Poutine? It’s a split decision …

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Mr Griffiths Alibis & Libations, 524 Macaulay Road, Kensington. Phone: 9372 3978

We’re in Mr Griffiths for the poutine – a dish we’ve never before eaten.

But we’ve had plenty of loaded fries – and so far as I can tell, the Quebec-derived poutine could be the very first loaded fries.

We  order the regular poutine – called The Drummondville (small $7).

I am perplexed and underwhelmed – the gravy and the curd lumps seem to add nothing to the fries.

And the fries themselves seem lacklustre.

Bennie loves them – cleaning the basket empty after I’ve grabbed a handful of fries untainted by the toppings.

That figures – his eyes invariably light up when he sees the phrase “loaded fries” on a menu.

Mine tend to glaze over.

My argument is simple: Why ruin fries – especially ones as good as those we inhaled recently at Littlefoot – with toppings that make them soggy?

So in fairness to Mr Griffiths, I’d say that even a serve a poutine fan deems of the very highest order would do nothing for me.

 

 

Mr Griffiths is a newish and welcome addition to Macaulay Road.

It’s a cool room, already with a relaxed neighbourhood vibe about it.

Beer is big here and the place is done out in Melbourne black.

It appears to be a hit – a previous mid-week attempt to try the food came to nothing as the place was packed when we tried.

If poutine is your thing, there are variations to be had that include the likes of fried chicken, hot sauce, pickles, onion, bacon, maple syrup and more.

It stands to reason poutine (not offered by many places in Melbourne) is a stronger selling point here than the burgers (sold by every man and his dog).

But as it turns out, our burgers are the highlight of our Saturday lunch – a judgment with which even my poutine-loving son agrees.

 

 

He loves the crisp ‘n’ crunch of the beautifully cooked chook in his Buffalo chicken burger ($12.50) with its Frank’s red hot, lettuce and ranch sauce.

 

 

My Bacon G’s burger deluxe ($12.50) is equally impressive with its beef, bacon, tomato, lettuce, pickles, onion and G sauce. And unadvertised cheese.

Big statement: This is the best bacon I can recall ever enjoying in a burger.

Get this – it’s both chewy and crunchy, it’s thick-cut and its flavour imbues almost every mouthful.

This is something of a rarity, something that should be wildly celebrated.

As Bennie points out, there is nothing extravagant or sophisticated about our burgers.

Indeed, at first blush they appeared to be on the plain and modest side.

But the truth is in the eating – they win because good ingredients have been done well.

Check out the Mr Griffiths website here.

 

Meal of the week No.35: Hatch’d

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CTS appears to have hit Hatch’d in Kensington in the aftermath of a rush hour.

The salad bar at the place (497 Macaulay Road, Kensington; phone 1300 428243) is exhausted and the two wooden tables provided for eat-in dining need clearing.

But hey, I figure this is a fine thing.

Surely, it must mean that this joint’s food is popular, and thus good, even on a Monday night.

I soon find out that is indeed the case.

The chips are fresh, though I could live without the chicken salt seasoning.

The coleslaw – the salad bar has been topped up subsequent to my order – is fresh, though some sharper flavours would be handy.

But at Hatch’d, the bird really is the word.

As ever, as in ordering a medium bowl of pho when I know a small offering will more than suffice, I succumb to ordering a half chicken when a quarter would be adequate.

No matter – when I am done there nothing but a pile of bones on my plate.

This is an excellent charcoal chook – juicy, flavoursome, wonderful.

Even the breast meat requires neither stuffing (of which there is little) or gravy (provided at my request in small bowl at no charge) to be enjoyable.

An interesting perspective … a similar meal, of similar quality – but with slightly different seasonings and presentation – would cost at a fancy hipster barbecue establishment at least $10 more, and maybe even double, the $16.50 I have paid here.

While I have been enjoying my meal, a stream of customers – and almost as many Uber food drivers – have come and gone.

 

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Gelati – and lunch, too

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15654

 

1565, 3 Gower Street, Kensington. Phone: 9376 1965

Since first writing about the gelati emporium that is 1565, we’ve dropped in for the odd and very excellent cone or cup.

On a recent visit, we discovered that Kensington joint is doing lunches, too, so I am happy to check it out.

 

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The 1565 lunch routine is the epitome of simplicity …

Soup ($10) with a crusty bread roll.

 

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There’s arancini for $5 ($9.50 with salad).

And those same superb rolls are used in panini ($9.50) – your choice of schnitzel, eggplant or beef.

 

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My beef schnitzel job is medium rather than large, but there’s no doubting the good, fresh flavours and prime eatability of the meat, bread, rocket, roasted capsicum and scamorza cheese.

 

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As well, there is a small but wonderful range of biscotti and cakes, all made on the premises.

