Studio 37 – Fremantle

Had a client catch up for a coffee in Fremantle during my recent trip there. They suggested Studio 37, which is a café attached to an art studio/working space in a warehouse style building.

The actual café itself consists of a long bar area where they serve customers and make their/food and drink, and then a number of smaller tables are scattered about.

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We were there after lunch time, but I noticed that they make sandwiches and cakes (which unfortunately I didn’t get to try). That being said, we were there for coffee.

It was an extremely hot day and I had my eye on the cold drip that they had on their menu. Unfortunately it was sold out for the day, but the barista was very nice and offered me an ‘iced long black’ instead. It really hit the spot!

Studio 37 - Coffee

This place is definitely worth trying if you’re in the area. The coffee was great, and I am confident that the food would be on a similar level!

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Bread in Common – Fremantle

Fremantle is a unique and interesting place. The main streets of the town are narrow and the buildings (I believe) are all heritage listed, so there are some great facades and colonial styled buildings to view as you walk around.

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As I was making my way down one of these typical streets, Pakenham Street, some very well landscaped seating caught my eye.

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I then turned my head to the adjacent building and realised that I had stumbled across Bread in Common! It wasn’t the first time I had heard of it – if you do some research online it pops up as one of the more prominent restaurants in Fremantle. However, in true ‘Melbourne style’ it seems like one of those places which you will not find unless you know what you’re looking for (but of course, I was the exception!).

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I had some time up my sleeve, and no plans later in the evening, so decided to drop in to try it out. It was late afternoon on a Friday, not quite time for the after-work crowd or dinner crowd to start piling in.

As luck would have it, the place was still open, but very empty. There were a number of staff still working and I believe that the tables all get filled during peak times (and it just dawned on me that the tables I saw outside are probably a waiting area!).

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The interior is very well designed, with a number of light globes hanging from the ceiling and long community style tables. Given the lack of customers, I quite literally had a table for one!

The other areas of the restaurant were also well appointed, including the bar, kitchen and wine display. All very tasteful, but still embracing the warehouse feel. There is also further dining upstairs, which I didn’t get to see. Make no mistake, the place was huge!

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From what I could tell, Bread in Common was trying to do it all. They are a bakery and make fresh bread daily. Whilst at the same time they also offer a fresh inventive food menu (mainly sharing dishes featuring fresh produce – winner!) and an extensive bar and wine list.

That are also open for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

That being said, I believe that that do it all well!

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But first things first – how was the bread!? I was ordering for one, and as part of the menu they offer a bread basket at a nominal cost. I had the chance to try some wholemeal sourdough and white sourdough (and could have requested others if I liked).

The bread itself was quite good. Great sourdough taste, a crusty fresh crust and a robust, yet soft, middle. Its only bread, but it was good bread!

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Because of the sharing style menu, I really only could choose one menu item. I cannot remember the detail, but there were dishes that featured beef, pork and vegetables, as well as sweet stuff! The dish that caught my eye was the octopus with peas, beans, and a few other condiments. I went for that and enjoyed my bread while I waited.

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The octopus finally arrived and it was very well presented. It also had a good range of flavours and textures (eg, crispy wafer and soft octopus). It was a very good dish and I was surprised that octopus worked well with peas and beans! It was also very filling, so one dish per person would be a good guide for future outings.

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Overall it was great to try out Bread in Common. Its easy to see why its often talked about in the local dining scene. I had a great meal there and loved the atmosphere of the place. I can imagine that it would be even better with a few more people around and the kitchen in full swing!

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Chimek – Perth

My recent trip to Perth in early February (2016) consisted of a day of meetings on a Friday. One of these meetings was in Fremantle, so I took the train down on a sunny afternoon and decided to fit in a quick snack before meeting!

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I have heard that Chimek is a highly rated fried chicken shop (with a focus on Korean fried chicken) located at the Fremantle Markets. Given the plethora of good fried chicken in Melbourne (particularly many Korean fried chicken establishments such as Gami, Chimak and Nene), I was eager to see how this local establishment fared!

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Chimek is located in the Fremantle Markets. If you were local to the area you would easily gravitate towards the markets and their ’boutique food court’. However, I have to admit that on my first trip to Fremantle, about a year ago, I literally walked past the whole market complex (oops)! That being said, Chimek isn’t necessarily difficult to locate – find the Market entrance, wriggle your way through a few aisles of handicraft stores, chuck a left and you will see the well lit food market!

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Chimek is set up as a stall in the food court but don’t let this put you off. There is some seating around, and even if you can’t find any seating its a meal that you can eat on the run.

