Pocket, North Melbourne

Where: 29 Melrose Street North Melbourne (in underpass connecting shops to housing estate)
When: Tues-Fri 7.30am-3pm, Weekends: 8.30am-2pm
Contact: (03) 9040 4441
CC and EFTPOS
Take-away available
Vego :)

Local residents will rejoice in Pocket; a brand new micro-café sprucing up the tired Melrose Street shopping district. Tucked away in a concrete underpass adjoining local shops to a housing estate, the term “diamond in the rough” is particularly fitting. Despite its less-than-glamorous locale, Pocket’s outdoor seating actually fares quite well. The arcade’s overpass provides part shelter while the view out West shows off plenty of sky thanks to the café’s elevated position. The outdoor tables have been custom-fit to work with the sloping path so there are no awkward leans in the furniture. If you can nab a stool inside you’ll find lots of light, daily newspapers and plenty of sweet little flourishes that will make you feel right at home.

Asparagus, quinoa, Avocado and Marinated Pepper Salad ($7.50)

Pocket’s short and sweet menu is due to be expanded with some hot savouries, but there’s no need to wait for those as the bagels, salads and tarts really hold their own. Lunchosaurus tried the Salad of the Day: Asparagus, Quinoa, Avocado and Marinated peppers ($7.50) as well as the Pumpkin, Whipped feta, Pinenut and Rocket bagel ($7.50). While both looked fairly unassuming, they came up big on flavour.

The Asparagus salad was incredibly fresh and not overdressed which gave it a gentle flavour, mainly thanks to the gorgeous red peppers. The quinoa provided both hearty filler and fluffy texture.

Pumpkin, Whipped feta, Pinenut and Rocket bagel ($7.50)

The pumpkin bagel’s success was in the sweetness of the pumpkin partnered with the creamy whipped feta (seasoned with rosemary, garlic and lemon). Of course it doesn’t hurt to wrap it all up in one of Melbourne’s best carbs as well; Pocket stocks famous Glick’s bagels.

Brownie ($4)

It’s hard to stop at lunch when tasty homemade treats are baked fresh on the premises. Lunchosaurus enjoyed a chocolate brownie ($4) that tasted just as it should; paper-thin crisp on top and almost molten in the centre. A few chopped nuts added extra body too.

To wash it down Pocket serves Allpress coffee and makes it with plenty of kick. The flat white ticked all the boxes but the cappuccino; while full-flavoured didn’t achieve that silkiness of texture, its froth a bit too aerated and segregated from espresso.


Flat White ($3.50)

Pocket offers something fresh and beautiful for the local residents to enjoy which will hopefully have the local sandwich and take-away shops something to aspire too. Extremely well-priced and with really personable service from owner Jacob, Pocket is worth checking out.

Food and beverage: 4.5/5
Service: 5/5
Ambiance: 3/5

Pocket on Urbanspoon

SNAPSHOT REVIEW: Crumbs, Nth Melbourne

Where:16 Errol Street, North Melbourne

When: Weekdays 6:30am-6pm, Saturdays 7am-3pm

Cash only

Primarily take-away

Vego :)

Something quite special has popped up on Errol Street in North Melbourne. Crumbs Bakery; a sweet little slice of a shop bringing a breath of fresh air to the stale part of the shopping strip. They offer freshly baked bread, coffee and a small but thoughtful range of treats. At the moment you can buy hot cross buns with a dark spiced dough and sticky apricot glaze. There’s always a pizza slice available for lunch and inside you’ll find little treats like chewy coconut macaroons and rich brownies.

Today I helped myself to a Apple, Zucchini and Walnut muffin ($3.50), recommended by the staff. It was amazing. You should not be put off by the zucchini as it contributed as a juicy binding agent rather than a savory flavour. The top was littered with spiced sugar and walnut nibbles while large disks of soft apple floated through the centre. Overall the result was exactly what you would want from a muffin; not too sweet and wholesomely substantial.

Get down to Crumbs, the staff are always lovely and the eats are neat.

