291 Auburn Rd, Hawthorn (map)
Okay, so it's time for a confession: I have fallen in love. Head over heels in rapturous love with Porgie & Mr Jones, a little gem of a cafe in Auburn Road, Hawthorn.
Even before I'd tasted anything, P+MJ looked promising: artfully distressed brick walls and casually cute decor, loaves of Noisette bread for sale, a counter crammed with delicious-looking goodies, and really friendly staff cheerfully interacting with each other and the customers. On my second visit (a week after my first - I couldn't wait to get back), the kiwi gal at the till greeted me with a big hello and a "you're back, and you're wearing those gorgeous earrings again!"... and as I was leaving, the barista gave me an enthusiastic wave goodbye as though we were old friends.
Maybe the secret to the happy staff is they're all high on berocca (which is on the menu for $3 a glass, original flavour) and tic tocs (40 cents each). :)
On my first visit I went with Mum and she had the smashed avocado with thyme buttered mushrooms and marinated fetta on toasted wholegrain bread ($14.90). It tasted lovely - the serving of avocado was very generous, and the fetta was creamy and yet had a sharpness that really cut through the dish. Highly recommended.
I was tempted by the all-day breakfast menu (none of that McDonalds-style "we stop serving breakfast at 11am" bullshit that I encountered at Pearl Cafe when I tried to breakfast there a few Sundays ago - more about that in a forthcoming post)... but it WAS after 2pm, so I went for something more overtly lunchy: the bruschetta of garlicky cannellini beans, slow roasted tomatoes, crispy prosciutto and vincotto ($13.90). This dish was also excellent - the addition of vincotto was inspired, as was the decision to make the prosciutto crispy.
I couldn't resist getting one of those golden vanilla cupcakes ($4.50). Moist and soft with sinfully thick icing! Incidentally, the cafe is named after two of its owners. Mr Jones himself was knocking back a coffee by the bar on my second visit...
I was in the area again on Saturday, so I dropped in for a second visit and a sample of the breakfast menu. I'd decided to eschew the Taste of Melbourne festival because I was singing that night in a concert and didn't want to be tired/cranky from shuffling around in crowds all afternoon - so what better option than a quiet brunch and a read of the weekend papers? Note the golden retriever outside that insisted on staring at me mournfully as I drank my chai latte... :)
This breakfast was what really sealed the deal for me vis-à-vis P+MJ. Toasted banana bread with maple syrup mascarpone, fresh banana, berry compote and crushed pistachio ($12.90). My fondness for banana bread has already been well documented, but THIS was in a whole new league.
Two thick squares of soft-but-then-toasted banana bread stacked on top of each other like a club sandwich, with a mortar of mascarpone and thin slices of fresh banana holding the two together. A drizzle of tart berries and syrup over the top, crowned with the crushed pistachio. It was a simply stunning dish, and I don't know how on earth I'll be able to convince myself to NOT order it again next time, despite my desire to steadily work my way through the P+MJ menu, one dish at a time...
I mean, it's not as though the banana bread isn't up against some pretty stiff competition, what with all the other fabulous-sounding items on the menu vying for attention: poached eggs on toasted grain bread with spinach, red pepper pesto and hazelnut dukkah, anyone? Salad of baby beetroot and stems, red onion, blood orange, Persian fetta and pistachio?? Toasted piadina with Casa Iberica chorizo, roast sweet potato, fetta and olive tapenade???
Sigh. I'm in love with Porgie & Mr Jones.