A classy joy in WeFo

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Harley & Rose, 572 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 8320 0325

The Harley & Rose dining room has a cosy, almost clubbish, vibe about it.

The tables are many, but there’s no sense of overcrowding.

A long bar runs down most of one side of the room.

The place is all a-bustle earlyish on a Friday night, but about half those bar stools remain untaken.

Though the outside tables are chockers.



Despite the happening vibe and happy restaurant theatre in full cry, one of our fears – based on many experiences in similar places – stays wonderfully mute: The noise levels are fine.

Even though there’s a happy hubbub going on all around us, we are able to converse pretty much normally.

Though you wouldn’t want to be in whisper mode.



Most excellently, the place appears to have already earned places in the hearts of many, including West Footscray’s young family demographic.

And, yes, there is a kids menu.



Tables are adorned with real-deal serviettes.

The Team CTS of four on hand can rise to the occasion of three-hour-plus meals.

But mostly we’re very much of the “bring us food and make it snappy” school.

So we really appreciate the terrific service and the beautifully paced arrival of our various choices.

By no means are we in any way rushed, but our dishes arrive in a steady stream.

It could be said that Harley & Rose serves mostly orthodox Italian – but that would be misleading.

For instead of bolognese or veal scaloppine or minestrone, there are wonderful surprises at almost every turn.



We share four starters.

Salami ($12), with caper berries on the side, has just the right perfume level of fennel.

Our other choices mostly display exactly the same levels of light and right.



They include Noix de Jambon with fresh fig ($15) …



… and smoked ocean trout, Grand Marnier and horseradish ($16).



Though the crunchy/gooey gorgonzola dolce croquettes with quince ketchup ($9) certainly up the richness factor quite a bit.

For mains, for us, two pasta offerings and two pizzas.



Spaghetti cacio e pepe ($19) is profoundly simple, sinfully rich perfection – just pasta, cheese, pepper and not much else.



From the short specials line-up, Bennie chooses rigatoni with a sticky tomato sauce including fermented chilli and pancetta ($18).

Loves it, he does, though its consumption concludes with a familiar refrain from him: “Wow – that was bigger than it looked!”



If anything, perhaps our sooper dooper pizzas are the real high points of our eating evening.

Neapolitan ($20) with sweet pepper, tomato, anchovy, olives and oregano and …



… and house sausage ($22) with pork sausage, fennel, tomato, eggplant and pecorino both exhibit great flavours coming from perfectly matched ingredients.




Oh, yes, we’re definitely in that sort of mood.

Tiramisu ($14) is a straight-up top-shelf rendition of a classic.



Meringue with pink pepper melon and apple granita ($12) is amazing.

The blending of the poached meringue (a bit like a gooey marshmallow) with the cool pink cubes, crunchy granita and the all-important mint equals a taste explosion.

We’ve ordered, eaten and spent without restraint.

Our four-way meal, with a full round of drinks, clocks in at $207.

But give the starters a miss, and stick with the terrific pasta/pizza options, and Harley & Rose invitingly presents as both a night-out deal and as a regular, weekly destination.

And if I lived around here, I’d be eyeing that bar up for the odd, quick, solo meal-with-book-in-hand.

Check out the Harley & Rose website – including menu – here.

Meal of the week No.39: The White Elephant



In the couple of months since CTS first visited the White Elephant (561 Barkly Street) in West Footscray, its situation has grown and evolved.

The Sri Lankan place has earned – and is earning – well-deserved plaudits for the quality of its food.

It was not always apparent this would be the case, surrounded as it is by so many Indian eateries.

Different food, different countries, you bet, but I wasn’t sure those differences would be sufficient for White Elephant to establish a foothold in a very competitive area.

As, well – the prices have gone up.

And that’s a good thing.


On the occasion of our earlier visit, the three members of that night’s Team CTS appreciated the ultra-low prices, but surmised they were simply unsustainable in the longer term.

Rice and three curry bowls (two veg, one meat) for $15?


