CTS Feast No.5: Indian Palette

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Indian Palette, 140 Victoria Street, Seddon. Phone: 9689 8776

Consider The Sauce Feast No.5 at Indian Palette in Seddon was a rip-roaring winner.

Thanks to Francis, Sue and their kitchen crew and staff, the food was wonderful and there was plenty of it.

As I’d hoped, everyone was knocked out by the wonderful eggplant dish andhra kodikura with its utterly distinctive flavour generated by peanuts, sesame seeds and tamarind.

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This being the first paid and ticketed CTS Feast made the whole vibe quite different.

Fours tables of eight made for a happy, bubbly atmosphere as fellow foodies and westies got down to it.

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I managed to speak to most of our guests at some point during the course of the night.

Among the happy throng were …

* Serial Feast attendees Michael and Sian, and Daniel and Richelle.

* New friends met for the first time such as Michelle, of Good Day, Scumshine, and Jenni, who I missed out on talking music with – such is the burden of being host!

* Jill and Patrick of Spice Bazaar.

* Marco and Maria of La Morenita in Sunshine – one of our fave places. Stand by for a forthcoming announcement of a joint CTS venture with them!

* Tom, principal of Bennie’s old school Sunshine Christian, his wife Robyn and their friends Adrian and Emma.

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Thanks for coming everyone – I had a ball.

And thanks for so eagerly embracing the new CTS Feast model – more is definitely better, and I’m absolutely thrilled that between us all we made it work so well.

MENU

Entrees

Cut mirchi (fresh green chillies cut and dipped in gram flour batter and deep fried)

Lamp pepper fry (boneless lamb pieces cooked with pepper and Indian spices)

Mains

Gutti vanakaya kura (mini eggplant seasoned with ground nut, tamarind pulp, finished with South Indian spices)

Andhra kodikura (a favourite homestyle Southern Indian spicy chicken dish with garam masala, caramom, green chilli, cloves and cinnamon)

Dal fry (yellow split lentils cooked and fried with onions, ghee and coriander)

Other

Butter naan

Saffron rice

Dessert

Badam kheer (ground almonds cooked in milk and sugar, flavoured with cardamom)

The Indian Palette on Urbanspoon

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Consider The Sauce Feast No.5: Indian Palette

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Indian Palette, 140 Victoria Street, Seddon. Phone: 9689 8776

NOTE: THIS EVENT HAS SOLD OUT!

It’s on – the fifth Consider The Sauce Feast will held at Seddon gem Indian Palette on Friday, March 21, from 7pm.

But there are changes to the previous Feasts format of a table of 10 eating complementary food provided at no charge by a CTS-endorsed restaurant.

Regular readers will know that for some time I have been trying to find a way of continuing these fabulous events while at the same time deriving some modest income for my efforts.

Oddly, the resistance to having paid, ticketed Feasts has not come from you, our readers and followers.

As one friend put it to me a few weeks ago: “It’s not about free food – it’s about great food!”

We agree!

And now, with the lovely Francis and Sue from Indian Palette, I have found the right people and the right place to really up the CTS Feast tempo.

They immediately saw the advantages for them in joining with CTS in this event.

The income will be split 50/50 between CTS and Indian Palette, allowing Francis and Sue to cover at least some of their costs and affording CTS a reward for organisational and promotional efforts.

As well, without the natural limits set by providing free food, we three have been able to think bigger.

As we planned this Feast, we thought: “If not just 10 people, then how many – 15, 20, 25? Let’s make it 30!”

Yes, CTS will be taking over Indian Palette for the evening.

So with this Feast, the days of first-in first-served emails and a limit of two seats per applicant have come to an end, as has the need to monitor how many Feasts particular CTS friends are attending.

Nor need I fret about those who have been missing out despite repeatedly trying to get in!

All four Feasts so far have been filled up within an hour, so often it has been a matter of timing – good or bad – for the applicants.

Buy as many tickets as you want – whoever you may be!

But never fear, for this will still be a grand, most enjoyable and delicious event.

As we were discussing the menu, Francis told me how their restaurant started out offering authentic Indian food but had started catering for Western tastes.

I enthusiastically and adamantly assured him that any such compromises would be greeted with horror by the CTS clan and that the more authentic and hardcore the food he cooks for us, the happier everyone will be.

His eyes twinkled when I told him that.

And as you can see from the menu below, this CTS Feast will be a sooper dooper bargain even at an asking price of $20.

CTS Feast No.5: Indian Palette,

140 Victoria Street, Seddon. Phone: 9689 8776

Friday, March 21, from 7pm.

MENU

Entrees

Cut mirchi (fresh green chillies cut and dipped in gram flour batter and deep fried)

Lamp pepper fry (boneless lamb pieces cooked with pepper and Indian spices)

Mains

Gutti vanakaya kura (mini eggplant seasoned with ground nut, tamarind pulp, finished with South Indian spices)

Andhra kodikura (a favourite homestyle Southern Indian spicy chicken dish with garam masala, caramom, green chilli, cloves and cinnamon)

Dal fry (yellow split lentils cooked and fried with onions, ghee and coriander)

Other

Vegetable raitha

Butter naan

Saffron rice

Kachumbar salad (finely chopped onions, tomatoes, cucumbers mixed and tossed with lemon dressing)

Dessert

Badam kheer (ground almonds cooked in milk and sugar, flavoured with cardamom)

NOTE: Soft drinks, beer and wine are exclusive of the CTS Feast payment.

BOOK YOUR TICKET FOR CTS FEAST NO.5 HERE – $20 per ticket!

See earlier story here.

Different India in Seddon

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Indian Palette, 140 Victoria Street, Seddon. Phone: 9689 8776

Indian Palette has been open quite a while – Footscray Food Blog reviewed it in early 2011.

So given the zeal with which we’ve hastened to check out many other Indian eateries blooming across the inner west, we’ve taken our time in getting here.

Happily, our dinner visit coincides with the restaurant’s half-price deal on mains and entrees on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, shaving a significant amount off our bill.

The long room is cool and rather elegant, and we enjoy the service of Sue, Francis and their staff, while the wait times are just right for the kind of food we order – we go full-on vegetarian for this dinner.

