Tag Archives: Northern suburbs

Mission #2: Two Beans and a Farm

My latest blog event for my outdoors mission relied heavily on Melbourne’s fluctuating weather. Luckily, Hayley, owner of Two Beans and a Farm was very flexible with me, even leaving it up until midday of the event to let me decide where we could sit. Continue reading

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Mission #2: Jam and Cream Caravan

Finally my outdoors mission begins! And it all begins at a place I’ve previously been to before, but definitely do not mind returning to, Jam and Cream. Continue reading

Asian Cheap Eats

Let’s admit it, there will always be a time when you crave cheap Asian food. I recently got to meet Kenny from the popular Western suburbs’ blog, Consider the Sauce, and we discussed how many people review the same popular places in the CBD etc, whilst he tends to go for the ‘ghetto’ places.

He makes a good point, and I enjoy weaving in and out of both worlds, or simply anywhere. My love of roadtrips leads me all over Melbourne and I love being able to have readers say, “That’s just near me, I’ll drop by and give it a try” whether it’s in the western or south-eastern suburbs (neither of which are my areas)!

So, here’s a few cheap Asian finds that I’ve stopped by in the various suburbs of Melbourne in the past few weeks. Enjoy!

Basil House: 461 High St, Preston
A mix of Vietnamese and Thai food, Basil House likes to provide a bit of variety. Due to the offering of both cuisines though, I feel like they lose a bit of authenticity in both areas.20140610_191050

But it satisfies the tummy and the craving, so most of the time it will do. The table settings are like any other Asian restaurant with cutlery and condiments on the table ready to go.

Decor is nothing special but at least this place isn’t cramped like some fast restaurants. It’s a little less hectic and more relaxed, but your food still comes out quickly.

20140610_191959High St is the busy, fast-ethnic-food-place-to-be in Preston. With a few other Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants on the little strip, you might pass by Basil House due to its split between two cuisines, which usually indicates it is catering too much to Western crowds by serving Asian dishes in general.
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We ordered some Vietnamese entrees including nem nuong (grilled pork, top picture) and bo la lot (beef wrapped in betel leaf, above) to start. The serves are suitable for sharing but I found the meat in both dishes a little dry.

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I think when you go to a cheap Asian restaurant, it’s all about ordering that one, complete, cheap meal and leaving satisfied. Com tam or broken rice (above) is a popular Vietnamese meal with grilled pork, shredded pork skin, egg and a sort of meatloaf with egg. It’s not pretty, but it is a staple meal at Vietnamese restaurants.

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We also ordered a large tom yum soup, although a little oily, it was surprisingly not bad. It was pretty warming and spicy for a winter night’s meal.

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My friend ordered one of the stir-fried chicken dishes, but I’m not sure which one. The chicken had a nice, light sauce whilst the vegies were cut in large chunks like most Asian restaurants.

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I chose the pad thai, which was better than my expectations and quite filling. I think they went a little overboard with the peanuts and towards the end, the flavour does feel a bit repetitive and bland, but I still managed to down it all.

Basil House is open everyday 10.30am-10.30pm. You can find an old version of their menu here as their website seems to be expired.

Basil House on Urbanspoon

Tra Vinh: 70 Nicholson St, Footscray
There are plenty of places to eat in the west, so a lot of people tend to overlook Tra Vinh. This visit actually made us realise that they don’t even have pho on the menu.

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But that’s not what this place is good for! To start off we ordered some classic Vietnamese drinks, a Vietnamese iced coffee and an avocado smoothie ($3 each). My iced coffee was a little small, but considering how strong Vietnamese coffees are, it was probably for the better at night time!

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What my friend loves this place for is their hu tieu mi kho dac biet, special dry Vietnamese pork noodles (apologies for blurry photo above). The noodles and various fillings are hiding underneath those beanshoots, which you can mix altogether with the sweet chilli sauce throughout to help flavour the dry noodles. It was so addictive, my friend ordered another bowl – and why not when it’s only $9.50.

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Hu tieu can also come in a soup base, so I went with the same dish but in a soup version. It has both clear noodles and egg noodles. The broth was welcoming, tasting like a great homemade soup. They have plenty of other dishes too, but they seem to mostly be known for their hu tieu dishes.

Tra Vinh is open daily 9am-8pm. Check out their menu on Urbanspoon.

