Ace cake, minestrone




Kensington Market, Kensington Town Hall, 30-34 Bellair Street.

From the street, Kensington Market doesn’t appear as if it amounts to much – a handful of stalls, a couple of which doing food: Gozleme, corn, snags.

Once along a hallway and into Kensington Town Hall proper an entirely different picture emerges.




The hall is chockers with a quite diverse range of “maker” goodies – clothing, crafts of many sorts, jam, artwork and much more.

Even better, an adjacent room has a whole of lot of food stuff going on.

There’s nothing too elaborate, mind you – no sit-down meals or the like.

But there’s more than enough for me make myself at home for an hour or so, eat well and meet some lovely folks.

One crew, manning the in-house kitchen, is doing things such as toasties and egg and bacon rolls at extremely low prices.




From them I procure minestrone for a silly cheap $4.

OK, it’s a smallish serve in a polystyrene cup – but gosh it’s the real deal and very good!




I enjoy making friends with Von and her pal Ocea.

Von makes her living cooking for kids so her Von’s Vegan Bake House operation is a weekend thing.

Her range of sweet, baked things is impressive and enticing.




I have a slice of one of her cakes with my coffee.

It seems like a modestly proportioned piece for $6 but this ain’t no airy fairy sponge – it has real heft and is delicious.




From Von I also secure some cookies – don’t they look amazing?

(I find out at home that they indeed are …)




Right next door, I meet Simone and Sam who are here representing St Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church, also of Kensington, and raising money to help feed the homeless.




From them I get – also for taking home – some luscious-looking rice pud!

Even better, they tell me that in a few weeks their church will be holding its annual fete, at which there will be all sorts of Egyptian food on offer.

Unless unforeseen factors intrude, CTS will be there – I can just about taste it already!

The next Kensington Market will be on Sunday, August 16.

Check out the market’s website here and Facebook page here.

I can understand the allure of food festivals.

But every weekend somewhere near you there’s fairs and markets and fetes that do food, too.

It’s a parallel universe I prefer.

New tastes at a brilliant temple of boganism



Flying Elephants and B&K Sarajevski Style Chevapi, Rubble & Riches Market, 8-18 Leakes Rd, Laverton

Mexican food at Lavo Market?

With a name like Flying Elephants?

I’m fully expecting a neo-hippie or utterly whitebread take on … someone’s idea of Mexican food.

What I find is quite different – a smallish operation staffed by a friendly crew of three, each and everyone of them boasting Thai ancestry.

How wonderfully westie is that?

In fact, Lavo Market is pretty much that way all round.

Anyone feeling gloomy about the prospects of the west being strangled by yuppifying gentrification should visit this weekend wonder – in its hardcore, unrepentant untrendiness, it will surely give your spirits a lift.

The Flying Elephants sell a compact range of burritos, flautas and tacos.

My chicken taco ($5) is a real nice surprise.

For starters, there’s two of them – bargain!

On to commercial but OK tortillas are piled good chicken, two kinds of cheese, some simple salsa and lettuce. There’s a variety of hot sauces to round things out.

This may not be up to the sort of standard set by La Tortilleria – but I’m not complaining.


I haven’t been to this market since first writing about it, so I’m delighted to find the Flying Elephants are just one several new food enterprises up and running.

One of them will not be getting my custom or my money.

People with cameras are potential customers, too.

Stallholders not wishing photographs to be taken should erect signs saying just that.

Or simply saying something like, “Please don’t take photographs – but you’re very welcome to try our food” would do nicely.

Death stares and verbal abuse? No thanks.


I fare much better at another newie – the bright red B&K Sarajevski Style Chevapi.

As with the Flying Elephants, the B&K team have gone that extra mile by providing some tables and chairs – something that can’t be said of many of the market’s food outlets.

They’re selling chevapi and souvlaki in a range of configurations both plated and stuffed in bread of one kind or another.

My plate of five chevapi, two salads and a bread roll is $6.50 – another bargain!

