Coin Laundry

I had long been trying to arrange for a brunch date between myself, the delightful Miss Brinkman, and the equally delightful Catherine for eons knows how long. It was just the perfect idea, bringing together potentially the best brunching team EVER! Wanting to spread my wings a little bit area-wise, I asked Miss Brinkman to recommend somewhere down her way of town, and when she came back with the suggestion of Coin Laundry, well, I was already feeling like we were in for a treat.

Coin Laundry is possibly the most bustling place in Armadale, so be prepared for the fact that you will probably have to wait for a table. The space is large and clean, with high ceilings and a big open kitchen to peer into, and, as Miss Brinkman was quick to point out, the fellows waiting tables are numerous, attentive, and most of all HANDSOME (there did seem to be an overwhelming number of ladies amongst the clientele, purely coincidentally I am sure).

Despite having a craving for sweet breakfast, there was nothing sweet on the Coin Laundry menu that really caught my fancy. Sure, there were good solid dishes like porridge with stewed apple and rhubarb, banana bread and toast with any sort of condiment you’d like, but no really flashy sweet dish (apart from a French toast that would have necessitated me asking to remove bacon, which I really couldn’t be bothered doing). So I ended up straying onto the savoury side of the menu, and went with the sweet corn fritters with machengo cheese, rocket, avocado puree, tangy dressing and a sprinkling of spices.

Presentation at Coin Laundry is gorgeous. When our dishes were brought out, the three of us couldn’t help making little gasps and exclamations of delight. My three slightly charred fritters sat on a green sea of avocado puree, covered in a mix of rocket and coriander sprigs. Ever so green and pretty!

The fritters were zinging with flavour, which curiously turned out to be their very slight downfall: there was so much going on that by the end of the dish I was quite overwhelmed. It was like every flavour was punctuated with a series of exclamation marks. Corn kernels! Rocket! Avocado!! White dressing on rocket!! Cheese!!! Despite having arrived with an empty stomach, I couldn’t finish the entire plate, which always fills me with guilt (waste not want not!), especially as it wasn’t because I didn’t like the food, it was just a little too much to deal with!

Miss Brinkman went with the Coin Laundry Breakfast, which was an absolute mountain of food: two poached eggs on a very fat slice of sourdough, roasted tomatoes, bacon, baby spinach, beetroot relish and probably a couple of other components that I missed. Miss Brinkman tried valiantly to finish all that was on her plate, but as she sadly had to tell our concerned waiter when he collected our plates, there had simply been too much delicious food to successfully conquer. The food at Coin Laundry is, as Bennett would put it, total man food.

Catherine had a chickpea and (I think) chorizo cassoulet, which came out served in one of those cute brown earthenware bowls alongside two pieces of chargrilled bread ideal for mopping up all the sauce holding it all together. I assume it must have been good, because there was very little left over!

I satisfied my sweet craving by taking home a pear and dark chocolate chip danish. It was very much to my liking, the bitterness of the chocolate contrasting nicely with the slightly caramelised pear (really, pears will always and forever be my favourite fruit, they’re just too delightful). I wonder if they make their pastries on site or order them in? If the former, I should probably give their sweet dishes a go on my next visit.

Coin Laundry is a pleasing affair, leaving the three of us to conclude that we were indeed a brunching team of awesome and further adventures must ensue. The dishes may be a tad big for those with more modest tums, but what you can fit in is delicious and well worth trundling so far south of the river for. Be sure to bring long eyelashes to batter winsomely at the staff.

Coin Laundry

61 Armadale Street, Armadale

Ph: 9500 1888

Red Door Corner Store

It had been a very long time since Phoebe and I had had some brunching adventures. We were lamenting this very fact at a house party a few weeks ago over our glasses of Pimms punch. “I really want to take you to Red Door Corner Store!” said Phoebe, who had recently relocated to the northern suburbs and was full of northerly food recommendations.

“Well, providing we’re not too hungover, why don’t we just go tomorrow morning?” With the prospect of brunch over the horizon, we both managed to keep ourselves relatively nice for the rest of the evening, and languorously reunited the next morning for Saturday brunch.

Red Door Corner Store is located in what appears to be an old suburban milk bar. The fit-out is just cute as a button, with a lot of red detailing and touches like having antique cake tins decorating the walls. The space is also deceptive in terms of size, as apart from the large-ish front room there’s also a dining area out the back with big tables that looked like it would be perfect for families. When it’s full it certainly bustles, but the staff deal with it all admirably, and we never had trouble attracting the attentive staff when we needed them.

Although I was very tempted to try the coconut crumpets, as they had appeared in this article over at Broadsheet in a list of 10 dishes across town to welcome in spring with, I ended up being seduced over to the savoury side of the menu and instead ordered the grilled semolina with spinach, lemon thyme mushrooms, taleggio and Parmesan curls and a fat poached egg.

Oh good goodness, and seduced I was! This will probably, unless I get very, very lucky culinary-wise in the next few months, top my list of the best dishes I’ve had this year. The semolina was perfectly cooked with a pleasing texture that dissolved on the tongue. The mushrooms were plump and delicious, swimming in a gravy of their own juices and olive oil, with a hint of lemony tang. Combined with all that lovely salty cheese and a textbook poached egg, which once popped dribbled decadently over everything, and it’s a sheer wonder of a dish, managing to be both rich to the taste yet light in the tum.

Phoebe had a kind of breakfast tart, whose ingredients I shamefully did not take note of, although I do remember it having a rasher of crispy bacon baked into it, and was served with a side of avocado that had been freshly drizzled with a little bit of olive oil and tasted divine.

I was highly impressed by my time at Red Door Corner Store, and am very keen to get back and sample more of their wares. Perhaps I’ll even get around to those coconut crumpets before spring kicks gear into summer. Only time will tell.

Red Door Corner Store

70 Mitchell Street, Northcote

Ph: 9489 8040

Hutong at The Cullen

It’s one of those sad facts of life that dear friends will sometimes feel the need to move to the other side of the globe. It is a highly tragic circumstance, which can only ever be relieved when those friends returnĀ  to the homely nest for a weekend of highly inebriated shenanigans. That is what occurred a few weekends ago when our dear friend Rola, who has been living in Dubai, returned to remind Melbourne how to goddamn party properly.

In amongst the never-ending drinking that marked Rola’s four days in Melbourne town (my liver still isn’t quite right), we all of course wanted to fit in some fancy eating. Dumplings was decided upon, then by extension Hutong, followed by the Prahran location. And once we learned that it was BYO, well, the alcoholics within us were very happy with this dining direction.

But then! DISASTER. Just before we were about to leave for the restaurant we received a message from Sophie. “We’ve fucked up, it’s the Hutong in the city that’s BYO, not the Cullen one. We’re going to have to buy booze there.”

A collective wail of “OH NOOOOO!” was uttered. “How are we supposed to get crunked on ten dollar bottles of rose NOW?” Amelia lamented (we were totally planning on a classy night, clearly). We ended up sharing a couple of $30 bottles of various vintages between us during dinner to minimal grousing, but let us remain a cautionary tale to you: Hutong city, bring wine to cheer you, Hutong Prahran, you pay for it, fool.

But what about food? ask those whose innards aren’t lined with fermented grape juice. For entree I went with the spring onion pancake, which is one of my most favourite dishes of all time and I can’t pass it up if I encounter it on a menu. This was a very interesting version, as it wasn’t a flat, thin pancake like I’ve encountered before, but instead was a fat, puffy ring of crispy dough. A spring onion doughnut! It was very well done, with a pleasing ratio of outside crispness to soft fluffy innards, and just oily enough for there to be a bit of juice and avoid dryness.

I also ordered a set of twelve steamed vegetarian dumplings, because this is Hutong, you can’t not do dumplings. Highly impressive! I tend to judge vegie dumplings by the number of different components I can identify in the filling once I’ve cracked one open. If it’s just a sea of green cabbage-looking mess inside, no points for you. I want variety and nuance in my dumpling, dammit! Hutong totally brought exciting dumpling fillings in spades. There were the standard array of greenery, but it was exciting greenery, like little slivers of onion chives. They also contained fat juicy chunks of a variety of mushrooms, pieces of carrot, tiny lengths of translucent vermicelli noodles, it was so varied and most importantly super tasty. I’d be very happy to go back and just eat a ton of them.

Not being able to sampled the famed xiao long bao myself, I of course attempted to bully others into ordering them so that I could enjoy them by proxy. Luckily Amelia was all over it and convinced Lucy to share some with her. “So these have SOUP in them?” said Lucy. “Yes,” I said. “Stuff them in your mouth all at once otherwise the soup will escape!” “Oh my god, do not listen to her,” said Amelia, and instead instructed Lucy on how to eat them in a manner which wouldn’t kill you, which consisted of nibbling a little hole in the top and slurping out enough soup so you don’t burn yourself. The consensus on these xiao long bao was that they they were OH SO GREAT. I am jealous, where can I find vegie versions of these things?

Being that there was about fifteen of us, I’m pretty sure judging by the numbers of dishes that ended up swamping the table we probably ended up ordering everything on the menu. The staff were quite amazing at managing us, especially considering we were probably one of those huge groups hated by hospitality staff (everyone arrives at different times, no one is ready to order at the same time, no one remembers what is was they ordered: “Did I order the chicken? Did anyone else order the chicken?”), and apart for some errant glasses of water that had to be chased up, they did an admirable job in getting the obscene amount of things we ordered out to us in a timely manner.

All in all, it was probably far too classy a dinner considering that it ended up as stomach lining for those hideously blue drinks that you can get at Revellers at 5am. Only for you, Rola, only for you. (love you)

Hutong at The Cullen

162 Commercial Road, Prahran

Ph: 9098 1188