Howler – Brunswick

This is Occupie Fitzroy, and welcome to my very first scathing review of a north-side dining location. The culprit: Howler, Brunswick. 

Context: My friends love their loaded fries. We read this article a few months back, decided to give these recommendations a go and now it’s Howler’s turn.

I wouldn’t say that the pubs and bars of Brunswick generally take themselves too seriously. Brunswick is diverse, and its hospitality industry reflects that. For anyone unfamiliar with the street style of Brunswick, you’re just as likely to see a tattoo-clad gentleman, riding his Samson Fixie down Sydney Rd with a rollie between his fingers as you are a hijab-wearing mother driving her three children to school, an elderly nonna purchasing some meat for Sunday roast or a tracksuit toting junkie that hasn’t seen a full mouth of teeth since age 15. There’s an authenticity to Brunswick that means it can be a bit cool, but its reality is checked before it gets too ahead of itself. Howler is the exception to this, and with the exposed brick and industrial chic styling that makes Broadsheet readers wet in the pants, it’s done a fine job of ferrying some of the Fitzroy brunch vibe across the north side of Park St.

I should make it clear that Howler’s cooler-than-thou vibe is not the deal breaker. At first, the hanging gardens and indoor bike racks are an awesome first impression to this venue, and their menu seems satisfying for a moment. But please, allow me to enlighten you with what followed:

Arrive. Sit down at some tiny tables. Try to move tiny tables, and realise said tables are bolted to the ground. Lose 10 points.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever expressed my deep distain for unmovable tables on this blog (especially at popular venues), but this hatred is there and it’s real. For one, these uselessly unmovable tables are never fucking big enough to serve their sole function of keeping my food off the ground (they barely did in this case). And often they’re placed too fucking close for private conversations or too far away for friendly ones. Unless Howler has a serious concern for tropical cyclones tearing through the streets of Brunswick with the mission to upturn their piss tiny tables, the purpose of bolting tables to the ground is entirely lost on me.

Whatever. I get over Howler’s lack of functional furniture and order some food. They have a pretty good burger + beer special. I go for the saganaki burger and a bowl of the togarashi fries, and enjoy another cider while my food is prepared.

The fries arrive first… and they stink. This is no metaphorical stink, they actually smell extraordinarily pungent. Confusion ensues. It turns out they stink because they’re garnished with fucking fish flakes of all things (did I ever mention that I’m vegetarian and really hate stinky fish?). I double check the menu to see there isn’t some fancy new breed of stinky fish flakes that I hadn’t heard about, but their menu mentions nothing of this stinky fish garnish.  We return the bowl back to the waiter who looks at it with the same confused look and says “I have no idea why that’s there”.

The saga continues as we wait 40min for the rest of our food to arrive. I’m not usually one to complain too much about slow service but I had just been taunted with almost-delicious togarashi fries and I was getting impatient. My saganaki burger arrived, and while I was pretty stoked to be stuffing my mouth with cheese (as I always am), I was promptly assaulted with the reality that saganaki is just a poor excuse for haloumi and that it doesn’t below in this burger or in my mouth.

Why would you not just make this a haloumi burger, Howler? Has the humble haloumi become too mainstream? If haloumi is the bacon for vegetarians, saganaki is the fucking beef jerky that’s sat on your supermarket shelf for the last seven months. The first two bites are filled with the promise of satisfaction, then it just becomes too dry and too salty. Even thinking about it dehydrates me. There’s a time and a place for food of this intensity, and Howler with their non-functional tables is not it.

To Howler’s credit, their wait staff were really cool and patient with us during this trying time. I also don’t like to rag on wait staff for issues beyond their control but in this case, I don’t need to. I think they felt bad but overcompensated by bringing another six bowls of loaded fries to our table (only 3 of which we had ordered), but two of them still had stinky fucking fish flakes on them.

Occupie Metrics:

Door to Beard Index: It’s high. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re handing out vouchers for finger tattoos along with their substandard jerky burgers.

