Hot Fish @ Conways

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Hot Fish @ Conways, 11-21 Wingfield St, Footscray. Phone: 9689 3400

Fish and chips and other seafood to eat right away at Conway’s?

Seems so obvious, we’re surprised it’s taken this long to eventuate!

But we’ve taken our time to check out the freshly-cooked fare at the famed seafood outlet near the river.

We’re particularly interested to see how things are shaking in regards to a couple of issues raised by the otherwise warm picture painted by the review at Footscray Food Blog and subsequent Facebook discussions.

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First up, the eat-right-here situation has been well and truly fixed thanks to the addition of four nice long bench tables and equally long seats right outside the Conway’s shop proper and another seating set-up further along under an umbrella.

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Secondly, the chips – about which some misgivings had been voiced.

Our brought-in chips are crunchy, well-cooked and hot.

But, oh, the salt!

I’m a big fan of salt when it comes to F&C, but this level is almost too much for me – and Bennie finds it goes a fair way to spoiling his lunch.

The fish (hake) that comes with our twin Classic Fish & Chip packs ($9) seems a little light-on at first, but proves to be meaty, delicious and filling.

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No surprise our serve of coleslaw ($4.50) is dressed with commercial mayo, but it’s good.

The vegetables are fresh and hand-cut, and we both like the resultant salad a lot.

With its fine, under-cover seating and ease of parking, Hot Fish will certainly be a magnet for those in the greater neighbourhood seeking a fish and chip fix.

But best to request a restrained hand when it comes to the salt shaker!

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REAL old-school in Altona

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Alex Take Away Food, 11 Ford Rd, Altona. Phone: 9398 4267

“If you aren’t paying for a product, you ARE the product.”

Such is the charge often levelled at Facebook

We’re not blind to the creepier aspects of the social media behemoth.

But while keeping them in mind, we find it almost impossible to remain unmoved by the connectedness it can foster.

Take the Altona, I lived there FB page for instance.

In its short life, it has quickly racked up more than 2500 members and become a lively, entertaining focal point for all sorts of stories, photos and reminiscences about Altona.

And it’s how we found out about Alex Take Away Food.

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The address has nothing to do with what most of us non-Altonians think of when we think of Grieve Parade – the freeway exit after the Millers Road one.

Nope, this part of Grieve Parade requires taking the Millers Road exit, heading right down past the refinery, turning right on to Civic Parade and THEN  turning right on to suburban – as opposed to industrial – Grieve Parade.

On the early week night we visit, the place is mad busy.

There’s a heap of customers in-house and there seems to be just as many phone orders coming in.

Everyone but us is a regular. We feel like strangers gatecrashing an intimate gathering of friends and families.

Certainly, the pace is sufficiently frantic to preclude any chit chat and inquiries about just how long this community asset has been doing business right here.

But judging by the funky decor, I’m guessing at least since some time in the 1970s.

We’re in no hurry though, so happily enjoy the vibe until our order is taken.

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There are zero tables or chairs, inside or out.

And unlike almost all the other customers, we can’t simply whisk our goodies home – and even the beach, while reasonably close by, seems a stretch that will ruin our dinner.

So we prop on the footpath right outside the shop, get stuck in and make small talk with some local youngsters while we’re at it.

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Bennie loves his “with the lot” ($7.50).

He’s enough of a burger maven to understand and appreciate that there’s a difference between more American-style burgers and the Aussie variety – and that there’s a time and a place for both.

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My calamari rings ($1) are the of the surimi variety and just OK.

My deep-fried snapper ($7.50) is much better and a real classy piece of work.

The batter is crisp and deep brown, and adheres to the fish pretty good.

The snapper itself is a huge chunk of seafood and has juicy depth of the sort we’ve rarely encountered.

Our chips orders ($4) got lost in the hubbub somewhere, so we end up with some that appear to have been sitting for a while – they’re barely warm and a bit leathery.

But as we saw heaps of chips of what appeared to be excellent quality and appearance be prepared as we waited for our food, we wouldn’t let this minor lapse deter us from returning to this amazing and obviously much-loved neighbourhood joint.

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Old-school F&C

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CK’s Cafe and Chippery, 253A Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 4560

The stretch of Barkly Street up towards Victoria Street remains unreconstructed Footscray and is not, it appears, perceived in any way as a food precinct.

Yet while the area is changing in terms of apartments and the like, it already teems with eating activity.

The options range from the new-look Plough Hotel and a couple of famous old-school Chinese places to Lentil As Anything, a growing number of African establishments, a (mostly) late-night pizza joint, a Nanado’s and a pair of cafes.

Chris, the “C” of CK – the other letter is a bloke named Ken – tells us he’s even heard the short-lived Italian buffet-style place across the road from his new cafe is scheduled for a fresh incarnation.

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It could be that the guys’ cafe and chippery may find a handy niche for itself in this mixed environment.

