Small cafe, big (happy) surprise

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Small Graces, 57 Byron Street, Footscray. Phone: 9912 6429

Sometimes a stroll around the vicinity of the sadly burnt-out Little Saigon Market can present a rather glum prospect.

On a grey, chilly mid-week noon hour, for instance.

My understanding is that the post-fire wheels of bureaucracy are grinding ever so slowly towards a resolution.

But in Footscray, there is always life – and always new life.

The new carparking building has arisen and on its ground floor are several businesses already – a chemist; a hairdresser and (supposedly) a Huxtaburger outlet to come; in an adjacent edifice, a cult tea shop outside which I have already twice seen queues.

And there is Small Graces, a lovely cafe that IS small but BIG on heart.

In the normal turn of events, this place would register on CTS as a place for coffee and perhaps coverage in a westie eats goss story, but probably not much more.

But an approach by Small Graces proprietors Rebecca and Diego changes all that.

Yes, we’d like to take your place for a spin (see full disclosure below).

So it is that sometime CTS correspondent Erika, her son Hugh (both very near neighbours of the joint) and I arrive for a mid-week lunch.

We are knocked out.

 

 

Small Graces is a cosy place and the staff are smilingly friendly and obliging.

The compact menu ranges through the usual eggy outings, soup and blackboard salads through to display sangers and gorgeous-looking house-made sweets.

But our eyes are immediately drawn to the “sides” section of the food list.

Here there be treasure.

We are permitted, nay encouraged, to treat these as a sort of tapas/antipasto option – so we do!

 

 

How good is this?

Clockwise from top (all items clocking in at about $5):

Smashed avo with almond feta and dukkah.

Halloumi, baharat, honey and walnuts.

Chicken, adobo, chicken salt.

Two kinds of pickle – red cabbage and a kimchi-like mix involving carrot.

Slow-cooked pork neck with crackling crumbs.

The first two items here listed are these days, of course, standard cafe fare, but they are rarely presented with this sort of finesse.

The chicken thigh pieces and the sliced pork are miracles of deft seasoning and juiciness.

At first I had thought this light yet fabulously yum spread would need some bread or the like, but …

 

 

… these seriously sexy spuds with garlic and rosemary with lemon mayo on the side ($6) add just the right degree of heft to our meal.

 

 

Meanwhile, a salad of caramelised beetroot with black lentils, almond feta and dill ($8) continues the flow of fresh flavours.

 

 

Young Hugh enjoys his toast with what appears to be a very fine strawberry jam ($6).

 

 

With our fine coffees, Erika and I enjoy this mega-rich caramel slice ($5) – in this case, a smallish portion is a blessing.

More and bigger would be TOO much.

 

 

Then there’s this equally accomplished lemon curd cheesecake ($6.50) of the non-baked variety.

Our very vocal enthusiasm for the “sides” transformed into a main attraction pecking plate could, I suspect, see these items (there are several more we didn’t try) elevated in status beyond mere add-ons.

The food has been outstanding – more like your top-notch casual dining standard.

But even if that doesn’t transpire, we recommend them heartily.

As we do Small Graces in general.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Small Graces as guests of management. No money changed hands. Our food was chosen by CTS. Small Graces management did not seek any editorial input into this story.)

 

Shiny grill time

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DeGrill, Sunshine Marketplace, Sunshine. Phone: 0402 189 860

A small, single-frame cartoon in the Sunday Age a few years back always makes me chuckle when I think of it.

Two blokes are surveying the Sunshine Marketplace shopping centre.

One says to the other: “Wow – this really is the United Nations of bogans!”

I like it because it’s bloody funny.

But I also like it because I like it that Sunshine Marketplace is like that.

We may live in Yarraville, hit the new fried chicken place in WeFo as soon doing so is viable and even frequent hipster places in Footscray proper … but we love all the west and its people and food.

Which is why CTS loves venturing to not only Sunshine, but also Werribee, Deer Park and beyond – and will continue to eat and review and tell stories from well beyond the ribbon that is the inner west.

 

 

So we applaud the opening of DeGrill at Sunshine Marketplace.

It’s a bold and adventurous move – it is situated, after all, right opposite Maccas and right next door to the cinemas.

I could say that DeGrill is aiming for the same sort of focus as Grill’d or Nando’s – but that would be doing DeGrill a disservice.

Because the menu is significantly more broad than such a comparison might imply.

I suspect the menu may have to be tweaked over time to find out what really works in this particular setting.

But over two visits, CTS and friends enjoy some good food and good service at (mostly) good prices.

The style is classy fast food and proper cutlery and crockery are in use, as are fine salt and pepper grinders.

 

 

There are three hot dog options on the menu, two featuring kransky or chorizo.

But the classic ($7.50) is constructed using a standard frankfurter.

So all is regulation here, but its recipient is pleased enough.

 

 

“Crispy” chicken ($9.50) has the wow factor aplenty.

The serve consists of three superbly cooked wings anointed with a tangy sauce.

Very good!

Especially when served with …

 

 

… a side of mash and gravy ($6).

This a rarity is Melbourne in general, let alone in a Sunshine shopping centre.

It’s OK, we all like it – but it’s not spectacular.

 

 

The menu’s “between the buns” section lists nothing that could be described as a beef burger, but based on our table’s orders of the cheese steak ($9, above) and …

 

 

… the only marginally different philly cheese ($9.50), this may be the way to go here.

Both are keenly priced and boast good ingredients and dressings.

The steak is thicker than routinely found in steak sandwiches and, best of all, is so well cooked that biting through for a mouthful is done with ease and without the whole sandwich falling apart.

Big thumbs up for that!

 

 

Under the heading “from the grill”, DeGrill offers dishes such as a flat iron steak ($17 and $26) and chicken ($16 for half, $29 for full).

These and others may fulfill the implied promise of more hefty meals.

Sadly, the beef short ribs ($16) do not.

It’s common knowledge ribs are expensive to secure and are inevitably at the upper end price-wise wherever they appear.

It’s common knowledge, too, the beef ribs can be fatty.

But these are very fatty indeed, and the three segments amount to not much more than a brief meal of not many more mouthfuls.

As well, as per the eatery’s name, these rib bits are grilled and not smoked, as you’d generally find at the numerous barbecue-style places across the city.

The coleslaw ($4.50) lacks crunch – maybe because its main component is savoy cabbage?

It’s under-done in the seasoning/flavour department, too, though some quick work with the salt and pepper grinders soon fixes that up.

 

 

CTS is over the mega shake thing – too often they seem to involve poor quality ingredients and unjustifiably high prices.

This DeGrill brownie shake ($9) defies both factors – good price, nice shake.

We wish DeGrill well.

Maye its arrival will inspire others to hang out their shingle in the same locale.

Thanks to Annie and Ali for helping us with this story!

Check out the DeGrill website – including full menu – here.

Climate for Change fundraiser at Fig & Walnut: The wrap

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CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival No.3: Climate for Change fundraiser, Fig & Walnut, 11-13 Bellairs Avenue, Seddon,  Wednesday, July 19, 2017.

A swell time was had by all at the CTS/Fig & Walnut fundraiser for Climate for Change.

 

 

The food was, naturally, excellent in every way.

So a big round of applause for Vera and her crew for turning it on for us.

 

 

And it was simply terrific to meet and talk with such a broad range of westies.

The final sums remain to be done, but a nice chunk of cash will soon be headed the way of Climate for Change.

So thank you, thank you, thank you!

 

 

And a final thanks to my partners in this enterprise, Vera and Katerina – it was fun!

Read more about Climate for Change here.

 

Climate for Change fundraiser at Fig & Walnut – food preview

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TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, GO HERE
CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival No.3: Climate for Change fundraiser,
Fig & Walnut, 11-13 Bellairs Avenue, Seddon. Phone: 0433 574 194
Date: Wednesday, July 19. Time: 6-10pm. Ticket price: $45.

 

There’s just a week or so now until our very special benefit night for Climate for Change.

 

 

As a teaser, here’s a sneak peek at some of the delicious goodies that will be served for our wonderful guests and supporters.

 

 

Vera and her crew at Fig & Walnut really, really love doing this sort of food.

 

 

It’s obvious!

 

 

Please join us – we’d love to see you!

TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, GO HERE

Climate for Change fundraiser at Fig & Walnut

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TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, GO HERE
CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival No.3: Climate for Change fundraiser,
Fig & Walnut, 11-13 Bellairs Avenue, Seddon. Phone: 0433 574 194
Date: Wednesday, July 19. Time: 6-10pm. Ticket price: $45.

 

Not all eateries, for any number of reasons, fit right with the regular CTS business plan for holding events.

One such is Fig & Walnut in Seddon.

When, while trying the new winter menu there, I put this to Vera, she took the words right out of my mouth.

“Let’s do a fundraiser!”

Truth is, I hadn’t thought much beyond sounding her out about such a project – the details were fuzzy in my mind.

But then she came up with a brilliant idea.

“Let’s do it for Katerina!”

Yes!

It all fits!

I met Katerina – and a whole bunch of other lovely, friendly and spirited people – while involved in the campaign, a few years back now, to save Footscray’s Dancing Dog building.

It was from her that I first learned about a forthcoming cool cafe soon to open in her Seddon neighbourhood – the joint that would be Fig & Walnut.

Back then, Katerina was working very hard on another project – an activist organisation called Climate for Change.

Since then, she and many other have built this into something really special – a righteous grass-roots group doing great work on behalf of our planet and our children.

You can read about their work here.

