Today’s assignment in the Expat Blog Challenge is to write a restaurant review.
I recently wrote about dining out in Melbourne. It’s not very often a pleasant experience for me and my Aussie partner. It’s too crowded. It’s too noisy. The portions are small. It’s so expensive. The service is mediocre. I need water. I need a napkin. By lemonade, do you mean a Sprite or lemonade?
Nevertheless, I enjoy dining out because I like trying new restaurants and I still hope to find that restaurant with that mouth-watering dish I can’t get enough of and that perfect little cafe with the barista who knows my name and how to make beautiful coffee art. And because there’s little more that I enjoy more than a good conversation with a good friend over coffee or a nice meal.
Rather than a single restaurant review, I’ll mention a few places in Melbourne worth checking out.
Lentil as Anything is a vegetarian restaurant where guests pay what they feel their meal and experience is worth according to their financial ability. There are four locations: Abbotsford Convent, Footscray, Preston, and St. Kilda. I’ve eaten at Abbotsford Convent and Preston. The food is equally good at both, but the experience is different. At Abbotsford Covent, you go through cafeteria style, with a tray and serving yourself what you want before taking a seat. The Abbotsford Convent is very beautiful, which enhances the experience. The Preston location is much smaller and is more like a typical cafe. You sit at a table and the volunteers bring you menus. You order and they bring you the food. The Preston location has a much more urban feel and the clientele is more youthful and grunge than that of Abbotsford’s, which tends to be older, bohemian, and probably wealthier. For more information about Lentil As Anything, please visit its website.
Along similar lines is Crossways at the Hare Krishna Center in the CBD. Crossways provides wholesome, sanctified, vegetarian lunches for $7.50 ($5.50 for students, pensioners, and healthcare card holders). There is only one menu, which changes daily, and consists of two courses, desert, and a drink, and you can go back for seconds at no extra charge. The food is always hot and delicious. Despite being in the Hare Krishna Center, your space is completely respected. I’ve never been approached by a Hare Krishna to discuss matters of faith. For more information about Crossways, please visit its website.
Lovely Indians is a small, local restaurant in West Preston. They offer all those favorites such as tandoori chicken, daal, tikka, curries, and so forth. The menu includes chicken, beef, lamb, seafood, and vegetarian meals. Theo and I have always found it very good, reasonably priced, and with friendly service. For more information about Lovely Indians, please visit its website.
Stuzzi, in Northcote, bills itself as a Mediterranean restaurant, but in actuality, it has everything – paninis, wraps, burgers, salads, pasta, pizza, seafood, steaks, and even ribs. It is a large, busy, and noisy restaurant, but it’s attractive, comfortable, the food is very good with adequate portions, reasonably priced, and the service is good as well. It’s the kind of restaurant you’ll never go wrong with. For more information about Stuzzi, please visit its website.
Located in Clifton Hill, Mosskito has a similar vibe to Stuzzi. It’s a large and comfortable restaurant. In fact, the atmosphere is my favorite part of Mosskito. Aside from its regular tables both inside and outside, there is an open fire place and large Chesterfield couches. Like Stuzzi, the food menu is wide and varied, but the portions are larger (too large sometimes) and the food is not quite as good. It’s also a little more expensive. You may be asking why go there at all, but Mosskito has a certain atmosphere that’s very enjoyable and it’s quiet on some weeknights. For more information about Mosskito, please visit its website.
Los Amates is a Mexican restaurant in Fitzroy. It’s worth noting that, as Americans, you won’t likely find the quality of Mexican food in Melbourne that we’re accustomed to in the USA thanks to our Mexican neighbors. Los Amates is good, but it’s not great. It has a beautiful atmosphere, friendly service, and a wide selection on the menu, but it’s inconsistent. Sometimes it’s very good, sometimes it’s just okay, and sometimes it’s a bit of a mess. Portions are not very large and mains range from about $16 to $26. For more information about Los Amates, please visit its website.
The Asian Beer Cafe is a great place to get together with friends. Conveniently located inside Melbourne Central, this quirky, somewhat trendy, Anime-themed restaurant is large and stylish and offers typical East Asian fare – bento boxes, ginger beef stirfry, chicken satay, sesame prwans, pad Thai, and, of course, pizzas, and desserts. Prices are very low. I don’t think anything costs over $12, but the portions are very small so you usually end up ordering a variety of things. The Asian Beer Cafe also has a large drink menu with beers, wines, spirits, and cocktails. The one thing that is noticeably missing is coffee. For more information about the Asian Beer Cafe, please visit its website.
The Quarter is one of those little wonderful cafes in the CBD. Nestled amongst the hubbub that is Degraves Street, it bills itself as a Mediterranean restaurant, but it actually offers a pretty wide and diverse menu that includes pasta, pizza, sandwiches, seafood, and dishes such as Morrocan Chicken, Chicken Parma, and Beef Rump Steak. The coffee here is excellent. It’s not inexpensive; it’s Melbourne after all, but it’s not over the top either. The food is quite good and I find the portions adequate, but some people may find them small. The service is good as well. For more information about The Quarter, visit its website.
The Little Mule, also in the CBD, is a favorite. Hidden in one of Melbourne’s laneways, the Little Mule is a bicycle cafe. It is a small cafe that seats only about 30 people and serves just breakfast and lunch. The menu is small, but everything I’ve ever tried has been delicious, and reasonably priced. It offers soups, salads, sandwiches, great coffee, some desserts, and some vegetarian and vegan options. Tucked away at the back of the cafe is a custom bike shop, where they design and build fixed gear and single-speed bikes. They also have a tiny selection of bicycle parts and accessories and do repairs. It’s really a charming place. For more information about the Little Mule, please visit its website.
The Pancake Parlor. With 11 locations, how can we not talk about this whimsical Melbourne icon? Basically, the Pancake Parlour has figured out how to turn breakfast, lunch, and dinner into dessert using pancakes. You can’t really go wrong with that, can you? The Pancake Parlour does offer some savory meals such as salads, Crepe Spanakopita, Mexican Chicken Crepes, Barramundi Fish Fillets, and Scotch Fillet Steaks. But the real stars of this quirky restaurant are the sweet pancakes and crepes such as the Alice in Wonderland, two buttermilk pancakes topped with vanilla ice-cream, hot chocolate fudge, and sprinkles; Salted Caramel Crunch, warm salted caramel sauce served with two buttermilk pancakes, vanilla ice-cream and topped with roasted almonds; and the Chocolate Jubilee, a chocolate pancake with cream, ice-cream, chocolate flakes or hot chocolate fudge served with fresh strawberries or sour cherries. The Pancake Parlour also has an ice cream parlour, coffee, a bar, and a variety of other drinks. It sounds pretty heavenly and it kind of is. Everything is delicious. I find the portions adequate, but my partner finds them too small and he’s never satisfied. And for what you get, the Pancake Parlous is also rather expensive. Salads are about $20. Savory meals range from $12-$33. Those deserts I mentioned cost between $14 and $20. Really? For two pancakes with ice cream? Yeah, really. For more information about the Pancake Parlour, please visit its website.
Have you eaten at any of these restaurants? What are some of your favourite eateries in Melbourne?