Hawker Chan

Last year when it was announced that the world’s cheapest Michelin starred eatery was coming to Melbourne social media and news outlets went wild. On its opening, Hawker Chan attracted crowds and wait times of up to three hours. By the time we got around to visiting the wait time had shortened to a much more modest 25 minutes to get to the register, and then another 10 before getting our food.

Hawker Chan is meant to be set up like a Hawker Hall, where there is no table service. However, the shiny screens, air-conditioning and number system reminded me more of an upscale food court than anything else.

hawker chan melbourne hor fun

Plum tea was just not our cup of tea (excuse the pun) it was vegetal and too sour to really quench our thirst. The osmanthus tea fared a lot better and was sweet with the light passionfruit taste that is characteristic of osmanthus flowers. I felt that the drinks could have down with a bit of ice so that they were actually cold instead of just a bit below room temperature.

hawker chan thai style tofu

Soya sauce chicken with rice is the signature dish, so of course, we had to order it. It was obvious just from the get-go that this portion of chicken was tiny. I had a look around and felt that the servings were generally on the small side, but for some reason, this plate looked especially sad. Unfortunately, the disappointment continued. The chicken was tender, but really lacked that soy sauce flavour that we were expecting. The rice didn’t have much flavour even with sauce drizzled on top, so we resorted to mixing the hor fun sauce and chilli into the rice dish.

hawker chan rice

Soya sauce chicken with Hor Fun was a few dollars more expensive, but definitely worth it. This chicken was a lot better than the chicken with the rice. It was super tender and coated with sweet and salty soy sauce. Likewise, the sauce on top of the slippery Hor Fun was full of flavour, even when I pushed the spicy paste to one side.

Thai style tofu was fried extremely well so that the outside was crisp and the inside of the tofu still silken and soft. It was sadly let down by the sauce which was too sweet, cloying and one dimensional. This would have been amazing if in true Thai style there had been a bit of sour, saltiness and spice in the seasoning and garnishes.

In the past when big Asian institutions have come to Melbourne, they have never been able to compete with the real deal in their home country. It’s probably something about the ingredients, pricing and expectations in Melbourne which make it impossible to replicate that amazing meal overseas. Even with those admissions, Hawker Chan was still a bit of a letdown. Sure, the dishes are cheap, at less than $10 for almost everything but the small portions, inconsistency and wait times mean that I would rather fork out an extra $5 to $10 and get a more satisfying feed elsewhere.

 

Website
Hawker Chan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Small Axe Kitchen

Isn’t it amazing how food can affect our mood? An amazing slice of cake or blissfully lazy long brunch can instantly turn my frown right around, and I know that I’m not alone!

Stumbling into Small Axe Kitchen on a Tuesday morning was an absolute blessing. We had originally intended to go somewhere else, but GPS, traffic and timing mishaps meant that we stopped by Small Axe Kitchen instead. I was not in the mood for brunch or conversation when we pulled up into the parking lot, but I couldn’t leave after laying eyes on the cute courtyard and tempting pastries. It also definitely helped that the young man who greeted us had the most soothing voice and helped us to a seat in the courtyard almost straight away.

Small Axe iced tea

Ryan was even more tired and grumpy than I was and therefore in desperate need of a coffee. The cappuccino was smooth, creamy and all around excellent drinking. My seasonal iced tea was the prettiest iced tea I have ever seen! What I originally thought was a floral incased spoon, was actually a gorgeous long ice cube with flower petals frozen inside. The actual peach tea was also the refreshing hit that I needed on the very warm Summer day.

Small axe pasta

Now, we couldn’t go to this cafe and not order the Breakfast pasta! All the individual components of the pasta are very good, from the al dente pasta to the crispy cured meat, but break the soft boiled egg on top, mix it all up and there you have it: brunch perfection. Although breakfast pasta by name, I would happily eat this for any meal of the day.

Small Axe pear

I don’t usually order sweet breakfasts, (even though I frequently eat cake for breakfast) but the Sangiovese poached pear with natural yoghurt really called out to me! Pear poached in wine sounds like a heady breakfast,  and the poached pear was definitely all soft and sweet with an almost berry-like sweetness from the wine. However, the dish as a whole struck a balance between light and decadent.  The pomegranate, honey and savoiardari crumbs topped it all off for a bit of extra sweet, sour and light crispy crunch.

Small Axe Kitchen was everything that I didn’t know I needed. The chill ambience, smooth beats and irresistible food put me in the right mood to face the rest of the day! In fact, the Sicilian inspired menu was so intriguing that made me very excited for more brunch in 2018. All I can say is I’ll be back for you ‘Mozarealla in carrozza’.

Small Axe menu

Website
Small Axe Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Frances Food & Coffee

I’m thankful that these past few years have seen the rise of more quality brunch places in the city. There’s the usual inner city suspects that almost every self-respecting brunch-loving Melbournian has tried. However, sometimes I’m not feeling baked eggs, madeleines, hot cakes or matcha anything. I just want to go somewhere a little different, less trendy and less crowded. That’s where Frances Food & Coffee comes in. Located close to the iconic Victoria markets, this is a bit of a walk away from the rest of the brunch heavy hitters.

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Green salad with hummus and halloumi. The greens were actually still warm and coated in dressing. They were actually a touch too well seasoned, towards the end of the dish it started to get a little bit too oily and salty which isn’t entirely what I had n mind when I ordered a salad. I must admit that I usually find halloumi in large doses far to salty for me to handle, so that may have contributed to me finding the whole thing a bit too much. I would say that this is the perfect salad for people who actually don’t usually like salads because it was warm and the flavours so full on.

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The chicken sandwich could have easily fed two people. This would have been a pretty good sandwich with just the juicy chicken, salad and crispy bread but the apple slices, walnuts and balsamic really took things to the next level. This is a combination that I’m looking forward to trying out myself at home next time I’ve got all these ingredients on hand!

Frances Food & Coffee won’t be winning any awards for innovation or setting Instagram afire with the hottest new thing. The tables and chairs are a bit squishy and the view is one of construction. However, the food is generous and hearty. It is comforting without being boring and definitely worth a try.

As an aside, my mum who is rather discerning when it comes to her coffee really enjoyed the brew at Frances Food & Coffee. So this might be a good spot to stop by to get an afternoon or morning or afternoon pick me up.

Website

Frances Food & Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Yong green food

Although gluten free and vegan foods are on the rise in Melbourne, it is surprisingly difficult to find a restaurant that offers a broad range of both gf and vegan options. That’s where Yong Green Food comes in. It caters to almost every dietary requirement under the sun, with a handy colour coded menu. The chilled ambiance and roomy tables also made it a great place to catch up with visiting out of towners and friends.

The Matcha latte was an incredibly bright green colour. Yong Green offers a wide range of milks, from dairy to soy, to coconut and almond at no extra cost! I was tempted by the almond milk but decided to play it safe. I found this to be more powdery and sweet than most matcha lattes, but perhaps that is due to the soy milk.

Ryan commented that the espresso wasn’t the best, and didn’t provide him with the caffeine boost he so desperately needed. Our friends ordered a chai tea and some of the cold drinks. These seemed to go down a treat.

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I ordered the Yin and Yang Charger. Initially, I was a bit dubious because it was one of the most expensive items on the menu. However, once this spread arrived in front of me I knew that I had made the right choice. Interestingly, the highlight wasn’t the fried mushrooms. Instead, I found the squash salad to be utterly delicious. It was cold, sweet, soft and just a touch stringy. The soup also had incredible savoury depth for a vegetarian offering.

yong green food japchae

Ryan and one of my friends both ordered the Japchae. I usually make my Japchae vegetarian so I had no doubts that this could be incredible even though it had no meat. I snuck in a bite and found it much less greasy than the usual japchae at restaurants but full of flavour. The vegetables tasted fresh and light, and noodles had good bite.

yong green chilli

My gluten intolerant friend ordered the chili. She commented that it had a good spicy kick to it that went well with the sour cream.