Tra Vinh on Urbanspoon

Hoa Tran: 246A Springvale Rd, Springvale
This place is always busy and boasts a large menu. Another bustling Vietnamese suburban area, Springvale is home to many restaurants and shops to embrace your inner Asian. It has everything from bubble tea to pho, so whilst you’re there, don’t forget to check out Hoa Tran. Click the picture below for full article.

Hoa Tran is open daily from 9am-9pm. Check out their menu here.

Hoa Tran on Urbanspoon

Jackson Dodds

Jackson Dodds has been on my list for a while, as it seems a popular place on my side of town and is conveniently not far from my hairdressers. It’s quite small, thus is usually packed – a good sign.

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We were seated at a bench as there were no tables. This allowed us time to peruse the menu, settle in and even order.

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We were then able to pounce on a free table when we noticed some people leaving. Service at this point felt a bit lackluster, not enthusiastic with slightly expressionless faces. It wasn’t terrible, but I just didn’t feel any heart in it.

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The decor was a bit dull and limited, although these scratchboard illustrations were something different and were even on sale for the Preston-based artist.

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The menu was extensive and had a lot of unique items that ensured we had a tough decision to make. You could sense some European influences in some of the ingredients.

I had the usual struggle of indecision, debating whether to spoil myself with something like pancakes or go for something more filling and traditional.

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My friend ended up with a steak sandwich (above, $14), which looked like the sourdough ciabatta bread itself would fill anybody up.

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She enjoyed it but did confirm that the bread helped in making her full. I, on the other hand, would prefer something less thick as I would want more space in my stomach for the filling!

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I resisted my temptation to indulge in something sweet once again and went with the lovely sounding Mushroom Medley (above, $15) with extra potato rosti ($3). With a selection of pan tossed mushrooms and fresh herbs on warm Turkish bread, mustard seed dressing and poached eggs, it sounded heavenly, but unfortunately the result was underwhelming.

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The mushrooms, or overall dish, lacked any distinct flavour and even my additional potato rosti tasted quite bland. It lacked that slightly crispy texture and wasn’t extremely hot either.

Our coffees also came quite late into our meal, and would have been much more welcome whilst we were waiting for our food. The coffee itself was not bad, but didn’t stand out to me. However, I’ve never identified myself as a coffee expert when it comes to reviewing!

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This brunch was not plagued with any nasty incidents, but I feel this cafe, which is often heralded as a great spot in the area, has not impressed enough for me to want to remember this experience. I would gladly walk down a few spots to Cheshire instead.

Jackson Dodds is located at 611 Gilbert Road, Preston. It is open 7am-3.30pm weekdays and 7.30am-3.30pm weekends. Kitchen closes at 3pm daily.

Jackson Dodds on Urbanspoon

Lady Bower

Lady Bower is located in an area of Reservoir that you wouldn’t expect to turn into. On one side is a main road but if you enter from the other side, you will drive past such an everyday suburban street that you might wonder if you’re in the right place.

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It’s your typical small and cosy suburban cafe and I enjoyed that our water was served to us in a wine bottle. We were swiftly offered the menus, specials and drink orders but I had to change my order of a latte after I spotted the display below…

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The display provides a common vintage influence, along with the feeling that you’re looking at patterns straight out of your nana’s house. Upon our request, the staff let us move inside when a table became free due to the chilly and windy weather.

20140421_130912 My hand shaken salted caramel milkshake ($4.50) came in a tall 420mL jar and looked quite pale. It tasted very milky at first, but as I got used to the taste, the salted caramel became more apparent later on. You can also get a lamington version if that sounds more appetising! Meanwhile my friends ordered a latte and cappuccino.

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Whilst we waited for our food, I observed the interior was quite minimal except for the curvy lights and the wall at the back, with a tea set that continued the cute, nana sort of theme.

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Some seats also had a knit blanket (like the corner seats above), which we assumed was to cushion the plastic seat if you wanted, but may have just been there for decoration. The tables inside were mainly small and catered to two to four people, with one large table, but I’m sure some of them can be pushed together to cater for more!

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My other friend suddenly decided she wanted a hot chocolate ($3.50), which looked like your usual. Finally we received our food, which all looked amazing. Their menu had many items, which are not your usual breakfast and lunch items, so it felt like a refreshing change.

