Sunday, September 25, 2005

Ray, Brunswick

It looks and feels like Fitzroy designer grunge. But on the menu, the ethnic flavour of old-school Brunswick lives on... Lebanese sausage, labna, dukkah and baharat baked beans. I guess you call this Turkish-Egyptian-Lebanese-Australian-Italian fusion food. Interesting...

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Harveys, South Yarra

It's hard to escape footy fever on grand final day in Melbourne. Today's match might well be dubbed the battle of the birds, as the West Coast Eagles take on the Sydney Swans. So it was no surprise to be surrounded by several tables full of Eagles fans (and the odd Swan) as we settled in for breakfast at Harveys, Murphy Street, South Yarra, Tel +61 3 9867 3605. Very colourful.

Which makes me wonder. Has anyone ever had a swan egg omelette? I know you can get goose eggs and duck eggs. And I'm a big fan of quail eggs, boiled with celery salt... yum. But swan eggs never seem to make the menu. Maybe it's illegal? Who knows?

Getting back to the humble chook egg, I had an enjoyable serve of scrambles on sourdough, with a home made sausage and some pesto baked beans on the side. The eggs were a little bit watery for high marks, but the snag (quite gamey) and beans (sweetened with honey) were very good. They also did a good job with the poached eggs, sauteed spinach and hash potato (a tad salty).

For the egg-challenged, Harvey's has plenty to offer. The porridge was excellent, served with poached pears and dusted with cinnamon. Ditto the fruit salad. I also liked the sound of the thyme and garlic sauteed mushrooms (served with toast and feta) and the goats cheese on toast with fresh asparagus, pesto and roasted tomatoes.

The venue and service are very polished, although it gets a bit noisy when the place is full. And I was impressed by some of the little things. White linen. Plenty of fresh water. HP sauce. They even had Peugeot pepper grinders.

It is, however, expensive. The goat's cheese on toast, for example, will set you back 17 bucks. Ouch.

17/20 "très bcbg"

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Gus' Cafe, Canberra

I don't know what it is about the pigs around Canberra, but they seem to produce magnificent bacon. And thick, tasty bacon was one of the highlights of this morning's breakfast at Gus' Cafe, Bundas Street, Civic, Tel +61 2 6248 8118. That, and some excellent garlic sauteed mushrooms.

Gus' is a Canberra classic. The first true Euro-style cafe in Canberra (so the story goes), it's like an oasis of macchiato in a sea of tea bags. These days it has some competition, but back in the early years it was the place to be. Street-side tables, open late, and coffee that didn't suck.

The good news for anyone stuck in Civic and in need of breakfast is that Gus' still delivers the goods. I was very impressed with my scramled eggs (firm and light) on thick, white, fluffy toast. And, as mentioned above, the sides of bacon and mushrooms were superb.

The menu has heaps of good options: cinnamon toast; home-made banana bread with banana caprice and marscapone; salmon and mushroom egg white omelette drizzled with sweet soy and coriander; and a dish called "Big Benny" where the eggs benedict is super-sized with bacon, chippolatas, tomato, and mushrooms.

The service was good. Ditto the coffee. They have even overcome the annoying Canberra tradition of serving lattes in silly-looking stemmed glasses. You feel like a real goose drinking coffee from one of those glasses. As if you ordered a fluffy duck for breakfast.

15/20 "mmm... bacon"

Sunday, September 18, 2005


"Although I cannot lay an egg, I am a very good judge of omelettes"
George Bernard Shaw

Batch Espresso, Balaclava

To some they're Polski Ogorki. I call them gherkins. And the frogs call them cornichons. Great with pork rillettes. But who eats 'em for breakfast? Anyone who orders the spinach and potato hash at Batch Espresso, 320 Carlisle Street, Balaclava, Tel +61 3 9530 3550. That's who.

