cafe le chien

5 Gamon St, Seddon
(03) 9362 7333

Cafe le Chien has been a regular breakfast haunt for us since arriving here in 2005. Our routine is to head down there around 1pm on Sundays when most of the families have headed off. We have the same thing every week and the staff know we won’t need menus.
The good things about Cafe le Chien are plenty: good music at weekends. Decent chilli eggs. Friendly service (although I have read a few other blogs that say you don’t get good service unless you are a known regular). The eggs were always a highlight – you simply can’t get better scrambled eggs in this town. The teapots are nice and big and the tea comes exactly the way you order it (you have no idea how rare this is in Melbourne where most places are geared to finicky coffee heads). You will almost always get a table. And the evening meals are worth a visit too.
Over the years though, I’d say the only thing we can complain about are portion sizes. Prices have gone up a very modest amount over the seven or years we’ve been coming here, but certainly over the past two years some of the portion sizes have come down. My partner’s usual breakfast involves smoked salmon, which has gone from a pretty generous portion to a really tiny amount in a small Chinese sauce bowl. It irritates now, every time we are served. Other sides that have suffered include the mushrooms and other vegetarian items.
Nonetheless, we still visit almost every Sunday when we are in town, and to us it’s still the place to beat.

Le Chien on Urbanspoon

fifty-six threads

56 Derby Street
(03) 9376 6885

Let’s shake things up, I’d say. Let’s find somewhere else to have Sunday breakfast, I’d say. Then, time and time again: it’s too hard, I’d say, and we’d head back to Cafe le Chien as usual.

Then one week we actually did it  – we found a new place and tried it. Fifty-Six Threads is a lovely little place on the ground floor of a block of commission flats at the back of Kensington, just a couple of minutes from the main drag. It was set up by AMES to provide employment and training opportunities for new local migrants. The wood-panelled interior looked inviting enough, and we found a seat easily enough at just past one o’clock on a wintery Sunday afternoon.


The menu isn’t huge, but there’s plenty to choose from on the all-day breakfast menu, and a regularly changing list of specials. We both opted for a breakfast dish. The 56 Threads Breakfast was a generous platter of all those breakfast favourites: pork and fennel sausage, bacon, eggs how you like them, garlic mushrooms, spinach and a little pot of onion jam all served on sourdough. Orlando would have preferred a less fancy sausage but he cleaned his plate nonetheless. Three eggs were ordered and two arrived with a pre-emptive apology and a fourth egg offered to make up for the mix-up – nice. My Green Eggs were delicious: poached eggs (you can choose scrambled or fried) on sourdough with green pesto, plenty of avocado, spinach and a handful of garlic mushrooms.

Tea was served in small enough pots but refills of water were provided quickly and with a smile. The cake stand had tiny and large muffins as well as other slices and delights to tempt as you pay your bill.

Coffee is supplied by the Social Roasting Company – another social enterprise – and whilst we didn’t try it, the steady takeaway traffic seemed to indicate its quality.

Just under $40 for a substantial breakfast for two: not much cheaper than our usual haunt, plenty of delicious food and the added bonus of knowing your money is going towards something genuinely useful in the neighbourhood.

Fifty-Six Threads Cafe on Urbanspoon

Plough Hotel 
333 Barkly Street, Footscray
(Corner of Geelong Rd & Barkly St)
(03) 9687 2878

I’ve been driving past this place for seven years, and never once desired to try it. Tuesday night parma and pot for $10, Candy the Clown on Sundays. No thanks. Then about a year ago the place shut down with a promise on the takeaway blackboard that they would reopen “soon”. Finally a couple of months ago there were signs of life, a new coat of paint outside, hints of cool new lighting inside. The Plough was back.

One rainy Thursday night about month after their grand opening, we wrapped up warm and ventured out. The parking is limited around this part of Footscray but we found a spot beside Mitre 10 on the Prince’s Highway (their car park takes about a dozen cars).

Inside, the bistro area was busy enough, with people perched on bar stools drinking and eating at high tables. The pale wooden floors and modern bistro lighting invited us further in, to the restaurant where we were shown to a window table and offered a drink.

The menu was relatively short but there was plenty to choose from: I’d call it posh pub grub mostly, with a decent list of pizzas too. The drinks list has a respectable choice of beers, but as non-beer-drinkers we satisfied ourselves with a couple of glasses of red from the short but well-chosen wine list, and some Mount Gay rum for my dining companion, served straight up with no mistakes (unusual in this town).

For starters we chose a plate of “sticky buffalo wings” to share. These were a little disappointing: well cooked for sure, but a little lacking in the crispy-roasted-skin department. Too pale and slippery for our liking.

For main course I was tempted by the fancy chicken parma (gypsy ham, mozzarella, beer batter chips) but we both opted for the burger: made from veal and heaped with caramelised onion, fresh tomato, a slice of good cheddar and a garlic aioli. The Plough is not too posh to offer tomato ketchup either. What a plateful of food. You need more than two hands to tackle the burger (I gave up, took the lid off and carved it up in the end) and the chips were plentiful and nicely cooked.

We certainly enjoyed our first experience at the Plough, and ventured back a few weeks later on a Friday night. We were recognised and greeted by our original waiter like old friends which was a nice touch. It was much busier that evening and they were doing a blistering trade.

Our starter was a shared plate of calamari with lime and chilli, which was perfect and not too huge a portion. Sadly our friendly waiter got my main course wrong – I was served another burger instead of a steak sandwich – but I wasn’t that fussed and didn’t bother having it changed. A complimentary glass of wine appeared by way of apology. Orlando’s Gippsland T-bone steak was perfectly cooked and generously proportioned. Another enjoyable evening that didn’t break the bank, we agreed.

By chance I noticed a couple of days later that we had actually been charged a little over $355 for our modest evening meal. We returned and a refund was arranged quickly and without fuss.

All in all, there are still a few rough edges to the service but none of it has put us off our new local eatery. We are looking forward to spring and summer when we can stroll down there of an evening – and I am looking forward to our next visit when I shall try their pizza.


Plough Hotel on Urbanspoon

guzman y gomez

It’s a great time to be living in the Inner West, with new cafes and restaurants opening up everywhere. Most recently, our favourites have been West 48 just around the corner, and of course the wonderful Besito. Now, a new taqueria (albeit a chain) has opened in Knifepoint promising authentic, healthy Mexican tacos and other delights.

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A very lazy start to ANZAC Day meant we were too late to order at our original (usual) brunch venue. Around the corner, we saw that Touk’s has made way for Chicco, so it was a good time to give it a try.

The place has certainly been given a facelift since Touk days, with clever glass bowls suspended from hanging-basket holders in place of lampshades, and chairs and cushions covered with the rough hessian of a coffee bean sack. We sat at the window and surmised that at least some of the staff had survived the name change: there were certainly one or two familiar faces still.

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Sweet Grass

Sweet Grass Bonsai Nursery and Garden Cafe
357 Barkly Street, Footscray

Sweet Grass occupies a small patch of land that used to be an old-fashioned local garden centre. About a year ago, they sold up and slowly we saw something emerging from this unremarkable-looking site. A Japanese torii or gate; tall bamboo fencing; could that be Japanese panelling they were putting up around that sorry-looking verandah outside the office building?

So this week, a quiet stroll to this new little place five minutes from our house uncovered a beautiful, unusual little cafe. Predominantly a bonsai nursery and showcase for the young owner’s landscape gardening business, Sweet Grass is an oasis of peacefulness hidden from the busy road. We sat in the late morning sunshine on the verandah, surrounded by cane furniture, painted panels of Japanese women in kimono, and the most beautiful bonsai lining the path alongside us. No food here, just a page-long list of coffees and teas including three types of green tea, plus a good choice in alcohol-free cocktails.

We chose the Japanese green tea with roasted rice. Hau, the owner, served up a big pot with some chocolate snacks on the side to tempt us. We sat in the sunshine taking in our lovely surroundings and commenting on the workmanship of both the garden and the bonsai themselves.


Hau, himself from Vietnam, showed us some photos of the “start to finish” work that transformed the old garden centre. Most of the photos featured Hau himself in pride of place, working hard on the landscaping and the carpentry.

Without being asked, he topped our teapot up with fresh water as he described how important the bonsai are to him, pointing out one or two plain-looking branches planted in lacquered pots, and telling us how he would bring them to life over time.

Every bonsai in the garden has its own story, Hau said. He showed us one bonsai that has a forked trunk, one part dead, the other part still living and vibrant. He told us a local lady often borrows this bonsai to take to cancer patients in the hospital, to show them that like trees, humans are strong and resilient, and that we will survive even the cruellest injury.

Another bonsai, standing tall on its own podium, is called The Cascade. Bowing gracefully to the earth, the youngest part of the trunk then turns upwards, guided by the wire Hau had twisted around it to bend it to his will. This one, Hau explained, shows us all that even if a big downturn or disappointment happens to us, things will always get better in time.

Somebody had suggested to him that he write down the story of each bonsai so that people could read each one in turn, but Hau didn’t think much to that idea. I have to say I agree: no written words could instil the sense of story-telling and passion we got from hearing these stories from Hau himself.

We will have to go back many times, drink more tea and learn the stories of all the bonsai living down the street from us.