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

small french bar footscray

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

small french bar footscray

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

small french bar footscray

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

small french bar footscray

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

small french bar footscray

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

small french bar footscray

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

small french bar footscray

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

small french bar footscray

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

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

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

small french bar footscray

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

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

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

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

Open 7 days 10am-5pm

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The Sweet Cycle cycling food tour with The Squeaky Wheel

The Sweet Cycle (9)

Maribyrnong City Council regularly run ‘Westside Discovery Tours’, a series of FREE tours for locals and visitors to introduce them to the secrets of Melbourne’s west side. (Read about some of their previous tours here and here).

Combining my passion for cycling and food I led a delicious tour with The Squeaky Wheel to discover some of the Westside’s best pastries, cakes, desserts and sweets. Here are some of our pics!

The Sweet Cycle (8)

First stop – Footscay’s iconic Olympic Doughnuts for fresh jam doughnuts. Only 80c each!

The Sweet Cycle (16)

The Sweet Cycle (17)

Second stop – Sourdough Kitchen Seddon, the only bakery in Melbourne that make sourdough pastries. Needless to say we packed doggie bags for takeaway.

The Sweet Cycle (11)

The Sweet Cycle (18)

Love the street art just around the corner too.

The Sweet Cycle (2)

The Sweet Cycle (1)

Cycling through the backstreets of Seddon to Yarraville.

The Sweet Cycle (3)

The Sweet Cycle (6)

Third stop – Amazing cakes from Cobb Lane, an artisan bakery and patisserie in Yarraville Village. The tiramisu gets my vote!

The Sweet Cycle (12)

Busy bakers making their famous doughnuts.

The Sweet Cycle (15)

Fourth stop – right next door is Hello Gelo, one of the few ice cream stores in the west that make their product on site. Their most popular flavour? Salted caramel.

The Sweet Cycle (13)

Final stop – T Cavallaro & Sons for best cannoli in Melbourne. Here’s proprietor Tony Cavallaro presenting a cannoli cake! Lucky Joel.

The Sweet Cycle (10)

The Sweet Cycle (14)

Also try the amaretti – they grind the almonds themselves and it creates a gorgeous chewy texture without the fake almond essence taste.

The Sweet Cycle (7)

 Keep an eye out on CycleStyle and The Squeaky Wheel‘s website for information about more cycling food tours in Melbourne’s west!

FREE Food Tours of Melbourne’s West – with me!

Maribyrnong City Council regularly run ‘Westside Discovery Tours’, a series of FREE tours for locals and visitors to introduce them to the secrets of Melbourne’s west side. (Read about some of their previous tours here and here).

New tours are available for booking from today.

Westside Discovery Tours May 2015 (1)

I will be leading a cycling tour with The Squeaky Wheel to discover some of the Westside’s best pastries, cakes, desserts and sweets. Free tastings too!

The Sweet Cycle

When: Sat 9 May, 1.30 -3pm

Where: Meet in front of Olympic Hot Doughnuts, Footscray Railway Station, Irving Street, Footscray

FREE Bookings required, limited to 10 places


If you have kids I will also be leading a Culture Mamas tour of family-friendly Footscray. It’ll be a 1.5 hour walk covering some of my favourite places to take kids to eat, shop and play in my neighbourhood, with tastings en route.

Family Friendly Tour of Footscray

When: Mon 4 May, 10 – 11.30am

Where: Meet in front of Olympic Hot Doughnuts, Footscray Railway Station, Irving Street, Footscray

FREE Bookings required, limited to 8 places

To book email with your full name, street address, contact number and selected tour. Only one tour per person and not available for group bookings of 4+ people. For more information click here.

HOT: Rudimentary, 16-20 Leeds St, Footscray

rudimentary cafe

Rudimentary is the most exciting addition to Footscray’s burgeoning cafe scene – because it’s going to the closest cafe to my house! And it’s kid-friendly! And bike-friendly! And the food is great!