Gelati fantasia in Kensington

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1565, 3 Gower Street, Kensington. Phone: 9376 1965

Tootling to Kensington to do a story on Kensington’s new gelati joint for The Age – see story here – I am envisaging little more than the profound pleasures of trying some excellent Italian ice-cold creaminess, meeting the people involved, writing about both and then maybe creating a subsequent post for CTS.

An enjoyable, satisfying day’s work, in other words, for a western suburbs food blogger.

I get all that in spades – and more.

 

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For what I discover is that the crew behind 1565 – brothers Adriano, Alfred and Alessio Acquaro and their mum, Joy – have strong family ties to Pizza d’Asporto and Kiosk by d’Asporto in Williamstown and Impasto Forno Antico in Avondale Heights.

Indeed, the canoli and the like that abet the 1565 gelati and coffee here are supplied by the latter establishment.

How wonderful to discover yet more of the connections and depth of food culture traditions that weave and wander across the west in all sorts of ways!

 

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1565, just off the commercial strip of Macaulay Road, is done in simple, elegant style.

It is named after year gelati was apparently “invented” in Florence.

If, on that basis, you’d expect an approach to gelati that is strong on tradition, you’d be spot on.

 

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But while staying within those parameters, the 1565 crew are doing marvellous things in terms of flavour diversity.

Sure, there’s vanilla, pistachio and coffee.

But there’s also booze in the form of rum and raisin, Prosecco and the sweet liqueur of No.43.

Then there’s poached fig, watermelon and mint, panettone.

 

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I enjoy a wonderful scoop apiece of ricotta and miele (honey) and Nutella with rum baba.

Like orange and fennel, that latter of my two is imbued with textures beyond creamy.

Bennie is equally delighted with his double-banger cone of poached fig and coffee.

1565 is open from noon until late seven days a week.

 

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For all of our 15 years in the west, five of them as food bloggers, we have frequently observed that the Macaulay Road strip looks like it should be a food and drink star.

But it’s never been that.

Under-achiever is a phrase that comes to mind.

Perhaps the arrival of 1565,  joining the cool Korean of Frying Colours up the road and with a new Italian place soon to be unveiled, heralds an upturn in Macaulay Road’s eats situation.

 

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Feeling crabby

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pacific22

 

Pacific Seafood BBQ House, 295 Racecourse Road, Kensington. Phone: 9372 6688

As a recent dinner with friends wrapped up at our fave Somalian eatery in Ascot Vale, it was suggested we reconvene for a soiree for the Chinese mid-autumn festival with the express purpose of getting gleefully sticky and messy with as much mud crab as we can handle.

The festival Sunday proves too tricky so instead five of us gather mid-week at Pacific Seafood BBQ House in Kensington and have a ball.

I confess this is unfamiliar territory for me.

Do we order one mud crab – they’re priced at $65 – each?

How does it work?

It’s easy – the rest of us reject any ordering duties and leave it all up to She Who Oraganised The Gathering.

Our trust is well rewarded!

 

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As with my previous visit to this newish arrival on Racecourse Road, with another member of our happy group, we are served complementary soup.

We love this tradition, which we also run across in various Asian and African places.

This is plainer than most and reminds me very much of my mum’s vegetable soup, even if it is beef based.

Then it’s crab time!

After consultation with the staff, it’s agreed that two crabs with accompanying noodles and a few other dishes will do us right.

Our crabs are brought, pre-cooking, to our table for our approval – just like a bottle of wine.

They look bigger than in the distorted view offered by their storage tank.

Then it’s off to the kitchen with them!

 

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They return upon a mound of egg noodles ($12 on top of the crab fee) and drenched in a sticky chilli sauce.

It’s all very good.

There is much cracking, sucking, ooo-ing and aaah-ing as the delicious, sweet crab meat is extracted.

It’s a profound pleasure to have one’s fill of fresh crab and bugger the cost.

The two crabs prove plenty – in fact, the final two claws linger on the plate for several minutes before being claimed.

But here’s an interesting thing – the sauce-imbued noodles are every bit as tasty and enjoyable as the actual crabs.

Such good seafood in the company of good pals – absolute heaven!

Happily, the rest of our meal is also very good.

 

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The fried rice ($10.80) is excellent and quite a cut above the regular fried rice we all know so well.

This is studded with good-sized chunks of roast pork and quite a few biggish, plump and wonderful prawns.

 

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Vegetables with bean curd ($19.50) makes sure we get some greenery and fungus as part of our meal.

 

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Our final dish – deep-fried chicken ribs with egg yolk ($22) – comes from the specials colourfully arrayed on the walls.

It’s a relative of the familiar salt and pepper chicken ribs.

But these chook bits are richer – perhaps a little bit too rich but perfectly fitting and yummy for a special occasion feast such as this.

 

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We’ve eaten grandly – for which pleasure the five us pay a few collective few bucks under $200.

So … $40 each for such fine food?

Bargain!

 

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We finish with moon cake pieces – just a nibble for me because, as with another member of our group, I’m not a fan!

 

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Top-notch burgers in Kensington

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Mr Ed, 285 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 9376 6444

“Cafe By Day, Burger Bar By Night” – that’s Mr Ed in Kensignton.

Having checked it out in the former regard – see here – it’s become a sometime coffee spot for me, and perhaps I’ll grab one of their terrific pies or sweeties.

Tonight we’re in the house to check out the burgers.

The previous night, Bennie I had perused the menu – see the Mr Ed website here.

Having looked at the varied ingredients and the prices, Bennie wondered aloud if the Mr Ed burgers would offer sufficient eating.

And well he might …

The prices range from $14.50 to $17.50.

Among the ingredients listed for the nine burgers are pickled zucchini, Hereford beef, bourbon bacon jam, confit baby tomatoes, tomatillo salsa and shredded kale.

Ooohhh – sounds fancy!

But will we get a good feed or dainty, boutique burgers gone in a mouthful?

Actually, at another time and on another visit I might choose to compile a meal just from the very alluring list of sides.

How about rainbow slaw, purple congo/kipfler/bullhorn pepper fry-up or merlot pickled onion rings?

Ahh, but not tonight – on with the burgers!

 

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Bennie goes the Buddha burger of minute eye fillet, soft egg, kassler, oven dried tomatoes, crumbled aged cheddar, house relish, roasted garlic aioli ($16).

He loves it – a lot.

It’s proves to be a very messy proposition but that’s fine, of course.

He loves the way all the varied, high-falutin’ ingredients – including “the nicer than normal ham” and the runny egg – combine.

This burger maven rates it a very solid 8.5 or even 9.

Yes, that good.

Only glitch – and it’s only a very minor one – is he’s unused to having your real, actual meat in such a meal.

He’s (very) used to hamburger patties, whereas this is in effect a steak sanger and he grapples, but only very momentarily, with the eating skills required.

I go the Wagyu beef burger with pickled zucchini, raclette, baby leaves, house relish and mustard mayonnaise ($14.50, top photo) – and it, too, is a doozy.

The beef patty is about an inch thick, well seasoned and delicious, and the dressings and zucchini noodles are wonderful.

 

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For sides, we get a small serve of the home-made fat chips ($4).

My heart sinks a little when I spy what appear to be wedges but … wedge-shaped they may be, but our chips are fabulous.

Once-boiled and once-fried, they have tender, hot innards that veritably scream: “Potato!”

 

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We complete our meal with a mixed pickle plate of jalapenos, carrot, cucumber and cornichons ($5.50).

We both love pickles so we both love this.

The jalapenos are somewhat out of place but the cornichons hit the spot and the carrot and cucumber are true delights that are pickled somewhat in the sweet, delicate Japanese style.

We’ve enjoyed and admired the Mr Ed take on burgers.

We’ve received burgers that don’t see us waddling out of the place having completely stuffed ourselves.

But we consider the quality of the ingredients and cooking and the resultant flavours well worth the money we have paid.

We recommend the Mr Ed burgers to anyone who has become a bit jaded with 8bit and the like.

The service has been fine, Mr Ed is a fine place to spend an hour so and we reckon their burger endeavours deserve greater patronage than the handful of occupied tables we’ve observed this Friday night.

Kensington treat

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Luncheonette, 173 Rankins Road, Kensington.

Luncheonette is a lovely Kensington place I could describe as having “been on our radar”.

But maybe we would never have gotten around to it had we not been happy to accept an invite from pals to join them for Saturday brunch.

As the four of us amble towards the cafe, I see people seemingly waiting outside for a table – and fear I may have to make a complete hypocrite of myself as I’ve just a few hours earlier penned and posted a piece about the lunacy of queues and hopelessly long wait times.

 

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But no, happily we are ushered right to an inside table for four and proceed to make happy.

The place is small but happily the menu is cleverly designed to fit right in with the limited prep space.

Many dishes look enticing.

We go with three sandwiches and an egg dish.

On the way over, Bennie had shown interest in the fact Luncheonette boasts a reuben sandwich.

I’d warned him that generally one gets what one pays for and that for $13 he should not be fronting up and expecting a two-handed monster.

 

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As it turns out, his reuben has surprising heft for the price, with plenty of sliced pastrami going down a treat with the gruyere, cabbage and mustard, and an American style offering of crisps and sliced pickles on the side.

No bad at all!

 

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My club sandwich ($13) does not impress quite so much, though chopped chicken is tasty and beautifully herbed.

I don’t get much of a hit from the promised “crispy bacon”, though …

 

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I hear no complaints from the recipient of the BLT variation, which appears to be bolstered by a good quantity of avocado.

I’d only say that for myself, alfalfa sprouts have no business being anywhere near a BLT … but others’ mileage may vary.

 

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It appears the member of our group who goes the brunch route did the best of us all.

A simple fried egg is served with homemade hash browns, smoked salmon, horseradish cream and cress ($16).

It’s a lightish dish that explodes with a variety of different but fabulously complementary flavours.

 

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