Ground Cafe 619, Mitcham

Location:       619 Whitehorse Rd, Mitcham VIC 3132
Telephone:    0405 514 796

I only wrote one word down in my notebook to describe this place. That word was ‘bad’. With that introduction, let me get into the nitty gritty of why I only needed one word to describe Ground Café.

Open for about 4 months now, Ground Café is still new to the Mitcham area. When I visited on a Saturday late morning, the café was quiet and empty except for one other customer. I sat down and ordered my usual coffee, only to find it was weak and quite watery. As a Melbournian, I shudder…

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Spare Me Kitchen, Collingwood

Location:       1/393 Brunswick St, Fitzroy VIC 3065
Telephone:    (03) 9419 6380

My visit to Spare Me Kitchen was funded by a competition that I entered via Facebook – yes, people actually win social media competitions. #winning #won #freemealplease

I won a dinner for two at Spare Me Kitchen that’s housed within Glamorama Bar where my $110 voucher got us a lot of food. As we entered, early on a Friday evening, I was pretty surprised to find how empty this large space was – there was one other table of four diners and then us.

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Three Black Sheep, Moama

Location:       290 Perricoota Rd, Moama NSW 2731
Telephone:    (03) 5482 5770

Before my road trip back home to Melbourne, I went out for brunch to load up on some much needed sustenance. Not being local to the Echuca/Moama area, a girlfriend suggested we head to NSW and check out Three Black Sheep café.

This café is located pretty much in the middle of nowhere, between nothing and no one. Given its pretty solo setting, I was surprised to find that the café was surrounded by cars and packed to the brim on this particular Sunday. Apparently, Three Black Sheep was the brunching hot spot.

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The Sweet Meadow, Echuca

Location:       640 High St, Echuca VIC 3564
Telephone:    (03) 5482 4099

Opening its doors in October 2016, The Sweet Meadow is a plant-based, all vegan health bar that focuses on clean, green and totally un-mean eating. Sounds disgusting, right? Well….wrong!

Turns out veganism isn’t akin to eating cardboard but I won’t be jumping on the bandwagon right now. The café has a modern ‘inside-out’ feel with neutral colours, wooden tables, etc.., As a non-vegetarian, and not even remotely close to vegan (I love eggs), I found a few different things on the menu that tickled my fancy.

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The Mill, Echuca

Location:       2-8 Nish St, Echuca VIC 3564
Telephone:    (03) 5480 1619

The Mill is a large, factory like restaurant and bar that serves up modern Australian cuisine, cocktails and tapas. I was pleasantly surprised by the venue’s high ceilings, large spacious dining hall and laid-back atmosphere.

So why was I in Echuca? Well, I did a weekend road trip to Echuca recently to see a friend that moved regional for her new man and new job, and to celebrate her birthday. So of course this weekend getaway consisted of a lot of eating and drinking. The Mill was the birthday girl’s restaurant pick for some birthday drinks and a chill dinner.

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Indians Again, Ringwood

Location:       40 Railway Ave, Ringwood East VIC 3135
Telephone:    (03) 9870 0046

Situated opposite Ringwood East railway station, Indians Again is a local restaurant that focuses on, you guessed it, traditional Indian cuisine. My partner is a sucker for a good curry (as am I) and when I came across this place on Google, I thought I’d check it out.

If you’re familiar with South Indian cuisine, then you’d know what dosa is. I love, love, love dosa – a crispy thin crepe that’s the size of a small tent, served with some vegetarian sides. If I see it on a menu, I can’t look past it. This time was no exception.

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Station Street Cafe, Nunawading

Location:       26 Station St, Nunawading VIC 3131
Telephone:    (03) 9878 9383

As part of my lifelong search for the perfect brunch, I set out to try Station Street Café on a Sunday mid-morning with my brunch buddy, Tash. Hmm…this was one of my lesser researched, random picks and it was not the best call.

I’m going to get straight to it. The coffee was okay (nothing special at all), and the service was strange. We had the most forgetful waiter ever. He had to come back twice to confirm coffee orders, and then forgot some sides that my friend ordered with her breakfast. It was weird.

