All posts filed under: eat

Oppa Kitchen

I’m a big fan of Korean food, so it was exciting to stumble on this little eatery on Swanston Street recently. Oppa Kitchen has been around for six months or so, always brimming with hip young Koreans, and it’s easy to see why. The bright and minimalist decor is the first thing to entice punters off the street, and the cheap and cheerful menu is a close second. This is not the best Korean cuisine in Melbourne by any stretch — you won’t be getting any exciting little kimchi side-dishes here, for a start — but at $10-$12 for most mains, this place is great value and damn tasty nonetheless. I ordered the very enormous and delicious Korean Beef Bulgogi Meal Bucket — and it really was a bucket. The meal came in a wooden dish, full to the brim with rice, beef bulgogi, tasty salad and an orange slice. It was thoroughly satisfying, and the whole experience — from the self-service ordering system to the bustling atmosphere — was really quite fun, and made …

Lolo & Wren

It’s always a promising sign when a cafe located roughly in the middle of nowhere is still functional. Even better when it’s thriving. This, surely, is when you know you’re onto something good. Cycling to Lolo & Wren, I was sure I must have copied the wrong address. I found myself in inner-suburban no man’s land — an obscure part of Brunswick West somewhere between Melville Road and the CityLink tollway. Yep, romantic. But there it was, nestled among houses and apartment buildings, with little to attract punters apart from an A-frame sign and a few glowing recommendations. Run by husband and wife team Franco and Karen Caruso, it’s Lolo & Wren’s food that’s put it on the highly competitive Melbourne cafe map — no wonder considering Franco is a former Scottish Young Chef of the Year (2006). The cafe itself is large and bright, with an open kitchen and a central wooden bench perfect for perching to read the newspaper. On a recommendation I tried the pancakes with pear, almonds, walnuts and mascarpone, and my friend …

Captains of Industry

I have a new cafe crush. Captains of Industry couldn’t be more Melbourne. Tucked down a laneway off Little Bourke Street, this cafe sits one floor above street level, its large front windows overlooking the beautiful GPO building on Elizabeth Street. The space has a warehouse look, with painted brick walls and large metal roof beams, but it doesn’t feel cold or cavernous. A smattering of small wooden tables, a long dining table and window benches makes this a comfortable hangout whether you’re visiting as a group, a couple or alone. And here’s where the industry comes in. Branching off from the main cafe space are three tiny shops: a shoemaker, a barbershop and a jeweller. Each is the size of a shoebox, but each is filled with a fascinating array of tools and contraptions. Peeking through these doors is like catching a glimpse into the Melbourne of another era. While the website declares that ‘the practitioners of Captains of Industry are Practical Men of Wide Experience offering the Good, the True and the Beautiful …

Lentil as Anything

Nestled among the trees in graceful Abbotsford Convent by the Yarra River is a little Melbourne miracle. Lentil As Anything is a volunteer-run restaurant and cafe serving up simple, hearty self-serve vegetarian food that is, quite literally, priceless. Payment at Lentils works through an honour system whereby diners give whatever they can afford. There are no cash registers here — no waiters handing out bills. There’s just a little wooden box asking for donations — whatever you feel your meal is worth. Photos by Marleena Forward Originally opened in 2000 in St Kilda, Lentils is now a registered not-for-profit organisation with four restaurants in operation: St Kilda, Abbotsford, Preston and Footscray. The Lentil As Anything website explains its evolution and philosophy thus: “Money was influencing the trends in the community, leaving many disenchanted. Lentil As Anything aimed to re-engage those who where left behind. It seemed that money was often a barrier to people participating … We used the money left in the box to run the restaurant. Money became a unifying force. Trust began to feel at home. The quest …

Hien Vuong 1: pho extraordinaire

Ladies and gentlemen, The Melbourne Local has a new favourite pho shop. It’s in Footscray, of course, as most of Melbourne’s best phos are. Tucked down a road off Barkly Street, Hien Vuong 1 is aesthetically modest (none of those shiny black counter-tops here) and gastronomically magnificent. The pho’s broth is fragrant and deliciously spiced, and it just gets better once you’ve added condiments and fresh herbs to your liking. As in most pho places in Footscray, soups here come in three sizes (remember, small = large, large = mammoth-sized) and are dirt cheap at around $8–$10. The staff are very attentive, particularly the friendly owner of the restaurant who has a smile for every customer. Give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.   Hien Vuong 1 Address: 37 Leeds St, Footscray Tel: 9687 1470 Open: Monday–Sunday for lunch and dinner     Read more reviews at  

A1 Lebanese Bakery

Located in upper Sydney Road in Brunswick, A1 Lebanese Bakery is a big, breezy, slightly dishevelled place serving up cheap and delicious Lebanese pastries with zero pretentiousness. The front of the bakery is occupied by a bunch of tables, while down the back is a shop section offering a variety of Lebanese treats including dried herbs, dips, lentils and canned goods. The bakery is to the right, where you’ll find an enormous oven and all sorts of tasties including spinach triangles, halloumi pies and za’atar pizzas for just a few coins each. You can also get coffee here, and some baklava to finish off. If you love Lebanese food, you’ll love A1.   A1 Lebanese Bakery Address: 643–645 Sydney Rd, Brunswick Tel: 9386 0440 Opening hours: Sunday–Wednesday 7am–7pm, Thursday–Saturday 7am–9pm   Read more reviews at  

Acústico Café

Two years ago, Diego Iraheta opened a tiny one-room coffee stop called Acústico Cafe on Union Street, near Jewell Station in Brunswick. For a time, this place remained a somewhat hidden secret behind dark tinted windows — a caffeine pit-stop for a handful of locals. Gradually, however, Diego realised the cafe was outgrowing its premises, so he opened the back room to create a lounge area furnished with recycled bits and bobs, including a couple couches and a stripped-back piano. Here, the large industrial side-door is rolled up in warm weather for an ‘outside-in’ feel, and there’s a steady flow of well-chosen, laid-back tunes to soothe the ears. The coffee at Acústico is tasty and the food is delicious and reasonably priced. The Latin-American influenced menu rotates every few months to keep things interesting — check the Acústico facebook page for recent additions. This is where you’ll also find details of any gigs and other events happening at the cafe, which aims to be a hub for the local artistic community.   Acústico is the sort of …

Shanghai Street Dumpling

I’m a big fan of a decent Chinese dumpling. Quick, light, not too oily, with individual ingredients you can really taste — these, to my inexpert but enthusiastic Australian taste-buds, are the hallmarks of a fine dumpling. Shanghai Street Dumpling in Little Bourke Street are purveyors of such exemplary dumplings. Having tried a bunch of dumpling restaurants along Little Bourke, I believe I can safely declare Shanghai Street the best of the lot — at least at the cheap ‘n’ cheery end of the dining spectrum. You’ll pay a couple extra dollars for a plate of dumplings here compared with, say, Shanghai Dumpling House in Tattersalls Lane, but the dumplings are far tastier, you won’t have to shout to be heard inside the restaurant and you won’t have to contend with rude staff. Shanghai Street specialises in xiao long bao but a couple of my favourites are the pork and prawn wonton soup — light and delicious on a cold Melbourne day — and the deceptively filling pork fried dumplings, both around $8.50–$9.50 for a serving …

Night Noodle Market 2013

From today until 30 November the Alexandra Gardens will be transformed into a Night Noodle Market, complete with over 25 hawker-style food stalls, four bars for all your boozy needs and nightly entertainment. Held as part of The Age Good Food Month, the market will kick off at 5pm on weekdays and from 4pm on weekends. Click here for a full list of participating stalls. — Tuesday 19 November 2013 UPDATE! I haven’t made it to the Night Noodle Market yet, but I’ve heard feedback from a few readers that the queues at the market stalls are atrocious. One said she had to wait an hour and a half for food. If you’ve been to the NNM, let us know how your experience went by commenting below!   Night Noodle Market 2013 Dates: 18–30 November 2103 Address: Alexandra Gardens, Melbourne Opening hours: Monday–Tuesday 5–9pm; Wednesday 5–10pm; Thursday–Friday 5–11pm; Saturday 4–10pm; Sunday 4–9pm    

Don Don Japanese restaurant

Melbourne’s delicious and cheap range of authentic Asian food has to be one of the things I love most about this city. And Don Don Japanese restaurant on Little Lonsdale Street in the CBD ticks all the right boxes. This eatery, which used to be tucked into a tiny room on upper Swanston Street, has now stretched its wings a little in its new location. But beware: this place still booms at busy times of the day. (I remember my first experience ordering food at the old Don Don during the lunchtime crush — it was really quite scary.) The food here isn’t the best in Melbourne, but it is tasty and very cheap; most meals are between $6 and $9. My favourite is the yummy soba salad (noodles with salad and tofu), although a very hungry tummy might prefer one of the larger meals. A great pick for a quick, affordable city meal.   Don Don Address: 198 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne Tel: 9670 7113     Read more reviws at