Okay folks, here's a belated entry to my recent Amnesty Fortnight. It's the Melbourne Gastronome guide to the best breakfasts/brunches within the confines of the Melbourne CBD. Most of these were visited by yours truly over the last few months, either with the Ladies Who Lunch or with a group of housemate DJ's friends for our now regular (fortnightly) Bourgeois Breakfasts. I've got a dozen places here on my list, but if you can recommend any others please let me know - we're running out of new Bourgeois Breakfast venues!
120 Hardware Street, Melbourne (map)
Di and Will, the proprietors of the newish Hardware Societe, used to run the cafe opposite (which was called Beetroot but has been renamed by its most recent owners - for some ghastly, deeply unfathomable reason - as "McSpankys Famous Foods"... truly, the mind doth boggle).
Hardware Societe is just gorgeous - from the outdoor herb garden brightening up Hardware Street to the sleek, nifty interior lit by oversized naked light bulbs. They're open for breakfast and lunch Mondays to Fridays - read more about the lunches on offer in Mellie's excellent review.
On my first visit, I ordered the soft boiled eggs and 3 soldiers ($12). But these were no ordinary soldiers: the first one had gravlax and crème fraîche, the second had roquefort and rocket and the third had jamón and romesco.
The baked eggs ($11) are served in the most gorgeous little pots: there was a choice between roquefort and field mushrooms, or chorizo and pimentos.
Each coffee (Supreme) comes served with a miniature doughnut. The macarons are made in-house: they're sometimes slightly wonky in shape but taste delicious (especially the orange and passionfruit, mmmmmmm).
YES, we did order 14 coffees. Not bad for a Bourgeois Breakfast of six people!
328 Swanston Street (entry via Lonsdale St), Melbourne (map)
For those who don't already know it, Mr Tulk is located at the northern end of the State Library, and is named after the Library's first chief librarian. Gorgeous interior, n'est-ce pas?
Recommended dishes are the fried egg bruschetta with fetta and crispy shallots ($12) and the corned beef hash with poached eggs and Dijon ($14).
The Hotel Windsor
100-150 Spring Street, Melbourne (map)
If you're in the mood for something a bit different and old school, you might like to swan in for breakfast at the Windsor. The $16 Express Breakfast gets you freshly squeezed orange juice, two pastries, fruit salad and a hot beverage served from a silver vessel.
Or you might like to do what I did and order from the a la carte menu. I chose the impressive corn cakes with avocado salsa, tomatoes, sour cream and Atlantic salmon ($14). DJ had the parmesan scrambled eggs with toasted brioche and double smoked bacon ($13).
Council House 2
240 Little Collins Street, Melbourne (map)
When I saw photos of the interior of Council House 2 (CH2) on Lucy's wonderful blog The Design Files, I was architecturally smitten and immediately keen to check out the restaurant on level 1. I'm sorry to say though that the Ladies Who Lunch and I were very disappointed with the breakfasts we were served: the "potato hash with poached egg, crispy bacon or spinach" ($13.50) turned out to be dry roasted potatoes (no hash), and the claypot baked eggs with roast tomato, feta and chorizo ($13.50) were too dry and rubbery. Our visit was over six months ago though, and I've heard through the twittervine that things have improved - can anyone confirm?
161 Spring Street, Melbourne (map)
The European is a consistently good city breakfast option. Last time she was in town, my friend CJ and I went to the MCG ridiculously early in the morning on Boxing Day to reserve our Members seats for Day 1 of the Test, and then sauntered through Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens to treat ourselves to a pre-cricket 8am champagne breakfast at the European. It was SUCH a nice way to start Day 1, I'm half tempted to do it again this year.
Recommended dishes include the croque-monsieur ($12.50) and the special I had last time, the wild mushroom open omelette ($17.50).
Other Bourgeois Breakfast attendees enjoyed the frittata of smoked trout and potato with avocado salsa ($16) and the seasonal fruit salad with organic yoghurt ($12.50).
The Mess Hall
51 Bourke Street, Melbourne (map)
Finally, there's the most recent Bourgeois Breakfast venue: the Mess Hall. On Friday morning, in the midst of the Christmas-drinks-soaked silly season, the name of the cafe summed up our collective mindset pretty well.
As per my recent visit to Miss Jackson, I decided to order the corn fritters with avocado and cream cheese ($13.50). They tasted great, and I loved the presentation of the careful stack with scattered segments of tomato.
Other prandial highlights included the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and herbs ($13.50) and the BLT with seeded mustard mayonnaise ($9.50).
Miss A ordered the bruschetta with Bulgarian feta, rocket, organic tomato and olive tapenade ($9.50), with a side serve of poached eggs. A ordered the Sicilian beans on sourdough toast ($9.50) with a side serve of spinach and avocado.
As is tradition at Bourgeois Breakfast, we ordered too many coffees. As we were waiting for the second (or was it third?) round to arrive, DJ suggested sharing custard-laden doughnuts as a breakfast second course. Wicked man!
*** EDITED 16/01/10 TO ADD:
Fabulous Melbourne Gastronome reader Poppy has done some research for you all, calling each of the places reviewed in this post to confirm what their opening hours are over the weekend. See the results of her research in the Comments section. BIG THANK YOU to Poppy!! :) ***
But that's not all... in addition to the six illustrated above, here's a list of previously reviewed places in the city that I can recommend for breakfast:
Liaison (22 Ridgway Place) does a limited but delicious breakfast menu, including gluten free muesli with fruit and yoghurt for those so inclined. Drop in and say hi to Danny and Sian from me.
Le Triskel (32 Hardware Lane) does excellent authentic crêpes and big bowls of coffee in which you can dunk your baguette/croissant.
Cumulus Inc (45 Flinders Lane) - what can I say? You MUST TRY the 65/65 egg and the lemon curd madeleines. You simply must.
Cafe Vue (430 Little Collins Street) for the French hot chocolate that is as delicious as it is outrageously expensive, and the croque-monsieur.
SMXL (542 Little Bourke Street) is at the back of my office building, so I often drop in for a m'oave or a jaffle.
MoVida Terraza (Level 1, 500 Bourke Street - access via Lt Bourke St) was written up in Melbourne Gastronome just the other week, but I went back again shortly after my first visit. In addition to the other dishes I previous recommended, you've got to try these tostadas with imported Cantabrian sardines and tomato ($10). SO GOOD!!