HOT: Persillade, 150 Wellington Parade, East Melbourne

persillade

Despite its proximity to the CBD, Richmond, Fitzroy and Collingwood, East Melbourne is a bit of a never-never land when it comes to dining out. Persillade will challenge your preconceptions about skipping past East Melbourne when looking for good food.

persillade

Housed underneath an apartment building, this smart bistro and cave a manger (wine shop with food) offers all day dining, 7 days a week. Their wine bar provenance is emphasised by the empty wine bottles acting as pendant lights over the high communal table. The overall look is streamlined and neat while being comfortable.

persillade

I’ve tried Persillade‘s breakfast and lunch dishes  to great satisfaction and peeking at the dinner menu I’m pretty certain that the same high quality would be maintained.

persillade

The daytime menu is split into breakfast and lunch but you can in fact order a lunch dish at breakfast and vice versa. Ostensibly French in focus, I don’t see much of a French influence on the menu, but no matter. I’m very happy with my crispy round of jasmine rice hash, chunks of smoked trout, tangy kimchi and softly yielding 63 degree egg ($18).

persillade

From the lunch menu I try the bbq lamb ribs, sweet bell peppers with a fresh and zesty corn salsa and a slice of sweet spongy corn bread ($26). The ribs come in a hunk drizzled with a barbecue sauce that’s full of smoke and fire and not sweet at all (my pet hate with barbecue sauce). There’s also a puddle of creamy garlic aioli to smooth out the spiciness, while the salsa lends lightness to an otherwise heavy combination of ingredients. The balance is just masterful.

persillade

For dessert I try the lemon posset, a rainbow fruit salad and biscuit crumbs ($14). It is creamy, light and cooling but I’m not wowed by it. My savoury dishes have set such a high standard that it’s hard to beat.

Persillade is the perfect neighbourhood eatery, with a clever and interesting menu all day and friendly staff who will welcome munchkins with a kids menu. But even if you’re not a resident of East Melbourne its a cafe/restaurant that’s worth the travel.

Persillade, 150 Wellington Parade, East Melbourne (03) 9078 4056

Mon 7am–4pm

Tues to Fri 7am–10pm

Sat 8am–10pm

Sun 8am–3pm

Persillade on Urbanspoon




HOT: CH James, 86 Station Street, Fairfield

ch james

CH James is a cafe and restaurant in Fairfield’s main shopping strip Station Street and it’s aiming to be a neighbourhood hub for Fairfield locals. The fact that it’s named after Charles Henry James, a 19th century parliamentary representative for the local area, is a good start.

ch james

The cafe spans over two contrasting spaces. The main dining area and kitchen is a light-filled modern structure which also houses the handy coffee window for train commuters. Bifold doors lead out onto the outdoors area, a charming courtyard adjoining a red brick church with zebra-striped umbrellas interspersed with raised garden beds.

ch james

I was invited to try out their menu and joined the breakfast crowd on a bustling weekend morning.

ch james

The menu is not your average ho-hum spiel, with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal and local ingredients (the chef is ex-Pope Joan). You can even spot the chef picking herbs and veges for your breakfast while you wait!

ch james

I tried the house cured trout, with thin slithers of melting fish adorned by a tangled heap of pickled and piquant greenery ($17). I particularly enjoyed the refreshing fennel and dill salad and you can choose to have it with a poached egg ($2) for a bit more protein.

ch james

Dr Marty’s crumpets were beautifully presented with airy whipped ricotta, strawberries and drizzled with Melbourne’s Rooftop Honey, a very reasonable $10 compared to some other places I’ve seen the crumpets served.

ch james

The toast with house-made preserves was equally pretty ($7.50), with an artist’s palette of spreads and condiments waiting to be slathered onto the slices of EDS Bread.

ch james

I’m not normally one to go for fruit salad when I’m eating out but it was such a hot day that the watermelon was calling my name. It was a delicate tower of fragrant watermelon cubes sweetened with orange blossom water, speckles of granola and a small dab of minted yoghurt ($10). An artful combination of colours and flavours which I think would be suitable as a side or a second course as it wasn’t substantial enough as a dish on its own.

ch james

CH James’ coffee comes from Small Batch in North Melbourne, their tea from Chamellia and hot chocolate from Mork Chocolate. The coffee station was super busy on a weekend morning but I encourage you to step inside and pull up a chair for a delicious breakfast in sunny and relaxed surroundings.

CH James, 86 Station Street, Fairfield  (03) 9486 3484

Mon – Sun 7AM – 5PM

C.H. James on Urbanspoon

HOT: Foxtrot Charlie, 359 Sydney Road, Brunswick

foxtrot charlie

When you walk through the door of Foxtrot Charlie, look up. The soaring model aeroplane will explain the name of this Brunswick cafe.

foxtrot charlie

The cafe’s typically narrow frontage on Sydney Road expands out into a surprisingly spacious area divided into two segments. Basically, there’s the adults area and a kids area and it’s all uber-stylish thanks to local Brunswick designers ZWEI (who also designed the amazing ninja-esque Code Black Coffee).

foxtrot charlie

foxtrot charlie

The kids area isn’t designated as such but it’s the light-filled extension to the dimly lit concrete-and-brick front section. Even if I didn’t have kids I think I’d prefer to eat amongst the cheerful short stools and tables.

foxtrot charlie

The menu is quite inventive, with twists on the standard-issue cafe offerings. I went for the creamed cod on toast, sesame seed crust, caponata and a poached egg ($17). It’s sort of a British, Italian, Chinese prawn toast fusion dish and it works, with a pan fried crusty base or organic sourdough wielding a thick slathering of smoky fish paste and a hearty stewy accompaniment. The egg is perfect and apparently all their biodynamic eggs are cooked at 62.5 degrees.

foxtrot charlie

So for dessert I share the spelt and almond waffles with sabayon cream and spiced strawberries ($16). It’s a pretty dish of mulled spices and the waffles are more of the dense, Belgian style rather than fluffy American versions. My only quibble was that I think for the serving size perhaps the dish was a couple of dollars more expensive than I’d expect.

