Summer with Miss Jackson

2/19 Grey St, St Kilda
Phone: 9534 8415
www.missjackson.com.au

This is a pretty belated post. The next few will be, actually.  Apologies, but I’m working my way through the backlog of the past two months. I should also note that the good folk at Miss Jackson provided lunch for free for us on this occasion, as a thank you for my participation in the Melbourne Food Blogger’s Dinner last year. Oh, and the menu at Miss Jackson is seasonal – because that’s a big part of what they do there – so I can’t guarantee these dishes are still available!

I don’t really get to St Kilda very much. It’s part of that whole Northside/Southside menatlity which is a little silly, but also a little justified, given the amount of time it takes to cross town. Though now I’m in the West, going from Footscray to St Kilda is about the same as going from Footscray to Northcote, or Richmond. But there’s nonetheless a stupid psychological block there, a grudge that probably stems from a deep-seated jealousy of beaches and rickety roller-coasters, and a staunch belief that the lifestyle depicted in The Secret Life of Us was not what life in Melbourne is all about. But I digress. And rant. As usual.

It was a brilliantly sunny day (as you’ll see from the horrendous job of white balance my iPhone did), and the Pride March was on. So I made the mistake of driving down to St Kilda – it took so long to find a park that I missed half of the marchers parading down Fitzroy St – to meet Mr R. Neither of us had had lunch, so after the on-street drinking period ended, we headed over to Miss Jackson for a spot of lunch in the sun.

Mr R and I both got quite excited by the mention of polenta chips on the menu. Lightly panko coated, and served with a chilli mayo, these were a real treat.

20110502-013644.jpg

I’d been told about the panko-crusted chicken schnitzel burger, and seen pictures of it on twitter, so there was very little doubt in my mind what I wanted to try.

20110502-013717.jpg

And I was really glad I did. The chicken was moist and succulent, and the panko crumbs gave it a bit more crunch than your average schnitzel, without making it dry or hard. The slaw in the burger was also great, if a little messy towards the end!

20110502-013750.jpg

Mr R had the panzanella salad – so pretty, with the different heirloom tomatoes – and was also very happy with it. Though he wanted more haloumi. But then it’s haloumi. Who wouldn’t want more? I was happy because I got a lot of his olives.

20110502-013818.jpg

Miss Jackson on Urbanspoon

Cafe Rubicon

50 Errol St, North Melbourne
Phone: 9329 3389

Right now I’m going to step back in time. With the flurry of eating, and the lack of posting, I have quite the backlog of photo-filled drafts waiting to be written. So I’m going to cast my mind back to December last year, when a group of us from the coal mine had our work Christmas lunch at Cafe Rubicon.

Details are a bit hazy, but overall, everyone enjoyed their lunch, and the office Kris Kringle played out to everyone’s satisfaction, too!

I ordered the chilli prawns. The menu at Rubicon is a little strange, in that it specifies exactly how many prawns are in the dish. I guess that’s good, in that you know what to expect, but really? Do I need to know that I’m getting twelve prawns in the dish before I order it?

I think it might be a ploy, because I didn’t receive twelve prawns – I got thirteen! Customer relationship management rule #17: lower expectations, then exceed them! The sauce itself was pretty tasty, if a touch on the sweet side, and lacking any real chilli punch.

From left to right: Chicken salad, Risotto di mare, Linguini marinara (the latter two topped with a fried soft-shelled crab!).

Saffron prawn risotto (with an unspecified number of prawns!).

Left: a rather mammoth Chicken burger. Right: Chicken Parmigiana.
Rubicon is a pretty standard cafe. None of the dishes are particularly innovative or out-of-the-ordinary, but it’s all of a respectable standard. It’s a good place to go when you have a group of people who feel like eating different things, and they’re very accommodating with special dietary requests. I found the service a little over-bearing, but at least they were attentive!

Oh, and the cakes and pies are a winner.
Rubicon Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

STREAT

St Paul’s Court, Federation Square (Flinders St edge)
Phone: 0425 058 724

Sponsored by Nuffnang

I’m not in the city during daylight hours much in Winter, so it was a surprise to me to hear that STREAT had been operating in Federation Square since March this year. STREAT is a social enterprise which both serves a diverse range of grab-and-go street food and trains homeless young people, providing with a pathway to a career in hospitality. The organisation is very much in the same mould as more high-profile ventures such KOTO in Hanoi, and Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurants. STREAT takes over 40 young people each year, and puts them through a six month training program, while also supporting them in other aspects of their lives. The trainees are then transitioned into jobs in hospitality.

In more concrete sense, STREAT is a food cart that sets up its wares each morning (Tues-Sat) on the Flinders St edge of Fed Square. In the tradition of all great street food, the STREAT cart quite a compact set up, with food prep being carried out in a commercial kitchen off-site, the little cart, adorned with dried chillies and herbs, manages to pack in just enough kitchen to produce some great food. The menu changes daily, inspired by street food carts from around the world. One day it might be som tum (a Thai green papaya salad), the next you might find them serving chicken satay on rice, or Seekh lamb kebabs.


The day I visited I decided to try the Jamaican jerk chicken and pineapple salsa wrap ($9).


It was tasty, with a nice balance of sweetness and acid. The chicken was tender, and the pineapple lent a nice texture to the wrap. I did feel that it would have benefited with a little lettuce, or maybe even some rice, to trap the sauce, as the wrap started to drip not long after my first bite. Still, great food isn’t always neat, right?

Ms A just missed the last chickpea and lentil wrap – all sold out! – so instead, she had the sweet potato, leek and lentil soup. $7 for a large serve, it came with a warm multi-grain roll.

She was kind enough to let me try a little, and on a chilly day as it was, I certainly appreciated how hearty it was. There was a nice use of spices, and just a little kick of chilli, too!
There’s not much seating at STREAT, but it’s right near the sloping steps leading into Fed Square, so weather permitting, it’s not a bad idea to park yourself there with you meal. There’s often some entertaining busker putting on a show for your entertainment. Last time, I saw a guy balancing on a pole, cracking a flaming whip!

So go check it out, especially you office workers nearby! They have a loyalty card where if you have nine meals there, the tenth goes to a homeless person! You get to feed your belly as well as someone else’s who needs it.

Foursquare users, if you check in at STREAT anytime this August, you can get a meal with a bottle of water for only $10. And for more details about things going on in and around Fed Square, iPhone users can download the Fed Square app.

Competition: The kind folk at STREAT have provided a meal for two for me to giveaway to my readers. So leave a comment below, telling me what your favourite street food is – and where you found it – by 5pm on the 10th of August, and you’ll go into the draw to win! Winners will be announced on this blog.

Streat on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Nuffnang and Federation Square, and Ms A and I chowed down as the guest of STREAT. I like to think my account was unbiased, but you may not agree. For a completely unbiased take on the STREAT experience, you can also see Penny’s review at jeroxie.com. She takes better pictures than me, too!

Seven Seeds

106 Berkeley St, Carlton
Phone: 9347 8664
www.sevenseeds.com.au

I’m not really much of a coffee drinker. I’m that loser who gets sneered at by coffee nazis for having two sugars and soy milk in his latte. Yeah, I know, I may as well be drinking decaf, I’m that derivative. So while I’ve heard nothing but good things about Seven Seeds, I haven’t exactly rushed out to try their coffee. But I did finally get around to it last week.


First off, I have to say I really like the decor – the fit-out is a nice mix of post-industrial chic, with just enough wood and use of textiles, so the airy warehouse space doesn’t feel too cold or severe. The warm lighting helps, too. As did the cheery smiles of the waitresses on the day. Definite thumbs up for service here.

My lunch companion, Mr A, is something of a coffee addict, though by his own admission, he prefers his coffee “like a two-by-four across the back of the head”. He opted for a flat white. Being curious of the hype, I thought I’d finally give the Clover coffee a try. Mr A tried to explain to me how the Clover machine works – something about a vacuum and the coffee being dipped, then extracted… it was all a bit too technical for me.

Anyway, it comes out in a cute little flask-coffee-pot, and you pour it yourself, like you would a cup of tea. I tried a sip of it without adding sugar, and to my surprise, found that I didn’t really feel the need! Clover coffee, to me, seems much less intense in flavour, and I can understand what all those afficionados mean when they go on about the various hints and notes of different flavours in the coffee. Like wine. The other great benefit of this Clover coffee, as I was to discover as the afternoon wore on, was that I didn’t experience the manic buzz nor the headachey, heart-palpitating lows which normally forms the rollercoaster ride I go on after drinking a coffee. I felt mildly more alert, so some of the caffeine is definitely there, but I guess the pharmacokinetics are different.

Along with my coffee, I had the avocado mash with grilled haloumi and dukkah on toasted sourdough. Topped with rocket, the whole thing was a winner for me. The saltiness of the haloumi was offset by the creamy avocado and the acid of the lemon wedge supplied for squeezing. I wouldn’t have minded a touch more dukkah, but I’m just being picky now.

Mr A had the special pressed sandwich, with an omelette, cheddar cheese, tomato chutney and spinach. He seemed quite satisfied by his choice. It certainly looked appetising.

I was feeling a little cheeky, so I took a chocolate brownie back to my office for afternoon tea. It was lusciously moist, and I had to do a lot of finger-licking to get all the icing off my hands.

Seven Seeds on Urbanspoon

Mr Price’s Food Store

502 Queensberry St, North Melbourne
Phone: 9326 8062

Last year I was placed in charge of organising the office Christmas lunch. This place was high on the shortlist, because of (and also in spite of) Joyce’s review. Unfortunately, because a few of the ladies in the office have rather specific dietary requirements and preferences, the lack of a menu meant I had to strike it from the list. It took me four months to get around to visiting it myself. It was certainly worth the wait.

From the street, the place looks like more of an antique or curio store than a restaurant…


… and that feel is certainly carried through to the interior. But instead of feeling shabby, the place has a warm, homely feel to it, with mismatched table settings, and interesting items adorning the walls and bookshelves. I’m guessing when it’s busy, these things make for good distractions while waiting for the food?


I was lucky enough to stumble in on a day when it wasn’t too busy – in fact there were only two other tables occupied – and Mr Price (Gary, should you feel informal) was milling around in the kitchen when I entered. He presented me with a hand-written menu – the menu changes each day depending on what produce Mr Price deems fresh and seasonal at the nearby Vic Markets – and I took a seat at a table by the window.

I’ve been on a bit of a soup kick lately, I’m not sure why, because the weather hasn’t really turned autumnal, but nonetheless, I opted for the cauliflower soup. Sound a little boring? That’s because I forgot to mention it was spiced cauliflower soup accented with duck fat. Mmmm, duck fat…. It was served with two chunks of fresh bread, and the salt and pepper which was presented were not touched. Also on offer that day were a couscous with lamb ragout, and a salad of some description with salmon.

The soup was velvety and smooth, the flavour of the cauliflower more highlighted than masked by the subtle use of spices, and the duck fat was present, but not too overpowering.

I’m not averse to dining alone – I often have lunch on my own – but I do get a little bored. Especially on a slow news day, when the ABC news app isn’t delivering interesting stories. This totally wasn’t a problem at Mr Price’s Food Store, as the shelves (and indeed my table) were loaded with interesting books; from best-sellers and Booker prize winners, to the wealth of cookbooks. I took to reading about how to prepare veloute with my soup.


I’ve heard mixed reviews about Mr Price’s Food Store, but I can honestly say I found it one of the most charming restaurants in Melbourne. I’ll definitely be back on a regular basis.

Mr Price’s Food Store is open for lunch Monday to Saturday, from 12pm, and dinners on Friday night. Bookings are advised, and I believe it’s cash only.

Mr Price's Food Store on Urbanspoon

Lanna Thai

65 Flemington Rd, North Melbourne
Phone: 9329 2960

This is another of the restaurants near my work, which my colleagues and I visit semi-regularly, when someone has a birthday to celebrate. Every time we go there, they’re pretty busy, but I’m not sure if it’s the quality of the food or the paucity of options in the immediate area. The food’s not bad, but it’s not on my list of favourite Thai restaurants in town. I’ve also been warned to be skeptical of any restaurant that references itself as Northern Thai (lanna means North).

The last time we went, I got the ol’ iPhone out and snapped just about everyone’s food. Exhibits A and B: Thai beef salad, and chicken pad Thai.

I had the chicken pad Thai that day. I was feeling a little uninspired, so went for the safe option. Also, I think pad Thai is a good way to benchmark a Thai restaurant in Melbourne (even though the best pad Thai is almost always street food in Thailand). Lanna Thai’s version was disappointing. A little bland, and lacking in the wok hei (Cantonese for wok air, or wok breath, which essentially refers to smokiness and the aromas which come from slight charring of the ingredients when they hit the searing hot wok).

Exhibits C & D: Chicken wrapped in pandanus leaves, and chicken pad see-ewe.

Exhibits E & F: The curries. A prawn Massaman curry, and a green chicken curry. I had the green curry on a previous visit. It’s good, but lacks a kick. In their defence, I didn’t ask for it spicy (though neither did I ask for it mild). I do love the little ramekins, which come on matching porcelain stands.


Exhibit H: The birthday girl finished off her lunch with banana in sticky rice with ice cream.

Lanna Thai on Urbanspoon

$15 express lunch at Fifteen

115 – 117 Collins Street, Melbourne –
Phone: 1300 799 415

I’ve been holding off from writing this review for a while, because I was a little conflicted – while I don’t always write positive reviews, it’s rare that I’ll be flat-out negative. Unfortunately, this lunch was pretty bad. @jetsettingjoyce seems to agree. I’m thinking, hoping, wishing, praying that it was just a bad day at the restaurant, but with head chef Tobie Puttock actually in the kitchen that day, I’m not so sure. I do really like the ethics behind the restaurant – they train up disadvantaged youth to get careers in hospitality – but it seems there are other places doing the same thing, with better results. Charcoal Lane comes to mind.

The misadventure started off with a broccoli and potato soup. It was extremely oversalted, and full of woody pieces of broccoli stalk. Now I’m not of the opinion you should be using the florets only – far from it, I eat the stalk all the time – but there’s a reason you painstakingly peel the thicker parts of broccoli stalks. They don’t just look like little trees for nothing.


I was hoping for redemption by pasta, but was sorely disappointed. The orrechiette with veal ragu was similarly underwhelming. The serves were minuscule, and while the pasta itself was quite good, it came out on the luke side of warm, which meant the fat in the veal mince had started to solidify, producing an unpleasant, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth feel.


I sampled some of Joyce’s vegetarian option – gnocchi with a spicy capsicum sauce. Conversely to the orrechiette, the sauce was good, but the gnocchi was overcooked and mushy. Again, the serving size was tiny.


I have had some friends who have been to Fifteen for dinner, and loved the experience, but I’d have to say I’m not inspired by my visit there. I understand that a $15 express lunch is pretty cheap for this type of restaurant, but cheap shouldn’t equate to nasty. I honestly hope it was just an aberrant lunch service, but I’m not really game to spend the money to try my luck again. Sorry Tobie.


Fifteen Melbourne on Urbanspoon

Auction Rooms

103-107 Errol St, North Melbourne
Phone: 9326 7749

I’ve been meaning to get to Auction Rooms for ages, but for some reason I never got around to it. For a while, North Melbourne just wasn’t in my sphere of travel, and then more recently the place always seemed overflowing at lunch times during Summer, when I would wander over from work to Errol St in my lunch hour. Finally, @eatnik and I ventured over, and were most pleased that we did!

As Claire at Melbourne Gastronome has rightly said, the space is amazing; check out her post for some photos to give you an idea. I love how the big space is broken up into smaller discrete areas using levels, but without any real obstructions, so it retains a huge airiness to it.

A sucker for duck, I ordered the duck and wombok salad. It was refreshing and punchy; the wombok was crunchy, and the vinaigrette was nicely acidic – reminiscent of the Thai style of fish sauce dressing. My only complaint was the duck was a little dry, but that did result in bits of crispy duck skin in there too, so it’s a catch-22.


@eatnik had the smoked trout with bubble and squeak, on @alexlobov‘s recommendation from MSG. She wasn’t disappointed! It all seemed a little rich for me as a lunch dish, but it’s good that Auction Rooms has such variety in their menu.

Auction Rooms also has a good reputation for coffee, but as neither @eatnik nor I drink coffee (on a regular basis), I can’t comment on that.

Auction Rooms on Urbanspoon

Braised lamb shoulder at von haus

Crossley St, Melbourne CBD


I dropped in for lunch yesterday on Xmas eve at Von Haus. It was grey and gloomy outside, and I felt the urge for something hearty. The braised lamb shoulder did not disappoint. Full of flavour, melting off the bone, with mushrooms and olives that somehow seemed to have soaked up the red wine in the sauce, while exuding their own flavour as well, this dish was almost too wintry for December. But it was just what I was after. The only thing which was a little disappointing was not having a chunk of bread with whic to mop up the sauce. Von Haus, you’re two for two so far!

Von Haus on Urbanspoon

Don don box at Don don


A reliable CBD stalwart, don don’s massive bento, with sukiyaki beef and teriyaki chicken never fails to satisfy. At $8.40, you’d be hard pressed to find a better value lunch in the city. It’s a little alarming to hear the staff speaking mandarin to one another though, as it was always Japanese owned/run.

Don Don Australia on Urbanspoon