Tag Archives: Preston

Mission #1: N & N Vietnamese Kitchen

Preston’s High St welcomes yet another Vietnamese eatery. I’m not complaining of course, as I’m hoping for a Vietnamese place closer to home that will rival the likes of Footscray, St Albans and Springvale. Continue reading

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Mission #1: Lentil As Anything

You may have heard of Lentil as Anything, as there are several branches in Melbourne. It’s known for its unique payment method – you pay however much you feel it’s worth.

20140810_174059The most popular one is located at Abbotsford Convent, and so I had this in mind for my vegetarian mission. It wasn’t until I started looking it up online that I discovered there was one much closer to home in Preston.

The interior was small and basic, which was expected for a place that runs on donations. However as we were waiting for our food, we decided to check out the courtyard at the back.
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It definitely had that grungy feel with graffiti and dreamcatchers decorating the place, but it also looked like a great spot if you were to drop in for brunch or on a sunny day.

20140810_174527As it was cold, we remained at our table inside, but we were glad we made the effort to see what was hidden at the back.

20140810_175030This branch provides table service, which was prompt. I went with the curry platter, which came with some rice, dhal, curry, salad and pappadum. It wasn’t amazing, and the curry and dhal could have been a lot hotter (temperature-wise and spiciness-wise). To be honest, I’ve tried dhal made by a film festival colleague, which tasted a lot better!
20140810_175023My friend ordered the Indian minestrone soup, which seemed to have a herbal flavour in the soup that wasn’t to my taste. A little towards the end my friend also believed he found a hair in his soup at which point we moved on to the salad…
20140810_175534The Vietnamese salad was surprisingly delicious. I was reluctant to order something Vietnamese at a place like this because, as we are both Vietnamese, I didn’t think it would be up to standard. However the tofu on top was excellent, covered in some nice, sweet sauce.

Our only gripe would be there was not enough tofu!
20140810_180135My friend enjoyed his cappuccino, whilst I ordered a hot chocolate. It looked lovely but took a little while to come out and the froth felt cold.
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And so I’m glad I got to try something out of my comfort zone, which is what the mission is all about. Unfortunately the place did not surprise me with some amazing food, but the people were lovely and attentive. I might give the Abbotsford Convent one a go in the future.

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Lentil As Anything is located at 288 High St, Preston and is open for lunch 12-3pm and dinner 5-9pm everyday. Check out their menu here.

Lentil as Anything on Urbanspoon

As always for this month’s mission, I would like to remind you I have chosen vegetarian as my first adventure to raise awareness of the Environmental Film Festival Melbourne. Our program is now live and you can watch our trailer below!

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

Maharaja Tandoori Cuisine: A Menulog Delivery

Recently I was invited to sample and review Australia’s number one online takeaway system Menulog.

I was given a voucher and paid for the remainder of my meal. The website is quite straightforward and easy to use. From the homepage all you need to do is type in your suburb – I typed in Lalor as I was eating at a friend’s place.

Consequently, it lists restaurants in your suburb and surrounding suburbs that will deliver to you. You also have the option to pick up but for the purposes of this review we went with a delivery.

I hardly have food delivered to my house so it is a little nerve racking as you worry about whether they will deliver your order correctly and on time. I chose Maharaja Tandoori Cuisine in Preston as I’ve eaten there previously and enjoyed it. Furthermore the reviews and ratings on Menulog were quite high.

Another useful feature of Menulog is you can choose a delivery time and order when they aren’t even open. We chose 7pm and I ordered quite early in the day. I received a confirmation text message just after 5pm as the restaurant opens in the evening.

The food arrived at 7.10pm, which I find reasonable considering it’s around when everyone is driving home from work. Preston is also about a 15-20minute drive, depending on traffic, from Lalor.

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A receipt was included with our order so we could check everything was there. I was impressed that it was packaged quite meticulously. Each dish, which has a lot of sauce, was stacked and covered tightly in layers of glad wrap whilst our naan bread and Tandoori chicken came in foil and a bag.

Since we weren’t too familiar with Indian food, some Googling of the menu was involved prior to ordering. We couldn’t go past the classic Butter Chicken (above, bottom dish, $12.99) and I enjoyed dipping our warm and slightly crispy naan bread (below, $1.99 each) into the sauce.

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We also decided we would try some different meats in various sauces, so after some online searches we chose the Prawn Makhani ($14.99, below photo, top dish). It looked and tasted a little similar to the butter chicken, but that means we enjoyed it.

Another aspect of the online ordering is some dishes have the option to choose your preferred level of spiciness. I chose mild for this one, but it wasn’t spicy at all, so I’d suggest if you want some spice to perhaps choose the highest one!

20140612_192412Our last curry sort of dish was the Lamb Korma (top right, $13.99), which has more of a yellow sauce. The sauce is more coconut based than the chicken and prawn dishes. We didn’t enjoy it as much but it was still good to experience some new and different type of Indian dishes.
20140612_192416Finally we chose the Tandoori Chicken (8 pieces for $16.99). It had a subtle barbecue flavour but not enough to rival the Filipino barbecue my friend is so used to.

We also received some extra sauces, but we weren’t sure what they were for as we hardly eat Indian. Times like these is when sitting in a restaurant becomes a little helpful as you can ask what it goes best with. But besides these little aspects, the delivery went smoothly and the ordering process was simple and convenient.

If you are looking for a night in but don’t want to cook, this is the perfect website. I hope more restaurants in the northern suburbs get onto it so we can have a few more options, as at the moment they are mainly Indian and Italian restaurants.

menulog2To assist you with this experience, I’m offering two $10 Menulog vouchers. All you need to do is follow the steps above and I will select the winners randomly in the following week or so.
Conditions: Expires 1 month after winner selection, only valid for delivery, Credit Card and 1 use only.

Visit Menulog here to check out your local options.

Meanwhile, Maharaja Tandoori Cuisine is located at 560 High St, Preston and is open Mon-Fri 4.30-10.30pm and Fri-Sun 12pm-10.30pm.

Maharaja Tandoori Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Another Northern Brunch Roundup

Welcome to another look at some lovely brunch places in the northern suburbs, proving convenient to all the lazy northerners who do not want to travel any further than needed for a decent meal. Apologies for the lack of posts lately but unfortunately life gets a tad busy sometimes. Anyway, I’m back and ready to tempt you with lots of food.

Fifteen Pounds: 21/23 Railway Place, Fairfield

I was surprised to find that this exciting and unique cafe was located just across from Fairfield Station – and that I used to go past it every morning in the car on the way to work! It looks quite small and cosy, but being a warm day, we had to make the most of this rare, warm day amidst Melbourne’s bout of unpredictable weather.

As this was quite a late brunch, I didn’t feel the need for coffee and we both ended up with berry smoothies coming in the latest trend of large, filling jars. They were very big, but more importantly milky and refreshing for the warm day.

Berry smoothies

After escaping the claws of temptation from the wagyu burger on the menu, I decided that it wasn’t a good idea to stomach such a heavy meal late in the day (and before a badminton session!) The specials tempted us with their unusual sounding dishes, thus my friend and I both chose from this menu.

My best friend’s dish was baked trout and shrimp with poached eggs, salsa verde, toaste and lemon air (below, courtesy of her Instagram – click through for her profile). Curiosity was evidently upon us, as we read “lemon air,” and to our amazement it was our favourite part of the dish. It’s the very pale yellow sauce in focus and it had a very unique taste, almost as if it belonged in a dessert, yet it worked so well in this dish. It had a light tangy flavour like lemon, yet it was a bit sweet too, like icing…but not.

Next up was my fish and chips (below), but it was not your ordinary serving as you can see. In fact it included purple french fries, made from some handy sweet potato, and barramundi plated quite pleasantly on the lettuce leaves.

The fries didn’t even taste that different from normal french fries, which I found impressive. They may not look attractive but they were crisp and crunchy, but every now again you do notice a taste that indicates that it’s actually sweet potato (no complaints). The fish was perfectly cooked and had a crispy skin on the outside, just the way I like it, and the sauce was light and garnished with greens.

These dishes are the type that don’t look filling but surprisingly are, proving quality over quantity. I absolutely loved their creativity and wonder if it’s worth going back to try all their interesting specials. They are such a small, local looking cafe, that you might not think twice passing by – but if you stop and take a look, some of their items may just surprise you. A gem for this section of town.

