Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Exciting News!

To all my loyal readers: I apologise for the lack of action this past month. It's not due to lack of news! Before I get into the REALLY exciting news, a little tidbit for you first: Bimbos and Lucky Coq are now doing Gluten free pizzas! They are beautiful... thin crispy and delicious! Just be careful when they arrive at your table, and triple-check that they are gluten free... the kitchen is still struggling with the new system, and mistakes are made pretty often. Hint: If the base is bubbly, it's not gluten free.

Now for the really exciting news.... RedRobyn Cafe is about to be a reality! I am opening a gluten-free and allergen specialist cafe in Camberwell, in Melbourne's east. I'm going to use this blog to post updates about how the process is going. I'm currently looking at opening in early September, but I'll give more details when I have them! Keep an eye out....

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Deliciousness of Passion Part 2

The awesomeness of what passion can achieve overwhelms us again, this time at:

Hardware Societe
Brighter then your average industrial fitout

This place is so wonderful, that I'm actually happy to overlook it's one fatal shortcoming: They don't serve all day breakfasts. Terrible, I know. But there's so much to love about Hardware Societe, that it hardly matters. I turned up at 11.30 on a weekday, hoping to partake in the delicious breakfast treats I'd had once before... Only to be told that breakfast service finished at 11.30, and that lunch didn't begin till 12. The waiter must have seen the pure disappointment on my face, as he bounded over to the kitchen to see if they could extend breakfast a smidgeon. No such luck. But after one glance at the lunch menu, it didn't even matter.

Spanish-Style Rice Pudding

Hardware is one of the most blogged about cafes of the moment, and it deserves the attention. Its meets all the criterion, and then some! Laneway: check. Funky, friendly staff: Check. Welcoming yet industrial style fitout: Check. Not enough seats to satisfy demand: Check. Droolworthy Menus that live up to the descriptions: Check, check and Double check!

Coddled Eggs, Mushrooms and Gruyere on Gluten free. mmmm

The food at THS, as its affectionately known, is spectacular. Delicious, interesting, perfect flavours and well priced. the breakfasts are wonderful. They don't have a hugely extensive menu, but you will still struggle to make your choice! Coddled eggs, omlette, or spanish style rice pudding, you won't be disappointed with whatever you choose. The flavours are well balanced, and the combinations interesting without being too avant garde. The menu changes regularly, so something like the mushrooms and gruyere with coddled eggs (pictured) is no longer on the menu, but I can guarantee it's been replaced with something just as good. The lunch menu is just as great. I had some of the best cooked, best priced duck I've ever had at a restaurant. I was lucky enough to be sitting opposite the chef, who handed over my plate directly and was happy to chat with me about it. I'm going to go back to chat to him, as he requested, after I've had a chance to re-create his lovely rice pilaf.
Confit Duck on Rice Pilaf

You may have noticed one omission from this entry so far: Any mention of the coffee. In my mind, this is where THS still has room for improvement. Don't get me wrong, they make a lovely coffee, with passion and skill (and lactose free milk!) but sadly, with a coffee company that I'm not enamoured with. I'm not into the naming and shaming, and this coffee brand can be found at many otherwise excellent cafes, but it just doesn't do it for me. Have the Iced chocolate instead. It's delicious!

 On the allergy front, THS has gluten free bread (just county life by my guess) and gluten free options for nearly everything on the menu. They also have lactose free milk as an alternative alongside soy milk, which I for one am grateful for!

So go, and enjoy, and see some of the best of what's on offer in Melbourne at the moment,

The Hardware Societe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Deliciousness of Passion Part 1

After some significant time spent trawling the cafes of Melbourne, I've realised what makes something exceptional. Passion. It sounds stupidly obvious, but the difference between somewhere run by people who are truly passionate about what they do, and by those just going through the motions is huge. I've decided to review two wonderful cafes that so clearly love what they do. They have been receiving a fair amount of attention lately, and are deserving of almost all of it! Monk Bodhi Dharma and The Hardware Societe.

 Today, you get to read about Monk.