As Chris points out, the area is a lot more residential than it appears from street level.

What they’re offering is a nothing-fancy range of fast-food.

In terms of fish and chips, it would be unfair to compare with the polish of, say, Ebi – but being situated between that Essex Street place and the new food-to-eat-right-away outing at Conway’s, and offering an alternative to what’s around in their immediate vicinity, may do them right.

Certainly we have only the most minor of quibbles regarding a two-man meal that costs us only small change over $15.

(Conway’s, BTW, is where CK’s is sourcing their fish …)

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My blue grenadier ($5) looks a little lonely presented alone but tastes fine. The batter is relatively ungreasy but does come away from the fish.

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Bennie’s burger with the lot ($6.50) appears rather unimpressive when first brought to table, but the boy likes it a lot – as you can see from the photograph, the patty is significantly more beefy than is often found in such places and at such prices.

As he says, it ain’t the Grill’d of which he’s so fond, but it IS less than half the price.

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The chips ($3) are the standout of our meal – lots of ‘em, hot, crisp, perfectly cooked.

We’ve even been given a choice of regular or chicken salt.

Chris charges us $2 rather than the listed $3.50 for the coleslaw he’s quickly whipped up for us on account of he thinks it’s rather on the mean side size-wise.

I carelessly neglect to take a picture of it, but it impresses – freshly made cabbage and carrot with just the right, restrained amount of commercial mayo.

Meaning it’s a little on the sticky side – as opposed to the mayo/cabbage soup we are often served elsewhere!

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Book ends for an Indiana Jones marathon

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Hooked, 172 Chapel St, Windsor. Phone: 9529 1075

Supper Inn, 15 Celestial Ave, Melbourne. Phone: 9663 4759

It’s halfway through the school holidays, it’s grand final day and we’re feeling exuberant and a little bit mad.

We’d sort of planned on watching almost all of the footy before hitting the road to St Kilda and the Astor Theatre for a 5pm start.

But we find the whole thing so pitifully boring, so we head out heaps early.

And, naturally enough, there’s little traffic to speak of, so we have plenty of time to wander down Chapel St eyeballing a vibrant part of town we rarely visit these days.

The bonus time factor likewise settles the dilemma of whether to eat before or after our three-movie marathon.

We finally settle on the specialist and classy Hooked fish and chippery, of which there is also a branch in Fitzroy. I’ve eaten here before, but Bennie hasn’t.

We’re expecting excellence of the same kind we regularly experience at Ebi in West Footscray.

That’s what we get, too, though at first we are somewhat taken aback at what seems like rather tight-fisted serves of both our fishy protagonists and chips.

But once we remind ourselves that we’re having the daily lunch box special for $10.95 with salad extra for $2, we devour our early dinners with much enjoyment and consider them good value.

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Bennie’s crumbed calamari is right up there with best I’ve had – grease-free, both fresh and nicely chewy, beautifully seasoned.

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My two pieces of blue grenadier are more substantial than they appear, deliciously tender and superbly cooked.

In both our cases, the chips are very fine and the Asian-influenced salad with pickled ginger does OK – so actually is way better than the usual salad components found at fish and chip joints.

The most lovely surprise of our meal comes in the form of a punnet of one of the sauces available for 95 cents.

“Sambol” is unlike anything sambol we’ve ever experienced before.

It’s actually far more like the sort of oiled and gingery mash usually served with Hainan chicken rice.

With deep-fried seafood and potatoes?

It really works!

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Booking a couple of tickets for the Astor’s Indiana Jones marathon was inspired by examination earlier in the week of the lacklustre school holiday movie fare on offer.

It’s a winning move and we have a ball.

We see three cracking good flicks for $20 in a gorgeous old theatre, sharing the experience with a happy, slightly geeky crowd that claps and cheers before and after each movie, during the more preposterous scenes and at some of the more crack-up lines.

There’s at least half a dozen cats dressed up as Indi, and one group with an Esky stuffed with food.

During the first interval, we see one bloke tucking into a can of Jim Beam & Coke AND a mighty slice of chocolate cake. At the next break, we spy the same dude wielding a packet of Malteasers.

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We’d seen Raiders Of The Lost Ark at the same venue about a year before, so it holds little surprise for us.

I haven’t seen the next two since the time of their original releases and have little recall of the storylines, so lap them up with glee.

Temple Of Doom seems to suffer, to my mind, from a lack of exotic locations.

From a foodie point of view, however, it does boast a couple of brilliant barbecue scenes.

The Last Crusade is more upbeat, goofy and rollicking, with Sean Connery a real cool addition.

Across the three movies, we spy two stunts that have received the Mythbusters treatment, though there may well have been others.

Given the slightly late start and the breaks between flicks, it’s after midnight before it’s all over, so the early dinner has turned out to be just the right move.

