Batch Espresso has been fuelling the good people of Balaclava with honest food and quality coffee way back before eating out was the cool thing to do. This small cafe, situated in the midst of cosmopolitan Carlisle Street, is worth visiting as part of anyone’s food journey.
Although I do love sitting inside and getting amongst the hustle and bustle that occurs inside Batch’s premises, you will not regret nabbing a spot on Carlisle Street, weather permitting. It is truly a captivating experience to observe the eclectic crowds that flock to and fro.
Batch has created a space that is humble, warm and welcoming for all people, from whatever walk of life you hail from. Retro black and white floor tiles are the absolute bomb and a rare sight to behold. Meanwhile, you’re looking at only 25-30 cosy seats inside which packs out like you wouldn’t believe. Best is to head down early in the morning or just after the lunch rush if you want to avoid any queues. Today’s chom was for lunch and praise the good Lord, an abridged breakfast menu was available too.
Fresh seasonal fruit salad with lavender yoghurt and almond maple crunch ($9.50). One of the lighter dishes that Batch has on their menu. This plate has all your favourite fruity friends and while the crunch appears to be muesli – it is in-fact a more sugary topping. A light, but sweet choice.
Fried haloumi with roast vegetables, pesto, balsamic reduction and sourdough ($14.00). Could haloumi be the new goat’s cheese? It is soft and tasty but can be slightly chewy if you leave it for too long. If eaten with appropriate haste this cheese (and the dish) is so delicious!
Batch have made an awesome attempt at an old Eastern European dish, commonly known to many as ‘latkes’. These are potato pancakes with NZ smoked salmon, cornichons, chives and horseradish cream friache ($15.00). While these are not as thick as I remember Bubba used to make, they certainly are as delicious. Thin, oiled up potato treats perfectly matched with a cream and salmon topping. I love these – may not be for all.
Fried eggs with lemon, cumin, mint, baba ghanoush and rocket on taosted Turkish bread ($14.00). A generous layer of baba was spread onto one piece of Turkish bread all hiding under the double egg roof. A respectably sized breakfast option that I would recommend to anyone that is not starving. A top combo of flavours.
Batch’s avocado and feta mash on sourdough ($12.00). Don’t tell me you are over this dish. I see people order it everywhere. On the avo-feta spectrum, this one scores very highly for me. The portion size is monstrous, two pieces of toast is kind and you know the rest. Definitely big enough, although a side of salmon or a poached egg would look great.
Why not follow the Melb-Mex trend and order something hip and trendy? The quesadilla with truffled corn, mushrooms, guacamole and sour cream ($15.00) is magnifico. Have fun alternating between the two dipping sauces (double dipping essential). Only negative about this - trying to pronounce it.
There you have it, another happy chom. Batch Espresso was one of the first cafes I explored as I began my food conquest a few years back and it was love at first sight. As I am sure you can easily tell, my love is still burning as bright as ever. Give this place a shot and I am sure yours will too.
Once you have finished your meal, I could not recommend a stroll down Carlisle Street more highly. Be sure to collect a bunch of sesame and poppy seed bagels from Glick’s and seek out the new smash-hit self-serve yoghurt joint ‘Yo-Chi’ for dessert. Upon the successful completion of all three of these food-inspired adventures you are sure to be left in a blissful state.
The Important Details…
Cuisine: Tip-top cafe fare
Noise: Hustle bustle
Suitable for: The young and old
Dress: St Kilda cosmopolitan
Price: $15 – $20 per head
My View: A classic
Address: 320 Carlisle Street, Balaclava
Phone: (03) 9530 3550
Deep in the heart of Melbourne’s prized eating precinct of St Kilda you will find a small and friendly cafe that goes by the name of Miss Jackson (MJ). The address of these premises is 2/19 Grey Street, although humans would be wise to enter from Jackson Street – if in doubt use a Google map application or the good ol’ fashioned Melways.
