The Post Office Hotel

It had been FAR too long since I had last caught up with Emma and Phoebe – I mean, Phoebe had had time to go to JAPAN and back, that’s how long it had been – so after Brother Alec and Women of Letters, I scuttled myself over to The Post Office Hotel for a long overdue chat ‘n’ chips dinner (warning: there were an AVALANCHE of chips involved).

I’d been keen to get to The Post Office Hotel for ages how, as both my sisters had made several visits in the past and had made me drool with their descriptions of the food. And I was heartened to discover that the menu on their website must be rather out of date, as I had been expecting minimal vegetarian options but was instead greeted with about five or six dishes to choose from. Excellent!

There’s a more formal dining room around the side of the venue where you can have a more restauranty experience, but we decided to sit in the front bar, because really, this is the kind of atmosphere one wants when pub dining. While waiting for Phoebe to arrive, Emma and I started on some chips – long thin shoestrings, crispy and golden, and served with a chunky tomato relish. They certainly got the hunger pumping!

After much rumination, I decided that the best way to ascertain the quality of a pub’s grub is through it’s burger offerings, so I went with the field mushroom burger with gruyere, cos lettuce, tomato slices, ketchup and mayo. Having liked the opening salvo of chips I also ordered another cup of chips, but HORRORS! (or potato paradise, take your pick) the burger came with additional chips, so I was submerged in them. And, dear reader, she ate them all.

The burger itself… well, I might have to re-organise my own internal best burgers around town list, because this baby was HELLA AMAZING. The mushroom had been perfectly grilled with the gruyere melted on top, the sauces popped with tang, the cos was crisp, and the bun, despite being of a brioche-type bent, didn’t overwhelm with sweetness as too many brioche burgers are want to do, and instead properly contributed to balancing the flavours into a tipping point of THIS IS STUPIDLY YUM BRING ME FIVE MORE.

Phoebe had the Sunday roast, a round of lamb prettied up with delicately cut, uniform squares of carrot and peas spread across the meat like a blanket. Loving her meat as she does, and requiring a hearty meal to soak up a wedding party hangover, the roast was reduced to a gravy smear in no time.

Emma had the prawn pizza, which she reported as being very good. It certainly looked great, with plump prawns scattered across a crusty desert plain spotted with occasional outcrops of leafy greenery.

This visit made me kick myself that it had taken me so long to schlep out to Coburg and experience the PO. Particularly for a Sunday evening it had this lovely relaxing and cruisey vibe that I really appreciate, and of course food this good can only help an outing’s success. I will have to make sure that my next visit is more prompt, and that my stomach is prepared for Avalanche of Chips II: The Potatoning.

The Post Office Hotel

231 Sydney Road, Coburg

Ph: 9386 5300

www.thepostofficehotel.com.au 

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Brother Alec

Having been terribly lax in my Women of Letters attendance throughout most of the year (the tickets go so quickly! And I am LAZY!), I was fortunately rescued from feminist purgatory by Maddy, who has ninja-like ticket purchasing skills and secured for us seats to their last show for the year.

Of course, one of the best parts of going to WoL is organising a fortifying brunch beforehand, so that one has plenty of energy to laugh and cry like babes for three hours. Having seen it recently featured on Where’s the Beef as their own pre-WoL lunch adventure, I thought that Brother Alec would be the perfect place to try out.

The cafe itself is very unassuming, but full of friendly little touches, from birthday messages to regulars scrawled on the windows, to the waitstaff themselves, who are some of the most unpretentiously cheery service staff I’ve encountered in quite a long while. The menu is filled with dishes that tempt and tease with their descriptions, and there were plentiful vegetarian options. It all combines into a place you really wish was your local; indeed, when the waitress mistook Maddy for another patron who had recently moved to the area, Maddy exclaimed “Oh, I wish I’d moved here so I could come every day!”

After seeing the photo of it in Where’s the Beef’s review, I tried but ultimately couldn’t go past the breakfast roll with spicy spinach, tomato relish, a thin, thin, thin egg omelette, and basil mayo. For an unapologetic spinach fanatic such as myself, it was a decadently enjoyable brunch snack indeed, with a gigantically thick filling of springy green spinach that had been slightly wilted and brushed with some kind of buttery spice concoction. The egg is nowhere near the star of the dish, so if you’re looking for an eggy fix, look elsewhere. The actual real star was the basil mayo, which was sinfully flavour-packed, I wanted to smuggle away a jar and put it on EVERYTHING.

