I love discovering new places to eat and finding hidden gems. Walking through South Melbourne this morning, on a whim I saw a café within a historic looking building and decided to walk in. There is a sense of old world charm when you enter Dimattina’s from the street. Your eyes take in the quaint French bistro style chairs, faded and worn wooden tables on wrought iron stands, the cushions and banquette seating along the window, the beautiful copper-coloured pressed metal along the front counter, walls decorated with art deco style wallpaper, and the ornate ceiling rose and large antique chandelier overhead in the middle of the room. The series of black and white studio portraits and movie stills of the actors from yesteryear drinking coffee, adds another touch of class to the café.
The wonderful thing that I have discovered about ordering coffee in the South Melbourne area is that if you ask for a large coffee, you really do get the super-sized version. The coffee blend is strong with distinctive malt and toasted wheat flavours on the first sip. The art of roasting and coffee-making is taken very seriously at Dimattina’s, with a coffee roaster on site in addition to a dedicated barista training area and specialist equipment showroom towards the back.
The service is laid back and casual. The breakfast menu is up on the wall, which the staff will cheerfully tell you as you first walk into the café. The majority of the specialty dishes have a heavy emphasis on eggs for breakfast, with toast, muesli (including Bircher), fruit salad and porridge also available on the menu. It took me a few moments to decide what I wanted to order having had my fill of smoked salmon and poached eggs during the last few weeks, before deciding on the Eggs Benedicte with brown butter hollandaise, mint salad and yoghurt scone (sic).
Although the café wasn’t busy for a Saturday morning, there was a little bit of a wait before my order arrived, but I think that might have been attributable to the fact that there is only the chef in the kitchen and that there were three tables that happened to be ordering breakfast at the same time. I happily read the Saturday newspaper and continued to slurp on my bucket of coffee. When my breakfast did arrive, it looked great. Nothing fancy or pretentious but rather rustic with a hint of retro, with the addition of the twisted slice of orange on the side to garnish the plate. I did wonder what had happened to the mint salad as I gazed at the abundance of rocket leaves in front of me and then started attacking my breakfast with gusto.
The burnt butter hollandaise sauce is fantastic and has a sweet and nutty flavour that is intense but not overwhelming and the quantity is ample to cover the eggs, bacon, the crispy scone underneath, and even the rocket. The grilled bacon is lean and substantial enough to match the sauce. Actually I was rather glad that bacon was served with the dish as I don’t think slices of ham would have been an ideal pairing. The scone at the bottom of the dish took me by surprise. A touch of crispy, dry crust at the edges and not too large or thick, they had a slightly sweet flavour of their own. With a scrape of melted butter on top, they were still firm and moist to eat even without any of the other elements added. The yoghurt scone base really was delicious and not too heavy or stodgy on the stomach.
I’m excited to find that I have discovered something truly unique, a place with delicious unpretentious food and excellent coffee, with an ambience that harmoniously draws the past into the present.