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Pet Detective

So clearly I’ve emerged from about the worst week ever, what with my cat escaping out the front door over a week back.

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Obviously, This is picture was taken slightly before Burger cat escaped, given that traffic is pretty much horsedrawn, but all the same you probably get a sense of the environment and the vibe and the doors opening straight onto the street.

Burger is nearly two and has never been outside, and is completely frightened of pretty much everyone but Blackburn J and me. Hence escape is a matter of concern. Being a mature, collected sort of person I choose the sensible option of fully fledged hysteria. I’m running around a medium to high density region in a Melbourne Demons dressing gown alternately sobbing and screaming Burger Burger Burger. Since it is about 8am on a work day in a semi-corporate yuppie-couple suburb, this totally doesn’t draw attention or anything.

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Its about now (now at time of writing – not ‘now’ meaning the bit in the story when cat is missing and I’m screaming and sobbing unobtrusively in a built up area) that it occurs to me that I should be sharing this experience with my massive Urbanspoon audience of maybe a handful of dudes – seriously, I’m not the 77th ranked urbanspoon blog for nothing. So to attempt to get this out there, I figure I should mention something along food review lines about some place.

Fritz Gelato

Fritz Gelato on Urbanspoon

So – I choose Fritz Gelato. I really like a Fritz Gelato. I know that because there are lots of them and all, you sort of start thinking they might just be some boring chain, but I swear they do awesome gelato. I often visit the one at the Prahran Market. The award winning coffee rush ice cream flavour is utterly amazing. When I’m in a traditional, sorbet-style gelato mood I tend to go with a three scoop cone with lemon, passion fruit and blood orange. It’s difficult to describe the experience, especially with formerly missing Burger Cat on lap, so I think you should just visit the website HERE, find a Fritz Gelato and go nuts.

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Anyways, with Burger Cat out there somewhere for over a week, I needed a strategy as opposed to running around screaming and sobbing. I probably didn’t even contemplate a Fritz Gelato, which underlines the bigness of the crisis. I was also facing a second, corresponding problem which is that I really do need to be at work – after 2 years of being treated as a kind of uninvited, redundant yet paid lodger, I have suddenly broken though as critically necessary and vital. Clearly any temporary absence isn’t going to be permissable, even by cat freaks. Actually, I’m not sure I know of any particular cat freaks at work. We do have a high percentage of your average, run of the mill freaks, but not necessarily of the cat variety.

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Luckily I’m super clever and extra sharp now from Burger-crisis-induced inspiration, which means obviously I ask the interwebs what to do because everything typed into Google instantly produces a perfect solution and there are certainly no weirdos or scammers out there. And look what I found:

http://www.petsearch.com.au which you can go to HERE.

Since it is difficult to know from the website whether this is a genuine, useful service or a cynical money grab, I thought I would share with you that these people are seriously brilliant.

Seriously.

From the beginning … starting with completing this weird-ass form that seems to be scoping out Burger’s psyche, my strength to weakness ratio, as well as the environmental risks – to the week of coaching on the best methodology to locate a displaced Burger, the pamphlets and flyers prepared and distributed by the super cat detective team while I’m being important at work, the alerts sent to pounds, shelters, councils, vets and general subscibers in the vicinity to the refund I have been given for unspent media buy because we caught the cat, the ability Pet Search gave me to cope and function during the week of madness is indescribable. Which is now the second thing in this post I haven’t been able to describe (the first being a freaking gelato). So Christ only knows why I write this drivel anyway given my struggle with adjectives in a pressure environment. It’s probadly the pride I take in my 77th ranking on Urbanspoon.

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Obviously those that know me instantly recognise me in this picture – which I placed there by way of a visual segue to the second part of my coping strategy which involves heavy use of alcohol, most of a packet of valium, and virtually no solid food for a week (okay – that bit was clearly not sensible, but you’ll have to take it because that’s the way I roll). Also, my smokenders program which had progressed to quit point fairly successfully took something of a bashing.

