106 Smith St, Collingwood
Phone: 9417 6328

Yeah, you’ve all heard about it. Well, you should have. Blah blah burger blah blah brioche blah blah wagyu.

This is the Denise (the hot one).


Just go eat it.
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273 Smith Street, Collingwood
Phone: 9419 2949

I don’t think I could ever really by a vegetarian. I tried it once. Well, sort of. I think it was sort of a mutual dare between my boyfriend at the time and I. We decided that we’d be vegaquarians/pescetarians/whatever you call it. Vegies + fish. For environmental reasons, primarily. I lasted about two months before I added chicken to my diet. My sister commented, “What, fish isn’t enough for you?” Quite obviously not. Then I moved to Viet Nam, and it was all over. As if I’d restrict my diet there!

Anyway, I have something of an admiration/disdain relationship with vegetarians. I respect them for their ability to stick to an ethical life choice, though I know it’s not always ethics which drives vegetarianism, but I resent the need to be mindful of where I can take them when eating out together. Which is why I like vegetarians who know and are willing to suggest places to eat. I don’t mind skipping meat in some meals, I just don’t like the idea muddying up my decision making process. So if I don’t have to make a decision, I don’t have a problem!

Mr A is one of those great vegetarians, who doesn’t try to convert you, knows lots about good food, and isn’t shy to suggest a place to eat. So when we had a lunchtime meeting recently, he suggested we have it at Soulfood. There was the promise of wifi, which didn’t eventuate, but it was a good place for lunch nonetheless.

I had the arancini, which was a sizeable hunk of rice, peppered with bits of olive, pumpkin and feta. The chilli napoli was nicely acidic, but could have used a bit more heat. I had this with the Caesar salad, which quite frankly was a bit bland without bacon and anchovies. But all in all, not a bad lunch!

Mr A had the pumpkinopita, a play on the traditional spanakopita. It looked tasty, as did the roast vegetable salad he had on the side.

It’s not really surprising that the food at Soulfood is good. It’s been there for as long as I can remember, and has always had a reputation for tasty, interesting vegetarian dishes. It’s a shame that I’m so addicted to meat, because sometimes I think it might be a good thing to try vegetarianism again… Oh OK, who am I kidding!? Bring on the animal flesh.

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Las Vegan (Nirvana) Cafe

22 Smith St, Collingwood
Phone: 9415 9001

I wonder sometimes about becoming a vegetarian. Even just for a short while. I went ‘vegequarian’ for a few months back in 2007, but I soon backslid and added chicken to my diet, and then I moved to Viet Nam, and well, that was the end of that. But funnily, Ms K, whom I met in Viet Nam actually, remains one of the few people who I see (and therefore eat with) on a regular basis who’s a vegetarian.

Last week, we were arranging to meet up for dinner with another friend, Ms N. Ms K suggested Trippy Taco, and I suggested no, on account of the tragic hipster quotient – that place is fixie bike central.

We settled upon Las Vegan, which she likes to call Nirvana, and which I had lived around the corner from for a year and had never visited. I’ll file that one under Baden Powell and Prince Patrick. Las Vegan has won awards, but call me a rampant omnivore, I still wasn’t that excited by the prospect of a vegan restaurant. I was soon to be pleasantly surprised.

The girls started in on their self-serve ‘bottomless chai’, and I had a large glass of apple juice. Because I hate chai. Hate it. We were all a little famished, so we ordered the ‘big bowl of chips’ to share.

Thick chips with skins on, these had a wonderful flavour, though they could’ve been a little more crisp, I feel. The came with sweet chilli sauce, a vegan mayonnaise (a reason in itself why I will never become a vegan) and an interesting, if somewhat bland, satay sauce.

Ms K ordered the chilli ‘non’ carne, which she thoroughly enjoyed. I snuck a quick bite of the beans, which were quite flavoursome.

Ms N opted for the nasi goreng-style rice balls, which came with a satay sauce and a heavily bean-shooted salad. She also let me sneak a bite. The rice balls were good – nice crispy outside, with well seasoned rice. I thought to myself I would’ve needed three of these for dinner, but Ms N was satisfied with two.
I thought I’d try the lentil burger, because, well, a Vegan place must knock up a pretty decent lentil burger, right?
It came out and was one of those burgers that is taller than it is wide. The salad was a little tokenistic, because this was one hearty burger. So very tasty, it totally hit the spot. So much so that I didn’t even miss the idea of cheese (I’m a big fan of cheese on my burgers).

I probably should try to reduce the amount of meat in my diet, if I’m being honest. I eat a lot of meat. Not as much as my brother-in-law, who was aghast at the idea I would make a sweet potato curry: “Yeah, but what meat are you putting in it?” but I probably don’t need to be eating it two meals a day. Penny’s managed to curb her meat consumption so by instituting meatless Mondays. Maybe I’ll try that in my new life as a homo-wner. Yes dear readers, expect posts about my new kitchen in the coming months.

In the mean time, Las Vegan is an easy and cheap way to have more vegetarian meals, if you’re in and around Collingwood.

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Baden Powell Hotel

65 Victoria Pde, Collingwood
Phone: (03) 9486 0811

For the past year, it’s been a bone of contention as to whether the Prince Patrick Hotel or the Baden Powell Hotel should be called my local. Well, there’s also the Peel, but this isn’t that sort of blog. So you can pretty much triangulate the exact co-ordinates of my house, for those playing along at home.

Anyway, having been here on a couple of occasions before, and being pleasantly surprised by the quality of the pizza, I recommended that Alex of the MSG should add it to the Pizza Battle list. He was a little dubious, but the opportunity arose, so we went down to test it out.

We started off with some snacky stuff; chips are always a good thing to judge a pub’s kitchen on, I think. We also got the arancini.

The chips were pretty top notch. Thick cut, they were crispy outside, and soft and fluffy inside. The aioli that came with them was pretty good too, though not particularly garlicky. More like mayo, really. The arancini were significantly bigger than I thought they would be, and you could probably just have the dish on its own for lunch, though a side salad might be a nice accompaniment. They’re filled with a bit of beef sugo (bolognese) and some mozzarella so you can have fun stretching the cheese about when you cut into it. Dey wuz some good rice balls.
We followed this up with the Bruta – salami, bocconcini, artichoke puree (and not mentioned on the menu, but quite plainly, basil was on there). When it arrived, Alex was immediately bothered by the amount of oil floating across the top of the pizza. And while there was quite a bit, i don’t think it was really the Gulf of Mexico, and that’s sort of to be expected when you order a pizza with salami on it.
The base was pretty good – crispy yet with a bit of bready give, it wasn’t too dry, and had a nice charred flavour from the oven. That being said, it was no D.O.C. or Ladro crust. The toppings were generous, and the chilli oil provided as a condiment wasn’t really necessary. The thought of adding more oil was a little off-putting, actually.

All in all, the Baden Powell is a great, relaxed place to share some good pizza with friends. The service was nothing short of impeccable – friendly to the point of charming, efficient and responsive almost to the point of being pre-emptive – though it was pretty empty, so the staff weren’t particularly stretched that evening.

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70 Smith St, Collingwood
Phone: 9486 9933

Years ago, before it went up in flames and then closed down, I used to go indoor climbing at the Mill on Oxford St in Collingwood. After an hour or two of clinging on to the holds, we’d head down to the local Japanese joint Tokushima. Actually, I think it was still called Samurai back then, but that’s not really important right now.

I remember ordering the bento box, and then struggling to eat with chopsticks because my hands would tremble so much from too exerting my muscles too much climbing. Good times!

It’s been a few years since I’ve been back to Tokushima, largely because I’d been lured away by the nearby Wood Spoon Kitchen and Wabi Sabi Salon. But the novelty of fusion wears off, and sometimes you just want the classics. Like gyoza.

These had a nice filling, though the skins were a little on the under-cooked side, I think. We also had some harumaki (prawn spring rolls).
These were surprisingly good! I’m not usually one to order spring rolls, but Mr N had a craving, so harumaki were had. The filling was tastily prawny, which was off-set by the dollop of kewpie mayo which was served on the side.

Because we like to share, we ordered the sukiyaki beef, a dish for two to share. When it came out, we were both quite excited.

The waitress did some mixing of the raw beef around in the big cast iron pan, and then we dug into the sukiyaki, dipping the rare beef and vegetables in the raw egg. Deliciousness!
We ordered some rice to go along with the dish, because it just felt necessary, although the sukiyaki has some bean thread vermicelli in it. In hindsight, the rice wasn’t so necessary – we struggled to finish the dish. We almost got there, but not quite.

Tokushima is great value for money, and they dish up some great classic Japanese dishes, though on our last visit, they seemed a little understaffed, as the one waitress was rushing around a bit. Still, though the service was a little harried, it was flawlessly polite and friendly. So Japanese.

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Proud Mary

172 Oxford St, Collingwood
Phone: 9417 5930

When you move into a place, it’s a good idea to scope out what the local breakfast places are. Which place does the best eggs Benedict, and who has the best coffee? Two questions I never really asked, because I’m not a big fan of Hollandaise, and I didn’t drink coffee for six years of my adult life. Then there was the year in Viet Nam, where it was more about where do I get the best pho, and which banh mi lady had the best pate.

But times, they do change. And now I drink coffee, so it would seem. Luckily, my local happens to be Proud Mary, so I can indulge in true coffee wankery and drink my single-estate sourced Clover coffee. From a stemless wine glass no less! I think that’s the establishment’s way of telling me I should be approaching the consumption of coffee like you would approach the consumption of wine. The barista also made a point of coming over with my coffee and explaining the subtlety I should be noticing. I noticed that I could drink it without sugar, and that I didn’t get a crazy caffeine buzz with an attendant crash-bang-headache. Still, the glass is pretty.

Along with said Clover coffee, I had the ‘green eggs’, which as you can see, weren’t particularly green. They were, however, nicely soft and runny. How I like my scrambled eggs. The side of mushrooms was generous, but not particularly flavoursome.

I was with the lovely Miss K this morning, who shouted me breakfast for installing her new modem (I think we all know I got the better end of the bargain there), and she had the porridge with dates, almonds and banana. She said it was quite good – I’ve had the muesli there before, so I’m inclined to think she’s right – they know what they’re doing with grains there.

On the way out, we caught a glimpse of these great bruschetta-type-eggplant things. They looked yummy!

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Prince Patrick Hotel

135 Victoria Pde, Collingwood
Phone: 9416 1455

The Prince Patrick Hotel is one of about four pubs you could probably call my local. Funny thing s it took me about a year to get around to eating here.Having done so now, I’m pretty glad that I did. The place serves up good gastropub/bistro food, and the decor’s pretty genteel, though a little cavernous.

I ordered the pork belly. If you’ve read enough posts, you know that I, like most foodbloggers, have a fondness for pork belly. The crackling was nicely crunchy, but was let down a little by meat that was a bit on the tough side. It came with a hefty chunk of potato gratin, which was great for mopping up the jus with, and some bok choy which was thankfully not over-cooked.

Miss K had the chicken breast with some sort of mash or risotto – I can’t remember correctly! – but her main comment about the dish was that the chicken was a bit dry.

Mr D had the chicken parmigiana, which looked hefty, and was reportedly quite good. The chips were nice – I snuck a couple – but they really should invest in some larger plates. Nothing worse than good chips turning mushy because they’ve been saddled by a big hunk of parma!

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Old Kingdom

197 Smith St Fitzroy
Phone: 9417 2438

It had been too long since I had last Peking Duck. Old Kingdom is a Melbourne institution, where Peking Duck virgins should go for the at-table theatre as much as for the duck itself. After the first time, though, the brash spiel of the servers becomes a little tiring, so we were thankful when the waiter just carved the duck and left us to our own devices.

The roast duck ($55) includes three courses – the crispy skin (and a bit of duck flesh) which you dab with hoi sin sauce, and wrap in the delicate crepes; a stir-fry with shredded duck meat spring onions and bean shoots; and a clear duck and vegetable soup, with silken tofu. I got a bit excited (and distracted with the red wine we were imbibing along with the duck) and forgot to take pictures of the last two courses, but it’s all about the first course, anyway. The crispy duck skin, crunching and releasing the duck fat, which melds with the hoi sin sauce and soaks into the crepes as you bite. Heaven.

A good rule of thumb is one duck between 2-3 people (depending on how much of a duck fan you are!) and it’s optional to have other things off the menu, but as I said to my friends upon arrival, “I don’t know why anyone would bother ordering anything else off the menu.” The Peking Duck is clearly the star attraction. It’s also best to book and order your ducks in advance, as it’s usually full. There are sittings at 6pm and 8pm on weekends.

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Onigiri at Wood Spoon Kitchen

Onigiri would be high up on the list of my favourite snack foods, if I lived in Japan, or anywhere they were readily available. So when I found out there is a restaurant in my neighbourhood which specialises in onigiri, I was excited. And I was not let down, either. We started the meal with some agedashi tofu, which was a little perplexingly served with a light soy sauce, as opposed to a dashi sauce. The tofu itself was excellent, smooth and yet with a substantial creaminess and, dare I suggest it, flavour.

Next up was the standard gyoza, which were nicely pan-fried – not too well done – and okonomiyaki, which could have done with a little more time on the grill, but it’s hard to dislike anything with those sauces on top!

We chose three types of onigiri – the gomoku (house special with chicken and vegetables), the ebi (prawn) salad, and the sansai (mountain vegetables). All were tasty and held together nicely, though the gomoku was definitely the stand out in terms of flavour.

We also ordered the miso and sweet potato soup, with prawn and pork dumplings. I was expecting gyoza style dumplings, but they turned out to be more rissole-like, without a pastry casing. Still, full of flavour, and balanced out the sweetness of the sweet potato perfectly.

I’d definitely go back for more onigiri!

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