CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival No.1: Searz wrap

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CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival No.1: Searz,  39 Challis Street, Newport

Tuesday, May 16, 2017.

For sure, I thought, most of the attendees at Searz would go for the bento of miso-braised baby back ribs.

I was wrong.

The ox-tail ravioli in a laksa broth won the day by a comfortable margin.

 

 

I was among those who enjoyed them – they were very, very fine.

As was everything else.

 

 

Thanks to Gopi and Joyce (in the kitchen) and Michael and Reyner (out front) for ensuring a lovely evening was enjoyed by all.

 

 

Thanks to all the various friends and regulars who fronted up for the first CTS event in about a year.

It was fun to be doing it again.

 

 

Thanks, too, to the half-dozen guests who’d probably never heard of Cosnider The Sauce but who – as Searz regulars – knew a very good thing when they saw it!

 

 

THE MENU

Sharing plate as starter
Panko crumbed oyster.
Cured salmon with wasabi pea puree.
Peking duck samosa with pickled cucumber.
Sweet baby corn soup with chervil oil

 

 

Main courses (choice of one)
Ox-tail ravioli in a laksa broth.
Miso-braised baby back ribs in a bento box.
Vegetarian biryani, raita, cauliflower pakora, mango chutney and papadum.

 

 

Desserts (alternate drop)
Katafi wrapped banana fritters with vanilla panacotta.
Mixed berry croustade wtih coconut icecream.

 

 

CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival 1: Searz

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PLEASE NOTE: THIS EVENT HAS SOLD OUT.

CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival 1: Searz,

Searz, Tuesday, May 16, from 7pm.

Price: $30 per person.

Ticket price includes food but not beverages. There is a good chance management may have wines matched to the food available on the night.

Searz is not a big place, so seating is limited!

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As described in our story launching the Consider The Sauce Western Suburbs Food Festival, a big part of making events a going concern is finding restaurateurs who are receptive to the idea.

In Gopi from Searz in Newport, I could not wish for a better partner.

Searz has become something of a regular for us – see stories here and here.

To my very great delight, when presented with the idea of co-hosting an event with CTS, Gopi’s eyes lit up.

My enthusiasm for this particular outing was already high but became much higher when he sent me the menu.

Check it out!

How good is it?

MENU

Sharing plate as starter


Panko crumbed oyster.
Cured salmon with wasabi pea puree.
Peking duck samosa with pickled cucumber.
Sweet baby corn soup with chervil oil

Main courses (choice of one)

Ox-tail ravioli in a laksa broth.

Miso braised baby back ribs in a bento box.

Vegetarian biryani, raita, cauliflower pakora, mango chutney and papadum.

 

Desserts (alternate drop


Katafi wrapped banana fritters with vanilla panacotta.
Mixed berry croustade wtih coconut icecream.

Lovely Malaysian in Newport

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Hawkers Lane, 12 Hall Street, Newport. Phone: 9391 0611

“I’ve never seen so many depressed people in one place!”

That’s the desolate text message I receive from Bennie.

He’s stranded in Laverton and the trains are not running.

Neither he, nor anyone else it seems, knows what is going on.

In the meantime, he’s directed me to Newport for pick-up duties – prematurely as it turns out.

But as we await transport clarification, I get the chance to scope out the Hall Street shops and businesses – including the Malaysian place I’d heard about.

 

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It’s small and tidy – not much more than a glorified take-away, really, with one tall and small table and a bunch of counter/window stools.

Still, something about the place feels just right – an exciting impression given ooomph by the surreptitious looks I grab of two different meals I see being eaten.

Our stay-at-home dinner options are happily jettisoned for another night and – once the tricky transport logistics are finally resolved at Footscray Station – it’s back to Newport we head.

The Hawkers Lane menu (see below) covers much familiar territory, from curry puffs (including a sardine option) and rotis through to noodles (wok, wet and soup), one-person rice dishes and full-serve mains such as beef rendang and Nyonya fish curry.

I’ve heard there is a link between this place and Wok Noodle in Seddon, though how deep I do not know. Nor, on this occasion, do I pursue the matter.

 

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Rotis can be served plain or with the likes of peanut sauce, beef rendang and chicken curry, or as wraps.

Our fine roti with potato curry ($9) is all good, though the curry is rather more runny than we’d like – a more sticky gravy that sticks to the flat bread would be just the ticket.

 

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Bennie makes quick work of his mee goreng ($12.50).

It’s a solid, well-cooked outing.

My chicken kari laksa ($15, top photo) is a variation on your regular chicken laksa.

The curry sauce blends with the laksa soup to create a very flavoursome brew, while the chicken pieces are heftier and much tastier than the diced or shredded chook routinely found in laksas.

For veg, there’s just a single, longish chunk of eggplant – no beans or broccoli or the like.

But that matters not, as the chicken, the tofu, two halves of golden boiled egg and mix of two curry gravies combine with the noodles and bean sprouts to produce a top-notch laksa.