I am four !!!! excited.

rudimentary cafe

The new cafe is set on an expansive corner block bordering Leeds Street and my regular bike route on Donald Street. Despite its proximity to bustling Little Saigon market it’s a quiet, lovely space, a garden oasis in the middle of concrete downtown Footscray.

rudimentary footscray

The owner Des, an architect by training, has taken a decrepit carpark, dandied up four shipping containers, laid out turf and set out raised garden beds that will provide the kitchen with fresh fruit, veges and herbs.

rudimentary footscray

There are multiple bike racks and a coffee window that acts as a bike-through (or pram-through).

rudimentary cafe

rudimentary cafe

The interior decor is just as pleasing, with a neutral palette of white, beige, cream, and wood and delicate filament lights suspended from the ceiling.

rudimentary cafe

A shiny La Marzocco churns out Small Batch coffee and the kitchen is open for all to see.

My pick of the seating is the big communal table surrounded by comfortable padded vintage swivel chairs. Or maybe on a sunny day one of the window benches, watching the passing parade of ever-changing Footscray.

rudimentary cafe

The menu provides all-day breakfast options and lunch dishes from 11am. I choose one of Des’ favourite dishes, braised pork belly with crispy pig’s ear, chilli and tamarind and fried eggs ($17). The dish is substantial and would be a fantastic hangover cure, with meat falling off the bone, crunchy crackling and twisted ear-y bits topped with a punchy sauce.

rudimentary cafe

I then try one of the sweet breakfast options, a red rice pudding with whipped coconut, mango and ginger crumble ($14.5). This is a sensational dish of melting rice grains with just a touch of bite. The creaminess well punctuated by the fine crumble and the mango lends the dish just the right amount of sweetness.

If you don’t want to eat a whole sweet dish then the coffee counter offers housemade goodies supplemented with sweets from Cobb Lane in Yarraville.

rudimentary footscray

Not being a coffee drinker I ordered a chai instead ($4), a delightfully creamy concoction with gentle spice notes on the nose. After testing many chair blends the barista decided to make her own and Rudimentary‘s cup is certainly one of the better examples of an often watery and bland drink.

Des is hoping to make Rudimentary a community hub and I hope that it succeeds. Certainly I’m excited that it’s going to be my new local.

Rudimentary, 16-20 Leeds St, Footscray

Mon-Fri 7am-4pm

Sat-Sun 8am – 4pm 

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HOT: Qua’n 888, Shop 24, Little Saigon Shopping Centre, Ryan and Leeds Streets, Footscray

Quan 888

Thanks to a tip-off from the on-the-pulse Footscray Food Blog I dropped into Qua’n 888 on my last grocery shop to Footscray’s Little Saigon market.

What we’re used to in Australia is generally southern Vietnamese cuisine with a smattering of northern Vietnamese dishes – but food from the middle region doesn’t tend to get much of a look in.

At Qua’n 888 they specialise in food from the cities of Da Nang, Hoi An and Hue. You can find the small restaurant in Little Saigon market, at the opposite end of the crowded chaos of the fresh food stalls.

The decor is serviceable and filled with neon, food posters and random Vietnamese/Chinese bric-a-brac. The service is very friendly and the young owners speak English, which helps if you need guidance through the menu.

quan 888

They have two noodle best-sellers – Bun Cha Ca Da Nang (Da Nang style vermicelli fish cake soup) and My Quang (Quang Nam style noodle with sauteed pork, prawn and quail egg) (both $10). I tried the former, which came out with the pungent purple shrimp paste and additional chilli and garlic thoughtfully presented to one side along with the crunchy bean shoots and mint leaves.

I happen to love the strong, stinky aroma of shrimp paste and if you choose not to tip in the whole dish of condiments the soup becomes less rounded in flavour and frankly less interesting. The fishcakes were squishy and chewy, like fried tofu puffs, and very distinct from the bland pouffes you often get from commercial packets.

quan 888

I also tried the banh selection, which offers three different forms of steamed glutinous rice cake with various fillings ($10). I particularly loved the mouth feel of the slippery, translucent banh loc, the shorter of the two rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves and filled with prawn and pork. The banh nam, the longer of the wrapped parcels, was too mushy for my liking and contained prawn, pork and mushrooms. The banh beo in the little bowls were freshly steamed to order and sort of an in-between in texture topped with shrimp, fried shallots and shards of peanut. You dip the rice cakes as you wish in a nuoc cham.

To drink I tried the homemade corn milk, a refreshing concoction of freshly squeezed corn juice, condensed milk, cow’s milk and sugar ($4). Next time I’m going to try their homemade soy milk ($4).

