Combi

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A luxurious escape to many good things raw, organic, and somewhat vegetarian, Combi has no trouble attracting visitors. As welcoming as sunshine, this island hideaway is a few minutes from the Elwood canal.

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Cocktail-esque and exotically dressed, you’ll find it hard to resist smoothies like “velvet cacao”, “mango shack”, and “liquid passion”. Almond milk is also available in chocolate, espresso, and chai options.

IMG_4375Adding to a multitude of sensory pleasures, a raw pizza, chia seed ‘parfait’, and raw organic zucchini spaghetti are also on the menu.

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On this suburban oasis, fresh, raw, organic treats are so tasty it’s a delight to eat what’s good for you. As the menu items are raw, most will manage only a couple of items per visit, so be prepared take away.

Shop 1 / 140 Ormond Road, Elwood, Melbourne, VIC 3184

http://wearecombi.com.au/

“Tacos, breads and Good Times in Fitzroy North”: El Chino

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I have a soft spot for El Chino. Cute and kitsch, it’s a Mexican cafe but also a bakery! A party of two worlds, customers can indulge in a slow-cooked pulled pork taco and an almond croissant in one visit. Food envy and FOMO vibes, be gone!

Over brunch and lunch, the menu offers a range of ‘just-enough’ and ‘manly’ meals. Nachos, tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and tostadas are available in drooling options such as slow-cooked pork, pan-fried prawns, and even sunny-side up eggs with avo and beans … Traditional horchata, mexican hot chocolate, and granita are also on offer. Bakery items to eat in or take away include a changing selection of home-tasting dense breads, doughnuts, and pastries.

The staff are also the loveliest, in a soft and open Northcote-kind-of-way. Good times indeed, in Fitzroy North.

214 St Georges Road, North Fitzroy, VIC 3068

https://www.facebook.com/elchinomexican

Aka Siro

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Since moving to Melbourne, it’s taken me a while to find good Japanese food. Aka Siro is perfectly Japanese – from the clean, wooden interiors, to the gentle, decorous service, to the sticky, swollen grains of rice.

Menu-wise, there is an array of options, most of which are teishoku dishes (set meals). I ordered the chan-chan-yaki: grilled salmon with vegetables in a sort of broth, served with rice. It tasted deliciously nourishing, home cooked, and full of fresh, quality ingredients. And there was enough to feed two to three.

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My lunch date ordered the higawari, three dishes in one, and also highly recommended it.

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Other menu items include traditional and fusion flavours such as: kara-age, pan-fried pork belly with Korean pickles, soba salad, scotch fillet steak, and fried tofu.

Aka Siro is a gorgeous find and I look forward to trying the rest of the menu items!

 

106 Cambridge Street, Collingwood, VIC 3066

 

N2 Extreme Gelato

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Liquid nitrogen. Picnicing in a shop window. Bad-ass signage. The folk at N2 seem to know how to grab attention, but I think there’s more to this new kid than just smoke ‘n mirrors.

My first order at N2 was the Black Lava Salted Caramel – silky smooth and topped with black salt. My second was the TEAramisu: a “mild tea custard gelato with earl grey and marsala soaked sponge folded through, topped with an earl grey royale whipped mascarpone”. And both were more than enough for one.

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Depending on the time, day, or just plain bad luck, you may have to queue for your N2 treats. But if you’re going to eat gelato anywhere in Melbourne, N2 is definitely worth the wait.

329 Brunswick Street, Melbourne, VIC 3065

http://www.n2extremegelato.com.au

Innocent Bystander

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Every now and then I need a bush or a beach fix. A tree or a sea top-up.

Recently, a kind soul introduced me to the Yarra Valley. As expected, there was mountains, there was trees, and there was food.

On that note, our tour included Healesville’s Innocent Bystander. The space is stunning and provides plenty of indoor activities to keep you busy on a rainy day: wine and cheese tasting counters, an artisan bakery, and a full restaurant menu.

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Because it was a particularly stormy day, we had already eaten well into the Yarra. So on this occasion, we were in just for dessert. I ordered the flourless chocolate cake and, portion to price, it was of Vegie Bar standards. The cake itself was an indulgence in chocolate – I am a chocolate overeater but I was completely beaten by this slice of cake. Even after sharing it around, I had to leave a few bites behind!

I loved meeting the Yarra and will be keen to stay in touch.

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336 Maroondah Hwy, Healesville, VIC 3777

http://www.innocentbystander.com.au

The Hardware Societe

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Bathing in goat’s milk, commuting to school by chopper, sailing on a yacht with an ensuite for every bedroom … I can only describe my first experience at The Hardware Societe as ‘luxury-for-breakfast.’ Perched at a marble table by the laneway, my first meal at this café was brioche with rosé-scented pear, dulce de leche, and pistachio praline. Fit for a queen.

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Recently, friends visited over an extended weekend and The Hardware Societe immediately sprang to mind. This time, we dined amidst the café’s fine white walls and beautiful teacup montage. Our orders included oatmeal with poached pears and macademia crumble and bircher with berries and macademia crumble.

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We were thoroughly satisfied with our meals, but did look on with envy at Emma’s decision: the two-in-one skillet scrambled eggs with chorizo and filled baguette, served on a wooden board.

With its restaurant decorum, The Hardware Societe is definitely a special treat. On most occasions, you’ll have to queue for a table, even on weekdays; menu items cost slightly more than similar meals in other “cafes” (but well worth the extra dollars); and most importantly, every bite of your meal will be an experience to remember.

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120 Hardware St, Melbourne, VIC 3000

Longrain

As the name suggests, Longrain is an Asian fusion restaurant. Thai, and Southern Chinese, specifically.

Following tradition, the restaurant features a long communual table, intended for ‘banquet-style’ eating (ie. large dishes shared amongst large groups). However, we arrived for dinner as an intimate party of two and were content to share amongst ourselves!

The menu features a mouth-watering range of tempting options. These include ingredients such as: smoked trout, banana blossom, Ora king salmon, green papaya, caramelised coconut, slow cooked duck, eggnet, caramelised pork hock … the list goes on.

Here’s what we settled on:

Caramelised pork, prawn, peanuts, and sour pineapple (entrée)

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Duck, banana blossom, roasted eschalot relish, and Changmai sausage

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Slow cooked yellow curry of Bultarra saltbush lamb with kipfler potatoes

ImageI particularly enjoyed the sticky-preserved texture of the pork entrée and I’d definitely order the lamb again, just for the buttery, creamy kipfler potatoes. An array of exotic ‘fusion’ cocktails and other alcoholic beverages are also available to accompany your meal. And if you can’t wait until dinner, these can be ordered as pre-dinner drinks in the lounge as you wait to be seated. Longrain has venues in both Sydney and Melbourne and I was as happy with my experience, if not more so than my visits to other popular Asian-fusion establishments. Price and quality is comparable, the only difference being Longrain provides a formal setting, appropriate for a special night out. Reservations are taken only for Friday lunches and group bookings for dinner are generally limited. (We chose to arrive promptly at 6pm to avoid the evening queue).

44 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000

85 Commonwealth Street, 
Surry Hills, NSW 2010

http://longrain.com

Sonido!

I’ve never been able to walk past this Latin café without a sense of FOMO. Its brightly decorated walls always seem to beckon “Come party!”.

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This week I accepted the call to enter and discovered Sonido! truly is festive through and through. From the entrance to the bathroom, the café is busy with colourful South American objects including traditional posters, record covers, bags, hats, and percussion instruments. As the quote goes: “I AM LATINO I CANNOT KEEP CALM” – a welcome sentiment on a winter’s day!

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Although the menu is limited, the items are a treat. We ordered arepas – traditional maize cakes, available in ground yellow or white corn. I opted for arepas de queso, white corn cakes filled with melted cheese, served with avocado and tomato sides. Simple, yet also comforting and novel. Other options come with sides of scrambled eggs, beef, black beans and feta, and chorizo. Empanadas, a range of sweets, and “Friday Night Specials” are also on offer.

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Arepas de queso: white corn cakes filled with melted cheese, served with avocado and tomato sides

From “¡Hola” to “Adiós” my experience was thoroughly cheery and unpretentious. I’ll definitely be back for more soul-warming treats this winter. Sonido! is also open for dinner Thursday to Saturday and offers an array of South American drinks.

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69 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, VIC 3065

http://sonido.com.au

Captain Melville: Casual Fine-Dining

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Quinoa salad with white zucchini, pomegranate, shanklish, and honey yoghurt

Captain Melville is the latest addition to my list of C&Cs and best-value restaurants.

My introduction to this establishment was the most chic ‘casual’ dining experience I’ve had. At accessible prices, the meals looked akin to those from Melbourne’s most popular dining establishments. I ordered the quinoa salad with white zucchini, pomegranate, shanklish, honey yoghurt and the Western Plains pork belly on a warm sesame bun with baby cos and crackle.

Reviews claim the restaurant serves pub-style food, but the food is more pub-inspired – fancy meals with pub labels. (There was certainly no shame around my sister ordering a ‘chicken parma’ that night!). The menu also caters to a range of occasions /food envy complexes/ diets, offering single serve /tapas-style items, share plates, and large meals.

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Western Plains pork belly on a warm sesame bun with baby cos and crackle

In addition, Captain Melville’s website claims food is sourced from “ethical and sustainable Victorian farms and producers of the region traversed by the rebel bushranger himself.” And with alcohol and coffee as after-dark options, what’s not to like?

Completely booked out on the Saturday we visited, Captain Melville is clearly a favourite for a fine casual night out.

Address: 34 Franklin St, VIC 3000

http://www.captainmelville.com.au/

South Melbourne favs

Pretty South Melbourne is known for drawing a crowd. Hearts swoon over heritage listed buildings, terrace homes, and cobble stone lanes; coffee and food geeks willingly spend mornings waiting for tables; and consultancies claim to be the king of cool. Here are a few of the jewels in South Melbourne’s crown, worth the visit – and even worth the wait.

St Ali

They had me at ‘hello’.

St Ali boasts leadership in coffee roasting, but their genuine-hipster-cool staff definitely round out the experience, and then some.

When I first arrived, a staff member showed me to my table, sat with me, and then introduced me to the menu. And when I asked what sort of chai they served – she responded “How do you want it?”.

With staff who’ll chill wit’ chu like they’re your new friends, dope tunes, great premises, and fantastic interior design, St Ali provides a party you’ll want to keep coming back to.

Fig, prosciutto, hazelnut, basil, and honey salad

Fig, prosciutto, hazelnut, basil, and honey salad

12-18 Yarra Place, 
South Melbourne, VIC 3205

http://stali.com.au/

Chez Dre

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Whether it’s a macaroon fix or an extended brunch, a trot to Chez Dre will provide you with some generous culinary lovin’. Our first visit down its cobbled path was for a sneaky peek at their patisserie range. On arrival, we discovered a treasure chest of beautifully manicured cakes, guaranteed to impress at any dinner party.

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Approaching the counter, we were welcomed with an entire board of quarter-sized macaroons and asked if we’d like to sample some. “Would we?!”. This was a step up from free cheerios at the butchery!

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With this kind of hospitality, this patisserie and boulangrie is also a delightful place for a breakfast or brunch date. There’s an array of treats to choose from: almond and chocolate almond croissants; organic hot chocolate; Moroccan-style baked eggs; croque monsieur; and much more.

Rear of 285-287 Coventry Street, South Melbourne, VIC 3205

http://chezdre.com.au/

South Melbourne markets

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If you happen to be in South Melbourne, I’d definitely recommend also stopping in at the markets. From chicory to fresh dumplings to an array of nut butters these markets are a great place to get your weekly fruit and veg.

322-326 Coventry Street, South Melbourne, VIC 3205

http://southmelbournemarket.com.au/