Monday, May 31, 2010

1000 £ Bend, Melbourne

This warehouse space on Little Lonsdale street doesn't look like your average café.  Then again, Melbourne is a city full of surprises.  1000 £ Bend café is also home to a gallery space at the back.  Walk in and you'd be forgiven for thinking you were at a junk yard sale set up for your granny and her friends. 

It's kind of shabby chic, with mis-matched sofas (that look as though they could have been on  the set of Mad Men), low wooden tables (that wouldn't look out of place in a primary school) and a smoking room to one side with a metal barred window that looks out onto Little Lonsdale. 

They serve an assortment of baguettes and pides (pronounced pee-day) and a few hot lunches.  These were beef or veg burger, spaghetti and meatballs, and a lentil veggie curry.  All for $15 or under.   

I ordered a skinny flat white ($3) and was told they don't have skinny milk.  OK, so full fat it would have to be!  And seeing as I was pretty famished after my morning workout, I went for a salami and bocconcini pide, which was a reasonable $8.50.

The coffee came first and it was truly delicious.  Maybe I could be converted back to full fat milk?! 

My pide arrived a few minutes later with the bocconcini all wonderfully melted.  For those who don't know what a pide is, it's Turkish style bread and is wonderfully light and yummy.  OK, so it's not on my 'wholegrain' only list of breads, but this place only had pides or baguettes and I'm not a huge fan of baguettes. 

Still, this was OK.  But I did wonder why all salami had gathered together at just one end of the pide.  Personally I would have preferred it to have been evenly spread about inside so that I got a bit of salami with each bite, rather than a couple of mouthfuls and then nothing but bocconcini and pesto...but that's being rather picky I think...

Come here for something different, a great coffee and a bit of lunch (which is nothing amazing, but nothing terrible, just ordinary really).  With the exposed concrete floor and large warehouse space, it's not the warmest of places to chill out on a cool Melbourne day, but I can imagine it's a pretty cool place to hang out in the Summer.

1000 £ Bend
361 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
No telephone number (and no skinny milk either!)

Mon-Fri: 8am-7pm
Sat-Sun: 11am-7pm

Thursday, May 27, 2010

European Bier Café, Melbourne

The European Bier Café takes pride of place on the North East corner of Exhibition and Little Collins in the CBD.  They do specials most nights of the week apart from Thursdays, tonight - which was typical!

Anyway, since a group of us were meeting to go watch a movie at the nearby Kino cinema in Collins Place, we decided to have dinner beforehand.

We all arrived fairly early, around 5ish and had no problem getting a table in their dining area.  Simply walk in and find a table. 

Their menu has an '$18 pub favourites' section as well as appetizers, mains, sides and desserts.  Banning carbs from my evening meals means that I am pretty restricted when dining out.  However, since I love salads, I opted for the 'Euro Chicken Salad' ($19.50). 

Once decided, we simply ordered at the bar, got appointed a table number and went back to sit and wait.  Seeing as we were early birds, it didn't take long for our meals to arrive.

My salad was a generous portion of rocket and spinach leaves, red onion and tomato.  It was all dressed in a tasty balsamic and olive oil dressing with delicious pieces of warm grilled chicken breast and warm grilled bacon pieces.  The chicken was succulent and the bacon pieces were wonderfully crunchy.  For a pub meal, I was very satisfied indeed.

One of my dining companions had the 'Risotts' ($18) from the pub favourites which looked pretty good.  It had generous pieces of chorizo throughout with spinach and generous shavings of parmesan on top.

Another dish was the 'Grilled fish of the day' - also from the $18 pub favourites.  Served with fries and garden salad with balsamic and olive dressing (which didn't look particularly appetizing), but was really good (as I was told).  And we assumed that it must have been the same dressing as mine. 

Staff are polite and friendly here.  It's got a great after work crowd vibe; it's easy, casual and a great place for a drink and a pub meal.

European Bier Café
120 Exhibition Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
T: +61 (0)3 9663 1222

Mon-Thurs: 12pm-1am
Fri: 12pm-3am
Sat: 2pm-3am
Sun: 4pm-11pm

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mamma's Boy, Melbourne

This cafe resides on Little Collins street near the Spring street end.  The empathsis is on fresh, healthy, wholesome and utterly delicious food.

Space is limited and can be a bit of a squash during the usual busy lunch hour.  But this place was well worth the short wait I had endure to get a table.  Luckily for me though, I had arrived just before one thirty in the aftermoon, just as some of the office workers were finishing their lunch.  Get here for two o'clock and you are pretty much guaranteed a table.

The menu is short and sweet, with some gluten free options.  There is enough to entice the healthy diner who loves good food without compromise.  Being a cold Autumnal Melbourne day, I wanted something hot and chose the 'chilli infused vegetable soup' (which was the soup the day). 

It arrived steaming hot garnished with coriander leaves and a serving of wonderful wholegrain bread.  It made such a refreshing change to get served wholegrain as opposed to the usual white bread that cafes normally serve with soup.  For us healthies, it's a sigh of relief.

Apologies for the rubbish picture, the photo really doesn't do it justice.  Plus the fact that I had already eaten about a third of it before I remembered to get my camera out.  It really tasted so much better than it looks - seriously!!

The soup went down a real treat and I loved the mild heat of the chilli.  It was subtle enough to provide a wonderful kick to the soup amongst the chunks of delicious veggies.

I followed with a skinny flat white - which tasted so good, I simply had to have a second.  At $2.90 each, this was cheapest flat white I've had in this city so far.  And they were really good ones at that.

It's a no-brainer to see why this place gets busy at lunch time, and I can understand why they do so much takeout business too.  The food is really good, really tasty and really healthy.  Staff are super friendly too.  And I love the fact that patrons can sit on the counter bench to have their lunch whilst taking in the hustle and bustle of this bijoux cafe. 

A great cafe for a spot of lunch or just a coffee. 

Mamma's Boy
13 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Tel: +61 (0)3 9662 2166
Mon-Fri: 7am-4pm

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Thanh Nga Nine, Melbourne

Having been fairly healthy and watchful over my food all week, I was looking forward to eating out tonight.  Seeing as my dining companion and I were opting for something light and fresh, we unanimously agreed on Vietnamese. 

We took a short walk to take the 109 tram from Collins Street in the CBD and we were on Victoria Street in less than twenty minutes. 

Having been to the area twice before myself, I wanted to experience a new place tonight and boy are there a lot to choose from.  Walking up Victoria Street to choose a place to eat in, is a bit like being a kid in a candy store.  There is restaurant after restaurant, and unless one knows what they are looking for, it can be hard to decipher the good from the bad. 

So if a restaurant was packed, we saw that as a basis for 'it must be pretty good'.  I mean, who would eat in an empty restaurant during prime dinner time! 

We passed a few that we thought looked good and decided to go back to 'Thanh Nga Nine'.  It was heaving (which we of course saw as a good sign) and once we entered the restaurant, we were shown a table for two by the front counter. 

Sitting down, menu's were placed on the table for us to peruse right away.  As is the case in many (if not all) Asian restaurants, there was an overwhelming abundance of choice.  Feeling rather hungry, we quickly narrowed it down to a couple of things we were familiar with. 

We started with a 'King Prawn rice paper roll' ($8), followed by 'Beef Pho Noodle soup' ($8), 'Chicken in chilli and lemongrass' ($13) and 'Water spinach with garlic' ($12).

After having placed our order, we poured ourselves some tea from the flask that had graced our table when we arrived.  I also asked for a glass of tap water - which I have to say took a rather long time to arrive (and I had to ask twice for it).  When it finally arrived, it turned out to be hot water in glass!  Hmmm, never had that before when I've asked for a glass of 'tap water'.  Does 'tap' mean hot in Vietnamese?!  I don't think so....

Anyway, I didn't bother to make a fuss, I didn't want another long wait with the potential to get the wrong thing again. 

The condiments for our food arrived first - beansprouts and basil with lime wedge and fresh chilli slices for our beef pho noodles, and dipping sauce (nuoc cham) for our king prawn rice rolls.

The rice paper rolls arrived looking plump and well made.  Although they looked good, they were rather thin on the king prawn.  Those three pieces of prawn that you see in each one were actually halves as opposed to whole and the rest of the stuffing was cabbage, rice vermicelli and basil.  The dipping sauce was thick and gooey, and tasted pretty nice.  I've had better though and I guess you can tell I was pretty dissappointed with the small amount of king prawn.  In fact, we both were.

The beef pho noodles arrived in a big bowl.  We loaded in the beansprouts, basil and chilli with as much lime as we could squeeze.  Mixed the whole thing up and bravo, a yummy bowl of beef pho. 

We both agreed that the beef probably wasn't the 'raw slices of beef' that the menu had described, but rather more like pre-cooked slices of beef that had gone a bit tough.  The broth however was tasty and full of flavour.  

The 'chicken with chilli and lemongrass' arrived next and the waiter, who we think was actually the manager (due to being dressed in his own clothes as opposed to the dark red waiter uniform of the others) seemed a bit put out that he had to place the dish down, and then remove the finished prawn rice paper rolls plate.

Back to the dish though, the veggies tasted lovely with a subtleness of lemongrass.  Although I couldn't find any hint of chilli - in the dish or on my tastebuds.  The chicken was a little fatty for both our liking.  This was OK, nothing special.

The 'water spinach with garlic' arrived in the same manner by the same waiter as the previous dish.  The guy was obviously having a bad night or else is permanently rude.  Nevertheless, this didn't stop us from eating our meal.  Unfortunately for us though, these veggies were slightly overcooked and didn't have the crunchiness that they should do.

The food didn't blow us away, but then at $41 for the lot, I guess we couldn't expect it to.  Service was also off, which doesn't entice me to want to go back there again.  Unless they win an award for an amazing dish or improve their customer service with gold stars, this place isn't a winner dinner for me.  I thought it was only average.  And for a girl who loves to eat and likes to experiment in the kitchen, what do I know...

Thanh Nga Nine
160 Victoria Street, Richmond, VIC 3121
Tel: +61 (0)3 9427 7068

Hours: 10am-10pm Daily

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bopha Devi, Melbourne

Having never had Cambodian cuisine before, I was completely intrigued by this place after having read about it online.  With a curious palate and two fellow hungry diners, we decided to venture into Bopha Devi after a morning of ice-skating.

We were greeted by a friendly waiter who seated us at a roomy table under the gorgeous butterfly chandelier.  The décor is casual but stylish, and we were made to feel very welcome from the start.  

For those who know nothing about Khmer cuisine, Bopha Devi describes it as a fusion of Chinese, Indian and French with chilli served as a side dish.

The hardback menu is divided into 'Little Bites' (appetizers); all of which sounded so delightfully delectable by the way! 'Soups' which included a rice based porridge, a noodle soup and a tamarind based soup; 'Mains' and 'Sides'.

Seeing as Asian food is for sharing and we were all in the mood to share each dish, we opted for the 'Salt-Gor Ang' - beef skewers in a lemongrass marinade ($13.90) and the 'K'dom' - chicken and crabmeat rolled together in a crispy bread ($13.90)

The beef skewers arrived with a lovely julienne of carrot and radish salad and a spicy chilli sauce.  They were just a touch on the dry side, but this didn't hinder the taste or our satisfaction.  The chilli sauce was nice and spicy and the carrot and radish salad was deliciously lightly dressed.

The 'K'dom' - chicken and crabmeat in crispy bread arrived with a sweet chilli dipping sauce.  The unanimous verdict was yummy, yummy and YUM-MY!  

For mains, we ordered 'Bai Mouan' - Classic Cambodian style chicken rice.  Slices of chicken breast sit atop shredded lettuce and sliced cucumber salad with a bed of rice underneath.  The dish was dressed with a 'lively garlic and lemon dressing' ($18.90).

The crunch of the lettuce and cucumber salad married well the rice and chicken.  It was refreshing and light and just oh so right for lunch.

The other main was the 'Lort Char' - rice drop noodles wok tossed with asian broccoli (gailan), beansprouts, egg and our choice of prawn ($21.90).

This came with a generous serving of prawn and plenty of cabbage.  But the amount of chinese broccoli was rather disappointing, I rather expected there to be more than a few pieces of stalk and leaves.  Nevertheless, it was a good robust dish which we all thoroughly enjoyed. 

Service is friendly here, the food is tasty and the ambience relaxing.  I'm glad to have had such a good first experience of Cambodian cuisine and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves Asian food.

Bopha Devi
27 Rakaia Way, New Quay, Docklands, Melbourne 3008
Tel: +61 (0)3 9600 1887

Monday, May 10, 2010

Belgian Beer Cafe Eureka, Melbourne

This place sits at the bottom of the Eureka building on Southbank Boulevard.  There's plenty of outside seating and is perfect for those who want to get away from the busy thoroughfare of the main Southbank riverside

After a bit of ice skating this morning, my budding ice skaters and I decided to find some lunch at the Belgian Beer Cafe.  With plenty of tables available, we sat on a long wooden table outside.

The food menu isn't huge, but we all managed to find something.  I chose the soup of the day which turned out to be 'Minestrone & vegetable' ($9.50).  Didn't say whether it would come with bread or not, but I wasn't exactly fussed. 

My ice skating buddies chose between them the Chicken Chasseur pie with mash and mint pea stoemp (mash basically); Veal schnitzel and kifler potato salad (German finger potatoes); and a bowl of chips with aioli.

The Chicken pie arrived first with a little gravy drizzled over the pie.  Please forgive the picture, I took the photo after the pie had been cut into.  Otherwise, it did look rather good and intact.  I loved the bold green colour of the mint pea stoemp!  Apparently it all tasted good, although the pie was just average. 

The veal schnitzel came next which looked rather good.  At $18.50, they were generous with the veal schnitzel.  The herb and bread crumb crust looked delightfully golden and crisp.  Baby rocket was dressed with a mustard dressing and the kifler potato salad looked positively yummy!  Suffice to say, the diner of this dish seemed very happy.

My bowl of soup did indeed arrive without bread.  I wasn't bothered as most places don't offer a choice and more often than not, end up offering white bread if they do.  Why most cafes restaurants don't offer unrefined carbs to us 'no go refined carbers' I have no idea?!  Yes, that's right, I am no go refined carber.  Well except for the odd potato (a girl has to have her chips?!) and very rarely, white bread - which should be a complete no go as far as my head is concerned.

Nevertheless, my soup was tasty, not sure where the minestrone bit came into it.  It was just vegetable soup as far as I was concerned. 

Finally, the bowl of chips.  At $7.50, it was a huge bowl of chips.  I was rather disappointed that they didn't actually serve the typical Belgian french fries.  Surely chips is more British?!  Still, no one complained.  They tasted, well like chips.  They were hot and tasty.  What more can can I say...

Staff aren't exactly the friendliest lot but then again, maybe they were just having a bad day.  Who knows! 

The food is OK, nothing amazing, but nothing terrible either.  This is more of a place to come for a relaxing drink or two and some nibbles if you're feeling a little peckish.

Belgian Beer Cafe Eureka
5 Riverside Quay, Southbank, VIC 3006
Tel: +66 (0)3 9690 5777