Edgewater eats goss

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Oh dear – it’s gone!

Lakehouse has closed.

And once more what seems like it could be, should be one of the jewels of western suburbs eating has that forlorn, vacated vibe.

The place has been stripped bare of furnishings and fittings.

 

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The “for lease” sign that speaks of a “wonderful waterfront hospitality opportunity” calls for expressions of interest by April 22.

April just past or 2016?

We strongly suspect the former.

 

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About three-quarters of the way up the hill, a branch of St Burgs looks about ready to roll.

It’s situated in a new apartment block and in one of eight ground-floor retail spaces, only one other of which is on its way to being occupied – by a laundrette.

The easy availability of flash burgers ‘n’ things will no doubt be both an exciting blessing and a bit of too much of a good thing for the local residents, of which there are many.

For the rest of us, access will not be easy – there’s no parking at all on adjacent streets.

The nearest is at the Edgewater shopping precinct further up the hill or down on the flat.

Fabulous Greek

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Philhellene, 551-553 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9370 3303

Uh-oh – there’s a hair in our dolmades!

Not to worry, though … the follicle is entirely imaginary but is still being plucked from our food by our Philhellene host as a comic reaction to my taking of photographs.

We’re happy to say it’s that kind of place.

It’s our first visit to Philhellene – one that has been long anticipated and we’re happy to do it in our series putting the spotlight on Moonee Ponds (see full disclosure below).

But because of its renown, I’d expected something a little more formal and starchy.

What we get, instead, is pretty much your typical Greek setting and wonderful welcome.

 

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The service is very fine and our food arrives exceedingly promptly.

That food is very, very good – this is Greek food definitely at the upper end of what is available in Melbourne.

It costs, of course, but not as much as we had feared – indeed, the Philhellene pricing is on par with all the other famed Melbourne Greek eateries.

But where it stands out is its lovingly long offering of provincial specials.

It’s for that reason we steer away from the basic $35 per person banquet for a minimum of two – you can check it out with the rest of the Philhellene menu here.

Frankly, it sounds like an outrageous bargain – but we’re familiar with almost everything it has.

Instead, we go a la carte and have a fine old time.

I am drawn to the long specials list with a sense of wonder mixed with frustration that we will be able to try so little of what’s offered.

I mean, how insanely good do fried sardine fillets with pickled fennel sound?

Or lamb and artichoke fricassee?

Sigh … but onwards.

 

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Our admirably unhairy silverbeet dolmades are sensational, though quite pricey at $12.50 the pair.

When we have the traditional, vegetarian stuffed vine leaves – be they Turkish, Greek, Lebanese, Whatever – we prefer them unheated.

By contrast, these are served hot and they suit it – the innards are delicious, tender mix of rice, seasonings and beef.

 

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For our other starters, we do stick to familiar Greek staples – one of them is this terrific tarama.

It’s a generous serve for $8.50, especially as it’s as fresh and tangy as we could wish and is served with beaut house-made bread.

 

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Our calamari ($14.50) is well fried and tender but does tend to lose out in the flavour stakes when compared with the other dishes we enjoy.

 

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For me, one of the main reasons to visit Philhellene is to enjoy lamb – not shaved from a spit nor cubed and put on skewers, but instead roasted.

We take a slightly different tack on that Greek philosophy by getting the roast kid goat ($29.95).

It has wow factor in abundance.

The meat is perhaps a tad too salty but is oh-so-wonderful and really does fall from the bones.

The roast spuds and well-cooked mix of peas ‘n’ broad beans come to the dance, too.

Together with our other selections, this single goat serve does us well – though Bennie is so impressed, he later reckons he could easily scoff a whole serve by his own self.

 

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For a final splash of colour, we love our beetroot salad ($16.50, in which baby beetroots – and their tops – have been boiled and then simply dressed with dukkah and yogurt.

It, too, is wonderful.

We’ve ordered well and eaten superbly – but it is with some regret that we head into the night without giving into the temptation of trying something from the desserts list (see below).

When explaining to our host our hesitation about ordering an overly familiar banquet line-up, he told us such could be varied and that a list of staples is simply what some customers seek and require.

That makes us reckon the way to go at Philhellene is to nominate to the staff a price per person you want to pay and then simply announce: “Bring us food!”

Or, if you’re up for it, go for the horiatiko banquet, which costs $60 per punter and is described as “the ultimate of tasting our favourite dishes”.

As it says on the Philhellene website: “Trust us in providing you with a memorable food experience …. this is the only way we would eat with our family and friends.”

(This story has been sponsored by Moone Valley City Council. But in all other regards it is a regular Consider The Sauce post – we chose the restaurant and when to eat there; we ordered what we wanted and paid for it ourselves; and neither oversight nor an editorial role were sought by the council.)

 

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Classic Italian, well worth a drive

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Customs House Restaurant & Bar, 57-59 Brougham Street, Geelong. Phone: 5246 6500

Dinner in Geelong?

Sure, why not!

