Imbue Food & Wine Opens in Maribyrnong!

Imbue Food & Wine opens in Maribyrnong. Being a local, it’s fair to say good dining options are sparse. Footscray is the destination for Vietnamese and a big bowl of steaming pho. Yarraville and Seddon, is for weekend brunches. Flemington is for laksa. Maribyrnong? Well.. there’s Highpoint. The opening of Imbue, ushers much-needed gastronomic love, to the ho-hum franchises that dominate this riverside burb. I love living in Maribyrnong, the views of the river, the proximity to good Vietnamese. The one thing that’s missing, is an up-and-coming food scene. Let’s hope our mates at Imbue, can get the westside train rolling. 

The eatery is headed by Phong Nguyen. The ex Movida chef, bringing small-plate dining and his Asian repertoire, to the cosy Imbue kitchen. The style of cuisine is Modern Australian, with traces of Asian influence. The food is designed to showcase produce. A feat most prominent, with Imbue’s signature dish. A seemingly simple whipped feta dish, achieving a harmonious flavour balance, with the addition of fresh honeycomb and dukkah. The honeycomb balances the creamy pungency of feta. The three cheese croquettes, emit concentrated cheesy goodness, crispy and tasty with a capital T.

Beef is sourced from Gippsland, the Great Southern Porterhouse making a meaty appearance, with charred corn. Seafood is another hallmark for Imbue. Mild seared scallops, elevated with smoky pancetta and silky cauliflower puree. Cubes of Tuna, matched with acidic ponzu and wafer thin rice crisps. Keep your eye out on the specials menu, for a rotating selection of seasonal dishes.

For the calibre of food, the pricing is highly reasonable – 3 courses for $40 or 5 for $60. Service is friendly, you can’t miss the jolly restaurant manager. I’m pretty stoked that Maribyrnong finally has some decent food, on par with inner city offerings. Matched with the clinking of wine glasses and cocktails, Imbue Food & Wine raises the Westside foodie scene. Let’s hope the locals embrace Imbue.

One Plus Piece – Anime Themed Cafe in Balwyn

One Piece is the only anime themed cafe in Melbourne. Inspired by the manga series, hop on a pirate ship to find gastronomic treasure. The absence of devil fruits is noticeable, but who needs super powers, when you have super eating abilities. If you’ve got no idea what I’m talking about, watch the series ;). Located on Whitehorse Road in Balwyn, One Piece delivers a bit of fun. The east side cafe, littered with figurines, Jolly Roger flags and manga books, makes this an anime nerd’s dream. The S.O – a fan of One Piece since the teenage years, positively squirmed in fanboy geekdom. Most prominent is the mural of Monkey D. Luffy peering at hungry diners. Don’t judge Monkey, calories don’t count on the weekends!

One Piece isn’t for the calorie conscious. Burgers, shakes and carbs are their specialty. With sinful options such as Japanese fried chicken, double beef and tempura soft shell crab, this will satisfy the burger munchers. Please put aside those pretty acai bowls and chia puddings, this is real breakfast food. Tasty and filling, the Sriracha Maple glazed bacon had the S.O’s eyes rolling in the back of his head. Sweet, sticky and savoury all at once, this puts a hearty twist on the generic Smashed Avocado. Mr Franky – the cyborg pirate is the inspiration for the next dish. A deliciously messy mound of guacamole, sour cream, cheese and tomato salsa, sits upon two fried eggs and flaky pieces of roti. The words ‘roti’ immediately captured our attention on the menu. I only wish all toast could be substituted with this Asian flatbread.  Apart from Sir Charles in Fitzroy, this is only the second time I’ve seen roti featured in a brunch dish.

Not an anime geek? Never fear, locals also love the quirk of One Piece. It’s a pleasant change to the gentrified wooden industrial decor that dominates Melbourne. With a good breakfast menu and positively sinful burgers and milkshakes, One Piece satisfies the weekend cravings.

Top Melbourne Brunch Openings 2015

2015 was the year of the butt. Big butts. Instead of anacondas and buns – we had freakshakes, frankenfoods (cronuts, cruffins etc) and fried chicken to add junk to the trunk. Food trends come and go, but brunch in Melbourne is a staple. It’s stupendously gourmet and oh so #instaworthy. So much so, that when I ordered coconut pancakes in Hawaii and received a singular lonely pancake, I thought to myself ‘Where are the edible flowers? Where is the quenelle of ice cream made from Madagascan vanilla beans picked by oompa loompas? Where is the dehydrated raspberry powder and perfect cubes of exotic fruits?’. It was time to accept that I was a Melbourne food snob, spoilt, very spoilt, with the overflowing diversity and creativity of Melbourne cafes. Without further ado, I give you the best brunch openings of 2015 (in alphabetical order). It was a difficult task, but I begrudgingly accept :P.

