HOT: Smith & Deli, 111 Moor St, Fitzroy

smith and deli

The owners of popular vegan restaurant Smith & Daughters in Fitzroy have now branched out to a delightful Jewish-inspired deli just around the corner on Moor Street. Dubbed Smith & Deli, the new-age convenience store will be a haven for vegans, vegetarians and curious omnivores.

smith and deli

Smith & Deli is housed in an old brick factory and I love the retro feel to the place, from the mint-green furnishings thanks to Callum Preston (who also designed Smith & Daughters) to the 50s rock tunes.

smith and deli

Smith and deli

The store’s focus is on take away food, provisions, fresh produce and take-home meals and the shelves and cabinets simply groan with neat rows of tempting food.

smith and deli

smith and deli

I was invited to visit Smith & Deli ahead of their official opening this Tuesday 16 June and had a lot of fun sampling their goods. I should preface my comments with the fact that I’m not vegan – so I’m comparing vegan dishes with their non-vegan originals. If you are limited to vegan choices then I think Smith & Deli will be a gastronomical broadening of horizons. If you’re not vegan, it’ll be eye-opening though in some cases I admit I’d prefer to eat the non-vegan versions.

smith and deli

I was offered a pre-made lunch box to try ($15) consisting of a half a Reuben sandwich, a noodle salad and a slice of apple crumble slice. I also gave way to temptation to buy up their baked goods – a croissant, doughnut, dill pretzel, passionfruit tart, honey cake and challah.

The highlights were the spongy glazed doughnut with ‘custard’, the surprisingly flaky croissant and the bready but not too chewy dill pretzel. Let’s just say they got the tick of approval from a 4 year old omnivore!

smith and deli

I didn’t love the dry pastry of the passionfruit tart though the filling was creamy and sweet or I’d much prefer the chunky meatiness of a proper Reuben sandwich.

smith and deli

Intrigued by the possibility of a vegan take home meal I bought a ready made pastrami pizza and margherita pizza ($16 each). The pizza base was light and fluffy and the flavours were true – it was just the curious un-melted texture of the ‘cheese’ which signalled its vegan origins. My kids loved it…but give me mozzarella instead.

smith and deli

There’s no seating on site so it’s strictly take-away service. Whitlam Square and Condell Reserve all offer nice places to sit and eat and if you’re studying in Fitzroy Library it’s just a handy diagonal stride across Moor Street.

Smith & Deli is a unique concept – a friendly grocery store where dishes have been converted to plant-based fare without sacrificing flavour. I did think in some cases the texture of meat and dairy simply couldn’t be replicated, but I’m curious enough to return, especially for the house-made vegan pastrami and salami (their slicer wasn’t working yet).

Smith & Deli, 111 Moor St, Fitzroy

Tue-Sun 8am-7pm

Opening Tuesday 16 June 2015

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HOT: Shifty Chevre, 375 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Shifty Chevre

Brunswick Street Fitzroy is saturated with eateries, but it’s only till recently that it’s gotten its own wine and cheese bar. Bienvenue Shifty Chevre!

The French-themed cheese haven opened late last year but only recently got its liquor licence. The licence means it can now serve cheese with its natural partner, wine, and they have started opening evenings. I was invited to sample their dinner menu.

Shifty Chevre

Shifty Chevre has been opened by three young friends who decided to build a bar entirely based around cheese and make it the key ingredient to everything on the menu. The front counter displays a rotating selection of around 25 local and imported cheese, with the best-selling being brie. They also stock crackers, pastes, and cheese accessories (who knew a Jesus Grater existed?)

Shifty Chevre

What they’ve built is a country-chic eatery in what used to be a clothing store. The natural tones, dim lighting, comfy couches and cute courtyard are an extension of your favourite friend’s home.

Shifty Chevre

In summer you can order a cheese takeaway box and take it for a picnic at nearby Edinburgh Gardens. But personally I think the winter is the more perfect time to visit Shifty Chevre because everything on the menu is based cheese that’s been baked, grilled or melted (there’s no stove in the small kitchen).

Shifty Chevre

They even have a raclette on the menu, an item I haven’t eaten since visiting the French Alps. If you love cheese then this a must-try dish! Melt the oozy cheese over charcuterie, potatoes and bread and you’ll be set for the night.

Shifty Chevre

The tartiflette, another Savoie dish I haven’t seen in a while, comes bubbling out of its ramekin. This comforting combination of baked potato, onion and bacon dish with melted French cheese will warm you from the inside out.

Sadly I didn’t have room for dessert but I’m told the tiramisu is excellent. Other sweet options include a cheesecake and pannacotta.

Just one last mention of the stunning bathrooms. It’s one of the few times I’ve taken my camera to the loo because this changing room transformed into goat mural/fernery has to be seen to be believed!

Shifty Chevre

Shifty Chevre will be the stuff of my (cheese) dreams this winter. Who am I to dis a brie?

Shifty Chevre

Shifty Chevre, 375 Brunswick St, Fitzroy 0423 694 763

Wed    12pm – 11pm

Thu – Fri 12pm – late

Sat        9am – late

Sun       9am – 11pm

Shifty Chevre on Urbanspoon

HOT: Sir Charles, 121 Johnston St, Fitzroy

sir charles cafe

Sir Charles Fitzroy is the latest venture by the folks behind Axil Coffee Roasters and built on the site of the the former Beans and Bagels. Having been a customer at the previous establishment I am in awe of the transformation.

sir charles cafe fitzroy

Goodbye dated, dimly lit cafe, hello to light, blonde wood, pastel accents and copper stools.

sir charles cafe fitzroy

Oooh those copper stools. I just couldn’t stop taking photos of them! I have no idea how comfortable they are to perch on but they look amazing. Their brushed glossiness brings a sophisticated warmth to the high ceilings and expansive space which could otherwise come across as cold and cavernous.

sir charles cafe fitzroy

The daytime menu has an Asian flavour to it and I tried the BBQ pork belly with tonkatsu sauce, spring onion and fried egg roti ($17). Judging by the constant flow of this dish from the kitchen to diners I suspect this is one of their most popular items.

sir charles cafe fitzroy

The pork was a melting slab of meat and fat and the crunchy bean sprouts and chilli helped cut through the richness. The fried egg was done perfectly so that the yolk was still runny on a gentle prod.

sir charles cafe fitzroy

I also tried the vegan toasted coconut crepe ($13.50). While I wasn’t expecting a French-style egg crepe I think they should specifically describe it as a glutinous rice flour crepe because not everyone enjoys its chewy, slippery texture. I, for one, love it, so I was very happy with the dish. I particularly enjoyed the slight hint of sweetness from the coconut and the pile of fresh fruit salad and butterscotch sauce.

The rest of the menu is just as exciting and the friendly service and gorgeous decor will mean that it becomes a regular on the Fitzroy cafe circuit.

Sir Charles, 121 Johnston St, Fitzroy 03 9415 7077

Mon to Wed 7am–4pm

Thu to Sat 7am–10pm

Sun 7am–4pm

Sir Charles on Urbanspoon

HOT: Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North

mio locale

Mio Locale fills a culinary and coffee gap in an odd no-man’s land section of Brunswick Street.

Fitzroy’s abundant supply of cafe and shopping scene peters out abruptly at Alexandra Parade and don’t really resume again until you hit North Fitzroy village. The new Bellini apartments have now been completed on the corner of Alexandra Parade and Brunswick Street and part of the development is Mio Locale.

mio locale

The concrete shell, decorated with black glossy tiles and brass trims, is small but welcoming. They manage to make almost all their food in house, other than the bread which comes from Dench Bakers in North Fitzroy.

mio locale

mio locale

The owners are a sister-brother team of Italian heritage and they pride themselves on sourcing local produce, using fresh, seasonal ingredients for their breakfast and lunch menu.

