Grub a grub grub, doggos and hoomans in a tub

Grub Food Van has become our favourite dog friendly dinner place in the last few months. It is a warm, welcoming, funky hippy place, filled with greenery, love and amazingly good food. It is more well known as a brunch/lunch place, but their dinner menu is sophisticated and modern, and though it seems to be a random mish-mash of cuisines, boy do they do it well. And to top it all off, GFV is dog friendly (in both the indoor AND outdoor areas!)

Words cannot describe how unique this place is: The outside area has a weird trailer park feel (most probably walk in thinking they have the wrong address).The floors are covered with plastic middle eastern rugs, the tables and chairs are old patio furniture repainted bright colours, and is topped off with a strange army camouflage leafy netting that envelops the area. Not to mention the singular food van that seems to be ready to receive anyone/anything that might beam down from outer-space at any moment.The inside area isn’t any less strange. I would describe it as a cross between Bimbo (Yes, the pizza place on Brunswick street that is filled with baby dolls dressed up in S&M gear), a garden garage sale from the 1970s held in a greenhouse.

From instagram

Dog friendliness rating: Excellent
Shared space for dogs and humans: Great. As mentioned above, dogs are allowed in both the indoor and outdoor area, so Grub Food Van is good for all seasons. If your dog struggles with hot weather, I would recommend you come when it is slightly cooler in the evenings and sit outside. This is the only dinner place we currently know of that has an indoor dog friendly area.
Personal space for dogs: The indoor and outdoor areas are very spacious. There isn’t much space under the tables, but there is sufficient space between tables and in the surrounds.
Dog loving staff: The place can be quite busy, but the staff are at heart dog lovers.
Dog amenities: Dog bowls and, yes free dog treats! are always offered.
Bonus: The place is also very kid friendly.

On to the amazing food…Grub Food Van’s menu changes often. But so far we’ve have had:
From land
Coconut chicken salad with peanuts, kaffir lime leaf, chilli, coconut dressing: This was a light refreshing dish. A good dish to throw into the mix if you have other heavy dishes
sautéed chicken livers with hazelnut, port poached pear, frisee and queso valdeon salad: This was a standout dish. The livers were cooked well, well seasoned and the accompaniments chosen were perfectly complimentary. A must have!
braised lamb shoulder with Israeli couscous, glazed carrots and bbq garlic chives: The other standout dish in our opinion. Not your typical lamb shoulder, this one is more dark and earthy rather than being tomato based or citrus matched. The crunchy baby carrots done rustic adds the texture balance.
Rustic Chicken pie: Best chicken pie I’ve ever had. Seriously creamy, cheesy chicken casserole filling encased in buttery pastry (not too flaky, juust right!)

From sea
scallop ceviche with lime, chilli, toasted coconut on betal leaf: A refreshing dish, perfect for summer or as a starter.
grilled sardine bruschetta with tomato compote, capers and lemon: I’ve been to some (expensive) Spanish tapas places where they actually serve marinated sardines in the can with a few pieces of crusty bread on the side?! I was pleased when this dish consisted of proper whole small fresh sardines, grilled nicely and served with the right citrus. Good with vino 😉
Assam curry of barramundi with okra & tomato, crispy lentil and fried curry leaves: If you know what Assam curry tastes like, you will be disappointed as GFV’s version of assam curry is neither sour nor spicy. But it is nonetheless tasty with perfectly fried barramundi, served with a thick (from the okra) dahl like sauce. A good dish to order if you want a lighter main dish.
pan seared scallops in curried soup: served in a pool of curry lobster bisque-like liquid gold

From the garden
triple cooked chips with native spice salt and bush tomato sauce: If you watch enough cooking competition reality TV shows, triple cooked chips are often not worth the effort. The chips were decent, but I do still prefer my auntie’s humble par boiled potatoes finished off in the oven with rosemary and olive oil.
– roasted half broccoli with otway shiitake, whipped tofu, shaved broccoli, black vinegar & Sichuan chilli dressing: To be honest, I am partial to any half/whole roasted broccoli or cauliflower, despite how overpriced they are. This is a good main if you are vego/vegan, or a good side if you are sharing. A bit on the fusion side, but trust me – the creamy, tangy and spicy sauce wraps up the roasted broccoli in a perfect red bow.
broccolini with whipped tofu with amazing fried bacon bits

I also hear that Grub Food Van serves some amazing cocktails, so I am keen to go back to try this. And also to explore their brunch food 🙂 It’s gonna be hard to keep away once you’ve tried this place!

Hope you try the place!





Mornington Peninsula for doggos

Our dad was visiting Melbourne for 10 days, a rarity as he usually has a 3-day turnaround. We decided to head down to the Mornington Peninsula. Although my dad and I have made countless trips together down to the Mornington Peninsula over the years, I was particularly excited this time because we had Sarah in tow ❤

We headed first to The Rock in Mornington. Schnapper Point Drive in Mornington is a great stop if you are heading to the more eastern/North eastern parts of the Mornington Peninsula (it’s about a half an hour drive away to e.g. Rye or Redhill from there). The Rock is one of our old favourites because it is semi-open air restaurant, one level above ground, granting diners a great view of the Mornington pier, the sea spotted with boats and a little beach slip. To our great disappointment, The Rock is not dog friendly (I repeat – NOT dog friendly).

But no matter, we diverted our attention straight to Schnappers, a more casual café on the ground floor at Schnappers Point which is obviously much more friendly to people with mobility challenges (to get to the Rock, you will need to climb one decent flight of stairs)  but also very welcoming to dogs. In fact, we met three other pooches when we arrived – a sweet Italian greyhound (all Italian greyhounds are sweet!), a schnauzer and a little white fluffy.

Dog friendly overall rating: Good
Shared space for dogs and humans: As mentioned, a serene, picturesque look out to Mornington Pier. Exposed to the elements – as like most piers it can get pretty windy and the cold air from the South can cut, but if you catch sunshine, it’s bloody worth it.
Personal space for dogs: If your dog needs it personal space, it may struggle as the tables facing the pier are quite close together.
Dog loving staff: They seemed pretty used to navigating doggos.
Dog amenities: From memory dog bowls were available.

The food at Scnhappers: Exceeded my expectations! I had poached eggs and smoked salmon with hollandaise sauce and dad had, no surpise, the beef pie. Both were pretty good for a low key café.


To make most of the day, we decided to head to a winery. Montalto was the first wine-tasting place that came to mind – it has a big outdoors alfresco area where they serve casual food like pizza and the like, with a view of outdoor art work and countryside greenery, ideal for absorbing Vitamin D on a sunny day. Again, not the most handicap friendly place as you have to descend a few precarious sandy steps to get to the Montalto gateway. Halfway down the steps we were gently turned away because dogs are not allowed, but the hostess gracefully ushered us to their neighbouring and sister venue, Tuck’s Ridge.

If possible, the ambiance at Tuck’s Ridge is even better than at Monalto. You have a view of rolling hills of vineyards, a big overhanging tree (complete with a really romantic floating/swinging platform) frames the left side of your view with deck chairs casually dotted across the lawn. The outdoor area is complete with long picnic tables, perfect for a casual but classy setting.

Dog friendly rating: Very good
Shared space for dogs and humans: As mentioned, the view is amazing. Perfect for a lazy brunch, lunch or afternoon tea. Just such a great place to breathe in the fresh countryside air. Exposed to the elements – the space is not sheltered so get your hats, sunnies and jackets out (yup, that’s Victorian weather for you).
Personal space for dogs: If your dog needs it personal space, there is plenty of room at the ends of each table and under each table. If your dog is getting fidgety, take them for a wander around the big grass field.
Dog loving staff: They are true dog lovers, generous with pats, kisses and complements. They are so happy that the owners of Montalto have opened a sister restaurant that is dog friendly.
Dog amenities: Dog bowls available.

