A cozy/crazy Social

Fitzroy Social
222 Brunswick Street Fitzroy

(Visited April ’17)

I’m ashamed to say, that the thought of heading over to Fitzroy from the Port Phillip Bay-side of town, on that Thursday night, Good Friday Eve… well it felt like more of an effort and a drainer, than the desire to see my high school friends was.

I mean, the group of us only get together every few years or so. All 6 of us. And so that should have been incentive enough, right?

Yeah, but now high school is over: I’m a Mum, I’m a wife, and I’m an inventive cook too, who was just freaking out over how the hell I was gonna bake all the Easter goodies I was planning on before Easter on Sunday.

But I soon whooped my ass into gear, and as soon as I was all dolled up, I felt much more, Fitzroy ready.

I knew Fitzroy well. I had worked in the area and walked its streets often, many, many years ago. In doing so, I thought I knew what kind of place I could expect. Small, cramped, dark. Meals at the bar, sitting up on some tall stools, looking down the line at each other and barely able to hear ourselves over the band music. I knew we were having dinner there, and one of the girls was pregnant, so I figured it must be somewhat ‘family’ friendly…

I just didn’t know how that would be.

Well, when I luckily pulled right up to the front and parked (my first surprise of the night) I then walked in through the open doors, and got my second surprise.

This place, was HUGE.

It was high, open-spaced, and light. Yes there was a bar, on the left upon entry, and it was long and wide. But also, occupying more than 3/4s of the space, was the seating area. Tables were throughout, along with those that backed onto booths against the wall, and dotted in amongst all of this were purple couches, all high backed and posh and definitely standing out, used as seating as well.

The toilets were out the back, near where our group was eventually seated, and these were spacious and funky looking too.

As I positioned myself in the booth next to my friend, I looked at these seated works of art, and thought ‘damn. I want to sit in one of those.’

They looked out of place, and yet in true eclectic Fitzroy style, they totally fit in.

And then there was the greenery.

Greenery, you say? In a Fitzroy bar? Where the hell could they fit such greenery?

Why, on the ceiling of course.

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It was an interesting and welcoming sight, a nice contrast to the hustle and bustle of all the diners hanging out and catching up on the floor. I loved it.

Once all the girls (and one beau) had arrived, and we were only visited three times by the waitress who was coming to take our order but we were still not ready, we finally ordered.

I got a glass of the Cape Schanck Pinot Noir (from the Mornington Peninsula, of course)

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And soon after as the meals arrived, so too did my meal:

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Now alas, all I can go on is memory, because the guys at Fitzroy Social are so efficient they have already changed their menu, a month on from my visit there! And of course the chicken I had is no longer on it. But I can remember there was a kind of mustard glaze-sauce on the chicken, atop creamy mash, and the carrots were honeyed.

I do recall I enjoyed my dish, however it needed a side, vegies or chips or something. The mash was a small serving. No fault of the menu, it did clearly state what I received, I just should have paid attention more. I enjoyed the mustard flavour against the sweet carrots, and hey… it just meant I had more room for dessert.

After eating, taking the traditional group photo followed by stupid-face photo, a few of the girls headed off, leaving the ones that were left deciding to go for the Dessert Box

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(Apologies for the disgustingly dark photo, the dim lights in that part of the room made it awfully hard)

3 of us went for this, which consisted of full portions of their regular desserts: peanut butter cheesecake, caramel and Nutella pie, salted caramel and popcorn panna cotta, and a scoop each of raspberry and coconut sorbet.

My faves were the cheesecake, panna cotta and raspberry sorbet, but they were all good in their own right. Going the shared dessert box with friends is quite possibly the best idea, you get a taste of everything. Gluttony at its finest.

After this it was my cue to exit, and I left the last two girls behind, with the bright lights and slowly increasing volume and rowdy natures that were on the increase, behind. Back to the beach, driver.

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Food: 7/10. A varied menu for all – burgers, meat, fries, salads and much more.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Bustling and happening, yet still chilled and casual. Sit at the bar… sit at a booth. Sit at a purple couch. Do whatever. But we’re in Fitzroy, outer-city suburbs, so you would only expect just that. It started off at a stable volume when I was there, and the music and chatter only increased throughout the night. It wasn’t too loud that you couldn’t hear your friends talking across from you at the table, so that I appreciated.

Staff: The waitress tending to us was very smiley and polite, and offered suggestions when needed. She was Fitzroy-savvy.

People: A real mix. There were groups of friends, and I expected it to be a much younger crowd, but I did see a couple of kids here and there with their parents! It is definitely a younger crowd, 20-30s, but it was nice to see that littlies were welcome too.

Price: I paid about $35ish for my portion of the bill. I can’t say for sure about the chicken, but the estimate was in the high teens to low 20s, and I do recall thinking it was reasonable for that area – I had the chicken, glass of red, and shared in the dessert box.