This a Croatian food, so – knowing the Croatian skill with spuds and cabbage – it’s the potato and cabbage salads I am most interested in.

I’m not disappointed.

While the salads have something rather monotone about them, they are both fresh, zingy and delicious.

The chevapi themselves are OK but need more seasoning.






Spotswood Farmers Market



Spotswood Farmers Market, Spotswood Primary School, Melbourne Rd, Spotswood.

Farmers markets have never been a regular thing for us, but we can see that changing as we enjoy a couple of hours at the Spotswood edition on a sunny Saturday.

Apart from fresh produce, preserves, bread, coffee and so on, we are most impressed with the range and quality of the food to eat right here and now that is available.

There’s kids and dogs of all sizes and descriptions, some live music, displays and many interesting things to see and experience.


Bennie just loves his popcorn chicken and sausage on a stick from Ghost Kitchen Taiwanese Street Food.


Ghost Kitchen also serves noodles and spring onion pancake, the latter for $7.

Sounds a bit steep, I opine.

I’m told they’re pretty much dinner plate size and are used as a wrap for various fillings.

One of those fillings is “Asian doughnut”, the mental picture of which has me furrowing my brow and Bennie cackling with glee.


The Ghost Kitchen folk tell me they’re a relatively new to the game and have even been trying a few music festivals, but the younger punters at such events are allegedly hard to feed, with the discussion usually going something along the following lines:

Ghost Kitchen: “Hello, how can I help you?”

Punter (eyes glazed, swaying slightly): “Water …”

Ghost Kitchen: “Cool! Interested in something to eat?”

Punter: “Water …”

And on like that …


I am most impressed with the work of a stall called Falafel People.

The falafels are quite coarse in texture but unoily and crispy and fresh.

The eggplant dip I sample is outstanding – smoky and lemony.

The hummus, not so good.

They’re not set up to deliver the platter spread I am familiar with after many visits to upper Sydney Rd, so I make do with a falafel wrap.

It’s a doozy – cucumber AND turnip pickles, good tabouleh and those falafel balls.

Falafel People on Urbanspoon


Bennie moves on to a cone of Timboon ice cream.

Salted caramel? Blimey – genius at work!


Then he has his sketch portrait drawn by David from St Marks Anglican Spotswood.

St Marks is also running a snag stall – $3 for Andrews sausages sounds pretty good to us, but by now we’re done with eating … until dinner time.



The Hobsons Bay City Band has me bopping – sort of – with a medley of Four Seasons hits.

On the way home, having decided as usual to make our way back to the car via back streets, we meet some new friends.

We are lured into a garage sale by a swell-looking lemonade stand.

Off to one side are a plethora of large, deeply green leaves.

Inquiring as to what they are, I express my surprise – despite being a food nut, I’ve never before laid eyes on fresh bay leaves, only ever having used the dried variety for cooking.


The lady of the garage sale house in turn expresses her surprise at my ignorance.

“I know you guys,” she says. “I follow your blog!”

This turns out to be Kristie, so we spend the next 10 minutes or so – while happily imbibing Ella’s Most Excellent Lemonade – discussing westie food topics at large, including the general uselessness of Williamstown and other subjects addressed too scathingly to go into here!





Luna 1878 – Vic Market at night


Luna 1878 Night Market, Victoria Market

A normal school week requires quite a degree of discipline for us to survive with aplomb.

School, work, school and work lunches, homework, two rugby practices, dinners to be cooked, sufficient sleep to be had, alarms to be set, breakfasts to produced – there’s a lot going on.

But it takes only a slight shift in emphasis, especially in winter, for a nice, tidy routine to become bleak drudgery.

So, of course, we are adamant about taking the occasional opportunity to throw off the shackles and hit the town.

Thus it is we find ourselves happily skipping towards Victoria Market with food and fun on our minds.

There’s been night markets going on here for several years, but this is our first outing – well, our first as  a team anyway; Bennie attended a few years back in the company of others.