And it’s very seldom indeed that Bennie and I sup at a dining establishment with real-deal napkins.

We like and appreciate that!

The longish menu has many staples such as butter and tandoori chicken, and the Indo-Chinese element seems less obvious than at other neighbouring Indian eateries, but we are delighted to find some really novel – for us – dishes to order.

So we do.

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Mirchi bajji ($7) – fresh green chillies dipped in gram flour batter and deep fried – is a good, if rather heated, starter for us.

The batter is pliable and a little chewy. I’m proud as can be that Bennie no longer hesitates for even a millisecond when confronted with such a dish.

My boy is hot!

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Bennie also dives with relish into the kachumbar salad ($6.50) of chopped onion, tomato, cucumber and carrot with lemon dressing.

The lovely and fresh vegetables have been dusted with a mix of chilli, turmeric, garam mssala, pepper and lemon.

I would have preferred some more tomato and lemon juice to moisten things up a bit.

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Gutti vankayakura ($13) is the most wonderfully distinctive Indian dish we’ve tried since the honey-infused number enjoyed on a memorable visit to Deer Park.

About three or maybe four baby eggplants, butterflied, reside in a smoky, nutty and chilli-studded sauce.

Nutty in fact, I subsequently discover – Francis tells me the sauce involves peanuts, cashews, tamarind, sesame seeds and coconut powder.

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Our dal, gongura pappu ($13), is lentils cooked with sorrel leaves and is just as refreshingly unusual for us dal lovers.

So thick is it with sorrel leaves that it’s actually more like a vegetable stew than a soupy dal.

It starts good for me, but further in I feel a little overwhelmed by the quantity of bitter leaves and rather wish we’d ordered something a little plainer from the five-dal lineup.

Both our mains and our entree have had high, for us, spice levels, so we fully expect to be singing the Johnny Cash tune the next day.

With plain rice ($3.50) and onion raita ($5.50), our bill comes to $47.50, which comes down to a good-value $37 once the mains-entree half-price deal is factored in.

We reckon Indian Palette should be more crowded than we generally observe to be the case.

Maybe we should line up a Consider The Sauce Feast here.

Stay tuned!

The Indian Palette website is here.

The Indian Palette on Urbanspoon

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Seddon cricket tastes good

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THE WINNERS: Malith, Vinny, Ragz, Krishna and Vuos.

Seddon Cricket Club Multicultural Day

One of the big upsides of working for the MMP group that publishes the Maribyrnong Weekly and associated mastheads across Melbpourne’s west is that Consider The Sauce gets inside running on events and stories that may otherwise pass us by.

These have included a Werribee barramundi farm and an open day at a beautiful Keilor olive establishment.

So it was that, while editing some sports briefs, I came across, at the end business of the very final item, mention of the Seddon Cricket Club’s multicultural day, a festival of cricket and the club’s varied community also being used to officially launch revamped clubrooms.

Some quick online sleuthing puts me in touch with club assistant secretary Matthew, who tells me he is well aware of CTS, thinks it “excellent” and that I am most welcome to join the party.

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Andrea, a.k.a wife of senior coach Tim, does good work as official photographer but her kiddie-ride efforts are less well appreciated.

The running sheet he sends me includes the following:

“8pm: ‘Foods of the World’ Dinner supplied by club members includes Chick pea Curry, Lamb Vindaloo, Saag Paneer (Indian), Sri Lankan Curry (Sri Lanka) Minced pork and eggplant (Vietnamese), Bratwurst and Sauerkraut (German), Lasagne (Italian), Moussaka (Greek) and Tacos (Mexican).”

I joke that all I have to do is throw in a few adjectives and my story will be done!

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On the sunny afternoon I turn up halfway through the final of the 15-over final of the Australia Day tournament, in which the Asians beat the Anzacs.

I raise a few laughs when I ask some of the winners (top photograph) which team they played for.

I enjoy talking with club president Jason, treasurer Jamie, secretary Rolf, Jason’s mum Joan and many other club stalwarts, both young and old.

It’s sublimely delightful to discover just how seriously and with just how much heart the club has embraced this multicultural thing, with a wide swathe of the planet represented among the ranks and including westies both old-school and new-school.

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The racket in the clubrooms increases in volume as the beer supplies decrease.

Some sharp-witted and sometimes rowdy speechifying ends with Joan cutting the ribbon to declare the club’s swish new home truly open for business.

Then it’s time for the food, which has been set out on a long trestle table.

There seems to be heaps and heaps of it.

But a robust appetite has been acquired by the on-hand hordes and it all goes quickly and happily.

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I have a plate of red kidney bean curry, minced pork and eggplant, and “New Delhi” chick pea curry.

They are so very good – and confirm what I already know: That food served at such wonderful community events, cooked with love in your ordinary family home kitchens, just can’t be beat.

I leave my car at Yarraville Gardens and walk home.

Thanks for having me!

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Seddon banh mi

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Waldies Bakery, 168 Victoria Street, Seddon. Phone: 9689 3806

Seddon, it could be argued, is becoming a little too cluttered with cafes.

So we reckon it’s cool there’s an alternative at hand.

Not that it looks like a new arrival – Waldies Bakery looks pretty much the same as it ever has.

As does the line-up of pies and cakes and so on

But there’s new management.

New management that’s offering banh mi.

So it is that Sara whips us up a couple of Viet sangers.

It’s real soon after Christmas, so instead of the advertised half-dozen fillings, we have a choice of only two – grilled chicken and grilled pork.

So we get one of each.

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The rolls are less crusty that you’ll routinely get in Footscray central and have a mottled outer that is referred to by a certain franchise bakery chain as “Tiger bread”.

But they’re fresh-as and taste good.

The fillings are of a regulation, good banh mi variety.

We enjoy our rolls, but immediately notice the absence of fresh chilli.

Some is brought to our outdoor table by Sara and there’s no such problem with the third roll we order to split.

We reckon Waldie’s banh mi offerings will likely get better as the holiday season recedes and range available expands beyond what greeted us this week.

Banh mi is, after all, one of those things that thrive on high turnover.

As well, the new management folks may come to understand that while they’ve moved into a well-known cafe strip, there are plenty of people around who will want – and demand – the full-blown banh mi experience.