IMG-20140422-WA0003One of us ordered the Meatballs, smokey sauce, swiss cheese, rocket salad, on a turkish bread ($9.50, above). I had a taste of one of the meatballs and it tasted cheesy and a little spicy.

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My other two friends ordered the Pork Belly roll with apple coleslaw and sriracha mayo ($12, above) with extra rosemary mushrooms ($3). I found the pork nice and tender and really flavoursome. The sriracha gave it some extra spice in a good way too. I think it’s very filling for $12, so much that I had to help one of my friend’s finish it.

Finally, I decided to go with one of the March specials, Rosemary mushrooms, pate, brioche, truffle oil and autumn leaves with poached eggs ($17.50, below). I was very curious as to what they classify as autumn leaves, but it was pretty standard.

20140421_132154I think it was a good balance between various ingredients but the truffle oil wasn’t that evident and the pate wasn’t that great. I’ve tasted better pate at Rice Paper Scissors. It made the dish a tad salty, but I managed to balance it out with the salad. Overall, it’s a great looking and filling dish and the eggs were perfect, but maybe few more elements need to be refined.

It’s not a surprise as to why Lady Bower is such a popular place in an area that is a little short in quality cafes. I think their prices are decent and the staff are friendly and attentive, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t drop by especially if you live around the area.

Lady Bower is located at 1A Marchant Avenue, Reservoir and is open Tue-Sun 8am-4pm. Check out their current menu here.

Lady Bower Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Modern Asian Restaurants: Fumanchu

Fumanchu has come up in my food searches before, but I’ve always been weary due to reviews about service and the fact that it’s related to Miss Chu, which I’m not a big fan of. But, as I felt like trying a breakfast with a twist, I thought the risk might pay off. Not to mention the place is conveniently located in the northern suburbs.

20140316_124235There is no sign at the front to indicate that you’ve reached the right place and when we walked in, we thought we had walked into a bar in the middle of the day. The place emanated a pub atmosphere with its pink neon lights and walls lined with alcohol. However, the waitress assured us we had reached Fumanchu, so we decided to sit alongside the window bench, which displayed more of typical cafe decor than the front counter.

20140316_114612 copyMeanwhile, the artwork of the seats along the bench displayed some sort of mid-20th century Asian film poster images. This made more sense after a quick Google search, discovering Fu Manchu as the name of a fictional character with an iconic moustache.20140316_115731 To start with, I ordered a mango juice whilst my friend ordered a Vietnamese iced coffee. My mango juice appeared to be freshly made as it didn’t feel full of extra sugar usually in bottled juice. The coffee surprisingly came out in a traditional fashion, with the Vietnamese coffee filtered and dripping into the condensed milk. After this, you pour it into your glass of ice. It was impressively presented but time consuming when you desperately want to drink your coffee! It was also quite strong for my liking.20140316_120931

As a fan of this Japanese food, I couldn’t go past the Japanese Okonomiyaki Pancakes ($17, above) from the ‘Something Different’ menu. It comes with shredded cabbage and peas inside the pancakes and is served with house cured salmon and wasabi mayo.

The pancakes tasted different to the ones you would get in a foodcourt, which seem to have more of a filling. However, this felt freshly made and a bit healthier with an abundance of peas. They were adequately sized to go with the salmon. The salmon provided a complimenting texture and flavour to the pancakes, which could have been a little plain on its own.

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My friend was tossing up between the Asiaotic Saute Mushrooms and the Asian Omelette ($15, above) and ended up choosing the latter with extra mushrooms. The omelette consisted of wok-tossed free-range eggs, lap cheong (Chinese sausage), Asian herbs and roti bread topped with fried shallots.

I didn’t realise the omelette would be served wrapped in roti bread, which was interesting. I also enjoyed that the side of mushrooms was a mix of different mushrooms including enoki, providing a proper Asian air to the dish. With egg and Chinese sausage, the dish incorporated many ingredients already familar to me so it filled me up well, but it wasn’t outstanding.

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I was glad I gave Fumanchu a chance as it ended up providing quite decent food. The service was okay but not horrible, it can just be a bit difficult catching someone’s attention because the place is quite spacious. The tables around me were packed when I arrived around 11.30am but empty by the time I left (pictured above).


Image courtesy of their Facebook – some lovely artwork I noticed on a wall before I left.

They also serve dinner with more recognisable Vietnamese meals such as pho (rice noodle soup) and bun (vermicelli noodles) but I’m still dubious about the authenticity, especially when they also serve non-Vietnamese dishes such as mee goreng. I’m happy to try Asian inspired dishes but when it comes to traditional food you’d have better for cheaper in Footscray or Springvale. That being said, I haven’t actually tried it so if any one has tried their dinner food please tell me about it in the comments!

Fumanchu has changed its name to Chumanchu but it doesn’t feel too official with their name still the same on Facebook. The restaurant is open Tue-Sun 8am-10pm and is located at 2 Gilbert Road, Preston. Check out some old versions of their breakfast menu here and takeaway dinner menu here.

Fu Manchu on Urbanspoon

Brother Alec

If you’re familiar with the northern suburbs, you’ll know that High St is not lacking in places to eat and cafes. The other weekend I decided to try Brother Alec, even though I’d read a review that they hardly stood out from other cafes on the street.

The place is quite small, normal for a local cafe. The service was exceptional the moment we walked in. Whilst we decided whether we should sit inside or out, they mistook our hesitation as want for a better table (we would be sitting at a shared table indoors). Thus a couple they had just seated were moved to the communal table, allowing us our own table for three people. Of course we felt bad, but it’s good to know how accommodating they can be and their eagerness to satisfy customers.

Our drink orders were taken and I went for a standard iced coffee for the summer heat ($5), my friend got her normal latte but my other friend went for an adventurous choice – the Alaska (#4.5, bottom left).

This was a glass of iced water with double espresso along with milk and sugar syrup on the side to add at her own leisure. As with DIY hot chocolates, I love the ability to mix your own drink and I liked how they went for something different to a hot chocolate, a cold drink.

I really enjoyed my iced coffee as often they come too bitter, thus the order is always a risk for me and sometimes I prefer the iced chocolate as I definitely know they’ll be sweet. But this wasn’t too bitter and the ice-cream scoop mixed well into the coffee, resulting in a very happy me!

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When it came to the menu we noticed their signature dish to have a Mexican sound, the Huevos Rancheros ($17). They even had a staff leaderboard of who had eaten this dish the quickest. I did notice a slight Mexican influence as they had Mexican sauces on their shelf and they had items such as nachos and housemade chipotle black bean chilli on the menu.

I was also curious as to what “housemade chorizo crumble” was, as listed with the tomato poached eggs. I was told that it was diced chorizo, then cooked together to make pieces of crumble (something like that, I’m no cook). Luckily, their latest menu includes this in their “extras” section so I could order it as a side with my Pork Belly (below) dish, which is not on their latest menu on their website.

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This included pork belly slices, cornbread, poached eggs and diced cucumber and tomato. The bread was nice and fluffy, ensuring it plays a big part in filling you up. The pork was perfectly cooked, tender and not too hard to cut at all. I also enjoyed the diced ingredients on the side to balance out the heaviness of the pork and bread.

The chorizo crumble (the small plate in the middle) looked a little similar to popcorn chicken but it was great – crunchy and crispy but still with that distinctive taste of chorizo. It was a bit salty so I think it needs to be eaten with more bread and vegies, but of course, as I ordered it on the side and already had meat this was bound to happen.

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Both of my friends ordered sandwiches, but they were quite different. One got the Breakfast Roll – Turkish roll, omelette, housemade basil mayo and tomato relish with bacon or spinach (12.50, top left). She also added mushrooms as a lover of mushrooms. It was definitely very tasty, I think the sauces and breakfast ingredients made it rich in flavour compared to a plain sandwich.

My other friend got a classic BLAT, which you can get with bacon or haloumi and she went with bacon ($13.50). You can also add a fried egg so it came to $15. I didn’t taste this but it does have a lot of rocket in it, so if you’re not a fan of rocket stray far away!

The service was very attentive and I enjoyed all aspects of the meal, which I feel I have found rare in my latest posts. The staff cleared our clean plates very soon after we were done but not with the feeling that they wanted us out. When we went to pay, the waiter who had been looking after us squeezed himself in front of the counter in front of his fellow staff member in order to sort out our bill swiftly.

Brother Alec is located at 719 High St, Thornbury and are open 7am-3.30pm on weekdays and 8am-3pm on weekends. Their Autumn menu from last year can be found here but they have a more up to date one for summer I think!

Brother Alec on Urbanspoon