Breakfast Thieves, Fitzroy

I love how a shared love of food brings people together and that we can make new friendships simply by talking about cafés in our neighbourhood, the things we enjoy eating or discovering the latest culinary sensation in Melbourne’s thriving dining scene. When I chat with friends and colleagues about my weekend breakfast adventures, I’m extremely fortunate to be asked if I have been to such-and-such place or to be given the names of places to go and eat. On a Friday afternoon, I received an unexpected text message from my gorgeous Body Pump instructor Naomi, “you MUST check out Breakfast Thieves, cnr Rose and Gore St in Fitzroy …” When the woman who coaches me each week from the gym podium through an hour of brutal pain-searing, muscle-burning exercises instructs me to get to a café, then her wish is my command.

The beautiful sunshine and warm weather the next Saturday morning was enough to convince me that it was a perfect opportunity to catch a tram and explore new destinations. When I reached Breakfast Thieves, the tables outside were fully occupied and there were a couple of people waiting for a seat inside but I was able to be seated within a couple of minutes. Although I was a party of one, there was no objection to me being able to occupy one of the high tables set for two.

Breakfast Thieves has a slight hipster vibe but is unpretentious and laid back. The floor-to-ceiling windows along the front and side fills the indoor space with an abundance of natural light. The interior is a cosy mish-mash of white tiles, recycled timber slats, exposed brick walls and concrete blocks with bare filament lighting and stained plywood – almost an industrial warehouse meets school room décor. The vintage diamond cut glass decanters used for water and the old-fashioned wooden salt and pepper shakers add a touch of 70s retro to the eclectic mix.

Despite the busyness of the café, my coffee arrived not long after being seated. With a bold and strong flavour and expertly decorated, the coffee was delicious and served at the temperature I requested. The menu, otherwise known as the “Morning Feed”, is a collection of seven elaborately crafted dishes, complemented by “The Usual Suspects” comprising of eggs, bakery items and other sides. The sight of “My PB and J” instantly grabbed my attention when I read the description – Brioche French toast pieces served with peanut butter soil, sweetened beetroot, candied bacon, raspberry jelly and lemon curd. My mind couldn’t even imagine what that would like altogether on a plate, so naturally I ordered it.

My PB and J; Brioche French Toast pieces served with peanut butter soil, sweetened beetroot, candied bacon, raspberry jelly and lemon curd - Breakfast Thieves, Fitzroy
My PB and J; Brioche French Toast pieces served with peanut butter soil, sweetened beetroot, candied bacon, raspberry jelly and lemon curd – Breakfast Thieves, Fitzroy

The sweet and the savoury in unison, what arrived on my table was nothing short of a piece of art, crafted with food. Presented with a dish that resembled an edible garden, I had expected red beetroot to be included but rather there was a decorative strip of red beetroot juice smeared across base of the plate and baby golden beetroot served instead. I started with the soft cubes of sweet brioche with lemon curd, which was absolutely delicious, particularly with the sprigs of lemon balm. The dollops of sweet raspberry jelly, or jam as we prefer to call it, was also excellent and easy to mop up with toast.

The thin shards of bacon, coated with a thin layer of maple syrup, had been cooked and cooled before being served. Equally delicious, it had an interesting texture and tearing apart the hardened meat was not unlike eating beef jerky.

The homemade peanut butter was divine, although the consistency and texture could be more likened to clay than soil. Thick and moist and crunchy all at the same time, with small pieces of peanuts in the crumbled mixture, it was quite enjoyable although it did start to build up on my palate after a few mouthfuls.

The golden beetroot was naturally sweet and soft in texture. It’s inclusion wasn’t out of place with everything else presented in the dish, although at times it did taste and feel like I was eating boiled vegetables. If I could change one thing about this dish, it would be to finish off the beetroot by roasting them in the oven to keep their sweet taste and perhaps give them a crispy texture and deeper golden colour.

My breakfast was fabulous, so many flavours and textures, beautifully presented and each morsel was distinctively memorable and delicious. The next time my friend Naomi tells me to go and do something, I’m on it, tout de suite!

Breakfast Thieves 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

The Meeting Place Cafe, South Yarra

My friends like to have a little dig at my inclination to gravitate towards sweeter the breakfast options than the savoury variety. One friend even commented that I was only allowed to have French toast for breakfast if it was served with Gallic bacon, which seemed like a tall order at the time, until I discovered The Meeting Place Café.

Nestled towards the back of a small arcade off Toorak Road in South Yarra, this café has a distinct European ambience with a row of French bistro-style chairs and tables outside the entrance and a large ornate garden urn. It would be easy to imagine that you had been instantly transported to a village in France, rather than in inner city Melbourne.

Beneath the warmth of the outdoor heaters and market umbrellas, I had a fantastic view of the comings and goings of the arcade in both directions and was treated to an impromptu Thai cooking class from Marion Grasby showing on the TV screen directly in front of me, inside the café.

The coffee is made with roasted beans from Sensory Lab; sweet, creamy and subtle flavours of chocolate in the blend.

The all-day breakfast menu is eclectic with a variety of traditional dishes but with some interesting inclusions. Having found a café that served a style of French toast that met my friend’s brief, I felt that I had license to order the French toast with cinamon poached pears, crispy bacon and maple syrup (sic).

I’m someone who usually cannot tolerate poor spelling. The menu, temporary signage and the blackboard specials at the café have quite a few spelling errors which would normally make me cringe. But with further reflection, the service at The Meeting Place is extremely friendly and attentive with a customer focus, and the chefs appear to be putting their heart and soul in creating delicious food rather than directing their efforts elsewhere, so with that in mind I continued to enjoy the European odyssey and overlook the obvious.

French Toast with cinnamon poached pears, crispy bacon and maple syrup - The Meeting Place Cafe, South Yarra
French Toast with cinnamon poached pears, crispy bacon and maple syrup – The Meeting Place Cafe, South Yarra

When my French toast arrived, the presentation of the dish was spectacular. Two thick slices of battered bread, wedges of poached pear, fresh strawberries, a rasher of bacon decoratively wrapped around a quenelle of cream, decorated with a fresh sprig of mint and artfully drizzled dollops of maple syrup, and a fine layer of cinnamon dusting over the top.

There were a few unexpected taste elements in the dish, both good and not so good. While the toast was served hot off the grill, the poached pears appeared to come straight from the fridge so the extreme difference in temperature came as a complete surprise when pairing the two together, but only for the first mouthful. The French toast was well cooked and delectable especially when mixed with the maple syrup and cinnamon. The bacon was also delicious, not overly crisp, and went well with the bread and the sweeter options on the plate. I was expecting the cream on top of the French toast to be mascarpone or crème fraiche, which would have been unobtrusive in terms of flavour, but discovered it was actually sour cream. Quelle horreur! Sour cream unfortunately has a distinctive flavour and the taste was overbearing which didn’t pair well with the other sweet and savoury flavours and textures. Aside from this, my breakfast was substantive and enjoyable.

The next time I need a budget-friendly European escape for breakfast, I have my eyes set on the Nutella & banana pancakes with roasted hazlenuts, strawberries served with vanilla custurd (sic).

The Meeting Place Cafe on Urbanspoon