 

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Hawkers Lane is a real find.

The locals must be thrilled.

The bare-bones set-up means eating in feels more like just grabbing a quick, unfussy bite and less like going through the whole restaurant ritual.

Yet the service and food quality shine.

Hawkers Lane is a cash-only operation, does not do deliveries and is closed on Sundays.

 

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Home-style in Newport

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Page of Cups, 336 Melbourne Road, Newport. Phone: 0421 940 141

Normally I’d flee a cafe that has crystals on display like a vampire does garlic.

But I have it on the good authority of an astute local judge that Page of Cups is the biz and puts an emphasis on in-house, simple quality, even to the extent of baking its own croissants.

So Marnes, Bennie and I give it a go.

Page of Cups is a comfy place, with those crystals joined by various bits and pieces (including lovely hand-made boots) and recycled furniture, teaspoons and crockery that all contribute to the vibe.

The breakfast menu is longish, and Marnes heads in that direction.

The lunch offerings, less formally organised, are outlined for us via the obliging staff, the display cabinet and the sandwich board outside.

That’s where Bennie and I head.

 

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Marnes is happy with her Turkish bread stuffed with bacon, pesto, spinach, parmesan and a poached egg ($15), noting with approval wonderfully present pesto flavours.

 

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This isn’t really a burger kind of place, so we’re unsurprised Bennie’s brioche burger ($13) arrives without chips.

No matter – a handful of glossy, juicy mushies are every bit as enjoyable.

The burger looks pretty darn ugly on the plate, but Bennie enjoys it nonetheless.

The beef patty has all the hallmarks of in-house preparation, along with fine, beefy flavour and a pleasantly chewy texture.

 

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My chicken and leek pie looks on the modest side in terms of size for $16.50, but eats well – and bigger – than it looks, the finely diced innards being good and tasty.

The accompanying salad bits are fresh while the spicy and fruity (peach? apricot?) chutney is a knock-out.

 

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If our lunches/brunches have been solidly enjoyable, it’s our sweeties that seem better to illustrate the Path of Cups hand-on, home-made ethos.

Marnes and I both enjoy slices of toasted banana bread ($5.50) slathered with butter.

The loaf is both kinda plain and many kinds of wonderful, with hefty quotients of coconut and dried fruit.

 

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Bennie digs his chocolate mud cake ($6.50) – no explanation needed.

Our drinks – soy latte ($4.50), cafe latte ($4) and large iced chocolate ($5) – are all fine.

I like it that Page of Cups has such a different feel from the west’s many hipster cafes, as enjoyable as they can often be.

 

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Searingly good Friday dinner

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Searz Caffi, 39 Challis Street, Newport. Phone: 9399 2393

Some of our hottest meals are deeply rooted in the most whimsical decisions.

So it is tonight.

Turn left at the end of the street – that means Spotswood, Newport, Williamstown, Altona.

It’s as we’re tooling along Williamstown Road, vague notions of pizza fomenting in our minds, that inspiration strikes.

Friday night!

Searz!

We’ve been to this Newport cafe before, but since then a friend has keenly recommended the joint’s Friday Indian-style specials.

We enjoyed our earlier visit, but so terrific is what we have during our second that we decide there is no better cafe in the west – and we are left with a serious case of dead-set envy because it’s not in OUR neighbourhood.

A big part of Searz’s appeal, for us anyway, is its Asian outlook.

So many other cafes – across the west, across Melbourne – come across as dilettantes when it comes to incorporating Asian influences and dishes into their menus.

Sometimes this results in enjoyable food – but without ever quite nailing the funky spicy factor.

There’s no such problems at Searz – a wide range of deftly handled Asian dishes and flavours are on hand and Asian-ness is the very beating heart of the place.

 

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Take Bennie’s Thai beef salad ($14), for instance.

From our table’s vantage point, we enjoy watching this being constructed, so by the time it arrives we know exactly what’s in it and how it was done.

It’s very good – and in terms of quality, portion size and pure yumminess, leaves most equivalent dishes at your average Thai eateries behind.

I try a piece of the beef and am very impressed – it’s tender, charry, wonderful.

 

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But his salad is definitely aced by my Friday night curry special ($20).

The mix of biryani rice, chicken curry, dal with veg, fried hardboiled egg and apple/mango chutney is simply fabulous.

And while it looks to me, at first, a little light on for the price tag, such proves most certainly to not be the case.

Best of all, each and every component displays most admirable evidence of loving preparation and determination to produce a range of individual flavours.

The boneless chicken is more South-East Asian than Indian, but is superb with its salty, smoky seasoning.

All the rest is every bit as interesting and delicious.

 

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By now, we’re having such a grand time we decide to indulge in dessert.

There’s two on the blackboard – we order both.

Banana nutella tart with banana fritter and chocolate mousse (above) and …

 

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… peach and raspberry croustade with creme fraiche ice-cream and peach/rum coulis are both orgasmic and have Bennie and I doing our usual oooh-ing, aaah-ing, swooning and eye-rolling when presented with such finery.

These are the sorts of sweet treats we would normally only expect in more formal – and expensive – settings.

The price?

$8 each.

Bonkers!

It seems only fitting in a sort of synchronicity way that the pal who tipped us to the excellence of Friday nights at Searz – Daniel of Woven and Container Cafe fame – turns up with his crew as we’re embarking on dessert.

 

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Beaut bento, better burger

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Searz Caffi, 39 Challis Street, Newport. Phone: 9399 2393

The Challis Street shops in Newport – off Mason Street – are the sort of strip we’ve been driving by for years just for a look every now and then to see if there’s anything cooking.

On Challis Street, there never has been.

And now there is.

Searz is a very fine local cafe.

It serves (see menu below) standard-range cafe breakfasts and mains such as a caesar salad, a burrito bowl and fish ‘n’ chips.

But running through the mains and the smaller (“tapas”) dishes are Japanese/Korean influences.

We find our meals of two visits, the service and timing, the whole experience to be absolutely top notch.

 

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The bento special no doubt changes periodically.

This version has fish three different ways – teriyaki salmon, battered cod with wasabi mayo and grilled gemfish with Korean chilli sauce.

They are all delicious and beautifully cooked.

There’s about half a dozen different kind of pickle, some of which I love, some of which I could do without.

The house-made zucchini pickles are very fine.

The bento mix is completed by good salad and rice.

This bento, given the quality of the seafood involved, would be right at home in a bona fide Japanese restaurant.

And the price, $18, is grand.

 

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Bennie’s bibimbap $16) is a doozy, too.

He loves the finely cooked beef and mushrooms, the salady bits, egg, enokis and more.

Unlike so many versions of this dish, this one has enough fluid action going on that it is a well-lubricated “sweet and spicy” treat right to the bottom of the bowl.

 

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But however fine his bibimbap, Bennie is openly envious of my “1010 burger” ($15) – and so he should be.

Despite the burger burn-out factor of the past year or so, this strikes us as being a superb.

It’s a 9/10 burger and chips combo that scrubs up much better than many of those to be had at more storied burger joints around Melbourne.

There’s more of those zucchini pickles in there.

And there’s “Searz aiolio”, tomato relish and the usual, standard salad accessories.

The meat patty is thick, juicy and screaming with beefy flavour.

Gosh, it’s fantastic.

The chips are hot, fresh and very plentiful.

Searz is a prime example of everything a neighbourhood cafe should be.

And the food, what we have enjoyed of it, rocks.

 

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Newport brunch alternative?

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It’s about 10am at the Newport athletics tracks and the kids are jumping.

They’re also running, leaping, panting and generally having a ball.

 

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It’s the regular little aths meeting.

But as pleasing as this spectacle is, I’m here to check out the catering situation.

It’s great!

Is there better food – or coffee – at a Saturday morning kids sport gathering anywhere else in Melbourne?

I doubt it.

 

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It’s no surprise at all – the food, drinks and coffee here are being happily dispensed by Claudio, Antoinetta and their family – the same crew that runs Pizza d’Asporto and will soon be unveiling Kiosk by d’Asporto at Williamstown.

 

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There’s appropriately healthy little aths tuckers such as Italian “donuts” and bombolone but as well there’s …

 

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… more decadent stuff like fresh fruit salad and freshly squeezed orange juice.

Oh, yeah – and pizza slices.

 

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Best of all are really good-looking panini for $4 and stuffed with the likes of egg and pancetta, ham and cheese, and tuna tomato.

 

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Sadly, I’ve already breakfasted so make do with a lovely apple turnover and an excellent cafe latte – yes, Team Pizza d’Asporto has installed a very good coffee machine.

After strolling around a bit, I decide that (yep) one those paninis and another coffee would go down very nicely.

But by then it’s rush hour as competitors and their parents besiege the kiosk.

Darn.

 

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Bowling up for a roast lunch

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Newport Bowls Club, 4 Market Street, Newport. Phone: 9391 1212

Lawn bowls – any kind of bowls, for that matter – do not ride highly in the CTS sports world.

But I do love hanging out for a while in a bowls club – they’re so prevalent in Melbourne, it’s hard not to spend some time in them, be it for a gig a feed or … maybe even for a game of bowls.

Newport Bowls Club is a classic of the old-school.

 

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And like many such institutions, it’s making good efforts at making itself part of the local community beyond bowls players.

It hosts the Newport Fiddle and Folk Club and holds other music events.

On the Sunday I visit, a large group of young families – including many bubs – is in the house to enjoy the $20 offer of barefoot bowls in conjunction with a special menu.

I’m in the house for the $10 Sunday roast (see menus below).

 

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What looks like a modest and even perhaps drab meal is very enjoyable.

The roast beef is well done without being dry and is pretty good.

But it’s the vegetables that star – the al dente cauliflower and superb roast spuds are particularly memorable.

 

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I’m easily persuaded to partake of the member-created sticky date pudding ($7).

It appears to be of modest dimensions but turns out to be quite filling.

Even better, it a has lightness of texture and flavour that is sublime – with a generous gob of ice cream doing the business, I can easily imagine I’m desserting at a fancy restaurant somewhere!

Check out the club’s website here.

 

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Meal of the week No.1

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CTS has become quite besotted with the fish and chips served up by Dough! in Blackshaws Road, Newport.

They’re quite different in vibe and personality from those created by our other fave F&C joint – but no less excellent.

The chips are tumbler-peeled, hand-cut and all-terrific.

The fish, in this case a nice piece of blue grenadier, is always beautifully cooked although it does usually fall apart in my hands.

I don’t care, so good is it!

The calamari, too, is always tender and tasty – and it’s the real thing.

See earlier story here.

Newport Thai hit

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Siam Kitchen, 334 Melbourne Road, Newport. Phone: 9391 5179

Consider The Sauce has received a good deal of medical advice in the past six months or so.

Some of it was about food.

“We really like Siam Kitchen in Newport,” the doctor said. “The wok dishes and salads – not so much the curries.”

That’s the kind of advice – medical or otherwise – we’re happy to follow!

Truth is, Siam Kitchen has been on our radar for a long time.

 

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The restaurant occupies the same strip as the recently covered Odd Spot Cafe.

We are expecting a modest, typical suburban Thai eatery.

So we’re surprised and delighted to discover within a really love room dominated by dark wood and tastefully decorated.

We’re happy to report that by and large the service and food reflect those good first impressions.

This place is a handy and classy notch or two better than the phrase “suburban Thai eatery” implies.

It’s early in the week but the place is busy, with a good half of the tables occupied and a constant stream of takeaway customers coming and going.

There’s only one front-of-house staff member at hand and she’s working very hard indeed, though some kitchen folk help out by bringing full dishes out and taking empty ones back in.

It’s Bennie and I only tonight so we keep it simple by choosing two entrees and two mains plus rice.

The entrees satisfy rather than thrill us.

 

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We whip through two roti breads served with satay sauce ($5) in quick time though it’s all rather nondescript and the sauce lacks punch and is too sweet for us.

 

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Crispy golden bags (tang tong) of marinated pork mince with garlic, spicy onion and herbs served with sweet chilli sauce ($6.90) are way better and much more interesting than your average won tons.

The chilli sauce, too, is a flavour hit, boasting more zip and depth of flavour than your typical commercial version.

I cannot tell if this one of those commercial brands tarted up in the kitchen or one made from scratch – either way, very nice!

 

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Seafood pad cha of – “traditional” stir fry with peppercorn, ginger, eggplant and mixed vegetables ($14.90) – is my selection based on the eggplant component.

As it turns out, the eggplant is pretty much the least of it.

There’s plenty of seafood that tastes very fresh – I slurp up the mussels as Bennie is uninterested, and the scallops have terrific flavour.

Best of all, there’s nothing tame about the seasoning levels here – it’s a spicy blast.

 

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Crispy chicken salad with herbs and chilli topped with peanuts ($13.90) is Bennie’s choice and the outright highlight of our meal.

The chicken bits really are crisp, and delicious to boot. And we love the crunch of the peanuts.

There’s a significant chilli hit here, too, and real tang thanks to coriander, mint and lemon juice.

Unlike some people we could mention, we’re by no means Thai food experts – but for what it’s worth, the Siam Kitchen menu appears to have no really unusual dishes or surprises.

That said, this is the best Thai food we’ve had in the west.

Check out the Siam kitchen website, including menu, here.

Newport cafe cool

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Odd Spot Cafe, 302 Melbourne Road, Newport. Phone: 9399 2241

Following a knowledgeable recommendation, we give Odd Spot Cafe a whirl after stocking up nearby on goodies for the general all-round comfort of our new family member.

Odd Spot Cafe is situated amid a strip of shops on Melbourne Road to which we usually pay little interest as we’re usually too intent on going elsewhere when we whiz past, though we’ve also heard that the Thai joint Siam Kitchen is worth checking out.

Odd Spot has a nice fit-out dominated by black and white that speaks of coolness on a hot day.

It presents as an oasis.

We really enjoy our lunch choices and find the service to be grand.

 

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Odd  Spot features a number of dishes and a philosophy and approach that embrace “health food” – the sort of thing that can send the senior member of Team CTS fleeing.

So Bennie’s burger ($16) amply illustrates the “don’t judge a book by its cover” axiom.

It’s all-round fantastic.

He would’ve preferred onions to be cooked and some bacon but he really digs the pronounced pickled cucumber tang.

Is there anything more important – apart from the patty itself – to creating a successful burger?

The crinkle-cut chips are fine.

 

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Kenny, what are you thinking?

Sesame-crusted carrot fritters with “wilted spinach, pesto, hummus and micro herbs” ($16.50)?

Yes, I surprise myself by going all healthy.

Perhaps it’s a the festive season and all that oh-so-rich food we’ve been eating, but it does me fine.

Sure, the carrot pulp of the fritters is coated with sesame seeds rather than crusted or even, it seems, really cooked.

Perhaps I would’ve liked a bready base of some sort.

And the seasoning levels are way below what we’re used to in our mostly multicultural journey.

But right now, here today, this hits the spot.

 

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The Odd Spot cake display cabinet is chockers with great-looking things.

Bennie and I split a “chocolate fondant of goodness” ($4).

It’s a paragon of choc intensity and we love it.

Our cafe latte and hot chocolate are winners.

 

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Alien organisms in Newport

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Futurelic Art Studio/Sci Fi Silos, 1 McRobert St, Newport. Phone: 0415 704 520

Head towards Williamstown, pass the Blackshaws Road turnoff , take the next left and … arrive on another planet.

Or so it seems.

Futurelic Art Studio is the mutant baby of Lixa Brandt.

Like her gritty studio/performance space itself, she is a far cry from the studied hipster veneer of inner-city galleries of cliched fame.

The upstairs loft and dungeon-like basement are used for launch parties, ambient music events and rehearsals, while Lixa’s sci-fi sculptures adorn the ground floor.

Think Alien/Bladerunner.

Open on Sundays.

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Nice buns at beer hall

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Junction Beer Hall and Wine Room, 15 Hall Street, Newport. Phone: 9391 8188

The now fading days of the Geelong commute were undertaken mostly by car, but some of it was courtesy of the uncertainties of train.

That often entailed an early evening train switch at Newport, so I spent quite a bit of downtime loitering at Newport Station, sometimes taking the opportunity to do a bit of mostly desultory shopping in the Hall Street shopping precinct.

Maybe it was more about my morose state of mind than anything else, but the recall of those times is largely one of drabness and even a certain sense of menace.

Right in the middle of that shopping strip was a down-at-heel old school boozer.

In Saturday lunchtime sunshine – and with the Geelong trip just a memory – the whole vibe seems quite different.

We pass a couple of busy cafes on our way to what is now Junction Beer Hall & Wine Room.

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The management of the various establishments may beg to differ, but the new-look Junction seems to us to have a lot in common with two other pubs we have been frequenting of late – the Spotiswoode and the Plough.

That extends to the fit-out as well as the food, although the Junction – as befits its full name – has very long beer and wine lists.

Out back there’s a roomy lounge that has – we are tickled to discover – three sofas identical to the Scandinavian-style number that sits in our living room, as well as many other of the same model in different colour schemes.

The Junction has separate food menus for the beer hall and wine room, though they appear to overlap.

The beer hall menu has pizzas and steaks, going for around $30, as well as some novel snacky items such as prawn sliders and fried chick peas with cumin and salt.

But having scoped out the menu before leaving home, we’re pretty sure we know what we’re having so waste no time ordering.

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“This sure is a shiny bun,” says “Five Bowls” Bennie.

Yes, it’s my boy’s first experience with a fancy foodie burger using brioche as its bookends.

His burger with “cheese, beetroot relish, aioli and brioche bun, served with onion rings” ($14) is less of a glorious handful than he is accustomed to, so the sandwich lasts all of about three minutes.

However, the mouthful of burger I snag in the interests of science tastes outright excellent.

The good onion rings are joined on the chopping board platters by some crunchy cornichons.

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Bennie freely casts envious and admiring eyes at my pulled pork sandwich “with house made BBQ sauce and coleslaw” ($13).

That’s only right – as it’s a beauty.

Stuffed between a wonderfully fresh ciabatta-style roll are just the right proportions of chewy, flavoursome pork and tangy, crisp slaw.

Unlike Bennie’s burger, this sandwich IS a handful – and a suitably messy one at that.

Throwing in extras such as fries ($9) and alcohol could see your Junction bill climbing skywards, but the immediate locals would seem to have every reason to be happy about having this foodie pub at hand.

Check out the Junction website – including menus – here.

 

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honey & coco

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Honey & Coco, 42B Hall St, Newport. Phone: 9399 4493

It’s the neighbourhood immediately surrounding Newport train station that saw me renounce the use of public transport for my quasi-daily commute to Geelong.

Especially during the colder – and darker – months, the station and nearby shopping strips were grim, bleak and even occasionally forbidding and threatening.

In a more relaxed space on a sunny mid-week mid-day, the vibe is quite a bit more welcoming.

Not that this appears even now as a foodie destination.

There’s a range of traders doing most things most locals probably need, but it’s hard to conjure up more enthusiasm than that.

Perhaps the Thai restaurant? Prices pretty steep by our standards, but I have a hunch it’ll be a good one when – not if – we finally visit.

There’s two cafes of the urban chic variety – one either side of the tracks.

But the prices in one scare me a bit when I am only seeking a cheap and cheerful lunch.

And the other has a dauntingly high baby/toddler head count whenever I’m in the vicinity.

Which is how I find myself settling into Honey & Coco.

It has a slightly more utilitarian feel than its two immediate competitors, but it smells good, and the deal is sealed when I spy something on the menu that I find I want and didn’t even realise it.

The enticing aroma, I suspect, is emanating from the day’s soup special, vegetable, which the majority of customers are enjoying.

There’s a smallish range of filled Turkish loaves that look pretty good, while the muffins, cupcakes and so on seem standard.

But I go for the Greek salad.

It’s available with various protein additions at a price, but I keep it plain and simple, seeking a light, healthy, crunchy lunchy.

Surprisingly for lunch-on-the run cafe-type places of any stripe, my salad is made to order and from scratch.

It’s thus super dooper fresh – the cos lettuce is especially toothsome.

If there are things about it I’d prefer to be otherwise – plain olive oil instead of a balsamic dressing of some kind that stains the fetta cheese brown, the cheese itself too highly crumbled, kalamata olives I’d rather the stones were still in, the ’70s-’80s rock music – I’m prepared to write them off as personal preferences.

And at $10 with two segments of Turkish bread, it’s a good price for a big serve.

I’m happy with my lunch.

My cafe latte is even better – very good, in fact.

Honey & Coco has a down-to-earth warmth and welcome that has obviously earned the loyalty of the regulars who come and go as I enjoy my time there.

Honey & Coco on Urbanspoon

Jolly Rogers redux

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 306-308 Melbourne Rd, Newport. Phone: 9399 5499

UPDATE 26/1/12: This restaurant has closed down. Becoming, according to a post on Urbanspoon, a Subway! Booo!

It doesn’t take much venturing into the world of Australian food blogging to discover passions, threads, posts, discussions, debates and controversies.

Some of the topics such hot air revolves around include blog adverts, paid posts (in which a blogger writes a post about a product or service for payment) and freebie meals.

For the time being at least, we like the clean, uncluttered look of our site so it will remain advert-free.

As well, we are somewhat horrified at the sense of entitlement some bloggers display.

As hopelessly naive as it may seem, we continue to consider ourselves customers, food fans and amateur sleuths who have more in common with anoraks of the train-spotting variety than with any sort of professional restaurant reviewers.

Yet when an American friend asked, “Are you a restaurant reviewer?”, well I had to concede that, yes, we write restaurant reviews, so …

Still, we try to do our thing as discreetly as possible when enjoying our outings.

Truth is, many places simply ignore – or couldn’t care less about – the surreptitious note-taking and photography going on.

Plenty more, though, pick up on it straight away, which can sometimes lead to comical standoffs over our determination to pay for our meals.

It’s a fine line we’re trying to tread, but some situations seem to require a degree of graciousness, ones in which continual refusal could be considered plain rudeness.

This is especially so when we’ve returned to an establishment after posting a piece full of enthusiastic praise.

So, yes, we have accepted complementary coffees along the way – not to mention a single, superb gulab jamun and other sample treats. We hope like hell we have not become hopelessly compromised in the process!

Such a situation arose on a dark and stormy Thursday night on which I was very happy to take Bennie to Jolly Rogers as a follow-up to my own recent solo foray there.

On that visit, co-owner Anthony Scarlata had raved about his char-grilled calamari.

Sure enough, after we had placed our order for a burger ‘n’ chips meal, out came a sample plate of said calamari courtesy of the chef.

What were we meant to do? Send it back to the kitchen?

In any case, Anthony is right to be proud of this dish.

My calamari-loving son thought it was merely good; his dad thought it was sensational.

Resting on a bed of lovely brown rice, were about a dozen strands of ultra-tender and tasty calamari that had been grilled for about five minutes and then dressed with olive oil infused with lemon zest.

The char-grilled calamari comes in $9.95 and $13.95 sizes.


That “little bit extra” and our hearty appetites meant we over-ordered somewhat:

Bennie dug the onion rings ($4.95), which were done in the American style. Dad, being so enamoured these days with the lighter style of Indian onion bhaji, was not so impressed.

Large chips ($4.95) were, as on the previous visit, OK.


Our burgers – Jolly’s ($7.50) for dad, Lot ($8.95) for Bennie – were perplexing.

Burgers are routinely described as being a variety of sandwich – but these really WERE sandwiches.

Instead of being served in buns, our burgers were encased in some sort of flat bread that had been toasted and, seemingly, flattened in the process.

Look, we like to think of ourselves as adventurous and open-minded foodies.

But in this case, the product so defied a lifetime of conditioning about what burgers should look and taste like that we were left bemused.

The fillings seemed fine, though the flat-bread approach left dad coping with bits slipping and sliding beyond his two-fisted grasp.

Bennie did better with his one with the lot, which held together well and was so packed with goodies that he was stonkered about two-third of the way through.

Whatever – we like Jolly Rogers a lot and will be returning.

Certainly for more of the char-grilled calamari, maybe for the fish and chips enjoyed first time round.

Bennie opined as we left that next time he’d like to try one of the kebabs.

The Jolly Rogers website is here.

Jolly Rogers with a twist on Urbanspoon

Snowballs Ice-Cream And Lollies

4 Comments

320 Melbourne Rd, Newport. Phone: 9391 0711

We make a solemn and sober vow – we will restrict ourselves to three items.

Such a display of overt determination may seem a little extreme.

But we are, after all, entering a cathedral dedicated to all things sweet and sugary.

Worse – we are doing so on empty stomachs and just before lunch!

There’s plenty of lollie shops scattered across Melbourne – until quite recently there even used to be one in Anderson St, Yarraville.

But Snowballs is a doozie – a sort of superstore for those of a sweet tooth persuasion.

There’s a mind-boggling array of goodies stuffed into quite a small space.

There’s rows and rows of simply packaged lollies and liquorice, many of them quite traditional.

There’s much that is gimmicky and gives us many chuckles – metres of bubblegum, candy necklaces and much, much, much more.

The staff tell us that the American candy – Milk Duds, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey’s lines and so on – is very popular.

Likewise, the New Zealand products are popular.

My Dunedin childhood was packed with Whittaker’s Peanut Slabs, Buzz Bars and Chocolate Fish – but in my mind they were bigger and far more alluring than those on display here. And back in those days – yes, so very, very last century! – they were sold by milk bars and corner stores WITHOUT WRAPPERS.

Just being in this place, goofing around, discovering new, ingenious and weird excesses in tooth-rot marketing gives us something akin to a sugar high – with not a thing passing our lips.

The staff tell us this is quite common.

We settle on:

A box of Petit Ecolier dark chocolate bikkies – we’ve had them before, but not for a very excellent $2.

A small bar of Cavalier dark chocolate from Belgium ($3,80).

A Wonka Fabulicious Sour With Nerds for $1.80 … whatever that is (Bennie’s choice!).

And, from England, a Tunnock’s Milk Chocolate Coated Caramel Wafer Biscuit for $1.10.

I’m happy to report that while we love our sweeties, they by no means rule our lives or diets. That little lot will last at least a week with the exercise of little or no willpower. Honest! Besides, as we like our chocolate frozen, the biscuits and Belgian product will get bunged in the freezer. And it’s quite easy to forget there’s sweet stuff in there rubbing shoulders with the chicken stock and pasta sauce.

Jolly Rogers

9 Comments

306-308 Melbourne Rd, Newport. Phone: 9399 4339

UPDATE 26/1/12: This restaurant has closed down. Becoming, according to a post on Urbanspoon, a Subway! Booo!

Stepping on to the train to Newport, I muse on the disturbing truth of how car-dependent we have become.

Our wheels are in the car doctor’s rooms for the weekend, hopefully with an affordable resolution the outcome on Monday.

In the meantime, a man has to eat.

And a blog is whispering about a scandalous week of neglect.

I am headed for the Souvlaki Hut outlet that took up residence a while back in what was once a fish and chip place, interested to see what resides at the intersection of Greek and Franchise.

I am thoroughly bemused and confused, therefore, when I near the establishment and see signs that say Jolly Rogers.

What’s going on?

After an enjoyable lunch, co-owner Anthony Scarlata gives me the lowdown.

He and his business partner bought Jolly Rogers a tad short of five years back.

Eventually, they signed up with the Souvlaki Hut people, but for various reasons that didn’t work well.

So now they’re back with the original name and have been open five weeks when I visit.


Along the way, they’ve retained a Mediterranean flavour – and hence signage that says: “Jolly Rogers … with a twist.”

So what does that mean?

Well, there’s still a heap of fish and chips going around.

But there’s also the likes of grilled halloumi cheese, dips, onion rings, burgers, souvlakis and salads. Gosh, there’s even brown rice for $3.95.

There’s kids meals for $5.95 – nuggets, calamari, F&C – which can upgraded with a slushie or soft drink for a very excellent $1.

“Mamma’s seafood salad” costs $15.95 while an entry level burger clocks in at $7.50 ($2.50 extra for chips) and char-grilled calamari at $9.95

Despite an ambiance that suggests fast food and franchising, this is a full-service restaurant. You can order a wine or a beer, my order is taken at my table, the cutlery and crockery are real and the service and welcome are efficient and chipper.

As such, the prices seem very fair and I suspect I’ll be returning quick smart with Bennie on hand to explore the menu in greater detail.

It presents as a really good place of the “family restaurant” variety. Moreover, it also seems to be a place where we will be able to pursue our occasional longings for seafood without going broke in the process.

Your flashier seafood joints, of none or any ethnicity, are usually well beyond our means, so this could be the beginning of a cool friendship.


Take, for instance, my “Seafood for 1 deal”, which costs $12.95.

The three calamari rings are as good as any I’ve ever had, the batter light and dry, the calamari tender and tasty. Outstanding!

The fish – rockling, I am informed – is just about as good, the nice-sized fillet encased in a batter that could be crisper. The fish itself is really, really good and flavoursome.

The chips are OK, likewise the salad, although both come across as a bit of an afterthought.

Upon inquiring about tartare sauce or mayo for chip-dipping purposes, I am presented with a bowl of good aioli for which I am not charged.

I’m having such a grand time – eating, relaxing, reading the newspaper – that I linger a while longer over a truly fantastic latte.

Extra brownie points to Jolly Rogers for in-house music that runs through the likes of the Temptations, Van Morrison, the Zombies, Dusty Springfield and the Monkees. Sure as hell beats the high-volume and teeth-grindingly awful Led Zep I endured at Mankoushe a week or so before!

I figure my enforced train trip to Newport has been a good omen, so I catch another choo choo back to Yarraville. As if I have any choice, walking side.

Jolly Rogers with a twist on Urbanspoon

Cedar Grill

7 Comments

422 Melbourne Rd, Newport. Phone: 9391 0563

Mediterranean tucker may not be the first thing that springs to mind when thinking of western suburbs food, but we are nevertheless blessed with some gems of that persuasion.

Specifically, there is a magnificent Turkish joint right in the heart of Footscray, and another almost as good in Flemington.

There’s Greek places as far apart as Williamstown and Moonee Ponds we have yet to explore.

And there’s the Lebanese hub of The Circle in Altona, including a great bakery sure to be the subject of its own CTS write-up before too long.

For all we know, there could be dozens of old-school Italian doings going on behind the facades of pizza shops all over the place.

Still, Mediterranean food – and that of the Middle Eastern kind, in particular – is thin enough on the ground that any possibility is worth exploring.

So it was that we concluded Cedar Grill was worth checking out, an earlier visit by Kenny dating back to the very early days of our decade-long western adventure.

Cedar Grill is like Footscray Best Kebab House, in that its public face as a kebab joint disguises some much more tasty and righteous food proceedings.

In this case, the disguise is even more profound, as Cedar Grill also sells burgers and your typical Aussie pizzas.


Being the reprobate he is, Bennie waves away the far more alluring, tempting, sophisticated, cosmopolitan, nutritious and flavoursome Middle Eastern fare and opts for the $9 combo of burger, chips and a can of soft drink.

Oh well – I guess there’s a degree of hipness in being able to do BOTH. Although he ruined even that silver lining by choosing creaming soda …

He pronounced the burger – with onion, tomato, cheese, bacon – as fine and more than sufficiently filling.

We both thought the chips were very good. Freshly made and crisp, they were salted just right and tasted very fine dipped in the kebab-style garlic and chilli sauces that accompanied my meat/salad/dip platter.

I liked my $11 platter a lot.

The lamb was off the spit, and suitably crunchy and salty.

The pickled turnip – turshi – was earthy, crunchy and redolent of the beetroot used in its production. It was far cry from the recently purchased jar of  turshii – a dull, sad pink, and mushy on the fang – that recently found its way into our home and thence into the garbage bin. Fresh turshi only seems like a rule for life.

For my dip, I wish I’d chosen the humus or something with a little more substance than the yogurt/cucumber number, which tasted fine but was too runny to eat easily with the bread.


I opted for the pita bread over the Turkish option, hoping for the very flat, very dry Lebanese-style pita. Instead, I got the more doughy pita routinely used in making kebabs. Which means it was OK, but either of the other options would have been preferable.

The tabouli was sensational and just the way I like it – moist to the point of wetness, a jolly mix of finely chopped tomato, cucumber, bulgur, parsley and lemon.

I reckon Cedar Grill is worth cultivating. On an earlier visit, I’d seen the vegies for the salads being patiently chopped by hand – as I suspect just about everything here is.

And as we leave, the waitress hinted very strongly that with a bit of luck and an expression of interest, the boss might even come through with some kibbeh and foul.

From Chinese and Greek citizens selling fish and chips in earlier decades through to the present day – just because a shop or cafe or takeaway outlet is selling one kind of food, doesn’t mean the folk concerned are not fully capable of producing something altogether more interesting or funky.

Nor does it mean that they’d not leap at the chance to do so.

Maybe sometimes all it takes is some interest.

For that reason alone, we’ll be returning to Cedar Grill.

That the commercial radio, aircon and traffic whizzing by outside make a racket that makes the experience about as far from fine dining as is possible matters not a bit.

Bennie gets a photography lesson in Newport.

Um, yeah, right: Truth in advertising spotted by Bennie at 7/ll in Newport.