Meal of the week No.21: Tre Bicchieri




A sizable chunk of my working life was spent working on a metropolitan Sunday newspaper.

That meant 12-hour slogs on Saturdays and perpetual irregular weekends of Sundays and Mondays.

So my current working regime – hard yakka with Star Weekly on Mondays and Tuesdays, two days “off”, Fridays back at Keilor Park, then the weekend – seems like a miracle.





Not, mind you, that I am idle on those mid-week days.

Far from it – I get out and about, usually cramming so much living and blogging and food stuff into two days that it always seems a surprise when I return to my regular gig.

It can be a bit disconcerting but I do love it all.

This week’s Wednesday, for example, involved a morning blog post followed by a journey to Camberwell to meet and talk with a cafe owner disgruntled and dismayed by approaches being made to him by Zomato (and by the nature of those approaches), followed by a haul to Royal Melbourne Hospital for a blood test and then a visit to Williamstown for more food business.




Post-Camberwell and pre-test, I pull into Rathdowne Street looking for somewhere to have a quick lunch.

Upon stepping in Tre Bicchieri (623 Rathdowne Street), I grin with delight as the memories flood in.

This was a frequent lunch spot for me when a regular part of another weekly routine involved a weekly radio show on PBS.

Gosh, it’s a sweet place.

The staff are happy and fully into their work.

Even better, it manages to be oh-so-classy yet at the same time relaxed, welcoming and absolutely non-hipster.

I wish it was in the west.

The general vibe – and much of the produce stocked on the shelves – seems to be Italian.

But the menu (see below) is broader than that.




From the specials board, I choose corn fritters with spinach, avocado, poached egg and zaatar ($18.50).

As with most such constructions, it eats bigger than it suggests upon visual appraisal.

It’s all top quality, though I’m not persuaded that the zaatar – denoting, in this case, the Middle Eastern seasoning mix of  sesame seeds, oregano and more, rather than pita bread baked with the mix on top – is a good match for the salmon.

But the smoked fish does go beaut with the wilted spinach underneath the extremely corny fritters.

I’m eager to be back on the road and taking care of business so don’t linger over a coffee.

But the cafe latte roadie I depart with is perfect.





Cool cafe for Braybrook

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The Mist Factory, corner South Road/Duke Street, Braybrook.

There was a quite a buzz going on when Quan Viet opened in 2011 on the South Road shopping strip in Braybrook.

Quite rightly, too, as their Vietnamese tucker was very good.

Sadly, it closed quite some time ago now, replaced in the first instance by a generic-style noodle shop (I had a single, very mediocre meal there) and in the second instance by a new Vietnamese place, the quality of which we have yet to ascertain.

Happily, still on the strip – though currently undergoing renovations – is the home of Gerry’s Pittes.

Our 2012 story on Gerry’s continues to be read regularly, confirming these flatbreads’ cult status!

Now, in good news all-round but especially for Braybrook locals, the South Road shopping strip boasts its very own cool cafe.




I love the fit-out of The Mist Factory – there’s wood and enamelled chairs and stools; the vibe is elegant and simple.

(The name, BTW, comes from the “vape” business run by the same folks, with some of the products available down the back of the cafe.)

Having a hunch The Mist Factory would not be a serious lunch place, I did not soak muesli the previous night so am happy to step out for a rare breakfast engagement.




My breakfast ($12.50, from the handwritten list presented with printed menu – see below) is very nice.

The eggs are expertly scrambled and sprinkled with just right amount of dukkah.

There’s a bunch – so to speak – of lovely spinach under those eggs, while the sourdough toast is fine and the bacon of high quality.




For lunch or other non-breakfast times, there’s a range of filled Turkish rolls, panini, slices and cookies.

My two cafe lattes are good.

One of The Mist Factory crew, Peter, tells me it’s very early days for their cafe and that they consider the present situation pretty much “a soft opening”.

He hopes the place will become something of a late-night hang.











Top-notch burgers in Kensington

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Mr Ed, 285 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 9376 6444

“Cafe By Day, Burger Bar By Night” – that’s Mr Ed in Kensignton.

Having checked it out in the former regard – see here – it’s become a sometime coffee spot for me, and perhaps I’ll grab one of their terrific pies or sweeties.

Tonight we’re in the house to check out the burgers.

The previous night, Bennie I had perused the menu – see the Mr Ed website here.

Having looked at the varied ingredients and the prices, Bennie wondered aloud if the Mr Ed burgers would offer sufficient eating.

And well he might …

The prices range from $14.50 to $17.50.

Among the ingredients listed for the nine burgers are pickled zucchini, Hereford beef, bourbon bacon jam, confit baby tomatoes, tomatillo salsa and shredded kale.

Ooohhh – sounds fancy!

But will we get a good feed or dainty, boutique burgers gone in a mouthful?

Actually, at another time and on another visit I might choose to compile a meal just from the very alluring list of sides.

How about rainbow slaw, purple congo/kipfler/bullhorn pepper fry-up or merlot pickled onion rings?

Ahh, but not tonight – on with the burgers!




Bennie goes the Buddha burger of minute eye fillet, soft egg, kassler, oven dried tomatoes, crumbled aged cheddar, house relish, roasted garlic aioli ($16).

He loves it – a lot.

It’s proves to be a very messy proposition but that’s fine, of course.

He loves the way all the varied, high-falutin’ ingredients – including “the nicer than normal ham” and the runny egg – combine.

This burger maven rates it a very solid 8.5 or even 9.

Yes, that good.

Only glitch – and it’s only a very minor one – is he’s unused to having your real, actual meat in such a meal.

He’s (very) used to hamburger patties, whereas this is in effect a steak sanger and he grapples, but only very momentarily, with the eating skills required.

I go the Wagyu beef burger with pickled zucchini, raclette, baby leaves, house relish and mustard mayonnaise ($14.50, top photo) – and it, too, is a doozy.

The beef patty is about an inch thick, well seasoned and delicious, and the dressings and zucchini noodles are wonderful.




For sides, we get a small serve of the home-made fat chips ($4).

My heart sinks a little when I spy what appear to be wedges but … wedge-shaped they may be, but our chips are fabulous.

Once-boiled and once-fried, they have tender, hot innards that veritably scream: “Potato!”




We complete our meal with a mixed pickle plate of jalapenos, carrot, cucumber and cornichons ($5.50).

We both love pickles so we both love this.

The jalapenos are somewhat out of place but the cornichons hit the spot and the carrot and cucumber are true delights that are pickled somewhat in the sweet, delicate Japanese style.

We’ve enjoyed and admired the Mr Ed take on burgers.

We’ve received burgers that don’t see us waddling out of the place having completely stuffed ourselves.

But we consider the quality of the ingredients and cooking and the resultant flavours well worth the money we have paid.

We recommend the Mr Ed burgers to anyone who has become a bit jaded with 8bit and the like.

The service has been fine, Mr Ed is a fine place to spend an hour so and we reckon their burger endeavours deserve greater patronage than the handful of occupied tables we’ve observed this Friday night.

Meal of the week No.19: La Delicatezza

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Sort of hidden in plain sight – surrounded as it is by high-profile Malaysian eateries and overtly public cafes – it’s easy to not notice La Delicatezza on Pin Oak Crescent in Flemington.

I was last in here several years ago for a ploughman’s lunch.

Not much has changed, though that item no longer seems available and the place appears to be now run by a whole new crew.

But it is the same in terms of being a tranquil spot to hang for a while, with its cool interior and adjacent courtyard.

Lunch here comes down to a long list of toasties and paninis, a couple of soups, canelloni, lasagne (see below).

I roll the dice and make my choice – the chicken schnitzel panini with coleslaw ($8.90) – wondering as I do if these folks know what they’re doing.

The answer, emphatically, is a rousing: Yes!!!

Let me count the ways …

The bread is gorgeous, fresh and wonderfully warmed through.

The coleslaw is just right in substance and flavour.

I’m assured the chicken is of the crumbed variety.

But so meltingly tender and superbly seasoned is it, that it comes across more as roast chook – and I mean that as a compliment.

This is an incredibly ace sandwich – a masterpiece even.

And as such, and at a price below $10, it excels in ways that many hipster joints of the kind that end up on Top 10 lists and charge way more struggle to match.

Gee, I want to try them all …




Altona cafe scores




PitStop Cafe, 300-330 Millers Road, Altona North. Phone: 9391 1775

Bennie and I wait about 10 minutes for a burgers and chips.

Here’s the thing – this wait is undoubtedly a Good Thing.

Because …

PitStop Cafe is situated in anew industrial-strength shopping precinct – nearby and adjacent are an Aldi, a Bunnings, Officeworks and a JB Hi-Fi.

It’s the kind of place, in other words, you’d expect wait time for a burger to be counted in seconds rather than minutes because said burgers would be lined up, wrapped and with lettuce wilting, in a bain marie.


That this not the case at PitStop – that our food is prepared from scratch with skill and devotion – is born out by the look and taste of our meals.




The chicken schnitzel burger ($9.50) is beaut.

The chook is crisp on the outer, moist and tasty on the inner.

The coleslaw does the job and the bun is fresh.

The cheese seems a little unnecessary.




The basic beef burger ($8.50) with bacon ($1.50) looks an absolute treat.

All is fresh and good.

But here’s another thing – the produce and presentation really does deserve better than the meat that comes with it.

It’s not bad, exactly, but it does have that sausage meat look, texture and flavour that is part of the deal in a typical fast-food Aussie-style burger – the kinds of things, in fact, that are seen regularly lined up in bain maries.