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Pastuso, CBD

Location:       19 Acdc Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000
Telephone:    (03) 9662 4556

Pastuso is my current fave eatery in Melbourne. Everything about this place is great. The service is fantastic, knowledgable, efficient and super friendly. The food and drink are fantastic, and the venue itself is spacious, light and gorgeous.

My partner and I decided to stop in for an early dinner on the way to watch a game of tennis. I had made the reservation about a week earlier, and was only able to get a table because it was quite an early dinner. Oh, am I glad that I did get a table. I love the ambience of Pastuso; it’s a perfect, relaxed and romantic setting where you can talk easily without having to raise voices and lean in to hear people.

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Montalto Piazza, Red Hill

Location:       33 Red Hill-Shoreham Rd, Red Hill South VIC 3937
Telephone:    (03) 5989 8412

My mum, sister and I did a mini road trip up to Red Hill to make the most of a bright and sunny day. And what a wonderful way to spend an afternoon – food, wine and sun. Is there anything better? The Montalto Piazza is a fantastic venue for a long, lazy Sunday session.

The menu has a range of small snacks, and some hearty meat, fish and veg options. Oh, and I can’t forget the drool-worthy pizza. We decided to take the burden of choice away and opted for the $45 p/person ‘Feed Me’ menu. I just sat back and enjoyed the sprawling landscape, whilst sipping some of the wineries own Cuvee.

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Ramen and Dumpling House, Vermont

Location:       1C Hanover Rd, Vermont South VIC 3133
Telephone:    0433 282 359
Website:        N/A

Located along the outdoor walkway of the Vermont South Shopping Centre, Ramen and Dumpling House is a forever-busy local Chinese eatery. With a couple of other sister restaurants in the South East suburbs, the Vermont eatery serves up delicious dumplings.

I think it’s safe to say that you should not visit this place if you are keen on service. Service is effectively non-existent at these types of places. It is all about turn over: eat, pay and leave. I don’t mind this on occasion, if the food is good enough to back up this bad service. I walked in with a couple of friend and we were handed some menus and asked to stand around at the back, to wait for a table to free up.

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Hyde n Seek, Ashwood

Location:        6 Yertchuk Ave, Ashwood VIC 3147
Telephone:     (03) 9888 1135

I was craving some delicious Middle Eastern fare for breakfast, but didn’t have the money or annual leave to fly on over to Turkey. Enter: Google. With the help of some key phrases and search terms, I stumbled upon a listing for Hyde n Seek Café located in Ashwood. This café is way closer to my place than Turkey, AND I could afford the fuel to get there. It was a win/win really.

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Little Hugh, Nunawading

Location:       150 Rooks Rd, Nunawading VIC 3131
Telephone:    (03) 8838 8899

Lilydale café Hutch & Co have spread their wings and introduced us to their second café, Little Hugh. Located in a busy industrial area in Nunawading, I have been keen to try Little Hugh for a while now. This café is only open on weekdays so I jumped at the opportunity to check it out during my recent school holidays (which are fast coming to an end..wahhhh!).

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Cafe de Beaumarchais, Sassafras

Location:       Cnr Mount Dandenong Tourist Road & Woodlands Avenue, Sassafras VIC 3787
Telephone:    (03) 9755 1100

Yes, it’s French and yes, it’s chic. Café de Beaumarchais is located in the tourist hot spot of Sassafras amidst an array of gourmet food stores, a fantastic teashop, and other cafes. Unlike some of the other cafes around, the food and coffee at Beaumarchais is far from a tourist trap.

It’s all about dark interiors, black and silver wallpaper, chandeliers, mismatched furniture, and interesting artworks inside Beaumarchais. The dining space is very small, and has been known to get extremely busy on weekends. I hedged my bets and stopped by on a weekday to check them out.