MJ is a great neighborhood cafe run by a very friendly team that have been providing St Kilda with delicious cafe fare for some time now. From what I hear the menu has remained the same for a little while offering many customer favourites, in addition to 1-2 specials every day. All day breakfast with a handful of lunch options complemented with more-than drinkable coffee is really all you need to know. Sitting inside you may find your experience to be surprisingly comfortable, I must attribute this drawing card to the fact that MJ has been around before the ‘sit-on-top-of-each-other’ cafe model was introduced.
To kick off the festivities we shared a plate of crumbed polenta chips with harissa mayo ($7.50). One deliciously oily finger lathered in dipping sauce is all you need the edge off before each chommer’s individual dish arrives.
Spanish baked eggs with chorizo, char grilled capsicum and olives ($16.00). A classic combination that we all know and love. Also great to chom a large piece of toast with this dish.
Goat’s cheese omelette with fresh herbs and organic sourdough toast ($14.50). An egg variety that we all are fond of, made a trillion times better with the inclusion of the smash-hit ingredient of the decade, goat’s cheese - makes for yummy times. A wise chommer added a side of salty and juicy bacon to join in the fun – no complaints.
Scientists have reported that you need three things to live; water, shelter and schintzel. I’m not one to challenge scientific research and as such ordered the Panko schnitzel burger with radish and fennel slaw ($14.00). The MJ crew have gone down the thin+crunchy schnitty path, encased by the ever reliable Turkish roll and thrown some fresh slaw in the middle. A tasty burger that more than does the trick. You may want a side of mayo or tommy sauce to give it that extra booya! On another note, my near equal favourite reuben sanga is also available and will be sampled in the not-too-distant future.
A delicate and light option can be found in the breakfast crumble with apple, blackberry, pistachio granola and yoghurt ($9.00). Light on the lipids and the wallet, this is a nice muesli option complemented perfectly with the generous golf ball of yoghurt.
Corn fritters with bacon, avocado and roasted vine tomatoes with homemade chili jam ($15.00). A respectable serving of two soft, fluffy fritters carefully roofed by some crispy bacon and avocado slices. The spread-as-you like type of sauce allows you to sweeten these hot-cakes as much as you desire.
To finish this post on a heavy note, we went all out with the steak sandwich with caramelised onion, fresh tomato, rocket and fries ($15.50). Lightly toasted ciabatta coated nicely with a layer of mayo worked brilliantly to enclose the thick rare roast piece of protein inside. An excellent sandwich that I would be happy to recommend to all. Extra brownie points for top Maccas style fries.
If you can visualise yourself hoeing into some of this fine cafe grub after glancing over this here post then there is no need to hesitate. Opening hours are 7:00 – 4:00 every day bar Monday which should provide you with availability to enjoy. Although I did not take advantage of it this time, the space is fully licensed and as such a frothy or two could go down a treat upon the next visit.
The Important Details…
Noise: Very light music
Suitable for: All
Dress: Yes please
Price: $15 – $20 per head
Address: 2/19 Grey Street, St Kilda
Phone: (03) 9534 8415
Now, when you manage to get a table or spot at the bar at Barney Allen’s in St Kilda you are presented with a menu. I have been here a handful of times and still do not quite understand why there is a whole page of options. We can joke, kid and have an solid merry old play, but let’s cut the shit. Seriously. You came to Barney Allen’s for one purpose. To get the burger.
Part owner of this popular location is Melbourne’s own celebrity chef Iain Hewitson, or more commonly known as Huey. He has managed to develop an open bar environment that is not at all pretentious and is inviting for people of all ages. Inside, there is a basic fit out comprising a bar with stools, a few tables and laid back couches at the rear. Take it from me, there is no need to dress up, worry about bookings or any other fancy business before coming here. Just a great casual place to head, open seven nights til late.