To test a cafe’s true friendly, accommodating mettle, you should attend with a friend who is both vegan and gluten intolerant. Maddy was most pleased that the waitress not only happily allowed her to convert the fried potatoes dish into a vegan and gluten free one (including subbing in gluten free bread), but also suggested extra vegan ingredients to plump up the dish. THAT is service in these dietary requirement heavy times, my friends! Other cafes, take note.

No tea or coffee accompanied our dishes, but I did have a nice refreshing glass of freshly squeezed orange juice that really hit the spot on a warm day.

As you can tell from my tone, I was pretty damn happy with everything at Brother Alec. In fact, the only shame about WoL moving to a bigger venue next year is that the Regal Ballroom might be a touch too far out of the way to fit in a Brother Alec visit beforehand. Nevermind, as WoL opened up my foodie knowledge of Thornbury, so shall it do the same for Northcote.

Brother Alec

719 High Street, Thornbury

Ph: 9416 9428

www.facebook.com/brotheralec

Lil Boy Blue

It was through some noodling around the internet that I discovered that new Kew cafe Lil Boy Blue had crumbed poached eggs on it’s menu. I stared at the words for quite a while totally beguiled. Crumbed. Poached. Eggs. It was like some foodie angel from on high had appeared to me through my computer screen and anointed me with the most holy of knowledge.

Of course, little did I know that it would actually take Bennett and I (who, as a fellow egg connoisseur, was immediately informed of my discovery) THREE visits to Lil Boy Blue before this foodie grail reached our tastebuds. Sure, this was mainly because we’re a pair of slack hoydens* who are barely aware that morning is a time that actually exists, but I am going to place the blame squarely in the lap of Lil Boy Blue, because why would you have a dish as potentially orgasmic as crumbed poached eggs and then only have it available prior to midday, WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO HURT US SO MUCH, WHY LIL BOY BLUE, WHY?

Ahem.

1st visit: Arrived around 3pm, most aggrieved to discover that breakfast finishes at midday. Goddamn. Instead settled for one of the two vegetarian options on the lunch menu: crumbed mushrooms with sweet balsamic reduction to dip in. These were totally little fried vegie nuggets of YUM, the medium sized fat mushroom tops encased in a crispy crunch crumb, and the black slick of the balsamic reduction may have looked like a black hole in a ramekin, but is was so sweet-tartly delicious and so complemented the mushies, it was a very well thought out and put together dish.

Bennett had the chilli prawn tacos, that came out all wrapped up in personalised paper so that they certainly looked a treat, and they disappeared quickly as well, which is always a good sign!

2nd visit: Was aiming for an 11.30 arrival, but my habitual lateness foiled me again as I sloped in just after midday. Curses! Had to instead satisfy myself with the second of the two vegetarian lunch dishes, the spring vegetable plate: marinated artichokes, grilled asparagus spears, broad beans, goats cheese and crumbed rounds of polenta drizzled with honey truffle dressing and crispy shallots.

The polenta rounds sated my longing for crumbed things, they had a delightfully tasty crumb coating and were smooth and flavourful inside, something often lacking in polenta dishes. I loved the grilled asparagus spears too, must have caught them at the peak of the season, they were so fresh. My continuing love/hate relationship with marinated artichokes, however, swung over to the hate side. I honestly don’t know why I keep ordering things with marinated artichokes in them, for every time I go “hey, these aren’t bad!” there’s another five times where I’m “oh god, why did I do this.” *makes pile of smelly artichiokes on plate* So that was in no way Lil Boy Blue’s fault, just me being an idiot and not listening when my tongue doesn’t like something. If you like artichokes this dish will probably totally be your complete jam! Although my one proper quibble is that $25 is a pretty hefty pricetag, and one that I’m not sure I’d be willing to pay gain, delicious polenta and asparagus aside.

3rd visit: Finally, the Holy Grail of crumbed poached eggs was achieved! Bennett, Sophie and I scrambled in at 11am on a Friday morning feeling terribly pleased at ourselves, and promptly all three of us ordered the eggs. The plate comprised of two poached eggs incased in crunchy, light crumbs and a little sprinkling of salt flakes, surrounded by a sea of sauteed mixed mushrooms, salsa verde, goats cheese and many thin, crusty slices of olive-oil drizzled bread to pile everything on top of (I omitted the picked capsicums, and Bennett added bacon to his).