This translates to a small menu of accessible cafe dishes with an Italian twist, generously portioned, and brought to your table with a smile. I was invited to try the cafe with my family.

mio locale

To start we had a pear and cinnamon smoothie and a yoghurt-based berry smoothie. Both sweet and filling and enough of a meal on their own.

mio locale

The creamy and nutty coffee came from Strada Coffee and they source their tea from organic Chamellia Tea.

mio locale

For something simple, done well, go for the Fancy Pants Toastie ($13). It’s an melting ham and cheese toasted sandwich, crowed with a fried egg and with the crusts neatly lopped off. A dab of housemade relish rests on the side. Personally I prefer crusty sandwiches so I’m sure you can just ask for them to keep the crusts on!

mio locale

I decided to choose the heartier dish of chickpeas with Calabrian salami, sugo, spinach and garum ($16). It was full of punchy, vibrant flavours and exactly the kind of dish best finish with a mopping of bread. It kept me going for most of the day, though if you’re looking for extra protein you can choose to add a poached egg.

mio locale

mio locale

The pastries, cakes and biscuits are all house made and I just fell in love with the huge yo-yos filled with mocha cream, a steal at $2.50.

Mio Locale is just a stone’s throw from picnic hotspot Edinburgh Gardens, so it’s fitting that they provide picnic packs for those who don’t fancy catering their own spread. They are also waiting on a liquor licence so that they can start opening in the evening to turn Mio Locale into a wine bar.

I wish Mio Locale was my local! But lucky northsiders can enjoy it seven days a week.

Mio Locale, 465 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North 03 9489 4747

Mon-Fri 7am-4pm

Sat-Sun 8am-4pm

Mio Locale on Urbanspoon

HOT: Like Minded Projects, 41-49 Smith Street, Fitzroy

like minded projects

Like Minded Projects is a stunning cafe on Smith Street that specialises in vegan, gluten-free and raw food.

It’s a combined operation with three different like-minded businesses – coffee roaster Coffee Supreme, raw and whole food kitchen Fred Gets (which includes in its collection Pana Chocolate’s raw organic desserts) and Ace raw cookies and nut milk.

like minded projects

The decor is head-turning, with a long glass frontage beckoning you inside the whitewashed and coolly chic interior. The light room is enhanced with shiny surfaces and pops of colour from the ceramic planters and the vertical green wall at the entrance.

The three suppliers each have their own distinct section highlighted by neon signs. Coffee of course comes from Coffee Supreme and how can you avoid a coffee machine that instructs you to ‘Get Some’.

like minded projects

like minded projects

If you’re after food then Fred Gets  supplies vegetarian salads, open sandwiches, juices, muesli and other gluten-free dishes.

like minded projects

 

like minded projects

Just load up an enamel bowl ($11.50 for large), get a squirt of your housemade dressing on top and draw up a stool by the expansive people-watching window.

For lunch I chose half-and-half of two healthy salads, two croquettes and a fritter. The just-toasted croquettes were surprisingly fluffy though with the amount of salad I had I could have just had one. The fritter was on the dry side and I’d do without next time.

like minded projects

For dessert I browsed Ace’s raw cookie collection and must admit I didn’t particularly enjoy my taste test. My small morsel was tack-hard and rather dry – basically, what I’d expect a cookie without butter to taste like. On the Ace side is also a stock of coconut-based ice-creams by Zebra Dream which I’ve enjoyed before. I recommend his mint choc chip!

For sweets I steer you instead towards the brass-trimmed cabinet filled with healthy treats from Pana Chocolate, a raw chocolate and dessert retailer in Richmond. I liked the humorous references in all their dessert names – twists on well-known chocolate bars and sweets!

like minded projects

What makes raw desserts different to your bog-standard Snickers bar, for instance, is that a small morsel really fills you up. After my lunch I thought I’d like to try a couple of the sweets from the cabinet as I couldn’t decide, but after my modestly sized Vespa Wheel (their take on the Wagon Wheel) I simply couldn’t eat any more.

like minded projects

I took some of the desserts home as I was assured that they would freeze well. Over the course of a few days I nibbled on various sweets and I concluded that my favourite was the raw lamington. With other items I found either the texture wasn’t quite right or the raw chocolate was too rich for me.