Apple, Walnut and Zucchini Spiced Muffin ($3.50)

Food: 5/5

Grigons & Or Corner Store, North Melbourne

Where: 445 Queensberry St North Melbourne

When: Weekends 8am-4pm, Weekdays 7am-4pm

Cash Only

Vegetarian :)

Dine-in, take-away for milk-bar items

Contact: (03) 9663 5192

 

Remember the days when you could get everything at your Corner Store? All your groceries and a milkshake too? If you don’t remember then it’s probably because this distorted piece of nostalgia owes itself to something out of 1950’s America rather than anything you, (most likely) growing in Australia, have probably ever experienced. But for those with a whimsical sense of fake nostalgia, Grigons & Orr Corner Store might just give you a little thrill. Grigons is decked out like a Ye Olde milk-bar with shelves to the ceiling stacked with a mix of modern-day groceries and retro adorables. Atop the front cabinet are some tasty looking fresh muffins and slices while behind the glass you’ll find WizzFizz. I’m not sure if this is what most parents would call a “kid-friendly café”, but as a kid I know I would’ve been in sugary heaven.

Grigons & Or seemingly have very few tables unless you realise there’s a dining room upstairs; something not immediately apparent. The tables outside are subjected to a sloping footpath and some nasty road noise, while the ones inside downstairs are, well…there’re just three of them. It might matter to lazier readers how close to the cash register they’re seated as you’ll need to walk up to the counter to order. Glasses of water are also DIY. And another warning; try to have cash on you, otherwise you’ll need to go on a hike uphill to Errol Street, not recommended.  

 

Uncle Bennies ($14.50)

Once you’ve found appropriate seating and filled your wallets with cash you might notice that the menu is very large and quite “egg-centric”, (Dining Partner’s words, not mine) While large menus are rarely a good sign, G & O did manage to deliver on the goods; the food was great. Dining partner ordered the Uncle Bennies (Poached eggs on toast with hollandaise and choice of bacon/spinach/ham) for $14.50 and I asked for the Coddled Eggs (cooked with fresh herbs, creamed spinach and served with cheesy soldiers) at $12.50. Aside from being too small, the Uncle Bennies was picture-perfect with trimmed, high quality bacon and decent hollandaise. My coddled eggs were cooked nicely and did indeed contain plenty of herbs and creamed spinach, yet were a little basic in flavour. The cheesy soldiers were generous chunks of spongey bread with charred cheese topping. It did appear that they were also drizzled with hollandaise; exciting at first but too rich by the end. We washed our breakfasts down with cappuccinos and lattes which were excellent when asked for “strong”, but quite watery when made as standard.

If you can get a seat inside, Grigons and Or does have a certain ambiance; the music is tastefully low-volume for the small space and there’s a cute drink fridge with rarities like Cherry Cola and Dr Pepper all frosty and ready for you. It also pays to be open seven days a week; you’ve got to admire that commitment.

 

Coddled Eggs with Cheesy Soldiers ($12.50)


Food: 3.5/5

Service: 2/5

Ambiance: 2.5/5

Grigons & Orr on Urbanspoon

The Crimean, North Melbourne

Where: 351 Queensberry St North Melbourne

When: Tues, Weds Dinner, Thurs-Sun Lunch and dinner

Contact: (03) 9329 3353

Vego: Mildly Friendly :/

Payment: CC and EFTPOS

The peeps at The Crimean in West Melbourne don’t want to put a label on their cuisine but the general consensus is that it is of Eastern European influence. To me, it tasted like stuff my Slovakian mother makes, with lots of guts and artistic flair. Like Polish Pub goes Chef Hat…or something. The prices lie somewhere in-between these two extremes with mains around $25, more if you order big ticket items like the Bigos Polish Hunter Casserole ($32). The drink list is very exciting with plenty of imported options such as the intriguing Birch-infused vodka, cos you’re not a man if your vodka hasn’t got bits of tree in it. Speaking of, The Crimean is a very masculine sort of place; it’s dark, it’s woody and it’s meaty. Vegetarians are offered one option per menu section for a fleshless feed with a little more range in the entrees.

The service at The Crimean is, as you would expect; not at all pompous. Yet the professional details such as the borscht shot on arrival and the warm good-quality bread, butter and sea salt make you feel a bit spoilt. Even in the bright early evening when we arrived, it was seductively dark inside. The coffee-coloured light shades threw a soft light over the comfortable wooden furniture, creating an intimate ambiance.

