Memorable moments with Mietta’s mafia

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Amy, Gifta and Mietta.

 

Selam Authentic African Restaurant & Bar, 127 Nicholson Street, Footscray. Phone: 8383 2560
Small French Bar, 154 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 8479

A few years ago, Mietta Gibson began what has become a family tradition.

Each year, as Christmas approaches, she takes the sisterhood portion of her family out on a surprise adventure.

One year it was a Middle Eastern cooking class, another it was gift-wrapping for a charity.

And on another occasion, the whole crew attended a filming session of The Project.

This year, she began plotting and scheming many months ago, with no firm ideas in mind other than “western suburbs” and “food”.

Mietta, you see, lives on the Mornington Peninsula, her entire family lives in the eastern suburbs and she was keen to expose them to some different aspects and perspectives of Melbourne.

She was not having much joy in terms of online research – until she stumbled upon Consider The Sauce.

(Frankly, given our substantial online footprint, I’m surprised it took her so long!)

Anyway, in mid-October I received an email with the header “Seeking your help”.

A few emails back and forth, and then we were happily chatting on the phone.

And just like that (sound of fingers snapping), the deal was done – Team Consider The Sauce would proudly show these gals our backyard and we’d all have an absolute blast!

And so it turned out …

 

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As Mietta and her crew exit Footscray station, she has no trouble picking me out of the crowd; we meet up and make the whole round of introductions.

With her are her sisters Eliza and Natalie, her niece Matisse, her mum-in-law Kate and – all the way from France – her friend Iris.

What a happy, garrulous crew they are!

At this early point in our evening, no one involved except Mietta and myself have any idea about what is in store – the happy gasps and grins as our gameplan is explained to them are gratifying!

Then we’re off – first stop Littlefoot, Bennie and I explaining the familiar streets and places and faces as we go.

 

 

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After “looseners” all round, we pretty much retrace our steps to Selam on Nicholson Street.

There we enjoy a truly fabulous Ethiopian meal.

Nothing edgy or unexpected, mind you – it’s simply beautifully cooked and presented Ethiopian tucker.

Lentils three different ways; terrific salad; cabbage and excellent greens (silverbeet, I think).

And in the centre of our two platters is the dry derek tibs of pan-friend lamb pieces – so good!

Best of all, though, and by general acclaim, is the lamb soup – which I foolishly forget to photograph.

This zingy lamb broth – a bit like an Ethiopian version of the standard Somalian offerings at such places as Deli Afro – is a sensation, each of our bowls liberally studded with wonderful bone-in lamb meat.

 

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Mietta and her friends – for whom the western suburbs, Footscray AND Ethiopian food are all vivid new experiences – take to the Selam fare and non-cutlery eating with gusto and delight.

Truth be told, I chose Selam for our outing pretty much on a whim and because I liked the look of the place.

But chef/proprietor Amy has done us proud and the way she and daughter Gifti have looked after us has been superb.

 

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The cost? Including all that terrific food, some wine, a few beers and sundry soft drinks – just under $20 per head.

Amazing.

But we’re not done yet … dessert is on the menu.

Actually, Footscray at 9pm on a week night is not particularly auspicious for dessert.

But before our evening began, I’d worded up Stefan at Small French Bar that we might descend upon his establishment later in the evening.

 

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It’s a bustling, cheerful scene that greets us as we enter.

It’s crowded, but room is found for us.

 

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Naturally, we ignore the savoury aspects of the menu.

We ignore, too, the sorbet option.

What we do order is three portions apiece of the other three desserts …

 

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… fondant au chocolat …

 

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… creme brulee …

 

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… and profiteroles.

Gosh, they’re beaut – and we’ve ordered just the right amount for us all to have a good taste of each dish.

There is much happy sighing and clinking of spoons on crockery.

 

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For Iris, who has been away from France for two months, this is all a profound treat.

She says the place even smells French!

What a truly memorable evening we’ve enjoyed.

There was something about the nutty randomness of Mietta’s original email approach to us that appealed enormously to CTS.

And that hunch has been vindicated.

We hope to see these folks over our way again!

 

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Footscray eats goss 2/12/16

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Ascending the stairs to The Creators Lounge (116a Hopkins Street), my cynicism seems boundless.

I mean, really …

A brand new mega-hipster haven right in the guts of Footscray.

Combining a cafe (jaffles, loaded fries, poutine) with a barbershop, and with a retail outlet and podcast studio to come.

 

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All of it located right above the venerable Foostcray institution that is Nhu Lan, king of banh mi.

My resistance begins to crumble when proprietor Josh provides exactly the right answer to my question …

Q: Can people bring their Nhu Lan banh mi’s up here to eat?

