02 April 2013

Second round save - Depot de Pain review

Well dear readers, I realise it has been a while since my last post (again), but something about the sudden cold snap inspires me to leave my usual tea haunt in search of new delights.
I regret to say I have a number of reviews languishing on my desk, miserably waiting for a touch up and a type out to you, my dear readers, including a review of my most favourite tea locale at the moment, but I fear the brief summer we enjoyed consumed my normal tea writing time with other pursuits.
Nevertheless, I have returned with a new post, and no less than 4 hours old! Read on friends, read on.

Cafe review: Depot de Pain
Where: 693 Rathdowne St, Carlton North

My colleagues, Madame P, Miss B and I found ourselves wandering the streets of Carlton North this afternoon, having concluded a business meeting in the area. "It is time for tea!" we cried, not yet prepared to return home. Being on the western side of the street, we approached Depot de Pain, a luxurious looking French patisserie. I immediately dismissed any ideas of obtaining tea there, as I'd had a rather unpleasant experience there with Miss B several years before.

As we passed by, a side window by the coffee machine popped open and a rather charming young barista stuck his head out, inviting us in to tea. Now, I would not like to compare our group to a giggling gaggle of school girls, but such was the barista's charm that this is essentially what we were reduced to. This may be why we found ourselves sat within the bakery several minutes later.

The inside was reminiscent of the bakeries of France, with beautiful cakes (or what was left of them by 5pm) and breads on display. Several nookish rooms were hidden around a display of produce, and there was a very relaxed atmosphere.

We asked our waitress for a menu, and were presented with only a food menu. A disappointment to be sure, but there were several tasty snacks, and Madame P ordered some spinach "sausage" rolls to be brought with our tea. Alas, these were waylaid and never appeared!

The tea itself was a brand we were unfamiliar with, a Ceylon Tea Bush, which Miss B thought she might have seen in small country town stores before. Certainly not a brand of fame in Melbourne. Our teas came with a small printed note about the product, a nice touch I thought. Miss B and I both went for Passionberry, while Madame P sipped Ginger and Peach. We were disappointed to find the teas flavoured with oils as well as natural fruit pieces, but they were enjoyable none the less. The Passionberry took a few sips to get used to, and the first mouthful was very tart with plum undertones. The tartness stayed through the whole drink, but became more berry like in flavour.

Overall the experience was very enjoyable, buoyed by banter with the charming barista, and we accidentally ended up staying past their closing time. I do enjoy a place where you are not made to feel like a villain for staying too long. I think it just goes to show that some places are worth giving a second shot.

The Rating
Atmosphere: 3/5
Available food: 1/5 (really excellent range, but lose points for forgetting our order)
Tea range: 4/5
Tea had: 3/5

Overall: 11/20

14 November 2012

Tea with a dash of sarcasm - Minimo review

For some reason, I am not at all sure why, going out for breakfast has become relegated to "special occasion" dining for my little swag of friends. Luckily it was Master M's birthday over the weekend - the perfect excuse to make the trek up Sydney Road to one of our favourite haunts, Minimo. I haven't been to Minimo in a good 6 months, and, having been a bit lax on the reviews of late, I was interested in rediscovering their tea selection.

Cafe review: Minimo
Where: 822 Sydney Rd, Brunswick

We were greeted by a very enthusiastic waiter, who I think I can safely say made my day. He informed us that they were trying a new blend of rudeness and sarcasm in their service, as that was the "new black" in cafes these days. This could have backfired horribly, but his service that day was just the right mix of hilarity and charm that he pulled it off.

As it was not the best of weather and we were sat outside, I decided I wanted something milky and asked if there was chai available. "Do we have chai," the waiter scoffed, then proceeded to outline in great detail the option of a chai latte, or traditional chai in a pot. The waiter's skill in describing was so great that he managed to convince Lady J to swap from a croissant to the daily special of rhubarb hotcakes. I opted for a pot of chai made on soy and a ham and cheese croissant. (I know there are chai purists who will scoff at me getting soy milk with my chai, but my reasoning is thus: in Australia most chais are blended to go with soy milk, and really one finds it hard to go past the bonsoy option when it's available).

The drinks took a while to arrive, but the company was good enough that it was just on the tail end of acceptable. My only qualm was that the tea leaves in my chai clogged up the spout of the teapot when I first went to pour, and then rushed out in a great tea-y mess that covered my menu. The waiter gave me a dry look and a dig about making a mess, but quickly cleared it up. The chai itself was not the best I've had, but it was good overall, though I would have liked the option of honey instead of only sugar being available. It was sweet and spicy without being overly peppery, but it could have done with a bit more depth of flavour I feel, perhaps some more nutmeg or cinnamon.

Part of the unfortunate spillage
 The food lived up to the waiter's amazing descriptive powers. My croissant was buttery and delicious, and I will admit to stealing several bites of Master M's eggs with anchovy sauce, while Lady J's hot cakes were simply divine. While I was unable to decipher what brand of tea Minimo uses, I was assured there was a good, high quality range, and I have absolutely no problem with returning to sample more of their teas.

The Rating
Atmosphere: 4.5/5
Available food: 5/5
Tea range: 3.5/5
Tea had: 4/5
Overall: 17/20

16 October 2012

Oh Carolina, what have you done - cafe review

Carolina café has always been on the elusive side since it’s opened for me. My friend Miss B and I have been trawling up Nicholson St for months trying to find it. Oddly enough it was on an outing with Master M that I stumbled across this inconspicuous café – it is one of those “so cool” places that rely on word of mouth rather than signage to draw people in.

Well, now that it’s location had been discovered, fellow tea lover, Miss B and I organised to have a business meeting there Sunday morning. Naturally we were both keen to try the tea, and the coolish start to the day made it an ideal temperature to enjoy a pot.

We arrived around 10.30, and the lovely outside area was packed so we sat in the booth inside. A blackboard proclaimed the tea to be provided by Vee Tea, a brand Miss B and I were both unfamiliar with, but we do love trying new things. A white tea with jasmine and liquorice caught our eye. I will admit to being quite a fan of T2’s liquorice leg, so I was curious to see how this would translate to a white tea.

Now, I don’t like to complain about slow service in hospitality, having spent a good deal of years working in the industry myself. But Miss B and I waited half an hour for our tea. And we witnessed the barista using boiling water right out of the coffee machine onto our white tea. I am yet to figure out how pressing one button on a coffee machine equates to us waiting half an hour. It didn't add to our mood when Miss B ordered some raisin toast, only to be later told they had run out.

Sadly, things did not improve from there. Inspection of the tea revealed rose and jasmine petals, and a lovely golden liquor poured from the pot. The taste was…interesting. The liquorice overpowered everything, starting on a sweet note and then completely covering the mouth a few seconds after swallowing the tea. It was much stronger than I was accustomed to when mixed with a black tea, and I don’t think white tea has enough body to pull off such an overpowering flavour. Miss B was not a fan at all, and I ended up drinking most of the pot while she got a piccolo latte to clear away the taste.

Perhaps we made a poor decision on tea choice, but the whole experience was a bit of a let down. I have had decent tea there before, but that was one of Carolina’s own herbal tea blends. This may have to be one tea review I give a second chance further down the track.

The Rating
Atmosphere: 3/5
Available food: 2/5 (good available range, loss of points for running out of what we ordered)
Tea range: 3/5
Tea had: 2/5

 Overall: 9/20

15 October 2012

Solo trip - John Gorilla review

Hello fellow tea-lovers! I would like to apologise in advance for the short review on John Gorilla. I normally write the reviews within a day of visiting a cafe, and due to an unusually busy this review has had to wait until today - so my memory is a bit sketchy. But I know good tea when I have it!

Cafe review: John Gorilla
Where: 49 Pearson St, West Brunswick

Being fortunate enough to be faced with a Friday afternoon off and lacking internet in the house (disastrous!) I once again made the trek over to West Brunswick for a second attempt at John Gorilla. It was a fairly miserable, grey afternoon, typical of Melbourne so I expected the café to be fairly busy.

This visit met with success however! I found a plethora of available tables and a very friendly, attentive team of staff.  It was just around lunch time so I ordered a toasted pumpkin dahl sandwich to go with my English breakfast tea and set up with my laptop to access the free wifi. I knew from sniffing around the tea scene that John Gorilla stocked Larson & Thompson tea, so I was fairly confident in a decent cup of tea.

I was not disappointed. What a cute set up for tea! I particularly liked the tiny milk bottles and the bright colours of the tea pot. The tea itself went superbly with the pumpkin dahl (which was delicious). It was a lovely, well rounded tea suited for milk and sugar, and just right for overcast weather. I have to say my only qualm was that the wifi kept dropping out, which is very frustrating when trying to do work. I also wasn’t really sold on the available sweet offerings, but it’s early days yet for John Gorilla and they seem to be doing a cracking job. Just be prepared to wait for a table if you visit on a weekend.

The Rating
Atmosphere: 3.5/5
Available food: 4/5
Tea range: 4/5
Tea had: 4/5

Overall: 17.5/20

07 October 2012

Not quite John Gorilla - Factory Cafe Review

Yesterday, being a perfectly miserable day, a friend from West Brunswick and I decided it was high time to check out all the fuss about the newest café in the area, John Gorilla. Unfortunately we didn’t count on nearly everyone in the vicinity having the exact same idea as us. Faced with hungry stomachs and a wait over half an hour for a table, my friend suggested we venture around the corner to a lesser known café by the name of Factory.