Williamstown, an interesting arrival

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Bob’s Diner @ Rifle Club Hotel, 121 Victoria Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9367 6073.

One Friday night, and long ago before Consider The Sauce started, Bennie and I ventured into the Rifle Club Hotel, having heard there was a some Thai food going on there.

That turned out to not be the case, and we fled, figuring the establishment – then – was no place for a boy and his dad.

Now we’re back after learning that a crew called Bob’s Diner has set up shop.

Truth be told, this pokies venue is not a good fit for us, but we’re prepared to give it a crack.

The dining room has been done out in basic diner style and, as expected given the the name of the place, burgers are big on the menu.

But there are also such items as poutine, chicken wings, fish and chips – and even a grazier’s beef pie with sauce and mash.

 

 

The chips ($5) come in a good-size serve and are enjoyed by us both.

 

 

My SouthWest Chicken Burger ($12) is an enigma.

Bun, coleslaw, briny pickle all good.

The chicken is crumbed and crisp.

But tastes of nothing.

Is it re-constituted like a chicken nugget?

I can’t tell, but it disappoints.

 

 

Bennie does a whole let better with his cheese and bacon burger ($12).

This is a good, solid burger that is priced right.

Given the dearth of eating options in the immediate neighourhood, Bob’s Diner is sure to be of interest.

But we’d advise savvy scrutiny of the menu and quizzing of the staff.

 

Shiny grill time

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DeGrill, Sunshine Marketplace, Sunshine. Phone: 0402 189 860

A small, single-frame cartoon in the Sunday Age a few years back always makes me chuckle when I think of it.

Two blokes are surveying the Sunshine Marketplace shopping centre.

One says to the other: “Wow – this really is the United Nations of bogans!”

I like it because it’s bloody funny.

But I also like it because I like it that Sunshine Marketplace is like that.

We may live in Yarraville, hit the new fried chicken place in WeFo as soon doing so is viable and even frequent hipster places in Footscray proper … but we love all the west and its people and food.

Which is why CTS loves venturing to not only Sunshine, but also Werribee, Deer Park and beyond – and will continue to eat and review and tell stories from well beyond the ribbon that is the inner west.

 

 

So we applaud the opening of DeGrill at Sunshine Marketplace.

It’s a bold and adventurous move – it is situated, after all, right opposite Maccas and right next door to the cinemas.

I could say that DeGrill is aiming for the same sort of focus as Grill’d or Nando’s – but that would be doing DeGrill a disservice.

Because the menu is significantly more broad than such a comparison might imply.

I suspect the menu may have to be tweaked over time to find out what really works in this particular setting.

But over two visits, CTS and friends enjoy some good food and good service at (mostly) good prices.

The style is classy fast food and proper cutlery and crockery are in use, as are fine salt and pepper grinders.

 

 

There are three hot dog options on the menu, two featuring kransky or chorizo.

But the classic ($7.50) is constructed using a standard frankfurter.

So all is regulation here, but its recipient is pleased enough.

 

 

“Crispy” chicken ($9.50) has the wow factor aplenty.

The serve consists of three superbly cooked wings anointed with a tangy sauce.

Very good!

Especially when served with …

 

 

… a side of mash and gravy ($6).

This a rarity is Melbourne in general, let alone in a Sunshine shopping centre.

It’s OK, we all like it – but it’s not spectacular.

 

 

The menu’s “between the buns” section lists nothing that could be described as a beef burger, but based on our table’s orders of the cheese steak ($9, above) and …

 

 

… the only marginally different philly cheese ($9.50), this may be the way to go here.

Both are keenly priced and boast good ingredients and dressings.

The steak is thicker than routinely found in steak sandwiches and, best of all, is so well cooked that biting through for a mouthful is done with ease and without the whole sandwich falling apart.

Big thumbs up for that!

 

 

Under the heading “from the grill”, DeGrill offers dishes such as a flat iron steak ($17 and $26) and chicken ($16 for half, $29 for full).

These and others may fulfill the implied promise of more hefty meals.

Sadly, the beef short ribs ($16) do not.

It’s common knowledge ribs are expensive to secure and are inevitably at the upper end price-wise wherever they appear.

