Degraves Espresso (Degraves St) + Brunetti, City Square (214 Flinders Lane, Melbourne)

Brunch at Degraves Street and a coffee at Brunetti were both ‘very Melbourne’ venues for a weekend catch-up with a Sydney friend in town for a few days.

We both had a vegetarian brekkie at Degraves Espresso: seeded rye toast, eggs, spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms – healthy and filling with poached eggs just the way I like them … hard and rubbery so I can pick the yolk out! The weird dry texture and rich flavour of egg yolk, when in its basic form, puts me off the rest of my food so I like to be able to pick it out in its full round form!

The cafe is grungy and service a bit slap dash and the meal was what is was, nothing too special. Although the coffee was good and the vibe ‘very Melbourne’ as I justified it to Maria!

To walk off brekkie we headed down to check out her hotel, Medina on Flinders St which was lovely and had a large balcony overlooking the bustle. A disaster story (funny in hindsight!) about a Formula 1 Hotel and her clueless boss who booked the work trip for her and her husband (they now work together and were at a music expo) prompted the quick hotel stop-in.

Next stop was Brunetti for a hot chocolate and giant chocolate marshmellow – so simple yet so delicious! We sat in the sunshine, something Melbourne has been deprived of for some time, and planned a BBQ at the house she and hubby are building (yes, they are actually doing hands-on building!).

My sister was also down for a few days catching some plays at the Fringe Festival. We had lunch at my local work favourite Love Pho where we’ve been before and yesterday stalked Smith Street in the sunshine for some Trippy Taco and Lost + Found Market. We have been to these places before so I think next time I’ll pick the place and take her to Victoria St for some Vietnamese and to Pellegrinis for some more ‘very Melbourne’ moments.

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Sunday at Middle Brighton Baths and Riva (St Kilda)

The sun was out – a rare showing in the gloomy Melbourne winter – so Khara and I took advantage of the rays (although no warmth came through we were thankful for the sunlight) and headed to Middle Brighton Baths for lunch. It is a fabulous decked restaurant/cafe with a stunning view over the bay and a collection of moored yachts. There was even one swimmer enjoying the emptiness of the baths.

We sat outside on the deck and really enjoyed the hints of spring. We started with a crispy garlic bread then I had the prawn and pork salad (thing crunchy asian vegetables) and Khara had the chicken caesar. We finished it off with a coffee – mine over a scoop of ice cream (affogato) and hers was an iced coffee. The food was nice enough but a little underwhelming. I think I should have chosen the fish and chips or hamburger instead.

Khara is leaving Melbourne this week and heading to Sydney for a couple of weeks before moving to London to live for the two years her Visa allows (or more if she loves it and is sponsored or married!). So the mood was cheery but the undercurrent a sad one.

We moved to Melbourne around the same time and in the past year she has been such a beautiful friend who I’ve become close with and will miss terribly. We have encouraged each other to make the most of Melbourne living, learned Spanish together and explored markets and other Melbourne must-dos. I have her to thank – without her friendship and support I don’t think I would have enjoyed the move her quite as much.

We plan to meet up in Spain next year to practice all the Spanish we’ve learned and will no doubt have forgotten by then!

After our relaxing seaside lunch we decided to walk along the foreshore to our next destination, Riva lounge/bar/restaurant in St Kilda, to meet my colleague and new-found friend Jaselyn for her birthday. It’s a decent 40 minute walk although the iPhone Google Map said over and hour so we must have powered past the strollers, dogs and families on bikes. It’s a lovely walk, one I recommend but I imagine it gets quite busy on a warm day.

We met Jaselyn and friends in the lounge area, slowly taking over the corner of the venue and incidentally making new friends with the people on the neighbouring lounge. It is positioned on the water and overlooks a very pretty view. Drinks were flowing, bowls of wedges were consumed, and there was a lot of laughing and some dancing by the fireplace as well (it IS still winter after all!). A fun evening with some beautiful people – thanks Jase!

Tonight Khara and I will have one last dinner together before she sets off on a new and exciting adventure (and just a little bit scary) at Cafe Tango, one of our old favourites. The theme is ‘not to be sad’ and we’ll be focusing on meeting up in Spain next year. But I am sad to be losing a friend overseas in my own selfish way I wish she wasn’t moving. At the same time I am very excited and happy and nervous for her new journey that lies ahead. Khara, I hope you start a blog…

Hasta luego mi amiga, Khara. Besos x

The Abbotsford Convent (St Heliers St, Abbotsford)

Since moving to Melbourne a trip to the Abbotsford Convent has been in the diary – I have moved it from week to week and month to month since last September. Well, yesterday I finally got my act together for a 30 minute walk in the drizzle to arrive at the delightful grounds of the venue that now houses an arts, learning and cultural faculty plus a selection of dining options and an array of markets hosted there weekly.

My lovely friend Khara (who, sadly for me, is leaving for the UK in a few months) and I explored the handmade crafts and alternative wares of those who braved the Melbourne winter to show their labours of love. We headed into the gorgeous historic building and had a look at some art works and a selection of coffee table books and Penguin Classics.

