Flemington soul food




Deli Afro Restaurant, 331 Racecourse Road, Kensington.   Phone: 9994 7229

The Racecourse Road strip – already happily packed with a plethora of food choices – is these days home to seven African eateries.

That’s right – seven.

But Consider The Sauce aside, you won’t be seeing this celebrated elsewhere.

This is for the simple reason that, with a couple of exceptions, these mostly Somalian cafes lack – sometimes rather spectacularly – the sort of photogenic vibe and high degree of chic and/or hipster ambience that would make them of interest to the greater part of Melbourne’s foodie media.

Ranging from the metro newspapers through to the likes of Broadsheet and Timeout through to most of our city’s bloggers, that a place being covered has some sort of “look” seems as important – and often even more important – than terrific food made by beautiful people.




Look, CTS is not at all averse to eating and dining in pleasant, attractive, sexy surrounds.

But that comes a poor third in our world when compared with that sort of food and those sorts of people.

As it is, Deli Afro is rather more restaurant-like than some of its near neighbours.

Over several visits now, I have been welcomed, had food questions happily answered and generally had an all-round great time.

And the food is tremendous and very cheap.

No matter what you order here (see menu below), you will be served soup – one of the benchmarks of such places.




The Deli Afro version is a veritable nectar of the gods.

Unlike most, this has no vegetable pieces or strands of stock meat – it’s simply a lip-smackingly awesome, tangy, lemony, spicy broth.

The other benchmark, for me, of such fine cafes is the rice.

The rice that comes with my lamb ($15, top photo) is likewise perfect.

Every grain glistens, with just the right amount of diced veg, onion and sultanas included.

With this kind of cooked-in-stock rice, one word automatically comes to my mind – inhale.

The generous serve of lamb is very good, too, and I continue to be wowed how north-east African cooks do so much, albeit very simply, with humble barbecue chops.

I am also provided a side plate of greens and stewed, finely diced beef, along with a zippy chilli sauce.

The overcooked greens are the sort of thing I reckon warrants comparison with the side dishes associated with the “soul food” of the US. 




On another visit to Deli Afro, it is CTS pal Marnes who goes the meat-and-rice route while I happily explore another aspect of Somalian food – pasta.

These noodles are so much fun and beaut to eat, especially with liberal dosings of the chilli condiment.

There’s minced beef in there, but it is a very dry dish – it’s like a dry, jumbly bolognese.




I normally steer away from fish in your more humble-but-friendly ethnic cafes, fearing a serve of bony and/or trashy fish such as tilapia or basa.

At Deli Afro, by contrast, I get a handsome chunk of salmon – how about that, and also at $15 with the pasta?

It looks like it’s been blackened in the New Orelans tradition, but – no – it is as simply cooked as our lamb.

It is way overcooked by the norms most of us associate with this fish, but not ruinously so.

I enjoy it a lot.

Our Friday night dinner gets the full Somalian treatment through provision of a banana each to eat with our meal and then milky chai-style tea spiced with ginger and other spices.




Meal of the week No.33: Up In Smoke General Store

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We checked out the dinner routine at Up In Smoke (28 Hopkins St, Footscray, phone 9689 8188) very early in the piece, and Bennie I have been back a couple of times – most recently to share very happily the Big Tray.

But it’s taken this long for me to try the lunch-time fare at the adjoining store.

The shop has a range of beer, hot sauces, pickles and condiments and the like, and has a range of ready-to-toast sangers on hand.

But I’m here with hopes of seeing how they integrate the restaurant’s barbecue fare with a more low-key, quick-bite and affordable lunch philosophy.

What’s available is listed on a blackboard.




Chips ($5) are fine, though I reckon halving the serve and charging $3 might better serve those wanting to top up their lunch orders without going overboard.




My beef brisket roll is a knock-out!

Here’s the thing – it’s something of fusion of the Up In Smoke barbecue thing and the banh-mi scene of a few blocks away.

The banh-mi-style roll is stuffed with a very Asian, finely chopped coleslaw, cucumber batons, fresh red chilli discs and coriander.

But it’s also handsomely filled with thick slices of very tasty and wonderful smoked brisket.

The price is $9 – which is, of course, almost precisely twice the going rate for Footscray central banh mi.

But it’s also a good handful of dollars LESS than such a high-quality sandwich/roll would cost you in a hipster cafe.

Given how much I enjoy it, I consider the $9 fee a bargain.





Reception centres of the western suburbs




Wedding receptions and other big parties/gatherings are held, of course, in many venues across the west – at Werribee Mansion, for example.

But here I am concerned here only with those that bill themselves as reception centres.

I love them!

The above photo was taken while I was attending a recent political fundraiser at 501 Receptions in West Footscray.

In all but one of the other cases, I gained access to the centres simply by walking in.

I took a heap of interior photos – and was even given a guided tour by management in one case.

But the rooms were all either being cleaned up by staff and/or prepared for the next function.

As such, I have chosen not use such photos as it would be unfair.

But what impressed me in all cases was the hushed grandeur of the reception rooms – especially the big ones.

And I admired the architectural skill that creates such grand rooms almost totally without pillars.

All these places spoke to me deeply in terms of community gatherings, of weddings and 21sts and balls and many generations of celebrations.

Of hopes and dreams.

I’d be super thrilled and grateful if any readers would care to chip in with their memories of attending functions at any of these places!


501 Receptions, Barkly Street, West Footscray




Sheldon Recepotion & Convention Centre, Somerville Road, Sunshine West.




Grand Star Reception & Convention Centre, Grieve Parade, Altona North





White Knight Receptions, Hampstead Road, Maidstone





Ultima Function Centre, Keilor Park Drive, Keilor Park





Lakeside Banquest & Convention Centre, Melton Highway, Taylors Lakes




The Luxor Function Centre, Sydenham Road, Taylors Lakes




Unknown, Sunshine Road, Tottenham


I’m including this because it was actually this derelict building on Sunshine Road in Tottenham that inspired a reception centre post.

Having driven past it countless times, often wondering about its history, I’d always assumed it was – or had been – a reception centre.

But upon stopping to take photographs, I realised it simply doesn’t seem big or grand enough.

Does anyone know its story?

Searingly good Friday dinner

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Searz Caffi, 39 Challis Street, Newport. Phone: 9399 2393

Some of our hottest meals are deeply rooted in the most whimsical decisions.

So it is tonight.

Turn left at the end of the street – that means Spotswood, Newport, Williamstown, Altona.

It’s as we’re tooling along Williamstown Road, vague notions of pizza fomenting in our minds, that inspiration strikes.

Friday night!


We’ve been to this Newport cafe before, but since then a friend has keenly recommended the joint’s Friday Indian-style specials.

We enjoyed our earlier visit, but so terrific is what we have during our second that we decide there is no better cafe in the west – and we are left with a serious case of dead-set envy because it’s not in OUR neighbourhood.

A big part of Searz’s appeal, for us anyway, is its Asian outlook.

So many other cafes – across the west, across Melbourne – come across as dilettantes when it comes to incorporating Asian influences and dishes into their menus.

Sometimes this results in enjoyable food – but without ever quite nailing the funky spicy factor.

There’s no such problems at Searz – a wide range of deftly handled Asian dishes and flavours are on hand and Asian-ness is the very beating heart of the place.




Take Bennie’s Thai beef salad ($14), for instance.

From our table’s vantage point, we enjoy watching this being constructed, so by the time it arrives we know exactly what’s in it and how it was done.

It’s very good – and in terms of quality, portion size and pure yumminess, leaves most equivalent dishes at your average Thai eateries behind.

I try a piece of the beef and am very impressed – it’s tender, charry, wonderful.




But his salad is definitely aced by my Friday night curry special ($20).

The mix of biryani rice, chicken curry, dal with veg, fried hardboiled egg and apple/mango chutney is simply fabulous.

And while it looks to me, at first, a little light on for the price tag, such proves most certainly to not be the case.

Best of all, each and every component displays most admirable evidence of loving preparation and determination to produce a range of individual flavours.

The boneless chicken is more South-East Asian than Indian, but is superb with its salty, smoky seasoning.

All the rest is every bit as interesting and delicious.




By now, we’re having such a grand time we decide to indulge in dessert.

There’s two on the blackboard – we order both.

Banana nutella tart with banana fritter and chocolate mousse (above) and …




… peach and raspberry croustade with creme fraiche ice-cream and peach/rum coulis are both orgasmic and have Bennie and I doing our usual oooh-ing, aaah-ing, swooning and eye-rolling when presented with such finery.

These are the sorts of sweet treats we would normally only expect in more formal – and expensive – settings.

The price?

$8 each.


It seems only fitting in a sort of synchronicity way that the pal who tipped us to the excellence of Friday nights at Searz – Daniel of Woven and Container Cafe fame – turns up with his crew as we’re embarking on dessert.



Strong contender in the westie burger stakes

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Burgernomics, 286 Ballarat Road, Braybrook.

These days, it seems, Wednesday night is burger night for Consider The Sauce.

So off we trek to Ballarat Road in Braybrook.

We’ve tried Burgernomics previously – a few days after the joint opened – but it was all too busy and crazy.

On a lovely mid-week night, things are a lot more orderly and we’re keen to see what’s on offer.

What we find is a small, tidy fast-food cafe with a fairly typical menu of burgers and variously souped-up fries – think cheese, bolognese, nachos and so on.

The small crew on hand are upbeat, smiling and doing a top-class job.

Turnaround time – from ordering to eating – is about as brief as possible and thus way shorter than some places we could mention.




While I mostly disapprove of the many leaning towers of customised burgers I see splattered across social media these days, I choose not to deny Bennie when his eyes light up at seeing the blackboard Burgernomics special of the Bulldog Burger ($14.90) of beef, fried chicken, double cheese, bacon lettuce, tomato, mayo, BBQ sauce.




In truth, while his Bulldog Burger is substantial it is still a burger of manageable proportions.

Bennie’s unsure about the compatibility of the cow ‘n’ chook – but is thrilled with his burger nevertheless, and particularly the wonderfully crisp and big slab of chicken.

He downs the lot.

My own Baconator ($10.90) with extra beef patty ($3), too, is excellent – though the extra patty is hardly warranted given I don’t quite manage to finish eating my meal.

The beef is plain but good and all the trimmings and dressings are fine.

We’ve become a little cynical about the use of brioche – or brioche-style buns – in burgers, finding them often either dry or used as an excuse to go small.

These are both fresh and of regular burger dimensions – yay!

Our “beer-battered” fries ($3) are fine but somewhat superfluous given the girth of our burgers.




So … we’ve enjoyed a very good burger dinner.

But as Bennie says: “They’re only burgers.”

So we’re not going to claim “best in the west” status for the Burgernomics fare.

But we are happy to include them among our short list of faves in the west alongside Burger Business, Gemelli and Zigzag.



An unplanned review



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

A “whoops, wrong day” scheduling misunderstanding meant I could not take Tony and his son, Nick, to the Somalian place I had planned for them as I’d had lunch there about six hours before.

So off we went, ending up – after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing on my part – in Essex Street.

CTS has written bout Ebi a number of times – the last more than a year ago when new management had recently taken over.

But we’re happy to do so again in order reassure readers that things are running smoothly and Ebi is still, well, very much Ebi.

The menu, and the specials board, appear to be unchanged.




The staff are smiling and engaging.

At first, early on a Saturday evening, we were seated outside, but it was a little on the chilly side so when bar stools became available we were happily ushered inside.

Most importantly, the all-important attention to details – things such as a crisp lotus root chips and the many kinds of pickle – remain very much in evidence.

I turned my back on the superb Ebi fish and chips I have been eating here for years and chose instead the chicken katsu curry rice bowl ($17).




It was sooooo good – pretty much the best Japanese rice-bowl meal I’ve ever had.

Rich curry gravy boosted by a tantalising just-right whiff of bonito flakes, lots of pickles and lots of perfectly cooked, crunchy chook, the equilibrium between rice/gravy/chicken balanced so all “run out” at precisely the same time.

My friends’ choices of the fish-three-ways bento and the chilli prawn bento (both $19) seemed the usual Ebi spot-on.

What a gem this is – small, friendly, neighbourly and miles from any of the established food strips.

I really enjoyed seeing somewhere so familiar, however briefly, through the eyes of visitors to the west.

More dosa room in Tarneit

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Dosa Hut, Wyndham Village Shopping Centre, 380 Sayers Road, Tarneit. Phone: 8742 4263

We’re in Tarneit for the opening of Dosa Hut.

Well, not quite – we’ve been here before and this Dosa Hut branch has been open for a while.

But Dosa Hut Tarneit IS having something of an event to celebrate the unveiling of its extended premises.

There’s a buzz about the place, there’s VIPs and music and some speechifying.

Dosas – or, more accurately, dosas and the range of other Indian food that such places offer – are big business in the west these days.

So much so that even those Indian places that have generally long focussed on more regular curry fare have been forced to extend their menus to encompass dosas … and idlis and vadas and Indo-Chinese goodies.




Competition is fierce – there’s four Dosa Hut joints across the city now.

And here in Tarneit, Dosa Hut is going head to head with Dosa Corner – just as they do in West Footscray.

But it’s worth remembering that it was Dosa Hut West Footscray that first brought dosas to the west – and it’s on that basis that we’re happy to drop into the Tarneit office on this auspicious evening.

The menu appears to be the same, longish affair – and with quite a number of dishes struck out.

But nevertheless, we have a ball ordering a couple of dishes that offer points of difference and find everything delicious.




Beaut idlis are brought to our table soon after we have ordered – and on the house.

They make a nice light start – though at this point we fear way too much food may be coming our way.




Pav bhaji ($9.95) is a Mumbai-style snack dish – and utterly simple and wonderful.

The potato-based, mild vegetable curry is tremendous while the buttered rolls belie, I suspect, a lingering influence of English colonial days.




After experiencing some overly damp and flaccid Indo-Chinese food in recent times, it’s a joy to lay eyes on and devour this crispy goat ($12.95).

It’s dry, chewy, boneless and fragrant, the jumble of diced veg resembling the sort of trimmings that come with salt-and-pepper dishes in Malaysian and Chinese places.




Regular chicken biryani ($11.95) is really fine, as expected, all the bits and pieces in good order.

We depart full and very happy, only to discover a red carpet has been laid out since our arrival.

We give it a strutting, opening-night whirl anyway.