When I paid the friendly owner told me that I must return on a weekend to try the Cao Lau Hoi An, Hoi An style noodles with roast pork. There’s only limited availability because the noodles are hard to source, while the pork is apparently similar to char siu.

Like Co Thu Quan next door, I love that Qua’n 888 is introducing Melburnians to the distinctive regional flavours of Vietnam. You won’t find their style of food everywhere and if you’re keen to explore more than pho and rice paper rolls then try it out.

Qua’n 888, Shop 24, Little Saigon Shopping Centre, Ryan and Leeds Streets, Footscray

10am-6:30pm daily

The HOT List: Where to celebrate Chinese New Year 2015 in Melbourne

chinese new year

This year the Lunar New Year is Thursday 19 February 2015 and it will be celebrating the Year of the Goat (or Sheep).

Even if you’re not of Asian descent it’s a great time in Melbourne for festivities and yummy food!

Here’s a list of free Chinese New Year events in Melbourne in date order:

  • Victoria Street Lunar Festival Richmond – Sun 1 Feb, 11am-10pm. While technically the Vietnamese celebrate Tet there’s a large enough Chinese-Vietnamese population for Victoria Street Richmond to hold a CNY celebration. It’s very popular and gets a bit crowded but the street is closed off for food stalls and performances.
  • East Meets West Lunar Festival Footscray – Sun 8 Feb, 10am-10pm Hopkins St Footscray. This is the celebration we’ll be attending as it’s in our neighbourhood! Food stalls, games and rides will fill the street.
  • Crown’s Riverwalk Hawker’s Bazaar – Fri 13 Feb – Sun 22 Feb 11am-11pm Outside Crown Complex, Southbank. Chinese street food and entertainment by the Yarra. Some Crown restaurants will also have special CNY menus.
  • Box Hill Street Festival – Sat 14 Feb, 1pm-1am Market St & Main St, Box Hill. Box Hill is another Asian enclave in Melbourne and they’ll be celebrating CNY with cultural performances, game,  amusement rides and food.
  • Springvale Lunar New Year Festival – Sun 15 Feb, 9am-9pm Buckingham Ave, Springvale. Springvale has a large Vietnamese/Chinese population and this CNY festival coincides with Australia Day, so two holidays in one! See martial arts displays, lion dances, folk dancing and of course lots of Asian food stalls.
  • FCA Melbourne Chinatown Chinese New Year Festival – Mon 16 Feb – Sun 1 Mar. The big celebration in Melbourne, with the opening ceremony on Sun 22 Feb followed by the Dragon awakening ceremony and parade.
  • Prahran Market – Sat 21 Feb 163 Commercial Rd, South Yarra. The Market is offering a range of free cultural activities including children’s cooking activity, lion dance, Chinese music.
  • Chinese New Year at Noble Park Racecourse (Sat 21 Feb – Sun 22 Feb) – Chinese Lion Dance, Firecrackers, Traditional Folk Music, Dancers, Martial Artists and much more.
  • Chinese New Year at Federation Square (Thu 26 Feb – Sun 1 Mar) –  interactive performances, make your own dragon and free Tai Chi and Health Qigong demonstrations, mahjong lessons and a full stage program on 1 March with live music, dancing and a colourful performance.
  • Glen Waverley Chinese Lantern Festival – Sun 1 Mar, 10am-9pm. Kingsway, Glen Waverley. International food stalls, cultural performances and activities.

Also try these Chinese restaurants for a special CNY meal:

David’s 4 Cecil Street Prahran

Tao Tao House 815 Glenferrie Rd Hawthorn

Golden Dragon Palace 363 Manningham Rd Lower Templestowe

Shark Fin House 131 Little Bourke St Melbourne

How will you be celebrating The Year of the Goat in 2015?

HOT: Fox in the Corn, 4 Droop Street, Footscray

fox in the corn

It’s a good thing my paleo diet experiment died in its early stages (‘Faileo?’), as it means that I can eat my way through the fresh pasta available at Fox in the Corn in Footscray seven days a week.

Fox in the Corn is a new venture from the founders of Millgrove Pasta in Williamstown. Five years after establishing their wholesale pasta business, they’ve decided to re-inject Mediterranean fare back into Asian and African-dominated Footscray.

Fox in the Corn, 4 Droop Street, Footscray

The space is handsome and light-filled. Plywood black padded booths hug a U-shape around the white-subway-tiled bar (they’re still waiting on their liquor licence and will serve craft beers as soon as it’s approved). There are a few subtle hints of greenery here and there, including a giant terrarium.

fox in the corn

The menu is a one-page affair. There are three simple starters – olives, jamon, pickled octopus – a green salad and a caprese salad. The main event is the pasta and you can choose between fettuccine or ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta or beef (+ $3).

The difficulty is in selecting a sauce. There are eleven to choose from, with a pasta served with house made napoli starting at $12.50 to most expensive dish being smoked salmon cream, rocket and capers ($18).

fox in the corn

I decided on fettuccine with slow cooked beef ragu with spring onion ($17.50) and ravioli with pancetta, leek and tomato with panko and parsley ($16.50). Both dishes were generously sized and two dishes could easily feed three people.

fox in the corn

The fettucine ribbons were squiggly and slightly chewy, as good handmade pasta should be. The ravioli had a good proportion of filling vs casing and was similarly cooked al dente. Of the two sauces I preferred the pancetta as it had a complexity of flavour from the chunks of smoky pancetta that the ragu (what most of us know as bolognaise) lacked. Though I was impressed by the beef, which is minced in house.

For dessert there’s a range of Gundowring flavours ($4.50) but we were so full from our pasta that we didn’t need anything else.

Fox in the Corn is one of a kind in Footscray and I think it will do well. They’re open 11am-11pm which means we could have a kid-friendly dinner at 5pm. The pasta is excellent quality and the sauces are vibrant and fresh, with enough options to suit every taste. If you’re not in the mood for a meal then they also serve a weekly rotation of coffee beans from Monk Bodhi Dharma.

Fox in the Corn, 4 Droop Street, Footscray

Daily 11am-11pm

Fox in the Corn on Urbanspoon

HOT: Brother Nancy, 182 Essex St, West Footscray

brother nancy

Hidden deep within residential West Footscray is a small cafe called Brother Nancy.

Owner Leigh is a WeFo local who was travelling east for work. With a two year old and another child on the way, he decided for lifestyle reasons that he needed to work closer to home. Plus he knew that the area needed a cafe like Brother Nancy.

brother nancy

This location, formerly a butcher, fish and chip shop and lately a tax office, has been completely stripped and rebuilt by Leigh . He made the benches, he made the tables, he made the shelves. He even installed the new kitchen.

brother nancy

Leigh’s brother isn’t actually called Nancy (he’s Jason) but the name of the cafe is a charming, kid-brother ribbing of his sibling. I love it!

The menu is small and surprising. Firstly everything is under $16. This is a town where I fully expect to pay close to $20 for a cafe-quality dish.

The classically-trained chef Jordi Boyer is French so there are some slight French leanings in the menu. For instance, for breakfast you can order a savoury crepe with mushrooms spinach, cheese and bechamel ($10.50), a French breakfast of poached eggs, spinach and hollandaise on sourdough ($12.50) or a Chapin breakfast of pan fried plantains, scrambled eggs, cheese and black beans on sourdough (the most expensive item on the menu at $16).

The lunch menu is headed ‘midday’ but I was able to order from it at 11am – so maybe it’s available all day? There’s a fish and chip burger ($14.50), gazpacho ($9) and even steak tartare. I don’t think anyone expects to see minced raw meat in a suburban cafe menu but the Brother Nancy version is quickly becoming a signature dish according to Leigh. One customer even drove all the way from Balwyn to try it!

brother nancy

I ordered the grilled sardines on toasted sourdough with black olive tapenade and marinated capsicum ($13.50). Lots of sunny, salty Mediterranean flavours shone through the dish, with a cool sluice of tomato, watermelon and capsicum summer soup for some palate contrast. The only element I wasn’t expecting were the cold sardines. I emphasise that the lightly fried then brined sardines weren’t bad – it was more that I was expecting freshly fan-fried fish as you see in other cafes.

brother nancy

For dessert I had the French toast. It was a delightful arrangement of eggy sourdough toast, fresh berries and berry jam, a dollop of vanilla creme fraiche and a sprinkling of pistachios. And the price? A measly $12.

brother nancy

To go with your tea (leaves from Tea Drop) or coffee (beans from Proud Mary) try one of the house made sweets. On my visit the chef had made individual tart tatins and an apple and almond tart, but my heart was sold to the chocolate chip cookies made by Leigh’s wife ($3). The perfect thing for nibbling on my cycle ride home!

