Wot’s hot in Willy

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Consider The Sauce loves Williamstown.

We love being there, throwing frisbee there and going for drives around the bay.

But it’s also true we’ve long been a little underwhelmed by the food available there.

But we keep on trying.

Our destination upon departing Yarraville for a feed – into the hinterlands of Footscray, Seddon, Sunshine and beyond, OR turn left and head for Willy, Newport, Spotswood and Altona – usually pretty much comes down to a metaphorical coin toss.

But that’s just us … Williamstown CTS readers, friends and potential pals we meet along the way almost invariably tell us, with heartfelt sighs, they wish their local eating-out options were better.

And yet … in  recent months we’ve had some truly magnificent food in Williamstown.

It’s true, you won’t find the same spicy diversity as in other western suburbs realms.

And you will pay more – but not that much more.

Here’s what Willy food has put a skip in our step in recent times …

 

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Pizza d’Asporto, Rifle Range Shopping Centre, 71 Kororoit Creek Road. Phone: 9397 2033

Can’t be beat, we reckon.

Fabulous pizzas, pastas and salads – and, perhaps even more importantly, a friendly welcome that makes you feel like regular even when you’re still to become one.

See story here.

Pizza d’Asporto was also the joyous location of a recent CTS Feast – read the wrap-up here.

 

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Santorini, 1 Parker Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9399 8520

Superb Greek on a lovely heritage Williamstown building.

The marinated lamb shoulder “shaved off the spit” is highly recommended.

See review here.

 

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Mezmez, 42 Ferguson Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 8804

Nutella doughnuts.

Actually, there’s much more to be had at this swell Ferguson Street cafe, including salads and more with a zippy Mediterranean outlook.

See earlier stories here and here.

 

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Prince Albert Hotel, 149 Douglas Parade, Williamstown: 9397 5117

Delightful pub on Douglas Parade that manages to be both elegant and casual.

Excellent service and a killer rib eye with superb extras all part of the deal.

See review here.

 

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Shelly’s Beach Pavilion, 26 The Esplanade, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 7878

The new venture that has taken up residence in what was Sirens has been visited just once by us but we were impressed.

See review here.

New crew at Willy Beach

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Shelly’s Beach Pavilion, 26 The Esplanade, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 7878

Our lunch adventure destination was a Willy pub we’re told does a real fine Sunday roast meal.

We soon discover that the pub in question does do a Sunday roast – but only for dinner.

So we end up at Shelly’s Beach Pavilion somewhat by default.

No matter – this replacement for oft-derided Sirens has been high on our radar anyhow.

As it turns out, given the happy hubbub that is in evidence, I’d say we’re lucky to snag a table for the two of us.

 

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I have an open mind about this new venture.

I’ll be trying hard to not let the knowledge that it is being run by an “events company” colour my impressions.

Though I confess that upon reading the menu several weeks earlier my heart sank a little when I spied the inclusion of a cliched “trio of dips”.

The place’s interior and most-excellent patio appear little changed but the furnishings, zippy, apron-clad staff and the professional service give the place a swish feel.

We dine off a real tablecloth and use real serviettes.

Could it be that this signature, landmark western suburbs venue is finally getting the eating place it warrants?

Our verdict, based only on a simple, light and very nice lunch, and the deftness with which we are served, is: Yes.

 

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Spaghetti vongole ($26) has all it needs – heaps of garlic, oil, breadcrumbs, chilli and clams.

If the resultant dish falls a little short of really impressing, it’s nonetheless rather nice.

The clams themselves are plentiful, gorgeously tender and delicious.

 

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Our pizza of tomato, rocket, prosciutto, tomato and cheese is good for its $19 asking price.

The toppings are excellent, though they do slide from the base with slippery ease.

Regular readers will know we now favour a nearby outfit that does excellent pizzas, a wide range of them, for very good prices.

But we’ll not be turning our noses up at a pizza pie of this calibre, especially given the lovely beach-side setting.

 

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A garden salad ($8) of fine leaves and baby tomatoes is a good accompaniment.

It’s to Shelly’s credit that they are having cheapo “special” nights away from the regular menu in a bid to win over regular, local customers …

On Wednesdays, there’s pizzas with a beer or wine for $15.

And the Tuesday $20 steak deal doesn’t sound too shabby, either.

As well, they’re doing breakfast – though going by their website, not for real early starters.

Regular sourdough toast goes for $7 and a “double” bacon and egg roll with gruyere for $15.

Smashed avo with goats cheese AND poached eggs sells for what sounds like a good-deal $14.

So … our inaugural visit to Shelly’s has done more than enough to encourage a return.

Our total bill comes to $61, which includes two $4 Cokes.

Check out the Shelly’s website, including menu, here.

Great Greek in Willy

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Santorini, 1 Parker Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9399 8520

On the eve of our mid-week dinner at Santorini, I spend some time checking out the restaurant’s website and menu – and hatch a plan.

I will, without blushing, hijack the ordering for our table of five.

As it turns out, one my companions, Jacqui, the Urban Ma, has received advice that puts her mindset in the same place as mine.

Says Jacqui: “My friend said to me, ‘Whatever you do, don’t have the dips, don’t eat the bread!'”

Indeed, why bulk up on those reliably nice things when, as non-paying guests (see full disclosure below), we can order whatever we desire?

Why not make the most of the opportunity by ordering elsewhere?

So we do!

 

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We – Jacqui, hubby Wes, son Daniel, Bennie and myself – proceed to enjoy a spectacular Greek feed in a lovely Williamstown building.

Built in 1850, the triangular building was once the local post office, and looks out on the bay as it does so the then postmen (and women?) could observe when the boats were incoming.

The interior is elegant yet casual, the service spot on.

 

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Had we gone the regular route with dips or one of the banquet choices, we would never had tried the simple yet amazing horta ($10) – greens, lemon and olive oil.

This chicory looks plain, eats delicious.

 

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Fasolakia ($12.90) is another green and healthy treat, with its beans, spinach, feta and toasted almond slivers.

 

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Our three-starter line-up is completed by the spuds.

What can I say?

How about: “OMG, OMG, OMG!!!”

Really, these humble tiganites patates ($7.90), pan-fried in olive oil, oregano and “kalas salt”, are so so simple yet so very yummy.

So much so that none of us mind at all that quite a few more of them turn up as “trimmings” for our main selections.

 

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Chargrilled prawns ($34.50) and …

 

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… kota souvlaki (marinated chicken cooked over charcoal, $26.50) are good, solid, enjoyable Greek fare, though the chicken is a tad on the dry side.

But they are well and truly aced by …

 

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… the arni gyros of marinated lamb shoulder “shaved off the spit” ($28.90).

This is fabulous stuff that well and truly destroys my some-time belief that the only difference between the food to be had at your typical souvlaki shop and that from more swish Greek restaurant proper is the price.

Wrong!

You’d be very lucky indeed to find lamb this good, this crusty, so unfatty, so joyously enjoyable in a takeaway joint.

What’s more, it’s an impressively big serve.

With its spuds, pita bread and tzatziki, and with the addition of a salad on the side, this would make a perfectly satisfying and affordable meal for two.

Our lamb is unanimously voted the hit of the night.

Along with them spuds!

 

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Our mains have been suitably accompanied by a good horiatiki salad ($14.90).

 

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Did we leave room for dessert?

Yes.

Loukoumades are smaller than those I’ve eaten in the past but they are nicely chewy and really nice.

And in Bennie’s world, deep-fried = good.

 

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Galaktoboureko is even better, it being a semolina custard sandwiched between filo pastry – this is a sort-of Greek-style vanilla slice, but less sweet and cloying.

Check out the Santorini website, including menu, here.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Santorini as guests of management. No money changed hands. We ordered whatever we wanted. Santorini management did not seek any editorial input into this story.)

 

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A terrific Willy pub

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Prince Albert Hotel, 149 Douglas Parade, Williamstown: 9397 5117

Consider The Sauce has got a lot of advice from doctors in the past six months.

Some of it has even been about food.

One of them, for instance, a Williamstown local, spoke admiringly about the Prince Albert, its $12 burger nights and its perpetually $15 parmas.

Bennie and I stuck our noses in one Sunday night, really liked the vibe of the place and vowed to return, though we did dine at our fave pizza joint that night.

Then, a few weeks later, the following arrived by email:

“Hi Kenny, I’ve recently discovered your Blog & Facebook Page. I am Michael, one of the new owners at the Prince Albert Hotel in Williamstown. I took over this pub four months ago alongside my father in October, and would love to invite you down for a meal on us to check it out and see what you think and if it’s worthy of a blog post, which I hope it would be.”

Why sure, we’re into that!

(Full discolsure below …)

On the night we visit, I find out that Michael and his dad have little or no pub or hospitality experience, though Michael did work at the Prince Albert for 10 months or so before the pair took the joint over.

Perhaps that fresh-faced approach is no bad thing, as I reckon these guys are definitely doing something right.

 

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There’s a casual bar area and there’s a beer garden.

But it’s the slightly more formal dining room that knocks me out.

This has an elegant ambiance, without being stuffy.

We have a lot of good foodie pubs around us these days but a newish sheen is often part of the deal.

At the Prince Albert, I feel like we are soaking up the love from a comfy yet spiffy local, the whole deal accentuated by the very good black-clad, relaxed staff.

The four of us share two starters …

 

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Chicken and sweet corn croquettes with avocado and tequila dip ($16) are daintily crisp on the outer, rich and gooey on the inner, though there seems only the mildest chook or corn flavour to me.

The dip is OK but not, IMO, a very good match for the croquettes.

 

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Salt and pepper squid ($14) is likewise dainty and fresh but is under-seasoned by the rights of our four palettes and their utter familiarity with highly-spiced food of various Asian varieties!

But wait … we’re just getting started and things get better for us.

Lots better …

 

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The recipient of the seafood linguine ($26) likes her choice plenty, telling me that with it absence of tomato it is a bit different from what she might expect in a swish Italian eatery but still very enjoyable.

I’m surprised to see unbidden grated cheese atop the pasta prawns but my pal is fine with that as she likes it that way.

 

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Two of us choose the top-of-the-line rib eye steak ($34), mine with a basket of fine chips, red wine jus, a good slaw and equally fine and fresh rocket, cucumber and tomato salad.

 

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My meaty companion gets the same slaw but opts for mash and asparagus.

Wowee, this is the best steak I’ve had for a long, long time.

It has a just-right but suitably subtle charred and salty exterior and is cooked perfectly to the requested specifications (medium rare).

It’s perfect!

There’s a heap of places where you can get an equally great chunk of beef, of course, including in the west.

But the great thing here is that Prince Albert steaks come complete; there’s no need to top up with extra sides.

The accompaniments are all terrific and make this something of a bargain.

 

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Our visit coincides with Tuesday’s $12 burger night, so predictably that’s what Bennie chooses to do, getting the $12 sandwich as opposed to the $24 job that’s on the regular menu – we’re told they’re very similar in any case.

He likes his burger but is a bit “meh” on it, telling me the relish doesn’t “do much”.

I dunno, mate – it looks mighty fine to me.

Could be it’s time for this young man to start thinking about what other food is available to him.

Could be a case of too many burgers!

We four share two desserts …

 

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Eton Mess ($12) looks like a disparate array of components but the raspberries, passionfruit, meringue and ultra-rich cream work together to very yummy effect.

 

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The waffles ($12) are also tasty, though I do wish the very good brought-in ice cream and strawberries had been served to the side in order to preserve waffle crispiness for our eating pleasure.

As ever, Consider The Sauce partaking of food for which we don’t pay is no impediment – and never will be – to an honest appraisal of our experiences.

But the minor quibbles mentioned above should in no way be seen as detracting from our enjoyment of the Prince Albert, the esteem in which we hold it and the super night we’ve had.

We wish it was our local!

And I reckon we’ll be back soon … if only so I can try that burger for myself and see if Bennie’s “meh” should have rightly been “mighty”!

(Consider The Sauce dined at the Prince Albert as guests of management. No money changed hands. We ordered whatever we wanted. The Prince Albert management did not seek any editorial input into this story.)

 

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CTS Feast No.11: The Wrap

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Photograph: MARKETA SILHAR

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CTS Feast No.11: Pizza d’Asporto, Rifle Range Shopping Centre, 71 Kororoit Creek Road. Phone: 9397 2033. Sunday, February 15.

Pizza d’Asporto serves simple, wonderfully delicious and fresh Italian food.

It does so in a casual setting with loads of warmth, friendliness and charm.

All those attributes were in abundant evidence when Consider The Sauce and a dozen or so hungry friends descended on Williamstown for the 11th CTS Feast.

 

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There was glorious antipasto, so good I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking this was the best you’d find in Melbourne, anywhere at any price.

 

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There were salads such as the insalata di rucola with rocket, pear, parmesan and rustic bread crumbs still just-right crunchy after being imbued with olive oil.

There were two pasta dishes – a fabulous pork-laden ragu and orecchiette with pork sausage and broccolini.

There were family-picked backyard tomatoes.

 

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And there were pizzas – lots of fabulous pizzas.

 

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This was a small gathering by comparison with some of the CTS Feasts of 2014.

All those in attendance had been to one or more previous celebrations – or arrived with someone who had!

 

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The exceptions were my very good pals, fellow blogger Caron and her hubby Gordon – so a big thanks to them for driving all the way from Berwick.

 

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“D’Asporto” means takeaway in Italian, and that indicates just what the original aim of this establishment was – to provide affordable, excellent Italian food for locals.

Then a bench and stools were added for the waiting comfort of customers, then more benches and more stools – and now there are even outdoor tables, at which most Feast attndees got down to their gleeful eating business.

So, you see, in some ways Pizza d’Asporto is not meant to be operating as a bona fide “restaurant” at all – but we’d not change a thing about what Claudio and Antoinetta have going here.

 

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With this story, the more formal, professional aspect of the CTS relationship with Pizza d’Asporto comes to an end – and now we’re very much looking forward to being just another couple of hungry, happy customers dropping in on friends.

Check out the Pizza d’Asporto website here.

Sweet treats courtesy of Pizza d’Asporto’s “sister” business, Impasto Forno Antico in Avondale Heights!

 

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Willy noodle shop

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Wok Rite Inn Noodle & Snack Bar, 5 Ferguson Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 4077

Wok Rite Inn has been recommended to us more than once by a regular reader whose opinions we respect very much.

The vibe, we have been told, is one of a neighbourhood noodle shop with a bit more going on than in your average such establishment.

Over two visits, we discover that’s a fair assessment.

The staff seem to be many and are obliging.

There’s basic seating both inside and out.

The menu ranges widely through Chinese, Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese dishes – something that’s not always a good sign, of course.

The food we are served is adequate in an average sort of way.

If we were any of the locals we see coming and going, we’d be regulars who know exactly which of the many menu boxes get our ticks.

 

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Beef rendang with rice ($14.50) is rather good.

It’s on the sweet side and (unsurprisingly) mildly spiced, but there’s a heap of good, well-cooked beef.

And the generous flourish of snow peas and broccoli is appreciated.

 

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The basic curry laksa ($13.5) appears to be not made from scratch – but I’m OK with that.

I’ve had worse at supposedly specialist Malaysian places in the west.

I like the tofu and vegetable components.

But the main protein hit comes from far too much roast pork of a thick and rather rubbery variety.

 

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There’s plenty of that pork in the kwai teow ($13.50), too, though not so much as to deliver imbalance.

Bennie likes it even if he fails to finish it off – the serves here, it must be said, are of a very generous nature.

 

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I’m told the beef curry puffs are made in-house but that my vegetable rendition is not.

I’m fine with that, too.

I suspect that’s the case with the likes of curry puff and samosas at more places across the west than most of us might suspect – especially at the lower end of the price spectrum.

What I am not fine with is the fact my fried parcel is stone cold in the middle.

A perfectly cooked replacement, brought with an apologetic smile, tastes just right.

Check out the Wok Rite Inn website here.

 

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CTS Feast No.11: Pizza d’Asporto

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THIS EVENT IS NOW BOOKED OUT.

