Seven:am, Port Melbourne

Twelve months ago to the day, I moved into the Southbank area and one of the things I was things I was really looking forward to, was discovering all the wonderful places to eat in the nearby Port Melbourne area. So fast forward 365 days and although I have got as far as asking friends who live there where I should go for breakfast, I have dismally failed to follow through on my own culinary targets and actually get there.

Thinking that it was high time that I needed to rectify the situation, I looked up the location of one of the recommendations, Seven:am café to plan my journey but with the temperature registering a mere seven degrees mid-morning, I wasn’t sure if going out for breakfast was such a great idea after all.

Rugged up with scarf, coat and gloves and happily situated on the No. 109 tram to Port Melbourne, I rediscovered both my enthusiasm and appetite again, secretly glad that I didn’t give into the temptation to stay and eat at home instead. Seven:am is located in Bay Street, not far from the corner of Graham Street so finding the café wasn’t difficult and extremely accessible by public transport, driving home the fact that I really should have taken this journey sooner. Proudly emblazoned across the front window “Winner – Best Breakfast Restaurant in the 2011 Restaurant & Catering ‘Awards for Excellence'”, Seven:am was definitely a cosy, warm and inviting place to be.

As soon as I walked in, I was greeted at the door with a beautiful, friendly smile and the ambient noise of people enjoying themselves and the clatter of cutlery. The place was busy and there was not a vacant seat to be had, for which the waitress was profusely apologising to me for (?!) but apart from thinking that it was my fault for not getting out of my warm bed sooner, I was more than happy to wait for a table to become available … and yet only two minutes later I was actually seated at my own table with a menu and raring to go.

The menu, which still had “Summer 14/15” in the header, looked a little pre-loved although full of fantastic descriptions of popular brunch options. My eyes did spy my all-time favourite dish being Ricotta Cakes (complete with boysenberry ice-cream) but needless to say, I was in the mood for something a little more heart-warming and so I chose the Kessler Bacon with poached eggs, spinach, beans and sourdough dish instead.

There is so much going on visually with the interior of the café that my eyes were continually drawn to different sections of the walls and ceilings to absorb it all in. The most striking element is the pegboard feature wall with a myriad of glass jars all filled with artificial plants, and nicely decorated along a series of shelves. Above me were a couple of mobile cotton clouds suspended from the ceiling, where coloured wool had been used to create a simple but creative mural of sunshine rays and blue skies. Collages of black and white photos, framed pictures and other memorabilia covered the adjoining brick walls to emphasise the warm feeling of familiarity and the comforts of home.

And to keep adding to the feelings of warmth and comfort, the arrival of my super-sized skinny latte which was deliciously hot and creamy, brought my cold fingers back to life and went down like a treat.

Kessler Bacon with poached eggs, spinach, beans and sourdough - Seven:am, Port Melbourne
Kessler Bacon with poached eggs, spinach, beans and sourdough – Seven:am, Port Melbourne

There was a little bit of a wait on breakfast but which was long forgotten once it was placed on the table as my dish was everything that I wanted it to be. With steam wafting above the eggs and beans, I knew that I was in for a nice warm, comforting dish. The thick-cut bacon was tender, juicy and just superb. While the spinach and eggs were also delicious, the real surprise in the flavour stakes was the Middle Eastern take on the homemade baked beans which had been beautifully spiced with either cumin or ras el hanout and cooked with onion and red capsicum.

With no particular place to be, I happily ordered a smaller coffee when it was suggested to me by my lovely waitress and felt content to watch the good people of North Melbourne go about their Saturday morning activities along Bay Street. Surrounded in warmth and having enjoyed my indulgence in good food and great service, I decided that seven was indeed my favourite number.

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Early Bird Cafe, Albury

I had a rare opportunity to head home to Wodonga for the weekend courtesy of a dear friend’s wedding. Usually, my lovely parents will make me something delicious for breakfast before I have a chance to get up and face the world but on this occasion I wanted to go out and discover what was happening in the café scene on the Border.

When I was last in Albury at Christmas, I met my friend Rachel at “Early Bird Café” for breakfast and I was very much looking forward to going back and reliving the experience. Early Bird is a very small café with half a dozen tables outside on the street and approximately four tables inside. Unfortunately when we arrived at the café just after 10.30am, all the tables were occupied and as it was a beautiful warm sunny day, a seat outside was indeed a prized possession.

Quick as a flash, someone from the café kindly took our coffee order while we waited on the street for a table. People in the regional areas like Albury-Wodonga generally don’t queue for tables, so my family looked slightly odd loitering outside the café entrance, staring longingly at all the diners enjoying their food. You really do need to be up with the birds to secure a table!

At last, after a twenty-minute wait, a table that could accommodate a party of three was ours and with it arrived our coffees in large colourful mugs and a chance to look at the all day breakfast menu.

It was straight down to business when we finally sat down. Mum ordered the Handmade Boston baked beans with fetta and herbs on Italian sourdough toast (there was a fair bit of discussion on our table around the word “handmade” used prolifically throughout the menu versus the term “homemade”); Dad opted for the Early Bird brekky sarnie of local bacon, free range egg, vintage cheddar, handmade tomato chutney, mayo and greens and I indulged my sweet side and chose the “Baklava Style” French toast with Greek yoghurt, toasted nuts and spiced honey syrup.

We weren’t in a hurry by any means but the Early Bird café is a relatively small establishment and food and coffee orders do tend to take some time to prepare. It would have been close to an hour after arriving that it was time to check out the facilities and avoid the parking inspectors however it’s always the way – as soon as you leave the table, your meal is inevitably there waiting for you when you return.

"Baklava Style" French toast with Greek yoghurt, toasted nuts and spiced honey syrup - Early Bird Cafe, Albury
“Baklava Style” French toast with Greek yoghurt, toasted nuts and spiced honey syrup – Early Bird Café, Albury

Let me say first and foremost that this is probably one of my favourite breakfasts ever. The texture of the Turkish bread used for French toast was extremely light and fluffy – not dense and heavy like other variations. Topped with a dollop of thick Greek yoghurt and a generous sprinkle of fresh pistachios and flaked almonds, the whole presentation of this dish was visually spectacular with the nuts providing the much-needed crunch factor when paired with the soft bread and yoghurt. The drizzle of the honey and cinnamon syrup across the top, was the right consistency and quantity and perfect for mopping up with any leftover bread. Yum, yum, yum!

Handmade Boston baked beans with fetta and herbs on Italian sourdough toast - Early Bird Cafe, Albury
Handmade Boston baked beans with fetta and herbs on Italian sourdough toast – Early Bird Cafe, Albury

Mum’s breakfast looked spectacular too and the mouthful that I grabbed was delicious, with a rich, smoky flavour throughout the bean mixture.

Early Bird brekky sarnie of local bacon, free range egg, vintage cheddar, handmade tomato chutney, mayo and greens - Early Bird Cafe, Albury
Early Bird brekky sarnie of local bacon, free range egg, vintage cheddar, handmade tomato chutney, mayo and greens – Early Bird Cafe, Albury

I was momentarily jealous of Dad’s sarnie before I saw my own delicious French toast. Served on beautiful fresh and soft white bread, there was some serious height on that sandwich! Filled with cheese, fried egg, grilled bacon, fresh lettuce, the secret ingredient was the generous serving of the delicious “handmade” tomato chutney that Early Bird café make and also have available for sale inside the shop.

The service is super-friendly and it’s clear that a lot of effort is taken in ensuring quality food is served rather than solely focusing on quick customer turnover. We really enjoyed our breakfast experience and will no doubt return in the not-too-distant future.

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