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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1000 Pound Bend – Melbourne CBD

#OccupieFitzroy Followers,

An FYI before I begin – I’m considering adding the audio widget to this blog. I figured MySpace was long ago, enough so that it must be considered completely ironic. I might put on Kanye, because this blog is all about… THE NORTH SIDE (PLEASE HIGH FIVE ME RIGHT NOW).

Anyways, I am writing about 1000 Pound Bend on this fine evening.

photo 1

THIS GUY…

This venue is definitely one of my CBD favs – it transcends the ever important boundary of cafe/late night bar, so it’s good to know there’s always something awesome open. The food tastes pretty fucking fantastic, however after brunching hardcore for some months now, I’m beginning to understand the value of originality in a menu. Also, their coffee is not *actually* the best I’ve ever had, although it’s still worth paying your $4 for a soy latte.

And the place is fucking hip.

Tucked inside an old warehouse space down Little Lonsdale St, this place is just oh, so Melbourne.  I find it particularly cosy during the winter months as it’s sufficiently heated, and an awesome place to have after dinner drinks while remaining considerably chilled. Everything’s a bit grungy and they have cool art. The staff haven’t exactly been the friendliest in my experience, but hospitality tends to do that to people. This hasn’t deterred me.

FUCKING DELICIOUS YET UNORIGINAL

FUCKING DELICIOUS YET UNORIGINAL

This place is functional enough so that its taking itself seriously becomes an afterthought. It’s not claustrophobic, there’s constant free wifi and places to plug your laptop in if you want to be productive. Therefore, it ticks all the boxes that an awesome venue should. It’s very essentially Melbourne, but it’s not exactly… humble. When your mum asks you what hipsters are, please take her here, and feed her tasty, non-conformist cider while listening to Lou Reed (RIP).

Occupie Metrics:

Door to Beard Index:  Everyone here LOOKS like they’re participating in Movember but Movember isn’t underground enough.

Coffee: It’s fine, but there are better places in the CBD to get your fix.

Noms: I could make most of this at home, and it could do with some more vego options. But the ones that exist are excellent. HALOUMI BURGER, DO IT.

How poor will it make me? It’s fine.

Is it instagram worthy? It certainly is! But it’s’ high competition. If you want to stand out there, invent a witty hashtag or some shit.

Final thoughts: URBAN SPOON DESCRIBES THIS PLACE AS ROMANTIC, I DON’T UNDERSTAND. They’re rated a measly 72% on UrbanSpoon, but perhaps there were some UrbanSpoon down voting wars happening because I know that happens (thug life, yo). Defs check it out though.

And to finish it off…

YEP, THIS IS ACTUALLY A THING #NORTHSIDE4LYF

-Maddy 

1000 Pound Bend on Urbanspoon

Hairy Canary- Little Collins St

First mistake of Hairy Canary. Using the word ‘hairy’. Gross.

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Despite its hairiness, I was excited to visit this place. My life long friend Caz suggested this as a good-bye dinner before her trip to Europe (everyone is leaving me and I’m sad!). It has a decent rating on Urban Spoon, and it’s cosy. The bartenders were young and charming, and we landed an awesome people-watching spot looking out onto Little Collins St.

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I was happy to be visiting somewhere a bit different to the standard Fitzroy cafes. However the issue with this place is definitely the price. I generally have very little money. But whatever, I decided tonight I would #YOLO this shit up and order something from this double-dollar-signs menu.

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This is Caz, pre-cheeseboard and excited about the menu.

We got to Hairy Canary, hoping for some yummy tapas and a decent wine. We were immediately greeted with handsome, charming (English) bartenders who got all cute when they forgot what the specials were. There were 2 vegetarian options in my price range; eggplant chips and a FUCKING CHEESEBOARD.

The Cheeseboard was $28. Yes, twenty eight fucking dollars. Caz and I decided to split it, thinking (like any normal person would) “it’s $28 worth of cheese, this should be a riot”. I got excited and ordered a Chilean red wine. An eclectic array of tunes ranging from Jose Gonzalez to ‘I think I wanna marry you‘ were playing in the background. The lighting was warm, we were feeling grand.

image-10This is what $28 worth of cheese looks like.

Our cheeseboard arrived, and we took a minute to recover from that charm of the English wait staff.  Then we looked down and felt nothing short of underwhelmed.

It tasted delicious, as any cheeseboard does. But I think they just took the scraps from last night’s soiree and chucked some strawberries on top. Call me old fashioned, but when I pay money for food I’m used to receiving something in return. Regardless, we basked in the glory of sophistication for a moment, but were quickly greeted again with hunger and an even emptier bank account. Boo.

The wine was amazing, partly because it was from Chile and partly because my usual array of cask wines have set the bar low.

Occupie Metrics:
Door to Beard Index: The beards exist, but more so in a ‘refined old man’ kind of way, than a ‘hungover and unshaven while riding a fixie’ kind of way.

