Breakfast on Bridge: Grace Food and Wine

Grace Food and Wine
306 Bridge Road
Richmond 3121
Ph: 03 9429 8929
As Bf and I sat in the very pleasant outdoor veranda one morning at Grace, looking through the extensive breakfast menu, I thought it might be time to ditch the usual Big Breakfast or Eggs Benedict in favour of a breakfast dish a little less mainstream. Unfortunately, by the time I’d finished my meal I was feeling unsatisfied and seriously craving that big breaky.

Grace cassoulet of chorizo, spicy beans and poached eggs with a parmesan crust, avocado salsa and sour cream ($16)

This was my first breakfast cassoulet. I’m not in any hurry to try a second. It was a fairly flavourless bowl of mush with a dry, bland “parmesan crust” which really just tasted like breadcrumbs. I enjoyed mixing the beans, sour cream and avocado salsa towards the end of the dish, but I was after breakfast, not Mexican burrito filling.

Grace big breakfast of poached eggs, bacon, sausages, tomato, mushrooms, beans, spinach and a hash brown on toasted Turkish bread ($17.50)

Bf, on the other hand, had “one of the best big breakfasts” he’s had, trading the poached eggs for creamy, light scrambled ones instead. The tomatoes, a breakfast side that can sometimes be a bit dull, were strong in flavour from the fresh herbs sprinkled on top, and were given a smokey flavour from, I suspect, being cooked in the same pan as the bacon fat.
Drinks here are good; I had a beautiful creamy chai latte and Bf enjoyed his strawberry thickshake. I felt like I hardly saw the wait staff, as though service was just fine but not outstanding, but this could just be because we were outside, away from the action. Despite my cassoulet disappointment, Bf’s breakfast has given me confidence in the rest of the menu, and I’m very interested in going back to sample one of the $9.00 lunch specials.

Grace Food & Wine on Urbanspoon

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Breakfast on Bridge: Ilios

Ilios
144 Bridge Road
Richmond
Ph: 03 9428 6144

Bf and I needed a quick breakfast on Bridge Road before work and I was in such a hurry that I wasn’t going to worry about taking pictures or reviewing the place. After the service and food we received at Ilios, however, I couldn’t not share the experience.
We both ordered big breakfasts and, after about five minutes of sitting outside, realised we hadn’t been asked how we’d like our eggs done. I went inside to tell our waitress and was greeted by a bunch of surly looking floor staff, standing around behind the bar, none seeming too keen to find out what I needed. I found our waitress, who was by far the best out of the bunch, and asked if it was too late to ask for scrambled eggs. She spoke to the kitchen, who said it was fine.

This is is what the kitchen sent out, and a waiter delivered without question…

Cut up fried eggs; a terrible attempt at disguising the mistake of the staff. I understand that the kitchen would not be happy throwing out perfectly good fried eggs, but the menu specifies that the eggs are served however we like and good wait staff should remember to ask.

I found it quite offensive that the kitchen thought I was stupid enough not to notice, or that my standards were so low that I wouldn’t care. I can just imagine the conversation between the chefs before our meals were sent out, them assuming that I wouldn’t mind and deciding that the food was “good enough”. I also was amazed that the wait staff let this go out without question; as a waitress myself, if I saw that coming out of my kitchen I would ask why the eggs looked so strange.

The rest of the big breakfast was quite good; the beverages we had – a latte and a mango smoothie – were great, but the poor service and lack of respect to customers means I won’t be coming back.

N.B: Ilios has recently been put on the market for sale.

Fabulous Fresco service

Fresco Bar and Grill at Amora Hotel Riverwalk
649 Bridge Rd
Richmond 3121
Ph: 03 9246 1200‎
There’s always a risk with hotel restaurants. Sometimes the food is fabulous and the service flawless; other times it seems as though the restaurant was an after thought once the hotel was completed, an extra place within the hotel to make a bit of money rather than providing an excellent hospitality experience. The bf and I decided to check out Fresco, a tiny dining room on the edge of the Yarra whose ambiance loses points with cheap bistro-style chairs and candle holders from the local $2 shop, but whose staff make up for it with almost faultless service.
Grilled bruschetta, pesto, Roma tomato, red onion and cheese ($12)
A fairly small serving size for $12, but nonetheless strong, fresh flavours and great with the accompanying rocket and balsamic.

