Sunday, July 19, 2009

Balzari, Carlton


130 Lygon Street
Carlton, VIC 3053

Balzari was disappointing. The place just lacked any passion in the food, coffee or service. Five of us went for Sunday brunch. The guys left quite hungry as the serving sizes were quite small. Between us we had eggs, French toast, muesli and Italian donuts. The eggs came on toast that was burnt around the edges. The French toast was on very thin and small toast - sacrilege for French toast where you want thick pieces of toast to soak up that wonderful sauce. The muesli was okay. The cafe latte was okay but the latte can hide many coffee quality and barista sins. The short macchiato was terrible - bitter and grainy. The meals took forever to be served even though Balzari was less than half full. The ambiance was pretty good and the wood fire was nice although the restaurant was cold if you were not near the fire or one of the wall heaters. We won't be returning.

Takes all credit cards


22.5 out of 50 - Not happy belly
19 out of 30 - Tipability
7.5 out of 10 - Ambiance
3 out of 10 - Value
52 out of 100 TOTAL

Friday, July 17, 2009

Birdman Eating, Fitzroy

Birdman Eating, Fitzroy

238 Gertrude St
Fitzroy, VIC 3065

What a disappointing experience. Ordinary coffee, very small serving sizes and they forget they are in the service business. The serving sizes are ridiculously small for a guy. Our son ordered pancakes and received 3 of them, each seemed to be marginally bigger than a 50c coin. We had to order another meal. The food tasted pretty good. It was a cold Melbourne morning and the restaurant was full but the outside tables were virtually empty. We asked for a round of coffees while we waited but we were told they would have to take us off the waiting list if we had coffee at the empty outside tables. People in the service business who forget they are in the service business really tick me off. A bad experience and we won't return.

Takes credit cards

22.5 out of 50 - Happy belly
11 out of 30 - Tipability
7 out of 10 - Ambiance
1 out of 10 - Value
41.5 out of 100 TOTAL

Short Black Cafe, Camberwell

Short Black Cafe, Camberwell

761-767 Burke Rd
Camberwell, VIC 3124

You don't go to Short Black for the experience. It has a Maccas wham bam feel to it. They use cheap tea pots and salt & pepper shakers but staff are nice. Coffee is really ordinary so don't think about ordering a short black as per their name. TV sets are distracting (I don't know why so many places have these large flat screen TVs??). Cushion seating is dirty in crevices. Pretty good selection of food and it is priced pretty much in line with the quality. Some of the staff are characters. There is an area down the back that can be good for meetings.

Takes all credit cards

26 out of 50 - Happy belly
19 out of 30 - Tipability
4 out of 10 - Ambiance
5 out of 10 - Value
54 out of 100 TOTAL

Watts Cooking, Surrey Hills

Watts Cooking

147 Union Rd
Surrey Hills, VIC 3127

Watts is a decent suburban eatery but it is not in the same league as the cafes oozing in passion. Ambiance is poor, especially out the back. Coffee was quite average. One coffee arrived with a hair sitting on top while a chai latte arrived with a dirty glass. Service out the back was almost non existent. They missed out on some more drinks orders. The waiters were pleasant enough but you could tell it was just a job. Food was pretty good. We ordered pancakes, muesli and eggs. I'd say it is a really good place for locals but I certainly wouldn't go out of my way for it. We won't be returning.

Takes all credit cards

30 out of 50 - Happy belly
15 out of 30 - Tipability
3 out of 10 - Ambiance
4 out of 10 - Value
55 out of 100 TOTAL

Cafe Eden, Canterbury

Cafe Eden

78 Maling Rd
Canterbury, VIC 3126

Maling Road has wonderful ambiance. The quality of the cafes has been improving over time with the likes of The Maling Room and Brownes, but the overall quality on the strip is disappointing. Cafe Eden has a nice location on the sunny side of the street but it is on the disappointing side. The cafe refused to change a menu item as I wanted to replace one vegetable for another. They said the kitchen does not have time to change what's on the menu so their policy is they will not change the menu in any way. Wouldn't even discuss it. Coffee is very ordinary and the short macchiato is aweful. The food is okay but no where close to the passion shown by Las Chicas and Cafe Panette.

They take visa an mastecard

23 out of 50 - Happy belly
15 out of 30 - Tipability
3 out of 10 - Ambiance
5 out of 10 - Value
46 out of 100 TOTAL

Harveys Restaurant, South Yarra

Harveys Restaurant

10 Murphy St
South Yarra, VIC 3141

We did Sunday brunch. It was only half full at the time but we waited a very long time for any service. They don't assign a person to a table so you can be forgotten. The food was very good but the serving sizes were too small for the average bloke. The salmon eggs was very good but it was a tiny portion. Similarly, my son ordered pancakes - delicious but small. Cafe latte was good but the short macchiato was quite average and didn't have the classic 3 layers. It seems to be a place where people go to be seen - it had a "nouveau riche" feel to it. If you are wearing a BMW shirt, have a trophy partner or want to show off your bling, then this could be the place for you. When full it is VERY noisy. We had to raise our voice just to be heard on a table for four. We will not be returning.

Take all credit cards

27 out of 50 - Happy belly
11 out of 30 - Tipability
3 out of 10 - Ambiance
5 out of 10 - Value
46 out of 100 - TOTAL

The Maling Room, Canterbury

The Maling Room

206 Canterbury Rd
Canterbury, VIC 3126

In my humble opinion, Melbourne's best coffee. Awesome short macchiato which the majority of places stuff up. The coffee is such wonderful quality we buy their beans. Food is good and prices are reasonable. However, if you sit outside the service is terrible. Inside can be very loud especially when it is packed by Mums around school pick-up or drop-off time. Apparently heritage listing means they can't install sound inhibitors - real shame. They have a restricted kitchen which seriously restricts their menu.

They take visa and mastercard.

35.5 - Happy belly
24 - Tipability
4 - Ambiance
10 - Value
73.5 - TOTAL

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cafe Fraus, North Melbourne

Cafe Fraus

345 Victoria Street
North Melbourne, VIC 3051
Near Errol Street

Best hot chocolate in Melbourne - and so many varieties of hot chocolate from which to choose! Great crepes, good egg breakfasts, good portions, nice ambiance. As a result we have been back here a number of times. Service is not super and it's a pain paying and ordering at the front counter but the hot chocolates and crepes are awesome! Highly recommended.

Take all credit cards. Always plenty of newspapers to read.

42 - Happy belly
16 - Tipability
7 - Ambiance
9 - Value
74 - TOTAL

Replete Providore, Hawthorn

Replete Providore

302 Barkers Road
Hawthorn, VIC 3122

Really good quality food and they obviously care about their food. Coffees are pretty good although the macchiato is average. Tables are close and it can get very noisy. Waiters are not very attentive and I'm sure they lose business from this. Meals are a good size. It's a pain paying at the front counter where they also take a lot of orders and answer the phone. Generally you have to wait to pay which is not very customer focused when they are doing so many other things well. However, the quality of the food has had us back a few times.

They take credit cards but not Amex.

41 - Happy belly
18 - Tipability
7 - Ambiance
10 - Value
76 - TOTAL

ICI, Fitzroy

359 Napier St
Fitzroy, VIC 3065

Cash only

Lovely ambience, very nice presentation, outstanding French toast, very thoughtful food and beverage menu and good sized meals. It was a very pleasant experience at a cute little place in a quiet Fitzroy side street and we will be back. What reduced the rating was that ICI only accepted cash. With five of us there is a decent sized bill and we don't like to carry a lot of cash. The coffee was good but the short macchiato was not to Maling Room or Cafe Panette standards.

40 - Happy belly
20 - Tipability
10 - Ambiance
10 - Value
80 - TOTAL

Cafe Panette, South Melbourne

Cafe Panette
144 Cecil St
South Melbourne, VIC 3205
Opposite South Melbourne Market

Very good menu, excellent food at a reasonable price and good sized serving portions, excellent coffee. I find that ordering a short macchiato is a much better test of the establishment's coffee than a latte - which hides many sins. The short macchiato at Cafe Panette was excellent - the classic 3 layers. Overall, a really good experience. We will be back!

39 - Happy belly
27 - Tipability
8 - Ambiance
10 - Value
84 - TOTAL

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Babka, Fitzroy


358 Brunswick St
Fitzroy , VIC 3065

They take no bookings and its a small place so they may be a wait.

Cute place with nice, brunch-type ambience. Good food, decent portions, good coffee and interesting menu. We waited about 25 minutes for a table which was a pain. It's only a small place but worth the wait. It is also a bakery so you can buy some quality pastries and breads on your way out. Worth the experience.

32.5 - Happy belly
14 - Tipability
6 - Ambiance
9 - Value
61.5 - TOTAL

Las Chicas, Balaclava

Las Chicas Cafe
203 Carlisle St
Balaclava, VIC 3183

They take no bookings

What a wonderful experience. Fabulous, diverse menu, terrific quality breakfast, great coffee and attentive staff - very busy and they don't give you heaps of time, but the service is descent. The salmon eggs were the best I have ever had. What a nice change to get a very good helping of salmon! The balance of tastes in the mouth still lingers in my mind. So many places overdo the sauce or the bread overwhelms the food texture. We also had pancakes and they made the eaters eyes widen - excellent. The muesli is well presented and yummy. The omelette was excellent. The burrito was very good. The short macchiato, a test of any barista, was very good. The tables are pretty close together but I can put up with that given the wonderful experience.

45 - Happy stomach
28 - Tipability
8 - Ambiance
10 - Value
91 - Total

Rating Melbourne cafes for brunch

Our family of 5 goes to brunch just about every Sunday morning. We like to explore new places but we often return to our favourite places.

My ratings provide a ranking on:
  • A happy stomach (quality) including a rating for taste sensation, excitement of menu options, portion sizes and the quality of the coffee - there is always the search for a great coffee!!
  • Tipability (service) including the extent to which the staff make it an enjoyable experience, how easy it is to order and pay, and follow-up. In essence, are we thee for their pleasure or do they try to make it a really enjoyable Sunday experience.
  • Ambiance - does it add to the experience
  • Value for money - do I feel like we were ripped off or was the pricing reasonable
The total score is 100 with happy stomach comprising 40 points, tipability 30, ambiance 20 and value 10

Each place is rated on its own merits no matter where it is located.