Ok ... here's a small representation of some of the yummy delights I have had the pleasure of eating this year.
Ascot Food Store
320 Ascot Vale Road
Moonee Ponds VIC 3039
Most recently we visited Ascot Food Store, a fairly new addition to the Moonee Ponds circuit, a suburb not quite known for its culinary prowess.
The site's previous tenant was a little known milkbar specialising in Latino smallgoods with some killer empanadas helmed by Melbourne's very own Milkbar Esquivel. Remember Margarita Pracatan? Well he was the male euivalent - shimmying across the aisles and calling out Baby to all and sundry, trying to offload cartons of black beans and offering slightly suspect cellophane wrapped lollies to young and old. Oh I do miss him!
But don't miss out on a visit to his successor. The menu is interesting, the space is reasonably large and intelligently configured, and staff are friendly. Oh and the kitchen is more than competent. We had the Angus Burger with a side of Chips. Perfect!
36 Manchester Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
A recent catchup with an ex-colleague and friend saw us at Manchester Lane's cafe/bar with a conscience Shebeen. Be advised that unless you're part of the main lunch time crowd, this place cuts its hipster teeth so sharp that you're liable to be sliced just walking past the outdoor tables. Throw in a soupcon of the fashionista and you're likely to interpret the service here as bordering on the rude.
But persevere, its a great spot for people watching. There are cocktails to be had. And they have sliders that are the perfect size for a bit of lunchtime noshing. Just ignore the pretty young things hanging around. They're too busy talking about happenings, hemlines and homeopathy to take much notice of you anyways.
I had the Pork Belly, Jalapeno Jam, Mayo and Coriander Slider as well as the BBQ beef with kim chi, spring onion and Mayo. They're $6 each or $11 for 2. You will need two! They were delicious.
Tom Thoon Thai Noodle Cafe
241 Victoria Street
Abbotsford VIC 3067
This little section of Victoria Street close to the Railway bridge has always been a bit of a Thai enclave. I remember going to Ying Thai for my fried chicken fix in the early noughties, and picking up the heart stopping fried pork lard snack from the Thai provision shop 2 doors down. There are quite a few Thai additions to this little hub now and with negligible differences in quality it really comes down to which restaurant can fit you in.
Tom Thoon Thai is known for its noodle soup combinations which I can also recommend. But its prize star in my books is the Mango and Sticky Rice pudding! Definitely worth the hassle of trying to find a parking spot! Or just catch the train - the station is just across the road. #anytimeofdaysnack!
Dainty Sichuan Noodle Express
Emporium Lower Level
287 Lonsdale Street
Aah the Emporium Shopping Centre! What an amazing and welcome addition to the cityscape of Melbourne. Not so much for its retail outlets, but for its amazing food choices. The upstairs food court is a must visit. But there are other little food nooks and crannies dotted around the complex, most notably an Express Dainty Sichuan branch.
If you are already familiar with Dainty Sichuan's cuisine, then you know what to expect. I was immediately drawn to the minced pork and chickpea noodle, mainly because I've never really associated this particular legume with Chinese food and I like trying new combinations. This was exactly how I'd imagine it would taste. Definitely worth a repeat visit!
Charlie & Co Burger
Emporium Melbourne Food Court
287 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
While you're there you might as well check out Sydney chain, Charlie & Co Burger. Perhaps not so much for the Burgers per se - they are tasty enough though maybe not quite deserving of the gourmet price tag - but for those Parmesan and Truffle chips.
Slightly more than you would comfortably pay and longer than you might like to wait for a standard lunchbreak meal, reserve your visit for offpeak periods and when you have a bit of time to spare.
59-61 Gertrude Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
If fusion is what you're all about, Mighty Boy will tick those boxes across all sorts of levels. No surprises re the fitout given that it is essentially a Melbourne cafe. In addition, the Gertrude Street location gives the joint its "healthy" dose of hipster gravitas. However, this cafe is popular with the hospital and nursing staff from across the road, which does help to cut through the pretension. Service can be a little hit and miss, and depending on your mood and views on cross-cultural eating, the food may be a slightly underwhelming prospect for you.
We, however enjoyed our Duck Rice Paper Roll ($6 for 2) - the duck was not unduly fatty and the skin remained crisp. The rest of the flavours were freshly balanced and the hoi sin sauce did not dominate. Good lunch time snack.
I ordered the Crispy Fried Chicken Roti Wrap ($10) served with coleslaw and kewpie mayo. Again, fresh flavours abound and the chicken was actually well seasoned! My only complaint was that the wrap is served flat, with no hope of actually "wrapping" the bread given the size of the roti and the amount of ingredients piled on top.
M went for the Pulled Lamb shoulder Roti Wrap ($10) which was succulent, sweet and not too rich, due to the mild citrusy tones from the lemongrass and the addition of cucumber and a tzatziki styled dressing.
And there you have it folks! A slightly discombobulated wrap up of this year's food "adventures".
An Honourable Mention:
Maccaroni Trattoria Italiana
10 - 12 Manchester Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
Just a little up or down (depending on your approach) from Shebeen is this larger than you might think restaurant - Maccaroni Trattoria Italiana. Slightly more rustic in decor than its sister branch in Clifton Hill, this is a charming little cafe that serves simple honest Italian fare popular with the business lunch time crowds. My Pappardelle Funghi e Tartufo ($22) was slippery with a bite and nicely turned over in the Mushroom sauce. And that pistachio cake ... heaven.