Consider The Sauce Feast No.11:
Pizza d’Asporto,
Rifle Range Shopping Centre, 71 Kororoit Creek Road. Phone: 9397 2033
Date: Sunday, February 15.
Time: Noon-2pm.
Food: Buffet-style offering of pizzas, pasta, salads and starters as chosen by Pizza d’Asporto.
Guests to pay for soft drinks separately.
12 places available

Pizza d’Asporto in Williamstown has become a firm CTS favourite in a very short time.

We love the food and the relaxed, happy vibe – and the people who create both.

So we’re thrilled and delighted that Claudio, Antoinetta and their crew will be co-hosting the first CTS Feast of 2015.

As is likely to be the case with most of this year’s Feasts, there are only a small numbers of places available.

In this case, the ticket monies will be split 50/50 between CTS and Pizza d’Asporto.

Since our initial story on Pizza d’Asporto, here’s what we’ve enjoyed on subsequent visits.

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Penne with quail and porcini ragu ($17).

What a brilliant contrast to the usual grilled or roasted quail!

Stunningly delicious this was.

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Pizza patate with mozzarella, potato, taleggio, caramelised leek and rosemary ($14).

So nice to have cubed spud chunks instead of slices.

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Parmigiana di melanzane with layers of eggplant, mozzarella, potato and Napoli sauce ($12).

Typically done as a bigger dish in a lasagne style, Caludio makes this much wetter – almost like a stew.

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Calzone Nutella with strawberries ($10).

Bennie’s choice, of course.

Fab pizza, great prices, unexpected location

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Pizza d’Asporto, Rifle Range Shopping Centre, 71 Kororoit Creek Road. Phone: 9397 2033

Consider The Sauce likes – and sometimes even loves – those authentic Italian-style pizzas as much as anyone.

But the prices have always been a sticking point for us.

We know some of our reasoning in this regard doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

For instance, the places that sell such pizzas tend to be located in areas where rents are high.

As well, quality ingredients and preparation come at a price.

And we know, too, that comparing such pizzas with much cheaper but much, much less pleasing Aussie-style pizzas is unfair.

No matter how many low-quality toppings get piled onto a pizza base, the resultant product will always be … low-quality, no matter the price.

And any comparison to our beloved Lebanese pizzas and pies and their ultra-low prices is perhaps even more unfair.

The places that sell them tend to be in low-rent locations, and while the quality is often high I’m happy to accept that to a large degree it’s a matter of apples and oranges.

 

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But still, $20 or $25 or more for a pizza just doesn’t seem good value for money.

I guess what I’ve been looking for is a joint that sells authentic Italian-style pizzas in a more customer-friendly price range.

Well, I’ve found just such a one.

What’s more, it’s in the western suburbs, the place is amazing and the food the CTS party of three enjoys leaves us gobsmacked and grinning from ear to ear.

 

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It’s telling that Pizza d’Asporto is situated in a rather anonymous shopping centre quite some distance from the nearest foodie precinct.

It’s surrounded by a handful of fast-food outlets and is doing a roaring trade at about 8pm on the midweek night we visit.

There’s Italian music playing, there’s a happy vibe in abundance and the staff are smiling and on the ball.

There are no internal tables – just a bunch of stools and benches.

We grab one of the small tables outside.

The menu is split between red and white pizzas.

The least expensive is $13, the most expensive $19.

There are a handful of pastas available, all costing about $15, and a like number of salads.

 

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This broccolini pizza – with its buffalo mozzarella, pecorino, broccolini and white truffle oil – costs $14.

Can you believe it?

It’s insanely good, the flavours melding wonderfully and the green vegetable being superbly al dente but still cooked through.

 

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The San Giorgio – with its San Marzano tomato, sopressa salami, artichoke hearts, roast peppers and olives – is a couple of bucks dearer at $16 and just about as good.

My friends are more familiar with this kind of pizzas than I.

They rate their Pizza d’Asporto pies as significantly better than those they’ve had in West Footscray and Seddon, and “as good as if not better” than those they’ve loved at Motorino in Kingsville.

And keep in mind – those prices!

 

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A few days before our visit, I’d taken note of a post on the eatery’s Facebook page about a really good-looking pansanella bread salad.

Tonight I’m told it’s unavailable; then we’re told they’ll knock one up for us anyway!

Our $13 salad is a treat to share, the plentiful, rustic chunks of bread a beaut mix of dressed sogginess and crunch.

 

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My pasta gamberetti ($17) of linguini with king prawns, zucchini and fresh mint is a good ‘un.

It’s a much more generous serve than the impression given by the above photo indicates.

There’s a heap of very good prawns.

The only quibble I have is maybe wanting a bit more zing from chilli or salt or – perhaps – lemon.

On an earlier solo visit by myself for reconnaissance purposes, I’d enjoyed the ortolana pizza ($16, top photo) of San Marzano tomato, mozzarella, grilled eggplant, roasted peppers, mushroom and olives.

Another winner!

There is nothing I do not love about doing Consider The Sauce.

But it’s relatively rare that I enjoy a meal that involves a full house of …

  • Spectacular food.
  • Fantastic prices.
  • Great company.
  • At a place in a surprising location, offering a great atmosphere and super-friendly service.

Claudio, Antoinetta and their team are doing a great job and tonight has been one of those occasions.

For a full menu including prices check out the Pizza d’Asporto website here.

 

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Sirens leased

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The prime real estate that is the former Sirens at Williamstown Beach has been leased.

The windows are shielded with blue tarpaulins and something is afoot … though, despite my best efforts, I’m not quite sure what.

In a friendly fashion, I squeezed the young bloke I found there doing some renovations for the new proprietors but he remained admirably loyal and discreet.

But from what I did gather …

It seems the property will continue to operate under the Sirens name, it is open for event bookings and an open-to-the-public date is expected to be in late January.

The family/business moving into the space has a track record in the hospitality industry, one that makes them “quite capable” of doing a fine job at Willy Beach.

“Are they famous?” I asked.

“No,” came the reply.

That snuffs out the goss I’d heard just minutes before elsewhere in Williamstown – that Shannon Bennett was moving in.

Nothing to it, apparently.

But, boy, that’s some rumour …

Mezmez – return visit

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Mezmez, 42 Ferguson Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 8804

We sometimes have a laugh about how fickle the winds are that blow Consider The Sauce this way and that as it embarks on its adventures.

It’s our Saturday jaunt, we’re hungry and feeling virtuous after about an hour’s worth of house-cleaning in our low-maintenance home.

Heading towards Fehon Street, we are confronted with road signs ruling out a right-hand turn and destinations such as Seddon, Footscray and beyond.

So a left turn it is … and Williamstown, with no specific destination in mind.

We park and check out a cool pizza place that is on our “to do” list, but they’re not rolling yet despite it being 12.30pm.

Maybe next time for them.

So we are happy to return to Mezmez, which we wrote about just a few weeks back – it’s a beaut and significant addition to the Williamstown food scene, and we’re eager to try some more of their dishes and write about them.

 

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Bennie has been given the run of menu, including the more substantial and expensive meals, but goes for the pide with BBQ zatar chicken, peppers, spinach and chipotle mayo ($14).

It goes down a treat.

He especially like the herby nature of the chicken.

 

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My salad of baby beetroots with walnuts, goats cheese, witlof, pasrley and orange dressing ($15) is fabulously brilliant.

It’s a big serve – I take a while longer to eat my lunch than Bennie does to eat his sandwich – and filling for a dish made up so much of water-based ingredients.

The way the various goodies both play off each other and meld together is magical.

The key ingredient is the witlof, the bitterness of which moderates the beet sweetness.

Wow.

 

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Mezmez today has some keen-looking baklava on display but we find we are unable to do anything but order another of their Nutella doughnuts ($3.50).

Both myself and the occupants of the adjoining table are bemused by Bennie’s display of inexpert cutting the sees us end up with two unequal doughnut halves.

Oh well – even the lesser of the two tastes divine to me.

Just like that, Mezmez has become a CTS favourite.

 

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Knocked out in Williamstown

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Mezmez, 42 Ferguson Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 8804

When it was known as Plumm’s, 42 Ferguson Street was a quasi-regular for us – for breakfasts, lunches and even, IIRC, the odd dinner.

I think that between Plumm’s and Mezmez, there was another inhabitant of the address but I can’t recall its name.

Certainly, there has been a long period on non-use for the address before the recent opening of Mezmez.

Maybe that’s not a bad thing, with a view to dispelling “failed restaurant karma”.

Not that we’re suspicious or anything!

In terms of a fresh start, it’s also a fine thing the Mezmez crew has overhauled the room so that it bears little or no resemblance to what went before.

 

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There’s lots of wall tiles, lots of wood and a variety of different seating and eating configurations.

When we visit for Saturday lunch, the place is buzzing, there are happy people in abundance and staff are on the ball.

Mezmez is a sister restaurant of Pint Of Milk in Newport, so as you’d expect has many of the same cafe strengths going on.

But the new place looks and feels very different.

More to the point, outside some orthodox breakfast items, the Mezmez menu (see below) – especially the brunch and lunch lists – evinces a strong Turkish and Mediterranean feel.

And that’s mostly why we’re here and excited about it.

 

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We’re allocated a small wall-mounted table with tall stools towards the back of the room – and we’re happy about that.

Because we’re sitting right at the very spot where food leaves the kitchen and heads for the customers’ pleasure – so we get a good look, while we’re waiting for our meals, at what other folks have been ordering.

That ranges from breakfasts of the basic, toasted kind and the more ornate and decadent through to an “ancient grains” salad, panfried saganaki, crispy fried squid and preposterously fat lamb koftas.

IT ALL LOOKS FANTASTIC!

 

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Bennie chooses the buttermilk pancakes with sour cherries, toasted walnuts and halvah ice-cream ($18).

He’s happy enough, but reckons there’s too much sauce!

I grab a bite and am impressed.

Perhaps, at $18, a third pancake might not be too much to expect.

And perhaps he’s old enough and savvy enough to understand that just because his father lets him off the leash for a sugar hit doesn’t mean that’s going to be the best direction to head.

Because he’s frankly envious of my …

 

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… “mez platter” ($16) with its olives, dukkah, falafels, cauliflower fitters, dips and bread.

It’s all good or much better.

And I always admire any such dish that is constructed with such skill that all the players are in correct proportion so they all “run out” at the same happy conclusion to the meal.

That’s certainly the case here.

The outright stars, though, are the tightly-packed and fragrant falafels and sublime cauliflower fritters.

Wow!

Deep-fried yet ungreasy, they’re packed with flavour – and in the case of cauliflower, that always seems to me some kind of miracle.

That vegetable doesn’t have the most robust flavour characteristics yet often it seems to survive all sorts of cooking techniques.

The only faint quibble I have is wishing the dips had a bit more zing.

 

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As we’d awaited our meals, Bennie went close to toddlerhood regression and the throwing of a tantrum when he saw the blackboard words “Nutella Donuts” had been crossed out.

No problem, my friend – that is yesterday’s news so we’re good to go.

 

 

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Oh boy, this is awesomeness personified – and a bargain at $3.50.

Just so good – ultra gooey and divine.

And filling, even shared between the pair of us.

 

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Nor surprise, eh, that my $3.60 cafe latte is brilliant?

Williamstown locals have a new star to adore.

 

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Williamstown eats goss

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At Williamstown Beach, the lovely property that until recently and for many years housed Sirens has the forlorn look of a failed business.

What it does not have is the look of dereliction or neglect.

Yet.

You’d think somebody would get in quickly before summer really gathers momentum.

 

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At Nelson Place, what was once Tai Hoong is now Fong’s Kitchen – though a section of the menu is labelled “Old Favourites From Tai Hoong”, so presumably there is a connection between old and new, family or otherwise.

The menu (see below) has a tight selection of Malaysian and Chinese selections, and definitely has some things I’d like to try.

 

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I like the look of the dark wood and minimalist cafe vibe, too.

But today I ordered the Hainanese chicken rice – after ascertaining a bowl of chicken broth was part of the deal – only to be told 30 minutes later that they’d only just commenced to start boiling the chook!

So I departed unfed, but will be back.

 

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A few doors along is the Advertiser Bar & Grill.

According to its Facebook page, it opened in early September – and yet is already undergoing a massive overhaul.

The story, according to a neighbouring trader, is that the joint was hit by a fire, insurance issues have been settled and they’re looking to reopen early next year.

 

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And a few doors along from there is the newly opened Williamstown branch of New York Minute.

Despite having a rather average time of it on our last visit to the Moonee Ponds place, we still have a soft spot for NYM so hope the new outlet is going great!

Reports, anyone?

 

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Food trucks – Altona, Williamstown readers have your say!

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Disclosure – the two reporters who filed this Maribyrnong/Hobsons Bay Weekly story about food trucks in the west are colleagues of mine; I am quoted in the story and the newspaper has used a photograph provided by CTS.

But I confess to being bemused by the comments in the story by the spokeswomen for both the Altona Village Traders Association and the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce.

Of course, it is the job of such groups to promote and protect the businesses they represent.

But the idea of “running food trucks out of the town” seems a little, um, confrontational.

There are places we like to eat in and shop at in both Williamstown and Altona. We will discover more.

But I can only go with what numerous residents and readers from both suburbs have told me in the years CTS has been operating – that while there is plenty of choice, people in general think there is much that is “average”, over-priced or both.

So Altona and Williamstown readers, what do you think … food trucks, do you want them?

 

 

 

 

 

Bits and pieces

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So how’s this for an eye-grabbing sign in Racecourse Road, Flemington?

Nope, can’t say I have … tried camel meat, that is.

Right next door, in the Grand Tofu, I ask Suzanne if she has.

Nope.

In fact, she seems surprised there is even such a sign gracing the halal butcher shop right next door.

What the Grand Tofu, Suzanne, Stephen and their crew do do is serve up a sperb chicken laksa.

Look, I’m quite fond of the two more famous Malaysian eateries just around the corner.

But I don’t like queues and they’re always so busy.

The Grand Tofu is frequently busy, too – but the staff always find time for a bit of a chat or at the very least a warm welcome.

Which can’t always be said of the competition.

And then there’s that chicken laksa (oh my!) – and much more besides.

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Providorable is lovely foodie haven in Williamstown – you can read about it here.

Providorable proprietor Kelly recently posted the following on her business’s Fcebook page:

“Good morning everyone, I’m feeling this morning I need to write this post. I think a lot of the local shop keepers this week would say that things are looking brighter for Xmas sales after a very quiet winter. I urge everyone to support local business. Supermarkets are trying to shut down small business, this is where you get the personal service with product knowledge, not in a supermarket. Also, WHY have the council allowed two farmers markets per month in Willy? Do you realise that now there are two it takes business away from your local shops that are the ones that pay the rates & rents to make strip shopping be still available? Have you questioned any of the stall holders at farmers markets about where some of their products come from? There are genuine items being sold but some are not from their own farms being sold direct to public. Yeah, have one a month but why 2 every two weeks … you go and buy fruit and veg, it affects your local fruit shop, same as butcher, dog treats, coffee shop, jams and relishes etc etc. PLEASE SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESS. By this market being there every two weeks, you are supporting outsiders who don’t pay the huge rents and rates we pay. OK rant over lol and enjoy your day. Williamstown has wonderful shops and fantastic shopkeepers. Keep us all in willy for years to come please.”

What do you think?

We’re quite fond of visiting farmers markets.

But in truth we rarely buy more than a coffee and maybe a snag or other eat-on-the-spot treat.

Fruit, vegetables and other produce?

Hardly ever.

But we do enthusiastically support and enjoy the hell out of our local shops and delis, be they in Williamstown, Altona, Seddon, Footscray, Sunshine or beyond.

Revisiting an old Willy pal

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Burger Culture, 3 Cole St, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 7156

Burger Culture, situated opposite Santorini Greek restaurant just off Nelson Place, pre-dates the likes of the now common Grill’d burger chain.

In fact, it was the first place Bennie and regularly hit to get our hands on affordable American-style burgers, different from the Aussie style and without setting foot in a pub.

We had many fine meals there.

But somewhere along the way, we ventured elsewhere, and I recall that on our last visit we were a little underwhelmed in particular by the thinness and mediocrity of the beef patties.

So I’m interested to check the place out again in what is an impromptu lunch in terms of venue.

Jacqui of Urban Ma and I had headed this way with a specific eat shop in minds, but it’s closed so we make do in a locale loaded with eating options but precious few really good ones.

And while what we get at Burger Culture will not win any awards, we nevertheless really enjoy our lunches.

The interior is bustling with lunchtime activity, so we grab an outdoor table even though it’s a rather chilly spring day.

For me, it’s the culture classic (above, $7.50) with “lean beef, tomato, lettuce, onion, tomato relish and culture mayo” with bacon as an extra.

For Jac, it’s the New Yorker (below, $11.90) with “lean beef, caramelised onions, swiss cheese, tomato, lettuce, tomato relish and culture mayo”.

The first and best thing that impresses me about my burger is the patty – this one has a real nice, real beefy texture and flavour, and the bacon is fine, too.

But I envy Jacqui’s more diverse and interesting sandwich – there’s mustard as well as the advertised ingredients.

What impresses both of us most about our meals is that combo deals encompassing chips and a can of soft drink are offered for a mere $3 extra.

This means that, cost-wise, Burger Culture combo deals pretty much end where Grill’d stand-alone burgers start.

That’s good!

Our chips are just OK, though – we reckon they could be hotter and little more well done. But we consume them happily with little plastic tubs of tomato relish and chilli mayo that cost us 50 cents each.

The Burger Culture website is here.

 

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Meat-free but even Garfield would dig it

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The Pickle Barrel, 60 Ferguson Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9399 8338

The Pickle Barrel prospers without the groovy factor sported by other coffee/breakfast/lunch places in Williamstown and the wider inner west.

It does so, from what I’ve been able to gather as a sometime customer for a quick coffee and/or lunch, by providing good, solid food, excellent coffee and good service.

The place seems habitually busy, yet there are always plenty of staff members on hand to handle the load.

It’s a smallish cafe, with a limited range of takeaway produce and deli lines, three small tables along one wall, two more larger, communal tables and high stools facing the windows.

The outside tables are always popular, even in winter, and there’s always newspapers on hand.

There’s longish lists of both breakfast and lunch fare, but the main stock in trade are the numerous and good-looking flour-based options – wraps, paninis, baguettes and other sandwiches.

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Today, though, I take a punt by opting for the unmeaty version of the lasagna dishes on display (both $9.90).

What a handsome slab of stuffed pasta it is.

Beneath a nicely toasted cheesy cap are multiple pasta layers sandwiching plentiful amounts of ricotta, potato (I think), zucchini and more – including a tomato-based sauce so deeply, intensely coloured and flavoured that I have to eyeball the display cabinet again to make sure I haven’t been presented the meat lasagna by mistake.

It’s all fantastic and hearty and tasty – so much so that I easily forgive the fact my meal slides from lukewarm to cool at the centre of what is, after all, a very generous serving.

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Before I depart, I tumble into another serendiptous conversation with a complete stranger.

But Megan is a writer and West Footscray resident, so we become fast pals as we gleefully compare notes on mutual places, people and topics of interest.

Despite not being a Willy local, Megan regularly travels here for The Pickle Barrel’s coffee, of which she is a huge fan.

So … I order one for myself and a repeat for her.

She’s right – my cafe latte is superb.

 

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Providorable – all sorts of nice things in Willy

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Providorable, 46 Ferguson St, Williamstown. Phone: 9399 9355

Consider The Sauce had been aware of Providorable, but it took Miss Biscuit, Julia, to actually get us to check out the Williamstown shop.

Before getting around to an actual visit, I found myself becoming more and more impressed with the regular updates Providorable proprietor Kelly posts on her shop’s Facebook page – they’re full of passion for the goodies she stocks.

A visit to the Ferguson St emporium confirms the sincerity of those updates, with Kelly pointing out some of the high-quality products and their suppliers for which she is most enthusiastic and which you may struggle to source elsewhere in Melbourne (or our side of it anyway).

Products such as …

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… McGrath dressings from Albury and …

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… Arthurs Creek oils and condiments and …

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… she-tea from Daylesford (the tea is imported but the packaging and gorgeous artwork are done in Victoria) and …

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… lovely fruit-studded nougat from The Sweet Boutique in Brighton.

Mind you, Kelly is also has some delightful imported goodies as well, such as …

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… Harney & Sons tea from New York and …

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… fabulous Mazet chocolate in various flavours from France.

Providorable maybe isn’t the kind of place you’ll go to “stock up”, but for just that particular product or luxury item you seek or deserve, it’s a treat.

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Garage Classics Of Williamstown

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Kenny’s lotto win car – a 1962 Jag: Lean, mean, green, close to the ground and looking like it’s made to go fast …

Garage Classics Of Williamstown, 400 Kororoit Creek Rd, Williamstown North. Phone: 9391 7559

Garage Classics Of Williamstown has been open about a year – in that time we’ve doubtless driven past dozens, maybe even hundreds of times.

And maybe that’s wherein at least part of the problem lies.

Leigh Goodall, who founded the business with wife Helen, tells me the plan of running the museum in tandem with a cafe open five days a week for breakfast and lunch has proven unsustainable.

From the end of April, the museum will be open only to group bookings and the food side of the business will cater to those groups and other functions.

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Leigh Goodall with the museum’s 1912 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.

So you’ve got about two weeks to get in there, have a look around and grab a bite to eat.

And you should.

You really, really should.

Because while the museum itself is quite compact in size, I’d rate it one of the most fascinating attractions in the entire western suburbs, and even Melbourne, packed as it is with more interest than it’s possible to take in in a single visit.

There’s myriad vehicles, of both two-wheel and four-wheel varieties, along with hundreds of other items.

As well, my lunch – chosen from a longish menu of sandwiches and house-made goodies such as sausage rolls – is a doozy.

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The “New York Reuben” ($12.90) finds pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing inserted into a flattened and beautifully toasted loaf.

Oh my, it’s fantastic!

And there’s a spicy pepperiness about my sandwich that’s possibly attributable to the pastrami crust and the Worcestershire sauce in the dressing, though Helen is a tad cagey about the dressing’s other ingredients.

Admission to the museum costs $5.

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The museum’s shop area has these gorgeous vintage picnic sets for sale.

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Stag’s Head – beer every day

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Stag’s Head, 39 Cecil St, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 8337

Whatever the merits or otherwise of Williamstown as a food destination, we very much enjoy cruising the suburb’s back streets, especially those around the beach and its station.

There are heaps of lovely old homes and buildings to be eyeballed and the area seems to be defying whatever gentrification and “progress” is taking place nearby on Ferguson St and Nelson Pde.

One such building is the Stag’s Head, first built in the 1860s and reconstructed in 1887.

It’s a golden oldie and feels like it, even if the current management, fit-out, locals and food aren’t quite of that vintage.

It feels oh-so-comfortable, right from the threadbare carpet and bar full of nick-nacks through to wooden floors seemingly springloaded with age and comical signage.

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Even better, there’s a perpetually free pool table. Maybe it costs that little because at either end there’s walls that get in the way of sensible cue management.

Whatever – one of our games is abandoned because of the arrival of our lunch and Bennie beats his father in the other on a mere technicality (sinking white off black).

There’s a more formal dedicated dining room and a sunny courtyard, but we’re happy to perch on bar stools for our lunch visit.

The menu is compact, runs to two sides of A4 and includes “old favourites” such as chicken parma and  porterhouse for $20, three salads for $15-18 and five lunch dishes for $12.50 apiece.

From the lunch list we choose salt and pepper calamari and fish tacos.

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Bennie’s calamari is really fine – tender, mildly seasoned and of extreme yumminess when dipped in the lovely aioli.

Only problem is, for a lunch dish it’s light-on, with only a small rocket salad with a few parmesan flakes to accompany.

Maybe the key here is to make sure of a dish’s heft before ordering if one is keen of appetite.

In any case, Bennie for sure could’ve done with an equivalent serve of the chips that come with my tacos.

As it is, he makes do with a bag of beer nuts from behind the bar.

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My fish tacos are wonderful.

The fish – hoki from New Zealand – is mildly flavoured but goes beaut with the tomato salsa, red cabbage, chilli sauce and coriander.

The taco shells are, I suspect, store-bought. But I’m cool with that, especially as each taco maintains its structural integrity right down to the final tasty mouthful.

With the good chips on the side, I really enjoy a lovely light meal that seems priced just right at $12.50.

By the time we leave, I’m wishing the Stag’s Head was our local.

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Rose of Australia Hotel

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Rose of Australia Hotel, 54 Ferguson Street, Williamstown. Photo: 9397 6259

Exterior that emits classy vintage vibes, a narrow hallway leading to the dining room and even more narrow hallways leading elsewhere, friendly service – the Rose is doing its bit to maintain and preserve the tradition of old-school pubs in the western suburbs.

We’d eaten here once before our mid-week visit on a typically wintry Melbourne spring evening, but that’s just a hazy memory from when Bennie was a fractious toddler.

He was often a Very Naughty Boy in those days. Well, extremely trying anyway …

The classic exterior appears to have not changed at all; not so with the bistro.

We’re told the current management has been in place for about five years and the current dining room fit-out for about five months.

It’s still old-school, mind you, and we love the comfy booths arrayed along on side of the room.

So we grab one.

The menu is straight-up pub tucker, though in this instance Bennie is going to have survive without the burger he desires.

My chicken parmagiana ($18.50) is real fine – a thickish slab of flavoursome, juicy chicken topped with the regulation cheese and ham, with the biggest flavour hit coming from a fine tomato sauce.

It’s a much more substantial parma than is conveyed by the above photo.

The chips are fine, too, but I wish there was whole bunch more of them. The salad component is OK but struggles to avoid being labelled “garnish”.

Bennie has never before ordered a mixed grill.

This proves to be not the best place for him to break that particular duck.

At $19.50, it’s described to us as various meats, other bits and “warm potato salad and onion gravy”.

It’s fair to say Bennie’s never seen anything like it.

Nor have I, for that matter.

There’s heaps of smallish but delicious pieces of steak, bacon rashers, a fried egg and a goodly sausage, all smothered in dark gravy. And none of the lamb chop or cutlet we have been expecting.

The salad in the middle has a serious case of caper overkill. I’d imagined spud salad and mixed grill to be quite a workable combo, but what with the gravy and all … it just looks wrong.

Bennie’s a bit overwhelmed, and even resorts to asking for his barely warm meal to be heated up, not that it makes much difference to him.

Despite the unhappy, blameless mishap with the mixed grill – we did, after all get, exactly what was described – we like the Rose.

The Tuesday curry night – choice of one of two, with raita, house-made roti, rice, pickle and papadam for $15 – appears to be particularly worthy of future investigations.

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