The Vegetarian curry was a very generous portion. It looked and smelled exactly like a beef Japanese curry.

The Katsu was a little bit more diminutive in size. I’m assured, however, that it was very tasty. Especially when mixed with the curry sauce. We all agreed that the biodynamic rice that came with a lot of the dishes was excellent.

The service was friendly if at times a bit scattered. They also pulled up tables for our group of 6, even though it would have been fine for us to squish together on the larger table!

Raw, organic, vegan, gluten free, no onion and garlic? Yong Green Food has it covered. More than that, it serves some straight up tasty food regardless of the labels.

http://yonggreenfood.com.au/

Yong Green Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

LUNE Lab

When it comes to croissants LUNE is, without doubt, the most well-known store in all of Melbourne, and perhaps one of the most well known in the world courtesy of this New York Times Article. I’ve enjoyed croissants from LUNE many a time.

From their humble cult beginnings when people line up at 5am for the chance to take home up to 6 classic and twice baked croissants, LUNE has expanded significantly. At their now, not so new, location there’s no need to get there first thing in the morning unless of course, you’re angling for a particular special flavour. There will still be plenty of traditional croissants and a selection of other treats like the ham and gyure croissants or a twice baked almond croissant ready for you to pick up or eat in even at 11am.

At this point, I think most Melbournians who are serious about pastries have tried LUNE at least once. However, LUNE Lab is a bit more of a mystery. I must admit that I was a little bit sceptical about paying $60 (plus booking fees) for what I thought was essentially just three croissants. However, it would be more accurate to describe this as a pastry degustation with all you can drink coffee and hot chocolate.

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LUNE lab somehow feels very exclusive and inclusive. Patrons sit at the counter away from the crowd and lines, but at the same time, the space is still very much shared by the croissant making cube and customers coming in and out.

It was still very early in the morning so a Flat White was in order. This was milky and easy to drink. The beans are sourced from Small Batch in North Melbourne and in line with LUNE’s ethos of supporting local small-scale producers. I could have done with a coffee that was extracted a little bit more and stronger, but I guess it’s a good thing that I didn’t start too strong, as there was still time for more drinks.

lune original croissant

The first course for every single LUNE lab is always the same. It’s a classic croissant, ten minutes from the oven, which according to the people at LUNE is the best time to have them. They offered us our choice of croissant, from crunchy to soft. It seems that most of the people preferred crunchy croissants. Whereas I picked one that was a combination of soft fluffy pastry on the inside and crispy layers on the outside. There was a distinct difference between Ryan’s crisp croissant and my combination croissant. The contrast between the soft warm buttery inside and flaky crust was heavenly. Eating the plain LUNE croissant is always a must and it’s even better served fresh.

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The rillette danish completely took me by surprise. This was described as LUNE’s take on a sweet and salty dish. The fruity caramelised jam on the side being the sweet component and the rillette the salty. In the danish was a perfect square of the most succulent pork rillette I have ever had in my life. Even though the meat was brimming with juice somehow the pastry stayed crispy the entire time. After this dish, I’m seriously considering having rillette with croissants instead of baguettes from now on!

To go with this I helped myself to the filter coffee. Usually, my heart lies with milk coffees, but the filter was LUNE was excellent. It was distinctly fruity and just bold enough to carry the flavour of the beans without being overpowering.

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I think everyone left out a collective gasp of amazement when we saw the towering ice cream sandwich. Apparently, ever since LUNE Lab started, the owner has wanted to put an ice cream sandwich on the menu. This certainly looked the part. Buttermilk ice cream is sandwiched between two identical rounds of sticky, sugary, crispy pastry. Saying that this was messy to eat is an understatement! Everyone on the table took a slightly different approach to digging in.

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I found that the easiest way was to cut it in half and then eat with my hands with reckless abandon. Puffed rice added a little bit of crispness. The slightly sour raspberry and mild ice cream melted into each of the layers of pastry. Personally, I could have done with a more assertive tasty ice cream, but this was a whole lot of fun.

Mork hot chocolate rounded off the sweet course. I had a soy hot chocolate whereas Ryan ordered a standard milk. Ryan actually started drinking the soy hot chocolate and was none the wiser until the second cup arrived and we were told that was actually his. I was shocked at how satisfying and creamy the soy hot chocolate was.

While dining you can order as many LUNE croissants as you want for take-away. There’s something satisfying about being able to grab the last few limited edition or new croissant offerings without ever having to wait in line.

Despite my initial reservations, LUNE lab delivered on all fronts. Sitting in LUNE for an hour and a half really gives a very unique perspective on the whole croissant making process. The staff are more than happy to answer any burning questions you might have and you get to observe the meticulous process of croissant making all the while you fill your stomach.

lune lab fresh

Website

Lune Croissanterie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

P.S It’s been a while since I posted about the food scene in Melbourne. You might have noticed that I’ve also been blogging less frequently. These past few months I’ve been very busy, but hopefully I’ll be able to post a lot more during the Christmas break!

Padre Coffee East Brunswick

Padre Coffee is a big name in the Melbourne coffee scene. After a little bit of research, I also learnt that Padre means father in many languages. It seemed appropriate to be visiting their East Brunswick store where it all began with my very own father (and mother). As soon as I entered the store the heady smell of coffee beans filled the air. It all makes sense as soon as you see the coffee roaster on premise.

padre latte

The large latte arrived in a bowl! This is my mum’s favourite cup of coffee, smooth and strong without a trace of acidity. On the other hand, a regular cappuccino comes in a normal cup. The froth on top is just as beautiful as that of the latte!

padre tea

I had a Yunnan green tea instead of coffee because I was still feeling a bit unwell. I appreciated how they took the time and care to brew a proper pot of green tea, instead of just filling a pot with boiling water like some cafes are wont to do. It was a touch too cold, on the lower end of 70 degrees perhaps due to not sufficiently warming the pot or cup.

For such a large venue there’s not much in the way of food, but that’s just fine because the real focus is on the coffee. That’s not to say that the small selection of pastries isn’t delicious. We shared a flaky ham scroll that went perfectly with the coffees.

Adjoined to the cafe, there’s also a veritable cornucopia of coffee making supplies. If you’re in the market for anything coffee related or even just a cup (or bowl!) of coffee this is the place to go.

padre coffee

https://shop.padrecoffee.com.au/
Padre Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

By Josephine

I’ve never been to Paris before. However, if it is anything like By Josephine I can see why so many others are enamoured with it. It somehow manages to be effortlessly classy and whimsical all at once. The interior would look perfectly at home in a shabby chic Pinterest inspiration board. The pastry display is offset with a beautiful glow of light. I daresay it would be impossible to walk in and leave empty handed. In fact, I also bought a canele and pistachio and raspberry croissant for later!

By Josephine high tea

On this occasion, I was partaking in a leisurely high tea with friends. The high tea offers a wide selection of drinks, from tea (hot or cold), coffees and even juice. It’s hard to go past a traditional pot of hot tea when sweets are involved. The Detox Tea was pleasantly somewhere between green and herbal tea.

By Josephine tea

A selection of macarons accompanied the tea. The flavours were pistachio, chocolate and salted caramal. In terms of flavour the pistachio was my favourite, but it certainly doesn’t beat the black sesame that By Josephine also puts out. Impressively, all the macarons at By Josephine are made by hand rather than machine!

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As always savouries were on the bottom tier of the stand. The chicken & tarragon pain au lait looked incredibly inviting, with a glistening sheen to the pain au lait bun. I liked the bursts of tarragon but found myself wishing that the bread was a little bit warmer and softer. Palmiers remind me of my childhood. I loved going to the bakery with my parents and picking out the largest and flakiest palmier covered with sugar crystals to snack on. Biting into the tapenade & sundried tomato palmier was just like revisiting that joy but as an adult. The cheese gougère is definitely one for cheese lovers. The rich goat’s cheese sat neatly in the light choux pastry. I don’t entirely remember what the square pastry was, but I will say that it reminded me of a pizza in the best way.It wouldn’t be a French high tea without a buttery quiche to help round off the savoury plate.

By Josephine brule

The top most tier contained a small pot of lavender infused crème brûlée and cubes of grapefruit marshmallow. I am a bit of a sucker for home made marshmallows and lavender so it was a nor brainer that I would love both of these. Thankfully the crème brûlée was flavoured with a light hand so it didn’t taste soapy.

By Josephine sweets

That just leaves the middle tier of even more sweet treats! Pistachio bread and butter pudding with raspberry coulis and custard on top was a wonderful twist on an old classic. I imagine this would be even better served warm straight from the baking tray. Spiced biscuits were a surprise hit! Crispy and full of warm cinnamon flavour, I could have easily eaten a handful. The raspberry and chocolate tartelette was probably the richest part of the whole tea. I struggled to finish everything else after eating this. So much so that I ended up taking the rose & raspberry tea cake home to give to my mum.

The 3 tiered stand was so full that our madeleines didn’t fit on! Sadly this means that I forgot to take a photo of them. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that they were small, cute and perfect dipped in tea.

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By Josephine also offers a vegetarian and gluten free high tea menu. The gluten free set that my friends shared looked likewise plentiful and delicious.

At $42 this high tea a real bargain for the incredible selection of food! In eschewing the usual scones and sandwiches By Josephine makes every item in the high tea seem exciting and different. My only real gripe is that it only includes one drink. In typical French style, there is plenty of butter and some of the foods are very rich so it’s a bit difficult to finish them without a drink to offset the heaviness. I found myself ordering another pot of peppermint tea halfway through tea service.

By Josephine display

P.S. On the website it states that high tea is only for the duration of 1.5 hours, but this doesn’t seem to be strictly enforced if the store isn’t busy.

http://macaronsbyjosephine.com.au/
By Josephine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tina’s Noodle Kitchen

Although it’s still Autumn in Melbourne it feels like we’ve suddenly been plunged into Winter. It’s such a shock to the system to go from an unbearably warm March to the biting cold in April. I must confess it has got me a little down in the dumps and also a little bit sick.

When it’s sick and cold there’s nothing better than a warming bowl of soup. Even better if there are noodles in the soup as well. It seemed like a few other people had the exact same idea as me, as there was a small line outside Tina’s Noodle Kitchen when I arrived. Not one to wait out in the cold I went window shopping in Myer for a while before coming back and being seated instantly.

Ordering and payment are done the same time at the counter. If you look Asian the staff will probably also speak Chinese to you.

Tinas noodles fish and mustard

Fish Slices with Pickles was exactly what I needed. Tender slippery pieces of fish and mustard greens were a great bite. Hidden in the soup were crunchy pieces of black fungus and soft beancurd. The rice noodles are very soft and consequently easy to slurp up.

Tinas noodle kitchen

Spicy Beef Noodles with added mushrooms are really very spicy. The layer of oil helps seal in the heat and makes for a flaming hot mouthful, heat and spice wise.

After a few mouthfuls of soup noodle, you will notice that both of the broths are very salty. They serve more as noodle flavouring than as a soup that you should drink up. I think this reflects the fact that heavy seasoning a la salt, pepper, pickles and probably a bit of MSG are used as opposed to the laborious process of stewing bones and vegetables for a particularly complex broth. Despite this, Tina’s Noodle Kitchen fills a gap in the city for Chinese style soup noodles. If you’re craving something warming on a cold night, it will probably hit the spot.

Tina's Noodle Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Operator 25

How do you keep in touch with people who you no longer see regularly? A sad part of adult life seems to be losing touch with friends. Sure, you can see what they’re up to on facebook, instagram or other social media but there’s nothing quite like catching up in person.

In a similar vein, how often should you touch base with a good cafe or restaurant? I’ve admitted time and time again that when it comes to food I’m not one for commitment. I can’t bring myself to visit the same places again when there are so many new ones to try. Even so, sometimes I feel that from time to time I should check up on places that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. Perhaps it serves me right when after a year, they’ve totally changed the menu and replaced all the old favourites.

I didn’t have any of this in mind when I re-visited Operator 25 after a long absence. However, upon reflection, it seems appropriate that I would finally go back here with a good friend who I had also not seen for too long.

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Not only was it unseasonably warm, but I had also power walked over to the train station in order to get to brunch on time. As a result, I chose to eschew my usual warm tea with an iced elderberry tea with chia seeds and orange slice. The tea had a pleasant citrus taste and wasn’t too sweet. I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of the chia seeds was, but they added an interesting if somewhat unnecessary textural element to the drink.

Orange Juice was ordered by both my dining companions. It was freshly squeezed, so if you let it sit for too long it would seperate a bit, but a quick stir and the taste isn’t really affected at all.

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I dithered between the chia pudding and the Japanese open omelette, before eventually settling on the omelette. What arrived was more of a thin pancake of egg with a generous dash of many of my favourite Japanese ingredients. I found that the octopus was a bit too tough and toothsome and the sauce a touch overpowering, but that aside the flavours were on point.

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As for the teriyaki benedict, the mizuna leaves weren’t a sell but the soft brioche and yuzu hollandaise definitely won hearts.

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My friend polished off the Balinese pork burger first. After the last bite, he paused and commented that it was ‘good, real good actually’. In my books that’s high praise. Although Operator 25 no longer serves this burger with a side of sweet potato fries, I’m not sure if you need them considering how indulgent this already looks.

Even though I hadn’t been to Operator 25 in years it’s funny how I trusted that it wouldn’t let me down. This visit was everything that I had hoped it would be; somehow striking a balance between the new and familiar. I’m inclined to hope that my friendships will be the same, even if time and distance keeps us apart.

http://www.operator25.com.au/
Operator25 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Two birds one stone

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for many reasons. It helps kick start your metabolism, sets the tone for the rest of the day and just helps you refuel. More importantly for me, without breakfast, I get real hangry, real fast. By the time I arrived at Two Birds One Stone, it was a little past 2 pm. I had already had a mini tantrum in the car ride over and was ready to eat almost everything in sight.

Never mind the beautiful high ceilings, large glass windows, and spacious booths, I only had one thing on my mind when I walked in: food.

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I get the feeling that Two birds one stone is not bringing their coffee making A game on a quiet Tuesday afternoon, but even so, the Flat white was rather ordinary. The Earl Grey Tea fared a lot better and instantly perked me up. A touch of milk and sugar helped round out the over steeped cups as the pot was almost emptied.

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Rare yellow fin tuna, with potatoes, green beans, olives, tomatoes, aioli and a crispy fried poached egg was really just a rather upmarket salad nicoise. Not that you’ll catch me complaining, seeing as I love salad nicoise. Biting into the fried poached egg was s bit of a pleasant surprise, as the crispy crust was well seasoned. You can’t really go wrong with so much fresh produce on a plate. As expected the vegetables were bursting with flavour if a touch too oily at times.

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The Reuben: corned beef, swiss cheese, and sauerkraut with seeded mustard mayonnaise on rye. This is one of the better Reubens that I have come across. The cheese was perfect with the sauerkraut. In fact, I happily ate the crusts of the sandwich with just the sauerkraut and rye and didn’t miss the beef at all. Each bite was a great balance of flavours, so much so that the gherkins weren’t needed for palate cleansing. Instead, they were just pleasant to munch on.

Both these dishes were on the pricier side for relatively small portions. It’s almost to be expected when you consider that Two Birds One Stone is located in South Yarra. I’m sure that if I was a local, who could afford the houses or the rent in the area I would be happy to make Two Birds One Stone my local cafe. For now, I’ll just bookmark it as a place that serves tasty and satisfying brunch fare, but there’s nothing that’s urging me to revisit.

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www.twobirdsonestonecafe.com.au/
Two Birds One Stone Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato