Papa Gino’s

Papa Gino’s is a no-frill Italian restaurant in a sea of Italian restaurants on Lygon Street, and we decided to drop in for a quick lunch on a weekday.

Ai Funghi w Penne (Entree) – $14.50

Feeling like a white sauce, we ordered the mushroom in creamy sauce with penne. The penne were perfectly al dente, and although the mushroom sauce was quite run-of-the-mill, it was reminiscent of a comforting home-cooked meal nonetheless.

Capricciosa (small) – $13.00

The capricciosa was also quite pleasant. Its base was crispy enough to create texture, but sturdy enough to not sink under the topping of mushroom, ham, olives and cheese. Again, nothing to write home about, but it did the job.

Papa Gino’s does not pride itself in offering gourmet and authentic Italian food, however, its selling point are its family-friendly atmosphere, no-frill menu and friendly service, making it perfect for large gatherings of sorts.

How to get here:
Papa Gino’s is located on Lygon Street, catch any of Swanston Street trams heading out of the city from Flinders Street Station or Melbourne Central and get off at University of Melbourne, and Papa Gino’s is 5 minutes walk away.

Papa Gino's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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NL House

NL House is a small shop that has a succinct menu that features Malaysian classics. Bright and modern, it’s mainly a place where people seem to be picking up takeaways, but there are a few seats available both in and outside of the restaurant if you’re choosing to dine in.

Fried Chicken Nasi Lemak w/ Traditional Sambal – $12.80

Being the namesake for the restaurant, it would be remiss of me to not order a plate of nasi lemak. I went for the fried chicken version, and before long, a plate that held all the components of nasi lemak was placed down on the table. The chicken was dry and crispy on the outside, encasing a tender and juicy inside. The traditional sambal had just enough of a kick to it to make me sweat while mixing it through with the rice, and did a terrific job of tying everything together.

Although nothing fancy, NL House is certainly promising when it comes to delivering authentic Malaysian food. Word on the block is that it also serves a killer chicken laksa, which I’m definitely keen to try out once the weather cools down.

How to get here:
NL House is located on Grattan Street, catch any of the trams on Swanston Street from Flinders Street or Melbourne Central heading towards Melbourne University and get off at Melbourne University, and the restaurant is a short three minutes walk away.

Nasi Lemak House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Humble Rays

Opening earlier this year, Humble Rays has quickly become a contender for having the longest queue in the Carlton area during brunch hours. Its pastel colour palette, plethora of air-hanging plants, and Asian-inspired menu that frequents Instagram ensured that it had a cult following. Arriving at midday on Wednesday, we still had to wait for 30 minutes, proving its popularity.Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

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Iced Matcha Latte – $6.00

Hearing rave reviews about the Matcha Latte, and given the humid weather on the day, it was a no-brainer to order the iced matcha latte for my drinks. The matcha flavour was indeed a lot more prominent than other matcha lattes I’ve tried in the past, and I had to restrain myself from finishing it too quickly.

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Steak Sanga – $18.50

I strayed away from some of the more popular dishes and ordered the steak sanga, the serving was a lot larger than I expected, and am used to around Melbourne.

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Steak Sanga – $18.50

The goodies that were sandwiched between the roll included the titular flank steak, cheddar cheese, chilli bacon jam, balsamic onion chutney, rocket pesto mayo, and some rocket to trick you into thinking it’s a balanced meal. The only problem that I had with the sandwich was that it was quite difficult to eat, however once I had overcome that, the dish was delicious. The chilli bacon jam and rocket pesto mayo elevated it from a steak sanga that you can get from your local fish and chips, and the quality ingredients together presented a simple but tasty meal.

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Egg Benny – $18.50

The eggs benny is probably the most raved about dish from Humble Rays, and my friend liked it so much that she ordered it both times that she visited the cafe. The pork belly was braised to the point that it fell apart at the touch of the fork, and melted in the mouth. The ginger flavour wasn’t too overpowering in the pork belly, which means that even if you were not a fan of ginger, you’d still enjoy the dish. The korokke was akin to a potato rosti, but a lot of crispier, and the yuzu hollandaise prevented the dish from being too heavy.

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Green Tea Skookie – $12.50

Even though we were pretty full by this point, we still had some room for the green tea skookie. Skookie is essentially a cookie baked in a skillet, topped off with marshmallow, ice cream and cookie crumbs. The soft cookie paired with the gooey marshmallow perfectly, and ice cream is never a bad idea in dessert. The idea is ingenious, and we demolished the skookie in minutes.

