The Vertue of the Coffee Drink

Melbournians are self-confessed coffee snobs, contemptuously turning up our noses at Starbucks and professing our undying love for Australian independent cafes. ‘I can’t start the day without my coffee!’, a common outcry on Monday morning, with the dawning realisation of a new working week. Coffee is integral to the Melbourne lifestyle, and with that comes a myriad of new openings with exceptional food and coffee. The Vertue of the Coffee Drink is no exception. Naturally, it’s located down a laneway (Raffa Pl).

A seemingly dilapidated white door opens to reveal a modern interior, with custom made wooden furniture, planter boxes reaching the ceiling and futuristic isometric globes from Lucretia Lightning. We sat on the mezzanine level, looking down on the beast itself – 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.

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

The Scotch Eggs wrapped in sausage meat, coated in a textured crumb, reveals an oozy golden yolk within. The tang of the Piccalilli Mayonnaise and onion marmalade was the perfect accompaniment. Who knew that Pig Skin could be so fluffy and light? It’s a far cry from the heaviness of a pork crackling.  A calorific surprise, indeed.

Scotch Eggs

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Victorian Wineries

Wine, the nectar of gods, the sustenance of soccer mums, the livelihood of sommeliers. Widespread production of our liquid friend has resulted in a multitude of Victorian wineries, making the day trip a lot more delicious.  From Mornington to Yarra Valley, Melbournians are spoilt for choice when it comes to a fancy glass of wine and great food. Highlights include Stones of the Yarra Valley and Ten Minutes by Tractor. Cheers ;).

INNOCENT BYSTANDER 

Innocent Bystander is more of a casual affair. Situated 1 hour from the Melbourne CBD in Healesville, visit Innocent Bystander for wine tastings, wood-fired pizza, artisan bakes, and cheese tasting. It really is a foodie’s dream with an all-in-one experience. The food is designed for sharing and the venue is great for group dinners. Eating next to the cellar door with it’s massive barrels of aged wine, makes for an interesting venue.

The highlight was the Goat’s curd cheesecake, gloriously smooth and tangy with fresh macerated strawberries, sprinkled with pistachios. Savoury highlights were the Ora King Salmon, cured with pastrami spices and a dollop of Horseradish cream. The Moscato cocktail with a refreshing Moscato sorbet was the perfect end to a sweat drenching day, hiking the Yarra Ranges. Did I mention a Brown Snake interrupted our hike? If anybody deserved a drink, we did :D

Pictured: Ora King Salmon Cured in Pastrami Spices and Horseradish & Wagyu Bresaola & Grilled Lamb w/ Tabouleh & Pan Fried Market Fish 

Goats Curd Cheesecake w/ Strawberry, Pistachio

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Dex2rose

Dex2rose has all the elements of a hip, trendy hangout, serving inventive gelato flavours with cold brewed coffee, nitro brews and cold pressed juices. The flavours are innovative, and complex, without overcomplicating the gelato in a way where it becomes gimmicky (Vegemite gelato… no thanks). The sweetness is balanced against quirky components and the service is akin to a friendly neighbourhood cafe. Chef and owner – Jesse, has a real passion for engaging with customers, getting their feedback and sharing his love for quality gelato. The mark of a good restauranteur is one that is receptive and open.

We sampled the following flavours:

Lazy Dinner – Sage, Burnt Butter and Caramel w/ Sticky Caramel Sauce

In a Willy Wonka-like concept, this flavour is advertised as ‘mains & dessert rolled into one’. Combining sweet with savoury, the result is utterly orgasmic. The smoothness of the gelato is one of the many benefits of using liquid nitrogen, and boy does it come out in this flavour. The subtle woodiness of the sage, combined with the velvety smoothness of the gelato, topped with sticky oozy caramel sauce was heaven. Sooooo GOOD! Who needs 50 shades of grey, when you could have 2 shades of perfect caramel. Hope this flavour stays as a regular!

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Sister Restaurants: FOMO Thai & Thaiger

FOMO and Thaiger are all about celebrating the tang and pop of Thai cuisine. Thaiger takes a casual approach, re-inventing the burger, with Asian inspired flavours. FOMO is all about traditional Thai and strong fiery flavours. Fill er’ up please (the glass of water, that is).

FOMO THAI

Thaiger’s more traditional sister, serves Thai food with a bang. Deviating from the overly sweet cuisine that is normally tailored for Western palates, Fomo doesn’t shy away from spice and tang. The ‘Crying Tiger’ is suitably named, with chargrilled beef tenderloin served with a ferocious chilli sauce. The Green Curry also packs a punch (even if you ask for a mild version). Favourite of the night was the Papaya Salad, crunchy, refreshing and a perfect accompaniment to our spicy choices. Chilli and I are normally not the best of mates, but Fomo Thai is worth the delicious pain. Plus, you can always cool the tastebuds down with a Thai Milk Tea ;).

Roasted Pork Belly Served w/ Three Specialty Condiments

Pork Belly

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Adriano Zumbo Patissier

Zumbo needs no introduction. With Masterchef appearances and flocks of fanatics flocking to Sydney HQ, the name Zumbo is undoubtedly the most recognisable, when it comes to Australian pastry chefs. Whether he deserves the title of ‘King’ is another story. But as they say, ‘you can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody that hates peaches’.  The new emporium location pokes fun at his critics, embracing the hate, with reviews such as ‘ overpriced’ and ‘overrated’, prominently displayed. The notion is, if one constantly cares about what others think, there’s no room for improvement or happiness.

We tasted the following:

CAKES: 

Aero Cake 

The ‘Aero’ consists of a coffee crunch, hidden within a barrel of coffee crème, vanilla sponge, raspberry jelly and a white chocolate mousse. The petite gateaux is finished with a gleaming coffee glaze and decorated with an artfully vibrant micro-sponge and a coral-esque chocolate piece. Texturally, as its name implies, it really was light as air.

Aero Cake

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A Beginner’s Guide to New Zealand – South Island

New Zealand (NZ) is truly a spectacular country. From glacial carved valleys to untouched wilderness, NZ has scenery to captivate all ages. Peter Jackson’s decision to film predominantly in the South Island, exploded NZ’s tourism, introducing ‘Middle Earth’ to the world. Words cannot explain the grandeur of the landscape and the sheer beauty of it’s diversity. If NZ isn’t on your bucket list, I will convince you that it should be.

We chose to see the South Island on the 10 day ‘Pure Adrenaline’ Topdeck tour. The tour started in Wellington, meandering through the diverse landscapes of the South Island and finishing in the fighting town of Christchurch. With a friendly local guide and bus driver to lead a group of lost lambs, we embarked upon a winding road trip to the sultry tones of Clean Bandit’s ‘ Rather Be’. You know the song? ‘ There’s no place I’ld rather be?’ ;)

HOBBITON

OK, i know this is technically the North Island but I couldn’t resist telling you about Hobbiton. Being a major Lord of the Rings (LOTR) fan, visiting Hobbiton was a dream come true. On the remnant filmset of ‘The Shire’, you can picture Sam Gangee and his voluptuous wife pruning their roses, merry Gandalf puffing on his pipe and the spectacular fireworks of Bilbo’s birthday party. During the tour, the guide will take you to each individual hobbit hole. All of which are individually decorated with adornments from the resident Hobbit’s trade. The attention to detail that Peter Jackson poured into the set, is truly mind boggling. Now to watch the film the gazillionth time.

Hobbiton

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T by LuxBite

Any sugar loving Melbournian will tell you that LuxBite is a well-loved patisserie in South Yarra.  Not satisfied with it’s Toorak Road abode, the chain has since expanded to a Flinders Lane location. Using french techniques combined with Asian influences, the flavours of it’s cakes and now – tarts, come in a diversified range of flavours that summon reactions of ‘ Oooh that sounds interesting!’.

The tarts at T by LuxBite are anything but bland. The Asian influences are exciting, with ingredients such as Pandan, Yuzu, Lychee and Matcha; igniting curious tastebuds. The ‘Passionfruit’ drew our attention, with a perfect quenelle of vanilla creme, resting upon a peanut and coconut brittle, and an orgasmic filling of pandan and soft banana – all encased within a buttery pastry case. It was perfect combination of flavours and textures. Lovers of cute things will gravitate towards the Kuma Tart, an explosion of childhood goodness shaped as the cartoon bear. Kawaii! >,<

T by Luxbite is situated next to The Grain Store on Flinders Lane. The concept is much more simplistic compared to it’s South Yarra location. Tarts are taken away in boxes, the macarons are still there and large cakes can be ordered for pick-up. The Blue Calpis Cheesecake is always available and any of the Luxbite cakes can also be pre-ordered. We couldn’t go past the ‘Endless Love’, whose appearance resembles a giant macaron . Visit for a truly delectable range of asian and western inspired tarts. Sugar lovers will not be disappointed!

PASSIONFRUIT – Banana Tarte Tatin, Pandan, Sesame, Coconut, Peanut, Vanilla

Passionfruit

RASPBERRY Rose & Lychee Ganache, Mascarpone, Silver, Vanilla

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