After my dissatisfying brunch at The Glass Den last week, I saw an article on The Urban List for a relatively new and unassuming cafe nearby called The Spot. Craving an unpretentious, well-made meal after the over-decorated faff at The Glass Den, I decided to pop by The Spot for brunch after work the following Saturday. Bearded and smiling, Khalil Qubbaj made his entry into the Melbourne hospitality scene with this humble, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cafe. But there’s more to The Spot than what meets the eye. Look a little closer, and you’ll find a Middle-Eastern inspired brunch menu that draws its influence from the hours Khalil spent in his grandmother’s kitchen as a child.
You know what’s typical Melbourne? Putting a cafe inside of a former prison – you can’t get much more Melbourne than that. Although I’ve been past Pentridge Prison dozens of times on my way to and from Chris’ place, it took me something along the lines of 3 years of commuting before realising that it’s a prison in name and heritage only. Since its closure 20 years ago, Pentridge has undergone a redevelopment into a residential area, contained within the 4 metre high stone walls of the former prison. And nestled right in one of those stone walls is The Glass Den.
What’s better than a Turkish platter? If your answer was ‘nothing’, then you’d be absolutely correct! I don’t think there’s been a single time in my life where I have said no to a meal of salads, dips, and meat off the spit, and I hope I never will. And the best bit? With Coburg being such a hub for middle-eastern food, I can always head to Chris’ house after eating too much bread for a postprandial nap. In this ‘hood, Melbourne Kebab Station is undoubtedly the OG and godfather rolled into one, but Antalya Turkish Restaurant is at the very least an underboss – and a well-respected one at that. The decor may be a little tired, but it has a cosy, well-worn sort of feel to it – the kind you get in a family restaurant passed down through generations of hardworking immigrants. Or at the very least that’s the story I like to make up in my head, being the second generation child of hardworking immigrant parents and all.
One of my fondest childhood memories is going to the local take-away for fish and chips on a Friday night, and whilst waiting for our order, popping into the Blockbuster next door to pick up a stack of videos. I absolutely adored that fish and chippery; they always gave you a massive pile of chips, and more often than not you’d find an extra goodie or two in your butcher paper-wrapped bundle. These days I’m a little more discerning with my fish and chips. With that said though, I don’t think I’ll ever get over the perfection that is a good piece of beer-battered fish with a squeeze of lemon. And if the Herald Sun says that Australian Seafood Fish and Chippery does the best fish in Melbourne... well, I’d better go and check it out.
I’m going to confess to a bad habit of mine: I stop off at Al Alamy about three mornings a week for breakfast instead of making my own like a grown-up. And the worst bit is, I can’t find anything wrong with doing that. After all, a spinach and cheese pie fresh from the oven within 2 minutes covers all 4 bases of the holy quadrilateral – healthy, cheap, tasty, and fast. When I’m peckish for middle-eastern baked goods after work however, I’m out of luck. Or so I thought. Recently I realised that just around the corner from Al Alamy sits Zaatar, which is open for all three meals of the day.
What do sushi and car washes have in common? Quite a lot as it turns out. My drive to and from work every day takes me past Star Sushi Bar and Hand Car Wash, and I’ll admit that it took all of half a second for my lip to curl in disgust. My head was immediately filled with images of limp nori, congealed mayo, and fish slowly turning grey and smelly inside the airless glass cabinet. Then get this: a couple months after my first sighting, Broadsheet comes out with an article waxing lyrical about Star Sushi Bar and Hand Car Wash – and they weren’t talking about how clean their cars were either. Business seemed to really pick up after this piece of publicity; I mean, I was certainly convinced enough to give it a go, which is saying something given my initial reaction.