The Kitchen at Weylandts, Abbotsford

Apart from my penchant for good food and fabulous wine, I also love decorating and interior design and get somewhat excited about furniture stores and all manner of homewares and kitchen products. Having just moved into my new home in the city, I’ve been busy planning, perusing shops, websites and magazines looking for fresh ideas and came across a new store from South Africa that had recently opened in Melbourne and also features an onsite café. Dispelling all comparisons to IKEA in nearby Richmond, I eagerly went in search of The Kitchen at Weylandts to have breakfast and to check out their product range.

Despite a two tram trip and a couple of blocks of walking, I arrived at Weylandts right on 10am which was good fortune as the store and café had literally only just opened, so I was able to walk in and find a table that gave me a view of the entire floor space. The design of the café, which is located at the front of the store, is aesthetically beautiful with large windows on each side to maximise the natural light, accented by the pale timber furnishings and a white walled interior.

Within the space of fifteen minutes, people appeared from everywhere and the café was more or less full to capacity. Soon after being seated, the skinny latte I had ordered promptly arrived on it’s own wooden palette and I would have to say that it was undoubtedly the best coffee I have had for a long while. Deliciously creamy and hot, the coffee alone was worth the journey to Abbotsford.

The breakfast menu is contained to only one A5 page and offers things that are traditional fare in South Africa such as Kaiserfleisch bacon and Boerewors sausage. I was sorely tempted by The Kitchen French Toast but decided to try to be a little more adventurous after my efforts to get there that morning. There were also a couple of breakfast specials on the blackboard in front of me that caught my eye, in particular the Roesti topped with poached eggs, chorizo and smokey home-baked beans which would be perfect sustenance for a cold wintery day. After finding the Trout gravlax and Sweetcorn Fritters on the menu, tantalisingly described as ‘cured sea trout and corn fritters stack with soft poached egg, charred corn, cucumber salsa and lime-horseradish crème fraiche dressing’ I knew that I had found what I was looking for. Ironically, just after I had ordered, a serving of the French Toast was delivered to the table next to mine and it looked exquisite. I thought long and hard about changing my order but held on to the courage of my convictions.

Trout Gravlax and Sweetcorn Fritters - The Kitchen at Weylandts, Abbotsford
Trout Gravlax and Sweetcorn Fritters – The Kitchen at Weylandts, Abbotsford

Although I kept looking longingly at the French Toast beside me, my own breakfast looked quite impressive when it did arrive with lots of bright yellow corn kernels decoratively adorning the plate. Apart from looking extremely inviting, everything on the plate was absolutely delicious. The key was the abundance of sweet corn which gave lots of moisture and flavour in each mouthful, although my favourite component of the dish was the lime-horseradish crème fraiche dressing. There didn’t seem to be any restraint with the inclusion of horseradish because you could actually taste the flavour for a change, which wasn’t overwhelming and complemented all the individual elements of the dish.

The staff are friendly and affable but don’t seem to be all that “switched on” and appear to be unprepared to cope with the sudden change in demand. The person who was originally looking after me, walked directly past my table three or four times to get to another section towards the back of the café, but didn’t glance in my direction or bother to clear an empty coffee cup or dirty plate on the return trip to the kitchen, which was particularly frustrating when there were no other tables opposite to where I was sitting, both hands were empty and I was desperately trying to get their attention so that I could order another cup of coffee. When paying at the register, the person on the till seemed to be a little flustered but asked if I enjoyed my breakfast, to which I replied favourably. When processing the payment a moment later, he asked again if I enjoyed my breakfast, and then replied to his own question “Oh yeah … I’ve already asked you that, didn’t I?” I guess as the saying goes, just because the lights are on, it doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is at home.

The Kitchen on Urbanspoon

The Little Man Cafe, Seddon

I really had to eat. Although I was heading off to a cooking class at Spice Bazaar in Seddon for four hours of hands-on cooking and eating at 10am, the five consecutive Body Pump classes I had subjected my body to during the week meant that my appetite when I woke up on Saturday morning was off the Richter scale. Surely a little something to eat beforehand couldn’t hurt? The last time I was in Seddon, I had a wonderful breakfast at Common Galaxia which was in the vicinity of where I needed to be and so I headed in that direction.

Walking along the shopping strip in Victoria Street, I could see Common Galaxia in my line of sight and then as I walked past a large window, I could see a communal table in the front with a small crowd of people seated, enjoying coffee and chatting in what appeared to be a new café. The sign on the timber door said “Closed” and I took ten more steps further before I decided to circle back and see if it was a café that was open for breakfast.

Thankfully the place was indeed open and I was greeted by the counter and allowed to sit wherever I wanted. Located on a street corner, the café was full of light from the front and side windows. The brick walls have been painted white, complemented by pale timber floors and tables, white timber chairs, turquoise blue tiles and matching crockery accents all come together to create an elegantly designed dining space.

The menu is not exhaustive but has offerings of toast, baked eggs, scrambled eggs and the traditional Atlantic/Florentine/Benedict options. Yoghurt panna cotta and vanilla bean rice are wonderful substitutes for porridge or muesli and there is Mocha Brioche French Toast dish on the menu that sounds both exotic and delicious. With a fondness for haloumi, my ravenous appetite gravitated towards the Sweet corn hot cakes with smoked salmon, rocket and haloumi, and also took the option to add poached egg.

The café tends to become busier as the morning wears on, however from the moment I sat down, I was well and truly looked after in the customer service department. The same person who greeted me at the door went to the trouble to locate a newspaper for me, replaced my cutlery as soon as it accidentally flew off the table (I blame the Herald Sun), took the trouble to ask if I would like another coffee and had the nous to ask how I wanted my poached egg cooked. Definitely two thumbs up.

The coffee is excellent and the barista is constantly busy but still manages to weave his magic in the presentation of each cup.

Sweet corn hot cakes with smoked salmon, rocket, haloumi and poached egg - The Little Man Cafe, Seddon
Sweet corn hot cakes with smoked salmon, rocket, haloumi and poached egg – The Little Man Cafe, Seddon

When you read something on a menu, your mind tends to conjure up an image of what that dish may look like. The presentation of my breakfast when it arrived exceeded my expectations. Three pikelet sized hot cakes filled with kernels of sweet corn underneath a handful of rocket, topped with slices of smoked salmon, poached eggs and wafer-thin strips of grilled haloumi cheese. Interspersed among all of those ingredients were thin slices of radish, tomato and the most finely chopped pieces of red onion I had ever seen.
The haloumi was crispy and due to its size it didn’t have its normal soft texture and taste but was delicious nonetheless. All of the textures and tastes worked well together, from the crispy cheese, soft egg, the smoky and salty flavour of the salmon, the bitter taste of fresh rocket leaves combined with the firm and slightly sweet hot cakes, made each mouthful an absolute delight. At that point I was rather glad that my appetite got me out of bed early in search of a hearty breakfast and that I found something special and unique in Seddon.

The Little Man Cafe on Urbanspoon

Ferrovia, Pascoe Vale

The Western suburbs of Melbourne is a melting pot of diversity, cuisines and cultures that often draws derision and unmerited criticism from those who live elsewhere. I often joke (and probably unfairly) that I need to wear my kevlar vest whenever I go and take a trip out to the “Wild West”. Yet every time I find myself out west, where most of my colleagues and friends prefer to live, I always enjoy seeing tree lined streets in and out of season, beautifully renovated homes, new and exotic places to eat and areas that I would like to take time and explore further.

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to catch up with my friends Mez and Oz, who live in the Pascoe Vale area. Oz, who would have to be my chief encourager of my food and wine adventures, suggested that we should try their local café, Ferrovia for a Saturday breakfast.

Ferrovia is located approximately 50 metres from the Pascoe Vale train station. The café is laidback, unpretentious and very popular with the locals. Looks can be deceiving as the interior is narrow and cosy with no more than half a dozen tables inside and counter seating along the front window, and a courtyard area out the back. There was a constant stream of people popping in for coffee, meals, cakes and pastries as well as the cured meats, cheeses and other gourmet items also available for purchase.

My latte was first rate and all too easy to drink. Ferrovia takes enormous pride in the art of coffee making with their baristas having garnered their experience in busy cafés in Italy prior to being ensconced behind the industrial-sized coffee machine behind the bar. Although the coffee was fantastic, I’m not entirely convinced I would be so adventurous as to trade the wonders of Italy for downtown Pascoe Vale.

The breakfast menu was simple and the options appeared to be hearty with a substantial focus on dishes created with eggs.

Great minds think alike so Oz and I selected the Sweet Corn and Polenta Fritters with poached free-range eggs, sautéed baby spinach, horseradish sour cream and bacon while Mez opted for the Breakfast Bruchetta with avocado, tomato, Spanish onion, served on bread topped with poached free-range eggs and goats chevre (not pictured).

After taking our order, the waitress laid out the napkins and cutlery we were each given a large wooden handled knife with a blade that would rival that of Crocodile Dundee. I like my eggs poached hard but I didn’t realise I would need to be equipped with my own sword to get through breakfast. Wild West indeed!

Sweet Corn & Polenta Fritters with poached free-range eggs, sautéed baby spinach, horseradish sour cream and bacon - Ferrovia, Pascoe Vale
Sweet Corn & Polenta Fritters with poached free-range eggs, sautéed baby spinach, horseradish sour cream and bacon – Ferrovia, Pascoe Vale

We didn’t wait too long for breakfast and because I prefer my eggs hard poached it inevitably adds a little extra cooking time to my meal, but always worth the wait in my opinion. Some places I go to for breakfast tend to ignore my request, but in this case my eggs were cooked to my liking. The serving of bacon was generous and I enjoyed the way it was cooked however some might take issue with the lack of crispiness it delivered. The baby spinach was vibrant and just cooked, providing some much needed colour and another textural element to the dish.

The polenta and corn fritters were quite sizeable with chunky pieces of red pepper and corn kernels mixed throughout. Oz and I thought that perhaps the red pepper could have been diced a bit more finely as their size meant that their flavour tended to overshadow the sweetness of the corn. The talking point of the dish was the horseradish sour cream which was delicious, although a little too creamy as it didn’t have the sharp pungent bite that horseradish normally delivers. The vast quantity of polenta on the plate meant that the fritters were a little dry in places, and the horseradish cream was a much needed and tasty accompaniment which helped to provide a little extra moisture when required.

Mez’s dish looked colourful but the bruschetta mixture noticeably lacked the promised avocado and looked somewhat lost on the big white plate that it was served on. The cold bruschetta mingled with the freshly poached egg, which was considerably warmer, created a temperature differential that most of our mouths would find hard to appreciate.

The promised rain began to set in and suddenly the café became extremely busy as those eating out in the courtyard came inside for shelter and attempted to find a space to finish their breakfast. Full to the brim and having enjoyed our little catch-up, it was time for us to let the next wave of diners in to savour the delights of Ferrovia.

Ferrovia Deli & Fine Foods on Urbanspoon

Bendigo Street Milk Bar, Burnley

A brand new year has begun and one of my goals is to start visiting the list of cafes that I’ve been building up in the back of my mind on the “must do” list. I can’t remember where I had read about the small cafe/milk bar in Bendigo Street in Richmond/Burnley that was open for weekend breakfast, but it was always somewhere where I wanted to visit and I figured that if I was to do anything of purpose on the weekend, then that was my intended destination.

Resolutely, I set off on Saturday morning and negotiated the two trams I needed to take to get to Bendigo Street. I can’t describe the exhilaration I always feel when the sun is shining, I’m exploring new neighbourhoods with tree-lined streets, anticipating my first hot skinny latte and finally visiting a place I’ve always wanted to visit. Intrigued by the renovated workers cottages and the new urban development under construction in Bendigo Street, I finally spied the quaint milk bar on the corner, market umbrellas and tables outside ready for patrons.

Walking into Bendigo Street Milk Bar is like stepping into another world – tranquil with soft jazz playing on the iPod, a myriad of tables, soft furnishings and old-world charm, newspapers for sale, a counter and display fridge laden with homemade food, another room on the mezzanine level with more tables and chairs – it was almost a feast for the eyes. I think it was just fortuitous that being January, I could still walk in and take my pick of tables.

Because it is January and some of the staff were taking leave, the breakfast menu had been reduced to a single page, but despite only several dishes to choose from, the corn fritters with avocado salsa, rocket and poached eggs seemed to be the most obvious choice.

 

Corn fritters with avocado salsa, rocket and poached eggs (Bendigo Street Milk Bar, Burnley)
Corn fritters with avocado salsa, rocket and poached eggs (Bendigo Street Milk Bar, Burnley)

I gather from all the social media involving this cafe that the homemade corn fritters are the dish du jour and it’s obvious why. Beautifully presented, stunning colours and a generous dish, I was deliriously happy to be its next victim! After taking several photos, my first mouthful of corn fritter was heavenly – an unusual red colour (I almost wondered if Thai red curry paste was the secret ingredient!), with red capsicum and bright yellow corn kernels – well cooked and not mushy which seems to be the offering of some of the most recent places that I have been to lately. My eggs were poached exactly as I like them and requested, sitting of a bed of chunky homemade avocado salsa, and rocket glistening in olive oil. Almost a complete surprise was the goats cheese dispersed within the dish, which was soft and creamy and extremely delicious, but a definite must although it is not included in the meal description.

Although I waited a good ten minutes for my first coffee to appear and there were only 4 other customers in view, you know when you are in a special-kind-of-place when you are compelled to whip out the iPhone at lightning speed and try to Shazam the jazzed up version of Crowded House playing seductively in the background (Curtis Stigers’ rendition of “Into Temptation” if you are intrigued) and all is forgiven.

My only concern that now distresses me is that if it has taken me so long to get here, how soon can I come back?