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Monday, 25 November 2013

Miss Jackson

As you may have gathered, I tend to stay northside in Melbourne. This is due to several factors:
  1. I'm very lazy.
  2. The coffee northside is waaay closer to my house, and I can't operate until I've been caffeinated.
  3. I don't have a car and who can be arsed PT-ing when you don't really have to?!
  4. There is a BUCKETLOAD of Awesome on the north side, and 
  5. I came to Melbourne from Sydney for a different vibe - why would I visit the side of Melbourne that is most like Sydney?! (On a side note, I find it quite hilarious how there's a north/southside divide in Melbourne, much like in Sydney... Waterways, eh? They could cause wars!) 

HOWEVER, on the very odd occasion, I venture out of my comfort zone to other suburbs (hey, sometimes even other CITIES! I know, right) and whilst there, I try to milk said unknown area for its best coffee/food/venues available. Recently, I spent a night in St Kilda prior to a weekend day trip, which meant that early one Saturday morn, I was able to check out the oft-glorified, SOUTHSIDE cafe, Miss Jackson (2/19 Grey Street, St Kilda).

It was a bit of a bitch to get to by car. It's on the corner of Grey and Jackson Streets - very accessible if you're on foot or tramming, but we were driving. We thought we'd be clever and come in backwards via Jackson Street, but Jackson is one of those annoying split streets that goes one way in one part and not in the bit you want. Anyway, we found it, and we were there early enough to be guaranteed a table. In fact, I'm not even sure the staff were quite awake yet. (They were quite smiley, though.)

The coffee was decent - not astoundingly awesome, perhaps due to it being Allpress.

Large Cappuccino

The white Marzocco was nice and prominent on entry to the cafe (ooh, shiny), and I was suprised at how pared-back the interior was: all wooden benches, polished concrete, white walls and simple hanging lights.

It was also quite dark inside - possibly due to the inclement weather, but more likely the site's aspect (*nods her not-at-all-architectural-head knowingly*).

The outdoor deck area was empty, but looked inviting - exactly the kind of place that, come summery days, will be jam-packed with neutral-toned, long-haired hipsters drinking soy lattes. (How'm I doing, St K locals? Accuracy: 95%...?)

Outdoor deck

Perhaps it was what we ordered, or the fact that I was up before 9am on a Saturday, but I wasn't blown away by the food. I had a mushroom piadina with prosciutto, cheddar and thyme - and I usually *LOVE* mushrooms. It looked great, the mushroom portion was generous, and it was tasty, but very rich in flavour, and also very oily.

Mushroom Piadina with Prosciutto, Cheddar and Thyme

My dining partner tried the organic fruit toast, which had massive pieces of fruit (particularly apricot) strewn throughout. Some people would find that appealing; he, sadly, did not.

Organic Fruit Toast with butter

Hot Chocolate

So another visit may be in order (someday...), to re-sample the food at what is often cited as one of St Kilda's better cafes. By the time we left at 10am-ish, the place was pretty full - surely testament to its high regard by locals? (It's not new enough anymore to be due to "let's try this hip new place" popularity...)  

Service was snappy and friendly, and everyone working there seemed to have an accent. (Another side note: Is it just me, or do many, many of Melbourne's foodie ventures seem to be established by Kiwis? I have no objections - I work with several Kiwis, and have learned to incorporate terms like Twink, jandals, chilly bin and sweet as, bro! into my daily vernacular. It's just something I've noticed. Are New Zealanders particularly enterprising when it comes to hospitality, or is it just the people I know and the places I happen to have come across?!)


I quite liked Miss Jackson on the whole, but frankly I prefer its northside competitors - and not just for their location. Sorry, southsiders. (You should come check out my 'hood!)

Miss Jackson is open every day except Monday, from 7am til 4pm, and is licensed.

Miss Jackson on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Sydney: Posto No. 19

Not far from my parents' place in Rushcutters Bay is a charming, bright, clean cafe that I just recently discovered for the first time.

Posto No. 19, entrance/mezzanine level

Posto No. 19 (19a Boundary Street, Rushcutters Bay) (not to be confused with Il Posto in Paddington, Brisbane) is neatly tucked into a shady side of Boundary Street, morphing from a wide, open street-side window and mezzanine dining area, complete with communal table, down to a sunken bar and dining area with cushioned bench seating, and kitchen. The decor is cool, contrasting and shiny, with dark polished concrete flooring, loads of natural light, and lots of glass. Personality comes through touches of beachside retreat and quirky antiques, with neutral colours, stripey cushions, white plates and pastel blue cups, and hand-drawn framed illustrations arranged in an arty bunch on the wall.

Bench seating, neutral tones

Arty bunch of drawings

My mother's all about 'clean' food, and this place has that down to a tee. (Lucky for her, then, that it's so close!) By 'clean', she means fresh, tasty ingredients, with not much oil, butter, fried or processed elements, neatly presented and - hopefully - good for you. (At least, that's what I think she means.)

Lots of water = must be clean. Right?

It probably also helps that Posto No. 19 is light, airy and very open. It feels 'clean' and spacious, without being pretentious. (Its website has much the same feel.) We visited for brunch on a Tuesday, so the cafe was rather quiet and we had our pick of tables. I imagine, though, that on weekends, the place would get quite full. It's definitely a locals' cafe, but with that high level of style that seems to be the minimum at most Sydney venues (read: not quite homely, but definitely schmick).

Posing unawares

My, what a beautiful food model! 

Coffee is by The Little Marionette, a boutique, Sydney-based operation (with small outlets in Annandale and Balmain) that I'd not heard of before. Posto No. 19 must've done it justice, because it was very good (thus automatically pitching both Posto and Little Marionette a few notches higher in my esteem!).

Coffee by The Little Marionette

Posto pegs its fare as "European style", "Italian inspired" and "wholesome", and its breakfast is of that rare and very welcome variety known as "all-day". It's also open seven days. Yuz pleez.

Avocado on Soy & Linseed Toast with chilli infused oil and lemon

Scrambled Eggs with baby herbs on choice of bread

Side of bacon

Avocado on toast with broken poached egg. Mmm

Poached Eggs with avocado, heirloom tomatoes, purple basil

I wonder how Posto is faring with its newest competition: Rushcutters, the deli/cafe that recently opened on the site of former restaurant, Neild Avenue. My belief is that it's good enough to continue standing solidly as a decent local offering. Worth a try for brunch, if you're in the area.

Posto No. 19 on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Good Food Month 2013 Night Noodle Markets, Melbourne

If you've read my blog before, you'll know how often I bemoan the lack of awesome, accessible Asian food in Melbourne (distinct as separate Asian cuisines) at everyday prices. One of the things I missed most about Sydney after moving to Melbourne was the Good Food Month Night Noodle Markets, held in Hyde Park every year since I was a teenager in the '90s. A central location, pretty lanterns, chilled music, and a few plastic chairs and tables was all that was needed to accompany a bunch of stalls selling noodles or grog to make what I consider a Perfect Night Out. So you can imagine my excitement when it was announced that this year's Good Food Month would be introducing Melbourne's inaugural Night Noodle Markets in Alexandra Gardens. Wheeeeeeeeee!

Along with half of Melbourne, I attended its first evening last night (Monday). Here are my observations.

1.  Expect a crowd. 
Melburnians really like food events, outdoor events, pop-up events, and anything considered even vaguely cool. Since this is a combination of ALL OF THOSE THINGS, it makes sense that everyone rocked up to check it out on the first night. After Googling where it was (that's Alexandra - not Alexander Gardens, in the city - not Kew - and not Queen Vic Markets! Basically, they're behind the rowing boatsheds on the Yarra, just over Princes Bridge from the city)*, I arrived just before 6pm to empty tables and expectant stallholders. By 6.30pm, the place was jam-packed, with slow-moving queues snaking from every single stall, at least a 20-minute wait for any kind of food, and nary an open space to stand, let alone sit.

Alexandra Gardens are just across the river from Fed Square

Turn left here! and go down the garden path...

...until you see a whole bunch of event stuff.

2.  Weather-proof yourself. 
Opening night happened to coincide with Melbourne's first 28-degree day in a while, and being a fair-skinned type, fortunately I'd remembered to slip-slop-slap (OK - minus the hat). BE WARNED: If it's sunny, you'll burn (slash tan, if you're the lucky type). There is very little overhead cover onsite; most seating areas are very exposed. I'm interested to see how the Markets fare over the next few days, with rain predicted. (Soggy noodles?)

Empty tables

Evil sun

Music rotunda

3.  Some big-name restaurants are involved. 
Think Izakaya Den, Longrain, Mamak, Wonderbao, I Love Pho, the Bahn Mi Boys... and so on. Desserts are taken care of by Gelato Messina (brand new to Melbourne with their first outlet now open on Smith Street, Fitzroy) and Serendipity Icecream. There are four bars onsite, offering Coopers beer, Rekorderlig cider, Tanqueray gin and Yalumba wines.

Stalls along "Lotus Avenue"

Yes, please.

Tanqueray tent chandelier

4.  The food is affordable and tasty. 
We tried the "Hot-and-sour salad of pork, glass noodles, peanuts, mint and coriander" from Longrain, $14, and a large "Den fried chicken" from Izakaya Den, $12. Just be warned, servings aren't massive. If you are forced to queue for a while, consider getting a few dishes from the same stall, to cut down on waiting times. Gin-and-tonics set us back $8.50 each (pretty good for Tanqueray... but with way too much ice!).

City skyline view from the queue

Filling up...

Den chicken!  *nom*

Icy G-and-T

5.  Only eat sweet if you can be arsed. 
After waiting for dinner-food, we really wanted to try one of the desserts from Messina, but waiting in yet another queue was so off-putting that we decided to stop at their new Smith Street store on the way home instead (which, incidentally, also had a queue - but one nowhere near as long).

Queues and people everywhere

As expected, overall the Night Noodle Markets are AWESOME, and I very much hope they will become a regular annual fixture on Melbourne's Good Food Month calendar. This year, they run from 18 to 30 November 2013, from 5pm weeknights and 4pm weekends til at least 9pm.

*The website provides a very handy PDF map of the Markets' location, along with menu listings for each stall.

Update: 22 November 2013

A second visit to the Noodle Markets last night afforded the opportunity to try more noodly goodness. I sampled Paperboy Kitchen's "Grilled salmon noodle salad" - surprisingly filling, and quite tasty - and tried bits of everyone else's food, too (cos that's how I roll). Here are some more pics, for those who only want to eat food when they've seen it:

Somebody else's prawny noodles

Pork dumplings

Indian something-or-other colourful and tasty

Samosa thingies.
(Sorry, should have written down what we actually ate. ...Dum de duuuummm)

On a Thursday evening, that *wasn't* Opening Night, and with less shiny weather than last time, queues were noticeably shorter (thank goodness). It was still a bitch-fight to nab a table, though. (We succeeded.)

Also, this time, patrons were treated to a Chinese (and/or Indonesian?) lion dance. Videographic proof!

The Night Noodle Markets run for one more week, until Saturday 30 November 2013 (inclusive). Get there while you can!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Sydney: Gelato Messina Darlinghurst

I'm not much of an ice-cream person.

I know, I know: disgrace to womankind, blah blah. (For the record, and in my defense, I am definitely a chocolate kind of a person.)

HOWEVER, when there is awesomeness available (usually less often in stock-standard, over-sugary, too-creamy versions of ice-cream, and more often in unusual-flavoured, fresh, fruity, beautiful-consistency gelato kinds), I will partake. Willingly.

When in Sydney, I usually hover around the inner-Eastern suburbs, and it's not unusual for me to be on Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, at least once most days. And there, right in the guts, not far from the corner of Liverpool Street, is Gelato Messina, one of the better (and most-revered) frozen-sweetness-peddlers in the country.

Gelato Messina, 241-243 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst

Nick Palumbo's obsession with gelato began as a teen. In 2002, he established Gelato Messina and is still a co-owner. Number 241 Victoria Street is Gelato Messina's retail home, while number 243 houses the "Creative Department", known as The Messina Laboratorio and Pattisserie, where ultra-creative "mono-portioned pieces" are developed ("single-serve pieces", to you and me). Additional outlets can be found in Pyrmont, Surry Hills and Bondi, all with very respectable opening hours of at least midday til late (like all good vice-dealers), and you can also buy online.

So hard to choose

Messina's first Melbourne outlet is set to open on Smith Street, Fitzroy, tomorrow (14 November 2013), headed up by Simone Panetta. This neatly coincides with Messina's participation in Melbourne's inaugural Good Food Month's Night Noodle Markets (18-30 November 2013), and the release earlier this year of its cookbook, Gelato Messina: The Recipes (available through Hardie Grant).

Poster for the Messina cookbook in a Gertrude Street,
Fitzroy bookstore window

Messina's focus is on quality, variety, and World Domination. It offers over 40 flavours at any one time, retaining favourites but constantly switching others up wherever possible, and has produced 900 flavours to date. Real ingredients are used, to "achieve full bodied texture and flavour", according to the website. Last time I was at the Darlinghurst shop, some of the tantalising options available were:

  • Apple Pie
  • Coconut and Lychee
  • Panacotta with Fig Jam and Amaretti
  • Poached Figs in Marsala
  • Pear and Rhubarb
  • Salted Coconut and Mango
  • Pandan and Coconut
  • Cherry
  • Lamington
  • Banana Caramel Cheesecake
  • Blueberry Sorbet
  • Burnt Caramel and Ginger

...Seriously. Is your mouth watering yet? Isn't this just ridiculous? SO much tantalisation.

I tried Salted Coconut and Mango (oh my GOD); my dad opted for Choc Chip in a traditional waffle cone; and my sister lucked out with a sample of one-off flavour "Lamington", almost as big as a whole serve, because they were about to finish the tub. It's not cheap, but by fancy ice-cream standards, it ain't bad, and it's so worth it. Plus, the take-home packs work out to be quite economical.

Lamington for the tongue

Choc chip for the bearded one

Salted caramel... 

...and MANGO

I also really like Messina's branding - but then, I'm a sucker for anything red or vaguely Art Deco looking. It's stylish, eye-popping design which brings an element of fun to what is actually quite a traditional and scientific process. Nicely played, Messina.

Feature wall at Gelato Messina Darlinghurst

Well on the way to World Domination, I'd say.

Gelato Messina Darlinghurst on Urbanspoon