Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Serotonin Eatery, Burnley

New Melbourne Cafe dishes up Smiles

“Some people look at my Instagram and think they’re going to get high. They come in and go, ‘give me the food that’s going to get me high,’ but the food is actually a mood stabilizer. If anything, they get drowsy.”

That’s Emily Arundel talking about her new concept cafe, Serotonin Eatery. People have been eagerly awaiting its opening thanks to her colourful social media feeds that advocate a healthy and happy lifestyle. The launch date was going to be May 6, but because I went to school with Em, her Facebook newsfeed gave me the scoop – Serotonin Eatery actually opened quietly on April 15 on a little corner in Burnley. I swung by to write it up for Epicure, but there was so much information I couldn’t include in that tiny article that I felt compelled to write a blog post.

This isn’t a review – like I said, I went to the same high school as Em – this is merely a little more insight into her three-part concept that includes the Eatery, exercise and education. At the core of Serotonin is the desire to make people happy. You could argue that it’s the same goal of any cafe but the difference lies in the plant-based menu. Dishes are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain linked to happiness and well being.

Now I’m generally pretty cynical, but Em told me she has been backed by health professionals from doctors and psychologists through to naturopaths and dieticians. Having studied psychology myself, I’m also aware that releasing additional neurotransmitters in the brain doesn’t mean much if the receptors aren’t sucking them up at an increased rate, but at the end of the day if you can put fresh, colourful produce on a plate with as little human interference as possible and create something that people can’t easily make at home, I’m all for it. I doubt there are many studies out there that advise against eating healthily.

While chatting with Em, I also realised she’s not claiming to be a healer – something that perhaps doesn’t come across as clearly as it should on social media. “I’m not saying I can cure people with clinical depression; it’s about helping mood funks... A mood funk is just your ups and downs. We all have ups and downs, but this is just making the downs less. This is what you can do when you have downs,” she says. “You know on those infomercials it always says, ‘do this combined with regular exercise and fruit and vegetables?’ Serotonin is the regular exercise and fruit and vegetables. It’s the logical part that we forget to do.”

After noshing at Serotonin Eatery, I felt full, a little sleepy and not at all guilty. I think that’s the main selling point, for me. Often when I have a ‘mood funk’ my go-to is Messina or some sort of OTT burger. It certainly fixes the funk, but I have to push aside the junk food guilts. But guilts are the least of our worries: according to the ABS, only six per cent of us ingest our recommended daily dose of fruit and veg. Serotonin’s fully vegetarian (and almost completely gluten free) menu makes it easy to achieve that recommended intake by leaving meat out of it. Sean Muir is in the kitchen, having worked at Bell Jar and Amsterdam St Cafe, and previously helping set up Oli & Levi and Pho & Co in the city. His Positive Pancakes are definitely going to be the signature dish here. Made from banana flour (dehydrated, crushed bananas) with almond-covered yoghurt balls and berries, they give Top Paddock’s instagramable hotcakes a run for their money.

Favourites like smashed avo and porridge also feature, but the avo is “super” with white bean and beetroot while the porridge is “dreamy” with quinoa, oats and poached fruit. The nutrition bomb reminds me of the kind of vibrant dish social media-famous yogis post: a bright bowl of broccoli, wilted greens, roast veggies, sauerkraut, pickles, sprouts, nuts, a poached egg and a dollop of hummus. Salads and lunches (zucchini linguini, perhaps) are available to takeaway (borrow a picnic basket and blanket and head to the park across the road) and there’s a kiddie menu, too.

There are raw goodies available at the coffee window, there’s not a granule of refined sugar in sight and the best part is that nothing on the menu is over $18. That being said, you’ll pay $9 for a smoothie or bluice (read: blended juice), which again are 100 per cent fruit and veg. Although Serotonin Eatery advocates a stimulant-free lifestyle, 5 Senses still caters to the caffeinated Melbourne diet. Those who want to try something different can order a golden latte of almond milk, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and cracked black pepper; a matcha latte or a hot chocolate made with grated cacao butter.

Seeing as the site was previously Burnely milk bar, the team has made sure you can still pick up a newspaper, two litres of milk, a loaf of Natural Tucker bread and two takeaway coffees for $20, but you’ll want to say when you see the interior. It looks more like a boutique homewares store that belongs on Gertrude Street than a local cafe.

Serotonin Eatery can sit around 100, including on indoor swings by Pop and Scott and raised, Japanese-inspired tatami sofas that follow Em’s obsession with all things Japanese (at one stage, she wanted her cafe be Japanese). Having studied interior architecture and communication design, it’s the cohesive branding that impressed me the most. The yellow, grey and white-marble colour scheme (chosen for its calming qualities) is highlighted with gold cutlery. The hexagons that form the serotonin symbol are evident throughout, from the white tiling around the kitchen to the pots housing succulents. Glass beakers hold water and flowers and are a nod to the cafe's motto: “The science of making you happy”. 

Every detail has been meticulously considered – there’s even comedy playing in the toilets (hello, Carl Barron). When the sun is in the right place in the sky, rainbows shine through the double hung windows and onto the concrete floor. Em assured me it was a coincidence. As I visited in the first few days of service, I missed out on the giant, periodic table light box that’s on its way, along with a neon exclaiming, “I’m happy”, and a hand-painted sign reading, “Let food be thy medicine” – the ‘oo’ in ‘food’ made up of the wheels of a bike. 

Serotonin Eatery is taking expressions of interest for a holistic happiness course backed by doctors, psychologists and dieticians starting in 2016, but until then the Facebook page has all the info on events and educational evenings. “Happiness is everyone’s highest value, so it’s just so logical,” says Emily. “For me this is about how it’s okay to not be okay, but knowing there are really little things you can do just to be happy and healthy.”

As I was leaving, I pulled into the laneway behind Serotonin Eatery to turn my car around and smiled at the street sign: Utopia Place.

Serotonin Eatery
52 Madden Grove, Burnley, Victoria
Phone 9428 8256 (bookings not accepted)
Open Wednesday to Friday from 7am until 4pm & weekends from 8am until 4pm

Serotonin Eatery on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 12, 2015

High Street Armadale

A Guide to High Street Armadale, Melbourne

Those who live around Armadale tend not to venture too far – they have everything they need within walking distance. From quaint cafes and impressive restaurants to a thriving antiques trade, art galleries and shopping galore, it would be a shame to let the locals have all the fun.

I grew up just north of Armadale’s High Street, the Melbourne shopping precinct that dates back to the late 1800s. I used to have swimming lessons at Recreation gym before it turned into Goodlife, but I didn’t stick around long enough to reap the benefits when Pressed Juices opened next door. It doesn’t matter – all I cared about at that age was getting my hands in the glass jar of killer pythons on the front desk, a fair trade between my parents and I for my attendance. 

Since then a flurry of high fashion stores have opened on the strip, popping up next to antique warehouses and shops that have been around for decades. It’s a comfortable mix of old and new, as evident in the ornate architecture that harks back to the post-war boom. 

Things really started to happen in the area in 1879 when the first trains ran through the suburb, removing it from isolation and stimulating commercial and residential development in the process. Within a decade, High Street was home to boot makers, blacksmiths, tailors, milliners, grocers and more. The first tram came in 1910, cementing the strip as a shopping destination.

Fast forward over 100 years to last weekend when I spent a day re-discovering Armadale’s nooks and crannies thanks to Toorak Park, a luxury development on Orrong Road. I figured asking for a two-bedder with a view was a little bit cheeky, but I did manage to chat to some locals and put together this High Street and surrounds Guide to Armadale. Here are my top 10 reasons to visit the area.

1) Armadale Cafes
It’s incredible how many cafes can fit into such a small neighbourhood. Some of my favourites include Gardiner & Field, a converted corner milk bar in Armadale’s backstreets; Le Petit Prince, a French-inspired cafe that’s a poached egg’s throw away from High Street; The Lovebird, which is actually on High Street and run by a couple (their smashed avo is a cut above); Coin Laundry, a local favourite that has changed hands a few times but still serves up the goods and of course, Phillippa's, the bakery-cum-café that needs no introduction.

Gardiner and Field on Urbanspoon

Le Petit Prince on Urbanspoon

The Lovebird on Urbanspoon

Coin Laundry Cafe on Urbanspoon

Phillippa's on Urbanspoon

2) Armadale Restaurants
When coffee isn’t the most important part of your day and it’s time for an evening out, it’s hard to go past Armadale’s dining establishments. There’s Lona Pintxos Bar, the Southside’s answer to Naked for Satan; Zia Rina's Cucina for an unforgettable Italian meal cooked by a real nonna (the menu changes nightly); Barca Food & Wine, Lona Pintxos’ more refined older brother and Toorak Cellars & Wine Bar, which serves 20 wines by the glass complemented by the kind of snacky food that doesn’t require cooking (they don’t have a kitchen).

Lona Pintxos Bar on Urbanspoon 

Zia Rina's Cucina on Urbanspoon

Barca Food & Wine on Urbanspoon 

Toorak Cellars & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

3) Australian Fashion 
It's difficult to know where to begin when listing favourite fashion boutiques on High Street. Women have been shopping for dresses and men for suits since the 1800s. One thing I did notice and completely applaud is the celebration of Australian designers, from high-fashion brands such as Camilla and Marc, Carla Zampatti, Josh Goot and Scandlan & Theodore through to less exclusive brands with unique personalities.

Skin and Threads is an Aussie brand perfect for those who believe you can never have too many plain, quality wardrobe staples. RYDER is all about effortless style with lots of lace, leather, denim and flannel that will appeal to Gorman lovers (who also have a vibrant store on High Street). Megan Park is another local designer and every garment she stocks is thought up in house before being made by the same tailor from start to finish and Lorna Jane is an Australian sportswear label that celebrates health and style. It's always a bonus when shopping supports your country. Here's to patriotism.

4) Kings Arcade
It’s not just the shops that are of interest in the historic Kings Arcade, but the building itself. Mr. Frederick Philips built the Natural Trust-classified structure in 1893 before it was sold to Frederick King, a fruiterer, in 1915. It wasn’t until six years later that King turned the Arcade into a thoroughfare, linking High Street to Armadale station. Today it’s a thoroughfare worth lingering in with design, fashion and jewellery stores positioned beside a shoe repair shop under a stunning glass roof. Make sure you swing by my two favourites in the Arcade: Kakizaki (for delicate Korean and Japanese jewellery) and Mister Zimi (for clothing characterised by exotic patterns and bold colours). Head all the way through and check out the gorgeous stores out the back once you're finished inside.

5) Antiques & Treasures
Antique lovers and collectors will have an absolute field day in Armadale. It’s worth walking the length of High Street just to explore the incredible variety. Between Armadale Antique Centre, Graham Geddes and Fabrile you’ll find jewellery, Art Deco, furniture and interesting pieces from around the globe, but if you only have time for two antique stop offs, head to Capocchi and Malvern Antiques Market (technically in Armadale!). 

Capocchi is a mammoth, 400sqm space that sources 90 per cent of their stock from France. Their collection spans from the late 1700s through to the 1970s and includes the most unique furniture, impressive lights and decorative features – from stuffed rabbits and mounted animal heads to nautical décor. Malvern Antique market is more of a treasure trove that requires a keen eye and some serious sifting. It’s all part of the fun. Make sure you get to the vintage prints and posters up the back. 

6) Make your House a Home
Having just finished unpacking a stack of boxes post-move I’m finally at the decorating stage. It’s the main reason I felt like a kid in a candy store doing laps of High Street past homeware stores and galleries. Metro Gallery is an old favourite, stocking contemporary Australian and collectable Indigenous art. Their brochures always impress me when they arrive in the mail. Libby Edwards Gallery operates with a similar philosophy, while Letitia Morris Gallery and Vintage Posters Only specialise in original, vintage posters, such as Bernard Villemot’s Bally and Orangina works.

For those finishing touches, House of Orange is an Amsterdam design warehouse with pieces to give your place a Dutch feel, while Ferret & Ferret (968 High Street) will add bursts of colour to any space with vibrant vases, candlesticks, homewares and other treasures. There’s something for every style, too, from country chic (hello, Provincial Home Living) to industrial (warning: it’s easy to spend big at The Industrial Revolution).

7) Pamper Paradise 
If it’s pampering you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. High Street is lined with beauty salons from affordable to luxury and many accept walk-ins. The best bargain on the street is the $40 manicure and pedicure from Dashing Nails. I’ve had mine for a week and people are still asking if it’s shellac. In Kings Arcade you’ll find Brow Theory, a brow bar dedicated to sculpting and shaping eyebrows using threading. Look for the pink and white striped sign and matching staff aprons. For a day spa package head to Calma Medi Spa. They offer everything from couples options, chill packages, de-stress rituals and even champagne and chocolates with your massage. If you’re keen to take some pampering home with you, there’s also an Aesop and Mecca Cosmetics on High Street.

8) Artisan Grocery Shopping
Although it’s tempting to eat out every night, it’s not always realistic. If you’re basing yourself in Armadale for a few days, head to Thomas Dux, a premium grocer with products to match. For wine, visit the helpful folk at Armadale Cellars. It’s also home to the best wine short courses in Melbourne, along with dinners and special events, all of which are listed on their website. If you like to try before you buy, The Tasting Table has three Enomatic wine dispensing machines with 24 drops available to taste. There’s nothing stopping you from trying them one glass at a time (except, perhaps, an RSA) with cheese and charcuterie to match. When your sweet tooth takes over, head to family-run biscuit heaven, Il Migiore

The Tasting Table Wine Shop on Urbanspoon

9) Local Accommodation for all Budgets
Skip the local serviced apartments that are bland at best and opt to live like a local. For short stays, Espresso Apartments are immaculate and feature an open kitchen and, of course, complimentary use of an espresso machine. Ruabon on Trak is perfect for a family who wants to immerse themselves in the suburb for a week with its sun-filled interior and enclosed outdoor area complete with barbecue, while Clarendon House might look like a snug Victorian from the outside, but it’s fully equipped with modern facilities on the inside. For something larger, try Alison's in Armadale, a spacious and comfortable home with three large bedrooms and the perfect family room and outdoor area for entertaining. 

If you’re on Airbnb – which I can highly recommend having used it in Australia, Italy and France – these are my picks for Armadale (plus if you’re an Airbnb virgin and use my referral link here, you’ll get $33 off your booking): this gorgeous modern cottage and this leafy one-bedroom apartment.

10) A Neighbourhood Shopping Strip only 7km from the CBD
It’s a cinch to get to and from Armadale by train, tram, bus or taxi. Once you’re there everything is walking distance, too. For those jumping on public transport, Public Transport Victoria’s Journey Planner website is an easy-to-use, invaluable resource. Armadale train station is less than 25 minutes by train from Flinders Street railways station, or 15 minutes if you beat the traffic by car. It’s also worth noting that the number 6 tram will take you up and down High Street until you can’t physically carry any more shopping bags.

If you think I’ve missed any Armadale hot spots, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments section below!

This post was made possible with the help of #ToorakPark and Keep Left PR. maintains complete editorial control of all published content.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Royal Croquet Club, Melbourne

Sofia in Wonderland 

“Get to your places!” shouted Broadsheet in an authoritative tone, and Melbourne began running about in all directions, tumbling up against each other; however, they got settled down in a minute or two, and the game began. Sofia thought she had never seen such a curious croquet-ground in her life; it was all Pimms and pendant lights; the fare was Miss Chu’s, the lobster rolls from Mr. Claws, and D.O.C and Meatmother had to work in fast-forward to keep up with demand for pizza and lamb chops. 

The chief difficulty Sofia found at first was finding a place to sit: she succeeded in skipping over the raised referee chairs, obstructed by children, leaving the shady tables to those already there, and just as she was about to give up, found a Yalumba decking up some secret stairs that gave her not just a view of the red and yellow-striped circus tent below, but of the entire, glorious, sparkling city: besides all this, there were far too many people laughing in the sunshine and listening to music, and, the desire to feast on all the food was getting in the way of her standing up and walking off to other parts of the ground. 

Sofia soon came to the conclusion that the Royal Croquet Club was a very wonderful way to spend a sunny day indeed. Sofia began to feel very uneasy: to be sure, she had managed to consume a small ocean of Pimms, savouring the fizzy cucumber slices that refused to be captured, but she knew that at any moment, the sun and food and drink might all get too much, “and then,” thought she, “what would become of me? They're dreadfully fond of people here; the great wonder is that there's any one left anywhere else in Melbourne!” 

She was looking about for some way of escape, and wondering whether she could get away without being seen, when she noticed a curious sign in the distance: it puzzled her very much at first, but, after watching it a minute or two, she made it out to be a menu, and she said to herself, “It's the Cheshire Can: now I shall have somebody to talk to.” 

“How do you fancy peanut gelato with Oreo custard, lashings of cream cheese mousse and pretzel crunch waiting at the bottom?” said the Can, as soon as she popped open the lid.

Sofia waited ‘til she hit the first Oreo chunk, and then nodded. “It's no use speaking to it,” she thought, “it doesn’t have any ears.” 

In another minute, the Can was empty, and then Sofia put down her spoon and began an account of the day, feeling very glad she had someone to listen to her. “I don't think they play at all fairly,” Sofia began, in rather a complaining tone, “and they all eat and drink and dance so constantly one can't hear oneself speak—and they don't seem to have any rules in particular; at least, if there are, nobody attends to them—and you've no idea how confusing it is all the food being so tasty; for instance, I had to go back and order beef wrapped in betel leaves after my buttermilk ranch lobster roll—and after February first, the whole thing simply goes ‘poof’ and disappears!” 

“What are you ever going to do?” said the Can in a low voice. 

“Nothing at all,” said Sofia, “I suppose I’ll just have to come back,” and she hurried off to write about it. 

Where: Birrarung Marr, by the Yarra River 
When: Until Sunday Feb 1 
Hours: Mon-Thu 4pm-11pm; Fri 4pm-1am; Sat 12pm-1am; Sun 12pm-11pm 
Jan 25-26 (Australia Day weekend) & Feb 1 (closing night): 12pm-12am