Grill time

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GJ’s Grill, 8Street food court, Docklands.

8Street is a new indoor arcade of Asian eateries – it’s pretty much right under the big ferris wheel.

So new is it, we’re here on opening day for the lot of them.

Or, rather, it’s opening day for all the businesses, but we’re here for just one – the purveyor of Philippines eats known as GJ’s Grill.

We’ve tried – once – the original GJ’s in Franklin Street, near Vic Market, with OK if not memorable results.

Very long-time readers will know we have a certain, um, ambivalence about Filipino food.

But we’re definitely up for trying the new GJ’s.

Because we’re in the expert hands of the Urban Ma, Jacqui, hubby Wes and their kids.

They’re big GJ’s fans and besides it’s been way too long since we’ve enjoyed a catch-up.



And we’re heartened by the knowledge the menu (see below) is all about grilled/roast meats and nothing at all about the braises and so on that often fill bain maries in Filipino eateries.


The routine is regulation food court – pay at the counter and wait for your number to come up – and the food is served in cardboard containers.

I’m a bit nonplussed that the photos for this story make the food look unlovely, parsimonious and unadorned.

It’s none of those things – we eat well and affordably.



Bennie has the beef talapa with garlic rice ($14.50).

Jacqui has warned us that the meat will be well done in the Pinoy style.

She’s right, but it’s still good eating.

And this is another of those dishes that could be included in a mooted CTS story about dishes that come with an egg – you know, nasi goreng, com tam (Vietnamese pork chop with broken rice), bandeja paisa (Colombian beans and rice), like that.

Biryani? Well, that means hard-boiled egg – but an honourable mention, anyway.



With the same garlic rice comes my lechon – crispy skin pork.

It’s excellent – and sinfully rich and fatty; quite like classic Chinese roast pork, but without the seasonings.

Both our meals are lifted in the zing department by serves of atchara – a liquidish pickle concoction made from grated unripe papaya.



We’re powerful hungry, so also get a couple of the classic pork skewers.

These are awesome and much more generous than we’ve had in the past, so the $5 each price tag is no problem.

The meat is tender, succulent, perfect.



It’s too rich for me, but my dining companions also share a serve of another classic – sisig ($19).

This is an offalish jumble that is a bit like the topping of an HSP – without the chips!

It’s tricky to gauge how GJ’s and its neighbouring 8Street establishments will go at Docklands.

Parking is a problem here.

But if you’re there anyway, GJ’s is worth checking out for something a little different.





Waterfront City, Docklands.

Melbourne’s Docklands has copped some pretty strident criticism over the years, but on a nice summer’s day it can seem like a fine place to be – and maybe even a cool place to live.

Certainly, it appeals as somewhere between the CBD living that one of us still misses and the westie wonders that have become such a big part of our lives.

But food? That’s a different curry of fish completely.

Before we depart for the two-wheeled jaunt down Footscray Rd, I check out some of the places likely to provide tasty fare at Docklands. The prices scare me.

Bhoj, Mecca Bah,Yum Cha Dragon, Man Mo and more – we’d love to love you, but you’ll have to wait for a special occasion.

Wending our way towards the non-circulating Big Wheel – what a debacle! – we come face to face with the drab, mediocre side of the area.

Away from the undeniably attractive waterfront and its swish multi-million yots are dozens and dozens of clothing stores of no allure whatsoever.

And so we end up – again – in the food court area  surrounding the non-operative wheel.

I’ve read stories about how the traders here have been devastated by the wheel farce, so have some sympathy. But I have sympathy, too, for the many young families seeking something tasty and affordable as the heat increases.

There’s franchises and chains like RFC and a bunch more, an interesting looking burger bar and even a Chilli Paddi outlet. But mediocrity seems as prevalent as it does in the retail therapy sector.

Last time we were here the meal we, ahem, “enjoyed” was so bad I prefer not to reveal its ethnicity.

This time we settle on the Turkish of Kebabbque. I try to rustle up some enthusiasm for the vegetarian platter for a touch over $15, but Bennie’s adamant – donner kebab with chilli sauce it will be. Going with the flow, I order the falafel equivalent, with a 600ml Pepsi putting our meal at $21.30.

Our wraps come in a surprising form – the meat/falafel, their salady buddies and sauce are wrapped in the flat bread, which is then sealed and heated. The result looks and handles something like a burrito. On the downside, the salad quotient can’t help but be a bit wilted; on the plus side, it makes for tidy and unmessy eating. Pretty cool!

Bennie’s lamb meal – fully packed with that traditional, unmistakeable flavour of a million kebab joints – is clearly superior to my forgettable chick pea patties.

Our meal is OK, but I suspect we’d have been better off with the $12 noodles or laksa at Chilli Paddi – if a few dollars lighter.

There may be various reasons for visiting Docklands – Lord knows we feel some kind of weird attraction ourselves – but great cheap eats is definitely not among them. If you’re up for some card-bashing, well fine …

Despite sitting under a transparent awning, we gain little or no protection from the sun while eating our lunch, so we are done well by its completion.

It’s a pleasure to head up the river where the greenery and water lends a coolness to the day. For the first time ever, we take Dynon Rd home. Despite the cars, barbed wire and industrial scenery, it turns out to be a surprisingly shady, leafy bicycle thoroughfare.

We stop at Happy River Cafe at the Footscray Community Arts Centre for an excellent $3.30 latte and a pricey but fine $5 caramel milkshake. We used to visit the various setups on these premises quite a lot – as we used to frequent cafes in general … in the days before places where English, even when spoken very well, is a second or even third language came to dominate our outings.

But scoping out a neighbouring table’s $19 lamb cutlets with cous cous and $13.50 ploughman’s lunch with envy, we figure a return visit is on the cards.

At Happy River Cafe (above); Bennie checks out some tree limbs (below).