But now, of course, we’re up for supper. Bennie wants to have his first ever crack at congee, so off we go down St Kilda Rd and into the CBD, where we find a park easily.

Supper Inn is a late-night Melbourne institution, though my one meal here was so long ago as to leave me completely bereft of any detailed recollection.

No matter – it seems like the perfect place to continue what has already been an awesome day in the life of Consider The Sauce.

The restaurant is bustling and doing brisk business. The dowdy decor doubtless hasn’t changed in decades.

Most of the punters do as we do and roll their eyes and grimace as a series of rowdy (drunk) Hawthorn fans periodically spark up with tuneless renditions of their club’s theme song.

Footy club theme songs being perhaps even more loathed in our home than the dreaded Christian Music …

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I’m knocked out and proud as all get out that Bennie’s wanting to try congee for the first time – and that he orders the preserved duck egg with pork rendition ($7.50).

Even better, he slurps the lot up with glee. It tastes pretty good to me, too!

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By comparison, my rice noodle soup with roast pork is a dud.

I appreciate the wealth of bok choy and the pork is equally plentiful, on the sweetish side and rather good and meaty.

But overall, my supper is bland – and, at $16, it’s at least $5 more pricey than we’d normally expect to pay for such a dish.

Should there be another late-night out for us – and on the basis of this one, it appears that is certain be the case – we’ll likely head for another late-night joint, China Bar, around the corner.

There, should we wish to do so, we’ll be able to have a better quality version of the same soup noodle dish at a more modest price, and probably better food overall – or at least more in line with our tastes.

Still, we’ve fully experienced two grand Melbourne traditions in a single day – a movie marathon at the Astor and a post-midnight feed at the Supper Inn.

Happy sighs punctuate our drive home.

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When a place goes bad – or at least a little off – do you want to know? No matter the cost and consequences?

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On Sunday night, Bennie and I visited an old favourite we hadn’t checked out for a while.

We’d heard there were new owners running the place.

Indeed, about the time this joint was on the market, our previous post on it received quite few visitors. Prospective buyers doing their research?

Would the food in particular and the experience as a whole be of the same excellent standard as previously?

Yes, there was a new crew running the place – and doing a grand job of it.

The service was tip-top, the smiles wides, with walk-ins being treated to the same standard of friendliness as the many phone-ins.

The phone barely stopped ringing the whole time we were in the house.

The food?

Well, on the one hand what we got was all anyone could rightfully expect of a pair of $5 burgers, bacon $1 extra, small serve of chips for $3.

But on the other hand, the chips were dull and quite a few of them were barely lukewarm.

The burgers seemed equally drab and a mite miserly, with the patties those cheapy kind that when cooked have texture and taste closer to meatloaf than a beefy burger.

It was an average meal but typical of the kind you’d expect from such an establishment. But it was notably less impressive than those we’d been served by the previous owners.

Were this a bigger business or a trendy one with plenty of supporters and fans and potential defenders, I’d be up for an explicit and honest review.

But … this is a lovely little “mom and pop” operation.

And as it stands – today, right now – I’m feeling squeamish about laying it all out. As well, it could be that other aspects of the food available – such as fish and chips – remain excellent.

So, dear readers, the question is: Do you want to know – no matter what, and no matter the cost and consequences, potentially quite damaging, to the businesses involved in such cases?

(To those of you really curious and who take the time to email me, I’ll spill the beans!)

High points at Highpoint

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Fish Pier, Highpoint Shopping Centre. Phone: 9318 8277

Cupcake Central. Highpoint Shopping Centre. Phone: 9077 4542

Despite the fact we found the array of outlets and services available in Highpoint’s new food court a bit of a mixed bag, we have been enjoying our visits there.

The more recently opened fashion precinct adds a touch of undeniable class, even if the many shops therein are unlikely to ever see any of our money.

In the food section itself, we’ve bought meat and boreks from the rather classy butcher.

And if other chores and purposes take us to Highpoint, we’re more than happy to do our dinner shopping – and even a stock-up shop – at the very well stocked fresh produce store.

My one serious reservation about the new food area has been the lack of interesting places to eat.

There’s now an Italian-style panini/focaccia/sandwich place that looks like it may be worth checking out, although the salads on display look rather shopping-centre dreary.

In this setting, Fish Pier is also well stocked with fresh seafood.

It’s a pity, perhaps, that the place’s eat-in assortment is tucked around on the side, as on the basis of my lunch it’s well worth considering.

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At $10 or thereabouts, my fish and chips would be a perfectly OK lunch; at the special promotional price of $5 it’s an outright bargain.

The chips are fresh and hot but only average.

The flathead fillet is much better – a winner!

The panko-crumbed calamari rings ($1 each) are not freshly fried for me and are thus a bit tired on it, a bit soggy and chewy.

I could do without the salad bits and pieces.

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Like Fish Pier, Cupcake Central is part of a chain.

But forget about that; forget, too, the shopping centre location.

This is a stylish cafe space I’d be happy to spend time in just about anywhere.

Especially as my $3.30 cafe latte is outstanding.

My salted caramel cupcake ($4) is about 30 seconds of sticky decadence, although I do end up scraping off about half of the creamy, cloying topping.

All sorts of other sweeties, especially of the Italian variety, are always going to have bigger place in my heart than cupcakes, but this is a top spot.

See earlier stories about Highpoint here and here.

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Ebi Fine Food

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Ebi Fine Food, 18A Essex St, Footscray. Phone: 9689 3300

It’s been a while since we’ve been to Ebi.

And circumstances are similar to those of the previous occasion we wrote about the place – it’s post-football practice; indeed this has been the first practice for the 2013 season.

We’re actually headed for another option in Ashley St, but then we’re tootling up Essex St and the inevitable happens.

“Ebi,” says Bennie with a question mark and raised eyebrows.

Why not?

Besides, the lad has been proclaiming for a couple of weeks that his next foodie barrier for removal will be his resistance to fish.

Actually, he’s been able to enjoy salmon and some kinds of sushi for a while now. But big hunks of white fish and F&C in particular? Hmmm, dodgy.

And what better place than Ebi to put that hoodoo to bed?

As we enter, boss man John is fooling around with an app on his iPhone.

Called Manga Camera, it transforms photos into trippy B&W and places them in any one of what looks like about 100 manga-style frames.

It’s kooky fun!

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Bennie’s large fish and chips ($15) features two handsome pieces of john dory. I don’t try it, but gosh it looks magnificent.

Bennie hoovers it up. So much for THAT particular food phobia. Next!

The typically excellent chips I do help myself to, with the pair of us madly dipping them into the rich, gooey mayo.

Bennie’s meal is completed with usual fine salad of Japanese bits and pieces.

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My bento of grilled, salted salmon with mustard miso ($17) has those salad bits and more – pickles preserved and fresh; crunchy lotus root crisps; potato salad in the Japanese style; half a mini-eggplant smothered in a miso sauce; great rice … it’s all terrific.

The salmon is not notably “salted”, or not so I can taste anyway, and is quite well cooked by normal standards for this species. But it’s a long way short of overcooked and works a delicious treat with the tangy mustard miso sauce.

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John also lays on us a complementary serve of his famed vegetable balls ($5), the snack instrumental is getting the whole Ebi thing going in the first place.

Bennie’s an old hand at these and makes his pair do a remarkably quick disappearing act.

I like them but for me they don’t have much of a “wow” factor. And the gooey innards whisper to me “uncooked”, which I know is both unfair and untrue.

But there you go …

It’s been fabulous to visit an old friend.

As I say to John in an email exchange later in the night, blogging keeps us on the move and few places qualify as regulars.

Ebi is one we certainly wish were so.

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Altona Beach Bites

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Altona Beach Bites, 137 Esplanade, Altona. Phone: 9398 1444

Alongside a range of your regulation soft drinks, there’s bottles and cans of Lemon & Paeroa in the fridge.

The blackboard specials line-up includes kumara fritters.

On a wall there is a number plate-style sign that says: “Kia Ora.”

Below it is one of the handwritten variety saying: “Uncooked mutton birds in brine.”

Yes, this is Kiwi territory – so naturally I feel right at home for lunch on a sunny day right next to Altona Beach.

The place used to be called Altona Ice, but has been run for the past couple of years by Kristen and Marty, the latter being the New Zealand factor.

It’s a cheerful old-school fish and chippery that also does souvlakis, burgers and even mussel chowder.

There’s only a single bench seat and no dedicated interior seating for eating.

There are, though, a handful of outdoor tables, and happily the one that is being shaded from the sun becomes vacant just as my lunch number is called.

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My outdoor lunch is most excellent – and certainly a lot more toothsome than the pallid impression cast by my photo would suggest.

The very good chips are old-school, too, and of uniform crispness.

The calamari rings ($1 each) are actually “calamari rings” – that is, surimi-style, processed relatives of seafood extender.

I used to get a bit sniffy and even angry about this kind of thing, but since researching surimi last year I’ve mellowed.

These are well cooked and taste fine, though I’d prefer to be informed when I order.

In any case, Kristen later tells me that they often do have real-deal calamari on the go.

My butterfish ($5.80) is superb and delicious in every way. This is state-of-the-art battered and deep-fried fish.

It’s bloody big, too!

Encased in good batter that adheres really well, the fish is mild of flavour and both delicate and firm.

I suspect Altona Beach Bites probably gets a bit insane on sunny weekends, especially in tandem with the adjoining ice-cream parlour, so mid-week visits are probably the go.

Funny thing is, I have no recollection of what Lemon & Paeroa tastes like.

And I have no desire whatsoever to refresh my memory – even if the stuff is “World Famous In New Zealand”.

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Dappa Snappa Fish Cafe

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Dappa Snappa Fish Cafe, 203 Nelson Place, Williamstown. Phone: 9943 4109

There are only hazy memories hereabouts of the days when fish and chips resided at the cheaper end of the cheap eats spectrum.

These days a decent F&C feed will always cost you more than a bowl of pho just about anywhere you go.

This situation is exacerbated in my own case because – creature of some habits that I am – ordering F&C without coleslaw is something of which I am simply incapable.

In this case, a minimum serve of coleslaw costing $5.50 nudges the cost of my lunch – including  a can of soft drink – above $16.

I know, I know – $5.50 for coleslaw? Sounds a bit steep, doesn’t it?

But I have a hunch about this salad.

It looks good.

It tastes better.

A whole lot better.

Fact is, this is the best F&C shop coleslaw I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.

It’s stupendous in its perfection.

Perfectly dressed, crunchy but not too crunchy – I’m almost giggling with the sheer enjoyment of it as I slurp up every last shred of cabbage.

The chips are fine in an old-school way and hot, but receive a healthy shake from the salt dispenser.

The fish – blue grenadier – is better again. Of a good size and with a nicely crunchy batter, the fish flesh is juicy and very flavoursome.

The tartare sauce is almost as good as the coleslaw – delicious, fresh and creamy.

This is a winning fish luncheon.

Dappa Snappa boss man Mehmet has been open only a couple of weeks when I visit.

He’s enjoyed a ripper Queen’s Birthday Monday, but is mostly hoping to survive the winter by looking forward to bumper spring and summer crowds.

I reckon he’ll do fine.

There’s F&C alternatives at either end of the Nelson Place food strip, but smack bang in the middle – where he is – there’s much food that is awful, over-priced or both.

Mehmet’a joint is done out in typically breezy fish cafe style, with exposed bricks on one side and a cute seaside scene on the other, and plenty of seating inside and out.

While our immediate neighbourhood continues to lack a sit-down F&C establishment, Dappa Snappa is likely to receive multiple visits from us.

I’ll be interested to hear of Bennie’s verdict on the hamburgers.

Bonus points, too, for the provision of real crockery and metal cutlery!

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Rockfish

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Rockfish, 3/46-48 Edgewater Blvd, Maribyrnong. Phone: 9317 3474

We feel quite well served when it comes to hamburgers OR fish and chips.

When it comes to hamburger AND fish and chips – that is, our preferred combo of the former for him and the latter for me – things are not so rosy.

Ripples is fine but Moonee Ponds is a bit of stretch for the spontaneity and instant gratification that seems to go with this kind of food.

Could be then that Rockfish could become our regular haunt when the mood is upon us.

It’s part of a food precinct that has sprung at Edgewater, about midway between Highpoint and Footscray. There’s also Thai and Malaysian eateries and a specialist dessert place joining other outlets that have been there a while.

Happily, there seems to be heaps of parking.

Rockfish is a straight-up fast food joint that’s clean and sparkling and has two tables inside and outside facilities, too.

We order, for our Sunday lunch, our “usual” – burger with the lot for Bennie, fried fish of the day and coleslaw for me, chips to share and a can of soft drink.

Our chips are thoroughly excellent – salted just right, unoily, crisp, perfect.

There’s far too many of them, though.

We got a medium order ($4.50) when a small ($3) would’ve done. We wish we had been asked.

Bennie is entirely happy with his burger lot ($7.50).

He tells me he really likes the fact his meat pattie has a crispy exterior.

He also later, when pressed, says it’s a “10 out of 10″ job.

His more hard-nosed dad advises taking that assessment on board with caution, but still …

The coleslaw ($3.50) is quite unusual by the usual standards of such places.

The vegetable components are fresh and crunchy.

The mayo dressing is neither too gloopy and gluggy or too runny, one of which is almost always the case.

In fact, the dressing is quite sticky and adheres to the vegetables really well.

I find it a bit on the dry side, though, but Bennie like it, which is a plus.

My fish ($6), flake, is of modest proportions, but the batter is fine and sticks to the fish.

The fish itself is divine – lovely and juicy and flavoursome.

In terms of containers and implements, we are provided a mix of real crockery, plastic and cardboard.

On the one hand, we envy the locals here having such a competent fish and chip shop close at hand.

On the other, it’s no bad thing we have to think about such fodder and then drive to obtain it, lest such fare become more than just an occasional treat.

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D’Lish Fish

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105 Beach St, Port Melbourne. Phone 9646 0660

There’s the weekend product of an afternoon’s cooking in the form of a no-doubt tasty mixed legume and vegetable soup awaiting in the freezer.

There’s good Italian cheese, excellent sourdough bread and olive oil to make it sing even more sweetly.

But a lusty must-be-obeyed desire for fish and chips has stolen in and mugged me.

