Aug 09, 2016
Melbourne’s reputation as a café mecca is assured but there are some standouts doing breakfast a little bit differently. By Annabel Ross.
You only need to look at Melbourne’s brunch hotspots on weekends, when the queues spill onto the streets and snake around the corner, to know that breakfast in this city has reached fever pitch. Over the past few years, it’s become even more common to go out for brekkie than lunch or dinner on weekends (it’s cheaper, for a start, and you don’t have to dress up) and the café competition is fierce.
Smashed avocado refuses to die on many a menu but these days you’ve got to be offering a lot more than that to pull the crowds. Diners are demanding challenging, surprising, Instagram-worthy meals to kickstart their mornings, and cafés are responding with innovative dishes and experiences that are changing the way we think about breakfast. Here are some of the city’s best.
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You can still get smashed avocado at Mammoth but chances are you’ve never had it like this before. Served with cashew pesto, heirloom radish-and-buckwheat salad, pickled kale and black sourdough, it’s one of the simpler dishes on a menu that includes ginger-cured salmon with black-sesame French toast, yuzu caviar, brûlée egg and lemon-lime gelato, a chicken katsu salt-and-pepper doughnut burger with green mango and papaya slaw, and perhaps the most decadent of all, an unusually pretty chocolate fondant Wagon Wheels-style hotcake with strawberry marshmallow and coconut gelato. Having trouble deciding between sweet and savoury? You can always chase your main meal with “dessert” – a Golden Gaytime panna cotta with honeycomb, sablé biscuit and chocolate-coated popping candy.
736 Malvern Road, Armadale, Melbourne
Rudimentary by name but definitely not by nature, this Footscray café is housed in a set of repurposed shipping containers (where else?) and its all-day menu boasts curiosities spanning passionfruit crumpets with lemon balm and crystallised nuts to barley porridge with grilled octopus, pickled vegetables, soft egg and rice crisp, alongside more traditional options including croque-monsieur, granola and sandwiches. The interior has been spruced up with white walls and polished floorboards and outside there’s a community garden from where the chefs pluck fresh herbs for garnishing their picture-perfect dishes. It’s the sort of place where you’ll want to linger, a prospect made even more appealing by the modest but considered beer, wine and cocktail list.
16-20 Leeds Street, Footscray, Melbourne
Lawyers, Guns and Money
Congee, the Chinese answer to porridge, is the star of the show at Lawyers, Guns and Money, one of a growing number of eateries offering Asian-style breakfasts. At LGM, choose from vegetarian, blue swimmer crab, ginger and nori-cured ocean trout or chicken congees, or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous there’s the Taiwanese “husband and wife” offal plate of pigs’ ears and honeycomb tripe braised in master stock with sweet-and-sour pickled vegetables.
Eggs get an Asian-style makeover here – try them scrambled with Sriracha sauce and served with char siew-glazed bacon and toasted Chinese fried bread, or served “Singapore style” with soy sauce, kaya jam and white toast (in this age of quinoa spelt sourdough, this is revolutionary in itself).
Corner Church Lane and St. James Lane, CBD, Melbourne
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In Melbourne it goes without saying that good coffee is a must. At Industry Beans, however, it pops up on the menu in delightfully unexpected ways – as a caviar served with coconut-crusted brioche and maple-glazed Kaiser bacon, in a coffee-cornbread crumb served with truffled egg and cauliflower soup, and as a rub applied to a Wagyu burger with chilli jam, cheddar and pickles. Even the porridge here is done differently, made with black rice and served with goji berries, young coconut and matcha foam. The range of coffee – espresso, filter, cold-drip, AeroPress, pour-over, cold-brew – demands its own mind-boggling menu, and the setting, an über-hip, award-winning warehouse conversion, finds a fitting home in trendy Fitzroy.
3/62 Rose Street, Fitzroy
The Kettle Black
The appetite for inventive dishes featuring curious ingredients is huge but the new breakfast goes further than that. Setting is important – see café owners spending a fortune on top-notch fit-outs from leading design firms – and so, too, is the overall experience. The Kettle Black, brought to you by the team behind one of Melbourne’s pioneering gourmet breakfast venues, Top Paddock in Richmond, is the complete package. Housed in a serene, light-filled refurbished terrace, the elegant, elaborate menu – which includes chilli scrambled eggs with house-cured kangaroo, feta and leaves, and Port Phillip snapper in a brioche roll with green papaya salad, citrus mayonnaise, chilli jam and lime – is available as a breakfast degustation served in the private upstairs dining room.
50 Albert Road, South Melbourne
Archie’s All Day
Archie’s addresses an important aspect of the newfangled breakfast: it’s available all day, because not everyone’s going to be up and at ’em after a big night. The ubiquitous smashed avo is here (this award-winning version is a replica of a dish first served at Bluebird Espresso in Collingwood; it comes gussied up with Meredith goat’s feta, mint, parsley, lemon sumac and pepita dukkah), but it’s the chimichurri pork neck with sweet potato and corn hash, pork-crackle herbed mayo and a fried egg, or Archie’s Eggslut: coddled egg, potato puree, truffle salt and brioche soldiers that are really turning heads. All meals are made with care – and with social media in mind.
189 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne
Lights in the Attic
Owner Kevin Li has just opened a new café, The Crux and Co., in South Melbourne (also worth a look), but Lights in the Attic is still his best-known venture, and its Bird Nest dish has become the stuff of Melbourne breakfast legend. Scotch eggs sit atop a nest of shredded potato, free-range kransky, chilli beans and grated parmesan in a treat for the eyes and tastebuds. Finding Nemo, a dish of smoked ocean trout flecked through scrambled eggs with fish bonito and fish-roe mayo on toast is popular, as is the Attic Pizza, a flavour bomb of fried eggs, bacon, pomegranate, mixed nuts and blue cheese on a garlic roti with sweet-potato chips and maple syrup.
38 Camberwell Road, Hawthorn East, Melbourne
Bowery to Williamsburg
You don’t get much more Noo Yawk than this: an all-day diner inspired by NYC’s Bowery subway station with a menu featuring American favourites from bagels with “schmear” to a short stack of griddle hot cakes. The Good Morning Cubano sandwich comes with ham hock, a fried egg, pickles, mustard and Swiss cheese on Jewish challah bread, but if you really need to cut through the morning fug, try the steak with fried eggs, bacon and potatoes or the Southern Fried Chicken Waffle with spiced whipped butter, hot sauce and maple syrup. It’s a nutritionist’s nightmare but it’s rather delicious and about as close as you’ll get to the Big Apple without getting on a plane.
16 Oliver Lane/123 Hardware Street, Melbourne