I'd heard the hash was good. But I hadn't realised a stunted pickle would be the star of the show. For once I find myself in complete agreement with the Cheap Eats crew. This dish is a stroke of brunch genius. A must-try if you're a fan of the spud.

As you'd hope from a place that won barista of the year (OK, the owner won the gong, but you know what I mean), the coffee was very good. Not sure if it's better than some of the Genovese around town, but the kiwi-sourced Coffee Supreme was up there.

Other popular menu items include savoury french toast with baked beans (sold out), lemon and blueberry pancakes (looked good), and porridge with brown sugar and cream. The porridge had an optional side of blended apricot and orange, which was another creative touch.

It's lucky the food was so good, because when we first walked in the door, we felt about as welcome as a fart in a space-suit. We were temporarily seated at a table for four, on the proviso that we'd be moved to a two-seater shortly. Then, some 15 minutes later, I asked when we might be moving to our real table, and was told that we could have the four-seater after all. OK, I guess I can take my jacket off now. Thanks.

My other gripe relates to "special" orders... you know, for minor things like illness, allergies, risk of anaphylactic shock, hospital visits, etc. Despite the menu announcing that on weekends "we do not offer variations or changes outside of dietary requirements", what they mean is "we do not offer variations or changes AT ALL." Apparently it was nothing personal. But when the menu implies that variations are possible (ie, where it's a "dietary requirement") and the waitress says "no" (despite telling her you have "dietary requirements") it starts to feel a little personal. Having said all that, the service was otherwise efficient, and it would be going too far to say that the staff were unfriendly.

14/20 "mmm... cornichons"

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Caffe Panette, South Melbourne

No doubt Kim Beazley was choking on his brekky this morning, as further details of the Latham Diaries splashed their way across the pages of the weekend papers. While Kim, "Comb-over" McMullan and various other "sick puppies" struggled to keep their porridge down, I grabbed the papers and got stuck in to an excellent plate of Eggs Benedict at Caffe Panette, corner of Coventry and Cecil streets, South Melbourne, +61 3 9690 2803. I love politics for breakfast.

Mark reckons Kim is a smut-peddling smear-monger who's not fit to clean the dunnies at Parliament House. Cutting. But wait till the real diaries get out. I've seen a leaked copy of The Downfall: Inside Latham's Bunker and Kim gets off lightly compared to Mr Sheen...

February 3, 2005: Rudd wants my support. If it's euthanasia he's proposing I'm all for it. F--king foreign affairs f--kwit. He can speak Mandarin, hell, he can shove a mandarin up his arse for all I care.

OK, maybe this is a fake. But it's funny.

Getting back to this morning's brekky, I must say that Panette came through with the goods. Very good eggs, an elegant hollandaise, plenty of thin-sliced gypsy ham (I would have preferred it grilled, but whatever), good muffins and a nice big roesti on the side. Very good Grinders coffee (from a Gaggia), too.

Every dish I saw looked impressive. Big piles of scrambles, tasty-looking sides, and "Panette's Own" baked beans with ham hocks and haricot beans. Another popular item was Joe's Melting Muffins with bacon, roma tomatoes and avocado smothered in melted cheese. Or, for the sugar-lovers, French toast with caramelised apples and double cream.

This morning, with gale-force winds and icy rain outside, all eyes were on the inside tables. After a 10-15 minute wait, I scored a spot, spread Annabel Crabb across the dark wooden table (her article, I mean... let's not start any more smutty rumours), and soaked up the atosphere. Very cosy.

17/20 "melting muffins"

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Zartowa, Elwood

Today, with the help of some local knowledge, we found ourselves brunching at Zartowa, 114 Ormond Road, Elwood, Tel +61 3 9531 1700. The hash browns are the best in town. Thick and mushy inside, crisp and golden outside, with just a hint of onion. Perfect.

I ordered the "Eggs Elwood", with toast, avocado, bacon and poached eggs, all topped with an excellent hollandaise. The eggs were a bit under-done, but the rest was great. Ditto the eggs benedict. They also did a good job with the porridge (served with coconut and brown sugar), fruit salad (served with toasted almonds), and extras (especially the sauteed spinach and Phillipa's honey wholewheat toast).

Other eye-catching items included the omelette, and a good-looking pancake stack with berry compote or maple syrup.

As a venue, it's a step above the average cafe, with white linen & paper tables inside, very good service (despite a slow start), and a street-front option for the dog crowd. Good coffee and tea, too.

16/20 "best hash"

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Bunyip Cafe, South Melbourne

Australia has a few native monsters designed to scare small children and tourists alike. For the kids, there's the Bunyip, a huge furry half-human beast with a long neck and a head like a bird. For the tourists, there's the drop bear, which is best described as an evil, carnivorous koala that drops out of gum trees and eats your head. So I guess you should watch your back if you happen to visit the Bunyip Cafe, 313 Coventry Street, South Melbourne, Tel +61 3 9682 5844. I managed to get through breakfast without incident.

I quite enjoyed my modified serve of eggs benedict, despite a few imperfections. The spinach, ham and toast (soy and linseed) were all very good, but the hollandaise was too runny and they cheated with the eggs. Perfectly-domed little flying saucer eggs are hard to miss. They may taste the same, but true dropped eggs should be poached in a whirlpool, not a muffin-tray.

It was very quiet (completely empty) when I was there, so I didn't get much of a look at the other options. But the menu seemed to have a good range, and it may be that the big brekkie, omelette, pancakes, etc, are all very good.

The real problem for the Bunyip is its location. With places like Sweethearts and Q11 less than a minute away, it's rubbing shoulders with some serious competition. But if you're recovering from a big night, drop in for the $1.50 Berocca Brekkie and load up on vitamin B.

12/20 "nice spinach"

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Bambini Trust Cafe, Sydney

I was tucking into a stylish plate of poached eggs this morning, and who should breeze past but the Donald... not quite Trump, but an arts and business A-lister by Sydney standards nonetheless. Bambini Trust Cafe, 185 Elizabeth Street, +61 2 9283 7098, must be quite the place to be.

It's a very slick little venue, with dark timber walls, professional black-clad staff, and a business-like buzz. Adding to the buzz is a steady flow of local suits and skirts lining up for lattes-to-go. For good reason. The Cremcaffe coffee was extremely good.

My poached eggs with spinach and ham were good, but too runny to score high marks. The spinach was a crinkly-leaf variety which you don't often see, and the thin-sliced ham would have been better with a bit of grilling. It was served on slightly over-toasted Turkish bread, with a good hollandaise to cap things off.

16/20 "Mmmm... Cremcaffe"

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Ikea Cafe, Richmond

$3.50 for the lot, including eggs, bacon, snags, tomato, hash browns, beans... and coffee... and a free re-fill. What more can I say? The eggs were disgusting. The rest was pretty good.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Ici, Fitzroy

This morning I finally made it to Ici, 359 Napier Street, Fitzroy, Tel +61 3 9417 2274. Apart from the name, there's nothing French about this place, unless you count the "French Toast" with mixed Winter berries, roasted chesnut marscapone and syrup. But who cares? This groovier-than-thou back-street cafe is an excellent spot for a leisurely brekky. Very impressive.

The Ici menu is anything but run-of-the-mill. There's scrambled tofu with Thai mint, white bean miso paste, mushrooms and spinach; Kedgeree spiced rice with smoked cod, egg and minted yoghurt; organic apple and oat porridge; semolina pudding with toasted almonds; and an indian spiced omelette with dukah and corriander chutney.

I played it safe with scrambled eggs, sourdough toast, house-baked beans, onion marmalade and a goat sausage. Yes... that's right... a goat sausage. Tasty. The coffee was excellent, too.

Next time I think I'll go the buffalo banger instead.

17/20 "nice goat"

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