Bay City Noodles & Cafe

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139 Ryrie St, Geelong. Phone: 5223 2135

The cheap eats situation in central Geelong is a mixture of dull and dire leavened with a couple of hot spots.

The suburbs of the city may be festooned with amazing eateries for all I know, but my work of necessity keeps me restricted to the 10-minute walk from the train station to my place of income generation and the brief lunch breaks I get.

So far I’ve found: All the usual franchises, as much food court crap as you could never want and several places of mixed Asian heritage and utterly indifferent food.

The high points are a half dozen or so Japanese joints of the ramen/udon/sushi rolls sort – they all seem much the same, and I’ve enjoyed the noodles I’ve purchased from some of them.

Best of all, though, is Bay City Noodles.

It’s a Vietnamese establishment that, presumably through necessity, feels obliged to cover several bases – so, for instance, you can get (if you so desire) Chinese dishes and things such as Singapore fried noodles.

The pho, rice paper rolls, spring rolls all work OK; the rice dishes less so.

But the real star here is another non-Viet dish – the curry laksa. There’s a seafood version available, but I’ve now had my preferred option – chicken ($10.50) – many times and have yet to be disappointed.

The broth is a tawny brown, rather than golden. In it are many of the usual suspects: Rice and egg noodles, tofu, bean spouts, chicken and so on. It’s fragrant and flavoursome; of mild spiciness; and topped with a gravy concoction of finely chopped onion.

I could quibble about the absence of fish cake, let alone any semblance of greenery – such as a sprig or two of mint, or some bok choy – but given the alternatives, that would be churlish.

This is a cheerful, homely (in a good way) and friendly eatery.

And judging by the heads-down demeanour of the many regulars – instinctively I know these folk are on the same wavelength as me – it could be that this is THE star of Geelong ethnic eats of the budget variety.

I’d love to be proven wrong!