Great food, coffee? Industrial strength!

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Container Cafe, 4/2 Roussos Place, Truganina. Phone: 0466 148 762

Across the great swathes of the industrial/commercial west, there seem to be cafes at least every couple of kilometres.

These days, all but the most rigourously old-school seem to make some effort to provide a variety of food.

Some of it is even healthy – salads and the like.

Still, some habits die hard and there are traditions to uphold.

Recently, at the cafe nearest to the Star Weekly Keilor Park office, I saw a trucky being served a mountainous bowl of extremely creamy pasta carbonara.

His pasta was topped, at his request, with a large amount of roast pork – and crackling!

 

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And I reckon most of these hundreds of places would cop complaints if the stalwart potato cakes and deep-fried, nuggety-hard dimmies weren’t on hand.

Despite all this, I am nevertheless expecting something different from Container Cafe, even though it is set in the industrial wilds of Truganina.

This place is being run, after all, by the same crew responsible for the very cool Yarraville cafe Woven, which has been turning out fine tucker for a few years now.

But upon entering the place for the first time, what do I see?

 

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Yup, potato cakes and dimmies.

Turns out, in this sort of joint in this sort of place, some things just have to done.

The Container Cafe lads came to this conclusion during research that entailed checking out the competition for many miles round – and just like that competition, they, too, will be opening at 5am.

But as I look around the “container”, I discover plenty of good signs that this is not just another tradie-style eatery.

For one thing, space dictates that there is no bain marie here – so most everything is prepared fresh.

In a heated display cabinet on the counter, there are Ka Pies!

 

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And alongside the cafe-regulation HP Sauce is a range of hot sauces.

Finally, there is the Container Cafe menu (see below).

Wow!

Plenty of carb/grease standards should they be desired – but plenty else besides, including a hot line-up of burgers and sandwiches with high degrees of Woven DNA running through them.

 

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My southern fried chicken burger ($11.50) is a killer – maybe even the best chook burger I’ve eaten.

The thigh meat is crisp on the outer, and oh-so-very juicy and delicious on the inner.

My outstanding burger is completed with terrific rough-cut slaw, very good melted cheese and pickles.

The crinckle-cut chips ($3.50) are hot and fab, though a tad too salty even for salt-addict me.

 

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The Cuban sandwich is another outright winner – superb value for $10 and getting extra points straightaway for being made with the appropriate, Cuban-style bread.

The innards are wonderfully gooey mix of melted gruyere, pickles, pulled pork and ham.

 

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My cafe latte ($3.50) is beaut.

From what I’ve seen on two visits, Container Cafe is already a hit with workers in the surrounding area – and why wouldn’t it be?

In finer weather, though, I fully expect to see this place attract a wider crowd from a broader area.

There’s a heap of outdoor seating that will make Container Cafe a fine food destination and parking is a breeze.

And the food, and the attention detail and pricing, certainly take care of business in  style.

Though you can get dimmies or potato cakes if that’s your go.

As well, as a post-lunch drive brings home to me, while residential Truganina is still some distance away from Container Cafe, and on the other side Dohertys Road, there is a lot of construction going on, meaning a lot more people looking for affordable good food and coffee.

And neither are thick on the ground in Truganina to date.

Container Cafe is open 5am-3pm Monday-Friday, though that could change depending on demand; EFTPOs facilities being installed this week.

 

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Beautiful food, beautiful place in Seddon

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Fig & Walnut, 11-13 Bellairs Avenue, Seddon. Phone: 0433 574 194

Consider The Sauce has long admired the twin rows of old shops on either side of the tracks near Seddon station, on Bellairs Avenue and Pentland Parade.

We’ve often wondered what the street scenes must have been like when those shops were in their heydays.

And we’ve sometimes mused how lovely it would be to see some street life returning to the area.

Of course, almost all the properties concerned have been turned over to purely residential uses in the subsequent decades.

And who could blame those who live there from being sensitive about and protective of their quiet neighbourhood?

Fig & Walnut proprietor Vera told us, as her cafe was coming together, that she did indeed have to put some serious and sincere effort into winning over the locals.

She did so – and I’m betting they’re all rapt about having this business on their collective doorstep.

Because Fig & Walnut is a stunner.

 

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The old shop has been done out in bright and open style, with the wooden ceilings and brickwork retained.

 

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The eating spaces include the front room of the next door shop and the lovely garden out back has a cute-as-a-button cubbie house.

But all that’s just the start …

The vibe here is bustling and cheerful.

And the food, based on our first visit’s meals, is marvellous – and those we eyeball that are headed elsewhere look, some of them, even sexier.

There’s breakfasts and lunches and two soups.

Given a superficial glance, the menu (see below) may seem to be mostly made up of variations on the cafe theme.

But the results bespeak skill, imagination and inspiration way beyond that …

 

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Bennie’s pancakes ($18) are a fantasia of colours and flavours.

The gluten-free pancakes themselves are shaped more like burger patties or fat cookies – and taste kinda grainy yet also marvellous.

They’re attended by maple mascarpone, saffron-poached pear, grilled figs, berries, passionfruit and more.

 

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There’s three salads on the menu, any of which can be supplemented by protein portions such as poached coconut chicken, eye fillet or salmon.

I feel no need to do so when ordering my roasted winter root vegetable salad ($16.90).

How good does it look?

It tastes even better, the perfectly cooked vegetables doing a sensual tango with turmeric yogurt and rocket pesto, both of which are delivered in perfect quantities to lube things along nicely.

Reads like cafe food, priced like cafe food – but delivering like a flash re$taurant.

 

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Vera “shouts” us flourless orange cake ($6.90) and …

 

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… chocolate brownie ($4.90) to go with our excellent coffees.

They, too, are wonderful, the brownie seeming to have some choc pudding DNA in its make-up.

Next time for me?

The insanely gorgeous-looking zucchini-and-haloumi skewers I see heading for another table.

Or maybe the Greek lentil soup with apple cider vinegar Vera tells me is her fave …

The cool Fig & Walnut logo was designed by local creative Liana Lucca-Pope from Hello Idea, also responsible for Littlefoot Bar’s brand identity. See the Hello Idea website here.

 

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Square jewel

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Little Sister Cafe, 55 Wingara Avenue, Keilor East. Phone: 9336 2270

Wangara Avenue is one of three streets that make up a secret Keilor East Square.

Sounds a bit nutty, hey?

But it’s true.

The square has an old-school small-town vibe and is within cooee of the busyness of both Millera Road and the Calder Freeway – but I doubt few beyond the locals know of its existence.

The square has all sorts of food outlets – kebab and chook shops, noodles, pizza and even, quite wonderfully, a craft shop that does stuff like scones. That’s for another post on another day.

 

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The square hot spot without doubt is the fine neighbourhood cafe that is Little Sister.

We’ve eaten here before and are happy to do so again as guests of the management (see full disclosure below).

We arrive as the Saturday overlap between breakfast and lunch is in full swing and the many cheerful and on-the-ball staff are busy and doing a grand job.

All the eggy dishes we see go whizzing by look very nice, but I manage to steer Bennie away from the ricotta hot cakes and towards the lunch list.

 

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He inhales with gusto the “Hanoi brothers” ($19.90) of prawns and calamari with Vietnamese herbs, chilli, tomato and lemongrass and pepper on steamed rice.

With its tomato base and Asian seasoning it has a touch of Ital-Asia about it.

He reckons his dish is superior – or the luckier choice – than mine, which is an amazing thing to say because …

 

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… my oven-baked Atlantic salmon ($20.90), from the specials board, is wonderful.

The fish may have been cooked in the oven – to a pleasantly well-done degree by the normal rare-in-the-middle standards of this species – but it is finished in what amounts to a tomato stew with capsicum, onion and saffron.

The overall vibe is sunny Mediterranean and the toasted bread on the side is a fine foil.

This a terrific and keenly priced dish.

 

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A side serve of chips (a $3 bargain) is very good.

 

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For afters, we share a house-made brownie ($4.90).

It’s rich, of deep choc flavour and has a range of textures – and goes good with my beaut cafe latte.

Little Sister is a member of the stable that will soon unveil Dear Abbey at Moonee Ponds.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Little Sister as non-paying guests of the management. CTS chose the food involved and Little Sister neither sought nor was granted any access or say in the writing of this post.)

 

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Crab burger and hot desserts

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George Jones Eatery, 15 Pascoe Street, Pascoe Vale. Phone: 9304 2917

One of the most pleasurable times of the CTS week is Saturday lunch.

Chores and blogging done, it’s time to hit the road, coffee to go and cool tunes rocking both the car and us.

Such Saturday outings regularly involve travel beyond the bounds of the western suburbs, even given the geographically generous drawing of those boundaries in the world of Consider the Sauce.

