Adeney Milk Bar, Kew

When I first signed up for a brief sojourn to Kew, my friend Alison took me on a quick tour of her neighbourhood and the first place of interest was Adeney Milk Bar Café, just a short walk around the corner. So with the promise of warm weather, blue skies and birds either tweeting or swooping, after many months in seclusion I was so eager to get to Adeney that I almost skipped all the way there.

Naturally with the sun out, all the outdoor seating beneath the front verandah was fully occupied but thankfully there were a few tables near the front window that were still available. The interior of the café is so inviting and homely, making me feel that I was almost indulging in a breakfast in someone’s home.

Perched on the banquette seating along the wall, I had a wonderful view of the street outside and full view of another separate dining space towards the rear of building. It’s quite cosy in the seating department and not long after arriving, a family with very young children sat down at the next table alongside me, which was in such close proximity that I could have helped myself to their breakfast as well. It was no laughing matter when the little girl then proceeded to keep yelling repeatedly in my left ear, “Mummy, what can I have to eat?” for what seemed like an eternity.

The coffee machine was in full throttle with a constant flow of both in-house and take-away orders coming from all directions. Believe it or not, there is a dedicated walk-up sliding window behind the counter, available for those wanting to order take-away coffees without having to step inside. When I had a sip of my large hot skinny latte once it arrived, I immediately knew what all the fuss was about. The Fitzroy Street house blend sourced from Industry Beans was incredibly smooth, creamy and delicious that I found myself just staring absentmindedly into space, nursing the warm glass in my hands and taking lots of long, slow sips.

The Winter menu at Adeney is fairly typical of most other cafés with all the usual suspects present. There are two smashed avocado options available, and after a lot of deliberation, I landed on the Winter Smash with avocado, chilli, coriander and fresh lime on toasted sourdough ($14) and added the poached egg ($3).

Winter Smash: avocado, chilli, coriander and fresh lime on toasted sourdough and poached egg - Adeney Milk Bar, Kew
Winter Smash: avocado, chilli, coriander and fresh lime on toasted sourdough and poached egg – Adeney Milk Bar, Kew

Although it’s called the “Winter Smash”, the bright green colours of the avocado, coriander sprigs and fresh lime were decidedly reminiscent of the approaching Spring season. There was quite a substantial amount of the avocado mixture on the plate to devour and while I thought that the inclusion of the red chilli would be the standout ingredient, after the first mouthful it was apparent that someone had been heavy-handed with the lime which had unfortunately left a slightly sour aftertaste. Although the flavours were a little out of balance, it was still extremely edible and enjoyable when paired with the crusty sourdough toast and soft poached egg. I had once again underestimated how restorative and satisfying a good dose of creamy avocado and bread can be.

Having finished another delicious cup of coffee along with my breakfast, all was good and right in my own little world and even more so when I realised that Adeney was going to be my new “local” for the next few weeks, which might also be just enough time for me to be able to stroll around the corner again and try their new Spring menu.

Adeney Milk Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Balderdash, Port Melbourne

Drinking copious amounts of alcohol mid-afternoon has the ability to make one believe that you are capable of almost anything. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of enjoying several new release Bress wines during a long lunch at Harry & Frankie’s wine bar in Port Melbourne. At last year’s Bress seasonal lunch, I made several vows that I was going to make a trip to their cellar door in Harcourt and re-stock my cellar and yet of course that journey never eventuated. So with the order form in front of me and a few glasses under my belt, I thought nothing of ordering half a dozen bottles of wine to pick up at a later date.

Naturally when the call came to collect my wines, only then did it dawn on me that it might prove to be somewhat difficult to lug six bottles home when using public transport as the preferred mode of transportation. Being the victim of my own senseless self-talk required me to return to Port Melbourne this weekend, and so it seemed a natural choice to head directly to the nearby Balderdash for breakfast.

Several friends who live in this locality have recommended this café to me and with the promise of warmer weather starting to eventuate, I started to feel glad that my crazy notions were taking me on random food adventures as I walked towards the café. When I walked inside, all the tables were occupied which left me with a seat in the front window to enjoy the brilliant warm sunshine.

The service at Balderdash is very friendly, attentive and definitely service with a smile. At first glance, the menu seemed to be a stock-standard café menu with a handful of typical breakfast dishes but when I stopped and took another look at the descriptions of each dish, I discovered another side to what was printed on paper.

I was intrigued about the description of the Pulled Pork Benedict although I wasn’t sure if it was served with toast, and as luck would have it, at that precise moment my coffee arrived. The person who served it saw the opened menu and was ready to take my breakfast order, but also took the time to explain in quite some detail what was included within the dish once I had asked the question. I was sold as soon as they said “brioche bun” but after politely listening to the spiel, I gave them the thumbs up to go ahead and locked in my order.

Enjoying a delicious hot, creamy latte and watching the morning traffic along Bay Street go by, I was shocked out of my reverie when breakfast was served within only what seemed several minutes after ordering.

Pulled Pork Benedict, Slow cooked pork shoulder with two poached eggs, hollandaise and prosciutto crumb - Balderdash, Port Melbourne
Pulled Pork Benedict, Slow cooked pork shoulder with two poached eggs, hollandaise and prosciutto crumb – Balderdash, Port Melbourne

A feast for eyes as well as being a substantial meal, the Pulled Pork Benedict consists of slow cooked pork shoulder with two poached eggs, hollandaise and prosciutto crumb, and is served on a brioche bun with fresh spinach. Although I had been leaning towards ordering the corn fritters when I had first arrived, I was glad that my inner voice again persuaded me to give this dish a try.

The shredded pork was extremely succulent and tender and also well-matched with the silky, creamy texture of the poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. The novelty factor was the smattering of dried and finely diced prosciutto over the eggs, to form a crunchy crumb and balance the abundance of soft textures throughout the dish. I have a deep and abiding love for any form of brioche at the best of times and the inclusion of the sweet and fluffy bread to this dish definitely brought a smile to my face.

While foolish talk can sometimes lead you on journeys that are unexpected, they can also be a source of fun and provide the opportunity to take the road less travelled. In the end, the belief in my own strength led me to towards a wonderful café and enjoy a fabulous meal that I might have otherwise overlooked. Ironically, I later discovered that carrying six bottles of wine home on a tram is actually an easy feat after all.

Click to add a blog post for Balderdash on Zomato

Seven:am, Port Melbourne

Twelve months ago to the day, I moved into the Southbank area and one of the things I was things I was really looking forward to, was discovering all the wonderful places to eat in the nearby Port Melbourne area. So fast forward 365 days and although I have got as far as asking friends who live there where I should go for breakfast, I have dismally failed to follow through on my own culinary targets and actually get there.

Thinking that it was high time that I needed to rectify the situation, I looked up the location of one of the recommendations, Seven:am café to plan my journey but with the temperature registering a mere seven degrees mid-morning, I wasn’t sure if going out for breakfast was such a great idea after all.

Rugged up with scarf, coat and gloves and happily situated on the No. 109 tram to Port Melbourne, I rediscovered both my enthusiasm and appetite again, secretly glad that I didn’t give into the temptation to stay and eat at home instead. Seven:am is located in Bay Street, not far from the corner of Graham Street so finding the café wasn’t difficult and extremely accessible by public transport, driving home the fact that I really should have taken this journey sooner. Proudly emblazoned across the front window “Winner – Best Breakfast Restaurant in the 2011 Restaurant & Catering ‘Awards for Excellence'”, Seven:am was definitely a cosy, warm and inviting place to be.

As soon as I walked in, I was greeted at the door with a beautiful, friendly smile and the ambient noise of people enjoying themselves and the clatter of cutlery. The place was busy and there was not a vacant seat to be had, for which the waitress was profusely apologising to me for (?!) but apart from thinking that it was my fault for not getting out of my warm bed sooner, I was more than happy to wait for a table to become available … and yet only two minutes later I was actually seated at my own table with a menu and raring to go.

The menu, which still had “Summer 14/15” in the header, looked a little pre-loved although full of fantastic descriptions of popular brunch options. My eyes did spy my all-time favourite dish being Ricotta Cakes (complete with boysenberry ice-cream) but needless to say, I was in the mood for something a little more heart-warming and so I chose the Kessler Bacon with poached eggs, spinach, beans and sourdough dish instead.

There is so much going on visually with the interior of the café that my eyes were continually drawn to different sections of the walls and ceilings to absorb it all in. The most striking element is the pegboard feature wall with a myriad of glass jars all filled with artificial plants, and nicely decorated along a series of shelves. Above me were a couple of mobile cotton clouds suspended from the ceiling, where coloured wool had been used to create a simple but creative mural of sunshine rays and blue skies. Collages of black and white photos, framed pictures and other memorabilia covered the adjoining brick walls to emphasise the warm feeling of familiarity and the comforts of home.

And to keep adding to the feelings of warmth and comfort, the arrival of my super-sized skinny latte which was deliciously hot and creamy, brought my cold fingers back to life and went down like a treat.

Kessler Bacon with poached eggs, spinach, beans and sourdough - Seven:am, Port Melbourne
Kessler Bacon with poached eggs, spinach, beans and sourdough – Seven:am, Port Melbourne

There was a little bit of a wait on breakfast but which was long forgotten once it was placed on the table as my dish was everything that I wanted it to be. With steam wafting above the eggs and beans, I knew that I was in for a nice warm, comforting dish. The thick-cut bacon was tender, juicy and just superb. While the spinach and eggs were also delicious, the real surprise in the flavour stakes was the Middle Eastern take on the homemade baked beans which had been beautifully spiced with either cumin or ras el hanout and cooked with onion and red capsicum.

With no particular place to be, I happily ordered a smaller coffee when it was suggested to me by my lovely waitress and felt content to watch the good people of North Melbourne go about their Saturday morning activities along Bay Street. Surrounded in warmth and having enjoyed my indulgence in good food and great service, I decided that seven was indeed my favourite number.

Click to add a blog post for seven:am on Zomato

Circolo, Southbank

Quite often I have a destination in mind when I set off for my breakfast adventure every Saturday morning, but I can’t tell you the number of times where somewhere along the journey, I make another café discovery and end up seizing the moment and wind up eating at places I had no initial intention of visiting. I like to plan and am quite decisive but I also like the element of surprise and hint of adventure. Sometimes this can pay off big dividends, leading to wonderful food memories and then there are the few times where I wonder, “Why did I do that?”

On my way to the South Melbourne Market, I decided to take a new route to avoid all the residential apartment building works and by chance ended up walking down Clarke Street. Looking at all the buildings and office spaces in the area, my eyes caught a glimpse of gold decorative art and some beautiful copper pendant lighting through the large floor-to-ceiling windows of a new development. Then I spied some chairs and tables before realising that I was walking past a café – a brand new café with an “OPEN” sign. I threw caution to the wind and thought “Why not?” and walked on in.

It looked as though I was the first customer for the morning and I had my pick of the seating arrangements. The barista behind the counter, looking resplendent in a denim apron with leather trim, looked pleased to see me and gave me a warm morning greeting, as did the young waitress who promptly brought over the breakfast menu. On the way back to the counter, I think she was reminded to take my coffee order and I being on auto-pilot, I gave my usual coffee order for a “large hot skinny latte”. I think I knew I was in big trouble when my request was met with a blank stare and I was asked to repeat my order. One large, hot skinny latte …. please.

Circolo, Southbank
Circolo, Southbank

Another waiter came out from the kitchen into the dining area, also dressed in a tailored denim apron with soft leather trim and wished me pleasant good morning greetings. So at this point, it is just me versus three wait staff. While my coffee order was being processed, I finally had the opportunity to look at the breakfast menu which looked to be fairly stock standard, with a range of egg dishes (Egg on toast, Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine, Omelette), pancakes, a Circolo version of a big breakfast, muesli, pastries and French Toast. The menu and the pricing seemed to be out of sync. The “French Toast” option was made with ciabatta and only $5.90. That sounded too good to be true. The “Croissant” was also described as a croissant ciabatta and also priced at $5.90. A croissant ciabatta … that’s a new one. The “Buttermilk Pancakes” were served with Chantilly cream and maple syrup for $12.50 … um, no thanks – that doesn’t even sound appetising. I decided to play it safe and opt for the “Eggs Benedict” – free range poached eggs on English muffins with Virginian ham and Hollandaise sauce. The third highest priced dish on the menu, at $16.50 I made the classic mistake of equating price with quality.

Ready and waiting to order, as the only customer in the café, I had to wait a full ten minutes for the barista to give the waitress a crash course on coffee as he explained all the different types available … which is fine but I am hungry and I am a customer. Once the coffee lesson had finished, the waitress went back to her cutlery-polishing duties so I needed to remind her that I did actually want to order breakfast. I casually placed my order and felt like sliding under the table when my waitress went to the kitchen window and hollered “She wants the Eggs Benedict with her eggs poached hard”. Yep thanks – you got the order right but I’m not sure if the people at the South Melbourne Market actually heard you.