Advice: If you’re arriving 7-7:30pm you may just get lucky like I did and score parking like RIGHT OUT THE FRONT. Arrive later, and your risk. There are 2 hour parks around the area, and despite what passers-by tell you – pay for a ticket! The bloody signs are so contradictory, they almost want you to think you don’t have to pay, when indeed, you do. I have seen people getting fines for parking without a ticket, and not getting a new one when their last one expired – trust me. Or if you don’t mind walking, go to a flat-rate car park and walk a couple of blocks…

If you’re into funky, retro things, book a booth. It’ll become your facebook profile pic, I have no doubt.

Finally, go the dessert box. You’re going with someone right? Friends? A Man? Your Mum? Unless you go there alone maybe don’t order it… what the hell, you only live once right? Eat ALL the desserts!

In a nutshell: A real surprise of a bar I must say. Expansive, airy, and contrasting textures and sights, made for a great evening with friends. The menu is varied and caters to most palates, and the room is divided into play and eat, so that you can dine with friends and hear every word they say, or have the club vibe happening and seat (and eat) up at the bar. A cool blend of both, and I think all kinds of Social interactions will work well here, way into the future…

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Fitzroy Social Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Salmon and Rump

Ribs and Rumps
Northland Shopping Centre, 50 Murray Road Preston

That Thursday night we were looking for a feed, because neither one of us wanted to cook, plain and simple. We ventured out to Preston, in particular Northland shopping centre, because we had discovered that

a) There were a whole lot of seemingly new restaurants situated on the walkway leading into the centre, and we thought we should give one of them a try, and
b) The thought of shopping after you’ve eaten and just wandering about on a weeknight, just feels like you’re living on the edge. You can tell we’re parents.

So off we went, and soon after arriving outside the centre Hubbie got intrigued with the door menu for Ribs and Rumps. We went into the large room asking for a table, but the very sweet waitress informed us as we had not booked, and they were currently very busy with their other patrons, that we would have to wait to be called back in 15 minutes. She was exceptionally kind and sweet, it was hard not to smile and walk off happily, with a wait and all. Besides, it meant we did the window shopping before, not after.

Spot on 15 minutes later, and I received a phone call from them telling us they now had a spot. We went in to a table with a high chair, and baby girl promptly received a little colouring book with crayons. Aha! TGI-style. Tick, regardless of the establishment. Yes they ended up on the floor more often than in her hand scribbling, but the entertainment factor is all that matters.

Ribs and Rumps is essentially a large, warehouse-type room, with coloured rope ends hanging from one side of the room, and great big ufo-style lights suspended from above.

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It had some character, it was loud, and it could certainly house a few people alright. It was the school holidays, which is perhaps why it was so busy… but then again it was a Thursday night, and with the centre open later, and the nearby cinemas upstairs, it’s probably a place that’s always rocking just a bit at the very least. There was an open view into the cooking station on one side, and every so often a sky-high burst of flames would rise up only to be diminished by whatever was cooking there. It looked a sight.

The loud sights and sounds suited us just fine. We love the loud atmospheres, keeps us at ease when baby girl inadvertently vocalises her displeasure with something – usually from being seated for too long. She was good that night, thankfully.

We shortly after ordered drinks – wine and beer – however they took a little long getting to our table. Again, they were probably busy that’s why.

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Soon after that when no one came to take our orders, we flagged down the first waiter we saw and he came over. This was a place where you had to be a bit proactive, and fight for your right to get your order taken against the hundred others doing the same.

A while later our meals came:

Baby girl got the chicken schnitzel with vegetables – that means carrots

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I got the King Salmon – cooked to your ‘liking’ and served with steamed golden rice and an oven-dried tomato coulis

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While Hubbie got the Grain-fed MSA rump – from the Riverina region in NSW, with a marble score of 2+ – served with chips and an additional Greek side salad.

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Ho ho ho, I feel like Santa. Boy do I have a review and a half here.

First things first. Bay girl’s meal. The menu prices this meal of chicken schnitzel at $15. In fact all kids meals are $15, bar the pricier pork ribs at $17. At first glance you go ‘what the?’ but then you discover that kids receive bottomless soft drink and two scoops of ice cream. Ok that sounds good.

Next: the sides. All kids meals come with either chips, a baby garden salad or vegetables. So you can only pick one of the three: chips, a baby salad – which I admit is a considerable serve for a child – or vegetables, and this one is misleading because I ordered thinking ‘great, healthy veg’ when the waiter then asked me “carrots or beans?”

I think you guys should do both.

We, in this circumstance, chose the honey carrots. Which is why her plate looked fairly plain, on top of the fact that it was served on a large plate, which the waitress admitted to when she came with our food, saying they had run out of small plates. Fine. Whatever.

I get the $15 pricetag, I guess I just wish someone had made me more aware of the bonus options (like the ice cream) when I ordered, so that baby girl had had the option to have some, since we paid for it and all, instead of just going home straight after.

Onto my meal. I will begin by saying I don’t think I will ever order salmon again in a restaurant, but I add that I don’t think it’s the fault of the salmon, or the chefs, or the restaurants. I love salmon, in fact I have had it three times already in the last 24 hours in the writing of this review. But I like it when I cook it.

I had an interesting discussion with the waiter upon ordering. When I told him how I wanted the salmon cooked, I was actually finding it hard to describe what I was after, and that’s me, I know, but I did say I didn’t want any raw parts. I wanted it cooked. It didn’t have to be well-done, but I wanted it cooked through, no jelly please.

“What if I put down chef’s choice, that’s what we put down when the customer doesn’t mind.”

??? I had just told him I minded, how could me saying “cooked through” mean ‘I don’t mind!’

And by the way, we all know how chefs like to cook things, I’ve seen them plate up salmon on My Kitchen Rules – if it ain’t raw in the middle, they consider it a waste. I just can’t eat my salmon like that though, food blogger and all.

“As long as it’s cooked through, no raw bits,” I reiterated.

And what did I get?

A lovely cooked salmon on the outside… jelly in the middle.

I picked at it as much as I could, without actually eating any of the rawer meat in the middle. I ate my rice, the side salad I also got, dabbed the salmon into a bit of the sauce too… and as much as I enjoyed the cooked bits, I still had a really upset tummy 30 minutes later. I just can’t do it. I can’t do salmon not cooked through, because even on previous occasions in other restaurants, I’ve had slightly undercooked salmon, avoided the ‘jelly,’ and still been ill. I can’t do it.

A note to your waiters. Listen to the customer, and don’t push ‘chef’s special’ like some know-it-all. Because the paying customer might just go home sick.

(I’m not saying their salmon made me sick. I’m saying every undercooked salmon makes me temporarily ill).

Hubbie’s steak. Now this is a mystery. He enjoyed his meal he did, and he ordered the baby Greek salad on the side, which for $3 is a very decent serve and price in amongst the other menu offerings. He enjoyed it, and it was cooked to his liking (medium) and even I enjoyed the taste of it too…. But he doesn’t believe it was char-grilled.

“What? You can see the fire rising up over there!” I said to him.

“Nup. They’re tricking us. I know char-grill.”

And this is why all chefs should run out of their own kitchens screaming when a butcher enters the premises.

I’ve perused the website, and immediately in the steaks section I see ‘char-grilled’ in many places. So don’t listen to Hubbie. Maybe the way they char-grill, is different to the char-grill he’s experienced at other restaurants. I don’t know. I did suggest that maybe the steaks are already cooked, and then put on the grill as they’re ordered, but that is an utterly ridiculous thought, and would be way too confusing in the kitchen. So let’s go with the thought that they char-grill, and Hubbie is way fussy. It was enjoyable nonetheless, and he ate all 380 grams of it, saying it was juicy and tender.

After we finished and my stomach started churning, we quickly up and left.

Food: 6.5/10. This takes into consideration the jelly-middle salmon, and the appearances lacking in most of the meals. I liked the board my meal came out on, however there was a big space left in the middle while the components were placed around the sides. I kind of get why they probably did this, but it still looked bare.

Coffee: N/A. I’m always a tad iffy at the thought of trying a coffee at a steak place, or fish and chop joint, or a chicken shop… the thought of all those meat scents infiltrating the coffee beans just doesn’t seem right. However if I were to lunch here again, I may just be curious enough to go down that path.

Ambience: Bustling and loud. Great place to be with your child amidst other shouting voices.

People: All kinds were there on that night. Kids, families, couples, groups of older men eager to cut into some manly meat, even a sweet Japanese family spanning 3 generations, quietly picking at and sitting around a tray of ribs in the middle of the table.

Staff: The girl who initially seated us was sweet as pie, really eager to please. It made me think ‘gee, they’ve had some bad reviews.’ Just looking at how fast they moved and how quick they responded when you flagged them over, gave me further proof of that. It wasn’t just doing their job, it was proving something to someone. Our waiter was ok, he said all the right things, but I just wished he hadn’t influenced the chef’s choice for the salmon on me. I’ll need to toughen up for next time. The girl who brought our bill over was exceptionally sweet to baby girl, so really it was a mixed bag.

Price: $94 for the lot. 3 meals, a baby salad, and 2 drinks. I think considering our experience, it’s a tad steep considering the area. Hubbie loves sauce, yet considered the additional $3 (for sauce) ridiculous. The overall price would have been somewhat acceptable if the food quality had matched the set prices.

Advice: Be firm with your choices, and be aware of what you get if ordering a kids meal (and make sure you get it).
Also, their page on Zomato says ‘Reservation Recommended.’ Along with our experience, I can attest to that.

In a nutshell: Look, I would go back. I wouldn’t drive out of my way there to eat, but I wouldn’t mind going back if let’s say I was at the centre and was hungry. The menu options are fairly wide, it’s a good noisy environment for kids, and also, I think this place is still finding their feet. I’m also diplomatic enough to realise this was just one experience, and there was nothing solely horrific to keep me from going back. So I probably will, I’ll just order a steak next time.

Ribs and Rumps Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato