Sunday, October 29, 2006

St Ali, South Melbourne

Two things trace their origins to Yemen: coffee; and the bin Laden family. Yes, that's right, we have an Islamic Sufi to thank for our favorite morning brew. His name was Abu'l Hasan 'Ali ibn Umar al-Shadhiliyya. He's the patron saint of coffee-growers, coffee-house proprietors and coffee-drinkers. And now there's a cafe named after him... St Ali, 12-18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne, Tel +61 3 9686 2990. They roast their own beans.

They also serve organic eggs. Any way, as long as it's poached. You can have poached, poached or poached. Indeed, there are only 3 variations. Poached with "grilled" mushrooms and "roquette" pesto. Poached with prosciutto, ricotta, spinach and roast chilli tomato. Or jusy plain poached. With nothing. Except toast. And they charge you $2 to make any change to this dizzying array of options.

Lucky for me the poached with mushies sounded OK. But it wasn't much better than OK. It was just good. Toast smeared with a tasty pesto. A scattering of shrivelled mushies. And a couple of soft-poached eggs.

The strength of this place is supposed to be its coffee, and my latte was very good. But, being picky, my cappucino was a bit over-filled with milk, and had only a very thin layer of froth.

St Ali is a very cool venue, with a spacious designer industrial look and feel, with clever use of recycled materials. They've even managed to weave a couple of outdoor spaces into what seems to be a former factory space.

I'm not sure if there are any Yemeni dishes, but you can get Egyptian Breakfast Beans... spiced fava beans with a tahini yoghurt and citrus dressing served on pide.

14/20 "fresh roasted"


Saturday, October 28, 2006

George Street Cafe, East Melbourne

I was pleasantly surprised to discover a very high quality eggs benedict today, at the George Street Cafe, 65 George Street, East Melbourne, Tel +61 3 9419 5805. The hollandaise was especially good. Thick, light and lots of zing. The eggs, ham and muffins were good, too. The only things missing were some hash browns and a nice cold Mimosa.

Rumour has it that the Bircher muesli is also very good here, but I haven't tried it myself. They also have some simple options like a mushroom omelette, which was tempting.

The best seats are beside the big windows, in the corner of the main room. You can also grab a street-side table outside, and suck back a latte or two while you're walking the dog.

15/20 "hollandaise with zing"


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Feedings at Readings, Port Melbourne

You can get all sorts of things from Feedings at Readings, 253 Bay St, Port Melbourne, Tel +61 3 9681 9876. Books, DVDs, music and talking Sebastian dolls. They even have celebrity book launches and stuff. Come here on November 20 and you'll get to meet Bill Grainger as he waxes lyrical about the joys of home cooking. Step 1, get yourself a fancy Poliform kitchen. Step 2, buy a copy of Bill's new book Every Day. Step 3, scramble a few eggs with a gallon of cream and cook. Easy.

I decided to go all healthy this morning, with a big bowl of Bircher muesli, topped with yoghurt and honey, and dusted with cinnamon. I'm no muesli maven, but to my amateur palate this was a magnificent bowl of white sludge. It was almost as good as a plate of eggs.

Although I didn't try the eggs, I did eyeball a nearby plate and they looked OK. You can get poached or scrambled free range eggs with most of the usual extras, including house baked beans, spinach, mushies, bacon, ham, chorizo, etc. They also do Benedict (with ham), Florentine (with spinach) and Atlantic (with smoked salmon and basil pesto).

14/20 "books and bircher"


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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Tusk, Windsor

I stumbled across some breakfast chatter in an online forum the other day, which included many dodgy recommendations about where to find Melbourne's best breakfast. One such recommendation was Tusk, at 133 Chapel Street, Windsor, Tel+61 3 9529 1198. Apparently (according to "Sazzie" and Shaun) the green eggs and ham is superb. Although "Sazzie" goes on to say that Tusk is "shit" and "hideously overpriced", which left me a little confused. So, this morning, I decided to check it out for myself.

Let me dispense with the pricing issue first. At $9.50 for the green eggs and ham, there is no way you can call Tusk "hideously" overpriced (unless, of course, you use the $2 Ikea breakfast as your benchmark, which isn't really fair to cafes that don't use breakfast as a loss-leader to sell furniture). In fact, the menu struck me as rather cheap, with no single dish over 12 bucks.

And the food? Well, I wouldn't call it shit. But I wouldn't call is superb either. The green eggs were over-cooked, crumbly scrambled eggs, propped up by a generous dose of pesto. The thin-sliced ham was mixed through the eggs in the form of little postage-stamp squares. And the toasted ciabatta was so thin, dry and crispy that they might as well have served the eggs on some man-sized Saladas. The whole thing was edible and tasty, but I would never order it again.

If I go back, I will probably try the baked banana and coconut milk rice pudding with sultanas, topped with cinnamon and flaked almonds. Or maybe I'll see how their eggs benny stacks up?

Tusk is a buzzy venue with good coffee, quick service, and a bigger-than-usual outdoor space (ie, a corner position on a very wide footpath). Inside, there's a nice big photo-mural of a tropical sunset. Reminded me of Greasy Joe's in the good old days.

13/20 "green eggs and crisps"


Thursday, October 19, 2006


Say hello to the Euro-Croque... European's version of the French fried ham and cheese sandwich, aka the Croque Monsieur. Thick spongey bread, filled with ham, gruyere, mustard and bechamel. Not as good as the Croque Madame I had at The Green Grocer, but pretty good nonetheless. And the service and buzz at European is unmatched in the CBD. It was 8.15 on a Thursday and the place was full. It may not be cheap, but it's very, very good.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Green Grocer, North Fitzoy

Was it a stern letter from the ACCC? Or was it Tullster's grumbling comments on the Breakfast Blog? Whatever the reason, the word "big" was conspicuously absent from today's breakfast menu at The Green Grocer, 217 St Georges Road, North Fitzroy, Tel +61 3 9489 1747. The breakfast formerly known as "Big" is now officially known as the "Grocer's Breakfast". But as we all know, size isn't important. It's what you do with your biodynamic sausage that counts.

The Grocer's Breakfast may be a down-sized version of its big brother, but I was pleased to discover that food quality is still up there with the best. Very nice poached egg (singular). Tasty little herb and fetta pancake. Perfectly ripe wedge of avocado. A steaming pile of cooked spinach. And a light drizzle of basil pesto. I would, however, have preferred more than one tiny mushroom, one sliver of bacon (not even a full rasher), and one chicken-nugget-sized hash brown.

The other problem is price. The base model GB is $16. But upgrade that with a single sausage and some orange onion relish, and you're paying $19.70 for a not-quite-big breakfast (coffee not included).

I now wish I'd ordered the omelette madam, one of the daily specials: a buttery omelette with free range, naturally smoked ham, mustard, fresh horseradish and Piano Hill tasty cheese, served with GG tomato sauce. If it was anything like the GG croque madame I had a few months ago, this would have been delicious.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Ugly Sister, Balaclava

Call me a snob, but I really don't want to be listening to classic rock over breakfast. It might work for truck stops and sports bars, but it's a safe way to spoil the vibe of an urban cafe. Which is what happened today at Ugly Sister, 263-265 Carlisle Street, Balaclava, Tel +61 3 9527 6122. It's a pity, because the fit-out isn't bad, and I've never seen so many paintings in one venue (other than a gallery, of course).


I received a tip (thanks Hannah) that Ugly Sister was the highest user-rated breakfast venue at, so I was expecting an above average performance. What I got was a perfectly average experience. The food was somewhere between OK and good, with decent scrambled eggs, slightly dried out bacon, and tasty but very-greasy mushrooms. My first Cisco's coffee was good (borderline very good), but the second was way too hot (ie, hold the glass for longer than a few seconds and you'll be reaching for the burn cream). Service was quick, but not particularly warm.

My conclusion from this is that the ranking system on is seriously flawed. Backing this up is the fact that Caffe 396 (around the corner from Ludo) comes in second on their so-called breakfast "Wish List". I once had eggs benedict at that place (admittedly quite some time ago) and it was so bad that I couldn't bring myself to blog about it (for fear of reliving the experience).

Carlisle Street boasts several venues worth crossing town for. In my opinion, Fugly Sister isn't one of them. But if you like classic rock...

12/20 "perfectly average"


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Fruit Cup at Batch

If I keep scoffing down eggs, bacon, toast and hollandaise at current rates then it's only a matter of time before you see me on The Biggest Loser. So this morning I decided to try breakfast-lite, in the form of a dainty little fruit cup at Batch Espresso, in the Carlisle Street strip. It sounded better than it tasted: fresh fruit suspended in a glass of ginger-beer jelly, with a splodge of honeyed ricotta on the side. It wasn't bad. But it wasn't in the same league as the Batch Hash with cornichons.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Palomino, Northcote

They may only do boiled eggs (baked too, if you count the specials), but Palomino, 236 High Street, Northcote, Tel +61 3 9481 0699, does them very well indeed. Nice golden-yolked, soft-boiled, free-range googs, done just right. Giddy up.


Style-wise, the Northcote Palomino has nothing in common with the American chain that shares its name. It's very much a quirky, studenty, one-off original. It's a place where you can get a bowl of Coco Pops for three bucks. Or a chutney cheese melt for $5.50. Or, in my case, "eggs from the shell" with a very thick and tasty serve of house-made baked beans and a few chunks of fetta. Yum yum.

Very good coffee too. Not to mention the retro, two-tone brown plates, saucers and matching sugar bowl.

15/20 "eggs from the shell"


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Kelly Eggs

Such was the volume of beer consumed at my school reunion last night that I was almost certainly still blowing 0.95 when I awoke this morning. So, despite a desperate need for a serious hangover brekky, there was no way I was driving to Greasy Joe's. Lucky for me, there was an excellent plate of scrambled eggs, bacon and avocado on offer right here in my lounge room. I'll call them Kelly Eggs. The breakfast equivalent of the Kelly Bag. And I didn't even need to leave the couch. Bonus.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Replete Does Johnny Cakes

Number two's yesterday. Johnny cakes today. This time at Replete, with bacon, maple syrup and a light dusting of icing sugar. Very nice Johnny cakes too. Almost like a normal pancake only made from some kind of corn meal (I think). The bacon, however, was a disappointment. Too dry and chewy.