Not to be confused with its smaller, warmer and more hectic sibling in the CBD, Don Don stands resolute on Bank Street in South Melbourne, just around the corner from the cheap and cheerful Taiwanese eatery, pekopeko. When I last visited Don Don in the CBD, it was a packed with the lunchtime rush and I didn't find the environment very accommodating. The polar-opposite is true at the South Melbourne location. Not only are there a few tables outside to eat at, service inside is quite organised and the overall process to get two orders of Chicken Teriyaki Don and two cans of Pepsi Max ($17 all up) was as simple as just blinking. You can see the busy kitchen staff off to the side grilling large quantities of meat in anticipation of placating the hungry masses on demand and they did not disappoint. The order was bowled-up fresh from the grill in about 30 seconds. Chili powder is available on the side to supplement the taste if you are that way inclined but what impressed me was the amount of sauce that accompanied the chicken and of course the rice. Nothing irks me like a mound of tasteless rice but on this occasion, every bite possessed a tasty and salty flavour. On a sunny and mild day, this place is a bit of a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the CBD and Southbank and is worth the brisk walk just knowing that you can bask in the sunlight at a clean table outside without too much commotion around you for a very reasonable price.
South Melbourne has a reputation of being a world away from the CBD and Southbank. Given that it borders Albert Park, I would agree that for most of the happy workers in the area, it would be a bit of a trek by foot or tram however in the case of Dead Man Espresso, it is a mere five minute walk from the rear of Crown Casino on the corner of Clark and Market Street. Situated in a smart building that architecturally is very nice to look at from the outside and is even more intriguing when inside, options abound at this cafe that wears multiple hats. Not only a very visually striking interior but also a balcony that overlooks the street and further outdoor seating on the footpath. Given this place is just off of Clarendon Street in more of an industrialised area the motorcar traffic is limited and it is a rather peaceful location that certainly is able to take advantage of the afternoon sun. What I first noticed was the bottles of Hawthorn and Hargreaves lines of beer on display high on the wall and that Seven Seeds coffee was being sold which has always been a favourite of mine, I was immediately hooked. I opted for the sweeter long black blend and it was served up with a smile. The menu was intriguing and considering the close proximity to the CBD and the relaxed locale, I am going to adopt this as a new venue where I do "catch-ups" weekly. I just really liked the design and fit-out combined with the multiple options for seating where you never feel that you are intruding on the space of others where you still had room not only to spread out but also have important confidential conversations.
Although South Melbourne seems ages away, in reality adding a few extra steps to my daily regime can only help my expanding waistline and once again I am impressed by venues seemingly off the beaten path. I think you will be too if you put on your walking shoes.
Don Don South Melbourne
5 Bank Street, South Melbourne VIC 3205
(03) 9696 6682
No web site or Twitter feed.
My Rating: N/A
Dead Man Espresso
35 Market St., South Melbourne VIC 3205
(03) 9686 2255
My Rating: N/A
Value For Money: N/A
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com
At the time of this post, 90% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon like Don Don South Melbourne. A further 80% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like Dead Man Espresso.