Station doughnuts – a tradition continues

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Footscray Doughtnuts & Coffee, Footscray Station

Like everyone else, I loved Nick and his Olympic Doughnuts.

Or rather, in this case, I really loved the idea of Nick and his doughnuts – that he was and is such a legend and that Olympic Doughnuts was such a Footscray institution, even surviving the revamp of Footscray Station.

I thought the doughnuts OK, but found the jam they were stuffed amounting to not much more than, well, syrup.

This, as a pal has pointed out to me, is a ridiculous attitude to hold.

She’s right – these were not your hipster cafe vanilla cream-stuffed doughnuts selling for $5.

These were your street-food doughnuts – cheap, fresh and hot.

 

 

Well now Nick has retired – and much to the community’s widespread delight, a new doughnut operation is up and running at the station.

So I take it for a spin.

The doughnuts are … cheap, fresh and hot.

Though the jam is, well, syrup.

Who cares?

 

 

I do good through a deal that provides me two dougnuts and a pretty good coffee for $5.

And on a sunny Indian summer’s afternoon, the station plaza is a fine place to linger a while, watching the ebb and flow.

There’s a bench seat directly opposite the doughnut shop; the convenience store next door even had a couple of tables chairs.

 

Poutine? It’s a split decision …

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

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

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

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

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

And the fries themselves seem lacklustre.

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

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

Mine tend to glaze over.

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the Mr Griffiths website here.

 

The secret life of an Uber Food Dude

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After spending several hours with my friend, the Uber Food Dude, cruising the inner west and making deliveries, and talking with a handy cross-section of restaurant folks along the way, one thing is clear.

They may not like giving Uber a hefty slice of the price of each meal dispatched – my understanding is that, under current arrangements, Uber takes 35 per cent of each meal’s cover price.

But despite that, they all expressed – to one degree or another – enthusiasm for being involved with the service.

The reasons?

No need to hire drivers.

Keeping faith with established customers.

A weekly deposit in their business bank account – guaranteed, even if not, um, delivering the full take of eat-in meals.

 

 

And – very importantly, going by the feedback I get – promotional value and the exposure via the Uber Eats app.

Uber takes the photos that go with every eater entry on the app – and they are very good.

Gorgeous, actually!

 

Vince at Issan Thai Street Food about to see another Uber order go out the door.

 

My Uber Eats driver pal had previously regaled me with stories and explanations of how it all works, including the very slick technology that makes it possible.

Disappointingly, for the tabloidish story-seeking journo that resides within in me, there has been little by way of outrageous yarns arising from his regular delivery routine.

Just eateries preparing food for regular folks.

I think everyone understands that such an operation runs on very tight margins – just like the restaurant game itself.

But still, something doesn’t quite sense for me in all this.

How is it viable?

When Uber takes a hefty slice and the drivers get something like $8 to $12 for each delivery?

 

 

At Luxsmith in Seddon, we’re told it’s their first night doing Uber – and early in the evening, they’re already seen more than a dozen orders go out the door.

I reckon that’s pretty good!

 

 

The recipient of our Luxsmith delivery, for whom this is also an Uber debut, certainly seems happy!

 

 

There are idiosyncrasies in the ordering habits of inner-west Uber Eats users.

One of our deliveries, for instance, finds us taking a burger meal from Mr Burger at Yarraville Gardens to Edgewater – and only a couple of blocks from St Burgs.

Later in the night, my pal makes the journey from Happy Four in Yarraville to a part of Footscray where the are a couple of perfectly fine and very similar Chinese establishments.

Go figure!

For my friend, doing Uber Eats makes all kinds of sense.

The money may not be of the get-rich-quick variety, but a handful of deliveries a night for a couple of nights a week adds up to some handy income.

Unlike the Uber passenger service, there are no members of the public with which to deal – just happy, and hungry, customers.

As well, deliveries are – thanks to the Uber driver app “ping” alerts to drivers in any given location – almost always very local and rarely more than a few kilometres.

 

 

He reports that some of the most frequently used inner-west restaurants for Uber deliveries are several that may appear to not be particularly popular – but they come alive when the hungry sofa corps get on their mobiles, especially later at night!

In my eats journeys in recent months, I’ve become increasingly familiar with the sight of Uber deliveries lined up, and waiting to be picked up, at many of the places we have been chowing down.

It’s a whole ‘nuther world.

Meal of the week No.37: Littlefoot

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We missed the first few weeks of Littlefoot’s Wiener Wednesdays.

But now we’re in the house and eager to see how it all stacks up.

The big question: Will one apiece of the $5 hot dogs suffice – or will we need two to do?

We love how Littlefoot (223 Barkly Street, Footscray) has become such a cool part of the inner-west furniture and we love hanging there.

And we dig their hot dogs.

The core of the matter is pretty much your standard frankfurter – but they’re fine.

But it’s the deft mix of ketchup, mustard and onions – all slathered on chargrilled soft rolls – that make them winners.

 

 

Saving us ordering more, we get a large of serve of the Littlefoot chips ($8).

Oh boy – these knock us out!

They are crispy tremendous – the best we’ve had in quite a while.

