Knocked out in Williamstown

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mel9

 

Mezmez, 42 Ferguson Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 8804

When it was known as Plumm’s, 42 Ferguson Street was a quasi-regular for us – for breakfasts, lunches and even, IIRC, the odd dinner.

I think that between Plumm’s and Mezmez, there was another inhabitant of the address but I can’t recall its name.

Certainly, there has been a long period on non-use for the address before the recent opening of Mezmez.

Maybe that’s not a bad thing, with a view to dispelling “failed restaurant karma”.

Not that we’re suspicious or anything!

In terms of a fresh start, it’s also a fine thing the Mezmez crew has overhauled the room so that it bears little or no resemblance to what went before.

 

mel10

 

There’s lots of wall tiles, lots of wood and a variety of different seating and eating configurations.

When we visit for Saturday lunch, the place is buzzing, there are happy people in abundance and staff are on the ball.

Mezmez is a sister restaurant of Pint Of Milk in Newport, so as you’d expect has many of the same cafe strengths going on.

But the new place looks and feels very different.

More to the point, outside some orthodox breakfast items, the Mezmez menu (see below) – especially the brunch and lunch lists – evinces a strong Turkish and Mediterranean feel.

And that’s mostly why we’re here and excited about it.

 

mel5

 

We’re allocated a small wall-mounted table with tall stools towards the back of the room – and we’re happy about that.

Because we’re sitting right at the very spot where food leaves the kitchen and heads for the customers’ pleasure – so we get a good look, while we’re waiting for our meals, at what other folks have been ordering.

That ranges from breakfasts of the basic, toasted kind and the more ornate and decadent through to an “ancient grains” salad, panfried saganaki, crispy fried squid and preposterously fat lamb koftas.

IT ALL LOOKS FANTASTIC!

 

mel2

 

Bennie chooses the buttermilk pancakes with sour cherries, toasted walnuts and halvah ice-cream ($18).

He’s happy enough, but reckons there’s too much sauce!

I grab a bite and am impressed.

Perhaps, at $18, a third pancake might not be too much to expect.

And perhaps he’s old enough and savvy enough to understand that just because his father lets him off the leash for a sugar hit doesn’t mean that’s going to be the best direction to head.

Because he’s frankly envious of my …

 

mel1

 

… “mez platter” ($16) with its olives, dukkah, falafels, cauliflower fitters, dips and bread.

It’s all good or much better.

And I always admire any such dish that is constructed with such skill that all the players are in correct proportion so they all “run out” at the same happy conclusion to the meal.

That’s certainly the case here.

The outright stars, though, are the tightly-packed and fragrant falafels and sublime cauliflower fritters.

Wow!

Deep-fried yet ungreasy, they’re packed with flavour – and in the case of cauliflower, that always seems to me some kind of miracle.

That vegetable doesn’t have the most robust flavour characteristics yet often it seems to survive all sorts of cooking techniques.

The only faint quibble I have is wishing the dips had a bit more zing.

 

mel8

 

As we’d awaited our meals, Bennie went close to toddlerhood regression and the throwing of a tantrum when he saw the blackboard words “Nutella Donuts” had been crossed out.

No problem, my friend – that is yesterday’s news so we’re good to go.

 

 

mel3

 

Oh boy, this is awesomeness personified – and a bargain at $3.50.

Just so good – ultra gooey and divine.

And filling, even shared between the pair of us.

 

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Nor surprise, eh, that my $3.60 cafe latte is brilliant?

Williamstown locals have a new star to adore.

 

Mezmez on Urbanspoon

 

mel7

Williamstown eats goss

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willy1

 

At Williamstown Beach, the lovely property that until recently and for many years housed Sirens has the forlorn look of a failed business.

What it does not have is the look of dereliction or neglect.

Yet.

You’d think somebody would get in quickly before summer really gathers momentum.

 

willy2

 

At Nelson Place, what was once Tai Hoong is now Fong’s Kitchen – though a section of the menu is labelled “Old Favourites From Tai Hoong”, so presumably there is a connection between old and new, family or otherwise.

The menu (see below) has a tight selection of Malaysian and Chinese selections, and definitely has some things I’d like to try.

 

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I like the look of the dark wood and minimalist cafe vibe, too.

But today I ordered the Hainanese chicken rice – after ascertaining a bowl of chicken broth was part of the deal – only to be told 30 minutes later that they’d only just commenced to start boiling the chook!

So I departed unfed, but will be back.

 

willy4

 

A few doors along is the Advertiser Bar & Grill.

