Sunday, September 30, 2007


A lazy Saturday afternoon in front of the TV had me craving a good curry. When I suggested take-out from our local, Orlando recommended a little local place near his work called Bedi's. He'd been there with workmates and had spoken about going back there with me.

Bedi's is a well-known place, one of the first Indian restaurants in Melbourne, and the owner was a bit of a TV personality back in the day. We arrived at eight o'clock and the small restaurant was less than half-full - but seemed to be doing a really good take-out trade too.

The menu was fairly limited, particularly in terms of main courses, but they had a handful of dishes I was happy to order. My chicken lasan starter consisted of two large chicken drumsticks, the ends wrapped in tin foil, which seemed to have been baked or roasted with plenty of garlic and no other seasoning that I could discern. They were not cooked well enough, and the texture of overly-chewy meat was not appealing. I made a half-hearted effort to eat them and Orlando scolded me for not cleaning the bones.

The main courses were better: Orlando's tandoori platter looked good, and even his chicken lasan seemed better cooked than my starter. My beef vindaloo was large and delicious. I tried valiantly to finish it off but had to stop, stuffed to the gills.

I would say it was an entirely acceptable meal, but certainly nothing out of the ordinary. Our local West Footscray places, Aangan and Krishna, are superior in my opinion. Not sure if I would make the trip across town again: Bedi's has had its day.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


I've wanted to eat at this restaurant almost since we arrived here. Another Melbourne institution, this Italian restaurant doesn't take bookings so you have to choose your moment to dine here. I have crashed a work dinner of Orlando's here once, but still didn't feel that I had experienced the full Cicciolina's thing. So back we went on a chilly Friday night after a hard day's work trawling the bookstores of Melbourne.

We arrived before seven-thirty and put our names down for a table for three. We were told there was a two hour wait. Amazingly we quickly procured a booth in the back bar and settled down with two glasses of wine, happy to be sitting comfortably after our marathon day out.

With two hours to wait, we scanned the blackboard and ordered an antipasto platter to keep us entertained. It was a pretty good spread: salami and prosciutto, goat's cheese, grilled mussels, a couple of dips, marinated mushrooms, black olives, sourdough bread.

In the end, we had barely polished off the last morsels when our waiter came and called us into the main restaurant.

The place was buzzing, the atmosphere helps along by the fact that the tables are very close together. I ordered a raviolo stuffed with ox tail to start. Sitting on a bed of spinach, the single stuffed square of pasta looked simple and small, but it was filling. And divine.

For main course, Orlando ordered a fillet steak and Mena a lamb roast. Both looked and smelled great, and they were happy with their choices. Mena was still talking about hers the next day. I chose pasta again: linguine with a spicy ragu which was much more complex than a matriciana sauce, but I couldn't tell you what was in it. I savoured every mouthful and washed it down with a few glasses of Pizzini sangiovese.

All in all, the experience was fantastic. Even the wait for a table doesn't have to be too bad if you are lucky to get a seat in the back bar.

The European

The European is a bit of a Melbourne institution, and I've loved it ever since I lived here for six months way back in 1998. The long, darkly-lit, wooden interior reminds me of all the best Spanish, Italian and French bars I've eaten in, and it is a great antithesis to the classic Melbourne eateries we are used to.

So Mena and I found ourselves having breakfast there last Friday morning. It was an auspicious date: twenty-six years to the day since she and Lee left Ireland to travel to Australia, and the spring equinox to boot. We were on a bookstore crawl to celebrate Mena's birthday the month before.

We sat in the back near the kitchen hatch, and settled in with two glasses of bone-dry champagne to get us in the mood. The staff are supremely professional, but started off a bit cold but perhaps it was just the time of day. They ended up being lovely.

My eggs benedict was divine, accompanied at my request with some grilled portobello mushrooms. Mena chanced the Croque Madame, worried that she might be disappointed, but she was also delighted. The champagne flowed, as did Mena's long macchiatos and my Earl Grey tea. Our waiter complimented Mena on her "double-beveraging" when she ordered fresh coffee.

Almost two hours and almost a bottle of champagne later, we finally prised ourselves from our table to get on with the bookstore-crawling. We could have stayed there all day, chatting and nibbling. Why can't we start the day with breakfast at the European every day?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Cafe Lalibela

We promised each other we were going to eat locally. Footscray is full of Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Indian and now African restaurants and canteens. Almost two years in, we have our favourite Chinese (Ha Long), Vietnamese, (Thien An), Thai (Thai Angels), and Indian (Aangan), but we have not savoured any of the African delights on offer within a few minutes of or house.

So this evening we chose Cafe Lalibela, a small local Ethiopian restaurant beloved of the "new white intelligentsia" as one newspaper called them. The two doyens of restaurant culture, The Age's Epicure and Mietta's, herald this little canteen as one of the best in the inner west.

So we presented on a balmy spring Sunday evening, bottle of red wine in hand, ready to be impressed. Most of the tables were taken in the ten-table room, and as far as we could see there was one cook and one server. Unluckily our bottle was a screw-cap, so we waited almost twenty minutes with the wine ready to be poured, but because they hadn't needed to uncork the bottle we were unhappily without glasses.

We ordered quickly, a special chicken "wat" or stew, and a dry-fried beef dish. Both would be accompanied by plain rice as our server advised us they had run out of injera, the traditional Ethiopian bread used to mop up the wat sauces. No problem, we thought. We like rice. There was no choice of starter.

An hour passed. We sat chatting. They seemed to be cooking each table's order as it presented, and there were three tables ahead of us. People came, sat at tables, and left without ordering. Some people came in, sat at tables, went into the kitchen (were they friends of the owner?) and left without ordering. The wine bottle's contents slowly decreased. My hunger increased.

Finally two bowls of plain white rice came out, with two dishes. One was filled with small cubes of the most over-cooked fried beef I have ever seen, garnished with a few strands of blackened fried onion. The other held a very dark brown sauce - this was supposed to be the chicken dish. I rummaged and found a hard-boiled egg and single scrawny chicken drumstick with no more than a mouthful of flesh on it. The rest, as far as my taste buds could tell, was finely chopped onion in a thin gravy.

We ate a few mouthfuls of each, then decided to combine both dishes to extract the best from each. After an hour's wait we cleared our plates, but it was more out of hunger than enjoyment. Fifteen minutes after the food was presented, we were paying and leaving the restaurant.

My challenge will be to present, "Ready, Steady, Cook"-like, a list of ingredients, to see if anybody can come up with anything more palatable than our Sunday evening meal:
  • one scrawny chicken drumstick
  • a large quantity of onion
  • about 400 grams of stewing beef
  • however much white rice you need
  • whatever spices you want

I reckon anybody could some up with a meal more exciting than what we were served at Cafe Lalibela, even for $26. You have been challenged.

Cafe Lalibela, 91 Irving Street, Footscray