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Victoria Khroundina

Victoria Khroundina

Victoria Khroundina has been a freelance contributor to Time Out since 2017, and she specialises in restaurants and cafés. She has been writing for more than ten years and loves travel and food writing.  Connect with her on Instagram at @victoriakhroun.

Listings and reviews (34)

Smith & Daughters

Smith & Daughters

Update: We attended this venue in August 2018 and some details may have altered since then.  Fitzroy’s Smith & Daughters looks like an old-school rock’n’roll bar, but the cross-shaped neon sign on the wall tells you why you’re really here: to ‘eat vegan’. In these days of fake news, fake meat and fake dairy, eating ethically doesn’t mean your only friends are salad. Abattoirs might soon become obsolete with Silicon Valley start-ups figuring out how to grow our food in labs. But if this all sounds a little too sci-fi, just wait till you hear what Shannon Martinez is achieving in her compact kitchen. Martinez opened Smith & Daughters with business partner Mo Wyse in 2014. Aiming to dispel the myth that vegan cuisine is lacklustre, they started with a Latin-tinged menu, but did a switcheroo to Italian in May. A great move – who doesn’t love pasta – but how on earth are they going to pull off cured meats and buffalo mozzarella using just plants? Diehard curd lovers: prepare to be impressed. The creamy, slightly sweet ricotta smeared on the pizza fritte is made in-house exactly like dairy milk ricotta but using soy milk instead. Sharp, fruity parmesan, a product from Greece, replaces the real thing in many dishes, but is especially pronounced in the cacio e pepe, where thick bucatini noodles are made piquant with loads of Kampot pepper and sticky from black fermented garlic, delivering a strong umami hit despite the non-dairy cheese. A little poetic faith is required to fully embr

Abla's

Abla's

5 out of 5 stars

When young Abla Amad came to Melbourne in 1954 she brought the love of cooking developed while watching her mother in their north Lebanese village. Later, she sharpened her culinary skills with the Lebanese women who would meet in each other’s kitchens to exchange recipes. Abla loved feeding people so much that meal-making for her family turned into hosting Sunday feasts for the community – and then came the restaurant. Abla’s opened in 1979 in the same location it’s in today and upon entry you experience a pleasant time warp. The décor – white tablecloths, simple chairs and extravagantly framed paintings – hasn’t changed much since those early days, and the hospitality is instant: a warm welcome with olives and pita crisps already on your table. This is one of those places where it's worth considering the banquet. In the first event, charry baba ghanoush jostles for attention with creamy yet firm labne and chunky hummus. Next up, ladies’ fingers are so fine and buttery that the filo pastry barely contains the pine nuts and minced lamb spiked with cumin, allspice and sumac – you won’t be able to stop licking your fingers. The baked chicken wings in garlic and lemon are fall-off-the-bone tender, and in these days of 1,001 spices, such a simple dish is refreshing. Abla does two versions of the Middle East’s beloved stuffed vegetables: one with silverbeet, the other with cabbage. Don’t leave without trying the former (it's not part of the banquet but consider tacking it on), whi

Liminal

Liminal

3 out of 5 stars

Melbourne hospitality royalty the Mulberry Group knows that a successful café doesn’t just mean good food and coffee – it’s all about location, location, location. The group’s head honcho Nathan Toleman founded the Kettle Black in a Victorian terrace in South Melbourne, with a décor accented by pale timber and lots of plants, and Higher Ground in a heritage-listed former powerhouse with a dramatic 15-metre ceiling in the CBD, selling both in 2018. For his next trick, Toleman has opened a café-cum-wine shop in the foyer of the T&G building at the Paris end of Collins Street.  The insides match the elegant outsides. The theme is Art Deco – think curvy chartreuse banquettes, white marble-top tables, slate-coloured concrete, minimalist Scandi furniture – and the vibe is moneyed powerbrokers. In the AM, legal eagles muffle details about their latest cases over strong lattes made using beans from Square One Coffee Roasters. In the PM, human resource executives pep up thanks to smoothies, gut-friendly pear and fermented strawberry juices, or house-made blood orange, honey and thyme sodas. In the (later) PM, CEOs roar with the sweet sound of success over a bottle of 2017 Vidal Reserve chardonnay or 2018 Bass River 1835 pinot noir. The wine list of mostly Victorian drops, with a few New Zealand and European producers thrown in the mix, hovers under the $60-per-bottle mark despite the cashed-up clientele. Pick up a bottle from the wine shop to take the party home.  When Liminal opened

Rat the Cafe

Rat the Cafe

5 out of 5 stars

Brunch is the holy grail of Melburnians, but are we suffering from smashed avo and eggs benedict fatigue? Are too many cafés carbon copies of each other both in aesthetics (read: exposed plumbing, low lighting) and food options? Maybe. It’s certainly nice to find a café doing something that seems so simple but stands out in our hyper-brunch times.  Rat the Café isn’t the hangout for your pet rat. Nor is it decorated in pictures of rats, à la Fleabag’s guinea pig café. Instead on a quiet backstreet in Thornbury opposite a primary school is a neighbourhood spot focusing on coffee, thoughtful dishes, and doing its bit for our fragile planet.  ‘Rat’ is an acronym for ‘root and tip’, and owner/chef Callum MacBain adopts a waste-free approach to building his menu by looking to parts of an ingredient that would usually be thrown away for inspiration. Most of the raw materials used are either organic or biodynamic, and suppliers are chosen based on whether they value minimal intervention processes.  The menu changes frequently depending on what’s most abundant and readily available – and is a celebration of doing a few things really, really well. There’s the obligatory toast, a muesli dish, a breakfast sandwich, an egg dish, a bean dish and a sweet dish. And that’s it. You can count the number of options on one hand, but wowee is each a thing of delicious beauty.  When we arrive on a weekend mid-morning, the light, airy space dotted with pot plants made from recycled plastic (the sus

Romans Original

Romans Original

5 out of 5 stars

From the Bull and Finch Pub in Cheers to Moe’s in The Simpsons to Paddy’s Pub in It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, the local neighbourhood bar is a beloved narrative anchor in popular culture. And in real life too, neighbourhood bars provide that mix of familiarity and nostalgia that’s so comforting in our hectic, digitised lives.  Melbourne is home to some excellent neighbourhood bars, yet the west was strangely lacking one until 2019. Footscray local Leigh McKenny filled the gap in July of that year by transforming the former Michael’s Deli, an Eastern European delicatessen, into an attractive eatery and watering hole that’s retained all of its retro charm.    By day, it’s a café that provides a welcome relief from the usual trifecta of brunch suspects (eggs, avocado, muesli). Here, sandwiches rule supreme. The current menu reads like a New York deli blackboard. A meatball sub is just the right amount of sloppy, with bite courtesy of grated Grana Padano. A poppy seed bagel from 5 and Dime can barely contain a sharp, salty and tangy combo of house-cured salmon, red onion, capers, dill and burnt scallion cream cheese. A focaccia from the legendary bakers at Baker Bleu (with takeaway loaves available on Fridays and Saturdays) provides a pillowy home for Meatsmith smoked brisket, house-made wholegrain beer mustard and house-made mayonnaise – perfect simplicity. A melt-in-the-mouth potato roll encases a thick crumbed chicken breast, lettuce, mayo and neon-yellow American cheese

Dari Korean Cafe and Bar

Dari Korean Cafe and Bar

4 out of 5 stars

Melbourne loves a good sanga, and we’re not starved for delicious and diverse options – with everything from ultra-cheesy toasties and reubens to hot chicken rolls and a cult pig’s ear sandwich available for the grabbing. Asian-style sandwiches are the toasts of the town – from Goldie Canteen’s char sui pork and kimchi toasties to Super Ling’s mapo tofu jaffle. And in 2019 Dari Korean Café brought Korean-inspired sandwiches into the spotlight.   Yoon-Ji Park came to Melbourne from South Korea as a teenager and is slinging Korean-inspired street food, including an array of interesting sandwiches, on Hardware Lane. The Idol Sandwich is popularised by K-pop stars on a Korean Top of the Pops-type programme called Inkigayo. Four slices of white bread barely contain the thick layers of Mexican salad (cabbage, ham, crabstick and egg dressed with sriracha mayo and ketchup), an egg and potato salad and – wait for it – plenty of strawberry jam. It sounds intense (and it is), but all the elements fuse to create creamy bursts of sweet and savoury – not unlike a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Or try the satisfying Street Toast, a popular on-the-go breakfast in Korea. White bread is filled with ham, cheese, cabbage, an onion-and-carrot omelette, pickles, ketchup and mayo. Korean barbecue enthusiasts will love the bulgogi bun: oodles of soy-marinated beef soak a milk bun with its juices, where onion and lettuce cut the richness and a house-made sesame mayo rounds off the whole experience

The Hardware Societe

The Hardware Societe

4 out of 5 stars

Surviving a decade in Melbourne’s hospitality industry is no easy feat. Thriving in it is even harder. Hardware Société has managed to do the latter. Opened by husband and wife Di and Will Keser in 2009, who now reside in Paris, the legendary café bid adieu to its eponymous location on Hardware Lane in February and made the move to a bigger, brighter space on a laneway a stone’s throw away from Southern Cross Station. A smaller second venue on Hardware Lane is still standing and the Kesers even opened an outpost in Montmartre, Paris in 2016. The queues snaking around the cobblestone alleyway of the original location have been transported with the move. We arrive early on a Saturday morning and luckily don’t have to wait for a table. Within half an hour, we see the beginnings of those famous lines outside. Inside, it’s très chic. Pink walls with green detailing match the design of the café’s cookbook, Parisian wicker chairs encircle white round marble tables, vintage posters of French fashion houses intermingle with lots of greenery and exposed piping. There’s a shelf jammed with artisanal produce from Europe and a huge glass cabinet displaying drool-worthy sweets, like a baked vanilla cheesecake and lemon tarts.   Hardware Société’s menu may have had tweaks over the years but its modus operandi remains the same: you won’t find the eggs on toast or smashed avo here. Instead, chefs Carla Eyles and Adam Lai focus on rich, French-inspired dishes that remind you how special brunch

Holy Crumpets

Holy Crumpets

4 out of 5 stars

Perhaps, like us, you remember when you were a kid and the only thing that would nudge you out of bed on a Saturday morning would be the smell of crumpets toasting? Spongy, soft rounds smeared with butter and honey dripping down your fingers and face? Pure joy. Crumpets are the stuff of childhood memories for many, but few would decide to turn it into a business. Joshua Clements’ crumpet nostalgia was stirred during a trip to the USA a number of years ago. He spent a year and half perfecting his recipe before he started selling at farmers’ markets in September 2017. His crumpets have been such a hit that in February he took the plunge to open a bricks-and-mortar shop in the CBD. The hole-in-the-wall café is easy to find. Turn left on Little Latrobe Street from Swanston and the sign saying ‘Crumpets and Coffee’ signals you’ve arrived. It’s a tiny place with a few low benches and a L-shaped bar that sits eight to ten people max. If you can’t find a seat, don’t worry: the crumpets travel well. So how do Josh’s holy crumpets fare compared to what we eagerly gobbled up as kids? For starters, these are much more of an adult offering: they’re made from local organic wheat that’s stone milled in Brunswick before getting turned into a mixture that’s between a batter and dough and left to ferment overnight. The crumpets are sourdough and don’t have any baker’s yeast, which they’re traditionally made with, giving them a denser texture and a subtle hint of tanginess. As a bonus, they’re

Sonido

Sonido

4 out of 5 stars

India and Malaysia have the dosa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean have the pita, Ethiopia has the injera, Russia has the blini, and Colombia and Venezuela have the arepa. This version of the ubiquitous flatbread – the oldest baked good in the world – is flat, round and made from corn and has been a staple of the Colombian-Venezuelan diets for thousands of years. At Fitzroy’s Sonido, the arepa takes centre stage. Opened in 2010 by Colombians Santiago Villamizar and Carolina Taler, the café has made the humble arepa a household name. It has become so popular that a second outpost of Sonido, called Arepa Days, was opened in Preston last year, where the flatbreads – supplying both cafés – are made the traditional way: whole Australian corn is cooked, mixed, ground and shaped into rounds that are grilled to produce mild-tasting disks blistered with char. They can be eaten on their own but are even better crowned with proteins and vegetables. As a bonus, the white corn arepas are gluten-free.   The succinct menu at Sonido champions arepas (there’s also a small selection of empanadas and sweets), so your only job is deciding which topping to have. In the ropa vieja, shredded beef is slow cooked with tomato, onion and spices, delivering sweetness and the kind of comfort you get from eating mum’s casserole. In the pollo, the whole chargrilled free-range chicken thigh marinated with panela (unrefined cane sugar), hot paprika and lime is peppery and zesty, soaking the white corn a

Neruda's

Neruda's

4 out of 5 stars

A stone’s throw away from Anstey Station, a massive photorealist mural of an Inca boy is splashed across the wall of a building. Drawn by street artist Julian Clavijo, it was designed to bring a touch of colour and tranquillity to an area prone to lots of traffic and activity. Inside, colour and calm are delivered to you on a plate at Gus Vargas' quaint café. Its menu – like its owner, who hails from Santiago, and its name honouring the great Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda – spotlights classic Chilean dishes. Locals and members of the South American community settle in on the few tables set up amidst shelves jammed with an impressive collection of South American records, books, flags and hand-painted maté (a caffeine-rich herbal drink) cups. Seventies salsa plays just audibly, as Gus chats to his customers in Spanish or English in between making coffees and bagging oven-baked empanadas – crispy, dense pastry encasing a comforting mixture of slow-cooked beef, onions, Spanish black olives and hardboiled egg. Breakfast dishes are combos of yolk-heavy scrambled eggs with ham (chancho), chorizo (choro), or steak, grilled tomatoes and caramelised onion (pobre). The term ‘a lo pobre’ denotes simple, traditional food, along the lines of Italy’s cucina povera – meals Chilean families eat daily. The breakfasts come either with pan amasado – homemade Chilean country bread traditionally baked in a wood-clay oven – or the Colombian staple of white or yellow corn arepas. The arepas are a good

Onda Bar & Eatery

Onda Bar & Eatery

3 out of 5 stars

South American eateries tend to fall into two camps in Melbourne: loud and bold restaurants championing the well-known cuisines of Argentina or Peru (think meat, ceviche and vino tinto at San Telmo and Harley House), or laidback neighbourhood joints slinging traditional, regional specialities (like La Tienda and Citrico). Places doing South American fusion are a rarity.  Enter Onda. Couple Stephen and Niharika Hogan scoured South America top to tip and brought their love for the continent’s cuisines back home to an intimate venue on Bridge Road in Richmond. Onda’s compact menu (which is about half vegetarian) pays homage to Latin flavours but isn’t wedded to tradition. The ambitious dishes get full points for creativity. In the beautiful ceviche, kingfish is evenly sliced, opaque and firm from the finger lime. The flavours are spanking fresh, with the purple yam crisps providing the perfect crunchy foil. Beef short rib, smoked in-house with apple wood, likewise hits the mark. The mofongo (a thick Puerto Rican hash brown made with plantain) is a clever accompaniment to the gelatinous, fall-off-the-bone rib. Beef fat croutons add crunch, and drops of beetroot puree and herby chimichurri provide depth, acid and freshness. Not everything is a slam dunk. The house-made mole – Mexico’s favourite chocolate-tinged sauce – hits the trifecta of bitter, sweet and spicy, but doesn't quite stick the landing with the accompanying mozzarella chipa, chewy puffs that taste like savoury profit

Cibi

Cibi

4 out of 5 stars

Cibi translates to ‘little one’ from Japanese, but the beloved Collingwood café and concept store of the same name made a big move last October. Originally opened over a decade ago by husband and wife Meg and Zenta Tanaka, Cibi has relocated (albeit next door) to a spacious, light-flooded warehouse – there’s now more room to display its beautiful products and, importantly, ample space for more diners to become devotees of its famed Japanese-style breakfasts. The Tanakas’ philosophy is to look at life through the eyes of our younger selves. Correspondingly, the compact menu champions simplicity. Fusing Japanese ingredients and cooking methods with Western flavours and seasonal produce results in well-balanced dishes and modest serving sizes, staying true to the Japanese proverb and one of Cibi’s mantras – hara-hachi-bun-me (eating until you are 80 percent full is eating in moderation). Despite the larger space there’s a short wait for a table on a sunny Sunday morning. The room hums with chatter as people tackle free-range eggs, roasted eggplant and butternut squash caramelised with sweet house-made miso buried under a thick blanket of oozy provolone cheese – it tastes as cosy as it looks. Salmon cured in-house with sake and kombu is served with a soft-boiled egg and pickled daikon with a yuzu pepper dressing adding zest. But the main drawcard is still the Japanese breakfast plate. Based on Meg’s grandmother’s recipe, it comes in three iterations. In the traditional, the small

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