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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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

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

Chin Chin – Melbourne CBD

It has been some time since #OccupieFitzroy graced your hearts and computer screens. I’ll admit I dropped the north-side ball for a moment there, and it was only two nights ago (over some hipster’s tears, aka PBR) that I was reminded this blog still exists. So seeing as I haven’t stopped eating, I shouldn’t stop blogging.

Chin Chin – There is something implied, when any of my friends mention they recently encountered Chin Chin. That implication being, ‘I’m poor, but through a divine combination of Mercury being in retrograde and some possible tax evasion, I was able to eat here’.

I experienced Chin Chin just recently, whilst attending an end-of-financial-year lunch (yes, really) with some colleagues. In the finance team, we like to party hard. And by party hard, I mean get paid to eat at one of Melbourne’s most popular restaurants. Times are tough.

The first thing to mention about Chin Chin is that it has a super cool, NYC vibe about it. I’ve never been to New York before, but I have seen every episode of Girls, so I’m certain this is a solid comparison to draw. Chin Chin is also really noisy, and being seated is often preceded by a long wait time. Both these factors, along with its triple dollar-sign price point ensure that Chin Chin is an enticing lunch/dinner time option for all those who probably don’t live on the North side. Some South of the Yarra Spending is required.

Nom Nom Nom Nom

The food however, is phenomenal. Despite the menu being cluttered and light on vegetarian options (#wankers), it’s almost guaranteed your meals will be incredible. They produce some seriously sublime food. I ordered some DIY rice paper rolls, a South Indian curry with a side of naan bread and some weird and whacky dessert, but I’m just not cultured enough to describe how fucking fantastic it was. I’ll admit it did make me wonder if this is how the 1% enjoys their food every day. Is this their default? Do they not understand the single dollar-sign on an UrbanSpoon rating? Shit got a bit existential as I remembered my options for dinner that night probably involved canned soup and a cheese toasty.

Chin Chin is modelled off Asian dining culture, so the menu briefly alludes to something about “designed to be shared”. What that actually means is that you need to order two meals and a side to adequately fill your belly with Asian Fusion. I’ll repeat: Mind-blowingly good food, but prepare to spend.

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This was my dessert. I don’t remember what it was, but I would have been fine with just half of it. It involved honeycomb.

Occupie Metrics:

Door to Beard Index:  Low. Very low. Beards are indicative of one’s existence as a (semi) poor arts student. A north side style beard at Chin Chin must be met with scepticism.

Coffee: Their coffee is an afterthought to their food, but it took me right out of my food coma.

Noms: Stunning.

How poor will it make me? Are you under 30? Do you live in a share-house? If so, the numbers will probably scare you.

Is it instagram worthy? Everything about it is pretty. Make your followers jealous.

Final thoughts: Great place. There is even a Chin Chin recipe book available, just in case you wanted to realise exactly how bad your cooking skills at home are.

-M

Chin Chin on Urbanspoon

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.

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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

Vegie Bar- Brunswick St

I absolutely adore this place.

If it wasn’t for Vegie Bar, vegetarian food just wouldn’t be  cool. Enthusiastic carnivores would have NO CLUE what can really be done with tofu and veggies. Brunswick St would probably become a wasteland because I’m convinced that 90% of its traffic is going to or from this sublime venue.

I’m surprised to read that it only has an 87% rating on UrbanSpoon. But as I learned by reading the comments, some of those twats don’t seem to realise that this is  the most popular restaurant in the north-side neighbourhood, and a short waiting time in a cosy and immaculately decorated court yard may be required. What the fuck ever.

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Yeah, nom. Raw stuff.

This place never fails to impress me. I went through a huge mi-goreng phase here some years back, but this time I ordered the faux-chicken wrap. I find faux chicken to be a bit hit or miss at times, but these guys definitely get it right. It was only $9, and the portion size was spot on, despite many of their other meals being quite enormous at times.

I always find the service here very decent, but typical of a restaurant that is probably 50% over capacity at all times. I’ve always been met with friendly (and attractive) wait staff who are helpful at all times, but it seems that other patrons expect to be waited on hand and foot, and are frustrated when this does not occur. The moral of this story: Vegie Bar is busy for a reason. Be thankful that anyone is providing you a plate with this glorious food on it, and if it doesn’t suit you, then take yourself and your platinum credit card back to fucking Chapel St.

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Everything looks cool!

Door to Beard Index: Absolutely everyone comes to this place, because it is that amazing. Beards included.

Beer: They have a wunderbar selection of ciders and beer. I would like to drink more of it.

Noms: This is probably the most popular restaurant on Brunswick St, and for a very good reason.

How poor will it make me? I used to think this place was expensive, but compared to most brunch meals, it’s very well priced.

Final thoughts: This place is always busy, and I’ve always had to wait a while for a table. These waits usually include a cosy drink at their courtyard bar, listening to some very decent music. Definitely an all time fave.

-M.

Vegie Bar on Urbanspoon