The above snap is of the outdoor seating area which runs along the famous Fitzroy Street in St Kilda. On a warmer evening, you would be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable experience if you are looking for a relaxed snack and a couple of frothies. When it’s cooler like right now, the heaters are on but you can retreat to the larger indoor section, still ensuring the beers and burgers are intact and flowing. Not as much fresh air, but still a damn good experience.
We decided to really indulge on this particular visit to Allen’s eatery. By this I mean we ordered a couple of entrees to share as well as the burgers. Obviously. The parmesan crumbed polenta chips with sweet chilli mayo ($11.00) were delicious if you feel like sharing a plate to whet the palette. These were crunchy on the outside, delightfully soft on the inside and very hot (in temperature). Help these fat fingers of goodness cool down by painting them in a coat of the mayonnaise sauce. You will not regret ordering these.
The shuijao – pork and ginger dumplings with soy and mirin dipping sauce ($12.50). A plate of dumplings that were not tasty enough to be re-ordered and certainly not worth the price tag. I probably wouldn’t recommend ordering the dumplings, rather stick to what Barney is known for.
Plate one displays the Barney Allen’s famous burger ($12.50) in all its glory, sitting oh so pretty with an essential side of chips ($2.50 extra). The burger in all its epicness comprises a soft white burger bun, monster sized lamb patty, crispy bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, a tomato relish and a sweet beetroot relish (on polar ends). Absolutely awesome! There is definitely a reason why you look at every other customer inside the restaurant and there is a burger in front of them. I must warn you that eating this in a regular burger chomming style is a big challenge. You can expect a lot of dripping, sauces and juices dripping everywhere and some of the insides to fall out. No problem, just thought I should give you the heads up – maybe not the best place for a first date chom. The chips cooked in a McDonald’s – esque style, long, crispy and salty are an awesome side.
I was debating whether to include this picture or not. In the end I decided that it was of the utmost importance to visually show the size of the patty that is used. Further, to inspect the inside of this delightful burger without its roof. Kind of like looking at the birds eye architectural drawings of a property. You have to see the plans before you go through with the purchase!
And now a profile shot to show the true height of the burger. The burger has been strategically positioned on a plate standing alone without the chips on this photo to show its tall dominance and ability to get the job done without any sides. The Chommery approved suggestion is to order a pint of Heineken as shown in the background. I don’t have a degree in pairing food and drink. My humble opinion is that beer and burger makes for smiling people.
For me the Barney Allen’s burger is one of the best that I have been faced with in Melbourne. If you need that little extra support, the wildy popular blog ‘The Burger Adventure’, voted this as the 6th best burger in Melbourne in 2011. Included in the popular list (which I would recommend inspecting) features the likes of, Beatbox Kitchen, Rockpool (twice) and Danny’s Burgers.
There you have it, I could keep on talking but I feel that I have done my dash here. If burgers and alcohol are your thing, head on down to Barney Allen’s in St Kilda.
The Important Details…
Bookings: Unfortunately no – food served quickly though
Suitable for: All
Dress: Relaxed – Can’t eat burgers any other way
Price: $20 – $25 a head
My View: Top burger + alcohol = bliss
Address: 14 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda
Phone: (03) 9525 5477
In 1993 the widely popular St. Kilda institution Cicciolina, was established. She has now graced Melbourne with her presence for almost two decades. Serving up heavily influenced European fare in an authentically humble eating environment. You can count on being in good hands as soon as you step in the door. Interestingly enough the restaurant name La Cicciolina was inspired by a multi talented porn star, politician and singer, whose stage name was La Cicciolina (thanks Wikipedia).
When you find yourself in the middle of Acland Street you really couldn’t be positioned closer to the heart of St Kilda. Great location for a fabulous restaurant? – I would say yes! Funnily enough, finding an excellent meal on the the popular Acland Street (Chapel too for that matter) can be a hard pressed challenge for a foodie. This Chommer believes that the highly inflated rents, the stupid tourists and the overall commercial-ness of these streets would be key factors in deterring restauranters from opening. Cicciolina has proven to be one of the most (if not the only) worthwhile destinations on Acland Street.