I ordered the southern fried chicken, which may appear like an odd choice (considering the Korean fried chicken is their specialty), however my logic in making the choice was quite simple. 1. I was literally running to a meeting and did not want to risk wearing Korean chilli sauce (gochujang) as a fashion accessory! 2. I figured that the southern fried chicken, being a plain flavour, would be indicative of how the other menu items would taste (since they are also fried chicken, but with an additional sauce/topping).

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I ordered over the counter, was given a number, and then a few minutes later my food arrived (made to order). The chicken itself was quite good, it seemed fresh and was very juicy on the inside. The chicken was coated with a ‘southern style’ breadcrumb mixture and deep fried which gave the batter a crunchy outside, but still quite a substantial crust. The chips were also quite good – nothing over the top, but very moreish!

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I found myself almost defeated by the portion size. As I got through the final wings (of which there were around 6-7), the seasoning began to feel very heavy (thicker than KFC batter) and started to leave an oily/bland/salty taste in my mouth. My suggestion would be to arrive on an empty stomach, or possibly even share a couple of items to mix up the flavours. This feedback isn’t a reflection on the quality, but perhaps the quantity and the flavouring of the actual dish that I ordered.

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That being said, the overall quality of the wings were great, the southern style was spot on, and Chimek certainly deserves its reputation as a fried chicken leader in Perth! Its also handy to eat on the run (which I needed to do to make my meeting on time!).

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Amalia

Amalia is a café located in the Beatty Avenue shopping strip in Armadale, next to Toorak Train Station. 5-10 years ago, the shopping strip was almost bare, but now has a number of weekend brunch destinations. This is a local area for me.

Amalia is well known to me, as there have been periods in the past where I have commuted by train into the city and have stopped off there for a morning coffee. Since those days (within the 12 months) the café has changed hands, and I had been hoping to sit down an try it for some time.

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I got my chance on a recent weekend when there was no food on hand and I needed to run some errands nearby. I dropped in for a late lunch and coffee. There was still a steady stream of regulars popping in and out for take-away coffees, as well as parking themselves out the front of the café for some sunshine and people watching (although, it is a quiet suburban street, so not much to see!).

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Inside the café is well appointed and has a number of cosy tables in various ‘nooks’ of the shopfront, as well as a row of tables for parties of 2-4.

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The café serves an a la carte menu, as well as a selection of sandwiches that have been pre-made that day.

I was quite hungry and opted for their breakfast special, as well as a slider that I saw in the display case. A couple of the menu items (chicken burger, steak sandwich) were sold out for the day, which is a good sign that they are serving fresh food!

The special was zucchini fritters, poached eggs topped with a chipotle sauce and avocado puree. The meal was well presented and tasted great. The eggs were perfectly poached, and went well with the crispy batter and filling of the fritters. The chipotle sauce was a winner – I haven’t tried anything like that before – it gave the dish a bit of kick, and it also mixed well with the avocado puree which was hiding underneath the eggs. Overall, a great dish!

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The slider also gets an honourable mention! It was filled with prosciutto and rocket, and while it didn’t ‘blow my socks off’ it was certainly tasty and fresh.

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I also ordered a coffee (latte), which was well made and tasted great!

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The new owner and staff were very nice and had a good connection with a lot of regulars! This type of honest service is not present at a number of prominent cafes. I was personally served well and received this same warm hospitality!

My overall experience at Amalia was great! The food was really good, I was greeted by friendly faces and was able to relax and unwind on a Saturday afternoon (mission accomplished!). Can’t wait to get back to try some of their other menu items.

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KUU Japanese Cafe

KUU Japanese Café is run out of a small shop in Park Street, South Melbourne. It is not on a main shopping strip, and is mainly surrounded by residential housing (with a pub across the road, typical South Melbourne!).

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KUU is a local haunt for me. Not that far from where I work, but up until now I was not daring enough to trek to its isolated location. I finally mustered up the courage to try it one lunch time.

The café inside is cosy (not cramped, but not roomy), but has a good interior design and loads of natural light.  They are a ‘cafe’ and eatery, so you can either grab something to go, or take a seat and they will serve you at the table – I opted for the latter.

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The menu has a number of interesting choices, including main meals of fried chicken, various Japanese salads, as well as a special bento box. The fried chicken (katsu) curry caught my eye. I ordered it with a long macchiato.

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The dish itself was well presented and absolutely delicious. The chicken was juicy on the inside, well crumbed and teamed well with the BBQ sauce and curry. The curry itself had a good flavour to it. The accompaniments of (brown) rice and salad were fresh and tasty, a great way to balance out the heavier chicken and curry. Brilliant dish!

The coffee was also good!

It was hard to fault the meal and experience. The service was very ‘Japanese’ – efficient, yet still friendly and hospitable. Overall, a great lunch spot and I will definitely be back for more (seeing as it is a local venue.. lucky me!)