The food: Amazing. We had:
– pea and ham croquettes with smoked aioli
– spiced lamb shoulder with preserved lemon and garlic yougurt and
– shaved cabbage, soused onion, mint and almond (and from memory it had raisins as well)

The croquettes were definitely not your every-day croquettes – they were like fried mash potato, silky and almost runny on the inside, the ham was a good flavour punch, and the aioli was nice and rich and garlicky. The lamb shoulder was probably the best lamb I’ve ever had. The honest earthiness of the lamb achieved with the rotisserie was paired brilliantly with the cool yougurt. I most appreciated that the lamb wasn’t overly fatty. The fresh salad lightened the meal as a whole nicely.

I would definitely go back, and have even recommended that a friend hold their wedding there!

We had dinner at Pep’s beachfront (which I think now has been renamed/has changed ownership recently). It is right opposite the Rye Pier, it’s a corner restaurant – you can’t miss it.

Dog friendliness: Not bad
Shared space for dogs and humans: Not great. The space is pretty much right next to the road. Hoomans dine on cheap-ish cold metal chairs and tables (unlike in the picture – as I mentioned, I think it has changed ownership recently). Sits about 4 parties (so you might have to fight with other parties with dogs for a table!). Doggos lie on the exposed concrete floor. It is completely exposed, not ideal as the winds coming straight from the Pier are cutting and cold. We just gobbled our food up quickly and got out of there! Better if you go at lunch to get some sunlight.
Personal space for dogs: Not bad. I brought darling Sarah down to Rye Pier while the others waited for the food. I would highly recommend a wander down – the pier is humble but like many things in life, just beautiful in simplicity.
Dog loving staff: Quite friendly but the main gig is the inside more ‘fine dining’ restaurant.
Dog amenities: Dog bowls available.

From Instagram!

Food: Exceeded expectations! We had:
– The calamari Fritti – yummy, decent serve
– Mussels served in tomato, chilli and parsley sauce: You won’t be able to resist eating this dish with your hands and licking the sauce off afterwards. A big warm-the-belly serve.
– Pasta with peas, ham, mushroom and a touch of cream: Hard to get this wrong, but it did the trick after a long day of touring the MP.
– Diavola pizza (Mozzarella, hot salami, peppers and chilli): This had legit hot, spicy salami. The salami was baked such that it was just slightly crispy on the edges, but still oozing its natural oils (like when you correctly fry chorizo). I was very impressed as the hot salami at other pizza places are usually not spicy/spiced, and either limp & anaemic or too crispy.

From Fran's insta post!

Finally, for lunch the next day, we went to a place which reputation precedes itself – Just Fine Food in Sorrento. I was introduced to the vanilla slice from JFF back when I was in university and I have been in love ever since. Once my dad and I even drove all the way down to Sorrento just to get some of these bad boys! A lot of time we will call ahead to reserve a tray, afraid that the early afternoon tea breakers would result in us leaving us empty handed.

Dog friendliness: Good
Shared space for dogs and humans: Most of JFF’s seating is outdoors. Usually crowded since it’s on the main shopping stretch of Sorrento, it’s a great casual café for breakfast, brunch, lunch or afternoon tea. The outdoor area is pretty basic, rough concrete style, complete with basic tables and chairs under umbrellas.
Personal space for dogs: There isn’t much space under the tables and the tables can be quite close together.
Dog loving staff: JFF is always busy, so the staff seemed more tolerant rather than friendly.
Dog amenities: No dog bowls available.

The food: My favourites are the vanilla slice (described above) and the passion fruit sponge (it is so light and fluffy!). We also had:
– curried egg sandwich: The relish was a bit on the sweet side, but the sandwich was still tasty. This was under the ‘Seriously big sandwiches’, but I think JFF underestimates my appetite!
– Cous Cous Roasted Pumpkin salad: This had yummy giant Lebanese cous cous (great texture with just enough give). Fresh, filling and healthy.
– Chicken and avocado sandwich: Can’t go wrong with this either!

Other doggo tips: We found out that doggos are not allowed on most beaches during the summer daylight saving months – a big big pooh bear!! But I found out from a friend that Somers Beach is a dog friendly beach (I believe it is on the non-bay side of the Mornington Peninsula).

All in all the great trip down to the Mornington Peninsula – I hope with the above you are more confident about the area and will bring your doggo down for a day trip or even an overnighter.

To more adventures with Sarah!



Gold at the end of the rainbow

Those who have read our post ‘Dogs and brunch’ would know that Fran was on the hunt for a furbaby to call her own. On her fourth visit to The Lost Dogs home, she meet our now darling Sarah. It was not love at first sight, but it was love at first walk. Fran describes how she fell in love with Sarah when Sarah was so gentle and calm on their first walk together. And the rest is history.

Since then, our darling Sarah, a 7 year old rescue greyhound, has become the love of our lives and the center of our universe. We try to bring her wherever we go, which has led to a search for dog friendly cafes, restaurants and parks.

High on our list is The Rainbow Hotel in Fitzroy not only because it serves amazing food that doesn’t break the bank but it also is an ideal shared space for humans and dogs.

Dog friendly overall rating: Very good
Shared space for dogs and humans: A bright, clean and casual outdoor beer garden area, “closed off” such that you are shielded mostly from the harsh Melbourne winds. The space can accommodate at least 10 parties.
Personal space for dogs: Complete with decent sized picnic tables (each fits around eight people and a pooch on each end). Ideal if your dog needs a little more personal space.
Dog loving staff: In abundance. The staff at The Rainbow Hotel must have been trained in yoga and/or acrobatics judging from the way they navigate over and around the doggos whilst juggling food and drinks.
Dog amenities: Dog bowls are scattered across the beer garden area, self service style.
Human bonus: Pool table in the beer garden!

So onto the food…

The Rainbow Hotel has an extensive menu and an ever changing specials board. To date, we have tried:

  • The 300g porterhouse steak complete with sides ($16 dollars on steak night Wednesdays): Amazingly tender and juicy steak, straight up just the way we like it, complete with silky smooth mash potato and the most amazing mushroom sauce (though you can choose roasted garlic butter, red wine jus, chimichurri, peppercorn sauce instead) plus one other side. Such good value on steak night Wednesday.
  • The epic chicken parma: It’s hard to find a chicken parma with the right thickness of chicken to ham to Napoli sauce to cheese ratio, and accompanied by a crispy but not mouth ceiling cutting crust, and awesome side of chips an salad. But you can find such an epic chicken parma at the Rainbow Hotel, not to mention it is a massive serving as well.
  • Vegan dairy-free mushroom pasta (a special of the day): Fran rarely ventures into the vegan arena, but she did on this instance. And she did not regret it. The sauce was smooth and creamy made up of blended cashews. The mushrooms were aplenty as well.
Chicken Parma, Porterhouse Steak and Vegan mushroom pasta

Fran’s excellent photography!

  • Blue cheese beef pie: Mat ordered this. He is a man of little words, but he did say that it was goood.
  • Marinated lamb rump with eggplant and yogurt (a ‘regular’ special of the day): Tender and juicy (yes, just like the steak), full of flavour, middle eastern style.
  • The oxtail stew (a special of the day): This is the dish that kept Fran coming back for more. It was a melt in your mouth, rich saucy stew that came with south American dumplings. She froths as she recounts eating this every time.
  • Sausage ragu pasta (a special of the day): Decent pasta, full of herbs and flavour.
  • Tandoori fish complete with spicy pickles and vegetables (a special of the day): Fresh fish cooked well with a slightly tangy marinade – just another example of how The Rainbow Hotel is a master of all cuisines.
  • Iraqi black pepper chicken (a special of the day) with pomegranate salad: Such a unique dish which Fran describes as a black pepper crab (Singapore style) but on a chicken. I know that sounds weird but she swears it is good.
  • Spicy kungpao cauliflower: Fried battered cauliflower dosed in kungpao sauce – interesting!
  • Seared tuna salad (fish of the day): The portion was a little small, but it was light and refreshing.

I personally am dying to go back for Steak night, the chicken parma, and to taste another one of their big selection of non-mainstream beers on tape with our dear darling!!

And just in case you were unsure, the gold at the end of the tunnel is of course our dear darling Sarah ❤

With love from

britt and fran


The bat is back

Arlechin had been in my sights for months ever since broadsheet wrote an article about Grossi’s new late night snack bar. For me, after a night of drinking, cheap dirty dumplings are most ideal and a bank breaking meal is least preferred. But I knew Arlechin had a place in my life, likely on an indulgent night following a few hours of nursing a bottle of red (or two).
It was a Tuesday evening when I finally tried Arlechin. I had been feeling festive and letting them purse strings carpe diem since Christmas seemed to be screaming towards me even though it was only the start of November (and no matter how light that coin bag already was).
I was apprehensive as my foodie colleague nudged me into a shady back alley. But it was short lived and we were immediately transported into Grossi’s luxurious, swanky, bat cave when we swung open Arlechin’s door. And Grossi did not let us down. The food was excellent, bar sized but substantial enough so that we could have variety and also fit a couple of drinks in. We ordered:
– the Prawn Sesame Paprika: These were deep fried battered prawns. It looked fresh and crunchy and all things good. My foodie friend had two out of the three!
– Jaffle Bolognese: This was the best Jaffle I’ve ever had. I haven’t had too many in my life time, but the crust was superior, the seal air tight and the tomato meat filling perfectly balanced. This was a particularly nostalgic experience for me as my dear mama used to make us toast topped with bolognese as a snack when we were kids (plus melted cheese if she was feeling particularly generous!). My dear mum’s bolognese is still one of the best bolognese’s I’ve ever had.
– Grilled Cos, whipped Ricotta and egg: The Cos was served as rustic halves. Oh so crunchy, fresh, with what seemed like a 2cm thick smear of whipped Ricotta topped with a poached egg.
– midnight Spaghetti: This spaghetti, so simple, but again, there is often serious deliciousness in simplicity. I can only imagine the tomatoes were slowly braised in top quality olive oil, garlic and a hint of acidity (it almost tastes like preserved olives) with a sprinkle of fresh italian herbs.
Would go back. Highly recommended for a low key mid week sneaky. Not sure what the crowd is like later in the week, but imagine it would be nice for a late night sneaky too (after all the late night crowd is their target audience!)

Kisume is not the boss of me

Kisume – there has been a lot of hype about this new restaurant, but I’m sorry to say you may be disappointed. OK, I am being a bit of a hater, but at least an honest one!

Kisume first came onto my radar when my manager (who is insistent he is not a foodie) asked me if I had tried it yet. The photos online looked really impressive, the restaurant decor looked classy and appealing and it looked like a place our older sister would really enjoy. Side bar: Unfortunately because Kisume does not take reservations other than for large groups, we weren’t able to take her there when she visited Melbourne recently.

I finally made it to Kisume one Tuesday night for a quick dinner with a couple of girlfriends to catch up and to celebrate one of my girlfriend’s recent engagement (how exciting!) We ordered:

  • Edamame, chargrilled, sea salt, shiso flower with garlic oil
  • Miso Lime Wagyu Beef tartare with shiso and quail egg
  • Assorted sashimi
  • Crab dumplings topped with quail egg
  • Miso salmon with pickled burdock root

The best dish was honestly the Edamame. It was salty and had that earthy charred taste. The wagyu beef was nice, but three spoonfuls and it was gone. The assorted sashimi was standard – not the freshest I’ve tried by a long shot. The crab dumplings were extremely overpriced (like $25 for 4 dumplings?!) and truly not a big deal on the palate. The quail egg yolk was showy and unnecessary. The miso salmon was very disappointing – the miso taste was non-existent, the salmon was dry and the burdock root didn’t add anything to the dish.

Perhaps we ordered the wrong dishes. But I left hungry, with a large hole in my pocket and very unsatisfied. Good ambiance. But I would not go back unless someone else in my trust circle makes a good case for Kisume…or unless someone else is paying.

It pains me to post mouthwatering photos of the food below. Indeed, we do eat with our eyes and our mouth. But don’t let the gorgeous photos fool you! I stand by my post above.


My kind of French

French food not your thing? Not really mine either. When I think French food, I think rich food in exasperatingly small portions. I think of Croissants so flaky you loose half the pastry to flakes, soggy crepes, sickeningly rich cheese fondue, gamey duck confit, utterly inhumane foie gras and …certain rude Parisians I encountered in my adult life.

Yes I am exaggerating a little, but…not really. French food is definitely low on my type of cuisine list. But it was a Friday night and I had been dreaming of sipping on the wine/magaritas at Los Hermanos ever since my close friend suggested going there the day before. Unsurprisingly, it was a 50 minute wait. I know right! Isn’t there something inherently hypocritical about long waiting lines at hipster places like that?

Anyway, we weren’t prepared to wait 50 minutes and this hummingbird was looking for some honey suckle. My friend suggested the Small French Bar, a cute little French place tucked away in Footscray which she has always wanted to try and was guaranteed to serve a good red.

We arrived at about 815 and the place was still buzzin. We put on our best puppy dog look and asked if they had a table for two. To our relief, they sent us to the bar and said they would have a table cleared in a couple of minutes. The (not too shabby lookin) wait staff promptly served us a couple of glasses of grenache (well actually one and a half glasses since my friend was the designated driver) which really hit the spot and two sips in we were seated at the bar.

The bar in our opinion, was the best seat in the house! We had a good view of the quaint little casual dining area which was refreshingly not white-table-cloth-stuffy, and the open kitchen, which impressively didn’t consist of much other than a good oven, a very powerful blow torch (for the Creme Brulee) and a fantastically boisterous head chef (who is both full of life and full in figure).

We ordered the Charcuterie and Fromage (Mixte), a board of cured meats, cheese, duck liver pate, gerkins, crackers and warm bread on the side. Though not usually fans of duck liver pate, we both dipped into that earthy perfectly chilled, silky smooth pate like no tomorrow and the wait staff were right there to meet our bread bowl needs (i.e. refilling). Also, though not particularly a fan of cheese, I did really enjoy one of the hard cheeses, and my dear friend took care off the rest. The portions were very generous – good value for a Mixte board and I would highly recommend it.

Our mains slid across the bar counter just as we finished the Mixte board and when I had finished my first glass of red. I had ordered the Tartare (Raw beef, lemon juice, pickles, spices, raw egg yolk and salad) and my friend ordered the Fillet Roossignol (eye fillet, duck liver parfait, roasted potatoes, salad). The dishes looked like homey, no frills, country style French cooking – definitely food I could get on board with. I had watched the head chef lovingly prepare my steak tartare just minutes ago, skillfully chopping the meat up by hand and sprinkling a generous amount of pickle pieces over the dish. He really brought out the cannibal in me and as I broke the yolk, I thought to myself the dish couldn’t get any fresher, and it tasted so – Fresh, textured, with the right amount of spice and acidity. Definitely one of the best steak tartares I’ve had, including the ones I had in France. I looked over at my friend’s plate and it had been polished off, even the duck liver pate which she initially wanted my help with. Second glass down.

The Fondant Au Chocolat had been teasing my friend over the course of the night. From what we could tell, many had been ordered, served and enjoyed and despite how full we were, we weren’t about to miss out. We both let out simultaneous ‘Mmmmmm’s the first spoonful in and licked our spoons clean before going in for another bite. Not a typical molten cake (which has a delicate thin casing and a runny lava centre), the cake gave sufficient resistance but still gave a generous chocolate sauce. Not overly dark or sweet, just good quality chocolate done right. My only criticism would be that although I know it is well accepted technique to refrigerate the batter in the ramekins for a few hours before baking, the center of the chocolate cake was still a little cold when served to us.

We had barely broken into the Fondant Au Chocolat when the head chef, with a straight face (in true French humor) told us they had accidentally made one Creme Brulee too many and pleaded for us to help solve his predicament. We could have played along a bit better but we couldn’t put on a hesitant expression and hide our enthusiasm – it just looked too good! And it turned out to be one of the creamiest Creme Brulees I’ve ever had. Again, not too sweet and without even a hint of gelatin. Trust me, when my friend delves enthusiastically into a dessert, you know it’s good since she doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth.

We ended the night with me taking one for the team and finishing off the final piece of the puzzle (the last half glass of wine). We rolled all the way home in blissful contentment, ready for a great weekend ahead!

Would definitely go back. A must try if you like no frills country French food.



Dogs and brunch

This is a tribute to amazing dog shelters around Victoria…to name a few:

…and about brunch.

Today is Sunday, the last day of the Grand Final long weekend and I put pen to paper (or rather fingers to keyboard) with the slight chance that a literary outlet lifts my spirits…

The long weekend started on Friday. Fran and I woke up early to visit The Lost Dogs’ Home in North Melbourne in hopes that we would find a furry friend to call our beloved. We had been dying to get a dog for the longest time. Fran finally blurted out on Wednesday that she was a hair away from getting a dog, and I immediately jumped on that bandwagon, ready for a new chapter in my life and for someone to shower with love. We arrived mid morning, with Fran eager eyed and me clutching my intertwined fingers and palms against my chest to contain my swelling affection and excitement. The staff there were gentle and knowledgeable and clearly took good care of the dogs, which made it bearable to see the canines enclosed in their cages. There were alot of ‘awwww’s and ‘what a cutie!!!’ but to our dismay most of the dogs were active dogs thus unsuitable for apartment living and those that were smaller or less active had anxiety issues. 

Afterwards, we found ourselves at Fandango, one of my brunch favourites. Mat ordered my Fandango favourite, the Curried Eggs which are fried eggs, Indian spiced chickpeas, brinjal pickle, minty yogurt labne and warm roti .The curried eggs were as good as I remember, the ultimate comfort brunch dish. Fran convinced me to order one of the specials, the Raspberry and Ricotta Croissant French Toast with ice cream. The dish was delicious with interesting textures and wasn’t overwhelmingly rich either. Re-engerised by the food fuel, we discussed next steps. We would visit Lort Smith as well as RSPCA the next day. 

On Grand Final day (Saturday) we drove past Tigerland (go Tigers!) and stopped in Malvern for a quick bite at St James Cafe (a place on Fran’s must-try list). It was pretty sleepy, I imagine because most were planted eagerly in front of their telly. Although the cafe seemed worlds apart from the roars of the Tiger fans, if you listened closely you could hear the cafe patrons talking about the match that was set to start in a few hours, and the cafe even had a Grand Final dish, the tiger pancakes which were stripped peanut butter and chocolate pancakes! Fran ordered the Soba Noodle Salad with asian slaw and a spicy hoisin sauce. The noodles were a little over cooked, but the sauce accompanied the poached chicken and vegetables well – a refreshing and filling dish. I couldn’t resist ordering the Chilli Scrambled Eggs which were served with house cured ocean trout, sambal, crispy shallots, fresh coriander and lime. The scrambled eggs were perfectly creamy and runny, the cured ocean trout was silky soft. The sambal was the alpha dog of the dish – it was freshly pounded, knock-your-socks off spicy Sambal oelek (rather than Sambal Balachan). I desperately squeezed the fresh lime over the dish to neutralise the burn between mouthfuls (yes, my fork kept going back for more!)

A skip and a hop and a Chai Latte later, we arrived at RSPCA. What an institution! The building was so modern we felt like we were walking into a science centre. The pooches there also looked well looked after. The heelers, staffies and grey hounds were as gorgeous as the last. Two dogs, Tui, an 11 year old small Keplie cross, and a large, gentle eyed border collie called Magpie caught our eye. But Tui, despite her age, was still energetic with the Kelpie blood coursing through her veins, and Magpie required a backyard to stretch her majestic long legs. 

Lort Smith, a much smaller shelter, only had three dogs up for adoption, none of which would be suited for apartment living. In a quiet voice, I asked Fran whether we should go back to A Dogs’ Home to have another look. She agreed since we could make it there before they closed for the day. To our amazement and delight, most of the dogs (about three quarters) had been adopted!! Definitely a proud, proud Melbourne moment (dog lovers unite!). The two dogs we were interested in the day before however, were still in their cages, with longing and hopeful eyes. Piggle, a mini fox terrier cross, as excitable and cute as he was, would be a little too energetic for us to handle. I returned to Ziggy, the labrador cross that took my heart the moment I read about him right at the start of our search, was sitting quietly on his bed. He came to us when Fran called out his name, wagging his tail, and melted our heart with his beautiful soul and brown eyes. We stroked and patted his silky shiny blank coat, played paw and rubbed his belly. In that half an hour the world fell away and even the metal grill couldn’t stand in our way. We looked into each others eyes and I felt like Ziggy knew how much I already loved him. We discussed his anxiety issues again with the staff there, who worried he would not deal with an apartment building of dogs and encountering dogs at the park and on the street in our neighbourhood. Torn between selfishness (wanting to love Ziggy) and wanting to provide the best for Ziggy, we decided to sleep on the decision. 

Day light savings hit us the next day, and at noon, we awoke, realising it might be too late to visit Ziggy. The only thing that held me back from grabbing the car keys and rushing down to see Ziggy was Fran’s plea to give Ziggy a chance to find another family that might be a better fit for him. She insisted we persevere and visit the dog shelter in Glen Iris rather than pining after Ziggy. I reluctantly agreed. We headed to Glover’s Station for sustenance with Mat (the voice of reason) in tow. Mat concluded that Ziggy could be difficult and was a risk, but I exclaimed that there could be a big reward if Ziggy really takes to us – Against everything I learned from Caesar Millian (who consistently preaches that a strong, calm pack leader is required to calm an anxious dog), the romantic in me hoped that our love would be enough to moderate Ziggy’s anxiety and that my lack of pack leader characteristics would not cause Ziggy to regress.

As if the Gods felt our tortured hearts, we were seated next to the most well manner maltese ever. We stroke and patted the little bundle of fur, our love for dogs welling over and our motivation to find a four legged friend of our own refreshed slightly. Mat ordered The Benedict, a dish consisting of ham hock, poached eggs, pork scratching tomato and chorizo fondue and smoked paprika. In Mat’s words, one of the best eggs benedicts ever and it only cost 18 dollars. It was inhaled within a couple of minutes. Fran ordered the Poached Ocean Trout, picked fennel, avocado puree and poached egg. It was quite a deja vu moment as both Mat and Fran had ordered exactly the same dish the last time we were at Glovers Station (although it took Fran scrolling through her instagram photos to admit to this). I on the other hand ordered the French toast instead of the house baked beans (fyi it was above average, but the corn bread was definitely off). The French Toast was made with sourdough fruit bread, a unique choice of bread indeed instead of the usual french brioche, served with berry compote and vanilla yogurt. Unfortunately I am not a fan of sourdough fruit bread, but Mat and Fran happily polished off the rest of the dish while I eyed some of the lusciously bearded waiters. 

Mat split to go to work while we headed to Save the Dog. Save the Dog is located right next to the City of Stonnington’s waste transfer station (I had been to the waste station once before to help a particuar vegan and environmentalist friend recycle some of her items). Save the Dog felt alot more like a pound, but again, we were relieved to see the staff were loving and kind just like the staff at the other shelters we had visited that weekend. There were so many dogs that were looking for a home,and our hearts went out to them. We saw a couple of staffies, which we were told were high energy (no surprise). And a couple of other smaller dogs, but again we were told none suitable for apartment living. 

I sit here emotionally drained, yes. But we are not giving up. We are continuing our search online and with Ziggy still in our hearts.