Monday, 6 January 2014

Roll'd Barkly Square

90-106 Sydney Rd, Brunswick, VIC 3056
Roll'd on Urbanspoon
Roll'd is suddenly everywhere! The Barkly Square branch opened up towards the end of last year and since then, seems to be doing well. I have visited a few times now ordering different dishes and going at different times of the day or different days. I have two main conclusions, 1) not all Roll'd are created equal, and 2) this place struggles with consistency. So, if it's great one day, might not be so the next but if it was bad, then it might be good the next. It's not a disaster but consistency is a pretty important thing for the discerning Brunswick punter. Let's face it, because it's a chain, no one is going to drive across different suburbs to eat there - they can probably find one closer to them.

The Place
This is a really small space and really nicely decorated. In fact, it's one of the more trendy looking Roll'd I have seen. It's also very open, with lots of air and sunlight. It's a space for quick and casual dining. It's a small step above a food court but I really do like the deco here. It opens out into a courtyard of sorts, so you can even eat outside and people watch. I don't think they do high chairs here other than the high bar stools for adults.

The Food
The basic funky menu has items that are all given quirky names - but doesn't hide the fact that they are basically rice paper rolls, noodle soups (pho), rice vermicelli and Vietnamese rolls (Banh Mi). The ingredients are usually pretty fresh. The quality of the noodle soup might vary between days, sometimes they are tastier, other times, a bit sweet and diluted. I wondered if it depended on the time of day.

The rice vermicelli dishes here are the highlight for me, especially the version with the pork crackles... CRACKLING with fresh salad (pictured above). So good and so fresh. However, there was one visit when the vermicelli was drowned in fish sauce. Other than that, it has usually been good. The other highlight as pointed by some other Urbanspoon reviewers are the spring rolls here. Robbie likes the vermicelli with the spring rolls but I just can't say no to crackling.

The Banh Mi  (Vietnamese Rolls) depends on who's making it and how harried they are. This is where they really seem to struggle with consistency. While the ingredients are still fresh, the quantity and balance of sauces varies quite a bit. Normally, at most Banh Mi places, consistency is not expected because each one is customised. However, with Roll'd, you have set menu items and so, people tend to expect the same thing each time.

Finally, the rice paper rolls - here's the thing. I have seen various Roll'd (not just this one) roll these rolls (sorry - couldn't resist) as early as 7.30am to get it ready for the punters. It is hard to maintain softness to the paper over more than 3 hours. So, I am guessing that depending on the day, it's good to check when they made the rolls. This is tricky and also where consistency might be a problem.

The Service
The service is the other thing that's not really consistent here. Firstly, some times they have lots of staff and everyone seems to get a bit confused and other times, they don't have enough staff and the poor things look so harried when they are trying to put the dishes together. Occasionally, the right combination of staff makes everything flow seamlessly. So, perhaps the consistency issue is more a logistics and rostering issue more than quality. The wait staff at the counter is always unfailingly polite and friendly.

This is a good place for a quick meal in between shopping at Barkly Square - a fresh lunch or early dinner. It's all very casual.

Cultural Moment
What would you like in your Banh Mi?
Essential ingredients are the baguette, butter, pâté, cilantro/coriander, pickled carrots/cabbage/turnip, cucumber slices. mayonnaise, chilli and hoisin or chilli sauce. Some places include crushed peanuts (which I love)

Then there's the fillings depending on what the punter likes. This includes choices from roast pork, grilled pork, barbequed pork,  pork meatballs (smashed), pork belly slices, pork floss, pork roles (cha lua), canned sardines, roast chicken slices, even tofu and fried egg in some places. Obviously, most of the versions have some sort of pork combination with a less than cursory nod to punters who might not like pork or can't have pork. In many places in Ho Chi Minh City, banh mi carts will have many of these choices and other than the essential ingredients, punters get to pick one or two fillings to go with their rolls.


  1. I went to the Roll'd in Brunswick, Victoria a couple of months ago and I ordered the Pho. I have to say it is the worst Pho I've had in my whole life. I don't know how you could take something that tastes so great and make it taste like lukewarm dishwater. Not only did the broth taste like week old arsehole. There was no fresh basil that came with it. No fish sauce on the tables. No Marinated oily chili stuff. All they had on the table was chilli sauce and not even good chilli sauce. I ended up asking for hoi sin sauce when I saw other people getting it and they gave me a little 25 ml container of it to pour into my pho. Who would of thought that when you are having Pho that there would be no basil, no oily chili stuff, crap chili sauce and you'd have to ask for the hoi sin sauce. Which idiot thought to open a restaurant purporting to sell Vietnamese street food and didn't think of these basic things? And the beef they used. You could tell it had been frozen, because half of it was still stuck to the other half after being pushed under the water for a little while. Defo do not eat there.

  2. It is a bit disappointing and points to the lack of consistency! I had a terrible one too previously where there was even a visible layer of yellow coloured oil on the pho. This is also why I don't have pho at Roll'd anymore. Thanks lefty :)