Now Open: An Eatery for the Health-Conscious Lands in Essendon

Written for Broadsheet

Essendon’s newest cafe is reminiscent of an old-fashioned lolly store, with a black-and-white striped awning and an unashamedly pink interior. You won’t find raspberry drops and chocolate freckles here though. Instead it’s granola, bananas and raw dark chocolate.

Bowls Baby is by Domenic and Diana Caruso, also behind St RoseNo. 19 and Pinkie. “We always wanted the space to have that [positive] energy but we didn’t want it to be too gimmicky either,” says Diana.

Inside, a wooden halo draped in greenery hangs from the roof. Beneath it sits a crescent-shaped baby pink bench, terrazzo flooring and pared-back exposed brick walls brought to life with neon pink “bowls bowls baby” signage, a nod to Vanilla Ice’s 1989 hit.

Seating is intentionally limited: Diana says Bowls Baby was born from a lack of healthy takeaway options in the area. The pair is determined to deliver nourishing, quick and flavoursome food to the community they already know well (St Rose is just five doors down the street). “We want to get the morning rush, but also … the schoolkids after school,” she says.

There are 10 bowls, each made to order and loaded with tasty, nutritious ingredients. The Original is acai, blueberries, banana, dates and peanut butter topped with granola, fresh strawberries and coconut. The Hoke Poke comes with purple cabbage, cured salmon, edamame, carrots, avocado, alfalfa, spinach and pickled ginger on brown rice.

You can create your own bowl from ingredients such as grass-fed beef, roasted eggplant, fresh vegetables and feta. There are also superfood smoothies – the Golden is made with banana, roasted walnuts, vanilla bean, maple and raw chocolate.

A second Bowls Baby is already in the works, with plans to further expand the brand in future.

Bowls Baby 
35 Rose Street Essendon 
(03) 8256 3360

Mon to Fri 8am–8pm 
Sat and Sun 8am–3pm

Augustus Gloop Is a Colourful, Wonka-Inspired Gelataria in the North-West

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It’s easy to leave reality behind for a sweet moment inside this Sunbury gelataria. The fit-out is bubbly and bright, with colourful patterns emerging from black-panelled wood on the walls, and the pink and green glow of a neon ice-cream cone on the back wall (it’s almost entrancing – but the rainbow display of 32 flavours in the cabinet is even more so).

And then there’s the laser-cut Super Wood teardrop hanging from the roof. “It’s like a gelati upside down, dripping down,” says Joe Molinaro, who along with long-term friend Paul Vernuccio opened the first Augustus Gloop (in Pascoe Vale) in 2016. This sister store operates as a franchise, owned by Matt Ure, Karyn Ure, Bianca Scerri and Amanda Skipper.

Apart from its smaller size, Augustus Gloop – whose name is borrowed from the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory character, and which Molinaro and Vernuccio say will be open 365 days a year – is a mirror image of its older sibling. Both stores were designed by Robert Pisaniello of Eon Design.

Vernuccio, also co-owner of Parkstone cafe, says they wanted the space to feel different to other gelatarias and ice-cream shops, many of which have only a small area for customers. “They walk in one metre [and] order – there’s nowhere to sit down,” he says. “We’ve designed it like a cafe.”

“We need the family to sit for half an hour, enjoy the product, not rush home and have it, not sit on the park bench. We want them to sit on our benches.”

In the cabinet, find a mix of Wonka-inspired and more traditional flavours. There’s fig and almond; chunky Tim Tam; liquorice; crumbly strawberry cheesecake; sweet cotton candy; charcoal vanilla; and espresso; plus sorbets such as mango, blood orange and lemon. Rotating specials include an (alcohol-free) Aperol spritz sorbet, pavlova, buffalo-milk gelato and more. The team uses roasted nuts, organic fruits and purees to craft each flavour. “We like to keep it as natural as possible,” Vernuccio says.

While modifications have been made to the gelato-making process over the years, Molinaro and Vernuccio are careful to prioritise flavour over quantity.