The night festival setting is superb and lovely.

The lighting, the gloom, the excited chatter of the punters, the rain pounding on the roof – and most of all the swirling of numerous cooking aromas cooped in by the roof – all contribute to a profoundly glamourous, sophisticated vibe.

We know full well that such a dynamic can distort and inflame the appetite adrenaline and that we’ll probably order a lot of stuff that will fall short of outstanding. And that, in some cases, similar and much better food can be had for significantly less just a few blocks away.

But we don’t let that transgress on our fun as we enjoy a couple of hours of what seems like rather naughty pleasure.

There’s a meatball stall with amazing giant woks of bubbling balls. There’s a Polish stall doing pierogi and the like. There’s wine and beer and even mulled wine.

But the dominant theme seems to be overtly carnivorous, what with American-style BBQ, Argentinian BBQ and Spanish, Sicilian and Colombian stalls all cooking up a storm to a meat beat.

The biggest thrill of the night comes as Bennie spies the ribs at the BBQ stand.

“That’s what I want!” he says with enthusiasm.

They’re also doing pulled pork, but ribs it is – in what, AFAIK, is Bennie’s first taste of this style of food.

At a price of $14 for five ribs plus coleslaw, they’re not cheap but they are good and tender and tasty. And we wangle a sixth rib so we can share equally.

Bennie absolutely loves them, just sharpening my anticipation of the pleasure that will be experienced when I eventually take him to the other side of town for a splash-up meal at Big Boy BBQ.

Calling the rather scraggly and mostly undressed cabbage and carrot strips “coleslaw” is a bit of stretch, though.

Our friends from La Morenita are in attendance, doing chorizo and empanadas and more, but we choose to move on to the less familiar.

We have a $5 plate each of Colombian marinated chicken-on-a-skewer, three cassava balls and a dab of whipped avocado.

The chicken is superb, the cassava nicely chewy, a little bit bitter and very filling.

There’s two back-to-back Asian stalls, one with a Viet flavour, the other Malaysian.

From the former, Bennie grabs and gobbles a small serve of chicken ribs – $5 for four.

From the latter, I secure what is called Sarawak laksa for $10.

It’s a thinnish and nicely spicy broth. There’s a heap of goodies, including lots of rolled-up segments of omelette, but sadly the plentiful and handsome-looking prawns are tasteless.

All the while, Bennie has been agog at the tantalising array of sugary stuff available.

He finally settles on a bretzel from Kingsville’s

His choice is chocolate-filled, topped with nuts and slathered with more chocolate … and he loves every mouthful.

And seemingly every one of those mouthfuls is recorded by a keen photographer who takes a fancy to the spectacle of Boy Eating Dough With Extras.

Appetites finally sated, we wander about for a while enjoying the sights and sounds and smells.

But we head home happy well before the more formal musical entertainment of the evening commences.

After all, it is a school night.

Luna 1878 night markets at Victoria Market will be held on August 22 and 29.

Rubble & Riches Market in Laverton


Rubble & Riches Market, 8-18 Leakes Rd, Laverton. Phone: 9369 6426

The shock of stumbling upon Rubble & Riches Market in Laverton is intense and pleasurable.

The reason?

Earlier in the day I’d been contemplating an entire day – indeed, an entire weekend – free and clear.

Extremely desirous was I of adventure, an outing, something good to eat and generally having my mind blown.

But not for the first time I was struck by a feeling that after more than a decade in the west, and after two years of full-on blogging activity that has entailed much exploration, I’d tapped our region out, that I’d been everywhere and done pretty much everything.

I even resorted to a slightly panicked perusal of Google maps in order to discover some shopping strip or industrial estate we had yet to examine.

As I say, this nagging feeling has visited previously.

It’s ridiculous. It’s misplaced. It always is.

So off I head, driving west on the freeway and taking the Kororoit Rd off ramp, with only some vague awareness of a Laverton market to steer me.

On Leakes Rd, I am happily stunned to see thousands of people and thousands of cars.

Many people are already departing, even though it’s just on noon, arms laden with market-bought goodies of many kinds.

I park in a vast, muddy parking lot and make my way to one of the market entrances, where I pay my $1 entry fee.

Yes, that’s correct – this is a market that charges an entry fee.

The market is pretty darn amazing – in the range of goods on sale, the diversity of the customers and the varied range of dogs, all of it underscored by amplified, slightly distorted Vietnamese Cheesy Pop Cover Versions such as Hank Williams’ Jambalaya.

The longer I spend in the west, the more I come to believe that Vietnamese Cheesy Pop Cover Versions are a lofty, refined and magical artform.

According to its website, the market has about 1400 stalls set on about 14 hectares, including two large pavilions.

Naturally, the market bears some resemblance to markets Victoria and Footscray.

But it’s also very, very different.

For Rubble & Riches also has elements that make it feel like part swap meet, part garage sale and part op shop.

There’s secondhand small machinery, furniture and brickabrack of a bewildering variety, along with all the usual clothing and knicknacks that are market staples.

There’s a quite nice range of food-to-eat-right-now stalls, but only a very small coverage of fruit and vegetables, and none at all that I could see of fresh meat, poultry or fish.

To my utter delight, there’s an outdoor Vietnamese eatery set up in an old bus and with patrons eating under adjacent canvas.

The food they’re eating looks fine – banh mi, rice and pork chop and even some interesting looking vegetarian soup noodle options.

But after checking out the entire site, I opt first up for a bratwurst from the grill shop set up by Radtke Catering, the intoxicating aromas from which permeate the hall in which it is situated.

As well as a range of snags, they’re cooking up ham and chicken steaks.

My sausage is sold to me under the name German bratwurst, but is quite different texture and even taste to those I am familiar with from the Vic Market. Still, at $5.50 it’s good.

Still, hungry I choose next a chorizo ($7) from a stall run by a lovely, smiling Chilean dude and his friendly staff (top photo).

I go with the green salsa, but soon discover it’s tame, so return for a big dollop of the its red sibling. It’s not red hot either, but spices things up nicely and leaves a tingle on my lips.

At this point, I say to myself: “Righto – enough of this health food stuff … fruit for the rest of the day!”

Accordingly, I purchase a baguette-shaped chocolate brioch loaf ($2.50) from Nikola, who is manning the Noisette baked goodies stall.

His company has been at the market for just three weeks and his verdict is still out on its merits.

On reflection, I have some doubts about the practical utility of this market.

I could never see us choosing it over our other favourites for stocking up the house with food or anything else.

But for a weekend visit of high entertainment value, it’s all class.

Having assumed that the folks who are collecting the $1 entry fee are doing so on behalf of some local community or sports group, I ask if that is the case as I am departing.

Not so, I’m, told – this is weekend work for them, they get paid and the fee dosh goes to the market operators.

The market, which I gather has been running for at least 15 years, is open from 7am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Tasman Market Fresh Meats

Leave a comment

Tasman Market Fresh Meats, 26-30 McDonald Rd, Brooklyn. Phone: 9318 9077

The last time we hit Tasman Market Fresh Meats in Brooklyn, it was a warm/hot summer day and we pretty much froze in the chilly interior.

It was just like shopping in a freezer.

In fact, doing business here IS shopping in a freezer, such is the quantity of chilled and frozen produce on hand.

On that day, we couldn’t muster enough of a shopping list to breach the $20 EFTPOS limit, so left empty-handed.

We suspect this is the sort of place more suited to larger family units than our two-person show.

Nevertheless, today Tasman happens to be on our route home from that morning’s rugby match and we are happy to stop and shop.

As well, the snag stand outside does fine duty in providing Bennie’s post-match snag – with onions, BBQ sauce, $2.50, thank you very much.

It’s a sunny Saturday morning but still very chilly, so the temperature seems the same inside and out!

We wonder if we’ll see any meat derived from the notorious “it’s raining sheep” incident of a day or so earlier and a few kilometres up the road!

Our meat-eating tends to be a matter of moderation and spontaneity inspired by both temperament and restricted fridge and freezer space.

So unlike most Tasman customers, we’re not here for the meat – though there is a whole lot of it.

There’s even a fairly extensive range of offal, but how the prices compare overall to other outlets and markets is difficult to gauge.

The lamb shanks, for instance, don’t seem any cheaper than anywhere else.

While there is a vast amount of plastic used in packaging here, the signage and the butchers on hand make it clear the service can be more customised and flexible than may at first appear to be the case.

We know someone who loves this stuff, and we no doubt eat enough of it ourselves on our periodic visits to charcoal chicken shops, fish and chip joints and the like.

But ours is not a mindset that would see us actually toting bags of the stuff home.

The best bargains we spy – and those that go in our basket – are of the dry goods variety.

Three cans of Mediterranea canned tomatoes for $2.

The big 700g bag of Le Serenate biscotti provides low-rent crumbly cookies, but still fine for school/work lunches.

Two packs of pasta for 88 cents each; some cheap olive oil for cooking so we don’t use the good stuff for same; some hot chilli pate just for fun.

Bennie and I have struck deal about the breakfast standoff – he’ll give the bought cereals away and eat the same as dad, just so long as dad does away with the white sultanas (“white maggots”) and uses other dried fruit instead for the muesli.

So we grab almonds, dried apricots and dates to join the oats already waiting at home.

We don’t recall – from previous visits – there being fresh produce here.

Truth be told, the Tasman range is not much more than basic, but does the trick I dare say for those wanting to cover their bases without making another stop on the way home.

We pick up an armful of bananas, some sweet potatoes, a $1 bag of mandarins.

It’s a little out of the way for us, so Tasman is unlikely to become a regular haunt.

But it’s been just the ticket today for us in a $37 shop that has set us up for the rest of the week.

As we leave, Bennie opines that it still seems more like a butcher than a supermarket.

And they don’t stock coffee.

South Melboune Market


South Melbourne Market, 322-326 Coventry St, South Melbourne.

Having mused on the mindset that allows us to treat a suburb as far distant as Coburg as part of own backyard yet finds South and Port Melbourne – just over the bridge – pretty much out of sight and mind, it seems a fine time to make a relatively rare visit to South Melbourne Market.

Any hopes the shocking weather will ease the car-parking situation are confirmed as forlorn as I ascend to the roof-top and several patience-taxing delays.

There’s a lot of folks looking spaces.

The first two hours of parking are free, which is good.

All the ATMs appear to be of the $2.50 variety, which is bad.

It’s obviously been a while as many changes to the market are noted.

A part of the market interior now has several stalls of a more upmarket variety – manchester, clothes, shoes and even flash bicycles.

The whole of the Cecil St side of the market has acquired a series of more-or-less bona fide restaurants – Chinese dumplings/roast meats, Italian, Spanish, seafood – to join the familiar SMM dimmies.

The street stall paella sure looks and smells a whole heap better than is usually the case with such ricey enterprises.

Perversely if somewhat predictably, I still prefer the old-school food hall on the other side of the market.

More room, cheaper prices, proximity to the fabulous deli, meat and seafood stalls …

Equally predictably and perversely, I am lured to the Vietnamese stall called BaBa.

They have banh mi makings on display and you can get soup noodles and vermicelli dishes here.

But my eye is drawn to the stall’s Indian dishes.

Indian and Vietnamese?

I’ve seen Indian and kebabs, Indian and pizza, but this is a first.

My plate of vegetable curry, dal and rice, a can of soft drink and a meat samosa costs $12.50.

The samosa is on the oily side, but the filling is good and meaty. The parcel as a whole could only loosely be described as Indian food, though. No matter!

It has a nice chilli kick, as do my two plate courses.

The curry of carrot, beans, onion and more starts at a nice clip but fades off the pace a bit.

The dal is much better – yellow split peas with a nice touch of firmness left in them, the whole having a plain but very appealing flavour.

That’s down to, I subsequently discover, crushed tomatoes, tamarind, turmeric, salt and water.

While in the food hall, I grab a bag of Turkish rolls from Aroma Bakery.

These may be just right for lunches for the forthcoming week, feeling as they do a bit fresher and lighter than the supermarket variety or their ciabatta cousins.

We usually find both too heavy, stale and/or large, so the balance of bread to filling is way out of whack.

I get my post-lunch coffee from Padre, which seems to be one of those new-school cool coffee chains staffed exclusively by young hipsters.

My cafe latte is perfect, outstanding and puts a smile on my dial.

I have an interesting conversation with Ida from Ida’s Alterations.

Me, pointing at the sign: “Ida’s such lovely old-fashioned name – are you Ida?”

Ida: “My son, my son …”

Me: “Your son’s name is Ida?”

Ida: “No, the sign, the sign!”

Right – she’s Ida, he did the sign …

I grab onions, silverbeet and apples from one of the fresh stalls.

South Melbourne Market?

Nice for a visit every now and then.

But I still had to stop in Anderson St for milk, yogurt and dishwash liquid.

Padre Coffee on Urbanspoon

Big Sam’s St Albans Market

1 Comment

Big Sam’s St Albans Market, 3 St Albans Rd, St Albans. Phone: 9366 2237

Despite becoming quite familiar with the many wonders of the shopping and fun precinct that surround Alfrieda St in St Albans, Big Sam’s has until now escaped our attention.

For one thing, it’s often been closed when we’re in the neighbourhood.

For another, I heard – somewhere, somehow – that it’s nothing special.

A single, quick glance about as I enter amply demonstrates that latter point is untrue.

Instead of being just a single business, this appears to be many under the same roof and inhabiting quite a large space.

I don’t see any ordinary supermarket items such as loo paper or detergent, but between them the many stalls appear to have just about all the other bases covered. Certainly this is much more than a fruit and vegetable place.

There’s even a florist!

In that way, it’s a sort of multi-purpose market along the same lines as Sunshine Fresh Food Market – only a lot more meatier and a lot less halal.

There’s only a single seafood stall but a handful of butchers, each with a slightly different emphasis.

The prices are pretty keen.

I see several lots of tomatoes under the $2 mark. These are all very ripe – which is how I always buy them. Some are spoilt – but I have no problem at all finding some good still-firm ones to take home.

These bargain basement red capsicums are blemished – each one has what looks like some sort of frost burn the size of a 20 cent piece. But that aside, they are firm and fabulous. If the freezer at home didn’t have plenty of roasted and peeled ready to go, I’d be on them in a flash.

The market cafe has an Elvis thing going on … note the bongos.

I can see this place getting some handy usage from us when lunch adventures take us to St Albans.

It’s our kind of place with a really nice vibe.

Altona Beach Market

Leave a comment

Altona Beach Market, Pier St and Logan Reserve, every Tuesday.

It’s other business that has brought me to the Altona Beach shopping precinct, so it astounds that I walk right into the middle of a market – on a Tuesday of all days.

But here it is, stretching up and down Pier St and into some of the park places nearer the beach.

It surprises as much to learn it’s been going – every Tuesday – for five years.

Truth to tell, though, business is far from brisk, despite the beautiful sunny Indian summer weather.

Chris tells me his performance skills, which he utilises in the promotion and sales of his sooper dooper chopping and slicing contraption, are well honed.

But, today at least, he laments the total lack of an audience.

Other stallholders I talk to grumble good-naturedly about too much wind and too few customers.

By 1.30pm, several are already packing up well ahead of the advertised closing time.

Sunday morning at Vic Market


Two weisswursts – one with sinus-blasting hot English, the other with Dijon.

A pricey ($4) but very good cafe latte at a serious coffee joint.

A small bar of organic chocolate to take home.

I dimly remember a time when the Vic market was pretty much moribund on Sundays. A few stalls in the food hall open, and far from all of them open in the wide open acres of general merchandise and clothing.

It’s all go these days – almost everything open, but with a pleasing drop in the sometimes fraught ambiance and crowded scenes that are the market on Saturday mornings.

Sometimes it’s where I like to go – even with a house chockers with food and no special shopping needs pressing.

Outside the food areas, it’s fun to pick out the genuine products and bargains, shining like diamonds amid vast spaces of general all-round tackiness.

Loving Earth chocolate uses agave syrup instead of cane sugar and is described as “essentially uncooked, unprocessed chocolate in its pure rich essential form”.

Market Lane Coffee, adjacent the market food hall, is a Serious Coffee Establishment. I like my cafe latte and I like the passion of their endeavours.

There’s one at Prahran Market, too.

Sunshine Fresh Food Market


25-27 Devonshire Rd, Sunshine. Phone: 9311 9897

Sunshine Fresh Food Market has been right there, hidden in plain sight the whole time we’ve been hanging out in Sunshine.

As I enter, the feeling and surroundings are so familiar I wonder just why it is we’ve never checked this place out before.

For this is our kind of establishment – a cross between a supermarket and fresh produce market along the same lines as Fresh On Young and the nearby Big Fields.

But is it any good?

The shopping list I am grasping in one hand, with about a dozen varied items scrawled upon it, should tell at least some of the tale.

Will SFFM be able to fill my basket with cinnamon and cardamoms for that night’s dal AND rolled oats and big, fat, juicy white sultanas (“white maggots”) for the next batch of muesli?

It’s been a while since I was out and about with camera in hand, so am a little nervous to begin with. I soon relax as it becomes apparent that no one – customers or staff – mind much or at all what I’m about.

The human rainbow array of races, genders, skin hues, sizes, shapes, ages and dress styles augurs well for a fun time.

The array of fresh herbs and leafy vegetables is not as swank as that found at Saigon Market in Footscray, but they all look in pretty fine nick. My bunch of good-looking coriander costs 99c.

My spice requirements? No problem …

I’ve not seen the Gold line of packaged spices before, but I like the size and price – they’re all $1.49. We do quite a lot of Indian cooking, but nevertheless I don’t like buying large lots of spices as they go stale and lose their zing. Small and often is generally our motto with all sorts of shopping.

White sultanas? Why certainly, sir, right this way …

I happily scoop about half a kilo into a plastic bag at $8.99 a kilo.

The place seems to be fully halal.

On the other hand, the deli counter does have Polish sausage, salami and mortadella – meaty things all normally brimming with porky bits.

To make sure and satisfy curiosity both, I make inquiries of the two young women behind the deli counter.

They assure me that all the above, and indeed all the cured and prepared meats, are halal and made with beef.

As I amble towards the adjoining seafood display, one of them tells me: “Even the fish are halal …”


As the realisation quickly dawns that I’ve been suckered, a burst of giggles issues forth from behind the counter.

Sheesh! Good one, ladies!

As I wander about, I begin to realise how good a find this place is – and cheap!

Bargains everywhere, with none of the pressing weekend hordes found at Saigon Market.

The pace is a few significant clicks short of frantic but the staff are friendly and helpful, and the vibe is relaxed.

Parking is plentiful.

I even go “off-list” for a few items – a handful of okra at $4.99 a kilo included.

Blimey, I even buy four bananas! They’re tiny specimens, but the price – $6.99 a kilo – is the cheapest I’ve seen this century. Well, that’s how it seems  …

How good is this – $24.43 for the lot, only falling down on the matter of rolled oats?

I get a whole lot of cool stuff to take home for about the price of a movie-drinks-popcorn combo, take much less time and have a lot more fun.