Prices are similar to usual brunch dishes, but may reach $20+ for some of the larger meals.

Fifteen Pounds is open Tue-Fri 7am-4pm and 8am-4pm on weekends.

Fifteen Pounds on Urbanspoon

Cheshire: 583 Gilbert Road, West Preston

I finally made it to Cheshire, a place that’s been on my list for a while. My first time, it was very busy. The layout and decor was nothing special, perhaps a tad small and cramped inside seating-wise, but luckily some people were leaving the communal table so we didn’t have to wait.

We both ordered lattes, which were fairly standard. I don’t drink coffee a lot now so I can’t claim to be an expert in this area. So on to the food – I ordered baked polenta with poached eggs, spinach, caramelised onion and extra chorizo (below). You know, just in case I would still be hungry….and I definitely wasn’t.

The meal was lovely, everything from the eggs to chorizo were perfectly cooked and I enjoyed the caramelised onions. It was faultless, but I don’t think a dish like this will stand out in my head when I think back to my brunch outings.

My friend ordered the caramelised scrambled eggs ($13) with extra mushrooms and chorizo too (below). I believe the toast might have been a little hard in some sections, so it was difficult to cut and eat, but the remainder of the dish was not bad. Once again, nothing that really stands out but a decent place to satisfy typical brunch and breakfast cravings.

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The staff are fairly attentive and nice, so that’s a plus, and thus I didn’t really mind coming back to visit with my other friend as it was near our hairdresser. The weather was nice this time, thus outdoor seating was fine and more spacious for us (seated on a table for four). It also wasn’t as busy during this Saturday lunch time, compared to the previous visit during a Sunday morning.

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I was curious as to what was on the specials’ board, so my friend went around to take a picture of it. The nice waiter witnessed this, then brought it around and placed it right in front of us.

In an indulgent mood, I went for a sweet meal of pear pancakes with chantilly cream, maple syrup, roasted hazelnuts and cinnamon sugar (below, $15) paired with an iced chocolate.


Iced chocolate

The iced chocolate was tall and enticing, although the top didn’t look like a lot of thought had gone into this part of the presentation. My friend also ordered an iced coffee, which looked a bit pale compared to other places.

The pancakes were stacked and provided an excellent sweet flavour, courtesy of the chantilly cream. I’m usually not a fan of cream but this one won me over, a little subtler and more flavoursome than whipped cream. The stack was thick but I don’t feel there was enough maple syrup to go with this many pancakes. The hazelnuts were nice and crunchy, so overall I was happy with ny choice as it was perfect to indulge in.

Pear pancakes

My friend ordered poach eggs on toast (below, $10) with some extra tomato and chorizo. The eggs were not perfectly done, in fact they looked strangely pale and yellow and not deep and orange. As you can see, one egg is also a bit broken. Hence, the cafe didn’t prove itself amazing with this dish.

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Thus, Cheshire can often provide you the comfort breakfast food you need, the staff are friendly and accommodating but they’re not an extremely standout cafe.

Cheshire is open Mon-Fri 7am-4pm and 8am-4pm on weekends.

Cheshire on Urbanspoon

St Alexander’s Kitchen: 130A Alexander Ave, Thomastown

If you’re still dying for a little more or you just want to drool at some more pictures of the food I eat, I’ve written a Weekendnotes article on St Alexander’s Kitchen after my second trip. My first trip is documented in my previous Brunch in the North post, however my article takes in to account both visits.

St Alexander's Kitchen

In short, the Spanish omelette (top) was massive and tasty, and the Hangover breakfast (bottom) was a bit salty. The toast was a bit hard this time around and they might want to cut back on parmesan in some areas… but I enjoyed my omelette nonetheless and I love their stacked presentation of their dishes and homely feel.

St Alexander's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Read more here and also feel free to recommend me other good places in the northern suburbs!

Brunch in the North

As a “northsider”, it’s natural for me to be curious as to what foodie goodies the suburbs have stored. When you’re not in the mood to travel to a highly rated cafe in the inner suburbs and suffer a wait, it’s good every now and again to explore your own area.

Miss Marie: 45 Beetham Parade, Rosanna

Miss Marie is a small cafe that lies in a street near Rosanna Station. It’s often bustling with locals and mums and bubs. The first time I went, I could not resist the French toast ($13.50, above) with banana and bacon! Drenched in syrup and covered in icing sugar, I enjoyed the meal immensely and had never heard of bacon with French toast before! (Apparently, it’s a Canadian thing?) The banana looks a little burnt in the photo but from memory, it was just slightly charred and did not make the dish any less enjoyable.

My second outing, my starving friend and I went immediately for the Big Breakfast ($16.50) and two pots of tea. The only slight problems included our waitress forgetting which tea was which, and two overly attached bees that drove us to move our meal inside.

Overall, it’s a good local place that can serve traditional breakfast dishes just as good as anywhere else for reasonable prices. There’s usually sufficient street parking and it is a good down-to-earth place for a long chat.

Miss Marie on Urbanspoon

Tyler St Cafe: 235A Tyler St, Preston

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Preston is a suburb not particularly short of brunch places, but amidst the popular cries for Jackson Dodds and Cheshire (both of which I’m yet to try), my friend convinced me to try a tiny cafe hidden on Tyler St.

I can’t believe I haven’t noticed it before, as it’s just off Plenty Rd and I go past that corner all the time. The shop seemed to be run by one man, who I presume is the owner. He was happy to take our drink orders as we walked in, despite running other orders. We chuckled at the Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie Beans on the menu, whilst we observed the seating inside was quite basic but had some interesting knickknacks such as this little board dedicated to Marilyn Monroe (above).

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I chose the Calabrese eggs ($12.50, pictured) with extra chorizo and mushrooms ($7), whilst my friends had different sandwiches (ranging from $8-$12). The owner was quite entertaining, a joker who kept teasing my friend who asked for no parmesan, and looked at my other friend weirdly when she ordered a vegetarian sandwich – with bacon. The servings were large (or was that just because of my extras?) and I enjoyed the tomato paste with my sausage and eggs.

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I would love to go back, but the other items on the menus don’t stand out to me from any other cafe. Maybe if I’m in the area and in the mood for a sandwich and a bit of entertainment from the owner!

Tyler St Cafe on Urbanspoon

St Alexander’s Kitchen: 130A Alexander Ave, Thomastown

Even closer to home (hope this is not revealing to everyone where I live haha), is St Alexander’s Kitchen. This is perhaps, the most surprising and hidden, as after my friend and I parked, we were doubtful if we were in the right place and if the joint was even open. It’s on a little strip of shops in Thomastown near a Foodworks store, and wasn’t bright from the outside, with just a little dingy sign to lead us in.

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The surprising thing about them, is that they are known for their pizzas for dinner, so who knew they would be exceptionally good at serving brunch. They only serve it on weekends, so it might explain why many people don’t know. The staff were attentive, but it wasn’t busy so I can only judge from this experience. Their decor was another collection of antiques that you would find at a garage sale, and it was cute nevertheless.

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I’m on a coffee ban so I ordered my other usual besides tea, a refreshing mango juice. I chose the Shakshuka ($15, above), scrambled eggs with pastrimi, cheese and tomato. You will come to know from my blogs I don’t like a lot of things: coconut, tomato, pineapple etc. But sometimes the deliciousness of something can outweigh the inclusion of these ingredients….or I just give it to my friends to eat.

It was delicious, but towards the end I had to give up on the leftover tomato. It’s also a very large portion and uniquely plated. I particularly enjoyed the presentation of my friend’s Eggs Benedict ($14, above – credit to my friend’s Instagram photo), which was stacked very high. I’m impressed it didn’t topple over.

Out of all these places, I would like to go back to St Alexander’s, as their menu has a few other things, like omelettes, that I wouldn’t mind trying, and it’s not very far for my friends and I. They have an outdoor seating at the back that I would like to try on a good Melbourne weather day and of course, I might need to try their pizzas for dinner some time!

St Alexander's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

I have many more places to explore, and many more I haven’t mentioned. Stay tuned, recommend me some good places in the north, or give me your thoughts on these places!