A: Yes!

 

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The Creators Lounge Proprietors Johnny (not the in-house barber) and Josh.

 

Josh comes from a background of radio work with the likes of Fox, MMM and 3AW – hardly known as prime hipster breeding grounds!

He tells me, BTW, that the Nhu Lan folks are actually their landlords here and that the first-floor premises were once a yum cha place.

I suspect that must’ve been many years ago.

 

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Next question …

Q: Why would I consider getting a buzz cut here for $20 when I regularly get one right across the road for $8?

A: Josh tells me being in the hands of Johnny The Barber is a whole trip all on its own and worth every cent.

Hmmm, I’ll take that on board.

 

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My cynicism pretty much disappears completely with the arrival of my lunch – the haloumi sandwich, which shares the sanger list with the likes of a reuben, turkey bacon club and a bacon & egg.

At $12, this is about three times the price of a Nhu Lan banh mi – but it’s also very good, with lovely, pan-seared cheesy flavour mixing it with beetroot, tomato, spinach and mayo.

A most excellent $3.80 cafe latte seals the deal – I really do like this place!

 

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The Creators Lounge is a big, open space with live US sport on the telly, a pool table and very many comfy, lived-in leather sofas.

 

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Josh tells me they’ll have tap beer on some time soon after Christmas, but that the place’s vibe will remain more “chilled out” than a regular bar.

 

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The coming retail outlet will sell – among other things – shaving gear and beer gear.

 

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Meanwhile, elsewhere in Footscray …

The corner site of the former HM Quan appears to have found a new tenant, with a fit-out seemingly underway.

 

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A few doors along, long-standing Ethiopian eatery Awash is “under new management” with “renovations in progress”.

 

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On Leeds Street, the premises that formerly housed Korean joint Snow Tree has become a massage business.

 

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A little further along Leeds, what was for many years Vietnamese stalwart Tan Truc Giang is now Huong Viet and offering vegetarian and vegan fare.

Bennie and I checked out the menu, finding many interesting items, with tofu and mock meat in much evidence.

 

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On the corner of Droop and Nicholson streets, the former convenience store that for several years housed highly regarded Sen has come full circle – and is once more Ha Long!

 

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On Barkly Street, and opposite Lentil As Anything, another new cafe is taking shape.

Going by its website, it’ll be offering old-school cafe fare including breakfasts, burgers, schnitzels and a kids’ menu.

Birdcage Cafe – opening today!

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Birdcage Cafe Altona, 7 Harrington Square, Altona. Phone: 0414 224 821

Running a little ahead of time, I decide to take the scenic route to Altona’s Harrington Square.

But as I pass Bezirk cafe on Millers Road, I feel a twinge of guilt.

You see, I exchanged email a while back with one of Bezirk’s proprietors with a view to doing a CTS review/story – but we simply haven’t got around to it yet.

Now here I am, heading to another Altona cafe to do the biz on the eve of its big opening!

Oh well …

 

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Happily, after I enter Birdcage Cafe Altona, I discover the couple behind it, Adrian and Cath, are the very same folks who run Bezirk.

Problem solved!

Or rather, no problem at all!

 

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Adrian tells me their initial focus when looking to open a sister joint for Bezirk ran more along the lines of a hole-in-the-wall operation.

But when they found and secured 7 Harrington Square, they decided there was no other way for it than to run with gusto with the greater space at hand.

And a lovely space it is, too.

It’s kinda minimalist, but in a warming way.

 

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There’s a cute kids area.

 

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And these rustic, concrete-topped stools are surprisingly bum-friendly.

The table base is constructed from a papadum machine, maintaining a link with the premisies’ previous carnation as a curry house.

 

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Naturally, Birdcage Cafe is doing a fine line in brekkies, including the likes of breakfast pumpkin gnocchi and apple crumble pancakes.

But with more room, and more room to cook, Birdcage Cafe is going further than Bezirk in terms of lunch offerings, running to – for instance – a Thai beef salad and grilled salmon.

I’m told the menu (see below) testing has all been done and I’m on hand for a sort-of softish opening for friends and family.

So my lunch options are limited to the burgers – no matter.

 

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Now, take it on board that my lunch has been prepared in the knowledge it is to be eaten by a food writer and that I did not pay for it.

That said … IMO this fried chicken burger ($17) is a sensation!

There’s nothing particularly sophisticated about it, but …

A massive slab of crisp, juicy and tasty fried chook; cheese; rough-cut, excellent coleslaw; a single rasher of very good bacon.

Excellent chips on the side.

Really top stuff, it all is.

