3 girls 1 Korean

It was a Saturday and we were off on another coffee expedition trip. This time to Focus, a cafe in Balwyn that came recommended.

I drove towards Focus with excitement, not only because my tummy was rumbly, but because I was going to meet my friend’s (what kids nowadays call) bae for the first time. I arrive on time (dare I say I am usually pretty punctual) and see my friend’s gf and her friend already seated. It just so happened that my friend’s gf and I had crossed paths professionally in pre-bae days…small world!
I sat down and us girls complain in unison about how our fourth (the Korean) is habitually late. Let the bonding begin 🙂 Guys, if you need any compelling reason for being punctual (other than because of basic courtesy), consider that.
The Korean finally makes an appearance and I casually (and in good fun) refer to the time he kept me waiting for almost an hour and a half at Mr Miyagi. We proceed to order coffee. For us amateurs, we chose a non-syphon style of coffee – cold drip or latte. You can guess what the Korean chose (see picture of syphon coffee below..I am told the top attachment is missing)
I decided to not go all-american/Korean with the Ganam style fried chicken and waffles special and instead proceeded to order the House cured pork jowl, poached eggs, potato rosti, puff pastry and hollandaise sauce. The other fusion specials on Focus’s board were very enticing, but the Korean refused to be side tracked from the soft shelled crab burger.
We sipped at our coffee and chatted away about our favourite movies (the girls were huge Lord of the Rings fans. There was only one star trek fan in the mix – guess who?), travelling and food poisoning (always a great talking point). I am no coffee expert, but my second cold drip experience was very enjoyable. Light and delicate and wonderfully smooth.
The food arrives and before we can say instagram the soft shelled crab burger is demolished. The feedback I got was that it was a decent burger, but the best one is still from Hammer and Tong. We debate about black sesame buns: The girls were in one corner, the Korean in the other.
My modified version of an Eggs Benedict was pleasant. The rosti was fluffy without the usual oily mouth feel. The puff pastry was crispy and crumbly and added a textural element (though slightly dry).Pork jowl I am not familiar with, but it tasted to me what I imagine jerky to taste like. Not my thing but a good salty accompaniment to the rest of the dish. All in all enjoyable.
With the food and coffee finished, us girls had to ceasefire on teasing the poor Korean and go our separate ways. Would go back again if in the area to try their fusion specials and get another coffee fix 🙂

Lazer pig, lazer pig, does whatever a lazer pig does

You may be shocked (and maybe slightly offended) to know that pizza is not on my list of favourite foods. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. So when I found out that awesome pizza place (disguised as a late night hipster pot-smoking bar) just a stone throw from my apartment, I did not lose my pants over this news. But I have to admit that Lazer pig has the best pizzas I’ve ever tried (excluding the ones I had in Italy)!

I am quite ashamed to say that both times Brit and I had Lazer pig, we had it takeaway. The option to make an order on the phone and show up 20 minutes late in my pajamas was just too tempting to pass up. Nonetheless, we still has the chance to  check out the interior upon pick up.

The decor is not what you’d expect as pizzeria to look like. First of all, the exterior of the restaurant are filled with sleeping cartoon pigs  (which mislead me to believe the name of the place was “Lazy pig” instead of “Lazer pig” for a long time). As you walk in, it’s quite dark, only with some decorative lighting – a little bit like an upper class version of Perseverance/PAs (college kids, ya know what I mean). There is some cute chalk writing of menu specials on the walls – presumably to pay homage the style of traditional pizzeria ancestors.

Alright, time to pig into the food (pun intended). The stand out feature about their pizzas is the pizza dough. To me, it’s what makes or breaks a pizza. I wouldn’t classify it as either thick of thin crust, but somewhere in between. The best way I describe the dough to my friends is it has the fluffy “sink your teeth into it” consistency of Naan bread, but is thin enough so that the toppings still have a chance to shine. Secondly, the ingredients are so incredibly fresh and the combinations of toppings on offer aren’t the regulars. There are some awesome aussie flavours for those who are on the bogan side.

So far we’ve had the Prawn fraser (tomato base, south australian prawns, buffalo mozzarella, lemon, chilli, roquette and pesto),  Smashing pumpkin (garlic base, roast pumpkin, spinach, goat feta, buffalo, mozzarella and chilli), Mary had a little lamb (garlic base, slow cooked lamb, fior di latte, red onion, olives, fetta, rosemary and lemon) and Lazer pig to the rescue (fontina bechamel base, pulled pork shoulder, BBQ onions, smokey BBQ sauce, chilli, basil and apply cider reduction). Might I add that they have the cutest pizza boxes too?!?!


My favourite is the Smashing pumpkin. Brit reckons the Prawn fraser is the best. We’ll both agree to disagree on that.

Also, we recently found out that they have $10 margaritas during happy hour! Bonus!!!

Alas, I finally made it to the end of the post. Its been so hectic lately, I’ve only had time to write this post in 10 minute intervals taking the tram to and from uni (ikr, how sad is that).


Mojo no go

We had just watched ‘The Eagle Huntress’, a documentary showing at the MIFF about a Mongolian girl who defies tradition by becoming a master eagle hunter (a role traditionally reserved for males). The film had absolutely breath taking cinematography and the story it captured was equally moving – a girl with the courage, strength and passion to challenge gender stereotypes and a father’s unconditional support and love for his dear child.

It goes without saying we were on a high as we walked towards White Mojo in Melbourne CBD. The 20 minute wait for a table couldn’t dampen our (eagle) soaring spirits. The interior of the cafe is indeed bright white (as the name suggests) with geometric grey tiling which gives the place a bit more of a hip rather than warm feel. I was quietly hopeful that White Mojo would be able to rival Hardware Societe, a cafe just across the street which draws an irrationally large crowd most mornings.
The menu was appealling. I was immediately drawn to the cauliflower pannacotta served with scallop, pancetta and egg as it seemed like a master chef winning dish. But after a couple of hours of serious tear welling at the Forum Theatre, I felt like something more substantial. I ordered the salmon tartare with miso avocado, spicy mayonnaise, crisp bagel, dehydrated onions and 63 egg. My fellow MIFF enthusiast couldn’t resist ordering White Mojo’s most popular dish – the White Mojo Croissant Burger, a croissant filled with soft shell crab, chipotle mayonnaise and picked cucumber topped with a fried egg and the Matcha Latte.
I was pleasantly surprised when my dish arrived. Rather than a whole bagel, the dish is served with thin bagel slices. Cripsy yes, good texture contrast to the tartare yes, toasted no, favoursome no. I would humbly suggest bagel chips to enhance the dish. The salmon tartare was fresh, but the mayonnaise made the tartare quite rich. The dehydrated onion was also a little too pungent for me – I would have loved to taste more of the miso avocado.
The fried egg on the croissant burger looked very enticing. As I ate the dish with my eyes, my eating companion daintily worked her way through her burger (she has dainty hands and an equally dainty eating style) – she commented that the burger was tasty, but as rich as you would expect a soft shell crab croissant burger to be. Fair comment.
As a side note, Fran has been to the White Mojo in Balwyn and fully endorses the croissant burger…each to their own.
After the waiter cleared our plates, we eyed the mini doughnuts/cake doughnuts on display and debated briefly about whether I could fit a whole mini doughnut in my mouth. Let’s just say I didn’t take the bait when challenged.
As we walked away, we felt confident we would be raving about The Eagle Huntress and not White Mojo for the weeks to come.
If you are looking for a brunch/lunch place in the city that has a creative (but rich and slightly pricey) brunch menu and if you are up for a little wait, give White Mojo a shot. But not before watching The Eagle Huntress!!!

Higher ground, lower quality 

Ok, so I’m going to keep this one pretty brief because I don’t like to dwell on the negatives. I was quite disappointed with my brunch experience at Higher Ground yesterday. Here are my thoughts.

I was looking forward to a wonderful brunch with my dear friend Alice. I normally steer away from new, hyped-up places (because they are usually not worth the hype) but that day, I was in the mood to surprise myself.

I was excited to see there was a heated seated outdoor waiting area. For once, I didn’t experience an inner-conflict between waiting out in the cold and giving in to going somewhere else to with no waiting time. The staff were super friendly and on-the-ball too. The concept of the restaurant was impressive – a refurbished warehouse with different levels to dine on, overlooking the main atrium (hence, “higher ground”). Unfortunately, these will be the only positive aspects I’ll be writing about…

On a first glace, nothing on the menu seemed to tickle my tastebuds (some say I’m a picky eater, but I strongly disagree). Upon a second read-through, I settled for the Eggs Benedict – thinking I couldn’t go wrong with a classic. Plus, ordering classic dishes at a restaurant  I’m trying for the first time is one of my favourite ways to get a feel for its culinary standards. When the eggs ben arrived, I was extremely underwhelmed with what was served to me – 2 slices of bread and 2 poached eggs slapped onto the plate. The portion size was tiny and the presentation was pathetic. I was halfway through my meal until I realised a little piece of bacon was squished between the bread slices (can’t even be seen in the photo). The hollandaise sauce was too salty and sour. I was convinced they had served me mustard instead. I will go as far to say that I have never had an eggs ben worse than this! They totally butchered this classic brunch favourite. It was also one of the more expensive eggs ben I’ve come across too…

Alice had the spiced cauliflower scrambled eggs. It wasn’t as disastrous as my dish – the flavours were there and visually, it looked much more appetising than mine. But again, the serving size was small for what you paid for.

I know its not exactly fair for me to judge a restaurant based on 2 dishes, but if you can’t get the basics right, it doesn’t instil much confidence in me to try your other creations.

On the other hand, I beat Brit here (she had plans go 3 days after me, but did know it was close on a Sunday night until she got there) so that’s a win for me.



Oh Brother, deja vu

I was supposed to meet a friend for brunch at Workshop Brothers on Saturday. An hour and a half before the designated meeting time, I receive a message from him asking me whether I wanted to meet at the branch in the city or the one in Glen Huntly…then I saw the black cat in the Matrix for the second time…

Rewind to almost a year ago when 3 bros (well, 2 bros plus me) had decided to meet for a burger dinner at Brother Burger. Bro 1 plus me sat in a booth at the Brother Burger on Chapel Street whilst we patiently waited for Bro 2 over a couple of beers. We then get a frantic call from Bro 2 asking ‘Hey, are you guys at the Brother Burger on Brunswick Street?!?!’ My jaw drops, oh no! Bro 2 is at the Brother Burger in Fitzroy! We weren’t specific enough! I relay the story to Bro 1, and in true Bro style, he starts laughing uncontrollably. Bro 2 starts laughing too and an hour later, Bro 2 shows up, still in good spirits. And we proceed to enjoy burgers and (more) beer together 🙂
Fast forward to present time – I quickly typed ‘Bro, this is Brother Burger all over again!’ He laughs. We decide to meet at the Workshop Brothers in the city since he hadn’t been to that branch before. It soon became very clear the brunch gods were looking out for us that day because I just so happened to google the address of place and noticed it was closed on Saturdays…out with the car keys and off to Glen Huntly.
The Glen Huntly cafe was surprisingly quiet for a coffee place which (as my ex-barista Bro 2 tells me) is currently dominating the beanhunter rankings. But that’s just what I want from a brunch place in the burbs. The menu looked quite interesting. Quinoa and parmesan fritters, waffles with yummy goodness, eggs benedict with beef brisket…the list goes on. Classic with a twist. We were starvin marvin after all that dejavu talk. Bro 2 orders the Le Paul, which is a wagu beef burger with fries, double pattie (not surprising…) I order the Croque Madame with a side of fries. And of course the main event – drip coffee, single origin, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe ‘Aricha’.
A drip coffee virgin, my eyes lit up when I saw the barista set aside the coffee to ‘drip’ oh so slowly into our glasses from a distance. He places the glasses of coffee in front of us and quietly says ‘It tastes better when it cooled down slightly’. I wait patiently, hugging the glass between my hands, breathing in the glorious coffee fumes and then after a few minutes sipping at the liquid gold. Drip coffee is very enjoyable. My choice of poison frequently is a long black or a long mac, which is usually very flavourful, but potent and sometimes overpowering. Drip coffee to me is delicate and allows you to enjoy the slow, comforting release of caffeine with each sip.
The food arrives shortly after and I immediately regret ordering the extra side of fries. Clearly, my eyes were bigger than my stomach that lunch. The fried egg splayed on top of my toast which was oozing bechamel and cheese just screamed ‘Dig in!’ Bro 2 gives his monster of a burger a 360 degrees size up. As he ponders how to physically take a bite out of the burger, I slice into my decked out toastie. To my disappointment, a soft fluffy thick cut bread was used and though it served well to soak up the bechamel sauce and other juices, it was soggy as a result. I much prefer a croque madame made with a more sturdy sour dough. But it was tasty nonetheless – you can’t go wrong with ham, cheese and sauce!
Bro 2 finally got a bite in after admitting defeat to utensils. Before reaching the halfway mark, he exclaimed he should have stuck with the single pattie. The burger to me looked very appealing and I would be lying if I said I didn’t have food envy. But he later disclosed to me that though the bun was nice, the patties were a bit dry.
All in all, great coffee, good place to venture on a lazy weekend. I would go back to try the other very enticing dishes on their menu. They also have nice pastries and doughnuts which I didn’t get to try but know (deep in my soul) would go amazingly well with the coffee. If you are in the city, perhaps give the coffee a go.

It’s getting brex-enter in here

Last week I bid a good friend farewell – he is going to the UK to spend some time with family for a good few months. As I think back to the past 10 years of our friendship since we first met as young law students, the most recent standout memory of our time together was spent D&M-ing over dinner at The Grace Darling Hotel.

At that time, we both had been dealing with bigger than usual dramas in our lives. A meet up was long over due. Too emotionally and physically fatigued, I suggested my local. Though I casually refer to The Grace Darling Hotel as my local, it is far from a low key (but trust worthy) pub which you go to for a quiet drink. It is a pumpin pub almost every day of the week, with music gigs Thursday-Sunday (so I hear) and hearty honest food.
I had first noticed The Grace Darling Hotel when I was living in East Melbourne years ago. Walking along Smith, I often peered through the hotel’s stain glass entrance and wondered what grandeur awaited on the other side. I finally pushed past the coats and hangers and stepped into the wardrobe leading to Narnia when a friend of mine decided to have his going away drinks at The Grace Darling Hotel (coincidentally also before he jetted off to British green(er) pastures) last year in 2015. It was sunny afternoon, and the front room of the pub was radiant and inviting – the perfect venue for a lazy Sunday get-together. Delighted about the variety of beers on tap, I quickly ordered a pint of light beer to kick things off. I then proceeded to order what would be the sticking point for the rest of the afternoon – The pappardelle with duck ragout and parmesan.  It turned out the rest of the gang had ordered the Angus beef burger (I believe some of the boys had (without hesitation) gone down the double pattie double cheese heart attack route) and my pasta choice was in their minds blasphemous. The pasta was nothing to rave about, but banter that unfolded was worth every cent and I proudly waved that anti-herd-mentality flag. I have yet to verify how burgerlicious the burgers are personally but I can report back that the boys were raving about them.
Two beers in and a toilet break was needed. As I stepped away from the main room and headed towards the toilets, I was taken away by the glass-house like backroom which was a half level down. It sheltered greenery and light and positive energy. To the side seemed to be a slightly more formal room with a longish high table in the middle for dining. I later found out that the hotel has a few split levels on which the hotel holds simultaneous music gigs on the weekends. I haven’t been to a gig there to date, but judging from the crowd weekend after weekend, they must have something good happening. Though I usually avoid going back to the same place twice, I made a mental note to keep the hotel in mind when I wanted a lazy sunny pub afternoon sheltered from the other less desirable elements.
Jumping back forward to 2016, we were seated in the very glass-house-like room which had taken my breath away last year. At night, it is transformed into a romantic space, dimly lit with candles scattered with intimate tables for twos or larger groups. Perfect for a D&M between old friends.
I ordered the beef cheek and red wine risotto with spinach, basil, roasted beets and saffron risotto & shaved parmesan. My dear friend ordered the special of the day – pork belly with the usual accompaniments (asian much?) My male friend grinned from ear to ear when our dishes arrived. His portion was huge, and mine, even more ginormous (which meant he would inevitably need to step up to help the ‘damsel’ finish her Flintstones of a portion whilst of course graciously pretending he hadn’t been eyeing her food the whole meal). But hand on heart, the risotto portion was big – huge chunks of melt-in-your-mouth beef cheek, with a generous scatter of whole, earthy and creamy beets sitting in a swamp of basmati-rice-like risotto. For $25 it can easily feed two. My only criticism is that the risotto was a tad oily for my liking. The pork belly I hear was also very satisfying.
Over the night, we took turns narrating our woes, being the listening ear, bitching fiercely for therapeutic measure and comforting the other (by either bitching with matching intensely or agreeing vehemently about the injustices of the world). And of course reminiscing about the good old days. A great night for a great friendship. Bitching buddies for life.
So as Britain takes my second friend from me in the span of 1 year, I think of The Grace Darling Hotel and wonder if it will continue to be a reminder of the good ol days, or of friends that are now far away. But true friends are never far despite distance, so I am confident it will be the former.