Bluebird

With my bird-loving mania, I’m surprised that it’s taken me this long to visit Bluebird. Although this visit wasn’t even a predetermined one – I had originally asked Jen to meet me for Sunday brunch at Bayte, and spent the week prior happily imagining Middle Eastern breakfast delights. Alas, fate intervened, and Bayte was bursting at the seams and had no room for us. So, with my internal brunch venue radar scanning wildly, we made down Johnston Street towards Bluebird, praying that they would be able to squish us in.

Bluebird was equally pumping, but we arrived at just the right moment to slide into some recently vacated seats, and felt very lucky and smug as a queue started very soon afterwards. The design of the cafe does twee cuteness right, with plenty of op shop chic and bird-orientated touches. Just the sort of place I can feel at home in!

Despite the full house, this is clearly a kitchen running smoothly on all cogs, as the food came out astonishingly quickly. After much dithering over all of the many delectable-sounding options, I decided eventually to go with the mushroom melt: sourdough toast with gruyere cheese melted over thyme buttered mushrooms, with a poached egg perched on top, all hidden under a glossy mountain of dressing-drizzled rocket. I also ordered some haloumi on the side, which resulted in two giant wodges of the lovely stuff. I do love to see a generous hand when it comes to haloumi.

The rocket is clearly in place to make you feel a little more virtuous about your choices, but I very quickly mowed through it to get to the good stuff: fat mushrooms all shiny with melted butter and speckled with thyme, mingling with rivulets of popped egg yolk and thin melted strips of gruyere. I’m honestly doing a Homer-style drool just over the remembrance of it. This was all my favourite savoury breakfast things done just right. By all accounts cartoon birds should have all of a sudden descended from the rafters and started serenading me with a song about my good fortune.

Jen had the Mexican eggs with chorizo: a tomato-chilli mix of beans, corn and chorizo on top of a stack of tortillas, with two fried eggs peering out. Jen enjoyed the dish, finding the flavours of the beans and chorizo particularly compelling, but did find it slightly anti-climatic towards the end when the tortillas became just too soggy to function (in my experience this just seems standard of tortilla-based breakfast dishes as a whole). It did however serve to whet her appetite for wanting to sample the rest of Bluebird’s expansive and impressive menu, a task I would only be too happy to join her in undertaking.

We also each had a pot of Larson & Thompson’s earl grey tea. This is a nicely delicate blend that doesn’t overwhelm, and due to its mildness later cups don’t end up with that sour, over-steeped taste.

The only vaguely negative point I can think of about our entire Bluebird visit is that there appears to be no heating, and with the door to the courtyard left open, the very chilly wet weather made the whole place freezing! But temperature aside, I cannot fault Bluebird for anything else, it’s food, service and general vibe being a genuinely delightful experience. I am completely in simpatico with the song Bluebird is singing, and can’t wait for another chance to join in with its delicious chorus.

Bluebird

134 Johnston Street, Collingwood

Ph: 9078 7047

www.facebook.com/bluebirdespresso

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Auntie’s Dumplings

For ages now, Michaela has been imploring me to visit Carnegie for this blog. It was grievous to her that her home suburb’s culinary delights should have thus far escaped my notice. Indeed, once I thought about it I was surprised at myself for not having gone eating there before, especially given it’s reputation as a hub for Korean restaurants.

But for my very first visit, Michaela decided that I should be treated to the most widely lauded of Carnegie’s food stops, the venerable Auntie’s Dumplings, which often features near the top of ‘Melbourne’s best dumpings’ lists. Not to be left out of a dumpling adventure, Bennett came along too, forming that oft overlooked superhero team of the Dumpling Trio. Our special powers are unlimited stomach capacity, and being able to breathe soy sauce like it’s oxygen.

Auntie’s is like many a cheap and cheerful dumpling restaurant, in that ambiance is basically non-existent. If you don’t like hustle and bustle, coming during peak meal hours is also best avoided – around 2-3pm when we visited is a good option, as the lunch rush is done with and you get to enjoy your dumplings in a calmer environment.

Our first dish was a trio of fried pumpkin cakes, as insisted upon by Michaela. These were little crisp discs of pumpkin with a very agreeable sweetness to them, a perfect starter.

While we were on fried appetisers, I insisted on a serving of one of my favourite dishes, spring onion pancake. Auntie’s version had a crisp, bubbled exterior, and were very thin, so there was not much fluffiness inside, but it was still a very good example of the dish.

