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Top 5 Melbourne Tapas

Top 5 Melbourne Tapas

My Tapas* journey spans over 6 months of gastronomy with my fanatical gourmet friends, my fellow ardent foodies club members and chummy food connoisseurs alike. What was meant to be an earlier entry has been far delayed due to mixed reviews and my tossing about on the rankings but finally, the verdict! So here you go Melburnians, here are my Top 5 Melbourne Tapas joints. Disfrutar#!

# Spanish for “enjoy”.

* Tapas refers to a wide variety of appetizers, or snacks, in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or warm (such as chopitos, which are battered, fried baby squid). Around the world, tapas has evolved into an entire, and sometimes sophisticated, cuisine. In these countries, patrons of tapas restaurants can order many different tapas and combine them to make a full meal. ~ Wikepedia

1. Movida
1 Hosier Lane Melbourne 03 9663 3038

Facinating fact. Did you know that La movida was an era of Spanish expression with glitter-covered bodies, exaggerated makeup, leather jackets and crazily styled multicolored hair? It was an era of punks, glams, rockers– known primarily as the “spirit of the Spanish 80s”.

Interestingly the only hedonistic thing about the Spanish tapas restaurant Movida is the food. And oh where can I begin? Well, let’s start with the freshly shucked oysters and lemon, an array of newly baked breads (fresh from the oven), and seared scallops with an explosion of flavours topped with a surprising foam texture. Then captivate your tastebuds with a salty anchovy biscotti and tomato sorbet. Next, devour the succulent lamb cutlet with mint, parsley and pork pate stuffing. Then, bring on the quail with roast potato and grapes for a bit of sweet and salty. Follow on with the chargrilled octopus on a crisp seasoned potato coin. My personal favourite and the star of the show – be wowed by the tender and succulent beef cheeks with buttery mash in red wine jus, so good you might beg for seconds. And last but not least, the well seasoned Portobello mushrooms. (If you have room for more, make sure you order the churros (spanish donuts) served with a rich chocolate dipping sauce and icing.) By this time, you will have a burst of flavours in your mouth and a very full tummy to boot; but with only the freshest and best quality ingredients, you know you made the right choice with Movida. Quality doesn’t have to cost a bomb too here at Movida’s – 4 of us shared the above dishes and we each forked out $60 (including a bottle of good Spanish red wine).

Scallops with textured foam topping

Scallops with textured foam topping Freshly shucked oysters

2. Robbie’s Stein
99 Sydney Rd Brunswick 03 9388 9817

This cosy tapas joint never fails to impress with its smorgasboard of wholesome flavours and personalised service. If the warm wooden interior, beautiful candle centre pieces and crimson lighting doesn’t invite you, the congenial bespectacled owner will. Watch him serve out dish after dish of top notch tapas as he wipes off beads of sweat with a tea towel strewn over his shoulder. Admittedly there were about 8 of us to share the tapas so don’t be overwhelmed by the length of the tapas list that we had below. Make sure you order the beautiful sangria which tastes like a fruit tingle in your mouth or the fine wine served in ornate Riedel glasses.

1. Creamy seafood chowder – a rich home made soup with fresh seafood ingredients
2. Olives – manzanilla / Spanish green olives
3. Bean roti- uniquely tasting roti with mashed beans
4. Fried vegie turnover in pastry – crispy and packed full of sweet vegie potato curry
5. Crab cakes – crispy on the outside and filled with warm flavoursome fresh crab pieces inside
6. Tiger prawns wrapped with proscuitto stuffed with goats cheese – a tad salty but very fresh
7. Crispy pan fried scallops with slow roasted capsicum and pistachio cream – Top notch in taste! With a Zing!
8. Freshly shucked oysters with lemon – they were moulting bay oysters from Tasmania
9. Hand cut chips with garlic aioli
10. Chicken feta and rocket salad
11.  My personal fave – Peas, feta, Spanish onion and beet root salad which was extremely appetising, tangy and balsamic in flavour
12.  Veal, rocket and olives salad – we felt the veal was a tad bit tough but had great flavours
13.  Calamari stuffed with risotto salad

A feast for 8 people – this meal was very very moorish and filling and cost each of us only $40!! I call it a “Degustation delight” or “Tasting plates of Treasure”.

Robbie's Stein

Robbie's Stein (picture from yourrestaurants.com.au)

3. Anada
197 Gertrude St Fitzroy 03 9415  6101

Here’s another value for money treat. At $49 for an 8 course meal and fine wine to boot, you can’t really go wrong here. We started with the freshly shucked oysters – a tad tiny but very fresh. Then the interesting cold Gazpacho soup with lemon, avocado, mint, celery, garlic and basil. It tasted like a cocktail – more sweet than savoury but very refreshing! The light potato cake with well seasoned spiced lamb followed – it was so crispy, delicious and gratifying. We moved onto the tangy sardines wrapped with vine leaves and pistachio. Another fave of mine – the oh so tender spicy beef cheeks with cheese cooked in a claypot. And to accompany everything, the tasty seasoned string beans and sweet salad jam lettuce. I love the variety offered at Ananda and the service is impeccable. By now, you would have realised a common theme in Tapas is oysters, seafood and beef cheeks. And why not? Bring it on I say! 🙂

