Fish, chips, excellence

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Batterbing, 60 Douglas Parade, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 1227

Batterbing is located in a Douglas Parade premises that has been home to fish and chips for a long, long time.

Decades, I’m guessing.

Can any Williamstown readers tell us?

In any case, these days – under its newish name – it’s being run by John McMonagle, whose work we loved so much at Dough! in Newport.

His Williamstown location is superior – it’s handily placed for more drop-in and foot traffic.

And that’s great – it means more people can enjoy the super work being done by John and his team.

The place remains very much an old-school fish and chip shop, with rudimentary dine-in facilities – a bench and stools inside, a few tables and chairs on the footpath outside.

But none of that matters.

Here be made – and happily consumed – what are, in our opinions and experience, the best fish and chips in the western suburbs.

(Matched mind, you, by Ebi in Essex Street, Footscray – very different style, equally fine outcome.)

The Batterbing art starts with chips.

Here the potatoes are hand-cut and tumbled – and are wonderful.

Real spuds make for hip chips.

I go with my never-fail arrangement carried over from the Dough! days – now officially called Combo for 1 ($15, top photograph).

Those chips, a handful of tender calamari rings and a nice chunk of juicy, delicious and expertly deep-fried blue grenadier.

So very fine!

Unlike Dough!, there are no pizzas at Batterbing.

But there are burgers – so we take one of them for a run, too.

The Lil Jerry Seinfeld – is there some in-joke I’m missing? – is a doozy.

Crisp and deeply tanned deep-fried chicken thigh is joined in burger harmony by just the right amount of slaw and mayo in a purple bun.

Like all the Batterbing burgers, it comes with a side of those chips – and that makes the $13 entry fee a dead-set bargain.

Regular burgers, too

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Upsize Burger Bar, 2/234 Barkly Street, Footscray.

Consider The Sauce – leastwise, the senior partner thereof – has no truck with burger towers.

Well, no truck with the eating of them.

But I confess to being intrigued by these burger equivalents of skyscrapers.

Which is just as well, because my Facebook feed regularly features photos of such things.

But, nope – if it cannot be grasped in two eager hands, and/or requires a knife and fork, not interested in eating.

Though I suspect, if Bennie was given free rein, he’d be right into exploring what seems little more than macho posturing to me.

In that regard, I accept I am in some sort of minority and that there is widespread interest in, and fandom of, this particular burger cult.

Upzsize Burger Bar is catering to it with panache, with many sorts of flamboyant arrangements – including using donuts  and mac-n-cheese as buns!

 

 

The in-house photos illustrate some of the more conservative options available.

On the place’s FB page are to be found many spectacular examples of high-rise burger architecture.

The Barkly Street joint is something of a temporary exercise.

It’s open on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays – and only for three more weekends (making its last day Sunday, November 25).

We are happy to explore Upsize to the extent of their regular burgers – and we enjoy doing so.

 

 

My Basic B ($14) is a good, solid, workmanlike burger.

It has two beef patties, American cheese, “FCM sauce” and pickles – and goes down fine.

 

 

Bennie chooses the chicken equivalent for the same price.

He likes it.

The chicken is crisp and the slaw delivered in appropriate amount.

We both much enjoy that the pickle slices are so plentiful that they constitute a strong flavour component, as opposed to the usual mere whiff.

 

 

The regular order of beer-battered fries is very generous for $5.

They’re good.

But remind me that a CTS story on this particular genre of chip will be the go come my Christmas break.

Where do they come from?

How much beer – if any – is actually involved?

And are they actually re-constituted spud – and thus the potato equivalent of chicken nuggets?

 

Meal of the week No.44: Smokehouse 101

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As it’s always in a state of constant prowl, food-wise, CTS doesn’t drop into Smokehouse 101 (101 Rosamond Road, Maidstone) as often as we’d like.

Because we like it lots that the place keeps on going about its happy neighbourhood joint business away from the often fickle, hipsterish glare that attends other establishments that specialise in barbecue across Melbourne.