Noms: Their food gets two thumbs down along with all the sarcasm and bitterness of a true north-side resident.

How poor will it make me? If you choose to experience Howler’s kitchen for yourself, you’ll be paying pretty standard dinner prices. Their specials go ok too but you can get better food for the same price (or cheaper) in most areas of Brunswick.

Is it instagram worthy? Yes, if it’s daytime. They take an interesting approach to mood lighting after sunset, in the sense that they don’t have any. Even the best Instagram filters and manual tweaking of contrast levels can’t do you any favours. Most Howler photos will be blurry photos.

Food blog fury: This is it. Their 3.9 rating on Zomato tells me not everyone has shared this experience but I needed to write a negative review eventually.

NEW METRIC- Occupie Enthusiasm: Does this get a ‘Fuck yeah’, a ‘yeah, alright’ or a ‘yeah… nah’?

Yeah… nah. Obvs.

Final thoughts: I guess Howler is attempting to fuse Asian food with the standard pub meals Brunswick usually does so well. I’ve paid for plenty of worse meals in my life but considering Howlers reputation, I expected a little better and I expected no fucking fish flakes. I still had a enjoyable night because my friends can make most things enjoyable, but I could have gone without the cheesy jerky burgers.

Howler Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Bowery to Williamsburg – Melbourne CBD

This post has been a long time coming.

Warning: I’m about to spend a few hundred words ranting about bagels and haloumi (two of my favourite foods), & why this New York style diner has made all my food dreams come true. I’ll also be introducing some new metrics to categorise my eating experiences into. Brace yourself.

Where do I even begin with this place… I’ve probably consumed food and/or coffee from Bowery to Williamsburg at least 50 times (not bad for someone who doesn’t actually have an infinite eating budget, despite what this blog may suggest). My place of employment used to be situated a casual 3 minute wander from Bowery to Williamsburg, just off Flinders St, and this led to the consuming of breakfast bagels on an almost-daily basis. This then also led to bagel runs on behalf of my entire office. They stock 5 & Dime bagels which are baked fresh just a few blocks down the street, and they smother them in delicious schmears that are guaranteed to give you a bagel butt worth twerking. My workplace was beginning to collectively develop some serious bagel butts, but then our office moved a few more blocks down the street and we developed a big case of the CBFs come our usual bagel breakfast time.

I’ve fallen so in love with 5 & Dime bagels that I’ll follow their stock list all around inner Melbourne, however I’m yet to encounter somewhere that gets the toasting/bagel-schmear-ration as good as Bowery does (perhaps with the exception of the 5 & Dime bakery themselves). Many Melburnians believe bagels are simply a bread roll with a hole in the middle, and I’m excited to see 5 & Dime changing these blasphemous ways.

Fast forward 12 months from my initial bagel discovery: I’ve only made a few visits back to Bowery, however 2 weeks ago I returned and saw something very new and very pleasing on their chalk board menu: A haloumi bagel, available at 2pm. I was stunned. Translation: Bagels had not sold out, and I could put one with haloumi in my face. Phenomenal.

My favourite bagels are the aptly named everything bagels, and on this day I managed to score the final one. Their lunch time haloumi bagel came with sweet potato, plain schmear, roasted bell peppers and basil. I also happened to enjoy this bagel with a friend who spent seven years living in New York, so she knows her shit about bagels. She approved.

The haloumi bagel got me hooked again. I returned again one week later to enjoy one more, and it was just as magical as the last time. Rolling Stones don’t know shit about the satisfaction this glorious meal could provide. I was also reminded upon returning a second time that Bowery serve a bomb-ass mac’n’cheese. See photos below for hunger inducing details.

Occupie Metrics:

Door to Beard Index:  Medium. Its CBD location amongst the fancy pants that work on Collins St mean there are more suits than beards. Also, tourists.

Coffee: They serve Padre Coffee, a roast I only recently discovered was super close to my Brunswick East digs. Only downside is they just serve one size, so not as helpful if you’ve had a big night or are falling into a bagel-coma. However Padre Coffee is good coffee.

