Blog Amnesty: The Beaufort, Baby, and ShanDong MaMa

As you may have noticed, posts have been thin on the ground here at Ballroom Blintz lately, as my life has been comprehensively taken over by my day job (speaking of my day job, EVERYONE COME SEE ALL THE FILMS AT MIFF!). Despairing slightly at my backlog of posts, I decided to take a leaf out of Claire from Melbourne Gastronome’s book and declare blog amnesty and do a few quick round ups of places I’ve recently visited before they completely slip out of my mind.


I’ve been wanting to visit The Beaufort for basically forever since hearing about it’s American-inspired pub food and the high level of friendly service from it’s staff. I popped along with a large group of friends (we were able to book a table, which is always nice these days), and we were all pretty impressed with the nautical fit out, and the fact that a place that had all the hallmarks of too-cool-for-schoolness was actually enormously welcoming.

Drinks-wise, there’s a lot of cocktails and mixes that are a bit of fun and won’t burn holes through your pockets in terms of price. I enjoyed both my Jerry ‘n’ cherry – Sailor Jerry with cherry coke and a slice of lime – and my Perfect Storm – Sailor Jerry with ginger beer and lime (honestly, name a drink after a film and I will order it every time no matter what’s in it).

For savoury I had the portobello mushroom burger, which I remember as being slightly a bit too sloppy for my liking due to the chefs going to town on the sauces, but otherwise it was enormously tasty, very American diner reminiscent. It’s also worth noting that The Beaufort do a lot of vegie and vegan dishes, so no one has to miss out on deep-fried treats.

Now here’s the really impressive part of the evening – the service. I am always interested to see what a venue’s staff do when things go wrong; I always figure it’s the best indication of a place’s real worth. So when we all initially ordered our dinners everything came out very promptly, except Schaefer’s meal (who incidentally spent the whole evening saying increasingly outrageous things in the hopes of getting quoted on this here blog. I AM NOT REPEATING ANY OF THE TERRIBLE THINGS YOU SAID, YOUNG MAN, I CARE TOO MUCH ABOUT YOUR FUTURE EMPLOYABILITY VIA GOOGLE SEARCHES!). Once staff were made aware that a meal was missing, the dish swiftly made it to the table, no dramas. Then we ordered dessert. I initially went with the ice cream sandwich. Soon enough, the same staff member who’d helped us retrieve Schaefer’s meal approached me wearing a facial expression that, as a table of seasoned hospitality workers, we all knew too well: “ohh shit something’s already gone wrong with this table and I don’t want to have to tell them something else is wrong!” They had unfortunately run out of ice cream sandwiches. I wasn’t unduly fussed, and asked if I could have the rhubarb and apple crumble instead. The enormously apologetic staff member wouldn’t even take the extra few dollars difference in price from me, and the crumble was such a deliciously comforting expanse of spicy stewed fruit and oaty topping that I was well pleased.

And then the staff brought us all a round of free tequila shots.

Yep, we’ll all be back.

The Beaufort

421 Rathdowne Street, Carlton

Ph: 9347 8171


For some reason I was unduly prejudiced against Baby since it launched. Not even the connection with my beloved Chin Chin could shake from me the impression that it all sounded a bit wanky – it probably had to do with hearing about the genitalia-shaped neon signs decorating the restaurant (SERIOUSLY JUST DEAR GOD WHY).

While I still stand by the opinion that wang lights are wanky as all get out, luckily the food was amazing enough to turn my doubting Thomas frown upside down. This had a lot of to with the fact that they have a PAN-FRIED PIZZA!

Seriously, don’t even bother looking any further past the buttata pan-fried with fiore di latte and cherry tomato quarters, this needs to be the very first thing you order. As it is pan-fried the dough ends up having this smoky, charred tang to it that ticked all my tastebud fancies. Throw in tons of oozing fiore di latte and this results in a happily moaning Hayley passed out under the table with a food coma.

In non-fried goodness, I also sampled the funghi pizza, which could have used a little more funghi to be honest, it was a bit sparse for my mushroom-loving liking, but otherwise thin, crispy and cheesy. I also insisted on a side of the green beans with tomato sauce as a vegetable-leavener, and ended up reveling in the fact that they were basically delicious tomato crack. Seriously, if you can even look past pizza when you go here, order the beans. Sweet, tomato-laden goodness.


631-633 Church Street, Richmond

Ph: 9421 4599


If you are expecting a dumplings gush-fest right now, well, that’s sort of what you’re going to get. As while I really like the vegan dumplings on offer here, it’s a very different dish that has actually stolen my heart.

