Western suburbs food and Melbourne’s mainstream media

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In Anthea Cannon’s lovely spread in the Maryrbinong Leader on Consider The Sauce and Footscray Food Blog, I was quoted as saying: “The Good Food Guide used to be my bible but not one Footscray place is in there.”

Truth is, it’s been more than a decade since I bought a copy – we may as well live a on different planets.

Of course, there’s a very good reason The Age Good Food Guide ignores Footscray completely and more or less ignores the rest of the west, too – the food styles (and prices!) it covers simply don’t exist in meaningful numbers in our part of the world.

Some years ago, the Age coverage of cheap eats was sloughed off to … Cheap Eats, which I presume has a fair number of Footscray eateries and heaps more from the greater west.

I’m ignorant on that matter, too, as it’s likewise been years since I looked at a copy. It’s worthy and no doubt valuable to those who buy it. But when you’re on the ground and regularly out on the food hunt, as we are, I’d find it very surprising if it could enlighten us on a westie food place of which we’d never before heard. Even if that does sound smug!

But these issues got me thinking about mainstream media coverage of food culture, people and places in Melbourne’s greater western suburbs in general.

The heavyweight formal reviewers for both Melbourne’s daily newspapers, Stephen Downes and Larissa Dubecki, have little or no reason to set foot in the west. Sometimes they surprise, but mostly their interests lie elsewhere – geographically, philosophically and financially.

Nina Rousseau recently covered the marvellous Los Latinos in Epicure’s Unexplored Territory column.

But even though I loathe MasterChef, I reckon The Cravat did a better job of injecting diversity and variety into that space.

Rousseau mostly seem to gravitate towards just-so cafes and the like.

More recently, Lauren/Ms Baklover has got a few good western shots into the small Under $10 section that appears on the same page each week. And good for her, too!

That leaves the weekend papers.

The Herald Sun on Saturday carries, as part of its food spread, a section in which hot-shot places are chosen to represent various parts of the city – including the west.

The Age Extra regularly carries “list” features – “Where to get the best canoli”, for instance, or “Melbourne’s best places for lizard turnovers”. The west gets a run quite often there, too.

And between them and the Sunday papers, there are various nooks and crannies, celebrity profiles and so on that provide scope for our region to get some of the limelight.

I can’t help but feel, though, that often where Melbourne’s west does rate a mention, the coverage is only for form’s sake.

And that the authors/compilers perhaps haven’t even set foot in the western places they dutifully include.

This is surprising for several reasons.

One is the rampant growth of the city’s western regions.

Another, especially in the case of the Herald Sun, is the area’s solid blue-collar credentials. You’d think the “people’s paper” would endeavour to get out and about a bit more in the west, no?

Interestingly, but perhaps not all that relevantly, the Herald Sun’s journos remain based at Southgate, but the paper is printed in the shadows of the Westgate Bridge. The Age scribes are based at Docklands and the paper is printed at Tullamarine.

In any case, I have compiled the following list of eateries that between them seem to have constituted a large slab of coverage accorded western suburbs food coverage in recent years.

Many of them are very fine indeed; one and perhaps more, though, I believe to be over-rated.

Moreover, a handful are obvious choices for the likes of Downes and Dubecki, in that they deliver fine dining – or aspire to it – and prices to match.

But I also sense a close-to-deadline “Quick, quick – I need a western suburbs place! I know – Cafe Fidama!” about it.

But the bottom line is they have all received coverage, sometimes a LOT of coverage, while rest of the west goes unnoticed, unseen and mostly unloved.

And not just in the papers, either, but also online.

Have I missed anyplace obvious?

Thien An

Hung Vuong

Touks

Delizia Cucina

Station Hotel

Café Fidama

Corner Store

Caravallo’s

Café Lalibela

Laksa King

Philhellene

23 thoughts on “Western suburbs food and Melbourne’s mainstream media

  1. On one really quiet night, when most of Melbourne seemed to have left town, we wandered into Delizia Cucina and had one of our most delightful meals (though we don’t get out much), with very interesting taste sensations and friendly service.
    The Station Hotel is often discussed, and often held up as a great place for a steak, but to be honest I have always thought it overrated. Their salads (some time back) were abysmally boring — merely some oily greens, a sliver or two of onion and a cherry tomato to share between about six. The steaks made me yearn for Vancouver, where they melted in the mouth years ago. I can and have done much better at home with some aged eye fillet IMHO (or not so humble).

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    • Interesting … How did the prices strike you? A cheap eats buddy recently and vividly described how they felt like “throwing up” when presented with the bill at Delizia. Also, they found the given main course prices were misleading, in that side dishes were invariably required in order to organise a complete meal. And that can really hike the tab up …

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  2. The Abyssinian on Flemington Rd has had a few write ups from reviewers who probably have never travelled west of Epsom Rd 😉

    Also in Kensington, The Premises is getting a lot of coverage online and I think it had a write up in The Age (but I was quite underwhelmed with the poorly cooked food on the time that I visited).

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  3. Hi Kenny, yes The Premises is a new cafe in Kenso, on the corner of Bellair St and Macaulay Rd, right opposite the train station. It’s a swish cafe, with polished concrete floors and shabby-chic furniture. Apparently ownedby some people that used to work at St Ali it somesuch.

    If you ever venture there, you should also check out the small but perfectly formed Luncheonette on Eastwood St (other side of the train tracks). It was my favorite local caf when I lived over that way. Awesome toasties with ripper bread and top-notch fillings!

    Btw as someone who used to live in that neck of the woods, I should have written that the Abyssinian is on RACECOURSE Rd.

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    • We’ve only been to the Abyssinian once, and enjoyed it, too. However, as with so much in the media, its favourable treatment seem to me to be more about its relatively chic look rather than the food. It was good, but no better than a dozen or so places in Footscray. Like the neighbourhood, though. The kebab joint is very good, as are Vy Vy and the Indian place opposite. And the charcoal chicken place is my preferred hangover sleaze feed place. 🙂 Thanks for the tips!

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      • I agree with you on The Abyssinian, it does lovely Ethiopian food, but so do a bunch of places in Footscray. Vy Vy is great, the kebab shop is terrific. I’d recommend checking out the chicken shop on Macaulay Rd, for my money their chooks a little better than Racecourse Rd.

        One final thing (sorry for hijacking the thread into Kensington-focus!)… From reading your posts it sounds like you have a great love of music. I think you’d enjoy the White Rabbit Record Bar on Bellair St. Vinyl LPs for sale and a fine selection of tunes being played throughout the day. They’re mainly about drinks but do some food too… Daily specials are often quite good. And to bring it all back to your original post, they’ve had a few media write-ups in The Age and other places 🙂

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      • As a veteran of music-based bulletin boards wherein sport, religion and politics – even food! – are regularly discussed, I am a witness to the great rule of cyber discourse: The unrailed thread is momentously outnumbered by those that are derailed. Usually promptly, as well. 🙂

        Been to the Macaulay Rd chook house once – they do polystyrene and plastic. The Racecourse Rd joint does metal cutlery and real plates. End of story … for me.

        Yeah, I’ve been in White Rabbit a couple of times. Pretty cool, but I’m much more a food hound than a bar fly!

        Like the little place on the corner, too … name escapes me. Sort of like a cross between a cool inner-city cafe and a Thai restaurant.

        Thanks for commenting at length!

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  4. I think you’ve got a valid point, Consider. But you would have seen this week’s Epicure, so it is beginning to change. Go Footscray, best area for fine food in Melbourne!

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    • Yep, saw the article. Sorry – too much of a cynic to believe it’ll make much difference. Tell you the truth, I don’t much care – I don’t need the Herald Sun or The Age to validate my happiness. But what irks me, as journo as much as anything, is the lazy habit – by sub-editors, editors, reporters, whoever – of trotting out the same old names over and over to pad out their listings.

      Spotted in the Hun in recent weeks – Café Lalibela

      Also, much of the Food Festival’s Footscray program seems aimed at offering outsiders a taste of what we have to offer – in at least a couple of cases, at disturbingly high prices – rather than at those of us who live here. This is a challenge for them – how can a pricey festival experience match the food fiesta we have in every single day of our lives? At bargain basements prices?

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    • Hi James! Funny – stumbled upon the same story last weekend while looking for details about Mount Atkinson Olive Grove, which burnt down about a month ago. As we found out when we hungrily fronted! Yes, some familiar names in there, but not too many. Pretty good effort, I thought.

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  5. Haha! I was just searching for the article you mentioned and found that, funnily, what they wrote yesterday:

    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/ipad/restaurant-reviews-where-to-eat-out/story-fn6bn9st-1226024253155

    is exactly the same as what they wrote in December!

    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/ipad/where-to-eat-this-weekend-jimmi-jamz/story-fn6bn9st-1225965385490

    Do you get the feeling they haven’t actually been out West since?! Their loss! 🙂

    Thanks again for the great blog.

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  6. Herald Sun, Saturday, April 23: Station Hotel. Ho hum …

    Better deal in the Sunday Age’s M lifestyle mag – a whole page of westie food joints. Even if the “usual suspects” syndrome arises.

    Lead spot for Hobson’s Bay Hotel. Cameos for the new Yarraville coffee spot Wee Jeanie, Duchess Of Spotswood and Aangan.

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