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The Hidden Caffeine Fix to the Sexy Noodles: Melbourne’s Hotspots Under $20 in 1 Day

Submitted by Adrian on May 2, 2010 – 11:39 am32 Comments

During the past month, I’ve been receiving a few emails asking where the latest Melbourne Hotspots are. The kind of eateries that not only generates some buzz within the community, but also manages to live up to the hype by delivering the goods and providing value for your benjamins. This topic has also been raised in many social conversations which is why I felt so compelled to write this post. The dilemma? It’s becoming quite difficult to keep track of the many great eateries popping up like ferrets these days (not that I’m complaining) – not to mention my expenses!

It doesn’t take much to inspire me to take something to the next level and challenge myself- which is why after some long hours searching the web, twitterverse and the good old print media- I decided to hit up several of these hotspots in 1 day. Some say I have three stomachs, but last I checked I only had two. I will likely turn this into a series of posts considering the amount of places. To keep this fair, there are those that have been around for a long time, which I haven’t yet posted, that are still considered ‘hot’ – so I’ve included these in response to the questions asked. Oldies but still goodies!

Places I visited during the course of the day were:

1. Cafe Park Lane, South Melbourne (in this post)

2. Noodle Kingdom, Preston (in this post)

3. Sapa Hills, Footscray (coming up)

4. Olympic Doughnuts, Footscray (coming up)

5. Laksa King, Flemmington (coming up)

6. Sugo, Malvern (coming up)

DSC01313Some seriously sexy noodles huh?

Topic #1: The latest hidden caffeine fix?

Café Park Lane

Details: 387 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne, 0435508583 Google Map

Recently, a friend was bragging on about this compact sized café that used to be storage space in my local area, South Melbourne, serving up some worthy coffee. Funnily, it’s actually situated off the same main road as St Ali- also a ‘must do’ if you’re serious about your coffee. With no large signage, Café Park Lane is the kind of hidden nook you would find along the CBD laneways. The kind of place where should someone actually ask you what the name was, you would reply with “oh, it’s near Flinders St and the laneway that leads into Haighs Chocolates and that record place..thing…” Hmm. Still, due to word of mouth, it has generated enough buzz to attract the crowds and create queues without any expensive PR launches.

DSC01323

The menu is simple with a mixture of  items ranging from organic apples from their Red Hill Farm, dense muffins, bircher muesli to goats cheese, chunky avocado, tomato and basil on crusty sourdough. Knowing the fact I had a full day of eating ahead of me, well, enough to cause several bowel movements, I chose to try their fresh croissants. Two servings of course. They came toasted, clad with butter and toasted to flaky perfection.

DSC01326

The coffee? I would describe it as the type of coffee that leaves a lingering aftertaste that seems to coat the tongue and make its bed there. Seriously. Only few coffee houses I’ve tried thus far have achieved this glorious feat. It had the right amount of bitterness, a good temperature, smooth, milk not burnt (phew) and a perfect partner for the croissant as I dunked each piece like an Oreo. I’m no coffee expert, but I’d judged it based on its addictiveness. Cups had? Two. I can usually have more than the recommended daily dosage from St Ali, Pellegrini’s and Sugo.  The blend used here is Five Senses 24/7 but of course its overall success was dependent on the skills of the talented barista.

DSC01325oops, taking the lid off and stirring kinda ruined the Kodak moment here

DSC01324

DSC01318Organic apples from their Red Hill Orchard

Topic #2: The best suburban Chinese noodle house?

Noodle Kingdom

Details: 469 High St, Preston, 3072 (03) 9478 8885 Google Map

You can’t get more local than finding out there’s a buzzing noodle house tucked away in the northern suburb of Preston. This was a fair drive from where I live, but I can’t seem to shake off the amount of recommendations I’ve heard about the freshly made oodles of noodles made at the premises at Noodle Kingdom.

Upon arrival, the window theater provided us with some eye candy or should I say, Noodle Porn as we watched in amazement at the sheer amount of noodles lightly pounded and ‘shwatted’ about ensuring even stretching and thickness.  The other thing to notice is that not only is there a dedicated noodle master, but also spotted next to him is what I referred to as the Dumpling Princess. We watched as she made Shanghai dumplings with such delicacy and precision.

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We were like kids in a bloody candy store…and we hadn’t even stepped inside yet!

Although the place is quite large and can accommodate more than few group bookings, as soon as lunch hour struck, it was like watching musical chairs. But don’t fret just as yet. I hear that there is a Noodle Kingdom opening up within the CBD which is rumored to have several levels in addition to the current Russell St outlet. However, it was suggested that I slurp out Preston over the Russel Street.

DSC01311

Now, back to the food. I didn’t drag my friends all this way just to stare at noodle and dumpling making. I immediately ordered their signature dish, a bowl of Authentic Lanzhou Beef Noodle Soup.

Lanzhou is the capital  of Gansu province in northwestern China. Arriving in a bowl large enough to feed a family of four, the aroma of the broth (simmered 24 hours prior) brought back childhood memories in the kitchen. Isn’t it funny how your mum would always tell you off if you ever left the stove on? But when it came to making broth, mum would go to the market, do the shopping and come back 8 hours later with the stove left simmering?! I digress.

It came served with a generous handful of fresh coriander, spring onion and bok choy. What can I say? The broth was hearty and full of flavour from the bone marrow.  The type of noodle here is La Mian. It is made by taking a lump of dough and repeatedly stretching it to produce many strands of thin, long noodles.

DSC01309Also great was their tender Beef Brisket in Noodle Soup

If you’re a fellow foodie and love your Pho type stocky soups, then the trip to the other side of town is definitely worth it. If you already reside in the area, and have been, please let me know which dish to try out next time.

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What other ‘cheap eats’ hotspots have I missed that you would recommend?

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