8bit

8bit
8 Droop Street, Footscray
eat8bit.com.au

The coolest joint in town: a funky burger bar with lengthy queues and famous visitors in their first week. And just ten minutes’ walk from home. I judiciously avoid 8bit for a couple of months until the hype wears off (a little), and then on a bitter Saturday night we brave the cold and head in.

At eight o’clock the place is already overflowing, but mostly with people waiting for takeaway food and the order queue. Quite a few of the restaurant seats are free.

We order an After Burner burger – beef pattie with tomato, red onion, lettuce, cheese, chilli sauce, jalapeños and a dollop of chipotle mayo, and an Altered Beast – beef pattie with bacon, cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, 8bit sauce and BBQ sauce. In case that wasn’t enough taste overload, I was persuaded to order some Loaded fries – chips piled with chilli beef, cheese sauce, bacon, pickle relish, grilled onions and jalapeños. Nothing healthy about this dinner.

We find a seat easily and wait the regulation half and hour for our food. Orlando is horrified to see that somebody has taken his place on the high score of the vintage game console beside us. He has eaten here before with the boys.

The place continues to fill up with more eat-in diners. We are increasing the average age by at least ten years: most of our fellow diners appear to be local uni students.

Our food arrives piping hot and fresh from the grill. The loaded fries are a sight to behold: you can hardly see the main ingredient through the mess of toppings. But they are delicious, and I wish I had a glass of wine in my hand instead of a can of lemon squash (that’s my only gripe here: the drinks selection is disappointing and lazy).

The burgers are decent-sized and messy to eat. My After Burner is really good. The two things to get right in a burger is the bun and the pattie. The bun needs to be substantial enough to hold the ensemble together but light enough that it doesn’t take over: this one does exactly that. Spot on. The pattie is perfectly cooked, just a little charred around the edges, juicy, good quality meat. My combination of spicy toppings work well with my melting cheese slice.

Orlando’s Altered Beast was also excellent, although I am yet to figure out what the 8bit sauce is (and philosophically I am against BBQ sauce on burgers). Once you start eating, it’s hard to stop because these things are a two-hand job.

So, does 8bit live up to the hype? I have to say that was probably the best burger I have eaten in ten years. Good quality ingredients, faultless bun, cooked to perfection.

But I still have a problem waiting half an hour for my food. I’ve seen smaller premises churning out equally fantastic food in half the time with half the staff, so I fear they are keeping the wait times long for effect.

 

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the lakehouse 2: drowning, not waving

It seems that the Lakehouse is already struggling. After making this lovely riverview spot our new regular Sunday brunch haunt, it’s goodbye to the new kid on the block.

Over the past month or two we’ve persevered at the Lakehouse only for each visit to disappoint in some way. We’ve had a few problems with delayed food – caused, they said, by the kitchen struggling to handle large tables – but forgave each time on the basis that it was handled very well by the servers.

Next time we visited our lovely waiter recognised us and delivered Orlando’s breakfast with an extra complimentary egg to make up for the delays we had before. We were then charged for that “free” egg and another to boot. It took us three visits to the counter to get them taken off the bill.

Last weekend was the worst yet. We arrived to see a pretty big family lunch in progress – in retrospect we should have walked away at that point. We were immediately recognised and the lovely waitress, poor Natalia, told us in advance they were going a little slow, but they knew we’d had problems before so they would work hard to serve us quickly.

After almost an hour the apologetic Natalia came back and said our breakfast was on the house as we had been delayed so much. Fifteen minutes later she came back and gave us a voucher for yet another free meal as a gesture of goodwill. At that point I was fascinated to see how long it would take, so we stayed and chatted.

It took just over two hours to serve us two pretty simple breakfasts (portions a little larger than usual, presumably another gesture).

Lakehouse breakfast

My main point is this: if the Lakehouse’s kitchen grinds to a halt with a table for forty, then they need to consider very carefully whether they should take such large bookings. If our eggs and bacon were delayed by two hours, I doubt that large table was served all of their meals at roughly the same time.

The Lakehouse has the option of limiting numbers for a single booking or offering a set menu for large tables, as many other restaurants do. Or I guess they could increase the staffing in the kitchen when they have large bookings, although that of course will eat into their profits. I am not sure if it’s greed or a simple lack of management on their part, but something needs to change.

I’ve read other reviews that compare the Lakehouse to Lazy Moe’s, and I’d have to agree. After just a couple of months and a fair amount of perseverence, the Lakehouse has become for me yet another disappointing suburban den of mediocrity. My advice to others is that if you see a table for ten or more when you arrive, turn around and go somewhere else. The food just won’t be worth the wait.

Back to the drawing board for us.

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the lakehouse

55 Cumberland Drive, Maribyrnong, VIC
03 9317 3649

Down by the riverside in Maribyrnong a beautiful glass-fronted restaurant was built and then sat empty for a few years. We cycled and strolled past there from time to time, and wondered when it would ever open. Well, now it has.

The Degani cafe empire have taken over this place, and it opened just a few days ago.  We noticed the open door on our way to Cafe Boutique, and diverted there for a late breakfast.

The restaurant is light and airy, with a full glass front overlooking the Maribyrnong River. This is going to be a great haunt for a cheeky afternoon drink in the summer, or a cosy coffee and cake on cooler days. The space is not overloaded with tables which is nice for a change. There is a stunning outside space with high stools and cafe tables – guaranteed to become a favourite spot on sunny days.

Lakehouse 6

In the centre of the restaurant are a couple of banquettes and larger tables seating up to 12 or so people, but I’m sure they would configure some of the smaller tables to accommodate larger groups right by the panoramic windows.

Lakehouse 8

The only decor points lost were for the two large TV screens, one showing the football and the other MTV. I’m not a fan of TVs in restaurants, and although I understand they will be handy to attract punters for the occasional big game I’d prefer if they were kept switched off the rest of the time.

To the food: the menu is a decent bistro mix of steak sandwiches, parmas, fish and chips, lamb shanks. You know the drill. They also have a pizza menu but I shall reserve judgement on those until I taste them. Actually, the whole menu reminded me very much of the newly-renovated Plough Hotel, another great new local eatery.

Breakfast was (mostly) generously-proportioned, tasty and good value at $41 for two.  My side of mushrooms consisted of just two mushrooms which I thought rather miserly, however O’s bacon and smoked salmon more than made up for this slip.

Lakehouse 1

Tea is served in large mugs (good) made with decent tea in bags (good) however no teapots are to be had (bad). Given the fancy-schmancy coffee machine behind the counter, I fear this cafe focuses on coffee heads and forget the tea drinkers, like so many places in Melbourne. If you are reading this, Degani’s, please buy a few decent-sized teapots for your regulars – we will thank you!

Service was friendly without being over-familiar, and the occasional hesitation was forgiven in place open only two or three days. The neighbouring Cafe Boutique is fine, and will remain on our standby list, but in just one visit I think the Lakehouse has just become our regular Sunday destination. I am looking forward to coming back of an evening to try out their dinner menu.

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cafe boutique

Shop G3 Cumberland Drive, Maribyrnong
03 9318 3303
http://www.cafeboutique.com.au

Another Sunday breakfast, another foray into the unknown. What has happened to us? We have become intrepid.
This weekend saw us staying close to home and to the water, with a visit to Cafe Boutique down in Edgewater. It’s a hidden-away little gem of a place with lovely views across the Maribyrnong River: lovely in winter but sure to be a hit in summer too, with a nice big verandah offering front-row river views.

Cafe Boutique 3

One gripe of mine that applies to many Melbourne restaurants and cafes: Cafe Boutique seems to ignore the fact that Melbourne has a moderate oceanic climate, not a sub-tropical one. This involves cool winters, people. It is staggering to me to find myself so frequently in eateries with no heating and doors or windows wide open in winter, creating icy wind-tunnels that chill both the diners and the food in no time flat. Sadly, Cafe Boutique is one such place, with a front door wedged open on one of the coldest days of the year, and the verandah door being used as a thoroughfare. I kept my overcoat on for the whole visit.
That said, the food was pretty good. We ordered our usual breakfasts: poached eggs with mushrooms and roasted tomato for me, poached eggs with smoked salmon and bacon for him. The food arrived in record time (indeed, before my tea could be cobbled together) and the portions were plentiful if a tiny bit greasy. I could have done with a second slice of sourdough but Orlando was happy not to be tempted. Next time I shall ask for a second slice.

Cafe Boutique 1

The other tiny thing that marred our visit was the interaction of the staff with each other. We felt we had stumbled upon a bit of a toxic work environment. Staff members tended to speak to each other in raised voices, and many of the conversations were less than friendly. It was as if they hadn’t realised the customers could see and hear them bickering. We weren’t sure if it was just a pretty bad day for whatever reason, but both of us were left with the impression that this was business as usual for the cafe. Not a completely relaxing vibe.
The rest of the menu looked interesting enough, and a handful of specials on the blackboard also suggested a second visit might be warranted. Not to mention the counter full of lovely cakes and pastries, from macarons to tiny bite-sized friands, from chocolate cheesecake to generously sized individual lemon meringue pies.

Cafe Boutique 2

Total price $41 for two substantial breakfasts and two pots of tea. I could see this place becoming a regular haunt when working from home, if they can manage to sort out the ambient temperature and the general air of staff irritation.

Cafe Boutique 5

Cafe Boutique 4

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dumplings plus

Highpoint Shopping Centre, Maribyrnong
(Level 2, near Woolworths)
Phone: 03 9318 1699

Well it’s been all go up in Knifepoint recently, with a swish new wing opening and all manner of fancy stores now available in the Wild West. The lovely new Woolworth’s is handy and well-stocked, and the other food stores in that precinct a great addition to our local shopping options. A macaron shop, a lovely continental deli, a huge fresh fruit and veg store, an Asian supermarket and a pretty decent butcher’s. It’s all good.
Another fantastic new addition down by Woolie’s is a new branch of Dumplings Plus, that Swanston Street stalwart. It’s always bustling inside and on the takeaway queue. Don’t pay attention to the opening hours mentioned elsewhere: they confirmed themselves on Saturday evening that it’s a 6.30pm close every night except Thursday and Friday when they stay open till 9.30pm for late-night shopping.
All the dumplings are made on the premises, so at busy times be prepared to wait a few minutes. The pork (or vegetarian) dumplings in chilli oil are ridiculously tasty and quite inexpensive at just under $10 for a dozen. The san choi bau are tasty enough but not the very best I’ve tasted in this Shanghai-dumpling-obsessed town. And you only get eight for your ten bucks.
One small downside so far, but nothing major: there are no Chinese bowls so you are confined to a shallow side-dish-type object to mix up your soy/vinegar/chilli sauce combo for your dumplings, or if you plan on sharing plates between a few of you. Weird, not useful for keeping the food hot and pointless if using chopsticks.
It’s worth coming back again and again for dumplings alone, but Orlando has his eye on a few other non-dumpling treats when next we visit. Further reports to follow.

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