Noms: Tops. They definitely serve the best bagels in Melbourne. Their menu can be a bit vegetarian-adverse at times but I’ve always found something that’s incredible and I will always return.

How poor will it make me? Extremely poor because you will want to eat there every day. Also, gym memberships can be pricy and that bagel butt isn’t going to work itself off (who am I kidding, I give no shits about bagel butts).

Is it instagram worthy? Yes, and it’s clear Bowery’s Instagrammers take themselves quite seriously. The #Bowerytowilliamsburg hashtag is looking fine.

Food blog fury: The only negative Zomato review is from someone who actually hails from Brooklyn, saying it’s overpriced and they could get a better sandwich for $5 back home. They should be reminded that the reason food prices are so cheap in the US is because the people making it are not earning a proper living wage and can’t afford basic health care. PS. Soz about your overpriced sandwich.

NEW METRIC- Occupie Enthusiasm: Does this get a ‘Fuck yeah’, a ‘yeah, alright’ or a ‘yeah… nah’?

Bowery to Williamsburg firmly sits in the ‘fuck yeah’ category.

Final thoughts: I absolutely adore this place. Bowery will always impress. They’ve also opened up another store in Hardware Lane which looks just as swish but also has the same menu (I was slightly disappointed by this). However they did swap some chicken for haloumi in their waffle special which made me very happy (see below).

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Bowery to Williamsburg Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Green Park – Super Special Coffee Tasting, Carlton North

Last week I experienced the highlight of my short career as a north-side snob/food critic: I was invited to a Zomato meet-up and fed divine coffee with freshly cooked pastries at Green Park. I’m not even going to cloak this experience in some sort of humblebrag; I was invited to a foodie meet up, and it was totally rad.

For those who aren’t aware, UrbanSpoon (everyone’s favourite food app with terrible usability and poorly managed user reviews) has recently been taken over by Zomato. I do have a slight soft spot for UrbanSpoon as it was the very first app I ever downloaded on my very first iPhone (those many years ago!). Zomato seem to have upgraded the app from its former 2009 glory and actually made it useful tool to keep for when you get hungry. They also invite their local bloggers to coffee meet-ups, and this time Occupie Fitzroy was included on the guest list #fuckyeah

The host for this meet up was Green Park, on Park St in Carlton North, and it focused mostly on their new blend of coffee, ‘Capital Blend’ from Small Batch Roasting Company. While I’ve been using coffee to keep me awake for years now, I actually know very little about how it’s made, what makes it delicious and why the hell everyone’s drinking filter coffee these days. Our brews were served to us by a lovely dude called Kyle, and he told us that this roast comes from a farm in Guatemala where the farmers can live rent free, and also have space to grow their own food. Awesome.

We started off with a filter coffee from the Guatemalan roast. For a few years now, I’ve been wondering “why the shit does anyone drink filter coffee, it’s the American way to drink coffee and America knows nothing about coffee”. However this was a magical day, and I was fed a filter coffee that was actually quite delicious. Turns out that filter coffee is made delicious when the coffee itself is delicious, ie. from a farm in Guatemala and fed to me at an exclusive coffee meet up. As there is no milk or sugar to hide anything that might be nasty, you need to make sure your roast is in top shape.

Kyle then also made us all a short black (those things are not for the faint of heart) and a third coffee of our choice. Yes, I drank three coffees in an hour on a Saturday afternoon and managed to avoid a heart attack. The soy flat white I ordered was also delicious, but I definitely had a new found appreciation for this coffee having just consumed it black. I’ve learned that milk and sugar can hide many things, and thankfully this Guatemalan blend had nothing to hide.

We were also fed some incredible snacks, my favourite being donuts from Cobb Lane Bakery in Yarraville and a chocolate mousse made fresh for us at Green Park. A meal from their standard menu doesn’t look like it would disappoint, either (it includes haloumi and a decent vegetarian spread). Thankfully the prices aren’t anything outrageous, especially for the area.  I’ll be returning here for some dinner in the near future.

Occupie Metrics; I think the only metrics I can really judge this on are:

Coffee: Amazeballs. Try the filter coffee in a bid to understand coffee lovers in Melbourne are not crazy, we’re not following America’s lead on caffeine consumption and it can actually be tasty. With any luck, Kyle could make you one.

Is it Instagram worthy: Green Park was actually closed to the public as they were setting up for a wedding, but I’m pretty sure this place looks fantabulous even without 40 bouquets being hung from the rafters and the oh-so-wedding-esque music being sound checked for 40min (although, Etta James’ At Last was a rather fitting soundtrack to 7 food bloggers foodgasming over those donuts). The staff were super rad too.

Don’t forget, Occupie Fitzroy is now on Instagram! Click that button below! 

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Green Park Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Little River Vegetarian Cafe – Brunswick

What can I say about the past couple of months other than… I’ve been some places.

Brunch at Little River with Thomas and epic-babe-Naomi was my first brunch after a whirlwind of moving house, 5 weeks overseas including 1 week at some desert party called Burning Man (epic), followed by another week at some awesome bush party called Burning Seed (also epic), followed by four solid days of sleep. I somehow managed to fit some brunch in there. It was in my new hood of Brunswick (my dedication to the north-side is admirable), and it was fucking rad.

Little River is located on Albion St up the top end of Brunswick. In true Brunswick style it’s nestled amongst seventeen bridal shops, three Lebanese bakeries and a converted warehouse-turn swanky apartment block with some ‘how did this get here’ style street art conveniently located along its trim. Little River is unassuming, and it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to remind everyone of it’s Brunswick location. It was not however, playing any music by the Little River Band, and this was bitterly disappointing.

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Undecided whether this is considered latte art.

The staff were super friendly. I had some serious difficulty deciding what to eat as it’s unusual to have anymore than four vegetarian options on a good day, but after overcoming this decision paralysis I settled on eggs florentine with spinach and mushrooms. Simple yet effective. The other potential brunch option was a tomato and haloumi grilled croissant. For anyone that hasn’t met me, my love for haloumi can border on obsessive… it was with great reluctance that I opted for this instead.

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Love me some motherfucking mushrooms

Alongside my haloumi obsession… I also have a bagel obsession. Pictured below is a cabinet full of delicious bagels, a bunch of motherfucking haloumi, and no fucking meat. As well as some delicious pastries, because fuck yeah. Little River wants to see that Brunswick butt turn into a bagel butt, and this cabinet of spectacular, meat-free deliciousness is what’s going to achieve that.

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Little River wants your bagel butts

Door to Beard Index:  Despite Brunswick’s density of beards I would still rate this a medium.

Coffee:  Good. My coffee snob radar didn’t register this brew as anywhere near sub-standard.

Noms: Tops. Extra points due to the range of options, and their enthusiasm for bagels and haloumi, all in the name of bagel butts.

How poor will it make me? There are plenty of options below $10 which is a nice change to Melbourne’s outrageous brunch prices. Pretty sure breakfast hasn’t cost less than a ten dollar note since 1997. Bigger meals are upwards of $15.

Is it instagram worthy? Somewhat. Meals are plated nicely and you’ll definitely get some likes on your foodie hashtag of choice. The decor is simple, a welcome change to the exposed brick of every Fitzroy cafe in existence.

Food blog fury: There’s only one negative Zomato review and I think it’s from someone on crack. They said the food tasted like canned food and that they could have gone to Coles and got some canned food instead; a confusing scenario as I’ve never seen bagels, or haloumi, or eggs florentine with a soy flat white available in a can. And if it was, I would be really fucking excited and not complaining about canned food on Zomato. They then signed off with the witty, unclickable hashtag of #stepupyourgame and probably went to Coles to cry in the canned food isle.

Final thoughts: I appreciate how Little River seems to avoid almost all of the wank associated with most north-side cafes these days. No snobbery, just a good time and some bagel butts had by all. This place comes recommended.

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This is how vegetarians like to party.