Vernuccio says larger manufacturers use continuous freezers, which can efficiently produce more product, but can also lead to “highly-aerated” gelato. Instead, the team here uses batch freezers, but the trade-off is they can only produce a certain amount.

“Instead of having one machine, we’ve got four. And we just put two more staff on,” he says.

The opening of this Sunbury location has given Molinaro and Vernuccio the confidence to grow the Augustus Gloop brand; they want to open another eight sites (Essendon, Point Cook, Eltham, Dandenong, Preston, Yarraville, Werribee, Mordialloc) by October this year. For now, all production happens in Pascoe Vale, but when the Essendon flagship opens it’ll take over. There’ll also be a gelato “laboratory”, where customers can look into the kitchen.

There are also plans to switch to bio-degradable cups and packaging. “They’re making it with bamboo, which is about 30 per cent dearer,” says Molinaro. “But we’re going to absorb that cost for the planet – and our kids.”

Augustus Gloop Gelatery Sunbury 
96A O’Shanassy Street, Sunbury 
(03) 8746 8650

Daily 11am–11pm

Now Open: Hibiki Does Japanese-Style Brunch in Camberwell

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A large part of the menu at Japanese-style brunch spot Hibiki is based on owner Reiji Honour’s mum’s cooking.

“Still to this day I call randomly at lunchtime and be like, ‘Mum, how do I cook this chicken to perfection?’” he says, laughing.

The okonomiyaki is one of those dishes. The cabbage and spring onion pancake is topped with Bull-Dog sauce, Kewpie mayo, bonito flakes, nori and – optional – bacon.

“I’ve stuck to a

mum used to always make at home,” says Honour, who co-owned Burwood cafe Dosage and Box Hill’s Second Wife before opening Hibiki. “I’ve used all the same ingredients.”

Another standout is the milk toast (“very famous in Japan”), a soft, thick slice of white bread not quite as sweet as brioche. Order it plain with a cube of cold butter, or with matcha custard cream and black-sesame ice-cream. Yuzu porridge made up of organic oats soaked in almond milk, with pear and apple compote, yuzu mascarpone, toasted buckwheat, fresh raspberries and sliced orange.

A tuna tataki bowl comes with fresh avocado, shredded daikon and carrot, pickled ginger and edamame. It sits on a bed of brown rice and quinoa, or sub the tuna out for a chicken-karaage (fried chicken) version. Sweet strips of tamagoyaki (a rolled and layered omelette) add texture, and sesame and roasted seaweed provide some crunch.

A take on chai blends cinnamon and cardamom with Japanese green tea and black sugar syrup. “It’s [nuttier], and it’s vegan as well,” Honour says.

Coffee comes from Industry Beans, and there’ll always be a rotating selection of Japanese beans on offer. Most recently, LiLo Coffee Roasters from Osaka made a guest appearance.

“The idea was to create a perfectly curated space where it’s not too crowded, not too cramped [and] not too awkward,” Honour says. “[I’m] trying to create that night-life energetic vibe that you get when you go out for dinner and [have] a few drinks … in a lunch scene without alcohol; so that was a real challenge.”

The interior of the former Thai restaurant is simple and fresh, with blonde timber, hints of greenery and concrete finishes. “Japan’s really renowned for … minimalism, [but] I still wanted to maintain homeliness,” Honour says. Background music is important to Honour, too. Each day he pulls a different playlist – Japanese funk, “throwback”, disco, house – from Hibiki’s extensive Spotify account to play over the air.

1161 Toorak Road, Camberwell

Mon to Sat 8am–3pm 
Sun 9am–3pm

First Look: A Wonder-Full Pie Shop and Deli Opens in the CBD

Written for Broadsheet Melbourne

At the top of Little Lonsdale Street, on the fringe of the Carlton Gardens and in the shadow of towering apartment and office blocks, there’s a tiny, colourful eatery. It’s a destination pie shop selling a small range of deli items and take-home meals.

Wonderpop & Deli’s bright interior is full of playful details. A pie “museum” in the front window displays individual pies encased in glass domes. The glow from a neon “Pielicious” sign bounces off the room’s many glass surfaces, and above the serving bench, branches hang from the roof – a nod to chef-owner Raymond Capaldi’s old restaurant Hare & Grace, which had branches hanging from the ceiling. “[We] kept these just here for a little bit of nostalgia,” says Capaldi.

