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A guiding light

The Age

Tuesday February 22, 2011


Some former Cheap Eats editors remember the fads and the pho.CATHY GOWDIEEditor 1992-94The bar for cheap eating has risen significantly. When we go out for an inexpensive meal we expect better food and service than in the early 1990s, and most of the time we get it. The proliferation of licensed bars and cafes has played a big role in this, plus the fact that we expect so much more from pub food. Trend: Buffets were big in the 1993-94 edition, probably reflecting straitened economic times. On the upside, Donlevy Fitzpatrick opened the Dogs Bar and then the George and revolutionised the way we went out to eat and drink. Vale Don.Passe dish: Pasta with cream and smoked salmon may have peaked about then. That and "trio of pasta" - three colours of pasta, three sauces, all on one plate. Eeeuw.Fad: Raspberry vinegar was dressing spinach salads in all the smartest cafes (this is before rocket and balsamic, you understand).ROSLYN GRUNDYEditor 2002-2004Since I edited the guide, more hole-in-the-wall eateries have opened in the CBD. Cafe owners have also become cannier about choosing locations. We're seeing more joints springing up in suburban backstreets, semi-industrial areas and sleepy stretches of otherwise busy roads. Trend: Artisan pizzas went ballistic, panini took over from focaccia, bircher muesli and ricotta hotcakes starred on every breakfast menu, and Portuguese custard tarts became ubiquitous. I kept predicting that Burmese and Korean food would become huge but I'm still waiting (and hoping).Passe dish: Maybe chicken and mushroom pasta or risotto done badly, or focaccia with char-grilled capsicum, eggplant, etc.Fad: Frisee lettuce.PATRICK WITTONEditor 2005-06 (co-editor with Emma Miller 2006)I lived through the burger craze of 2004 and the Portuguese tart glut at around the same time. I'm still waiting for pizzas to go back to being fat. And when is the Chiko roll going to get a makeover? I loved being editor - but hated budgets - and I loved the hunt for new places or, even better, places doing their thing and finally getting the kudos for it.Trend: The world food thing was going mental. Out west the injera bread bonanza was on, and people not only knew what pho was, they knew how to pronounce it (ffeurrr - with declining tonal affectation). Passe dish: The panna cotta plague.Fad: Portuguese tart.And the winners are ...Give it up for this year's Cheap Eats champs.2011 CHEAP EATS CHAMPAangan, 559 Barkly Street, Footscray West, 9689 4175Sporting a refit, Aangan dishes up flavour-packed regional specialities. It's some of the best Indian in town.2011 COUNTRY CHEAP EATS CHAMPElk Horn Road House, 420A Wallington Road, Wallington, 5250 6056Top coffee and first-rate food in a simple shed setting that oozes country charm.BAR OF THE YEARNaked for Satan, 285 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, 9416 2238 Affordable, inventive pinchos that pair well with sinful cocktails and a fab fitout.CHEAP EATS HALL OF FAMEThe London Tavern Hotel, 238 Lennox Street, Richmond, 9428 6894Serving pots and parmas to the game-day hordes, the London has been a Cheap Eats inclusion since 1986.BREAKFAST SPOT OF THE YEARJackson Dodds, 611 Gilbert Road, Preston, 9471 1900 Brilliant brekkies run day-long so you can eat your dukkah eggs or kedgeree whenever you roll out of bed.LUNCH SPOT OF THE YEARDuchess of Spotswood, 87 Hudsons Road, Spotswood, 9391 6016Stylish and sophisticated English-skewed lunches and brunches.FITOUT OF THE YEARSalford Lads Club, 1 Fennell Street, Port Melbourne, 0409 543 911In a backblock warehouse, the SLC is a former mechanics' workshop turned airy, cool caff.CAFFEINE HIT OF THE YEARProud Mary, 172 Oxford Street, Collingwood 9417 5930So they should be proud. This roastery and caffeine dispensary knows its beans backwards.VEGETARIAN SPOT OF THE YEARMunsterhaus, 371 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North, 9489 4420A relaxed, all-vego canteen dishing up creative salads, each with distinct flavour profiles.WORLD FOOD DISH OF THE YEARSimon's Peiking Duck Chinese Restaurant, 197B Middleborough Road, Box Hill South, 9898 5944Return of Simon Lay, renowned for his crisp-skinned Peking duck banquets.BIGGEST HYPE OF THE YEARMamasita, Level 1, 11 Collins Street, city, 9650 3821 Reviewers and bloggers stormed this Mexican mama and the hype machine kicked into overdrive.The Age Cheap Eats 2011 is available at bookshops and newsagents, and direct for $24.95, free postage. The Age Cheap Eats 2011 app will be out soon.

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