Serotonin Eatery, Richmond

We all could do with a little more happiness, but how many of us eat to feel happy? Obviously not in the sense of gaining pleasure from the eating experience, which in food crazy Melbourne is not all that surprising, but rather, in eating particular foods to change the chemical balance of the brain. Certain foods, such as those high in the amino acid tryptophan, increase serotonin levels, and serotonin is important in the regulation of mood, sleep and digestion, thus contributing to well-being and happiness.

Serotonin Eatery

This concept is the basis for Serotonin Eatery, the founder and owner of which is Emily Hazell. Having discovered impressive results from a personal experience of a diet high in tryptophan, she has since promoted a similar plant-based lifestyle, hoping to spread the word about its benefits.

Serotonin Eatery

Serotonin Eatery was originally going to be a Japanese place, hence the sunken tables, but the idea slowly morphed into a more general healthy cafe and happiness education centre. Soon after launch, requests for sugar free, gluten free and low FODMAP dishes came rolling in, and the menu has been further developed to cater for these needs. Thankfully the idea of the cushioned seats has remained, offering a cosy alternative to normal tables. Those with fond, happy childhood memories of playgrounds can take a place on swing seats near the courtyard. Attempting to swing as high as you can isn’t recommended indoors – it’s highly likely that you’ll disturb other patrons, upend plates and tables, and destroy furniture in the process – but you can always relive your memories in the playground across the road. Still, it’s a novel concept that’s also perfect for those with itchy feet.

Serotonin Eatery - Golden Latte - Turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, coconut milk ($8), Cacao coconut latte - 70% dark hot chocolate with raw cacao, grated cacao butter, coconut milk + espresso ($8)

Golden Latte – Turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, coconut milk ($8), Cacao coconut latte – 70% dark hot chocolate with raw cacao, grated cacao butter, coconut milk + espresso ($8)

There aren’t many places where you can actually consume a smiley emoji, but this is one of them. There’s a whole range of lattes, from the ever popular matcha and chai, to the more unique and popular varieties of peanut butter and gingerbread. All come with a dusting of powder that beams up at you until you suck, mix or scoop it away. The golden latte, the one that bears the most resemblence to our happy friend, is a house-made blend of turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper and coconut milk. In fact, almost everything at Serotonin Eatery is made in-house if possible. The cacao coconut latte is 70% dark hot chocolate with raw cacao, grated cacao butter, and coconut milk. We have it served ‘dirty’, with a shot of espresso for extra kick. Coffee and chocolate together is a great combination.

Serotonin Eatery - Organic acai smoothie - Acai, mango, fresh ripe banana, apple ($12)

Organic acai smoothie – Acai, mango, fresh ripe banana, apple ($12)

There’s also a big range of juices, smoothies and teas on the drinks menu. The teas mixes are expertly conjured up by a tea mixologist from Impala & Peacock. The strikingly coloured acai smoothie contains mango, banana and apple and it’s a satisfying dose of fruitiness.

Serotonin Eatery - Winter nutrition bomb - brown rice, quinoa, hummus, kale, broccoli, roasted veggies, nuts, seeds, pickled sauerkraut ($22)

Winter nutrition bomb – brown rice, quinoa, hummus, kale, broccoli, roasted veggies, nuts, seeds, pickled sauerkraut ($22)

In the food menu there’s been an effort to include organic ingredients that are healthful and nourishing for both the mind and body. Dishes are typically colourful – a practice that’s widely encouraged – to facilitate the intake of a greater variety of vitamins and minerals. The nutrition bomb is pricey at first glance, though it’s a bowl full of healthy, on-trend ingredients and is of a large portion, resulting in a stomach full of goodness. The winter edition of Serotonin Eatery’s signature dish has a base of brown rice and quinoa, which is then adorned with a colourful arrangement of kale, broccoli, roasted vegetables, sauerkraut, nuts and seeds. Though we didn’t opt for it today, mushroom and avocado can be added on. There are hints of spices, like cumin in the pickled sauerkraut, and others in the tasty hummus that’s where most of the flavour lies. It’s not the traditional smooth and saucy hummus that we’re used to, being more like a thick chickpea mash, but its texture does make it easier to distribute it to taste.

Serotonin Eatery - Positive Pancakes w ground dehydrated banana flour, 100% banana ice cream, berries, coconut yoghurt, strawberries, roasted almond, agave ($22)

Positive Pancakes w ground dehydrated banana flour, 100% banana ice cream, berries, coconut yoghurt, strawberries, roasted almond, agave ($22)

Serotonin serves a plant-based menu, but that doesn’t mean sweets are left off the table. Dishes to satisfy the sweet tooths among us are available in the form of banana pancakes, fruity chia puddings and raw desserts that, even from a typical point of view, are delicious. The Positive Pancakes are composed of ground dehydrated banana flour and ricotta, topped with ice cream made purely from bananas, and showered with berries, coconut yoghurt, roasted sliced almonds and agave. The pancakes are not the fat and fluffy type, but are still nice and moist, and the berries keep the sweet side in check. They’re healthier than normal pancakes, but you probably wouldn’t know it if you weren’t told. It’s no surprise that these fly off the kitchen pass in great numbers.

