Bowery to Williamsburg

I’m definitely guilty of sticking to my favourite inner ‘burbs when it comes to cafes and restaurants. As time wears on, however, and friends begin to disperse further across the city and beyond – there’s just no denying that the CBD is usually the most convenient place to meet and enjoy a meal together. So, I’ve recently begun to make a more determined effort in exploring the eateries of Melbourne’s CBD. I’ve found it takes a little planning ahead and often a lot of patience, but the CBD is coming up with some seriously excellent goods. Bowery to Williamsburg is one such discovery (a ‘discovery’ in a strictly personal fashion; this place has been buzzing along the gastronomical grapevine for months!)

Bowery to Williamsburg is hidden away on cobbled Oliver Lane just off Flinders Street, and is inspired by the great city of New York. I first visited for breakfast with foodie friend Hannah – and liked it so much I returned the very next day with another friend! The atmosphere is cool and casual, and the New York deli-style theme is fun and delicious without treading anywhere near novelty. Jewish influence abounds in menu items like Lox Latkes, Shakshouka Eggs, Challah French Toast and 5 & Dime Bagels. The range of sandwich creations available for lunch are also a great option for gluten-free diners – at a $1 supplement, my friend Suze (second visit!) was thrilled to report it was some of the best gluten-free bread she’d had.

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The hot beverages arrive in crumpled ceramic mugs and a little American chocolate treat to accompany  – Hannah and I each received a Hershey’s Kiss with our chai lattes. I’ll admit it was the Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate I ordered on my second visit, however, that stole my heart. It has just a perfect hint of peanut buttery flavour midst dark chocolate and comes with a mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup to boot. Yum!

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Bowery to Williamsburg offer a generous selection of sweet breakfasts – something Hannah and I were very excited to find! With rotating breakfast specials every weekend, we also had the extra sweet options of Challah French toast with rosewater, mint, fresh strawberries and housemade vanilla labne, and Malted milk waffle with bourbon glazed banana and vanilla ice-cream. We ended up going with the cereals on menu though – Hannah had the granola with rhubarb, raspberries and vanilla labne whilst I had the steel cut oatmeal with blueberries and pecan praline ($12 each). These dishes are served in gorgeous enamel saucepans with little jars of milk, which I couldn’t help but love. The blueberries and pecan praline gave my deliciously creamy oatmeal a simple, lovely taste and I was scraping the bottom of my bowl in minutes.

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My second visit called for lunch. Bowery to Williamsburg’s sandwiches are truly NYC – with options like the classic ‘Reuben’ (corned beef brisket with sauerkraut, Russian dressing and Swiss cheese), Pastrami, and Pickled herring (all sandwiches $12.50). Delicious-looking sides like mac and cheese, potato salad and pomegranate tabbouleh (all with served with pretzels and a pickle!) serve as tasty little add-ons for $4. I’m a sucker for anything with haloumi – so had the breaded eggplant with haloumi, roasted peppers and preserved lemon hummus, which is served on pita bread. The sandwiches are seriously a hit – we had a funny little shared moment with the group sitting next to us consisting mostly of repeated “Wow!”s and “Who knew sandwiches could be so good?!”

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So yes, Bowery to Williamsburg is a big win in my CBD exploration. With an excellent location near Flinders Street Station plus tasty, interesting and varied menu options and a bright, casual atmosphere – this place definitely ticks the box for future friendly catch-ups. Plus, I need to return and try some of the American-style cakes and sweets – there’s a piece of S’mores slice waiting with my name on it!

Bowery to Williamsburg | 16 Oliver Lane, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Open | Mon – Fri : 7.30am – 3:00pm, Sat – Sun : 8.30am – 3:00pm
No bookings. Cash only.

Bowery to Williamsburg on Urbanspoon

Crafting the Perfect ‘To-Eat List’

I love trying new places to eat, and for that Melbourne is certainly a marvelous place to be. However, I’m hardly out there conquering the latest and greatest openings of the city every week. As much as that sounds rather glamorous, my approach is a little more laid back. In all my trying-of-new-places I’ve inevitably found a few I’ve become quite fond of – and so a lot of my gastronomical adventures are simply returning to eat and spend time in those cafes and restaurants. And I’ll admit – it’s always so much easier to head to a favourite like Twenty & Six Espresso after waking up late and hungry on Sunday morning.

The new discoveries generally come from either a convenient whim, or a list Blu-Tacked to our fridge entitled ‘PLACES WE WANT TO EAT AT’*. I would highly recommend the use of such a list; it makes one feel superbly accomplished upon completion and is far less overwhelming than a vast and click-happy Urbanspoon wishlist! Our list is simple – just a few select eateries with no deadline or urgency. It’s a wonderful go-to when the timing and mood fit!