Mind you, I had an almost unbelievably productive week at work. Likely, the emotionally wreaked, spasmodic weeping, pill popping piss-artist approach brings certain intangibles to the table in the corporate world. Like my inspirational, impromptu lecture of the most senior people I could find where I used the word integrity totally more than once. That was a wildly good plan because I’m sure you have noticed for yourself how much important leaders love being lectured about the obvious by random, sleep-deprived, nobody-type staff.

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Check out that poster! Nice work pet detectives! Burger is a bit offended because she is a Bengal cat with papers and stuff so regards herself as a bit spesh, but I explained that the Pet Detective lady recommends steering away from mention of the more sought-after breeds and all, so Burger swallowed that explanation of the “tabby” slur, and has gone back to sleep.

Sleep. Me and Blackburn J could use a piece of that. We are utterly zonked now, since our personally crafted pet detective strategic advice involved lying around likely cat-hiding regions saying burger burger burger burger burger in a reassuring way, accompanied by a hot roast chicken (for scent), Parmesan cheese (Burger’s all time favourite food), a burger blanky and igloo (familiar cat objects) and cat catching bag (avoid scratches) each night from 3 until 5 am. On concrete. Not even an excellent Fritz Gelato within reach. 

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Picture that over 8 nights. Factor in the not eating, drinking, valium, chain-smoking, controlled (okay – medicated) panic. So I’m in tip top shape and never felt better. So now seems a good time for working through the thousand sms messages from a gazillion very kind (and occasionally odd) people who got one of my 1000 pet detective letterbox fliers and thought they would get in touch to sort of say Hi and I’m sorry about your cat and all. Which is way touching and nice – and certainly not at all distracting during the wall to wall high-level meetings I’m now attending what with me having a current phase of being important at work and indespenible – only with a constantly ringing phone (which is set to iphone5 duck noise quacktone – really making a solid contribution to my professional reputation). So now I’m communicating the return of the lost cat, and fielding more messages from a massive, regional cat network of which I was previously unaware, saying how good it is Burger is home. I’m suddenly pleased I selected a pretty comprehensive telstra plan.

So – to the cat.

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Actually, even with the no sleep, the constant supply of roast chickens, the coaxing strategy etc. I have work to thank for the Burger grab. Which is good, because aside from salary I have precious little else to thank work for in the past few years. As it happens, Blackburn J has this massive blowout with his boss, who really did this time cross a way long way over any acceptable line, so stormed out of work and went home. Apparently (not being present myself what with being professional and therefore still at work) a person over the road targeted by pet detective fliers grabbed him on the street because she had found Burger crouched between her house and the adjoining church (finding God, presumably).

Anyhoo …. There is apparently a good 30 minutes of Blackburn J lying in Mrs Lady’s yard “burger burger burgering” at this church/house, Burger-filled gap. There is a sort of tentative inching process involved, some proww noises from a very dirty Burger, with some occasional setbacks until Blackburn J judges the time is right and makes a lunge and grab manouver and sprints home with hysterically struggling freak cat with a high-velocity claws threshing in all directions.

So what happens next?

Nothing much. I get home and the cat is perfectly fine. She doesn’t even seem greatly distressed after the ordeal, instead stuffing down about 1,000,000 fishbickies and a drink of water. Her latest move is that she has curled herself in ball and gone to sleep on my lap.

Blackburn J is in a celebratory state (slightly pizzled) alternating between hysterical self-praise for cat-grab skills and occasional rants about his boss while simultaneously eating left-over roast chicken. He is also cut to ribbons from a wild series of Burger scratches, so I go get some betedine and attempt a bit of repair work, discovering part-way that I’m actually swabbing his arm with a betedine throat gargle.

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Lost cat is reunited with not lost cat. I am exhausted. Once I have slept for a few days, I plan to go get myself a Fritz Gelato.