 

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And so substantial that I have no room left for a chunk of Nutella baklava.

Adrian tells me they’re creating some of their sweet treats in-house, but are sourcing others from local specialists such as Fresh Prince of Baklava.

Also keeping righteous local vibe going are meat from Paddock to Table in Laverton and hams and the like from Sycamore Deli in Altona.

 

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My straight-up cafe latte is marvellous.

 

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Happy birthday, Mishra’s Kitchen!

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Mishra’s Kitchen, 18 Wembley Ave, Yarraville. Phone: 9314 3336

It’s a most happy thing, this food-blogging caper, or as it’s evolved for us anyway …

Pretty much the only down side is that mostly we don’t have the opportunity to patronise on a more regular basis so many top places and the smiling, welcoming people who run them.

 

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Such a one is Mishra’s Kitchen on Wembley Avenue in Yarraville.

So we are delighted to accept Sanjeev’s invitation to attend his joint’s fifth birthday party.

 

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We bowl up right at the appointed time thinking that, as so often is the case with us, that we’ll among the very first arrivals and that proceedings will only just be getting underway.

Wrong – the part is already in full swing!

 

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We make happy with the laid-out goodies that include a luscious dal makhani and a very toothsome goat curry.

Sanjeev has turned on this spread without charge.

 

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But guests are being encouraged to give the money they would otherwise have spent on food to the Moira Kelly Creating Hope Foundation.

From Sanjeev’s invittation: “Moira Kelly, AO, has supported sick children and their families for decades. She is known for her work in bringing to Australia children with serious health problems that local doctors are unable to treat (such as conjoined Bangladeshi twins Trishna and Krishna). Moira takes on causes that everybody else says are impossible, and she says of her work: ‘There’s no saying No to hope.’ Her aim is to help international and local needy children and families to be as independent as possible and live full lives in the community.”

You can read all about Moira and her kids here.

 

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We have a lovely time chatting with many people.

 

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And we even have the pleasure of running into Mick and Anika, our neighbours from the days we lived in West Footscray!

 

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Latin Foods & Wines evening

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latin9

 

Latin Foods & Wines, 809 Ballarat Road, Deer Park. Phone: 8358 5503

Western suburbs food is ALWAYS exciting for Consider The Sauce.

But we reckon there’s nothing that’s been more exciting than the move of Latin Foods & Wines (aka La Morenita) from rather pokey digs in Sunshine to much bigger premises in Deer Park.

The business has grown, there’s a definite buzz and the eat-in options have expanded to include not just the empanadas and dynamite sandwiches still available but also proper, plated meals.

We’ve tried a number of those latter offerings and are so delighted with the whole new deal we are happy to put an extra 10 minutes drive time to get to Deer Park.

 

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A big part of the expanded business is the parrillada – South American barbecue.

It’s been running for a few months – mainly at the weekends.

But this Friday night sees its official launch and a test run for Latin Foods & Wines as a regulation restaurant operation.

I’ve been only too happy to organise a media/blogger table for the occasion; no “consultancy” fee has been paid – this has been just for the fun of it.

We get the same $50 set sample menu on offer to general customers, though in our case the food is complementary.

 

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We start with a trio of fine cocktail empanadas with various fillings.

I am familiar with the style of the two on the left through multiple eatings at LF&W, but the corn-crusted on one on the right – in the Colombian style, I’m told, and filled with mash ‘n’ meat – makes a nice contrast.

 

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Unannounced on the menu are cheesy bread items called pan de bono with mayonesa de ajo.

 

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Next up are (from left) …

Ceviche – in the Chillean style, I’m told, and made from very finely shredded hake; very lemony.

Causa limefia – mashed spud stuffed with chicken and topped with a slice of hardboiled egg.

Anticucho – from the barbecue, two beef cubes on a stick, with a slice of chorizo between them.

 

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It’s worth noting that South American-style barbecue meats are quite different from the US-style that has become so trendy in Melbourne in recent years.

The meat is served mostly unadorned and is, by contrast, well cooked.

But still delicious!

I had rather feared that we’d be served full-on platters of meats from the regular barbecue line-up – on top of all the other components of our set/sample menu.

That’s not the case – instead we get nice sample chunks of costillar (cumin-scented pork), pamplona (rolled chicken stuffed with cheese and ham) and parrillada lamd (scented with rosemary).

A good tomato and onion salad accompanies.

The fully appropriate sample-size portions mean we have plenty of room for desserts …

 

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… which are fabulous and, for several of us, the unexpected highlight of our evening.

Tangy pineapple gelato tipped with a wonderful chewy, caramelised cube of fresh pineapple.