My coffee arrived and to my delight it was exactly what I ordered, served beautifully in a large tumbler. A little on the strong side but quite pleasant nonetheless. The barista came over with the waitress in tow to set my table with napkin and cutlery – obviously I’m being used as a training facility.

Eggs Benedict - Circolo, Southbank
Eggs Benedict – Circolo, Southbank

And then my breakfast arrived. When I read the words “Virginian ham”, I stupidly thought it might be ham off the bone given the price of the dish but sadly it was a couple of cheap ham slices wacked onto a couple of Tip Top English muffins. Unfortunately the abundance of Hollandaise sauce against a white plate made by breakfast look a little insipid. The eggs were hard-poached as requested and the sauce was creamy and silky smooth, but the huge let down was that the English muffins hadn’t been toasted and the moisture from the cooked eggs had made the bread quite soggy. It was edible but “nothing to write home about” as my Dad would say.

I turned a blind eye to the warning signs – new café, staff training-on-the-job, ad hoc menu, only customer – and probably got what I asked for. I was full but hardly satisfied. I walked to the counter and at this point the other waiter decided to get in on the action and process the bill on his flash iPad for my less than satisfactory breakfast experience. I handed over my credit card for payment whereby the waiter then told me that my card had been declined. Yeah … I don’t think so – do it again. You should have seen this guy’s eyes light up when my payment went through. Circolo has all the pretence of a café with all the bells and whistles – fashionable uniforms, nice interiors, state-of-the-art coffee machine and high-tech payment processing equipment – but it just goes to prove that there is no substitute for great service and good food.

Click to add a blog post for Circolo on Zomato

Operator25, Melbourne

Most Saturday mornings, I generally form some sort of plan of where I would like to have breakfast however this week’s adventure was totally impromptu in every sense of the word. Standing on the curb outside my building, I wasn’t sure whether to turn left and walk towards South Melbourne or head in the other direction towards the city. So I threw caution to the wind and walked to the nearby tram stop and let the oncoming No. 55 tram determine my culinary fate.

Five minutes later and en route towards the north of the city, I checked my Urbanspoon app looking for somewhere new and saw that Operator25, was located close by. This place has been on my must do list for a little while, however as one of Melbourne’s top brunch venues, its popularity comes with a price and as soon as I walked down Wills Street towards the café there was a lengthy line-up of people outside waiting for a table.

Just inside the door is an illuminated sign “HOLD THE LINE – PLEASE WAIT TO BE SEATED” which I brazenly disregarded on this occasion and walked up the stairs hoping that there might be a solitary vacant seat available somewhere, anywhere. Two people had also arrived at the same time as myself and approached the front to enquire about a table of four and were told that there was an estimated wait of one hour for the next available table … so be warned. I fared a little better and had thankfully scored a seat within less than ten minutes.

Operator25 has been very recently renovated and the interior has an elegant blend of contemporary and industrial design, with quirky wall art paying homage to the building’s former life as the telephone exchange. There are several communal tables and benches inside the space to accommodate the thronging hordes of people looking to enjoy the experience. I was seated at one of two round communal tables near the door with plenty of space to spread out, relax and savor the menu.

Operator25, Melbourne
Operator25, Melbourne
The “Wake up Call” (otherwise known as the breakfast menu) is quite unique with popular Asian dishes such as Three Rice Congee present, together with the sublime sounding Elderflower Sago with chia seeds, rhubarb and strawberry compote, white chocolate foam and freeze-dried mango proving to be a hit with most of the patrons around me. I quite liked the sound of the Eggs Benedict with potato and thyme rosti, grandmother lamb ham and horseradish hollandaise, so by the time someone came over to take my coffee order, I was able to lock in my selection for breakfast.

Eggs Benedict with potato and thyme rosti, grandmother lamb ham and horseradish hollandaise - Operator25, Melbourne
Eggs Benedict with potato and thyme rosti, grandmother lamb ham and horseradish hollandaise – Operator25, Melbourne
My breakfast didn’t take long to arrive at all and looked as delicious as it sounded on paper. I started with the crunchy potato rosti which was incredible to taste and evoked happy memories of my late grandmother’s own homemade version, which were made almost the same way with coarsely grated potato and herbs, but this particular interpretation had been deep fried for added colour and texture. The ham which was quite plentiful on the plate, was soft with subtle smoked flavours but the real winner was the silky, smooth rich hollandaise sauce drizzled over the top.

Operator25, Melbourne
Operator25, Melbourne
Due to the sheer volume of activity at Operator25, getting your coffee order in a timely manner might be a challenge. I ordered a large hot skinny latte, which arrived quite some time after my breakfast had arrived. My photos probably don’t capture the proportions correctly but the coffee was served in a enormous glazed ceramic bowl and tasted great, but lost a little of its warmth on the journey to the table.

At the precise moment that I began to think of whether there was something to enjoy with my bucket of coffee, free mini White chocolate and matcha green tea and Tiramisu cupcakes were being offered around to all patrons to enjoy in honour of Operator25’s second birthday celebrations. With such great timing, it would be rude not to … so I opted for the beautiful green tea cupcake which was heavenly with my coffee and topped off a great breakfast experience.

White chocolate and matcha green tea cupcakes - Operator25, Melbourne
White chocolate and matcha green tea cupcakes – Operator25, Melbourne
It just goes to show that sometimes when you take an impromtu adventure and leave things to chance, you can end up exactly where you are meant to be …

Operator25 on Urbanspoon

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

Two Little Pigs Charcuterie and Grind, Brunswick

There is a tram stop literally ten metres from the front entrance of my apartment building where the No. 55 tram route travels along – from the Domain Interchange in St Kilda Road through to Bell Street in West Coburg. For the last few months, I’ve been dreaming about jumping on the tram on a Saturday morning and discovering new places to eat in Brunswick for breakfast. This week I decided to kick start that adventure but had absolutely no idea where I should be heading to. Lucky for me some friends of mine have recently moved to Brunswick, so after sending a “where do I go?” text late on Friday night, their response was “Two Little Pigs” on Sydney Road.

Two Little Pigs Charcuterie and Grind, Brunswick
Two Little Pigs Charcuterie and Grind, Brunswick

Many of us have a fondness bordering on obsession with cured meats and bacon, so I smiled when I saw the word “Charcuterie” brightly lit in brilliant yellow above the entrance. Despite being busy, when I walked in I had a choice of sitting inside, beside the counter or outside in the courtyard. With the promise of sunshine and warmer temperatures, I gravitated towards the outside.

The courtyard area provides plenty of shade and has a small garden and ample seating, although at first, I had the odd feeling that I had just made myself at home in someone’s backyard. The menu promises all manner of weird and wonderful meat-inspired dishes to choose from, although there are definitely vegetarian and gluten-free options available as well.

It’s exciting to see new and varied food on a menu although the difficult part is attempting to choose only one dish. After several read-throughs, I had narrowed down my selection to two dishes: Hot jam doughcakes with cinnamon muscovado sugar and caramelised bacon ice cream (yes, that is correct, bacon ice cream!) or Pea & Ham with crisp roasted pork belly, poached free range eggs, green pea veloute served with sourdough toast. It was an intense battle of the mind, however the pork belly won by the narrowest of margins.

Pea & Ham - crisp roasted pork belly, poached free range eggs, green pea veloute served with sourdough toast - Two Little Pigs Charcuterie and Grind, Brunswick
Pea & Ham – crisp roasted pork belly, poached free range eggs, green pea veloute served with sourdough toast – Two Little Pigs Charcuterie and Grind, Brunswick

There was very little wait on breakfast once I had made up my mind. Beautifully presented within a terracotta dish, the pork belly was crispy and decorated with finely shredded red chilli. I hastily devoured the hot, buttered toast and wondered where to start.

The green pea veloute soup was a bright and vibrant colour, deliciously sweet and thick, and not unlike tucking into Mum’s homemade pea and ham soup. The eggs were nicely poached but a little hard to pick up at times after sliding around in the pea sauce; I admit to using my coffee teaspoon maybe once or twice. The pork was well cooked but not too salty or fatty and the sweet fresh peas and chilli cut through the residual meat flavour. It was an unusual choice for breakfast but definitely a tasty one.

As for the “Grind” component of the café, the coffee at Two Little Pigs is outstanding. Deliciously hot and creamy with a roasted hazelnut flavour, the coffee is served in the signature bright yellow crockery that adorns the signage and interior trim. I couldn’t wait for the second cup as soon as I took my first sip. The service is friendly and efficient at Two Little Pigs, with the staff constantly doing the rounds of the main dining areas, taking orders and clearing tables so actually getting a second cup of coffee wasn’t a hardship.

I loved my morning adventure to Brunswick and discovering Two Little Pigs thanks to the wonderful recommendation from the locals. Now bacon ice cream … how does that taste?

Two Little Pigs Charcuterie and Grind on Urbanspoon