Small Graces, Footscray
Husband and wife Diego Portilla and Rebecca Howell first met in Kyneton in 2012. Howell was coordinating the Jamie’s Ministry of Food project, and Portilla was working as a chef at Annie Smithers’s eponymous fine diner, now known as Source Dining, after a few years at Daylesford’s Lake House.
Their bright and warm new cafe, Small Graces, is committed to using local, ethically sourced ingredients and produce that have undergone minimal processing. Vegetables come from Goornong in Central Victoria, eggs from Victoria’s Burd Eggs, bread from Sourdough Kitchen in nearby Seddon, and coffee from Rumble Coffee Roasters in Kensington. The minimal philosophy extends to the fit-out, with tiles and ceramics by Melbourne-based Asaka Ceramics. Part of the warmth of the space comes from personal touches added by Portilla and Howell, including wood planters and seating that Portilla built.
Those who are vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free will find a variety of options on the menu, and dishes that do have meat in them include the protein as an accompaniment to vegetables or salad, rather than the other way around. Portilla also uses less popular cuts of meat where possible, and makes his own ferments.
Hudsons Road Wine & Beer, Spotswood
This bar stocks roughly 200 wines and the same again of beers, and has a deli cabinet filled with cured meats, pâté, and a range of cheese – all of which is available to enjoy in the relaxed shopfront. There are also six wines by the glass and two beers on tap. Large floor-to-almost-ceiling windows look across the Hudsons Road shopping strip.
The bar’s owners live in the west, and they have stuck with local designers and suppliers where possible. Bread comes from Candied Bakery, and plants and flowers are courtesy of A Bunch of Cakes, located across the road. Spotswood furniture-maker Quazi Design did the honours with the tables and chairs, while the bar top comes from nearby Heidelberg West’s Lex Furniture, and is made of reclaimed wood from Barwon Heads Pier. Ham comes from Andrew’s of Yarraville.
Hunters Harvest, Seddon
Will Tomlinson is a former world boxing champion. During his career, lean and nutritious food was as integral to his success as training to maintain the right weight for the super-featherweight boxing division.
His new all-day diner, Hunters Harvest, caters not only to the lunch crowd but also to those looking for a quick, convenient and healthy dinner, with a menu full of hearty salads and bowls, and a range of smoothies.
Each dish has “the right balance of nutrients, food groups and flavours, as that’s what’s going to make you feel good, whether it’s for heavy training as an elite athlete or everyday life”, Tomlinson says. The most expensive item on the menu – a slow-cooked beef bowl – costs $17.
The interior is minimal but playful, with a peach-pink and royal-blue wall and striking geometric timber cladding behind the counter.
Mr West, Footscray
Mr West is an old $2 shop turned two-storey bar that makes heavy use of upcycled materials. The original concrete walls of the 500-square-metre area remain, as do the wooden ceiling beams. There’s a mix of booth seating and communal tables, and upstairs is a small rooftop courtyard.
A bottle shop will open on the ground floor in the coming months, but the main attraction here is a set of 24 taps pouring not just beer but cider, wine and cocktails.
Alongside local spirits such as Four Pillars Gin are local and international wines, and beers by smaller Australian producers such as Perth’s Feral Brewing and Melbourne’s La Sirene. The latter’s hazelnut ale, Praline, is even used in Mr West’s Espresso Martini, which is currently on tap.
The food offering is simple – bar snacks, cheese and charcuterie. And the owners encourage people to BYO food from surrounding restaurants.
Bad Love Club, Footscray
Footscray almost missed out on Bad Love Club. Owners Sarah Ryan and Damien Shaw originally planned for their bakery-slash-bar to be in Sassafras – a village in the Dandenongs. They instead set up in Shaw’s hometown.
Bad Love Club is currently open early for Sensory Lab coffee, breakfast jaffles and 5 & Dime bagels to take away. At night it becomes a “boozy bakery” where Ryan’s baked goods feature alongside dessert cocktails.
As for the design, “Imagine you’re going on a trip through southern California, then mix that with 1970s Australiana,” Ryan says. You’ll find pink walls, perforated steel “trees” and succulents, cacti and eucalyptus. Ryan’s home-style treats also use native ingredients such as wattleseed and lemon myrtle. On the menu? A toasted pecan and marshmallow pie, decadent brownies and cakes.
Fresh produce comes from the nearby Footscray Market, the all-important jaffle bread is jumbo-sized Zeally Bay sourdough, and Pepe Saya butter and St David Dairy are on hand.
Phat Chicks Fried Chicken, West Footscray
Walk into Phat Chicks Fried Chicken and you’ll see 40 seats around tables, each with bottles of Sriracha and Heinz Ketchup on top. There’s also a comfy enclave with large brown-leather couches, homely decor and a zebra hide, and a circa-’90s Namco Point Blank 2 arcade machine, with those plastic pink and blue guns – just like you remember.
Phat’s succinct menu is broken into five fried-chicken varieties – breasts, drumsticks, thighs, wings and spare ribs – which are prepared in a number of different styles such as spicy, sesame soy or original. One option is based on the 99-cent Indomie Mi Goreng instant noodle pack, while another involves crushed-up salt-and-vinegar Kettle chips. The beer-centric drinks list features around 20 varieties.