The Little Ox

One of the assessments that I had to complete for one of my uni subjects last semester was to make a short film. Despite having studied film for the last six or so years, I’ve never had cause to make one, and my immediate reaction to such a project was to panic hysterically.

After gibbering, I promptly rounded up any friends who had even a vague understanding of how to use a camera, and we threw ourselves into cobbling together something vaguely presentable. On our second day of filming, after a morning shooting an extended sequence that involved the flinging about of a lot of plastic dinosaurs (look, if I was only going to make one film in my life, it was totally going to involve dinosaurs), I sensed with my new-found directorial sensibility that my crew was getting fatigued and hungry. “Lunch time folks!” I said. I wanted to clap a clapperboard to make it more official, but I didn’t have one, so instead thwacked together some dinosaurs in an authoritative manner.

Seeing as we were filming in Muffin’s neighbourhood, I left it up to her to suggest a place for good vittles. Which is how we ended up at The Little Ox, a cute little cafe set in Brighton’s backstreets. It’s all very classy cafe-food action here, with lots of sandwiches, sweet breakfasty options and cakes and slices designed to sit stylishly alongside your decaf skinny latte (we are in Brighton after all).

I had the blueberry pancakes with maple syrup and banana jam. Lovely berry-swirled pancakes (generous with the berries, too). The banana jam was interesting with whole round slices that had been caramelised. Very tasty, sweet but not sickly, although the pancakes did absorb the syrup quite rapidly so became a little dry at the end, but this is a minor quibble.

Emma and James had the polenta with smoked salmon, poached egg and basil pesto. It looked gorgeous (all the dishes at The Little Ox plated up well), and Emma said she felt like all the components were very complimentary and most importantly left you feeling very light afterwards.

Muffin had the grilled zucchini, beetroot, rocket and some kind of white cheese (probably goat’s cheese) sandwich. It was certainly the prettiest sandwich I’d seen in a long while, the beetroot especially was so bright. Apparently it left Muffin in sandwich heaven afterwards!

If you’re a tea drinker, the teapots here are delightfully huge – you get three cups out of one!

Dessert! Muffin ordered a blondie, which she shared around with everyone (…that sentence sounds really suspect on reflection). It met with blanket approval, it was fudgy and gooey and all sorts of goodness. Emma and I decided to have a vanilla and peppermint cupcake, which we similarly shared out for collective tasting. We all wavered on whether we liked the cupcake or not – the cake itself was visibly flecked through with vanilla bean seeds, yet had a muted flavour, and was honestly a little tough (perhaps it had been refrigerated for longer than was best for it). The peppermint icing was strongly flavoured, which I didn’t mind at all (you have been subject to my rant on flavourless cupcake icing before), but others felt that it was too overpowering and didn’t quite work with the vanilla base.

Design-wise, the outfit is like a south-side version of The Bell Jar – slicker, smoother, a little more country kitchen, and ever so Brighton, yet still puts a loving amount of attention into the little details: the abundant flowers, the fat cookbooks, the jars of pickles all lend an air of homeliness against the white, white walls. The staff were perfectly pleasant on our visit, and despite quibbling over cupcakes our main meals left all of us with glowing expressions and contented tummies. Be sure to pop in next time you’re taking the new Mercedes for a spin, darlings.

The Little Ox

452 New Street, Brighton

Ph: 9596 6577

What About Food

For the first half of last year, I’d been curiously watching the evolution of the shopfront of 330 Cardigan Street, being that it lay between uni and where I parked my car during classes. Towards the end of its renovations, when it became obvious that an eatery was going to appear there, I thought to myself “Well, that’s nice and handy for me, I’ll have to go once it’s opened. Maybe us girls could do a uni lunch there.”

Of course, I didn’t end up there until long after uni had finished for the year! The regular uni lunching crew decided it’d be a good idea to meet for a celebratory “yay! uni’s over for the year” lunch, and were up for venue suggestions once it became apparent that some were a little fatigued with our regular choice of Seven Seeds. As Jess put it, “There’s only so many toasted sandwiches you can eat, no matter how good they are!”

Feeling confident after reading Where’s the Beef’s glowing review that What About Food would be sure to satisfy everyone, we all rolled up one Wednesday afternoon feeling excited and anticipatory. Turns out, my hunch was right! What About Food is absolutely stirling.

Emma and I had one of the blackboard specials, the portobello mushrooms poached in pomegranate and lemon vinegarette, with parmesan, spinach, a poached egg and a sprig of thyme, served on pide and a nice thick spear of asparagus laid on top. This was wonderfully put together, none of the ingredients were out of place, it all complimented each other, and how much to I love the inclusion of thyme in dishes? I love it so much. Emma and I happily nibbled away while sipping tea, and felt highly decadent.

Jess had the goat’s cheese brushetta with avocado, tomato and onion salsa, salad greens and a poached egg. She seemed to enjoy it, although spent a while extracting the salad while muttering “Ergh, too many greens.” This green-aversion seems to be pretty standard when dining with Jess though (anyone remember the Lot 6 pressed sandwich that had too much rocket?).

Kim had the corn fritters with poached eggs, bacon, avocado and salad greens. This looked so pretty!

Andy, Kim’s boyfriend, also joined us and had the baked eggs, which I snaffled a taste of. These were lovely, very tomatoey and peppery. I really want to go back and have a serving of these all to myself!

What About Food’s coffee is apparently VERY strong coffee, according to Andy, but otherwise delicious, so caffeine addicts would be quite well served.

It was good to see that there are acres of vegie options, including a batch of daily salads, although the proliference of eggs means vegans may find the terrain barren of choices.

The space is lovely to sit in, nice and open, and the big communal table we sat at was great for a big-ish group. The staff were exceedingly friendly, and combined with highly excellent food, everyone agreed with the general feeling was that we had found an equal lunching option to Seven Seeds. I can’t wait for uni to start up again so I have an excuse to organise multiple uni lunch dates there!

What About Food

330 Cardigan Street, Carlton

Ph: 9347 5256

Edit 12/8/2011: As reported on Where’s the Beef, What About Food has quietly changed owners, and is now trading as 330 Briks.