Gardiner and Field

Sometimes you just get wowed by the pretty pictures.

Gardiner and Field started off the blocks amazingly, with blog posts and online articles springing up in droves during their first week of business. And accompanying these posts were all these beautiful photos featuring silky flat whites in cute sea green crockery, shelves of jams, and floral arrangements bursting with new spring contrasted against honeyed wood tables. It was all a bit too much to take in, and I lingered over these posts and articles like little visual treasures.

But what always must be asked when viewing beautiful cafe photos is that while everything may be aesthetically pleasing, photos don’t tell you the most important thing: WHAT ABOUT FOOD? So, in the stalwart company of Rob, Bennett and Sophie, I endeavoured to find out whether the foodie blogosphere had been right to flood us all with such tempting images.

This cafe definitely is as pretty as the photos suggest, and is not only a comforting and pleasant space to be in, it is also complemented by some very lovely staff members who are all kinds of friendly. So, tick in the box for ambiance, Gardiner and Field. Now, the food.

I went with the breakfast bun (which is conveniently, along with the rest of the breakfast menu, available all day. Another tick!) with the standard ham kindly omitted, otherwise containing fried eggs, goats cheese and tomato relish all on a lovely crusty toasted pide roll. I’d be pretty happy to have this for every breakfast for the rest of my life. Beautifully orange yolks on the eggs that fair made you gasp to see, incredibly flavoursome relish (I ordinarily don’t even like relish that much) and salty, melty goats cheese all combined into a flavour-punch of satisfaction. So simple yet so good!

I also tried a mocha, given that Gardiner and Field produce their own house blend, and it is a very smooth blend indeed, not at all bitter, which is feat that I almost find miraculous.

Rob had the breaky bun too, but with no cheese, and was equally well pleased with it. And may I just state that as always it’s lovely when a cafe is happy for you to omit certain ingredients in dishes. My memory is a little hazy on what Sophie and Bennett had; I’m pretty sure that Soph had the broad bean, pea and feta mash with proscuitto and poached eggs, as I have this vague memory of a plate bright with green. Whatever Bennett had (maybe the lamb burger?) came with a shiny little metal basket of crispy chips that looked fiendishly good, I kept a shifty eye out for any that might become wayward and find themselves journeying to my face, but Bennett was too wily for me.

While there were plenty of little cakes and pastries on offer that were definitely tempting, there was one sweet treat in particular I wanted to claim as my own – the giant bounty milkshake! I was so overexcited by the appearance of a range of chocolate bar themed milkshakes on the menu that I conveniently forgot that adult human beings are totally not supposed to consume that much milk in one sitting, and ended up with the dreaded Milk Belly. But it was still deliciously worth it.

For once, the pretty pictures spoke the truth, Gardiner and Field is just lovely inside and out. Indeed, the food is worth coming for much more than the aesthetics, but sometimes it’s just nice to be somewhere that looks good and be conscious of yourself feeling good in it as a result. Spacial foodie soul yoga, if you will!

Gardiner and Field

43 Union Street, Armadale

Ph: 9078 1125

gardinerandfield.com

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Willim

It had been a good long while since Muffin and I had gone out for brunch with just the two of us. Such an oversight had to be amended post haste! “How about we go somewhere out your way for a change?” I suggested. She was more than happy to acquiesce, and I suggested Willim as the entry to strike off on my giant list of ‘to visit’ foodie places.

Willim straddles the suburb divide of Malvern and Armadale; indeed, while the cafe’s promotional material gives it’s address as Armadale, it is literally a few steps from the Malvern end of Glenferrie Road, giving ample ammunition for pedants to get all hung up on boundary semantics. Whatever, all this means to me is that we are now in POSH TOWN. And since we are in posh town, I expect some posh as cafe food.

Willim is quite small, but has managed to capitalise on footpath space in a clever fashion, with a long wooden pew that hugs the street edge and is covered by a thick canvas awning that keeps most of the weather away. The staff are nicely unpretentious, friendly and ready with a smile, and definitely provided the best part of our visit.

But what of the food? Muffin chose the Tasmanian smoked salmon, served with asparagus, horseradish, preserved lemon, parsley, and a slow poached egg. The asparagus was by all accounts lovely, all nicely grilled yet still bright green and springy. The egg had been poached for too long. While it was still spreadable, it wasn’t runny, which is the true pleasure of a poached egg. Muffin opined that there wasn’t enough horseradish to go around, and that the dish lacked a unifying element to bring all of the ingredients together. She thought perhaps an aioli or mayonnaise or similar could have worked wonders, but as it was the dish as a whole was lacking.

I was feeling sweet, so went with the brioche french toast with poached rhubarb, hazelnut streusel, yoghurt, smoked maple syrup. The hazelnut streusel was the dynamite element in this dish, all sugared, nutty delight. The maple syrup was indeed noticeably smoked (I hate it when items are described as smoked, then you taste it and think to yourself “This hasn’t even been near damp kindling let alone something that was actually on fire.”), and the yoghurt just a touch sweet with an underlying tart tang. What wasn’t terribly impressive was the fact that the poached rhubarb amounted to four three-inch long pieces that had been placed at cardinal points on the plate. Artistic, no doubt, but pretty disappointing considering that the rhubarb was described as being the main element of the dish and was the reason I ordered it.

We were still a bit peckish so ordered some baked sweets to share. The raspberry and white chocolate muffin was pretty damn nice, with a plentiful ratio of both chocolate and berries to dough. The banana bread was very strongly flavoured but strangely didn’t have any actual chunks of banana in it, which made me a little bit sad, I like chunks! I also ordered a mocha. A very, VERY chocolaty mocha. Enough chocolate for someone like me who generally welcomes a lower coffee ratio to comment “Wow, kind of would of liked a little more kick to this.” Coffee fiends would have definitely been disappointed.

Willim has a lot of aspects to it that work. The staff are lovely and attentive, the space is small but makes good use of what it does have (the street set-up where we sat is particularly well put together and comfortable). But Muffin and I both came away from our visit feeling that while the dishes we tried had a promising footing, neither were as good as they could have been. And a place can be as comfy and welcoming as it likes, but if the food doesn’t stack up, there’s a big question mark as to whether I’ll decide to return.

Willim

90 Union Street, Armadale

Ph: 9509 8506

http://www.willim.com.au/

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