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

 

Easter: The Best Buns

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Of course my dad’s are the best, but while in Melbourne I’ve been following local Hot Cross Bun news. On Tuesday, The Age voted Tivoli Road Bakery as Melbourne’s number one hot cross bun baker for 2014. I promptly decided to make a field trip, only to find they had sold out – by 9am that morning!

I was advised to phone in advance to place a reservation. So this morning, I finally got to sample these winning buns. My verdict? Tastes quite a lot like “home” actually, dense sourdough buns, with enough fruit, orange peel, and spice.

Tivoli Road will be open over the Easter weekend for hot cross bun purchasing. (Pre-ordering, is of course advised). Their baked goods are also available at Fairfield Farmers Market, Abbotsford Convent Slowfood Market, and the Flour Market.

3 Tivoli Rd, South Yarra, VIC 3141

http://tivoliroad.com.au/

Zumbo, Melbourne

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Zumbo has finally arrived in Melbourne! In South Yarra specifically. In the past, Zumbo’s gateaux, tartes, and Zumbarons have been a Sydney highlight for me: flavour-forward, stunning, and affordable.

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Arriving a few days after the grand opening, I was greeted by a queue – which snaked out the door. (Note: it was also late on a Saturday morning). Surrounded by electric pink and silver interiors and flanked by candy floss couches I waited patiently for 30 minutes for a Melbourne taste of Zumbo.

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As with the Sydney store, the stock was stunning. I did miss the individual mini displays showcasing Zumbo’s fancy fare, which always made queuing in Sydney a little more cheerful. However, I’m pleased just to have Zumbo stock in Melbourne – available seven days a week, 7am-7pm “or until sold out”.

12-14 Claremont Street, South Yarra, Melbourne, VIC 3141

http://adrianozumbo.com/

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

Brunetti – Mini Cakes

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Brunetti is an iconic Melbourne destination for European cakes and coffee. But it’s a particular favourite of mine for a little something-something after dinner; for those times when you really “shouldn’t”, but nevertheless have a craving for something sweet. Whether you’re counting calories or just have a small ladies stomach, Brunetti has the perfect solution for you: mini cakes.

These cakes are about the quarter of the size of Brunetti’s regular slices of cake and are available in the same, if not similar, range of flavours. Options include: chocolate, orange, chocolate mousse, New York baked cheesecake, and berry cheesecake.

Gone in a few bites, these mini cakes are the perfect fix for a sweet craving – with minimal damage to your diet halo.

214 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, VIC 3000

Also in Carlton, Camberwell, Myer, Dubai, and Singapore.

http://www.brunetti.com.au

Noisette: Prahran Market

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Finding a good almond croissant is always a happy occasion. Recently, I discovered Noisette’s clutch at their Prahran Market stand. Never one to do things by halves, I opted for a chocolate almond croissant and was satisfied by my choice: a fresh, light croissant, enveloping a generous portion of chocolate almond filling, crowned with crispy almond flakes.

Needless to say, I’ll be back. Chez Dre is my regular source, however it’s good to have options – South Melbourne isn’t always within reach when an almond croissant craving strikes!

Prahran market, 163 Commercial Road, South Yarra, VIC 3141

84 Bay Street, Port Melbourne, VIC 3207

http://www.noisette.com.au/