Fandango, North Melbourne

Flopped on the couch after a long week on wintry Friday night and slowly succumbing to a head cold, the last thing I wanted to do was plan my Saturday breakfast escapade. Feeling somewhat miserable and sorry for myself, I just wanted to hibernate away from the world and try to get better but alas, with absolutely no food in the fridge, it was becoming increasingly necessary to find a café that was homely, tranquil and hopefully not too far away from home. Dreaming of all the fresh fruit and vegetables I wanted to buy from the Queen Vic Markets, I started looking for cafés in the North Melbourne area on my Urbanspoon/Zomato app and once captivated by the numerous food photos taken at Fandango, I knew I had a destination.

I hate to admit it but it’s been at least four years since I’ve headed to North Melbourne for breakfast … absolutely shocking, I know. Looking at all the new and busy cafés as the tram rolled along Victoria Street and then into Errol Street, I realised that I really been missing out and made a mental note to come back along this route as soon as I possibly can. Thankfully it was a brisk but sunny, beautiful autumn morning which lifted my spirits considerably and made me feel glad that I felt well enough to enjoy another breakfast adventure. What surprised me the most as I reached my intended destination, was that there were no queues of people waiting (despite the close proximity to Auction Rooms) and once inside, there were only five tables, of which three were empty, so it seemed that my prayers to find somewhere quiet and peaceful had come true.

Fandango really is a step back in time. Sitting with the sunshine on my face near the open window, surrounded by mission brown walls, caramel-coloured floor tiles, macramé plant holders and plush green velour curtains with a resplendent white fringe, I was starting to trip out on childhood memories of eating out with my family in the ‘70s, without even taking any cold and flu medication. Being in such a small space means that your arrival cannot go unnoticed which is great because I had a menu and coffee on its way in less than a minute of being seated.

The menu, also brown in colour, is concise but well presented. The daily specials were leaping out at me in big, bold print from the front page when I opened the menu cover. I must admit the French toast with bacon, whipped Bulgarian feta, grilled tomato and roasted red pepper relish ($18) gave me food for thought, but I wanted something a little more restorative so I chose the other fruit-driven version – French toast with bacon, cinnamon baked apple, maple butter and maple syrup.

More shades of brown came into view as my coffee arrived on its own brown-coloured saucer and complemented by a funky, retro brown sugar dispenser. The coffee is excellent but unfortunately it only comes in one small glass size if you are opting to dine in. But the sad thing is that after I had asked for a super-sized coffee, you would think that the same person who took your coffee order and then promptly swiped away the empty coffee glass a couple of minutes later, might actually ask if you would like another. Alas, no and despite being one of only six people seated inside, they actually didn’t come near my table again. I concede that this may be because I was a little under the weather but it’s an epic fail not to attempt to offer a second cup of coffee.

French toast with bacon, cinnamon baked apple, maple butter and maple syrup - Fandango, North Melbourne
French toast with bacon, cinnamon baked apple, maple butter and maple syrup – Fandango, North Melbourne

Waves of nostalgia washed over me when my breakfast arrived at the table. The plate on which the French Toast was served is the same crockery setting that my grandmother had in her home and I clearly remember helping to collect the Coles stamps for her to buy the whole dinner set, many moons ago. Breakfast looked absolutely spectacular and appeared to represent comfort food in the extreme. Whilst the coffee isn’t super-sized, the French Toast serving actually is. Made from fresh Turkish bread, there were four large pieces on the base of the plate which I made a small dent in.

The baked apple was soft and caramelised, smothered in maple butter and soothing to the soul. The serving of bacon was also very generous and very nicely cooked as well as presented. The handful of snow pea tendrils on the side was a nice accompaniment and helped cut through the richness of the bacon flavour.

A few more people were coming into the café and then being pointed back out around the corner to another area which I think is the courtyard so Fandango is highly regarded as a neighbourhood gem. Indeed, for me Fandango was a great find and filled the brief to find a place that was relaxed with a touch of familiarity and comfort.

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