Red Door Corner Store – Northcote

Red Door is an old style local eatery (a refurbished Milk Bar) way off the beaten track in a quiet Northcote street. The coffee is Gravity fairtrade and is of a high standard. Maybe not in the league of ‘Proud Mary’ but very close. Gravity was popular and hip a few years ago but these days there are so many micro roasters doing interesting roasts.

The menu is quite extensive and has something for everyone. Most dishes work very well but there is the occassional bummer. The muesli can be excellent, or sometimes contain large chunks of dried fruits which are chewy and impossible to eat. The grilled mushrooms are a winner along with all of the ‘toasties’ sandwiches – especially the BLT.  The bread they use is fair but a little too solid and floury. I wish they would use a better quality sourdough bread. Portion sizes can vary from dish to dish and sometimes the quality/value ratio is missing the mark. Service has been very good. Overall ‘Red Door’ is a good addition to the Northcote cafe scene. It maybe needs a little more consistency in style/size/value to gain some extra merit points. Rating 4 Stars out of 6

****

70 Mitchell St Northcote VIC 3070.  www.reddoorcornerstore.com.au (takes ages to load!)

UPDATE: Revisited recently. Coffee was excellent. Website has been redesigned and loads quickly. On this visit we had the grilled field mushrooms and sweet potato and corn cake. Mushrooms were great but some stray walnut shells hiding in the mushrooms spoiled an otherwise great dish. Sweet potato and corn cake appeared a little thick and heavy – not bad but not perfect. So for the time being – the current rating and comments still stand.

Three Bags Full

This has proved to be a popular oasis in an otherwise dead zone for good cafes. Coffee here is Five Senses and is always well made. Ingredients are of excellent quality and service is always very good. Three Bags can get very busy around lunch time and also it can be very noisy – especially if you get a ring of laughing women sitting at the middle round tables. It appears that ‘synchronised laughing’ is the new sport in the area. On weekends things can get very busy so it pays to be patient -it is worth the wait.

Ricotta hotcakes are very good and there is always a range of daily specials on the chalkboard. Croque Madame was on special when we visited and it was very good.The staff are confident and ‘things’ happen with a minimum of fuss. A great all-round package that is hard to beat. Go!

Rating ******
Cnr Nicholson Street and Mollison Street, Abbotsford.

Apte Cafe – Alphington

Apte is a few years old now and has won many awards. Previous owners have all moved onwards and upwards ( Liar Liar, Three Bags Full) and Baristas have also moved on (Proud Mary), so how is Apte behaving? Coffee is reliable Five Senses and appears to be well in hand with a good barista. Service is good and the menu is interesting. I had the Semola porridge infused with honey, vanilla, raisins & currant. Very nice indeed. Smooth, creamy and complex flavours. Excellent. Apte is packed full most hours of the day and parking can be difficult but it is worth the inconvenience.

Rating: *****

Pope Joan

This new eatery is in a busy little precinct in Nicholson Street – parking may not be easy. Our first visit still catches Pope Joan in its early stages on opening. Coffee was a little inconsistent, Cream of Mushroom soup was superb, Rice pudding with poached fruits was a tiny serve – smaller than a kids size – but flavours were good.  Toasted sandwich with pickled green tomatoes was good, but we thought the pickles were way too sharp and dominated the dish. There is potential here – we need to wait a few weeks to allow Pope Joan to establish itself. At the moment it rates 3 stars out of 6.

Rating: ***

Pope Joan, 77-79 Nicholson Street. Brunswick East. www.popejoan.com.au

Idyll Foods and Truffles – Trentham

While in Trentham we dropped in to Idyll Foods and had a great conversation with Truffle expert – Chris Macquet. He will have Truffles available for about 15 weeks during the year – from W.A. TAS, NSW and hopefully New Zealand (maybe white truffles). Trentham truffles will hopefully be online in a few years time. Trees were planted in Trentham a few years ago but unfortunately they were incorrectly innoculated with the Truffle spores. New plantings have been correctly innoculated and should be producing Truffles in a year or two. The Trentham climate is perfect for Truffle growth. Cool in winter – with a burst of sun mid July early August. Chris has on sale – innoculated oak tree seedlings – so you can start your own Truffle farm at home!
Idlyll Foods are at 14 Market Street, Trentham.  Tel: 5424-1144. There is a Truffle festival on 31st July and August 1st 2010 in Trentham. You can see more info at www.victrufflesfestival.com.au and enquiries at enquiries@victrufflesfestival.com.au