And quite often, those Saturday outing involve a romp up Pascoe Vale Road, those outings almost always ending up in Coburg and Sydney Road.

Today, though, and for the first time, we are headed to Pascoe Vale itself.

 

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We’ve been invited to dine at George Jones Eatery (see full disclosure below), and for that we end up being very grateful as without that invite this fine establishment may have escaped our attention for, well, pretty much forever.

George Jones Eatery has been open for about 12 weeks and is already a bona fide hit.

I could be glib and imply that’s because of a lack of dining options in Pascoe Vale.

I’m sure the locals around here are grateful for its presence but the truth is George Jones Eatery would be hit wherever it went.

The room is big and divided up into a variety of sections, some with communal seating.

 

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When we visit we’re told it’s a less-busy-than-usual Saturday yet the place is still hopping – and despite that, the noise levels are fine.

The staff members are many, working hard and very good.

Best of all, from a punter’s point of view, is the menu (see below).

George Jones Eatery is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a separate though not much different list for night-time.

But here’s the thing: The lunch menu – ranging from breakfast with many appealing dishes through to a kids menu, a handful of lunch mains and another handful of burgers (with chips) – features just a single dish priced beyond $20.

That there is right smart pricing – the kind that goes a long way to encouraging repeat visits.

 

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Bennie goes with the soft-shell crab burger with kewpie tartare, coleslaw and citrus dressing ($17.90).

If, somewhat inevitably, he ends up rather wishing he’d plumped for one of the meatier (chook, mushy, cow) burgers, he enjoys his nevertheless.

He should know by now that soft-shell crab – in any guise – is akin to chicken feet: It’s less about the ostensible Crab Prince and more about his courtiers.

Going by the tastes I am offered, this burger and its crab are lovely things, the Asian seasonings coming through strong.

The chips come in a huge serving – more than enough for his dad to eat of them freely – and are excellent.

 

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My seared yellowfin tuna with green beans, “heirloom tomato”, kipfler potato and romesco salsa ($21.90) is a nifty, delicious take on salad nicoise.

The gorgeous fish is barely seared, rimmed with black sesame seeds and served at room temperature.

The salady attendants are very good and all in perfectly complementary proportions.

Best of all, in terms of my own personal preferences, there is a total absence of the usually ubiquitous capers.

 

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We order two desserts, one a special, the other from the regular menu.

Choc tart surprises us – instead of the expected gooey filling cupped in a pastry base we get what seems to us more like a block of fudge.

It has fine, deep chocolate flavour and the raspberry sorbet, salted caramel sauce and honeycomb are beaut.

 

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But banana parfait with salted peanut caramel, chocolate mousse and choc rice crisp ($13) steps up to another level entirely – this is a momentous dessert!

The mousse is mindblowingly intense in terms of chocness and the parfait has a tangy edge that seems almost citrus in nature.

All is rich, sexy and memorable.

(Consider The Sauce dined at George Jones Eatery as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meal. We chose from regular menu and had no restrictions placed upon us in doing so. George Jones Eatery management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to this story.)

 

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Top coffee crew by the lake

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Philocoffee Espresso Bar, 162 Albert Road, South Melbourne. Phone: 0476 141 597

They take their coffee seriously at Philocoffee.

Their regular brew is Five Sense – but on the day I visit, they’re taking Seven Seeds out for a run.

My cafe latte is very, very good.

Located facing Albert Park, Philcoffee is surrounded by both offices and many residents.

They do a good job of taking care of both.

Philcoffee is owned and operated by my former Star Weekly colleague, Karen, and her husband, Chee. They have a decade of cafe-running behind them.

Before I get to my coffee, they ply me with food – far more than I can so I can get a handle on what they do here.

The sandwiches and baguettes I sample are regulation for such a business but at Philocoffee they up the ante with flair and admirable freshness.

They include …

 

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… lemon-thyme chicken sandwich …

 

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… Asian pulled pork wrap. So good is the juicy meat that I rather think it would be better off out and about in a salad – just a matter of asking, I’m sure!

 

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… a lovely, crusty baguette stuffed with pesto chicken, cheese and roast capsicum …

 

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… and a salmon bagel with all the usual. This rocks mostly because the bagel is the real deal – soft and chewy.

Thanks!

Point Cook burgers ace it

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Gemelli Cafe Grill, Shop 123, 22-30 Wallace Avenue, Point Cook. Phone: 9369 7602

Consider The Sauce has addressed Melbourne’s fixation with burgers a couple of times in recent months.