Trouble is, it’s Monday night, and I trust none of the usual suspects in either Williamstown or Moonee Ponds to be open, so it’s over the bridge I go.

The ritzed-up Port Melbourne neighbourhood around the ferry terminal has been around a long time now, but it still has an air of artificiality about it – a bit like the Docklands waterfront precinct closer to the CBD.

Melbourne and its bay? Not a relationship that ever seems to prosper and thrive, is it?

In any case, we’ve never had much use for Port Melbourne, despite it being so close, really, to our western suburbs base. Although we have some good meals at Waterfront Station Pier Restaurant, which is just adjacent D’Lish Fish.

I’m delighted, however, to find this fish and chippery not only open early on a Monday night but actually quite busy. The sun is shining across the bay from Williamstown, there’s grandparents and grandkids coming and going; cyclists and joggers, of course.

It so feels like much later in the week – a Friday night when work and school are over, perhaps, or a lazy Sunday evening – that the effect is quite disorienting.

I seem to recall from a previous visit that what is now D’Lish Fish once bore the name of a famous, mouthy member of the AFL community. I’m glad that’s no longer the case.

Despite the flash surrounds there’s nothing flashy about D’Lish Fish – it’s a straight-up fish and chip place, rudimentary seating available inside and out. If the prices are just a smidgeon higher than our usual suspects, then it’s by so little as to be of no account.

In fact, my lunch pack – chosen from the menu behind the ordering counter at the entrance – is a pretty good deal.

Flake, four calamari rings, one prawn cutlet, chips – $13.

Throw in  tartare sauce and a can of that Coca Cola stuff and the damage is $17.50 – a little more than I was planning on spending on my dinner, but it’s just the ticket.

The calamari is superb – so tender and unchewy. It tastes of the sea!

The prawn cutlet, unusual for me, is pretty good, too.

The fish is excellent, firm and flavoursome. I really appreciate the fact it doesn’t leak oil on to the chips below, as is so often the case. It’s a little over-salted, though.

The chips are just good rather than great, and a little under-salted.

All in all, a fine meal – a spur of the moment decision come good.

In fact, I am pleased to note on my way back over the bridge that my tummy feels contentedly like it’s enjoyed a regulation meal – as opposed to the “Oh my God – what did I do that for?” feeling that sometimes follows the impulsive consumption of fish and chips, pizza and the like.

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Ebi Fine Food

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Ebi Fine Food, 18A Essex St, Footscray. Phone: 9689 3300

It’s been a year since Consider The Sauce started and what a fabulous time we’ve had.

Right from the start, though, and without thinking too hard about it or really trying, we have instinctively tried to find our own way, avoiding places and businesses that are too regularly lauded, reviewed and serially blogged, sometimes to excess.

Some things, however, simply can’t be denied.

The pleasures, personality, character, pricing and, well, fine foods make Ebi Fine Foods one of them.

As regulars know, this West Footscray Japanese eatery-cum-fish ‘n’ chip shop is on the diminutive side.

Seating is restricted to half a dozen or so stools facing the kitchen, two two-person tables inside and a couple of bigger tables on the footpath outside.

We’re casual visitors, though, and have never bothered booking. Our early-ish dinner times usually see us right, anyhow.

This night, though, we’re hitting the joint after 7pm, the result of an inspired spur-of-the-moment decision after football practice.

Our luck holds as we gleefully snag the last pair of stools at the bar.

It’s busy, busy, busy.

The place is doing a roaring takeaway trade.

The banter flies between boss man John and regular customers coming and going.

Happily, all this activity falls well on the right side of adding to the experience, as opposed to falling into the simply-too-much bag.

I fancy straying into the Japanese territory on the menu, instead of the fish and chips I’ve had every other time we’ve been here.

Bennie insists on ordering the bento of the day.

So there I am … once again ordering the fish and chips I’ve had every other time we’ve been here.

No problem!

My large serve ($12.50) involves two mindblowingly scrumptious chunks of the fish of the day, gurnard. The batter is crispy and holds well to the fish, the white flesh of which is superbly cooked, being tender yet also offering just the right amount of resistance to the bite.

Oh my!

My plate of joy is completed by a piece each of tofu and the eggy slice usually found on sushi, two kinds of pickle (preserved and freshly made), some good greenery and lovely mayo for fish and chip dipping purposes.

If the handsome bowl of chips on the side are a few percentage points below the state-of-the-art levels that are routine here, they’re so close it matters not.

Bennie’s bento ($15) is equally fabulous, mostly attended by the same Japanese bits and pieces as my fried platter – with a few different twists.

One is a smallish half-bulb of grilled eggplant with a gooey miso sauce – nasu dengaku. Watching this being sucked up by the lad is profoundly enjoyable, as this is the only place in the entire known universe that Bennie will not only eat eggplant but be thrilled by it.

His slow-cooked boneless beef ribs in red miso consist of two hearty meat pieces that come across as a Japanense version of Italy’s osso buco. A with the fish, the meat is tender but with just the right amount of bitey-ness.

The gravy is sweet, sticky, unctuous, delicious.

Quite apart from the quality of the food and the experience here, the prices are astonishing.

Price is relative, of course – the previous night we’d eaten a rice dish at Pandu’s, one that could feed both of us no problem for a cost of $8.90.

But still …

Fish, chips of this quality, with such lovely trimmings for $12.50? Insane, amazing!

Similarly for Bennie’s bento at a price of $15. You’ll find cheaper bentos in the CBD, but none matching the quality of food found here. And at places such as Kuni’s, you can pay a whole bunch more.

As our dinner activities wind down, from the general banter going on it becomes apparent that for a bloke sitting at one of the tables behind us this is the third dinner here this week.

A small part of me thinks: “Geez, mate, get a life!”

The rest of me is envious.

Here’s a tip:

According to the yet-to-be-completed website address found on John’s business card, it seems he’s soon to go mobile.

Ebi Fine Food on Urbanspoon

Jolly Rogers

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306-308 Melbourne Rd, Newport. Phone: 9399 4339

UPDATE 26/1/12: This restaurant has closed down. Becoming, according to a post on Urbanspoon, a Subway! Booo!

Stepping on to the train to Newport, I muse on the disturbing truth of how car-dependent we have become.

Our wheels are in the car doctor’s rooms for the weekend, hopefully with an affordable resolution the outcome on Monday.

In the meantime, a man has to eat.

And a blog is whispering about a scandalous week of neglect.

I am headed for the Souvlaki Hut outlet that took up residence a while back in what was once a fish and chip place, interested to see what resides at the intersection of Greek and Franchise.

I am thoroughly bemused and confused, therefore, when I near the establishment and see signs that say Jolly Rogers.

What’s going on?

After an enjoyable lunch, co-owner Anthony Scarlata gives me the lowdown.

He and his business partner bought Jolly Rogers a tad short of five years back.

Eventually, they signed up with the Souvlaki Hut people, but for various reasons that didn’t work well.

So now they’re back with the original name and have been open five weeks when I visit.


Along the way, they’ve retained a Mediterranean flavour – and hence signage that says: “Jolly Rogers … with a twist.”

So what does that mean?

Well, there’s still a heap of fish and chips going around.

But there’s also the likes of grilled halloumi cheese, dips, onion rings, burgers, souvlakis and salads. Gosh, there’s even brown rice for $3.95.

There’s kids meals for $5.95 – nuggets, calamari, F&C – which can upgraded with a slushie or soft drink for a very excellent $1.

“Mamma’s seafood salad” costs $15.95 while an entry level burger clocks in at $7.50 ($2.50 extra for chips) and char-grilled calamari at $9.95

Despite an ambiance that suggests fast food and franchising, this is a full-service restaurant. You can order a wine or a beer, my order is taken at my table, the cutlery and crockery are real and the service and welcome are efficient and chipper.

As such, the prices seem very fair and I suspect I’ll be returning quick smart with Bennie on hand to explore the menu in greater detail.

It presents as a really good place of the “family restaurant” variety. Moreover, it also seems to be a place where we will be able to pursue our occasional longings for seafood without going broke in the process.

Your flashier seafood joints, of none or any ethnicity, are usually well beyond our means, so this could be the beginning of a cool friendship.


Take, for instance, my “Seafood for 1 deal”, which costs $12.95.

The three calamari rings are as good as any I’ve ever had, the batter light and dry, the calamari tender and tasty. Outstanding!

The fish – rockling, I am informed – is just about as good, the nice-sized fillet encased in a batter that could be crisper. The fish itself is really, really good and flavoursome.

The chips are OK, likewise the salad, although both come across as a bit of an afterthought.

Upon inquiring about tartare sauce or mayo for chip-dipping purposes, I am presented with a bowl of good aioli for which I am not charged.

I’m having such a grand time – eating, relaxing, reading the newspaper – that I linger a while longer over a truly fantastic latte.

Extra brownie points to Jolly Rogers for in-house music that runs through the likes of the Temptations, Van Morrison, the Zombies, Dusty Springfield and the Monkees. Sure as hell beats the high-volume and teeth-grindingly awful Led Zep I endured at Mankoushe a week or so before!

I figure my enforced train trip to Newport has been a good omen, so I catch another choo choo back to Yarraville. As if I have any choice, walking side.

Jolly Rogers with a twist on Urbanspoon

Top Of The Bay

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1 The Strand, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 7404

Nice summer day, looking out over the bay towards the CBD, enough wind to keep the flies away, chish and fips – what could be better?

Top Of The Bay delivers all that, depending of course on the weather to come up with the full house.

If my most recent lunch there fell a little short of meals we’ve had there previously, it does nothing to diminish it in our eyes.

