Posts Tagged ‘café’

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Cuban sandwiches are pretty much an exotic treat for a man from Australia- Cuban cuisine (even the Americanised version) is not something readily available in the suburbs of Melbourne. So every time I have an opportunity to sample some I get pretty excited.

Down here in Key West you’d be forgiven for thinking that you had wondered into a tourist trap – if you stick to the resorts, landmarks and Duval street then you would be right.

Ana’s Cuban café is located in walking distance from the southernmost point Buoy. The café is actually located inside the southernmost deli and groceries – there’s a place to order out the front or you can order inside the deli. Either way you order and eat out on the veranda surrounding the shop. It doesn’t look particularly appealing, particularly considering that it’s surrounded by resorts and hotels and not far from the start of Duval street – you would be forgiven for assuming that this is just another overpriced café catering to the tourist crowds. However, in this case you would be wrong. Ana’s actually does a really good, reasonably priced Cuban mix sandwich. What’s that you say – especially if like me you are from the land down under you probably have no idea what a Cuban mix sandwich is. It starts with Cuban bread – or Pan Cubano – which is a long baguette style loaf with a crunchy curst and a really light dough. The next layer is mayonnaise on one side and mustard on the other, you have ham, pickles, Swiss cheese, and roast pork (often slow roasted in a mojo sauce). Sounds very simple – but like a lot of simple dishes, if executed well, it can be really good. In this case they do it well. Every time I go there I get a Cuban mix. $7.50 is not a lot considering the amount of meat you get. It’s one of my favourite sandwiches.

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Blue Heaven was recommended to us by a friend who had spent a lot of time in Key West, so we figured we’d better give it shot when we came down this time around. Jessica and Chris had gone off with their girls to visit the beach, but Katie was feeling the effects of a night out on Duval street and all she wanted was brunch so we decided it was a good time to give it a go.

When we arrived the place was very busy, there was a fairly decent line and the wait was at least 30mins inside and an hour to sit outside. We figured we’d wait and so we pulled up to the bar and had a refreshing beverage. There was a pretty decent live band playing and plenty of seating in and around the bar so it really wasn’t too bad waiting. Katie had a Bloody Mary that she said was quite refreshing considering (or perhaps because of) her condition. After about half an hour of waiting we got called and were seated outside just next to the stage where the bad was playing – this actually worked out well as it distracted Lucy who was bopping away in her highchair and clapping her chubby little baby hands after each song.

The food here is quite upmarket – although not cheap. I ordered the Eggs Benedict with ham and a side of bacon and Katie went for the Shrimp and Grits New Orleans style. The Eggs came with a Key lime hollandaise which was one of the most delicious hollandaise I’ve tasted. The eggs were perfectly poached, runny and delicious – I felt like the dish wouldn’t have seemed out of place in a trendy Melbourne café back home. Everything on my plate was executed perfectly. Katie loved her shrimp and grits – it’s not something that I would ever order so I can’t really comment, but Katie is a bit of an expert and she was impressed. We ordered a slice of key lime pie to finish with because we had heard they were good here.

The downside to such a lovely meal was the price – the check came in at a smidge under $60 and with tip it cost $70 – not including the $10 already spent at the bar. If I was back home in Melbourne it would be par for the course. Here in the USA, it felt a little bit expensive and when you take into account the exchange rate – very expensive. I’d probably come back because the food was excellent – but I think I’d skip the $9.50 slice of pie at the end (but then I’m not a sweet tooth so I’m sure Katie would disagree…)

 

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Judging by the frequency of my posts of recent times, it would appear that fatherhood has placed a bit of a handbrake on my food adventures… These days, when I do go out, it’s not often that it’s on an adventure. You’re just never sure what the environment will be like, and whether it will be baby friendly etc. Oh well.

Since it was fathers day today (my first) Katie decided that heading out for brunch would be a good option. Low key, normally baby friendly, and there’s plenty of good options. Maling road is a quaint little heritage listed district not far from home with a plethora of cafe’s to choose from. We wondered into Bombaleros (as we spied a high chair – must be baby friendly), and proceeded to set up for brunch. We have to set up these days… Not that I would swap things for the world – but there was a time when things were much more spontaneous. Anyway, Bombaleros, unbeknown to us, is a Spanish/South America inspired cafe. The menu is short and sweet for the bunch options – most have that south American vibe. I would normally go with a big breakfast, but on this occasion it would have been too expensive. They don’t offer a big breakfast, so you would have to construct your own, by adding to the eggs on toast. When these are north of $10 already and your side will set you back between 3.5 and 4.5, then my usual would have come in around $27… Normally the big breakfast option is a bit of a discount so the build your own option was just too pricy here. I was forced opt for a more creative option, which I usually want to do anyway, I’m just always scared I wont get enough to eat. I ordered the Columbian Burrito, which was filled with mushrooms, bacon and chorizo mixed with scrambled eggs wrapped, on the side was guacamole and Pico de Gallo. To be honest – somewhat bland, needed something to really give it some zing.

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Mum and Jo ordered the Serrano croquettes which came with roasted tomato, bacon, wilted spinach, poached egg, aioli & chimichurri. These were excellent, and thankfully I had a fair helping of mum’s as she wasn’t all that hungry. And Katie just went for Bacon and eggs.

Quite a nice place, and an interesting take on Brunch. If I were to go back I definitely opt for the croquettes, they were delicious. Not a bad way to spend fathers day – and Lucy only cried at the end. Success!

Click to add a blog post for Bambaleros on Zomato

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Any place that has Black pudding on it’s brunch menu gets bonus points in my book. There’s just something to be said for a good blood sausage to get the day going.

As Katie and I were in South Melbourne to pick up some baby related things that Katie had bought off EBay, we decided to grab some brunch at Dead Man Espresso. I didn’t know anything about the place, but Katie had heard some good things. We got there at about 12ish, so a little bit after the normal brunch rush and grabbed a seat inside. The one issue I have with a lot of café’s is that their tables are just too cramped. With Katie being 39 weeks along, it was pretty hard to navigate through the tables let alone sit down at the cramped bench table- although the waitress was very friendly and helpful. Once we had finished with the human Tetris process and had finally squeezed in, we ordered our tea and coffee and browsed the menu. When I saw the Campfire hotplate item on the menu had Black pudding I was pretty sure I knew what I was getting – it came with bacon, potato and kale hash, mushrooms, tomato’s, toast & fried eggs along with the Black pud ($22.50 from memory). Katie opted for the Potato & kale hash which came with grilled kaiserfleisch & fried eggs($19.50). Neither of the items were on the cheap side, but I guess these are more interesting than your usual fare so I figure it’s worth the slight premium.

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My Brunch came out on a sizzling skillet – great idea… Except on the tiny table, which was already overflowing with my tea pot and tea cup, Katie’s coffee and the water jug, glasses etc… the skillet becomes this dangerous burning plate of pain. I scalded myself a couple of times… but it was worth it. The plate was overflowing with food – the toast didn’t even fit, and the hash and black pudding were hiding underneath. It started to look like value for money to be honest. The black pudding was lovely, well spiced with a slight sweet note to counter the richness. The bacon was good quality, smokey and thickly cut – but they only gave me the short cut, would have been nice to get the streaky section. The Potato and Kale hash was also delicious, and with the mushrooms and tomato’s rounding out the dish I think we have a winner here.  Yes, there are a lot of great brunch options in South Melbourne, but I tell you what, I wouldn’t be complaining if I found myself at Dead Man Espresso for Brunch again.

Dead Man Espresso on Urbanspoon

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Katie and I love brunch – it’s possibly the most stress free dinning experience there can be. It’s slow and relaxed and you can just take your time, sipping your tea or coffee (gross – don’t even try to tell me coffee taste good). There just a ritual kind of aspect to Brunch that I like – it makes the day so much easier to face. Today’s brunch destination was in Camberwell – or Surry Hills – I’m a little confused as to which suburb this café is situated… Anyway, it’s a short drive down Riversdale rd. Katie did a little research and found All Blue Espresso, so this turned out to be the venue for our “Valentines day date”. I placed that in  “” because Katie is really the only one who would refer to our brunch as such. I on the other hand refuse to bow to this commercial hallmark holiday!! I’ll buy my wife flowers and shower her with attention when ever I feel like it thank you very much. Of course I’m hoping she doesn’t read this – Katie is after all, American, and they tend to take these things a little bit more seriously than us Aussies. Add in the fact that she’s pregnant… Well let’s just say that this valentines day I had to make more of an effort to shut my mouth (Debatable as to wether I succeeded).

All Blue Espresso is quite a small café, located in a row of shops off Riversdale rd. On arrival we were a little worried that we may have need to book – not to worry though, we managed to find a table inside easily enough, and were soon hungrily perusing the menu. After some indecision, Katie selected the corn fritters and I decided to go with the same dish I get just about every time, just about anywhere we go for brunch – the big breakfast. The “I’m Hungry” breakfast comes with chorizo, bacon, tomato, mushrooms, toast and eggs. No baked beans with this one, which is a bit of shame as I do love my beans. The breakfast itself was pretty standard, I liked the fact that they had buttered my toast – strangely enough so many places don’t these days, this just makes me annoyed. Who wants dry crusty toast? The mushrooms were almost a dice, but they were quite flavourful, and the tomato was a whole tomato, not halved, still spherical, and roasted which I really liked. The chorizo was lovely although a little spicy for me – but so nice that I kept eating it. What I didn’t much care for was the fact that the bacon was just the short cut:

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I may as well have a piece of ham – it’s the fat that gets crispy and tastes so good. Why leave that out?? Oh well. Katie quite enjoyed her corn fritters and the service was quite good. The price was also pretty  reasonable. We both got drinks – a pot of English breakfast for me – which was lovely, and a coffee for Katie. All for less than a $50. Whilst good, I’d say there are many great choices in the area, so I’d probably not go out of my way to go back just for Brunch (Or I’d try something different). The hunt continues…

 

All Blue Espresso on Urbanspoon

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Katie found a gem with this one – Fordham’s Milk bar, is a lovely café and actual milk bar located in Camberwell, not far from Hartwell train station. After all the moving and baby stuff lately, Katie and I needed some time to just sit and relax and have a nice brunch. Thankfully, Katie suggested Fordham’s – which is not too far from us. As it was a nice warm day we decided to sit outside and enjoy the breeze. I was pretty hungry so I order the big breakfast which comes with eggs, toast, sausage, bacon, roasted tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach. Katie ordered a breakfast burrito and then a croissant. Both meals were really delicious. Apparently Katie’s coffee was good, my tea was nice – but then it’s hard to stuff that up – although I did like the fact that it was loose leaf tea and the water was nice and hot.

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You can also probably see that I got an order of the Boston baked beans on the side as well. Whilst they were nothing like “Boston” baked beans I’ve had in Boston, they were still amazingly scrumptious. The crumbled feta added a nice sharp note and spice blend on the beans was really good. not sure if I’d call them Boston Baked Beans though… Everything else on my plate was executed exceptionally well. The scrambled eggs were done nicely, creamy and not dry at all. The sausages were excellent and had a nice flame-grilled flavour. The mushrooms were lovely and even the spinach was nice. I’d go back in a heart-beat. Apparently they have a burger as well. I know where my next burger adventure is taking me… Highly recommended.

Fordham's Milk Bar on Urbanspoon

 

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Bit of a sneaky afternoon burger adventure this one. Katie had organised to meet up with a student midwife at a café (Coco Loco) in Glen Waverly – part of some program run through the royal Womens… Anyway, Katie felt it best if I tag along so we could both meet the student midwife. I wasn’t feeling too great, but obviously I wanted to support Katie, being the great husband that I am, and so I pulled myself off the couch and off we went.

Located in the heart of the bustling Kingsway area, Coco Lounge looks like your standard café/restaurant, a nice enough spot, but nothing that really stands out. Originally we had just planned to stop for a drink and a chat with the midwife and then go on our way – however I spied the dinner menu, and it just happened to have a Wagyu burger… Thankfully, even though it was quite early, the kitchen had just started the dinner shift and I was able to order the burger. Advertised as coco’s signature Wagyu Beef Burger, it comes with aged cheddar, tomato and dark ale relish, aioli, crispy onions, and chard leaves, on a brioche bun. You also get a side of delicious twice cooked chips with some relish, aioli and herbed salt on the side. Back to the burger though – when it comes out it’s served American style – open. You get to admire the crispy onion rings I guess and it allows you to add a bit more sauce if you wish – but I’m still not a fan.

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I suspect the real reason it’s served this was is because they want to disguise the fact that the burger is hardly bigger than a slider. This is one of the smallest burgers I’ve had that wasn’t advertised as a slider. At $24.90 I’m really expecting a bit more beef for my buck – And it was really annoying because the burger was actually quite impressive otherwise.  First bite after you put the burger together you get the sweetness of the Brioche bun, and with this burger it matches well with the other elements, the sweet, beefy patty is excellent, although I like mine to be a little pink, it was still juicy and well seasoned. The crispy onion rings were great, it’s like caramelised onions with crunch – awesome. There was a bit of bite from the Chard, and the sauces and cheese really balanced out the burger. I wasn’t left thinking – gee, I’d really like this burger more if it had … in it. It was a really well balanced burger. However, it was also a tiny burger, with a small handfull of chips on the side – this is not a value for money burger. I’d give it a 7.5, but I’d be thinking over 8 if it was the normal size!

Coco Lounge on Urbanspoon

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I’ve been to Tully’s a few times to pick up some fresh produce and visit the deli, and they always have a really good selection and great quality fresh food. When Katie suggested we try brunch at the cafe next door I figured that at the very least they’d have good ingredients to start with so brunch here must be half decent.

It was a very windy Sunday morning so Katie and I elected to sit inside – the seating was quite squashy and I would imagine it would be really cramped if the place was busy – thankfully we were there pretty early so it wasn’t full. Both Katie and I were pretty hungry so we wasted no time in ordering breakfast. Katie ordered the eggs (scrambled) and bacon option, which also comes with sautéed spinach & tomatoes on sourdough bread $14.95. I ordered the Farmhouse Breakfast which comes with poached eggs fagioli (borlotti beans), sautéed mushrooms, pure pork bambino sausage, sautéed spinach, tomatoes, and ciabatta toast – $18.95.

The food was clearly good quality as you would expect when you are starting with top quality fresh ingredients – For example the spinach was exceptionally good – only just wilted, it allowed the star if the show, baby spinach leaves to shine though. The roasted tomato was so flavoursome and the mushrooms were lovely.  However, although the ingredients were clearly top quality, the dishes themselves needed a bit more attention to detail. Katie’s coffee seemed like it was rushed and the top of her latte, was just a mess. I know I’m no coffee drinker, but I’m always impressed with the patterns on the foam – this one was just a mess of ugly bubbles (Apparently this has no effect on the flavour).  My poached eggs… well they didn’t seem like poached eggs – they seemed like my Nana had made them in her special poaching mold, which really steams the eggs which gives a different texture than poaching them. The bread wasn’t buttered, and no butter was provided which I find a little bit annoying, although the bread itself was amazingly good. Whilst the breakfast was enjoyable, the end result just didn’t deliver on the potential, a bit hit and miss for me.

Apple Espresso @ Tully's on Urbanspoon

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Another lovely Spring day in Elwood – the leaves are starting to come out and the sun is starting to shine more frequently – Saturday in particular started off pleasantly – a nice day for a walk I thought, and a perfect day to head down to Ormond Rd. and find a café for brunch.

It’s not a long walk from my place to the Ormond Rd shops, so off Katie and I went – 15 minutes later we were seated inside at Wild Café. I’d walked past Wild Café countless times, but I’d never been in, it’s not the most popular of the café’s on Ormond Rd. and that always makes you a little wary about going in – is there something that people know that I don’t one tends to wonder. That and the ambiance doesn’t seem all that enticing, I’m not a fan of the layout. Anyway, since we were both hungry, we made the decision to give the place a go, Katie was getting cranky and I was getting there myself. Katie sat down and ordered some tea and coffee while I finished off some errands – but the time I got back the drinks were on the table and the only thing left to do was make a decision on the food. Easier that it seems. The Menu at Wild is confusing – I hate the layout, it took me way too long to figure out what I was looking at. Sure it looks pretty, but for those who have only just gotten out of bed or just aren’t too sharp to begin with it’s a little bit hard to read… Might just be me? Eventually I figured out that they do offer breakfast and so we made our orders. I went for the standard big breakfast (Not sure what they call it here), with Scrambled eggs, toast, sausage, bacon, tomato’s and mushrooms. I had to check with Katie first because she has this weird pregnancy aversion to mushrooms. She was ok with me ordering them, I just wasn’t allowed to mentioned them or acknowledge their presence in anyway for fear of making her sick at the table. Katie ordered the beans and baked eggs dish – although I was worried that the eggs would not be cooked through. I read somewhere that if you eat uncooked eggs when pregnant then, well I can’t remember, but I ‘m sure it’s bad… Possibly fatal. Thankfully, Katie and unborn baby survived. Here’s a tip – do not Google anything about pregnancy if you are a mother or father to be. Basically you will start to look at everything as being a potential threat to the life of both the mother and your unborn child. I’m sure this feeling of paranoia will only get worse once baby is born. Katie thankfully much less crazy than I am. Our child has a chance, small though it is, of being at least 50% normal…

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Ok, so back to the eggs – Katie’s baked eggs came with a nice flavoursome chili style baked bean and tomato ragù, a side of bacon and some house baked bread. The bread was a bit “cakey”, but otherwise she enjoyed her meal. My meal was ok, the eggs were cooked the way I like them, creamy, buttery, on a nice grainy sourdough that I’m sure had a drizzle of fruity olive oil and not butter – nice touch actually. The sausages were overcooked and a little burnt on one side so they were disappointing and the bacon was ok – again just not crispy enough for me – there were parts of my bacon that were just warmed, not fried. I don’t get it. At least it was the full rasher and not just the short cut. The highlight for me was the sautéed mushrooms. They came out late, on a separate plate – but they were worth it, a mix of mushrooms, including some Enoki and Shimeji and your standard Portobello and Button – all sautéed lightly in some butter, these were great on toast. As far a brunch places go this is certainly not the best option on Ormond Rd. however, it was enjoyable, so if you don’t feel like battling the crowds at some of the other places, Wild café is worth a shot.

Wild Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Mum had offered to come up from Mornington and take Katie and I our for lunch in celebration of Katie’s recent graduation from her Masters of Design degree from Swinburne. Katie chose Chez Dré on the basis that they offer a pretty well regarded range of French “petits gateaux” (I don’t even know what that means…) and Macaroons (Which I can take or leave to be honest) – much to my dismay they don’t offer a burger, but then we had had our burger fix on Friday night so I shouldn’t really whinge. Ok, look it’s not all about me, but luckily they do brunch and not just sweets. Chez Dré is a French café and patisserie located in South Melbourne not far from the bustling South Melbourne Markets. This of course makes trying to find a park on a Sunday a bit of a head ache, but as they say, good things are worth the wait… They don’t take bookings on weekends, and the places was very busy but Katie managed to snag a table reasonable quickly and we were seated and ordering in no time. Katie and I order the “grand petit dejeuner”, I’m going to guess that it means big breakfast, but of course it sounds way better in French.

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For $21.50 you get toulouse sausage, ‘istra’ bacon, avocado, slow roasted tomato, herb potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, tomato relish and poached eggs on sourdough toast. It’s quite a lot of food so a good choice if you are hungry.

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Mum ordered the Duck Sandwich $23.50, which is a confit pulled duck sandwich with onion jam, red cabbage (Lightly pickled), grated apple & truffle mayonnaise. First things first – since Katie’s been pregnant she can’t look at a mushroom – which works for me since I’m like a hobbit when it comes to mushrooms! Normally I’d expect one or two mushrooms on a big breakfast plate, but not here – One serving of the lovely Portobello mushrooms is about 4, so I got  double – Winning! They had a great flavour – beautifully cooked with a nice hint of thyme. Just lovely on the sourdough toast. I swapped her the avocado (Never been a fan – apart from guacamole…). The Toulouse sausage was great, but cold by the time I found it – just so much food (And too much talking)! The one let down for me was the bacon – not really cooked – with lovely bacon like that it should be crispy, not soft – disappointing. Mum’s Duck sandwich was a talking point – a huge mound of confit duck, with a lightly pickled red cabbage, caramelised onion  and amazing seeded mustard and truffled mayo on sourdough – just stunning. Mum couldn’t get through it all, so we all had a bite. Of course after all that eating we had to try out the petits gateaux.

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I had the Caramel-Mandarin dome, which according to the menu was a “vanilla brûleé, mandarin jelly, pain de genes, valrhona ‘caramelia’ mousse” all of this for $9.50. Now I might not full appreciate what all of those things mean, but I do know that it tasted pretty damn good. Katie ordered the praline, apple & popcorn and Mum ordered the lemon – hazelnut tart. We couldn’t finish them all, not for want of trying, but in the end they were simply too big! There’s a reason this place is so popular – if you are looking for an amazing brunch with a French twist, I strongly recommend heading down.

Chez Dré on Urbanspoon