God, what a cool cafe

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Apollo Cafe, 109-111 Hawke Street, West Melbourne. Phone: 9329 0990

What an intriguing neighbourhood is West Melbourne – with its haphazard mix of small worker cottages, more stately two-storey homes, old warehouses and, inevitably, some new apartment action going on.

For all that it is tucked away, if you live here … the inaccurately named North Melbourne station is your rail stop and, with a bit of a walk, Vic Market is your local shopping.

And, of course, CTS is happy to bestow upon West Melbourne honourary western suburbs status.

You know it makes sense – just look at a map!

Melburnbians of all stripes and locations should be grateful that West Melbourne has pottered along at its own pace while other locales that rub shoulders with the CBD – Fitzroy and Carlton in particular – have changed so much.

But the modern world is catching up with this backwater – at that means, among other things, more places are opening that seek to fulfill the eat-drink needs of locals.

Among them is Apollo Cafe.

It’s housed an ancient, gorgeous old building that’s been owned and operated by the same family for more than a century.

The most famous of its residents was the Mighty Young Apollo, Paul Anderson, whose name adorns the building to this day.

The cafe is run by wife-and-husband team Cassie and Russ, formerly of Carter Smith Devlin and Co in Williamstown.

Their punt to stay open all Easter appears to have paid off, as on the sunny, lovely Monday we visit, the joint is jumping.

Earlier in the day, I had spotted the day’s special on Facebook – lamb shoulder with mashed potato, roasted carrots and snow peas ($23) – and dutifully issued a mental memo to myself: “Mmmmm – that’ll do me!”

And so it does – it’s all excellent.

About 80 per cent or more of the lamb CTS eats these days comes from Somalian eateries, the rest from various Mid-East places.

So the Apollo lamb is, by contrast, austere in terms of seasoning.

But that lets the flavour of the wonderfully tender meat fully star.

Mashed potato at our place means rough-chopped spuds – real rough, more like what is called potato salad in some parts of the US.

Seasoning? Just salt, pepper and a dollop or two of olive oil while the potato is still steaming, blistering hot.

So the mashed potato that accompanies my lamb shoulder is another contrast – an enjoyable one, though not something I’d want to do too often.

This is smooth, rich mashed spud that is enlivened texture-wise by a scattered handful of roasted hazelnuts.

Is the $20 cafe burger a “thing”?

Yeah, we reckon so.

And the Apollo Cafe version is sooper dooper exemplar of its type, so much so that Bennie – whose burger it is – and his father happily concede that the above photo simply does not do it justice.

Its simplicity – beef, cheese, a couple of onion rings, bacon, lettuce – lets the sublime, high-quality flavours flow.

It’s a lot heftier than the above picture suggests and the chips are excellent.

During an earlier visit, as guests of management (see full disclosure below), Bennie revels in the beef meatballs on creamy truffle polenta with tomato-basil sauce, and shaved parmesan ($19).

It’s both sophisticated and rustic – and Bennie wipes the bowl whitely clean.

Not being so hungry, I order the poached chicken sandwich with truffle duxelle, which is normally served with eggs benedict and vintage cheddar for $18.

It’s all fine and fresh, though in hindsight I overtly envy my son’s meatballs!

On both our visits, our coffees have been perfect, hot and strong.

Check out the Apollo Cafe website here.

(For the first of two visits, Consider The Sauce dined at Apollo Cafe as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meals. We ordered whatever we wanted. Apollo Cafe management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

Westie eats goss 01/04/18

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Consider The Sauce has not had the pleasure of trying The Art Of Fried Chicken at the any of the truck operation’s various locations, though the feedback on its Facebook page certainly makes us look forward to that day.

Now it seems this arty crew is going bricks-and-mortar, with a photo of the above premises posted as the location on the aforementioned FB page.

It is, of course, the former Racecourse Road home of the original Laksa King and a couple of other places.

These Flemington premises have long been dormant.

 

 

How those poultry plans for the venue square with the planning application – for a seven-storey building – attached to the building remains to be seen!

 

 

On Lacy Street in Braybrook, what was once West Of Kin has morphed into Mr Brooks Stonegrill & Bar.

I have yet to check out the menu, so know no more than can been viewed at the joint’s Facebook page.

 

 

At Wyndham Harbour in Werrribee South, there are now boats in the marina – though there’s room for heaps more.

 

 

The role of catering to the eat/drink needs of residents and visitors has been assumed by Ramaes Cafe and Sam’s Catch Fish ‘N’ Chippery, which appear to be under the same management and share the same kitchen.

They opened on Good Friday, so are still finding their feet.

 

 

My chips were excellent and the calamari fine.

Catch of the day – trevally – was delivered grilled instead of the requested fried and was a small serve.

But it tasted awesome.

 

 

Bennie’s burger certainly looked the part.

Sadly, the patty had the distinctive taste that inevitably goes with the sort of sausage meat-style burger sourced from a supermarket or catering supplier.

 

 

A few minutes after we’d finished our lunch, I was kicking myself for not remembering there’s these days another option at Wyndham Harbour.

Ohana Pizza is laid out further out on the marina proper, with a container constituting the pizza oven, prep area and servery; two more containers containing tables and chairs; and more seating found in the quadrangle thus formed.

According to the outfit’s Facebook page, because of the vulnerability to harsh weather, business hours can be variable – especially, no doubt, with winter coming on.

But on a windless, cloudless Easter Saturday, it was a superb, beautiful setting – a mix of class and rusticity.

The pizzas whizzing around us looked pretty good … 

 

 

… and our Nutella calzone, with a big scoop of Jock’s vanilla ice cream, did us good.

Our two lattes were strong and excellent.

 

 

In Werribee township itself, Wyndham council is seeking a long-term tenant to take over the historic Bridge Hotel on Watton Street.

This is a challenge.

Happenings at a couple of other major western suburbs venues in recent years tend to strongly suggest that finding a tenant with the both financial wherewithal and resources necessary AND the ability to put heart and soul into such a venue is very tricky indeed.

 

 

In Yarraville, what was once – and for very many years – Happy Four Chinese Restaurant is being transformed into Coracle Cafe Restaurant.

That’s all we know so far, as we haven’t seen any obvious activity or anyone we could question.

 

 

Also on Anderson Street, the venerable bakery and pie shop Heather Dell has closed.

 

 

On the corner of Anderson and Ballarat streets, the “for lease” signs have been taken down from the former home of Jasmine Inn.

Whether that means a tenant has been found, the owner(s) were asking too much or none of the above, I know not.

 

 

Finally, the latest whisper I have heard suggests that another Anderson Street premises, the former home of the Mad Moose pizza operation right next to the rail line, is destined to become sort of Mexican eatery.

Sunshine Food Fever

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Sunshine Food Fever, Thursday, March 22, 2018

The last time Consider The Sauce embarked on this sort of adventure was back in 2014 when it was called Sunshine Pho Fever.

Since then, Sunshine central has diversified in a slow but steady way, so it’s just right the event is these days called Sunshine Food Fever, allowing guests a wider range of tastes and flavours from around the world.

I have a ball – I meet some CTS readers and talk with many interesting people.

And the food is all fine.

 

 

We start at Classic Curry, which has undergone a swisho makeover since the day this was a regular haunt for us.

Since then, the opening of very many Indian places closer to home has seen us overlook it.

 

 

Here, I opt for the veg option – veg manchurian, aloo bonda and paneer pakora.

 

 

Next stop is Afghan Shaheen … where we enjoy really superb, house-made samosas …

 

 

… lightly battered onion bhaji …

 

 

… mixed kebabs.

 

 

After the shortest of ambles up Hampstead Road, we’re at the lovely Ethiopian eatery the sails under the name Walia Ibex.

 

 

Here, the non-veg offering consists of the beef stew key wot, braised cabbage and lentils.

 

 

Our final stop is the fabulous Xuan Banh Cuon

 

 

… for refreshing and tasty thach dua – coconut jelly.

 

Ethiopian alternative

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Addis Cafe and Roastery, 226 Nicholson Street. Footscray. Phone: 9687 4363

The proposed CTS lunch scenario, Plan A, has been thwarted.

