486 Queens Parade, Clifton Hill (map)
Let's start with a bang. This monster of a breakfast dish is the Mixed Business poached eggs on sourdough with a potato and rosemary rösti, avocado and house relish ($13.50). It was my first visit to Mixed Business and best-friend-K insisted that we try this dish as it's her absolute favourite. Such a tasty rösti! We also ordered a side serve of pickled beetroot ($3.50), which had just the right mix of sweetness and tartness.
On the Sunday morning we visited, the place was heaving. Apart from pleasant little touches like a retro milk bar sign and industrial enamel lamp shades, the fitout is on the shabby side of shabby chic. The flag on the back wall made the place feel a bit like an old scout hall. I liked it a lot.
172 Oxford St, Collingwood (map)
A cafe with a similarly industrial fitout - but definitely on the chic side of shabby-chic, with shiny shiny polished concrete floors and smart wall tiling - is Collingwood's Proud Mary. Much frequented by threethousandesque hipsters.
But don't let that put you off too much.
Proud Mary was opened by renowned coffee geek Nolan Hirte about six months ago. Like so many of the other third wave specialty coffee houses that have become de rigueur in inner suburban Melbourne, Proud Mary offers single origin coffee brewed according to a range of methods. When I went there with Sugadeaux a few months ago, I had an excellent Yirgacheffe Clover.
The custom made six group Synesso Hydra at Proud Mary is one fearsome brute of a coffee machine. It's bigger than a coffin.
Even if you don't like coffee, I'd recommend visiting for the food. I enjoyed fluffy ricotta hotcakes with caramelised peach, white chocolate semifreddo and orange infused maple syrup ($14).
But the dish that looked *really* impressive was the baked figs wrapped in filo with mascarpone, vincotto and toasted hazelnuts ($12.50), which were brought to the table next to ours. I recognised the recipient of the baked figs as Adam Cash, the FOH manager from Cutler & Co: when he noticed me ogling his brunch, he smiled and asked whether I'd like to take a photo of the figs for Melbourne Gastronome. Thanks Adam!
I covet those stools.
Lawson Grove Shop
1 Lawson Grove, South Yarra (map)
I *wanted* to love Lawson Grove Shop. It's one of the closest cafes to my house as the crow flies (pity that the Yarra river means I need to take the long way around), hidden in an obscure South Yarra cul-de-sac and occupying the former communal kitchen of a beautiful art deco apartment block.
A shame, then, that the brunch the charming S and I had there a few months ago was so unremarkable. I had the special, a bland breakfast burrito made with a waxy flour tortilla, and S had an indifferent chevre, tomato and spinach omelette.
I maintain that making an omelette look interesting is beyond my photographic skills.
9 Yarra Road, South Yarra (map)
I wrote about Outpost last September just after it opened, before it started serving food to accompany the specialty coffee on offer. I'd been meaning for ages to head back there to try out chef Paul Jewson's brunch menu, so I dropped in one Saturday morning with the lovely Miss T. If you sit in the front room at Outpost, there is NOTHING separating the customers from the kitchen - I'd imagine that could be quite stressful at times for the staff.
I had the poached eggs on sourdough with sauce hollandaise and roasted mushrooms ($15.50), which was as delicious as it was artfully-presented. Miss T went with the feta and avocado ciabatta toast, which is served with vegemite and melted Cape Otway buffalo mozzarella (also $15.50). The salad leaves on the side are dressed with a vinaigrette accented with pomegranate molasses. Miam.
Love love LOVE that steampunk cold drip coffee machine.
45 Keele Street, Collingwood (map)
If you want a brunch that's a little bit different and you haven't yet been to Cibi, what are you waiting for? Located in a refurbed warehouse in a quiet Collingwood street, the space is both a cafe and a showroom exhibiting Japanese homewares and knick-knacks.
The cafe offers some basic Western-style breakfasts like toast with jam and toast with avocado, but the main attraction are the Japanese breakfasts (served only on Saturdays): a grilled salmon fillet, seasonal green vegetable sunomono (pickled), short grain rice, slices of sweet rolled omelette (free range egg), a scoop of Japanese potato salad in a cos lettuce leaf, a bowl of miso soup, and love - always the most important ingredient! It's $14.50, or $13.50 if you want the salmon replaced by pumpkin nimono (simmered). Best enjoyed with one of the Japanese organic teas also on offer.
When I visited Cibi a few months ago with Schatzi, she ordered the Cibi egg and potato salad sandwich ($7.50). If you're going to do carb-on-carb, this is the way to do it!