We leavened all this fried goodness with the simple, healthy greenery of a plate of steamed Chinese broccoli, with oyster sauce very kindly served on the side so that Michaela and Bennett could go mad with it while I slopped my own soy/chilli sauce creation over my portion. The broccoli had been perfectly steamed, with leaves wilted but not soggy, and the stalks still retaining a firm bite to them.

Of course, what we were really here for were the dumplings. While Bennett contented himself with some pork versions, Michaela and I got stuck into some fried vegetarian dumplings. They had thick, crispy skins, with a very spinach heavy filling; you were hit with an immediate metallic smell once you cracked them open. Closer inspection of the filling turned up evidence of very finely chopped vegies in among the green, as well as tiny strands of clear noodles, but spinach was the predominant flavour. While if I’m being truly critical, I would in general prefer greater variety and nuance in terms of overall flavour, as a complete package the Auntie dumpling is very seductive.

Auntie’s delivered a pretty top notch dumpling experience. The dumplings themselves are well made, and the other non-dumpling dishes we sampled were highly accomplished in terms of simple done very well. I was also particularly happy that I was able to get an item like oyster sauce served separately in order to make the steamed Chinese broccoli truly vegetarian – by the waitress’ quick, understanding acquiescence to the request, it seems like Auntie’s is used to adjusting ingredients to suit dietary requirements. Best of all, it’s cheap, cheap, cheap! Carnegie may have plenty more culinary treats for me to discover, but it’s going to be hard not to feel the constant pull for another batch of Auntie’s dumplings.

Auntie’s Dumplings

68 Koornang Road, Carnegie

Ph: 9568 6641

Yo-Chi

I have a confession to make. I am addicted to frozen yoghurt. Like, “oh I meant to have a well-balanced meal but I walked past a Cacao Green and now I’m shoveling green tea froghurt in my face, what do you mean that’s not healthy, green tea is full of vitamins, and also mochi” level of addiction. I’ve basically got to a point where if I even see a frozen yoghurt place, I actually can’t stop myself from getting a cup.

Which means that when at our recent outing to The Local Taphouse, when Jojo mentioned that she had parked her car in front of a frozen yoghurt place, my mind started clicking over as to what one it might be. And when I figured out that it must be Yo-Chi, heralded by many a froghurt-loving hipster as the pinnacle froghurt experience, well, I just had to connive a reason to walk Jojo to her car. For her safety in the wilds of Balaclava, obviously. Nothing at all to do with us both wanting iced treats.

So Yo-Chi’s deal is that it is do-it-yourself frozen yoghurt. You line up – and boy at our visit did we have to line up, at 10pm on a hot Saturday night the line was out the door – choose your cup size, select what flavour/s you would like out of at least eight different varieties, choose your toppings, which range from fruit pieces to nuts, chocolate, candies, and even sweet sauces, and then your final creation is weighed in order to determine price.

I like my froghurt to be a simple and mainly fruity concoction, so I went with the coconut and mixed berry yoghurts topped with strawberry pop pearls. I am ridiculously addicted to pop pearls, I blame my twin bubble tea and Dessert Story dependencies. If you have not yet been fortunate enough to discover pop balls, they are essentially akin to little hollow tapioca pearls filled with fruit nectar. They are dessert crack. The ones at Yo-Chi were very syrupy and sweet, yet still had a reasonable strawberry tang to them. Not quite as nice as the more standard mango-flavoured ones you see about, but still good.

As for the froghurt itself, Yo-chi clearly like their flavours big and bombastic. This nearly made for coconut’s undoing, as it was such a strong blast of tropical goodness it very quickly overwhelmed me. One for the mad fans of coconut, not the merely curious! The mixed berry, however, was much more to my liking, with noticeable tangs of blackberry and raspberry.

Jojo went slightly mad and attempted to fill her cup with as many different flavours and toppings as she could. From what I can remember, among what she sampled included the coconut, chocolate, and honey soybean yoghurt flavours, and she topped them with a big spoonful of halva, drizzled with hot chocolate and caramel sauces. From a spoonful that I managed to pilfer, I was particularly interested in the honey soybean yoghurt, which Yo-Chi touts as their original flavour. Being mild and sweet, it would definitely be the perfect yoghurt for those that love their toppings, as it would complement anything.

Yo-Chi is the sort of ice creamery (froghurtery? Patent pending, patent pending, patent pending!) that provides endless variation and experimentation, meaning that re-visitation prospects are high. The froghurt itself is of good quality, and frankly I’m just lamenting the fact that Balaclava is well out of the way of my day to day meanderings, otherwise I’d be having their tart frozen treats every day.

Yo-Chi

292 Carlisle Street, Balaclava

Ph: 9527 7001

www.yochi.com.au