A step up in quality and commensurate lift in price would see, I’m pretty sure, PitStop Cafe match it with such fine burger establishments as Zigzag or 8Bit.

We share the burgers to great delight and get a small $3.50 serve of beer-battered chips with each.

The chips are so plentiful that a single serve would’ve easily sufficed.

They’re hot and fine – though I reckon they’re over-seasoned with chicken salt.

Bennie disagrees.




After our meal, I get talking to boss lady Allison who knows exactly where I’m at in terms of the beef burger meat.

Her business is new, growing and evolving and she’s keen on going for a sort-of two-tier approach,

For the Monday-to-Friday tradie business, such meat is what is expected and demanded.

And for that trade, and Allison, $10 seems to be some sort of uncrossable barrier.

At weekends, though, she is keen to up the vibe with ingredients of greater quality.

She reckons she can pull of the feat of catering to both the tradies and the foodies.

I reckon she’s right – and the good-looking, eggy breakfast dishes we see around us seem to confirm.

Allison is keen on sourcing goodies from westie sources and to that end is proud to offer Sunshine dimmies and Ka Pies, those ones we love and which have become a regular part of our home dinner routine.

We wish her well and will hopefully check back soon.

There’s no reason PitStop can not rise above the sort of greasy spoon industrial precinct places that abound around my Keilor/Tullamartine office location and become a foodie destination in its own right.



Hip and happy in Hoppers

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Corinthians, 37 Old Geelong Road, Hoppers Crossing. Phone: 8742 4009

Consider The Sauce has been aware for quite a while of the cool coffee spot that is Corinthians in Hoppers Crossing without ever developing a pressing desire to visit.

However, a recent journey to Hoppers to pick up Bennie found me dropping in for a takeaway coffee and being impressed by the lovely vibe.

Two absolutely amazing gluten-free choc cookies – one for myself out of curiosity, one for Bennie on the theory that “he’s going love the living hell out of this” – did the rest of putting a visit for something more substantial rather higher on the CTS agenda.

So it is that I visit with a pal – the one responsible for the fine new-on-the-scene blog, Not My Bread And Butter.

It’s a nice, cosy room and is obviously quite the coffee spot to be during this mid-week lunch hour.

OK, it’s not like this part of the west is overly blessed with such options – but it’s a credit to the Corinthians crew that they nevertheless aim for high standards in food, service and coffee.

Both our meals are fine, if hardly representative of the menu as whole; there’s salads, for instance, that will have to wait for another time.




My mac ‘n’ cheese ($19) is a humble yet garlicky dish. But I like it a lot – it’s filling, hearty, bigger than it appears and (thankfully) more moist than some of the dry and crumbly versions I’ve had since this dish became a fad.

The rocket and radish salad on the side is very fresh a dressed just right.




My friend enjoys her 24-hour beans – don’t they look special? – with two rotund poached eggs and gluten-free toast ($20).




Unfortunately, there is no evidence of world-beating choc cookies today so we more than make do with a shared slice of carrot cake ($5).

I’m no big fan of carrot cake but find this one to be nice indeed – very moist and tasty.

My cafe latte ($3.50) is excellent.



Kensington treat

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Luncheonette, 173 Rankins Road, Kensington.

Luncheonette is a lovely Kensington place I could describe as having “been on our radar”.

But maybe we would never have gotten around to it had we not been happy to accept an invite from pals to join them for Saturday brunch.

As the four of us amble towards the cafe, I see people seemingly waiting outside for a table – and fear I may have to make a complete hypocrite of myself as I’ve just a few hours earlier penned and posted a piece about the lunacy of queues and hopelessly long wait times.




But no, happily we are ushered right to an inside table for four and proceed to make happy.

The place is small but happily the menu is cleverly designed to fit right in with the limited prep space.

Many dishes look enticing.

We go with three sandwiches and an egg dish.

On the way over, Bennie had shown interest in the fact Luncheonette boasts a reuben sandwich.

I’d warned him that generally one gets what one pays for and that for $13 he should not be fronting up and expecting a two-handed monster.




As it turns out, his reuben has surprising heft for the price, with plenty of sliced pastrami going down a treat with the gruyere, cabbage and mustard, and an American style offering of crisps and sliced pickles on the side.

No bad at all!




My club sandwich ($13) does not impress quite so much, though chopped chicken is tasty and beautifully herbed.

I don’t get much of a hit from the promised “crispy bacon”, though …




I hear no complaints from the recipient of the BLT variation, which appears to be bolstered by a good quantity of avocado.

I’d only say that for myself, alfalfa sprouts have no business being anywhere near a BLT … but others’ mileage may vary.




It appears the member of our group who goes the brunch route did the best of us all.

A simple fried egg is served with homemade hash browns, smoked salmon, horseradish cream and cress ($16).

It’s a lightish dish that explodes with a variety of different but fabulously complementary flavours.