Brother Nancy is a really welcome addition to a relatively cafe-starved neighbourhood. It’s clearly a labour of love for Leigh and his family too and I’m always drawn towards ventures where the passion and enthusiasm of the owners are evident in everything you see, touch and eat. A bientot, Brother Nancy!

Brother Nancy, 182 Essex St, West Footscray

Mon, Wed – Sun 7am-4:30pm

Brother Nancy on Urbanspoon
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HOT: Westside Discovery Tours

Tours_cover_  red green & yellow_green back

A few times a year Maribyrnong City Council run ‘Westside Discovery Tours’, a series of free tours for locals and visitors to introduce them to the secrets of Melbourne’s west side. (Read about some of their previous tours here and here).

New tours and now available for booking now and covers topics as diverse as art, history and food.


I will be leading a tour which combines my passion for food and cycling! With my friends at The Squeaky Wheel I will be taking a small group on an 1.5 hour eating and cycling tour of Footscray, my home and one of the most diverse and delicious suburbs in Melbourne.

PEDALLING FOOTSCRAY’S FOOD ICONS is a fun way to explore Footscray’s food culture – from doughnuts to goi cuon to cannoli. Bring your appetite and your bike and get ready to eat, shop and ride!

Sat 25 Oct, 12.30pm – 2pm

Meet in front of Olympic Hot Doughnuts, Footscray Railway Station, Irving Street, Footscray

FREE Bookings required, limited to 10 places

To book your place on a tour email

For more information about the tours visit, and


HOT: Bo De Trai, 94 Hopkins St, Footscray

bo de trai

I’m not vegetarian but I can appreciate a good vegetarian restaurant when I encounter one! And Bo De Trai, a cheap and cheerful vegetarian Vietnamese/Chinese restaurant in Footscray, is awesome. In fact, I think some of their dishes are better than their original meaty versions.

Bo De Trai is a restaurant which is linked to the Quang Minh Buddhist Temple in Braybrook and all the profits go back to fund the temple’s work (if that makes you more or less inclined to eat there).

Over time I’ve eaten a large portion of their menu, eat-in and takeaway. My advice is to stick to the rice paper rolls, the crispy spring rolls and the soup noodles, particularly the Vietnamese style dishes. I’ve heard the claypot and slow-cooked dishes are good but from my experience I’d avoid anything stir-fried – their technique is on the clammy, saucy side.

bo de trai

To start try the Bo Bia. Five huge rice paper rolls absolutely stuffed with mixed stir-fried vegies and a fairly standard dipping sauce. You could easily fill up on a plate of these and there’s your lunch or dinner for only $6.50.

bo de trai

My go-to dish is Bun Hue, a colourful spicy noodle soup filled with chunks of tofu, fried gluten and vegetables ($9). You can pile your bowl even higher with the accompanying array of bean sprouts and different mint leaves. The broth is the highlight, as it has a surprising amount of flavour given it’s vegetarian. Be warned the chilli factor is pretty high so you may not necessarily want to add the fresh chilli that’s provided.

bo de trai
The other dish which is an excellent interpretation of the original is the Bun Rieu ($9). Normally a homestyle tomato-based vermicelli soup with crab, the vegetarian version used egg. In texture it was completely different of course but in taste it was spot on. Very comforting on a cold day.

There’s only one choice of dessert – a ‘caramel cake’ for a measly $1.50! It’s actually a little plastic tub of creme caramel and quite delicious – smooth and silky with a deep caramel flavour.

bo de trai

The staff are volunteers and hence the service is almost non-existent though confusedly friendly when it happens. People sort of amble in the back rooms doing whatever until you poke your head in or you have to wave your arms about wildly if staff are, by chance, serving someone else. Not everyone speaks English so you may have to do a bit of sign language to be understood.

Just call it a genuine experience of what it would be like to dine out (vegetarian) in Vietnam.

Bo De Trai, 94 Hopkins St, Footscray (03) 9689 9909

Mon-Sun 10am-7pm

Bo de Trai on Urbanspoon