Everyone across town seems to adore ShangDong MaMa, and after a couple of visits now I’m certainly in the camp of having quite a bit of affection for this wee, unpretentious dumpling house hidden away down a Chinatown arcade. The vegan zucchini steamed dumplings are the only vegie dumplings on offer, but they are definitely well worth sampling, filled to bursting with shreds of zucchini and herbs. Mix your own dipping sauce from the pots of soy, vinegar and chilli on the tables and get dumpling dunking.

I’ve had a couple of other vegetarian dishes, too, with varying levels of success. The garlic broccoli, as I was warned by a waiter, does indeed come out “European style”, with little boiled florets covered in minced garlic. Nice if you like your greens with garlic (which I do), but very basic. The sesame noodles were similarly quite rustic, with soft, handmade noodles served with shredded zucchini and carrot, and topped with a sesame paste that you mix through to coat the noodles and vegetables. Quite tasty and nicely unusual, but definitely the sort of thing that is best to share, as it gets a bit samey when tackled by yourself.

But the dish that now haunts my dreams is the scallion pancake. The name is a bit of a misnomer, as it is less a pancake than two bulky pyramids of potato strands twisted together with splashes of spring onion rounds dotted through it. The strands are crisp on the outside, and as you pull at them (this is very much a fingers dish, good table manners be damned), you uncover the soft centre where the hot potato literally melts in your mouth. It’s a textural wonderland, and deceptively flavour-packed, and if it was a person I would marry it and be contently entranced with its simple, home-crafted charms.

ShanDong MaMa

Midcity Arcade, Shop 7, 200 Bourke Street, Melbourne CBD

Ph: 9650 3818


Tacos, tacos, tacos! Everyone loves tacos! So much so that clearly there’s a market in setting up a restaurant that, apart from a few beverages and a salsa or two, only offers its customers tacos. This is the deal at Chingon.

Out for a family togetherness dinner, the Blintzes took our places sitting on Chignon’s rooftop dining area. I had no idea this area existed, having only eaten in the front dining room before, but yes, wind your way out the back, up the staircase over the Cadillac (um, yeah, there’s a Cadillac in the back dining room), and you emerge into quite a nice, albeit rustic space.

We started off with the only dish on the menu that isn’t tacos, the fire-roasted salsa with guacamole and corn chips. While others baulked at the charred corn kernels floating in the salsa, I absolutely loved it, with the fact that it lent both texture and intensified smokiness and sweet notes. I’m normally far more of a guac person than a salsa person, but I was steadfastly ignoring the very good guacamole here in order to load as much salsa onto chips as possible.

On to tacos. There was quite a bit of waiting time between salsas and tacos – I believe the kitchen here is quite teeny, and they do make everything to order, which gets a bit of leeway sympathy from me, though I’d be curious to see what it’s like on a bursting at the seams evening.

Now, a note that unless you specify that you’d prefer them served separately, you will end up getting your vegie tacos served on the same platter as the meat ones, so if meaty cross-contamination worries you, be vocal.

The single vegie option (out of only six options all up) comprises of charcoal roasted corn, capsicum, cubes of baby squash, guacamole, salsa and feta, wrapped in soft, light brown, handmade corn taco tortillas. With that charred smoky tang that characterises the food here dominating, they’re very tasty, very more-ish tacos, with a nice level of chilli heat that gets you buzzing but doesn’t fully overwhelm. They are also deceptively filling little beasties – you can get four for $20, and they definitely sate a hungry tum.

For drinks there’s only non-alcoholic beverages available, although you can BYO your own wine. I had a toronja, which is freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice, sugar and water. This was a perfect refreshing offset to the heat of the food, and also from the warm evening sun. Mum exclaimed happily over her limonada (freshly squeezed lemon juice, sugar and water), saying that it was basically a very good version of old school lemonade. They probably are a touch expensive at $7 each, though, considering what they are.

As an ex-waitress who has a whole mental binder filled with horror stories about customers constantly wanting you to do the impossible or change things that ends up throwing the whole kitchen out of whack and leaves you inwardly screaming at the sheer entitlement of some people, I can’t help but admire a place like Chingon that says up front “This is what we do. We only do this. We do it well, and if you don’t like what we offer and how we do it, there’s the door.” This reversed sense of entitlement coming from a restaurant’s end is liable to drive some customers completely up the wall at facing a bunch of rules and having any greater sense of choice taken away from them, but I actually found the simplicity of it refreshing. It is certainly nice to have the option of somewhere like Chingon around, a place where you know what you’re going to get, that may be very simple in concept, but is well done and, most importantly, satisfying. So cut the crap, and have a damn taco.