Brunswick Market and related fun



661 Sydney Road, Brunswick

Many, many years ago – about 25, I think – yours truly aboded near the juncture of Albion and upper Lygon streets in Brunswick for a couple of years, so was then quite familiar with the stretch of Sydney Rd inhabited by Brunswick Market.

In those days, it was a lively place that could hold its own with Melbourne’s many other revered markets.

It’s a bit of a faded beauty these days.

It never gets spoken of in the same breath as the very famous A1 Bakery just a few doors down.

Nor will you hear it mentioned along with markets Footscray, Vic, Saigon, South Melbourne or Prahran.

But in recent years we have been returning to take in not just the market but also a few pizzas at Tabet’s and the general lively ambience of Sydney Rd, so different from our regular westie haunts yet also so familiar.

I start my Friday adventure at Central Kebab House, right at the entrance to the market.

I opt for the eggplant plate ($7.50), as the halved eggplants topped with lamb mince have caught my eye. I ask for a couple falafels and some pickled veggies to be added, for which I am not charged.

Bennie I have had some swell feeds here before, but this is a bit lacklustre. The cucumber/yogurt dip has no zing, the felafels are a bit rubbery and the eggplant/mince combo, too, is just OK.

Next time, I’ll make a point of trying some of the fine-looking gozleme and pides:

From there I venture into the market proper.

What was once, a few years back, a low-key outdoor/indoor eatery that served up darn good dips ‘n’ bread ‘n’ salads has become a sweetie place that dispenses cake/biscuits of both continental and Middle Eastern genres.

Around it are arrayed a deli and clothing/trinket outlets of mostly Turkish flavour.


The market has three butchers – a regular continental style, and one each of the halal variety for poultry and red meat.

At the continental joint, Ottorenny, I become very interested in some good-looking sausages.

I suspect some of them at least are Maltese or something equally exotic. But I’m told that, no, they’re all of Italian heritage.

The darkest of the lot are pork and pork liver. I’ve yet to be tempted by the pork liver dishes I’ve come across in my mostly unhappy experiences with Filipino food, but I figure that as part of a highly seasoned and prepared sausage with regular pork meat, it may make for a winner.

So I buy four of them, just to see. I’ll be telling Bennie of the nature of ingredients after we’ve eaten them.

At Ali’s Halal Meat Supply, I likewise buy a sample deal of four hot dogs – if they taste good, we’re on to a winner, as they’re an incredible $6.50 a kilo. My four cost 50 cents each.

Right at the end of the market is a large fruit and vegetable outlet.

I have no pressing need to stock up on such items, but note that the range and prices are impressive.

Part of the fun of visiting this part of Melbourne is the maze of back streets between Sydney Rd and the railway line – a jumble of gloriously ungentrified light industry, oddball food service outlets, funky housing and much kool stuff.

It is via these back streets that I am headed for the Book Grocer – love the name! – at 453 Sydney Rd.

Using, I am told, some of the same suppliers as Dirt Cheap Books, the Book Grocer is a very different enterprise indeed.

The range here is much more high-toned, with a wide range of stock that seems particularly strong on history, biographies and other non-fiction goodies.

Almost seems like a regular high-quality bookshop!

Further up Sydney Rd, I stop to gander at the yummy pies and pizzas at Al-Waha Bakery, at 819 Sydney Rd.

We’re currently well-provisioned with such as these in the freezer at home, so I make do with a single ricotta and spinach pie just for assessment’s sake.

The busy and bustling stretch of Sydney Rd leading up to Bell St and Pentridge Prison surprises me – I must have been hereabouts many times before, but I have no recollection of it whatsoever.

Nor of Coburg Market.

There’s pokie little arcades, a zillion kebab and cake shops, Oriental massage places.

Wandering up one side of the road and down the other, my sense of dislocation and newness is such that it feels like when I arrived from (mostly whitebread) New Zealand so many years ago and inner-city Australia seemed so intoxicatingly exotic.

I even find, looking out over a packed parking lot, an intensely interesting place with a super-long menu of dumplings and noodles that is sure to be the subject of a future adventure.