Feeling peckish we headed to Lentil As Anything, a charming not-for-profit community organisation which delivers a dining experience where you pay what you think your meal/experience is worth. The buffet begins at noon with a generous choice of around 12 dishes. Yesterday the theme was Sri Lankan cuisine, all vegetarian as the name of the concept may suggest. After sipping chai lattes (how very lentil!) we collected out plates and cutlery and joined the mixed bag of people lined up to try a bit of everything: lasagna, beetroot salad, savoury rice, battered cauliflower, curries, mixed vegetables, potato and pineapple bake, and Sri Lankan breads with condiments were some of the choices.

Upon leaving we paid $20 each – which may be a generous donation for the vegetarian meal … I guess the real value for me is the trust and honesty payment system. In our increasingly cynical world where we spend more time online than in face-time (although social media is brining back a sense of community … this is a whole other conversation for another time!) this kind of business is one that leaves you feeling an old fashioned kind of  ‘good’.

I suggest you check out Lentil As Anything at the Convent or at their St Kilda or Footscray location. It is just lovely.

A quickie update: Meshaya, Mr Tulk, Snow Pony

I’ve been fairly quiet on the blog front lately for a number of reasons so thought I’d do a bit of a round-up of some of the places I’ve been to recently. I must apologise for the lack of pics … once again, I am a terrible food blogger because I get so excited about the nosh I consume if before I remember to take pics.

MESHIYA: 200 Lonsdale St, Melbourne

I’ve often walked past Meshiya as it is located at the entrance to QV in Melbourne CBD, on route to and from the city for me. It’s usually full and the people always look like to be thoroughly enjoying their experience at this Japanese restaurant. Last Thursday I finally got my turn and enjoyed more than enough to confirm: yes, this is a delicious place with giant rice cookers that amuse me (even though I am no stranger to the rice cooker!).

My hot date was Marcus (usually his partner Steve would be there too but he’s enjoying the sunny north) and we had: soft shell crab, edamame, salt & pepper squid, pork belly –> for entree! for mains I had a beef dish which came with miso, rice, salad and a weird egg custard thing which I didn’t eat. Marcus had an all-in bento (ok, I made the name up but it seems appropriate!) with sashimi, two chicken dishes, miso, rice and the same weird egg custard.

Great food  and efficient service (yes, the staff actually run) – would recommend Meshaya for those wanting a good Japanese meal.

MR TULK: 304 Swanston St Walk, Melbourne

Every Friday morning the Twitter driven meet-up @socialmelb gathers from 8am at Mr Tulk, the awesome cafe in the State Library of Victoria (yes, I know, could you get more geeky!). I like to go every month and it’s always a treat to see who is there; these mornings attract a varied and dynamic group of people who love a chat and good coffee…and social media is discussed in dribs and drabs too! The space is lovely and big and we’re always at the far end of the communal table during winter, outside during the warmer months. The coffee is great and I always get food envy – the smashed avocado is a winner for me but I’m eyeing off the scrambled eggs for when I like eggs again. A great place for breakfast or a coffee.

SNOW PONY: 95 Whitehorse Rd, Balwyn

This is a gem of a find about 10 minutes out of the city and worth every mouthful of their McPony. I met my lovely friend Caitlin for  a chat, a laugh, a therapeutic vent and a quick brunch. It was bustling at 12.30 on Sunday but we were seated in their cosy back section within minutes. The menu is fantastic and I agonised for longer than it should have taken with a menu  that offers a good selection of about 40 or so dishes for breakfast and lunch.

I chose the McPony – English muffin stuffed w/ ham off the bone, emmental cheese + creamy dreamy scrambles – as I am trying to get back into eating eggs since going off them a while ago. This was the perfect choice and the perfect size for me. The coffee is smooth and the cake selection was very tempting.

Would recommend trying Snow Pony if you’re after somewhere quality and want to venture out of the city but not too far. I’ve been advised to try Porgie+Mr Jones, a venue from the Snow Pony people around the corner (ish) in Hawthorn.

Deli Bottega (1/144 Glenayr Ave, Bondi Beach NSW)

Last Sunday I spent the afternoon sitting outside in a singlet top – pretty awesome for a winter’s day but not so unusual down at stunning Bondi Beach. On the last day of my four day sojourn back to my home city I met a friend for brunch at Deli Bottega, a charming (not in the small and dirty real estate agent sense of the word) corner situated cafe positioned to the side of the usual weekend Bondi busyness.

I was befriended on Facebook by the cafe which is owned and run by a friend and his partner whom I met in Spain years ago via our mutual friend. It is Spanish inspired with  a good mix of meats, seafood and vegetarian. The options are plentiful but not overwhelming, creative but not over-complicated, and delicious without hesitation.

The ricotta pancakes with berry compote were just right for brunch, the perfect sunny Sunday treat. My dining partner had poached eggs (four of them, he’s a big boy!) with spinach and roast tomato on rye – healthy and delicious.

Of course I am biased but this really is a gem in a suburb where the rest of the shops and cafes (and people) can start to feel a little samey.

A definite must for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’d love to get back for sunset wine and cheese – there is a fabulous selection of imported cheeses, jamon, figs and other antipasti yummies.

Deli Bottega: 1/144 Glenayr Ave, Bondi Beach NSW. (02) 9365 7319.