BABA SUS – GLEN IRIS

The ‘Father Pig’ brings an Asian themed menu to the leafy streets of Glen Iris. Deriving influences from Asia, the resulting menu is modern and inventive with plenty of Asian twists. Gone are the days of boring ol’ scrambled eggs and eggs benedict. Where else in Melbourne, can you get Hong Kong waffles, with green tea ice cream, berry compote and pistachio praline? That’s right. Nowhere.

On to savoury options. Asian ingredients are in abundance, with crunchy bean sprouts and smokey pulled pork filling the ‘Pig-Lette’ omelette. For traditional brunch flavours. Croquettes are filled with creamed corn. This quiet leafy suburb is fortunate to have a high calibre brunch cafe, steps away from Burwood station. It ticks all boxes. Inventive menu. Great service. Trendy decor.

Hong Kong Waffles w/ Vanilla Custard, Green Tea Ice Cream, Berry Compote, Pistachio Pralin

Corn and Zucchini Croquettes w/ House Cured Salmon, Herb Aioli Asparagus, Frisee, Poached Egg

BLUE FOX CAFE – KEW

Blue Fox Cafe makes traditional brunch look boring. The visual spectacle at Blue Fox begins with the big boy toys. Out comes the chef tools – smoking guns, 65 degree eggs, coconut ‘snow’.  A smoky jar arrives on the table and we known we’re in for some hocus pocus chef magic. Small cubes of trout are infused with natural smoky flavours. In the absence of heat, the gorgeous pink flesh picks up the smokey flavour, adding a degree of complexity to the tartare. The saltiness is refined, with a oozy 63 degree egg. Blue Fox joins the ranks of Melbourne cafes that are raising the bar.

Table Smoked Ocean Trout Tartare w/ Slow-cooked 63C egg, Whipped Goat’s curd, Herb Salad, Chargrilled Sourdough

Truffled Braised Mushrooms w/ Fried Polenta, Salsa Verde, Red Onion Pickle, Poached Eggs

EDEN’S BACKYARD – CARLTON

Eden’s backyard is a Carlton newbie taking inspiration from the owners’ Malaysian backgrounds. At Eden’s backyard, the menu is positively sinful, with dessert lovers appeased with all sorts of sugary goodness. The matcha latte is shaped as a cute lil bear . The ‘special’s menu presents  ‘Abang Apam’ Malaysian crepes, scattered with an Oreo crumb, green tea ice cream, mixed berry crumble and the fluffiest melt-in-the-mouth fairy floss. If savoury is your calling, you will  instantly be drawn to the duck quesadilla in all its cheesy goodness. If comfort food and cheat day is on your agenda, this Carlton cafe will tick all boxes. We look forward to seeing more creative Malaysian influences!

Duck Quesadilla w/ Roast Duck Fillet, Caramelised Onion, Roasted Pepper, Mozzarella

Abang Apam Crepes – Malaysian Style Crepes w/ Green Tea Ice Cream, mixed Berries, Oreo Peanut Crumb, Fairy Floss

KITTY BURNS – ABBOTSFORD

Kitty Burns awakens ‘The Village’ – a new apartment complex, stone’s throw away from the bustling Victoria St.  Surrounding gum trees provide a hidden oasis, look outside and you may be tempted to sing Burke’s backyard.  Head Chef Aaron Duffy has created an intriguing menu. The Arnold Bennett Omelette is ideal for fish lovers, slow poached, smoked and drizzled with a bechamel and aerated hollandaise sauce. Meat lovers will gravitate towards the Mr Burns, the culprit words – ‘ slab of bacon’. Not a slice, not a sliver, a slab. The Truffle Mac & Cheese croquettes are an irresistible side. Slice the crumbed cigars open, to reveal an orgasmic filling of mac & cheese. With hints of truffle, this dish is a must-order. Sweet options include the multi-coloured french toast, with artful dollops of fruity gels, runny chocolate and a whipped coffee ganache. The instaworthy dishes are no doubt the Eton Mess and the coconut chia pudding. Not merely pretty, they’re lighter options when one is trying to be ‘good’.

Truffle Mac & Cheese Croquettes

THE GLASS DEN – COBURG

The Glass Den is located at the old Pentridge Prison. The historic location, built in 1850, is now the site of housing developments. The towering bluestone facade remains, in a juxtaposition against the cheery pastels of modern townhouses. The gatehouse of the notorious ‘D-division’ is now the dainty location of The Glass Den. These days, it’s a far cry from prison bars. The appearance resembles a greenhouse, with rustic remnants of prison decor, suspended greenery and alchemy inspired knick knacks. Far from the imposing blue walls, it’s airy, fairy and light.  In this unique location, you will find brunchers voluntarily locked up. The flavoursome food and intricate plating, knocking our socks off. Sweet-tooths will adore the Glass Den, with hotcakes the size of your face, signature French Toast and toppings that resemble radioactive slime. The green tea mascarpone is subtle in sweetness, against the decadence of the rich chocolate mud-cake. The menu at the Glass Den goes beyond simple brunch fare. Finish your calorie laden meal, with a stroll around Pentridge.