The combination of the timeless fit out and the friendly staff have managed to create a relaxed environment with enough touch of European culture and sophistication to make Cicciolina one of the better restaurants in Melbourne. The eating space consists of a cosy, small dog leg space with a window front view of Acland Street and a bustling kitchen at the back. Behind the kitchen lies Cicciolina’s own ‘Back Bar’, which is a great place to lounge around on the leather couches, sip cocktails and enjoy a few small sharing plates while you wait for your table. Note: the main entrance is via the lane way adjacent to the restaurant. A strict ‘No Booking’ policy means that if you don’t get here early, you can stroll around St Kilda or drink up in the bar while you wait for your table.
Bread and butter – one of life’s most underrated simple pleasures. Cicciolina serves this to each table as they arrive. I felt the need to express that the bread WITH the butter is an epic combination here. Well worth the calories, carbohydrates and other naughties. Dig in!
I have a sneaking suspicion that the bread is sourced from Baker D Chirico on Fitzroy Street. If that isn’t enough, when your done with your plate, they will replace it with more. Heaven. I was full after 2.5 plates – Not really.
Selection of Antipasto ($20.50). This sharing plate consisted of: dried meats, chorizo slices, sun-dried tomatoes, capsicum, olives and feta with flavoursome accompaniments including a quiche, a frittata, assorted dips (pumpkin and whole white bean with avocado) and one arancini ball. This is an excellent plate to split between two or at a stretch three people. If you go with the latter a second entree would go down well.
Oven baked baby chicken served on chat potatoes and leek rounds with a dijon mustard cream and watercress salad ($35.50). The dressing combined with the leeks and the nicely plump chicky was a winner. The flavours were rich without being over-powering and complemented each other rather well. My only criticism is that I love to eat all that is on my plate however, gnawing on the bone in such a nice place is unacceptable – what a shame!
Premium eye fillet char grilled to order (medium rare – obviously), served with a roasted potato fondant, wilted spinach and a basil and olive oil paste ($40.50). This chommer doesn’t indulge in fine meat even close to as much as he should. Although, saving it for special occasions ensures the ‘wow’ factor remains in tact. Tender, well portioned and full of meaty juice makes for an epic piece of steak. After you have enjoyed this slice of heaven, The Chommery suggests heading on down to either Bistro Thierry in Toorak or France Soir in South Yarra, which also serve excellent fillets.
The only regret of yet another successful night out on the chom, was that we didn’t order the chocolate pudding. Quite frankly, even if we did, chances are there wouldn’t have been enough time to snap a photo before the destruction of it began. Take it from me, the pudding is a must order if you have room. Any how, if Cicciolina is a been there done that, or if you are looking for somewhere new, they recently gave birth to a young, sexy daughter called Ilona Staller at 282 Carlisle Street, Balaclava.
To leave this post on a different note…
Cicciolina fills out extremely quick
Head down early and it will do the trick (6:00pm roughly)
No stress if you get there late
Chill at their groovy bar while you wait
Maybe you could sip some beers
Everybody will say cheers
Once you manage to get inside
You know my heart will be filled with pride
Order from the superb menu
You will see this is a top venue
Cicciolina is the bomb
Go enjoy and chom chom chom
The Important Details…
Cuisine: European / International
Bookings: No, sorry
Suitable For: appreciators of fine chomming. Not suitable for babies.
Dress: Smart casual
Price: $60 per head with an alcoholic beverage
My View: Cicciolina is like a great bottle of red – keeps getting better
Address: 130 Acland Street, St Kilda
Phone: (03) 9525 3333
In the humble opinion of Samuel at The Chommery, this could have been the restaurant of the year. Established in 2011, Golden Fields is the third incredible venture from Australian chef Andrew McConnell. Fields is a modern take on Asian/Thauralian (Thai Food + Australian Chef) that has blown me away each time I have checked in.
