Review: Marche Board Game Cafe, Melbourne CBD

While I wouldn’t call myself a board game aficionado, I do know my Pandemic from my Ticket to Ride, my Settlers of Catan from Dominion, and my Codenames from Cards Against Humanity. I have a soft spot for board and card games that align with other interests (Marrying Mr Darcy and Lords and Ladies for example), and can’t wait for my latest Kickstarter-backed card game Polite Society to arrive.

However keeping up with all the latest release board games can be an expensive habit, and one that can challenge the storage capacity of our relatively small apartment. 

That’s where Marche Board Game Cafe comes in. Located on the city fringe, it’s a Taiwanese-run cafe where you can sit and enjoy a drink or a full meal while playing one of the many board games they have in stock – all the fun without the commitment of buying the game yourself. Priced at $12 per person for three hours, you get a free drink as well.

They are relatively flexible on this pricing though. For instance, we were there with some friends for about five hours early on a Saturday afternoon when the cafe was quiet (it gets busier at night), ordering a meal and a drink each (approximately $16 each) and were able to stay for the full five hours.

Ice Matcha ($6) and a Black Bubble Tea ($5)

I opted for an Iced Matcha Latte and K chose the Black Bubble Tea as it was a steaming hot day when we visited. Both drinks were weaker than we would normally prefer with the barest hint of matcha in mine. While it does the job in quenching one’s thirst during an afternoon of gaming, it’s nothing to write home about.

Taiwanese Lurou Fan ($9)

As we got there around lunchtime, we ordered some meals as well, starting with the Taiwanese Lurou Fan – or Braised Pork Rice. Most Taiwanese will tell you that this is generally considered to be typical comfort food with each family having their own twist on the standard recipe. Truth be told, I was a bit disappointed with this dish as the pork wasn’t as juicy as I would typically like and the egg wasn’t braised and seasoned as strongly as usual. 

Taiwanese Sausage Fan ($12)

The Taiwanese Sausage Fan / Rice is self-explanatory, a bowl of rice with some pickles on top, along with a generous serving of Lurou and slices of sweet Taiwanese sausage. Very simple and deceptively filling even though it does look like a smaller serve. 

If you haven’t tried Taiwanese sausage before, it tends to be a much sweeter sausage with a higher sugar and fat content. You can sometimes find it at Cantonese-style BBQ shops – the ones with roast duck, roast pork and soy chicken hanging in the windows. 

Taiwanese Paigu Fan ($12)

Finally the Taiwanese Paigu Fan – or Spare Ribs Rice. Again topped with Lurou, the pork spare ribs were a bit on the dry side unfortunately. 

Combo A with chips, chicken nuggets, calamari rings and spring rolls ($15)

Towards the end of our gaming session, we got a bit hungry again – so I ordered a Combo A sharing plate of chips, nuggets, calamari and spring rolls. No doubt most of this is straight out of the pre-packaged freezer section of the supermarket. Suffice it to say it helps to staunch any hunger pangs sustained through intensive gaming.

Marche isn’t somewhere that you would go specifically for the food or drinks. The quality is indifferent at best, but it more than fulfills its primary mission – keeping one fed and watered during a long afternoon of playing board games. 

Marche Board Game Cafe is located at 64 A’Beckett St in Melbourne CBD.

Review: Barry, Northcote

In Melbourne, North-side is as foreign a concept to me as West-side. Raised in the East and living in the South, there’s a certain snobbish-ness about my unfamiliarity with other areas of this city. Even when friends hail from those parts of town, we’ll arrange to meet somewhere more central for catch-ups – heaven forbid I venture past the CBD!

On a rare occasion much earlier this year, we ventured North-side for brunch after dropping a friend off at the airport for an early morning flight. Barry in Northcote was our destination of choice, after good experiences with similar cafes owned and run by the Sahely family (Mammoth, Square and Compass).

Soy Cappuccino ($4.70) and Blended Drink #1 with banana, peanut butter, cacao nibs, honey, almond milk and ice ($10.50)

Drinks to start. K opted for a standard Soy Cappuccino, and I chose their Blended Drink #1 of banana, peanut butter, cacao nibs, honey and almond milk. Make no mistake, this smoothie is so rich and thick that it’s a meal in itself. It also finds the right balance of sweetness – sweet enough to be a treat, not so sweet that it’s sickly. I would recommend sharing this between two people or ordering a much smaller dish, otherwise you will end up rolling out the door.

Ricotta hotcake with grilled pineapple compote and coconut labne ($20)

K chose the Ricotta Hotcake for his meal, no doubt thinking with fondness of the small light and fluffy ricotta hotcakes that his family enjoy regularly on Sunday mornings. Barry’s ricotta hotcake is in a class of its own though – thicker and heavier, and much more sodden with sticky tropical syrup. Not quite the light melt-in-your-mouth hotcakes he was expecting, but deliciously doughy and fruity if that’s your preference.

Acai chia pudding with basil macerated strawberries and coconut, millet and quinoa granola ($15.50)

I opted for the Acai Chia Pudding with strawberries, coconut and crunchy granola. Acai bowls are dime a dozen these days with every cafe and their cousin offering an acai bowl (I’ve had my fair share), but Barry does their iteration well. It’s the millet and quinoa granola that does it, lending a textural crunch that helps to offset the stodginess of the acai.

Like its sister cafes, Barry offers Melbournians hearty brunch and lunch options with top quality drinks in a relaxed, semi-industrial setting. While we didn’t try the more innovative items on the menu (activated charcoal porridge anyone?), the standard brunch items of hotcakes and acai puddings were a hit. If we ever venture North-side to try it again, we’ll give their savoury dishes a try – perhaps the scrambled red chilli eggs?

Barry is located at 85 High Street in Northcote, Melbourne.

I’m (sort of) back

So nine months after my last published blog entry, I’m finally back. 

Why the unexpected hiatus? Put simply, real life took over and chronicling various meals devoured became less important. 

K and I took possession of my apartment again (purchased in 2010, rented out to tenants while I was living in Sydney) and did a pretty intensive DIY-renovation over a month and a half. This included:

  1. stripping back, patching, and sanding all walls and ceilings
  2. ripping up all carpets and replacing with floating floorboards
  3. replacing all skirting boards and trim around doors and windows
  4. gutting out both built-in wardrobes and building a new wardrobe system
  5. removing all existing blinds and curtains and replacing it with plantation shutters.

Once all that was done, we obviously had to furnish and decorate the apartment, given that we had given away or sold all our furniture when we left Sydney and went travelling. 

During renovations, there came news of another significant life change. Our little family of two and a cat is expanding – K and I expect our first human child any day now. Naturally, this has become all-consuming in the past nine months with hours of research, education classes, appointments and shopping. 

Combined with renovations and family planning, there came also a particularly busy period at work where I (pretty much) single-handedly planned, organised, and ran a 400 person conference on top of my regular work duties. This called for many late nights, and an overwhelming desire to not stare at another computer screen by the time I got home.

All that’s now over. However it does beg the question – what will become of this blog now that my goals in life have shifted and my lifestyle will fundamentally change?

Food blogger may not be the right term to use anymore. I won’t be eating out enough to justify that. I have purchased a new All-in-One slow and pressure cooker though, so there may be recipes to share as I learn to master the art of pressure cooking.

Yet I don’t think I’ll ever be a mummy blogger. However, there’s no doubt there will be parenting-related posts when this child is born and I’m left both pulling my hair out in frustration and consumed by maternal love. 

Let’s just call this a chronicle of life. In the meantime, I’ll try to finish off and publish the nine (!) drafts of blog entries that have been languishing in the back end since March.