Brunching At The Roasting Houses of Melbourne

Melbournians are self-confessed coffee snobs, contemptuously turning up our noses at Starbucks and professing our undying love for Australian independent cafes. The major error that Starbucks made, was attempting to impose Americanised tastes into a market that had an existing coffee culture. A culture that would faint at the sight of whipped cream on any beverage,  yet alone accept the excessive sweetness of frappas, machiattos and pumpkin spiced what-nots. Coffee has become integral to the Melbourne lifestyle, and with that has exploded a myriad of cafes that not only have sublime coffee, but amazing food. Here are a selection of boutique roasting houses in Melbourne known for their own signature house blends and equally amazing brunch options.

1. PROUD MARY

Coffee aside, Proud Mary is also an extraordinaire on the brunch front. Queues still form at this Collingwood staple, where quality has been consistently upheld amongst all the hype. Dishes taste as beautiful as their appearances.

For the nibblers, the tuna sashimi with amaranth and brik crisp is a delicate option. Otherwise, consider the ricotta hotcakes, dripping in coconut ice cream and blood orange caramel. Carnivorous options include the ox tongue and a decadent pork belly. The wait list might still be long, but drop in before 12pm to avoid the afternoon rush. The crowd favourite is certainly deserving of its reputation.

Tuna Sashimi w/ Broad beans, Soft boiled egg, Amaranth, Brik crisp

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Ricotta Hotcakes w/ Blood Orange Caramel, Citrus salad, Orange blossom, Coconut ice cream

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What Exactly is a Paleo Diet?

It’s almost summer, which means people are thinking about losing the winter food belly. From gluten free, to carb free, to protein rich, the range of diets available on the market is staggering and confusing. The latest fad is the Paleo Diet popularised by celebrities (as always).

But what exactly is a Paleo Diet? You probably have heard it being referred to as the ‘ Caveman Diet’. The diet is designed to emulate the diets of our early ancestors during the Paleolithic era. This means no processed foods, no dairy, grains, legumes, processed oils and refined sugars. The premise is that the metabolism and nutritional needs of humans have not evolved fast enough, to handle the high degree of grains and processed foods that we now ingest. It is suggested that physiology, genetics and metabolism of modern humans have changed little, or at all, since the Paleolithic era, hence, the high rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Advocates of the diet claim that eating more protein and fewer carbohydrates leads to a healthier and longer life. Critics argue that the life expectancy of early humans were not long enough to develop the diseases mentioned today, and that their lifestyles were much more active in foraging and hunting. There is also evidence that early humans did in fact eat grains and legumes, but this may differ between local populations. All-in-all, I’m still confused about the whole thing. There doesn’t appear to be any hard scientific evidence to support the diet. I don’t think we should blame evolution (or lack of) for high incidences of weight related illnesses. Modern humans have gotten fat because of inactivity and over-eating. Simple as that. It is preferable to stick to basic healthy eating and exercise, than to follow the latest overcomplicated fad diet. Most importantly, there is about a 0% chance that I will give up cake.

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Nuevo Latino – Authentic South American

Nuevo Latino takes diners on a gastronomic journey, through the vibrant diversity of South American cuisine. Salvador Rodriguez and ex Los Latinos chef, celebrate the traditional heritage of their El Salvadorian upbringing, transforming their catering business into a homely abode.  The Rodriguez brothers wanted to open a restaurant that had an authentic feel, that also felt like home. Filling the restaurant with personal knick knacks, the result is bright and homely, with a festive atmosphere to match.  The past few years, Mexican and Latin cuisines have exploded through the Melbourne dining scene, but few pay homage to their cultural roots as well as Nuevo Latino. The food is simple and unpretentious, relying on authentic flavours that takes diners away from West Footscray, and into the foothills of South America.

Diners were treated with a button-popping 9 course degustation menu, inspired by a mixture of caribbean, latin american and mexican flavours. Regarding the button popping aspect, I have never been so full in my life! Nuevo Latino certainly packs a punch on value. The standout dish were the Grilled Prawns with pepito pesto. The creaminess and tang of the pesto (constructed from grounded pumpkin seeds and basil), acted as a perfect accompaniment to freshly grilled prawns. The tamales were mouth watering, lovingly handmade by Salvador’s mother with a traditional El Salvadorean recipe. I have been yearning for the dirty street food of East LA , so I was pretty ecstatic to discover tamales, and papusas on the menu.

Salvador and his staff are passionate about food, providing hospitable service that is certain to make guests smile. The brothers have come a long way from becoming migrants in the 80s, to opening a catering business, to finally achieving their dream of opening an authentic South American restaurant.  The dreary streets of Barkly Village has been screaming for some much needed spark and Nuevo Latino has certainly arrived with a bang. Ole!

Mix Olives w/ Chef Renown Macerated Warm Olives

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Prawns Camarones Al Aiguiste – Grilled Prawns w/ Pepita Pesto

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Night Market Season & Food Trucks

The weather is warming, the crickets are chirping, the women are shaving and that means only one thing. Hurray, its night market season! Spend a summer evening at one of the many nights markets running in Melbourne this season. The most popular of the list, include the Night Noodle Markets and long time staple – the QVM night markets. Alternatively, if you prefer a day time market, the Batman Markets have only recently opened and include an array of food trucks and local produce.

Food trucks are also having its heyday, with Brunswick, Yarraville, St Kilda and Maribyrnong allocating specific gardens and streets, to house an increasing number of food trucks. Summer has never looked so fun.

The following is a list of Market and food truck hotspots:

MARKETS

Night Noodle Markets

Where: Birrarung Marr (near Federation Square)
When: November 14th – November 30th
5pm – 9pm, 10pm, 11pm (depending on the day)
What: The first Night Noodle Markets took Melbourne by storm. In fact that might be an understatement, considering the mind numbingly long queues that formed during peak times. With more than 50 food stalls and food trucks, representing different regions of Asia, this is a haven for lovers of Asian street Food. All the big name eateries from 2013 will be there, including: Chin Chin, Longraine, Mamak and Messina. Newcomers include Kong, Red Spice Road, Charlie Dumpling, Mr Miyagi amongst many more. To survive the queues, I recommend attending with a group of friends. This way, you can take down each-others orders and not have to waste time queuing at different stalls. Sure, the lines are long, but the atmosphere matches no other night market in Melbourne.

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Top Paddock vs Kettle Black

What do you do when you have a successful business venture? Well, you expand of course. The newly opened Kettle black is an extension of the highly successful and delicious Top Paddock. Famed for their unforgettable ricotta hotcakes, adorned with berries, organic maple and florals, the chain is known for exquisite plating and stylish interior. It was no surprise that when Kettle Black opened its doors, the fanfare and expectations were tremendously high.  But how does the sister compare to its famous parent?

TOP PADDOCK

Top Paddock has long been a Melbourne favourite. It’s signature presentation encompassing delicate touches of micro herbs and florals, makes Top Paddock dishes instantly recognisable and ‘oh so instagram worthy’.  There are advantages and disadvantages to technical plating, very often customers are presented with a stunning dish, only to be disappointed by flavour. This is where Top Paddock reigns it’s superiority over Kettle Black. The dishes taste as mouth-watering as its appearances. For the savoury lovers, the go-to dish is the roasted kipfler potatoes and leek omelette, embedded with sizeable chunks of taleggio, padron peppers and a sliver of jamon sarrano.

The raved about dish; however, are the blueberry and ricotta hotcakes. It’s positively #instafamous and deservedly so.  Sweet treats are all about eating with the eyes and mouth, and these hot cakes are an all round sensory experience. Cutting into the hotcakes releases an aroma of sweet maple, intertwining the nostrils and tantalising the tastebuds. Texturally, the tastebuds are greeted with the crunch of mixed seeds, the smoothness of double cream and the soft fluffiness of hotcake batter. Visually, the colours are vibrant and the plating is a beautifully chaotic. Plump blueberries are revealed, lovingly baked into a thick maple batter, finished with a quenelle of double cream and sprinkled with dehydrated berry powder. Oh so Pretty. The hotcakes are sizeable in portion. I recommend sharing with a friend if your easily sugar-loaded. Conclusively, you cannot leave Top Paddock without trying these hotcakes. You cannot! Top Paddock is my all-round favourite brunch place in Melbourne, and being a ‘hungrycookie’, this is not an understatement. ;)

Blueberry & Ricotta Hotcakes w/ Berries, Organic Maple, Seeds & Double Cream

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Roasted Kipfler Potatoes & Leak Omelette w/ Padron Peppers, Taleggio, Jamon Sarrano 

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Thaiger

A month ago, the world’s media outlets were captivated by Burger King’s release of a ‘Black Burger’ in Japan. In all it’s charcoal glory, the response was either of revulsion or intrigue. I fell into the second camp, encouraging friends that were visiting Japan to have a taste of this bizarre dish. ‘Ahh those crazy Japanese’ – is a statement often associated with the Eastern archipelago, but to Asians, the concept of black food is nothing novel. Black chicken (a naturally pigmented breed of chicken), sesame desserts, squid ink and black buns are hardly a rare sight.  For the adventurous gastronomer, Melbourne now has its very own version.

The tang and pop of Thai flavours, are observably adored by Melbournians. We also love a juicy burger. Naturally, the owners of FOMO Thai, recognised a market opportunity to expand into Asian inspired burgers. The result is Thaiger- a newly opened Thai inspired burger joint, located within Causeway Lane (between Bourke and Little Collins). The idea is brilliant. Burger joints are opening left, right and centre, but Thaiger’s offerings are clearly differentiated by its Asian twist. Tom Yum Goong, Lemongrass pork chop, Crying Tiger and Pan Fried tofu burgers are some of the Thai inspired burgers that may induce extreme salivation.

The ‘Pou Nim’ black burger is all about the soft shell crab. Crispy, fragrant and balanced with the crunch of a tangy apple slaw, the portion is highly generous at $10 a pop. The bun looks interesting, but doesn’t have a discernible influence on flavour. The confronting colour is achieved with charred bamboo, which is subsequently grilled to produce a slightly crispy texture. For the conservative eaters, there is not a single hint of a burnt taste. The purpose is to evoke shock value, rather than to influence flavour. If one is growing tiresome of boring ol’ burgers, visit Thaiger for its unique asian slant.

Crispy Soft Shell Crab Burger w/ Granny Smith Asian Slaw, Tangy Dressing

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El Burro

Once a neglected industrialised centre to the West of Melbourne, Williamstown is now an attractive beachside village. The sunlight refracting on the shimmering waters of Hobson’s Bay, serves as a picturesque backdrop to happy families and couples, enjoying a warm spring breeze. Nelson Place is the town centre, lined with restaurants, hotels and local stores. There’s much to choose from, but unfortunately, it is somewhat barren on the gastronomic front. El Burro is one exception, serving spanish inspired tapas loved by the locals. Spanish flavours are strong with hints of paprika, chillies and cumin, balanced against fresh plates of scallops, prawns and mussels. Obviously, El Burro is no Movida, but simplicity can also be delicious. If your pockets are shallow, theres $8 tapas nights on Mondays. After-all, sharing is caring.

Pan Seared Scallops

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