KUU – SOUTH MELBOURNE

‘ Kuu ‘ in Japanese means to eat. Boy, do we love to eat. The philosophy at Kuu is simple – to serve authentic Japanese cuisine, that reflects the essence of the island nation.  Ochazuke is simple dish made by pouring a Dashi broth over a mound of brown rice, adorned with scatterings of nori seaweed, smoked trout and sesame seeds. Poured like tea, Kuu is the only place in Melbourne we’ve come across, that serves Ochazuke.  Cast your eyes to the sweet cabinet and admire the matcha flavoured sweets. The white chocolate ganache matcha cake led to substantial foodgasms.  If you cannot travel to Japan on a whim, consider Kuu in South Melbourne for a taste of authenticity.

Smoked Trout Ochazuke – Brown riced w/ Dashi Broth, smoked Trout, Sesame Seeds, Nori Seedweed

White Chocolate Ganache Matcha Cake

MAMMOTH – ARMADALE

At Mammoth the food infinitely goes beyond standard brunch fare. Sure, there are classics such as avo on toast for the traditionalists. But can’t you order that anywhere?  Every dish has a touch of inspiration that elevates the norm to an exciting level. Simple eggs? No, eggs are bruleed with thin strips of pickled zucchini. Creamy benedict? Yes, but Mammoth’s version comes with duck sausage, the most circular fried egg in existence and a Blini (a Russian savoury inspired pancake). The spanner crab egg crepe, strikingly blackened with squid ink, served with a tangy scoop of lemon sorbet and an artful net of crunchy noodles. The talk of the town? The lobster doughnut burger. Mammoth has certainly set the bar high, with food that is both tasty and inventive.

Lobster Donut Burger w/ Green Mango, Papaya Slaw, Cucumber Jam, Siracha Kimpi Mayo

Golden Gaytime Pannacotta w/ Honeycomb, Sable Biscuit, Chocolate Coated Popping candy

MJR TOM – COLLINGWOOD

Looking beyond the traditional egg and bacon, MJR’s menu is latin inspired with pan-Asian twists. The Asian-inspired blue swimmer crab omelette, arrives with scatterings of crispy black quinoa, with a fluffy omelette encasing the seafood within. The banana hot dog is the elephant on the menu. Not quite savoury, not quite sweet – the result is nothing but delicious. Smothered in smoked Scamorza cheese, bacon pieces and those delicious crispy bits you find at the end of a toastie, who knew that bacon, cheese and banana would be the best of friends. If you ever find yourself meandering between those Messina queues, the sport outlets or just looking for a bite to eat, visit MJR on Smith Street for a spot of inventive brunch.

Blue Swimmer Crab Omelette w/ Crisp Black Quinoa, Papaya, Watercress, Vietnamese Mint, Cashews, Chilli Jam

Banana Hot Dog – Roasted Banana w/ Bacon lardons, Smoked Scamorza, Arepa, Toasted Marmalade, Brazil Nut Shavings, Chilli & Coriander Salsa

PAVLOV’S DUCK – FITZROY

Pavlov’s Duck was an accidental discovery from a walk on Smith St, leading us to the reinvigorated menu inspired by the flavours of Sri Lankan cuisine. At first glance, apart from a few menu items, it looked like any ol’ brunch cafe menu, but you’d be surprised to find some Sri Lankan influence in something as simple as a croissant. Pavlov’s pumpkin and chia seed pancakes are unbelievably sweet, with pumpkin being the predominant flavour. The orange mounds are topped with coconut sambol. On weekends and public holidays, a seemingly ‘aged’ food cart serves hoppers fresh to order. These bowl-shaped Sri Lankan pancakes – traditionally eaten for breakfast is adapted for the brunch scene. One of the best underrated openings this year.

Fish & Potato Fritters w/ Avocado Aioli, Coconut, Lemon, Fresh Herbs, Poached Egg

Prawn Omelette Hopper

SQUARE AND COMPASS – EAST MELBOURNE

Square and Compass brings along a similar concept to it’s Northcote sister, where open spaces and health conscious ingredients retain their popularity. The menu is simplistic, the lustiest option being the SA Rock Lobster roll. A soft brioche bun sandwiches big chunks of lobster and crunchy green mango in a Sriracha Mayo.The leek omelette was a standout, brought to life with scatterings of pecorino and hazelnut. Simple, but very satisfying. A range of freshly baked tarts, pastries and smoothies are also available if you’re feeling peckish.

