HOT: Fifty-Six Threads, 56 Derby St, Kensington

fifty six threads cafe

Fifty-Six Threads is a social enterprise cafe located in the unlikely location at the bottom of a housing commission block in Kensington.

The cafe is a project for AMES, Australia’s largest provider of humanitarian settlement, education, training and employment services for refugees and newly arrived migrants. Fifty-Six Threads is AMES’ second catering enterprise, with the first being Sorghum Sisters, an African catering business.

Fifty-Six Threads’ name is inspired by its location (ie number 56 Derby Street) and the many cultural threads that run through the cafe and the local community.  During our visit on a rainy weekday it was fairly quiet but a diverse cross-section of clientele trickled in, from the postie to a local resident to families.

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Given the dour exterior the cafe’s interior is modern and funky, with lots of geometric angles softened with beautiful pendant lights suspended from the ceiling.

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Coffee comes from STREAT, another social enterprise based near Kensington, and the food is all made on site by a single (professional) chef.

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The menu contains simple cafe classics at an unbeatable price. A huge home made sausage roll with delicious tomato relish is $3.50; the burger with chips is $13 and the generous French toast is $14.

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The burger is a stand out as the home made patty is a loose conglomeration of mince and herbs, grilled to crusty perfection. It’s sandwiched between a floury bap along with fresh tomato, lettuce and beetroot (tinned unfortunately).

To enhance the community feel there’s a small bookshelf with children’s and adults books.

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It’s actually a rotating library for the local community so that you can take the books away, with the polite request that you return them when you’re done.

Fifty-Six Threads is a simple, relaxing  cafe (with a funky Latin soundtrack on our visit) if you’re in Kensington looking for good value food and coffee with friendly service.

They also offer very reasonable catering with mini cakes/muffins at $3 per person and savoury finger food at $3 each and sandwiches/wraps at $7.50 per person. Best of all you know that your money is going to a good cause.


Fifty-Six Threads, 56 Derby St, Kensington (03) 9376 6885

Wed-Sun 7:30-3:30pm

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HOT: The Rusty Fox, 501 Macaulay Rd, Kensington

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The Rusty Fox is the kind of cafe, deli and foodstore that every neighbourhood high street should be lucky enough to call their own.

On my visit, almost every customer was greeted by name – a healthy population of regulars is a good sign. Apparently the owners are all Kensington locals too.

The space is small but packs a lot in. The front room houses the a long bar/dining bench. The few seats in the sunny front window are prime real estate and if you creep down the corridor there’s a small outdoor courtyard.

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This is in addition to several fridges of house made and brought in produce such as Istra bacon and Holy Goat cheeses and their ready made meals.

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On the opposite recycled timber wall are high shelves full of condiments, sauces and dry goods and a narrow kitchen and coffee counter. The back wall holds shelves selling Noisette bread and features whimsical art from Melbourne street artist Kaffeine (don’t miss the mural in the back laneway of the store).

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The all day menu is short but interesting. I veer towards the warm sweet potato and pumpkin tart with smoky maple (which you can buy by the jar), crispy bacon and watercress salad ($16). The chef warns me that it’s being made from scratch so there’s a bit of wait.

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The wait is worth it because I can see exactly how the dish is being made. Puree of warm potato is smeared on a rectangle of puff pastry, cubes of pumpkin are placed on top along with the bacon. Then it’s fresh out of the oven and onto my plate, with the puff pastry all hot and flyaway.

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You must leave room for dessert because one of the owners was the head pastry chef at Rockpool and the counter groans with calorie-laden sweets.

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It was so hard to choose…so I chose two! The chocolate mousse cake ($7.50) was rich and moist like a Sacher torte and I took home an extra tub of the mousse to share with my family because it was so good.

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The olive and pistachio cake ($4.50) was gluten-free treat, with piped lemon curd and foraged local lavendar as a garnish.

The Rusty Fox is a homely place that serves its local populace well, with Five Senses coffee, a neat well-executed menu, gourmet pantry supplies and ready made meals. Just make sure you try the cakes!

The Rusty Fox, 501 Macaulay Rd, Kensington

Tuesday to Friday, 9am until 7pm; Saturday 8am-5pm.

The Rusty Fox on Urbanspoon

HOT: Frying Colours, 520 Macaulay Road, Kensington

frying colours kensington
Frying Colours is a modern Korean restaurant in Kensington and it’s a dream come true and a labour of love by Min Hui Lee and his partner Robert. Min is the Korean chef and designer of the restaurant and Robert helps out at the front of house when he’s not at his day job. Together they present delicious food in relaxed surroundings.

