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?

Bella Sistas, Camberwell South

I’ve temporarily relocated to the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne for the next couple of months and one of the first orders of business was to compile a shortlist of cafes and restaurants to visit whilst I’m living in the area. I was absolutely delighted to find that I was staying only several hundred metres away from Bella Sistas. This cafe regularly appears on one of my friend’s Facebook page, and it was time to put the intrigue to rest.

As I walked into the cafe, I decided to sit by the open front windows to take advantage of the unusually warm breeze and look out onto the street. I was enthusiastically greeted by owner Pino, who promptly took my coffee order and made sure that I had a menu and the Saturday Herald Sun to read. Two ticks and I hadn’t even ordered breakfast.

As I was pondering over the menu, Pino came over and suggested that the roast beetroot and avocado with salmon and poached egg on the daily specials menu was worth considering. I had already settled upon the Egg Roti for breakfast but the power of persuasion was too much. I reasoned that as I was now living just around the corner, it was very likely that I would return to sample most of items on the breakfast menu, but the beetroot and avocado dish was a limited opportunity.

Roast beetroot & avocado on grilled sourdough topped with smoked salmon, dill dressing and poached egg - Bella Sistas, Camberwell South
Roast beetroot & avocado on grilled sourdough topped with smoked salmon, dill dressing and poached egg – Bella Sistas, Camberwell South

As I ordered breakfast, Pino cracked a joke that he had finally got rid of the last of this dish and I couldn’t help but wonder what I had let myself in for. When my breakfast arrived, I need not have worried about freshness or taste. The beetroot was cooked beautifully and delicately dressed with olive oil and fresh dill, baby spinach, cubed avocado and a hint of lemon. There were generous servings of smoked salmon on the toast and on top of the salad, and I was extremely grateful that the egg was poached to my specifications.

I had just finished my skinny latte, when Pino magically appeared again and asked if I needed another coffee. This place was too good to be true! My first foray into a new neighbourhood and I already found a place I wanted to come back to, again and again.

And two weeks later, I did return. After a trip to Singapore for work, I arrived home early on a sunny Saturday morning and after a quick nap, I headed back to Bella Sistas for a late breakfast. As I walked into the cafe, I couldn’t see Pino, but I went through the cafe and all the way outside to discover a courtyard area with an eclectic array of chairs, tables and vinyl lounges.

Looking through the specials, I chuckled when I saw that the beetroot and avocado dish had since been removed. With lots of interesting dishes such as Japanese okonomiyaki pancakes to try, I settled on the Middle Eastern eggs.

Middle Eastern eggs - poached eggs sprinkled with dukkah on toasted Turkish bread with roast tomato, spinach and labna - Bella Sistas, Camberwell South
Middle Eastern eggs – poached eggs sprinkled with dukkah on toasted Turkish bread with roast tomato, spinach and labna – Bella Sistas, Camberwell South

I couldn’t believe the spectacular colours on this dish when it arrived. Roasted cherry tomatoes with fresh, generous servings flat leaf parsley, interspersed with labna cooked to almost a creamy ricotta cheese consistency. Poached eggs with brilliant yellow yolk, topped with a homemade dukkah spice mix and soft, turkish bread. It was definitely the dish du jour. The only thing I was in want of, was a cup of coffee and that proving to be a challenge for the staff on duty.

But what about the Egg Roti? My parents came to stay with me a week later and so I took them to Bella Sistas for breakfast. The cafe was so busy that we wondered whether we would get a table, however Pino was back in charge and we were soon seated. When I came time to order, I ignored the specials and selected the Egg Roti, saving the best of the best until last.

Egg Roti - Roti bread filled with scrambled eggs, bacon, caramelised onions & cheese - Bella Sistas, Camberwell South
Egg Roti – Roti bread filled with scrambled eggs, bacon, caramelised onions & cheese – Bella Sistas, Camberwell South

Warm, soft roti bread was easy to tear and eat all on its own. With a generous serving of creamy scrambled eggs, the standout aspect of the dish was the melted cheese over the bacon, eggs and roti. The sweet, savoury and spiced caramelised onion mixture reminded me of barbeque sauce but infinitely better and absolutely delicious. A breakfast worth the wait.