Bang Bang at the Rifle Club in Elsternwick is the latest venture from head chef Matthew Dunbar. Formerly of Longrain, Chef Dunbar’s reputation precedes him, and given the popularity of the short pop up Bang Bang venture at South Wharf towards the end of last year, people have been long awaiting this new permanent home.


I, together with the other half, was lucky enough to attend a blogger dinner that was hosted as part of their opening launch. The weather gods were definitely smiling upon Bang Bang, as they turned on a glorious day. Designed to take advantage of the location, the concertina doors were opened up to create a spacious combined indoor and outdoor area that was basking in the afternoon sun. It was easy to see that this would be a perfect space for a summer evening, or a few cheeky Sunday bevvies.


We were treated to a selection from their menu. Focusing on Indochine cuisine, the flavours of Vietnam and Thailand were predominant, with a clear influence from the French evident, as a homage from their colonised days.

The dishes are all designed to be shared, encouraging a warm and friendly atmosphere. We started with an array of smaller dishes including little parcels of confit duck wrapped in a betel leaf. There was a vegetarian version too, which replaced the duck with pomelo.


We also had chargrilled prawns served with a roasted shallot and lime sauce, kingfish sashimi with caramelised cashews and trout roe, and crispy chicken ribs with Bang Bang sriracha. Vegetarians need not fear though. I had some special dishes made for me with the standout being a take on an egg salad served with a son in law egg, green mango and a basil and lime dressing. It was amazing and I could have easily eaten about eleven serves of this alone.


After the starters we moved onto the larger dishes including a tofu, avocado and sesame seed salad, with a mint, black vinegar and ginger dressing. This had all the carnivores at the table rethinking their opinions on tofu, and everyone was in agreement that you could definitely make a lot of friends with this salad.


We were served a roasted pumpkin curry with kipfler potatos and spiced with cinnamon and anise. It was creamy and warming, and we were all piling rice onto our plates to mop up all the sauce. The last dish of main course was a chargrilled Cape Grim short rib, served in a wild ginger and holy basil broth. The other half said it was was soft, melted in your mouth, and took the phrase ‘falling off the bone’ to a whole new level. 

The serving sizes were very generous, and by this stage we were all fairly full, but there was no hesitation in activating our dessert stomach were we were served gorgeous plates of black sticky rice with mango, pandan cream, and coconut sorbet. Asian desserts are not usually my favourite, but this dish was lovely, with the fresh fruit and sorbet adding a refreshing contrast to the sweet, heavy black rice.


To finish off the meal, we had watermelon with chilli salt. It was an interesting combination, although I think the chilli salt would have been better paired with a sour fruit like green mango, or even a tart pineapple.

Bang Bang is a beautiful space with equally beautiful food. It is a great place to catch up with friends and I will definitely be back to try more of the menu and perhaps have another serve of the tofu salad.

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

Note: I was invited to dine at Bang Bang as part of a media dinner, however all opinions are entirely my own. 

Image Credit: Zilla and Brook

*A version of this article was first published on The Plus Ones website.
Axil is a name that is almost synonymous with coffee in Melbourne and so when I was trying to plan a breakfast catch up with an old friend in the eastern suburbs, I figured Axil Coffee Roasters in Hawthorn would be a good choice. At the very least, the coffee should be good!

The coffee was indeed excellent, with rich aromas and full bodied flavour. It was the coffee that I had come to expect from Axil.


Taking a look at the menu though, I found it to be rather standard and not very creative, especially when considering the savoury options. Whilst there were some exciting sweet choices like Ferraro Rocher waffles or red velvet pancakes, I have always preferred a savoury breakfast. These days, breakfast menus are full of inventive options but Axil clearly prefers to focus on basics.

I ended up choosing the fritters (duh), which were made with zucchini, corn and haloumi, and then topped with avocado, spinach, a poached egg and relish. Rather than a few small fritters, they served up one large fritter. This meant that there was less crunch, and the fritter was more cake like which was a bit disappointing. Still, the flavours were very good, and anything with haloumi makes me happy. The eggs were poached well, and whilst there is no photo, you can trust me when I say that I had great yolk porn material.


My breakfast companion settled on smashed avocado on toast with sides of scrambled eggs and salmon pastrami. (Lucky he’s already got a house, otherwise there would be no chance he could save for one!) There was a little bit of confusion with his eggs order (only one scrambled egg came out, when he specifically asked for two) but it was quickly resolved.


The space inside Axil is huge, with tables a plenty, and despite the large crowd, the service was still very good. However, with Melbourne’s café game so strong, and so many places really pushing the boundaries with their offerings, personally I am more inclined to try them rather them returning to Axil. But if you are a traditionalist, and like your standard breakfast options, this is certainly a place you should visit.

Axil Coffee Roasters Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Breakfast in a weekday is an indulgence that I don’t often get to enjoy. But when it’s a Monday that you’ve taken off work, because you’ve run your first full marathon you definitely take the opportunity to take advantage of the fact that the cafes are empty and you can easily get a seat. Unfortunately the marathon had taken a major toll on my feet, leaving then battered and me unable to put any weight on them, so we had to go to a cafe where we could park straight outside the front door.


We settled on Son of a Pizzaiolo. I knew they had recently revamped their dinner menu, but I was keen to try them out for breakfast. As expected, the café was almost empty, and so we had our pick of the seating. There were some standard tables, but we decided to sit in a booth, American diner style!


The other half started with a flat white, but I declined and stuck with water. Given that the marathon had most likely dehydrated me, I didn’t think coffee would be a good idea. I did have a taste of the flat white though, and I was suitably impressed. Son of a Pizzaiolowas certainly doing the Italians proud. The pretty latte art was also a nice touch that put a smile on our faces.



The menu was full of creative options, that looked delicious but neither of us could go past the cheesy scrambled eggs. Set atop two polenta hash browns were scrambled eggs with aged pecorino, grilled mushrooms and crispy kale, all dressed with chives and red sea salt. The other half went for the standard version also had chorizo, but the staff were more than happy to swap that out for avocado for me. Rarely do we order the same dish, but this time we made an exception.



Our opinion of the dish was also almost identical. The cheesy scrambled eggs were a hit, lots of cheese, lovely and creamy with the right amount of seasoning. The mushrooms and the crispy kale were also important elements to the dish and when combined with the eggs created a beautiful blend of flavours. Unfortunately the polenta has was a bit of a let down. Perhaps it was the fact that in my head, I was hoping for something like a potato hash brown, but unfortunately the polenta was was rather heavy and stodgy, and lacked flavour. In retrospect, if I couldn’t have a potato hash, I think I would have preferred this dish with toast, but hindsight is a great thing indeed.

Nevertheless our experience at Son of A Pizzaiolowas lovely and we will definitely consider going back. The service was impeccable and I was very impressed at how friendly the staff were. The flavours they combined worked well, and left me keen to try their dinner menu some time in the future.

Son of a Pizzaiolo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
High St, Northcote boasts a plethora of eateries varying in cuisines, prices and styles. Regardless of what you are after, there is bound to be an option for you there. One Sunday night, when we couldn’t be bothered cooking, we decided to pop down there for a cheap and cheerful meal. To me, cheap and cheerful is that type of meal that is easy on the wallet, without any pretences of starched tablecloths or fancy folded napkins, but doesn’t compromise on taste and instead offers a hearty, home style feed. 


I had seen Tahina mentioned in a few guides, and all of them wrote about the delicious food that was offered. It seemed like exactly the place for us and so we headed there.

Tahina is an Israeli restaurant that serves vegetarian food. The vegetarian aspect is not however highlighted, and it was only when I took a close look at the menu that I realised that no meat dishes were available. The offering is simple. You either choose a pita pocket, or a shakshouka platter. Or if you are like us, you choose one of each and do a swap half way through. Both these options have a few varieties to choose from but the basis remains the same.

For the pita pocket, I chose the sabich. The highlight of the pita pocket was definitely the bread which was fresh and soft. It was filled with eggplant, hard boiled egg, potatoes, Israeli salad, pickled cabbage and brought together with hummus and tahini. The combination of flavours were amazing, in particular the eggplant which was soft and melted in the mouth.


The shakshouka came in a choice of red, green or white. The red is obviously the traditional version in a tomato based sauce, but we decided to be adventurous and have the green version, based on a slow cook of broccoli, zucchini and spinach with avocado and olives thrown in. There was a subtle hint of cumin through the dish giving it a wonderful aroma. The eggs were floating in the sauce, but there was also a vegan version available where they were substituted with eggplant. I imagine this would be equally delicious. The shakshouka was served with a green salad, pickled cabbage, hummus and pita bread. Don’t make the mistake we initially did and try the pickled cabbage by itself, it certainly has an odd flavour, but when combined with all the other elements, it added a wonderful freshness.



Tahina doesn’t bother with fancy service, elegant décor or a spacious dining area. Instead it focus on the food, and for people like me, it is just perfect. Given how busy it was on the night we visited, I would say there are a lot of people who agree with me.
Tahina Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
OK, I’m calling it. I have a new favourite vegetarian burger. I thought nothing could beat a vegetarian patty made with minced mushroom, but Kustom Burgers have taken it up a notch or seven.

It was Sunday evening. I was exhausted after having gone on a 32km training run in preparation for the Melbourne Marathon, my legs could no longer move, and all I wanted was a burger. And so it was decided, burgers for dinner. Given how tired I was, we decided to go somewhere close, and so we decided on Kustom Burgers.

I had seen Kustom Burgers on a few ‘Melbourne’s Best Burgers’ lists, so I figured they would be worth trying. Their menu showed that they had a vegetarian option, so it was all systems go, and off we went to satisfy my burger craving.

Kustom Burgers is a smallish shop on High Street in Northcote. Quite strangely, a large section of the shop is taken up by a parked pick up truck with a race track in the tray. Whilst it’s pretty cool, I’m not sure whether it’s worth sacrificing so much seating space for it, especially when tables and chairs are already at a minimum. It’s obvious that the owner has a passion for cars, with all the décor relating to the automotive theme.

We took a seat at the counter, overlooking the kitchen, so we had a clear view of the chefs at work. The speed and efficiency at which they worked was impressive. The orders were coming in at a constant rate, and the kitchen remained calm and in order. It wasn’t long before our burgers arrived, and given how starving we were, we really couldn’t wait to dig in.


Whilst there was only one vegetarian option on the menu. It was bloody amazing. Entitled the Combi Southern Fried Mushroom Burger, it was exactly as described. Firstly let’s start with the mushroom. I love mushrooms and a deep fried mushroom only makes it better, but when it is coated and crumbed with herbs and spices it takes it to a whole new level. Think southern fried chicken, but in mushroom form. This was then topped with cheese, jalapeños, chipotle mayo and a slaw, and all together, it was without doubt the best burger I’ve had. A big call I know, but definitely deserved.


The other half had the FJ Holden Aussie Burger. Like all good things Aussie, the burger had an egg, beetroot and a generous slather of tomato sauce. Unlike the Americans who cook everything to charcoal, the burger was cooked medium, and the usual suspects of cheese, onion, tomato and lettuce completed the burger. The other half was impressed.


The only slight let down was the chips. Whilst they were inoffensive (deep fried potato is rarely offensive), they were just generic McCains fries. I knew this because I could see the bags being emptied, and it was a little disappointing. I would have definitely preferred hand cut chips, with rosemary salt.

Still, you can’t have everything, and given how good the burger was, I’m willing to forgive their downfall on the chips. Will I be back? If they serve me another spicy crumbed deep fried mushroom I definitely will be!

Kustom Burgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Having grown up in the Greek capital of Melbourne, Oakleigh, the cafes along Eaton mall were a fixture of my childhood. Weekends meant that the patrons of the cafés spilt out into the mall, and the tables outside were full of Greeks, eating, drinking and enjoying themselves. These days, Eaton Mall has expanded further, there are many more eateries, and patronage is skyrocketing with the outdoor area full almost every night of the week.

Vanilla was one of the cafes from the old days, but they have recently expanded the premises to include a modern upstairs area, creatively (!) named Vanilla Upstairs. I was lucky enough to be invited to a media dinner there, where we were able to sample many of the foods and I was thoroughly impressed.

From the outset, what impressed me most was the friendliness of the staff. Like many immigrant cultures, family values were at their core, and this was evident in the way they ran their restaurant. Father Thanasi works the floor making sure everyone is happy, whilst his three children and their partners are responsible for the running of the restaurant. They also now have Chef Oresti at the helm of their state of the art kitchen, and is responsible for the amazing food they serve.


Our menu was designed as a sharing menu, which suited the Greek style of food perfectly, and it meant that we could taste a large range of dishes. Some of the dishes were old favourites, like the yemista, but Chef Oresti also took the opportunity to add some flair to some traditional dishes. One example was the Greek salad. Whilst typically this would involve tomatoes, cucumber, olives and fetta, our version had all of these ingredients but with a completely modern interpretation without any compromise on taste.

We were also lucky enough to taste a selection of Greek wines to match our food. I had never realised that Greece produced fine wine, so I was extremely impressed. Sommelier, Sheridan, shared with us her vast knowledge of wines, and by the end of the night, I’m sure most of us were convinced that Greek wines were comparable to their famous wine cousins in France and Italy!

Whilst Greek food may be assumed to be very focused on the meat, Vanilla Upstairs had no issues catering for me, the solo vegetarian on the table! I started with some beautiful pita bread and a trio dips. There was a tzatziki, a hommus and a baba ganoush. The hommus was a clear highlight, beautifully smooth and creamy and with the perfect amount of garlic flavour.


I also enjoyed the dolmades that were wrapped in a conical fashion and filled with a creamed rice. The creative flair on these enhanced the flavours, and despite loving the traditional dolmades, I was really impressed with these.



As a cheese lover, I had my eyes on the saganaki. In a new twist for me, the saganaki was pan fried and drizzled with honey and black sesame seeds. The honey added a lovely sweetness to compliment the heavy creaminess of the cheese, and it certainly was an unusual but very clever combination. I will be trying this one at home!



Obviously the meat eaters were also well looked after, and most of the table was busy eating all the delights presented to us.




The desserts we were offered were also quite impressive. We tasted a kazan dipi, which is a Greek take on the crème brulee. It was smooth and creamy, and served with kaimaki ice cream.


We also got to taste one of the chef's dessert experiments, a tahini mousse with sesame toffee crisps. It was very interesting to have sesame as the dominant flavour in a dessert, and for those that don't like their desserts sickly sweet, this would be perfect.


The evening was a fabulous one, mainly due to the warm hospitality, the delicious food and the lovely venue.  Vanilla Upstairs has certainly raised the bar in the Oakleigh dining precinct and there is no doubt that the patrons are flocking.


Note: I was invited to dine at Vanilla Upstairs as part of a media dinner and did not pay for my meal. I have however returned on subsequent occasions where I have paid the full price.

Vanilla Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
It has been a while since I did my last monthly favourites posts, so it is about time that I caught up.

First up is a new store of which I have become a huge fan. Perhaps I am late to the party, because it seems many people are already onto it, but Terra Madre is a brilliant shop. Located on High St, in Northcote, they stock organic fruit and vegetables, healthy grocery staples, environmentally friendly cleaning products and cosmetics, bulk spices, nuts and grains, and all sorts of other grocery items.


It has recently expanded, and I’m guessing there will be the addition of a cafe or a deli to the store (the glass counters give that away), but even without it’s an excellent place to shop. I can get most of my supermarket shopping done there, and it isn’t even that much more expensive.



(Photos courtesy of Yelp and True Local)

Those following my Instagram feed will have seen that I’ve started baking my own sourdough. I got my starter from Claire, and decided that I was going to try and be a little more self sufficient. I’ve got myself into a great routine, where I get the starter ready on Thursday night, make the dough on Friday night or Saturday morning, and then I am ready to bake on the weekend. I generally make two loaves which last the week (I don’t need that much bread), and often I gift loaves to family or friends. I started with just plain sourdough, but now that I have become more confident, I have started adding flavours. One of my favourites is an olive and rosemary loaf, which is excellent with dip. Nothing beats eating warm bread, straight out of the oven.


I’m also well into marathon training now, with the Melbourne Marathon less than seven weeks away. I’m now running distances that are longer than I’ve ever run before, and as a result, I end up so hungry half way through my run! I’ve bought myself this great belt, called Fitube, that allows me to store energy gels, keys and a phone all without the hassle of them jiggling around in a pocket. The belt is made of lycra, and slips onto the body, meaning that there are no clips, or no risk of it become loose or getting caught in anything. I’m a big fan. Note that this is not a sponsored post, nor did I receive this as a gift, it's just a great product that I found and love!


 (Photo courtesy of Ratathletic)

Have you had any great finds this month? Let me know below, I'd love to hear about them!