Monday, 5 August 2013

B is for Brunch!

It's been so long since I wrote on my blog that:
a) I forgot what it was called;
b) I forgot the password to get access to it;
c) I forgot which folder had all my cherished foodporn.
Time to get my memory checked...

...But that can wait until after this blog post because this woman has her priorities right!

As has become my modus operandi, I'm going to throw together a mixtape, if you like, of a few of the best brunches of the last nine-ish months. "Best of" lists are great for knocking a lot of semi-related but not super coherent content out of the way. They're also catnip for people with short attention spans (i.e. me and everyone in my generation) because they're essentially a whole heap of different colourful pictures with short descriptions. Also food.

1. The Grain Store, CBD
Let's start with the new shiny stuff! This place opened a month or two back and while the general location is somewhat questionable (strolling down King Street at 9am on a Sunday morning is great way to meet the finest specimens of society, yay!), the actual cafe is beautiful. It's a haven of clean but soft lines, neutral but warm's like a Scandanvian couple renovated a New England home, turning the entire place into an extended dining room/kitchen (because who wouldn't?!).

The food walks the fine line of creative and comforting and wins. On a Breakfast Club expedition, E went for the Portobello mushrooms with poached eggs and hazelnut hollandaise ($18.0). Ordinarily accompanied by a potato rosti, E continued her boycott of the wonderous starchy tuber, choosing crispy fingers of haloumi instead. I suppose we can forgive her.

I ordered the Orange cured salmon and fried poached egg with truffle creme fraiche, smoked eggplant and crostini ($17.0), and what came was so pretty I almost didn't eat it. Just kidding, I ate every last bit and it was great to mix and match all the components. Admittedly I don't recall truffle, which is a bit odd, since it's usually pretty potent.

R was feeling a bit overwhelmed so she went for poached eggs on toast. Classic, maybe. Photogenic, not.

2. North Carlton Canteen, North Carlton
Have you ever walked past a soon-to-open store and thought 'damn, this place is going to be good!', purely on the basis of their font selections? No disappointments with North Carlton Canteen, a great space serving solidly good meals with genuinely friendly service. And kudos for filling a desperate need on the North Carlton stretch of Lygon Street.

The first time I visited was late last year, a few weeks after they'd quietly opened. A indulged her sweet tooth with the Banana bread pancakes with fresh strawberries, whipped cream yoghurt, strawberry and agave nectar and pistachio praline ($13). So it wasn't the prettiest thing, but looks aren't everything in this game. I had the delicious, delicious Pumpkin and fetta fritters with tahini yohgurt, poached eggs and rocket salad ($12).

A return trip for a quick breakfast in June this year confirmed the theme: delicious, homey and cheap! E, my companion, had an omlette of some description. I feel goats cheese and mushrooms were involved and the kitchen was more than happy to swap the meat for a decent hunk of avocado ($13.5). I went down the glorious fried path, opting for the Celeriac croquettes with a soft herb salad, poached eggs and  trout ($14.0). More substantial slices of smoked trout would've been appreciated.

North Carlton Canteen also does tasty takeaway lunchboxes: perfect for enjoying in the park when Summer rolls around!

3. Industry Beans, Fitzroy
How this one city can sustain so many roasting warehouses is definitely a #FirstWorldProblem, but if there's ever a bust, let's hope this one stays afloat for the sake of the food alone. If you're ever bored, you should just read the menu. Unless you're hungry and it's ten pm and there's a gale outside - that's only going to end badly for you. 

R and I had the loveliest waiter when we visited; she let us linger a few hours while hungry hoardes cursed and hissed silently. R had the Baked blackbeans, which arrived with a veritable cornucopia of vegetables, feta, sourdough and an intriguing side of cured egg yolk ($17). The yolk proved to be a winner, spread thickly on toast. Writing this blog post has made it apparent that I have an unhealthy affinity to goods finished in a deep fryer: in this case, Deep fried duck eggs (panko crumbed) on shaved fennel, watercress and toasted chestnuts with capsicum and orange infused sweet potato puree. ($18.0). I wish ducks laid bigger eggs.

4. Stovetop, Carlton
If you're feeling too alternative for Seven Seeds and Middle Fish, head down to Stovetop, which makes its caffeine old-school style, using Italian stovetop coffee makers. The food is also a plus. A ordered the Latkes made from sweet potato and chia with poached eggs, baba ganoush and rocket ($14.0). Clearly I have a memory problem: failing to remember my egg sizes, I went for the Duck egg baked in sautéed spinach, roast pumpkin, Persian fetta with house za’atar and toast ($13.0). If it wasn't so morally questionable, I'd genetically engineer ducks to lay bigger eggs. 

Since this visit, they now have a website, which features well-dressed individuals gazing distractingly into the distance. What is more distracting is the inclusion of a menu which contains Cinnamon waffles with pomegranate molasses, vanilla bean custard, agave and house almond dukkah ($13.0). Want.

5. Mart 130, Albert Park 
We interrupt this Northside broadcasting to bring you something a little different. Mart 130 is undeniably cute and has cleverly taken a tram station cottage hostage. And by 'taken hostage', I mean lovingly converted it into a cosy yet relaxed space to enjoy a great meal. E, R and I spent a very lazy Sunday here a few months ago, partaking in their famed Corn fritters (accompanied by smoked salmon, beetroot relish and creme fraiche in this picture - check out the glisten on that fish!), and Poached eggs with mushrooms and truffled polenta. Even with the truffle, polenta failed to impress E. Prices were a little on the high side, as one expects with Albert Park.

6. Luxbite, South Yarra 
Luxbite is better known for its decadent desserts and macarons - including a Kaya Toast specimen, an homage to the owner's Malaysian roots. However, the last time Mother visited Melbourne, we popped in for a quick savoury bite. We shared the Pandan chicken burger with sambal mayo, apple-kiwi relish and Asian slaw ($15) and 'LuxBite Pork Bun' 2 ways - one with pulled pork and kimchi, the other with homemade pork jerky and Kewpie ($15). I'm such a sucker for fusion food, and these guys hit and lit up all the right umami taste buds.

7.  Six & Twenty Espresso, North Melbourne
I still remember when this stretch of Queensberry became The Deadlands once you walked past The French Quarter; happily for all Northsiders with stomachs, Elceed, Beatrix and Six & Twenty Espresso have graced us with their presence.

I caught up with the sibling, an old family friend (also J) and her insanely adorable puppy-at-the-time, Alfred, for brunch here. Alfred, seeking to maintain his sleek Maltese/Shih Tzu figure, passed on the food offerings - his loss! G ordered The Revolution, a Nicoise-like concoction of seared tuna steak, olives, heirloom tomato and eggs ($18.9); I ordered The Hunter, a dream-like mountain of balsamic-roasted portobellos, chorizo, sourdough and black truffle oil, with a light snowy coat of parmesan ($16.9). Tragically, the shiver-inducing combination of balsamic, parmesan and truffle must forever remain a dream, as they've taken it off the menu! I do not remember the artistic name for J's dish, most likely due to my infatuation with The Hunter. 

Having just checked out the menu, there are a host of new dishes...return trip here we come!

8. Hammer & Tong, Fitzroy
Taking over the space which was previously home to the short-lived The Brix, Hammer & Tong is a sharp, sleek space that still has a great sense of humour, as evidenced by R's Buttermilk pancakes, blueberries, maple syrup and popping candy ice cream ($16.0). As if you'd say no to popping candy. They also do the classics well too: L's Bircher museli came with a Anzac biscuit granola and lush crop of granny smith apple shavings ($10.0); my Omlette with Meredith goats cheese and greens ($16.0) was textbook, if a tad anorexic; and E's Truffled duck egg (those poor ducks!) on toast with parmesan and grilled asparagus ($18.0) was just a little bit fanceh.

I would definitely want to return to have a crack at the Soft shell crab burger w sriracha mayonnaise ($16). And more crack(ling) candy.

9. Silo by Joost, CBD
I swear this is the last one. This was so long ago that the year was 2012, and R and I were wearing summer dresses...however, I have to mention it because it is simply amazing. In this tiny space, they make everything - yes, everything - on site. They even mill their own flour to make their own bread, so yeah, you could say they're committed. They are also waste-free, turning food scraps into compost for their producers to use and utilise reusable, returnable crates etc. for food. What's more incredible is that they do it without the hipster attitute: the place is friendly, airy, light (and clean, of course). R had the Asparagus served with slowly cooked hen egg yolk, toasted pumpkin, flax, camelina, sunflower seeds and hot butter ($12.0). I had the special; a beautiful mix of thin slices of beetroot and seared rump with toasty, buttery, crunchy quinoa ($18.0). The bread is orgasmic, by the way.

If you are still reading this, there is no way you have a short attention span. You deserve a reward...brunch, perhaps? 

Happy Eating!

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