Chillis and all …

The Waldies price is $5 – more than you’ll pay in Footscray or Sunshine but less than for a sandwich just about anywhere in Seddon.

Waldies Bakery on Urbanspoon

Sun Mei – still mostly a takeaway joint …

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Sun Mei, 83 Charles St, Seddon. Phone: 9687 0680

Despite our many years in the neighbourhood, Sun Mei has never tempted us.

On the rare occasions we indulge in the Chinese delivered route, we go with a more distant but significantly cheaper outlet.

Eating out?

We keep on motoring to Footscray central or further afield.

Or if we stop in Seddon, there are other more alluring options – especially in more recent times.

But about a year, Sun Mei got a new look, some paint and quite a different vibe, with white-coated cooks energetically presiding over the woks in theatrical style every time we pass by at night-time.

So it is that I finally succumb to curiosity.

And discover, in the process, that Sun Mei remains fundamentally a take-away joint, despite the makeover.

But I agree with Consider The Sauce buddy James’ comment that with a little effort it could be so much more, as the food is “above-average” for its kind.

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It’s very busy, even this early in the week. Locals are popping in with regularity, while the in-house delivery drivers comes and goes several times while I am in the house.

Eat-in facilities are minimal – a long wall shelf with stools opposite the wonderfully open kitchen and servery, and a small table in the window, at which I perch.

Two dim sims ($2.80 on the takeaway menu) are rather unglamourosuly served to me in a plastic takeaway container.

Who cares?

They’re mighty – tender, big, juicy, slightly peppery, all-round delicious and hearty on a chilly night.

Forget the legendary and over-rated South Melbourne Market dimmies – these here are the biz!

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As could be expected, my kueh teow ($13) is significantly different from what would be served in a Malaysian restaurant.

The rather finely chopped pork and tiny shrimp come almost certainly from the same ingredient containers that are used in producing Sun Mei’s fried rice.

There’s no fish cake, egg, fat prawns, Chinese sausage or fresh chilli, with dried chilli flakes used instead.

But, golly, it’s crackingly good – notably unoily for this dish yet still evincing plenty of “wok hei” flavour.

Sun Mei on Urbanspoon

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Sourdough Kitchen

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Sourdough Kitchen, 172 Victoria St, Seddon. Phone: 9687 5662

Writing about Sourdough Kitchen quite soon after it opened, it was observed with pleasure here on Consider The Sauce how quickly the bakery/cafe had become a fixture in the neighbourhood.

That seems so much more true today, almost two years’ later.

Especially on a day on which the first real taste of winter has arrived; the chill outside puts an extra glow to the companionable warmth inside.

As ever, there is congestion around the serving counter as those waiting to order, those waiting to pay and those arriving or departing mingle.

Equally as ever, the always terrific staff handle it all with grace and aplomb.

I feel a little guilty at monopolising a table for two when the place is so busy. But only a little, as two other tables are likewise occupied.

We’ve become regulars here – though not as regular as many, I suspect.

But we’ve learnt to keep in mind the laudable sourdough ethos.

The pizza slices were our faves for a long while. But sometimes it seems the toppings are overwhelmed by bases that can be hard work.

Likewise, the quality fillings of the various sandwiches can seem to stand in the robust shadows of their bready bookends.

We still enjoy these things, but sometimes a lighter touch is desired.

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Happily that is no problem at all, as Sourdough Kitchen has long since expanded its repertoire to encompass not just sandwiches but also breakfasts and more.

There’s always a salad and a soup on, along with various other lunchy items.

Today, for instance, the blackboard menu offers a steak sanger and a meatball dish, both for $15.

I opt for a serving that could be brekky, could be lunch – sardines on toast with olive tapenade, tomato salsa and Meredith fetta.

I’m familiar with the matching of sardines and tapenade, but I can’t recall previously experiencing salsa and/or fetta being thrown into the equation.

How does it work?

Blimey, it’s an unreal flavour explosion – tangy, oily, salty, brilliant.

Perhaps it could be argued my lunch is a mite light on for $15.

But sardines are so rich, be they canned or fresh, that even a fan such as I can easily appreciate restraint in terms of quantity.

My cafe latte is perfection.

What are your favourites and regulars at Sourdough Kitchen?

Sourdough Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Spice Bazaar Cooking School

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Spice Bazaar Cooking School, 79 Victoria St, Seddon: Phone: 9687 2659

We’re at Spice Bazaar in Seddon for a Saturday cooking class and we’re both pretty excited about that.

Today’s subject, mezze and tapas, is not one perhaps that would’ve been our first choice, given Jill and Patrick cover such things as Moroccan, African, Persian, Greek, South American, French and Italian food.

But it turns out for the best – the recipes we cook are mostly simple with a twist of complexity here and there.

The food they help us and our fellow classmates prepare all has something of a “wow” factor, with only a single dish falling a little short. And even that tastes real fine – it just doesn’t have the desired “look”.

We met Jill and few weeks previously when we pressed our noses against the Spice Bazaar windows as a class was in progress.

She came out for a chat and a deal was done – a cooking class for the Consider The Sauce crew in exchange for a story and photos (full disclosure below).

But now it’s show time!

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Having discussed the subject the previous night, Bennie and I place our ourselves in different groups – basing our decision on the same reasoning that dictates it’s usually not a good idea to have parents teaching their kids how to drive.

So he’s in with Mick, Steve and John, who gain an extra helping hand from Jill.

I’m with Luke, Zoe, Deb and Viv.

The pace is so intense that we barely get to know our fellow classmates, but working side by side so companionably with these food-digging strangers is undoubtedly a high point of our day.

Another for sure is working in a big kitchen in which there is a never-ending supply of knives, bowls and gadgets, with a plastic tub nearby in which to toss items needing cleaning.

We start with the entrees.

Bottled green olives have their pepper stuffing removed using toothpicks before they’re re-stuffed with two mixes – one of onion, seasonings and marchengo cheese; and another of onion, seasonings and anchovies. It’s fiddly work but fun.

Then the olives are coated in flour, dipped in beaten egg, coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried.

This is my first experience with deep-frying, and I’m surprised how easy it is.