Cumulus Inc. in Melbourne’s city and Cutler & Co in Fitzroy are the predecessors of this fine spot in St Kilda. McConnell maintains an outstanding, enviable standard of food, quality of produce, clean, sleek interior fit-outs and professional service across all three of these gems. I won’t tell a lie, I haven’t yet been to Cutler, although I have heard and read many reviews that would point in this positive direction. Besides which, you can’t get a table there for months! Fields is well worth a visit if you you’re interested in the ‘Melbourne hype’ and all of the very interesting dishes that accompany this. No bargains will be found here folks – just extremely impressive food.
The outside seating sprawls over Fitzroy Street, overlooking Melbourne’s iconic Albert Park. When the weather was as pleasant as it was at 6:30pm in January you couldn’t ask for much more than this spot out front for supper. This isn’t to say that it isn’t lovely in the dining room – it is. However, note to anyone interested in attending: sitting out front is a marching band quieter than sitting inside. Truth be told, Melbourne’s weather as we all know it – the safer bet would be to perch yourself inside.
I’m an admirer of the old saying ‘less is more’. Those that have dined at the Fields will understand exactly what I mean. The entrance to the premises is constructed entirely out of glass display, allowing natural light to pour in. The space is a rectangular configuration, and follows the trend of open bar and open kitchen. You will notice the huge beautiful marble bench that spans the length of the restaurant, creating a space for staff to work busily on the inside, and for bar seating closer to the back of the premises. Swish round tables and shiny metal chairs line the space, leaving only a small walkway to and from the kitchen. But there’s plenty of space to eat comfortably; if you feel the desire to yawn and throw your arms out you won’t hit the people next to you.
Anti clockwise from top left: Candied walnuts with sesame and nori ($8.00); pickles ($8.00); complimentary toasted pumpkin seeds. We were all big fans of the walnuts which were sugar-coated and had a good, salty crunch thanks to the seaweed. Beware: the pumpkin seeds are ultra addictive. The pickles were “slimy yet satisfying” (quote Pumba from The Lion King – epic movie). Honestly, I probably wouldn’t order them again – not enough oomph for me. But that said, none of these plates were too filling, making them successful appetite teasers.
Pork rolls with white kimchi, yuxiang sauce ($14.00) which I hadn’t trialled before. These were good, not my favourite, but good. The combination of the potent flavours of spring onion and coriander combined with the dressing made for an enjoyable, wholesome dish. I can’t help but comment on how gorgeous the presentation is on this plate – Chommery approved.
New England lobster roll in a hot buttered bun, cold poached crayfish, watercress and kewpie ($15.00 each). A bunch of food critics have included these little treasures in their favourite dishes of 2011. Larrisa Dubecki, of The Age had these at 4th place in the Best Dishes of 2011 in Melbourne, and I would have to agree, these are incredibly scrumptious. I’ve visited the Fields several times now and I can’t stop myself from ordering one of these. The bun is very lightly toasted, the lobster melts in your mouth (I am basically salivating as I write this) and the mayonnaise is light with just enough lettuce to crunch. I know that these aren’t a bargain at $15 each, but they’re a total must-order if you haven’t tried them. Note: I’m almost certain this is the only dish available on a take-away basis.
There’s something similar about the look of this dish and the pork rolls, right? Again, a good combo of the sharp (onion, chilli, coriander) and the mild (mmm, chickie). Shredded chicken salad with sesame paste, homemade cold rice noodles and chilli oil ($15.00). The recommendation is to give the salad a good ol’ toss once before you start ho-ing in. Cutting the large pieces of chicken when mixing it all up also helps. This is my favourite salad of the Field’s salads I have ordered – as I say, the sharper flavours of chilli, coriander and onion beautifully complement the fat noodles and chicky.
Rustic pork dumplings served with chilli Shanghai vinegar ($9.00 for 2 pieces). Drool moment number two for all the chommers on board for this Field(s) trip. These are entirely different to the heavily BBQed, over-sauced pork-style mince you often expect to bite into when you order pork buns. No such perils in this golden instance. The bun is warm and oh-so-soft (you could eat it with your gums). Then your teeth hit a juicy delicate cube of pork. Coating it with the vinegar provided is optional. Naturally, I drowned mine in it; it’s a great flavour change from the standard plum or soy that usually accompanies my favourite type of bun.
Twice cooked duck leg, steamed bread, vinegar and plum sauce ($20.00 + $(?)extra bread). Need something more? These involve a DIY assembling process. (New trend? You tell me). Yes, I am a thoughtful, generous, chivalrous young man, so I organised these for the table using the following expert method: 1. Open the warmed plush bread; 2. Lather plum sauce on one side of bread; 3. Drip vinegar on same side as plum; 4. Place one stick of cucumber along the fold of the bun; 5. Tear up duck leg with a spoon and fork (yes it is that soft – no knife is required); 6. Pack bun full of torn duck.
There we have it: the constructed duck roll. I know my handy-work looks pretty good, but seriously, this photo does no justice to how exquisite this dish is. Even with two extra buns served for only one leg, each of the five buns are overflowing with duck. It took the self-discipline of a zen monk to not swallow this juicy, delectable treat in one go. Folks, this is a must order.
Slow roasted lamb shoulder with cumin seed and salted lemon ($68.00). I should have included a picture of what the inside of this huge piece of delicate meat looked like after it was hacked at with the cutlery provided. This is a big dish – we shared it as a main between five people and we all had more than our fair share. It comes with a not insignificant price tag of a whopping 68 bucks, but I maintain that this can be justified when shared between five people as a main. Break it down. This dish is a perfect example of the Aus-fusion style of Fields, with the Asian themed presence all through the night and a western style main course. I wasn’t complaining – Trust me, I was chomming.
Fields has a bunch of salads and vegie dishes on the menu including one with heirloom tomatoes, tamarind and shallots, one with watercress and chrysanthemum leaf, and a Zucchini with black beans and chilli. We chose mixed greens in XO sauce ($15.00) to provide some vegetable presence alongside the lamb monster! The other options sounded mysterious and enticing.
Peanut butter parfait with salted caramel and soft chocolate ($10.00). Wowzers. I have now ordered this desert on two separate occasions. Be prepared for a firm cube of sweetness showered in crushed peanuts. I want to marry this dish. But then, that is to say I would never order one of these to myself. The Chommery-approved recommendation is to share between four. A couple of heavenly spoonfuls is all that’s required to end this extraordinary meal on a sweet note.
The lack of quality eating on Fitzroy Street has definitely taken a turn with the addition of this hot-spot. If this restaurant was actually Fields of some sort, the colour would be golden, no doubt. Months after opening, this place still packs out for lunches and dinners. You can’t book at night (unless you are a party of eight or more) so the best suggestion is to rock up between 6:00 and 7:00 pm. Head to Golden Fields if you appreciate outstanding quality food and you can justify forking up some Aussie dollars for the privilege. Fields is unquestionably one of my favourite restaurants in Melbourne. If you also like it, maybe we can be friends.
Much love as always, The Chommer.
The Important Details…
Cuisine: Asian fusion
Noise: Inside is loud when full (it’s mostly full) Outside: General noises of Fitzroy street happenings
Bookings: Evening bookings for 8 – 14 only; Lunch Bookings available
Suitable for: All ages welcome. Older (16+) will appreciate more
Dress: Smart casual, although most don’t mind
Price: $50 – $60
My View: A must go restaurant. Superb.
Address: 157 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda
Phone: (03) 9525 4488