Gazpacho soup

Gazpacho soup

Light potato cakes

Light potato cakes

4. Gingerboy
27 Crossley St Melbourne 03 9662 4200

This one’s a little out of left field as it’s not exactly Spanish but hey, it is what I would like to conjure up as “Asian Tapas”. The quality and presentation of their food is magnificent and certainly worth shouting about. As you walk into Gingerboy, you’ll be greeted by their friendly French bartenders whipping up some yummy cocktails at the funky black bar counter against the white backdrop. Stop for a refreshing cocktail at the bar before proceeding into the chic restaurant with a bamboo ceiling, dark wood interior and red tassled lamps. Make sure you order the shared tasting plates – they are the only way to go. For the 3 of us, we ordered 5 dishes – the juicy cuttlefish with rock salt and chilli powder served with freshly squeezed lemon to bring the flavours out, followed by fully packed plump prawn dumplings with great tasting sauces including satay and coriander. Then the fresh flavoursome crispy duck salad with strips of duck skin & duck pieces. Because we simply LOVE duck, we had more duck in the form of the luscious duck san choi bao (shredded spiced succulent duck on iceberg lettuce). Finally the finger-licking good fried crispy salt and pepper chicken ribs – you have to use your hands for this one. But my personal favourite – we ended the meal with the orgasmic dessert tasting plate with 4 types of asian desserts – best described as a concoction of coconut, palm sugar and fresh fruit. Sweet Bliss!



Dessert Tasting Plate

Dessert Tasting Plate

5. Robert Burns
376 Smith Street Collingwood 03 9417 2233

We went to Robert Burns on our friend’s recommendation and were absolutely wowed by the generous array of fresh Seafood and massive platters of Spanish paella. For $49 (minimum of 6 people required), we got a 3 course set menu comprising of 13 dishes. The first course (served with bread) included Patatas Bravas (crispy spiced potatos), Avocado Salad, Oysters Natural, Spanish Chorizo, Oysters Kilpatrick, Calamari De La Casa (grilled calamari), and Mussels Spanish Style. The second course (served with bread) included Mariscada (Spanish Seafood Stew – consisting of crab, prawns, clams, mussels, in a thick tomato based sauce PLUS a seafood platter of prawns, calamari, crab, mussels & baked fish – too good!), trays and trays of Paella followed including Paella Valenciana (saffron rice with green peas, potato, capsicum, chicken and seasoning), Paella Manchega (Seafood paella with prawns, mussels, peas and capsicum), and a Garden Salad. The Third Course was a simple seasonal fruit platter but just as well to cleanse the palate and aid in digestion after that full meal. Note though that if you ordered multiple jugs of sangria, it might blow the $50 budget (but it’s worth it).





Top 5 Places To Go On A First Date

The first date – always a tad nerve wrecking and exciting at the same time. So it certainly helps when you have chosen a good venue – a sure-fire win! Tricks to a good venue:

a. Comfortable ambience in a convenient location
b. Good service and
c. it doesn’t hurt to have great tasting food and wine too!
So here are some of my recommendations – tried and tested – guaranteed to always end with a smile on your face – unless you muck up the date of course. That I can’t help you with.

1. The Turtle
1 Ormond Road Elwood 03 9525 6952
This laid back cafe was set up 20 years ago – cute fact – the original owner decided to name it after his daughter who apparently walks like a turtle. 🙂 In recent years the original owner sold the cafe to 2 friends who wanted to produce great Italian influenced food – and so the Turtle keeps it’s great reputation for flavoursome food, excellent wine and personalized service. Co-owner Michael is a familiar face at the turtle with a friendly smile to welcome his loyal local patrons. For starters, try the Arancini – crumbed rice balls packed full of flavoursome Spinach, Pumpkin  and Parmesan. Dipped in Aioli you’ll be wowed by the punch. For mains, make sure you try the Tagliatelle Genovese with succulent wagyu beef, veal, salami, proscuitti, and onion in red wine sauce. Or the delicious Gnocchetti with Italian sausage and fennel sugo. The casual atmosphere & attentive waiters will wind you down and you’ll be in for a great time.

2. The Pier
1 Bay St Port Melbourne 03 9646 3990
This cafe bar is situated in a great location right across the Port Melbourne beach. Dine alfresco by the beach and enjoy the sea view as you watch the Spirit of Tasmania docking. Offering a variety of nibblies including the Tasting platter – a selection of almond crumbed calamari, cajun chicken, goats fetta, olive tapenade, semi dried tomatoes, marinated vegetables, chorizo sausage, smoked salmon and capers, Thick cut Aioli chips, wood-fired bruschetta, Dips with warm turkish bread or Nachos with beef or bean chilli con carne, there’s bound to be something that will satiate your peckishness. Choose between sitting outside when it’s sunny or within the sun drenched but covered courtyard in loungy leather couches. The cosy and intimate environment will allow you to warm up quickly to your date.

The Pier

View from The Pier

3. St Ali
12-18 Yarra Place South Melbourne (03) 9686 2990
Another really chilled out but cool cafe to take your first date to is St Ali. Tucked away in a quiet laneway off Clarendon St in South Melbourne, this tiny treasure cove offers excellent house roasted coffee that’s rich, aromatic and creamy. You can hear them roasting the coffee away as the busy joint packs up the crowds. The quirky waitress runs from table to table taking orders quickly then coming back each time smiling with plates of food saying “here you go starvin marvins”! The great cosy interior with yummy food at reasonable prices makes for an easy first date venue. The food in itself becomes the conversational piece as you and your date indulge in the “My mexican cousin corn fritters with baby spinach grilled haloumi kasundi and poached eggs”. Or delightfully mix and match your eggs with different bits and pieces to create your own breakfast plate!

St Ali St Ali’s cosy interior
St Ali Coffee

St Ali Coffee

St Ali's "My mexican cousin's corn fritters"

St Ali's "My mexican cousin's corn fritters"

4. Lindt Cafe
271 Collins Street, Melbourne Tel: (03) 9667 0900
Shop B193, Lower Ground Level Chadstone Shopping Centre Tel: (03) 9568 2444

Let’s face it. Who doesn’t like chocolate? No one. OK – unless you are allergic to it or have no idea how to live life. In any case, Lindt Cafe is the best bet for all chocolate lovers. Melt your first date’s inhibitions away with the warm chocolate cake – oozing with a warm chocolate centre and side of vanilla ice cream, it’s bound to impress. Or sweeten your first date’s lips with the sweet chocolate waffles, ice cream and icing ala mode. Triple the sweetness factor with the delicate and light macaroons – choose from a variety of sweet flavours including classic chocolate to pistachio, coconut, strawberry and mocha. A guaranteed heart-warming date awaits you – all it takes is a hearty appetite for chocolate which shouldn’t be hard to come by.

Warm chocolate cake

Warm chocolate cake

5. Red Star Cafe
315 Coventry St, South Melbourne 03 9696 6000
I keep coming back to this cafe because of a few reasons – the service is fast and precise, the food is good value & it’s just across the South Melbourne market which makes for easy access to your weekly supply of fresh fruits and veges. You can’t go wrong with that can you? And so the Red Star has a winning formula. The breakfast menu includes a hearty big breakfast of eggs (any style), crispy bacon, sausages, grilled tomato, mushrooms on sour dough toast. Make sure you order a side of the home made hash browns which are more like light thin crispy potato flakes. Or choose from the lunch menu – I like the delicious spanish paella with generous portions of plump prawns, mussels and packed full of saucy flavour served in a pan. After brunch, you can take your date for a leisurely stroll around the South Melbourne market to walk off the scrumptious meal you’ve just savoured.

Another “Passionate about life” entry. Drop me a comment or email me at passionatealife@gmail.com

Top 5 Scenic Melbourne Routes

As the season changes, it’s time to get off that couch and take a scenic drive around some of Melbourne’s best trails. If you love Mother Nature, here are some must-see Melbourne routes.


1. Mount Dandenong

* Approx an hour’s drive from Melbourne City

Take a leisurely drive up Mount Dandenong, wind your windows down, as you breathe in the fresh alpine air and take in the beautiful landscape of forests and trees. Make sure you stop by Olinda along the way and visit one of the many tea rooms for Devonshire Tea and Scones (with freshly whipped cream and sweet home-made strawberry jam).  Miss Marples Tea Room is highly recommended for their scones and  high tea. There is also a traditional British charm to this little cottage. Their moorish home made cottage pie and welsh rarebit (mature english cheddar, eggs, guinness mustard & spices) sandwich fingers are to die for. Note: They don’t take reservations so make sure you get in early at 11am to get a table. It can get quite packed and you have to expect a bit of a wait on weekends (but its certainly worth the wait). After a satisfying meal, make your way to the Mount Dandenong Observatory – 633 metres above sea-level and the highest point in the surrounding ranges. Here you can get breathtaking views of Melbourne and surrounds. It’s also v romantic. All in, a fantastic & cruisey way to spend your Sunday.

Miss Marples Tea Room

2. Warburton

* Approx 1.5 hours drive from Melbourne City

This is another beautiful scenic drive up a mountainous area. Take a leisurely walk along the wonderfully scenic Warburton River Walk which is accessible from the Swing Bridge, just off Main Street. The beautiful Yarra River transforms from rapid pools to meandering waterholes along the length of the walk that is probably about 5 kilometres. You can spot the lyre birds & cockatoos along the way.  End the relaxing stroll with a stop by Three Sugars Cafe for some hot chocolate, coffee & cake or some of the best pies in the region.

Swing Bridge Three Sugars Cafe

3. Bright

* Approx 3 hours drive from Melbourne City

The best time to go is during Spring/Autumn to see the Oak & Maple trees change colour. A “must do” is the Springtime in Bright Festival – October 24 to November 3. Make sure you take your bicycles with you so you can best appreciate the sights and sounds of Bright as you breeze through the Great Alpine Road. If you’re feeling peckish after the ride, there are many fine quality restaurants in the area such as the Poplars Restaurant , a French Bistro drawing on local fresh produce and wine or the Edelweiss Bakery for a simple treat of freshly baked sweet & savoury pastries.

4. Grampians

* Approx 3.5 hours drive from Melbourne City

You will need a long weekend for this drive but the Grampians is the place to go to soak up the best of Nature. Here you can scale the Pinnacle or check out McKenzies Falls. Word of warning, you might need to have a certain level of physical endurance to complete the Pinnacle walk which is a 5 km trail overlooking Grampians National Park. The steep and winding steps are a challenge but the lookout at the end of the trail is certainly worth the hike offering breathtaking views of the rolling hills and mountainous valleys. Drive along Lake Wartook Road then take a 1 hr return walk to McKenzies Falls – the largest waterfall in the Grampians. The sound of the water splashing down into the lake creates a peaceful harmony with the leafy trees in the backdrop.

mckenzie falls

5. Cape Schanck

* Approx 1.5 hours drive from Melbourne City

Perhaps the one walk you shouldn’t miss out on is called “The Cape” within the Mornington Peninsula National Park trail offering spectacular views of the Bass Strait. Make sure you take this long scenic walking trail – a reconstructed staircase and boardwalk which has been built right out of the beach and rock platform level. At the end of the trail, you can visit the Cape Schanck Lighthouse which has served shipping since 1859. I always feel refreshed after the walk, and am enthralled by how you can find a piece of serenity just 90 min from Melbourne city.

Cape Schanck

Top 5 Crepes in Melbourne

This post is a long-time coming but as they say “good things come to those who wait”. 😉

To me, crepes are such simple food but with such flair and class. So what makes a crepe what it is? Crepe is typically a type of very thin pancake (usually made from wheat flour) & of French origin – it is also considered a French National dish (Wikepedia).

Here’s my Top 5, I hope you enjoy my Crepe journey over this next post..


1. Stokers
1033 Heidelberg Rd Ivanhoe (03) 9497 4488

This Ivanhoe cafe suits the nocturnal foodie in search of a satisfying late night snack. Only open at night from 6pm till 2am (weekdays) and 8pm till 2am (weekends), not many people know of this uniquely unexpected cafe that serves up a variety of pancakes & crepes – both savoury & sweet. The ambience & interior is warm & cosy – with red hanging lamps, dim lighting, long dark wooden dining tables & a fireplace. There’s an intriguing black & white print on the wall of a cow & other contraptions so you can observe the oddities of how crepes are “created” whilst waiting for your warm comforting crepes to be freshly made. I had the warm & spicy apple crepe, dusted with icing & served with ice cream plus a chilled pineapple crush to accompany my crepe.  It was simply divine. My friend had the ham & cheese savoury crepe – it was unpretentious and the texture of the crepe was unbeatable. Part of the thrill of visiting this place is  you feel like you’re going on an adventure just finding this cafe, then the late opening hours add a sense of excitement too and oh, the toilets in the shed..that’s an experience in itself..spooky to say the least..but all in, certainly worth a visit!

cow print  crepe

2. Fraus
345 Victoria Street North Melbourne (0)3 9328 8999

Thank you SS for recommending this cute creperie in North Melbourne. The quaintness of this place begets the class it exudes in both the homely service & luxurious quality of crepes. Ah Frau, I could go back again and again. I was pleasantly surprised that it was set up by a young local Aussie lady inspired by her travels to Europe. Real brick interiors, timber floors, stained glass windows, & a steep wooden staircase leading to the second level make for a very European decor. Freshly baked croissants come cheap too – at half the price of other cafes you get a ham, cheese & tomato croissant at $4!! Freshly baked muffins in a tin tray & an exciting selection of chocolates & sweets greet you at the counter.  Of course, there is also a huge array of sweet & savoury crepes – the sweet crepes are served with the delectable Frau melted chocolate.  I had the kransky galette – cheesey kransky wrapped in light crepe, served with a side of beautifully dressed balsamic vinegrette salad. Guess what? They do takeaway too so be wowed by this creperie and ensure you make a visit to Fraus this weekend! 

Picture from http://www.fraus.com.au/cafe_fraus/ 

3. Briezoz
139 Nelson Pl. Williamstown (03) 9397 2300
Cnr. Gertrude & Brunswick St. Fitzroy (03) 9415 7588

2 locations mean easier assessibility to crepes. Briezoz is a French creperie which serves up traditional French crepes and French cider. There’s an old school charm to this creperie as you walk into the cosy wooden decor, welcomed by French (or French-speaking) staff. Watching the staff personally create the crepes on the hot iron crepe machine is an experience in itself. Then wait in anticipation as the hot thin crepes are served – sometimes with fire! for the crepe flambe! For $10, I got a “complete crepe” which was a ham, egg & cheese crepe. You can add extra toppings for $2.50. Our pear cider too went down really well with the crepes. You can enjoy these thin tasty crepes 7 days a week for lunch or dinner!

Briezoz specials board  Complete crepe

4. Roule Galette
Scott Alley, 241 Flinders Lane, Melbourne  (03) 9639 0307

I wonder if Roule Galette put Aix Cafe out of business as these 2 creperies were located within a stone’s throw of each other; until the humble Aix closed down recently. In any case, Roule Galette packs up the crowds in its tiny abode dishing out 12 savoury crepes comprising of snails, scallops, salami, chicken, and even an interesting Aussie option. If you like your sweets, choose from the 15 varieties including the ol’ faithful nutella at $6 to the crepe suzette flambe at $9.50. I had the chicken du chef which was “wonderful saute de chicken with fresh mushroom and a bit of cream” at $11, it was value for money. Beckie had the Forestiere – filled with bechamel (French white sauce) with bacon, mushroom, and cheese – a recipe from the owner’s dad at $9.50. All crepes are made with buckwheat flour creating the unique French crepe texture they call Galette. Make sure you order the Henry of Hartcourt pear cider at $3.50 a glass to go with your crepes.

Roule Galette  Chicken du chef 

5. Cravin’ Crepes 
370 Keilor Rd Niddrie (03) 9379 2004

I was pleasantly surprised by this creperie located on Keilor Road; I certainly wasn’t expecting much but was quite taken by the texture and quality of the crepes. Step into a lovely lunch time venue with hanging lamps, modern timber architecture, jazz music & Tea 2 displays. Nothing is over $10 – I got the mediteranean crepe at $9.90 with an antipasto platter within a crepe! Quite unique I should say and appeals to the one with a penchance for olives, eggplant, salami, feta & sun dried tomatoes! The sweet crepes are reasonably priced too – for instance the peanut butter and honey crepe is only $6.90. My colleague had a chicken chicka- fresh melted mozzarella cheese with chicken and mushrooms, so delish were his exact words.