S.A Rock Lobster Roll w/ Sriracha Mayo, Green Mango, Coriander, Lime

Omelette w/ Chargrilled Leek, Pecorino, Hazelnut

THREE MONKEY’S PLACE – DONCASTER

Eastsiders will be pleased that a new local has come to town. Despite its jovial name, Three Monkeys Place takes the breakfast game seriously. Quirky components such as tea marbled eggs, squid ink pasta and pickled octopus make appearances. With dish titles such as ‘Under The Sea’, the inspiration is centred around seafood and Asian influence. Dessert came in the form of roti pancakes. Golden brown, puffed up, and sandwiching chunks of banana and mixed berries. For a touch of quirkiness and artful plating – visit Three Monkeys Place for a tasty and inventive menu. It’s a standout for the outer eastern suburbs.

Housed Cured Beets & Thyme Salmon w/ Fennel Salad, Horseradish Cream Cheese, Rosti, Poached Egg

Roti Pancakes w/ Strawberries, Banana, Mixed Berries, Mascarpone, Canadian Maple Crumble 

THE VERTUE OF THE COFFEE DRINK – CARLTON

A seemingly dilapidated white door opens to reveal a modern interior and a gleaming new coffee roaster with copper plumbing, churning out freshly roasted coffee beans. A very impressive interior, where open spaces and natural lighting is king. The Scotch Eggs wrapped in sausage meat, coated in a textured crumb, reveals an oozy golden yolk within.The shredded slow-cooked lamb was alive with Meditteranean flavours. A rustic winner that reminded me of an open kebab mixed with Tabouleh, Dukkah and Tahini. The menu is innovative and tasty at Vertue of the Coffee Drink. If you’re an avid coffee lover or a fan of brunch (who isn’t), this modern Carlton cafe is a definite crowd pleaser.

Scotch Eggs w/ Piccalilli Mayonnaise, Onion Marmalade, Crispy Pig Skin, Brioche Soldiers

Eight Hour Lamb Shoulder w/ Tabouleh, Baby Broccoli, Dukkah, Tahini

VINCENT THE DOG – CARLTON

Don’t know what to name your cafe? Name it after your dog. Sheltered from the hustle and bustle of the Italian district, this cosy brunch cafe has settled nicely on the suburban lawns of Carlton. With an unassuming exterior, a closer examination of the menu reveals some interesting finds. Chinese doughnuts arrive stuffed with Mozarella cheese, balanced by the acidity of picked veggies and a sprinkling of pork floss.  Where else could you get this deliciousness in Melbourne? If you happen to journey to Vincent The Dog. Skip the traditional brunch fare and choose one of the interesting menu options.

Chinese Doughnuts w/ pork floss, stuffed with Cheese

Fox Glacier Heli Hike

There aren’t many places in the world that remain untouched. Sure, NYC skyscrapers can make you break out into ‘Empire State of Mind’. Remnants of the ancient past speak of humanities achievements – the good and the ugly. But mother nature, nothing beats the power of mother nature. The pristine beauty of glacial carved valleys, the grandeur of majestic snow-capped mountains, all jaw-droppingly beautiful. It’s why the South Island of New Zealand is one of my favourite places in the world. Yes, I’m a little bit biased being a Lord of the Rings fan, but it’s so much more than merry Gandalf and the hobbits. If pristine untouched beauty is what you’re after, visiting New Zealand’s glaciers is the ultimate dream come true.  Without further ado, let me introduce you to Fox Glacier.

Location

Fox Glacier is located within Westland National Park, a region abundant with high mountains and glaciers. With global warming and natural advancement, Fox glacier is quickly subsiding at a rate of 1 metre a year. It may not seem much, but the terminal face of the glacier has pretty much collapsed. Parts of the glacier that were accessible in the past, are no longer safe. Franz Josef Glacier is also nearby for a similar experience, but Fox Glacier has less crowds due to its inaccessibility.

Seeing the Glacier

There are two options to see the glacier.

  1. Lower Ice fall hike – The first option is to take a hike to the lower icefall, alongside the temperature rainforest and fox river. To be honest, the lower icefall is rather sludgy and dirty and a disappointing viewpoint of Fox Glacier.
  2. Heli-hike – For a truly spectacular viewing of Fox Glacier, I recommend taking a Heli-hike onto the upper icefall. This was my favourite experience in New Zealand, and who doesn’t like a helicopter ride? Experienced guides with their manly pick axes, will take small groups at a time to the upper icefall, where the ice is pristine and brilliantly blue.

Cost:  $399 NZD

The cost is steep, but it is a once in a lifetime experience. I would rank this as one the best things I’ve ever done! If you can’t part with your wallet while travelling, you might as well not travel at all!

The Heli- Hike

We joined the friendly folks at Fox Glacier Guiding for a professionally guided hike. The tour starts off doing the obligatory weigh-ins and disclaimers. You will be provided with sturdy boots, thick socks and a backpack. A mini-van will then take you to the helicopter base and you’re ready for an amazing adventure! Your pilot will fly over the lower and upper icefalls, providing a unique vantage point like no other. In groups of four, you will slowly disembark the helicopter and you will be promptly provided with crampons i.e ice cleats tied around your boots, that allow you to walk on the ice. You didn’t think you would be walking on a glacier with normal boots did you ;)?[/vc_column_text]

Your experienced guide will carve out a safe route for you to walk on. Just follow the leader and I mean FOLLOW the leader. Never, ever walk away from the group. Ice can be exceptionally deceiving, the strength and integrity often unknown. In terms of length – the hike lasts for approximately 4-5 hours at a relaxed pace, nothing too strenuous.

Now for the really fun part! Your guide will walk you through incredible ice cave formations, showing you towering pinnacles of ice and deep ice crevasses. The opportunity to walk through an ice cave is a rare and exciting experience. The pristine blue of the ice caves is beyond captivating. Sections of the ice caves are claustrophobically narrow, with mini-streams of melted glacial water underneath. At times, you will find yourself squeezing between narrow walls, sliding your derriere against the ice to fit through. Be sure to pack waterproof clothing!

The sign of human presence is kept minimal on Fox Glacier. Guides have planted ropes here and there to help hikers conquer the icy terrain. Pick axes have also been used to carve temporary ‘stairs’. This allows hikers to climb down into big crevasses, to view mini-glacial waterfalls and streams. Feel free to capture the water in your bottle, you will never taste water as pure or clean.

After 4 hours of exploration, the helicopter will take you back to base. Grasp the fact, that you have been standing on a moving surface, formed through millions of years of geological movement, kinda mind blowing isn’t it? The guys at Fox Glacier Guiding, know how to create a memorable experience. Book this tour, I promise you no regrets.

Final Tips

  • Bring sunglasses. On a sunny day, the reflection of the sun’s rays against the white, can be glaringly distracting.
  • Wear waterproof clothing. Definitely no denim.
  • Wear warm clothing, but not too much. In summer, it can get quite hot.
  • Bring a water bottle, to drink some of that glacial water.
  • Bring your camera for stunning shots. These were taken with a crappy Digital camera, imagine what you could do with an SLR.
  • Follow your guide like a hawk.
  • Have an amazing time!!

10 Reasons To Date A Girl Who Loves To Travel

Have you ever met or dated a charming gal who thrives on adventures and travel? Whether you are a casual traveler or an experienced backpacking superstar, dating a girl who loves to travel can be a blissfully sweet and intrinsically romantic ride that you will surely cherish for years to come. From having interesting and meaningful chats to experiencing a ton of breathtaking outdoor escapes, there are plenty of perks in dating a girl who enjoys traveling. As a matter of fact, she can still leave a positive mark in your life, even if your relationship doesn’t work out.

Honestly, I’m no expert, when it comes to dating and love, but I must say having her around could be one of the best things that will ever happen in your life. With her adventurous spirit, unique charm and positive outlook, she’s truly a one-of-a-kind girl who can enthrall you in a lot of different ways.

She’s intelligent and witty

There are no dull moments whenever she’s around you. Whether she is sharing stories of her awe-inspiring treks across the Asia Pacific or urging you to go on a scenic trip in Tuscany, she will always finda way to amuse and enthrall you. What’s more, she has an irresistible charisma and wit to make your conversations more engaging and fun.

Girls who thrive on traveling are usually inquisitive, curious and intelligent. After all, traveling the world is an incredible way to learn more about history, geography, different cultures and even politics. With passion and the enthusiasm, she can talk to you for hours about her epic adventure and trips overseas.

Life is fun and exciting with her

When your life starts to head towards the mundane, she’ll come with a great getaway that will bring some excitement and bliss into your life. She is going to open her travel planner, plan your trip, and have your flights and budget sorted out. Afterwards, she’ll take you to a place where you have never been to, and help you discover a bunch of new things that can spice up your life.

She’s also a kind of girl who can easily recognize every opportunity for fun and adventure. She’s always willing to try something unusual and new with you, whether at home or on a foreign destination. As far as I’m concerned, a girl who loves to travel has a sense of adventure that’s essentially limitless, meaning you will never get bored whenever you’re with her.

She is not materialistic

You won’t have to buy her an iPhone or a piece of glittering jewelry, to make her happy or impress her. She’s an unpretentious girl who enjoys the simple treats and pleasures in life. While other girls go nuts over the latest gadgets and fashion trends, she finds joy in gazing at magnificent landscapes, glorious sunsets, and historic sites as well as meeting local folks.

She is open-minded

With her as your dating partner, you can be as crazy and weird as you want to be. Furthermore, she won’t judge you for all the not-so usual things that you want to do. She has immersed herself into many cultures, which means she’s open-minded. Instead of looking at other people and places as weird, she simply views them as something different.

She’s adaptable

Tons of wrong turns, bad street food, untidy restrooms, missed flights and delays have helped transform her into a strong and adaptable person. Trust me, she is unlike most drama queens in your high school, and she’s literally and metaphorically ready for any bumps and roadblocks along the way. With tons of travel experiences under belt, she can definitely adapt to any situation life throws at her.

Excellent money management skills

Having problems managing your finances? I suggest that you try to get an honest and helpful piece of advice from a girl who loves traveling. She may not be as rich as Taylor Swift or Beyonce, but she is quite prolific in money management. Years of traveling have taught her how to spend money wisely, and how to extend her budget as far as she can. Plus, she can find handful of ways to generate funds when she’s on the road.

Your family and friends will like her

Have you ever bumped into traveler or a backpacker who’s unfriendly and shy? With years of experience on the road talking to foreign strangers, a girl who loves to travel has the ability and confidence to make friends with any person anywhere and in any situation. She has excellent social skills, and she won’t have a tough time befriending your best friend or sister.

She’ll leave a lasting positive mark in your life

She’s a kind of woman who can change your world for better. She’s will make your life a lot more exciting, and help you become a well-rounded person. In addition, she will introduce you to a plethora of new ideas and theories that will make you a little wiser.

She has an adventurous soul

Are you into thrills and adrenaline-pumping adventures? If your answer is a big and resounding “yes”, then make sure to date a girl who loves to travel. As with most travelers, she’s a type of person who’s always up for blast, and rarely says no to new and fun experiences, making her the perfect candidate for a guy who’s looking for a gleeful and adventurous partner.

Want to go on a skydiving adventure in Dubai? Planning on going on a whitewater rafting trip along Colorado River? For me, she’s an adventurous partner who wants to try everything that is listed on your bucket list.

She will push you out of your comfort zone

A girl who loves to travel will take you to exotic places that are way beyond your comfort zone. Likewise, she will do her darn best to make your trips extra challenging and adventurous. And guess what? Every challenge that she brings will not only enhance your life, but it will also let your discover our beautiful world from a different perspective. And did I mention that stepping outside your comfort zone will add a dose of fun and excitement in your life?

Blue Fox Cafe – Kew

Blue Fox Cafe makes traditional brunch look boring. The brand spanking new sister cafe of Liar Liar, brings a touch of inventiveness to the streets of Kew. Gone are the days of traditional bacon and eggs. Out comes the chef tools – smoking guns, 65 degree eggs, coconut ‘snow’ – is it just me or is Melbourne brunch stupendously gourmet, compared to other countries? The cafe is part of the Coffee Culture Communications Group, which also owns Melbourne favourites: Addict Food & Coffee, Sir Charles and Prospect Espresso. Now that’s an impressive portfolio.

The visual spectacle at Blue Fox begins with the big boy toys. A smoky jar arrives on the table and we known we’re in for some hocus pocus chef magic. Small cubes of trout are infused with natural smoky flavours. In the absence of heat, the gorgeous pink flesh picks up the smokey flavour, adding a degree of complexity to the tartare. The saltiness is refined, with a oozy 63 degree egg. The yellow yolk seeps through the trout cutting through the salt. We spooned the tartare onto the chargrilled sourdough, a heavenly combination of smoke vs smoke. This is definitely no run of the mill brunch dish.For vegetarians and mushroom lovers, consider the truffle braised mushrooms served with dollops of zesty salsa verde, pillowy soft polenta and the acidity of a red onion pickle. We added a side of hash because potato… do we need any other reason? The taste of peas were vibrant in the fritters. The oval masses sitting on a bed of minted pea puree and scatterings of wasabi peas for a touch of heat. For dude food, the buttermilk fried chicken is a sight to behold. Served with heavenly truffle parmesan fries, the cheesy crispiness makes these hard to share. The mango hotcakes served with coconut snow and pandan syrup makes for an irresistible description. Alas, there was no room for dessert, next time, Blue Fox! Blue Fox joins the ranks of Melbourne cafes that are raising the bar. The simplistic interior of golden hues and pastel blues, is completely deceiving to the complexity within. Not settling for standard fare, the menu goes beyond traditional breakfast to create an exciting dining experience.

Uncle & Jak – Fitzroy

Uncle & Jak covers all bases on the quieter end of Johnston St. Every Melbournian knows that Fitzroy is the place to go for serious coffee and good food – its brunch utopia. Uncle & Jak is no different, with its white-washed brick walls, hanging geometric prisms and a menu that dances between modern and traditional.  The vibe is more relaxed compared to its busier cousins up the road. It’s a place to settle down with friends, fan-girling over the latest Star Wars – which incidentally, we enthusiastically participated with our friendly waitress.  A nice change from having someone breathe down your neck, because they want your seat. At Uncle & Jak, there’s all the traditional what-nots : fritters, scrambled eggs, big breakfasts. General consensus? Flavours are good, but apart from the cured salmon, I feel there could be a  tad more inventiveness to liven up the menu. It’s Fitzroy after all.

