656 Smith St, Clifton Hill (map)
One of the benefits of having an awesome best friend like best-friend-K and taking her out to brunch: when you muse upon reviewing the menu that you can't choose between the savoury corn hotcakes or the sweet ricotta hotcakes, she immediately suggests ordering both and each going half-half.
I don't deserve that woman.
Both types of hotcakes at The Bell Jar are changing specials. When we went, the corn hotcakes were spiced and served with chipotle, crispy bacon, poached eggs, crème fraiche cut with coriander and a bit of rocket ($16). The cakes were fluffy and not at all stodgy.
Like salted caramel, chipotle is one of those ingredients I keep seeing cropping up on Melbourne menus with increasing frequency. And as with salted caramel, I for one am happy to see chipotle becoming so-hot-right-now-because I *love* the smoky stuff - I'm addicted to chipotle tabasco and I heartily recommend getting some for your kitchen.
Our obliging waitress arranged for delivery of the two dishes to be staggered so that we could enjoy savoury before sweet. The ricotta hotcakes of the day were stuffed with pineapple and served with butterscotch ($15). What the chalkboard didn't tell us was that the pineapple-stuffed hotcakes were also topped with fresh banana, chopped medjool dates and fresh mint. All of which added up to one HUGE dish that we couldn't finish.
As impressive as it looked, we both agreed that this was the less successful of the hotcake dishes: the hotcakes were still rather doughy, and the butterscotch sauce was so thick it stuck to the dish like sticky icing, rather than lubricating the other ingredients. Loved the flavours though, especially the lashings of mint.
They're using Five Senses blends and they know how to make a good coffee.
Oh, and the cafe itself? Small, cute, spin 'n span, located up the sleepy northern end of Smith Street in Clifton Hill. The open kitchen is TINY but they manage somehow. The staff were lovely on our visit. Worth a visit if you're in that neck of the woods!