We’ve even been known to mutter about “burger burnout”.

So what do we do?

We eat more of them!

This is not a burden when the ones we try are so very, very good.

And it’s a special pleasure when we find them at places that are simply not part of the developing burger scene as such.

 

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First, a few weeks back, there was the fabulous burger ‘n’ chips combo at Searz in Newport.

Tonight it’s twin Gemelli Burgers at a newish cafe/grill in Point Cook.

Gemelli has been open a few weeks and is already a big hit with locals.

And so it should be!

It’s located in a commercial precinct on the opposite side of the freeway from Williams Landing station.

So new is the neighbourhood that there is building activity going on aplenty.

But for locals, and the overwhelming majority of them around here are young families, there’s not a lot about in terms of food so Gemelli surely seems like a gift.

So much so that perhaps we are chancing our arms a little by hoping to simply waltz in for a mid-week dinner.

But all is good as we wait just a few minutes for a table to be cleared.

 

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Among the various comments I have seen from (mostly very happy) customers have been a few noting a certain skittishness as the young floor staff get comfortable with their roles.

We talk with a few of them and find they’re all locals and that for most of them these are their first serious jobs.

We find them all cheerful and capable and the service top-notch.

As you’d expect, the dining space has a “family restaurant” feel – and if there is a bit of shopping centre food court vibe going on as well, it is soon forgotten as we get to grips with our dinner.

 

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A large serve of “Italian herb and parmesan” fries ($6.50) is not particularly cheesy but the chips are fine, hot and tasty. A small bowl of aioli is provided upon request.

 

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We both choose, from a line-up numbering six, the top-of-the-line Gemmelli Burger ($14), which is described as “2 homemade beef patty, 2 X cheese, Berkshire bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, relish, burger sauce”.

The verdict?

Bloody awesome!

The meat is, well, very meaty and a chewy delight.

The bacon is crisp and its flavour permeates the whole burger – such is not always the case.

The pickles, too, assert their presence and all the other protagonists are deftly put together to create perfectly balanced burgers.

As with the Searz burger, this is a 9/10 effort.

I prefer Gemelli, Bennie prefers Searz.

Everyone’s a winner!

We’re out of there for just over $42 including two soft drinks.

See the Gemelli Facebook page here and its website here.

 

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Corralling the drinks so Bennie doesn’t finish them off before our food arrives.

Beaut bento, better burger

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

The Challis Street shops in Newport – off Mason Street – are the sort of strip we’ve been driving by for years just for a look every now and then to see if there’s anything cooking.

On Challis Street, there never has been.

And now there is.

Searz is a very fine local cafe.

It serves (see menu below) standard-range cafe breakfasts and mains such as a caesar salad, a burrito bowl and fish ‘n’ chips.

But running through the mains and the smaller (“tapas”) dishes are Japanese/Korean influences.

We find our meals of two visits, the service and timing, the whole experience to be absolutely top notch.

 

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The bento special no doubt changes periodically.

This version has fish three different ways – teriyaki salmon, battered cod with wasabi mayo and grilled gemfish with Korean chilli sauce.

They are all delicious and beautifully cooked.

There’s about half a dozen different kind of pickle, some of which I love, some of which I could do without.

The house-made zucchini pickles are very fine.

The bento mix is completed by good salad and rice.

This bento, given the quality of the seafood involved, would be right at home in a bona fide Japanese restaurant.

And the price, $18, is grand.

 

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Bennie’s bibimbap $16) is a doozy, too.

He loves the finely cooked beef and mushrooms, the salady bits, egg, enokis and more.

Unlike so many versions of this dish, this one has enough fluid action going on that it is a well-lubricated “sweet and spicy” treat right to the bottom of the bowl.

 

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But however fine his bibimbap, Bennie is openly envious of my “1010 burger” ($15) – and so he should be.

Despite the burger burn-out factor of the past year or so, this strikes us as being a superb.

It’s a 9/10 burger and chips combo that scrubs up much better than many of those to be had at more storied burger joints around Melbourne.

There’s more of those zucchini pickles in there.

And there’s “Searz aiolio”, tomato relish and the usual, standard salad accessories.

The meat patty is thick, juicy and screaming with beefy flavour.

Gosh, it’s fantastic.

The chips are hot, fresh and very plentiful.

Searz is a prime example of everything a neighbourhood cafe should be.

And the food, what we have enjoyed of it, rocks.

 

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