Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Strozzi, Melbourne

Really good eggs, excellent hollandaise, decent ham, and semi-raw soggy muffins. This, despite my song and dance about how I like my muffins well-toasted, not soggy, yada yada yada. God gave us twice as many ears as mouths, and still people struggle with the listening thing. Maybe "I really hate soggy muffins" was too subtle for the waiter at Strozzi, 333 Collins Street, Melbourne. A very nice waiter, I hasten to add.

Despite my muffin moaning, I must admit that Strozzi is an excellent spot for a power breakfast. Spacious and dimly lit, it lurks quietly below the restored grandeur of 333 Collins.

They also have a pretty good breakfast menu for a city venue. Plenty of egg dishes (including the "Colazione Strozzi" fry-up), plus some tempting options like blueberry pancakes with vanilla marscapone; French toasted sourdough in cinnamon batter with bacon; and Phillipa's rosemary and raisin toast (a bargain at four bucks). You can also get muesli, fruit and porridge, if your Zegna suit's getting a bit tight.

14/20 "location, location"


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Parkdale Banana Toast

Don't be put off by the fact that it looks like a toilet block. Or, indeed, that it is a toilet block. The Parkdale Beach Cafe and Kiosk and Toilet Block, on Beach Road, Parkdale, Tel +61 3 9580 3377, is well worth a visit. If you fancy a slice of banana bread, then this is the place to come. The "homestyle" toasted banana loaf with almond marscapone and honey is brilliant. Next step, come back and sample the eggs. Stay tuned...

banana toast

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Continental Delicatessen, Sandringham

So bad was the hollandaise on this serve of eggs la mer that we sent it back. Maybe it was suffering from separation anxiety? It wasn't bonding with the eggs, that's for sure. Such was the stress of the situation that it had transformed itself into juice and residue, with the unfortunate side-effect of soggy muffins. Collateral damage. Welcome to The Continental Deli, 50 Station Street, Sandringham, Tel +61 3 9598 1171.

To their credit, they slashed our bill dramatically as a result of the hollandaise disaster, and didn't get all petulant and snitchy. And some aspects of the meal were OK. My chipolatas were good. The crispy bacon and scrambles weren't bad. But there were too many weak links.

My toast for example, was meant to be sourdough. It turned out to be squares of plain white fluffy bread, from Brumby's I think. The tomato was listed in the extras as "oven roasted", and yet it looked very much fried (and not very well fried at that). And the coffee took so long to arrive that it was beaten to the table by the eggs.

On first impression, the venue has a reasonable buzz. But it was freezing cold and in desperate need of heating. This is Sandringham, not Noosa, and Summer is long gone.

9/20 "separation anxiety"


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Big Mouth, St Kilda

For some reason or other, it's been years since I had breakfast at one-time St Kilda favorite, Big Mouth, 168 Acland St, St Kilda, +61 3 9534 4611. I think I decided at some point that it was over-priced compared to nearby places like 189 Espresso (which is now pushing up daisies). So this morning I parked my rapidly-expanding arse on a bar stool downstairs, and took the 2006 model for a test drive.

big mouth hash

If I had to sum up Big Mouth in one word it would be this: inconsistent. It was like eating John Travolta's career for breakfast. Star performances spoiled by the odd disaster. The potato and zucchini hash was brilliant (Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction). The buttered spinach and avocado were almost as good (Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever), and the "smokey bacon" was tasty but undercooked. But the poached egg was a flop (did anyone see Look Who's Talking, Too?). So seriously under-poached that a river of raw white spewed across the plate as soon as I touched it with a knife. Eeew.

13/20 "bacon tastes good... pork chops taste good..."


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Retro, Fitzroy

A nice fat, spicy, greasy sausage and a big pile of tasty bacon. Key ingredients in the "hangover brekkie" at Retro Cafe, 413 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Tel 61 3 9419 9103. Throw in a nice thick hollandaise, a fried hash brown (mass produced), toast and mushies (or tomato), and you have quite an impressive fry-up.

hangover brekkie

Sugardough Panifico & Patisserie, Brunswick

This morning I started with what you might call a fluffer breakfast... a little warm-up snack to keep me going till the main event. Except this particular fluffer really deserves to be in front of the camera. Possibly in a starring role. Her name? Custard Bombolini. She's yours for $1.70 at Sugardough Panifico & Patisserie, 163 Lygon St, Brunswick East, Tel +61 3 93804060.

custard bomboloni

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Adelphish, Melbourne

Lured in once again by best breakfast self-proclamation, this morning I sampled the eggs benedict at Adelphish, the foyer-level restaurant at the Adelphi Hotel, 187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, +61 3 9650 7555. You'll struggle to find a better example of late 80's designer decor, DCM-style. Indeed, there's so much grey and yellow leather, you'll think you've scored a first class upgrade on Lufthansa.

adelphish benedict

The poached eggs were very good, with a nice rounded shape and deep yellow yolks, still soft in the middle. The hollandaise was also good, making for a very respectable benedict. My hash brown, on the other hand, was some kind of egg-pancake-roesti hybrid, and a bit overcooked.

The bad news is that despite the website's promise of "Applewood smoked bacon, British home cured short back bacon, Cumberland sausages and black pudding", the actual menu has already been downgraded to "bacon, sausages". New chef, sorry.

On the upside, they now offer a couple of exotic-sounding dishes like smoked haddock and thyme omelette, and stewed capsicum with chorizo and Persian fetta. The Genovese coffee is good too.

