Breakfast by the Bay – The Strand

A warm Spring morning in Melbourne is indeed a thing of beauty, and even more so by the glittering waters of Port Phillip Bay. Zip over the West Gate Bridge, or arrive by bike or boat if you’re so inclined, and explore the glorious waterfront of Williamstown.

Its rich maritime history is evident, from the warship HMAS Castlemaine berthed at the jetty which is open to the public, to the canon perched on the grass facing Melbourne across the water, to the ship building yards and lighthouse.

 

Williamstown is also home to some varied and interesting eateries,  and my favourite so far, with arguably one of the best breakfasts in the area,  is The Strand.

 

On this particular Saturday morning, the terrace beckoned us with its stylish outdoor furniture, coffee aroma and menu of breakfast classics with a twist, including poached egg, served on lovely toast, and adorned with beautifully prepared enoki mushrooms with just a hint of truffle oil.

We also tried some fantastic home made hashbrowns, some seriously good hollandaise, bacon with relish, and eggs on toast. My breakfast wingman declared this his new favourite breakfast in Melbourne – and this bloke knows his eggs. The hotcakes were also a big winner with our little dude, and the coffee was simply excellent.

The staff could not have been more friendly, eager to please, and welcoming, and whilst we were there we saw a large group of older people, as well as couples, and parents with a stroller and in need of a highchair all accommodated with the same smile and service.

 

This is a perfect spot to stop, relax and while away part of your weekend, drinking in the glorious view whilst being seriously spoiled by the menu. 

 

http://www.thestrandrestaurant.com.au/

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Mama mia – Mamasita!

Mexican food in Melbourne just keeps getting better.  For those of you for whom a Taco Bill experience or a trip to the ‘Old El Paso’ section of the supermarket is as far as you’ve gone, the good news is that your tastebuds have alot more to discover than you ever dreamed of. 

We recently died and went to authentic Mexican food heaven, and the pearly gates are located at the top of the staircase at 11 Collins St, Melbourne.  Mamasita has been open for a while now, and knowing how popular it is (even mid-week), we’ve arrived each time at 5.30pm to ensure we get a table, as they don’t take bookings.

The sangria to start with is delightful, unfussy, chilled, with a hint of spices, and very easy to drink, the guacamole and salsa are suberb, all  fresh coriander and zinging with lime.

You have to start your Mexican onslaught with the street-style chargrilled corn with queso, chipotle mayo and lime. Ai ai ai! You’ve never tasted corn like this, all song and dance, and god bless that mayo!

When you get to the ceviche, you really know you’re in serious Mexican business – I joked at the time that  I wished I could get a bucket-sized serve of this, but seriously, what’s not to love about market fish with green tomato, chilli, mint, lime and coconut milk? Apart from the other ceviche of course, which is prawns, scallops, cherry tomatoes, lime and coriander. Win-win. 

The tostaditas are fantastic 2.5″ fried tortillas with various toppings, you order a mixture and they come presented beautifully on a wooden board.  We have worked our way through the combinations including fish with lime, coriander, guacamole and nasturtiums, crabmeat with avocado, tamarind mayo and habanero, chargrilled chicken, avocado, queso fresco and chipotle mayo, and slow braised pork shoulder with jalapenos.

The tacos are also a delight, favourites there include the braised beef with chorizo, coriander and onion. The quesadillas offer some interesting  combinations, at our last visit we decided to go with the Mexican truffle, mushrooms, roasted corn, epazote and queso fresco, which was sensational.

Despite the bustling atmosphere,  always-full tables, and the queue of anticipatory diners staring you down from the stairwell, willing you to finish,  the service at Mamasita is unfailingly excellent, the staff are smiling, friendly, helpful and genuinely care that you are enjoying your meal.  Apparently Australians have a reputation for being stingy tippers, but in my opinion if someone makes your dining experience more enjoyable, acts like they actually want to be there, and smile alot, that’s when they deserve a tip. Needless to say we tip the staff at Mamasita.

Even if you have to queue (and if you arrive after 5.45pm it’s pretty much a given), the meals come out so quickly that you won’t have to wait too long, and trust me when I say it will be worth it.

 

http://www.mamasita.com.au/

Going local – Clifton Hill/Fairfield/Alphington

One of the joys of moving house is exploring your new neighbourhood, including its eateries.

THAI

We have been lucky enough to strike some absolute gold on a number of levels, not least of which is living within walking distance of Melbourne’s only ’5 star Thai restaurant’ as they proudly proclaim on the extensive website at ‘Paladarr Thai Issan’. Right opposite Alphington train station, with a beautiful, modern interior to match its food, and even a sommelier to help you guide you through the spices and flavours of your meal to reach the perfect alcoholic match. A highlight is their famous appetiser, Miang Karm, where you’re presented with a plate filled with diced ginger, chilli, toasted coconut, diced lime and dried shrimp which you then wrap in a Chapoo leaf, add their tamarind sauce and send your tastebuds into sensation overload! Great special-occasion dining, and apparently people come from all over Melbourne for dinner here. www.paladarr.com.au

BREAKFAST

One of our favourite breakfast haunts is the ridiculously popular Apte, on Heidelberg Road in Fairfield. Despite its bustling activity, they always manage to find you a seat, and bring your piccolo latte with speed and a smile, which is surprising given the heaving weekend workload. Happily the menu has remained constant for a little while now, allowing me to indulge my love of their pea and corn fritters served with Tasmanian smoked salmon, dill, sourcream, rocket and avocado. The big breakfast option is also sensational, their coffee is unfailingly great, and the pikelets with maple syrup, strawberries, banana and sugared pecans are very popular with Mr 6 year old. Apte is very child -friendly, including space for strollers, (and dogs) and has a lovely outdoor area which is covered, heated and filled with flowers, herbs and garden sculptures.

When you go inside to settle your bill, you will be distracted and mesmerised by the large cupcakes on the counter. Or perhaps the homemade preserves or muesli, or the carrot cake. Give in. You won’t be disappointed.

Apte, 538 Heidelberg Road, Fairfield

ITALIAN

Next stop, Chianti Bistro, in Clifton Hill which was recommended by our neighbours. We had to search hard for this rustic, unpretentious tiny bistro, covered in prints of Italy, shelves full of Chianti Classico, and a small, handwritten menu up on a chalkboard offering typical dishes like parmigiana, veal scallopine, etc. Delicious, honest food, served with steamed veg, and a huge dose of Italian hospitality, our host alternating between speaking to us in Italian and English. Charming, intimate, well-priced and a new favourite.

Chianti Bistro 376 Queens Pde, Clifton Hill

VIETNAMESE

Station Street in Fairfield is another gem waiting to be fully explored, and we are making our way slowly up one side and down the other. The clear front-runner at present has to be Viet Palace, which serves great Pho, excellent special fried rice (hard to find and very important in my book), a salt and pepper squid to knock your socks off, and a Chef’s special of duck with sesame prawn (sounds wrong but trust me, the flavour is sensational). This place is your standard Vietnamese decor, complete with fish tank, but the food is most definitely fit for a king.

http://www.fairfieldvillage.com.au/viet_palace_vietnamese_restaurant.htm click here for a link to the full menu