141 Swan Street, Richmond (map)
Okay, I'm just going to come out and say it: I'm afraid I'm not a fan of Demitri's Feast. Having already been there a few times without thinking it was particularly special, I was surprised to read that the 2010 Cheap Eats Guide adjudged it Best Breakfast of the Year, so I went back again two months ago for brunch with the Ladies Who Lunch.
The cafe is very small, but beautifully kitted out. I like the evil eye watching over the room from the back wall, and the shelf of Greek miscellanea (where I spotted the distinctive blue-and-white spine of Captain Corelli's Mandolin).
Miss B ordered the famous baclava French toast ($11), served with walnuts, thick Greek yoghurt and orange honey syrup. She thought it was okay, but it came out from the kitchen cold. I was disappointed with the fried eggs with bacon, lokaniko sausage and oven roasted tomatoes ($16): the sausage was bland and everything was covered in sprinkles of dried herbs.
Miss L had the sage mushrooms with manouri cheese, toasted almonds and rocket on sourdough ($12.50). The manouri was an interesting touch, but didn't prevent the dish from being quite dry. And Miss T had the omeletta - Greek omelette with lokaniko sausage, potatoes and kefalograviera ($14.50).
I repeat what I said earlier about my inability to make an omelette look good in photos.
Sorry, but we were all underwhelmed. I'll admit it didn't help matters that we went a month after it won Best Breakfast in the CEG, so it was heaving with people. There was an unfortunate stuff-up with seating us - after a 40 minutes wait we were led to a table, but then kicked off it and made to wait a further 15 minutes because friends of someone in the kitchen had jumped the queue. A round of free coffees by way of apology was offered by the harried, well-intentioned manager, but the coffee order went missing. If you're heading there, I'd suggest avoiding during peak brunch periods.
During quieter periods the back courtyard, with its geranium pots and stools made from old olive cans, is quite lovely in the sunshine.
Three Bags Full
Corner Nicholson and Mollison Streets, Abbotsford (map)
Yes, another one of those new shiny third wave specialty coffee cafes. Three Bags Full opened in late January, the latest offering from the clever folks behind Liar Liar and APTE. I didn't get around to visiting Three Bags Full until a month or two ago, when my breakfast companion was the charming J (aka He Who Only Orders Poached Eggs).
After sipping on a pair of flat whites, we shared a Clover of the Guatemala Antigua Los Volcanes (oooh, caramelly). I looked through the menu and the words "house cured salmon" caught my eye. The salmon was a vivid electric pink, and came served with a pea, feta and corn fritter, avocado, dill sour cream and lashings and lashings of rocket ($15.50).
J's plain, plain poached eggs. Sigh. He's been trying to convince me that when I visit a cafe I should always order plain poached eggs, so that they can act as a control/benchmark for comparison with other cafes. CRAZY MAN.
I made him stage an action shot, in an attempt to make the eggs look interesting for the blog. :)
I'd had several people recommend Three Bags Full to me, and they'd all said the same thing: they loved it but it was always insanely crowded and noisy on the weekends. They were right. Even at 9:30am, there was a nightclub-length queue out the door!
1/320 Carlisle Street, Balaclava (map)
Compared to most of these young whippersnapper cafes I've mentioned today, Batch Espresso is positively ancient: it opened in 2004 or thereabouts. Over breakfast at Three Bags Full, I'd discussed Batch with J and he'd explained to me that its name and design aesthetic came from a type of New Zealand modest holiday home know as a bach (having never been to NZ, I was ignorant of their existence). I'd never been to Batch before, but when I was taken there a fortnight ago by my neighbours F and H and their housemate, I was able to impress them with my Batch/bach-related knowledge.
So much like a bach, the fitout at Batch is informal and slightly ramshackle. Chrus, my trusty bartender at my local (The Cherry Tree) confirmed that the yellow sign adorning the wall at Batch comes from his hometown Dunedin (where a bach is known as a crib, apparently).
Batch had one of those great breakfast menus where EVERYTHING sounded good enough to order. After much agonising by the four of us, F went with the fried eggs with cumin, mint, lemon, chilli and red pepper relish on toasted Turkish bread ($14) with a side serve of chorizo. Their housemate had the amazing-looking potato and spinach hash with cornichons, corned beef and a free range poached egg ($15.50). Howzat for a brunch, eh?!
H went with hollandaisey eggs, but I decided in the end to go sweet, ordering the excellent orange buttermilk pancakes with blackberry and apple compote, fresh cream and maple syrup ($13).
I just loved the tiny tiny Trinidad rum bottle holding the maple syrup.
The coffee at Batch is Coffee Supreme. We all had a second coffee before wandering down Carlisle Street to pay a visit to the Russian deli. Ah, Balaclava!
Tups chair, bro.