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De Clieu: another breakfast in Fitzroy

Right on. Here we are back in Fitzroy and I’m off to De Clieu for a bang up breakfast. Matter of fact I have been here before in order to try the pork neck with a spring onion roti which made the Herald Sun 25 best breakfasts in 2013. Now I’m seasoned in Melbourne breakfasts so want to try again to see if De Clieu really is up there with the legends.

Coffee scores highly. Love it that de Clieu uses five senses coffee, and it is rich, nutty, beautifully made and worth ordering twice, which I did.

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Ok so Blackburn J is feeling a bit unadventurous so goes with the eggs benny. He rates it as good but not amazing. The hollandaise is a bit bland (though an interesting if somewhat disconcerting lemon-yellow shade), but I do like that it is served on a muffin and not over hard-crusted, saw-me-if-you-can ciabatta.

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So I order these three balls, or five if you count the eggs, with bacon, rocket and saffron aioli. I’m not certain how you make ball croquettes look elegant. Maybe by sort of half hiding them behind random rocket? Nah – doesn’t work entirely. Whatever, I’m meant to be eating right? If I wanted to gaze at some art, the obvious place to look is at a gallery, not at a plate. How about I sort this now and forget the matter and eat? Right. Sorted.

Nope … not entirely sorted. It appears I have more to say on the issue. I’m feeling compelled here, you don’t get a choice in the matter…

I don’t know if this sounds nuts. If food is to be plated well and intended to be decorative, it has to be done really really well and look entirely gorgeous and, if possible, a sort of magic trick of balance or colour or whatever. The other alternative is to serve without so much attention to the plating – sort of honest, down-to-earth, Italian hungry peasant pile of stuff that you don’t even look at properly because you’re swooning just at the smell. This approach works too. When things go slightly wrong is when something appears to be plated with some thought and planning, and manages not to look so great. That is just a bit off-putting. What with the black plate etc, an effort has been made here on the three to five balls of contention- just not an entirely successful one. Yes – I am the Robert Hughes of breakfasts. Time to move on.

The balls are fennel and potato croquettes… swell… and they are fluffy inside, crisp outside and the tang of aniseed in the fennel is actually very tasty. I’m not a mad fennel fan as a rule, I say keep your aniseed for your liquorice straps, but this combo is balanced quite well so I’ve learned that fennel can be good.

So my three balls turn out to be tasty, well seasoned croquettes, so this part of the dish is getting a thumbs up, even though I’m restricted in gestures due to holding a fork. It would really benefit from a good sauce. I like the aioli plan when it was a just a plan and consisted of a concept written on a menu. The reality is that the aioli has gone much the way of the hollandaise and, while very yellow, tastes somewhat like a thick-textured glass of water. It’s difficult to see just how that was achieved, but I swear on Burger Cat’s whisker-pads that it was. Having said that, it is seriously yellow, extremely so, which deserves a judicious nod to its yellowness. Very yellow indeed. In the category of yellow aioli’s, De Clieu rates highly.

Decidedly, the Berkshire pork dish I ate here last visit was the better choice. It is still on the menu and if the standard has been maintained, is much the thing to check out in my opinion.

De Clieu is a place I would swing into for a quick coffee if I were a local, and it is a pleasant and comfortable little cafe to sit, but probably not at the moment holding it’s own in the super brunch stakes of Melbourne – especially when inner north examples include so many breakfasts of an exceptionally high standard.

Now I’m freaking myself out – what if I have eaten all the good breakfasts there are around and can’t ever be really thrilled again? Arrrrrrgh! Though it seems more probably that while De Clieu’s food is good,  it just isn’t on the level of Small Victories  or Hammer and Tong or Duchess of Spotswood, all of which have set the bar extremely high. I may have to plan some revisits of my list of legends, just to check that all is still well etc and maybe once try something that doesn’t involve bacon. Now that I’ve stopped smoking, I may have developed a sweet tooth so can broaden my range to order waffles and similar. Cool! Yeah – I’m going to research the next breakfast right now. Totally.

Note though – the coffee at De Clieu is excellent, nearly worth of a ‘totes amazeballs’ and well worth the effort to get here (especially since I don’t actually know how to drive and am chauffeured everywhere by Blackburn J and can just snooze in the passenger seat). I had a third coffee, just to be sure numbers one and two weren’t flukes. Nope – I was right the first time. The coffee is excellent. And pretty bracing, what with the caffeine and all – to a point when I am briefly convinced that I can and, indeed, should drive. Right now!

postscript

(Blackburn J talked me down from the ceiling at this point and I got strapped back into the passenger seat and muzzled for the journey back to Port Melbourne.)

De Clieu on Urbanspoon

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Cobb Lane – heaven with salted caramel

Today was a super-good breakfast day. Why? Because we tried the Cobb Lane Bakery in Yarraville, that’s why. Diving straight in here, Blackburn J ordered the Full English and on my life this is one that you shouldn’t go past.

imageFor a start, you get these big, fat slices of some of the best bacon I have tasted (poached, in this case), secondly you get a hunk of rich black pudding, third you get a lovely mustardy Welsh rarebit, fourth, some home made beans… And just look at that scotch egg which is crispy fried and lovely with gooey, runny yolk in the middle.

This one is destined to become a classic – strangely, amongst a plate of beautiful beautiful things, the blob of homemade HP sauce and the dense, sourdough bread managed to be the standout. Really good sauce. Divine bread. Inner west is very fortunate to first have the Dutchess of Spotswood and now to have Cobb Lane in Yarraville.

imageMe? I was saving space for afters, so selected a lighter  house made, ruby grapefruit cured salmon with super wobbly poached eggs, capers, pickled kohlrabI, creme fraiche and baked-in-house dark rye. This is a gorgeously fresh offering and I love the tang of pickles and capers with the silky and only lightly cured fish. Again, the bread is a winner and I don’t think you can conceive a better plate to highlight the crunch of delicious, sour and dark rye bread. Doesn’t it look attractive too?

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Okay, so this is why I’m really here. The Cobb Lane Bakery is the new, artisan bakery of Matt Forbes who is one of those chef types that Melbourne people can rattle off the name of (and potted resume of) as though he is the fifth Beatle or first man on Mars. I’ll leave it there, but suffice to say I had a bite of someone’s salted caramel doughnut by Mr Forbes a few months back and have been planning to descend on this bakery for a while. And check out those amazing pastries!

So, because it is getting mighty busy in here … I decide to take a peanut butter, salted caramel chocolate mousse thing home to deconstruct, chew and digest at leisure.

imageHere he is at home where I am pairing him with my second coffee of the day. Absolutely sublime. You won’t find a softer, creamier mousse or a better salted caramel anywhere. I love the toasted peanuts. I love the fine but firm biscuit base.

I love this cake and Cobb Lane in general.

Tips for the unwary who go on a Saturday. I made the right move by arriving at 8:30 as it opened, so getting a table provided no dramas. However, 20 minutes later this was not the case – the seating is limited so there may be a wait. Alternatively, if you are after cakes and coffee consider takeaway. The Cobb Lane Bakery, while very little, has a gaggle of lovely staff who manage to wait tables while overseeing an incredibly efficient take away service. The pastries, cakes and coffees flew out the door and I can’t even guess how many doughnuts I saw hovering past at eye level.

imageIf you are local – lucky you. You should make this your one and only shop for bread. I have never seen such an appetising selection of fresh baked loaves, and I am a person who spends more than a bit of time in queues at noisette or the Woodfrog bakery.

Excellent place. Go. Go now.

Cobb Lane on Urbanspoon

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Breakfast in Port Melbourne: the verdict

I’ve spread myself around, breakfast-wise, in the ol’ Port Melbourne so I’m at a point where I can probably list a few local places in a compare/contrast manner … discuss, summarise and devise a ranking.

First to look briefly at the most recent visits, in no particular order:

Balderdash

Nifty place, very cute, relaxed interior with a flying pig hanging from the ceiling, which is always nice. The coffee is very good indeed, and the adventure-seekers get the cold-drip offerings and so forth. The cafe often has large numbers of customers who act like regulars, so clearly there is a following.

Obligingly, Balderdash publishes its menu HERE.

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I tried the corn, zucchini and feta fritters with the avocado and goats cheese (nom), nice and runny poached egg, bacon and tomato relish. I found the dish excellent with the small reservation about the relish which I steered around because it was too sweet for me.

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Mr Blackburn J chose the omelette and rated it as excellent. Omelettes aren’t entirely fashionable at the moment, but with fillings of bacon, chorizo, spring onions, pesto, tasty and feta cheese, I expect a renaissance. Nom!

Service was a bit slow and haphazard. We were planted at a table and menued up with a promise that the waitress would be back to take orders. I think she forgot. The guy we eventually signalled seemed to be having a slightly bad day. Entertainingly he was sorting cutlery later on in full fury, crashing mode – sort of hurling metal at the cutlery trays which was set off nicely by the acoustics from wood furniture and polished concrete floors. I figure it was a temporary mood issue, because he appeared to stabilise in time. He forgot my second coffee order, but once reminded was apologetic and didn’t charge (for the second coffee, that is. We were charged for everything else).

I’ll be back. Balderdash has a lovely menu and very good coffee. On a good weather day, there is outside seating (though quite noisy, being on the corner of Bay Street and Bridge Road) and worth a visit any old time, though possibly not when pressed for time.

Balderdash on Urbanspoon

My Sister Says

No website to sus the menu. My Sister Says gets a fair amount of blogger notice for its super small and cute layout. It is a wee little place which would be a good size for a master bedroom so long as it also has a walk-in robe somewhere. I acknowledge the cute, but found the intimacy awkward. There is one communal table, and sitting on the far side of it puts you in the serving area. I ordered simple-like and had a New York bagel with avo and goat cheese. You could probably say I deserved what I got, but I was a bit surprised by just how simple it turned out to be – in that the mush was not seasoned and without the cheese mixed through. Butter might be good here too, otherwise the dry bagel didn’t really marry with the other properties. Mind you, I did get this unexpected lemon slice. Goodski.

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There are regular-types who dash in for a take away coffee. I won’t join them. I have had coffee twice here – the first a takeaway that I had to throw out because I really disliked it. Warm milk with a sinister background. My second attempt sit down coffee wasn’t much better (I wanted to see if the first coffee was an anomaly), and the Barista seemed new to the job so the micro foam wasn’t really happening. Probably not for me, this cafe, but it does display a really attractive sweet selection for those who are that way inclined.

My Sister Says on Urbanspoon

Seven:am cafe

Great! For some reason this surprised me and I don’t even know why. A lovely, crisp but cosy interior with enough space for comfort. And some bicycles hanging from a wall which is essential in a cafe to have at least one unnecessary decorative touch. The coffee is excellent and up to the Melbourne, great coffee standard. For those that like to explore in advance (me) all is published by the cafe HERE.

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This is above is my Port Melbourne recommendation for the cripplingly-hung-over:  the brekkie roll with really good, smokey bacon, a fried egg with a runny yolk that drips all over the place, tomato relish and tasty cheese – all grippable and chompable in a soft roll. I added to the restorative work by sculling a freshly squeezed orange and ginger juice, which comes in the now expected jar instead of glass with a paper straw. I don’t know what the next trend for receptacles will be – watering cans possibly.

Seven:am is a friendly, sleek establishment that seems to be clear about what it is doing and how to do it well. I like it – v much.

I think I have worked out why I approached this cafe with reservations. It’s the slightly cutesy menu writing style. For some reason putting dumb phrases like “the yee old faithful” in front of brekkie roll makes me a bit embarrassed. Also, does Yee normally get spelled with two ‘e’s?

seven:am on Urbanspoon

Bay 101

Pizza restaurant by night, cafe by day and opens good and early for breakfast. I have a feeling the business is owned or part owned by my new neighbor, Bomber Thompson. Certainly, the Facebook page appears to regularly offer discounts for Essendon club members.

For breakfast I thought it was pretty damn good and the interior is more spacious and attractive then you would expect. The waitresses were real Italians or decent fakes. The coffee was fine, but not my all-time favourite blend.

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The food was very good, with one tiny reservation (and it’s a surprising one). This is my brekkie bruschetta, with poached eggs on smashed avo and feta on ciabatta with tomatoes and drizzled with a lovely pesto oil. Pretty decent – the pesto drizzle takes the whole nirvana beyond the mundane, and I could eat this most days. The reservation: the tomatoes. Fine and dandy, but tasted slightly of fish. Call me mad, but I’m sure at some stage of preparation these guys came into contact with a fish of some description. Maybe on a chopping board otherwise generally used to prep the seafood pizza, or on a less than sparkling grill plate or similar. Such a discovery is not deadly, but is somewhat disconcerting. I need to eat there again to decide whether the issue is more than a one off.

Fishy tomatoes aside, a decent place for breakfast. Menu can be found HERE.

Bay 101 on Urbanspoon

The verdict

Okay – I’m lining up these brunches alongside two previous Port Melbourne discoveries which were:

Third Wave Cafe – which I wrote about HERE

and…

Station Street Trading Co – which I wrote about HERE

Ladies and others … The FIRST CAFE of Port Melbourne goes to The Station Street Trading Co for the bacon on a stick, the Woodfrog Bakery loaves, the multiple dog customers and the general loveliness

Followed closely, SECOND goes to the Third Wave Cafe for the massive menu and the sensational muffin burger

THIRD is Seven:am for the hangover treating capacity

Balderdash slips in FORTH, with Bay 101 following just behind in FIFTH with its mystery fish tomatoes

SIXTH is the tiny tiny My Sista Says

So I’m pretty much full now on the basis of Port Melbourne alone, but plan to recover some time to try a dinner at Dalmatino, of which I have heard many good things.

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Chin Chin: mad good loud Thai

So on Wednesday Blackburn J and me are out on the tiles (following a concert at Federation Square) and it’s getting on for 10pm and my stomach is growling. But I have a plan. Chin Chin serves food late. We can become the last people in the entire universe to try this restaurant.

Whoa is it good! Really fresh, brave, punch in the face flavour. Nutso loud pop music and cute, cheeky waiters. Ours was unnervingly young-looking so I was a bit concerned it might be past his bedtime. And Billy Brownless was at the next table, so Blackburn J was pretty excited about that.

Chin Chin is often described as a fusion resteraunt, but the dominant theme is very Thai with a couple of excursions elsewhere in Asia. This isn’t just nice local Thai with a damped down sweetish red curry and some mild fish cakes. This is serious, pow! scuds, pongy fresh pastes, sharp ginger, mad chewy lemongrass popping in, holy basil (holy cow!) and some of the best cocktails in Melbourne.

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Okay, so it is also pretty dark and I’m not going to use the flash and possibly piss off Billy Brownless. I don’t quite remember what this cocktail was except that it involves pomegranate molasses and a goodly amount of gin and it was so excellent that I could go another right now – and it is 8:40 am at the time of writing.

I give up on the photos since they consist entirely of dark sinister lumps when the reality is bright, fragrant, fun food. We shared some crunch of deep fried school prawns with a seriously raucously pongy Nahm Prik Pla Gapi – a kind of thick, dried shrimp chilli dip. I rolled my prawns with the Gapi in the crispy lettuce leaves with a squeeze of fresh lemon and the hot hot hot with the sweet lettuce crunch and the prawns come together in a sort of mystical way. And things only got better. We also had some lovely chewy crab and prawn cakes with salted duck egg and tamarind Nahm Prik which was a sweet and sour and salty starter that sort of works in a cunning way to persuade me to order another cocktail from the waiter who should be in bed on a school night.