I love taking the time to sit down and write up a new List. Armed with a copy of The Age’s Good Food Under $3o (currently out of print) and the beautiful coffee-table tome Flavours of Urban Melbourne – the process is tactile and visual and filled with tasty promise. I also keep my ear to the buzzings of the blogosphere, Twitter, Broadsheet and Urbanspoon to catch any post-publication goodies.

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The first ever List saw Mat and I venture to Pope Joan on Nicholson Street, Brunswick East (a charming, airy space that’s lovely for lunch!), Easy Tiger on Smith Street, Collingwood (splurged on the banquet and did not regret it) and Beatrix on Queensberry St, North Melbourne (I can’t believe it took me so long to discover the Queen of North-side sweet treats!). It was a hugely successful list and each eatery garnered a return visit or two. In the case of Beatrix, we’re talking a return visit or twelve.

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We now have a fresh new List taking pride of place on the fridge. Small Victories has already been tackled – we had a yummy breakfast there, and would definitely return if just to spend more time in the leafy sunshine on cute, quiet little Rathdowne in Carlton North.

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Next up: Cutler & Co., Cobb Lane and Common Galaxia. That almost sounds a bit poetic, doesn’t it? Here’s to putting poetry in motion!

*Apologies, grammar geeks! The name just stuck!

Soumah of Yarra Valley

Discovering the magic of the Yarra Valley was a big highlight of 2013. After an incredible all-day wine tour with Vinetrekker in February, Mat and I found ourselves drawn back time and time again. It’s easy to forget just how close it is – but from Parkville it’s often less than an hour’s drive before the sprawling green vineyards make the big city feel a world away. We recently took the opportunity to spend some time in the Yarra Valley over the New Year period to relax and see in 2014 with our good friends, Food and Wine.

A visit to the Soumah cellar door was recommended to us by Ozzie, one half of a delightful duo that helm Tuck Inn – a gorgeous bed and breakfast in Healesville of which I cannot speak highly enough. Ever eager to make their guests’ stay in Healesville an enjoyable one, Donia and Ozzie are a wealth of knowledge on the area and love to give recommendations and advice on how best to make use of any time in the Yarra Valley. Small and no-fuss, Soumah sounded like the perfect place to begin a lazy day amongst the vines.

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Soumah is located less than ten minutes’ drive from Healesville in the town area of Gruyere. We arrived just before midday and will freely admit to the excitement of finding the place to ourselves!

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The Soumah brand was launched in 2010, and takes on the cool climate of the Yarra Valley with a Northern Italian varietal twist. The winery’s pride at the moment seems to be the award-winning ‘Savarro’ – a white wine made from Savagnin grapes with an interesting story behind its name. As the lovely lady taking us through our wine tasting told, apparently Australian grape farmers and winemakers mistook the Savagnin Blanc grape as another variety, the Albarino, for years! Only recently has it come to light that most ‘Albarino’ vineyards are in fact Savagnin Blanc. The Savarro name gives a nod to both varieties. To be honest I’d not heard of or tasted either – but the 2012 Savarro we tried was a really pleasant change from some other Yarra Valley whites we’d tasted. We ended up buying a couple of bottles ($26 ea.) and some surprisingly delicious Chardonnay cleanskins ($15 ea.) as well.

The cellar door tasting consisted of a generous eight or nine wines, and is free of charge for groups under six. As the only visitors at the time, we were really able to take our time tasting each wine and listen to the story behind each. In the end we picked a glass each of the 2012 Pinot Noir ($10 ea.) and set up on the outdoor seating area with an Italian cheese board of Black Truffle Pecorino, Buffalo Parmigiano, quince jelly, fruit, nuts and lavosh ($18).

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The vineyard view from the outdoor seating area was beautiful, and can definitely still be enjoyed in cooler months from the rear indoor seating area (there’s even a wonderful wood fire for winter visitors!). It certainly depends on what you’re looking for when choosing which wineries to visit in the Yarra Valley, but the quiet, relaxing atmosphere of Soumah is something we really loved. If that sounds like your style – or the Domaine Chandons and Yering Stations of the ‘Valley have simply got you a bit worn out – I’d definitely recommend a trip.

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Soumah of Yarra Valley | 18 Hexham Road, Gruyere, VIC 3770
http://soumah.com.au/
Open | Mon – Fri : 11:00am – 4:00pm, Sat – Sun : 10:00am – 5:00pm

Soumah of Yarra Valley on Urbanspoon

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