Tag Archives: Kensington

barista stalker

I’m not a stalker. Seriously. I mean sure, I seem to be following Courtney of Cup of Truth fame around, popping up at cafés he’s working at. I assure you appearances can be deceiving. You believe me, right?

But let’s jump back in time a bit, before I outed myself as a faux barista stalker.

When I train in — usually when I’ve skivved from riding my bicycle — I pop into Cup of Truth. As mentioned in an earlier post, it is the best place to get a coffee within the vicinity of Flinders St Station, hands down. Aside from the quality coffee and the appalling jokes, I also enjoy swapping coffee goss with Courtney and Verity. One such day Courtney mentioned Alex Anderson, of Seven Seeds barista fame, being in the process of scouting locations in Kensington for a new coffee venture.

I’d hit pay dirt, the good shit, the shiznit or any other cliché you might be inclined to hurl at it. I had some insider coffee knowledge, without being an insider. Fantastic. So after rubbing it in @alexlobov’s face (my personal coffee idol), I didn’t have much to do with the information. So patiently I waited for the grand opening of Melbourne’s newest coffee Mecca.

With further visits to Cup of Truth, I was able to ascertain that Courtney would, on weekends, be working at The Premises. Thus we are neatly back on the topic of barista stalking. Personally I think stalking is a bit harsh. It’s more like what happens when you find a good doctor. Once you found them, you don’t let go. Ever.

Now that we’ve established I’m only ‘kind of ‘strange, onto the review. I suppose this review is a bit of a repeat of that for De Clieu — great coffee with knowledgeable staff and tasty food. Unsurprising, given Alex & co. were a big reason for Seven Seeds success. The difference between The Premises and somewhere like De Clieu or Seven Seeds is the level of ‘polish’ to the aesthetic. Seven Seeds and De Clieu are executed flawlessly with respect to the architecture and café design. Contrast this to The Premises,which feels slightly less polished and more raw and rustic, perfectly fitting the slightly ‘decrepit in a interesting way’ feel of Kensington.

Ms G and I started the day’s caffeine intake with a pair of lattes (or lat-e as my grandfather pronounces it): a ‘woosie’ soy milk for her, and a manly cow’s milk for me! Very tasty, not too heavy in flavour, nor too milky — a well made latte.  With the coffee circulating, we’d need something to soak up the caffeine.
Gem went for the french toast with stewed vanilla apricots and spiced mascarpone, with the obligatory side of bacon (c’mon, bacon goes with everything!). Simply delicious. The fruit was very subtle and not overly sweet, working really well with the creaminess of the mascarpone. The bacon even worked too!

For me The Premises creamed corn, fried free-range and cumin salt on multigrain toast caught my eye. In my younger years I’d sneak cans of creamed corn from the pantry, but haven’t had it since. While the creamed corn isn’t remarkable on its own (’cause, let’s face it, it’s creamed corn) it works amazingly well with the other ingredients. The gooey yolk and slightly spicy and salty bit of the cumin salt offset the sweet creamed corn. My only quibble with the meal is the size for the price. At $14.50 I’d expect either a slightly larger serving, or the bacon to be included in the ‘base model’ (+$3.50 for bacon).

Sated, but never satisfied we decided on more coffees. I ‘hit up’ a long black Columbian Carlos Imbachi, while Gem (the perpetual hipster) had the El Salvador Kilimanjaro natural as a pourover. To be honest I can’t remember much about my coffee, other than it being tasty. Gem was enamoured with hers, and I was pleased that there wasn’t a beaker in sight.

Full to bursting, we waddled over to the counter to pay.  However, before we were allowed to leave, Gem was quizzed about her take on the pour over. Now while I’m only just developing the palate to discern flavours in coffee, she responded with something about ‘dark chocolate with star anise on the finish’. All gobbledegook to me, I’m afraid. Damn coffee wanksters.

So, in summary: a very nice cafe, in a very nice suburb. You can even stalk your favourite barista there.

The Premises on Urbanspoon

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African cuisine virgin no longer!

I’d heard lots of great things about The Abyssinian in Kensington. In fact, it seemed so popular that our group could only be accommodated at the 8pm sitting, rather than earlier. The duck enabler Anna took a night off from cajoling us into eating duck for that from the horn of Africa instead: The Abyssinian specialises in Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine.

As always, you’re often asked if you’d like a drink at the beginning of your meal. There was a sizeable list of African (!) beer so three of us conspired to get the only three available at the time and have a taste. I of course got the worst one, the St George. No depth of flavour, slightly sweet and just generally a poor example of what a lager should be. Blech blech blech. Watery with a hint of beer.

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The more common choice which was a good deal more drinkable was the Dashen beer. I stealthily swapped my bottle of St George with Tristan’s Dashen when he wasn’t looking. Dashen matched the food very well. It could be a good session beer too!

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The best one out of what was available was the Castel beer however. I should have known by the fact that it had gold wraparound on the neck of the bottle (JOKE). Not sure how to explain why I liked this – it was rich in flavour and just felt like it had more depth.

Castel beer

Sadly, they did not have the African stout in stock. A shame, I’d love to try it! Perhaps next time?

All nine of us agreed to have the banquet. This worked out perfectly because the platters are shared between three. So, you take a pinch of injera (sour, fermented, porous, slightly moist pancake with sorghum) and then pick up a handful of any of those dishes shown above and then scoop into your mouth. Nope, no cutlery. Yes, very messy and therefore very fun.

banquet platter

There seems to be trouble viewing the menu online at the restaurant’s website so let me try to take you through what we had. Starting from the dish in the bowl and working clockwise: goat curry, yellow lentils, red meat (possibly lamb?), brown lentils, chicken, chickpea, fish, and lastly beef.

Think Indian-like curries but with a different spice base. The spiciest one to the left of the goat curry reminded me very much of vindaloo. I know, I’m sorry – it’s not very fair to compare Ethiopian and Eritrean food to Indian food, but they do have their similarities – as you can see, lentil soupiness and stew-like things which look like curry.

Not pictured, we also added another dish for ‘goormette’ kicks – a raw mince tartare-like dish to be eaten with injera. It came with a little dish of the most fragrant and alien spices my palate has ever had the pleasure to taste. It reminded me of the smell of the earth.

Some of us managed to fit in dessert (which is more in the Western vein) – I opted to have Ethiopian style coffee which is just as fragrant and spicy as its cuisine.

A wonderful, homely communal eating experience with good foodie mates makes for a cheery night during a rainy, wintry Melbourne. The staff are lovely and the atmosphere is warm and relaxed. Get a group of mates and go the banquet as it really is the best introduction to the menu at The Abyssinian. My dear foodie chum Billy was with us and he too reviewed it (he also has a photo of the raw beef dish – my fingers were far too messy for me to take a photo by that stage!).

The Abyssinian on Urbanspoon

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