Apart from perhaps wanting a touch more goats cheese, and the fact that the mushrooms were a touch too oily, this pretty well matched the heights I was hoping for. The egg yolks were a brilliant orange and oozed suggestively over everything, while the mushrooms definitely benefitted the dish by being a mixed batch of lovely mushie flavours, and the salsa verde! Mmmmm, salsa verde. I had a brainwave during the meal that someone should totally get on with inventing salsa verde baked beans. If you are that person I am totally prepared to sit here and wait.

The crumbed poached eggs were well worth the wait, and I would totally recommend you go on down to Lil Boy Blue to devour them. Taking all the experiences into account, I’m definitely of the opinion that LBB is a much better breakfast option than a lunch or dinner one, particular if you’re vegie since the options in that arena are very limited. But there’s plenty more sweet and savoury options on the brekkie menu to explore if you can drag yourself away from the crumbed eggs. If only they served breakfast all day…

Lil Boy Blue

309 High Street, Kew

Ph: 9853 5003

www.lilboyblue.com.au

*Dudes can totally be hoydens, yeah? I might just like the word hoydens too much. HOYDENS.

The Petty Officer

Since June, our dear friend Jess has been living in San Francisco, and we have missed her ever so much. Imagine our level of ecstatic excitement, then, on learning that Jess was making an impromptu one-week visit. We went WILD!

Since she was here for such a short amount of time, and at short notice, we had to scramble in organising a brunch, and thought it was best to take her to a new place that had opened in her abscence that she hadn’t already experienced back in the day. We couldn’t have chosen anywhere more new than The Petty Officer, the new sister cafe to Hawthorn’s Axil, which had only been open for a week when Jess, Kim, Bennett and I made our visit.

The overall design theme at The Petty Officer might be a bit too minimal for some, but I loved all the grey hues, and anyway there’s a lovely little alcove up the back with a pretty little mural of branches and birds on the walls that is ever so cute and cheerful.

There was much hmming and hawing over the menu, it was so hard to choose! I ended up going with something familiar, but different, in the corn, zucchini and mint fritters with bloody mary salad (consisting of mixed tomatoes, celery, cocktail onions and pimento olives), lime mascarpone and celery salt. I added on a poached egg and recommend that you do too. The fritters were bursting at the seams with corn kernels and vegie threads, and were both crispy and well seasoned. The bloody mary salad – which was an idea so intriguing to me that it pretty much solely prompted me to order the dish – was indeed texturally interesting, and much of the components brought real bursts of interest to the dish as a whole. The crunchy, fresh celery pieces, the colourful mixed baby tomatoes, red yellow and green, I particularly liked. Cocktail onions and pimento olives… jury’s still out on you (how weird are cocktail onions, guys? I mean, just think about them for a while. SUPER WEIRD).

Everyone else ordered The Chief Petty Officer: potato rosti, bacon, poached eggs and roasted red peppers. We were total brunch dicks (a term we’ve invented for people who sub things in and out of menu items to the eternal scorn of waitstaff everywhere), with Bennett subbing the red peppers for asparagus, Jess the peppers for mushrooms, while Kim kept the peppers but also got a side of smashed avocado. They all seemed pretty well satisfied with their choices, and I managed to snaffle tastes of both the smashed avocado and the buttery mushrooms, which were both noble examples of side dishes.

I can’t go without some kind of sweet, as you all well know, and once Jess reported back from the dessert cabinet that peanut butter and jelly muffins were available, I knew what my dessert snack was going to be. I was expecting an orgy of unhealthiness, but it was actually a touch more wholesome than my mad envisioning of mountains of frosting: the muffin itself was peppered with peanut chunks and seams of dark chocolate, while the jelly component was represented by the topping of slightly stewed mixed berries. Nowhere near an overdose of sweetness, this muffin was actually a light finish to proceedings.

The Petty Officer stocks Larsen & Thompson tea, of which I had two pots of during the visit, because when a place will actually take the care to brew your tea for you at the optimum temperature and time length, you damn well take advantage of it. The English breakfast is a fine, hearty first-cup-of-the-day brew, and I revisited the white peony tea that I’d first sampled at Axil, and again found it to be a relaxing herbal that caps off a meal incredibly well.

The Petty Officer puts on a damned good spread, and I needed one after braving the traffic to get there – must Albert Park be so completely out of the way of anywhere? It was certainly a worthwhile venue to take Jess to in order to remind her that 1. Melbourne is the high godking city of cafes, and 2. That we miss her very, very much.

The Petty Officer

113 Victoria Avenue, Albert Park

Ph: 9686 3000

www.thepettyofficer.com.au