They’re seasoned, we’re told, with a mix of paprika, parsley, taragon and a little cumin.

Gosh.

Cop that, chicken salt!

Couple of hot dogs, fantastic chips, Cokes – all the major food groups covered; we’re happy!

Meal of the week No.36: Tiwari Tea House

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It’s been a while since our review visit to Tiwari Tea House (1/578 Barkly Street, West Footscray) – and almost as long since they announced they were serving thalis in addition to the cool line-up of snacky delights.

But now we’ve made it and – we’re delighted with the outcome.

The Tiwari thalis come in two sizes – smaller ($9.95) and the Maharaja ($14.95); we’re hungry, so are quick to go with the latter.

What we get is unassuming, delicious and perfect for our mood.

Rice studded with cumin seeds.

A wonderfully smooth dal made with kidney beans, dosed with cream.

A paneer dish with a tomato-based gravy.

Aloo ghobi – reheated, sure, but all the better and tastier for it, we reckon.

Chunky raita, thicker and more stuffed with veg matter that we normally expect with such meals.

Two mini-papudums, two lovely house-made rotis, (commercial) tangy pickle.

A plump, warm gulab jamun.

As well, we’re served a dish of salad veg on the side.

We wipe the various bowls clean.

The thing about these thalis is the low-key simplicity and wholesomeness.

They’re unglamorous in a home-style way.

The price is spot on.

Tiwari Tea House is doing it’s thali thing for lunches only – which means weekends for non-working folks.

Still, we recommend!

 

Maltese comes to the west

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Cafe Verdala, 27 Talmage Street, Albion. Phone: 0403 576 373

In the years that Consider The Sauce has been running, I’ve come across quite a few people of Maltese background.

Invariably, I’ve always had the same question: Why aren’t there one or more Maltese eateries in the west?

I need ask that question no longer, as now there’s Cafe Verdala.

This eatery is located in the rooms of the Maltese Cultural Centre in Albion, sharing with other users a very big and stately brick building right by the railway tracks.

A version of Team CTS rocked up on opening day a month or so ago, but we made the immediate decision to return in a few weeks once things had calmed down a little.

It was crowded and very busy!

In the meantime, I made contact with Tony Busuttil, who is leading the crew running Cafe Verdala.

The upshot of an interesting conversation about this new enterprise was Consider The Sauce being invited to return for a complementary meal for review purposes (full disclosure below).

 

 

 

We return on the appointed Sunday – myself, Julian and Christine.

Even better – we have room for two readers.

I just love getting CTS readers involved in such things.

Hence on the day, we are joined by Catherine and Chris.

Fabulously, it turns out that Catherine is very much of Maltese extraction!

Huzzah! We have an expert at our table!

(Chris, her hubby, comes from a Cypriot family.)

The cafe’s long dining room is old-school cosy, with an extra room at the end.

This kind of community-based food and set-up are just the sort of things that get CTS truly excited!

 

 

We start with the tasting platter called platt Verdala ghal-tnejn ($22.50 for two).

This is simple, wholesome fare – Maltese bread (as being baked by Hellfire Bakehouse), broad-bean dip, capers, tuna, olives, caponata, olive oil, the dry Maltese crackers know as galetti and mini versions of the open pies known as qassatat (these ones filled with sausage).

The biggest surprise here is the tomato paste.

I’d heard and read about the seemingly miraculous Three Hills brand Kunserva tomato paste and how Maltese folks simply love it, as is, slathered on bread.

No wonder!

It really is good – in no way bitter, quite sweet and very yummy.

 

 

Alongside are two takes on the Maltese cheese gbejniet – one in a peppery mould form, the other baked.

It’s good and resembles any number of other hard cheeses from Europe and the Mediterranean.

 

 

If Kunserva can be seen as something of a Maltese national food, pastizzi are right up there, too.

Here they’re served, with a variety of fillings, alongside more, full-size qassatat.

Another adored Maltese food?

Rabbit!

We really enjoy the pork-and-rabbit pastizzi (bottom left).

(Heads up: In a few months’ time, Cafe Verdala will host a Saturday night feast celebration devoted entirely to rabbit. Except for the desserts … although you never know …)

 

 

We all go our own way with the main dishes, with enjoyable results.

Two of us relish the simple delights of these “ravjul” ($13.50) – another Maltese staple.

The ravioli are stuffed with a simple mix of seasoned ricotta and served with Kunserva cooked lightly with olive oil and (I think) garlic.

 

 

Maltese pizzas are called gozitan ftria – they’re a good deal deeper and heftier than their Italian cousins.

This one – tagged Mediterranean ($15) – has a potato base adorned with olives, capers, tomato, anchovies and basil.

 

 

This one – potato and ricotta ($15) – is even more substantial.

So deep, it should really be thought of as a bona fide pie.

My friends enjoy their pizzas.

But in both cases, and given all the rest of the food we are being so generously offered, about half of each pizza went home with their respective orderees, destined to be Monday work lunches.

These could easily feed two, especially when partnered with other selections from the menu.

 

 

From the specials board comes stuffat tal-qarnit – octopus stew ($21).

It’s an ultra-lusty outing, the octopus mixing it with potato pieces.

It’s too rich for my liking – maybe it’s the capers – but Chris enjoys it.

 

 

I’m almost dissuaded from trying the Maltese soft drink Kinnie when the word “chinotto” is used for comparison purposes.

But I really like it – it has a nice citrus tang that makes for a very favourable likeness with the bitter fruit soft drinks of Italian heritage.

 

 

Luckily, we’ve behaved like the pro eaters we all are – and thus have left room for some of the famed Maltese desserts.

On the left is the Maltese take on bread pudding – pudina tal-hobz ($6 per serve).

It’s firm, with a chocolate-and-cherry thing going on.

In the wire basket are imqaret – extremely fine deep-fried date slices ($6 for three).

At top centre is a big slice of the Maltese carnival cake called prinjolata. This special defies its pinkish colouring by tasting quite like a rich fruit cake or Christmas cake.

The ricotta-stuffed canoli are devine – in fact, all these treats are all so lovely that the date and sesame rings (top right, $1.50 each) barely get a look in!

 

 

So … Maltese food.

What was I expecting?

Is that what we have been served?

Well, my expectations – given this country’s food was almost entirely new to myself and (most) of the friends who have joined me – were nebulous at best.

I think I may have been expecting more of an African or Middle eastern influence, given Malta’s location in the Mediterranean.

But the true magic of Cafe Verdala – and as confirmed by Catherine and Tony – is that what is served here is Maltese home-cooking.

It’s the kind thing I find myself wistfully thinking of when, for example, I am eating otherwise enjoyable restaurant food of the Lebanese or Turkish varieties.

As Christine says: “It’s really homey, very casual – and it feels like someone’s Mum is in the kitchen!”

 

 

Some advice: Cafe Verdala is being professionally run by staff who are doing a great job. We found the service just fine. But it’s worth remembering that Cafe Verdala IS, in many ways, a community establishment. So some patience and good humour are the go.

Cafe Verdala is open, thus far, for breakfast and lunch on Sundays only.

There are EFTPOS facilities; bookings are advisable.

Check out the Cafe Verdala Facebook page here.

Thanks to everyone at Cafe Verdala for making our day.

Thanks to CTS regulars Christine and Julian once again.

And thanks to Catherine and Chris for joining us – we hope you will do so again!

(Consider The Sauce dined at the Cafe Verdala as guests of management. No money changed hands. Our food was a mix of items chosen by management and mains chosen by CTS and guests. Cafe Verdala management did not seek any editorial input into this story.)

 

Be one with the Biryani Nation

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Biryani Nation, 6 Lohse Street, Lverton. Phone: 8597 3452

The Lohse and Hall Street shops are tucked away, over the train tracks and about a kilometre from Laverton’s main shopping area, around Aviation Road and Cheeky Chewies Cafe.

Very local, very low key.

There was a couple of Indian places here we never visited.

They’re gone – and now there’s just the very brand new Biryani Nation.

With a name like that, you’d want to be pretty darn good at cooking … biryanis.

Certainly, the menu makes a big deal out of this sub-continental rice dish – there are about 30 of them, including vegetarian options, listed (see below).

Apart from the regulation and expected dum biryanis – in which the meat is cooked with the rice – I suspect many of the Biryani Nation dishes could more accurately be labelled as pulaos.

That’s of no matter to me – I’m not about to get into hair-splitting if the food is good and there is a range of flavours and seasoning among the various biryani selections.

There is – I know, because I’ve tried two of them and they were very good.

 

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Chicken fry biryani ($13.95) has crunchy fried onions, cashews, curry leaves and plenty of meaty, chewy chicken pieces on the bone.

The accompanying gravy (tastes peanutty but is, I’m told, cashew-based) and raita are served in admirably hefty quantities and are excellent.

 

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Gongura mutton biryani ($16.95) is more in the pulao style – but is a knockout.

Gongura, I find out, is a leafy vegetable widely used in India – it’s basically sorrel.

Here, as in saag/spincach dishes, it is used as a puree marinade cooking medium for the mutton, one piece of which crowns my rice pile and many others of which are buried within.

Some of the mutton pieces are bone-free and wonderful.

As many more are on the bone and rather tough – but I like it like that, getting fully into the hands-on swing that very much goes with this sort of territory.

The big thing is the flavour – the gongura produces a zesty, citrus-like tang like I’ve never before experienced in Indian food.

I love it!

So much so, that I use the raita only sparingly, and the gravy not at all, in order to enjoy the leafy puree all the more.

 

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For non-biryani fans, there’s plenty of scope for enjoyment elsewhere on the Biryani Nation menu – dosas, Indo-Chinese, thalis.

These onion pakora ($4.95) are beaut with their crunchy batter and curry leaves.

 

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The Biryani nation desserts range runs mostly to the familiar likes of kulfi and gulab jamun, but …

I am presented, complementarily, with this amazing double ka meetha on account of it being opening day.

They should put it on the menu!

It’s an Indian take on bread pudding, the white sliced bread all puffed up with milk and perfumed with saffron and cardamom.

And sugar.

Topped with chopped almonds and pistachios, it’s a killer treat.

 

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