It’s one of the good ones of Willy, a suburb I can’t help but feel is a bit of an under-achiever.

Ferguson St, Nelson Pde – so many eating places, so much mediocrity.

Gems are hard to find, or such has been our experience of a decade-long fairly thorough exploration of the area.

In any case, Top Of The Bay was doing a roaring trade for this Sunday lunch hour. The service and waiting time were appropriately slick and efficient.

The bill for my fish of the day (bream), chips, three calamari rings and a can of that Coca Cola stuff ran to a more than reasonable $12.70.


The oil from the fish had seeped through to spoil about a quarter of my chips, the rest of them being just on the right side of good.

The calamari was battered, rather than being the more familiar crumbed variety.

Nothing wrong with that in my book – it hardly makes any sense to get squeamish about batter when you’re on a fish and chips mission.

But in this case that batter was voluminous and the calamari rings very thin, so the whole deal was out of whack.

The fish was the star,  the batter crunchy and adhering to the marine matter with admirable stubborness, the flesh tender and tasty. The whole fillet did start to disintegrate as I worked from one end to the other, but I loved every salty, greasy, delicious mouthful.

Maybe the slight flaws could be attributed to the rather frantic trade they were doing while I was there.

Any quibbles were easy to dismiss, as it was something of a miracle that it was sunny but warm rather than broiling, and that there was indeed enough wind to keep the flies at bay without the necessity of keeping one hand on my meal and belongings to stop them being swept into the bay.

At Top Of The Bay, where all eating is done outdoors on the tables provided or across the road and closer to the water, such factors have as much to do with the quality of the experience as anything cooked up in the deep friers inside.

Top Of The Bay on Urbanspoon


Seddon Fish ‘N’ Chips Shop

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154 Victoria St, Seddon. Phone: 9687 0407

We are fans of the new school of ritzy burger joints, with the Grill’d chain being a favourite.

Of course, if you really want to lash out you can go to a flash restaurant and pay way more than $20 for a burger, but those sorts of extremes seem absurd. And what use is a burger around which you can’t get you hands?

We find the Grill’d burgers and chips real tasty and well worth the price.

Sometimes, though, it’s just right to go down the path of your more orthodox Aussie burger – the kind of thing served up by your local fish and chip/burger establishment.

It’s amazing how different the taste and flavour is from the more American-style offerings of Grill’d and its ilk. It’s almost like a whole different kind of food. Still good, sometimes great, but different.

One of our locals did the job for us.

It’s a bright and clean no-nonsense takeaway shop, with seating available on stools that front the window.

Our order of burgers (cheese and bacon cooked; onion and tomato uncooked), chips and the obligatory can of that Coca Cola stuff cost $17. Doesn’t seem that cheap does it? But the same deal at Grill’d would cost at least $10 more.

The chips were ungreasy and good, but not great. The burgers were a fine example of their kind – not particularly filling, but just perfect for a pre-Grand Final lunch.

Ripples Fish And Chips

6 Comments

14 Margaret St, Moonee Ponds. Phone 9370 0800

I’ve grown quite fussy about my fish and chips. I can imagine a scenario or two wherein I might eat them takeaway-style. Maybe tossed from the fryer into one of those cardboard trays, thrown is a paper bag and then scarfed at an adjacent beach no more than a few minutes walk away.

But as for eating ‘em after they’ve been wrapped in paper and toted home – well, no, we don’t do that no more. The result might have appeal for some, but for me by the time you get around to it, them fish an chips is steamed, rather than fried. Just like home-delivered Cantonese food – in fact, home-delivered food of most kinds, including pizza.

I’m also quite a fan of the new-school fish and chip joints (and burger enterprises) that are now scattered across Melbourne.

Let’s face it – this isn’t the kind of food that any of us wants to live on, or even eat regularly.

So when I indulge, I want it good and I don’t mind going the extra yards – and paying the odd extra dollar.

In all regards, Ripples – in a strip of eateries right across from the Moonee Ponds train station – hits the spot.

Inside, it’s all spotlessly clean and gleaming formica and chrome.

They do such things as grilled this and cajun that, but I’m not interested.

The coleslaw is your typical Aussie routine – that is, swimming in mayo – but less so than in your average chicken shop. It’s pretty good, actually, and the cabbage/carrot/onion combo is crunchy and pleasingly on the fresh side.

The chips are always hot and likewise crunchy.

A recent visit (21/8/10) for fish, chips, coleslaw, tartare sauce, can of coke clocked in at $14.10.

On his single visit, Bennie had his usual burger-with-the-lot-minus-egg, pronouncing it just fine.

And here’s the clincher – Ripples staff not only bring your meals to your table, they bring REAL cuttlery and REAL crockery with them.

In the new world of fish and chips, one in which the oil is presumably changed a lot more often than on a yearly basis, that’ll get my vote and my money every time.

Ripples Fish & Chips on Urbanspoon