According to its Facebook page, it opened in early September – and yet is already undergoing a massive overhaul.

The story, according to a neighbouring trader, is that the joint was hit by a fire, insurance issues have been settled and they’re looking to reopen early next year.

 

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And a few doors along from there is the newly opened Williamstown branch of New York Minute.

Despite having a rather average time of it on our last visit to the Moonee Ponds place, we still have a soft spot for NYM so hope the new outlet is going great!

Reports, anyone?

 

willy6

willy7

Food trucks – Altona, Williamstown readers have your say!

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alwill1

Disclosure – the two reporters who filed this Maribyrnong/Hobsons Bay Weekly story about food trucks in the west are colleagues of mine; I am quoted in the story and the newspaper has used a photograph provided by CTS.

But I confess to being bemused by the comments in the story by the spokeswomen for both the Altona Village Traders Association and the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce.

Of course, it is the job of such groups to promote and protect the businesses they represent.

But the idea of “running food trucks out of the town” seems a little, um, confrontational.

There are places we like to eat in and shop at in both Williamstown and Altona. We will discover more.

But I can only go with what numerous residents and readers from both suburbs have told me in the years CTS has been operating – that while there is plenty of choice, people in general think there is much that is “average”, over-priced or both.

So Altona and Williamstown readers, what do you think … food trucks, do you want them?

 

 

 

 

 

Bits and pieces

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bits1

So how’s this for an eye-grabbing sign in Racecourse Road, Flemington?

Nope, can’t say I have … tried camel meat, that is.

Right next door, in the Grand Tofu, I ask Suzanne if she has.

Nope.

In fact, she seems surprised there is even such a sign gracing the halal butcher shop right next door.

What the Grand Tofu, Suzanne, Stephen and their crew do do is serve up a sperb chicken laksa.

Look, I’m quite fond of the two more famous Malaysian eateries just around the corner.

But I don’t like queues and they’re always so busy.

The Grand Tofu is frequently busy, too – but the staff always find time for a bit of a chat or at the very least a warm welcome.

Which can’t always be said of the competition.

And then there’s that chicken laksa (oh my!) – and much more besides.

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Providorable is lovely foodie haven in Williamstown – you can read about it here.

Providorable proprietor Kelly recently posted the following on her business’s Fcebook page:

“Good morning everyone, I’m feeling this morning I need to write this post. I think a lot of the local shop keepers this week would say that things are looking brighter for Xmas sales after a very quiet winter. I urge everyone to support local business. Supermarkets are trying to shut down small business, this is where you get the personal service with product knowledge, not in a supermarket. Also, WHY have the council allowed two farmers markets per month in Willy? Do you realise that now there are two it takes business away from your local shops that are the ones that pay the rates & rents to make strip shopping be still available? Have you questioned any of the stall holders at farmers markets about where some of their products come from? There are genuine items being sold but some are not from their own farms being sold direct to public. Yeah, have one a month but why 2 every two weeks … you go and buy fruit and veg, it affects your local fruit shop, same as butcher, dog treats, coffee shop, jams and relishes etc etc. PLEASE SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESS. By this market being there every two weeks, you are supporting outsiders who don’t pay the huge rents and rates we pay. OK rant over lol and enjoy your day. Williamstown has wonderful shops and fantastic shopkeepers. Keep us all in willy for years to come please.”

What do you think?

We’re quite fond of visiting farmers markets.

But in truth we rarely buy more than a coffee and maybe a snag or other eat-on-the-spot treat.

Fruit, vegetables and other produce?

Hardly ever.

But we do enthusiastically support and enjoy the hell out of our local shops and delis, be they in Williamstown, Altona, Seddon, Footscray, Sunshine or beyond.

Revisiting an old Willy pal

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culture1

Burger Culture, 3 Cole St, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 7156

Burger Culture, situated opposite Santorini Greek restaurant just off Nelson Place, pre-dates the likes of the now common Grill’d burger chain.

In fact, it was the first place Bennie and regularly hit to get our hands on affordable American-style burgers, different from the Aussie style and without setting foot in a pub.

We had many fine meals there.

But somewhere along the way, we ventured elsewhere, and I recall that on our last visit we were a little underwhelmed in particular by the thinness and mediocrity of the beef patties.

So I’m interested to check the place out again in what is an impromptu lunch in terms of venue.

Jacqui of Urban Ma and I had headed this way with a specific eat shop in minds, but it’s closed so we make do in a locale loaded with eating options but precious few really good ones.

And while what we get at Burger Culture will not win any awards, we nevertheless really enjoy our lunches.

The interior is bustling with lunchtime activity, so we grab an outdoor table even though it’s a rather chilly spring day.

For me, it’s the culture classic (above, $7.50) with “lean beef, tomato, lettuce, onion, tomato relish and culture mayo” with bacon as an extra.

For Jac, it’s the New Yorker (below, $11.90) with “lean beef, caramelised onions, swiss cheese, tomato, lettuce, tomato relish and culture mayo”.

The first and best thing that impresses me about my burger is the patty – this one has a real nice, real beefy texture and flavour, and the bacon is fine, too.

But I envy Jacqui’s more diverse and interesting sandwich – there’s mustard as well as the advertised ingredients.

What impresses both of us most about our meals is that combo deals encompassing chips and a can of soft drink are offered for a mere $3 extra.

This means that, cost-wise, Burger Culture combo deals pretty much end where Grill’d stand-alone burgers start.

That’s good!

Our chips are just OK, though – we reckon they could be hotter and little more well done. But we consume them happily with little plastic tubs of tomato relish and chilli mayo that cost us 50 cents each.

The Burger Culture website is here.

Burger Culture on Urbanspoon

culture2

Meat-free but even Garfield would dig it

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pickle2

The Pickle Barrel, 60 Ferguson Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9399 8338

The Pickle Barrel prospers without the groovy factor sported by other coffee/breakfast/lunch places in Williamstown and the wider inner west.

It does so, from what I’ve been able to gather as a sometime customer for a quick coffee and/or lunch, by providing good, solid food, excellent coffee and good service.

The place seems habitually busy, yet there are always plenty of staff members on hand to handle the load.

It’s a smallish cafe, with a limited range of takeaway produce and deli lines, three small tables along one wall, two more larger, communal tables and high stools facing the windows.

The outside tables are always popular, even in winter, and there’s always newspapers on hand.

There’s longish lists of both breakfast and lunch fare, but the main stock in trade are the numerous and good-looking flour-based options – wraps, paninis, baguettes and other sandwiches.

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Today, though, I take a punt by opting for the unmeaty version of the lasagna dishes on display (both $9.90).

What a handsome slab of stuffed pasta it is.

Beneath a nicely toasted cheesy cap are multiple pasta layers sandwiching plentiful amounts of ricotta, potato (I think), zucchini and more – including a tomato-based sauce so deeply, intensely coloured and flavoured that I have to eyeball the display cabinet again to make sure I haven’t been presented the meat lasagna by mistake.

It’s all fantastic and hearty and tasty – so much so that I easily forgive the fact my meal slides from lukewarm to cool at the centre of what is, after all, a very generous serving.

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Before I depart, I tumble into another serendiptous conversation with a complete stranger.

But Megan is a writer and West Footscray resident, so we become fast pals as we gleefully compare notes on mutual places, people and topics of interest.

Despite not being a Willy local, Megan regularly travels here for The Pickle Barrel’s coffee, of which she is a huge fan.

So … I order one for myself and a repeat for her.

She’s right – my cafe latte is superb.

The Pickle Barrel on Urbanspoon

pickle4

Providorable – all sorts of nice things in Willy

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prov8

Providorable, 46 Ferguson St, Williamstown. Phone: 9399 9355

Consider The Sauce had been aware of Providorable, but it took Miss Biscuit, Julia, to actually get us to check out the Williamstown shop.

Before getting around to an actual visit, I found myself becoming more and more impressed with the regular updates Providorable proprietor Kelly posts on her shop’s Facebook page – they’re full of passion for the goodies she stocks.

A visit to the Ferguson St emporium confirms the sincerity of those updates, with Kelly pointing out some of the high-quality products and their suppliers for which she is most enthusiastic and which you may struggle to source elsewhere in Melbourne (or our side of it anyway).

Products such as …

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… McGrath dressings from Albury and …

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… Arthurs Creek oils and condiments and …

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… she-tea from Daylesford (the tea is imported but the packaging and gorgeous artwork are done in Victoria) and …

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… lovely fruit-studded nougat from The Sweet Boutique in Brighton.

Mind you, Kelly is also has some delightful imported goodies as well, such as …

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… Harney & Sons tea from New York and …

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… fabulous Mazet chocolate in various flavours from France.

Providorable maybe isn’t the kind of place you’ll go to “stock up”, but for just that particular product or luxury item you seek or deserve, it’s a treat.

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