It’s common knowledge, too, the beef ribs can be fatty.

But these are very fatty indeed, and the three segments amount to not much more than a brief meal of not many more mouthfuls.

As well, as per the eatery’s name, these rib bits are grilled and not smoked, as you’d generally find at the numerous barbecue-style places across the city.

The coleslaw ($4.50) lacks crunch – maybe because its main component is savoy cabbage?

It’s under-done in the seasoning/flavour department, too, though some quick work with the salt and pepper grinders soon fixes that up.

 

 

CTS is over the mega shake thing – too often they seem to involve poor quality ingredients and unjustifiably high prices.

This DeGrill brownie shake ($9) defies both factors – good price, nice shake.

We wish DeGrill well.

Maye its arrival will inspire others to hang out their shingle in the same locale.

Thanks to Annie and Ali for helping us with this story!

Check out the DeGrill website – including full menu – here.

Meal of the week No.29: Hellenic Hotel

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After participating in the opening rituals of Hellenic Hotel, I am super keen to try on the joint’s upstairs bar $15 daily specials.

So much so, I bound up the mid-week stairs.

The bar area – excluding verandah – is quite compact, featuring three tables for two, a couple of tall tables with stools and a communal table, also with stools.

The bar menu (see below) features a range of snacky-type dishes through to those with a bit more heft, such as 1/4 HH chicken for $17.

There’s a daily special allocated for each day (also on the menu below) – and based on the excellence of my Wednesday beef stifado, I definitely want to try them all.

My beef stew is marvellous.

The serving is of a good size and the sticky stew features not only heaps of very good beef chunks but also halved baby onions and carrot.

They all sit atop a bed of barley that is puffed up yet still nicely chewy.

Topping all is a fistful of of fennel salad that provides nice contrast.

It’s a delicious lunch and very good value for $15.

 

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Hellenic Hotel unveiled

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Hellenic Hotel, 28 Ferguson Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9393 1000

Yes, the new George Calombaris establishment in Williamstown is up and running.

The “soft opening” Consider The Sauce attends is loosely dedicated to “media”. It follows one the previous night for family and friends and will be followed the next night by another for locals.

 

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Star Weekly reporter Benjamin Millar documents the action.

 

I enjoy running into a few pals, but each invitee has chosen their own timetable and there is no communal seating, so this just like a busy (normal) night and plays a dual role of fine-tuning the restaurant and its food.

 

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My dining companion, Star Weekly sales gun Rochelle Loney, and I go for the “Feed Me” set menu that retails for $49.

In some ways, this is a bit lazy of us and I later regret not taking the opportunity to explore the a la carte menu in more depth.

But it does make things easy for us – and, besides, what we are served is very much the kind of thing I suspect many-perhaps-most customers here will want.

 

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What we get is pretty much plain, straight-up Greek food – and I say that as no criticism.

It all ranges, in my opinion, from good to very good to outstanding.

 

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Warmed Mount Zero olives – lovely.

In my world, the paler and less fishy is taramosalata the better it becomes.

This is a luscious verging-on-white delight served with slightly fluffy chargrilled pita bread.

 

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The black sesame lavosh and granny smith slices and puree top the saganaki with elan.

But the saganaki is just OK – maybe it’s simply not my thing.

 

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The HH grain salad with pulses, nuts and herbs is a cool, moist and topped with creamy smoked yogurt.

 

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“Heirloom” carrots with fenugreek and almonds are sweet and flavoursome.

 

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The Hellenic Hotel rotisserie chicken …

Normally, I’d expect to see greater depth of colour and way more turbo-charged seasoning.

But this is superb.

Of the two pieces we are presented, I get that with the breast meat.

To my great happiness, it is moist and delicious – which speaks highly of the quality of the chook and the skill with which it has been cooked.

 

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Greek rice pudding – risogalo – is topped with rhubarb and candied pistachios.

It’s a fine way to complete our meal. I like that its sweetness is restrained.

Consider The Sauce will visit Hellenic Hotel again soon to see how the $15 upstairs bar daily specials shape up!

 

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Calombaris social media manager Danielle Poulos with Mandy and Sammi from Mama Knows West.

