HOT: The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

The Grand Masters The Grand Hotel 333 Burnley St Richmond 1 HOT:  The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

Melbourne has so many eateries opening week after week that it’s easy to get caught up in the fervour of chasing new dining experiences.

But we musn’t forget the stalwarts of the city’s dining scene, places like The Grand Hotel in Richmond that have been serving happy customers for more than twelve years in Burnley Street.

I confess that despite moving to Melbourne twelve years ago myself I have never ventured to The Grand until last week. I was invited to attend one of The Grand’s special monthly events, The Grand Masters dinner to celebrate the old guard of Melbourne restaurant scene for AFR’s Australia’s Top 100 Restaurants, the only peer voted restaurant list in Australia.

The Grand Masters The Grand Hotel 333 Burnley St Richmond 2 HOT:  The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

Branco Cokesa, Alex Almatrah and Peter Watt  are three front of house staff that have worked in the hospitality business for over 40 years and together garnered over 165 (!) chef hats between them. While they served the diners in one of The Grand’s upstairs function rooms, they regaled us with anecdotes about ACDC, Billy Joel, Alan Bond and other celebrities, shared stories about their love for hospitality and the special place The Grand had in their hearts.

The Grand Masters The Grand Hotel 333 Burnley St Richmond 3 HOT:  The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

The night highlighted the skill of The Grand’s co-head chefs, two young Italians in their late 20s with Michelin-starred resumes.

The Grand Masters The Grand Hotel 333 Burnley St Richmond 4 HOT:  The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

First course was a Battuta di Tonno, a simple tuna tartare inspired by Olimpia Bortolotto’s dish served at Cafe Meni’s in St Kilda.

The Grand Masters The Grand Hotel 333 Burnley St Richmond 5 HOT:  The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

The pasta course was a dish that Stephen Downes rated as one of the 100 things you must eat before you die – chef Valerio Nucci’s Vincisgrassi Lasagne. It’s a traditional dish from the Marche region of Italy and not one you’re likely to find on many restaurant menus. The secret ingredients? Pot roasted chuck steak slow-cooked with vegetables and herbs, chopped kidneys brains and liver and lashings of butter!

The Grand Masters The Grand Hotel 333 Burnley St Richmond 8 HOT:  The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

The main course was a melting roast porchetta with baby carrots, beetroot and spinach inspired by Bill Marchetti’s Latin, THE place for the rich and famous to dine in the 80s and 90s.

The Grand Masters The Grand Hotel 333 Burnley St Richmond 7 HOT:  The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

The finale was developed by the The Grand’s ‘Young Guns in the Kitchen’ a white chocolate semifreddo with caramelised rock melon. It’s not often you see melon on dessert menus these days and the refreshing sweetness was a perfect counterpoint for the richness of the previous savoury dishes.

The Grand is the kind of place that families visit over generations and it has consistently been awarded one hat since 2006.  It’s not flashy or cutting edge but serves authentic Italian food in a warm and inviting environment where you know you’ll be taken care of. Treasure it, Melbourne.

The Grand Masters Wednesday 20 May and Wednesday 27 May

The Como Room, The Grand, 333 Burnley Street, Richmond (03) 9429 2530

Mon – Sun 12pm till 11pm

Fri – Sat 12pm till 1am

minilink HOT:  The Grand Masters, The Grand Hotel, 333 Burnley St, Richmond

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

DSC05810 820x544 The HOT List: Where to celebrate Chinese New Year 2015 in Melbourne

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: The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014 awards

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

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

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

Top Paddock* (Richmond) – eftpos best cafe

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

Dakdak (Moorabbin) – local hero award.

Seven Seeds (Carlton) – best coffee

Pellegrini’s (CBD) – Hall of Fame

Ora* (Kew) – best food cafe

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

Everyday Coffee (Collingwood) – best brew bar

Guerilla Espresso* (Footscray) – best small cafe

Industry Beans* (Fitzroy) – best boutique roaster

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

Check out the award winners for 2013. 

HOT: Little Big Sugar Salt, 385 Victoria St, Abbotsford

Little Big Sugar Salt 385 Victoria St Abbotsford 4 HOT: Little Big Sugar Salt, 385 Victoria St, Abbotsford

Little Big Sugar Salt is a small cafe in Abbotsford, a fish out of water in amongst Vietnamese dominated Victoria Street.