Turkish bread with a trio of dips – shown clockwise from top is carrot and curry; avocado; and hummus ($12).

In Matt Preston’s new book, Cravat-A-Licious (Random House), Preston warns against ordering “a trio of” anything, in particular the trio of dips, suggesting that “their presence can be a sign that the role of the chef in that establishment has been reduced to peeling the foil off tubs and waiting for the microwave to go ‘ping’.” Indeed, the dips were nice enough but the carrot and curry tasted and looked more like eggplant, and the avocado reminded me of those pale, bland processed dips from the supermarket.

Katsu king prawns with sesame salad and sweet chili ($15.50).

Bf asked if this entree dish could be ordered in a main size; the waitress told us it could. When it arrived we thought it was a rather small main – “Imagine how small the entree must be”, quipped Bf. When the bill came and we saw we’d only been charged for the entree size we were informed that the other waitress was new, and didn’t yet know that the size of the dishes could not be changed. To apologise for the mistake, we were given the more expensive meal for free when we presented our entertainment card.


“Fresco char-grill” – choose from sirloin or eye fillet beef, chicken breast or salmon fillet. All char-grills are served with crushed chat potato, spring onion and parmesan cake, and a choice of wild mushroom ragu and porchini powder, or peppercorn cream sauce with rock salted roasted Roma tomato.

Shown here is the black Angus sirloin of beef with peppercorn cream sauce ($31.95)

The sirloin was nice, but a little more medium than medium rare – it seems to be the case that at a lot of restaurants you have to ask for your meat to be more rare than you actually want it. The tomatoes were fine but hardly rock salted, and reminded me of the kind of tomatoes you’d quickly whip up in the fry pan for breakfast. Probably the highlight was the potato, spring onion and parmesan cake: light and fluffy with a slightly crispy outer, great for soaking up the rich jus from the sirloin.
The value here is good, but not great – what makes it worth visiting is the service. On the night, there were about four waitresses on the floor, but it was one young girl in particular who was exceptional and was clearly holding the whole team up. She was attentive but never annoying, and when she saw my camera she asked if she could take a photo of Bf and I with it. We left the restaurant feeling happy and relaxed and a lot of that came down to this waitress who was bubbly and always smiling, and for her, nothing was too much trouble.

You won’t be blown away by your meal, but if you’re looking for a contemporary restaurant that’s reasonably priced – especially if you have an Entertainment card – expect to enjoy good food and near flawless service.

Holy Shuck!

Royal Oak Hotel
527 Bridge Road
Richmond
Ph: 03 9428 4200

Walking along to work the other day, my jaw literally dropped when I saw this sign. $1 oysters for the whole month! I was so excited; one of my favourite foods for only a dollar at the local. Then I remembered that I was standing outside the Royal Oak, a TAB pub whose largest space is taken up by pokies and a sports area; a place I had never eaten at before and probably wouldn’t have tried if it weren’t for the oyster special.

Natural oysters, $1 each. Kilpatrick, $1.50 each.

A fresh, salty natural oyster normally overwhelms my palate with its refreshing brine and soft, smooth texture. A perfect oyster leaves me delaying eating anything else for as long as possible to savour that amazing taste. Last night, I left with a pleasant taste in my mouth, but that’s all it was; the oysters were just “nice”. The taste was more fishy than fresh and salty, and presentation could have been better; rather than the usual rock salt or ice, the oysters came out on a bed of browning iceberg lettuce.

I’ve often walked past this pub and looked in at the rows of elderly people sitting at the slot machines, and it seemed like little else was going on in there. Indeed, when J and I went, the only people in the bistro were ourselves and a family of four. “We have our nights”, said the waitress, especially when the footy’s on. For anyone who has spent an afternoon or evening at the MCG I can understand the appeal of this pub; cheap beer and the constantly changing specials, including steak nights and parma nights, make the Royal Oak seem like a good option for a quick, cheap feed. Service is surprisingly young and friendly, too.

These oysters are a bargain but they’re not worth crossing town for. If you’re a local, stick to the kilpatrick variety; the rich, tangy sauce and crispy bacon helps to distract from the mediocre quality of the oyster.

Famous, authentic and "palate tingling" food

Gurkha’s Cafe
Bridge Road
Richmond 3121
Ph: 03 9425 9007

At 8pm on a Monday night, J and I walked into the Bridge Road outlet of the Gurkha’s chain to find it buzzing with conversation and laughter from tables full of young diners. On a cold, rainy evening when many of the other restaurants along Bridge Road were packing up for the night, the food and atmosphere at Gurkha’s was the perfect refuge.

We were greeted with a smile and a bowl of crunchy pappadums and relish. A bottle of water sat on our table, but glasses weren’t delivered until after our meals had been brought out. Service here is friendly and helpful, but staff are young and their focus is getting the food out to the tables, rather than taking note of what else is happening on the floor – you might have to literally grab them to get their attention.

Dal Bhat Masu – Nepali style platter, rice or bread with your choice of meat curry ($16.90).

I chose to have bread with my meal, and as I was struggling to choose which meat I wanted the waitress informed me I was also allowed to have fish. She couldn’t tell me the name of the sauce my fish was coming in, but described it as a spicy, creamy, almost sweet sauce. This was pretty spot on, the sauce was deliciously rich and tomatoey. The taste of the fish was good but the skin was left on, and I didn’t really enjoy chewing the bumpy, flaky scales.

Dal Bhat – Nepali style platter, rice or bread with lentil and vegetable curry ($15.90).

J had the vegetarian version – the same dish as the one I had with a variation on the curry. The other dishes accompanying the curries were dhal and a stir fry of Asian greens in a salty clear sauce. We both felt that the platter was a good way to sample Nepalese cuisine, allowing us to try a little of everything. Each dish was delicious, the serving of bread was generous, and the meal was great value for money. In fact everything on the menu is reasonably priced, with most mains around $13.

Prince Champagne: Vodka, strawberry liqueur and chilled champagne ($6.90)
The champagne cocktail was nice enough but I could barely taste the liqueur or vodka; it really just tasted like champagne. Still, I look forward to visiting again to sample their good list of cocktails, a bargain at $7.90 each.

Gurkha’s Bridge Road is open for dinner from 5pm-11pm, 7 nights a week. The Gurkha’s chain can also be found in Prahran, Carlton, Brunswick, North Fitzroy and Melbourne city.

Mexican Cheap Eats

Montezuma’s
464 Bridge Road
Richmond
Ph: 9429 7133

There are so many ways to enjoy an incredibly cheap meal at Montezuma’s. On this particular occasion, dining with mum and SM, we used my “buy one get one free” voucher from the Entertainment Book; but every time I go to the supermarket the shop-a-docket offers me the same voucher. Montezuma’s provide vouchers for half price nachos on their website, and different specials five nights a week.

Mum and I started the night off with margaritas, apparently the second best in Australia; they were so tangy and salty and for $9 it’s an excellent value cocktail (even more so if you come on one of the nights when they’re half price!)

Mum and I had the same dish (#6 Burrito – wheat tortilla with sour cream and your choice of filling, baked in the oven); we both chose the vegetarian option which was filled with beans, rice and cheese and served with rice, beans and olives.

This is a favourite of mine; I’ve ordered it a couple of times here. The sweet black olives on top are a nice touch; I like to take them off and save them till last. Perhaps some more sour cream would be nice, as the first time I ordered this I discovered when they say “with sour cream” on the menu it means within the actual torilla, blended in with everything else, so you don’t really get that lovely cool cream cutting through all the other flavours. As you can see from the photo the sides of the burrito were a bit burnt too.

