You know those restaurants you walked past a million times before you even realised they were there? Aunty Franklee is one of them. That's why we're writing about it.
Twin sisters Francesca and Fiorn Lee moved to Melbourne to complete their education, and soon after tapped into the Asian food scene. After bringing the Malaysian SugarBun chain to Melbourne, the sisters opened up their own creation, Aunty Franklee — a relaxed eatery reinventing East Malaysian classics.
From the start, the menu is inviting and even teaches you a little Malay with clear, enticing descriptions of what each dish entails. You'll come across bakar, meat stewed with 23 spices (yes, 23 — that's not a typo) that is then chargrilled. Think Malaysian meets American barbecue. The dish comes in the form of pork, chicken, lamb or beef — but if you experience food anxiety when given too much choice (like we did), there's the option to mix-and-match. Served with vibrant, addictive multigrain rice and egg and greens, you cover four out of the five food groups. Easy.
Sounds great after a night of drinking, right? Well, you're in luck — Aunty Franklee stays up until 1.30am.
For those crisp, Melbourne winter nights — or for when you're ill — the bak kut teh is a winner ($18.90). The dish translates as 'meat bone tea' and warms the soul quicker than you can say it. It contains pork and a broth that perfectly concocts herbs such as cinnamon, star anise and clove.
To drink, there are options bizarre to the average Australian diner. We went the pear and white wood tea (available in both hot and cold forms), which is a slow-brewed drink with goji berries, dried longans and dates ($4.10). It's an acquired taste, and you really, really have to love pear to enjoy it. For something a little safer, go the honey ginger tea ($3.80) — sweet, spicy and good for the insides.
The long, narrow space is packed with loyal regulars. On the walls and the menus you'll find a beautiful jungle themed print, designed by one of Aunty Franklee's very own waiters, Kocuri. The sense of family translates strongly in all facets at this gem of a restaurant.