By an eatery not adhering to its advertised opening hours – or letting anyone know about that.

We quickly turn to the classic western suburbs eats Plan B – “Go next door!”

And what a classic move that turns out to be.

Addis cafe is a lovely, friendly place that appears to be a cherished (perhaps secret) “in spot” of workers of various kinds in this part of Footscray.

The menu runs to simple breakfasts and sandwiches.

But it’s the lunch list (see below) that grabs our attention.

The food is here is your fundamental Ethiopian – but it’s only very rarely served, we’re told, with injera.

That’s cool with us – rice is nice, too!

 

 

Out back is a lovely garden where we settle in for what turns out to be the briefest of waits.

 

 

Juz’s beef stew combination and …

 

 

… and my chicken combination both cost $12.

The beef is yebere sega wot and the chicken is doro wot and the serves smallish but simply perfect for a quick lunch.

They are, as you’d expect, very rich.

That richness is ameliorated by the plain yet for-sure delicious vegetables – smashed greens, cabbage, spuds, courgette.

It’s simple food that goes down a treat.

The coffee, “and roastery” part of the establishment’s name will have to wait another day.

 

Autumn menu goes good

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Park Hotel, 12 Watton Street, Werribee. Phone: 9741 1441

Consider The Sauce has been bemused in the past month or so by the doings of a newish western suburbs food business.

On the one hand, they’ve been talking up the outcome of a fancy photo shoot.

On the other, they’ve been serving – in my couple of experiences and likewise for some friends – food that bears not much resemblance to that pictured in those slick pics.

So I am interested to see how the Park Hotel goes in terms of replicating the fare depicted in glossy, beautiful photographs accompanying the media release heralding the joint’s new autumn menu – the one we have been invited to try (see full disclosure below).

More broadly, I am interested to see if the Park is actively helping to build Werribee’s foodie reputation.

A long-term tenant is being sought by Wyndham council for the Bridge Hotel, just up Watton Street apiece, promising a potentially snazzy venue to join various other outpourings of good food in these parts.

A hunch: Werribee could be a food star in coming years.

We start with an absolutely ripping dish – zucchini and cauliflower fritters served with red curry mayo ($10, top photo).

Oh boy, these are so good that when/if we next visit, I’ll be awfully tempted to persuade the staff to upgrade them to main course status.

The minced/chopped vegetables remain wonderfully al dente and the mayo has just the right amount of zing.

 

 

Pan-fried kangaroo fillet with pancetta and truffle potato gratin, treacle-glazed parsnips with a red wine and dark chocolate jus ($32) is Bennie’s first time with eating roo.

He likes it plenty, though it seems to me the meat could’ve been hotter than the lukewarm he’s received.

 

 

From the specials list comes my chargrilled atlantic salmon with garlic-wilted spinach, kipfler potato and a dill hollandaise ($28).

The fish is succulent, tender and tasty, despite apparently being more well-cooked than is often the case with this species.

The vegetables – as with those on Bennie’s plate – are perfectly OK, but seem more like regular pub food than the step-up in class I’ve been seeking.

And I’m regretting, a little, not having bought into the Wednesday night fried chicken offerings (see details below).

Bennie’s having none of that.

Proclaims he: “Dad, this is way better than normal pub food!”

OK, based on our desserts he’s on target.

 

 

“I’ve never tasted anything like this before,” says he of the sticky date panna cotta with butterscotch sauce, caramel popcorn and green apple gel ($12).

And he means that as a compliment!

The unusual flavours are winners in a fine sweet offering.

 

 

The custard tart with orange and blackberry compote with a toasted croissant ice-cream ($12) is almost as enjoyable.

But it does surprise.

We have been expecting something gooey and viscous – along the lines of a vanilla slice or creme caramel.

Instead the custard tart itself is quite solid – more like a slice.

Still good, though!

(Consider The Sauce dined at the Park Hotel as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meal. We ordered whatever we wanted. Park management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

 

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.

 

 

Desserts?

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

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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.

Really.

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?

Bonkers.

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.

Rice.

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!