I like that the food at Like Minded Projects is wholesome but it’s provided with a sense of humour. Along with the uber-stylish space, the cafe is one pretty package for advertising the virtues of clean-eating.

Like Minded Projects, 41-49 Smith Street, Fitzroy

Mon-Fri 7am-5pm

Sat-Sun 9am-5pm

Click to add a blog post for Like Minded Projects on Zomato

HOT: B’Stilla Cantina, 277B Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

b'stilla cantina

What was a Fitzroy chocolate shop has now been turned into B’Stilla Cantina, an offshoot of South Yarra’s award-winning B’Stilla, and all I can say is GO GO GO! The crowds aren’t huge yet because people are still on holiday….but soon you won’t be able to perch on a stool, let alone grab one of only four pavement tables. I guarantee it.

b'stilla cantina

The food will make you exclaim out loud. When Harry Met Sally style. Every bite, every mouthful – no words, only moaning.

The premise of B’Stilla Cantina is ‘Moroccan street food’. I have no idea what they eat on the streets of Morocco so I can’t judge whether B’Stilla Cantina is authentic. But the menu is full of spice, heat, colourful, texturally interesting – and cheap.

b'stilla cantina

Case in point, their ‘Moroccan tacos’ are $5 each and more substantial than a traditional Mexican taco. They are encased in roti rather than tortilla and the fillings are generous. I went for chicken, avocado and apricot dressed with a mouth-burning chipotle sauce.

b'stilla cantina

I then stuff myself with sardine fritters – Cuca sardines coated in a spiced chickpea flour, lightly fried and accompanied by a green chermoula mayo ($8) . In between I grab mouthfuls of the salads of the day, a Moroccan coleslaw and a beetroot and freekah salad, all dressed in the same chipotle mayo ($8).

b'stilla cantina

Then I reach for the tower of melting lamb ribs ($12), dusted with an ochre dukkah and a squeeze of lime. The meat pulls off the bone without effort and their fattiness pair perfectly with the crunchy, fiery salads.

b'stilla cantina

I have to take half my salad home because I want to save room for dessert. I’m glad I did too – the sweet b’stilla ($6) is a long cigar of flaky brik pastry filled with a lightly scented ginger creme and sprinkled with cinnamon and pistachios. It’s crunchy, melting, sweet and and sticky at once. The dish that is their namesake crowns what has been a sensational lunch.

b'stilla cantina

When I spoke to the owner/chef he said that the hope was that B’Stilla Cantina will be successful and then the concept would be rolled out in other locations. I hope that happens soon because I predict that tiny little shop in Fitzroy very quickly won’t be able to cope with demand.

B’Stilla Cantina, 277B Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, 9417 2858

Wednesday to Monday. 12pm – late

B'Stilla Cantina 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: Addict, 240-242 Johnston St, Fitzroy

addict fitzroy

Addict has just opened in Fitzroy and I think it’s particularly well-named because clearly Fitzrovians are addicted to coffee and brunch for yet another cafe to open in the suburb.

addict fitzroy

Addict has removed all traces of the fluorescent lit, dingy Fitzroy Curry House and transformed the prime corner spot on Johnston and Gore Street with an airy, light-filled single room cafe. There are small tables, a long bench seat and a large central communal table – but the best seats in the house are the sun-drenched window stools facing Johnston Street.

addict fitzroy

I also liked the hanging macrame greenery to lend some life to the bare white walls.

addict fitzroy

The menu is short and sharp, with breakfast all day and lunch from 11:30am. Being a freezing gloomy day I ordered the pork belly with a classic combination of apple puree and a apple and walnut salad ($18). Unfortunately I found this cut not particularly well-cooked as it was laced with thick wads of fat and the skin wasn’t crisp. There wasn’t much meat to accompany the tangy snow pea tendril salad sadly.

addict fitzroy

K ordered the corn fritters with kasundi, haloumi and a coriander and mizuna salad ($17) plus she requested a change from poached eggs to scrambled as she was pregnant. The substitution was no hassle at all for the friendly staff (no hipster attitude evident) and the fritters were herby, corn kernel-stuffed fluffballs with just the right balance of flour in the mixture.