Also, DID YOU KNOW OCCUPIE FITZROY IS ON INSTAGRAM NOW? Exciting times indeed, you can now stay up to date with every coffee I drink and every bagel I consume. Follow me now! Then, listen to this glorious song by the Little River Band and admire their fabulous hair.

Little River Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I might actually be a writer now, also check out my Instagram

I might actually be a writer now… in the sense that, I have been paid to have my words published on actual pieces of paper. Rather than, my ramblings just followed on the internet by people who haven’t seen any sunlight in three days.

That’s right folks, I wrote things and other people wanted to read it.

Beat Eats Magazine in Melbourne have published two of my articles. Neither of them are *specific* to food, instead they’re about Tinder dates and being hungover, two very regular experiences for most Melbournians aged 17+.

You can read them right here. I’m on page 16 & 22. I hope you have a laugh.

For now, please enjoy my serious face (I’m eating Ben & Jerry’s on Haight St and it’s hot) :

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ALSO: 

Occupie Fitzroy is now on Instagram! Huzzah! I was reluctant to take on yet another account (I currently manage 3) but I figured I should be embracing this smart phone-foodie revolution so that you can follow my food experiences and my face IN REAL TIME. You can check it out right here. There’s currently nothing on it but that will change soon.

-M

Shifty Chevre – Fitzroy

Picture this: You wake up on a sunny but chilled autumn morning in some hip Melbourne suburb. Vague memories of the previous night come trickling back, memories that involve Norwegians and a cowboy hat. Your hangover begins to register. Your smart phone reminds you that you’re running late for a brunch date in an adjacent and equally hip suburb, so you do what it tells you and promptly join your friends for brunch while you piece together the previous nights escapades.

Upon your arrival to this brunch venue, your wildest dreams are affirmed as you step into a cheese cave. Nay, a cheese heaven. That stinky, glorious mould is everywhere. You’re almost swimming in it, and your hangover begins to subside. Delicious, dairy delights from exotic regions in France comes accompanied with bread, mushrooms, more cheese, coffee, and then some champagne because yolo.

This was my Sunday morning, and it was fucking glorious.

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Photo via Broadsheet (My iPhone can’t take photos like this)

I’m not lying when I say Shifty Chevre is a cheese lover’s heaven. There is everything you could want, including cheese, wine, coffee, attractive wait staff, a sunny courtyard, and my hot friends. Depending on your mood, you could take the traditional route and order a cheese board that comes with crackers and fruit paste (boring), or in a defective state such as mine, you could order the most fancy fucking cheese toastie that has ever graced my cheese-adoring eyes.

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This toastie involved crusty bread, mushrooms, and leek (a bit random but it works) that had quite literally been soaked in a three-cheese blend, and grilled to perfection. This meal has set an entirely new standard for the humble cheese toastie. Masterchef ain’t got shit on this delightful, crispy goodness. But I digress. My point is that I fucking love cheese, and Shifty Chevre has managed to produce some cheesy, culinary masterpieces. I know of very few legal substances people crave in the same way they crave cheese. The minds behind Shifty Chevre figured this one out and are winning.

It was also decided that champagne was an appropriate addition to our morning brunch. We needed something to help us feel a little more fancy (see: ridiculous), because a gourmet French brunch on a sunny Fitzroy patio wasn’t quite meeting our standards of sophistication.

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This is my yolo face. My friends laughed at me when I took this selfie.

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More cheese. And hot friends.

Occupie Metrics:

Door to Beard Index:  It’s medium. Cheese lovers come in all shapes and sizes, and the ones visiting Shifty Chevre seem to enjoy beards of both the ironic and non-ironic variety.

Coffee: It’s your standard inner-north brew. Pretty good, it’ll take you right out of your impending cheese coma.

Noms: There’s a variety of cheeses to suit every taste and level of hangover, and it’s a vegan’s worst nightmare. User reviews on Zomato (formerly Urban Spoon), seem to be mistaking the cheese for crack. I’m not the only one who’s into this in a serious way.

How poor will it make me? Was it pay day yesterday? Go for it. Otherwise it’s on the upper-end of doable, providing you don’t get all fancy and demand spontaneous champagne.

Is it instagram worthy? Yes. Who doesn’t love an instagram feed full of cheese? Surely there’s an #cheesesofinstagram or #cheeseporn hashtag floating around that Shifty Chevre has something to do with.

Final thoughts: It’s like a giant lounge room. A giant lounge room where all your dreams come true. Also, check out the bathroom (weird advice but it’s quite the surprise).

On a slightly related note, URBAN SPOON HAS NOW TURNED INTO ZOMATO, WHAT THE SHIT? They still feature user reviews that are equally as hilarious as the Urban Spoon reviews, but their website is way prettier. Thank you Zomato.

More to come soon!

-M

Click to add a blog post for Shifty Chevre on Zomato

Smith & Daughters – Fitzroy

In the name of all things Fitzroy, stop what you are doing right now. Whatever it is. Stop eating your toenails. Stop banging your housemate. Because Smith & Daughters exists and they can feed you a foodgasm in the form of Mexi-vegan delights, so everything else you will ever do is meaningless.

Smith & Daughters is certainly the talk of the Northside town right now, however it must be noted that many of these words are from Caroline Springs residents who fail to fathom a world beyond fried chicken wings (is that some Northside sass going on? Ummm, yes). UrbanSpoon has been quick to label this venue as a vegan mecca, though I would more accurately label it as a mecca for people who just love to eat the shit out of something delicious and can handle an absence animal carcass, served by attractive hipsters. They also feature ampersands prominently in their branding, which is deserving of some serious vegan brownie points. S&D know how to impress.

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Ampersands, yo.

My Smith & Daughters experience went a little something like this:

I booked a table for about 9.30 on a Saturday night. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a waiter whose excessively dark fashion decisions did not quite match her sunny disposition. She apologised and told us that we may have to wait an extra 10min for our table in such a way that made it seem my childhood pet had suddenly died. I appreciated her concern for my culinary wellbeing. We were seated on some stools facing the window, a prime location to watch the Brunswick Street ruckus pass us by, probably on their way to Perseverance or somewhere equally as frightful. I ordered a glass of New Zealand red, delicious as it didn’t come out of a $10 box (my standards are lofty). We were then awkwardly greeted by another waiter who also apologised for the excessive wait of 10min, and offered us more drinks. Approximately four minutes later, we were seated and had ordered our meals. Turns out vegans can also do efficiency.

10min later, food had arrived on our table. Our side involved potatoes mixed with something vegan that tasted like chorizo. Our main dish involved a tortilla ‘bowl’ of sorts, filled with more chorizo-esque edibles, some corn, beans, jalapeños and my favourite thing in existence: guacamole. I can confidently say this dish has redefined what food means to me. And what living means to me. My descriptions of such meals shall remain ambiguous, partly because some mystique must be reserved for your inevitable visit, but also because I was too fucking excited about life and forgot to photograph the menu.

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This is it.

The possibility of dessert diminished swiftly as our bellies filled up the best fucking meal we had eaten in months. I have since raved about Smith & Daughters to everyone who has dared to look me in the eye. I plan to write a play about this glorious venue.

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I enjoy wine.

Occupie Metrics:

Door to Beard Index:  Whether they be of the hipster or hippie kind, vegans tend to be attached to beards. The S&D beard index is high.

Coffee: Apparently they do a mean coconut milk latte however coffee was not on our agenda this fine evening.

Noms: I’m hoping my previous ranting has made this metric redundant.  

How poor will it make me? It doesn’t matter. You will pay it. (Not much, <$50).

Is it instagram worthy? Yes. The #SmithAndDaughters hashtag is full of badly filtered photos of the same meal that I ordered. However the walls are pretty.

Final thoughts: These words may possibly suggest to you that I’m prone to hyperbole. However I challenge you to eat here and not feel the same way.

-M

Smith and Daughters on Urbanspoon