Where has the year gone? It’s a worn cliché, but as I sit here writing, the end of June approaching, that’s exactly what’s going through my head. As is the case every year, I’ve eaten at quite a few places that I never reviewed for some reason or another. A lot of new restaurants have opened up in Melbourne in the first half of 2014, far more than any one person could hope to try in such a short time. Add to this older restaurants still on the “to try” list and favourites that always warrant multiple visit’s and there’s no denying that Melbourne diners have been spoiled for choice so far this year.
Here are some of the places that I’ve been to over the past 6 months that I didn’t review but are worth talking about.
Maddox is a really refreshing breakfast and lunch spot in that it’s menu is all about doing simple things well. Great ingredients and tasty dishes are what Maddox is all about. It’s run by Perth expats Marsha Salam and Brendon Jamesh. Salam spent his childhood in Qatar and there are occasional flourishes of this influence on the menu be it a certain ingredient here or use of a certain spice there. My tip, get something that involves the eggs. You can always tell how dedicated a place is to quality produce by its eggs, and the organic free range eggs used at Maddox were perfectly gooey with a beautiful golden yolk.
Unlike some of the newer places in the area who have fallen for their own hype, Maddox keeps plugging along doing what they do best. Service is excellent, the vibe is welcoming, and the food is great.
295 Sydney Road
Telephone: (03) 9041 5650
Tue – Sat: 8:00am to 4:00pm
Sun: 9:00am to 4:00pm
I’d heard a lot of good things about Bar Nacional, this San Sebastian tapas inspired venue in Docklands has some big names behind it. I organised a group function here and we ordered a decent selection of the most popular dishes. The charcuterie selection is excellent and the meats that are cooked in the 400 degree Celsius wood-fired Josper oven are sublime. The pork belly was one of my favourites.
The desserts at Bar Nacional are great too. I didn’t expect that they’d be so creative. This dessert below had a maize cream, shaped like corn and popcorn ice cream amongst other things. It tasted great.
Bar Nacional does enough right to warrant venturing down to Docklands. Bring some friends, order a range of dishes from the menu and you won’t be disappointed.
727 Collins Street
Telephone: (03) 9252 7999
Mon – Fri: 7:30am to 10:00pm
Sugardough Panificio and Patisserie is exactly what a little neighbourhood cafe should be. A great selection of breakfast and lunch options, excellent coffee and a very extensive selection of Italian and French cakes and pastries are what’s on offer at Sugardough. The bomboloni use the same recipe as was used by the Italian patisserie that used to be here and it’s one of the things that Sugardough is famous for. Traditional Italian custard, chocolate or Nutella filled dense doughnuts is what they are and they are delicious.
To top things off Sugardough bakes a range of breads daily. The bread is great quality, and it’s where I often get my bread from. The fruit slice is one of the best going around and the sourdough and ciabatta are both brilliant too.
163 Lygon Street
Telephone: (03) 9380 4060
Tue – Fri: 7:30am to 5:00pm
Sat: 7:30am to 4:00pm
Sun: 8:00am to 4:00pm
Jinda Thai has been popular since it opened and it’s no surprise as to why. It’s hidden laneway location opens up to reveal a large, exposed brick former warehouse dining room and it’s a very vibrant place. There’s usually a wait of about half an hour at Jinda but it’s worth it. There is a very extensive menu of authentic Thai dishes that span the entire country and everything that I’ve tried (I’ve been a few times over the past 6 months) has tasted great.
The whole menu is available as takeaway and the one time I ordered takeaway I was very impressed by the way that everything was packed. It’s a detail that surprisingly many restaurants overlook when doing takeaway. At Jinda all of the important components of the dishes that needed to be kept separate until eating were separated and anything that had a risk of spilling was individually bagged after being put into a container. It’s this kind of attention to detail that’s apparent in everything that Jinda does and it’s become one of my favourites in 2014.
3-7 Ferguson Street
Telephone: (03) 9419 5899
Mon – Sun: 11:00am to 11:00pm
Located at the warehouse that’s up the stairs at the back of Los Barbudos Bar, Jabili’s Kitchen is Tanzanian born, Australian raised chef Jabili Mchawala’s modern African food truck, Australian style. A small range of dishes are on offer with some hitting the mark more so than others. The menu’s not set in stone – when I went with a group of friends our pick was the lamb tacos and the za’atar crisps.
Rear of Los Barbudos Bar
95 & 97B Smith Street
Telephone: 0421 483 464
Mon – Sat: 5:00pm to 10:00pm
Sun: 4:00pm to 10:00pm
Brunswick Street Alimentary
Brunswick Street Alimentary has been around since 1998 and had been on my list of places to try since I arrived in Melbourne 2 and a half years ago. I finally got around to trying it a little while ago and I was very impressed. My wife ordered the charcuterie board and I ordered the pork lasagne. These are typical of the kind of things that are available on the menu. Classic Italian dishes – no nonsense. When our dishes came out we were surprised at the serving sizes. The lasagne in particular was huge (that’s a big plate in the picture below). The food was great and the space is very homely – in fact the space appears to have been a house originally.
A small range of Italian products as well as a selection of sandwiches and take away precooked meals is also available, with a larger range being found at the more recently opened Smith Street Alimentary nearby, which has as its focus the takeaway side of things rather than the dine in side of things which is the focus at Brunswick Street.
Brunswick Street Alimentary
251 Brunswick Street
Telephone: (03) 9416 2001
Mon – Sun: 8:00am to 6:00pm
Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio
This place needs no introduction. Famous for their innovative desserts that fuse science and cooking to create some amazing things, B&P’s popularity was further enhanced by Darren Purchese’s multiple Masterchef apperances. Walking into the store on Chapel Street is, excuse the obvious reference, like being a kid in a candy shop. You can’t help but be wowed by the colours and smells of the fresh cakes as well as the extensive range of chocolates, jams and other products on offer. A glass dividing wall lets customers see what’s going on it the kitchen too.
Thankfully it’s not all smokes and mirrors and the end product is just as good as one would hope. My wife surprised me with a selection of mini cakes from B&P for my 30th birthday party last year and they didn’t disappoint. Highly recommended.
Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio
647 Chapel Street
Telephone: (03) 9827 7060
Mon – Sun: 10:00am to 6:30pm
Nuoc Mama’s is a Vietnamese street food truck that pops up in locations all over Melbourne. Like a lot of the food trucks that are serving food around this city, Nuoc Mama’s has thrown the rule book out the window and are serving the kind of food that they want to service, with authenticity coming from the ingredients rather than any specific recipes. For example, one of the highlights is the banh mi which you can get with a generous helping of kimchi if you’d like. Authentic Vietnamese? No. Delicious? Yes.
Having said that, on any given day there can be some very authentic dishes on offer that are very much like what you can find on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City. With a dedication to quality ingredients and mixing and matching flavours that work well together, Nuoc Mama’s has become one of my favourite food trucks in Melbourne.
Telephone: 0423 346 205
Lau’s Family Kitchen
Gilber Lau, formerly of Flower Drum, brings a more home style Cantonese flavour to Lau’s Family Kitchen. I’d heard good things and was keen to check it out when I was in this part of town a little while back. The menu is primarily Cantonese focused however there are some other dishes available too, for example the Singapore noodles that I had. On the plus side, the noodles were very tasty and I had no trouble polishing off the generous serving however there was no denying that with this dish had been tamed somewhat for western pallets (and yes I appreciate the irony of my statement considering the origins of this dish). Also the food was priced on the high side compared to what else is available when it comes to East Asian food in Melbourne.
Lau’s Family Kitchen
4 Acland Street
Telephone: (03) 8598 9880
Mon – Sun: 12:00pm to 3:00pm; 6:00am to 10:00pm
Smith & Daughters
Clearly I’m not vegetarian, let along vegan however I was intrigued to see what Mo Wyse and Shannon Martinez’s take on Mexican/Spanish vegan cuisine was all about. Overall, I was really impressed. The highlights were the dishes that didn’t try to replicate meat but were vegan in their own rights. The enchiladas pictured above that used cashew “cheese” and were stuffed with seitan and kale were very tasty.
Service was great, and when it came to my wife’s nut allergy the staff were very accommodating, modifying dishes as much as possible and, in the case of the doughnuts, actually substituting the usual almond milk for soy milk in the batter itself. The place has a really great vibe too – very alternative rock like and super friendly. The innovative food at Smith & Daughters is well worth checking out, even if you’re not vegan.
Smith & Daughters
175 Brunswick Street
Telephone: (03) 9939 3293
Tue – Fri: 6:00pm to 1:00am
Sat: 10:00am to 3:00pm; 6:00pm to 1:00am
Sun: 10:00am to 3:00pm; 6:00pm to 11:00pm
Cedars Bakery is a Preston institution that’s been serving up Lebanese pizzas, pastries and sweets for a long, long time. The food tastes great and is very well priced. There’s also a very decent selection of Lebanese groceries for sale. In fact Cedars Bakery is just as much a grocery store as it is a baked foods shop. Check it out if you’re in the area – you really can’t go wrong and you’ll probably buy more things than you anticipated.
33-37 High Street
Telephone: (03) 9484 4999
Mon – Sun: 8:00am to 8:00pm
I went to Boston Sub primarily to check out the (not so) secret bar out the back behind the “fridge” door. The bar has a great vibe about it and there’s a decent selection of drinks, including some interesting craft beers. Food wise, you can get the food at the bar or from the regular take out counter at the front. A range of subs and takes on poutine are on offer and the food is pretty tasty. I ordered the “Nelson” which was pulled pork with apple and celeriac remoulade. The photo might not be the best but I can assure you that the flavours were great. For $10 however I was a bit disappointed at the small size. Much better value was my friend’s “Lincoln” which contained confit lamb, mint sauce & coleslaw and was filled much more generously at the same price.
On a final note, as a Western Australian I was surprised to see Matso’s mango beer listed on the drinks menu as coming from the Northern Territory because (actual response) “Broome is north right?”.
96 Chapel Street
Telephone: (03) 9939 9038
Wed – Thu: 11:00am to 12:00pm
Fri – Sat: 11:00am to 2:00pm
Sun: 11:00am to 12:00pm
Big Boy BBQ
Big Boy BBQ is an unashamed BBQ meat haven. Meat is coated with rubs and slow cooked over hickory for up to 16 hours in the authentic Texas smoker. The result, some super tender, super tasty meat. Pork, chicken, ribs, brisket, lamb – it’s all on offer here and all tastes great. A full range of sauces are on each table for added flavour. My favourite thing to order is the “Zee” Man which is a sandwich/burger with sliced beef brisket, smoked cheese, fried onion strings and BBQ sauce.
Is Big Boy the best American BBQ in Melbourne? I don’t think so but if you find yourself there, you certainly won’t be disappointed. I’ve been back several times.
Big Boy BBQ
Shop 2, 27-31 Hardware Lane
Telephone: (03) 9670 9388
Sun – Wed: 12:00pm to 9:00pm
Thu – Sat: 12:00pm to 10:00pm