My lampraise then cost $17 and now costs $24 – and given the quality of the food, that is STILL affordable, well within cheap eats territory and very fair.

So, yes, we’re happy about the higher prices as hopefully they mean White Elephant will be around for many years to come.

But as Julian, Nat, Bennie and myself discover when we convene for a Sunday Sri Lankan lunch, it remains possible to eat here for next to nothing, albeit on a restricted menu – with which we have no problem at all.

So our $12.90 lunch deals are identical …

A good on-the-bone lamb curry.

A coconutty dal.

Devilled potato.

A hard-boiled egg.


And cabbage curry.

They’re all very good.

Though the strong fishiness of the cabbage curry – derived from dried Maldive fish – is way less agreeable to me than my companions.

Our meal takes an hour to arrive.

Which brings up another point about White Elephant.

Some online sleuthing will quickly turn up comments and reviews in which the serve-time factor here is mentioned – sometimes quite stroppily.

Here’s the thing, though – this leisurely pace is obviously part-and-parcel of the place and its people.

There’s a lot of care going into the food.

If this is an issue for you, or if you’re in anything that even remotely approaches a hurry, then you’re in the wrong place.

Just for the record, I’ll mention the two dishes we have been served on a complementary basis.



The beef pan rolls are crisp, fresh, spicy, packed with beef ‘n’ spud and as good as any of us have had of this popular SL snack fare.



As on our previous visit, the dry okra curry is fabulous.

We’re unsure whether or not these dishes have been provided to us because of the wait time (in the first case) or, in the second, because we’d mentioned it when ordering.

Likewise, we know not if this sort of generosity is standard practice or if we’ve received special treatment.

Either way, we are grateful!


A fine lunch in St Albans



New Favorite, 306 Main Road east, St Albans. Phone: 8395 5315

Consider The Sauce has been at 306 Main Road East before.

But that was the best part of six years ago when it was travelling under the name Hong Kong Noodle Bar.

Way more recently, the location has been embraced by new management and launched under a new name, New Favorite.



For this mid-week lunch, I have the distinct pleasure of being joined by Brimbank councillors Duyen Anh Pham and Virginia Tachos and their equally community-spirited colleague, Dinh Trang.



Our fun time gets rolling with one of the all-time fave CTS things – complementary soup.

In this case, that means a deeply brown broth of the beef variety – much more mildly flavoured than its intense appearance would suggest.



New Favorite covers a broad range of mixed Chinese, Vietnamese and “other” dishes, making it an attractive proposition in terms of an alternative to the tight focus on Vietnamese food hereabouts.

The food is cheap and excellent.

And I suspect the same giant roasting ovens are still in play, making this the only – AFAIK – option in the neighbourhood for super Chinese roast meats while Phi Phi, around the corner on Alfrieda Street, is undergoing renovations.

My combo of soy chicken and roast duck on rice ($11.80) is fine, with even the chunkier chook breast meat beinge juicy.

As good, the duck is much less chewy and gnarly than is frequently the case.



My friends enjoy their selections, too.

They include char kwai teow ($10.80) …



… mapo tofu on rice ($10.80) and …



… combination fried noodles ($13.80).

Thanks for the company and conversation!


Another Flemo/Somalian jewel



Sahra’s Kitchen, 303 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 0390 447 337

Sahra’s Kitchen is the final regular Racecourse Road Somalian eatery to be covered by CTS.

We’ve held off for a couple of reasons.

We’ve eaten here a heap of times, but truth be told it has long seemed to operate at least partially as something of a community hub for the local Somalian community.

While we’ve always been made to feel welcome, it has presented as being a little less open and viable for members of the general public.

Plus, the last time I stepped in here, they’d run out of rice!

There’s no such problems this time around as Bennie and settle in for a mid-week dinner.

Indeed, the place had been tidied up and refreshed.

There’s cool, matching furniture and even some artwork on the walls.

We find the service prompt and cheerful.

Sahra’s Kitchen is definitely open for your business.

And there’s rice in the house!

The menu (see below) is quite long and varied, running to breakfast dishes and a tuna sandwich.

There’s even a transnational touch in the form of an injera meal.

I’m told that’s unavailable this night, so Bennie and I opt for our regular rice/pasta with meat ($15).



But first, soup – of course!

Here the lamb-based concoction is cloudy – almost like a “cream of” soup.

It’s delicious.

There’s nary a trace of meat yet the whole thing is profoundly and deeply flavoured with lamb.



Bennie’s pasta combo with lamb and …



… my rice combo with lamb are excellent, matching in every way the quality found elsewhere on this magical strip.

Bennie’s spaghetti and its tomato-based sauce is not as wet as some, nor as dry as others, and a touch more oily.

He slurps up every strand with glee.

My rice is fine but plain.

All the lamb is tender and wonderful – even the more hunka chunks.

A friend commented this week how he finds the Somalian food at one of his new faves – a Footscray place we have yet to cover – varies depending on who is manning the stoves.

Yes, well – we like that about all our favourite Somalian joints, that the food is hardly ever the same.

It varies depending not just on who is in the kitchen but also on the hour of the day and the day of the week!

In this case, we are blessed with plentiful amounts of pan-tanned veg – onion, carrot, capsicum and even some broccoli.

If not the best part of our meals, the vegetable factor is certainly the crowning glory.


Korean fried chicken and a whole lot more

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Be.K, 3/21 Edgewater Boulevard, Maribyrnong. Phone: 8596 4292

Be.K looks like the kind of cafe where you’ll get a good coffee and a decent breakfast.

Those are available, but as we discover – on a Saturday lunch visit for Bennie’s birthday – there’s much more going on here.

A glossy colour photo menu runs from ritzy breakfast dishes through to sangers, Korean fried chicken and on to luscious Asian desserts.

A simpler printed list has more breakfast items, a couple of burgers, ribs and tempura prawns.



The place is done out in simple cafe style and business is quite brisk – especially on the outside tables.

Notably, Be.K’s advertised opening hours are seven days a week – until 11.30pm.



Papaya salad with prawns is pricey at $20.90, but the quality is there.

The veg components are fresh and crunchy, the dressing tangy and the head-on prawns are a fresh-grilled delight.



Bennie enjoys his pulled pork burger, with chips and costing $17.90.

Served in a beetroot brioche bun, it’s generously stuffed with meat, slaw and pickled cucumber.

I’m surprised to hear him adjudge it a rather modest good, as – going by my taste – it’s definitely among the better versions we’ve had.

The chips are fine, but the chicken salt-style seasoning they’ve been daubed with is way too sweet for me.



Deb’s sanger is described as “Philly cheese steak sandwich” ($13.90) – fans of that American classic would no doubt be bemused.

But it work on its own terms, the thin-cut meat making it easy to eat and the onions and other veg, cut wok-style, are fine.



Of the four varieties of Korean fried chicken listed, we opt for the original.

We get five pieces in our half-chook serve ($16.50).

Oh boy, this is great stuff – simply terrific fried chicken, unoily, hot, perfectly cooked and moan-out-loud delicious.

Just as good are the accompanying house-made pickles of onion, celery and more.

A little sweet, not too sour and a whole heap of crunchy – excellent!



The birthday boy goes for it by ordering bingsu of the nutella banana variety.

His is the $10.90 small rendition; there are medium and large versions available.


He loves the refreshing base of shaved milk ice.

But, yes, he pours the side serve of condensed milk right over the top right from the get-go.



His dessert is the very epitome of richness restraint when compared with the Vietnamese coffee tiramisu ($8.90).

With its dark chocolate and crunchy granola (at first I thought it was pecans), this would puzzle tiramisu purists.

But we reckon it is sinfully, explosively awesome.

We’ve had a fine time that has been in no way diminished by a certain degree of distraction in the service department.

But we are a little bemused …

No fault in two of our initial choices being unavailable. If anything, that’s a good sign indicating brisk turnover – and it meant we end up ordering the fried chicken, and that turned out to be a very fine thing.

But my coffee is brought to a table covered – really covered – with chicken bones, empty receptacles and soiled serviettes.

My sincere question about the precise nature of the vegetables used in the wonderful pickles is met with stony-faced recalcitrance.

More broadly, despite there being what appears to be half a soccer team of staff scurrying around the place, we do find it difficult a few times to make eye contact or attract attention, even resorting to raised hands and waving arms before approaching the counter.

Right on time @ Braybrook



Braybrook Stn, Shop 23, 65-67 Ashley Street, Braybrook. Phone: 9005 1977

Central West shopping centre, perched on Ashley Street, has long seemed to struggle to build a character of its own.

Along with a couple of supermarkets, it has a variety of servicable traders.

But there often seems to be a revolving cast of empty shops, both in the centre proper and in the surrounding hub.

So even as the parking lot invariably seems quite full, there never seems to anything particularly memorable about the whole place.

And – until now – that has been true, too, for the food situation there.

But this fine new cafe is most worthy of being a food destination.



Apparently run by the same folks who operate a similarly titled establishment in Northcote, Braybrook Stn is offering casual cafe dining that is classy and affordable.

The menu (see below) runs through breakfast and lunch, with some dishes easily capable of doing duty as both.

Wasabi milk chicken soba noodles ($18, top photograph) are rather spectacular and delicious in every way.

If the “soba” nomenclature and pickle signal Japanese origins, the dish also sports something of a green curry vibe suggesting another Asian country.

There’s plentiful amounts of tender sliced chicken and broccolini in there, along with green onion, ginger and turmeric.

My suspicions about the wisdom of adding of poached egg to such a bowl are wiped out in dramatic fashion by the perfect “poachie”.

It all works and has nice-and-mild spice kick!



Orecchiette ($17) works just fine as a warm salad kind of dish.

The asparagus and broad beans are wonderful, with cherry toms providing random blasts of sweetness and contrast, with mint and chilli assisting.

It’s a very dry dish – with nary a trace of the menu-listed salsa verde – that is nonetheless a light delight.

My cafe latte is on the strong side and of the top grade.

According the joint’s Facebook page, Braybrook Stn is open on Thursday and Friday nights; it is also on Uber Eats.


Nice to meet CTS reader Viv and her pals, looking oh-so-chic despite lunching straight after their Sunday run.


Greek street food – on the street



Greek Gypsy, 545 Macaulay Road, Kensington. Phone: 0423 709 769

We are eating from yucky polystyrene – and it’s all our fault.

Well … sort of.

If we’d made clear our eating intentions – to have our dinner right there, beside the food truck that is Greek Gypsy – we’d have been provided proper crockery.

Oh well …

As it is, we do get metal cutlery as we proceed to enjoy our meals.

And very good they are, too.

The outdoor furniture that accompanies the Greek Gypsy routine may not be any less disposable than the polystyrene containers.

But the food is every bit as delicious and enjoyable as that to be had at the other Greek enterprises that have been unveiled in our greater neighbourhood in recent months – see here, here and here.



From the compact menu, both Bennie and I choose …



… open gyro plates ($14), with a mix of lamb and chicken.

The meat is outstanding – both juicy and chewy, the lamb having a slight edge IMO.

Toasted pita goes good with a generous serve of excellent tsatziki.

The salad bits?

Just OK.



Chips ($5) are just the teensiest bit too oily.

But otherwise, they are hot, crisp and yummy – and, like, the meat, way better than we have been expecting from this food truck operation.

One of the dinner options we had been contemplating this night, just down the road apiece, would’ve run to a minimum of $80 for the pair of us – and quite probably more than $100.

Yet here we are, sitting atop Kensington Hill, having spent a fraction of that and grinning like happy fools as we eat like kings and watch the traffic and the world flow by.

Life is grand!