Serotonin Eatery - Espresso Tart w Hazelnut Crumble - Smooth espresso cream from cold brewed coffee, cashews, almonds, coconut, cacao, hazelnuts ($11)

Espresso Tart w Hazelnut Crumble – Smooth espresso cream from cold brewed coffee, cashews, almonds, coconut, cacao, hazelnuts ($11)

Serotonin Eatery - Espresso Tart w Hazelnut Crumble - Smooth espresso cream from cold brewed coffee, cashews, almonds, coconut, cacao, hazelnuts ($11)

Espresso Tart w Hazelnut Crumble – Smooth espresso cream from cold brewed coffee, cashews, almonds, coconut, cacao, hazelnuts ($11)

Serotonin Eatery - Lemon and Lavender Tart - Lemon, cashews, almond, coconut, vanilla, turmeric, medicinal lavender essential oil, lavender flowers ($11)

Lemon and Lavender Tart – Lemon, cashews, almond, coconut, vanilla, turmeric, medicinal lavender essential oil, lavender flowers ($11)

There’s a whole menu for their raw desserts, which are on display at the coffee window. Most of the raw desserts on offer at the moment are chocolate based, but one of the most popular ones, that also happens to not be chocolate, is the Lemon and Lavender Tart. Made from lemon, cashews, almonds, coconut, vanilla, turmeric and lavender oil, it delivers a big zesty lemony punch that’s well suited to enjoying with a cup of coffee. Again, coffee and chocolate calls to us and we try the Espresso Tart with hazelnut crumble. The smooth espresso cream filling is created from cold brewed coffee, cashews, almonds, coconut and the tart also contains cacao and hazelnuts. The tart casing in both desserts is almost biscuit-like in texture. I have to say I haven’t had many (or any?) raw desserts before this point, but these leave a very good impression.

Serotonin Eatery - Espresso Tart w Hazelnut Crumble - Smooth espresso cream from cold brewed coffee, cashews, almonds, coconut, cacao, hazelnuts ($11)

Espresso Tart w Hazelnut Crumble – Smooth espresso cream from cold brewed coffee, cashews, almonds, coconut, cacao, hazelnuts ($11) Lemon and Lavender Tart – Lemon, cashews, almond, coconut

Apart from the brain chemistry effect of the ingredients used here, you may feel a sense of happiness knowing you’re consuming food that’s nutritious but doesn’t taste like cardboard, despite the low salt and refined sugar and flour content. Come to Serotonin Eatery and allow Emily and the serotonin dealers to inject some health and positivity into your day, and hopefully, your lifestyle too.

Serotonin Eatery

Serotonin Eatery

Serotonin Eatery - Organic acai smoothie - Acai, mango, fresh ripe banana, apple ($12)

Organic acai smoothie – Acai, mango, fresh ripe banana, apple ($12)

Disclaimer: I dined as a guest of Serotonin Eatery. Opinions expressed here are purely my own and are based on my experience at the time of the visit

Serotonin Eatery
52 Madden Grove
Burnley, VIC, 3121
(03) 9428 8256
www.serotonindealer.com/
Serotonin Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

World Vegetarian Cafe, Elsternwick

For owners Judy and Jenny, it became a chore to find cafés that served healthy, nutritious food that also tasted good. An increased awareness of special diets was also a major driver in inspiring the creation of World Vegetarian Cafe. Although their target market is those with special dietary needs, now 10 months old, the cafe is also popular with people simply looking for healthier, and often vegan and vegetarian alternatives.

World Vegetarian Cafe

It all began with the realisation that most dishes are full of sugar, salt and butter – the major ingredients that make food taste great – and it’s difficult to know exactly what goes into our food, and how much of it there is. At World Vegetarian Cafe, it isn’t just about removing the less-healthy ingredients, but also intentionally adding ingredients that have positive qualities. Spices play a big role in the recipes, not just for their flavour, but also their healing properties.

World Vegetarian Cafe - Banana Cinnamon Smoothie - Almond milk, banana, cinnamon, agave; Golden Latte; pH juice

Banana Cinnamon Smoothie – Almond milk, banana, cinnamon, agave; Golden Latte; pH juice

A large range of juices and smoothies are on the menu, along with golden lattes. The Cinnamon Smoothie with almond milk, banana, cinnamon and agave is a satisfying and filling drink, and the house-blend golden latte is less heavy on the ginger than some other blends.

World Vegetarian Cafe - Mushies - Roasted mushroom medley, grilled polenta, basil cashew cheese ($15.50)

Mushies – Roasted mushroom medley, grilled polenta, basil cashew cheese ($15.50)

World Vegetarian Cafe - Tofu scramble - Organic tofu scrambled with spinach, roasted roma tomato and potato rosti ($15.50)

Tofu scramble – Organic tofu scrambled with spinach, roasted roma tomato and potato rosti ($15.50)

The mushrooms with grilled polenta and basil cashew cheese sounds good, but we choose the tofu scramble instead. Despite what it sounds like on the menu, the spinach and roasted roma tomato are found on the side, rather than mixed in with the organic scrambled tofu. The gluten free bread is fluffy, and the potato rosti is delicious.

World Vegetarian Cafe - Masala dosa - Rice crepe stuffed with spiced potato and peas, side of lentil soup and coconut chutney ($13.95)

Masala dosa – Rice crepe stuffed with spiced potato and peas, side of lentil soup and coconut chutney ($13.95)

World Vegetarian Cafe - Brown rice risotto with pumpkin, cauliflower, peas, walnuts ($18.50)

Brown rice risotto with pumpkin, cauliflower, peas, walnuts ($18.50)

The thin and crispy masala dosa is filled with spiced potato and peas, accompanied by a side of lentil soup and coconut chutney. Brown rice also features heavily here, and we try a brown rice risotto with pumpkin, cauliflower, peas and walnuts. Made to order, the risotto has the expected extra nuttiness and chew of brown rice, the heaviness of the cheese somewhat alleviated by arils of pomegranate.

World Vegetarian Cafe - Gluten free vegan apple and cinnamon muffin ($4.95)

Gluten free vegan apple and cinnamon muffin ($4.95)

World Vegetarian Cafe - Cardamom pancakes - Buckwheat pancakes, berry compote and salted caramel vegan ice cream, pure maple syrup ($15.50)

Cardamom pancakes – Buckwheat pancakes, berry compote and salted caramel vegan ice cream, pure maple syrup ($15.50)

House-baked goods and sweets, such as muffins and cookies, have lost their white flour component in favour of mixtures of healthier wholegrain and/or gluten-free flours. We have a gluten free and vegan apple and cinnamon muffin. Being eggless, and therefore missing a key binding agent, the muffin has a more crumbly texture to the norm, but the flavours are good. It’s difficult to make dairy and gluten free muffins, and it’s a solid effort. The cardamom pancakes did not disappoint either. Buckwheat pancakes are topped with a berry compote, salted caramel vegan ice cream and pure maple syrup. They’re moist and have a slight sweetness within the actual batter, and it’s difficult to pick that they’re gluten free.

Wholegrain spelt pizzas are another staple on the menu, and curry, salad and soup specials are rotated every week. Even for those who don’t require special diets, World Vegetarian Cafe offers a decent healthy eating alternative.

World Vegetarian Cafe

Disclaimer: I dined as a guest of World Vegetarian Cafe. Opinions expressed here are purely my own and are based on my experience at the time of the visit.

World Vegetarian Cafe
452 Glen Huntly Rd
Elsternwick, VIC, 3185
(03) 9078 1383
www.worldvegetarian.com.au
World Vegetarian Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Il Melograno, Northcote

Il Melograno

I’m not exactly sure why, but I’ve always had a preference for gelato over ice cream. Maybe it’s the smoother texture or the different mouth-feel, or maybe even just the nostalgia that’s attached to it. Whatever the case, it’s been exciting to see more and more premium gelateria popping up around Melbourne. Since I was passing through the Northern suburbs, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try one that’s been on my list since it opened.

Il Melograno

During the daytime, a breakfast and lunch cafe menu is served at Il Melograno, featuring paninis, pasta, baked eggs and toasty things alongside the cold treats. At night, it’s all about the sweets. Gelati, sorbets and granitas are stored in pozzetti, ready to be sampled and consumed, and cakes and pastries are also available for the picking. Apart from the more common flavours, there are interesting ones like orange-infused ricotta with almonds, and specials such as chocolate and chilli. For something more substantial, there’s also gelato-filled brioche.

Il Melograno - Iranian Pistachio Turkish hazelnut, Ricci Method Coffee (3 flavour cup, $7)

Iranian Pistachio Turkish hazelnut, Ricci Method Coffee (3 flavour cup, $7)

I go for three scoops in a cup, and Iranian pistachio, Turkish hazelnut, and Ricci Method coffee gelati are loaded not into a paper cup, but a waffle one. The texture of the actual gelato isn’t quite as smooth as at Joylati and Pidapipo, but there are more tangible pieces of the ingredients, and the flavours taste very natural and distinct. The Ricci Method gelato has the sharp bitterness of strong coffee, and the pistachio is markedly nutty and rounded.

Il Melograno

Although I’d personally give the gelato at other gelateria a slight edge, Il Melograno is still of a very high standard and I may just pop in again if passing nearby.

Il Melograno
76 High St
Northcote, VIC, 3070
(03) 9482 2092
ilmelograno.com.au
Il Melograno Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lievita, Northcote

Lievita brings the concept of Pizza al Taglio to Melbourne – pizza by the cut is how it’s usually done in Rome. Rectangular pizzas are pre-cooked in an electric oven and put on display. They’re then cut to the desired size, weighed, reheated in the oven til warm and toasty, then delivered into eager hands. It’s quick and convenient, and you can order as much or as little as you want.

Lievita

Only a small amount of yeast is added to the dough at Lievita, resulting in a lighter and more digestible base. The lower yeast content does mean the dough needs a longer fermentation time, in this case, 72 long hours.

Lievita - Zucchini, Eggplant, Nduja, Truffle Cream and Purple Cauliflower ($13,80)

Zucchini; Eggplant; Nduja, Truffle Cream and Purple Cauliflower

Lievita - Prosciutto, Rocket, Buffalo Mozzarella

Prosciutto, Rocket, Buffalo Mozzarella

The pizza here is generally priced at ~$35-40 per kilo, and because it’s sold by weight, it’s great for those who like to have a bit of everything. Like me. About twelve varieties were on display, making for a long deliberation time, but we eventually settle on four varieties: their signature zucchini, the eggplant and the San Daniele Prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, and rocket. One of the unique combinations is the colourful Nduja, purple cauliflower and truffle cream, which has a satisfying fragrance and flavour of the truffle oil. The pizza bases are crispy and full of air bubbles and really do feel light on the stomach. There isn’t too much to say except that the pizza is delicious, and even if Lievita didn’t have a rotating roster of pizzas I’d be a repeat customer.

Lievita

Lievita - Zucchini, Eggplant, Nduja, Truffle Cream and Purple Cauliflower ($13,80)

Zucchini; Eggplant; Nduja, Truffle Cream and Purple Cauliflower

Lievita
298 High St
Northcote, VIC, 3070
(03) 9489 9498
lievita.com.au
Lievita Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Public House, Richmond

Public House

Recent years have seen the rise of the gastropub, and Public House in Richmond is one that’s embraced the concept, combining it with an outdoor bar and featuring a neat rooftop terrace. The menu is full of tasting plates great for pairing with beer, cocktails and wine, and larger share plates and individual dishes if you’re after a nice sit-down dinner at the table-cloth covered tables.

Public House - Southern fried chicken, corn bread, coleslaw & an American beer or glass of wine ($18)

Southern fried chicken, corn bread, coleslaw & an American beer or glass of wine ($18)

Retaining the popular concept of pub specials, they’ve got $14 porterhouse steaks on Tuesday nights and winter warmer braised dishes with wine or beer on Wednesdays. Today is Thursday, which means the meal deal is Southern fried chicken, corn bread, coleslaw and an American beer or glass of wine for $18. The bucket contains five or six pieces of crunchy chicken that’s bursting with juices, and the cornbread and coleslaw is great for pacing. I’m pleasantly surprised by the lack of greasiness in the chicken’s golden coating.

Public House - Tuna tataki, sesame marinated soba noodles, waikami, salmon roe ($17)

Tuna tataki, sesame marinated soba noodles, waikami, salmon roe ($17)

Not just sticking to pub grub, Public House does more ‘refined’ dishes too. There’s a splash of Asian influence at the moment, with tempura, plum and hoisin sauce, fish and ginger dumplings and steamed buns making an appearance. The tuna tataki is coated with sesame seeds and sits atop twirls of soba noodles marinated in sesame oil. Wakame and salmon roe are added for extra flavour pops of the sea. The plate, though aesthetically pleasing, is quite narrow and I lose some of the toppings to the table. The flavour combinations work well, and it’s a great lighter option.

Public House offers a decent variety of food and drinks, and their weekly specials may entice you for dinner in a friendly and casual environment.

Public House

Disclaimer: I dined as a guest at Public Hotel. Opinions expressed here are purely my own and are based on my experience at the time of the visit.

Public House
433-435 Church St
Richmond, VIC, 3121
(03) 9421 0187
publichouse.com.au/
Public House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saba’s Ethiopian Restaurant, Fitzroy

Saba's Ethiopian Restaurant

Owned by Saba Alemayoh and managed by the warm and bubbly Sebla Afewerk, Saba’s is a relatively new Ethiopian restaurant making name for itself in Fitzroy. It’s popular, and busy with locals and returning customers. Painted lanterns, colourful baskets and embroidered umbrellas set the mood in the casual dining area.

Saba's Ethiopian Restaurant

The injera at Saba’s is made from 100% teff flour (which you can also purchase), allowing them to serve a completely gluten free menu. Vegan options are also aplenty, due to the heavy use of legumes in Ethiopian cuisine.

Saba's Ethiopian Restaurant - Black Spiced Tea with cardamom, chives, cinnamon

Black Spiced Tea with cardamom, chives, cinnamon

Saba's Ethiopian Restaurant - White Spiced Tea with cardamom, chives, cinnamon and milk

White Spiced Tea with cardamom, chives, cinnamon and milk

We start with some hot drinks to ease the chill from outdoors. Both the black and white spiced tea are made from cardamom, chives and cinnamon. It has a similar fragrance to chai, and I personally prefer the white version, which has slight sweetness.

Saba's Ethiopian Restaurant

We pick three vegetarian and one meat dish. Eating here is a communal affair, and the baskets of food are shared with the table. First, a basket of injera arrives, with one laid flat, ready to be decorated with an array of our colourful selections. Our choices are then tipped from their bowls onto the warm flatbread, making it easy to mix and match, or just enjoy them individually. The soft and spongy injera is torn and used as utensils, and being slightly tangy from fermentation, it’s perfect for tempering the intensity of spices.

Saba's Ethiopian Restaurant - Shiro - Milled chickpea and berbere w garlic and ginger, Alicha Birsen - Yellow split peas w turmeric, Dorho Sebhi - Chicken and egg w dilik, Key Sir - Beetroot Ethiopian herbs spices

Shiro – Milled chickpea and berbere w garlic and ginger, Alicha Birsen – Yellow split peas w turmeric, Dorho Sebhi – Chicken and egg w dilik, Key Sir – Beetroot Ethiopian herbs spices

Saba's Ethiopian Restaurant - Dorho Sebhi - Chicken on the bone slow cooked over a few hours, served with hard-boiled egg

Dorho Sebhi – Chicken on the bone slow cooked over a few hours, served with hard-boiled egg

On the side is a little dish of berbere, a signature Ethiopian chilli mix of up to 20 different spices. Berbere is also found in the shiro, a sauce-like dish of milled chickpeas, garlic and ginger. There’s also the vibrant and zingy beetroot, which is the least spicy of the dishes we order. Of the vegetarian dishes, we particularly enjoy the Alicha Birsen – softened yellow split peas in turmeric-based paste. Dorho Sebhi is chicken slow-cooked on the bone and served with a hard-boiled egg. It’s made using dilik, a chilli paste that traditionally combines up to 50 spices and is an essential staple in Ethiopian households. The dorho sebhi is full on with the spices, which may not suit everyone, but the chicken drumsticks are amazingly juicy and delicious and I wouldn’t mind having a double portion to myself.

Saba's Ethiopian Restaurant

They’re set to open a sister restaurant on Nicholson St in the near future. Don’t be afraid to use your hands and partake in the fun.

Saba's Ethiopian Restaurant

Disclaimer: I dined as a guest of Saba’s Ethiopian Restaurant. Opinions expressed here are purely my own and are based on my experience at the time of the visit.

Saba’s Ethiopian Restaurant
328 Brunswick St
Fitzroy, VIC, 3065
(03) 8589 0442
www.sabasethiopianrestaurant.com/
Saba's Ethiopian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

United Kitchen Dining & Tapas, St Kilda

United Kitchen

Opening in late November last year, United Kitchen Dining & Tapas is a Latin American restaurant and cocktail bar on burgeoning Fitzroy Street. The warm and inviting interior features concrete floors, wooden trimmings, copper accents and splashes of greenery. All four walls are a display of various materials, creating a different feel on different sides of the room.

United Kitchen

There’s a leather sofa and ottoman area perfect for drinks and nibbles around the drum tables, and a leather booth by the other window that’s semi-private and cosy. The tables are well spaced, and there’s neat sense of privacy that’s often lacking in venues trying to squeeze in as many tables as possible. It creates a more relaxed environment that suits anything from romantic dates to group functions.

United Kitchen

Head chef and owner Tong Li is originally from Qingdao, China. Li spent a number of years living and working in Mexico, gaining invaluable cooking experience under his belt, before returning to China and starting up three award-winning restaurants. United Kitchen represents his first venture in Australia since moving here, and the menu draws its influences from Mexican, Spanish and Latin American cuisines, with touches of Asian inspiration.

United Kitchen - Ron Espresso Martini - Espresso, Ronde Jeremy Rum, spiced syrup & Frangelico ($18) Lemon Thyme Margarita - Tequila, Altoviso, homemade lemon, thyme syrup and fresh lemon

Ron Espresso Martini – Espresso, Ronde Jeremy Rum, spiced syrup & Frangelico ($18) Lemon Thyme Margarita – Tequila, Altoviso, homemade lemon, thyme syrup and fresh lemon

The cocktail page includes a few different margaritas, and the Lemon Thyme is one of the more popular drinks containing Tequila, Altoviso, homemade lemon, thyme syrup and fresh lemon. Being my favourite cocktail at the moment, I couldn’t pass up the Ron Espresso Martini made with Ronde Jeremy Rum, spiced syrup and Frangelico. It’s a little smoother, rounder and sweeter than most other espresso martinis. Cocktails at United Kitchen are made with house-made syrups, and both of ours go down extremely well.

United Kitchen - Grilled Corn - Char-grilled whole corn, parmesan, ancho chilli, lime, & blue vein cheese ($4 ea)

Grilled Corn – Char-grilled whole corn, parmesan, ancho chilli, lime, & blue vein cheese ($4 ea)

Of the small bites available, we try the corn. Beautifully charred and very cheesey, the juicy corn is smothered in parmesan and blue vein cheese, and spiked with ancho chilli and lime. The use of the milder ancho means the spiciness doesn’t overwhelm the tastebuds. Absolutely delicious, and one to rival Mamasita’s famous cob.

United Kitchen - Ceviche - Yellow fin tuna, pineapple, chilli, onion, coriander, tomato & salsa picante ($8.50 ea)

Ceviche – Yellow fin tuna, pineapple, chilli, onion, coriander, tomato & salsa picante ($8.50 ea)

United Kitchen - Crab meat stuffed avocado - Avocado stuffed with Blue Swimmer crab, cherry tomato, onion, chilli & fresh lime ($16)

Crab meat stuffed avocado – Avocado stuffed with Blue Swimmer crab, cherry tomato, onion, chilli & fresh lime ($16)

United Kitchen - Pork Tostadas - Slow cooked pork, fresh pineapple, refried beans, Pico de Gallo & Guacamole on crispy corn tortilla s ($7.50 ea)

Pork Tostadas – Slow cooked pork, fresh pineapple, refried beans, Pico de Gallo & Guacamole on crispy corn tortilla ($7.50 ea)

It’s perhaps not so surprising that tapas feature on the menu here. There’s a big chilli hit in the yellow fin tuna ceviche from both the chilli and salsa picante, and the pineapple and tomato creates a foil for the heat. One particularly intriguing item is the crab meat stuffed avocado. Diced avocado is tossed with Blue Swimmer crab meat, cherry tomato, onion, chili and lime before being presented back in the avocado shell. Blue corn chips are used as the utensil for it, and it’s a great eat. There’s a variety of tostadas too. The slow-cooked pork version is paired with fresh pineapple, refried beans, Pico de Gallo and guacamole, all served on a crispy tortilla. Substantial and satisfying.

United Kitchen - Crispy Duck Leg - Confit duck leg, Dutch carrot, King Edward Potato, brown butter, fig & pinot reduction ($25)

Crispy Duck Leg – Confit duck leg, Dutch carrot, King Edward Potato, brown butter, fig & pinot reduction ($25)

United Kitchen - Slow cooked pork belly - Free range pork belly, Chimichurri sauce, green soya beans, fresh pineapple & Salsa Fresca ($26)

Slow cooked pork belly – Free range pork belly, Chimichurri sauce, green soya beans, fresh pineapple & Salsa Fresca ($26)

A diverse spread of mains can be found, with seafood, poultry and meat all having a say. The slow-cooked pork belly is sweet and moist, topped by a vibrant chimichurri sauce and refreshed by diced pineapple and salsa fresca. There’s also the crisp and juicy confit duck leg, teamed with a tasty little brown butter fry-up of carrot, potato and peas, complemented by the sweeter elements of chopped fig and a pinot reduction.

United Kitchen - Parmesan Cauliflower - Fried & baked cauliflower, shaved Parmesan, fresh thyme & Shichimi spice ($7.50)

Parmesan Cauliflower – Fried & baked cauliflower, shaved Parmesan, fresh thyme & Shichimi spice ($7.50)

You might enjoy your mains with some sides like potatoes seasoned with parmesan flakes and truffle oil, green beans with chilli and a chorizo crumb, or maybe the baked cauliflower seasoned with thyme and shichimi, showered with a good scattering of shaved parmesan. Soft and flavoursome.

United Kitchen - Peanut Butter Spring Roll - Salted caramel peanut butter spring roll, vanilla bean ice cream & caramel sauce ($12)

Peanut Butter Spring Roll – Salted caramel peanut butter spring roll, vanilla bean ice cream & caramel sauce ($12)

A range of desserts are available, from fruity to rich. We try the peanut butter spring rolls. The thin, crispy pastry, which normally houses a savoury mix of ingredients, here contains a warm and rich concoction of salted caramel and peanut butter, accompanied by vanilla ice cream to balance things out. Salty and sweet, hot and cold, it’s a nice end to the meal.

United Kitchen is on the quieter end of Fitzroy Street, but venture down and you’ll be rewarded with a wonderful all-round dining experience that’s well-worth a visit.

United Kitchen

 

Disclaimer: I dined as a guest of United Kitchen Dining & Tapas. Opinions expressed here are purely my own and are based on my experience at the time of the visit.

United Kitchen Dining & Tapas
2/52 Fitzroy St
St Kilda, VIC, 3182
(03) 9534 4470
www.unitedkitchen.com.au
United Kitchen Dining & Tapas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Son of a Pizzaiolo, Thornbury

Son of a Pizzaiolo

Brothers Frank and Roque Romano had their beginnings in the restaurant trade with Woodfire Cafe Pizzeria in Ivanhoe back in 2008. Maintaining an allegiance to their Italian background, Son of a Pizzaiolo was opened up in nearby Thornbury.

Son of a Pizzaiolo

Son of a Pizzaiolo - Ancient Grain Super Salad - Organic quinoa, avocado, goji, asparagus, kale, fennel, cauliflower, toasted pumpkin seeds, nigella seeds, beetroot dressing, dukkah spiced poached egg

Ancient Grain Super Salad – Organic quinoa, avocado, goji, asparagus, kale, fennel, cauliflower, toasted pumpkin seeds, nigella seeds, beetroot dressing, dukkah spiced poached egg

Son of a Pizzaiolo - Salmon for Breakfast - House cured salmon, dukkah spiced avocado, grilled asparagus, pomegranate, sourdough multigrain, crSalmon for Breakfast - House cured salmon, dukkah spiced avocado, grilled asparagus, pomegranate, sourdough multigrain, cream cheeseeam cheese

The launch of their new ‘Prima Colazione’ (aka breakfast) menu coincides with their first birthday, so is a cause for celebration. An all-day breakfast is served here, with lunch options kicking in at 11:30am. Salmon for Breakfast is a clean and simple assembly of house-cured salmon, dukkah spiced avocado, grilled asparagus, cream cheese and sourdough multigrain toast. The Ancient Grain Super Salad is a healthy, textural mix of quinoa, avocado, goji berries, grilled asparagus, kale, fennel, toasted pumpkin seeds, nigella seeds and a beetroot dressing. It could do with a bit more quinoa and maybe a bit less lettuce, but the flavours are decent. The cauliflower delivers a tangy hit, and the dukkah poached egg provides extra moisture.

Son of a Pizzaiolo - Smashed Avocado - Infused with lemon juce, thyme, multigrain sourdough, baked ricotta, poached egg, beetroot puree, cherry tomatoes, black sesame seeds, fresh lime

Smashed Avocado – Infused with lemon juice, thyme, multigrain sourdough, baked ricotta, poached egg, beetroot puree, cherry tomatoes, black sesame seeds, fresh lime

Son of a Pizzaiolo - Cheesy Scrambled Eggs - Polenta hash browns, scrambled eggs, aged pecorino, grilled Portobello, crispy kale, chorizo sausage, chives, red sea salt

Cheesy Scrambled Eggs – Polenta hash browns, scrambled eggs, aged pecorino, grilled Portobello, crispy kale, chorizo sausage, chives, red sea salt

SOP does smashed avocado too, theirs infused with lemon juice and dressed up with beetroot puree, thyme and crumbled baked ricotta. Tomatoes on the vine inject a warm splash of colour and flavour. The highlight is the Cheesy Scrambled Eggs. Two squares of polenta hash browns, grilled Portobello mushrooms and sliced chorizo are arranged around the pecorino-infused scrambled eggs. The chorizo in particular turns this simple looking dish into a mouth-watering one.

Son of a Pizzaiolo - Margherita Pizza

Margherita Pizza

Son of a Pizzaiolo - Pasta Mafalde al Ragu - Slow cooked lamb ragu with shaved pecorino cheese

Pasta Mafalde al Ragu – Slow cooked lamb ragu with shaved pecorino cheese

Son of a Pizzaiolo - Duck Risotto - Slowly cooked duck ragu with mixed field mushrooms

Duck Risotto – Slowly cooked duck ragu with mixed field mushrooms

Neapolitan-style woodfire pizzas are cooked in a rotating oven, resulting in an evenly cooked creation. The simpler flavours of the margherita means the quality of the dough and cooking method have nowhere to hide, and here they’re up to the mark – the pizza’s thin, crispy base comes with the just right amount of chew. Pasta and risotto become available towards the lunch side of the brunch hour. Tomato-based Pasta Mafalde al Ragu features slow-cooked lamb with shavings of Pecorino, and the Duck Risotto makes for a hearty and delicious lunch, with a tender slow-cooked duck ragu and mixed field mushrooms to go with the al dente risotto rice.

Son of a Pizzaiolo - Italian Hot Chocolate

Italian Hot Chocolate

Son of a Pizzaiolo - Italian Hot Chocolate

Italian Hot Chocolate

Son of a Pizzaiolo - Tiramisu Porridge - Lightly coffee-infused rolled oats with mascarpone, dried organic coconut, slivered almonds, cacao powder, sponge fingers, caramelised banana

Tiramisu Porridge – Lightly coffee-infused rolled oats with mascarpone, dried organic coconut, slivered almonds, cacao powder, sponge fingers, caramelised banana

Son of a Pizzaiolo - Nutella French Toast - Brioche French toast with mixed berry compote, Nutella indulgence, white chocolate ganache, strawberries, mixed nut croccantino, mascarpone quenelle

Nutella French Toast – Brioche French toast with mixed berry compote, Nutella indulgence, white chocolate ganache, strawberries, mixed nut croccantino, mascarpone quenelle

We can’t forget the sweet options. Italian Hot Chocolate is thick and chocolately rich, creating a molten trail of warmth down to our stomachs. Tiramisu Porridge contains all the components of tiramisu plus more. Coffee-infused oats come with mascarpone, dried organic coconut, slivered almonds and cacao powder, with sponge fingers and caramelised banana laid on the surface. It sounds great on paper, but lacks a little something. A touch more sweetness would go a long way in elevating the dish to something great. The Nutella French Toast is the star of the dessert round. The brioche is adorned with mixed berry compote and fresh berries, and dressed with a ‘Nutella indulgence’, white chocolate ganache, and a quenelle of mascarpone. A scattering of mixed nut croccantino adds extra texture to each bite, and the dish is not overly sweet.

The brunch menu at Son of a Pizzaiolo has a good range of dishes to suit the morning crowd, from the usual suspects to the more Italian dishes. Not just an Italian dinner destination, SOP is a solid option for brunch too.

Son of a Pizzaiolo - Duck Risotto - Slowly cooked duck ragu with mixed field mushrooms

Duck Risotto – Slowly cooked duck ragu with mixed field mushrooms

Disclaimer: I was invited as a guest. Opinions expressed here are purely my own and are based on my experience at the time of the visit.

Son Of a Pizzaiolo
875 High St
Thornbury, VIC, 3071
(03) 9484 9911
www.sonofapizzaiolo.com.au
Son of a Pizzaiolo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hell of the North, Fitzroy

Hell of the North

Hell of the North, the French darling of Fitzroy. The bluestone building housing this bar and bistro is hidden behind greenery, its bright yellow door one of the few hints that there’s something exciting waiting within. Sadly there is little time to appreciate its understated facade, for fear of being caught in another sudden downpour, but the dreadfulness of the weather is quickly forgotten as we snake our way to a cozy corner table by the kitchen.

Hell of the North - Twice cooked cheese souffle, parsnip, caramelised garlic ($24)

Twice cooked cheese souffle, parsnip, caramelised garlic ($24)

Hell of the North - Twice cooked cheese souffle, parsnip, caramelised garlic ($24)

Twice cooked cheese souffle, parsnip, caramelised garlic ($24)

Neatly broken into sections, the menu at Hell of the North is devoid of lengthy descriptions, consisting instead of a simple list of main ingredients. A twice-cooked cheese souffle begins the proceedings. Surrounded by a neat puddle of parsnip and a wedge of witlof, the souffle has a light, airy interior and a tasty but rounded flavour. Caramelised cloves of garlic explode to release thier softened innards. It’s a convincing start to the meal and it goes down a treat.

Hell of the North - Bonito Niçoise, crumbed fried egg, potato, anchovies ($32)

Bonito Niçoise, crumbed fried egg, potato, anchovies ($32)

Hell of the North - Bonito Niçoise, crumbed fried egg, potato, anchovies ($32)

Bonito Niçoise, crumbed fried egg, potato, anchovies ($32)

After listening to the day’s specials, we’re coaxed into ordering the Bonito Niçoise. The bonito fillets are cooked to perfection, teamed with oozy crumbed fried eggs, salted anchovies and creamy potatoes. It’s a satisfying and flavoursome dish.

Hell of the North - Duck Pot-au-feu, mushroom & hazelnuts ($34)

Duck Pot-au-feu, mushroom & hazelnuts ($34)

Different to what I expected but no less impressive, is the Duck Pot-au-feu, which in fact turns out to be duck cooked three ways. The pan proffers to us a sausage, duck leg confit, and pan-fried breast. The sausage, which also contains hazelnuts, has a very smooth and somewhat packed texture. The juicy delights of the confit leg cannot be denied, and we can’t fault the pan-fried duck, which has retained its pink blush and sports nicely rendered fat and a crispy skin.

Hell of the North - Braised beef short rib, celeriac, horseradish and red wine sauce ($32)

Braised beef short rib, celeriac, horseradish and red wine sauce ($32)

One of my favourite cuts of beef is the short rib. Here it’s matched with smooth and smokey celeriac puree and a punchy red wine sauce, freshened up by the piquancy of horseradish and crunchiness of the greens. The short rib almost falls apart as I lift a piece onto my plate. I’m in heaven.

Hell of the North - Milk Chocolate, gingerbread granita, raspberry ($15)

Milk Chocolate, gingerbread granita, raspberry ($15)

We finish with the milk chocolate dessert. It’s rich and mousse-like, with gingerbread granita added for texture, and raspberries for a tart balance.

Hell of the North

Both Hell of the North’s unpretentious frontage and food menu reflects their approach to cooking. Their dishes are thoughtful and restrained, allowing the ingredients speak for themselves. Hell of the North is definitely a place I hope to return to soon.

 

Hell of the North
135 Greeves St
Fitzroy, VIC, 3065
(03) 9417 6660
www.hellofthenorth.com.au

Hell of the North Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tahina Bar, Northcote

Tahina Bar

Opening in August last year, Roy Sassonkin and partner Natalie Powell (ex-Barry) set out to deliver vegetarian Israeli street-food in the middle of hipster Northcote. Originally from Tel Aviv, Sassonkin worked at Chin Chin, Hellenic Republic and the nearby Red Door Corner Store before settling into his own place.

Tahina Bar

The setting is modest, with limited bar and counter seating around the periphery of the narrow eatery. We take a spot right at the kitchen, where we have the opportunity to watch our food being cooked, and the day’s food prep being carried out. Giant bags of cauliflower are trimmed and boiled, eggplant is sliced, and superfood smoothies are whizzed up before our very eyes.

Tahina Bar - Hummus plate - fresh hummus with pita bread ($7)

Hummus plate – fresh hummus with pita bread ($7)

Tahina Bar - Cauliflower Papiot - Whole roasted baby cauliflower, garlic, fresh rosemary, thyme and lemon ($8)

Cauliflower Papiot – Whole roasted baby cauliflower, garlic, fresh rosemary, thyme and lemon ($8)

Tahina Bar - Roasted Eggplant - Hummus, half a roasted eggplant, zaatar kale chips and tahini ($8)

Roasted Eggplant – Hummus, half a roasted eggplant, zaatar kale chips and tahini ($8)

The hummus is deliciously velvety and smokey. Fans can order a whole plate, with pita to go with it. Gluten free bread is also available for extra. Cauliflower Papiot is seasoned with a tasty combination of garlic, fresh rosemary, thyme and lemon, the vegetable roasted until tender. Roasted eggplant sits on a smear of hummus, blanketed by zaatar and kale chips and squirted with tahini. The flesh is supple and melts in the mouth, almost requiring a spoon to transport it there.

Tahina Bar - Red falafel pocket made with chilli and capsicum, with hummus, Israeli salad, pickled cabbage and tahini ($11)

Red falafel pocket made with chilli and capsicum, with hummus, Israeli salad, pickled cabbage and tahini ($11)

Pita pockets are also popular, the fluffy bread packed with falafel, hummus, Israeli salad, pickled cabbage and tahini. There are two different types of falafels at Tahina: a red, made with chilli and red capsicum, and the more common green type based on parsley, coriander and mint.

Tahina Bar - Green Shakshuka Platter with Israeli salad, spicy green salad, pickled cabbage, hummus, tahini, pita ($15) Eggs, broccoli, avocado, zucchini, kalamata olives, spinach, chilli, thyme, rosemary

Green Shakshuka Platter with Israeli salad, spicy green salad, pickled cabbage, hummus, tahini, pita ($15) Eggs, broccoli, avocado, zucchini, kalamata olives, spinach, chilli, thyme, rosemary

Tahina Bar - Green Shakshuka Platter with Israeli salad, spicy green salad, pickled cabbage, hummus, tahini, pita ($15) Eggs, broccoli, avocado, zucchini, kalamata olives, spinach, chilli, thyme, rosemary

Green Shakshuka Platter with Israeli salad, spicy green salad, pickled cabbage, hummus, tahini, pita ($15) Eggs, broccoli, avocado, zucchini, kalamata olives, spinach, chilli, thyme, rosemary

Shakshuka platters come in three varieties. There’s still the traditional red, tomato-based shakshuka, but also a creamier white one with wild mushrooms, Jerusalem artichokes, fennel, and goat’s cheese. I choose the green shakshuka, a vibrant dish full of broccoli, avocado, zucchini, kalamata olives, spinach, chilli, fresh thyme and rosemary. It may look and sound a little unusual, but it’s packed with flavour, especially from the olives which provide all the saltiness it needs. The platter also includes a generous plate of Israeli salad, a small bowl of hummus and some pita. Great value for $15.

Tahina Bar

Take away is available for those in a rush, and for sweet tooths there’s always hand made natural ice cream. The menu at Tahina is well-priced and nourishing, and it’s a place I’d happily return to.

Tahina Bar
223 High St
Northcote, VIC, 3070
(03) 9972 1479
http://www.tahinabar.com/
Tahina Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato