Until more recently, Flemington and Kensington were more commonly known as home of the Melbourne Cup. The place you visited once a year, dressed to the nines, and left minus shoes and a little less dignity. Now populated by young families, creative types and diverse spectrum of cultures, Flemington and Kensington stand up year round – particularly on the food front. Whether you are in the mood for Mexican, Ethiopian, Malaysian or straight-up Vegemite on toast, these two suburbs offer some of the best in the west. Here are our top ten picks for meals under $10.
1. Vegetarian Laksa at Laksa King – $9.80
6-12 Pin Oak Crescent, Flemington
Laksa King is the venue that has families and hipsters queuing round the block, round the clock. Laksa King offers an array of Malaysian and Chinese delights, but you can’t go past the dish that gave them the crown, the laksa. Start with the Vegetarian Curry Laksa: fat noodles, tofu and seasonal vegetables simmer in a boiling coconut curry broth. Serving sizes are generous – these seemingly bottomless dishes have left many a glutton defeated, but never without the craving for more.
2. Smashed Chickpea Sandwich at Luncheonette – $10
173 Rankins Road, Kensington
Down a tree-lined residential street adjacent to the Kensington train station sits a petite tuckshop-style cafe, Luncheonette. Homemade goodies line the retro counter and tiny tables and chairs fill the perimeters of the venue. A humble open kitchen is Luncheonette’s centrepiece and it’s there that they churn out fresh sandwiches, unpretentious breakfast dishes and nourishing soups. For a cheap lunch, go for the smashed chickpea sandwich with garlic tahini, piquillo peppers and a crisp lemon-dressed rocket.
3. Lamb Kebab at Flemington Kebab House – $10
301 Racecourse Road, Flemington
Neon lights and slabs of meat greet you outside Flemington Kebab House on the main drag of Racecourse Road. Once inside, you feel as though you have stepped into a Middle Eastern market, smacked with the smell of fresh Turkish bread, garlic and sizzling lamb. Although offering Turkish pides and pizzas, house-made dips (the beetroot dip is a delight), salads and sweets, the kebabs are really what you’re there for. Tender meat and crisp salad drizzled with your choice of sauce or dip wrapped in their melt-in-your-mouth bread will have you hooked.
4. Steamed Pork Dumplings with Sichuan Chilli at I Love Dumplings – $9.80
311 Racecourse Road, Kensington
By name and by nature, it’s clear to see that this little dumpling house really loves what it does. There is an element of class to I Love Dumplings’s decor that you don’t often find in Melbourne’s more economical Chinese restaurants. Uniformed with dark wooden furniture, matching white crockery and bamboo baskets, dining in is pleasant and the service is apt. For a hearty portion of dumplings with a kick, order the Steamed Pork Dumplings with Sichuan Chilli.
5. Corned Beef, Cheddar and Pickles Sandwich with Buttermilk Dressed Salad at The Rusty Fox – $9
501 Macaulay Road, Kensington
Predominantly a deli, The Rusty Fox is stocked with the finest in local produce, including smallgoods from Kyneton’s Piper Street and fresh bread from Noisette. They also make sweets in house and offer a concise seasonal menu. To take advantage of all Rusty Fox has to offer order one of their sandwiches of corned beef (or ham), cheddar and Rusty Fox pickles served with a buttermilk dressed salad.
6. Quesadillas at La Tortilleria – $3.50 to $4.50 (each)
72 Stubbs Street, Flemington
For good honest Mexican on the west side, you can’t go past La Tortilleria. Though hidden down a relatively industrial street, this colourful taqueria is quite hard to miss and even harder to pass up. Authentic corn tortillas are baked fresh daily and sold by the kilo, but if you’re just wanting a quick bite, quesadillas start from $3.50 and offer a range of toppings like chorizo, mushroom and beans with white cheese.
7. Hainanese Chicken Rice at Chef Lagenda – $9.50
16 Pin Oak Crescent, Flemington
This little gem doesn’t look like much at a glance but if you can see past the façade and ask one of the very prompt waiters for a table upstairs, you will be led to a bustling dining room and credible rooftop. Chef Lagenda specialises in Malaysian cuisine – and anyone who has been to Malaysia will be all too familiar with chicken rice withdrawals. If that’s you, fear not. These guys have got you covered with their Hainanese Chicken Rice: steamed chicken with chicken rice and soup.
8. Soup of the Day at STREAT – $10
307 Racecourse Road, Flemington
STREAT is a social enterprise cafe that provides homeless youth with hospitality training in a supportive environment. At their Flemington cafe, an easy choice for a quick lunch would be the soup of the day. They like to mix it up, but you can expect something as wholesome and comforting as spiced du puy lentils with mint yogurt and buttered naan.
9. Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls at Greentea – $6.10 (2pcs)
320 Racecourse Road, Flemington
Hidden in a little arcade off Racecourse Road lies Greentea. You won’t spot it immediately as it is somewhat of a local secret, along with the seemingly unloved Video Ezy it shares the arcade with. Greentea serves a plethora of Vietnamese and Chinese dishes, but when you feel like something fresh, the go-to is easily the rice paper rolls with tofu, prawns and vegetables julienne, generously dipped in tasty hoisin.
10. Falafel Salad at La Delicatezza – $9.90
Shop 1–2/ 32 Pin Oak Crescent, Flemington
Nestled between clinics and antique stores is La Delicatezza, a European style deli with a mouth-watering window display of fine pastries and soft cheeses. If you are in the area and looking for something nourishing and fresh, try the falafel salad with mixed lettuce leaves, juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers and hummus. If the temptation of something sweet becomes too much then best save room for one of their house-made lemon tarts too.