It's been a long dark winter but fortunately I have survived. I can attribute this to central heating, kindly donated downloads of the season 4 of Mad Men and the warmth and comforts of eateries Melbourne wide. I thought it was time to repay the favour, so thank you Ancient Romans for inventing hypocaust, thank you Matthew Weiner for giving us Sterling Cooper et al and thanks to the following fine establishments for keeping my belly full and my tootsies warm.
Felices, 141 Greeves Street (Smith Street end), FitzroyWe went to Felices the morning after the general election, looking for something to take away the sour taste of the night before. Fortunately this decidedly european cafe (plain timber walls, fussball, large mirrors) with its beautifully uncomplicated menu was able to deliver more than Julia and Tony. We ordered croissants and toast with our coffees, and both came accompanied with generous serves of marscapone cheese, fresh marmalade and one of the nicest strawberry jams I've tasted. Recommended to people who don't want eggs with every breakfast as well as anyone who likes to eat under a giant aeroplane; there's one attached to the roof. If you'd like to see it check out these great pictures at Fitzroyalty, a blog dedicated to all things Fitzroy.
Tabet's Bakery, 607 Sydney Road, Brunswick
There's been a lot of coverage of the hidden delights of Sydney Road in the local press this year, probably as more and more journalists are forced away from the increasingly expensive inner city and head towards the 'burbs. It's true that there are a great many outlets on the main road north out of melbourne, covering a wide range of cuisines and an even broader range of quality. Always reliable however is Tabet's - a lebanese bakery with an exceptionally cheap yet delicious range of bready cheesey products. Both the haloumi pies (essentially a lebanese pastie) and spinach and cheese pies are amazing and for just $2.80 you can eat like royalty even on a budget. Heartily recommended smothered in Masterfoods Hot Chilli sauce.
Salford Lads Club, 1 Fennell Street, Port Melbourne As an indie tragic it's hard to go past a cafe that takes it's name from a place in Greater Manchester made famous by Morrissey and the Smiths. Before you Mozophiles get too excited this isn't a Smiths tribute cafe and there was nothing beyond the name and the This Charming Man ringtone of the owner's phone to link it to Steven, Johnny and the other two.
Having done the pilgrimage to actual SLC and been hassled by actual Salford lads I am pleased to report that this relatively new cafe in Port Melbourne was far more welcoming. The decor inside this industrial setting is an homage to cycling, and there were several old racing bikes and jerseys around the place - as well as a Huddersfield Town banner. Sadly I'm unable to provide much comment on the highly interesting and varied dinner menu as we only went for breakfast. I am happy to report though that the coffee, eggs and homemade baked beans were top drawer and the Northern Breakfast (replete with black pudding) looked good enough to turn Morrissey himself back to meat.
Zingara, 875 High Street, Thornbury
I have double praise for Zingara in Thornbury. Firstly for not making a fuss when our dog started going crazy and almost upended our table when he saw pigeons for the first time. Secondly (and most importantly) for turning out the finest caesar salad I've ever had. Not eating meat makes a good caesar hard to find. Some places do a salmon version but they're few and far between. Thankfully Zingara have thought outside the chicken box and offer a delicious charred king prawns alternative every bit as good if not better as anything I ate back in the meat days. A great choice for these warm spring afternoons, with or without crazy puppy as a dinner guest.
Mamasita, 11 Collins Street, Melbourne
I haven't seen this kind of buzz about a food outlet since Speedy Peppers finally brought take-away pizza to East Yorkshire in the late 80s. Every bloody newspaper and magazine has been crapping on about Mamasita for months now, as if they were serving up Michael Jackson steaks. Sadly the main thing people have to say is 'boo hoo me, I had to queue for hours to get in.' Well here's a couple of suggestions. Firstly don't go the same week as there is a newspaper or magazine feature about it; there's more people can read than just you. Secondly, try avoiding going along at 7pm on a Friday. Everything is busy at 7pm on a Friday cretins. I've been twice, had awesome times, lush modern twists on mexican food (the corn is particularly recommended, as are the soft fish tacos and chilli chocolate), been well looked after by the helpful staff who protected me from the most vicious chillis and hey, never had to queue once. Yay Mamsita.