Proper & Son, South Melbourne

It was one of those Saturday’s where I had a multitude of things to do and was intent on grabbing a quick breakfast somewhere either close to home, en route or at my intended destination, which was the South Melbourne Market. My friend Claire had mentioned just the day before that another friend of hers, Eugene, a chef had recently opened a new café called Proper & Son at the market and perhaps I should go and have breakfast there.

I had no idea as to the location of the café in the market and proceeded to where the area where I thought it might be … and of course, it wasn’t there. I wandered through the food hall and back onto Coventry Street for the next ten minutes before walking past the car park, and lo and behold, I could finally see the sign and knew that I had reached my destination.

I was amazed at the expanse of the interior of the café as I walked down the steps and into the main dining area which had a modern industrial-meets-country feel. The wallpaper on the feature wall depicts beautifully printed images of chickens, pigs and beef which also appear as a signature print on the weekly menu.

By sheer luck, I managed to procure the last empty table as the café was quite busy and thankfully, no sooner had I sat down, I was given a menu and my coffee was on its way. The table water is flavoured with fresh cucumber and has a quite prominent but refreshing taste. Unfortunately my coffee wasn’t quite as hot as I prefer it but it was strong and worth walking several laps around the market for.

The breakfast menu isn’t extensive although it does change weekly, dependent upon what is in season and available within the market but I was rather taken with the sound of the “Gordon Bennett” smoked trout, mustard, Gruyere omelette.

"Gordon Bennett" smoked trout, mustard, Gruyere omelette - Proper & Son, South Melbourne
“Gordon Bennett” smoked trout, mustard, Gruyere omelette – Proper & Son, South Melbourne

I rarely order omelette for breakfast as they inevitably turn out to be a frittata in disguise, however as soon as my breakfast arrived I knew I had made the right decision. Served in a hot cast iron skillet with a brioche bun and side salad, this was a cut above what I had been anticipating.

The omelette was soft and creamy with seeded mustard, melted cheese and large, succulent flaked portions of smoked trout dispersed throughout. The mixed leaf salad was delicious, particularly the fresh dill and radish to complement the rich flavours of the smoked fish.

The service at Proper & Son is fantastic with water glasses being constantly filled, empty plates promptly cleared away and additional cups of coffee always offered.

I enjoyed my breakfast experience so much, that over the course of the following month with an apartment full of visitors looking for new dining experiences, I made a beeline straight for Proper & Son.

Only two weeks after the previous visit, the menu had indeed changed and there were now Buttermilk hotcakes, maple, pecans & lemon curd available to order.

Buttermilk hotcakes, maple, pecans & lemon curd - Proper & Son, South Melbourne
Buttermilk hotcakes, maple, pecans & lemon curd – Proper & Son, South Melbourne

Another beautifully presented dish, adorned with fresh flowers, blueberries, strawberries, pecans and a large quenelle of thick lemon curd, these hotcakes were fluffy, moist and extremely delicious. A great addition to the menu!

As the warm weather became somewhat cooler and with more visitors to impress, I made my third visit to Proper & Son in as many weeks. The menu had changed again with the omelette no longer present on the menu and the decadent-sounding Brioche French toast, pear & honey crumble now coming into view.

Brioche French toast, pear & honey crumble - Proper & Son, South Melbourne
Brioche French toast, pear & honey crumble – Proper & Son, South Melbourne

Dressed with vanilla mascarpone and drizzled with maple syrup, this was another excellent dish with the spiced-poached pear cutting through the sweetness of the soft brioche and textured honey crumble.

With an ever-changing menu offering fresh and enticing food, Proper and Son is a wonderful addition to the South Melbourne Market dining scene and well worth a visit during the weekly shop.

Proper & Son on Urbanspoon

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

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.

Early Bird Cafe on Urbanspoon