413 Swan Street, Richmond

Ph: 9429 5695

The Hungarian

It is ever so lovely to experience a new national cuisine with someone who has actually had some experience living in the country in question. Kara has been wanting to take me to a Hungarian restaurant for ages now, having lived herself in Hungary for a year and feeling nostalgic for some proper Hungarian cooking. I, who had never experienced Hungarian food, was most appreciative to be in the company of someone who not only speaks decent Hungarian and could explain to me all the terms used in the menu, but also had the foresight to roll by a European bottleshop on the way to the restaurant and pick up a bottle of fine Hungarian red for us to enjoy. Kara is the best, you guys.

The fit-out of The Hungarian can only be described as SUPER CUTE. There is so much gingham. There’s gingham tablecloths, gingham curtains, it’s bursting with the stuff. If you lured a superhero whose kryptonite was gingham into this place, you’d be shooting lasers at the UN building unhindered for hours. Combine this with a very informative, funny and tongue-in-cheek menu (the vegetarian section starts with the definition “Vegetarian, adj. Means: not containing meat. Does NOT mean ‘bland'”), and I instantly felt very comfortable.

We both ordered the Veganoff for our main meal, a vegetarian version of beef stroganoff with the stew part comprised of broccoli, peas and mushrooms, served with nokedli, or fried noodles. This was proper delicious stodge food, the kind to put meat on your bones. The gravy that held everything together was good and savoury (honestly, paprika is a miracle of a thing, I’d throw it over all meals if I could), and I really enjoyed the texture of the nokedli, they were a bit softer than the al dente bite we normally expect for pasta or noodles.

We also grabbed some side dishes to accompany the Veganoff. I went with the Hungarian cucumber salad – thinly sliced continental cucumbers doused in a sweet and sour vinegar with crushed garlic and a sprinkling of paprika. It was all sour, crisp and crunchy, a good acidic counter-note to the comforting nature of the Veganoff. Kara couldn’t not experience the “No Sex After This” salad, which was made out of super pickled sauerkraut, gherkins and peppers in Magyar vinegar. It was by all accounts delicious, and just as stinky as promised!

Kara was adamant that we just had to order some of the sweet crepes for dessert. She went down the super traditional route and went for some filled with sweet cream cheese, which are known as Túrós. I had cinnamon and plum, which were filled with a paste that had been made out of stewed plums, mixed with cinnamon and probably also some granulated sugar. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream, this was a very simple dessert, but quite satisfying. Kara said that although the crepes were not quite the same as the ones she’d had in Hungary, they were certainly the best she’d discovered in Australia.

The Hungarian was a lot of fun to experience, and provided a great introduction to a cuisine I wasn’t previously familiar with. Make sure you go visiting between Thursday and Sunday to sample two veggie dishes that were unavailable to us on the Wednesday we went: crumbed fried cheese and mushrooms! My heart just did a backflip of pure cholesterol panic typing out those words. Someone please go sample them and tell me what they’re like.

The Hungarian

362 Bridge Road, Richmond

Pillar of Salt

Wednesday brunch rolled around yet again, and surprise of all surprises, Bennett actually offered up the suggestion of a venue this time. Excellent! Of course, he then ended up running late to his own brunch and turned up to find that we’d all ordered without him, because we are terrible, terrible people. Also hungry people.

Pillar of Salt sits on a corner in Church Street, and is deceptively bigger than it appears from the street. Go through the front room past the coffee machines and it turns out that there’s a big courtyard out the back that catches sunlight on a hot day like no-one’s business. It is a haven for suits, and quite a few power-brunches seemed to be occurring around us.

Conscious that it had been a good long while since I went with a sweet breakfast, I decided on the blueberry and pear bread with vanilla bean mascarpone, toasted oat crumbles and spiced poached pear slices. The bread itself was a little dry and crumbly, but luckily it was resting on a sizable pool of stewed blueberries that provided enough tasty, sweet syrup to soak up with the bread. The mascarpone was thickly whipped and sweet, the pears nicely spiced and had been poached just so they still had a whisper of a ghost of firmness to them. Best of all were the toasted oat crumbles, little crunchy nuggets of yum! Alison also went for this option, but ended up being slightly defeated by the sheer girth of the bread slices. It’s a hefty brekkie, so don’t take the challenge lightly.

I was keen on the food, but the pot of Five Senses earl grey tea I also ordered can only be classified as an unforgivable disappointment. It arrived at the table in a cute little iron pot very promptly after I ordered it… a little too promptly. One taste confirmed why – it was hideously, disgustingly over-steeped. The kind of over-steeping that can only occur over a period of at least 10 minutes. Making me think that perhaps my tea had actually been someone else’s forgotten or canceled order. Which really shouldn’t happen, ever. Tea isn’t like a slice of cake or a sandwich, once poured it won’t keep until someone else wants it. It just gets super gross.

Kim had the corn fritters with smoked salmon, avocado and coriander salsa with a poached egg. The salsa alone certainly looked impressive, and had I not been so intent on ordering sweet I probably would have gone with this, and most likely heartily enjoyed it.

Pat went with the eggs benedict with smoked ham, apple cider hollandaise and a shaving of granny smith apple pieces on brioche. It looked delightfully old school, and Pat was very pleased by the inclusion of apple and said that it lent the dish both a sense of lightness and some interest texturally.

Due to the fact that he was late, combined with a strange rule that means the kitchen at Pillar of Salt takes a rest between 11.45 and noon, Bennett received his meal quite a long time after we all received ours. His lamb salad, with an array of greens, red onion, heirloom tomatoes and paprika-sprinkled rectangles of feta looked ample and fresh, although he ended up ferrying a lot of his feta over to Kim (why do I have so many friends with cheese problems?).

As we were paying I got a close look at the cake and baguette cabinets, and all the items within looked incredibly impressive, from the fat, generously iced banana and coconut cupcakes to the handsomely overflowing baguettes. In fact, all the food I saw and sampled at Pillar of Salt was very enjoyable, and I’d be interested in trying more of it. Should there be any subsequent visits, however, I’ll probably stick to juice and avoid the tea options. I just can’t take abuse towards tea lightly.

Pillar of Salt

541 Church Street, Richmond

Ph: 9421 1550


Being known as “the foodie” in amongst all your friends and acquaintances can sometimes become a bit of a chore. Most of the time it’s great fun, I love taking people to places that I enjoy and seeing how they react to them, but often times people will be expecting you to, one, always be the person to come up with suggestions for places to eat, and two, have intimate knowledge about every single restaurant, cafe and hole-in-the-wall across the city (I have a hard enough time remembering my own birthday let alone knowledge of that scope!). So it comes as a great relief to be invited out to venues that other people have chosen, and it’s an added bonus when it’s a place I know nothing about.

T’relek came as a suggestion from Lucy, who Amelia, Nik and I were taking out for a celebratory birthday dinner. It’s one of hundreds of Vietnamese places lining Victoria Street, and appears a little more upmarket and shinier than some of the others that I’ve frequented: the surfaces are all glossy and sleek, the light fittings bright and modish, and the entire windowed front of the restaurant can open out into the street, so even in hot weather it’s comfortable.

If you’re eating Vietnamese, you simply have to start with a serving of Vietnamese-style spring rolls, it is the law. I love how thin and long Vietnamese spring rolls are, and how you eat them by balancing them on a leaf of lettuce, loading it up with beanshoots and Vietnamese mint, rolling it up and then immersing it in dipping sauce. It is one of the most happily meditative food experiences that I know of.

After a bungle by the trainee waitress, who thought that we’d wanted to order rice paper rolls, we were presented with two plates of spring rolls, one vegetarian, one prawn. They were crispy and hot, with a minimally flavoured centre, although that doesn’t really matter when we were wrapping each roll up with fresh mint, beanshoots and carrot curls and then dunking them in chilli-flecked sauce. But there were a few hiccups. We did have to ask for more lettuce (we were originally only given two leaves, which for four people… yeah, not enough), and I am pretty much 99% certain that the dipping sauce contained fish sauce, which is a big fat screaming vegie no-no. I really should have asked for clarification before ordering, but I have become spoiled because this town is generally so good with vegie dishes. And really, if you list a dish as vegetarian, the ‘vege’ extends to the condiments! As for the prawn specimens, the overall verdict appeared positive, although Amelia opined that she’d had better spring rolls on Victoria Street (Amelia appears to have eaten at pretty much every restaurant of note along Victoria Street, so I’d heed her word).

For the main, I ordered the rice noodles with vegetables. The noodles were flat rice noodles (the kind used in char kway teow), with the vegetables consisting of snowpeas, carrots, beanshoots, two varieties of mushrooms, some dense yet tasty slabs of tofu and one single lonely green bean. It was an enjoyable enough dish, albeit simple, the rice noodles retaining that fabulous smoky taste from being wok fried, and the vegies were well-cooked and tasty. The one negative was that it was quite oily, which got a little unpleasant towards the very end.

As for the carnivores, they shared three dishes between them, a chicken and vegetable dish that looked slightly curry-ish, a beef and vegetables dish, and the salt and pepper squid. Amelia raved about the squid, and Nik rated both the squid and the beef as his favourite dishes. Lucy was a fan of the chicken, so all three dishes ended up striking someone’s fancy, which is a pretty boss strike-rate.

T’relek is a friendly place that seems to be doing it’s hardest to attract a more discerning clientele. It is sparkling clean and modish, and the service is very attentive; after our waitress’s initial bungle, the head waiter kept a close eye on us, made sure that everything was okay whenever something new was brought out, and was overall jovial. At the end of our meal we were given a free plate of orange slices to finish with, which is always a gesture I can’t help but feel is charming. Yet I can’t wholeheartedly recommend T’relek for the veggie folk, as I don’t feel at all confident that they are as terribly vigilant about keeping their vegetarian options as meat-free as they could be. Perhaps if you plan on visiting, prepare to be more interrogative about what’s in dishes than I was.


166 Victoria Street, Richmond

Ph: 9427 1777


I was a little bit sad to discover that Fonda isn’t named after Henry Fonda. Can you imagine a Henry Fonda cafe? I can, and it’s GLORIOUS. There’s going to be a lot of design features based on 12 Angry Men. People with capital, hook me up, I can make all your Golden Hollywood-themed restaurant ventures come true.

But we are not here to talk of actorly Fondas, we are here to talk about Mexican Fondas. Specifically new Richmond eatery Fonda, which has taken the current Melbourne-wide craze for Mexican food by the horns and is pumping out simple tacos and burritos for rampaging hoards of foodies, all of whom seem to be repeating the phrase “Authentic Mexican!” with scary fervor (anyone else starting to develop a twitch whenever the word ‘authentic’ is used in food criticism? I sure am. Apart from the problematic nature concerning the subjectiveness of a word like ‘authentic’, I’m mostly annoyed that it seems to have become a stand-in for the word ‘good’. Authentic and good aren’t synonyms! And if you use authentic in place of good you sound like a ginormous snob and cause me to want to go eat a cornucopia of homogenized processed crap just to spite you. Because I’m horrible like that).

Anyway, bygones, let us sail onward! Aimee, Lucy, Amelia and I spent a sunny lunch at Fonda sitting at one of their outside tables. We were quite lucky to get a table at all, as the place seems to be constantly packed. Interaction with staff is kept to a minimum, there is no table service and you have to order at the inside counter (meaning that you have to make sure one of your party is camped on your table at all times, lest a desperate group of hipsters snatch it away from you while you’re looking for a menu).

Lucy and I got the vegetarian tacos, all green with cubes of zucchini and squash, scads of peas and a drizzly sauce of unknown herby provenance with a very slight presence of jalapeno, dusted with a delicate frizz of grated ricotta. We were fascinated by the texture of the soft corn taco shells, all cross-hatched and rough in our hands. They were clearly comprised of fresh produce, and came very quickly out of the kitchen, which is always heartening. I would think that anyone expecting ZING! from their tacos may find these examples a touch boring. But Lucy and I both found them to be incredibly tasty!

Amelia went with a fish taco, which had little crumbed strips of battered fish in them, which was a bit of an impressive sight. Like Lucy and myself, she thought everything was fresh and tasty, but baulked at the small size, especially in consideration of the price ($5 for veggie, $6 for fish). They certainly weren’t comparable in size to, say, Mamasita’s tacos, which are larger at around the same price, although I’m of the opinion that, taste-wise, Fonda dishes up the better taco (THAT’S RIGHT, I’M JUST FULL OF UNPOPULAR OPINIONS TODAY).

Indeed, the twin issues of portion size and price were collectively our biggest quibbles with Fonda. We’re not denying the quality of what is being served up, it just seems like everything should be a touch cheaper based on the size of portions. The tacos are quite titchy in particular, and even the more expensive and, one would assume, more filling burritos have small stage presence. Aimee’s chicken burrito (around $12.50-$14 from vague memory) had clearly high quality ingredients, yet seemed dwarfed by the plate it came on. Even the chips we ordered, covered in a thick and delightfully spice-laden chipotle sauce (seriously, that sauce is a winner, Lord of the Fries should poach it), were deemed to be of too small portions by Aimee and Amelia, considering their $5 price tag.

The only thing I personally felt to be a steal price-wise was the $3.50 charred corn or, as it should be called, corn-onna-stick. I LOVE CORN-ONNA-STICK. Half a cob of corn lightly basted in a slightly chilli-ish sauce, grilled and then sprinkled in more of the fluffy shaved ricotta. I probably could have eaten about ten of these quite happily. MORE FOOD ON STICKS PLEASE.

I wandered back to Fonda for a second visit last night with Rob to experience what their take-away service is like. While the food was much slower this time to make it out of the kitchen (I think we waited around 20-25 minutes, though we were told that there was to be a 15 minute wait initially), the staff seemed measurably more cheery and personable than on my first visit, and my veggie tacos were just as good the second time round. Rob was so pleased he could get a burrito without cheese (Rob has cheese problems. I know, it’s a sad affliction) that I think he was pretty happy on that score alone. Wait aside, I think take-away is probably the best way to experience Fonda if you find the space a little too bustling.

So, in conclusion, Fonda’s portions are on the small side and you’d probably be quite right to question the price of things, and it’s too frantic a place to truly relax in, but the food is fresh, competent and, sometimes, fast. Most importantly, it tastes pretty damn fine! And I’ll forgive a hell of a lot of sins if in the end the food is delicious. It’s definitely worth trying out at least once if you’re curious, and if you end up not being too keen, well, they’ve got half of Melbourne trying to get through the doors, they’re not going to notice if you slink sheepishly away.


248 Swan Street, Richmond

Ph: 9429 0085

Gypsey & Musquito

As you may have noticed, I have a very boss group of wonderful friends. I’m so lucky! Not only are they willing for me to drag them all over Melbourne so that I can experience new foodie delights, sometimes for special occasions they organise for me surprise foodie dates. Such a surprise food date occurred on my recent birthday, when Muffin sent me a barrel of exciting messages that comprised of “I am taking you for surprise birthday brunch! You will not know where we are going, it is to be a delicious surprise!”

This sent me into a state of RIOTOUS ANTICIPATION! By the time we were driving along Church Street with Bennett in tow, I was gabbing excitedly. “So are we going to Abbotsford, or Richmond? If we were going further north we would have taken Punt… Oooh, is it on Bridge Road? What’s on Bridge Road again, are we doing cafes or restauranty spots…”

“Stop guessing, we’re not going to tell you!”


It turned out that, yes, I was correct to guess both Richmond and Bridge Road, we ended up at Gypsey & Musquito. What is special about Gypsey & Musquito is that they are a cafe focused on showcasing particularly Australian native ingredients. So you can expect the see things like wattleseed, quandong and lemon myrtle pop up on the menu. Exciting and novel! Although it probably shouldn’t be novel when you think about it, everyone should be using these faboo native ingredients when you think about it.

Now I will have to admit that I was not terrible vigilant in taking note of all the ingredients in dishes, I was too excited to be having such a nice birthday meal and was focused on enjoying myself.

My primary source of enjoyment was my dish of pikelets with caramelised banana and macadamia ice-cream. With actual chunks of macadamias in the ice cream! This was so creamy and decadent, and a little bit rich, as anything with caramelised banana in it has a tendency to be. But birthdays are days to be reckless and to indulge yourself with rich sweets for lunch, it is the proper spirit to be in.

I also had myself a pot of ‘Magic Myrtle’ lemon myrtle tea. This was one of the very few times I haven’t had to ply a tea with milk and sugar, it was so lovely and strongly flavoured that it doesn’t need any beverage crutches. A very enjoyable brew for discerning tea drinkers, I urge you all to give it a try.

Muffin went with the baked eggs, all bush tomatoes and cheesy goodness with yolks peeping out, which even though they were served in a metal pan didn’t have that horribly metallic taste transfer over to the contents, miracle! Seriously, metallic-tasting eggs, this is the very worst thing in the world, it’s why I never order baked eggs, from FEAR. These were very good baked eggs, however, although also a little rich so keep that in mind if you are a small eater.

Bennett, who had mentioned on our drive in that “This place better have bacon”, ordered the potato hash with bacon, poached eggs and microherbs. “What’s the difference between a microherb and a sprout?” asked Bennett. I peered at the little nest of green things perched on top of the hash and bacon mountain. “I think microherb is just a fancy word for sprouts.” Whatever they were, they must of been tasty (or perhaps it was just the bacon), because the entire plate disappeared.

Also, bonus surprise for webcomic fans: if you have to go to the bathroom, make sure you take note of the fabulous graffiti that decorates the outside corridor leading you there that features Tycho and Gabe from Penny Arcade! I was so excited I returned to Muffin and Bennett fair gibbering with excitement (they are used to my gibbering, it is a standard event).

Gypsey & Musquito are serving up some very interesting and impressive food in pleasant, airy surroundings. It seems like the sort of place where you can hole up in a corner with your laptop and while the day away working while sipping on billy tea and nibbling some of the gorgeous cakes, pastries and sandwiches to be found in the ample display cabinets. It was certainly a very pleasant place to spend part of my birthday in, buckets of thanks to Muffin for choosing it, and to Bennett for coming along. May you all have such ace birthday brunches!

Gypsey & Musquito

382 Bridge Road, Richmond

Ph: 9939 9314

Friends of Mine

I was actually quite recalcitrant to blog about Friends of Mine after my first visit last November. Normally I can’t wait to blog about a new place, and generally have to be stopped from just blabbering quite incoherently about how everyone has to stampede to whatever new venue has tickled my fancy. But although the food was mind-blowingly amazing, there were a few things about Friends of Mine that made me pause in blogging about it. The first thing was it was very new at the time of my first foray, and clearly was going through the obligatory teething problems. I ascribed several oddities experienced during that visit (waitstaff being very unsure of themselves, an epidemic of missing teaspoons with orders of tea) to this fresh newness. Though I’m still not sure whether being given a bottle of utterly rank water could be due to being new or just an example of sheer what-the-fuck-ness (it did cause one of our party to utter the now immortal line “This water tastes like arse“, which for me will never stop being funny).

Then over the next few months came several reports from other friends who had severe issues with some truly rude waitstaff (seriously, mouth-dropping open, I-can’t-believe-that-actually-happened-type stories). I decided that, despite liking the food, my internal jury was completely out on whether Friends of Mine was somewhere I wanted to recommend, and generally not liking to blog about places that make me ambivalent, I threw it on the back-burner of unfinished posts.

Then a few Saturdays ago Phoebe invited me out for brunch and suggested Friends of Mine. Remembering that the food WAS super awesome, I decided to brave the weirdness that could come our way. Instead of weirdness, I was presented with a highly competent outfit who have clearly gotten themselves into a workable groove, and were dealing with a potentially chaotic high-traffic day with pleasurable aplomb.

The staff were universally cheerful and highly pleasant despite the Saturday brunch-time bedlam. The fellow in charge of the waiting list did a remarkably good job keeping control of the floor and the milling mobs waiting for tables, which is impressive especially given the fact that Friends of Mine is a heck of a lot bigger than most cafes seem to like to be lately. And throughout our meal every waiter that we encountered was unfailingly polite and charming (in relation: to the waiter who looked a little like Jesse Eisenberg, I would like to marry you please), the food and beverages all arrived in a timely fashion despite the full house, and all in all the experience quite changed our opinion on the level of staff friendliness at this place, especially for Phoebe, to whom one of the incidents of incredulously jaw-dropping staff behaviour had occurred.

Anyway, enough of that, to the food! I ordered the folded eggs with herbs on wholemeal toast, accompanied by some sides of smashed avocado and thyme-buttered mushrooms. A quite sizable volcano of food came out. The ocean of folded eggs were delightfully creamy, though the promised herbs seemed a little thin on the ground. The mushrooms were just as delightful as I remembered from my first visit, all permeated with that gorgeous, slightly smoky tang that only thyme can provide, and the avocado was amply spread across the bread, all smooth and eye-poppingly green. The only thing I kind of felt would make the dish perfect would have been some just-wilted baby spinach, though this may just be my ravenous need to have spinach in EVERYTHING lately talking.

Phoebe had practically the same dish as me, piled high with both mushrooms and avocado, except having poached eggs instead of my folded ones. “Eggs and mushrooms, I will conquer the weirdness of both!” she said gleefully. Weirdness was indeed conquered, with both of us endeavouring as hard as we could to clear our plates. Which was quite hard given the sheer size of the dishes!

Egg mountain or not, each of us were determined to finish with a sweet. We each chose one of the little cupcakes on offer. My was coconut and lemon flavoured, and was quite delicious: crumbly, buttery cake shot through with a sharp lemon tang, and an icing softly accented with lemon, and shredded coconut sprinkled on top. Combine that with a tea, and I was rendered quite content.

So there you go, a reminder that sometimes one visit is sometimes not enough to get an accurate read on a place. Question for other bloggers: do you tend to visit a place multiple times in order to suss out a more complete vibe before reviewing, or do you stick by a one visit policy under the belief that cafes and restaurants should be consistent? While I have a tendency to blog by the latter standard, I’m glad I gave Friends of Mine a second chance. The service may have proved itself to be inconsistent yet improving, but the food itself (which is the most important in a lot of ways) just keeps being excellent.

Friends of Mine

506 Swan Street, Richmond

Ph: 9428 7516


Finally, for the first time in this blog’s short history, I get to review blintzes! YAY! My blog title is no longer redundant.

So all the ladies were getting together to have a lunch for Jess who was flying away to LA the next day, and she’d nominated Demetri’s Feast as her preferred lunching location. But when we arrived there they didn’t have enough room for our big-ish group (seriously, that space is teeny! Will have to go there for a two-person food date, I think, might be easier to nab a spot), so we ended up decamping across Swan Street to Torch.

Sorry if my food descriptions are a bit vague or if I forget a few ingredients, we were sitting slap bang up against the very open kitchen and I was feeling a little too self-conscious to whip out the blog book and start jotting things down.

To the blintzes! They were cheese cream filled with stewed berries, and I must admit when they were placed in front of me I thought to myself, “Hmm, they’re a little small.” They may have been small, but they packed a punch. Little crepey pockets liberally stuffed with cream cheese that was just so very smooth, and smeared with a concoction of berries that left a blue-purple stain on everything they touched. I was very happy to make my plate into a giant smear indicating previous berry occupation, they were gorgeous.

As for my other dining companions, Rola and Jess both had the grilled sourdough with avocado, marinated fetta and lemon. Rola added poached eggs and salmon; Jess added a poached egg and mushrooms (our waiter was very happy to let us add and subtract things from the dishes, I always like a kitchen that doesn’t make a fuss over such things). There was much “Mmmm”-ing and other satisfied food noises from both parties, and each subsequently declared their dishes to be quite fab.

Kim went with ‘Tim’s breakfast sandwich’ – bacon, tomato, poached eggs… and some other stuff! Probably something green. It looked great whatever else was in it, and was so big that Kim struggled a little to finish it all. Yet she endeavoured, and gave a thumbs up afterwards.

E had the chicken foccacia – chicken, avocado, basil pesto on lovely linseedy-looking bread (I immediately had severe bread envy from clapping eyes on it). This looked AMAZING! I was unfortunately negligent in remembering to ask E if she enjoyed it and why, but considering that it all disappeared speedily I figure it must have been at least good enough to fill a hole.

I really enjoyed visiting Torch. We sat for a good three hours just chatting and nibbling. It was pretty quiet, but there was a slow dribble of what seemed to be regulars throughout the day who seemed very happy and comfortable to sit and read newspapers or chat with the staff over their latte. And I want to go back to try the savoury side of the menu, perhaps accompanied by a bottle of the pear cider that I spotted in the drinks fridge just before leaving. Mmm.


178 Swan Street, Richmond

Ph: 9428 7378

Corner Hotel

Let me sing you an ode to the Corner. Ahem:

“Oh Corner, with your sticky carpets like glue

That I am constantly in danger of getting permanently stuck to,

Hail to your stage, host to bands epic to hear;

And hail, too, to your kitchen and garden of beer,

Humble yet tasty, coloured with a flair never too purple

… I shouldn’t have used purple in the penultimate couplet, nothing rhymes with it.”

Poetry grant now, please.

Yes! To the Corner Muffin and I scurried last week for a gig, and is per our Corner tradition, we dined in the venue’s kitchen before the show. Although, apologies beforehand: we were a little distracted during our meal and my descriptions may not be as attentive as usual, as dining at the table next to us was the band that we were later to see that night, so we were a little less focused on the food and more on OH GOD, PLEASE DON’T LET US LOOK LIKE LAME-O’S, DON’T OBVIOUSLY LOOK AT THEM WHAT ARE YOU DOING, OH GOOOOOOD!

We are so cool.

Despite Melbourne still insisting on being horridly humid for this time of year, the Corner’s menu has turned distinctly wintery, although Muffin and I were both pleased to see that they have retained the refreshing spinach, macadamia, haloumi, white bean, beetroot and pear salad that we’d greatly enjoyed on a previous visit back in summer (seriously, that salad, AMAZING). I was really feeling the winter vibe, however, and went with a chalkboard special: mushroom and chestnut soup served with crusty bread. Muffin chose the smoked salmon with potato rosti and horseradish creme and pickled beetroot and dill salad (I have got to stop finding the sight of ‘creme’ in a menu so ridiculously funny, I blame you, Harvey Birdman). We also got a bowl of edamame to share, because together we are unable to refuse them.

Muffin’s salmon came out looking like a tall volcanic island of rosti and salad surrounded by a sea of salmon.Muffin gave thumbs up to the salmon, saying it was fresh and delish. The edamame were equally delish, and were served with a kind of salt I wasn’t familiar with – the menu said plain ol’ sea salt, yet it was in the shape of big, flat squares that had been crumbled over the top. Anyone have any idea what variety it could have been?

The mushroom and chestnut soup was chunky and hearty as all get out, filled with lovely mouth-melty shrooms (swiss brown, I would hazard to surmise), the chestnuts simmered to fluffy chunks of goodness, and a whirl of green herbs on the surface shot through with a drizzle of cream. Most welcome was the slab of crusty bread that I used to mop up what my spoon couldn’t catch. Does anyone else get a naughty thrill in using bread to soak up soup dregs and sauces? Often you’ve eaten the beginning of the meal with a sense of politeness and delicacy, then suddenly breadcrumbs start flying everywhere and it’s like you’re six again. Love it.

A very satisfying pre-gig meal at the Corner. And for foodies who may also be Mountain Goats fans (the band, not the beer), for the record… not that we were watching or anything, honest… we think John Darnielle ended up partaking of the chalkboard gnocchi special. Rock on!

Corner Hotel

57 Swan Street, Richmond