Having just returned from a trip to Hawaii, there was nothing more satisfying than plunging my face into an epic pile of chilli scrambled eggs. We’ve become increasingly accustomed and expectant of good brunch, that when Melbournians travel overseas, it feels as if we’re travelling back to the 90s. We’re a spoilt bunch aren’t we? The Chilli scramble is mild in heat and spectacular in appearance. Shavings of aged manchego cheese, land like a snowstorm on bursts of red. The cherry tomatoes bursting with cool freshness, the chorizo adding much needed saltiness. Consider the citrus cured NZ King Salmon,  meticulously plated with beetroot 3-ways. Reminiscent of the flavours of fall, the earthiness of the beetroot compliments the freshness of the NZ King Salmon and the mildness of the triangular polenta. The appearance resembles an autumn vegetable bed. Chunks of deep purple beetroot sit amongst whipped goat’s feta. A smear of beetroot runs across the plate and thin slices cut through the end result.  If you’re looking for a less heavy option, choose this fresh and artsy dish.

You’d think that Fitzroy would eventually explode with cafes, but nope, there’s another good one to join the ranks.  For a relaxed brunch, head over to Uncle & Jak for a mix of tradition and playfulness.

Chilli Scramble w/ Burst Cherry Tomatoes, Chorizo, Wild Roquette, Aged Manchego Cheese 

Uncle & Jak

DIN TAI FUNG, MELBOURNE – A FIRST LOOK

Welcome to Melbourne, Din Tai Fung! (affectionately known as DTF) Unless you reside under a rock, DTF’s signature xiao long baos have arrived at the Emporium. Originating from Taiwan, the iconic dumpling chain has gathered fans worldwide, opening franchises globally. Sydney was lucky enough to secure the first Australian location. With a creative menu and world-famous dumplings, it’s easy to see why the brand has gathered substantial fanfare.

THE KITCHEN

The art of making the perfect Xiao Long Bao is a precise process. Picking up these soupy parcels of deliciousness will reveal a paper-thin translucent skin, constructed with meticulous detail (eighteen folds more or less). It’s that Asian precision that has made this dumpling chain world-famous. That silky smooth skin, stuffed with piping hot soup and premium minced pork, it’s worth every single calorie.The secret to the soup? It’s actually solidified jelly that melts at steaming temperatures.

HE DISHES

Admittedly, it’s not all about Xiao Long Bao. The Truffle Pork dumplings (OMGAwsh truffle) will satisfy the gourmands. A must order for truffle lovers. The pineapple prawns, dressed in creamy mayonnaise and pineapple were an ideal balance of sweet and savoury. The mango shrimp roll arrived with big chunks of fresh mango encased in a crunchy crumb. Unfortunately, the crab roe dumplings sold out, but DFT’s version of soupy Shao Mao were a worthy replacement.

HE VERDICT

Overall Verdict? It’s busy, incredibly busy. Melbournians, we love to eat. We love to queue. Did I mention that we love to queue? Without a doubt, I expected this chain to explode with popularity and explode it did… Wait times on opening night were 45 minutes. Wait times on the second opening night were 1.5 -2 hours. Despite a seating capacity of 235, these numbers are pretty mind-blowing. It seems the whole of Melbourne are Din Tai Fung devotees. There was so much more we wanted to taste, but alas, we’ve only got one stomach. In comparison, the international chains have a slight edge, but they’re still better than anything you can find in Melbourne. Consider the following:

  • There are no bookings;
  • If you find queues abhorrent, wait for the hype to die down (it’ll be awhile);
  • Lunch times on weekdays are less busy;
  • To beat the queues, arrive before opening time (11:00 -11:30 am) and before the after work crowd;
  • The rainbow gems are limited in stock (arrive earlier during the day for a taste);
  • Complete the crossword for a free Mango pudding;
  • Collect a buzzer from front-of-desk, this will vibrate when your table is ready. Tick off the menu whilst you wait, now standby for those funky vibrations.

Final words – Asian franchises are known for horrid service, but the staff at DTF exceeded expectations. Dealing with massive crowds, whilst remaining courteous and patient was beyond impressive. Big kudos to the DTF team. Please also note, that Hungrycookie doesn’t normally queue, but the first DTF in Melbourne is a worthy exception.

Hong Kong Waffles at Humble Rays

Humble Rays doesn’t need a slice of humble pie. Despite the pastel blue walls telling diners to ‘Stay hungry and be humble’, Humble Rays’ food is far from humility. It’s loud and proud. Colourful and vibrant. Owners Gough and Tinee, packed up their suitcases, moving from the much-loved ‘ Honey Badger’  in Hobart, to the rugged streets of Melbourne. Walking distance from The University of Melbourne, I wish Humble Rays was around when I was a ‘studious’ youngster. It certainly would’ve made University life more tolerable. On the weekends, its a quiet affair, relying on locals and the instagram crowd to fill the tables. Once semester hits, it’ll be a different story. No doubt,  it will peak the interest of many millennial, mac yielding, foodies. 

Humble Rays’ menu is succinctly different from neighbouring cafes in the Carlton area. The Asian background of the owners (specifically Thai) has prominently influenced the menu. Aspects of Honey Badger have made it to Humble Rays, with dessert featuring heavily. The skookie is a cookie baked in a cast iron skillet with melted marshmallows and toppings to make you swoon. One of the few places in Melbourne to serve Hong Kong waffles, the airy bubbly appearance distinguishes the HK version from the western counterpart. Elements of sweet and savoury, integrate to produce a fun-loving dish. Shavings of white chocolate, crispy crumbs of black sesame, crunchy peanut praline, creamy coconut ice cream, balanced with the saltiness of a salted egg and sea salt caramel sauce. It’s exceedingly tasty.

The drink menu is novel, with pops of mango and raspberry pearls. The gassy drinks, are ideal for warm summer days. Hojicha is one of my favourite drinks – similar to a matcha latte, the tea leaves are roasted to dispense a smooth smoky nuance.

For meaty indulgence, the egg benny celebrates pork, with a Japanese twist. Instead of a hash brown, you will find a miso potato korokke. Instead of a generic hollandaise, this one has yuzu incorporated. The Citrus cured salmon is beautifully plated. Taste wise, its rather soggy and bland. The halloumi lacking salt, which the dish, is in dire need of.

Dessert is king at Humble Ray’s. From the pornographic melted marshmallows of the skookie, to the dredge of caramel sauce lacing the HK waffles, there is no way in the world I’ll be quitting sugar.Egg Benny – Ginger Braised Pork Belly w/ Miso Potato Korokke, Poached Egg, Yuzu hollandaise, Chilli Bacon Jam, Parsley Crumb

Slow Cooked Sticky Brisket Beef w/ Stout Onion chutney, Cheddar, Sauteed Mushrooms, Smoked Bacon Jam on Brioche Bun

PAVLOV’S DUCK – FITZROY

avlov’s Duck was an accidental discovery from a walk on Smith St, leading us to the reinvigorated menu inspired by the flavours of Sri Lankan cuisine. At first glance, apart from a few menu items, it looked like any ol’ brunch cafe menu, but you’d be surprised to find some Sri Lankan influence in something as simple as a croissant.Sri Lankan food is a rich melting pot of cuisines – with influences from its colonial heritage to the aromatic spices and herbs that we’ve all come to love.  Vibrant murals of Victorian buildings, along with scatterings of wooden ducks, made us want to settle down with a Beatrix Potter book in hand.

Pumpkin & Chia Seed Pancakes w/ Spinach, Lentil, Coconut Sambol, Chorizo, Pickled Chilli

Pavlov’s pumpkin and chia seed pancakes are unbelievably sweet, with pumpkin being the predominant flavour. The orange mounds are topped with coconut sambol (Sri Lankan dessicated coconut mixed with spices), pickled chilli, spinach and a rather salty piece of chorizo. Eaten together, the dish is wonderfully balanced.

Fish & Potato Fritters w/ Avocado Aioli, Coconut, Lemon, Fresh Herbs, Poached Egg

This is one of the best brunch dishes we’ve had this year. It’s a big call, but we adored these fish and potato fritters. Beautifully plated with an elevated papadum and three spherical balls of fish and potato fritters, its appearance is certainly gourmet. Sitting upon a bed of coconut, fresh herbs and an avocado aioli – the resulting mixture added a hint of spice that made this dish beyond delicious.

Prawn Omelette Hopper

On weekends and public holidays, a seemingly ‘aged’ food cart serves hoppers fresh to order. These bowl-shaped Sri Lankan pancakes – traditionally eaten for breakfast is adapted for the brunch scene. Served in a woven basket with banana leaves, our prawn omelette hopper reminded us of Vietnamese banh xeo. Fragrant and light, a tad more seasoning would’ve elevated the dish to tastier levels.

Pavlov's Duck

Super Smoothie of the Week

For the paleo nerds and organic devotees, never fear, the menu is also slanted towards your guilt free needs.  A range of super smoothies changes weekly and sweet treats come in the form of raw, organic, vegan, dairy free etc.

The name Pavlov reminds us of University psychology days, discussing classical conditioning with Ivan’s unfortunate drooling dog. We can confidently say, that merely looking at the picture of those spherical balls of perfection – aka the potato and fish fritters, has conditioned us to salivate extensively. If you ever find yourself meandering between those Messina queues, the sport outlets or just looking for a bite to eat, visit Pavlov’s Duck on Smith Street for a spot of Sri Lankan inspired brunch. One of the best new openings this year.