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Prawn fritters are made using chick pea flour, paprika, a little chilli, fresh coriander.

These are shallow-fried using olive oil, and they, too, come together really well.

Patrick has already boiled a couple of octopi.

Our two groups marinate those suckers with olive oil, garlic, sherry vinegar and smoked paprika before they’re flash-fried for a few minutes.

Then it’s break time – and time to eat what we have so far prepared.

Wine bottles are opened as we dig in.

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The prawn fritters are sensational, have a great chilli kick and are more than a little familiar – the besan flour is what we get ordering onion bahji and pakoras when we go Indian.

The fried green olives are salty, crisp, ungreasy and superb – the equal for sure of similar olives we have on occasion ordered in eating houses.

The marintaed baby octopus fails to delight either of us. It’s well done but we find it just too oily and rich, perhaps because of the sherry vinegar. Maybe we should’ve immediately reached for some lemon segments.

By this time I’m feeling like a nap, but there’s no scope for malingering here.

We’re on to the main courses, two of which hardly pass as mezze or tapas. But who cares?

Two salads … one of orange, fennel and black olives; another of roast red capsicum, anchovies and capers.

Then there’s tagine of chicken cooked with pomegranate molasses and a spice mix called ras el hanout.

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For me, the most fun is preparing the paella using whiting, mussels, prawns, saffron, other seasonings and (of course!) rice.

I have eaten plenty of paella previously – but not, I suspect, particularly good paella.

This Spice Bazaar paella experience is so engrossing and gratifying that I’m keen to have a crack at home. After all, I know I can turn out fine jambalayas.

As with jambalaya, the arborio rise we use in our paellas doesn’t need constant stirring in the risotto manner.

And our group certainly achieves the prized crusty, crunchy bottom layer of rice sticking to the paella pan.

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Just before sitting once more at the dining table, we all help prepare the blackened Portuguese tarts, pouring the real-deal custard we’d prepared earlier into puff pastry shells.

Then we’re once more we’re eaters rather than cookers.

Bennie loves the chicken tagine most, but I find it a little too sweet for my taste.

The paella is easily the best I’ve ever eaten – delicious!

Though perhaps a couple of our classmates with hands-on Spanish paella experiences to boast of may not rate it so highly.

I am so full I only manage a nibble of both salads, but all our food looks and tastes fine.

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As we await our tarts, Patrick and Jill regale us with some humourous stories of classes past.

Hens parties during which many bottles of bubbly were consumed before the cooking even started.

A pyromaniac with a gleam in his eye giving over-the-top blow-torch treatment to a cream brulee – and then complaining about his cream brulee being burnt.

And so on …

Finally it’s tart time … sadly, due to vagaries of oven temperatures, these don’t look the part.

But, oh my, they certainly TASTE  the part.

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We leave happy, very full and a little on the exhausted side, fully reckoning a Spice Bazaar cooking class is as much fun as you can have in four hours.

The class has been skillfully well-paced and between them Jill and Patrick really inspire their pupils.

Check out the Spice Bazaar website for details about classes and various other activities offered by Spice Bazaar.

On Saturday, March 2, they will hold an open day from noon to 3pm to coincide with Seddon Festival – drop in for “a look at the cooking school, have a chat, or enjoy a tapas plate for $7, and wines by the glass”.

Bennie and Kenny were non-paying guests of Spice Bazaar, who provided us access to one of their cooking classes in exchange for coverage on Consider The Sauce. Spice Bazaar neither sought nor was given any say regarding the content of this post.

Spice Bazaar on Urbanspoon

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Mona Castle Hotel

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Mona Castle Hotel, 53 Austin Street, Seddon. Phone: 9687 7636

It’s the end of the working/schooling week and we’ve made it through in pretty good nick.

But the cook – that would be me – is sick of cooking.

Besides, we’ve skipped the grocery shopping on the way home.

Worse still, a classic, typical Melbourne “false spring” has been and gone, and it’s grim and bleak outside.

Getting something delivered doesn’t appeal, either.

What to do?

Oh well, I gee both of us up and we head for the car, knowing not at all where we’re headed.

It proves to be one of our joyful spur-of-the-moment outings.

As will be obvious to anyone who spend more than a couple of minutes perusing Consider The Sauce, pub food isn’t really our “thing”.

Nevertheless, we have eaten at the Mona Castle a few times – twice in the more formal dining room and once from the bar menu.

But all of those occasions are now just dim memories.

After this visit, though, we think: “Why did it take us so long?”

There’s been talk in the past year or so about the death of neighbourhood, inner-city pubs, especially in the western suburbs.

The Mona Castle seems to be happily bucking that trend.

The big public bar space is already busy early on a Friday night as we enter, with about half the merry crowd seemingly adorned with fluoro work gear.

The staff are wearing monogrammed Mona Castle shirts that also bear a strong resemblance to the colour scheme of a certain local AFL team that will not be competing in any of this weekend’s finals matches.

We give the more formal and expensive dining room menu – you can see it at the Mona Castle website – a miss and head straight for the blackboard bar menu.

Oh, gee, what a surprise – Bennie orders the hamburger ($14).

For his father, it’s pie of the day, which – according to the daily specials list next to the blackboard – is tomato and beef and which also costs $14.

The main bar area being jumping and well on its way to being jammed, we adjourn to the back bar, which is festooned with yet more sports memorabilia and is gradually accepting the bar overflow of patrons.

After a gratifyingly short time, our meals arrive.

Bennie’s burger is a mountain teetering on the very edge of the wooden board on which it arrives.

Indeed, as he attempts to get to grips with his sandwich, runny egg yolk oozes from the board to the table.

No matter – this is just the sort of two-handed burger he loves so much these days as the pre-teen growing spurts come and go.

“MMMmmmm, beefy taste – it was yummy,” he says the next day.

He gives it eight out of 10.

My pie turns out to be a real surprise – instead of beef and tomato, it’s chicken curry.

No matter about that, either.

Why return a perfectly good pie to the kitchen, when life’s a lottery anyway?

The pie, in a ceramic dish, is lava-like hot and contains heaps of chicken pieces along with chunks of potato and carrot. The seasoning, of course, is regulation curry powder, but frankly anything more funky or sophisticated would be grossly inappropriate.

