He Says She Says, Camberwell

As I was about to move into the area, my friend Claire told me that there was a Leo’s Fine Food supermarket nearby, which was music to my ears. So on a barmy Friday evening and in need of groceries, I set off walking along Toorak Road towards Leo’s thinking that it was only a couple of blocks away from home. I get sucked in by Apple maps and its deceptive graphics every time. Still walking nearly 40 minutes later, I see a modern, busy restaurant which I recognise as “He Says, She Says” and think that it looks like a great place to have breakfast while I’m living in the neighbourhood and add it to my cafe list.

So on a rainy, grey Saturday morning, I walked into the cafe/bar/restaurant and was surprised to see that it was almost cavernous with several different dining areas to choose from – a communal dining table in one corner covered with the day’s newspapers and also banquette seating and booths by the windows. Light filled and modern with an open kitchen, artworks on the walls and ceilings, and sleek interior styling, my eyes were greedily absorbing all the colours, textures and elegant interior design.

He Says She Says, Camberwell
He Says She Says, Camberwell

I was warmly greeted and given water on arrival and the breakfast menu, however with only four people in the restaurant, it took another fifteen minutes for another member of staff to approach my table and take my coffee and breakfast order, which was almost excruciating when I had resolutely decided that I was having French Toast for breakfast and was desperate need of a coffee.

Ann's "fav" French Toast, caramelised banana, whipped ricotta, maple syrup and lemon - He Says She Says, Camberwell
Ann’s “fav” French Toast, caramelised banana, whipped ricotta, maple syrup and lemon – He Says She Says, Camberwell

When breakfast did arrive, it looked delicious although the presentation of the caramelised banana was open to interpretation, which several of my friends and family took the opportunity to provide their comments on Facebook. Looks aside, the first thing I gravitated towards was the whipped ricotta. Silky smooth, slightly sweetened, soft and creamy, this was definitely the highlight of the dish. It reminded me of the homemade quark my Baba used to make and use to create her beautiful baked cheesecakes and pastries that I used to devour when I was a little girl.

I have no idea who Ann is, but her French toast was beautifully cooked and the banana with the caramelised sauce and the whipped ricotta were a fabulous combination. Halfway through my breakfast, I was ready to order another cup of coffee. I finished my breakfast, and continued to read the Saturday morning paper and waited for one of the four staff on duty to visit my table and perhaps clear my plate. Eventually I got up and made my way to the register and paid the bill, deciding that I could get a skinny latte elsewhere.

Red Robyn, Camberwell

Next on the shortlist of cafes to visit in my temporary new location in the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne is Red Robyn. I read an article on Red Robyn last year in The Age and had taken note of it as a place to visit. I excitedly set off from home and after a quick ten minute walk through the beautiful tree lined streets, I found it amongst a nondescript strip of older shops in Camberwell Road, away from the traffic thoroughfare of the Junction.

Walking into a large, light filled room with white walls, high ceilings, industrial design lighting and sunshine from the shop front windows, it was difficult to know where to sit as both of the main dining areas were warm and inviting.

Red Robyn predominately caters for food intolerances and allergies, therefore the menu had variety and lots of interesting combinations of food to choose from. After a couple of read throughs, it was a toss up between the Sweet Potato Rosti and the Dukkah Eggs. The Dukkah Eggs won.

Dukkah Eggs - chickpea pattie, prosciutto, poached eggs, house-dried tomatoes, labna and pepita seed dukkah - Red Robyn, Camberwell
Dukkah Eggs – chickpea pattie, prosciutto, poached eggs, house-dried tomatoes, labna and pepita seed dukkah – Red Robyn, Camberwell

The presentation of the Dukkah Eggs dish was visually spectacular. So much so, that when my breakfast arrived, a couple who had just arrived and were seated near me, were staring at my plate and both ordered the same dish.

Looks aside, there were a lot of elements on this dish with varying degrees of distinctive flavours and according to my palate, not all of them blended well together. The large chickpea pattie dominated the plate, so that was where I started. Cooked well on the outside, the chickpea mixture was tough and dry on the outer layer, with a soft and mushy centre. The pattie didn’t seem to have any particular flavour or seasoning and at one point, it reminded me of eating sawdust. The labna would have made a nice accompaniment, but it was primarily served with the cooked tomatoes on another part of the plate. The labna was tart with a sharp natural yoghurt taste but was edible when eaten with either the pattie or the tomato. I presumed the prosciutto would be cooked, but sadly no. Trust me but cold, cured salted meat with labna and cooked chickpeas isn’t a new taste sensation. The dukkah, poached eggs and tomatoes were beautifully cooked and stopped me from abandoning breakfast altogether.

Coffee though was excellent, as is the service and ambience. Though I didn’t particularly appreciate what I ordered, I am thinking of going back to try the Sweet Potato Rosti with salmon and haloumi, and I did I mention that there are three different varieties of French Toast on the menu?