Truth is, since departing the Geelong Advertiser, Consider The Sauce has been in that city just once – on the way to and from a nice winery lunch.

Since then that city has been pretty much out of sight and out of mind.

Oddly enough, places that were whizzed by countless commuting times – such as Werribee – have since become the locations of numerous CTS visitations.

But Geelong?

No.

 

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But … as it happens, one of our cherished and now regular dining companions and her other half have Geelong ties, and are only too happy to make up a table when an invitation arrives from Customs House (see full disclosure below).

And – again, as it happens – both my friends happen to be in Geelong on the day/night in question.

So I make the journey happily alone, eschewing the temptation of firing up the chopper and departing plenty early instead by car.

The traffic is heavy but flowing steadily, and I enjoy a nice drive fuelled by Haiatian rhythms.

I arrive with about an hour to spare before dinner time, which allows me to indulge in casual stroll around the CBD and waterfront.

There’s some sad-looking boarded-up shops on the main drag but elsewhere – on Malop Street and the waterfront – there’s been some attractive and cool eats additions so I bide my time menu grazing.

NOW it’s dinner time.

 

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The first surprises, for me, are both the location and the building itself – for some reason I had in my mind’s eye that Customs House was another historic building, one closer to the train station.

This actual Customs House is almost on the waterfront and very striking at night with it expanse of lawn leading down to the bay.

Inside, the low ceiling lends the place a clubbish feel and whole feels very nice and welcoming.

For all the swishness of the surroundings, the vibe is casual and friendly.

Another surprise is the menu (see below).

For some inexplicable reason all three of us had been expecting bistro or “modern Australian” – what we find is classic, straight-up Italian.

And the just fine by us as we’re all partial to just that!

Everything we have is good or better – even, in the cases of one of our mains and a couple of the desserts, ranging into outstanding territory.

It all compares very favourably with the fare of any of the several western suburbs Italian places we like.

 

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Fresh asparagus spears wrapped and grilled in proscuitto, served with a lemon mascarpone ($16) finds us each tucking into a lovely bundle, with the pig salty and chewy and the mascarpone a delicious touch.

 

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Arancini della nonna are rice balls stuffed with talleggio, crumbed, fried and served with a napoli sauce ($16). They’re fine, with green peas providing extra texture.

 

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Focaccia with roasted garlic oil and rosemary salt ($8) is agreeably on the dry side, crumbly and enjoyable. We mop up the last of the rice ball napoli sauce with it, as well.

 

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House gnocchi with parmesan cream, pork and fennel sausage and mushrooms ($34) appears to be almost overly rich but is enjoyed by its recipient.

 

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My zuppa de pesce ($42) boasts a broth that is rich, deep and flavoursome with seafood stock.

The seafood is good, though the mussels are tiny and the whole is weighted heavily towards baby octopus – no matter, I scoff the lot with glee.

 

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The simple, rustic pollo alla cacciatora ($38) is big hit, its hefty chook chunk tender, juicy and oh-so-fine despite the depth of the meat.

I try it, thanks to my companion.

I wish it was mine.

Now it’s on to desserts – we’re excited as the three featured are faves all round.

 

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Chocolate panna cotta with hazelnut praline ($16) is fine and enjoyable but the least of our three sweeties.

It’s with the …

 

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… traditonal tiramisu ($15) and the …

 

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… the white chocolate creme brulee with blueberries ($16.50) that our lovely evening ends with giddy highs that have us sighing with pleasure.

This is Italian dessert making of a very high order!

With that it’s back up the road for me, a familiar drive to the strains of Benin Afro-funk made all the easier and even enjoyable thanks to a fine meal enjoyed with good friends.

Check out the Customs House website here.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Customs House as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meal. We chose from regular menu and had no restrictions placed upon us in doing so. Customs House management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

 

Click to add a blog post for Customs House Restaurant & Wine Bar on Zomato

 

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Ace cake, minestrone

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Kensington Market, Kensington Town Hall, 30-34 Bellair Street.

From the street, Kensington Market doesn’t appear as if it amounts to much – a handful of stalls, a couple of which doing food: Gozleme, corn, snags.

Once along a hallway and into Kensington Town Hall proper an entirely different picture emerges.

 

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The hall is chockers with a quite diverse range of “maker” goodies – clothing, crafts of many sorts, jam, artwork and much more.

Even better, an adjacent room has a whole of lot of food stuff going on.

There’s nothing too elaborate, mind you – no sit-down meals or the like.

But there’s more than enough for me make myself at home for an hour or so, eat well and meet some lovely folks.

One crew, manning the in-house kitchen, is doing things such as toasties and egg and bacon rolls at extremely low prices.

 

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From them I procure minestrone for a silly cheap $4.

OK, it’s a smallish serve in a polystyrene cup – but gosh it’s the real deal and very good!

 

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I enjoy making friends with Von and her pal Ocea.

Von makes her living cooking for kids so her Von’s Vegan Bake House operation is a weekend thing.

Her range of sweet, baked things is impressive and enticing.

 

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I have a slice of one of her cakes with my coffee.

It seems like a modestly proportioned piece for $6 but this ain’t no airy fairy sponge – it has real heft and is delicious.

 

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From Von I also secure some cookies – don’t they look amazing?

(I find out at home that they indeed are …)

 

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Right next door, I meet Simone and Sam who are here representing St Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church, also of Kensington, and raising money to help feed the homeless.

 

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From them I get – also for taking home – some luscious-looking rice pud!

Even better, they tell me that in a few weeks their church will be holding its annual fete, at which there will be all sorts of Egyptian food on offer.

Unless unforeseen factors intrude, CTS will be there – I can just about taste it already!

The next Kensington Market will be on Sunday, August 16.

Check out the market’s website here and Facebook page here.

I can understand the allure of food festivals.

But every weekend somewhere near you there’s fairs and markets and fetes that do food, too.

It’s a parallel universe I prefer.

Ebi – new crew, still good

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So it’s true – John has moved on from Ebi.

I’m sure I far from alone in knowing I’ll miss his humour, geniality and hosting deftness.

But I am interested to see if time-honoured Ebi traditions are being upheld in Essex Street – and I do so via my regular order of large fish and chips.

The answer is: Yes.

The best indicator of this being the case is the presence of pickles – in this case beautifully sweet radish and gentle, soft wong bok.

The two pieces of blue grenadier are very big – if I’d known I would have a specified a smaller order.

Brendan is running the joint until the establishment’s new owner takes the rain in about a month.

He tells me he and his team is being very careful to keep the Ebi “thing” going.

So it seems that while further changes may be in the offing, in the shorter term the good ship Ebi sails onwards gaily.

See earlier story here.

 

 

CTS Feast No.12: Curry Leaves

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To book for this event, click here.

Right from our first meal at Curry Leaves in Sunshine – there have been several since – I knew this was the sort of place and the sort of people I would love to feature in a Consider The Sauce Feast.

And so CTS Feast No.12 is up and running!

Here are the details:

CTS Feast No.12: Curry Leaves,
463 Ballarat Road, Sunshine. Phone: 8528 3876.
Date: Tuesday, August 11.Time: 7pm.

Cost: $20.

Menu

Entree platter
Pan roll
Stuffed roti
Fish cutlet
Fish pattie
(The above can be made vegetarian but I will need to give the restaurant 24 hours notice.)

Gotu kola (herbal soup of greens coconut milk).

Mains – choice of one.
Biriyani
Lampraris
Roti meal
String hoppers meal
Hoppers meal
String hoppers pilau
Kottu
(All the above can be prepared as vegetarian.)

Dessert platter
Curd and honey
Wattalappam (steamed coconut custard)
Caramel pudding
Choc biscuit pudding

Bennie and I are looking forward to seeing you there!

To book for this event, click here.

(Ticket income from this event is being split 50/50 between CTS and Curry Leaves.)

Bastille Day/Small French Bar

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Small French Bar, Shop 3 154 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 8479

Stefan has his liquor licence now – so is able to proclaim happily: “I reckon we are a bar now!”

My understanding that he’ll have his delightful establishment doing dinners on Friday and Saturday nights in addition to the regular breakfast and lunch hours.

When he posts on Facebook details of a special Bastille Day dinner of three courses for $55, Consider The Sauce and friends leap at the opportunity with alacrity.

Our group ends up being of six, so we are allocated the long, tall table and the accompanying stools – about which we care not a jot.

We are very happy to be together and enjoying such a lovely meal, all agreeing that Small French Bar is a wonderful addition to Footscray, its affordable fare and homely vibe fitting right into the “food for the people” ethos that surrounds it.

 

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To start we are served a glass apiece of kir royal and amuse bouche of salmon mousse slathered on baguette and …

 

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… superbly fresh ‘n’ salty oysters.

Oh my!

 

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I confess my exposure to French cooking is extremely limited and that feuillete d’escargots a la Provençale (snails and garlic butter pastry) is my very first exposure to snails as food.

What to think?

Hmmm … not bad, nice flavour, quite chewy.

More like mushies than the oyster facsimile I’d been anticipating.

 

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I share my pastry with a dining companion who has ordered the assiette de charcuterie (cold meat plate).

Ahhh, this is more my go – very nice!

 

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Only one of group orders the non-meat main Рratatouille Nicoise a la buche de ch̬vre (Mediterranean vegetables stew with melted goats cheese).

He’s happy with his lot and it does look a treat … I’d certainly be happy to eat this.

But … like the rest of us, I’m pretty much ecstatic about the boeuf Bourguignon of beef and ox tail stew in red wine (top photograph).

This has us all “ooohing” and “aaahing”.

It’s fabulous, sweet, rich, hearty and perfect!

 

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Fondant au chocolat (chocolate self-saucing pudding) appears modest of portion but is more substantial than it looks, sublimely gooey and of very intense flavour.

 

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Tarts aux pommes (crunchy apple tart) rounds out the menu options.

The verdict of one who goes this route?

“Great!”

See earlier post here.