Mediteranean Crepe Cravin' Crepes

Top 5 brunches in Melbourne

According to Wikipedia, brunch is a combination of breakfast and lunch, typically after a morning event or before an afternoon one. It is also my favourite time of day for a good feed. 😉 Melbourne has some fabulous all day breakkie joints – there’s nothing quite like sleeping in on a Sunday and then cruising off to enjoy a lazy Sunday fry-up with eggs, eggs, & more eggs!


1. Mart 130
Old tram station opp Gunn Island Hotel
107A Canterbury Rd Middle Park (03) 9690 8831

Did you know that Mart is Tram spelt backwards? And how apt a name as Mart 130 is located at an old tram station master’s office on tram stop 130.  It’s all about the spectacular breakkie they serve here, as a long line forms on weekends particularly from 11am onwards. However, there is an excellent waiting system at this quaint little joint. Head into the cafe, leave your name & number of people with the wait staff and sit outside alongside the tram line as your order of coffee is served. In no time, you will be comfortably seated within the enclosed deck overlooking the Albert Park tennis courts tucking into some darn good breakkie.

Using only free range eggs, the rustic home-style fry up include ham hocked home cooked bake beans, slivers of chorizo sausages, crispy bacon strips, & perfectly poached eggs on thick sour dough organic toast. Try their signature crunchy oven-roasted corn fritters made with fresh corn & served with tomatoes,  bacon & a coriander garnish.  Afterwards, don’t fret as the tram is just a hop & skip away.

Chorizo sausages poached eggs on toast with hollandaise ham hocked home made beans poached eggs on sourdough toast sauteed mushrooms poached eggs with hollandaise on toast

2. Auction Rooms
103-107 Errol St North Melbourne (03) 9326 7749

Previously the WB Ellis Auction House, this beautifully presented cafe offers a simple yet interesting  menu that’s bound to surprise you with the options available. Work your way through names of dishes like “Opening Bid”, “Counter Bid”, “No big deal”, “Silent bid”, “Real deal” & the like. Featuring free range “green” eggs, have it any way you like, steamed, baked, fried, scrambled or poached. If you’re feeling adenturous, you might like to try the hazelnut crumbed lamb brains on bacon & spinach with onion jam. The decor is stylish with high ceilings, classy long wooden dining tables, hanging lamps and a very rustic torn-paint-on-brick look. I had the “Shady deal” – spicy chorizo with thinly sliced hash brown, morrocan-spiced carrots, baked eggs with lemon & parsley on a soft wrap. The Morrocan spice provided an excellent surprise ZING! The flavoursome fresh baked eggs were packed with flavour. I’m SOLD!
Tip: Come with a small group of 2 -4 people or you might expect a long wait particularly during rush hour 11am-12pm.

sugar decor opening bid 

Fried eggs on toast Steamed eggs Shady deal- baked eggs

3. Replete Providore
302 Barkers Road Hawthorn 03 9818 4448

We were meant to check out Porgie & Mrs Jones but due to Mother’s Day bookings, we had to leave Porgie’s and thank God for that as we concurred that comparatively, Replete was heaps better, largely due to the shameless lack of service at Porgie’s. Replete’s breakfast menu is simple but moorish. For instance, at $17.80, the Replete breakfast consists of perfectly poached eggs, spanish sausage, Istra bacon, hash brown, roasted tomato & field mushroom with toasted sourdough bread. Or you can order the classic egg benedict or florentine and add extras such as field Mushrooms, spinach, hash brown, roasted tomato, avocado, hollandaise at $3.80 ea or house baked beans, spanish sausage, Istra bacon, fruit Compote, marinated fetta, King Island Yoghurt at $4.80 ea or Smoked Salmon at $5.00. WOW. Replete is indeed a treat for the breakfast junkie.

Eggs Florentine omelette on toast Big breakfast

4. Cafe Sweethearts
263 Coventry St South Melbourne (03) 9690 6752

Tucked away in a corner in South Melbourne (near the South Melbourne Markets) is the lovely Cafe Sweethearts. No doubt you will find crowds gathering every weekend at this charming joint. The pancakes are to die for and guess what? You can find both sweet AND savoury choices. A fried egg & grilled bacon on pancakes? Yes, they are gorgeous and served in speedy fashion as well. The eggs bene, is a crowd favourite served in perfectly prepared hollandaise, ham & topped with chives.

5. Gingerlee
117 Lygon St Brunswick East (03) 9380 4430

This Middle-Eastern inspired cosy cafe serves breakfast from 7am – 3pm. Be greeted by slightly grunghy but friendly wait staff, as you gleam past the array of sweets through to the open kitchen before getting seated onto dark wooden chairs & round tables. The intimate setting & reasonably priced quality food make for a good brunch venue. Tagine-style beans on toast were a draw at $10.50, what about the Shakshouka – baked eggs with Israeli tomato casserole at $11? If you’re very hungry, go for the Gingerlee BIG breakfast at $18. All eggs are served with sourdough toast. Specials are updated daily on the board. The home made condiments – tomato jam, plum jam, quince jam & apple chutney are a must try. Tapas range from $5 – $9. Portions are good and not overly massive. My friend had the lunch menu spagetti puttenesca served with green olives, shaved parmesan in a good sized bowl for $14.50. Delish!

Shakshouka Spagetti Puttenesca

Darren’s Top 5 Recipes

Hi everyone, my friend Darren Nunis is a massive foodie and a fabulous cook to boot, and he was generous enough to share with us his Top 5 favourite recipes. If you like spicy food, these ones are for you. By the way, these appetizing recipes are simple and quick to prepare but oh-so-scrumptious. 😉 Perfect dishes to warm you up this winter! (You will also find that the secret ingredient to most of the recipes is in the SAMBAL)


1. Sambal chilli

What is sambal chilli?
Sambal chilli is a chilli paste and it forms the base for most spicy Asian recipes. There are many types of sambal chilli but the recipe shared is one of a Singaporean origin. According to sambalkitchen.com, “Sambal” is commonly used in Singaporean, Malaysian and Indonesian cuisine, it is a spicy paste of onions, garlic & chilli usually cooked in oil. It can serve as a condiment or as a base for making other dishes.


1/2 kg of chillis (you can use either chilli padi – the small ones or the large ones but the small ones are hotter)
2 large onions
1 bulb of garlic
1 inch of ginger
8 candlenuts
3 stalks of lemongrass
1 inch of galangal (optional)
PS You can get these ingredients from any Asian Grocer.

1. Split the above ingredients into 2 lots to fit into food processor.
2. Place first lot of ingredients into food processor.
3. Grind till you get the above sambal texture.
4. Put in a dash of water during grinding process.
5. Repeat process with second lot of ingredients.
6. Combine both lots to form Sambal Chilli.
7. Refrigerate for later use or serve as condiment.

2. Sardine curry
Serves 8

8 tins of 125 gm sardines in tomato sauce
1 large red onion
4 cloves of garlic
3 tbs of sambal chilli
1 tin of pineapple pieces
1 can (400ml) of coconut cream
2 tbs of vegetable oil
A handful of coriander for garnish
1. Heat oil in saucepan
2. Place onions & garlic in saucepan and fry till fragrant
3. Add sambal into saucepan and stir mixture
4. Add sardines but be careful not to break delicate sardine pieces
5. Slowly & carefully stir the sardines in the pan
6. Add pineapple pieces into the mix
7. Add coconut cream
8. Stir gently and simmer for a few minutes (there’s no need to cook for too long as the sardines will break otherwise)
9. Garnish with coriander & serve

3. Luncheon meat (spam) curry
Serves 8

3 cans of luncheon meat (spam) cut into thin square pieces
1 large red onion
4 cloves of garlic
3 tbs of sambal chilli
1 tin of pineapple pieces
1 can (400ml) of coconut cream
2 tbs of vegetable oil

1. Heat oil in saucepan
2. Place onions & garlic in saucepan and fry till fragrant
3. Add sambal into saucepan and stir mixture
4. Add luncheon meat pieces into saucepan
5. Add pineapple pieces into the mix
6. Add coconut cream
7. Stir and simmer for a few minutes before serving.

4. Sothi
Originating from Southern India, Sothi is a delicious gravy made of coconut milk & vegetables.
Serves 8

1 large red onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tps of chicken powder
1/2 chinese cabbage (wombok)
1 broccoli bunch
1 bag of frozen sliced beans (defrosted)
3 cans (1.2 ltrs) of coconut cream
2 cans (800 ml) of water
2 tbs of tumeric powder
2 tbs of vegetable oil
Dash of fish sauce
Salt & pepper to taste
1. Heat oil in large pot
2. Place onions & garlic in pot and fry till fragrant
3. Add vegetables & stir fry in pot
4. Add chicken powder
5. Add tumeric powder
6. Add coconut cream & water into pot
7. Put to boil & then lower fire to simmer till vegetables are cooked
8. Lastly, add dash of fish sauce, salt & pepper to taste.

5. Fried Corn Beef
Serves 6

2 cans of corned beef
1 large red onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 red cut chilli
2 tbs of vegetable oil
1. Heat oil in saucepan
2. Place onions & garlic in saucepan and fry till fragrant
3. Add corned beef into saucepan and stir well
4. Add red cut chilli
5. Stir well and serve


The above dishes are best served with rice.

Top 5 Italian in Melbourne

This post is dedicated to my friend Roni Romano who helped me put together my Top 5 Italian list. We voted, we researched, we collated and finally came up with this list. We selected the restaurants based on affordability, authenticity, originality & of course, service. Ciao bella, belissimo!


1. I Carusi
231 Barkly Street, St.Kilda – (03) 9593 6033
46A Holmes St, Brunswick East – (03) 9386 5522

 When Roni first told me about I Carusi and how good the pizzas were, I certainly believed him but little did I know how impressed I’d be by the experience.  Open daily from 6pm, this cosy restaurant serves up some of the best pizzas in Melbourne.  Thin crust pizzas with fresh Italian ingredients lovingly assembled by the Italian chefs and served up by an attentive friendly waitress. The decor as described by Roni is classic french provincial, with cute french prints, wooden furniture against brick; not unlike perhaps the owners who happen to be surprise surprise, French! It was love at first bite! I had a classic margherita and was amazed by the fineness in its simplicity. The pizzas were a good size for one but I highly recommend you finish up with the 3 chocolate calzone. I thought I had died and gone to heaven as I devoured the melted dark, white & milk chocolate within the warm calzone dusted with icing & served with a side of ice cream.

Margherita  Rocket 3 cheeses pizza  I Carusi

2. Waiters
20 Meyers Pl, Melbourne, (03) 9650 1508

Mamma mia! The Waiters is indeed an institution. It has been in operation for years and years but continues to “keep it real” with its authentic Italian at reasonable prices. When we first got to the Waiters, we thought it reminded us of an Italian version of Supper Inn in Chinatown, walking up a rickety flight of stairs up to the restaurant and then being accidentally locked out. We had to knock and wait a good 10-15 min before someone realised there were people outside. Nonetheless, we thought the wait was worth the while when we got to sampling the Italian delicacies. The interior is basic and there’s no menu but you can look out for specials & dishes on the board. Fresh pasta with authentic rustic Italian sauce, the penne matriciana was scrumptious and no doubt delighful. All around the table, we could hear a unanimous “mmmmm” indicating the typical enjoyment & reaction to each mouthful of the Italian fare. Fresh seafood – with the grilled sole fish & salmon steak, generous portions of chunky succulent lamb shanks in red wine jus served with potatoes & vegetables, are just some of the specials on the board. Go for a sweet way to end the meal with Tiramisu if you still have space for it. N.B. should you decide to book for dinner, you need to come in 6pm and be hurried out by 7pm to make way for the rush hour.  Otherwise, walk in but expect a slight wait.

Penne Matriciana Salmon Steak Grilled Sole Fish Spinach lasagne Lamb shanks

3. Pasta Classica
352 Smith Street Collingwood, (03) 9419 2366

We came here on Yvette’s recommendation and I have to thank her for introducing us to this friendly family-run Italian restaurant. Do not expect a grand affair, Pasta Classica is a simple lunch or takeway venue, you come here strictly for the food, not the ambience. Selling both cooked & fresh pasta, the portions are generous so come here on an empty stomach. You don’t have many choices or a menu to select dishes from but you’ll be sure to be taken care of by the owners of the restaurant. Whipping up the pasta & serving them on a pan, this is typical home-style cooking at its best. A little trivia – just across the road lies their Nona’s restaurant Mamma Vittoria so expect the same quality but at a fraction of the price.

Pasta Classica  Fresh pasta for sale!

4. Maria’s Trattoria
122 Peel St North Melbourne, (03) 9329 9016

Charming Nona Maria serves up her fantastic array of traditional Italian cuisine with a smile & immaculate hair tied up in a tight bun. The service is quick with big-hearted portions to match. We each ordered an entree size pasta but struggled to finish. Choose from up to 19 pasta dishes. Plus more on the specials board. The seafood penne was fresh & light on the palate with luscious napoli sauce. The pollo al funghi was scrumptious without being overly greasy and heavy. The highlight of the night was the lemon tart, with its creamy texture, dusted with icing, accompanied by light cream & fresh sweet strawberries. All in, with garlic bread, pasta, glass of red & dessert, it came up to $25 per person. Certainly worth a visit!

Garlic bread Seafood penne Fettucine Pollo Al Funghi Lemon Tart

5. Pellegrini’s
66 Bourke St, Melbourne, (03) 9662 1885

Another institution in its own right, Pellegrini’s never fails to provide quality affordable Italian. Order from over the counter and wait for your order to be called out, before picking it up from the counter. No doubt, its mostly self-serve here but this casual dining makes for a unique experience. Sit by the counter on the high stools or on the wooden benches within the cosy eatery.  Classic Italian dishes await you including the spagetti bolognese, spagetti marinara, spagetti in napoli sauce, and so on, it’s simple elegance is a crowd draw.  Make sure you order the watermelon granita to wash down your palate with its fresh sweetness.


Top 5 Sticky Date Puddings

Sticky Date Pudding

The ever humble but celebrated sticky date pudding. To me, its all about the rich caramel sauce and of course, the warm moist texture of the cake. Hence, I have cast a critical eye on many a sticky date pudd based on the above criteria to conjure up my list.


1. Giorgio’s
1235 High Street Armadale, 03 9822 4664

A local favourite amongst surrounding residents & regulars, this renowned Cafe never fails to delight with over 100 dishes to suit any palate. But more than ever, you have to delve into the divine Sticky Date Pudding. At under $12, indulge in a decent sized soft warm pudd drenched with stacks of rich caramel sauce dusted with icing sugar and served with a side of velvety ice cream. What differentiates it from the pack is the generous serve of smooth caramel sauce, which you can almost drink up like soup. Oh what a dream..I guarantee you’ll be begging for more..

2. Berth
45 New Quay Prm, Docklands, (03) 9670 0199

We were genuinely surprised by this star find. We chanced upon this splendid Sticky Date Pudd right after our unpleasant experience at Mecca Bah, where we were literally rushed out by the manager (no doubt during peak hour, but still unacceptable) who brought us the bill before we could say “dessert please”. In any case, thank God for that as we were blown away by the Sticky Date at the neighbouring “Berth” restaurant. We were not only welcomed by a warm, comforting mound of delectable toffee-soaked pudd but also equally hospitable service.

3. Brown’s
Various locations across Melbourne

I first sunk into Brown’s Sticky Date at my last birthday party. Thanks to my lovely friend Seng, I got to relish the quality cakes that make Brown’s reputed for being “bakers of distinction”. Choose from an individual slice, or 21 cm or 30 cm – for bigger parties (up to 25 pax), my suggestion is to get the largest cake for under $50, to avoid disappointment and your guests imploring for more. Heat a slice of cake in the microwave for 15 sec and watch the caramel melt over the cake. Serve warm with ice cream or creme fraiche.

sticky date pudd - browns

4. Melbourne Bake House
210 Bay Street, Port Melbourne, (03) 9646 0898

You can choose from a variety of moreish cakes at the Bakehouse but my favourite is still the Sticky Date Pudding. Baked fresh daily, the cakes are moist and spongey, laced with generous amounts of dates on top served with a heavenly butterscotch sauce. For under $35, this cake makes for an ideal birthday cake or perfect afternoon tea delight. You can now get the smaller version (serves 3-4) for $13.50! Ideal as dessert after a home made meal! 😉


5. Errol’s
69 – 71 Errol St, North Melbourne, 03 9326 6610

Family owned & run, Errol’s whips up home made pastries & cakes, and their famous sticky date cakes are to die for. Treat yourself to an assortment of quality tea or 100% arabica coffee & heart-warming cake at their quaint joint or takeaway to enjoy at the comforts of home.

Top 5 Eclectic Bars

Webster defines eclectic as, “selecting or choosing from various sources.” “Assorted”, “diverse”, “free” & “miscellaneous” are other ways to describe this word.

So what then makes a bar eclectic?? In my opinion, it probably uses a bit of this & that, a mish mash of elements that combine to form a unique drinking experience.

I recently ran a poll here to find out from you what you think to be the Top 5 most eclectic bars in Melbourne and based on your inputs, the results are as follows:


1. The Croft Institute
21 Croft Alley, Melbourne, (03) 9671 4399 www.thecroftinstitute.com.au

The Croft is hidden away in a laneway off Little Bourke St. I’ve been there a few times but still manage to get lost somehow. This chemistry-lab themed bar is a one of a kind bar, almost eerie in certain parts. The first level features some science lab test tubes & beakers in their display cabinets. Sit on their high stools or squeeze in the tiny alcove benchs whilst “experimenting with” their vast array of imported beers from Tiger to Amstel & the like. The second level creeps me out a little with their hospital beds within the toilets, reminescent of a scene from Exorcist III. Finally head upstairs for some groovy tunes and check out the astro turf on the bar counter as you dance the night away.

2. The Butterfly Club
204 Bank Street, South Melbourne, (03) 9690 2000, www.thebutterflyclub.com

Personally, this is one of my fave eclectic bars. Only because everytime I go there, I discover something new about the place. In fact, everytime you look away and look back at a spot, you find something novel & interesting. This Victorian shop-converted-bar is touted as a “Cocktail Lounge & Cabaret Salon”. And indeed it is, you feel a little like Dita Von Teese – a burlesque star, in all her glory as you saunter into the inimitable beauty of The Butterfly Club. Level 1 takes you to the cosy velour couches by the fireplace filled with intricate knick knacks, antiques from Granny’s collection & takes you back to your childhood days, where you feel like a kid again, unearthing new gizmos. Walk out the back and there’s an even more intimate section with warm red lighting & loungey cushion couch areas – and surprise surprise, a toilet in a shed. (Look out for a blow up doll above the toilet) Upstairs discover 2 rooms with even more items on display – some people call it clutter, I prefer to call it beguiling. Hang out upstairs for a game of “sip & strip” or other board games of your desire.

Butterfly Club Bar  Butterfly Club decor  Butterfly Club Japanese Dolls

3. Madame Brussels
 Level 3 , 59-63 Bourke Street , Melbourne, (03) 9662 2775,  http://www.madamebrussels.com/

Who is Madame Brussels?? Do we really care? I know I don’t but I certainly like the idea of a rooftop terrace bar with a grassy patch of astro turf leading to a bar manned by bartenders dressed in tennis outfits. Cocktails are served in carafes to share with your friends & unwind on a friday night after work. During the colder months, the waiters offer fleece blankies to keep you warm & rugged up as you huddle up with friends on benches in the rooftop terrace, staring at the stars amidst the city skyscape. 

4. Workshop
Level 1, 413 Elizabeth St, Melbourne, (03) 9326 4365, www.theworkshop.com.au

Expect a laid back atmosphere & casual crowd, there are no dressy wannabes or wanky yuppies here.  It’s actually an old motorcycle repair shop-turned bar but don’t judge this bar by its basic exterior. You’ll be intrigued by the several welcoming spots to wind down at within this charming bar. Admire the modern art & prints hanging on the wall by the booths or hang out at the cleverly designed, seemingly enclosed, outdoor area surrounded by leafy green hanging & potted plants. It gets pretty packed out on fridays but there’s always room for everyone. Groovy break beats and tunes make it hard not to like this place, it only lacks a dance floor to make it perfect. But who’s to stop the brave young thing from cutting a rug across the bar.

5. Sweatshop
113 Lonsdale St, Melbourne, (03) 9663 6363, www.seamstress.com.au

I love Sweatshop. When you’re out on a Saturday night and endless queues form outside the pretentious, showy bars, you will always be able to find solace at Sweatshop. Located at the ground level of Seamstress restaurant bar, this grungy bar offers an inviting respite from a busy day.  Featuring boxy wooden crate-like seats around the bar & racks on the ceiling, the friendly bartenders whip up both fancy cocktails and standard drinks effortlessly. Walk up a flight of stairs into a backyard with atypical decor – a hawaiian chick painted on the wall, a rustic hut with bar stools & bamboo fences are amongst some interesting things you might spot there.

Sweatshop - Hawaiian chick  Sweatshop - decor

September 2020

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