The Crying Tiger – almost like a thai salad, with rare, chargrilled strips of wagu with holy basil and lemongrass, glass noodles and ground roast rice in a tamarind chilli dressing. I adore tamarind and after only a few mouthfuls I was certain this was to be the highlight (I was mistaken as it turned out) and I was dead pleased Blackburn J selected this because I don’t often order thai salads which from now will surely change.

We also enjoyed a beautiful salmon in a coconut red curry cooked in a banana leaf. The salmon was pink and flaked perfectly and the curry fresh and hot. I would go one of these again, except I really need to eat other stuff on the menu when I return because it all looks sensational.

But the true star of the night was the son in law eggs. This must be a Chin Chin superstar – I don’t think I could miss ordering these ever. The eggs are boiled and fried but still have an oozy soft centre, and are served with a chilli caramel and some decorative herbs. Sensational.

Chin Chin is loud and crowded and generally a bit crazy. Even at 10pm the place was full – go at 8 and bank on a queue. But the food is knockout and, surprisingly, the prices are pretty reasonable. Just go. Go now. Go.

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Okay, so these are cats, not thai food. Truth is I have provided this unrelated image of sleeping cats because my Chin Chin shots are too dark to use, and also because my Mum wanted a photo of Ron so she could see how much his colour has changed (Ronnie on left – started at 14 weeks as a little white kitten and is now a big brown 2yo marbled slob …)

imageBut isn’t he cute?

Chin Chin on Urbanspoon

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Sonido! Colombian brunch in Fitzroy

So I’ve been meaning to slouch over to Fitzroy to have breakfast at Sonido! for a few weeks now. I tried last Sunday, only got there at 8am to discover that they don’t open until 10am Sundays, so gave it up and went elsewhere.

This week I am better prepared. I’ve even had a look at the Sonido! menu online HERE, looked up Arepas and Empanada’s in wikipedia, and mentally prepared myself for the old clothes beef. I’ve also researched (briefly) the foods of Colombia and Venezuela – not that I learned so much considering my devoted googling, but it was news to me that Panama and Colombia share a border, which is always a nice thing to know.

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And what a cute place? Sonido isn’t very big but is very Fitzroy – in a good way. Mis-matched furniture, South American curiosities and football jumpers pinned to walls, flakey paint but somehow seeming warmly and comfortably grungy. Also, by the time we arrived (half an hour after Sonido! opened this morning) the room is filled with a truly delectable smell. Really really good smell, where you don’t entirely know what it is but you are pretty sure that you want to eat it.

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I’ve already settled mentally on trying the old clothes beef arepa – a fine choice on my part because it makes a delicious brunch. The old clothes beef is beef skirt thas been long, slow cooked with cumin and spices (though not super hot in an ouch way) to the point where it can be shredded into long threads and resembles an upended bag of laundry on a little, fried cornflour mattress. Topped with guacamole and a fresh picadillo balancing on the soft arepa, the old clothes beef is something totally new to me, and becomes an instant classic. The portion size is for once just right – I often over order at breakfast time (eggs benny really fills you up fast), though because I’m a guts and endlessly curious I did also ask for a side of turtle beans served with a crumbled goat feta. Fantastic. Best to scoop the beans and cheese on top of the beef arepa, with the guacamole and the picadillo teetering onto of that, because it really is the combination of a bunch of different things, flavours and textures all together that I think is the best part about South American food.

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Blackburn J had the Chorizo arepa with a side salad. The first surprise was that the Chorizo didn’t come diced as you would usually see it, but whole, balanced on its arepa and with a lime slice. Once it had cooled a bit (it was dangerously hot when served), the excellence of the particular chorizo sausage really made Blackburn J’s day – and with some experimentation he discovered that rolling the arepa around the chorizo like a sort of hotdog, with guacamole, picadillo and lime squeezed over the top is a breakfast of Colombian champions.

I love the place. I will surely return. This isn’t my favourite coffee in Melbourne – I think the supplier is Coffee Supreme – of which I’ve never been a massive fan – but it was decent enough and the barista is skilled and can do micro foam with a fern design or whatever. The atmosphere is relaxed and funky and I like the South Americal muzak wafting from a speaker somewhere. I love all the junk, the grunge cool customers, the selection of random shoes on a small wall shelf, everything. I also love the fact that on my way back to the car from the cafe I spotted a pair of converse sneakers patterned with skeletons in a sort of South American kitsch shop and, believe it or not, a pair of knee socks with a portrait of Freda Kahlo knitted into the sides. Obviously I must and will buy these thing directly (well … tomorrow, since it hadn’t opened yet this morning I will decidedly return). I may also try and talk Blackburn J in letting me take home the massive day of the dead mosaic for sale in the same shop, though he doesn’t seem entirely sold on the plan at this point.

Sonido! really is a tops place for breakfast, lunch, snack etc. It even has a couple of dinner dishes, and Melbourne’s shortest wine list (two bottles of unknown Colombian wine – how cute!) which has to be tried at some point.

Sonido! on Urbanspoon

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Deliciously different: Konjo Cafe and Restaurant

I can’t say enough about my brunch this morning, except to say you really must try this restaurant. Konjo is a gorgeous Ethiopian cafe and African craft shop on a dodgy looking strip on Irving Street. Mind you, all of central Footscray consists of dodgy looking strips. Don’t let this put you off because it boasts some of the best, and cheapest, ethnic restaurants and shops in Melbourne. So … Make your way to exotic (and faintly menacing) Footscray of a morning and order the Ful.

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Ful is a richly spiced broad bean stew, with the partly- smushed beans cooked in a tomato and onion base. Konjo tops it’s Ful with sliced, hard-boiled eggs and green chilli. With no cutlery, you eat it by breaking pieces off three crusty, fresh rolls and mopping the bowl with your bread.

For 12 dollars. Yep. 12. Not 22 dollars, which is getting to be expected as the charge for an exotic breakfast offering in an on-trend cafe. 12 dollars.

It was insanely good. You will never go back to Heinz beans again. The spices are rich rather than “ow … HOT!” and the whole dish melds into the most wonderful, comforting sensation. It is an unreal start to the day. I’m extremely full of Ful (the bread pile fills you up like nothing else) and I’m ready to face a gruelling day of cooking ethiopian food, microwaving my bag of injera I bought from the Mesnoy Injera Bakery a few doors down, chucking massive amounts of Berbere into a pot with some chicken and watching Harry Potter on the blu ray.

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Blackburn J ordered Silts – an Ethiopian scrambled eggs with tomato and onion in Niter Kibbeh; a seasoned african clarified and spiced butter. Also eaten with bread rather than fork (disconcerting for Blackburn J – who is of a type that thinks a jacket shouldn’t be worn without a tie) and utterly excellent. I had a try – the spices and the eggs were made for each other and the Niter Kibbeh keeps the whole tasting rich and decadent.

The Silts cost 8 dollars. Unbelievable.

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For those that are too chicken to have a go at the two Ethiopian breakfast offerings, the extremely brief menu does mention the availability of croissants. I wouldn’t substitute a bowl of Ful for a silly croissant, but that’s me.

One thing – you’ll notice I haven’t mentioned the coffee. As you enter Konjo, you’ll see signs boasting about “voted No 1 coffee experience in Epicure”. True this is – but this refers to the classic coffee ceremony, Ethiopian style, that is offered upon booking – where you have the green beans roasted in front of you and the smell mingles with the frankincense, and it is served in little pots and cups black and sweetened etc.

At brunch time, your regular espresso machine is ready to go and you can get a flat white etc. but while it isn’t bad it doesn’t come near the regular, italian-style offering available in more traditional Melbourne brunch cafés. Never mind, I’ll just have to return to Konjo for the real deal Ethiopian coffee experience some time and judge this style of coffee for myself.

But breakfast today was a serious wow – really different and really good. A wonderful change from queuing alongside disgruntled foodie wankers for however long to eat eggs Benedict (even with orange or spiced or ‘aerated’ hollandaise). The Ful is already one of my favourite Melbourne breakfast dishes. I could eat it every day.

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