose the heaviest lunch dish available, the tteokboki, described to me as like gnocchi ($17.90). It is in fact a popular Korean street snack with knobs of soft rice cake, slices of fish cake and sweet red chili sauce. This version was served with an unexpectedly successful pairing of melted tasty cheese and a perfectly poached egg. It was spicy, salty, oozy and chewy at the same time. Amazing!

Le Miel et La Lune 330 Cardigan St Carlton 4 HOT: Le Miel et La Lune, 330 Cardigan St, Carlton

The other dish I tried was the crispy tofu salad ($17.90) with balls of shiitake mushroom and tofu rolled and deep fried. Five generous orbs came with a pickled daikon salad, sauteed kale, almonds and chia seed. Overall I didn’t love the texture. The balls were too dry and everything else on the plate was crunchy and crispy too. Compared to the luxurious texture of the tteokboki it was just too earnestly healthy for my liking.

The lunch has more Korean inspired gems, including a bulgogi burger, SSAM pork belly and a 12 grain rice bowl.

I’m not convinced that coffee is the right beverage to match these dishes but if you cannot function without it then they serve beans from Proud Mary.

The service at Le Miel et La Lune was as sweet as the cutesy decor. The large windows let in the morning sun (and become bench seats on sunny days) but I liked hunkering down in the banquette by the wall, watching to see whether the upside-down pot plants would crash down on an unsuspecting customer.

Le Miel et La Lune 330 Cardigan St Carlton 5 HOT: Le Miel et La Lune, 330 Cardigan St, Carlton

Le Miel et La Lune is an unexpected spot of Korean nestled amongst Italionophile Carlton. Its menu contains some of the most unusual ingredients and combinations I’ve tried in Melbourne, which makes a trip to the cafe an exciting journey of discovery.

Le Miel et La Lune, 330 Cardigan St, Carlton 03 9043 9767

Mon-Fri 7am-4pm

Sat-Sun 8am-4pm

minilink HOT: Le Miel et La Lune, 330 Cardigan St, Carlton

HOT: Providence, 497 Rathdowne St, Carlton

Providence 497 Rathdowne St Carlton 6 HOT: Providence, 497 Rathdowne St, Carlton

Providence is a bright new cafe in Carlton in a part of Rathdowne Street that’s not currently well served by cafes. It’s located in the lobby of Australian Unity’s new aged care facility Rathdowne Place but you wouldn’t know it. 

Providence 497 Rathdowne St Carlton 1 HOT: Providence, 497 Rathdowne St, Carlton

The fit out is contemporary, airy and cheerful and there’s not a hint of granny mustiness to it. Though it’s charming that the nonnas of Carlton enjoy taking their extra-hot English breakfast tea in its sunny surrounds.

Providence is the work of entrepreneurial and enthusiastic hospitality duo Elena and Michael Tan (Hero Subs, Reading Room Cafe, The Grain Store). The cafe’s mantra is to source and serve local and seasonal produce, primarily from the farmers markets around Victoria.

Providence 497 Rathdowne St Carlton 15 HOT: Providence, 497 Rathdowne St, Carlton

They are a mere hop, skip and jump from the new fortnightly farmers markets inside the grounds of Carlton Primary School so they are well-placed to access the freshest ingredients and to know their producers intimately.

Providence 497 Rathdowne St Carlton 2 HOT: Providence, 497 Rathdowne St, Carlton

 Providence 497 Rathdowne St Carlton 16 HOT: Providence, 497 Rathdowne St, Carlton

I was invited to sample some of their breakfast dishes and was impressed by the fresh combination of ingredients and their acknowledgement throughout the menu of their producers. 

Providence 497 Rathdowne St Carlton 14 HOT: Providence, 497 Rathdowne St, Carlton

Morning rituals for many people involve either a tea or coffee and Providence source their teas from Larsen and Thompson ($3.50 a pot) and coffee from Brunswick organic small batch roaster Code Black Coffee ($3.50 small, $4 large). I particularly admired the ash coloured crockery by Melbourne ceramist Ingrid Tufts and the cheerful tea pots from T2 Tea.

Providence 497 Rathdowne St Carlton 11 HOT: Providence, 497 Rathdowne St, Carlton

For those who aren’t tea or coffee drinkers I recommend the breakfast smoothie of almond milk, blueberries, banana, oats and dates ($6.50 full size). It’s not too sweet and deliciously smooth – a perfect breakfast on the go for weekday commuters as it’s very filling. 

Providence 497 Rathdowne St Carlton 12 HOT: Providence, 497 Rathdowne St, Carlton

Breakfast is served until 3pm (cafe closes at 4pm) and includes a small selection skewed towards savoury  items. Thankfully, it’s not just eggs, eggs and more eggs.

 Providence 497 Rathdowne St Carlton 5 HOT: Providence, 497 Rathdowne St, Carlton

Having said that, my favourite breakfast dish was the egg and bacon pie ($18). This huge English style shortcrust pie was filled with a surprisingly light concoction of egg with shreds of Gamze Smokehouse’s bacon inside. The pastry was a standout, buttery and flaky without being greasy and heavy. The pie was accompanied by some housemade tomato chutney and a mass of fresh salad leaves tied with a ribbon of prosciutto. 

Providence 497 Rathdowne St Carlton 4 HOT: Providence, 497 Rathdowne St, Carlton

My other favourite dish was the breakfast salad ($17), an unusual result given that I’m not much of a salad fan generally and normally not for breakfast. This salad was a riot of grilled Barham Avocados, chunks of sticky ham hock, a huge mass of greenery, peas and pats of goat curd with a small roll of flatbread on the side. Fresh, salty, creamy and crunchy – plus I never realised you could grill avocados and not have them turn into a smashed mess! 

Providence 497 Rathdowne St Carlton 13 HOT: Providence, 497 Rathdowne St, Carlton

We also tried two other savoury dishes. Slices of Gamze Smokehouse’s hot smoked trout and herbs were packed atop a crunchy and creamy bubble and squeak patty with two perfectly poached eggs ($20) and some pumpkin and Burrum Biodynamic’s lentil fritters with chilli tomato pickle, coconut yoghurt and leaves ($17).

Providence 497 Rathdowne St Carlton 7 HOT: Providence, 497 Rathdowne St, Carlton

I found the fritters a little bit dry but I suspect it wouldn’t hold together otherwise. The texture was aided by a thick slather of chilli tomato pickle which you can also buy by the jar for $10.

 Providence 497 Rathdowne St Carlton 8 HOT: Providence, 497 Rathdowne St, Carlton

To finish we tried a miniature version of the breakfast berry clafoutis ($17), sort of like a baked pancake or pan-fried hotcake that I’ve been seeing around Melbourne cafes lately. This version was a light batter studded with berries and topped with toasted almond flakes and a scoop of Gundowring’s rhubarb ice cream and a shard of ruby rhubarb. 

Providence 497 Rathdowne St Carlton 10 HOT: Providence, 497 Rathdowne St, Carlton

Lunch changes day to day depending on what’s fresh and good at the moment so you can be assured that everything will be inspired by the season.

I was impressed by all the food at Providence and particularly to the passion of the owners and the commitment by the chef Cate Hardman to support local producers. Given its menu and its location next door to Carlton Primary School and across the road from the recently reopened Carlton Baths, I think it will draws a crowd of all ages. Use it as a pit stop before or after the Carlton Primary School farmers markets and be inspired!

Providence, 497 Rathdowne St, Carlton (03) 9240 7055

Mon-Sat 7am-4pm; Sun 8.30am-4pm

minilink HOT: Providence, 497 Rathdowne St, Carlton

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.