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

Café Gaia, South Yarra

Having lived in South Yarra for two years, I thought I knew of and had visited every café in the immediate area. Yet when I went looking for a place to have breakfast along Toorak Road, by happenstance I discovered nestled barely twenty metres back from the busy street corner, a lush green canopy of trees which had been protecting one of the suburb’s best kept culinary secrets from my line of sight.

The café has a unique charm and ambience that reminded me of a small wooden cabin or cubby house with a covered verandah, large open windows and quiet cosy nooks to hide yourself away from the busyness of the world close by.

The morning was unseasonably warm allowing me to retreat outside on the deck and enjoy the serenity. Although the café is extremely popular (it appears that I must be the only person in the area who wasn’t aware of its existence), the service is readily attentive and quick to ensure that your coffee order is taken and on its way. The all-day brunch menu is not overly exhaustive with only several signature dishes to focus your attention. The dish that immediately caught my eye, and to be fair probably because it was the only sweet option on the menu, was the exotic sounding Dr Marty’s Crumpets with citrus curd, aerated rhubarb mascarpone, toasted macadamia and sesame.

Dr Marty's Crumpets with citrus curd, aerated rhubarb mascarpone, toasted macadamia and sesame - Cafe Gaia, South Yarra
Dr Marty’s Crumpets with citrus curd, aerated rhubarb mascarpone, toasted macadamia and sesame – Cafe Gaia, South Yarra

If I could describe autumn on a plate, this dish would be it. The spectacular arrangement of colours, flavours and textures on the matt black plate was beautiful to behold and resembled my favourite season. My eyes were immediately drawn to the dollops of lemon curd perfectly curated on the plate and the pillows of whipped mascarpone placed beneath the crumpets.

The crumpets were deliciously moist and dense – enough to absorb all the elements on the plate. Whilst the poached rhubarb was sharp on the palate, the strawberries in comparison were sweet to taste and balanced the tart flavour of the lemon curd. The hero of the dish was the rhubarb mascarpone with the consistency of a dessert mousse and therefore a rare treat for breakfast.

Working my way through breakfast, there were morsels of macadamia and pistachio nuts and a smattering of sesame seeds interspersed beneath the crumpets to provide another textural element to the mix.

I love finding hidden treasures, especially ones with outstanding food and service and thankfully Café Gaia is no longer obscured from my view.

Cafe Gaia on Urbanspoon