Café Fez, Myrtleford

I’m in the throes of designing my apartment balcony area and have my heart set on recreating the beautiful Moroccan simplicity and elegance that I was able to enjoy in some of the riads that I stayed at last year. Bargaining in souks is definitely not my thing, but I am starting to wish that I had taken the time to scrounge around for an ornate metal lantern or two as reminders of my time there. Surfing on the web for inspiration and ideas, I found that “Red Ramia Trading” in Myrtleford stocked various treasures from North Africa and the Orient, including my desired Moroccan lanterns. Trinkets weren’t the only things I found on the website – I was intrigued when I saw a link for their onsite eatery “Café Fez”. After I had looked at their breakfast menu, I began to make plans to go there when I next travelled home to Wodonga to see my parents over the Melbourne Cup long weekend.

The weather in North-East Victoria during November is usually glorious – blue skies, sunshine and temperatures escalating during the day. I was somewhat disappointed by the heavy rain and freezing winds that greeted me when I woke up on Saturday morning but I was resolute in taking the forty-five minute drive to Myrtleford to have breakfast at Café Fez. I told my family that there was probably better weather in that part of State in an effort to entice them to come with me!

The rain followed us all the way to Myrtleford, so my parents and I literally ran into Café Fez and found a corner table near the heater to dry off and keep warm. The interior of the main dining area has a collection of mosaic tables, old timber doors, lights and lanterns which makes you feel like you’ve escaped to a scene straight from Arabian Nights.

The all day breakfast menu has only seven key dishes, but each description is full of exotic sounding ingredients and references to the Middle East and the Mediterranean. The “Café Fez Big Breakfast” with Turkish eggs, sweet potato falafel, lamb kibbeh, grilled haloumi, garlic and herb mushrooms, bacon steak with Milawa corn bread for $25 seemed to be the best bang for our buck and a perfect brunch option for a cold day.

Cafe Fez Big Breakfast - Cafe Fez @ Red Ramia, Myrtleford
Cafe Fez Big Breakfast – Cafe Fez @ Red Ramia, Myrtleford

Shortly thereafter our breakfast arrived on large rectangle white platters laden with delicious food and accompanying condiments on ceramic spoons. Breakfast was indeed big – not just in size but also on flavour. The lamb kibbeh, a traditional Lebanese recipe, was made with ground beef from the region and a layer of lean lamb mince in the centre. Large pine nuts were generously mixed within the kibbeh. If it wasn’t such a cold day, you could be forgiven for thinking that the white pine nuts in the brown meat were somewhat of a suspicious nature, but the kibbeh was delicious and paired with the homemade tomato chutney.

The large Turkish eggs were soft poached and sprinkled with ground cumin. The haloumi was crispy on the outside but soft to taste on the inside. It was so yummy that I happily traded half of my serving of mushrooms for another piece of cheese. The bacon steak (or kaiserfleisch) was extremely moist and tender and thickly cut and so I exchanged the other half of my mushrooms for a little bit more.

The sweet potato falafel was also a surprise hit – soft textured and flavoured with spice, it was hard to decide whether to add the yoghurt dressing or enjoy the large patty on its own.

No sooner had we finished breakfast, the sun and blue skies decided to make their welcome appearance. Perfect for exploring the hidden treasures within Red Ramia.

Cafe Fez on Urbanspoon

Crabapple Kitchen, Hawthorn

In a recent edition of the (melbourne) magazine, I was reading an article on Greg Feck and his café/restaurant “Crabapple Kitchen” in Glenferrie Road. As I was salivating over a photo and recipe with brioche buns of pork and apple slaw, out of curiosity I Googled their website and saw that they were open for breakfast and took the opportunity to look over their Autumn menu.

Secretly hoping that the brioche buns were available, under the FoodandTravelCo’s selection of international breakfast dishes on the menu, I spied the exotic sounding baked eggs from Marrakesh. As I was about to head off to Morocco for a holiday, I was keen to try all things Moroccan.

By the time I arrived at Crabapple Kitchen mid-morning, there was a queue forming at the door to be seated. Trying to ignore the couple in front of me complaining about the ten minute wait, my eyes were absorbing the French provincial kitchen décor and chefs and baristas bustling around the front open bar area.

I was seated along the breakfast bar opposite the kitchen, with an array of candid photos of the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurant awards with snapshots of Heston Blumenthal and Greg’s partner, Kim and other gourmands occupying my attention.

Baked egg in a tagine of duck kofta with tomato, ras el hanout, toasted almonds and coriander served with Batbout (small Moroccan bread) - Crabapple Kitchen, Hawthorn
Baked egg in a tagine of duck kofta with tomato, ras el hanout, toasted almonds and coriander served with Batbout (small Moroccan bread) – Crabapple Kitchen, Hawthorn

I don’t normally order savoury for breakfast, but I was almost relieved to be eating something hot and spicy to beat the cold weather outside. Little did I know, just how hot and spicy. The Moroccan bread was light and delicious but there was only a small piece of it to counteract the chilli factor. A delicious mixture of baked tomato, spices and small meatballs of minced duck meat and egg, but the dish was extremely hot, both in temperature and overwhelmingly spicy. So much so that after a while, it was hard to distinguish what was being eaten and it was a struggle to continue eating after several mouthfuls. I could see the chilli in the mixture and almost wondered what I would be in for in Marrakesh!

The maître d could see that I wasn’t eating and when I explained about the heat factor, he asked if I would like a glass of milk to counteract the spice, but I politely declined thinking that all I wanted was more of that delicious bread to fill me up!

Crabapple Kitchen have an innovative menu and I had the privilege to indulge in one of their themed Friday Night Flight dinner evenings in May, so I have experienced their wonderful cuisine and their take on Moroccan traditional fare, however I think this dish was a rare misstep.

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.