Lolo and Wren, Brunswick West

After last week’s impromptu adventure on the No. 55 tram, I decided that the Brunswick area was now my new go-to destination for breakfast. Surfing my Urbanspoon app for places to eat, I couldn’t contain my excitement when I saw that Lolo and Wren was located near one of the tram stops on the same route. I can’t quite remember when I first read about this café but it has definitely been on the “must visit” list for a very long time.

Walking down Albion Street, I almost stumbled upon my intended destination when I saw a group of people eating outside a residential apartment building and then I noticed the blackboard sign outside. The café was extremely busy when I walked inside, but thankfully a table had been vacated just as I arrived. Despite the unusual location, the café does seem to be a popular destination, and in no time there were a few more people waiting for a place to become available.

The menu is intriguing to say the least and it’s always refreshing to see different offerings or interpretations of breakfast items on order, which included two full pages of original and mouth-watering dishes. You know that you are in the right place when “Patatas Bravas” is readily available as a side dish for breakfast! Despite the delectable sounding sliders and burgers on offer, I kept to the classic dishes and found myself ordering the Brioche French Toast “St Clements”.

“Five Senses” coffee blends are quickly becoming my favourites, and the quality of the roasted beans in the house blend was evident on the first sip of my skinny latte. The creamy texture, rich aroma and slightly sweet finish was delicious and well worth traversing across Melbourne for.

Brioche French Toast "St Clements" with lemon curd, fresh orange, ricotta, candied zest, raspberry compote, baby basil and burnt orange syrup - Lolo and Wren, Brunswick West
Brioche French Toast “St Clements” with lemon curd, fresh orange, ricotta, candied zest, raspberry compote, baby basil and burnt orange syrup – Lolo and Wren, Brunswick West

Trying to make sense of what “St Clements” meant in the description of the dish I had ordered, all I could think of was the line in the age-old nursery rhyme, “Oranges and lemons, Say the bells of St. Clement’s”. Certainly the description on the menu seemed to support that assertion. With lemon curd, fresh orange, ricotta, candied zest, raspberry compote, baby basil and burnt orange syrup adorning the French toast, there was a strong citrus theme.

My French toast looked spectacular when it arrived, with so many delicious elements on the plate it was difficult to know where to start. The thick-textured dollop of lemon curd looked inviting so I started there. With almost a custard-like consistency, the curd had a tart, zesty flavour and to my mind, was the highlight of the dish. The fruit and the fresh ricotta were also scrumptious when paired with the soft brioche, providing lots of flavour but the burnt orange syrup took the dish to another level with its caramelised intensity and added moisture. Thankfully the slices of brioche toast were on the smaller side of the equation, which meant that overall the dish wasn’t too substantial and much more enjoyable.

Despite the unpretentious surroundings and unique location, the coffee and food are well deserving of all the accolades I keep reading about. Now that I know how easy it is to get there, a second visit to sample those patatas bravas is definitely on the cards.

Lolo and Wren on Urbanspoon

Chez Dré, South Melbourne

This past Saturday morning I woke up with a plan and purpose. During the week, I had spied in The Age newspaper that there were a number of cafés who were participating in a promotion by giving away free copies of The Age 2014 Good Café Guide when customers paid with EFTPOS on Saturday. Looking through the advertisement, I spied Chez Dré in the listing of cafes and devised a strategy for Saturday morning breakfast. I admit that Chez Dré has been on my “must do” list for the longest time and I love freebies, especially one which I can use to find good food and great coffee.

Walking towards South Melbourne was a surreal experience as the heavy rain from the night before had made the wet roads and paths take on a bright new sheen, and everything seemed to sparkle and glisten in the morning sunshine. It was so beautiful to see but at the same time, I was also wishing that I had brought my sunglasses with me.

Turning down a small alley off Coventry Street, I was surprised to see that there wasn’t a long queue of people waiting outside trying to get a table. It wasn’t until I stepped inside the cavernous warehouse building did I realise where everyone was hiding. Making my way through the noisy hum to the courtyard to wait for a table, there was a bit of a jostle trying to get noticed and register my name with maître d’ for a seat. Thankfully I didn’t have to wait too long and was escorted to a seat outside.

The French inspired breakfast menu includes the traditional Croque Monsieur, a White Bean Cassoulet and the pastries and baguettes you would expect to find in a pâtisserie or boulangerie. My heart was set on the Brioche French Toast as soon as I found it on the menu.

Seated outside in the courtyard area, I was engulfed in a sea of black puffer jackets and sportswear, with everyone looking très chic (fashionably glamorous) in trademark Melbourne black attire. I usually live and breathe black clothing, but I felt a little conspicuous in my long camel coloured coat and red hair glowing beneath the outdoor heaters. Even my super-sized latte looked stylish when it arrived sporting its own matte black mug.

I had a quick look around the tables around me and dish du jour seemed to be eggs and toast yet all eyes were on me when my breakfast arrived. The girls sitting near me stopped chatting to each other almost instantly and then one of them said to me “That looks amazing! Good choice!” Naturellement.

Brioche French Toast, seasonal poached fruit, vanilla mascarpone and caramelised pecans - Chez Dré, South Melbourne
Brioche French Toast, seasonal poached fruit, vanilla mascarpone and caramelised pecans – Chez Dré, South Melbourne

My breakfast indeed looked spectacular. The brioche French toast had a thick, hard outer crust which was a little difficult to cut through at first so I started with the delicious cardamom-infused blood plum compote. The vanilla mascarpone was divine, generous in size but not too sweet. The poached pears, spears of rhubarb, together with the crunchy pecans and sweet brioche provided a myriad of textures and flavours that were so enjoyable, but extremely filling.

After five or minutes, my waitress sidles over and asks “How’s that French Toast treating you?” It was such a novel and friendly way of asking if you are enjoying your meal. I said it was fantastic and she promptly followed up with whether a wanted another cup of coffee. It’s hard to believe but over the last couple of weeks, when I really wanted another coffee, nobody bothered asking or came near my table. Unfortunately this time when I get the opportunity to order another coffee, my super-sized latte and the substantial French Toast put paid that idea. I didn’t eat another morsel for the rest of the day but I did get my free book to take home to enjoy and plan for my next breakfast adventure.

Chez Dré on Urbanspoon