Tres leche – house specialty take on the sponge layer cake popular in various forms throughout South America.

Merengue lucuma – a spectacular mix of merengue and chocolate on a biscuit base.

The when and how of the various components of the Latin Foods & Wines’ line-up – sandwiches/burgers, more substantial plates, barbecue – is far from settled, so I suggest you phone beforehand to make sure what you’re interested in will be available.

I’ve loved not just the food but also the opportunity to rub shoulders – and swap goss – with friends new and old.

 

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Among the former have been Cassandra from Hungry Cookie and Maggie from They Call Me Maggie.

 

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Also on hand have been Susan from the lovely FB page Point Cook Dining and her friend, Saba.

 

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The old pals sharing our table have included Jacqui, The Urban Ma, and hubby Wes.

Sorry, Nat Stockley and Jackie – can’t include a pic of you two as I didn’t nail a usable one!

Consider The Sauce and friends dined at Latin Foods & Wines as guests of management. We did not pay for our food.

Kensington’s beautiful avenue

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There may have been a time when living right next to a railway line bespoke glamour and status.

But mostly I associate railways lines, in cities and towns around the world, with being living territory for the blue collar and the poor – or poorer.

 

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Bellair Street in Kensington, between Racecourse Road and through to Macaulay Road, is an exception.

Yes, it runs parallel with the railway line – but the wide road, lovely trees and many gorgeous houses have quite some elegance and a well-to-do feel about them.

 

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Walking from one end to the other, I spied just two buildings that seemed to be of a more contemporary, post-World War II style.

 

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First up at the Racecourse Road end is a building emblazoned with the words “CHILD WELFARE CENTRE”.

 

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These days it serves as the HQ for a legal service.

The staff tell me it served its original purpose rather briefly and that there was other sort of business there before the arrival of their service.

 

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Next door is the town hall, which I’m told served originally both Kensington and Moonee Ponds.

 

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These days, it’s a service outpost of Melbourne council, a venue for hire and home to Kensington market.

 

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The majority of houses on this stretch of Bellair are elevated, single-fronted Victorians.

 

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Mostly they display ample evidence of being well loved – but not always.

 

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Mind you, there are a couple of grander abodes.

 

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Further towards Macaulay is a group of three buildings that seem older than their neighbours.

 

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They have the sort “crammed in” look I associate more with some parts of Carlton close to the CBD than I do with the western suburbs.

 

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This stretch of Bellair is dominated by two grand, large, two-storey buildings.

 

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The brick one appears to have not changed for many years.

All the windows are blocked with blinds and the like.

 

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It has a boarding house vibe about it.

The locals I talk with find it as mysterious as do I.

 

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Like the old, towering bank a little further along, the brick edifice appears to have facilities at the rear for horses and/or servants.

Not necessarily in that order …

 

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I recall that about a decade ago, there appeared to be some revamp/renovation activity pending at the old bank.

These days, it looks well kept but devoid of life.

But I suspect looks, in this case, are misleading.

 

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The popular cafe/shop end of Bellair these days boasts two new arrivals …

 

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… a barbershop and …

 

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… and a Turkish bakery/cake shop.

 

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CTS spends much time eating on Racecourse Road.

Consequently, we’ve also spent a lot of time cruising the back streets around there looking for viable parking spots that won’t cost us a ticket.

 

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It’s only recently I’ve realised – hooray! – there is invariably plenty of parking just around the corner, on Bellair and right adjacent the town hall.

 

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But instead of always driving down Bellair, I’m glad to have walked it, camera in hand.

It’s certainly one of our more notable thoroughfares.

 

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The perfect lunch – $4

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hoang2

 

Hoang Lan 2, 10 Alfrieda Street, St Albans. Phone: 9366 7098

There are several places that specialise in banh mi on Alfrieda Street, but mostly they’re geared to take-away trade and have only the most rudimentary eat-here-right-now seating arrangements.

Which is why I choose Hoang Lan 2 and its cafe vibe and plush seats.

 

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There’s many kinds of Vietnamese snack things available here, as well as cakes and pastries and coffee.

But it’s banh mi that’s on my mind.

 

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I ask what are the most popular … and am told numbers 7, 8 and 12: BBQ chicken, BBQ pork and roast pork.

So I do the obvious – and choose meatballs instead.

 

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It’s perfect in every way.

The bread is crusty and fresh and my sanger is well stuffed with two halved meatballs, pickled carrot, chilli, mayo, coriander and more.

(This post has been sponsored by the St Albans Business Group. However, Consider The Sauce chose and paid for the food involved and the STBG neither sought nor was granted any access or say in the writing of this post.)

 

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