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Even in the saturated brunch scene, Humble Rays is able to set itself apart with dishes that are both reasonably priced and interesting, whilst not losing touch with the most important factor – tastiness of the food. There’s a reason why it has been able to draw a crowd amongst other cafes around the area, and I can see it continue to thrive amongst the student population nearby.

How to get there:
Humble Rays is located on Bouverie Street, catch any of the trams from the Melbourne Central tram stop on the Swanston Street heading away from Flinders Street Station, and get off at Queensberry Street/Swanston Street, and the cafe is two minutes walk away.

Humble Rays Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Milk The Cow

I love it when the name of a restaurant hints at what it specialises in, and Milk the Cow is an excellent example of that. Yup, you guessed it, it’s cheese, a lot of cheese, a cabinet filled with cheese.

Some people might hold the idea of wine and cheese to be a mature adult only activity, and that may be true for some, however I am neither mature nor an adult (where do you draw the line) but it is a pairing that I am quite fond of. Given how decadent it is, my friend and I saw it as the perfect place for some celebration.

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Top to bottom: Farmer’s Board; Kaas Mit Wein Zu Kochen; 3 Cheese Cheesemonger’s Choice

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St John’s Road Riesling – $11.50

After placing our order, I asked the waitress to help me select a wine that would pair well with the food. She recommended the Riesling, stating that it is a wine that will go with various types of cheese. I enjoyed the dry and crisp nature of the wine, and it did indeed taste even better when paired with the cheese.

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Top to bottom: Farmer’s Board; 3 Cheese Cheesemonger’s Choice

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3 Cheese Cheesemonger’s Choice – $28.00

We foregone the flight options for drinks of our own choosing, and therefore picked the 3 Cheese Cheesemonger’s Choice. There are over 180 types of cheese sitting in the cabinet of Milk the Cow, and this cheeseboard is constantly changing depending on the cheese that is currently ripe.

The soft cheese came in the form of La Tur, belonging to the brie family, it was extremely creamy and rich, almost buttery in its flavour. If you are not a fan of blue cheese, the Gorgonzola Bonta della Bonta may be a good one to start off with, it was a lot lighter than most blue cheeses that I’ve tried, the quince and the Shiraz and Onion Jam ($7.00) helped to balance out the flavour even further. The most unique cheese of the trio had to be the BellaVitano Balsamic, the hard cheese was nutty and sweet, and the balsamic rind made it even more interesting. My friend enjoyed this cheese so much that she bought some to take home with her.

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Farmers Board – $30.00

Milk the Cow offered an option to select four items and form a Farmers Board for $30; in addition to the Shiraz and Onion Jam, we had the Serrano ($8.00), Prosciutto ($8.00) and Smoked Salmon Pate ($12.00). The serrano and prosciutto were both delicious with the right amount of the fattiness. The smoked salmon pate was creamy with a much more delicate flavour. Although tasty in their own right, the farmers board was not as impressive as the cheese board, only because I feel that these selections were more accessible.

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Vinea Marson Prosecco – $14.00

It was time for a top up of the drinks, and this time I knew I wanted to end the night on a Prosecco, and given that this was the only option on the drinks list, it’s what I went with. This was another dry wine, a sparkling one at that. The crisp notes of apple and pear were what I tasted at first, before transforming into a more complex nutty flavour.

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Kaas Mit Wein Zu Kochen – $17.00

Cheese fondue is probably what I was most excited to try on the night, and after much debate, we settled on the Kaas Mit Wein Zu Kochen, aka the one no one can say.

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Kaas Mit Wein Zu Kochen – $17.00

The fondue was made with a mixture of Gruyere, Appenzeller, Comte and Emmenthal. A strong flavour is expected from that list of cheese already, and indeed, this was not one for the faint-hearted. The consistency was somewhat thicker than I expected, in the sense that the cheese in the fondue pot kind of all moved together.

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Kaas Mit Wein Zu Kochen – $17.00

Dip the cubed bread into the cheese, and pray that you will be able to get it out of that cheese, and then chew through what is possibly one of the best things in the world, melted cheese that is buttery, dense, and oh-so-cheesy. Every bite is as sinful as it is delicious, and even though we were filled to the brim, we managed to smash through the whole thing.

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Milk the Cow is a place that I never knew I needed, but now I can’t live without it. The combination of wine and cheese is so tentalising, add the relaxing ambience and professional yet friendly service to the mix, it is a place that I know I will frequent, even if it is just for a cheese and wine flight before or after dinner (don’t judge me). One of the waiters also gave us a complimentary round of drinks which was much appreciated.

If you are wanting to visit, make sure you arrive early to avoid a long wait, alternatively leave your name and walk around the neighbourhood, there is plenty to explore; we had to wait for around an hour on the Friday night. If you are going in a group of six or more, it might save you some trouble to just go ahead and book a table.

And no, I didn’t end up having any whacky dreams that night, another plus hey.

How to get here:
Milk the Cow is located on Lygon Street, catch tram #1 or #6 and get off at Lygon/Elgin Street, and Milk the Cow is right around the corner.

Milk the Cow Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Oko Oko

Oko Oko is a small but functional restaurant that is located right next door to Melbourne uni, it does a range of okonomiyaki, as well as some classic Japanese rice dishes, such as curry katsu don and beef bowl.

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Chicken Karaage Oko Pancake – $10.9

For those unfamiliar with the dish, an okonomiyaki is essentially a vegetable pancake, that has a lot of different veggies, and very little flour. It’s cooked up on a hot plate and formed into the shape, Oko Oko adds all sort of toppings onto their version of the traditional Japanese dish, and we opted to share the one with the chicken karaage. The pancake itself was thinner than I’m used, but the shredded veggies added some nice crunch to it. The karaage was nothing to write home about, but how bad can fried chicken be really?

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Pork Katsu Curry – $11.90

The dark colour of the curry sauce looked extremely promising, and the flavour was definitely there with this dish! The pork katsu was not all that substantial, but if you are in need of some extra protein, there is that fried egg up top, which I thought was a bit of a random addition. Japanese curry is a lot milder in flavour, and uses less pungent spices than say, Indian or Malaysian curry, and a big bowl of this is comfort food at its best.

Oko Oko doesn’t have the most authentic nor creative Japanese food in town, but I don’t think that’s where it aims to shine. With most dishes around the $10 mark, and its convenient location of being right next door to Melbourne Uni, it is an easy place for students to grab some food in between classes.

How to get here:
Oko Oko is located on Swanston Street, catch any of the tram heading out of the city from the Swanston Street side tram stops at Flinders St or Melbourne Central, and get off at stop #3 Lincoln Square, the restaurant is two minutes walk away.

Oko Oko Carlton Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kaprica

Kaprica has been a hidden gem close to uni for as long as I can remember. It is easily missable if you don’t know what you’re looking out for, but on any sunny day, there’s sure to be a crowd sitting outside, and that’s what gives away its location.1

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Provelone (Small) – $16.00

I’ve been here from time to time throughout my study, but is still yet to test every pizza on the menu. On this occasion, I went for the Provelone, which had the topping of artichoke, provolone, rocket and tomato. This was a very lightly flavoured pizza, and all four ingredients worked in harmony. I especially loved how the rocket cut through the richness of the provolone and the saltiness of the artichoke, and the tomato base lent every bite some acidity.3

The small pizza is very satisfying for one person, and doesn’t break the bank, which is why Kaprica remains popular amongst students nearby. I’m pretty sure we visited at around 3pm, hence the empty tables, but trust me, if you’re visiting on a Friday night, be sure to make a booking so that you don’t have to wait out in the cold.

How to get here:
Kaprica is located on Lincoln Square, catch any tram heading out of the city from Melbourne Central/Swanston Street and get off at Lincoln Square South, Kaprica is less than two minutes walk away.

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

Queensberry Pourhouse

Queensberry Pourhouse is pretty inconspicuous, hiding in the corner of Queensberry and Bouverie Street, I must’ve walked past it a bunch of times on the way to class. Earlier this year, I finally visited it when catching up with a friend.

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Flat White – $4.50

The coffee was pretty standard, although I think their specialty is the batch brew, but I wasn’t feeling adventurous enough on the day.

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Lamb Pie w/ Coffee Gravy and Tomato Sauce

Can’t seem to find this on the menu anymore, but from memory, it was a pretty delicious pie. The filling was quite flavoursome, and the pastry was buttery without being overly flakey. I was pretty iffy about the coffee gravy, but the light bitterness actually complimented the pie quite well.

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Mushroom Toastie – $12.50

My friend got the mushroom toastie, which had two types of mushrooms and two types of cheese, field and enoki mushrooms, and provolone and grana padano. She said the sandwich was quite mild, but with a good earthy flavour from the mushrooms. She did find the pickle a bit random though, and didn’t think it went with the toastie itself.

Although nothing out of the ordinary, given Queensberry Pourhouse’ proximity to uni, and its casual atmosphere, I can see myself returning from time to time.

How to get here:
Catch any tram from Flinders St Station, Federation Square side, and get off at stop #4 Queensberry St/Swanston St, the cafe is three minutes walk away.

Queensberry Pourhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato