Burnley Brewing – Richmond – Sunday 3 December 2017 – Dinner

Pale Ale

There can never be enough breweries. This is one statement that all my beer loving friends would wholeheartedly agree with.

Craft brewing has been exploding for years and like an extended fireworks display I don’t think we’ve seen the best of it yet. In recent weeks I’ve been to Mountain Goat in Richmond, and both Temple Brewing and Foreigner Brewing out Brunswick way. A few days ago I had a Stomping Ground pale ale at Canteen Pizza in Cottesloe on the other side of the country from where it is made in small batches in Collingwood!

The latest brewery to land in Richmond (well, the Burnley part at least) is Burnley Brewing on Bridge Road down the Yarra end. After a reasonably extensive renovation of the old Romulus and Remus site, BB took over but kept the R&R kitchen, along with its focus on Italian.

Pea and haloumi fritters and arancini

I can see BB being very popular. While it lacks a large outdoor space like the Bridge Hotel two doors down, it makes up for it with large windows fronting the street, and a big airy space with high ceilings, as you would expect from a brewery. The renovated room is clean and restrained, with good mixed spaces, and a long bar for the many who will have a drinking preference.

Eggplant parmigiano and salad

Tonight we are checking it out with Catherine’s sister Stephanie, and their Mum, Sandra. While it is an early dinner, there are plenty of punters both having a drink, and getting a bite to eat. We decide to share some starters and a pizza between three of us, with Sandra opting for the eggplant parmigiano, which she loved.

Capricciosa, ham, olives, artichoke, anchovies, mushrooms and fior di latte

The pizza hasn’t changed here, and it was always good quality, without being amazing. Our capricciosa is a good size, with plenty of topping, and is cooked right. The arancini is great, with a good dose of gorgonzola adding to the saltiness. On the flipside, the pea and haloumi fritters are a little bit weird with not a great amount of flavour.

Mini donuts

With a little bit of room left, we shared the donuts with chocolate coated vanilla ice cream, which is simple but effective for a shared dessert. More importantly, at this stage I’d tried a couple of the beers, and they are good, with the IPA a little ahead of the pale ale in my opinion. The only disappointment was the double IPA running out, but it should be back early next year.

With enthusiastic and energetic service, a comfortable space, and some freshly brewed beers, backed up by a kitchen that has always done a nice job, Burnley Brewing should enjoy plenty of success.

Burnley Brewing Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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The Modern Eatery – House of Aburi Sushi – Richmond – Wednesday 16 August 2017 and 18 November 2017 – Lunch

Omakase Nigiri – including salmon, tuna, snapper, kingfish, omelette

After an unsuccessful attempt by a burger chain, a new Japanese restaurant has taken up residence on Swan Street in a part of the street that has almost completely changed in recent years. The Modern Eatery – House of Aburi Sushi is a sister to two restaurants in Perth, and that foundation might be part of the reason that a few months on it is already more successful than the previous tenant.

The aspects I like about TME speak volumes of what I don’t like in many casual Japanese restaurants and cafes around Australia. Those behind this place have put some thought into the menu, and the fitout. It doesn’t feel cheap, but it is still casual. The space isn’t plain, with some nice high tables to make it feel like a place to eat, and not a takeaway joint or foodhall.

Love Me Tender – deep fried chicken tempura, cucumber, sliced avocado with house made tartare sauce and seared panko on top

Most importantly, the couple of times I’ve been for lunch I have found some good quality food, that is reasonably priced. The omakase nigiri consists of fresh sashimi, that goes beyond the usual tuna and salmon to include some kingfish and snapper. The rice is good, and the wasabi is about right.

Chicken katsu bento

The handmade sushi is well constructed, although the size is a little too large in my opinion. It is a reasonably classic combination (in these parts), with the ingredients all well prepared. The chicken katsu bento is again good value, though the star of the bento is not far above average.

With so many average Japanese outlets across the city and the suburbs, any place that is marginally better will get some attention. The combination of nicely prepared food with some diversity, a comfortable and good looking space to eat, and some friendly service, should see this push from Perth over east see some degree of success.

The Modern Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheeky Monkey – Richmond – Sunday 2 July 2017 – Breakfast

Peking pork pancake – spring onion + ginger pancake, crispy hock, cucumber, herbs, fried egg


It must fill the owners and staff with a sense of pride to see a cafe develop to the point it can move down the block into a much larger, and nicer space, due to its popularity. From humble beginnings, one Swan Street cafe has stood the test of time.

I have not been to Cheeky Monkey since New Year’s Day in 2010. The talk that day was about a huge New Year’s Eve and about one particular bucket that was used for more difficult duties than it was built for, by a guest at my place. Given the hangover from the night before, it was all about bacon and eggs to soothe us, but I do remember it being a good experience.

There wasn’t however anything notable to make a revisit necessary. There were many locals in Richmond equal to Cheeky Monkey, and they were closer to home in the northeast of the suburb. Somewhere along the way the quality increased to an extent necessary to grab big crowds. Today we are eating one hundred metres further up the road in a modern designed and furnished room, adjoined to a florist, making the scene even more attractive.

Peking pork pancake

As I thought might be the case, the menu is enticing, and the coffee makes an instantly good impression as we choose. The Peking pork pancake stands out and I’m glad I followed through and ordered it. The pancake itself is well made and holds the crispy pork hock, along with its classic Asian counterparts in spring onion, cucumber, and an array of herbs, topped by a fried egg. It feels like a brunch classic, although I don’t know how long it has been on the menu.

Corn fritters and crispy bacon, tomato + avocado salsa, coriander yoghurt

Catherine goes for the corn fritters, served generously, accompanied by bacon, and plenty of tomato and avocado, sitting in a coriander yoghurt. It’s a good dish, perhaps a bit large, but that isn’t a criticism. In fact, it is probably a sign of why Cheeky Monkey is bustling most days of the week.

While we haven’t yet been back, there is no doubt it will not be seven years again between visits! The coffee is particularly good, so I’ve had a few here since, and have even used the florist multiple times. It seems the combination of these businesses appeals in more ways than purely providing a good looking (and free) fitout for the cafe.

Cheeky Monkey Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Union House – Richmond – Wednesday 16 August 2017 – Dinner and Lunch at the Bar

Veal Schnitzel

New places often spring up without an obvious explanation. I am often fascinated by the amount of due diligence owners conduct before opening a new cafe, restaurant, bar or other casual eatery. There are some inexplicable openings. Naturally they lead to closing in quick time.

For example there is a burger joint that opened on Swan Street that took longer to renovate, than the time it was actually trading for. Whether the reviews were accurate or not, it was empty every time I walked by. They opened across the road from a flashy, large branch of Grill’d, that was popular and cheap. To open across the road you need to be confident your product is better, and resilient enough to see it through.

Further down Swan Street, in the old Union Dining, a new bar has sprung up. I see eye to eye with whoever opened the now named, Union House. Only months before, Catherine mentioned how the food at most pubs in Richmond is too similar on the menu, and not differentiated enough in terms of quality. It seems to me that Union House identified this gap and acted on it.

Add a clean lined, spacious renovation, both upstairs, downstairs, and in the terrace, and you have the ingredients for a lengthy member of Richmond’s dining scene. There are the obligatory selection of beers on tap, and a balanced focus on eating and/or drinking.

Chicken and leek pot pie

Union House differentiates itself on food though. While I’ve eaten from the bar menu twice downstairs, the broader offering (as well as the bar menu) is available both upstairs and downstairs. It is not a “gastropub”. It is more a few focussed pub classics at a price reasonable enough to eat here multiple times over the space of a month or less.

I’ve tried the veal schnitzel and the “pub steak” and they are both simple meals that are well executed. Catherine has tried the chicken and leek pot pie, which comes out looking a bit bereft of greenery, but is again tasty and well made. In fact, don’t expect any greens or leaves with the pub steak either (not that I took any issue as it came with a good mash, and nice pepper sauce). A little bit more resting could have aided presentation, but it didn’t impact the taste.

Pub steak

At lunch, my work colleagues enjoyed the rockling burger, though Natalie thought the colour palate used during the renovation was unattractive. Lastly, Julie was a touch concerned with the chicken in her burger, still enjoying it as a whole, with the jury out on whether it was actually very slightly under-cooked. Horses for courses I think in this case, but something to be weary of nonetheless.

With counter service downstairs, it is certainly more your typical bar. On the couple of occasions I’ve eaten here I have found the staff to be fine, one of the managers taking time to offer Catherine and I a quick tour upstairs, such was the enthusiasm in the opening week.

While a bit further down Swan Street, Union House is a great option for more discerning diners off to the MCG or AAMI Stadium, though it will naturally stay quieter than places like the Corner Hotel, The London, Richmond Club and the Precinct on game days. The real test will be if locals come in regularly, and I think they will. Both the food and the price point are compelling.

Union House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sloane Ranger – Richmond – Sunday 23 July 2017 – Breakfast

Smashed Peas – Broccolini, Meredith feta, smoked almonds, poached eggs, toast


It is staggering the number of above average cafes now open in Melbourne. Once, you could look through anyone’s list of the top 20 cafes in Melbourne, and it was easy to have tried half of them. These days, that is simply not the case.

In fact, there are more good to excellent cafes opening each year then is possible to try. Giving up is strong language, but really the odds of getting around to each and every great Melbourne cafe, from Pascoe Vale to Elsternwick and Beaconsfield to Northcote, is impossible. Why am I talking about this very obvious situation?

It’s because Sloane Ranger opened up several weeks ago, literally a kilometre down the road, and this is the first time Catherine and I have been for breakfast. I did pop-in for coffee once, but that was all. It struck me at the time that staff (including the one looking like an owner) were extra enthusiastic. Not in an annoying way; just genuinely excited about Melbourne cafe life.

Cheesy roast cauliflower fritters, smoked tomato chutney, chorizo and poached egg

This time for breakfast, it is hard to think of more accommodating people. Again, going out of their way to be helpful, but certainly not in an over the top way.

Looking down at the menu, there are around a dozen dishes, but there is nothing that is shouting out at me. Sometimes this is a good sign because I often try something a bit left-field in these situations. Today I go with the cheesy cauliflower fritters and chorizo.

Topped with a poached egg, and accompanied by a smoked tomato chutney, the fritters are excellent. It is not something I’ve tried before, but the combination does work, the chorizo bringing some nice spice, as well as saltiness. Catherine’s smashed peas is great too. Nicely presented, this well known combination of greens, feta, and runny poached eggs, is well executed.

The fitout here is pretty standard. It’s comfortable, with plenty of communal seating, and a curious bar type space out front that will be far better utilised in summer. Coffee is well made.

I’ve noticed a sudden rise in the quality of cafes across Melbourne with very little room for mediocrity these days. Sloane Ranger is another quality player that is hopefully here to stay. With all the action on Swan Street, there is a lot of pressure, but the sheer enthusiasm goes a long way when backed up with quality food and coffee.

Sloane Ranger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Demitri’s Feast – Richmond – Saturday 29 April 2017 – Dinner

Feta, honey and figs
Salmon, fennel and celeriac

Transformations don’t always work. There was a famous one in Sydney very recently where Rockpool turned into Eleven Bridge and closed in the same breath. Having been a customer here at Demitri’s Feast for a number of years, I know why this significant transformation will work.

There is more than a couple of reasons, but the two most significant are custom, and experience. Demitri himself has many terrifically loyal customers and I find it impossible to know whether they were friends through the old cafe, or independently. After 20 years of operating cafes, he decided a change was needed and turned Demitri’s Feast from a daytime cafe, to a late morning to late night mezze bar. Ask anyone in hospitality and deciding to go back to working nights is not a decision taken lightly.

Greek salad

The cafe naturally had to be fully renovated to be true to the new formula. The Richmond premiership posters are gone, along with the classic cafe counter, and bright tones. Now there is a tasteful bar, featuring tanned wood. There is more seating inside, using stools to make best use of the smaller space. Outside has been updated too, but keeps the same feel, though I have chosen to sit inside both times I’ve dined here.

Calamari

Over those couple of times, both alone, and with Catherine too, every dish I’ve tried has been good. There are selections of both smaller and larger share plates. Of the smaller plates, the broadbean keftedes stand out as both delicious and surprising. Demitri himself recommended them and he was right. They are full of flavour, the broadbeans obviously enhanced with a variety of spices. A combination of feta, honey and figs, is generous. Initially it looks like a lot of feta, but we seemed to keep coming back for more. More intricate is the salmon, fennel and celeriac offering, which pays attention to the subtlety of the salmon, enhancing it with a scattering of fennel.

Chicken skewers

On our way to the more substantial offerings, there is a Greek salad that is exactly the way it should be. Tradition dictating its make up, and it is particularly pleasing to see no lettuce being used as a filler. The calamari is a good size, plenty of golden, briefly fried pieces. The chicken skewers are given a good dose of spice, and are cooked beautifully over a flame. They are a highlight from the larger plates. So are the lamb cutlets, which find the right level of cooking, and again are oozing in flavour.

Lamb cutlets

Demitri’s is offering a collection of simply cooked meats, done well, and a bunch of smaller dishes that show a bit more subtlety and technique. This formula works, and this mezze bar is not looking to change it. There is a well constructed, reasonably diverse list of wine and beer, including a lager that Demitri’s brews themselves. There is no particular zone for each of the floorstaff so you see them all a number of times. Coordination is not so important as the dishes arrive in a dispersed fashion and you are never long without a drink.

Greek salad

The only pain point, and I use this literally, is for people who are not tall using the stools. There might need to be a rethink on them as shorter types like Catherine and I were in a bit of discomfort after the first 45 minutes. It is an easy fix by dining outside, but I do like the atmosphere of being near the bar.

Broadbean keftedes

It is normally a risk to change up a good formula, and let go of the amazing margins on coffee. In this case I am sure it will be a success. Demitri’s Feast is offering a great range of mezze and drinks, with a warmth of hospitality. It is a place where you can go regularly without breaking your budget too.

Demitri's Feast Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Noi Thai – Richmond – Saturday 15 October 2016 – Dinner

Massaman beef

Massaman beef

It is rare that the phone conversation when booking makes such a difference to your meal as a whole. Tonight, Catherine and I, were tossing up several options including hopping on the train to the city.

We ended up at Noi Thai, pleased to have an early dinner booking at late notice, and rapt with the BYO wine option that was explained to us on the phone. The care shown in that conversation translates into the friendly and adept service throughout the evening.

Noi Thai had been suggested to us by other locals several times. It has been around for many years and continues to have excellent support and patronage. The menu is definitely more traditional Thai, rather than the now popular (and expensive) modern slant.

Aunty Moo's chive dumplings

Aunty Moo’s chive dumplings

With the meat samosas off the menu tonight, we decided to try Aunty Moo’s chive dumplings. The dumplings are an interesting take, with the usual gelatinous texture, but also lightly crumbed and briefly shallow fried. They are nice but next time I would order differently.

We really feel like curry tonight and we don’t hesitate to order both the beef massaman curry and roast duck curry. The beef massaman has large chunks of beef, which easily shred with tenderness, though the middle is a touch dry due to the size. The sauce is gorgeous and this curry is Catherine’s favourite for the evening.

Roast duck curry

Roast duck curry

Whilst fairly hot, the roast duck curry is definitely my favourite for the night. The duck is beautifully cooked and generously served, with delicious spices. There are a couple of surprise lychee and pineapple pieces that are not described on the menu (and probably not needed), but the dish is superb and a speciality of the house for good reason.

The BYO option makes an already affordable restaurant a cheap night out. There is no doubt why Noi Thai is a favourite amongst locals and the only disappointment I have is all the years I’ve overlooked it.

Noi Thai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato