Australia has a big reputation for beaches. Hand on heart, Greedy Girl has to say that the beaches closest to the city of Melbourne aren’t the most glamorous in the world but, on a sunny day, they’re certainly extremely well patronised. Indeed, all year round, there’s a steady stream of locals and visitors alike walking, jogging, rollerblading, kite surfing and, if they’re daring, taking a dip in waters that stay fairly chilly all year round. And, of course, there’s plenty of choice nearby for eating and drinking.

Acland Street St Kilda has a long foodie history and was famous for its cake shops set up by eastern European migrants. The  strip is still dominated by food but – like the rest of Melbourne – it’s a multicultural mix. There are still a couple of cake shops (Monarch Cakes still looks like it’s caught in its mid-20th century time warp, but more on that later) but they’re jostled for room by Latino cuisine (Spanish, Mexican, even Peruvian), hipster fish and chip outlets, espresso bars and a smattering of Asian and middle-Eastern cuisine. Greedy Girl used to live nearby and a regular visitor to the Jewish delis, a great Asian takeaway and what used to be one of the hottest American-style burger bars, Greasy Joe’s. Sadly, many of these outlets are no more.

But another Saturday, another edition of Eat Streets. We hopped on the 96 tram at Crown Casino, which took us quickly, efficiently and right to the end of Acland Street to start exploring. Greedy Girl struggled to find much that was familiar.  Apart from the very solid Italian restaurant Cicciolina and the Dog’s Bar, most of the outlets didn’t ring a bell. Never mind, all good for exploring.

Needing some form of sustenance to kick off, we started on the corner of Acland and Barkly Streets at Leroy Espresso. This represents the best of both worlds for locals – there’s a takeaway coffee service right on the street and a lot of tables for those who want to sit and linger. Pulling up some chairs inside (it was a slightly chilly start to the day), we opted for an omelette to share to get us going. There was a good reason to share – we’d spied a serving on another table and it was exceedingly big.

Eat Streets Melbourne, Acland Street

French-style omelette

The menu described it as a French-style omelette with crispy bacon, mozzarella, tomato and onion. It ticked most of those boxes although Greedy Girl would prefer her omelette fillings to be cooked separately first and then folded into the eggs for the omelette to be speedily finished. The tomato and onion were both uncooked and the bacon was anything but crispy. Still, it wasn’t unpleasant. Gluttonous husband took the lions share while Greedy Girl contented herself with the very decent sourdough toast underneath.

We opted to head next door to La Roche for a coffee. This is an interesting-looking place with more of a bar/nightclub feel. Things didn’t start off too well; Greedy Girl ordered a piccolo and a frown crossed the affable waiter’s face. ‘What’s a piccolo?’ he asked. Ummm. Greedy Girl concedes the language of coffee can be rather different in most places (check out the lingo required on our last US trip with that blog here) but piccolo is fairly widely used throughout Melbourne to denote a caffe latte prepared in a small glass or cup. We waited, a little anxiously for it to appear alongside gluttonous husband’s espresso. We needn’t have worried. It was absolutely superb. A slightly nutty shot of espresso was rich and full of flavour. At least the barista knew what they were about!

Eat Streets Melbourne, Acland Street

Nutty, delectable coffee at La Roche

It was time to scope the rest of the street. Acland Street is actually quite long, although the main strip is contained within Barkly and Carlisle Streets. Having come up with a plan of action, we then proceeded to up the count on our Fitbits by zigzagging our way to 40 Thieves and Co.

It’s time to cue ‘Memories’ playing through the loudspeaker in my mind. This tiny little shopfront at the base of apartments has been a cafe of various varieties for a long time. It was, in fact, the venue for Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband’s ‘first date’ where we shared a coffee. Greedy Girl believes we sat in the same spot – the table next to the window at the back. Good times. It was, at that time, a French patisserie but now it specialises in middle-eastern delights. Greedy Girl is particularly fond of falafel and, on spying a brioche burger on the menu was intrigued. After being assured by the waiter it was yummy, she needed no further convincing. Gluttonous husband chose a mezze plate with haloumi cheese and sausage.

The waiter, although very pleasant, seemed a bit distracted. Greedy Girl heard him talk to a colleague about our order and she murmured to gluttonous husband that she fully expected she’d be brought the wrong dish. Bingo. A short while later, gluttonous husband was presented with his cheese and sausage plate, while Greedy Girl was presented with the standard falafel – not a brioche to be seen. She reminded the waiter of the recommendation. Immediately the plate was whisked away with a ‘D’Oh’. It gave Greedy Girl the opportunity to try gluttonous husband’s dish.

Eat Streets Melbourne, Acland Street

Haloumi and sausage tasting plate

The haloumi had been wrapped in vine leaves before grilling. It was beautifully cooked and the sausages (lamb Greedy Girl estimates) were moist and again cooked very well. It went spectacularly with the red onion salad and the grilled pita bread. Shortly thereafter, the brioche appeared, with a side of ‘chips of Bagdad’ tossed with garlic, chilli and fresh coriander.

Eat Streets Melbourne, Acland Street

Falafel brioche burger

The burger was excellent. The falafel had a lovely crunch and worked well with the slight sweetness of the bread. Hummus was liberally spread and the tabbouleh salad was absolutely the best Greedy Girl has ever eaten. Indeed, she usually avoids tabbouleh but this was delish. The chips were interesting – a bit too blonde but given the hiccup with the order that wasn’t entirely unexpected.

40 Thieves and Co is a very small restaurant but the big, high table at the back would be great for a group of up to six people. The flavour of the food certainly merits another visit there.
But, we had much more territory to cover.

We headed back down the street to 95 Espresso, for another round of coffees. This is absolutely a hipster enclave, doubling as a bar. It’s definitely got that look about it. Ordering our standard piccolo and double espresso, we were a little dismayed when both weren’t served at the same time. Greedy Girl contends that if two or more people sit down to have a coffee together, they should have a coffee … together. The piccolo arrived but we needed to ask again for the espresso. The coffee was perfectly acceptable but not as good as the ones at La Roche earlier in the day. The beans were obviously very different and they gave a much more subtle flavour.

Eat Streets Melbourne, Acland Street

The hip 95 Espresso interior

It was then time for something of a little more substance. We plonked ourselves down inside the industrial-chic Gami – a Korean-inspired eatery noted for spicy fried chicken and beer – an excellent combination. It had to be said we weren’t entirely comfortable in this spot, so we opted not to have beers and just chose what we thought would be a reasonably light dish – chicken spare ribs (pictured at the top of this post). These are described as having a balanced flavour of sweetness, saltiness and spiciness and served with the house salad. Honestly, they were perfectly edible but Greedy Girl suspects Colonel Sanders doesn’t have much to worry about. The ribs didn’t really pack much of a hit. Greedy Girl struggled to discern much spice (or sweetness) for that matter and she felt the breading wasn’t a patch on the chicken tenders she’d had at Belle’s Hot Diner in Gertrude Street. The dressing on the salad also wasn’t to either of our tastes.

We needed something sweet and very overdue for a visit to one of the famed cake shops. Sadly, most of them are gone or the original eastern European owners have also shuffled off. Monarch Cakes is an exception. The interior looks like it hasn’t been touched since the 50s, with laminate tables and an original push-button cash register. The shop has been in business on that spot since 1934. We took advantage of the last warm rays of the sun to sit outside and watch the passing parade, while enjoying a slice of chocolate kooglhoupf. This is the shop’s spelling of the cake also known as gugelhopf, guglhupf, or indeed kugelhopf. However it’s spelled, it was delicious. Beautiful dark chocolate fudge inside and an airy light cake texture. A lovely chocolate hit and, despite the powdered sugar on top, not outrageously sweet. We were well pleased.

Eat Streets Melbourne, Acland Street

Chocolate kooglhoupf

The sun was starting to head downwards. It was time for a real drink. We headed across to Amigos for one of Greedy Girl’s all-time favourites, a frozen Margarita.

Eat Streets Melbourne, Acland Street

A luscious lime frozen margarita

Glory of glories, this was indeed a delicious drink. The bartender knew exactly what he was up to. The combination of El Jimador Reposado tequila, triple sec, lime and lemon was heavenly especially combined with a salt rim. Sigh. Greedy Girl would be happy to have another right now …

Gluttonous husband took an Argentinian beer called Quilmes, alongside a chilli con carne crispy taco (you can choose crispy or soft). The beer went down a treat and he happily chomped away on the taco. It was a very fresh-looking dish – pretty much because you can barely see the taco for the salad.

Eat Streets Melbourne, Acland Street

Chilli con carne taco

We were almost over and out, but there was another stop along memory lane. We decided to end this odyssey with a cleansing ale at that St Kilda institution, the Dog’s Bar. Again, this was the venue for a night early on in our love story when Greedy Girl introduced gluttonous husband to her dear friend Bev the Cook. It was a very hot night; after a bottle of champagne, gluttonous husband gleefully treated us to Cointreau frappes. Double Cointreau frappes. Several of them. Greedy Girl hasn’t been able to even look at a bottle of Cointreau since. Sensibly, she opted for an Asahi while gluttonous husband took a 4 Pines pale ale. Done.

We wandered up the hill to have a short walk before getting on the tram and heading home. We passed the other, very small strip of eateries close to the corner of Fitzroy Street, but neither of us had the room or the will to try more. Another time perhaps.

Acland Street still looks like a thriving little metropolis but it’s not the greatest array of food Greedy Girl has experienced in this food-obsessed city. Still, on a trip to explore Melbourne’s inner city seaside on a pleasant day, you could do a lot worse.

Where we visited:
Leroy Espresso, 191 Acland
La Roche, 185 Acland
40 Thieves & Co, 1/56 Acland
95 Espresso, 95 Acland
Gami, 78A Acland
Monarch Cakes, 103 Acland
Amigos, 92B Acland
Dog’s Bar, 54 Acland

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