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

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

Maria’s Trattoria

122 Peel St North Melbourne
Phone: 9329 9016

I’m lucky to work not too far from this great Italian restaurant. It does involve a quick ride on a tram, but it’s very much worth it. Even if you have to shell out for a 2 hour ticket just for the occasion, because the price of your lunch plus the price of said ticket is still insanely reasonable.

This day (my birthday lunch with the office colleagues) I had the fettucine with Italian sausage and broccoli. Based on prior experience, I knew to order the entree, and not the main. The main is seriously only for the brave-hearted and the cavernous bellied.

While it was quite busy (Friday lunchtime) and the food took some time to arrive, the pasta was wonderful. Fresh, al dente, and smothered in a tasty tomato sauce.

While I understand pasta is cheap to produce, I have to wonder how serving such mammoth plates for such low prices (the average entree pasta is $12.90) can result in a net profit!?

EDIT: We went back a couple weeks later for another colleague’s birthday lunch. Many more photos this time!

Left to right: Penne puttanesca; Spaghetti and meatballs; Tortellini con pollo e funghi

Spaghetti bolognese and Ravioli con pollo e avocado

Spaghetti con cozze (with mussels)

Maria's Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Chicken and Corn Pie with Salad from Avist Cafe

89 Flemington Rd, North Melbourne

Avist is one of the few quality places near my work. They make these awesome homemade pies (well, parcels, really) – the pastry is nicely short, and wonderfully flaky, and the filling is moist, tasty and you can see exactly what’s in it. Big shreds of chicken. Yummo! The salads rotate, but there’s usually an experimental one. This one was pumpkin, potato and carrot, with some rocket etc. Pretty standard, except they (for some reason) had kiwifruit in it. A little oddly sweet, but still very enjoyable.