 

Cherry Martini ($16)

Feeling relaxed, I ordered a cherry martini. With real morello cherries on the toothpick and fumes which could burn your nose hair off, it wasn’t as nearly as ditzy as it sounded. Once sufficiently tipsy we ordered the pork and beef pelmeni dumplings, which everyone should try because they’re fantastic. Similar in dough to Asian dumplings, these babies have thicker skin and tastier filling. Best of all they come drizzled in a heavenly sauce of paprika butter, horseradish and sour cream. Also from the Dumplings Menu we ordered the Baked duck and prude piegrogi ($10). This time with a pastry-bun shell, these dumplings were rich and gamey but I was unable to recognise much of the prune in them.

 

 Beef and pork pelmeni, sour cream, paprika butter, horseradish ($11)

To balance things out we ordered the Tomato Salad with chive quark and crisp rye bread ($12). You’ll be glad to know that this isn’t a cold, sloppy, watery mess of a salad with bits of bread in it. Well it is and it isn’t. The quark (A Russian version of cottage cheese) actually tasted of lemon rather than chive which gave it an amazing dessert feel, although not at all in a bad way. The softness of the cool cheese and tomato balanced perfectly with the course rye crisps.

Just as successful was the Salad Olivier, new season potatoes, apple, celery ($12) a classic creamy potato salad but with tangy blades of green apple.

 

Tomato salad, chive quark, crisp rye bread ($12)

To finish off the feast we shared a main, The Bigos ($32) , a Polish Hunter Casserole which boasted pork sausage, smoked pork belly, braised pork neck, juniper and sauerkraut. While it was well-cooked and of good quality, it was my least favourite part of our order. It was just too bland, and the price tag didn’t help either. Perhaps if the sauerkraut was zingier, it would’ve been quite good.

Overall I was very impressed with the exciting dishes The Crimean had on offer and would return in a heartbeat. Dumplings, martinis and salads are the only food groups for me.

Salad Olivier, new season potatoes, apple, celery ($12)

Food: 4/5

Service: 5/5

Ambiance: 5/5

The Crimean on Urbanspoon

Beatrix (revisited for sweets), North Melbourne

Where: 688 Queensberry St North Melbourne

When: Breakfast and Lunch Wednesday-Monday

Contact: (03) 9090 7301

Pricing: Mains under $15

Vego :)

Cash only

Dine in/Take-away

Passionfruit yoyo ($3)

It seemed a shame not to return for a special dessert-orientated visit at Beatrix, after all, sweets seem to be their shtick. So with fellow ‘sweet connoisseur’ in tow I returned for afternoon tea. She ordered a flat white (Allpress Coffee) and I had the spectacular Lady Grey (Art of Teas) both $3.50. The coffee is expertly barrista-fied, to speak technically, but the coffee blend itself is on the weaker side. If you like it bitey, better ask for a strong one. The Lady Grey at Beatrix is so fruity, you may reconsider adding milk if you were so inclined. It is so lusciously floral it is as if you’re drinking whatever “Ladylike” should taste like.

But on to the sweets please! Beatrix have started serving little samples of their cakes and biscuits up at the counter, and this time they had a rich chocolate cake. I was so happy that I tried a piece. Both mousse-like and crumbly it was a pure shot of dark chocolate heaven. A refreshing change from sickly sweet, sticky mud-cakes that grace the cabinets of about a million of Melbourne’s cafes. So although I wanted the cake, I felt the need to review as much as possible and thus ordered the passionfruit yoyo ($3). Now I’m not a fan of shortbread usually but there’s no floury aftertaste with this little fella. The biscuit melts away like meringue in your mouth leaving a sweet, sharp tang of fresh passionfruit. 

Also devoured was the rugelach ($4), a cute little package of a pastry that looks like something my mum would make. I was worried it could be too flaky but instead it was buttery and a little chewy. Best of all, it had a strong coffee-caramel taste of baked brown sugar. This one was my fave for sure, ten please!

So if you’re the sort of person who never orders cake in a cafe because you think you could make it better yourself, then give Beatrix a chance. It will wow you.

Rugelach ($4)

Dessert rating: 5/5

Beatrix on Urbanspoon

Beatrix, North Melbourne

Where: 688 Queensberry St North Melbourne

When: Breakfast and Lunch Wednesday-Monday

Contact: (03) 9090 7301

Pricing: Mains under $15

Vego :)

Cash only

Dine in/Take-away

 

I’ve eaten at many places in the last week and a half but I have not been able to publish a word on any of them. Sometimes it’s difficult to find anywhere worth writing about. Then I found Beatrix; a tiny café getting a lot of hype at the moment. Its distant placing on Queensberry Street is perhaps the only thing keeping this little gem from having queues out the door, at least for now. Then again, I got there before 10am on a Sunday.

Do choose your timing wisely, or you’ll be disappointed. Beatrix is the size of a lounge room, and to be honest I felt as though I’d accidently intruded into someone’s house when I first opened the door. It was so quiet inside, only the polite conversations of a table of four wafted around the room. At the window-facing bar people sat on their own, no doubt enjoying the peace. The corner-store position lets in light from almost all around, which opens up the space nicely. Unlike other North Melbourne Cutie; Fandango, this café has a breezy, minimal vibe. The walls are white with thin, blonde, wooden shelving. White water jugs and recycled glass milk bottles of raw sugar adorn the tables and the only menu is on the wall.

 

Beggbie Roll, Grilled Otway Bacon, fried egg, beetroot, apple aioli and roquette ($9)

The food pickings are limited but not uninspiring, every item looks well thought-out and fairly priced. I decided on the ‘Beggbie Roll’; grilled Otway Range bacon, fried egg, beetroot, apple aioli and roquette ($9) What could have been dangerously weird was incredibly successful. Great quality bacon always makes a difference, and this wasn’t too fatty either. The roll; crunchy outside and chewy inside, had a composition capable of holding its mighty interior. The dressing was warm and deeply garlicy, but sweetened by the apple and zingified by the beetroot. To wash it all down I tried Art of Tea’s Lady Grey ($3.50) which was so fruity it took me a while to figure out what I was drinking. Nevertheless it was nice tea. Coffee by Allpress ($3.50) was also good but while being nicely hot, could have been a little stronger.

 

Beatrix’s catch-cry is “We beat, you eat!”, and looking at the scrumptious cakes and biscuits in the cabinet it’s easy to see why. In the name of research I convinced myself to sample a little something. I ordered a lamington ($4), which can only be described as “the real deal”. A nice chunk of sponge covered in very dark chocolate and big lashings of bronzed, toasted coconut. Inside there was proper strawberry jam, perhaps it would have been even better had it been raspberry. But really, there was no cause to complain.

Beatrix has done well to make me feel relaxed; while the space is small the tables are not close together, there are plenty of stools for window gazing and there is no communal table. The kitchen is tucked away in a back room, keeping the noise and the smoke away from the customers. The staff are also very down-to-earth and helpful, how nice! Even nicer is that they offer a 50cent discount to bike riders and those who bring their own coffee cups. Awwww.

 

Lamington ($4)


Food: 5/5

Service: 4.5/5

Ambience: 4/5

Beatrix on Urbanspoon

Fandango, North Melbourne

Where: 97 Errol Street North Melbourne

When: Tues-Sat 7.30-3pm

Contact: (03) 9329 0693

Vego :)

Cash Only

Chai Tea with Soy $4.50

As I’ll be moving into the North Melbourne area in the next few months I decided to check out my new local food haunts. I was pleased to find that although the very average Hot Poppy and Rubicon were still going, Errol Street had moved into brighter territory. Just two doors down from the bustling ‘Auction Rooms’ sits dinky little Fandango. More like a retro share house than a café, this place is about as informal as it gets. In fact, you have to walk right through the kitchen to get to the courtyard. My discerning mother was put off by this, that and that the chef wasn’t wearing a uniform. So things are pretty relaxed at Fandango, but that doesn’t mean the service is half-hearted, in fact quite the opposite. The waiters are very bubbly and considerate, evidence of a nice work environment. The place is homage to the 1970’s with wood and pea green furnishings, little potted cacti and original vintage and floral serving plates. The outdoor courtyard is like a secret garden; little fruit trees and plants sandwiched in between high brick walls on either side. The walls shelter diners from the wind but still let the sun in. If you can, get a table out in this courtyard, it’s very peaceful.

Having visited Fandango for breakfast a week earlier, I was well aware of what the breakfasts were like; modest servings, good quality, low pricing. Now I was here for lunch and the menu was considerably more limited. Everything was a sandwich or a wrap with the exclusion of muesli and the banana bread. Being hungry, I ordered what seemed to be the biggest thing on the menu; a BLAT with an egg. Mum ordered the chicken with avocado, Swiss cheese and mayo, in a wrap. When the food arrived I wished I had ordered mine in a wrap also, as this seemed to be a much more generous portion. My sandwich was very tasty though, and the egg nice and runny. The fresh leaves of spinach were juicy and the whole thing was piping hot toasted. If anything could be improved it would be that they should have cut the fat off the bacon, as there was a lot of it.

 

B.L.A.T. Toasted Sandwich (with egg) $12

Mum’s wrap was really a golden, warm roti; score! The chicken was perfect and the avocado generous, but the dressing overpowered all of it. It was a pungent mix of mayonnaise and horseradish which would have been lovely if it hadn’t been layered so thickly. One bite was tasty but after a few bites neither of us felt like finishing it…we swapped meals halfway through. The coffee was delicious and well crafted but my chai tea needed more hot water and less milk. The cute tea cosy and honey pot almost made up for this.

Overall I’m pretty excited to have Fandango as my new local even if the food isn’t perfect. The coffee has so far been great every time and the staff is amazing. I wouldn’t come here for a special occasion as there isn’t anything to eat which I couldn’t make myself at home. However, it has a great atmosphere; somewhere you could sit and talk to a friend for ages. Most importantly, come bill time you are always asked “Are you paying separately or together?” The nicest words you ever could hear in a café.

 

Chicken Toasted Wrap $10

Food: 2.5/5

Service: 5/5

Ambience: 4/5

Fandango on Urbanspoon

Auction Rooms, North Melbourne

Where: 103-107 Errol Street North Melbourne

Contact: (03) 9326 7749

When: Mon-Fri 7am-5pm, Sat-Sun 7.30am-4pm

Dine-in

CC accepted

Vego: :) :)

 

Lemongrass and ginger tea 

Walking into Auction Rooms on a Sunday morning is risky business, with lines of patient people and tiny expensively-dressed children waiting for a table. The place has a loud buzz to it with voices bouncing off the hard floors and walls. Fortunately the staff were very effective and managed to keep us waiting only a few minutes. Unfortunately we were seated at the bar. I’ll perch up at a bar on a Saturday night with a beer but I didn’t feel like teetering high in the air, legs swinging below (I am not very tall) over a lazy Sunday breakfast. The next best option was to sit outside in a sort of glasshouse where a little heater better-suited to a bedroom worked tirelessly to warm the cold space with little achievement. However, it was warmer than being outside completely.

Once we’d snuggled down and observed the menu we noticed that all the items seemed to be saying “look at me, look at me!”, with each option sporting a quirky twist or Cheffy glitz. You can still get your plain eggs and toast but you will need to add all your extras, one of the extras being ‘extra toast’, which I was suspicious of (One probably can’t expect sufficient toast if there is an ‘extra toast’ option). My Dining Partner took the risk and ordered poached eggs and toast with extra bacon and chorizo while I went for the ‘Coconut-stuffed French toast, with tamarind caramel, vanilla crème fraiche and coriander and lime.’ ($14.50)

Coconut-stuffed French toast, with tamarind caramel, vanilla crème fraiche and coriander and lime ($14.50)

While we waited not too long for our meals we tried the coffee. There were all sorts of in-vogue ways you can have your fix: cold drip, syphon, pour-over, French press. It’s all a bit contrived I think, but Melbourne seems to be digging all that right now. Just a regular latte for us, single origin for your information. It was perfect; well built, silky, strong with great flavour. We also tried the lemongrass and ginger tea which was packed with actual lemongrass, but not enough ginger to make it worthwhile.

When the food arrived I was curious as to where my Dining Partner’s $17 of breakfast had ended up. The plate was so bare and sad-looking with one piece of toast and two little fingers of chorizo to accompany the modest serving of bacon and eggs. As for the coconut toast, my first reaction was to recoil at the sight of the coriander on the crème fraiche. It just seemed inherently wrong; it reminded me of when I ordered a steak in Poland and had it served to me topped with whipped cream and a strawberry. WRONGTOWN. The toast itself was actually good and was indeed coconut stuffed but it needed a sticky sauce to counteract the dryness. The “tamarind caramel” wasn’t much help in this instance; I was horrified to find that it tasted more like sweet-chilli syrup than anything. Even if I had liked it I wouldn’t have had enough to make the toast go down easily. This sauce in combination with the crème fraiche was just sickening. It seems like the Chef’s were so desperate to make the food edgy that they’d lost the plot completely.

We got out of there pretty quickly as we were eager to get somewhere warmer and eat a second breakfast. I do feel like Auction Rooms have coffee and service worth returning for, perhaps on a weekday. However I will not be forking out for the pretentious food again anytime soon.

 

Poached eggs & toast with chorizo and bacon ($17)


Food: 2/5

Service: 5/5

Ambience: 3/5

Auction Rooms on Urbanspoon

Libertine, North Melbourne

Location: 500 Victoria Street North Melbourne

Contact: (03) 9329 5228

When: Tues-Sat Lunch 12-3pm, dinner 6-10pm 

Licensed

Dine-in

Pricing: Mains under $40, entrées under $20

Payment: Cash and CC

Vego barely-friendly :/

French restaurant Libertine in North Melbourne likes to squeeze as much old fashioned glamour as it can into it’s petite single-fronted fit-out. A large chandelier is hung from the ceiling, it’s light bouncing off ornate gold-framed mirrors. The little wooden tables sat snugly in rows, done up in white tablecloths and wine glasses for weekday luncheon. However the experience of being at Libertine during the day was less forgiving than on an evening, as the tiredness of the building showed more easily. Something was making a rattling noise, a dishwasher or an air-conditioner, our table had a precarious wobble and the whole building just felt as though it needed some maintenance. Nevertheless Libertine is still the sort of place where you need to use your manners; despite old jazz softly playing in background it feels as though you could give away most of your conversation unintentionally.  

So what’s for lunch then? We were saddened to find that the previous lunch and wine special no longer exists. Since the  $95 Degustation option was a little grandiose for the occasion we decided to go a la carte. All entrées were $19 and Mains were $36, with different prices again for cheese, dessert and side dishes. Every day there is a ‘changing dish for two’, which unfortunately for us cheap skates is not a two-for-one deal. We went ahead with it anyway and ordered the Pork neck, confit belly with fig sauce and roast vegetables as well as an entrée of chicken liver parfait, onion brioche and pickled carrot. 

Chicken liver parfait, onion brioche and pickled carrot $19

Our entree arrived with a generous scoop of parfait and an adorable two tone brioche adorned with a half fig, fresh garnishes and puddle of what tasted like fig jam. The sweet and gamey flavours worked really well together and the pickled carrot was a zingy finish. Shortly afterwards arrived the pork, sauce on the side with sunset-coloured autumn vegetables including baby beets and roasted chestnuts. Expecting the sauce to be sweet, I was disappointed to find that it tasted mostly of chicken stock and butter, the only hint of fig evident in its shade of burgundy. The pork was cooked perfectly but the butter in the sauce proved too rich a combination for the fatty pork belly. The vegetables, though excitingly coloured were bland and even bitter in some cases. A successful touch was the roasted chestnuts which added a smooth sweetness and texture to the vegetables. 

Pork neck and confit belly with roasted vegetables and fig sauce for two

As you would expect at a fine-dining establishment, the service was good with no hesitation to top up our water and bread rolls. We felt well looked after. If you were to stay for a drink after lunch you’d find excellent coffee by someone called Joshua Bailey. It smelled delicious but that’s as far as my experience stretches. If bring ing company to Libertine, don’t be put off by the small room, there is another one upstairs big enough for a function or large group. The uniform prices would also make it easier to decipher the group bill. If French food, particularly meat and wine is your thing then it is worth your time to visit Libertine. If not and for me personally, then their food doesn’t really justify the money handed over. Coffee and dessert however is a different story, I’m still very much interested:)

As a side note there is a handy book-online feature, exciting no?

Food: 3.5/5

Service: 4/5

Ambience: 3.5/5

Libertine on Urbanspoon