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Min was a designer in a former life and the restaurant is handsomely fitted out. There is lots of wood and concrete with elements of industria and I particularly liked the built-in waiter’s station.

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My first impression of Frying Colours was the incredible hospitality they showed to our party when we turned up with diners ranging from a 9 month old baby to my parents in their 60s. They didn’t blink an eye, helping us settle in with two high chairs, packing prams in the corner and getting food to the table quickly.

Granted, I was lucky enough to win lunch at Frying Colours (through Facebook no less!) but I got the feeling that everyone’s warm and welcoming manner was genuine and not just because I’d won a competition. They also didn’t know that I wrote a blog until I started using my camera.

We let the kitchen decide what to serve us and boy did they create a feast.

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To start we were presented with two plates of dumplings – kimchi dumplings with a soft silken skin and soy and sesame dipping sauce ($8) and steamed pork dumplings more suitable for gentler palates ($8).

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Next up were some tender deep fried calamari ($16) which fooled the kids into thinking they were eating chips. The adults dunked them in some fiery gochujang and everyone was happy.

frying colours kensington

The pork belly and kim chi stew was hearty and hot and perfect for the winter’s day. It’s a huge bowl though so it won’t leave you much room to try anything else. Even shared between 4 adults we couldn’t finish it.

frying colours kensington

The vegetarian bibimbap ($16) came out sizzling in a hot stone bowl and was generously heaped with a neat fan of vegetables and a wobbly egg yolk in the middle.

frying colours kensington

It was an excellent rendition of the dish though next time I’d leave it in the bowl for longer before mixing so that there was more of the crusty rice bottom to scrape up.

frying colours kensington

If you like Korean barbecue then the FC Mixed Grill is the dish to order ($40). You can pick three out of five different meats and we were given chicken thigh, marinated scotch fillet cooked medium and pork belly. The ridges from the flame grill were branded on the meat and imparted everything with a smoky charred flavour without losing any of the meat’s juiciness.

frying colours kensington

Korean cuisine is famous for their fried chicken and at Frying Colours you can choose your fried chicken with original, spicy or sweet soy ($19-32). The chicken didn’t lose any juiciness from the frying and the crispy batter was just right in terms of thickness and crunch. We took some leftovers home and reheated them in the oven and they were still very moist (with some steamed rice and the leftover kimchi – fantastic!).

frying colours kensington

If you can handle the heat then I recommend the spicy version as the gochujang gives the dish a less KFC, more Korean flavour.

frying colours kensington

For sides my pick is the wasabislaw ($5), a piquant and fresh counterpoint to all the frying and grilling. Except for the kimchi of course, for you must try it.

frying colours kensington

Min makes all the kimchi based on his grandmother’s recipe and he started the fermentation process for the first batch of kimchi 6 months before opening the restaurant. We tried two versions – a traditional cabbage and a cooling cucumber kimchi, both served in cute mason jars (ask whether you can take the rest of it home!). Both versions were well balanced with the flavours of soy, bean paste and chilli all distinguishable without any of the flavours being overpowering.

An hour passed and the kids started getting restless. The adults were still working their way through the feast so I asked Robert whether they had any dessert. He replied that there was no dessert menu (yet) but he had some ice creams upstairs we could have. Not thinking, I said yes, only then realising that he was giving Drumsticks to my children from the personal stash in his house upstairs! While I was very embarrassed by my request I was very impressed that he went above and beyond to ensure that everyone enjoyed their meal.

Frying Colours Kensington

I really loved the food and atmosphere at Frying Colours. It’s evident that everything has been done with care and they go out of their way to ensure that everyone has a good time. Robert kept repeating that they loved having kids come in and make a mess.  So I’m sure we’ll be back as a family to do just that!

Just note that they take bookings but leave some tables for walk-ins as they want the place to become a favourite for locals – and there’s nothing worse than walking down to your local to find it so packed you can’t get in.

Frying Colours, 520 Macaulay Road, Kensington (03) 9939 9679

Mon-Fri 12pm – 2.30pm and 5.30pm – 9pm, Sat 12pm – 10pm

Frying Colours on Urbanspoon

HOT: The Premises, 202 Bellair St, Kensington

the premises kensington

Elegant Bellair Street is a leafy residential road in Kensington and not really a place where you’d expect to find a hip cafe. But The Premises dominates its corner locale (right near Kensington train station) with a standout menu, Seven Seeds coffee and a recycled chic aesthetic that wouldn’t look out of place in the inner north.