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Coffee Interchange, Bayswater

Location:       747 Mountain Hwy, Bayswater VIC 3153
Telephone:    (03) 8288 2516

Opening in October 2015, Coffee Interchange opened its doors to caffeinate us eastern suburbian folks. The café is owned by the crew behind Coffee Gastronomy, artisanal coffee roasters. I ventured in mid-morning on a Tuesday to check out the coffee offerings at the interchange.

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Les Bistronomes, Braddon

Location:       Corner of Elouera & Mort Street, Braddon, 2612 ACT
Telephone:    (02) 6248 8119

Les Bistronomes is a chic French bistro that had a bit of je nais se quoi about it. The food is classically French with a new age twist. The dining space is also classically French; I mean wicker chairs, floral artworks, and an airy feel. It also seemed like every person that worked there was French and you could hear singing and yelling from the kitchen. It was all so Frenchy, so chic.

Well, maybe not ALL chic actually. I did use the toilets during my visit and they could do with a renovation. There were piles of boxes around the back too, and it looked dirty and a bit messy. Apart from this little flaw, the rest of my experience at Les Bistronomes was fantastic.

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The Cupping Room, Canberra

Location:       1/1-13 University Ave, Canberra ACT 2601
Telephone:    (02) 6257 6412

The Cupping Room doesn’t really sound like the name of a café, does it? I think of BDSM and fetish play when I hear the phrase ‘cupping’ room. This place is definitely not that, it indeed is a café. I love the google description of The Cupping Room: hip and airy, with exposed rafters. It’s pretty apt actually, even though it may sound a bit daft.

My partner and I swung by for coffee and brunch after some research showed that this was the hot spot in Canberra. Of course I had to check it out. The Cupping Room was buzzing when we rocked up, with some old school 90s R&B blaring through the dining space. And I mean blaring; it was way too loud for a mid-morning meal.

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Courgette, Canberra

Location:       54 Marcus Clarke St, Canberra ACT 2601
Telephone:    (02) 6247 4042

Lead by head chef James Mussilion, Courgette Restaurant serves fine French cuisine that is worthy of its Sydney Morning Herald chef hats. The cuisine is classic, the ambience is relaxing and comfortable with an air of sophistication, and the service is pleasant with a ‘rough around the edges’ feel.

At $88 p/person for a four-course dinner, I was very surprised at the high quality of the food, and the beautiful plating. Each course has a selection of dishes to choose from and dining with my partner meant that I got to taste two dishes from each course selection.

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JJ's at the Marina, Batemans Bay

Location:        27 Beach Road, Batemans Bay, NSW
Telephone:     (02) 4472 4499

JJ’s at the Marina isn’t lying – it’s a place called JJ’s that’s located at the Batemans Bay marina. Quite an apt description indeed. My partner and I had one day and one night in Batemans Bay before we drove on to Canberra, the final stop in our food trail from Melbourne to Canberra.

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Starfish Deli, Batemans Bay

Location:        1 Clyde St, Batemans Bay NSW 2536
Telephone:     (02) 4472 4880

Our second last stop on our foodie roadtrip from Melbourne to Canberra was the lazy coastal town of Batemans Bay. My partner and I stopped at Starfish Deli overlooking the Clyde river. The location was very picturesque and smack bang in the middle of the Batemans Bay town centre. Sadly, the view was the best part about dining here.

We ordered some drinks and a woodfired pizza to snack on whilst working our way through a cryptic crossword. The pizza came topped with prosciutto, rocket, cherry tomatoes, parmesan, and a drizzle of garlic oil ($18).

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Honorbread, Bermagui

Location:        8 Bunga St, Bermagui NSW 2546
Telephone:     N/A

Honorbread is an artisanal bakery that evolved from a hobby and passion of one NSW baker (or perhaps bakeress?) into a gorgeous little bakery producing some mouth-wateringly good breads. On my foodie road trip from Melbourne to Canberra, my partner and I stopped at Bermagui for a quick bite to eat and a rest.

We were sitting at Guys Place having some mediocre meals when I saw this little hole in the wall bakery. More importantly, I saw a sign that boasted about a ham, gruyere, and bocconcini sourdough toastie with an onion and chilli jam ($12). How can a mere mortal say no to that?

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Kohli's Indian Restaurant, Batemans Bay


Location:       11 Beach Rd, Batemans Bay NSW 2536
Telephone:    (02) 4472 2002

Kohli Indian Restaurant holds the top spot on TripAdvisor’s Top 10 Restaurants in Batemans Bay. This little establishment was absolutely buzzing when my partner and I stopped in for dinner at about 7pm. We had good timing and some luck on our side to score a table with only a minimal wait time.

My partner wasn’t feeling great and had the beginnings of a migraine coming on so we tried to make this dining experience a quicky. The dining hall is clean and typical of local Indian restaurants, by which I mean white disposable table covers and slightly daggy décor. Those disposable table clothes are perfect for someone like me who manages to feed the table as much as I feed myself.

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Guys Place, Bermagui

Location:        1/6 Bunga Street, Bermagui, New South Wales
Telephone:     0425 355 290

Guy’s Place is a quaint little café located on the main strip in Bermagui, a small coastal town in NSW. With perhaps ten or so tables to sit at, this café was very cutesy and I was excited to try it. The menu is very limited too; I’m talking about maybe 5 or 6 plate options to choose from. Generally, this restriction doesn’t bother me at all because it makes me feel like they do every dish really, really well.  

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Wharf Aquarium and Restaurant, Merimbula

Location:        The Wharf, Lake St, Merimbula NSW 2548
Telephone:     (02) 6495 4446

During our foodie road trip from Melbourne to Canberra, we made plans to stop in for dinner at The Wharf Restaurant and Aquarium in Merimbula. With some good reviews and a stellar location, this restaurant seemed unique.

Some reviews mentioned dining in a room that was surrounded by tanks, so I was expecting this to be the case. I will mention now that this is most certainly not the case; it’s a standard dining room but there is balcony seating that has a good view of the coast.I recommend making a reservation for a table, else you may be waiting awhile to eat. This was during the summer break though, so perhaps it’s not quite as busy outside of peak.

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Waterfront Cafe, Merimbula

Location:       Corner Beach & Market Street, Merimbula NSW 2548
Telephone:    (02) 6495 2211

Located off a boardwalk in the Merimbula city centre, the aptly named Waterfront Café is exactly as described. With prime waterfront views and a delightful summer breeze, this open spacious café was buzzing when I stopped in on a Tuesday morning for a caffeine hit and some breakfast.

This was my first breakfast stop on my foodie trail from Melbourne to Canberra, and it was a pleasant surprise. The energy of the café is borderline chaotic. There didn’t seem to be a clear table numbering system and there were a lot of confused wait staff trying to place coffee and food orders on tables, with a few stuff ups.

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Wheelers Seafood Restaurant, Pambula

Location:        162 Arthur Kaine Dr, Pambula NSW 2549
Telephone:     (02) 6495 6330

My partner and I did a foodie roadtrip from Melbourne to Canberra over the New Year break. Our first dining stop outside of Victoria was for dinner in Merimbula at Wheelers Seafood Restaurant. We did not have a booking but figured that an 8pm dinner was quite late so we should be okay. Turns out people like to eat late on holiday…

Upon arrival, the hostess gave us a couple of drink menus and told us to have a seat around the back as she estimated a 10 or so minute wait. My partner and I were a bit hangry, but we thought 10 minutes was reasonable. We ordered a couple of drinks and sipped away on a lovely warm summer evening.

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Vue de Monde, Melbourne CBD

Location:        525 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Telephone:     (03) 9691 3888

Vue de Monde has been on my ‘must try’ list for a couple of years now and I finally got to dine here, courtesy of a very generous Xmas gift. My partner surprised his parents, sisters and me with a night out for pre-drinks at Eau de Vie, followed by the Chef’s Table at Vue de Monde – and what a surprise it was!

With the current renovations at Rialto Towers, finding the entrance to VDM was a bit of a maze. Once we found the reception desk, a lovely lady called up to inform the restaurant of our arrival and put us on an elevator to journey to the top of the tower. Service was quite good throughout my experience here, with a bit of a dip at the start of the meal, and then again upon departure.

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Eau de Vie, Melbourne CBD

Location:       1 Malthouse Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000
Telephone:     0412 825 441

You really need to know where to go to find Eau de Vie. Hidden behind large non-descript doors on Malthouse Lane, with only the smallest of signs to denote its existence, is where you will find one of Melbourne’s premiere cocktail venues. Once the secretive entranceway was found, I wondered in to what can only be described as an old-world, Prohibition-esque cocktail and whiskey bar.

It’s all about dim lighting, dark parlour décor, waistcoats, and jazz at Eau de Vie. Cocktails start at around the $19 mark, so it’s not really the cheapest place for a drink, but fairly standard pricing in Melbourne. There is one major exception though; the price of each cocktail includes some great theatrics at the table.

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The Fortunate Son, Ringwood

Location:       117 Bedford Rd, Ringwood East VIC 3135
Telephone:    0431 563 026

The Fortunate Son café is the brand new baby addition to the Eastern suburb’s growing café culture. Not to be confused with Sydney’s new addition Fortunate Son, THE Fortunate Son in Ringwood is a very welcome addition to my humble abode. Being only 3 weeks young, I stopped by after having driven past it a couple of times whilst running errands.

As expected, this place is decked out in typical Melbournian café style; that’s wooden panels, a bit of black, some green, and neutral colour tones. The gas was unfortunately yet to be connected to the property when I visited, so I was limited to selecting from the non-cook menu. It was a pretty limited selection, but I managed to find something that tickled my fancy and (TBH) they had coffee, so who cares about the gas.

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The Mabel, Mitcham

Location:       9 McKeon Rd, Mitcham VIC 3132
Telephone:    (03) 9874 8848

The Mabel café describes itself as ‘the illegitimate café love child of Tim Campbell and Nicole Arnup’. Tim and Nicola are hospitality aficionados, coming together to venture into the depths of Melbourne’s café culture.

I stopped by with a couple of girlfriends to check out their brunch offerings. It was late morning on a Saturday and we got seated with very little fuss, and a few other tables up for grabs. Décor is typically café style; wooden tables, etc.., with indoor seating for perhaps 50 or so.

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Ichi Ni Nana, Fitzroy

Location:       127 Brunswick St, Fitzroy VIC 3065
Telephone:    (03) 9417 4127

Ichi Ni Nana should be renamed Ichi Ni No-No. Hailing from the same minds behind Ichi Ichi Ku Izakaya in South Yarra and Ichi Ni Izakaya in St Kilda, Ichi Ni Nana serves modern izakaya style food with a twist on service. The twist is: rudeness, obnoxiousness, and general disdain at the thought of paying customers.

I had Ichi Ni Nana on my ‘must try’ list for a few months and finally decided to try it out as a belated birthday celebration with my partner’s family. We made our 2-hour booking for a Saturday at 6.45pm for six people, and off we went to enjoy some delicious Japanese food.

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Doncaster Greek Tavern, Doncaster East

Location:       14 Jackson Ct, Doncaster East VIC 3109
Telephone:    (03) 9848 6089

Staying true to its Greek heritage, Doncaster Greek Tavern serve hearty portions of meat, upon meat, upon meat. I stopped in for dinner on a Thursday evening as part of a group of 8. Ours was a group of teachers that were farewelling one of our own off on her next big adventure.

The décor and ambience are nothing memorable. With fairly dated furniture and the service being a bit prickly, I suggest visiting only for the food. Being a school night, none of us chose to go hard (responsibilities and all…). This choice seemed to annoy our hostess a tad and she was quite abrupt with our group. Her hospitality skills may have been left in bed that morning, and she seemed genuinely annoyed at us for some unknown reason.

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Dinner by Heston, Melbourne CBD

Location:       Crown Towers Melbourne, 130/8 Whiteman St, Southbank VIC 3006
Telephone:    (03) 8582 2061

What can I say about Dinner by HB that has not been said by many a Zomato reviewer? Oh, got it! The desserts were actually not that nice (and I tried 3 of them). Before you call in the hounds though, the savouries were a hands down home run.

So let me start again…

I had been anticipating dining at Dinner for about a month, after making a reservation here to celebrate my sister and my birthdays. Aside: my (not twin) sister and I are born on the same day, just three years apart. Yep, my parents apparently really like the month of March. Shudder….

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Sugar Buns, Hampton Park

Location:       Hampton Park Shopping Centre, Hampton Park VIC 3976
Telephone:    (03) 8782 0396

You’ve probably already heard about Sugar Buns Bakery Café, or seen Insta pics of their ridiculous looking freakshakes. Staying true to its name, this place has truly got sweet stuff covered (as long as you like your sweet stuff on top of a milkshake).

I had seen many a picture of their crazy shakes but, not being a sweet tooth, I had no temptation to go and visit Sugar Buns. However, the perfect opportunity presented itself when some friends and I were road tripping it down to Phillip Island and happened to be going via Hampton Park. I was a bit hesitant that this place was all about the look and not the taste, but happy to report that I was wrong.

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New Kum Den BBQ, Melbourne CBD

Location:       7-9 Waratah Pl, Melbourne VIC 3000
Telephone:    (03) 9663 6508

After my horrid dining experience at European Bier Café, I was left hungry and wanting a second, non-shitty dinner. Enter: New Kum Den BBQ. Located right next to Manchuria, self-touted as Melbourne’s finest cocktail bar (I beg to differ), the Kum Den was the perfect place for a late night dumpling fix. New Kum Den BBQ is not to be mistaken for Kum Den, New Kum Den, or New Kum Den 2. Who knew there were so many Kum dens around Melbourne?

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European Bier Cafe, Melbourne CBD

Location:       120 Exhibition Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
Telephone:    (03) 9663 1222

European Bier Café is a multi-levelled monstrosity that serves a range of (you guessed it) beers, with the usual pub-esque menu offerings. Pubs aren’t generally my thing, but I have visited a few on occasion. I stopped in here as part of a group of 8 people because it was the best bet for getting a table without having to wait on a Saturday night with no reservation.

Let me cut to the chase: eating at the European Bier Café just reminded me of why I don’t usually eat at pubs, and reiterated the negative side of trying to wing it with restaurants. To put it plainly, it was more than a 60 min wait for crappy food.

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Lucy Liu Kitchen and Bar, Melbourne CBD

Location:       23 Oliver Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000
Telephone:    (03) 9639 5777

Lucy Liu is a modern, Asian fusion restaurant located just off the buzzing foodie precinct of Flinders Lane. I had been wanting to try this place for a while now. It had me enthralled, with its red neon sign that ominously glows at you out of a non-descriptive alleyway.

Long story, short: Lucy Liu was a total let down. I booked in for an early dinner session on a Tuesday, to catch up with my sister before she was off on a flight back to her new hometown of Sydney. Let me get straight down to business.

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The Burger Block, Kew

Location:        85 Willsmere Road, Kew VIC 3101
Telephone:     9853 5771

It’s all about Asian-fusion burgers and drinks at The Burger Block. Yes, it’s another Melbourne burger bar but it’s also so much more than that – more like a familial blood right! The venue that houses Burger Block has a rich history of food over 15 years old. New owner, Brenda, has taken over the reins from her brother (owner of JD's asian-fusion burgers) who previously took over the business from their parents.

Told you there’s history here! The one common denominator though is this family’s love of food, more specifically burgers. I ventured into a nice, sleepy part of Kew to check out the revamped, rebranded burger bar. The place was buzzing with burger lovers. The venue isn’t fancy; it’s clean and to the point with indoor and outdoor seating.

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Sut and Wine, Box Hill

Location:       970 Whitehorse Rd, Box Hill VIC 3128
Telephone:    (03) 9899 5900

Sut and Wine is a casual Korean BBQ restaurant located on the main road, just around the corner from the buzzing shopping and restaurant precinct that is Box Hill Central Shopping Centre. This was a completely random pick for me. My decision making process went a bit like this:

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Okra, Hawthorn

Location:       159 Camberwell Rd, Hawthorn East VIC 3123
Telephone:    (03) 9813 1623

Believe it or not, Okra has been delighting Eastern suburban food lovers for over 16 years. With this much time on the dining scene, it’s no surprise that Okra have mastered the art of delivering flavourful and delicious Malaysian foods that delight the senses. Since arriving on the dining scene in 2001, Okra has also featured annually in The Age Good Food Guide.

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Estelle by Scott Pickett

Location:       245 High St, Northcote VIC 3070
Telephone:    (03) 9489 4609

Estelle by Scott Pickett (or ESP, as it’s known) is not to be confused with Estelle Bistro, also by Scott Pickett. ESP serves a seven-course degustation only menu for $150 p/person. The venue is dimly lit, with dark walls and tables, and a feature panel of wine glasses. It exudes fanciness, without the stuffiness.

We arrived for a 6.30pm seating, with a two-hour time restriction and were seated ‘at the bar’. This isn’t really a bar, but bar stools as chairs that overlook the completely open kitchen. My partner and I got seated right next to the pass – sounds better than it was. We had sore backs by the end of the night, the seats had no back rest and proved to be quite uncomfortable and hard to manoeuvre.

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The Penny Drop, Box Hill

Location:        913 Whitehorse Rd, Box Hill VIC 3128
Telephone:     (03) 9077 7455

Starting as a pop-up coffee fix for commuters, The Penny Drop began to grow in popularity for those caffeine addicts looking for a good hit. Motivated by the success of this little pop-up, the minds behind this establishment decided to go big and have now transformed The Penny Drop into a 100 seater eatery, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The décor is all high ceilings, neutral and earthy tones, wooden tables, and style. It really does look pretty chic, and is a very inviting space to catch up with friends over some food or drink. I stopped by on a Saturday morning to check out the brunch menu, and grab a cuppa jo.

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The Younger Brother, Ringwood

Location:       6 Railway Avenue Ringwood East, Victoria VIC 3135
Telephone:    (03) 8822 3260

The Younger Brother is the new kid on the block in Ringwood. This cute little café has plenty of charm, an exciting menu, and an inner-city buzz to it. As an eastern suburbian, I am pretty happy to see this new addition stepping up the café game.

I stopped by on the AFL Grand Final public holiday to grab some coffee and brunch, with my partner in tow. For those of you out of towners, YES – Victorians get a day off to celebrate the football. For a football non-enthusiast like me, it’s the best time to try a new restaurant or café.

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Pavlov's Duck, Fitzroy

Location:       401 Smith St, Fitzroy VIC 3065
Telephone:    (03) 9416 4336

Pavlov’s Dog is a simple psychology experiment whereby a dog is conditioned to associate the ringing of a bell with food, and thereby salivate. Well, Pavlov’s Duck serves up some tasty tucker worth salivating over too. Located in a chic, Bohemian-feel warehouse on Smith Street, you’ll find delicious brunch items fused with classic Sri Lankan hawker foods. It’s a hipster’s paradise.

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Aqua Dining, Milsons Point

Location:       Paul St & Northcliff Street, Milsons Point NSW 2061
Telephone:    (02) 9964 9998

Aqua Dining is a contemporary Italian restaurant with unparalleled views of the Sydney harbour. This was my first visit to Sydney and I can’t think of a better spot to enjoy a meal, and views of the opera house and harbour bridge. We could see the harbour bridge walkers doing their thing, whilst sipping some vino and soaking up the sunshine. Couple the location with the service and the food, and Aqua Dining is a total winner in my book.

For lunch on weekends diners can choose between a three course ($75 p/p) or four course ($90 p/p) meal. I went for the three course option and got plenty of chances to sample my partners and sisters dishes too. Let’s get started.

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Berowra Waters Inn, Berowra

Location:       Public Wharves, Bay Road, Berowra Waters NSW 2082
Telephone:    (02) 9456 1027

I was whisked away to Sydney for the weekend by my partner to celebrate our five-year anniversary. We decided to splurge a bit and dined at the Berowra Waters Inn on a Saturday night. There is only one menu option at this inn and that’s an eight course degustation at $185 p/person. Although, to be more accurate it’s six courses and two amuse-bouches. I don’t think an amuse bouche should be counted as a course!

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Easy Tiger, Collingwood

Location:       96 Smith St, Collingwood VIC 3066
Telephone:    (03) 9417 2373

Easy Tiger is touted as Thai fine-dining with one The Age Good Food Guide chef hat in tow. Located on a bustling stretch of Smith Street in Collingwood where diners are spoilt for choice, I was a bit surprised to find only one group of four diners in on a Thursday night. A girlfriend and I decided we’d stop in for post-dinner bites (in true chubby fashion).

The front dining space is pretty cosy, long, and narrow with room for perhaps 20. There is also an outdoor courtyard dining area as well as a private function room for 16 people. It’s all wooden shelving, rope lighting, and modern wall art for decor. Service was excellent from the get-go: efficient, friendly, and knowledgeable.

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Forage Food Store, Boronia

Location:        157 Boronia Rd, Boronia VIC 3155
Telephone:     (03) 9762 9424

Boronia: mainly known for its unsafe nightlife and not really for its dining scene. Enter Forage Food Store, a fairly new café that could sit happily in any inner suburban location. I only discovered Forage Food Store fairly recently even though it has been up and running since April 2015.

With eclectic seats, fake grass on the walls, and wooden panels, I was pretty impressed to find this style of café in Boronia. I visited Forage for a Sunday brunch session with one of my girlfriends. After eyeballing the menu online, I was pretty excited to check out what their food and coffee was like.

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Rumour Mill, Croydon

Location:        22 McAdam Square, Croydon VIC 3136
Telephone:     (03) 9725 9361

Rumour Mill has been on my ‘to try’ list for a few months now. I finally made the visit on a Saturday mid-morning with a girlfriend. There was a line out the door when we first arrived to which I thought ‘Oh, hell no’. But, thankfully, that line was just for takeaway coffee orders. There were plenty of tables up for grabs.

It took a while to get noticed and to get seated, which was a sign of how the service was going to go for the rest of my visit. On that note, let me say that service isn’t bad so much as it is non-existent most of the time. I actually thought the service was friendly enough once I finally managed to grab someone’s attention. It’s just getting any attention that’s the tricky part.

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Fingers Crossed, Ringwood

Location:       64 Maroondah Hwy, Ringwood VIC 3134
Telephone:    (03) 9870 3287

Fingers Crossed is the new boy in town. Located near Eastland, Fingers Xed really pumped up the social media marketing before opening. I was on the bandwagon big time, looking forward to checking this place out. I was delighted to find out that they serve Axil coffee – I’d been missing this coffee since leaving my last job in Hawthorn, near the namesake Axil Coffee Roasters.

I finally stopped in to check out Fingers Crossed on a Saturday at 10am or so. The venue is really nice; it’s got a cool, laid back atmosphere akin to inner city cafes. There’s plenty of seating inside and parking outside in the neighbouring streets. Service is good here too: friendly and efficient.

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Sezar, Melbourne CBD

Location:       6 Melbourne Pl, Melbourne VIC 3000
Telephone:    (03) 9663 9882

Sezar is a CBD eatery serving modern Armenian cuisine. I dined at Sezar as part of a group of 6 before going to see We Will Rock You: The Musical. Located close to the Regent Theatre with a plethora of good reviews, Sezar was a no-brainer to try for pre-theatre dining. I’m about to add to those good reviews because this place was fantastic!

What, pray tell, is Armenian cuisine? Well it’s a mix of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, or I think it is anyway. The ambiance is great here, the venue is retro cool and the service we received was great. My only qualm is that the lighting wasn’t very good for taking pics of my food – boo freaking hoo, right?!

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