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I ended up visiting again a few days later and tried out their bento box. It was delicious and had a good variety of small dishes. My personal favourite is still the chicken katsu curry though!

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****

KUU Cafe + Japanese Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Rottnest Island

Recently had the pleasure of spending a day at Rottnest Island in February 2016. The island itself was mindblowing – beautiful beaches and coves, as well as quokkas! Check out our video review below. Happy viewing!

A couple of great pics from our trip are below.

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Suda Korean

Had a midweek seminar in the city and after that ended decided to grab dinner with a colleague nearby. Healeys Lane is located just off Lonsdale Street in heart of the legal district (think barristers dressed in robes/wigs, and courtrooms!), however it has become a destination for Korean food in Melbourne.

We strolled along Healeys Lane and decided to choose Suda, which seemed a bit more quiet/intimate than some of the rowdy Korean pub-style venues. In hindsight, it was a great choice!

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The restaurant is owned/managed by a great host named Alice, while her husband does the cooking at the back of house. The restaurant itself is well decorated and has a very clean modern feel to it. What’s more, a lot of the little trinkets and artwork around the restaurant have been hand-made by staff or friends. Nice touch!

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Suda serves what I would describe as a ‘modern Korean’ style cuisine. Korean food has always been synonymous with shared dishes (bulgogi + kimchi soup, anyone?), but Suda serves a number of tapas style dishes, Korean sliders, baps and pasta/ricecake fusion dishes. If you read through the menu, you will be spoiled for choice!

My colleague and I ordered 4 dishes to share. The first two were brought out as entrees, and the other two were a second (main) course. Our entrees were firstly the Korean fried chicken, which was a boneless ‘popcorn’ style chicken glazed in sweet chilli and topped with rice crisps, chilli and spring onions. The dish was delicious and portioned well (usually if ‘fried chicken’ is ordered, there is not room for much else!).

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Our second entrée was a mix of stir fried vegetables, which included eggplant, zucchini and broccolini topped with garlic chips and radishes (and more chilli!). The dish was a great balancer to some of the fried food that we ordered, and tasty in its own right!

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Onto the mains. Our first main was a Korean seafood pancake. The pancake was crispy on the outside and full of good fresh seafood and other fillings on the inside – so much so that it was ‘chunky’! This pancake was excellent, particularly compared with other Korean pancakes which can be flat and full of flour/dough.

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The final dish was probably the riskiest that we ordered off the menu. We ordered a Tteokbokki (Korean rice cakes) which is traditionally served in a Korean chilli sauce, with dumplings, eggs and fishcakes mixed into the dish. However, the Tteokbokki that we ordered was ‘cream and mushroom’. What we received were ricecakes coated in a creamy tomato sauce with mushrooms, topped with the usual chilli/spring onion garnish. The dish was delicious! The sauce was as good as any pasta sauce and it went very well with the ricecakes.

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The atmosphere of the place was great, and the service was also attentive all evening. Both Alice and the other waitstaff did a good job throughout the evening.

Overall this was a fantastic experience. My colleague had heard of Suda before, but I just stumbled upon it that evening! I am certainly glad that I did. The dishes were great (really can’t fault any of them), the ambience of the place was nice, and the owner really cares for her customers. What more could a diner ask for?!

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Royal Stacks

Some friends wanted to grab a bite to eat in Melbourne’s CBD after work. We happily obliged and it was suggested that we go to Royal Stacks.

Royal Stacks is located on Collins Street near the Rialto. It is not the most ‘social’ end of the city, but nevertheless is still served well by office crowds during the day. To my surprise, when I arrived to meet my friends (on a Tuesday night) it was quite busy. It seemed to cater for two distinct groups of people – the afterwork office crowd dressed in either suits or gym clothes (straight from the office/gym); or people starting a night out (more casually dressed).

What’s more in the evening, it sticks out like a sore thumb among offices and daytime food cafes. You can’t miss it!

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Inside the ordering process is simple. There are large blackboards that display the menu (and there were also paper menus floating around), you line up (similar to McDonalds), place your order at which time you will be given a buzzer, take a seat (no reservations from what I could tell – you could sit anywhere) and then your buzzer will buzz and light up when your order is ready.

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Our table had three people and we were all given separate buzzers, so there was a bit of a frenzy when our food was ready. Eventually we settled and tucked into the food. The writer ordered a burger with a ‘mac n cheese’ patty in addition to the usual suspects of beef, cheese, lettuce tomato, sauce, etc. One of the other diners ordered a double burger which also looked delicious. The menu was quite extensive and included burgers with bacon and chicken, there was definitely something for everyone. There’s also a ‘frozen yoghurt’ menu which may warrant a separate review!

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The fries were very good! They were shoestring, but still crispy (not soggy/flat) and had a good flavour, even without any seasoning. There’s the option to get them topped with cheese, which we may try next time.

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The burger itself was good, but not as good as it looked! I felt that the ‘mac n cheese’ patty was a bit bland, so it made the burger quite heavy! Also, it was hard to taste the meat patty (which didn’t seem that big) in amongst the rest of the burger. That being said, it was still a good burger, all the ingredients seemed fresh, and the sauce(s) were tasty.

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Overall Royal Stacks is a good option for both the ‘after work crowd’ and people warming up for a night out. It’s pretty casual and everything served appears to be made to order. Unfortunately the burger wasn’t one of the best we’ve tasted, but it was still not bad, which should for a good experience at Royal Stacks!

Royal Stacks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Stokers – South Melbourne

We were trying to decide on a restaurant in South Melbourne to meet a friend recently. We were both familiar with the area and wanted to choose a place that neither of us had been before. We did some quick research online and came up with Stokers.

Stokers is known for its pancakes and its original restaurant in Ivanhoe. Its South Melbourne restaurant is a little newer (I would guess it opened within the last few years). It still serves sweet pancakes, but also burgers and other savoury items. The restaurant is open almost all day, serving the breakfast crowd, lunch crowd, dinner crowd, and late night crowd (it closes at midnight most nights!).

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The restaurant itself is nestled into the shopping strip on Clarendon Street, and it set among a mix of other restaurants and small businesses. There is some seating outside, but also more seating inside – take your pick, communal table, café table or hi-stools!

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The two of us ordered two burgers (and drinks) for our main courses, and had a pancakes to share for dessert. The author had the beef burger, and our friend had the fish burger. The beef burger was great – good quality wagyu which was lean, fresh salad and toasty bread. It was served with a side of deep fried crepe/pancake chips which were delicious. They probably aren’t healthy, but don’t seem as filling or heavy as regular chips. Our friend gave a good review of the fish burger, which featured a rockling fillet.

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As we finished our drinks (including a very pretty, and tasty flat white, see below), and then decided to fit in a single dessert of spiced apple pancakes. The pancake was almost like a crepe, and the apple filling was sweet and well spiced (with cinnamon). The pancakes went very well when mixed with the other ingredients of salted caramel, nuts (walnuts and almonds) and of course, ice cream.

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We finished our meal highly satisfied and enjoyed the café style atmosphere until around 9 -10pm in the evening (and didn’t need to worry about closing time!) without any fuss. The wait staff were extremely friendly and helpful which topped off a good experience!

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Stokers Fine Pancakes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Nam Loong 1

Nam Loong is a Melbourne Chinese restaurant dynasty and institution. It has been trading (in one form or another) for as long as we can remember, and at one stage there were up to 3 different Nam Loong Restaurants (Nam Loong 1, Wing Loong – aka Nam Loong 2, and Nam Loong Seafood). All restaurants serve Cantonese style Chinese food. Over the years we have visited countless times!

Unfortunately Wing Loong was completely destroyed by fire in 2010 (see link to the story here). It has since re-opened on Elizabeth Street.

We had dinner out with some friends for a Friday night and decided to pay a visit to Nam Loong 1, which is located on Russell Street, near the corner of Lonsdale Street (Melbourne).

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Everyone seems to drop by for the pork buns at the entrance, but when we visit, it is usually for a meal of rice/noodles.

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The menu is quite extensive, so it may take a few times to know what to order. Over the years we have identified the better menu items (a few good ones are ‘curry chicken on rice’, ‘spicy chicken chop (ribs) on rice’ and ‘mince pork and eggplant on rice’). Out of our group of 5 people, 4 people chose the ‘Peking style spare ribs on rice’ (a popular choice!) and one chose the ‘chicken, roast pork and fried egg on rice’. The dishes are below (nb, there are two separate pictures of the chicken/pork/egg dish, it needed to be ‘opened’).

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The food was as we always remembered. Well priced (around $8 – 11 for each rice dish), reasonable quality of food, generous proportions, and a no fuss café style atmosphere. The author had the chicken/pork/egg dish – this particular meal was hearty and tasty, although the pork was not as fresh or tasty as other Hong Kong BBQ restaurants.

It is also worth mentioning that the drinks served there are also not bad. We ordered an ‘ice milk tea’, but the complimentary chinese tea is also adequate.

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Our meal there ended with some of our group members topping up their meal with a pork bun on the way out (yes, we are a hungry bunch!).

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Overall it was everything that we expected. This particular trip, like many of our other meals over the years, provided some good quality food, filled our stomachs and left us satisfied for the night ahead!

Nam Loong Chinese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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