I like my pie a lot.

My salad is fine and fresh, with an extremely lemonish dressing.

Our chips are good, but could be a tad hotter and are way, way over-salted.

We’ve loved our dinners and we love the homely, cheerful and welcoming vibe of the Mona Castle.

For a quick, hassle-free and cheap feed it strikes us as a winner when we’re not inspired to travel further afield for anything more exotic.

And as far as pub food goes, the bar menu certainly is an attractive proposition, especially when there’s goodies such as corned beef to try.

And don’t you just reckon this is the sort of place that will do an awesome spaghetti bolognaise?

Flat-screen TVs: Yes, heaps of them.

Mona Castle Hotel on Urbanspoon

Meeting Mr Bongiovanni

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Anthony’s grandfather and grandmother flank his then-toddler father in their North Melbourne butcher shop.

There have been many surprises attending the opening of long-awaited food emporium A.Bongiovanni & Son in Seddon – its size, scope, range and pricing just for starters.

What has not been so surprising are the varying levels of negativity that have arisen.

These seem to range from fears for smaller local businesses posed what is seen by some as a predatory carnivore to outright hostility towards what is perceived as an attack on community wellbeing by a moneybags outsider.

Doubtless that will continue to be the case and healthy debate will continue for a long time to come.

But spending time with the man behind the shop and its arrival, Anthony Bongiovanni, it’s impossible to deny the passion he has for Seddon.

He’s a businessman for sure – and a self-confessed ambitious one at that.

But he’s one who I am inclined to take at face value when he makes a determined assertion that he wants to see Seddon bloom.

As he points out, he has been a prominent community member for almost a decade and president of the Seddon Traders Association for the past four.

“I want a better Seddon,” he says. “I have a passion for Seddon. I’m not out to take people’s business away.

“I made a deliberate decision not to stock non-food household good so we wouldn’t be directly competing with the supermarket around the corner.

“With this sort of place, I couldn’t not stock bread – but considering the size of the place, we haven’t gone overboard. We certainly don’t want to hurt Sourdough Kitchen.

“We want to provide more options. I’ve never seen so many people on the street.

Anthony points out the wooden pannelling above the fruit and vegetable section. It took him and his father-in-law three weeks to install using wood from old fruit boxes of the type just visible bottom right.

Anthony himself is another surprise.

Where I’d had a mental picture of a suave Italian patriarch, I instead meet an enthusiastic young man in his early ’30s.

But he’s packed a lot of living and work experience into those three decades.

He has a long background in the liquor and building industries.

On his mother’s side of the family, there’s a history of fruiterers; on his father’s side is a line of butchers.

His grandfather’s butcher shop in North Melbourne was named C.Bongiovanni & Sons.

Anthony has continued that tradition by including “& Son” in the official name of his new enterprise after his own two-year-old son, Samuel.

At one stage, he ran a joint called Bongiovanni’s Food & Wine Bar in North Fitzroy, but it was too small to make it profitable.

Anthony is happy to see its failure as an outright positive.

“I lost just about everything, but it was the best thing that could have happened,” he says.

Anthony leased the building that these days houses Thirsty Camel – it was Betts Electrical then – in the mid-’90s, eventually buying both that building and the one next door, which housed a furniture store.

He resisted interest from the furniture folk in renewing and extending their lease, and entertained leasing proposals that involved the likes of a gym or yoga centre.

But they didn’t work for him.

“I wanted something that would boost Seddon,” he says.

I suspect the genesis of A.Bongiovanni & Son was long dormant but profoundly present in Anthony’s soul.

But things only really started moving when he was perusing Ebay one night and saw a bunch of good-quality shop fittings for sale. He rang the woman involved the next day, eventually doing a great deal the got him not just shop fittings but a forklift as well.

Then followed more purchases of fittings from Ebay and all of a sudden the plan was up and running.

There were major hiccups along the way, mostly notably with the securing of a strong, reliable electricity source.

Turns out the existing power infrastructure was woefully inadequate to service such a shop, and wasn’t all that flash at doing so for other existing businesses either.

The eventual cost was well above $200,000, with Anthony contributing about a third.

Anthony’s grandfather on the left.

Then followed the long and challenging job of securing products and distributors for them.

“I travelled interstate, I went to food fairs and farms,” Anthony says.

The shop carries more than 20,000 products and deals with more than a 1000 suppliers.

The likes of Raw Materials handle a range of products and producers, but many of the items that line the shelves of A.Bongiovanni & Son come from single-product makers so the work simply has to be done.

While the business does carry some cheaper items – incredibly cheap in some cases – Anthony is unapologetic about mostly following a top-notch philosophy that mirrors his own approach to food.

“Whether it be chips or sausages, I’m happy to pay a dollar more or eat a little less to get that high quality,” he says.

As we wrap up our conversation, we spend some time marvelling over photographs Anthony has of yesteryear scenes of Footscray such as the Western Oval, long-gone tram routes and shops.

Then he lends me a copy of Per L’Australia – The Story Of Italian Migration by Julia Church, a mind-blowing photo history upon which I plan to feast.

He tells me there’s further big plans afoot for A.Bongiovanni & Son, but only smiles when I press him for details.

Cooking classes?

Demonstrations?

Live music?

“There’s more,” he says with a smile.

And finally, he dismisses the moneybags suggestions.

“Everything here … I started from scratch.”

Heading back to my car, I stop by Sourdough Kitchen to inquire about how they feel about the new business just up the road, but they’re too busy to talk.

See earlier post here.

A.Bongiovanni & Son

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See profile of Anthony Bongiovanni here.

A.Bongiovanni & Son, 176-178 Victoria St, Seddon. Phone: 9689 8669

Our first visit to the flash new Seddon food emporium is in the early evening of opening day.

We only need a few things and are not intent on doing a serious shop, but are intrigued to have a good look around.

First impressions:

Having long been familiar with the furniture store that preceded it, we find it a little smaller than we expect.

But factoring in storage and refrigeration requirements, it all adds up.

The word we’d heard that this was going to be like a smaller version of La Manna at Essendon Airport has only partly eventuated.

