Saturday, March 28, 2009

Blond Coffee, Angaston

After three hours of wine tasting, some excellent St Hallett shiraz, quite a few nips of port, not much spitting and too much swallowing, I could feel the dreaded day-drinker's hangover creeping up on me. I had to take defensive measures. I needed to pull out the big guns. I needed eggs benedict. But it was 2:30pm in the Barossa Valley. And all-day breakfast is a big city thing. Or so I thought. Until we stumbled upon Blond Coffee, 60 Murray Street, Angaston, South Australia, Tel +61 8 8564 3444. They served eggs benny till 3 pm. I was saved.

blond benedict

And a very respectable eggs benny it was, too. The free-range eggs had a great deep yellow colour and were poached to perfection. The ham was tasty. The hollandaise was good (but needed more zing). And there was a nice little splodge of sauteed spinach on the side.

The eggs and bacon sandwich was, according to Ron, equally impressive (and I know better than to argue with the in-laws). Two super-thick slabs of white bread, stuffed with scrambled egg, bacon (from local Barossa butcher Schultz's), cheese and tomato, all squished down in a sandwich press and toasted golden brown.

Despite the name, the staff at Blond are not all blondes, although there was a very high concentration of attractive young women. And friendly young women, too. When I asked for a sample of the bircher muesli, they even when to the trouble of garnishing it with a touch of yoghurt and a drizzle of honey.

16/20 "barossa benedict"


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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cafe Juves, Bundoora

For a bargain breakfast, go to Bundoora...

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Two Fingers, Melbourne

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Almost French, Richmond

A baguette is very French. A scrambled egg and bacon roll is not very French. So I guess it makes sense to describe a scrambled egg and bacon baguette as almost French. And it was an obvious choice for breakfast at Almost French, 138 Swan Street, Richmond, Tel +61 3 9429 2080. Très très yummy.

egg and bacon baguette

The quality of the baguette made all the difference to this take-away breakfast. Light and crispy on the outside. Soft, fresh and ever so slightly chewy on the inside. And stuffed with scrambled eggs and a generous amount of crispy bacon through a slit along the spine. I was a little concerned that their re-heating technique might ruin everything (part microwave, part toaster-oven), but it worked just fine.

More bakery than cafe, there are, nonetheless, a handful of small cafe tables for dining in, from which you can admire the handiwork of local celebrity Mirka Mora. You might even get a chance to admire Mirka herself. She popped in for some bread while I was there.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pearl Cafe, Richmond

Make no mistake. I am a greedy pig. So things are pretty bad when I put the fork down half-way through my eggs. But that's exactly what happened this morning at Pearl Cafe, 599 Church Street, Richmond, Tel +61 3 9427 1307. What a train wreck.

The original Pearl turned coddled eggs into an art form. Pearl Cafe turned out coddled eggs that made my stomach churn. First, they wheel out a dish that it absolutely swimming in raw egg white. Not coddled. Not lightly cooked. Raw. After a short discussion with my waiter we agree that coddled eggs are not supposed to be raw, so they are sent back for a bit more coddling, or so I think. A while later I am presented with a plate of hard, rubbery eggs, the remnants of which are pictured above. Let's not molly-coddle these people. It was disgusting.

Normally, the combination of mushrooms, double-smoked bacon, sage and burnt butter is a winner. Somehow, this dish kills the magic. The mushrooms were wet and bland, not buttery and tasty. The bacon was wet and limp. The toasted multi-grain was dry and butter-less. And the sage was nowhere to be found.

But it's not all bad. If you go to Pearl and order the muesli, or one of the bacon, egg, lettuce and tomato panini, you will be very happy. The french toasted peach sandwhich with vanilla marscapone might also be good. And the venue is slick, if a little noisy, with cute touches like Japanese Geisha salt and pepper mills.

Just avoid the coddled eggs.

13/20 "stick to the muesli"


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Friday, March 20, 2009

Cheeky Monkey, Richmond

When you tear a hamstring, does eating bacon speed your recovery? If so, maybe Ben Cousins should start each day with a big serve of bacon and eggs at Cheeky Monkey, 89a Swan Street, Richmond, Tel +61 3 9428 8833. It's not the best breakfast in Tigerland, but they do give you plenty of bacon.

Then again, maybe Swan Street isn't the best place for a recovering drug addict to be starting each day. There were junkies lying in the streets when I was there. OK, there was one junkie. But he was lying in the street. And "Cousins hangs with Junkies" is not the kind of headline Ben needs right now. Not with "good friends" like Fat Ange Venditti fuelling the media flames.

Despite being a cool-looking venue, with a graffiti-style stencil mural of monkeys all over the exterior walls, Cheeky Monkey was a bit of a disappointment. My scrambled eggs, bacon and mushrooms were OK, but why are they using boring white toast when Almost French is baking excellent sourdough right across the road? And cheddar-toasted muffins with eggs, bacon and hollandaise ($14.90) might have been a winner, but for the addition of crispy onion rings and a drizzle of BBQ sauce over the hollandaise. Weird. Even the chive crepes topped with poached egg, smoked salmon, sliced avocado and dill hollandaise ($15.90) sounded better than it looked.

Maybe they do a better job with the jumbo corn fritters, the hotcake stack, or the coconut and banana bread?

The coffee, at least, was good.

15/20 "bacon"

cheeky monkey scores 15

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Auction Rooms, North Melbourne

Back in the good old days, bargain hunters went to auction rooms. Today, they go to eBay. Which leaves more room for people to open cafes, like Auction Rooms, 103-107 Errol Street, North Melbourne, Tel +61 3 9326 7749. In, you guessed it, some former auction rooms. Not only do they serve great coffee, they even roast their own beans.

They also serve interesting food, like hazelnut-crumbed lambs brains on saute bacon and spinach with sweet onion jam. Brains for breakfast. Not exactly my cup of tea. I prefer to avoid foods that give me mad cow disease and gout. But I'm sure some of you are far more daring than me. Knock yourselves out.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cumulus Inc, Melbourne

I have spoken before about grand master Andrew McConnell's special culinary powers. The legend continues at Cumulus, Inc., 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Tel +61 3 9650 1445. He calls the place an eating house where breakfast is done simply. But since when do "eating houses" dabble in molecular gastronomy? Breakfast done simply my arse.

65-65 egg

Not that I'm complaining. He can tinker around with the slow poaching machine and other scientific experiments as long as he likes. The failures can go in the bin. And the winners can go on the menu. Like the 65/65 egg. Slow "poached" in its shell at 65 degrees for 65 minutes, this is one perfect eggy-wegg. Just soft and slightly oozy all the way through. Genius.

If he keeps coming up with dishes like this, McConnell may soon be challenging Wylie Dufresne for the "Egg Man" title. In fact, now that I think of it, they share an eerie resemblance, especially in the haircut department. Not that I'm accusing Andrew of ripping off Wylie's look.

The 65/65 egg is served, sans shell, on a slice of crunchy sourdough toast, surrounded by smoked salmon, sprinkled with a few shreds of sorrel and dill, and topped with miniature apple soldiers about the size of matchsticks ($17). I contemplated dunking my apple soldiers in the egg yolk, but that would have looked a bit stupid, so I just shovelled bits onto my egg and toast.

If you're hungry, a better option may be the Full English ($18), which includes toast, farmhouse slab bacon, fried eggs, blood sausage, and smoked tomato. I am a big fan of the smoked vegetable, by the way, and the Tom Cooper smoked tomato they serve at Cumulus is no exception. Which reminds me, if you ever make it to wd~50 in New York, you should not miss Wylie Dufresne's smoked mashed potato (served with cod). It rocks. But I digress... For something a bit healthier, try the Bircher muesli with grated granny smiths and almonds ($10).

Coffee, service and venue are all excellent. But I have absolutely no idea why they named the place after a cloud.

20/20 "smokin"


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