A collection of clocks on the right-side wall display the current time in New York, London, Greece and Japan. “We’ve got friends in Athens who have a pie shop, I’ve got a friend in London who has a pie shop … they’re basically to tell you [that] there’s a ‘pie time’ all over the world,” Capaldi says.

By the window, wooden stadium seating and inbuilt tables allow for quick pit stops. It’s the ideal spot for people-watching, or peering over at Capaldi and the kitchen team prepping.

Scottish-born Capaldi has an impressive CV; he’s cooked all over the world in kitchens including London’s Dorchester Hotel, the Hotel Sofitel in Melbourne (where he started the Sofitel Cooking Academy), Richmond’s Fenix (where he was co-owner), and Fitzroy North cafe Marmalade & Soul. About a year ago, though, Capaldi swapped the white-linen tablecloths of glamorous restaurants for Wonder Pies, a wholesale pie business run from a factory in Bulleen in Melbourne’s north-east.

While delivering five-hour beef brisket and butter-chicken pies to restaurants around the country, Wonder Pies unintentionally became a destination for retail customers. So, together with co-owners Jodi Crocker and Dean Joseph, Wonderpop & Deli was born.

Capaldi’s pie recipe has been tried and tested so that when you take a bite it won’t collapse and crumble into your hands. Each one has a light shortcrust pastry on the bottom and a crispy rough puff pastry on top. The pastry is made using organic flour, and vegetable lard instead of butter, so the pie cases are vegan. But Capaldi insists it’s not a high-end shop. “We’re not gourmet,” he says. “It’s just a good pie.”

Some varieties are undoubtedly a little bit fancy, though. A confit duck pie with parsnip, honey and coffee jus can be found alongside the pie-au-feu, a take on the traditional French beef stew pot-au-feu, with chunky beef and a rotating mix of greens. There’s also a mac’n’cheese pie, a vegetarian cauliflower and cheese version, and a vegan pie made with vegetable mince, nutmeg, pepper and cinnamon.

A traditional apple pie made from raw and cooked apple and peppered with raisins is based on a recipe handed down by Capaldi’s Scottish grandmother. There’s also a rhubarb and liquorice version with geranium syrup and a frangipani base.

The pie-centric à la carte menu is prepared in-store and includes pancake pies (pancake batter cooked in pie moulds) filled with banana and custard, and “pieschetta” (bread made from pie crusts, topped with zaatar, tomatoes and cracked pepper). On tables there’s a house-made spicy ketchup and a thick, smooth caramelised-onion sauce. A range of toasties are currently in the works too, but Capaldi doesn’t want to rush these out.

“It’s a life crisis when you get a bad toastie,” he says, laughing.

Above the cabinet, there are large jars filled with giant marshmallows, meringues, crunchy honeycomb and beautiful cakes. The Gucci by Gucci is the first of a rotating weekly doughnut, stuffed with vanilla custard and topped with raspberries, rose petals and dried apples, best served next to a Code Black coffee.

The deli cabinet has charcuterie, terrines, pickled vegetables, salads and take-home meals.

Wonderpop & Deli 
18 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne 
(03) 9639 5515

Mon to Fri 6.30am–5pm

Maker Fine Coffee

Written for Broadsheet

Maker Fine Coffee acts as a cellar door for coffee drinkers, with baristas and roasters on hand to answer any coffee-related questions. From source of origin, to cupping and roasting processes, transparency is an important part of the business for owners Stephanie and John Vroom.

The Vrooms, both industry veterans, don’t believe in blends. They think that with the right attention paid to sourcing, roasting and cupping, single-origin brews can be just as well-rounded and flavoursome as those mixing multiple locations. On any given day, there are at least five single-origin batch (percolator) brews to choose from, available black or with milk. The Maven (Colombia) and The Smith (Brazil) are roasts that can be purchased all year round, alongside filter options and cold drip. Maker Fine Coffee also serves its own brand of carbonated coffee, North St, on tap.

Besides coffee, there’s hot chocolate by Mörk Chocolate, Prana Chai and orange juice by Miller’s Organic Farm. Other diversions include doughnuts from Shortstop Coffee and Donuts, Noisette danishes and “pruffles” (protein truffles) by Oh! So Good Foods. Pulled-pork toasties, smashed avo and health bowls make up the simple to-order menu.

First Look: Harper & Blohm Opens in Brunswick

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Cheesemonger Olivia Sutton grew up surrounded by cheese. Her family owned a farm on Tasmania’s King Island, and she’d return from family holidays there with a three-kilogram wheel of brie to share with her boarding-school friends, which they’d quickly put to use making fancy toasties.

Sutton’s first move into the cheese industry was while working as head waiter at George Calombaris’s (now-closed) Reserve in Federation Square.

“I pretty much was eating all the cheese and they got me to take charge of [it],” she says, laughing.

Later, Sutton spent 10 years at Port Melbourne’s Calendar Cheese Company and worked at Sheridans Cheesemongers in Dublin, before opening Harper & Blohm in Essendon – attached to the western outpost of Prince Wine Store – in 2014.

“We’d outgrown that space about two years ago,” Sutton says. It’s easy to understand how – the tiny Essendon shop offered online delivery, subscription boxes, catering and wholesale alongside day-to-day fromage supply. Sutton and partner (and chef) Ian Alexander also run a weekend stall at farmers’ markets, and a prep kitchen in Carlton helping to cater for the growing demand.

The new space in Brunswick is reminiscent of the old store, but bigger. It’s got a French Provincial vibe, with timber-panelled finishes in navy, taupe, grey and cream; marble benchtops; and a pressed-metal ceiling. But the real buzz here is around the kitchen; now Sutton and Alexander can offer a small menu and take-home meals, such as mac’n’cheese.

There are decent salads, quiches and baguettes, but the grilled-cheese sandwiches are the stars here. The classic three-cheese oozes with cheddar, gruyere, raclette and caramelised onion, and a Tarwin blue-cheese toastie with rocket and walnut is balanced with the sweetness of pear. There’s also a mushroom, taleggio, truffle pecorino and rosemary option.

The custom-made cheese fridges hold a rotating hand-picked range, which might include a semi-hard, brine-washed Holy Goat’s Nectar Tomme; El Esparto’s Manchego Artesano, a hard, ewe’s-milk cheese from Spain; Aphrodite halloumi, a stretched-curd cheese great for grilling or pan frying; Shaw River’s buffalo mozzarella; Stone and Crow’s Nightwalker, a small washed-rind cheese; and traditional clothbound cheddars.

Olivia’s pick is the Colston Bassett Stilton from Neal’s Yard Dairy in London. “I love the umami flavours of it … rich and buttery,” she says. “There’s Stilton – and then there’s Colston Bassett Stilton.”

Sutton says a lot of the produce in the new shop is from people she’s met at the farmers’ markets. There are pates and terrines from City Larder, capocollo and ham from Bundarra Berkshires charcuterie, Wild Hen Farm eggs, Santa Teresa Spanish quince paste, and The Good Seed kefir. Bread is from Tivoli RoadOvens StreetQ Le Baker and Wild Life Bakery. There’s also milk from St David, Shaw River and Schulz yoghurts, French crème fraiche, Italian mascarpone and cultured butters.

The new digs are also well positioned in the unofficial wedding shopping district of Brunswick, prompting the duo to offer “cheese cakes”. The towering cakes are built by piling entire wheels of cheese on top of one another, some adorned with quince paste, others with fresh flowers.

Harper and Blohm 
365 Sydney Road, Brunswick

Mon 10am–4pm 
Wed to Fri 10am–6pm 
Sat 9am–5pm

Now Open: A Refreshingly Green Cafe Arrives in Pascoe Vale South

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Paul Vernuccio knows a thing or two about running an eatery. In the past ten years he’s built up and operated six of them. Parkstone is the latest addition, following Augustus Gloop Gelatery in Pascoe Vale and Sunbury, Cheeky Monkey, Rubber Duck, and George Jones.

Vernuccio has moved on from the latter three, now devoting his time to inviting corner cafe Parkstone. “I wanted my booths 1.6 [metres long, because] I know that fits six people,” Vernuccio says. “[And] the bar design, how there’s a gap there – allows the barista to take out coffees quite easily.” Ercol Originals bar stools were also Vernuccio’s choice, for their comfort and style, but the remainder of the fit-out was up to Robert Pisaniello of Eon Design. The brief? Light and comfortable. The corner location means Parkstone is flooded with natural light; it splashes across blonde-timber booth seating and the muted mint-green steel panelling that frames the space. There’s more seating outside.

Inside, a gigantic greenery wall is the centrepiece. It doubles as entertainment for kids; the team often finds forgotten toys stashed among the leaves.

A dedicated children’s menu was important for Vernuccio too, to accommodate the students from the primary school across the road. It includes Nutella and strawberry chia pudding, buttermilk pancakes with ice-cream and maple syrup, and eggs on toast. Colouring-in sheets and pencils are dutifully distributed to every child on arrival, too.

Dogs are also well looked after. Manager Ashlee Edwards doubles as the dedicated doggy chef, whipping up a batch of (free) dog biscuits every few days. “[Dogs] know [that] they get a biscuit here … [when] they’re walking, they pull the customer over the road,” Vernuccio says, laughing.

The menu, by Brazilian-born chef Leandro Mello, balances healthy options with “the bad boys.” A light option is the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (even though it’s a mouthful), a nourish bowl packed with seasonal greens, avocado, roasted sweet potato, quinoa, poached egg, feta labneh, and spicy sesame butter sauce. Barbeque jackfruit tacos (with coleslaw, charred corn, coriander, burnt tomato salsa and guacamole) and carrot-cake pancakes cater for those with dietary requirements, among many other dishes that can be made gluten-free or vegan.

For something a little heartier, choose the hot Buffalo-chicken sandwich; crispy chicken thighs slathered in hot Buffalo sauce, stacked with bacon, tangy sauerkraut, lettuce and gouda, encased in a toasted focaccia roll. Polenta bites with black garlic aioli work perfectly as a side.

Brunches can also be made boozy with Aperol spritzes and Bloody Marys, and for a different kind of pick-me-up, there’s coffee available inside, or at a pass-through window outside.

Parkstone Cafe
9 Parkstone Avenue, Pascoe Vale South
(03) 9378 8226

Mon to Sun 7am–4pm

What to Eat at the Night Noodle Markets

Written for Broadsheet

The banks of the Yarra have again transformed into a hectic hawker market with Asian street-food vendors sizzling, frying, grilling and steaming from makeshift kitchens.

Now in its sixth year, the Night Noodle Markets are a platform for the spicy, sour, sweet and smoky flavours from China, India, Thailand, Vietnam and beyond. Alongside long-term residents Hoy Pinoy, Gelato MessinaMr. Miyagiand Wonderbao, this year you’ll find newcomers Bao Brothers, Son in Law, Red Spice Road, Prahran institution David’s, and Oriental Tea House. And Broadsheet trawled all of their stalls to find the tastiest dishes on offer.

First up, Son in Law’s spicy deep-fried chicken ribs, (generously) dusted with a zesty house-made seasoning. Lighter but no less delicious are Miso Fresh’s soba noodles with edamame, pickled cabbage, seaweed salad and soy sesame sauce.

Bao Brother is serving up three fluffy steamed buns; one filled with pork belly, one with fried chicken and one with tofu. The three-piece dish is equal parts soft and crunchy, and great for sharing. You might fight over the pork belly, though.

Another chicken highlight is Poklol x Puffle’s KFC Cheese Puffle – Korean fried chicken stuffed inside a cone-shaped cheese waffle, drizzled with mayo and shallots.

A theatrical (and equally tasty) standout is the Way of Dragon pork-belly noodle dish from Flying Noodle. Honey soy glazed noodles are stacked high and speared with chopsticks, a “flying” fork floating above.

