Meal of the week No.41: Victoria Hotel

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The announcement that the Victoria Hotel was introducing a Tuesday curry night claimed our attention.

And to be honest, we’re not sure why – with so many very affordable and often excellent curry options close to the refurbished pub (43 Victoria Street, phone 8320 0315).

Nat and I surmised that it might have been because we had such a fine time during our initial visit to the Middle Footscray establishment.

That visit’s favourable impression having since been reinforced by favourable feedback from friends and readers who had visited the place.

As well, based again on our enjoyment of the food previously, maybe the pub’s curry operation – hopefully – would provide something above and beyond the offerings of the local curry shops.

Whatever – we’re up for it!

So how do we go?

Pretty good, actually.

We’re offered two curry packages – paneer and peas makhani or kadai chicken.

We both go chook.

The curry meal deals cost $18 and come with a good-size bowl of chicken curry, rice, a fistful of papadums and red onion slaw.

Kadai, also known as karahi, is a simple curry made with many of the expected spices and capsicum.

Ours is mild and quite tangy.

We like that the boneless chicken has seemingly been chargrilled before being wed to the gravy.

The rice and papadums are fine.

The red onion slaw?

A bit disappointing.

We have been looking forward to an alternative to the frequently served (elsewhere) hard nobs of commercial mango pickle.

Our red onion mix is OK, but I would’ve loved a bit more tartness and zing.

Putting aside the likes of dosas, biryanis and thalis, if you ordered the components of our meal for dinner just about anywhere in West Footscray, it’d cost the same $18 or more.

Meal of the week No.40: Jazeera Cafe

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We’ve been aware of Jazeera Cafe (16 Paisley Street, Footscray) for a long time, but simply haven’t gotten around to visiting until now.

No doubt because we’ve established such a happy groove in going to Racecourse Road, Flemington, when we desire Somalian food.

Which is often.

However, recently CTS friend Juz has given Jazeera a couple of goes – and his feedback has been heartening.

So here we are.

I suspect there may be a menu available here … but our ordering is reduced to admirable, happy simplicity.

“Can we get some dinner here tonight?”

“What sort of food do you want?”

“Somalian food!”

“OK!”

And with that – and a big smile – our server disappears into the kitchen.

That’s fine by us.

We understand that on a low-key week night, we’re going to get what’s actually in the kitchen – or nothing at all.

As it turns, what we are provided is what we would’ve ordered anyway – soup, lamb, rice.

 

 

The soup is thicker than we’ve become used to elsewhere – more like a cream soup or a chowder.

It’s fine, but doesn’t have the zesty, lemony tang we love so much.

 

 

Our rice platter is most excellent.

It could be described as “lamb three ways” – there’s a stew, a sort-of Somalian bolognese atop the spaghetti and a big, meaty piece of braised/baked sheep meat.

Bennie has already eaten elsewhere this night, so our $15 meal does fine for both of us.

And as ever, it’s the fabulous, fragrant rice that crowns our dining as top notch.

 

Mexican chicken for Footscray

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Los Pollos Flame-Grilled Chicken, 230 Nicholson St, Footscray. Phone: 9396 0368

There was a definite ripple of excitement that hit the inner west as it became know that a Mexican chicken joint would stepping up to take over the premises formerly inhabited by Burger Business.

Somehow – between checking out the business’ Facebook page and website, and then talking with a few folks – I convinced myself that Los Pollos was part of a franchise deal.

It seems that is not the case, though it certainly looks the part if management care to move in that direction and move into other locations.

They make their own corn chips, but when we ask, we’re told the tortillas are brought in.

So how does it stack up – some real-deal Mexican tucker; or just another Tex-Mex place a la Guzman y Gomez?

A big step up from Taco Bill – or on a par?

Well, it’s definitely more Tex-Mex than La Tortilleria – and that’s fine by us.

 

 

After we order, we adjourn to the lovely garden space out back.

 

 

Bennie is very impressed with his Super LP Burrito with grilled chicken, rice, beans, salsa, queso tasty, pica de gallo, guacamole and jalapeno crema ($16.50).

He offers his dad a taste, after which I, too, conclude this is better than similar offerings you’ll find at similar places elsewhere.

And, yes, it eats bigger than it looks.

It comes with a handful of corn chips.

 

 

My half chicken combo with two sides, two salsas and six tortillas ($18.95) is more of a mixed bag.

I like the chicken, even if it doesn’t provide the sort of lip-smacking joy for which I have been hoping.

Bennie, after consuming a drumstick, disagrees with that modest assessment.

It’s different – not Nando’s, not your average Aussie charcoal chook.

The salsas are lovely – though having requested one medium and one hot, I find them similar in the heat/spice department.

The sides – red rice and roasted potatoes – are OK, but on the lacklustre side.

The word “roasted” led me to expect spud chunks with more crackle than has arrived.

You’ll eat fine at Los Pollos, but it’ll pay to keep those expectations grounded.

Check out the Los Pollos website – including menu – here.

 

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!

 

Sweet Sri Lankan hits WeFo

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The White Elephant On Barkly, 561 Barkly Street, West Foostcray. Phone: 0423 515 728

The White Elephant brings a real point of difference to Indian-dominated West Footscray, and is doing so with style.

Whether its efforts will be sufficient to prosper in what is a fiercely competitive environment, only time will tell.

We certainly hope so after a three-member CTS team enjoys a fine evening meal there.

The former home of the cafe Jellybread has been fitted out in bright and breezy fashion.

We found the service very attentive and the wait times perfectly appropriate for the food at hand.

Our first glances at the menu (see below) are quite bracing, based on our long enjoyment of extremely affordable Sri Lankan food at a variety of places.

At the White Elephant, meat and seafood curries cost either side of $20.

But closer perusal of the food list reveals some outright gems.

Three rotis, one veg curry and one meat curry for $12, for instance.

Or a rice-and-curry combo of two veg curries and one meat curry for $15.

That latter deal will do us – or two of us anyway!

 

 

Justin is extremely happy with his curry combo deal.

Unlike many other Indian and Sri lankan eateries, here the curry deals can be customised according to customer wishes – rather than being a mix of whatever the staff choose back out in the kitchen.

The mild beef curry is some way short of tender, but not tough, either – perfectly normal and acceptable for this kind of food.

The eggplant moju disappears at pace.

But it is the potato curry that is the star – so simple and tasty!

 

 

It is a vegetable selection that shines brightest in Bennie’s line-up, as well.

The okra dish is as good as we’ve enjoyed.

The vegetable holds its vibrant greenness, is not in the least cooked down and shows not the slightest sign of sliminess.

It’s fabulous.

We’re all taken with the cashew curry, which is way more creamy and moist than the above photograph suggests.

It’s nice, with the nuts just on the tender side of al dente.

But, as Bennie later opines, there is a strong element of same-same about it that suggests it would be more enjoyed as a smaller side.

One of the main things Bennie enjoys about Sri Lankan food is the ability to order pork.

His pork curry here is similar to those he’s enjoyed elsewhere – dry, charry, enjoyable.

But beware – this is very, very fatty.

The $15 meal deals my companions enjoy involve excellent food and represent superb value.

 

 

My lampraise ($17) is something entirely different.

I’ve enjoyed other versions of this very traditional Sri Lankan meal – cooked in a banana leaf – but never quite this hearty or rustic.

The cooked-in-stock rice is a fine foundation.

The stars are a couple of fat charred, juicy and supremely delicious prawns.

There’s an orb of tuna cutlet and a heap of chicken and the same pork, very fatty, as in Bennie’s curry.

The chicken is overcooked by Western, charcoal grill standards, but that is – I strongly suspect – entirely normal for this dish.

My meal is so meaty, so macho that the phrase “meat lovers” comes to mind – something more usually associated with dodgy pizzas.

As well, the fried egg – very good – lends the dish something of the aspect of an old-school English fry-up.

So … not everyone’s cup of tea.

But, no doubt, just precisely the ticket for some!

 

 

At the top of the meal, we’d started out with a serve of spicy chicken ribs ($8).

Our handful were fine – not so spicy and quite oily, but lip-smackingly juicy and tender.

The White Elephant is doing breakfasts!

The menu ranges from western-style dishes such as eggs, toast and pancakes through to string hoppers and roti with curry.

Meanwhile, we wish the White Elephant crew well – and, on the basis of those awesome spud and okra dishes, we’ll be back for more veg.

 

 

Fine dumplings

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MC Dumpling, 106 Hopkins Street, Footscray. Phone: 9191 6511

Putting aside my gentle ribbing about the “Scottish ancestry” of Hopkins Street’s new dumpling purveyor, it turns out there is method in their method.

MC Dumpling, you see, stands for My Chinese Dumpling.

But more than that, this place does embrace a fast-food look and process.

And that, as in this case, can be good.

What it means here is bright, clean surrounds; brisk service with a smile; and freshly prepared and very affordable food (see menu below).

 

 

But it is the dumplings that are definitely the go here.

These steamed pork and chive numbers, for instance, are fabulous at $9 for 16.

Fresh-as, not too big, kinda dainty, juicy/succulent – even if there was little by of discernible chive vibe.

 

 

Ditto with these lamb and leek dumplings – same number, same price, same good impression.

 

 

We fare slightly less impressively with the sides.

These chicken ribs normally cost $3, but are being presented to customers free with any order as an opening celebration.

We don’t know how long that’ll be the case!

They’re well fried and ungreasy – but tasteless.

Or rather, taste not of chicken.

 

 

Actually, ALL the sides cost $3 – including these corn fritters.

They’re a variation on the more familiar spring onion pancake and are OK.

 

 

For the price, these tender slabs of deep-fried bean curd are very nice.

There’s more to explore by way of sides here.

And the dumplings – and the place – appeal as happy additions to Footscray central.