Climate for Change has just completed a mammoth fundraising exercise – but Vera and I are only too glad to do our bit in topping up that war chest.

We hope you will be, too.

We have tried to keep the ticket price for this event below what is commonly charged for many fundraisers.

At the same, time we hope that – after deduction of Vera’s generous costings and booking fees – to hand Katerina and her crew a handy chunk of change.

This will, we hope, be a grand occasion that will taste great, be a great opportunity to network and a gathering of old friends and new.

Vera and her crew will prepare for the evening a lavish vegan banquet that will include the following and much more:

  • Mediterranean paella
  • House-made vegan dips and breads
  • Amazing salads:
  • Ancient grains with garden herbs nuts and pomegranate
  • Mapled sweet potato and carrots with cumin, coriander
  • Roast eggplants and pumpkin with almond creme dressing
  • A variety of vegan antipasto
  • Chargrilled veggie salad with whipped tahini

Wine will be available by the glass, bottle and case under the auspices of Climate for Change’s Kook’s Labor of Love vino arrangements and glassware will be provided.

TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, GO HERE

Bank on it

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Vault Cafe Bar Restaurant, 13 Ballarat Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9041 3361

Consider The Sauce’s senior partner spent much of last year’s grand final day in and around the Vault.

Given that sort of context, you’ll be unsurprised to learn I was way more concerned about where the next beer and the next goal were coming from rather than about chowing down.

But I did notice that there were many happy customers enjoying a range of food – mostly, IIRC, burgers and the like.

Maybe, I thought, the latest outfit to inhabit the old bank on the corner of Ballarat and Canterbury streets has shaken of the bad location karma that had seen a couple of previous businesses come and go.

It took us a while, but we’re back to find out.

We’re doing so early on a week night on which a couple of special offers are going around.

But even without them – a burger deal with drink for $18, parmigiana for $15 – we reckon the Vault is a good thing.

 

 

There’s nothing ambitious or innovative going on here.

It’s a cosy (and warm) room, the staff are on the ball and we eat well for very little outlay.

We’re not sure how anyone would go here with some of the more exotic fare, but for your more straightforward offerings, the Vault is reliably feeding people and making them happy.

Think of it as a pub-not-pub.

 

 

I check to make sure the parmas on offer – there are four – are made with real-deal chicken.

They are.

And how.

My traditional outing is as thick as any I’ve had – yet is still superbly juicy throughout.

This is top-shelf parmigiana – big, even a little crisp around the extremities, the flavour of the ham and tomato sauce coming through in turns.

Criticisms?

The chips are fine but could’ve been hotter.

And with such a magnificent star of the plate, all that was needed salad-wise was some simple leaves, tomato and cucumber.

Those three are all present, but so are plenty of things – including sweet potato and eggplant – that put this salad in the try-too-hard bag.

Still, at $15 this is a red-hot bargain; I’d happily pay full whack.

(Bargain parma nights at the Vault are Tuesdays and Wednesdays).

 

 

Bennie reckons – from an ultra-hardcore, fussy, expert perspective – his southern fried chicken burger ($16.50, $18 Monday-Thursday with a pot of beer or cider) doesn’t reach any ecstatic heights.

But he is well pleased anyway.

There’s a nice slab of chook in there, along with sriracha mayo slaw, plenty of pickles and cheese.

He allows me a sample – and its tastes good.

He gets the same chips as accompanied the parma.

 

CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival No.1: Searz wrap

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CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival No.1: Searz,  39 Challis Street, Newport

Tuesday, May 16, 2017.

For sure, I thought, most of the attendees at Searz would go for the bento of miso-braised baby back ribs.

I was wrong.

The ox-tail ravioli in a laksa broth won the day by a comfortable margin.

 

 

I was among those who enjoyed them – they were very, very fine.

As was everything else.

 

 

Thanks to Gopi and Joyce (in the kitchen) and Michael and Reyner (out front) for ensuring a lovely evening was enjoyed by all.

 

 

Thanks to all the various friends and regulars who fronted up for the first CTS event in about a year.

It was fun to be doing it again.

 

 

Thanks, too, to the half-dozen guests who’d probably never heard of Cosnider The Sauce but who – as Searz regulars – knew a very good thing when they saw it!

 

 

THE MENU

Sharing plate as starter
Panko crumbed oyster.
Cured salmon with wasabi pea puree.
Peking duck samosa with pickled cucumber.
Sweet baby corn soup with chervil oil

 

 

Main courses (choice of one)
Ox-tail ravioli in a laksa broth.
Miso-braised baby back ribs in a bento box.
Vegetarian biryani, raita, cauliflower pakora, mango chutney and papadum.

 

 

Desserts (alternate drop)
Katafi wrapped banana fritters with vanilla panacotta.
Mixed berry croustade wtih coconut icecream.