Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Qantas Flight QF6

Today, somewhere between Frankfurt and Singapore, I tucked into the "hot breakfast" on Qantas Flight QF6. For food that had been stewing in sealed aluminium for 8 hours it wasn't that bad. But let's not kid ourselves, it wasn't good either.

The hot bits consisted of a small wad of greasy, cheesy, egg and spinach frittata, some shrivelled button mushrooms, a mushy tomato, a couple of miniature sausages, and some salty bacon. Yum. Since there was no toast, I decided to make my own sausage and bacon roll from the available ingredients, which also helped to reduce the risk of spillage during turbulence. The fact that I ate it all suggests either that it wasn't that bad, or that I was so bored/hungry I'd eat anything. Somewhere in the middle is probably close to the truth. I even drank the coffee.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Hotel Domicil, Frankfurt

Cold sausage anyone? Breakfast, German Style, seems to involve bread, cheese, eggs (boiled) and cold meats... in fact, an infinite variety of cold meats. So, when I hit the breakfast room at the Hotel Domicil in Frankfurt, I grabbed a selection of the local ingredients and got stuck in. It turned out to be pretty good.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Electric Brasserie, Notting Hill

My last morning in London, and finally, a decent breakfast. If Portobello mushrooms you crave, look no further than Electric Brasserie, 191 Portobello Road, London, Tel +44 20 7908 9696. But get in early, and beat the crowd.

After several disappointing London brekkies, it was good to finish on a high note. My scrambled eggs were tasty, just-soft, and lightly flecked with pieces of caramelised onion. The sourdough was porous, crunchy and, most importantly, properly toasted. The chunky hash browns with bacon were great, and the table was pre-loaded with HP and Tommy K for the bangers. Very impressive. Best of all, however, were the rosemary-sauteed Portobello mushies, which were dark and delicious. The Eggs Benedict were also good, although the hollandaise could have been thicker.

The Electric menu is pretty well jam-packed with good options, so I won't attempt a complete run down. Here's a taste of what you can expect to find... smoked haddock and black pudding hash with mustard hollandaise, bubble 'n' squeak with poached egg, cinnamon crusted French toast with warm blackberry compote, egg & bacon bap (a roll, I'm told), and crumpets with honey or Nutella (aaaah, Nutella).

But perfection, it seems, is an elusive beast. My cappucino was good, but too strong and not milky enough. Similarly, the Virgin Mary was loaded up with too much pepper and horseradish, made worse by the extra-chunky design of the pepper (more like half pepper-corns than ground pepper). It was a case of drink... chew... burn... grimace... pause... drink... chew... and so on.

These are, however, small niggles. All in all, the Electric does an excellent job, and it's easy to see why the Notting Hill set, and interlopers like me, keep coming back.

16/20 "best mushies"

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Joe's Brasserie, Fulham

Today, on the first warm London Saturday of 2005, we dodged through crowds of mad dogs, Englishmen and Chelsea fans to grab brunch at Joe's Brasserie, 130 Wandsworth Bridge Road, Fulham, Tel +44 20 7731 7835. Official Joe's propaganda boasts of "superb eggs benedict". Yeah, and Camilla Parker-Bowles is a spunk.

A more accurate piece of marketing fluff would read something like this... "Come and try Joe's unique modern-British-classic-French-fusion cuisine, including our signature brunch dish, Eggs Benedict Brulee."

Yes, for some strange reason, someone had taken a blow-torch the top of the Eggs Benedict, adding an interesting brownish-yellow skin/crust. Unfortunately, they forgot to aim the blow-torch in the direction of the muffins, which were pretty much soft and raw under their thick blanket of separating Hollandaise. Not good. I really hate raw muffins.

I can only guess that the Eggs Florentine (spinach) and Eggs Royale (smoked salmon), were about the same as the Benedict, ie, below average. And from what I could see, the full English breakfast was equally mediocre.

Sadly, the service was a perfect match for the food. My spicy tomato juice (aka Virgin Mary) was initially delivered sans spice. Then, after returning with a bottle of bitters, our waitress eventually tracked down some industrial sized bottles of tabasco and worcestershire, which she proceeded to up-end into the glass of tomato juice, taking it from one extreme to the other. Later, about 10 seconds after our eggs had landed on the table, she asked if we'd like to move to another table. My initial reaction was stunned disbelief that anyone could ask such a stupid question. But despite my what-drugs-are-you-on stare, she stood her ground awaiting an answer... OK, yes, we would mind... we're staying here, where you just delivered our eggs... but thanks for the offer.

About the only good news was the price (less than 10 quid for eggs and a coffee), which, by London standards was not a total rip-off.

8/20 "Benedict Brulee, anyone?"

Also reviewed for

The Borough Market, London

If you're out shopping for fruit and veg, or just passing by, I can highly recommend the sausage and egg rolls (and various other fried meat offerings) at The Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street, London. Grease never tasted so good. Wash it down with some hot and spicy apple cider and you're ready to fight the crowds.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The Wolseley, London

This morning I did breakfast in style at The Wolesley, 160 Piccadilly, London, Tel +44 20 7499 6996. The venue and service were both superb. Unfortunately, they hard-poached one of my eggs. Nobody's perfect.

You'll be hard pressed to find a slicker breakfast establishment than The Wolseley, at least in terms of service, fit-out and fancy silverware. It's a magnificently restored building with high, barrel-vaulted ceilings, urbane crowd, and an industrious, deals-being-done buzz. I was flanked by a private equity fund manager on one side (polishing his pitch with a PR flack, if I over-heard correctly), and an erudite pair of book publishers on the other (looking smart, yet comfortable in cords and tweed).

The staff at The Wolseley deserve special mention. Neatly decked out in black and grey, they were both professional and attentive... "Newspaper, Sir?" Within minutes, a crisp, fresh copy of the FT is hand-delivered for my reading pleasure. First impressions: this place is very good.

It was, therefore, something of a disappointment when I slid my elegant silver knife into the Eggs Benedict, only to find a hard yolk and soft muffins lurking below the hollandaise. Luckily, yolk #2 was still a little runny, so it's possible that yolk #1 was an anomaly. Only a repeat visit will tell. The hollandaise was good, as was my side of potato roesti (crispy outside, soft inside), although a bit too salty for my taste.

Despite the disappointment of the Benedict, the Wolseley breakfast menu gave me lots of good reasons to come back for a second opinion. An excellent range of pastries, fruits, cereals and juices, and eggs dishes from the simplest to the most sublime... two boiled eggs with soldiers, crab hash with poached eggs, and fried duck eggs with Ayrshire bacon, to name just a few. Or, there's classic British fare like grilled Manx kippers with mustard butter, and "The English" with eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, tomato and black pudding.

This was the first time I've come across Eggs Arlington Royale, which, at 26.50 (pounds sterling) for a large serve, must be packing some pretty exotic ingredients. This would have to be the unbackable favorite for most obscenely expensive egg dish on the planet. But don't worry, you can still get an omelette with gruyere and Cumbrian ham for just over 7 quid.

14/20 "FT with your eggs, Sir?"

Also reviewed for

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Trotters, Carlton

Today, like a good little hobbit, I indulged in two breakfasts. First breakfast was at Trotters Cafe, 400 Lygon Street, Carlton, Tel +61 3 9347 5657. The atmosphere was great. The Benedict disappointing.

Opinions on Trotters seem divided. A recent Qantas magazine article rated it best fry-up in Melbourne. The 2005 Cheap Eats, however, doesn't even give it an egg cup... its mark of an excellent breakfast. I think Cheap Eats is being harsh, and Qantas is on drugs.

I decided to give the Eggs Benedict a try, and although it was a fair effort, it was nothing to write home about. The poached eggs were slightly overdone, the muffins slightly underdone, and the whole thing drowning in hollandaise, which nonetheless tasted very good. The home-made hash browns looked a bit like a pair of golden Chicken McNuggets, but tasted much better.

The rest of the menu was full of the usual breakfast fare, including eggs, porridge, crepes, french toast, and muesli with "vanilla poached fruit and yoghurt". And, if I make it back, I'll be keen to try the home made baked beans. I love beans.

12/20 "heaps of hollandaise"

Also reviewed for

Kanteen, South Yarra

This afternoon, for second breakfast, we took the dog to Kanteen, South Yarra, on the banks of the Yarra river. For the al fresco experience, it stacks up pretty well, but the egg options are limited.

As I had already pigged out at Trotters, I went for the single poached egg option, served atop a rye melt of ham, cheese and tomato. It was an attractive looking egg, lightly spinkled with cracked pepper and crowned with some sort of leafy green garnish. Unfortunately, however, it was a long way short of cooked, with raw egg white spilling everywhere. Soft poaching is fine. Raw egg white isn't.

Other menu choices include Kanteen Eggs (with smoked salmon, spinach, marscapone cheese and lemon vinaigrette, on toasted pide), toasted avocado pide (with cottage cheese, lemon juice and sea salt), or the exotic-sounding black sticky rice with banana and coconut milk.

The staff are pretty laid-back, and the seating is a mish-mash of fold-up chairs, high bar, plastic stools and communal table. So don't expect silver service.

12/20 "super soft"

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Globe Cafe, Prahran

This morning, after a second failed attempt to get to Spoonful in time for eggs (closed Sundays, it turns out), we wound up at Globe Cafe, 218 Chapel St, Prahran, Tel +61 3 9510 8693.

With huge windows, comfy seats, warm feel and friendly staff, Globe is the kind of place you come back to. They do good eggs, good coffee and excellent toast (corn & capsicum, poppy-seed & capsicum, cheese, or polenta).

Normally, I find names like Italian, Spanish or Laotian eggs silly, but in this case it's part of a "global" theme. The French breakfast (poached eggs, smoked ham, asparagas and hollandaise on cheese toast) was pretty much perfect. My scrambled eggs with bacon and mushrooms were good, although not without flaws. The eggs were a bit dry, the mushies a bit bland and wet, and the plate a bit cluttered. One thing that annoyed me was the pile of leafy greens served up with the eggs. It chewed up valuable real estate on my plate and added nothing. If I want a side salad, I'll ask for it.

For the meat-challenged diner, there are some good options, including the Globe B'fast (poached eggs, tomato, mushies & mayo), the Vego B'fast (fried eggs, vego sausage, tomato & housemade relish), the Globe Mini (one poached egg & grilled tomato on poppy-seed toast with rocket pesto), porridge, toasts and muesli. I also liked the sound of the smoked salmon with poached eggs on cheese toast with horseradish cream.

Serving brekky till 6pm, at reasonable prices (about $16 for eggs & a coffee), it's easy to see why Globe is popular.

Keep your peepers peeled. Last time I was here, I spotted C-List reality TV stars, Matt & Jane (from The Block).

14/20 "leafy greens anyone?"

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Babka, Fitzroy

Excuses, excuses, excuses. Here's a tip for anyone hoping for a good review. If you do something to annoy the customer, don't make excuses. And don't leap to the conclusion that anyone who dares to complain is an inconsiderate dead-beat who wouldn't know good service if they tripped over it. Self-indulgence like this just ruined my breakfast at Babka, 358 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, +61 3 9416 0091. Which is a pity, because the food was great.

I blame the queues. With a steady stream of punters lining up for a table, it must be tempting to think that you're wearing the pants. But this is suburban Fitzroy, not communist Russia. The punters can go elsewhere for their brekky, and if you give them lip, they will. Queues today, gone tomorrow.

Let me explain what happened. We sit down. 5 seconds pass. Chick #1 takes coffee order. 2 minutes pass. Chick #2 tries to take order. Not ready yet. 1 minute passes. Chick #3 tries to take order. Still not ready. 30 seconds pass. Chick #1 comes back to take order. Sorry, still not ready. Another minute passes. Chick #4 arrives. We succumb to the pressure, and order some eggs. We also ask to keep hold of a menu. Big mistake. 30 seconds later, chick #2 is back trying to take order. Sorry, we just ordered. No, you can't take the menu, we're still looking it over. 20 seconds pass. Chick #3 tries to take order and again tries to steal menu. Slightly annoyed, I point out (politely) that we've ordered, we're keeping the menu, and that she's the third person I've explained this to in the past 2 minutes. Well... she says, when we see a menu, we assume there's an order to be taken. Walks off in a huff, muttering "I'm just doing my job".

But why stop there? When my eggs arrive, courtesy of Chick #3, she's gone before I can ask about condiments. Now that I want some service, it's nowhere to be found. 5 minutes pass. Eventually, with some arm-waving, I capture the attention of Chick #3, and ask for some HP. Too precious to deliver the bottle herself, she sends Chick #2 back with a bottle of Worcestershire. I didn't order that, I asked for HP. Oh... don't blame me, I didn't take the order. Hmmm, does that make it my fault?

Despite the best efforts of Chick #3 to ruin Babka's reputation, the food saved it. My poached organic eggs were flawless, the Georgian baked beans were the best I've had (deep red, thick and tasty), and the bacon, mushies and toast all good. The menu also had some unique and tempting offerings. Russian blintzes filled with sweetened cottage cheese and sultanas with a citrus sauce. A special of grilled Scottish kippers on buckwheat pancakes with horseradish cream. Rounded out with a variety of toasts, croissants and pastries, this bakery cafe has a pretty good range, albeit with a few gaps (no wheat-free bread, no eggs benedict, no fresh fruit).

Despite being cramped, Babka has a very cosy feel, and deserves its reputation as a top tier brekky venue. At just over $20 for my eggs and two good coffees (Grinders/Wega) it wasn't cheap, but the beans and eggs will probably lure me back. With a bit of luck, Chick #3 will be gone by then. I live in hope.

14/20 "best beans"

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


Langton's, Melbourne

Need to close a big deal over breakfast? Look no further than Langton's, 61 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Tel +61 3 9663 0222. It's stylish, it's spacious, and the service is slick. Shame about the eggs.

It's not that my eggs were bad. It's just that they were disappointing, given all the fancy sounding brand-name produce that went into them. These weren't just eggs, they were "Tulloch Farm Organic Pasture Fed Eggs". How could I not expect the best?

The main problem with my scrambles was that they were ever so slightly separated, making them seem wet rather than creamy. They were also somewhat salty, with a few visible flecks of egg white dotted throughout. Nothing worth making a big fuss about, but a disappointing end for such fine, pasture fed eggs.

I was pleased to see some simple choices like two boiled eggs with toast and sea salt, as well as the classics of Benedict and Florentine (although I didn't get to eyeball or try either of these).

In addition to brand-name eggs, Langton's offers a Croque Monsieur with "Heidi Gruyere", sourdough toast with preserves by "Berry King", French toasted sandwich wih cream cheese and "Seville Orange Marmalade", and toasted muesli with "Meredith Sheep's Milk Yoghurt". The odd man out was the coffee, which, as far as I could tell, was un-branded. Nonetheless, it was good.

Whatever your order, you'll be sure to eat in comfort and style... fresh water when you arrive, little bowls of rock salt and two-tone sugar cubes on the table, and very comfy chairs. There's even a sunken "mini deck" where deal makers can puff their way though an early morning power breakfast, enjoying the fresh city air.

At about $30 for two, the price was surprisingly low, but I think that had something to do with my associate's order of a single poached egg on toast (ultra minimalist).

14/20 "slickest city venue"