On the one hand, this business is not going to put the supermarket around the corner out of business for the simple reason that – unlike La Manna – there is no loo paper or laundry powder or paper towels or … you get the picture.

Nope, here it’s strictly food and drink all the way.

On the other hand, like La Manna everything except the fruit and vegetables is packaged and packed and packaged again.

There’s a lot of plastic going on here.

There’s also a strong Italian factor, but they cover a lot of other bases, too.

At first blush, and with some notable exceptions mentioned below, this seems a pricey place.

Pricey, but top line just about all the way.

Whether it be ice cream, chocolate, pasta, antipasti, juices, ready-made curries or biscotti and much, much more, overwhelmingly most of the stock effortlessly falls into the “deluxe” category.

Finally, there is an undeniable “wow” factor.

Given the nature of the prices and the lines carried, it seems unlikely A.Bongiovanni & Son will be a staple of ordinary household shopping for us or just about anyone else.

But I reckon there’s little doubt it’ll become a regular stop when we want just the right kind of quality ingredients or just the right kind of treat we so often deserve.

Now that’s some really cheap pasta and tinned toms – although they have deluxe versions of both, especially the pasta.

The oil line-up looks pretty solid, although we didn’t stop long enough to get into specifics.

They have their own line of frozen stuffed pasta at a really good $3.49 – ravioli, tortellini and gnocchi.

It being the kind of night on which dad has nothing planned for dinner and we’re tired and uninspired, we grab a bag of the ravioli and a tub of Element bolognese sauce.

The beef ravioli we have a little later on are the best store-bought filled pasta I’ve ever had – no kidding!

Really, really tender with a nice nutmeg-infused flavour.

We’ll be having them again for sure, and trying the other two formats as well.

When it comes to the nuts and lollies, I think it’ll be a case of “prefer others” for us.

We’re really keen on hearing what other folks think of this long-awaited establishment!

Ms Baklover has got a more detailed post up at Footscray Food Blog.

She’s right to be in a celebratory mood – in our rush on a long and tiring week day, we didn’t even stop to marvel that such a place has opened up right in our neighbourhood!

Waldies 7th Birthday Sausage Sizzle

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Waldies, 168 Victoria St, Seddon. Phone: 9689 3806

A couple of $2 snags-in-bread topped with Maggi mustard does me fine for lunch.

And none of your fancy pants kranskys, either, thank you very much.

The sausage sizzle hosted by one of our local old-school bakeries is being run on behalf of the Hyde Street Youth Band, which has been a performing unit since 1928.

The kids play some goofy, fun stuff that has echoes of New Orleans.

The barbie is manned cheerfully by Greg and Pina.

Mr Waldie himself (below) tells me it’s about the fifth year he’s had the band crew in for a birthday gig/sizzle and he really loves having them there.

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Seddon Wine Store

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Seddon Wine Store, 2/101 Victoria St, Seddon. Phone: 9687 4817

There’s competition facing Seddon Wine Store within spitting distance – one a big wine and beer and spirits emporium right across the road, the other a smaller bottle store more like your local pub, just up the way in Charles St.

Nevertheless, it’s made a handy go of it by specialising for the wine set.

Which is probably why we’ve never tried the place out – Bennie is as much a wine buff as his dad is.

Besides, we’d long ascertained that what food there was on hand was of a lightweight variety.

But today that seems just right, as my lunch companion, Lady Rice, is no more hungry than I am but we’re both up for some vino and engaging conversation.

The Seddon Wine Store food list – see below – was actually introduced some time after the store opened.

It reads like something between tapas and antipasto.

As neither of us are ravenous, we go for the grazing plate ($18).

The olives are the hit – few in number, big in flavour.

The terrine, too, is good, especially wrapped the fine bread and a dab of mildish but tasty mustard.

The pancetta (or maybe it’s prosciuitto?) seems rather flavourless to me, as do the marinated mushrooms, which look like enoki, but are darker and bigger.

The hard Italian cheese – that’s as good an explanation as I afterwards get – is good with the little dab of quince paste.

All this is OK, but the conversation is better.

We talk about the Lady’s new blog, my slightly older one and our respective journeys.

The contrast, in a Melbourne context, could hardly be greater, but oddly enough we’ve ended up in spaces and places that are recognisably of the same planet and city.

Our light and snacky lunch suits us fine.

But while it may be unfair, it hardly bares comparison with the fresher, zingier, superb, significantly larger and only slightly more expensive antipasto spreads the Consider The Sauce boys regularly enjoy at Barkley Johnson.

And while there may be ways of chowing down with more specific items on the food list here, I suspect treating the place as a tapas bar could get rather pricey.

It’s prudent, I surmise, to think of it as a place that does some eats for drinkers rather than as a place that does drinks for eaters.

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Ajitoya, Seddon Festival

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Hillbilly llama at Seddon Festival, 2012.

Ajitoya, 82 Charles St, Seddon. Phone: 9687 1027

Seddon Festival 2012, Harris Reserve, Seddon

Decisions, decisions …

The final cricket match of the season seen off, we are left with three delicious prospects for the remainder of our Saturday.

There’s the famed multicultural celebration called the Pako Festa in Geelong.

But a voluntary drive to that city when so many are mandatory means that idea is likely to remain a mere flicker of possibility.

There’s a more monocultural celebration going at the junction of Lonsdale and Russell streets in the Melbourne CBD.

But finally, especially given the rising temperature, we settle – much to Bennie’s satisfaction – on our local Seddon Festival.

A short, sweaty stroll up Gamon St and we’re there.

We’d already decided that in case the festival’s food offerings do not appeal that it’s best to have a Plan B ready to roll.

The fest food stalls seem more like snacky territory than the lunch proper we are desirous of.

Plan B is Ajitoya.

We had reviewed Ajitoya just a day or so after it opened, and have been back for a few meals since.

We’ve enjoyed seeing the place evolve and grow courtesy of soulful Facebook updates.

It’s time for another look.

Due to the heat and appetites of only medium stature, we stick with basic lunch orders rather than $16-21 sets.

Zaru soba at Ajitoya in Seddon

Bennie had some weeks earlier absorbed my enthusiasm about the cold Japanese noodles served here so has no hesitation in ordering the zaru soba ($13).

He loves it to pieces, merrily dipping the superb noodles in the soy-based dipping sauce into which he has stirred wasabi and spring onion slices.

There is something paradoxically both exotic and plain as can be about this dish, and it’s a winner for sure on a hot day.

Can I tell you how much I love my son and what he’s achieving?

In recent months, he’s gone from being a non-lover, non-eater of capsicum and tofu to happily eating just about all forms of both – and has even taught himself to use chopsticks, as he does here!

His father improvises by ordering miso soup ($4) and a trio of salads ($9).

Trio of salads and miso soup at Ajitoya in Seddon.

The miso soup is fine, the salads are something else again.

They are listed as …

Lightly shredded chicken salad with wasabi dressing.

Buckwheat soba noodles with pickled mustard greens, mayo and spice

Leafy hijiku with lightly fried tofu with daikon ginger vinaigrette.

OK … the chicken salad also has cabbage along with soy/tamari in the dressing; and the noodles have little or no pickle flavour, but do have a tingling chilli hit.

But I adore the way the three salads, and their distinctive dressings, work together – marvellous harmony!

This is another light and great meal for a hot day.

Ajitoya’s Adam tells me he’d have the whole counter cabinet chockers with salads if he had his way, but customer demand dictates sushi rolls remain a mainstay of the business.

I vote for more salads!

He also tells me he and Maya have learned to avoid too constant scanning of what different folk are saying about them at Urbanspoon. Yes, it can do a head in.

One customer, for instance, posted a review there on her mobile saying the food was fine, “but a bit pricey for what you get”.

Other customers have told them their prices are too cheap!

Looks, it’s true a short drive away you can get pho and the like for significantly less than you pay here.

At the same time, though, there are four places within a couple of blocks where you can pay quite a lot more for restaurant food.

Perhaps it’s the very cafe, if very chic, vibe or the display cabinet of sushi rolls that leads people to expect big serves for under $10 here.

Whatever … we have no issue whatsoever with the pricing, especially given the quality and presentation of the food, along with the service.

Ajitoya … don’t think of it as a cafe. This is a Japanese restaurant serving restaurant-quality Japanese food.

Back at the festival, the heat is killing and things don’t seem to have gotten any more lively.

The lawn expanses, subject to the full blast of the unrelenting sun, are unpeopled.

Shade is at a premium.

Everyone is doing it hard – including the panting inhabitants of the animal farm.

Even the music has a sort of desultory, “can we really be bothered with this?” air about it.

Nevertheless, we spend an enjoyable couple of hours taking it all in, talking to friends we meet and just generally hanging out.

Food-wise, we make do with a yummy $5 serve of churros with chocolate dipping sauce from the nice people at Sourdough Kitchen.

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Africa Taste

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124 Victoria St, Seddon. Phone: 9687 0560

It’s something of a shock to realise how long it’s been since we went African.

We’ve been pleasantly distracted – Indian, Asian, kebabs and all sorts of other stuff.

Nor have we got around to enjoying Africa taste and blogging on it, despite the fact we were regulars even before CTS lumbered into their cyber air.

So tonight’s the night.

The place has undergone some natty renovations. The kitchen has been moved further to the rear of the building. There’s a bigger counter area and more room for hungry folks, though Africa taste remains comfy rather than roomy.

Sadly, it seems the days of us waltzing up any old time we like and grabbing a table are gone.

Even on this Monday night we are lucky to grab an unbooked early table.

We presume this is to do with the booking of two separate birthday groups, but later learn this is pretty much a standard situation on any night of the week.

It seems bookings are the go here now, not that we resent any success Africa taste has earned.

We love the food, the points of difference from Footscray’s African eateries and the fact it’s closer to our home base. The relaxed charm seems to have faded away a little, but we can live with that.

Our standard order on most of many previous visits has been chicken or lamb tibes and the Africa Taste salad – a magnificent jumble of leaves, tomato, cucumber, onion and crunchy spiced pita bits.

Tonight, at dad’s insistence, we venture further afield.

We’ve been a bit wary of some menu items previously, fearing an uncomfortable level of stodginess.

We are delighted to proven so wrong by the  Genfo African Fufu (Gnocchi, $10.95).

The gnocchi of toasted barley flour are plain yet delicious. Some of them have a little crunch, though there is little or none of the chilli mentioned on the menu. Instead there is a rich brown gravy and a big dab of cream.

It’s much more filling than it looks, and we are glad we went without the $5 option of extras such as chicken, lamb or fish.

Bennie, extremely fishily ambivalent as he is, is somewhat unimpressed by the inclusion of Spicy Fish Tibes ($13.50) in our order.

But even he, injera in hand, likes the viscous and spinach-infused gravy that is very garlicky and, like the gnocchi, lacking much of a spice bite despite the menu description and the clearly visible red flecks.

His dad loves the many and generous chunks of butterfish that are tender and mild of flavour.

It’s a fine meal and a bargain at $24.45.

And it’s swell knowing there are still several dishes on the menu that await exploration by us.

But we know now that future visits will require a little more premeditation than has been our impromptu habit.

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ajitoya

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82 Charles St, Seddon. Phone: 96871027

New review can be found here.

Adam and Maya have lived in Yarraville for five years, and for all of that time they’ve been thinking surely someone will get some Japanese action going in the neighbourhood in terms of eating out.

Nobody did … so they did!

They’ve been open for about a week when I visit and things are going good for them.

The concise yet astutely chosen Japanese grocery lines reflect Maya’s frustration about having to travel to Prahran, Moonee Ponds or Kyoto for the right products.

Adam tells me they were quite keen to do without selling the ubiquitous sushi rolls. But the fact they’re selling very briskly probably puts them in the category of things that simply can’t be avoided if you’re going into the Japanese eatery business.

For the time being,  they’re set up for providing quick, fine and affordable lunches and takeaway on a Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-7pm basis.

Adam tells me, though, that there’s space left in their musings and space on the premises, too, for a move towards more substantial dinner fare should things go well.

Adam’s background includes stints at Blue Train and Big Mouth while Maya has worked at Izakaya Den.

