Sunday 25 May 2008

Auction Rooms - love the venue, love the food

Auction Rooms (website)
103-107 Errol Street, North Melbourne (map)
Open Tues - Sun, 7am (8am weekends) - 4pm
9326 7749

Auction Rooms interior

Disclaimer: One of the owners of Auction Rooms, Andrew Kelly, is an acquaintance of mine met through mutual friends. The fact that I know Andrew in no way influenced my conclusion that Auction Rooms is an awesome venue that everyone should frequent!

It was a dreary and overcast day and I was meeting G, new to Melbourne after moving from Adelaide, for lunch. Our venue of choice was Auction Rooms, a cafe which opened in North Melbourne just six weeks ago.

Auction Rooms exterior

Frequenters of Errol Street may recognise the building (as the name suggests, for years it was an actual auction house). As you can see just from the facade, a lot of love and hard work has gone into transforming the site, starting with opening it up to allow tons of natural light in. Looking forward to visiting again on a dazzlingly sunny day... :)

Auction Rooms interior

An entire wall has been replaced by glass panes, which look out onto a little back courtyard with artfully distressed brickwork. I just love the light fittings and the high ceilings - despite the swooping proportions of the interior, it retains a very cosy and friendly atmosphere.

Auction Rooms interior

The sprinkles of Art Nouveau-like leadlighting throughout the place (see the strip along the front window) put me in mind of Six Degrees-designed Melbourne bars like Three Below and Public House... so I asked Andrew whether or not this leadlighting was Six Degrees' signature leadlighting - it was! :)

Andrew and the coffee machine

Andrew taking a quick break from manning the coffee machine (more gorgeous leadlighting visible in the background).

Auction Rooms coffee roaster

Andrew has worked in the coffee industry for years, so it's no surprise that the cafe will be doubling as a roastery! The coffee roaster gets its own write-up in the menu: In the coming weeks this beauty of a machine (a 1950s/60s 'burner into drum' model made in Bologna) will again be fired up after its journey down from Italy. Stay tuned for specialty coffee beans roasted sympathetically to origin and served to you fresh.

Auction Rooms yummy mummies

Okay, so being the design junkie that I am, I was already sold on the aesthetics front alone. But the food - THE FOOD!

In addition to the breakfasty-brunchy items on the menu, there are a couple of savoury dishes with a distinctly Japanese bent (miso, eggplant salad, Japanese beef stew). A few of the breakfast dishes have cute names that draw attention to the name of the place (Opening Bid, Counter Bid etc).

Counter bid

G and I shared two dishes. This is the Counter Bid, the vegetarian cooked breakfast ($13). Toasted (Dench Bakers) sourdough topped with blended beetroot and ricotta, baby spinach and poached organic free range eggs - finished with dukkah and marinated artichoke on the side. SO delicious - the eggs were still gloriously golden and gooey on the inside, and together with the beetroot and dukkah... inspired.

Chorizo open sanga

The other dish was the Chorizo Open Sanga ($13) - pan-fried chorizo with roasted red capsicum, mushroom paste and apple sauce on toasted sourdough with fresh rocket salad. Again, a really interesting combination of flavours - the earthy mushroom paste and chorizo were beautifully balanced by the slight tang/sweetness of the apple and capsicum. The vinaigrette on the rocket had a lovely subtle lemony flavour.

Flourless orange cake and brownie

We then shared a slice of flourless orange cake and a brownie. The cake was the moistest orange cake I've ever tasted, and brownie was rich but light, if that makes any sense. The coffees were of course excellent, and it may interest you to know that a wide range of Larsen & Thompson teas are on offer.

I popped in to Auction Rooms again this morning, cos I wanted to show it to best-friend-K. At 11:45am the place was going gangbusters, with Manu Chao only faintly audible over the hubbub. B-f-K went for the Counter Bid, and I went for Auction Rooms' signature dish, the Sweet and Savoury ($14). My God!

Sweet and savoury

French toast using house made brioche accompanied by pan-fried banana, bacon and berries. This is my new favourite breakfast - the banana, bacon and berries combination tastes AMAZING together with the soft sweet brioche. You gotta try it!

Auction Rooms interiorAuction Rooms interior


Ed Charles said...

Someone was just telling me about the rooms the other day. I must give it a visit and chase it up. Looks great.

Cazzie!!! said...

SOLD to the highest bidder..ME! I am definately going there on my way to work in the next week! I work around the corner, almost, and well, I didn't know the place existed. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

The sight of that French Toast just had me drooling all over my keyboard.

I must have :-)

claire said...

Thanks Ed, Cazzie!!! and Mellie. The buzz about this place is slowly growing - in the 36 hours since I put up this post, quite a few hits on this page are due to people googling "auction rooms north melbourne", or some such variant. Hopefully they'll get their liquor licence soon and open up in the evenings too!

Mellie, you gotta go try the French Toast. It's awesome. And only a short tram ride or healthy walk from your place... :)

KittyMeow said...

Oh my god that looks so awesome! And reasonably priced too by the looks of it!

Truffle said...

I've very recently discovered this place and have to agree, it's fabulous!

Anonymous said...

Auction Rooms is one of the best cafes that recently sprung up! Totally concur on the quality of food - I've tried the baked beans (I hate baked beans with a passion but I loved this one to bits!), the counter bid (I can't remember if I got the name right but it's the veg one), and the french toast with bacon and banana. ALL are awesome. I love their coffee as well.

I met Andrew through my bf who's an acquaintance of his (thru coffee roasting); he's an incredibly humble guy I have to say!

Which reminds me, I really should blog about my experience soon!

jfox said...

mmm, i might have to revisit auction rooms. after waiting and waiting for almost an hour for our (warm) food, we were left with a poor impression.

or maybe i'm finally descending into grumpy old lady-dom! =)

i'm hoping that we happened upon a bad day as the coffee was great. we bought a packet of the brazilian blend to feed our addictions at home...

Unknown said...

Never had to wait long at AR.

Unfortunately the brioche with bacon and fruit etc is now off the menu - VERY SAD.

There are some delightful coconut pikelets with vanilla pineapple and creme fraiche though.

Coffee is terrifico.

claire said...

Glad to hear you like it Pete! And yes the coffee is terrifico - Andy takes his coffee very seriously. :)

I know, it's sad that the Sweet and Savoury is no longer on the menu, but like you I have been sampling the delights of the summer menu and will be presenting my findings soon... I haven't tried the pikelets though, good to hear they get the thumbs up!

Anonymous said...

I live in North Melbourne and had super high hopes for what is an amazing looking place. Yes the coffee is great. Yes the place looks great. But... and there's always a "But"... The menu is way too limited. I understand that they have a more adventurous thing going on with their meals, that's fine. I just think there need to be simpler dishes on the menu too. The dishes are gourmet breakfasts, which may taste great, but frankly I enjoy a hearty breakfast more often than not. Like Mart 120 in Middle Park for example. Great coffee, great place... Hearty Meals. I have hope that Auction Rooms will come to the party and cater a few more dishes for simple folk.

Matt C said...

I love this place! I've only been in Melbourne for four days, but I've been there twice already. They even have a little bar bit for solo diners, which is nice, although it's a bit uncomfortable.

Loved the braised pork belly with beans and poached eggs.