Foxtrot Charlie roast their own coffee and use organic biodynamic milk, so I’d expect the end product to be good given the amount of care taken in the ingredients.

I really enjoyed my delicious and relaxed lunch at Foxtrot Charlie and was a bit surprised that it wasn’t busier. The staff were all friendly, the food was high quality and the setting was stylish and comfortable.

Foxtrot Charlie 359 Sydney Road, Brunswick (03) 9387 3397

Mon to Fri 7:30 am – 4:00 pm

Sat to Sun 7:30 am – 5:00 pm

Foxtrot Charlie on Urbanspoon

HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote


SONY DSC

I am a gelato snob. Nothing gives me more joy in a gelateria than seeing a row of gleaming metal pozzetti tubs – because it’s the best indication of good quality gelati without actually tasting it. As soon as I walked into Il Melograno (‘The Pomegranate Tree) in Northcote I knew that I was in for a treat.

il melograno

Gelati made the traditional way contains real fruit and nuts, high quality cream and no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. It disintegrates quickly and the metal containers help preserve the gelato in its best condition. An Australian gelateria that takes the time and expense to import pozzetti from Italy cares greatly about the quality of its product. And they’ve imported a Sicilian gelato maker to boot!

il melograno

I tried the pure milk fior di latte, the vibrant pink strawberry with crushed pips still evident and the exotic sounding Iranian pistachio and hazelnut, nubbly with crushed nuts. They were all fresh-tasting and had a fluffy lightness in texture that comes with being just-churned. Plus you can even eat the cups!

The gelati was so good I knew I wanted more of it…but I thought I’d probably better have lunch.

il melograno

I found a sunny nook in their narrow Italianate courtyard, complete with a lemon tree, and settled down in inspect their mostly Italian inspired breakfast and lunch menu.

il melograno

The sandwiches come on super-crusty loaves and traditional fillings such as melt-in-the-mouth San Daniele proscuitto, buffalo mozzarella, tomato and rocket ($14).

il melograno

I also tried a bowl of their hand-rolled fusilli, thin cigarillos capturing a creamy sauce of swiss brown mushrooms, pancetta and rocket ($17).

il melograno

For dessert instead of gelato again I compromised with the oven-baked pancake which came with a dollop of gelato. This was a rather dense and wet cake and while flavoursome probably not one of the better whole-pan style hot cakes I’ve had in terms of texture.

il melograno

If you’re still in the mood for sweets then a family friend of the owner makes all the authentic Italian cakes and pastries on the counter top. The coffee comes from the wood bean roaster housed inside a glass room.

Il Melograno is the perfect Italian pit-stop enroute to Westgarth Cinema but it’s so good that it’s worth a special trip. It’s one of my Top 10 places to enjoy gelato in Melbourne, check out the rest of the list.

Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote, 9482 2092

Tue to Sun 11am–10.30pm

Il Melograno on Urbanspoon

HOT: Hard Pressed, 76 Wellington Pde, East Melbourne

hard pressed cafe

Did you know wikipedia has a listing of sandwich names from around the world? Head down to ‘C’ and you’ll find the Cuban. It’s the best-seller at Hard Pressed, a daytime cafe in East Melbourne nestled in small strip of shops near Hoddle Street.

 The split level cafe is bright and welcoming, with dangling bulbs, concrete blocks creating intimate spaces and a back mural of a (Cuban?) jungle. It’s bustling with locals on a weekend morning – couples, joggers, young families, retirees.

hard pressed cafe

Hard Pressed specialise in French Press coffee and Latino inspired sandwiches – but in fact they also serve cold drip and pour over coffees plus the menu is not all sandwiches.

hard pressed cafe

Nevertheless even though it’s only 9am I head straight to the main game. Hard Pressed’s version of the Cuban sandwich ‘El Cubano’ gathers large slabs of charred 12 hour braised pork neck with just a touch of citrus, a slather of dijon mustard, bubbly Swiss cheese and a sliced pickle, all nestled between two pillowy grilled buns.

It’s juicy and full of flavour and I intersperse every bite with a forkful of salad comprising charred corn kernels, pickled vegetables and smashed avo ($8). Either the promised lime dressing was missing or there just wasn’t much of it as the flavours would have been enhanced with more zing. Nevertheless the salad was a light, crunchy counterpoint to the intensity of the pork roll.

hard pressed cafe

My stomach is well full by now but in the interests of research I proceed to a second course of breakfast. Unless you count the granola and the cake cabinet, the only sweet option on the menu is a caramelised banana crepe with lime and dulce de leche ($13). Oh go on, twist my rubber arm!

hard pressed cafe

A large crepe is folded over chunks of melting caramelised banana with a large nugget of dulce de leche on top and a drizzle of honey syrup on the side. The waitress instructs me to squeeze the fresh lime juice all over the pancake cut through the sweetness.

 The crepe is perfect – slightly stretchy on the inside and crispy on the edges. I am sparing with the rich dulce de leche as the bananas and syrup are already very sweet.

I enjoyed my breakfast at Hard Pressed and given East Melbourne’s paucity of good cafes it’s a welcome addition to the neighbourhood. Their menu is limited but they aim to do a few things really well rather than be a jack-of-all-trades.  If you’re craving variety there are seven sandwiches to choose from, which means you could have a different one every day!

Hard Pressed, 76 Wellington Pde, East Melbourne  +61 3 94174414

Mon-Sun 7am-4pm

Hard Pressed on Urbanspoon

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?

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