But we are in the house this Thursday to check out one Smokehouse 101’s regular specials – the Thursday night $5 burgers.

Bennie had taken them for a run the previous week with a pal and has been most adamant that CTS pays an official visit.

Oh, well … OK, if you insist.

 

 

So what’s the deal?

And is it any good?

The answer: Yes.

The Thursday burgers are available in beef, southern fried chicken, pulled pork and brisket.

Extra patties are available for the first two named for $3 a pop.

But we go a different route, ordering one each of the burgers on offer.

All are dressed the same – with coleslaw and good, sliced, crunchy pickled cucumbers.

I make that point because in the same week CTS bought a jar of pickled cucumbers – as recommended by the salesperson at the deli in which I was shopping – and they turned out to be soggy and tasteless.

Straight into the rubbish bin they went.

The little things count!

 

 

Likewise, two thumbs heartily hoisted for the most excellent house-made and toasted buns served by Smokehouse 101.

The meat in our four burgers?

Just fine in all cases.

Though Bennie and I agree that the straight-up beef burger is the best of the bunch.

It is, of course, possible to buy burgers elsewhere for $5 or less if you want to go mega-franchise.

But those aren’t burgers like these are real burgers.

Though here it will pay to keep things in perspective and real – these ARE $5 burgers, so you won’t be getting a two-fisted hunka chunka meal, or not by ordering a single burger anyway.

Early on our Thursday, there are only a couple of other tables taking advantage of the $5 burger deal.

But we’re told it can get busy later on in the night, with queues out the door not uncommon.

 

Golden Mile burgers

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Burgies, 226 Old Geelong Road, Hoppers Crossing. Phone: 8742 2792

Burgies in Hopper Crossing is a sibling to one in Campbellfield.

The photos we’ve seen suggest an outdoor and rather rustic operation, so we’re not at all sure how we’re going to go on a sunny Sunday that is also windy and chilly.

 

 

After scoping the place out, we relax … having discovered that while orders are indeed processed outside, right next door is a big, warm and rather inviting dining room, its fittings seemingly niftily constructed from packing pallets.

Cool!

And whatever the meteorological challenges of ordering and dining amid the glorious tack of the Golden Mile, the place is doing very, very brisk business.

This is a popular joint.

The happy staff members are cheerful, chatty and efficient; the wait times about what you’d expect.

We order, pay and settle in for what we hope will be a good burger repast.

The menu and its lowish prices suggest solid and satisfying – and that’s pretty much how it goes for us.

 

 

The chips ($4.50) are orthodox, hot and good.

 

 

My Kefta Burger is definitely the big winner of our meal.

It has lamb patty, cos lettuce, caramelised onions, pickles and “humus sauce” – and it’s beaut, especially given the $9.50 price tag.

 

 

Bennie is less enamoured with his Flaming Burgie ($11) of beef, cheese, cos lettuce, tomato, jalapeno, tomato sauce and chilli salsa.

The parts are of sufficient quality, but he finds the sum to be just average.

He even utters the dread phrase “frozen patty”.

Now, I hasten to add he has no factual detail at hand to back up such a slur, but it does convey something of the meh moments he has with his burger.

 

 

So for him, the highlight of our Burgies sojourn is his caramel biscotti gelato thickshake.

When/if we return, we may well order from the chicken burger list, as a poultry pair we observe being consumed at the next table look pretty darn good and better than either of ours.

Cool burgers; heaps of parking

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Burger Freaks, 656 Somerville Road, Sunshine West. Phone: 0403 595 189

Cruise up the outer end of Somerville Road of a night and you’ll not find a lot open.

Just about all the many commercial operations of many kinds have shut up shop until tomorrow.

Sure, some of the freight places work way outside 9-to-5 routines.

But the tradie-style cafes on almost every block are most certainly not open.

But Burger Freaks is.

 

 

Roshan Altendorff has been running Burger Freaks for about three months, with the daytime trade all about the local, hungry workforce.