The ajitoya motto: “Does this train go to Osaka?” … that being something Adam was asked at least a gazillion times a day when he lived in Japan for three years.

Along with the rolls, the display cabinet holds four osozai, or salads. The soba noodles, coleslaw, salmon sashimi tataki and vegetables with sesame sauce dressing in shabu shabu style all look very lovely.

Being of robust appetite, I head straight for the menu section that details the bento meal combos.

They include karaage, agedashi tofu, sushi or a combination of three salads. With each comes rice, miso soup and a choice of one osozai, and mostly costing $16.

My miso soup is fine, of a good temperature and boasting a profusion of squishy tofu bits.

The coleslaw is everything I hope it will be, full of flavour from the sesame dressing and having that superb wilted crunchiness that only the Japanese and certain European cuisines seem capable of.

The fried chicken is little less tanned than is usually the case – maybe it was the first batch of the day? – but the coating is delicate and the chicken is just as juicy and flavoursome as I could want, beaut smeared with the dab of mayo on the side.

I suspect Adam and Maya are likely to find they were not alone in fervently wishing for a Japanese dining option in the neighbourhood, and certainly I’ll be returning very soon with Bennie – he’ll love the chook, but I reckon I’ll go for the clean and fresh salad combo.

Ms Baklover at Footscray Food Blog loves ajitoya, too, as you can discover by reading her review.

And check out the ajitoya Facebook page here.

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New Seddon supermarket …

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It’s open – see a rundown of our first visit here.

Hot on the heels of news concerning a new supermarket in Yarraville comes another Consider The Sauce scoop – a new supermarket in Seddon!

It’s going to be in the premises of what has been for our entire western sojourn a rather unlovely and profoundly unbusy furniture store – two doors along from Sourdough Kitchen and right next door to greenie household goods outfit LoveLuvo.

The lovely lady in LoveLuvo tells me that …

*As far as she’s aware the new business will have no franchise affiliation with any of the supermarket chains.

*It will have a Mediterranean feel with an accent on fresh produce.

*It harbours some ambition to be something like a smaller-scale version of La Manna at Essendon Airport, though presumably with a proper deli counter/section.

Wok Noodle revisted

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Shop 1/92 Charles St, Seddon. Phone: 9689 9475

Wok Noodle, the newish Malaysian arrival in our very own neighbourhood, appears to be prosperping.

Certainly, it’s fed a lot of people since our first visit there.

Our second visit confirms our view that this is an asset for the area.

If you’re after funky, adventurous Malaysian fare, you’ll likely be disappointed. There’s little by way of rough edges or edginess to be found here.

Our two second-time-round meals do have a bit of a middle-of-the-road feel about them, but that’s just right sometimes, too.

My standard curry laksa ($10.50) has all the essential bits and pieces, including three medium prawn tails, sliced chicken and a couple of slices of eggplant. Along with the rest, they swim happily in a rich, somewhat syrupy gravy of only mild spiciness.

Bennie loves his Hainan chicken rice ($11.50).

The chook is boned, the rice OK and there are three accompanying condiments – a sticky soy sauce, a very mild chilli sauce and another of the sambal variety. He’s a growing 10-year-old whose appetite is also growing and who has played his first ever game of rugby union that very morning – so he scarfs the lot, no problem.

We are used to having a bowl of clear broth served as part of his dish. One is provided when we make inquiries – it’s very good – and we are not charged for it. Whether others can swing such treatment we know not, as that fare appears on the menu as an entree.

Check out Deb’s review of Wok Noodle, and comments, at Bear Head Soup.

Bennie’s team – the mighty Footscray under-10s – won; he perpetrated some fearsome tackles and was instrumental in one of his team’s tries.

Given his parental national heritage, if he fails to make the All Blacks he can always play for the Wallabies.

Sourdough Kitchen

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172 Victoria St, Seddon. Phone: 9687 5662

Heading out for breakfast used to be a major part of our routine a few years back.

Mind you, we’re talking coffee and toast mostly – not the egg-heavy chow-down fry-up favoured by so many.

But our morning habits have evolved and changed.

We make our own muesli, and we know that’s very good for our insides, allowing us to be a little bit naughty during the rest of the day.

Besides, for cereal/muesli most cafes charge double the price listed for toast/jam.

Isn’t this exactly the wrong way around?

I mean, toast is grain made into something – bread.

Jam is fruit that’s been made into something.

Butter is milk that’s been churned.

Muesli is just grain, plus a few bits and pieces, yet in many places it goes for $10 or more.

We’d go the bacon/eggs/spinach/hashbrowns/snags/mushies/avocado/tomatos/kitchen sink route less than once a year.

And in terms of eating out, isn’t lunch or dinner so much more alive with potential for miracles and greatness?


But it is the near-complete absence of out-and-about brekkies from our lives that makes a Friday morning visit to Sourdough Kitchen charged with novelty value and a sense of refreshing change.

We’d not noticed preparations for the bakery before it opened, so were surprised when Deb trumpeted its debut at Bear Head Soup.

Since then we’ve visited several times – for coffee (very good) and takeaway scrolls (fruity, heavy, delicious).

We’ve also enjoyed several slices of primal pizza, including a fragrant chewy number topped with  zucchini, eggplant, some capsicum, olives, fresh rosemary, olive oil. The slices are scrumptious, cost $5.50 and have already become a lunchbox option for us.

Just like that (sound of fingers snapping) Sourdough Kitchen has become a splendid part of the local scenery. As I read my newspaper and enjoy my breakfast, a steady stream of customers come and go. Takeaway coffee, bread, rolls. Another couple of tables host locals deep into their caffeine hits and conversation.

My toast and jam costs $5.50 and is fine. I get three slices of good sourdough and more than enough butter. The strawberry jam, though, is a bit on the runny side and is almost all syrup and very little fruit.

As I’m going about my business I imbibe two outstanding lattes.

The brekkie tab is just a tad over $11.

The bakery is restricting its options to fairly light fare for both breakfast and lunch – see menu below – for what I have been told are reasons connected to power supply issues. For lunch, in addition to the pizza slices, there are some fine-looking filled rolls.

Sourdough Kitchen already feels like it’s been around for a lot longer than a mere month or so – and I mean that as a compliment!

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