Friday, October 29, 2010

Proud Mary, Melbourne

I must admit, I am loving the hunt for a good cup of coffee these days.  Having made arrangements to meet a friend at Proud Mary, I woke up feeling pretty excited about my visit to this auspicious North Melbourne cafe today.

After a sweat-filled workout session in the gym this morning, I was feeling ready for lunch and a good strong coffee.

I just needed to do a couple of chores before catching the tram and arriving at Proud Mary just before one o'clock.  It was already buzzing, but I managed to grab a seat by the window whilst a friendly waitress took my order for a skinny latte. 

The menu here is split into breakfast and lunch options, which I perused over with much anticipation and rumbling tummy.  Drinking my lovely latte - it was smooth, strong, but not so much so, and it went down a real treat.

My friend arrived just after I finished my latte, whilst at the same time, a table was being vacated which we grabbed.  We ordered the pork belly toasted sandwich ($15.50) to share.  

It came with a lovely rocket salad on the side.  Apologies for the partially eaten sandwich in the photo.  I was simply too hungry to remember to take the 'picture perfect' sandwich before digging in.  It was mmm, so utterly yummy, the pork simply melted off the fat (which I cut off) and the paprika aioli was the perfect accompaniment.  All in all, a yummy-licious, lip smacker of sandwich.

I finished off my lunch with another coffee - a skinny flat whiteIt came in a gorgeous retro blue coffee cup and saucer.  Retro blue and white being the colours of the salt and pepper shakers too!  In fact, there is a rather retro feel to this place which I love. 

Anyhow, back to the coffee, I loved my flat white just as much as the latte.  I think the coffee here is pretty darn good, if not great!   

Service is friendly and attentive here, which is always a bonus in my books.  And a definite thumbs up in terms of how I view a place.  Although not quite as funky and grungy as Auction Rooms or St. Ali in décor, Proud Mary is certainly worth seeking out for their food and their great coffee.

Proud Mary
172 Oxford Street (cnr Stanley St), Collingwood, VIC 3066
Tel: +61 (0)3 9417 5930

Mon-Fri: 7am-4pm
Sat-Sun: Sun: 8am-4pm

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Auction Rooms, Melbourne

OK, so one wouldn't naturally think of going to auction rooms for brunch, but this cafe really rocks.  Having been here a few weeks ago for lunch, I was so taken with the place that I had to share my new found cafe hot spot with my partner this lovely sunny Sunday afternoon. 

I love how this place is rather grungy in a such an uncontrived way.  I love the bare red brick walls and the music posters that plaster some of it; the open central bar area; the high warehouse ceiling with old fashioned ceiling fans; the laid back vibe and the most friendly of service from types that look reminiscent of students from my old uni days.  Love it!!

Being a gorgeous sunny Sunday afternoon today, this place was packed since all the other cool people in Melbourne had also decided to spend brunch at Auction Rooms.  So much so in fact, that we had to put our name down on a waiting list.  Estimated wait was twenty minutes, but in reality it was only about five.

We were given a great table at the back by the outside courtyard area and our order of flat whites taken right away.

A few minutes later, our flat whites came with the lovely swirly pattern.  As somebody who knows nothing about coffee, I will say that I find Auction Rooms coffee has a very distinct, bold flavour. 

From the food menu, I ordered the 'Coriander falafel and poached eggs on grilled flat bread with cumin & mint yoghurt, tabouli, dukkah and tahini dressing' ($16).  The falafel was crispy on the outside and fell easily apart when cut into.  The whole dish was a tasty combination, but I would have preferred a slightly smaller portion.

My partner ordered the pork knuckle sandwich only to be told that they had run out.  What a shame - I really wanted to try it.  So instead, he ordered the 'Opening bid - poached eggs on toast with field mushrooms, grilled bacon, wilted baby spinach & roasted roma tomatoes' ($16.50).  The smoked bacon was grilled just right, the mushrooms had been cooked in a little delicious butter and the eggs were poached perfectly.

We were both absolutely stuffed at the end, but not enough to be able to have another cup of coffee. 

With it's great vibe, cool interior, friendly service and all round fabulousness, I urge you to take the trip up to Auction Rooms in North Melbourne.

Auction Rooms
103-107 Errol Street, North Melbourne, VIC 3051
Tel: +61 (0)3 9326 7749

Mon-Wed: 7:30am-5pm
Thu-Sat: 7:30am-10pm
Sun: 8am-4pm

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mamasita, Melbourne

I feel like shouting 'ma-ma for Mamasita'!  Why?  Because I have finally found a place which serves delicious Mexican food, albeit with a modern twist.  And more importantly, without the usual mounds of guacomole and sour cream that is so commonfold of Mexican eateries.

My partner and I arrived early this Saturday evening; five-thirty to be precise.  Thinking that we might have to find somewhere for a quick drink, we rocked up only to see a small queue of people outside the doorway to Mamasita.  If people were queuing now, we thought we ought to join it. Having never queued half an hour for restaurant before, I was intrigued to see how good the food would be and whether the wait would be worth it.

As the clock struck six, the doors opened and the queue (which had now tripled in size) started to file up the stairs.  We were pleasantly greeted and taken to sit by the window.  The restaurant is light and airy, with an open kitchen at the end and a bar with stools for waiting punters.

The menu is split into starters, ceviche, tostaditas (fried tortillas with toppings), tacos, quesadillas, ensaladas and mains (described as comida para la familia - food for the family).  Oh and not forgetting sides and dessert.

Having never eaten here before, the waitress recommended for us to go through the sharing dishes which is akin to the Spanish tapas way of eating.

We decided to opt for the 'Ceviche de Yucatan' ($13) which comes either as a single in a shot glass or a large as we had ordered.  Described as market fish with green tomato, chilli, mint, lime and coconut milk, it sounded a little Thai influenced.  It came in a stemless looking wine glass with five crispy tortilla chips poking out of the top of it. 

The fish pieces were lovely and tender as one would expect from marinated raw fish.  The marinade was fresh and tasty and the tortillas were deliciously crispy. 

Next came the 'Elotes callejeros' ($4.40 each), described as street style chargrilled corn with cheese, chipotle mayo and a wedge of lime.  The corn was super sweet and tasted absolutely devine.  It wasn't drenched in butter which made for a refreshing change.  If you love corn, then you'll love these. 

Next up, the tostaditas 'de carnitas' ($14) - slow braised pork shoulder with pickles and jalapeños.  These crispy tostaditas were served on a bed of shredded red cabbage, all lined up on a wooden board.  The pork was tasty in every way and these bite sized pieces were just right.

The tacos 'de pescado' ($6 each) - grilled fish with achiote paste and red onion salsa with a wedge of lime.  Achiote paste originated from the Yucatán region of Mexico; using annato seeds and a combination of other spices, it is used in a variety of Mexican dishes. 

These wonderfully soft tacos were packed full of flavour and we both loved this dish!

We also ordered chicken quesadillas ($14).  It was served with a side condiment of 'pico de gallo', which had finely chopped pieces of cucumber, red onion, celery and coriander.  Although good, this quesadillas didn't blow our taste buds away.  It was a sort of take it or leave it kind of dish. 

The final dish to come out was the quinoa salad ($15).  This was a superb.  It was fresh, tasty and wonderfully light.  I had no trouble in polishing it all off and it has to be one of the top salads that I have eaten in quite a while.

Despite having eaten rather a lot, I was surprised to find myself with enough room for dessert.  I decided to go for the 'Tortilla de chilli chocolate' ($12).  Chocolate and chilli pudding (which was steamed) with chocolate and cinammon sorbet. 

The pudding had a real kick of chilli.  Probably a little more than I would have liked as I found it quite dry on the mouth without a spoonful of sorbet to go with it.  The sorbet was perfectly balanced with the cinnamon and wonderfully refreshing.  I'm not sure I'd have the pudding again, but for those who love the chilli and chocolate combination, then this may well be a winner.

The staff here are knowledgeable, the funky soul music provides a laid back ambience to the place which is informal, relaxing and just a great place to come eat some 'comida deliciosa'.

The place was buzzing tonight and the queue was, well still queuing when we left at 8pm.   With a no bookings policy (except for groups of 10 or more), if you're not one for having to queue and wait for long periods of time, I suggest getting here fairly early before opening time to guarantee a spot right away when the doors open.

1/11 Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC 3001
Tel: +61 (0)3 9650 3821

Mon-Wed: 12pm-12am
Thu: 12pm- 12:30am
Fri: 12pm-2am
Sat: 6pm-2am

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pope Joan, Melbourne

Today involved a trip out of the city on the number 96 tram.   As it rattled it's way along Nicholson Street, I was starting to get a little apprehensive about whether I would be able to find Pope Joan. 

Unbeknown to me, Nicholson Street is a pretty long street and Pope Joan is nestled amongst, well, not an awful lot by way of trade to be honest.

I got off at stop number 24 as instructed by Melbourne's metlink journey planner and wondered back down the street and alas, I had found Pope Joan.  The cafe doesn't look like much on the outside, but get a load of that cute copper pan letter box. 

Anyhow, my friend had arrived before me and was already enjoying a cup of coffee.  As I sat down, a waitress came along to bring us some water and take my order for a skinny flat white.

This place is only open for breakfast and lunch (Monday to Friday), and so the menu was really Eggs (cooked in many different ways) and sandwiches.  We opted for the chicken with stuffing sandwich and the curried egg and cress.  Mmm...they sounded yummy.

You can watch the chef at work just behind the front counter too.

We decided to order the chicken stuffing sandwich ($9) and the curried egg sandwich ($8).  The chicken stuffing sandwich came warmly wrapped in foil.  The curried egg was served between slices of sourdough.

The chicken stuffing was delightful.  The curried egg was just OK.  We thought it could have done with some oomph and I had to pepper mine to add some kick. 

There is outside seating to the side.  Babies more than welcome as was evident by the several mums and bubs sitting outside.  It's modern rustic with a good old splash of Britishness about it.

Pope Joan
77/79 Nicholson Street
Brunswick East, VIC 3057
Tel: +61 (0)3 9388 8858

Breakfast + Lunch 7 days a week.