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The space is all nooks and crannies with lots of levels. There’s a long bar, a line of old school desks at the front windows, bench seating, communal tables, and a busy coffee station. There’s even a food store/takeaway area dubbed ‘The Premises Jnr’ with sandwiches, soup, salads, pastries and housemade jams and preserves. Vintage highlights abound, including some covetable green lamps.

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I go out for breakfast a lot and I get bored seeing the same old thing on menus. So it was great to see a menu of unique dishes which wasn’t dominated by eggs done a million ways.

The Premises‘ menu changes with each season which means you should get there soon before they switch to a winter menu – which I’m sure will be awesome but then you may never be able to try the pan fried sardine fillets ($18).

the premises kensington

I’m not one to shy away from strong flavours in the morning and a plate of oily fish with chorizo and an olive-studded panzanella salad is exactly the kind of dish I gravitate to. I didn’t feel like my taste buds had been assaulted though, thanks to the mellowing effect of the soft poached egg. A beautifully presented, balanced and filling dish and a great way to dose up on omega 3.

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I also tried the burnt pineapple French toast with butterscotch mascarpone and salted toffee popcorn ($16.50). This was unabashedly dessert for breakfast, with a healthy dollop of marscapone flecked with popcorn, giving a welcome crunch to the standard French toast with fruit/maple syrup offering.

The Premises has clearly found a loyal local following. There were people waiting for the doors to open on Saturday morning and when I left just before the weekend brunch rush hour the place was packed. It seems to be the go-to place in the sleepy village of Kensington and clearly deserves its 3 star award in The Age’s Good Food Under $30 2014.

The Premises, 202 Bellair St, Kensington +61 3 9376 7565

Mon to Fri 7:00 am – 4:30 pm

Sat to Sun 8:00 am – 4:00 pm

The Premises on Urbanspoon

HOT Chat: Alyssa Milton of Lyssy May

I recently received a wallet made from an old Melways map (it covers the area of the CBD) and I was so thrilled with it that I contacted the maker, Alyssa Milton. Alyssa runs a craft label called Lyssy May from a studio in Kensington and today’s HOT chat is with her. Thanks Alyssa!

Alyssa, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to start your label Lyssy May?

I have always been interested in crafts and started selling things I had made from the age of 17 at local markets which I continued to do as a hobby for a number of years. After studying business and working in marketing I travelled and lived in London for a couple of years and whilst living overseas I was inspired to start creating handbags.

Upon my return to Australia I started to make bags using vintage fabrics I collected. They proved popular with friends and colleagues which eventually built to the point where I owned and operated my own store in Brisbane selling my designs and other handmade goods. I moved to Melbourne 2 years ago to soak up the local fashion scene and to expand my business.

Your bags and accessories are all produced using distinctive fabrics and papers. Where do you source your materials?

Everywhere! I am always on the look out both when out and about and also online. I have hundreds of fabrics I have collected over the years and often use basics like denim or corduroy which I team with special prints. I have also been collaborating with a textile designer for my latest range which features natural fibres.

Where do you turn for art and craft inspiration?

Vintage stores are a favourite haunt for inspiration. I also have a huge library of craft books dating back to the 1950’s which was passed on to me by my Grandmother. This is a real treasure trove of ideas for 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?

I think the most challenging thing is to continue to look at the bigger picture as day to day there can be many disappointments and lots of exciting moments which can be very draining. So over time I have learnt that things generally even out as long as you keep working hard and being focussed. Holidays are also a hard thing to manage but you need to try and make time to rest and recharge (although that is often easier said than done).

What are your next plans for Lyssy May?

The first thing is to make it through to Christmas as this is always my busiest time of year when the sewing machines are going nearly around the clock. The longer term plans are to continue to develop a reputation as delivering quality handmade Australian products and to one day open a concept store.

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

My studio is based in Kensington and I just love the community vibe of the suburb. The Luncheonette (173 Rankins Road, Kensington)  is a lovely little spot for coffee and Tonik (524 Macaulay Rd, Kensington +61 3 9376 9928) is perfect for a meal with friends.

In Richmond I love go to Bridge Road Florist (597-599 Bridge Rd, Richmond +61 3 9428 9715) who I rely on to always have fresh flowers in my house and the Bridge Hotel (642 Bridge Road, Richmond +61 3 9428 3852) is a great place to take advantage of the local specials on a weeknight when catching up with friends.

Fridays at the Mountain Goat brewery (North St & Clark St, Richmond +61 3 9428 1180) is also a great time to grab a sample tray of their beers.