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Hellenic Hotel – sneak preview

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hell3Like many folks in the west and across Melbourne, I have watched the long-running birth of George Calombaris’s Hellenic Hotel in Williamstown with interest.

On a professional level, I have been somewhat ambivalent.

On the one hand, this is obviously a significant western suburbs food story, so therefore of great interest to Consider The Sauce and its readers.

On the other, Consider The Sauce is used to operating in something of a parallel universe to the bubble that is Melbourne’s officially designated “food scene”.

So it would not have surprised me had the opening of Hellenic Hotel come and gone without CTS being involved in any way at all … and that would’ve been fine.

But an email from Danielle Poulos changed all that.

Danielle is the social media manager for the Calombaris empire.

She is also someone with whom I have a previous history – we worked together many times on arts/music stories when I was heavily involved in the Sunday Herald Sun’s entertainment coverage.

That all seems a long time ago for one reason – it is!

But somehow, we have remained in touch … so I was delighted when her email lobbed and our lives once again overlapped.

We very soon after met for coffee, and the best part of 20 years melted away …

But my paramount question remained: Did Hellenic Hotel and those who sail in her want to be OF the west – or were they to be merely IN the west but with hearts residing elsewhere?

With Danielle replying that the former was most definitely the case, it’s down to business we got …

I will continue to take Hellenic Hotel as it comes – but there’s no doubt that having a highly and fondly regarded pal as my point of contact is making a huge difference!

 

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Hellenic Hotel head chef Josh Pelham (right) works with his kitchen crew a week out from opening night.

Hellenic Hotel, 28 Ferguson Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9393 1000

There is about a week to go before Hellenic Hotel opens to the public – opening night, Friday, June 17, is already booked out – and the air of excitement is palpable.

I get a contact high just by hanging out with Travis McAuley (Hellenic restaurants general manager), Nikki Reid (Hellenic Hotel manager) and Danielle Poulos (Calombaris social media manager) as they give me “the tour”.

For them and everyone else involved, the pressure is on – but there’s a lot of fun and satisfaction to be had, as well.

 

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Travis and Nikki unwrap the new crockery.


The Ferguson Street premises is certainly much changed since I last stuck my nose in about four or five months previously.

And those changes amount to way more than some new furniture and a pretty paint job (mostly white and blue, as you’d expect).

There has been some major infrastructure doings going on here, including installation of a lift and substantial provision of “facilities” and office space upstairs.

The downstairs area – the dining room of the restaurant proper, which will seat about 100 people – is today buzzing with tradies applying last-minute touches and tying up fit-out loose ends.

The place is also buzzing with dozens of newly employed young staff doing training.

Greek training.

Coffee training.

Ouzo, wine and cocktail training.

And training in the Calombaris ethos of “philotimo”, “kefi” and “meraki”.

I’m told about three-quarters of the font of house staff of about 25 are locals.

 

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Hotel Hellenic head chef Josh Pelham is involved in the training process, as well.

He’ll be overseeing a kitchen staff numbering about 12.

There will be much overlap, menu-wise, with the Hellenic enterprises in Brunswick and Kew – but each of three has its own special focus.

In the case of Hellenic Hotel, that will be on food emanating from the kitchen’s rotisserie oven.

 

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Upstairs, the bar – seating about 80 people – will sport a more relaxed vibe.

The “bar menu” will basically be the starter menu from downstairs, though bar patrons will be free to order from the full list should they wish to do so.

Up here there will also be a $15 daily special – now that sounds good! – as well as Greek-based music on Sunday afternoons.

Hotel Hellenic will be open every day from noon.

 

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The rooftop bar is very much a work in progress.

Travis tells me they’re hoping to have this area up and running come summer.

 

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Whenever it does open, the views will be spectacular …

My current take on Hellenic Hotel and the locals is this:

There is, as you’d expect, a high degree of interest.

Much of the interest is of the enthusiastic variety – both from people excited about eating in the new venture and from local businesses wishing, hoping for an all-round boost.

Some of the interest is passive.

And some, a smaller amount, is cynical and even resentful.

Again, this is no surprise and is something of which these folks are aware.

For what it’s worth, they appear to me to be sincere in their desire to engage with the locals – and win over the unpersuaded.

To that end, one of several pre-opening events being held next week has been put aside for them.

 

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What’s up in Willy?

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Raga Indian Cuisine, 223 Nelson Place, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 6982

A couple of years ago, Consider The Sauce was very excited to try – for the first time – the funky South African workingman’s soul food that is bunny chow.

Sadly, before I got around to a return visit to Sanctuary Lakes shopping centre for a return encounter, the humble cafe concerned closed down.

(See here for that story and some background on bunny chows!)

So I was delighted, as we ambled away from enjoying Nelson Place’s new Italian joint, that Bennie noticed the above notice in the window of a nearby Indian eatery.

At the first available, opportunity I’m there.

After I order my lamb bunny, the staff/management soon work out I’m “that guy with that camera” – and I am unsurprised to learn Raga has ties to the now defunct Point Cook cafe at which I first tried a bunny chow!

 

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So I am brought a complementary dish courtesy of the chef.

Quail 65 is a knockout – and probably the best Indo-Chinese dish I’ve ever tried.

The rotund fritters are wonderfully crisp and nicely salty on the outside, while the shredded quail meat inside is fabulous.

All is attended by lovely, spiced cucumber noodles.

They are so good!

But I am mindful of leaving room for my bunny so donate the remaining two fritters to the grateful inhabitants of the adjacent table.

 

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Now take it as given that my experience with bunny chows is limited … but that said, I reckon my Raga lamb bunny is a killer delight.

The accompanying salad, served in a giant prawn cracker, is just right.

The lamb curry is plentiful, very spicy and studded with tender spud chunks.

This time around, knowing a little of bunny lore, I make only small use of cutlery, mostly use my hands and love every mouthful of curry and bread.

But it’s a big meal and I call a halt to my feasting after consuming all the curry and about half the bread.

The price?

I suspect experienced Durban bunny hounds will snort with derision at paying $17.50 for what is ostensibly blue-collar street food.

But I don’t have any problem with the price tag – it’s a good investment, IMO, for a fine meal.

And especially given this is probably the only place in Melbourne, and even within Australia, that serves bunny chows.

After all the cafe-style Indian places we frequent, it’s been real nice to spend some time in a proper, well-appointed Indian restaurant.

And the thalis ordered by a happy a neighbouring table seem like a great deal. The thalis, like the bunnies, are served on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The mint/tamarind sauce that came with my papadums was adorned with latte art!

 

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Nelson Place, top stuff

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Mascalzone Pizzeria Osteria Artigiana, 217-219 Nelson Plavce, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 7269

Mascalzone has been open about three weeks, replacing one of the nondescript venues for which Nelson Place is mostly known, that one replacing another before it.

Mascalzone is sure step in a good direction.

It’s done out brightly with an accent on Italian in decor, ambience and food.

There’s a big brick oven at the rear and a display cabinet of fine-looking antipasto goodies at the front.

We find the service for Saturday lunch is terrific and our food is brought to us in a timely fashion.

Mascalzone’s menu (see below) is a smartly tight line-up of modern-classic Italiana that extends from starters through pizzas, pasta and salads to dolci.

 

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When checking out such joints as this for the first time, we routinely choose one of the basic pizzas just to see how they shape up.

In this case that means the napoletana ($18) picked from a list of nine red pizzas and five of the white kind.

Our pizza is very nice with simplicity being the thing and the toppings all of good quality and in the right proportions.

The crusts are have a wonderful charred thing going on.

 

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From the list of five pastas, we select the pappardelle al ragu di agnello with roasted asparagus ($22).

At first, the lamb shoulder sauce and the white pasta present as so pale as to be pallid.

But there’s do doubting the home-style depth of flavours in the meat, the attendant juices and the excellent cheese gratings.

All this rests upon and about truly wonderful house-made pasta that is al dente perfection.

 

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Tiramisu ($10) is a dream of cream and not much else – but we love it anyway.

Next time we’ll be up for sharing one of the two antipasti platters.

And there will be a next time.

Nelson Place, food destination.

 

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