Monk Bodhi Dharma

Costa Rican syphon
In typical Melbourne fashion, tucked away in a parking lot behind a main street with minimal signage. If you don't know where it is, you could spend days looking. Tiny space, wooden stools, huge communal table. This place is so cool, even the air-conditioner had a wooden cover so that it doesn't interfere with the aesthetics. Whether you love or hate the reclaimed warehouse craze sweeping our town, check out Monk anyway. It's truly one of the only places in Melbourne that is equally as passionate about its coffee, tea and food.

The coffee: Wonderful. Always. I've never had a bad cup. Being a sucker for the syphon, that's what I always get, and it's always done to perfection. The ordinary coffees are beautiful too, always made with love. My only gripe is that the staff rarely have time to discuss the coffee with you, unlike the larger setups like St Alis. Its the trade-off for the homely atmosphere, and its not the worst. And the tea.... Oh the tea! Delicate blends, and they actually care about the brewing times! I've never understood why tea and coffee are so often mutually exclusive at good cafes. As a lover of both, it's heart-warming to find somewhere that is as passionate about all warm, caffeinated beverages, regardless of whether they started as bean or leaf.
Saffron French toast with Poached Pear and Lemon Ricotta

The Food: The food at Monk was a bit disappointing on the Gluten-free front when they fist opened. Although they had a great vegan and wheat-free selection (and still do!), they hadn't quite made the gluten-free leap. They finally have, and boy am I happy they did! The menu is fairly simple, but with delicious flavour combinations.  The french toast was the best I've had in a long time. The saffron and lemon perfectly balanced the sweetness of the chai pear and sugar syrup. I love a good ricotta, and this one was truly up to scratch. Sweet, savoury, chewy and filling: just about the perfect breakfast.

Sadly, I don't know what bread they used, which ties in to my only gripe: The service. (Ok, I lied. I have two gripes. They really need some comfy seats!) The service is fine, friendly and quick. But the passion that is apparent behind the food and drink preparation just doesn't come across in the service. It's as though the customer is an almost irrelevant part of the whole process. I hope this changes in the near future, because everything else about Monk deserves our love and adoration.


Monk Bodhi Dharma on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 31, 2011

French Galettes

As far as I'm concerned, Buckwheat is the neglected gluten free flour. Maybe the use of wheat in it's name confuses people, but it is excellent. Flavoursome and with a wonderful texture, it saddens me that it isn't more of a staple in gluten-free diets. Luckily, there are a few places that know the value of buckwheat's flavour. French Creperies.

Melbourne has a wonderful selection of French Creperies, and many people don't realise that they are a great gluten-free option. Admittedly the sweet crepes are generally not gluten friendly, but the savoury crepes, or galettes, are almost always gluten free. They are also dairy free, and most places provide a vegan option. For those who don't know, a galette generally looks something like this:

A thin buckwheat crepe folded over whatever delicious filling you choose. Traditionally served with a glass of apple or pear cider, they're surprisingly filling. Here's a guide to a few of the French creperies the Melbourne has to offer.

Le Triskel: My personal favourite. Admittedly, it was the first one I ever tried, so I might be biased, but nothing else has ever quite managed to top it. Whether its the laneway atmosphere (Hardware Lane), the 'arrogantly french' written on the window or the bowl of coffee containing a ridiculously large amount of caffeine that they are stupid enough to let me have, Le Triskel is just wonderful. The galettes are thin, crispy on top and soft on the bottom, with wonderful filling. The egg, cheese, mushroom and spinach is my personal breakfast favourite, while the walnut, blue cheese and braised apple is an incredible flavour combination. The extensive sweet crepe menu is always tempting if you can squeeze it in, which even I normally can't!
Bowl of Cafe au lait

Breizoz: Walk into this unassuming little shopfront near the corner of Brunswick and Gertrude Streets, and you'll think you've stepped into an authentic French provincial bistro. A little dark and cozy for my liking, it nonetheless definitely gives off a real French vibe. Crepes are delicious, with generous, well thought out fillings. Just make sure you double check that they are aware you want the gluten free option. The dessert crepes are truly exceptional, with homemade ice cream or my personal favourite, fresh made butter caramel. Mmmmm.

Roule Galette: Another city laneway offering, just off Flinders Lane. Sadly, my least favourite of the bunch, but not through (much) fault of its own. I was spoiled, you see, by Le Triskel. Having spoken to a few Frenchies, the galettes at Roule are apparently extremely authentic, but I find them a little too soft and doughy for my liking. The fillings are great though, particularly the French cheeses. The service here could be improved. Never completely terrible, but just not quite as welcoming as the others. They do a fantastic take-away if you need a quick pick-me-up in the city, and are open nights, which sadly Le Triskel is not.

Galettes are a delicious, relatively easy to find food option around Melbourne. Light and tasty, sweet or savoury, keep them in mind next time you're roaming around Melbourne town.

Let me know if you've tried any, or know any others around melb!

Roule Galette on Urbanspoon

Breizoz French Creperie on Urbanspoon

Creperie le Triskel on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


A new food craze is sweeping through Melbourne, and I'm excited! Ok, so by 'through Melbourne' I actually mean 'in Fitzroy,' but I'm still excited. What is it, you ask? Arepas! South American cornbread. Completely gluten-free, and mostly dairy free too! These dense little pockets are amazingly filling and delicious.

I've found two great places providing these tasty little foodstuffs, both doing it deliciously and differently. One is the Columbian cafe Sonido! on Gertrude St, the other is the Cruzao Arepa Bar on Brunswick st.

Sonido! functions as a funky Fitzroy Cafe. All-day breakfasts, strong coffee focus, carefully designed space and a 4pm shutting time. It's not open for dinner and doesn't have a liquor license, but more than makes up for it in atmosphere. If you're feeling adventurous, try one of the South American fruit juices. I gave the 'curuba' a shot, and was pleasantly surprised. They also get bonus points for their large array of Gluten-free sweet goodies. The choc-raspberry brownie is exceptional!

Empanaditas - Deep fried cheese or beef filled pastries
Cruzao goes for a slightly more tapas-bar feel. This is reflected in the menu, the pricing and the set-up. Still very laid back and relaxed, but I wouldn't call it a cafe. They're very enthusiastic about the share plate idea, offering lots of different dishes with great flavours. Cheese and beef are the staple filling, always with some delicious guacamole to be found near by. (I think they throw in some coriander. It's a great flavoursome little touch.) I highly recommend the empanaditas, filled, amazingly fresh little corn pastries. Crispy and hot, these will satiate a gluten-free dumpling craving like little else. It's possibly slightly overpriced for the larger share plates, but the smaller ones are great value.

Fresh Guava Juice. Mmmm.
One of the best things about both of these places is their gluten free knowledge and labelling. I can guarantee no confused looks when you double check ingredients. They're great for dairy-free too, and not bad for nightshades as long as you avoid the tomato-cooked beef. The arepa might be small and unassuming, but it  makes an excellent addition to the Gluten-free scene in Melbourne. I only hope they manage to move out of Fitzroy and into the wider community sometime soon!



Sonido! on Urbanspoon

Cruzao Arepa Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 18, 2011

Things That Make Me Happy No.1

I know it's not gluten-free, or Melbourne related, but I've decided to do a few entries on things that make me happy. Just those small, enriching things that make you smile and sound like a nerd when you bring them up in everyday conversation. Included in this category are tea, teapots, fondue sets and the topic of today's blog... Herb Gardens.

I love my Herb Garden. I'm not afraid to say it. I don't care if I sound crazy when I'm caught out talking to my herbs, or berating the spiders who are currently trying to house in it. There are few feelings as nice as using your own home-grown herbs in your cooking. Whether its bay leaves in your home-made stock, basil in home-made pesto, or mint in your own Mojito concoctions.

My current herbs include Rosemary, Basil, Mint, Bay Leaves, Chives, Thyme, Lemon Thyme, Sage, Lemongrass, Parsely and Oregano.

See if you can recognise which is which!

I know herb gardens seem like a lot of effort, but trust me when I say they're not. I'll be honest, I've killed a few seedlings in my time. I may be the only person who has successfully managed to kill mint, widely regarded as the weed of the herbaceous world.

I got a little greenhouse from Bunnings, which keeps even basil alive in winter! I know, I was surprised too.

The trick with a herb garden is just to keep an eye on it. Pluck any dead leaves, try and remember if its rained recently or not. I always make the mistake of over-watering, and then over-compensating by leaving them in spots that are too sunny. Learn from my mistakes!

You'll (hopefully) notice straight away the difference in your food taste quality. I'm sure lots of you buy fresh herbs for special occasions, but when you figure out that a herb seedling costs the same as the fresh bunch, a garden starts to seem more and more appealing. Plus it gives you added bragging rights! 'Oh that flavour? That's just fresh picked basil that I've nursed from a seedling to the flourishing plant you see before you.'

All I can really say is that the amount of joy you get from using your own herbs in your (hopefully) delicious cooking is inestimable. Flavours are stronger, colours brighter, shiny things shinier. And ignore people who tell you you're a 'nerd' or 'grandma' for caring about your herb garden. Just tell them you're 'earthy.'
(Thanks Mom!)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gluten Free Bread

Gone are the days when gluten-free bread was a groan-inducing option. Today's variants are a vast improvement on even a few years ago. Here's a run-down on the various options available around Melbourne, some easy to find, others not so much.

1. Country Life

The supermarket staple. From what I can tell, they've improved their recipe fairly recently. Not the most authentic bread replacement, but it does the job. Great to keep in the freezer for emergencies. Weirdly enough, I find their yeast free version to be the best. Sadly, not dairy free, although it is nightshade-friendly. Slightly cakey texture, as opposed to slightly crumbly.

Where to find it: pretty much all supermarkets, Coles, Woolworths or otherwise. I recommend the yeast free or multigrain options.

2. Lichtensteins

From the kosher bakery on Carlisle st, this one is easy enough to find on the south-east side of town, and a lot more difficult everywhere else. A great dairy free, egg free, nightshade free and (mostly) soy-free option. If you're lucky enough to grab a loaf on the day its baked, you can even eat it without toasting first! A rare but appreciated luxury in the gluten-free world. Available in white, soy and linseed or fruit loaf, all are great allrounders. Can be slightly crumbly, beware while transporting it!

Where to find it: Lichtenstein's Bakery, 287 Carlisle St 03 9530 3366, Coles Malvern. Unsure of other locations.

3. Fatto A Mano

I discovered these guys thanks to the lovely boys at The Bell Jar. (Check out my earlier entry about them.) I stopped in for the first time today, and was pleasantly impressed! Known well to locals due to their organic sourdough, they also have a wide gluten free-selection of white, multigrain, olive, date and fruit loaves. Some variants are vegan, just ask which and they'll happily tell you. Foccacia style rolls and pizzas are also available, in pre-made sandwiches as well as loose. Sadly not nightshade friendly due to a bit of potato starch, but a truly excellent tasty, slightly chewy option. Not yet available anywhere else as far as I'm aware, but worth the trip. The little strip on Gertrude St has a number of things to interest the gluten free, including Birdman Eating a few doors down.

Where to find it: 228 Gertrude St, Fitzroy 03 9417 5998

4. Mattisse

My personal favourite! The bakery itself is located in Moorabin, but I'll admit I've never been. This beautiful gluten free, dairy free, soy free Buckwheat Sourdough is available at stockists all around the city. I can get through a loaf of this delicious bread in a day or two, just lightly toasted and dipped in olive-oil and balsamic. Chewy, tasty and soft, this is a bread in it's own right, not just a Gluten-free substitute. Not nightshade friendly, but remarkably good otherwise. You can tell a lot of care has gone into its creation.

Where to find it: 161 Chesterville Road Moorabbin 9532 6182. Stockists include stores in Victoria Market, Caulfield South, Camberwell Market, The Pines Shopping Centre. Just let me know if you need specific names

Some honourable mentions.

Dovedale - Their chia bread is quite lovely. Very moist and cakey, but not bad for that! Definitely unique, and easy to find at health food stores all over melbourne. I can highly recommend their pizza bases and chocolate muffins too!

Silly Yaks/ SACS - I was never particularly impressed with their bread, but I will happily acknowledge their useful contribution to the gluten-free scene in Melbourne. Available almost everywhere, really, with the flagship store in Northcote.

Vitality - a beautiful loaf, but not very allergen friendly apart from gluten free. Their olive loaf is wonderful. Available from Leo's supermarkets as well as health stores.

Zehnder - A really deliciously tasty and fantastically textured bread, but difficult to find! I've only ever spotted it at Sunnybrook Gluten free in Ormond. If you haven't been there yet, hop to it! However, I've just been tipped off that it's available at quite a few IGA's including Piedmontes and North Melbourne. If you can get your hands on their pumpkin bread, you won't regret it!

If you know any exceptional breads that I haven't mentioned, please let me know! I'm always on the lookout for new brands.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Its high time for another review! Yet another lovely, small coffee-focused cafe run by two lovely young boys. I don't know what it is about pair of youngish-boys opening cafes around Melbourne that works so well, but work it does! I'm talking about Collective in Camberwell. Now Camberwell might have a fair few cafes and eateries about the place, but very few that I would call on trend. Instead of catering to soccer-moms and the usual Eastern-suburbs crowd, Collective aims for the youth, and does it well.

A small, unpretentious menu including all day breakfasts, and delicious coffee. What more can someone ask for? Slightly friendlier staff, perhaps, but once you realise they're just hung-over and not actually grumpy at you specifically, things start to improve.

eggs with avo mash. simple and delicious
For the allergy-impaired, they use Sainsbury Gluten-free. Not the best I've come across, but by no means the worst! I highly recommend their smashed avo (with feta and loads of fresh herbs) with eggs as you like them. Simple and filling, at any time. I have it on good authority that their free-range bacon is also delicious, but I'm yet to try it myself.

Their lunch specials are always worth a look as well. You can normally find at least one salad, where the ingredients are allowed to shine. I have fond memories of my chickpea, holoumi and rocket salad. They were lovely about taking out tomato and various other allergens for me.

hot vietnamese coffee

The drinks, however, are where Collective truly shines. They use a lovely 5senses blend, and know what to do with it. I admit to letting loose a few squeals of delight when I noticed 'saigon coffee.' For those of you not aware of the joys of vietnamese coffee, its essentially your basic coffee, hot or cold, served with condensed milk instead of milk. Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to find anywhere with decent coffee. I tried both the hot and cold, and can recommend either.

Their juices also deserve a mention. The BAM (Blueberry, Apple, Mint) has gotten me through many a bleary morning (or afternoon, if we're being more accurate.)

Collective had a lovely, small family feel to it, with its one big community table and variety of magazines. (If you feel the need to catch up on some back issues of Frankie, this is the place to be.)

Get in early on weekends, or else you might miss out, this place operates on the new tiny Melbourne scale.

All in all, I can think of no higher praise than to say simple and delicious! The boys know what they're doing, and do it well in an area that desperately needs them! Check it out if you find yourself at Camberwell station one day in the near future.

Collective Espresso 
1/3 Cookson Street, Camberwell VIC 3124(03) 9882 8995 

Collective Espresso on Urbanspoon

Pet Peeve

I've noticed that a lot of places around Melbourne (Richmond, in particular for some reason) have gotten into a bad habit. They overstate on the menu what the dishes on their menu are. I wouldn't say this is my number one pet peeve when eating out, but it's pretty close. I infinitely prefer to be pleasantly surprised by a bland sounding dish that is more than it sounded, than to be disappointed by one that sounds amazing and just doesn't deliver.

My most recent example of this happened in Richmond a few weeks ago. (I won't name the place unless I get requests for it. I'm not here to disparage the place, I'm just hoping others might learn from their mistakes.) I ordered what sounded like a great gluten-free vegie brekkie. Corn fritters, beetroot relish, poached eggs and herbed wild mushrooms. Simple, but potentially delicious. Now I don't know about you, dear reader, but when I hear 'corn fritters' I expect a corn fritter. something like this.
From Chimmy in Richmond, gluten free and reasonably delicious!

What I don't expect, or want is a square of polenta. Don't get me wrong, I quite like polenta. I think it can make wonderful gluten-free addition to a lot of dishes. But If I'm getting polenta, I would like the menu to say that. Not mislead me with dreams of fritters.

On top of that, the 'beetroot relish' was really beetroot dip, the kind that can be bought at any deli, and the mushrooms were clearly supermarket standard, with no herbs that I could discern. Now by any standards, the breakfast was fine. It just wasn't what it said it was, and that meant that every bite tasted of disappointment, to the extent that I couldn't just enjoy it for what it was.

I love places that deliver exactly what they promise. That's what I look for in my eateries. Understatement can occasionally be a pleasant surprise, but overstatement is always a disappointment. Is that too much to ask for?

Comments: your pet peeves?