Come night-time, though, it’s all about burgers – and home delivery. Burger Freaks is on both Menulog and Uber.

But why sit at home – and gamble with the fickle travelling ability of burgers – when you can pay a visit?

The Burger Freaks dining area is as unadorned – and virulently non-hipster – as you’re likely to find.

It gets points from us for that – but it would all be for nowt if the food isn’t up to scratch.

It is.

 

 

The chips ($4) are good and hot.

The Mate (top photo) – with beef patty, cheese, caramelised onion, beetroot, bacon, lettuce and BBQ sauce – costs $10.50 or $14.50 with chips and a can of drink thrown in.

It’s beaut.

 

 

The California ($11.50, $15.50) – with beef patty, double cheese, double bacon, BBQ sauce and American mustard – is a bit more flashy.

But just as good.

These are both really admirable and enjoyable solid, no-fuss burgers with nicely charred and good-quality meat.

 

 

As well as burgers, this place sells a revolving range of frozen meals for $4.50 and $5.50 depending in size, as part of the UrCommunity – Feeding Australia Meal Deals project.

They run to curries, pasta, stews and the like.

Burger Freaks is open for evening dining every night except Mondays.

See the Burger Freaks website, including menu, here.

 

God, what a cool cafe

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Apollo Cafe, 109-111 Hawke Street, West Melbourne. Phone: 9329 0990

What an intriguing neighbourhood is West Melbourne – with its haphazard mix of small worker cottages, more stately two-storey homes, old warehouses and, inevitably, some new apartment action going on.

For all that it is tucked away, if you live here … the inaccurately named North Melbourne station is your rail stop and, with a bit of a walk, Vic Market is your local shopping.

And, of course, CTS is happy to bestow upon West Melbourne honourary western suburbs status.

You know it makes sense – just look at a map!

Melburnbians of all stripes and locations should be grateful that West Melbourne has pottered along at its own pace while other locales that rub shoulders with the CBD – Fitzroy and Carlton in particular – have changed so much.

But the modern world is catching up with this backwater – at that means, among other things, more places are opening that seek to fulfill the eat-drink needs of locals.

Among them is Apollo Cafe.

It’s housed an ancient, gorgeous old building that’s been owned and operated by the same family for more than a century.

The most famous of its residents was the Mighty Young Apollo, Paul Anderson, whose name adorns the building to this day.

The cafe is run by wife-and-husband team Cassie and Russ, formerly of Carter Smith Devlin and Co in Williamstown.

Their punt to stay open all Easter appears to have paid off, as on the sunny, lovely Monday we visit, the joint is jumping.

Earlier in the day, I had spotted the day’s special on Facebook – lamb shoulder with mashed potato, roasted carrots and snow peas ($23) – and dutifully issued a mental memo to myself: “Mmmmm – that’ll do me!”

And so it does – it’s all excellent.

About 80 per cent or more of the lamb CTS eats these days comes from Somalian eateries, the rest from various Mid-East places.

So the Apollo lamb is, by contrast, austere in terms of seasoning.

But that lets the flavour of the wonderfully tender meat fully star.

Mashed potato at our place means rough-chopped spuds – real rough, more like what is called potato salad in some parts of the US.

Seasoning? Just salt, pepper and a dollop or two of olive oil while the potato is still steaming, blistering hot.

So the mashed potato that accompanies my lamb shoulder is another contrast – an enjoyable one, though not something I’d want to do too often.

This is smooth, rich mashed spud that is enlivened texture-wise by a scattered handful of roasted hazelnuts.

Is the $20 cafe burger a “thing”?

Yeah, we reckon so.

And the Apollo Cafe version is sooper dooper exemplar of its type, so much so that Bennie – whose burger it is – and his father happily concede that the above photo simply does not do it justice.

Its simplicity – beef, cheese, a couple of onion rings, bacon, lettuce – lets the sublime, high-quality flavours flow.

It’s a lot heftier than the above picture suggests and the chips are excellent.

During an earlier visit, as guests of management (see full disclosure below), Bennie revels in the beef meatballs on creamy truffle polenta with tomato-basil sauce, and shaved parmesan ($19).

It’s both sophisticated and rustic – and Bennie wipes the bowl whitely clean.

Not being so hungry, I order the poached chicken sandwich with truffle duxelle, which is normally served with eggs benedict and vintage cheddar for $18.

It’s all fine and fresh, though in hindsight I overtly envy my son’s meatballs!

On both our visits, our coffees have been perfect, hot and strong.

Check out the Apollo Cafe website here.

(For the first of two visits, Consider The Sauce dined at Apollo Cafe as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meals. We ordered whatever we wanted. Apollo Cafe management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

Korean fried chicken and a whole lot more

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Be.K, 3/21 Edgewater Boulevard, Maribyrnong. Phone: 8596 4292

Be.K looks like the kind of cafe where you’ll get a good coffee and a decent breakfast.

Those are available, but as we discover – on a Saturday lunch visit for Bennie’s birthday – there’s much more going on here.

A glossy colour photo menu runs from ritzy breakfast dishes through to sangers, Korean fried chicken and on to luscious Asian desserts.

A simpler printed list has more breakfast items, a couple of burgers, ribs and tempura prawns.

 

 

The place is done out in simple cafe style and business is quite brisk – especially on the outside tables.

Notably, Be.K’s advertised opening hours are seven days a week – until 11.30pm.

 

 

Papaya salad with prawns is pricey at $20.90, but the quality is there.

The veg components are fresh and crunchy, the dressing tangy and the head-on prawns are a fresh-grilled delight.

 

 

Bennie enjoys his pulled pork burger, with chips and costing $17.90.

Served in a beetroot brioche bun, it’s generously stuffed with meat, slaw and pickled cucumber.

I’m surprised to hear him adjudge it a rather modest good, as – going by my taste – it’s definitely among the better versions we’ve had.

The chips are fine, but the chicken salt-style seasoning they’ve been daubed with is way too sweet for me.

 

 

Deb’s sanger is described as “Philly cheese steak sandwich” ($13.90) – fans of that American classic would no doubt be bemused.

But it work on its own terms, the thin-cut meat making it easy to eat and the onions and other veg, cut wok-style, are fine.

 

 

Of the four varieties of Korean fried chicken listed, we opt for the original.

We get five pieces in our half-chook serve ($16.50).

Oh boy, this is great stuff – simply terrific fried chicken, unoily, hot, perfectly cooked and moan-out-loud delicious.

Just as good are the accompanying house-made pickles of onion, celery and more.

A little sweet, not too sour and a whole heap of crunchy – excellent!

 

 

The birthday boy goes for it by ordering bingsu of the nutella banana variety.

His is the $10.90 small rendition; there are medium and large versions available.

Blimey!

He loves the refreshing base of shaved milk ice.

But, yes, he pours the side serve of condensed milk right over the top right from the get-go.

 

 

His dessert is the very epitome of richness restraint when compared with the Vietnamese coffee tiramisu ($8.90).

With its dark chocolate and crunchy granola (at first I thought it was pecans), this would puzzle tiramisu purists.

But we reckon it is sinfully, explosively awesome.

We’ve had a fine time that has been in no way diminished by a certain degree of distraction in the service department.

But we are a little bemused …

No fault in two of our initial choices being unavailable. If anything, that’s a good sign indicating brisk turnover – and it meant we end up ordering the fried chicken, and that turned out to be a very fine thing.

But my coffee is brought to a table covered – really covered – with chicken bones, empty receptacles and soiled serviettes.

My sincere question about the precise nature of the vegetables used in the wonderful pickles is met with stony-faced recalcitrance.

More broadly, despite there being what appears to be half a soccer team of staff scurrying around the place, we do find it difficult a few times to make eye contact or attract attention, even resorting to raised hands and waving arms before approaching the counter.