On the sweeter side of things, Gelato Messina’s menu is stellar. Last year the gelateria did a Japanese game-show theme. This year, the menu is inspired by the taste and smells of the Philippines. The stand is themed like a Jeepney, the colourful Filipino public transportation.

The Thrilla from Manilla is a dessert influenced by Turon, a snack usually made from thinly sliced bananas and jackfruit, dusted with brown sugar, rolled in a spring-roll wrapper and deep-fried. Messina’s version is creamy brown sugar and banana gelato wrapped in banana bread and filo pastry. It’s deep-fried then topped with custard and a chocolate peanut-butter crumb.

“Ever since we debuted our deep-fried ice-cream ball a few years ago, it was an instant hit,” Gelato Messina head chef Donato Toce says. “So we’ve had a deep-fried addition on our Night Noodle Markets menu ever since.”

Other menu items include a traditional Brazo de Mercedes (jelly roll-type dessert made with a meringue outer layer around a rich custard filling), a pimped up Halo Halo (layered dessert of sweetened beans, fruit, shaved ice, evaporated milk and ice cream), and a peach and mango tribute to the fast-food stalwart Jollibee.

The Night Noodle Markets are on from November 8 to 25 at Birrarung Marr.

Mon & Tue 5pm–9pm
Wed & Thu 5pm–10pm
Fri 5pm–11pm
Sat 4pm–10pm
Sun 4pm–9pm

A Flaming Moe’s-Themed Pop-Up Bar Is Coming

Written for Broadsheet

Bills to pay, a dead-end job and problems with your wife? Don’t throw in the towel, ’cause there’s a place right down the block; it’s a Flaming Moe’s-inspired pop-up bar, and it’s coming to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in 2019.

Bartenders will serve the Flaming Moe (or Flaming Homer, to true fans); a concoction of sloe gin, blackberry liqueur, brandy and peppermint schnapps that’ll really loosen your phlegm. It’s disappointingly sans Krusty’s Non-Narkotik Kough Syrup for Kids, though.

For the less adventurous, Duff-inspired beer will be on tap.

The pop-up will also host Simpsons trivia, with a chance to win a heap of Simpsons prices.

Relive season three, episode 10 for one day only in April 2019 at a yet-to-be-announced location.

If you’d like to experience a party in your mouth where everyone’s invited, sign up for pre-release tickets here. And remember, happiness is just a Flaming Moe away.

World Rice Festival

Written for Broadsheet

For three days, Australian chefs and food trucks will come together to serve rice dishes from cuisines from around the globe at this year’s World Rice Festival. Alongside the gastronomic line-up, expect cultural performances, live music and cooking demonstrations.

Rice Paper Scissors is bringing sticky pork belly, barbeque lamb ribs and tofu rendang to the table. Hoy Pinoy will be serving flame-grilled meat skewers, and Lady Paella will dish seafood or chicken paella.

There’ll also be eats from Mamasita’s food truck, Red Spice Road, Thai barbeque experts Farang Thai Isaan BBQ, contemporary Indian from Mint-O-Mustard and Vietnamese street food by South Eats. Get cannoli from the Cannoleria Cart by That’s Amore, Mexican desserts from Chill Bro Paletas, and torched Thai rice pudding from The Brûlée Cart.

The HWKR marquee will present four pop-up food concepts, and the HWKR Chill Out Lounge will be the place to enjoy cocktails and snacks.

Ahead of their performance at the Melbourne Recital Centre, The Sound of Shadows will bring rare Indonesian instruments to life through an immersive concert. Indonesian vocalist Peni Candra Rini will also perform a ceremony to bring good fortune to rice harvests.

The line-up also includes Chinese lion dancing, Japanese taiko drumming, Balinese beleganjur drumming, Thai rice planting dance, Indonesian rice harvesting dance, traditional Indian dance and a Spanish flamenco dance at twilight.

The World Rice Festival will be on for three days at Birrarung Marr. A launch party will be held at HWKR on December 5. Tickets start at $45 and include two small dishes.

Opening hours:
Fri 5pm–10pm
Sat 12pm–10pm
Sun 12pm–5pm