Where: Ascot Food Store, 320 Ascot Vale Road Moonee Ponds
What: Brunch that, for once, doubles as breakfast and lunch
Who: Eco Warrior, Grumpelstiltskin and Oxford Brosé
Bloat score: 1 – Had to loosen my belt a notch
It’s not often we venture to Oxford Brosé’s local, but he’d sung Ascot Food Store’s praises so many times I was intrigued. A preliminary sleuth revealed that the café is known for their syringe-spiked doughnuts, not that that would be allowed under whichever restrictive diet I happened to be following on the day. More persuasive was the fact that Eco Warrior and Grumpelstiltskin (who conveniently live on the same street as me) were driving so the dilemma of trying to commute from Fitzroy North to Moonee Ponds without a) the ability to confidently ride a bike, b) the ability to drive a car and c) no desire to go into the city and train out again was thankfully resolved.
Ascot Food Store is a cutesy, light-filled and wholesome neighbourhood spot, the kind of spot where the number of babies is only surpassed by the number of dogs – so there’s something for everyone. The same could be said for Ascot Food Store’s menu. Fried chicken with waffles and a soft shell crab burger sit alongside a poke bowl and the curious breakfast choice of seared beef fillet with fries.
I’d already scoped out the menu beforehand and decided I was getting the hung ricotta gnudi, grilled halloumi, smash pea salsa and broken egg. From what I can decipher from the interwebs, hung ricotta is ricotta that has been hung overnight and apparently ricotta is sometimes called ‘hang cheese’ because the curds are often tied up in a clean cloth and hung up in a fridge to drain all the liquid. But I can’t tell you what a broken egg is. Another quick Google search revealed that the Spanish breakfast favourite huevos rotos is known as broken eggs, but my broken egg wasn’t this and appeared to have been broken a little by the chef so I’m guessing it was a literal translation?
Anyhow, gnudi is a gnocchi-like dumpling and in this case, it was filled with ricotta – one of the few cheeses I can ingest on my low-histamine diet, albeit one that I have to take my Lactofree pills to be able to digest. Eating has never been so fun!
The others took a while to decide what they wanted because the menu was incredibly extensive and they weren’t constrained by the same dietary restrictions that I was. Eco Warrior took the longest, so I goaded him into ordering the AFC – Ascot Fried Chicken with pickles and waffles. Previous reviews I read revealed that the AFC used to come with potato, gravy, a brioche bun and slaw so while the AFC appears to be a constant, its accompaniments are not.
My dish was by far the most photogenic of the four, particularly with the broken egg. I started worrying the red smear at the bottom of my plate was tomato (I can’t eat tomato), but it turned out to be pureed beetroot – another thing I can eat on my new diet that I wasn’t able to before. This was a hefty dish and I was full until my late dinner that night, and mind you, we met at around 10am. The two generously proportioned hung ricotta gnudi were pillowy but dense, while the crunchy sourdough toast (bai gluten-free toast, although my dietician has since told me I should stop eating wheat sigh) went a treat with the chunky pea salsa, broken egg and two triangles of halloumi. I felt like I was having pasta (the ricotta gnudi) with a side of crunchy bread (self explanatory), so hearty this meal was.
Oxford Brosé went for the ‘Benedict’ which came with poached eggs, pressed pork belly (looked like regular pork belly to me), pickle and tarragon béarnaise, which was a much fancier version than your usual hollandaise. He found the pork belly slightly too overpowering for how early it was in the morning, and would have preferred ham or bacon instead.
Conversely, Eco Warrior who was afraid of how artery-clogging his fried chicken and waffles were going to be was pleasantly surprised by how light they were. However, he thought they could have used some maple syrup, as they were slightly dry.
Grumpelstiltskin went for the smashed avo on roast pumpkin bread with goat’s curd, zucchini pickle, poached egg and a pumpkin smear – they like their smears at Ascot Food Store. Though I couldn’t tell from Grumpelstiltskin’s impassive expression, he assured me after that he very much enjoyed it.
Although Ascot Food Store only listed soy and almond milk as the two non-dairy alternatives, I noticed a matcha latte on the menu had coconut milk as an ingredient and so ordered a regular latte with coconut milk. It was one of the best coconut milk lattes I’ve had, so much so I ordered another one. None of us had enough room to even say ‘syringe-spiked doughnut’ so we unfortunately didn’t get a chance to try what the café appears to be most famous for.
The service was at times chaotic and our coffees took a little while to arrive, but if I ever find myself in Moonee Ponds again (which I no doubt will – it’s not regional Victoria), I’ll be re-visiting the Ascot Food Store.
Ascot Food Store is open every day from 7am to 4pm.