Wine: Yes.

Noms: The eggplant chips may have been a more satisfying choice.

How poor will it make me? This is not an appropriate option for those light on coin. Buyer beware.

Final thoughts: It was cold outside, and this place was warm and inviting. It was fine to spend an evening here but I wish they were a bit more adventurous with their portions, and I wish I had more cash to spend on Chilean wine.

Hairy Canary on Urbanspoon

-Madeline

The Cornish Arms Hotel, Brunswick

The Cornish Arms in Brunswick is the first pub I’ve visited on behalf of Occupie Fitzroy. It’s the first Brunswick venue I’m blogging about. It also has a balls-awesome vegetarian menu. Everything is exciting.

I originally visited the Cornish Arms some years ago amidst a bad acid trip and to see my friend’s angry grunge band. Needless to say, the experience was unpleasant. I’m now extremely grateful to have forged some new memories of this classic venue.

This place is a really nice break from the wankery (and prices) of many Fitzroy venues. I’ve started frequenting the Cornish Arms every Monday night with a band of vegan-parma devotees and cider-holics, and I’m pretty excited to be spending regular hang times here. The place is chilled out and unpretentious, which is what you should be looking for on a Monday night. They have an impressive menu of vegetarian/vegan parmas and burgers, all at the finance-friendly price of $12. And they have cider. So no matter what, this place is either going to be good, great or amazing.

cornish arms 01

This is now my Monday night dinner. Noms.

*I know* it may just look like a typical pub meal, but nay! This be a mushroom and haloumi burger, the dinner of gods! And some chips (because every Monday night must include 2 cholesterol points). I would be happy to eat this every week for all of eternity. However I’m already feeling that pang of regret for having discovered this wonderous dish so early on in my exploration of the menu, because now I’m never going to order anything else. Woe.

cornish arms 03This is Nikki enjoying her mushroom burger and being a total gangsta.

The only thing almost (but not quite) as good as the mushroom burner and chips, is that every Monday night is an open mic night. Some open mic nights can be hit or miss, but this one involves a Shakespearean stringed instrument, and a guy who dances to his synthesiser. This place is pure, indulgent, north-side bliss.

cornish arms 02 AKA Lord of the Dance, this guy is a total badass.

Occupie Metrics:
Door to Beard Index: When I say this place is unpretentious, what I really mean is every kind of beard can be seen. Beards on hipsters, ageing alcoholics, north-side family men. Brunswick is diverse, thus the beards are varied and plentiful.

Beer: They have it.

Noms: SO GOOD. Apparently their vegan parmas are amazeballs but faux chicken weirds me out.

How poor will it make me? A full Monday night belly will cost you around $22 (burger and pint). Goes alright in my books (and my blog).

 

-Maddy

Cornish Arms Hotel on Urbanspoon

Bimbos Deluxe- Brunswick St

We are beginning with a Fitzroy classic, Bimbo Deluxe on Brunswick St

I’ve personally always found this place to be pretty good. Seconds after locking your fixie to a fence around the corner, you can see that this place just screams “fuck you…. we’re cool”. It has really sexy/dungeon-esque mood lighting, super freaky baby doll decor, and couches that are easy to get stuck in. It definitely clings onto the grunge that was once so pervasive in Fitzroy, and in parts closely resembles a cave. In fact, it actually has a cave.
The pizzas are often cheap and always amazing, with plenty of options for vegetarians like myself. However, eating said pizzas has proven difficult whilst being stuck in a couch, and at times I have ended up with a lap full of mushrooms (a warning for those lazy pizza eaters). I assume there is other food available, however when $4 pizzas are on the menu, who really gives a fuck about the salad.
Bimbos also do vodka infused with cool flavours, like watermelon and chili. It hangs in big vats above the bar, amongst even more freaky baby dolls. I assume it’s tasty, however a vodka-aided hangover from 2009 still lingers in my mind, so I no longer touch the stuff.They have the normal beer selection, and a fancy beer selection, of the ‘normal’ Fitzroy prices (see: ‘fuck drinking here is expensive’). Their cider (the only thing I’m usually concerned with) is great, however it was served to me in a fucking schooner. One of few downsides to this place: if I wanted a schooner I would go to fucking Sydney.

Occupie Metrics:
DBI: 3.0- This place has fierce beards, and many of them.
Noms: $4 pizza during certain times. Seeing as it’s $4 and it’s pizza, it is definitely good.
How poor will it make me? Food, not very. Drinks, probably. Because of those fucking schooners.

Final notes:
I visited this place on a Monday night. Like any bar, Monday nights are pretty chilled, kind of the way I like them. However a Saturday night is very different and seems to get filled with the kinds of people I actively try to avoid. Moral of the story: visit at your own risk, but it will probably be awesome.
Bimbos pizza get in me!
-Madeline

Bimbo Deluxe on Urbanspoon