rudimentary café

16-18 Leeds Street, Footscray
Tel 0497 058173
https://www.facebook.com/Rudimentarycafe
Mon-Fri 7-4; Sat-Sun 8-4

Rudimentary is the latest representation of Footscray’s stealthy gentrification-round-the-edges. Four forty-foot containers on a previously derelict block of land at the back of the shopping strip, with seating indoors and outdoors, and plenty of space for bikes, kids and growing their own veg. What’s not to like?

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540 on barkly

540 Barkly Street, West Footscray
(03) 9687 2479
http://www.540onbarkly.com.au

On a cold, miserable night in WeFo, we drove down to the site of the old Palmerino’s for the opening night of 540 On Barkly.

Since we’ve lived in Footscray, Palmerino’s looked like an old boys’ bar with a badly stocked off-licence attached. It always looked like a great place to renovate as part of the rebirth of West Footscray. And suddenly here we were, quaffing Mount Gay Extra Old and a good Clare Valley shiraz in a newly decorated bar, sampling the passing trays of chorizo meatballs, arancini and bacon-wrapped mozzarella as we dodged the smokers coming in from the beer garden beyond.

The place was thronged with people: a smattering of new-style Westies and a fair number of after-work blokes in fleeces and steel toe capped boots. Was it my attention or was the average age a lot higher than I’d anticipated?

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The front restaurant area was unfortunately cordoned off for now: the new owner Simon told us that they were still awaiting the transfer of the old off-licence to an on-site liquor licence, so no alcohol was allowed in the space. There were nine or ten tables in what used to be the old bottle shop,  walls lined with framed photos. Elsewhere in the bar and upstairs in the huge function room, enormous green, red and blue abstract paintings dominated.

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A couple of nights later we wandered back down to see what things were like without the opening night crowd.  Again, we were steered away from the main restaurant area to a place in the bar. A handful of other diners had chosen the warmer tables, so we had to choose between a serious draught from the beer garden door or the main door.

Another glass of Clare Valley shiraz and a Mount Gay Extra Old. We ordered the chorizo meatballs and the calamari to share as a starter, then a porterhouse steak for Orlando and the gnocchi with lamb ragu for me. The meatballs were served with some Turkish bread and a small bowl of salad, and went down a treat.

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Sadly, the calamari never came even after some polite questioning.

Orlando’s porterhouse steak was a decent size and nicely cooked, although perhaps a tiny bit more medium-rare than medium.

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My gnocchi were lovely but – a personal preference – it would have tasted better with more finely grated parmesan rather than the larger flakes. An offer of freshly-ground black pepper would have been nice, but didn’t come.

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By 8.30pm the place was empty and we headed to the bar to pay the bill. We chatted to Simon and his sister Julie, who asked for feedback, good or bad. We gently mentioned the missing calamari but complimented the rest of the food. Then their EFTPOS wasn’t working, which the waitress had also neglected to tell us, and we only just scraped enough cash together to pay the $99 bill. Simon was most apologetic, invited us back next time for calamari on the house and assured us the EFTPOS would be up and running in a day or so.

It’s early days for 540, but hopefully it will be a welcome addition to the WeFo scene. Simon promises live music in the beer garden during the summer months, and a more casual seating area once the restaurant section is functional.  He wants to build on the reputation he had during his previous tenure at the Mona Castle, and for him it’s all about the food.

It’ll take a bit of time to bed in over winter, but I wish Simon all the best and we’ll visit again soon to hear how he’s doing.

 

chapter too

Shop 3, 110 Canterbury Road
Heathmont
(03) 9720 0544

If you are a coffee head in Heathmont, I am assured this is the place to go for your morning long black or latte.

As a tea drinker, I’m more interested in whether they are a loose-leaf or teabag establishment  than the brand of coffee they pour (loose leaf, since you ask) and whether their teapots leak when you try and pour from them (they don’t).

The thing I like about Chapter Too is that they serve breakfast right up to noon, so I can have a bowl of porridge or eggs on toast for lunch if I want (and I often do). It can feel a wee bit cavernous inside, but nab a seat by the window or outside on the pavement and it’s a more pleasant experience. The calamari salad is delicious for a light lunchtime bite, but I tend to be a bit boring and go for the poached eggs with a couple of breakfast sides.

The only thing is that it’s a bit mums-and-bubs-clubby if you get there late morning, so at times it’s not the respite from the working world I am seeking. Nonetheless, it’s a great local eatery and number one on my list when I have visiting dignitaries in the office.

Chapter Too on Urbanspoon

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Lakehouse Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Cafe Boutique on Urbanspoon

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