Having lived in South Yarra for two years, I thought I knew of and had visited every café in the immediate area. Yet when I went looking for a place to have breakfast along Toorak Road, by happenstance I discovered nestled barely twenty metres back from the busy street corner, a lush green canopy of trees which had been protecting one of the suburb’s best kept culinary secrets from my line of sight.
The café has a unique charm and ambience that reminded me of a small wooden cabin or cubby house with a covered verandah, large open windows and quiet cosy nooks to hide yourself away from the busyness of the world close by.
The morning was unseasonably warm allowing me to retreat outside on the deck and enjoy the serenity. Although the café is extremely popular (it appears that I must be the only person in the area who wasn’t aware of its existence), the service is readily attentive and quick to ensure that your coffee order is taken and on its way. The all-day brunch menu is not overly exhaustive with only several signature dishes to focus your attention. The dish that immediately caught my eye, and to be fair probably because it was the only sweet option on the menu, was the exotic sounding Dr Marty’s Crumpets with citrus curd, aerated rhubarb mascarpone, toasted macadamia and sesame.
If I could describe autumn on a plate, this dish would be it. The spectacular arrangement of colours, flavours and textures on the matt black plate was beautiful to behold and resembled my favourite season. My eyes were immediately drawn to the dollops of lemon curd perfectly curated on the plate and the pillows of whipped mascarpone placed beneath the crumpets.
The crumpets were deliciously moist and dense – enough to absorb all the elements on the plate. Whilst the poached rhubarb was sharp on the palate, the strawberries in comparison were sweet to taste and balanced the tart flavour of the lemon curd. The hero of the dish was the rhubarb mascarpone with the consistency of a dessert mousse and therefore a rare treat for breakfast.
Working my way through breakfast, there were morsels of macadamia and pistachio nuts and a smattering of sesame seeds interspersed beneath the crumpets to provide another textural element to the mix.
I love finding hidden treasures, especially ones with outstanding food and service and thankfully Café Gaia is no longer obscured from my view.