Weather-proof smiles in Werribee

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MiHUB Cafe, 12 Synnot St, Werribee. Phone: 9731 7877

The Consider The Sauce men are on a mission.

We’ve been told by our “eyes and ears” in the area about a cool little Sri Lankan joint in suburban Werribee.

But we get waylaid by other plans as we’re tooling through the Werribee CBD.

As we’re passing it, I say to Bennie: “That’s MiHUB Cafe over there …”

His immediate response is: “That’s where I’d like to go!”

But, but, but … his dad has the scent of the unknown and possibly delicious in his nostrils and is in a hunting mood.

But then again, OK, let’s do it your way, Mr Five Bowls.

Whatever the imperatives of new places and blog posts, I know fully well enough by now to relax and chill when appropriate, to let Bennie have his way – sometimes he evinces wisdom far superior to that of his father in such matters.

And the Sri Lankan place will still be standing by the time we get there.

Since first writing about this marvellous Sundays-only migrant-based operation, I have returned to MiHUB Cafe just for the sheer pleasure of it, but this is Bennie’s first visit.

He ends up enjoying it just as much as I do.

Bennie takes my adamant advice and goes for the gado gado ($5).

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He loves it a lot.

And it’s as I recall – a lively mix of vegetables, tofu and hard-boiled egg topped with superbly rich, dark and spicy peanut sauce unlike any found on your typical restaurant gado gado around Melbourne.

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My own plate of mixed curries with rice ($10) is less all-round successful, with the two vegetable dishes being somewhat forgettable.

The beef rendang is a winner, though.

And the highlight is a beautiful chicken curry, light on the spiciness but ultra-fragrant with lemongrass.

One problem with eating outside on such a chilly day – everyone present is pretty much rugged-up – is the food tends to go cold quickly.

But really, food is just part of the story here – the smiles and the friendliness are weather-proof.

While we’re lunching, any number of people wave hello with big smiles or come up and chat to us about, say, a Malaysian village planned for Broadmeadows or a planned venue move for the MiHUB Cafe operation itself.

We’ll keep you posted about both.

 

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MiHUB Cafe

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MiHUB Cafe, 12 Synnot St, Werribee. Phone: 9731 7877

(See a later story on MiHUB Cafe here).

MiHUB Cafe has lived at other places and on other, more numerous days of the week.

But it’s been at its current address in Werribee for about a year and is, for the time being, open only on Sundays – from about 10am ’til 3pm.

My visit is absolutely guaranteed to be the first of many.

There are kids running everywhere.

Everyone is smiling. Everyone is friendly.

The food is great.

The people are even better.

All up, this glorious community initiative – in the courtyard of a brick house that is Migrant Hub HQ – feels pretty much like the very essence of what Consider The Sauce is all about.

Today there are stalls selling incredibly cheap Indonesian, Singaporean and Chinese (congee) food.

At other times there have been and will be the likes of Indian, Pakistani and even Tongan tucker.

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Chicken curry with roti ($6) makes a fine start.

The curry looks on the mean side quantity-wise, but is surprisingly filling. It’s quite oily mind you, but the gravy is rich, sticky and delicious, while the meat on the two small drumsticks comes from the bones easily to complete a curry that is quite unlike any I’ve had in a south-east Asian eatery.

Heading here from Yarraville, I’d been quietly hoping for home-cooked food – as opposed to restaurant food.

It seems I’m in luck in that regard.

Potato curry puffs ($1.50 each) are crisp and delightful.

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Two of the lovely people I meet are cafe manager/cook Nora and Migrant Hub president Walter.

She’s originally from Malaysia, he from the Philippines.

Walter explains to me the cafe is just part of what the hub does in working to help migrants of all sorts make their way in Australia.

Part of that is not just about familiarising them with Australian ways but also the ways of other migrant communities – and the cafe seems like an ideal way to facilitate that particular objective.

Walter also talks with me about the health issues facing migrant communities.

These include bringing with them from their countries of origin cooking styles often based largely around a scarcity of meat and landing in an affluent country where it’s easy for just about anyone to eat more (too much) meat and other prized (unhealthy) ingredients.

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The curry and puffs have done for me food-wise, but no way can I say “no” when Walter organises a plate of gado gado ($5) for me.

It’s the spiciest gado gado I’ve ever eaten.

It’s also – by quite a considerable margin – the BEST I’ve ever eaten.

Chewy omelette, tofu, potato, bean sprouts, cucumber, carrot and half a hard-boiled egg are smothered by a superb, dark and sticky peanut sauce.

Wow, it’s good!

I’ll diet tomorrow – honest!

 

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Shadowfax Winery

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Shadowfax Winery, K Rd, Werribee. Phone: 9731 4420

Much earlier in our western lives, visits to Werribee Mansion became a regular thing.

Often such visits involved a meal chosen from the bar menu of the mansion hotel followed by a lengthy ramble around the lovely grounds and gardens.

That practice has fallen by the wayside as different places and attractions, as well as different circumstances, have seen us find new ways of living in the west.

Thus we have yet to review the mansion bar food, let alone the much more pricey main restaurant, though CTS has had a look at nearby Wyndham Cache Cafe and TeaPot Cottage Cafe.

Today, though, on a lovely, overcast yet far from gloomy day, it’s time for a visit to Shadowfaxy Winery.

Down a beaut tree-lined gravel road we find the rather imposing and angular metallic winery building, with the cellar door and restaurant at one end.

Despite there being space aplenty for us in the attractive, roomy dining, room, this time out we opt for the outdoor alternative.

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Close by a number of largish communal tables, there’s a herb garden, vines, a chook house and picnic rugs scattered over the lawn.

The menu – you can check it out in its entirety here – has a nice list of starters for $10-$20, pizzas for $20 and larger plates in the $20-$30 vicinity.

The mussels, pizzas and prawns we see around us look very toothsome, but we are happy with out sharing choices.

The beetroot, rocket and fetta salad (top picture, $9) is fabulous, with the glistening beetroot cubes – some of them the palest pink – nestling among good-quality leaves and creamy cheese, all adorned with just the right level of dressing.

Given the amounts of beetroot and fetta we consume at home, you can bet I’ll be attempting this dish at home soonish.

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Our tasting plate of “cured meats, seasonal vegetables, ricotta, polenta chips, house made grissini and focaccia” is a mixture of just OK and outstanding.

The salami and prosciutto suffice but are not particularly memorable, while the small splinters of grissini seem like little more than a garnish.

The standout component is the lemony ricotta, which is simply gorgeous smeared on the very fine bread.

Chargrilled courgette is a smoky wonder that puts the chewier and slightly bitter eggplant in the shade. The pickled, roasted red capsicum goes good with all.

Given the pricing of the rest of the menu, the $22 fee for our tasting plate is fine, but it is a little light on in terms of feeding the two of us – even with the salad.

However, all is fixed when we are brought an extra serve of bread for which we are not charged.

As we are paying for our meal, the staff inform us that new management has been running the show for about four months, there’s a new chef, the food is “a lot better” and that Saturdays are usually much, much more hectic than we’ve experienced.

The service has been fine for us, but it seems that if you’re contemplating a weekend visit, booking may be just the ticket.

As with previous visits to the mansion, our post-meal activity involves a walk around the grounds – in this case the sculpture garden and homestead buildings “behind” the mansion rather than the groomed prettiness of the mansion gardens proper.

We’re not sure how this works.

Entry to the gardens costs an admission fee when they are accessed through the official entrance, yet patrons of both the mansion eateries and the winery seem to have unpaid access.

Perhaps this annoys the hell out of Parks Victoria.

And perhaps the mansion hotel management and winery think it’s a fine arrangement.

 

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Wyndham Cache Cafe

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Wyndham Cache Cafe, 1 K Ave, Werribee South. Phone: 9742 1526

The first official day of spring is supposedly later in the week, but it sure feels like today should be so anointed.

The sky is mostly blue, studded with big, white fluffy clouds.

The sun is shining and for the first time in a long while – too long – I am not rugged up in the heaviest jumper I can lay my hands on.

Perfect, in other words, for a relaxed spin to a location I think of as one of the west’s country sojourn’s when you don’t really want to go bush.

It’s possible to get a country vibe going from the western suburbs with relative ease and in short time – think the wonderful Point Cook Homestead, for instance, or TeaPot Cottage Cafe at Werribee South.

Wyndham Cache is a rather quirky and charming – in its own way – cafe/restaurant about a kilometre past the turnoff for Werribee Mansion.

An outgrowth of a long-established polutry business on the same site, it does breakfast and lunch seven days a week and dinner on Fridays.

The ambiance seems to show the influence of the joint’s association with a small business of another, eggy variety entirely, with two sets of electric doors leading through to a rather clinical canteen-style dining room, its severity leavened by lovely country vibe service and a plentitude of photos depicting historic people, places, buildings and scenes from the area.

The menu ranges from wraps, sandwiches such as BLT ($14.50) and four salads at about $16 up to mains starting at $17.50 for the wagyu burger and going on to the likes of  pan-fried salmon ($22.50) and steaks for $25.

It’s a clever menu.

Unfortunately, in the rolled-dice gamble that is table-for-one dining I come up empty-handed.

There’s reasons why I very rarely order a steak sanger – and this one ($16.50) now joins that list.

Regulation white sliced bread, routine cheese slice, OK caramelised onions, some rocket and a tiny portion of meat – it’s mightily underwhelming.

It’s about what I would expect from a corner takeaway establishment for significantly less.

But the chips are good and hot, and I gobble each and every one.

That I have been lumbered with such a mediocre lunch is galling, because I see other tables with what appear to be fine meals – fish and chips, antipasto platters and even the dreaded and much over-rated wraps all look good.

And it’s hard to believe the burger – at just $1 more – could be so shabby.

Oh well – still worth a return trip with son in tow.

Check out the full menus at the Wyndham Cache website.

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Golden Grill Turkish Restaurant

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Felafel plate at Golden Grill Turkish Restaurant in Werribee.

Felafel plate at Golden Grill Turkish Restaurant in Werribee.

Golden Grill Turkish Restaurant,  38 Station St, Werribee. Phone: 9741 7101

A dry argument, dry like wine?

Neither, but this is a story of dryness.

Golden Grill in Werribee had been on the radar for a while.

Somehow, I’d picked up the vibe that this was more than just a quickie kebab joint.

But every time, for quite a while there, I was in the vicinity, it was closed.

Today I’m in luck.

A bunch of uniformed chaps are bustling through the fag end of the lunch hour.

The marinated meats in the display at the front look succulent, as do the displayed sweets.

Out the back, Golden Gill becomes a real-deal Turkish eatery.

There’s lovely wooden furniture of a certain age – not antique, but not shiny new either.

There’s travel posters of Turkey – a couple of which I even recognise from them playing a similar role in our beloved Footscray Best Kebab House.

Also adorning the walls are newspaper clippings about the restaurant and photos of staff posing with happy customers.

It’s all good, it’s all familiar and it all augurs well.

So, as you can see, I am most favourably inclined towards Golden Grill.

So what goes wrong?

I order the felafel plate ($15.90).

Before then, however, I indulge in one of the place’s stuffed vine leaves ($2.50).

This is big and hard – making me think that for once it may have been better to have my dolma cigar heated through.

But all is fine once I’m into the eating of it – the tomato-infused rice has that distinctive, familiar tang. It’s delicious!

The felafel plate price is quite high, but I figure the gauge will be in the results.

The felafal balls themselves are large and also quite hard. The flavour is fine. But – oh dear – they are so dry that eating them becomes a jaw-taxing chore.

Perhaps my eggplant dip, which has no smokiness but a nice garlic/lemon thing going on, will help ease the way?

Nope.

Claggy is the word.

If it’s possible for a dip to be dry, then this is dry.

I turn for help to the salad bits and pieces – which include some tabouli.

All is crispy, crunchy and fresh – but unadorned to the point of austerity.

My meal cries out for some moistness – specifically a generous hand with the olive oil and lemon juice.

Maybe next time the gorgeous-looking marinated meats spied on the way in!

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The TeaPot Cottage Cafe

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25 Beach St, Werribee South. Phone: 0409 138 181

THIS BUSINESS IS NOW CLOSED

Is it possible to get a lunchtime feed in Werribee South?

This is my cheery challenge for the day.

My rudimentary online research bore little fruit – just unhelpfully vague mentions of a takeaway joint and some tea rooms.

And I can recall no eateries from our previous visits to Werribee South – and there were actually quite a few.

I find it interesting that even in our relatively short 10-year stint in the west, we have already gone through several phases – in eating and other contexts.

Gravy Train in Gamon St, for instance, and to a lesser extent Hausfrau in Yarraville used to be an almost daily part of our routine, for breakfasts and more.

But no more.

We’ve left the cafe habit behind, prefer our brekkies at home and save our pennies for much more interesting – to us – fare available for lunches or dinners.

Likewise, we were once reasonably frequent visitors to Werribbee Mansion, often availing ourselves of the light but tasty and affordable bar menu before gamboling in the lovely grounds.

Often, too, such outings would entail a leisurely drive through kilometres of large vegetable patches, around Werribee South and then home.

As was the case then, today finds me a surprised and delighted to drive through large areas of intense market garden activity before suddenly finding myself in a seaside holiday destination so close to Melbourne.

There’s a good-sized caravan park, outside the main entrance of which is the takeaway establishment, which I quickly verify is not for me.

There’s a coast guard station, a lagoon/estuary, jetty and play areas.

And then, just as I have almost completed a circuit of the entire burg, I come across the TeaPot Cottage Cafe.

This, of course, is the tea rooms business I had stumbled across online without discovering its real name or nature.

Its real nature is wonderful – this a charming, classic, old-school tea house!

As such, it perhaps behooves me to order something appropriate to such a setting – the scotch fillet steak burger or beef burgundy pie (both $18), for instance.

The breakfast menu includes “Eve’s Traditional Scottish Breakfast”, which shovels up potato scones, Ayrshire gammon (yes, I had to look it up), black pudding, Scottish sausage, Aussie eggs, baked beans and toast for $20.

Whew!

Had I a companion for the day, the ploughman’s lunch for two and for $30 would appeal.

But I chance my arm by ordering the beer-battered whiting ($18).

I enjoy sitting in overcast warmth at one of the outside tables, flicking through one of the local rags until my lunch arrives.

Oh dear! The salad bits are dreary and the tartare sauce is in the dreaded sachets!

The chips are better – a little under-done for my tastes, but they’re hot and taste fine.

The fish is better again – much better.

I’ve never been a whiting fan and certainly never order it when we’re out at one of our usual F&C haunts.

But this is really good!

What looks like a rather modest serve of four smallish pieces of fish is actually a surprisingly filling meal.

The fish is firm and flavoursome, and the slightly thick and chewy batter adheres to the fish admirably well. This all a bit chunkier than is usually the case with the sort of beer-battered whiting you find is flash F&C places or more expensive seafood eateries, but for me it’s a winning approach.

Even at $18, significantly above our normal F&C rates, I love my lunch, especially given the nice setting.

Back inside, I happily check out the classic tea-room decor, decorations and trimmings.

I don’t specifically recall laying my eyes on any doilies, but I’m sure they’re there somewhere.

I tell my host, Eve, and her staff (top photo) that their place not only reminds me of tea-room visit of my long-ago South Island childhood – it smells the same, too.

“I know,” says Eve.

My mum would love this place, for sure!

Eve also confirms what I had already suspected – the two-scone Devonshire teas with jam and real cream are the place’s best-sellers by a mile.

And no metric conversion necessary or even appropriate.

No EFTPOS available.

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Noodle Land

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74 Watton St, Werribee. Phone: 9741 8331

The main drag of Werribee is surprisingly rich in cheap eats potential.

Within a couple of blocks are a number of Indian restaurants, including Bikanos, purveyors of fine chole bhature.

There’s a handy-looking fish and chip joint, a couple of charcoal chicken shops and a variety of cafes.

As well, there’s a couple of mixed noodle places – like the recently reviewed and fine Dragon Express, I suspect they’re both Chinese-based but have wider-based menus that dabble in South-East Asia.

Certainly that’s precisely the case at Noodle Land, which I choose for my Sunday lunch, fuel for my first night shift in Geelong after a two-week break.

Inside are all the usual food photographs, a table of locals who look like regulars happily fanging away and – unusual for such establishments – the cricket on TV.

Even better, there are newspapers.

Being a veteran newspaperman, I take special and perverse delight in reading newspapers I haven’t paid for, even if they are a day old and particularly if they still include the foodie bits and pieces.

Perfect!

I start with a trio of chicken dumplings ($3.50).

Far from being aghast at their khaki green skins, I take them to mean these babies are made on the premises.

They’re quite delicate and tasty, though like their chook cousins, chicken sausages, they have no chicken flavour at all.

Pickled cabbage and carrot – of the kind often found served with Vietnamese vermicelli and rice dishes – on the side is a nice touch.

Hard-won wisdom tells not go with roti with my beef rendang ($10.50), so I go with rice instead.

Quite predictably, this will never make the grade in the Malaysian hot spot of Racecourse Rd and environs in Flemington, but it’s actually pretty good.

It’s very mild, but the gravy is plentiful and of fine taste, and the meat is tender and almost fat-free.

We’re so lucky to be surrounded by incredible and uncompromised food so close to our home that it’s tempting to get a bit sniffy about such fare.

But certainly, I’ve had much, much worse, ahem, “curries” in places of Chinese derivation

If I lived in Werribee, I’d probably be a regular at Noodle Land.

As it turns out, I’m partial to having a feed after having put myself a few kilometres closer to my work duties in Geelong, so the occasional stop in Werribee will likely continue to be part of my routine.

It just may take a long while to get a handle on what’s hot and what’s not.

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