A few days of annual leave from work gave me the opportunity to wander Melbourne's streets and sample our eclectic range of foodie treasures. We are so spoiled for choice in Melbourne with the quality and range of the food venues we have. Here's a sample of what I found in my jaunts around our fair city.
Noisette, Bay St, Port Melbourne
I've heard good things about Noisette patisserie and boulangerie in Bay St, Port Melbourne, so it was great to drop in for breakfast and sample the range. Noisette has a modern, stylish interior, with a chocolate-brown banquette lining one wall, facing out towards glass cabinets loaded with sweet and savoury delicacies: pain au chocolat, almond croissants, danishes, brioche, baguettes and boxes of little biscuits. We planned to share an escargot and an almond croissant, but I took one bite of the croissant and knew I couldn't share. The crescent of flaky pastry is filled with a dense sweetish almond filling and topped with almond flakes dredged in icing sugar. We ordered a pear and chocolate danish to share instead. The escargot was filled with plump sultanas and had a nice firm texture, while the chocolate and pear combination was a perfect match and not too sweet. The coffees were smooth and well-brewed and the cafe latte was served in a groovy giant egg-shaped cup. We left empty-handed but could easily have loaded up with some baguettes and sweet brioches. I will definitely be revisiting Noisette.
Babka, Brunswick St, Fitzroy
In all my years living in Melbourne and dining in Brunswick St, I can't believe I've never visited Babka. It was time to rectify this, so I popped in at lunchtime and perched myself in a window seat. The window bench is nice and wide, allowing plenty of room to spread out a newspaper to read without encroaching on your neighbour's space. Despite the note on the blackboard menu warning of a 20-minute wait, I ordered the dumplings, and enjoyed a well-made flat white while I waited. The 20 minutes passed quickly, as I had my head buried in Epicure, and soon enough a plate of fat dumplings was placed before me. I ordered the mixed dumplings - some came with potato and others with a mushroom mix. The texture was beautiful - filling but not heavy. A plate of dumplings with no greens or salad might seem like a heavy dish, but the accompanying dollop of sour cream, topped with snipped chives, was a perfect counterbalance and this was a satisfying meal. I enjoyed many types of pierogi in Poland and these dumplings reminded me of the pierogi - something I had not yet found in Melbourne.
Jasper's Coffee, Brunswick St, Fitzroy
This is heaven for a caffeine addict. The aroma of coffee beans greets you was you walk in the door, with buckets of coffee beans from around the world on display to tempt you. There are descriptions of the different characteristics of each bean type and the helpful staff are more than happy to talk you through the beans on offer, carefully listening to your coffee preference and the type of machine or coffee gadget you have at home so that they can tailor the type and ground of bean accordingly. There's also loads of coffee gadgets, such as knock bins and tampers, on display, as well as shelves full of chocolates. This is a great place to be tempted out of your caffeine comfort zone.
Hausfrau, Ballarat St, Yarraville
This an airy, welcoming little bakery-cafe that is also relatively pram-friendly. It fills like a European bakery, with the staff decked out in cute little headscarves and deliciously sinful cakes, such as Esterhazy torte or Swiss chocolate cake, filling up the glass display cases. and A long bench, lined with colourful cushions, runs alongside the plate-glass windows that look out on Ballarat St. There's over-sized cooking implements, such as a whisk, hanging from one wall, while two lovely old enamel jugs full of water are set out on a wooden tray so you can help yourself. There is a stack of cooking and design magazines available for you to peruse while you eat lunch or drink coffee. The glass counter holds a mix of sweet and savoury items, with large cakes and tortes also available to take away. On the day I visit, the items on offer include salmon and cabbage coulibiac, sun-dried tomato tarts, quiches, meringue roulade, berry muffins, sacher torte, lemon slice and custard tarts. Jock's Ice-Cream is now also available.
Andrew's Choice, Anderson St, Yarraville
I've read lots of recommendations about Andrew's Choice, a traditional old-fashioned butcher in Yarraville, so I finally made the visit. What a treasure trove! This is more than just a butchery. Of course there are all types of meat available, including the famous cheese kranskys, thick steaks, juicy roastsand plump sausages, but the shelves of the shop are lined with all sorts of foodie treasures, such as Maldon sea salt, jars of duck fat, Phillippa's bread and biscuits, spices, mustards, vinegars and oils. I could have spent hours and hundreds of dollars there, but I contented myself with buying four fat cheese kranskys, which more than lived up to their reputation. They were juicy and full of flavour and I will be back for more soon.
Queen Victoria Market
How could I not mention my favourite food place in Melbourne? It has been too long since I last visited and I just wanted to buy everything I laid my eyes on. It was good to buy my old favourites: spinach and pine-nut dip, a block of creamy Warrnambool butter, marinara mix, fillets of fresh fish, some sausages and rissoles for a family BBQ, and loads of fresh fruit and vegetables at fabulous prices. Apart from convenience, I don't know why anyone would bother buying fruit and vegetables at the supermarket. The quality and range of produce available at the Vic Market is amazing. I love being able to chat to the stallholders and to ask their advice and opinion on what's best that week or how to cook something unusual. We are so very fortunate in Melbourne to have this market in our city and long may it thrive.