Chilli Con Carne, $9.95
I also had takeaway from Montezuma’s last week and the dish actually held up suprisingly well. I chose the Montezuma’s Delight (A corn tostada smothered with frijoles, cheddar, heaped with a diced vegetable salad, ranchero sauce, sour cream, topped with sweet black olives; $13.95 for the vegetarian option) and thought that with all that sour cream and mushy frijoles it might turn into a soggy mess, but the corn tostada still had a bit of crunch when I finally got to the bottom of the massive aluminium takeaway container.
Montezuma’s Richmond offers a different special over five nights of the week:
Monday: $3 tacos
Wednesday: Half price margaritas
Friday: Half price margaritas from 6pm-7pm
Saturday: Half price margaritas from 5.30pm-6.30pm
Sunday: Kids eat free

Breakfast on Bridge: Chimmys

Chimmys
342 Bridge Road
Richmond
Ph: 9427 1391

This Sunday I spent the morning breakfasting on Bridge with J, my mum and mum’s friend SM. We went to Chimmys, a bakehouse and restaurant with a long list of breakfasts to choose from. When we arrived the place was packed; we stood around at the entrance to the restaurant until finally a waitress noticed us and found us a table for four.

SM ordered poached eggs on toast and a hot cross bun; the eggs came out long before any of the other meals arrived, going cold as she politely waited for the rest of our food to arrive. The hot cross bun finally showed up at the very end once all the other food had been delivered.


Mum had: Madrid omelette with chorizo, potato, rosemary, red onion, cheddar and slow roasted truss tomatoes on toast ($13)


I gave into my addiction and had Chimmy’s version of Eggs Atlantic; absolutely delicious although I was a little disappointed that the “capers” that were meant to accompany the dish turned out to be a single caperberry.


Soft poached eggs with smoked salmon, sauteed lemon spinach, capers and hollandaise ($14.50)

J: Roasted vegetable panini ($8)

So at times there was confusion about where meals were to be taken and the timing of our dishes wasn’t great; but I guess most importantly the food was delicious and good value too. If you don’t feel like a sit down, hot meal, there’s plenty of fresh, reasonably priced paninis. I’ll be back to try one of the dishes from the $12 lunch menu, such as the pan seared lamb cutlets with rosemary and sea salted potatoes.

Breakfast on Bridge: Raw Cafe

This morning before work I went out for breakfast with Synonymous and our friend Fei. We wanted to go to Flaunt on Bridge Road but the door informed us that “Irene has the flu”; so instead we continued wandering down the road and stumbled across Raw Cafe. Here we were warmly greeted by Darren, who has been the owner of Raw for 3 years and is one of those people who are just so suited to working in hospitality; very cheerful and charming and welcoming.

Raw has seating indoors and out; we sat outside as it was a beautiful, rare sunny morning today. After two great lattes (only $2.50!) we ordered from the extensive menu; Raw has all the the breaky usuals (Benedict, big breaky etc) as well as a full page of sandwiches to choose from, each of which is named after an AFL team. Synonymous had this…

“Richmond’s greatest breaky roll” – soft roll with egg, bacon, tomato relish, cheese and lettuce, $6.90. Indeed, it was pretty great; the tangy, slightly spicy relish made it stand out from other breakfast rolls.

I had the “Vegi Breakfast”, which did come with eggs but I was having one of those mornings where you don’t really feel like you can stomach eggs, so I replaced them with bacon. A vegan option is also available (minus the hash browns and add extra veggies). The bacon was crispy, the mushrooms were earthy and smokey but one of the best things was the baked beans; when I read baked beans on the menu I just assumed Raw would deliver canned, store bought beans, as so many cafes do serve up for breakfast; so it was a lovely surprise to receive kidney and cannellini beans in a housemade, rich, tomatoey sauce.

Great service, lots of choices and good coffee – and at $15 for a big breakfast and a latte it’s very reasonably priced.

Raw Cafe
382 Bridge Road, Richmond 3121
Ph: 9428 7012