When a new cafe springs up in relatively uncharted territory, one word that comes to mind is ‘Respect’. Respect to the owners of the establishment that brave a new location and attempt to bring new-hip life to a new area. We all know starting a business is a big risk which can be even greater if the location is yet to be deemed a destination. Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea, is slowly but surely becoming a destination with particular thanks to Spout.
Spout co-owners Dvash and Zul saw the opportunity here and took on the challenge with full force. I’m sure there were some initial concerns whether Spout would be a hit or not in this low-density cafe part of Melbourne. But the fears were quickly alleviated. From opening day onwards the crowds have not stopped pouring in or out of this little gem. Visiting Spout for the first time a good two months in, it would appear that Spout is not a one off visit – it is already a beloved local hangout. Good on ya boys!
The inside dining space is cosy, intimate and warm. The staff greet you as you arrive in a very unpretentious manner, which unfortunately is so rare in new cafes in Melbourne these days. As best as they could, they helped fulfill our need for a rather large table, with ease on such a busy Sunday morning. After a surprisingly short wait, we were seated and gazed over the scrumptious sounding menu. A date porridge, chorizo sumac, and pan-fried challah were some of the breakfast options which we will be back for next time. On the lunch side, a schnitzel or corned beef ’sanga’ or the smoked salmon pastrami took my eye and were noted for future choms.
From left we have a smooth cappuccino and a soy latte. Dvash takes charge of the coffee machine, pumping out consistently good Allpress Esspresso. Complemented by my love affair with Bonsoy, Spout’s coffee are no frills. Just damn good caffeine hits.
Shakshuka with haloumi and Trukish Bread ($15.50). Wikipedia claims that this breakfast dish could originate in Algeria or Tunisia. While this may well be true, my fondest memories are eating this in Israel in the morning at most good cafes. Shakshuka – in English is usually eggs, cooked in a tomato stew made of tomatoes (obviously), peppers and onions. Zul has done an excellent job of replicating this dish and serving it in the Southern Hemisphere. A Chommery approved breakfast choice. Totally delicious.
Homemade baked beans tagine with persian feta and Turkish bread ($14.50). Almost a nostalgic feeling came over me when these beans were placed in front of me. I can remember so vividly, eating the Heinz baked beans on toast when I was a tot. These were significantly better than Heinz and I have only been in contact with feta in my more recent eating years. Neverthless, baked beans make for a wholesome, delicious feed. The pre-cut bread made for easy tearing and then dipping in the homemade tomato-based sauce. Love.
Spiced bircher muesli with yoghurt, strawberries and pistachio ($7.50). Great consistency with just enough spice to taste but not too overpowering. The pistachios make for a nice final touch on this light meal. Very reasonably priced breakfast option if I don’t say so myself.
Soft, creamy scrambled eggs ($9.00), cooked in the way we all know and love. Complemented by toasted Turkish bread, avocado mash ($3.00) and crispy bacon ($4.00). Need I go on any further? Excellent news for all the ‘don’t butter my bread’ folk, you will be relieved to know that it automatically comes on the side. You can spread or not spread as much you like.
Arranging a perfect adventure, one chommer would recommend a lovely outing down Ripponlea way consisting of the following activities. Head to Spout for a lovely breakfast/lunch and coffee, pop into Firebrand Bakery and pick up a fresh loaf of sourdough, grab some Yumi’s dips capped off with a visit to the famous Attica and try your luck on getting a booking for dinner. Ripponlea is most certainly undergoing a change to become a very popular destination in Melbourne. Spout is one of the main driving forces – so get on board and join in the movement while you can.
The Important Details…
Noise: Happening buzz
Suitable for: All folk
Price: $15-$20 per head
My View: Perfect spot for breakfast and lunch
Address: 48 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea
Phone: (03) 9523 8155
Axil Coffee Roasters is a brilliant cafe and could very well be one of the best in Melbourne. Need I say more? Probably not. Will I waffle on for a bit and talk about my experience? Yes. If your goal for logging on to this post was to decide whether or not to try the lovely Axil, I would say, yes, go! If you keep reading, I have warned you that I like to have a good waffle. Mmmmm waffles.
A grand looking entrance that fronts onto to Burwood Road and is situated a few metres away from the corner of Glenferrie Road in Hawthorn. The only outside seating can be seen in the above photo. Personally, I think you will have a much more enjoyable Axil experience sitting within the beast.
A bright open dining area that makes use of the signature Melbourne exposed ventilation and hanging lights among other pleasant features. You may notice the great hanging pot plant display that divides the space between the eating-in customers and the abundance of staff working their butts off behind a long work bench on the right hand side.
The soy latte was creamy, bubble free and smooth($4.00). I wouldn’t expect anything else from a cafe that not only has their own Axil coffee products station, but also a full roasting factory at the rear of the premises. You can tell that the crew behind this joint are most definitely into coffee, as well as coffee related paraphernalia.
How can anyone go past a steak sandwich ($17.00)? But really, a classic Aussie favourite that dates back to when Captain Cook first discovered Australia. Served in toasted turkish bread with rocket salad and other nice insides, not to mention a decent quality fillet. The side potato salad with mayo and red onion was a nice companion. If the other sangas are also getting served in halves, could be an option to split with a friend to sample a second.
You may have heard of the BigMac index, more recently the iPod index. The latest one of all, taking Melbourne by storm is the smashed avocado and fetta index. Now that this breakfast dish has become a staple addition to pretty much every cafe in Melbourne, we can make our own measures and conclusions of each one. Lo and behold, the smashed avocado ($14.50) at Axil was pretty damn good. This was the consensus of the group and not just the humble opinion of The Chommery. Points were awarded for the second piece of sourdough, the overly generous serving of mash and the complementary lemon.
Doesn’t the combination of greens, white, red, yellow and a few more shades of green just look magnificent. Even if this dish tasted like crap – which it certainly did not, I would have to give votes just for the amazing use of colour. These were the fritters ($17.00). A careful incision was made by no one else but a budding surgeon on this poached egg. He deemed it to be impeccably cooked.
A pasta/gnocchi dish is a very upmarket (dinner-esque) offering for a cafe – I wanted one of my fellow chommers to order it so we could see how Axil’s fared. We ordered the veal ragu with gnocchi (yes – I know that is penne ($21.00). The penne was a late substitution and we were all a little worried when we were informed of this by our bubbly waitress. The pasta was cooked exactly to our liking, al dente, and none of that watery soggy stuff either. The small cubes of veal were almost falling apart off the fork as you took each mouthful. What a great variation to standard cafe fare – a beautiful dish.
The food just kept getting better and better. The lamb wrap ($17.00) was really sensational. The lamb had been prepared in a similar fashion to the veal, in that it was as soft as cake – too good. An amazing (possibly home-made) tomato salsa and humus dressing formed a bed for the tabouleh to rest on top. My only criticism is that after I had been peer pressured to fold up the wrap and start eating it like a man, the package became much smaller. This in turn, meant my eating experience was much quicker.
I took the time to find the real definition of the word axil. Until earlier I thought it had something to do with bikes and levers. Dictionary.com defines it as ‘the upper surface of a branch or leafstalk and the stem from which it grows’ (WTF is correct). I tried several times to combine this with a witty ending note for my post using the name in some sort of pun. The result was negative. I will leave you on this note.
No more waffling, time to get serious. Axil Coffee Roasters is the bomb. Go and enjoy a beautiful breakfast or lunch.
The Important Details…
Noise: Not quiet
Suitable for: All
Dress: As you like
Price: $15 – $25 a head
My View: One of Melbourne’s best Cafe – well in my top 10
Address: 322 Burwood Road, Hawthorn
Phone: (03) 9819 0091
I’m going to throw the Newmarket Hotel in to my group of restaurants that I would recommend to anyone that was looking for a rounded Melbourne hype/culture food experience. Off the top of my head, Mamasita, Longrain, Izakaya Den, Chin Chin, Golden Fields and Cookie are some other examples that would join this level of restaurant. They all pack out night after night, full of loud music, not on the cheaper side of pricing but serve up delicious assorted cuisines. Although you couldn’t eat at them every night of the week (maybe I could), though when you do you are sure to have a memorable experience.
The Newmarket Hotel is situated on Inkerman Road, on the same spot where Schnitz and Tits used to lie, just a casual stroll down from the corner of Grey and Barkly Streets in St Kilda. It’s large presence will make it hard to miss.
Let’s not play any games here, I’m on the continual hunt to satisfy a bottomless pit. I’m all about the food. At this point in time, I feel I need to comment on the unbelievably cool (and surely expensive) fit out. All the architect buffs should know who we can commend once again for the efforts here and its Six Degrees Architects. Six Degrees are the same folks that contributed to The Royal Saxon, Auction Rooms, De Clieu and Middle Park Hotel. Their resume speaks for itself, excellent looking cafes and restaurants. The Newmarket looks equally as brilliant. Indoor dining can be seen above, meanwhile practically the entire left wing comprises outdoor seating that can be used for diners and offers a top spot for a drink.
Undoubtedly the hottest selling dishes at the Newmarket would be their tacos. They are about the size of the palm of your hand, topped with an assortment of different and delicious toppings. The soft shell crab tacos, guacamole, shaved fennel, spicy corn ($17.00 for 2) was a wise order. The tacos are ultra soft and the crab has a delicate tempura coating. The verdict: Goddamn these are mighty fine!
The taco of the day was pulled pork, apple and coriander ($16.00). While the consumption of these was a short lasting experience, it was a memorable one. The only thought jingling through my head after two rounds of these amazing tacos, is …more tacos, more tacos. There is no question, next visit to this establishment will involve many more of these delectable treats.
BBQ corn on the cob with chilli and queso fresco ($6.00 each). While this dish has made a big name for itself in the restaurant industry, this chommer understands why they are showing up everywhere. Besides the fact that they are scrumptious, it must have something to do with the long lasting Aussie affiliation with these bright yellow vegetables.
Quaesadilla with huitlacoche, wood BBQ mushrooms, spinach and jack cheese ($17.00). This was served pre-cut and not sickeningly cheesy with the wrapping as more of a crepe like formula than the standard tortilla. Overall, this is a top entree and The Chommery would recommend it.
Wood roasted figs, spiced lamb and goat’s cheese dressing ($18.00). The figs were so soft they fell apart as you picked them up and the goat’s cheese dressing was gentle and tasty. Although they were delicious, I couldn’t justify paying such a high price tag for these again.
Large chopped Mexican salad, iceberg, radishes, jicama, sweet tomatoes, cactus and queso fresco ($20.00). Fresh, crunchy pieces of lettuce drowned in a mayonnaise dressing with a range of hidden goodies mixed throughout made for a simple salad that everyone loved. This Mex salad can be added to the ‘to order’ list when you head down either with or without me.
Triple cooked bravas potatoes with two sauces ($9.00). The Newmarket version of everyone’s favourite roast potatoes are divine. Each individual ‘tato has a great crunch to soft inside ratio, perfectly coated in a light mayonnaise and tomato/bbq based relish of sorts. Order this dish, you will love it, that’s our Chommery guarantee.
Yucaten style banana leaf wrapped wood roasted local snapper, jicama and lychee salad, smokey habanero salsa (for 2 @ $33.00 per person). These arrive in a DIY format in which you build your own taco. Add a small bit of the lychee salad, continue with some soft juicy pieces of snapper to form a small mound.
Constructed Yucaten snapper taco. Besides the smudge on the plate (left by the amateur photographer), I think the taco looks great. Tasted awesome too.
Daily wood oven signature rotissera specials of organic lamb and suckling pig interchange throughout the week. An assortment of Latin cured meats, half or whole roasted chicken and a variety of 300 – 600g premium beef options are also available. After hearing about all these other mouth watering choices I’m sure you can easily tell that this chom has most definitely only scratched the surface of offerings. We can call this Newmarket Part I, a sequel is in the making and sure to be released on the bloggosphere in the not too distant future. Unconfirmed rumours floating around that Spielberg and Tarantino are both in the running to direct it – under the name ‘Newmarket Hotel – The never ending chom’.
The Important Details…
Cuisine: Mexican & a bit Latino
Noise: Plenty of la Musica
Bookings: Via phone
Suitable for: Over 18+, pub environment
Dress: Slightly nicer than usual
Price: $50 per head
My View: Great hit of Mex in the burbs
Address: 34 Inkerman Road, St Kilda
Phone: (03) 9537 1777
Sitting dark and handsomely on Malvern Road, Prahran, Hobba Coffee + Kitchen has made it’s mark in the neighborhood since they opened in mid 2011. The property in use is a converted garage that is strategically placed between Chapel Street and Williams Road, closer to Hawksburn Village. You wouldn’t label Hobba as being fashionably hard to find, at the same time it is not smack bang in the middle of a busy strip. The Chommery would direct one here by saying it’s almost adjacent to the Prahran Cop shop.
You can have cafe confidence when visiting Hobba, with the knowledge that the Hobba guys are the same people from Willim Esspresso in Malvern. I think Willim deserves a shout out and a big thanks for being the first (or maybe the only) cafe that provides good coffee to Glenferrie Road, Malvern. Hobba is definitely the big brother in this equation, with a far larger seating capacity and a full commercial kitchen offering a vast range of interesting dishes, some of which will be shown below. Above we have a snap of the front of the cafe, and these two very happy customers wanted to express their delight at their recent breakfast at Hobba.
An abundance of light and fresh air flows through the premises while there is technically no outdoor seating. All the front private and communal tables often creep a little over the boundary line to grab some sun when it is beaming. Take away coffee goers can sit up at the bar and watch the Hobba professionals behind the Synesso slam out kgs after kgs of caffeine. A range of different shared tables are placed closer to the streetside with a strip of wooden booths running down the center catering for tables of up to 4 people. There is a large communal table situated at the rear for casual dining.
These guys are serious about their coffee, offering their own ‘Maverick’ house blend, which is sourced from expert roasters, 5 Senses. Consistency is the key for Hobba’s coffee trade, always smooth and creamy and at the perfect temperature. Flat white ($3.80 – left) and Soy Late ($4.20 – right).
Chermoula braised charred omelette, kefalograveria, smoked tomato, dukkah and a slice of sourdough ($14.70). Although this sounds very fancy and technical, don’t be scared. This is a close relative of baked eggs, topped with herbs and an unbelievably good house-made sweet relish. I was offered a slice of toast on the side and accepted graciously.
The Smashed avocado, persian fetta, slow poached egg and grain sourdough ($11.80) is a great choice . Here lies a major talking point - Hobba’s poached eggs. They have implemented the ‘slow poaching’ of their eggs instead of the standard method. To my knowledge this is a technique that involves cooking the eggs in the the optimal egg boiling temperature of 62.5 Celsius and when they are ready you crack the egg shell open and ‘voila’. I have had these at Cumulus Inc before and seen the recipe in David Chang’s Momofuku cook book. Some people love them, others don’t, best is to come and try yourself. By the way, I love them.
62.5C slow poached egg, zucchini, poached salmon, goats curd, pickled celery and apple ($18.00). While this may seem an expensive choice for breakfast, it is fair to say that you need to pay a premium for a quality piece of salmon added to the plate. We found this to be a light option, which was suprisingly filling and we loved the addition of the apple and a whole square of salmon to the breakfast plate. Awesome to try something different.
The Hobba breakfast – tomato, bacon, mushroom, cumberland sausage, relish and grain sourdough ($16.50). Many cafes attempt to make a dish in their own name, it doesn’t work every time, but Hobba’s is excellent. I feel that the sausage isn’t around as much anymore unfortunately, but you just gotta love that fat succulent piece of meat with your breakfast. Additionally, not one but two of their signature eggs complement your meal – Magical.
I regularly head down here for lunches as well. They offer a great range of take-away sandwiches and an intense braised lamb shoulder salad with carrots – anyone that speaks about the chom with me knows I can’t stop raving about it. Rumor has it that the crew behind Hobba are currently applying for a liquor license and hoping to expand into dinners and some late night boozing. Great to have something more to look forward to from these guys in the not too distant future. For now, head down for a top breakfast and lunch or the ever longing coffee fix.
The Important Details…
Cuisine: Slightly fancy cafe fare
Noise: Not quiet
Suitable for: All people, kid friendly
Price: $15 – $20 per person
My View: A cafe that Malvern Road has been begging for, for years
Address: 428 Malvern Road, Prahran
Phone: (03) 9510 8336
There is no question that we have been rocked by a tidal wave of Mexican eateries over the last year or so. It was only a couple of years ago when eating Mexican food in Melbourne was a very overpriced and dissatisfying experience. If I am the first to tell you, it is in a process of a radical change. The CBD is undoubtedly the headquarters with ever supreme Mamasita, newbies Seniorita’s & Touche Hombre on the scene, Movida’s Paco’s Taco’s and word is out that Curtin House will build a latino quarter too. Not to forget the suburbs, where Newmarket Hotel dominates St Kilda, Taco truck running a muck around Brunswick and of course Fonda Mexican is doing a world of good in Richmond.
Sitting Black and pretty on Swan Street, Fonda has been divided into thirds. The outside seating along Swan Street and some tables up the graffiti-ed wall, the inside/kitchen (motor engine) and a cosy courtyard at the rear. Note: this courtyard gets HOT when the weather heats up. Rumour has it, these guys are ready to expand to the property to the right. Here’s hoping once they do, there will be some more exciting menu additions and more space for The Chommery for future visits.
Eating in the inside section proved to be an eventful choice. Midweek at around 9:00pm, I expected the dinner rush to have died down. Boy, was I wrong! Not only, were pretty much all the tables in each third taken, but the take-away queue was snaking out the doorway. STOP, in case you are thinking… busy – avoid, busy – avoid. These guys know what they are doing. The food arrives in a very timely manner. The most unbelievable part is how the Fonda staff find synergy in that tiny kitchen. I don’t know how they do it, but they do – Everyone is loving it.
A 6″ braised pork, pineapple, onion, lime and coriander taco ($5.00) was a great appetiser to warm up the engine that is my stomach. Very fresh ingredients, delicate pork and the sweetness from the pineapple made for amazing mouthfuls of goodness. It would seem that tacos are the dish of the moment. I am certainly not complaining. Give me about 7 – 10 (preferably assorted, but not essential) and I’ll be a very happy camper
The mesmerising turns of the mixers on the old-school slushee machines made ordering the Horchata’s a must. Once you approach the counter and are faced with these unusual drinks, you know what you have to do. They are made of rice, cinnamon, water, evaporated milk and vanilla ($4.50). I would consider these a light and not overly sweetened accompaniment which are cleverly presented in jars with thick retro straws. A good recommendation, especially if you get stung by a strong jalapeno. All the regular Jarrito options are available too.
Chorizo 12″ quaesadilla – chorizo, queso fresco (cheese), jalapeno and salsa roja ($12.00). This cheesy choice is served as four separate pieces and is ideal for sharing. I didn’t notice the jalapeno flavours, so this dish is fine for the chilli averse.
Tortilla chips with guacamole and spicy salsa ($6.00). Very self explanatory starter with no gastronomic properties. Nevertheless, the avocado left overs were used optimally on the burritos to come.
The Charred corn with chipotle aioli, riccotta salata and lime ($3.50 each). You can find these treasures more easily in Melbourne nowadays but you still can’t go past them. Juicy corn, limey zing and amazingly soft parmesan is felt with each bite as you make a mess while chomping on these. The corn prices at Fonda are more reasonable than what you would expect at some of your flashier alternatives. So, you should order one or two.
You have to order a burrito when you come down to visit Fonda. It’s the backbone of your meal and will provide the major sustenance of your experience. The 12″ ‘Chopped Beef’ burrito – beef/pork burger, black beans, salsa roja and chipotle ailoli ($13.50). A delicious choice, surprisingly filling and a salsa sauce is provided on the side if you feel it needs more jazz. An amazing contraption is being used in the kitchen to flatten and cook the Abbotsford Convent Bakery dough into the these scrumptious burrito wraps.
The ‘Grilled Chicken’ - quinoa, salsa verde, corn, queso fresco and cabbage burrito ($13.50) is a great choice too. The use the power grain quinoa is very interesting in this wrap as it provides an alternate substitute for rice or lettuce. These delicate burritos are overflowing with their respective ingredients and each bite into these lush wraps is better than the one before. The Fonda burritos are pre cut and are great for sharing with 2 or 4 people.
Fonda Mexican really is a brilliant place. It isn’t trying to be a fancy restaurant, and at the same time it is managing to steer clear of being just another fast food joint. Positioned on Swan Street Richmond, far enough away from the crazy intersection at Church Street ensures that you will have some peace during your visit. Open seven days a week, Monday to Friday from 12:00 and Saturday and Sunday from 3:00pm. Come down in the evening and you will notice the Fonda troops creating burritos and taco late into the night.
You can rest assured that The Chommery would not lead you astray. Get yourself down to Fonda!
The Important Details…
Suitable For: All
Price: $15 – $25 per head
My View: Funky spot with great Mexican fare
Address: 248 Swan Street, Richmond
Phone: (03) 9429 0085