Loose Change Lunch…. Feast a fortune, pay a pittance!

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A refreshing new regular addition to our St Kilda Bites food review section where our new & innovative food crit; the ‘Peckish Pom,’ embarks upon a relentless quest searching for great value but quality lunches at cafes and restaurants in the greater St Kilda area!

 

Acland St Cantina

Secreted away beneath the Prince of Wales, on the corner of Fitzroy and Acland, is dining powerhouse Melbourne Pub Group’s latest offering. I had been promised a lunch menu where I would be hard pressed to find any dish over $15, a novelty so rare in Melbourne that it has to be seen to be believed. A sleek, modern design enlivened with splashes of bright colour, the front ‘cantina’ area is rather like a school dining hall run by uber-cool hipsters with a penchant for all things Mexican. The genuine staff quickly found a cosy table for myself and two friends, and spent as much time as we needed explaining how the menu worked, and any terms that we were unfamiliar with. We were not disappointed.

I opted to start with a goat taco, which, at $5 was probably the best value food item I have ever eaten. Tender pulled goat laden with queso fresca piled high on an adorable little soft taco really prepared me for my main. I decided on the $15 torta, a style of Mexican toasted sandwich, which I could fill with my choice from the grill. I jumped on the Albacore white tuna minute steak and my friends on the buffalo milk halloumi and millawa chicken. All of our meals were full of heady, rich, and classically Mexican tastes. The chefs, unafraid of bold flavours, piled them one on top of the other, and filled our tortias so full they had to be eaten with a knife and fork. A quick peek at the evening menu showed a similar determination for good, hearty food at a very agreeable price. I couldn’t see anything that charged over $25. Accompanying our meals, we drank great Mexican beer and zingy fresh orange juice chosen from a real leather backed menu. In all, Acland St Cantina was everything I had been promised and more. Great food and drink at a more than reasonable price, packed neatly into a central, easily accessible location. We left thoroughly satisfied, stuffed full of delectable food, our wallets only a couple of notes lighter.

2 Acland St, St Kilda

Open 7 Days – early for Breakfast, Lunch through to late Dinner.

 

Grocery Bar

The Grocery Bar lounges smoothly on the far end of Fitzroy Street, between the second hand bookshops and compact cafes, with a cluster of outdoor seating and a blackboard that advertises a $10 lunch and $10 breakfast. Skeptical that such cheap meals would fill my hangover-weary tummy, and sorely missing English prices, I breezed elegantly through the doorway (tripped over the step and almost fell into the waitress). I decided on the lunch special, a Cajun chicken burrito, with avocado, cheese, sweet chilli mayo, spinach and sour cream. I could hear it being folded together in the open sided kitchen opposite my seat, which was a lovely touch. It was spectacular. It was massive for starters and so full of chicken and cheese I was concerned I may overdose. The sweet chilli mayo gave it a gooey, spicy kick and the sour cream on the side was a stroke of genius. It was the right amount of mess to ensure you feel like you’ve had a good scram, but I still managed to maintain poise and grace throughout (honest). I then drank my own body weight in coffee and soon realised my hangover was a distant memory.

The lunch and dinner specials last for two weeks at a time, keeping in line with a theme but encouraging regulars to expand their horizons. The staff were friendly and accommodating, one chef on break going obscenely far out of his way to ensure I could charge my laptop. Grocery Bar is so effortlessly cool, I felt cool by association. Music is clearly a big part of the experience, with an eclectic playlist and limited edition prints of The Doors and Bowie above the tables. Local shows, theatre productions and festivals are welcome to hang their posters here, and live music is played whenever possible. A wide range of newspapers would make that Sunday morning scrum much easier to win, with an oh-so-tempting array of cakes and biscuits to enjoy with your coffee. With my hangover cured and a slight caffeine overdose to contend with, I resolved to return in the near future to give that $10 breakfast a try too. I’m from Yorkshire, I can’t help being tight.

135 Fitzroy St St Kilda

Ph: (03) 95371137

Mon-Thurs 6:30am-5:00pm, Fri till 6pm & Sat, Sun 7:00am -6pm

 

Lentil as Anything

Tucked neatly next to the bars and cafes of Blessington, the St Kilda institution bustles away at its number one goal: to feed the community. A brave and innovative policy of pay what you think, the café seeks to provide good food for what you can afford – Skint as a church mouse one week? Pay them fifty cents, sold a canvas and rolling in it the next? Pay them $25 to make up for it. The enterprise is run entirely by volunteers, those staff instantly winning my admiration. After working in hospitality for over six long years, I can honestly say that there’s not a cat’s chance in hell that I would do it for free. Despite giving up their free time, the staff were efficient and pleasant, happy to chat and with time for each customer. The menu is entirely vegetarian, but if you are a thoroughbred carnivore, this might be the place to tempt you into occasionally foregoing the steak. It is varied and exciting, with food from all corners of the earth. I chose a dahl, with sweet potato, sultanas and rice, whilst my friend went for an exotic Japanese pancake. Both of our meals were heavenly. Generous portions bursting with flavour, the guys at Lentil as Anything clearly believe that great food shouldn’t be missed out on, even if there’s a chance you’ll only pay a cent. The pancake was sweet and stodgy at the same time, and despite looking small on the plate my friend was soon loosening his belt. My dahl left no illusions; it was bleeding massive. I had to enlist help in getting two thirds of the way there and felt a real sense of loss that there was simply no room for the rest of the tasty sauce.

We decided to pay $17 for the both of us, with a three dollar tip for the brave staff. The aesthetic is classic hippie, with bright colours and comfy cushions. Artwork adorns the inside walls, and the relaxed, chatty atmosphere makes it quite clear that anyone is welcome. We decided to perch on the pleasantly rickety tables out on the pavement, watching the comings and goings of Blessington, shaded by the broad canopy of leaves and serenaded by the buskers of Acland. Despite being just off one of the busiest summer streets known to man, our meal was quiet and peaceful, a great start to a sunny afternoon pottering around the botanical gardens.

41 Blessington St, St Kilda

Open for Brunch at 11am, Lunch through to Dinner – 11am-9pm  

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