Little Big Sugar Salt 385 Victoria St Abbotsford 5 HOT: Little Big Sugar Salt, 385 Victoria St, Abbotsford

It hides in a corner building and feels like someone’s house, with three small white-washed rooms with artworks, books in the fireplaces and felt cushioned shipping pallets as bench seating.

Little Big Sugar Salt 385 Victoria St Abbotsford 3 HOT: Little Big Sugar Salt, 385 Victoria St, Abbotsford

Little Big Sugar Salt 385 Victoria St Abbotsford 6 HOT: Little Big Sugar Salt, 385 Victoria St, Abbotsford

Now it stands out even more as its revamped approach delivers interesting, healthy and one could even say somewhat faddish elements into its cafe menu. The reason for their change of heart? They say ‘rather than serving you buttery, gluteny, rich meals…our new menu focuses as much on health as it does on flavour.’

Speaking of which, the pun-tastic menu is like a wheel of fortune. Basically you pick a quadrant to choose food of a small size, a big meal, something sweet or something savoury. I like the idea and I get the reason for the circular format but to be honest it was difficult to negotiate with my sleep-addled brain.

Fullscreen capture 26052014 114353 AM.bmp 540x439 HOT: Little Big Sugar Salt, 385 Victoria St, Abbotsford

I was invited to try out their new menu and after turning that card around and around in my hands we finally landed on Freekakes ($17) and Guilt-free Hot Mess ($17) along with some spiced kombucha and house-made almond milk.
Little Big Sugar Salt 385 Victoria St Abbotsford 7 HOT: Little Big Sugar Salt, 385 Victoria St, Abbotsford

The drinks were both delicious over ice – in fact, the almond milk was almost like a peanut butter milkshake! It’s not normally on the drinks menu but ask for it if you like nutty milk.

Little Big Sugar Salt 385 Victoria St Abbotsford 8 HOT: Little Big Sugar Salt, 385 Victoria St, Abbotsford

The freekakes consisted of four freekeh, sweet potato and currant fritters with cashew cream, chilli jam, wilted kale and two fried eggs. While visually it didn’t look fantastic it was a taste sensation, particularly with the chilli jam lifting the flavours beyond the potentially bland.

In contrast, the Guilt-free Hot Mess (for your Gluten-free Girlfriend was the subtitle) looked gorgeous but did not deliver in terms of texture. The tower of mini gluten-free almond pancakes were much too dry and crumbly, almost like eating baked cottage cheese.

Little Big Sugar Salt 385 Victoria St Abbotsford 2 HOT: Little Big Sugar Salt, 385 Victoria St, Abbotsford

I had a chat to the manager about the pancakes and he explained that they were still experimenting with using gluten-free ingredients to make just-like-gluten fluffy pancakes, so I hope they advance beyond almond meal.  The accompaniments were great – coconut dairy-free ice cream, a pool of berry compote and sugar-free date syrup finished off with a pretty perimeter of fresh tropical fruit.

Little Big Sugar Salt 385 Victoria St Abbotsford 1 HOT: Little Big Sugar Salt, 385 Victoria St, Abbotsford

As a final test of their ‘sweet’ side we tried the full-of-gluten-and-dairy crumpets ($10). There’s a rotating roster of flavours and on our visit there was honey with roasted banana and a gorgeous plum marmalade that I could have eaten by the jar.

Little Big Sugar Salt is a worthwhile destination for food that’s virtuous and delicious. With a couple of tweaks in the kitchen (and please, all menu text written in one direction!) it could be a real winner, especially for those who have food intolerances.

Little Big Sugar Salt, 385 Victoria St, Abbotsford 03 9427 8818

Mon to Fri 6:30 am – 3:00 pm

Sat to Sun 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

 
minilink HOT: Little Big Sugar Salt, 385 Victoria St, Abbotsford

HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

Romulus and Remus 648 Bridge Road Richmond 1 HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

Romulus and Remus are characters from Roman mythology – which quickly gives you an idea of the kind of cuisine you can expect from this restaurant in Bridge Road Richmond.

I was invited to sample some items from their broadly Italian menu which is all about ‘modern day feasting’. This translates to sharing plates, hearty food, generous serves and convivial surroundings.

If you didn’t know that Romulus and Remus was there it’d easy to miss. While Bridge Road is renowned as a shopping strip there are not the kind of shops or restaurants to invite foot traffic down the bottom end of Bridge Road before it crosses the Yarra.

Romulus and Remus 648 Bridge Road Richmond 3 HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

Romulus and Remus 648 Bridge Road Richmond 5 HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

Romulus and Remus is open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week. You can choose to sit at the bar (where there are a selection of beers pouring from the custom made glistening copper taps), take a curvaceous booth for a romantic date or draw a chair at one of the super-long communal tables for a long lunch.

Romulus and Remus 648 Bridge Road Richmond 4 HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

I particularly liked the square planter boxes turned tables which basked in the sun’s rays and through which spindly olive trees grew. On the other hand the moody private dining room for 12-14 diners evoked a breezy autumn, with wheat sheafs as a decorative feature and a huge photograph of a golden tree overlooking the table.

Romulus and Remus 648 Bridge Road Richmond 7 HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

The head chef Matt English has worked in various Italian restaurants around town and the menu lists fuss-free, traditional Italian food. I tried one of the signature dishes, crispy gnocchi served on a pea puree with chorizo, goat’s cheese, drizzled with truffle oil ($25).

Romulus and Remus 648 Bridge Road Richmond 6 HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

The pan-frying created a crisp little outer shell on each fluffy nugget – I’ll never eat boiled gnocchi again. The classic pairing of peas and chorizo made this a very satisfying and hearty dish for an autumn day, all at a very reasonable price point. The only very minor quibble was that I couldn’t really discern any aroma or flavours of truffle present with the truffle oil.

Romulus and Remus 648 Bridge Road Richmond 2 HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

I was also offered a heaving platter of salumi, freshly sliced from the shiny cabinet ($26 for 3). Most of the salumi is imported from Italy while the antipasti is marinated in-house – together with some crusty bread you really can’t go wrong.

Romulus and Remus 648 Bridge Road Richmond 9 HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

The menu also includes pizza, main dishes and large cuts of meat to be shared, such as a whole suckling pig for 10-12 people. The darling little cakes in the cabinet come from nearby Humble Patisserie in Hawthorn.

Romulus and Remus 648 Bridge Road Richmond 8 HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

The experience I had at Romulus and Remus makes me hope that they can make a go of the huge industrial space that they’ve inhabited (which used to be an indoor golf range!). There’s something for every Italianophile there. So bring your appetite for the feast!

Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road Richmond (03) 9429 3042

Mon to Thurs 12pm-10pm
Fri to Sun 12pm-10.30pm

minilink HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

 

HOT: Food Safari Picnic, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014, O’Connell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island

Food Safari Picnic HOT: Food Safari Picnic, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014, OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island

For the next few weeks there will be lots of Melbourne Food and Wine Festival event reviews on the blog. First up is the delightful Food Safari Picnic that happened on the weekend.

I was invited as a guest of Yarra City Council and didn’t really know what to expect. And for a first-time go at running the Food Safari Picnic I thought it was remarkably successful. Melbourne’s temperamental weather even pulled out a beautifully balmy day for the outdoor event.

Food Safari Picnic Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014 OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island 8 HOT: Food Safari Picnic, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014, OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island

Picnickers were instructed to gather at O’Connell’s Reserve, a small park at the end of Bridge Road before you hit the Yarra River. As I pulled up my bike I could hear the jazz musicians playing and smelled delicious porky aromas coming from the barbecue set up on the lawn.

Food Safari Picnic Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014 OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island 13 HOT: Food Safari Picnic, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014, OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island

The nice thing about this picnic was that you didn’t have BYO anything. Instead for $85 ($45 children) each person was handed a neon green cooler bag which you could fill with four dishes from the participating Bridge Road eateries – including previous blog HOTs Touchwood, Laikon Deli and Richmond Hill and Larder.

Food Safari Picnic Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014 OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island 7 HOT: Food Safari Picnic, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014, OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island

The choice was impressive, from kale salads to shrimp rolls to cheese platters to tiramisu. Each dish was a full serving too so in fact the four dishes could easily have fed two people. As such I chose items I thought would last a trip home as leftovers – a rich overnight-smoked pulled pork brioche bun with red cabbage slaw from The Collection, the famous spanikopita and baklava from Laikon Deli, the Mexican chicken salad from Touchwood and high tea set of baked treats by Qualia Empire cafe.

Food Safari Picnic Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014 OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island 10 HOT: Food Safari Picnic, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014, OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island

Food Safari Picnic Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014 OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island 6 HOT: Food Safari Picnic, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014, OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island

Food Safari Picnic Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014 OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island 9 HOT: Food Safari Picnic, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014, OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island

Food Safari Picnic Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014 OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island 12 HOT: Food Safari Picnic, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014, OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island

To get you in the eating mode everyone was offered a coffee/hot drink from the coffee cart at O’Connell Reserve before being taken on a private ferry boat to putt along the Yarra to Herring Island, an environmental park in the middle of the river in South Yarra which is only accessible by boat.

Food Safari Picnic Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014 OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island 1 HOT: Food Safari Picnic, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014, OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island

Even though the river cuts through the heart of our city I think it’s rare for most people to view Melbourne from the water. I urge you to try it sometime! Look at the wildlife that lives along the banks, feel the serenity of the narrow waterway and gawp at the multi-million dollar mansions on the slopes.

Food Safari Picnic Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014 OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island 3 HOT: Food Safari Picnic, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014, OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island

 

Food Safari Picnic 1 HOT: Food Safari Picnic, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014, OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island

Food Safari Picnic Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014 OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island 14 HOT: Food Safari Picnic, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014, OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island

Food Safari Picnic Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014 OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island 5 HOT: Food Safari Picnic, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014, OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island

After about 40 minutes of hearing nothing but laughter and gently lapping water we pulled up at Herring Island. Many people don’t realise that this secluded island oasis exists in the heart of inner Melbourne, and that you can visit in the summer months. 

Food Safari Picnic Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014 OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island 11 HOT: Food Safari Picnic, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014, OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island

We were directed to the picnic area, stopping to appreciate some of the sculptures hidden in the forestry. At the picnic area again there were picnic blankets, scatter cushions, low seating under umbrellas and even some gentle live music to chill out to while you enjoyed your picnic hamper. Best of all, you could have some creamy ice cream for dessert from the Sicilian vintage Bianco Latte gelato cart (which they had to carry on board a boat and sail to the island!).

Food Safari Picnic Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014 OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island 4 HOT: Food Safari Picnic, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014, OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island

To walk off all that eating the Herring Island society ran free tours of the gallery and environmental sculpture garden every hour. Sculptures include works by Jill Peck, Ellen Jose, and Andy Goldsworthy.

Food Safari Picnic Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014 OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island 2 HOT: Food Safari Picnic, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2014, OConnell Reserve Richmond and Herring Island

The Food Safari Picnic was one of the most charming, good-value events I’ve participated in throughout my years of attending the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. For $85 you received four picnic dishes (about two more than you’d actually need), coffee, gelati, water, a picnic bag, return ferry ride and entertainment. I hope that Yarra City Council run it more often during the year as it’s a brilliant idea, not only to introduce people to the food and wine of Bridge Road but to allow Melburnians to appreciate their city from another point of view and to discover the unknown gem that’s Herring Island

NB The Herring Island punt service only operates Saturdays, Sundays and certain public holidays. The punt will not run on Christmas Day, New Years Eve, New Years Day, or Good Friday.

Punt Starting Date: Saturday 11 January 2014 11:00am – 5:00pm. Pick up and drop off from Como landing.

Punt End Date: Sunday 27 April 2014 11:00am – 5:00pm. Pick up and drop off from Como landing.

The punt is $2 per person or $5 per family, with pensioners, unemployed and children under 12 free. It can take up to 12 people.

There is no set timetable as the service runs on demand between 11am and 5pm

HOT: Touchwood, 480 Bridge Rd, Richmond

Touchwood 480 Bridge Rd Richmond 3 HOT: Touchwood, 480 Bridge Rd, Richmond
From the people behind successful inner city cafes Coin Laundry, Station Street Trading Co., Tall Timber, Pillar of Salt and Barry comes Touchwood in Richmond, a spacious and breezy cafe at the quiet end of Bridge Road near Burnley Road.

While Touchwood  is no clone the owners have obviously replicated some aspects of their successful formula. The whitewashed decor, polished concrete, timber touches and greenery from Pop Plant are de rigeur.

Touchwood 480 Bridge Rd Richmond 5 HOT: Touchwood, 480 Bridge Rd, Richmond

Add a shaded outdoor deck area with booths (and a mini herb garden) and an interesting and varied menu and you have a winning formula.

Touchwood 480 Bridge Rd Richmond 2 HOT: Touchwood, 480 Bridge Rd, Richmond

Touchwood opens nice and early for breakfast at 7am (weekends 7:30am) catering to joggers and bright bouncy exercisers in lycra. Then the young families and pram brigade start trickling in and by 9am the place is two thirds full, even though the space fits 120 diners. It seems all of Richmond has converged here. 

Touchwood 480 Bridge Rd Richmond 1 HOT: Touchwood, 480 Bridge Rd, Richmond

I take a seat at the high communal table at the front which stretches through a peekaboo cutout in the brickwork. There’s plenty of space to spread out the papers and the food without encroaching on your neighbour’s personal space. 

Touchwood 480 Bridge Rd Richmond 6 HOT: Touchwood, 480 Bridge Rd, Richmond

I start with braised mixed beans and lentils topped with two poached eggs and marinated feta ($17). The beans are hearty and robust in flavour, with the addition of cotechino a departure from the ubiquitous chorizo. The arguably more gamey, strong flavoured cotechino works because the meat is bound more loosely in its casing, making it easier to mix into the beans and tomato sauce.  Instead of the advertised sourdough toast the bowl was served with a folded wad of hot and stretchy naan which I actually preferred.

Touchwood 480 Bridge Rd Richmond 4 HOT: Touchwood, 480 Bridge Rd, Richmond

I’m lured back to the menu for Touchwood‘s signature dish – peanut butter and jelly waffles ($16). This Elvis-style calorific dish comprises poached raspberries with a vibrant sauce and chunks of peanut brittle along with a large mound of whipped peanut butter ricotta. The waffles are just crisp from the waffle iron and using wholemeal flour (the only concession to health in this dish) means that they are dense enough that the PB&J combination doesn’t disintegrate the segments. My only quibble is that I would have preferred the cold contrast of ice cream instead of the very subtly flavoured ricotta.

For those with a sweet tooth it’s a must-have and the serving is large so you might even want to share it between two as a ‘breakfast dessert’. With those little heart-shaped pieces it’s the perfect Valentine’s Day dish!

Drinks are provided by a trinity of Melbourne producers – coffee from Five Senses, tea from Storm in a Teacup and the chocolate from Mork

There’s lots to like about Touchwood. For me it ticks all the boxes in terms of food, ambience, service and price and is the sort of cafe that I’d happily travel to visit.

Touchwood, 480 Bridge Rd, Richmond +61 3 94299347

Monday – Friday 7:00 – 4:00

Saturday Sunday 7:30 – 4:30

minilink HOT: Touchwood, 480 Bridge Rd, Richmond

HOT: The Fair Foodstore, 135 Church St, Richmond

The Fair Foodstore 135 Church St Richmond 4 HOT: The Fair Foodstore, 135 Church St, Richmond

Corner stores are a great thing for neighbourhoods, but a corner coffee shop is an even better thing for creating a sense of local community.

The Fair Foodstore 135 Church St Richmond 7 HOT: The Fair Foodstore, 135 Church St, Richmond

The Fair Foodstore is that kind of cafe – a charming little eatery alongside the trundling number 78 tram. It doesn’t attract much foot traffic other than from the residents who live in the sleepy streets nearby, who must appreciate having a place that serves us great breakfasts, easy lunches and Wide Open Road coffee on the go from the high-up sash window.

The Fair Foodstore 135 Church St Richmond 3 HOT: The Fair Foodstore, 135 Church St, Richmond

The space is all blond wood and whitewashed walls, decorated simply with a few pops of colour from the hot pink macramé terrarium holder to the fresh native flowers on the communal table.

The Fair Foodstore 135 Church St Richmond 5 HOT: The Fair Foodstore, 135 Church St, Richmond

I also like the floor detailing, bringing a little bit of the outside in.

The Fair Foodstore 135 Church St Richmond 2 HOT: The Fair Foodstore, 135 Church St, Richmond

The single page all-day breakfast menu has many interesting sweet and savoury options beyond the usual poached eggs, poached eggs, poached eggs. I like the look of the house smoked trout on Rustica Sourdough‘s rye bread, devilled eggs and apple ($17).

The Fair Foodstore 135 Church St Richmond 1 HOT: The Fair Foodstore, 135 Church St, Richmond

It’s an elegant looking dish and is crammed with different yet complementary textures. There’s fat oily slices of faintly smoked fish (no fridge cold dried out paper thin slices here), 1.5 hard boiled eggs with the yolk mixed with mayonnaise, mustard and dusted with hot paprika, perfect for smearing on the crusty toast (by the way where does the other 0.5 go? Do they always sell even numbers of this dish?) and a tangy topple of apple, mint, pickle relish and dill to offset the richness of the proteins.

To sate my sweet tooth I decided against the cakes by Little Bertha (whilst delicious, they’re not unique to The Fair Foodstore) and went back to the menu for a Golden Pancake with macadamia praline and smoked maple syrup ($16).

The Fair Foodstore 135 Church St Richmond 6 HOT: The Fair Foodstore, 135 Church St, Richmond

This dish makes no pretence at being healthy – it’s a deconstructed ice cream sundae sitting atop your thick, perfectly browned American-style pancake. Sweet, crunchy, fluffy and hot, it’s as delicious and decadent as it looks!

The large model ship that sits by the front window makes me imagine The Fair Foodstore as a calm port in the storm of Church Street and Bridge Road. If you’re in the area, drop in and have a rest.

The Fair Foodstore135 Church St, Richmond +61 3 9429 6008
Mon to Fri: 7am – 4pm
Sat to Sun: 8am – 4pm

minilink HOT: The Fair Foodstore, 135 Church St, Richmond


View MEL: HOT OR NOT in a larger map

HOT: Farren Bicycles Collection, 131 Brighton St, Richmond

Farren Bicycles Collection 131 Brighton St Richmond HOT: Farren Bicycles Collection, 131 Brighton St, Richmond

I first met Paul and Charlie Farren on a Melbourne Tweed Ride when they turned up with a coterie of gasp-inducing vintage steeds (and dressed in 19th century cycling garb and tweed as well). Paul told me that these beautiful bicycles were part of a private collection of over a hundred rare and unique vintage bicycles that he had spent over 30 years amassing with his wife. Most of the bikes were older than 1900 with the newest being about 1910.

I couldn’t believe that this sort of collection was housed in Melbourne and other than for rare outings for tweed rides and exhibitions it’s not generally open to the public.

Farren Bicycles Collection 131 Brighton St Richmond 3 HOT: Farren Bicycles Collection, 131 Brighton St, Richmond

However, recently Paul and Charlie held an open day in their warehouse to celebrate the publication of their book, Bicycling through Time: The Farren Collection. The event was free and drew lots of bike aficionados and curious passersby who had no idea that one of the top 10 early bike collections in the world was housed in quiet residential Richmond.

Farren Bicycles Collection 131 Brighton St Richmond 11 HOT: Farren Bicycles Collection, 131 Brighton St, Richmond

The Farren collection includes penny farthings of all sizes, bamboo bikes, curious tricycles, women’s sidesaddle bikes, tandems/three seaters and “sociables” that allowed riders to sit side by side.

Farren Bicycles Collection 131 Brighton St Richmond 7 HOT: Farren Bicycles Collection, 131 Brighton St, Richmond

Farren Bicycles Collection 131 Brighton St Richmond 10 HOT: Farren Bicycles Collection, 131 Brighton St, Richmond

Farren Bicycles Collection 131 Brighton St Richmond 5 HOT: Farren Bicycles Collection, 131 Brighton St, Richmond

They are beautifully displayed with placards of information and even using vintage cast iron bike stands.

Farren Bicycles Collection 131 Brighton St Richmond 2 HOT: Farren Bicycles Collection, 131 Brighton St, Richmond

The collection’s oldest bike is a 1819 Hobby Horse which definitely doesn’t look comfortable.

Farren Bicycles Collection 131 Brighton St Richmond 13 HOT: Farren Bicycles Collection, 131 Brighton St, Richmond

This 1928 Malvern Star three person bike caught my eye. Having ridden a tandem before I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to get three people cycling on this contraption!

Farren Bicycles Collection 131 Brighton St Richmond 4 HOT: Farren Bicycles Collection, 131 Brighton St, Richmond

As well as bikes there is lots of vintage bike ephemera and equipment to gaze at – including old parts, equipment, posters, artwork and advertising material.

Farren Bicycles Collection 131 Brighton St Richmond 12 HOT: Farren Bicycles Collection, 131 Brighton St, Richmond

Farren Bicycles Collection 131 Brighton St Richmond 6 HOT: Farren Bicycles Collection, 131 Brighton St, Richmond

 

Farren Bicycles Collection 131 Brighton St Richmond 8 HOT: Farren Bicycles Collection, 131 Brighton St, Richmond

Each bike comes with a story and that’s how the book came about. The bikes themselves provide an interesting insight into society of a particular time and place and the stories of their discovery and restoration are also fascinating. Interestingly, most of the Farren collection have been purchased in Australia, from auctions to discoveries in rubbish dumps.

We’re so lucky to have a collection of this variety and importance right here in Melbourne. While you won’t be able to see the collection all the time you can now appreciate and enjoy these beauties through Bicycling through Time: The Farren Collection.

HOT: Top Paddock, 658 Church St, Richmond

Top Paddock 658 Church St Richmond 4 HOT: Top Paddock, 658 Church St, Richmond

And the winner is…Top Paddock!

From the team behind phenomenally successful cafes APTELiar Liar, Three Bags Full and Two Birds One Stone comes a big, bold, seven-day-a-week eatery. It lives among the chi-chi furniture stores of Church Street and is nowhere near a paddock (though there is a large adjoining grassy lawn strewn with blankets and cushions) but it is tops. Even The Age agrees, crowning Top Paddock Best New Cafe in 2013.

Top Paddock 658 Church St Richmond 6 HOT: Top Paddock, 658 Church St, Richmond

Top Paddock 658 Church St Richmond 2 HOT: Top Paddock, 658 Church St, Richmond

Come here on a weekend and it’s happy mayhem as eager diners fill the light-drenched dining room, sit by the bar at the coffee machine, linger at the small tables by the takeaway station or hide in the narrow back balcony which captures the midday sun.

photo 38 1024x726 HOT: Top Paddock, 658 Church St, Richmond

As the cafe doesn’t take bookings on Saturday or Sunday there will probably be a bit of a queue but it moves quickly and efficiently (they take bookings for groups 4 or more Monday to Friday).

Top Paddock 658 Church St Richmond 3 HOT: Top Paddock, 658 Church St, Richmond

The all day menu ranges from breakfast classics to more substantial lunch time offerings and you can mix and match as you please. As such, I decide to go backwards and order pan-fried local snapper with a chilli-fried egg, avocado, salsa and lime and corn tortilla ($17.50) then finish off with one of the sweet breakfast dishes in the form of drunken gingerbread with season berries and chocolate marscapone ($14). The menu gives credit to its paddock-to-plate producers, indicating the kitchen’s commitment to using local, organic ingredients where possible. There’s even some Little Vegie Patch planter boxes out the front for quick pickings.

Top Paddock 658 Church St Richmond 1 HOT: Top Paddock, 658 Church St, Richmond

When the plate of fish came out I almost regretted pre-emptively ordering a two course lunch. It was huge and and every inch of the flat rustic platter was scattered with grilled fillets of fish, chunks of avocado, what seemed like a whole punnet of juicy cherry tomatoes and a smattering of micro-herbs. You’ll need to get your hands dirty for the tortilla – use it to wrap up some fish, avocado and tomato and to mop up the egg yolk. I loved this fresh and vibrant dish that gave a nod to Mexico for inspiration – like a deconstructed fish taco x 3.

Top Paddock 658 Church St Richmond 5 HOT: Top Paddock, 658 Church St, Richmond

My ‘dessert’ or reverse breakfast was a throwback to a similar dish that I’ve had at Three Bags Full and if this isn’t a signature dish it should be. Three chunky slabs of just-crisp, Christmas pud spicy gingerbread and more antioxidants than you could throw a stick at with fresh berries scattered everywhere and a berry coulis in the miniature enamel jug as well. The use of chocolate-flecked marscapone was genius, as unlike ice-cream it didn’t create a dribble of melting custard which would make the gingerbread soggy.

Top Paddock uses Five Senses coffee as well as using an in-house roaster to create signature blends to match the food. As a non-coffee drinker I like that it’s a cafe that takes its food very seriously and despite the frenetic hum on the floor the food came quickly and the service was friendly. The menu is so interesting and varied that I can’t wait to return. Top Paddock, you’re a winner!

Top Paddock, 658 Church St, Richmond +61 3 9429 4332
Mon – Fri: 7am-4pm
Sat – Sun: 8am-4pm

minilink HOT: Top Paddock, 658 Church St, Richmond


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