addict fitzroy

My lunch was finished off by a stack of wholemeal buttermilk pancakes from the breakfast menu ($16.50). These pancakes were the highlight of my meal and some of the best pancakes I’ve had in recent memory. The two pancakes were so light they almost levitated off the plate yet with a springy thickness and perfectly circular crust to ensure that the poached quinces didn’t turn the dish into a soggy mess. Don’t miss this dish.

addict fitzroy

I think that Addict will hold its own despite having some heavy-hitting cafes within spitting distance. The ambience is soft and relaxed, the menu is interesting without being scary and it’s a particularly kid-friendly venue with room to park a pram, a high chair and even a kids menu (a rarity in Fitzroy).

Addict, 240-242 Johnston St, Fitzroy (03) 9415 6420

Monday – Friday 7-4

Saturday – Sunday 8-4

Addict Food and Coffee on Urbanspoon

HOT: The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014 awards

good cafe guide

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: Stagger Lee’s, 276 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

stagger lees fitzroy

Stagger Lee’s is a new addition to the Fitzroy cafe scene and is as excellent as you’d expect from the operators of ever-busy and award-winning Proud Mary in Collingwood.

I’m not sure what used to be housed in the prime corner site on Brunswick and Victoria Streets but now it’s a bustling cafe spilling out on the pavement tables. My dining companion and I visited Stagger Lee’s three times between us in one day (a record surely) and was thrilled with our experience each time.

stagger lees fitzroy

The decor is pretty similar in aesthetic to Proud Mary – large communal tables festooned with blooms, smaller tables and a booth, a slightly intimidating coffee counter displaying a massive Synesso and a glass cabinet of ready-made sandwiches and treats.

stagger lees fitzroy

The breakfast and lunch menu at Stagger Lee’s is short and sweet. There are some run-of-the-mill options which are highly priced ($10 milkshakes and $13.50 toastie?) so veer towards the more interesting options.

Regular readers will know that I don’t shy away from strong, punchy flavours in the morning. I made a beeline for The Mexican ($16); two lightly pan-fried corn tortillas from Casa Iberica topped with charred corn, tomatillo salsa, guacamole, two fried but still runny-yolked eggs, a dab of creme fraiche and garnished with fresh coriander and nigella seeds.

stagger lees fitzroy

The bright yet light flavours melded well together, with the only thing missing being a hit of habanero sauce. I did notice some sriracha bottles so perhaps go with a squirt of that.

stagger lees fitzroy

Also from the breakfast menu I tried with shrooms ‘n’ truffles ($17.50), a luxuriously rich dish of meaty pan-roasted pine mushrooms, creamy truffled polenta punctuated with a confit egg yolk and finished off with shavings of pecorino and ‘farmhouse crouts’ – roughly torn bits of fried bread. A winner if you like the earthiness of autumnal mushrooms.

Stagger Lees Fitzroy

A lighter but no less large option was the lunch salad of house-smoked local river trout shredded roughly into chunks, grilled asparagus, soft boiled egg, potatoes and some sort of unidentifiable but delicious green sauce ($19).

stagger lees fitzroy

For dessert we shared another one of the breakfast dishes, described simply as ‘pumpkin and walnut’ ($16). It was two doorstop slabs of lightly spiced pumpkin loaf, vanilla-infused pumpkin marmalade, crunchy candied walnuts, tangy yoghurt ice cream and a light drizzle of Canadian maple syrup. It was quite a sweet, heavy dish – really more like a double serve of de-constructed pumpkin or carrot cake complete with cream cheese frosting. I think it would sit very uncomfortably if one person ate it all – so share the love!

The service throughout our various meals was friendly and efficient and we were asked each time with genuine interest how our meals were. To which I responded ‘EXCELLENT’ each time.

Stagger Lee’s, 276 Brunswick St, Fitzroy 03 94195564

Monday – Friday 7:00am-4:00pm

Saturday – Sunday 8:00am-4:00pm

Stagger Lee's on Urbanspoon