12/20 "yellow leather"


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Annie Smithers Bistrot, Kyneton

You don't often see chicken livers on a breakfast menu. And it's not like I stumbled out of bed this morning thinking "mmm... I feel like a bit of liver." But there it was... chicken livers, bacon and spinach on toast. One of several tempting dishes on offer at Annie Smithers Bistrot, 72 Piper Street, Kyneton, Tel +61 3 5422 2039. I love the smell of offal in the morning.


If liver doesn't float your boat, I can also vouch for the eggs benedict (slightly under-poached but with good quality ham and an excellent tarragon-infused hollandaise), the corn fritters (with delicious thick-cut organic free-range bacon), the poached eggs (with a generous side of smoked salmon and spinach) and the croque monsieur (not bad, but a bit heavy on bread and light on filling).

The problem for Melbournians is that you have to drive an hour and a bit to Kyneton in order to enjoy these treats. But Kyneton is a dinky little town, so it makes for a good road trip. We even stumbled on a Saturday morning farmers' market.

inside annie

The venue is country style with a touch of France, ie, Parisien cafe chairs with a nice blue and white weave. Sandblasted brick and bluestone walls are softened by hanging Persian rugs, while high ceilings and big windows give the room a spacious - if chilly - feel (a fireplace would make all the difference in Winter). And I was very pleased to see a Peugeot pepper grinder, and cool little eggs-shaped salt shakers, on every table. Real cloth napkins, too.

16/20 "mmm... liver"


Eggs & Bacon $8.50 BB100 -15%

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Surry Bills

Actually, it's called "bills Surry Hills", 359 Crown Street, Surry Hills, +61 2 9360 4762. The 2nd of the bills franchise, or empire, or whatever you want to call it. Here you'll find the signature creamy scrambled eggs, corn fritters with bacon, and ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter and banana. So this morning I decided to see if the hotcakes taste as good as they look...

The verdict? Very good. Nice fat hotcakes with the odd lump of ricotta sealed inside. A couple of discs of honeycomb-speckled butter, which added grease but not alot of honey flavour. And some sliced up, bruised banana, which is forgivable given Australia's Cyclone-Larry-induced banana crisis.

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Krispy Kreme for Breakfast

Not exactly low carb. But who cares when it tastes as good as this. Original glazed. Soft. Delicious. The perfect start to the day. Mmmm... Krispy Kreme...

krispy kreme

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Beaumaris Pavilion, Beaumaris

The catch with being a smart-arse is that you need to be smart. Not a moron, like our waiter at breakfast this morning. I order a capuccino, no chocolate. He delivers a "latte in a cup" with a smugness that should have sounded a warning bell for what was to come. He tells us the eggs benny comes on sourdough toast. It arrives 30 minutes later on cold muffins. Crap service has a new home... the Beaumaris Pavilion, 472 Beach Road, Beaumaris, Tel +61 3 9589 3251.

After an experience like this, I love finding self-congratulatory quotes like this:

Friendly, professional and knowledgeable staff pride themselves and [sic] ensuring you enjoy a memorable experience.

Hmmm... well I suppose it was memorable.

Food-wise, the story doesn't get much better. The poached eggs were fine, and the side of sauteed spinach was quite good. But the hollandaise was thin and watery, and there wasn't much of it. The ham was mediocre and ungrilled. And the hash browns were mass-produced frozen fellas, expertly fried till golden and greasy. Best of all, it was all nice and cold, so there was no risk of burning your mouth, or anything like that.

It is a nice venue, with a fairly slick modern fit-out, and nice big windows overlooking beach road and the bay beyond. The coffee was good, too.

10/20 "nice windows"


Saturday, May 06, 2006

NewYorkTomato Cafe, Richmond

Variously described as a "hidden gem" and "out-of-the-way local", you do indeed need local knowledge to find the newyorktomato cafe & bar (that's how they write it), Corner New and Yorks Streets, Richmond, Tel +61 3 9429 0505. Unless, perhaps, you barrack for Collingwood, in which case you might catch a glimpse of it out the train window on the way to Victoria Park. Then again, if you barrack for Collingwood, you're probably too busy vandalising the carriage to notice. You can never have too much "Eddie 4 Prezident" graffiti, after all.


My breakfast was a case study in how little things can make a big difference. I ordered poached eggs on sourdough with a side of fresh avocado. So far so good. Not great, but good enough. I also ummmed and aaahed about whether to get a side of beans or bacon. In the end I got both. Had I got just beans, I would have been very impressed. The beans were very good, with caramelised onion, pine nuts and a thick tomato sauce lifting the dish well above average. Had I got just bacon, I would have been miffed. The bacon was not good. It was a bad combo of stiff, dry and oily, without any real crispiness. By getting both, the beans neutralised the bacon, and I walked away pretty happy with the meal.

A few of the other menu items caught my eye. Oat pancake with saffron poached pears and a pistachio maple butter and syrup, for example. Or roasted mushrooms with basil, sweet corn and fetta on toast. They also offer a wheat-free toasted muesli, and 100% dark rye toast, for those with gluten issues. The beans are vegan, too.

Coffee and service were both good, and the venue feels a bit like eating in someone's back yard. Indeed, the courtyard accounts for about half of the total seating, which makes me wonder what happens if (when) it starts pissing with rain?

15/20 "v is for vegan... beans"


Friday, May 05, 2006

What a Croque

I was quite looking forward to my Croque Monsieur at Bistro Vite, Southgate, Melbourne, Tel +61 3 9690 9271. It's a French restaurant. They even had someone with a real French accent. So I guess I had high expectations. And although it was quite enjoyable, it wasn't exactly premier cru. They used skinny slices of cheap white bread.