Mr Hendricks Café, Balwyn

As much as I love the art of decluttering and adhering to organising and minimalist principles, I must admit that my iPad is in complete disarray; absolutely chock full of saved bookmarks from newspaper articles and random, unfiled notes on cafés across a multitude of apps, highlighting places that I should potentially go and visit for breakfast. Somewhere in all that mess, I happened to come across something that recalled to mind that there was a café called Mr Hendricks Café located in Balwyn on my must-go list. With the added bonus of staying in Kew this week and discovering that the café is also directly located on the #109 tram route, it would seem like a wasted opportunity to be in such close proximity and not make an effort to go there for breakfast.

Finding the location was easy enough and I seemed to arrive in the nick of time to be able to secure a table, because within fifteen minutes the place was busy and a small queue had started to form. It’s so exciting to see a unique breakfast menu with a number of original signature dishes, not often seen or replicated elsewhere. I’m always a sucker for French Toast at the best of times, particularly when it’s of the brioche variety, but I had already consoled myself with a couple of images from Instagram and moved on. The Francophile in me particularly warmed to the thought of indulging in a Cassoulet with braised beans, smoked ham hock, lamb shoulder, toulouse sausage, confit duck leg, persilade and fried egg. The description of the Prawn and Corn Fritters was beyond compare and even the Avocado on Toast sounded extraordinary with the inclusion of wekame, sesame, pickled cucumber salad and lemon gel as key elements within the dish. My coffee arrived and someone was keen to take my order, but inexplicably I needed another couple of minutes to arrive at a decision. After much deliberation, I finally settled on the Crispy Eggs with sweet potato puree, ham jock, salad of fennel, radish, red onion and candied walnuts.

The café fit-out is absolutely beautiful in its simplicity and elegance, almost a refined industrial décor that made the frustrated interior designer in me just sit back and admire the room’s composition in jealous admiration. Soft tan leather cushions on the banquette seating, attractive pendant lighting, glossy black Thonet chairs, elegant gold lettering on every door and window and beautiful polished wooden bench tops and tables in rich warm tones ticked all of my aesthetic boxes.

Coffee is available in a standard cup size, although after my spree of ordering larger versions, the glass seemed to have shrunk. My latte was creamy and delicious but after a couple of sips, another glass was definitely in order.

Crispy Eggs with sweet potato puree, ham hock, salad of fennel, radish, red onion and candied walnuts - Mr Hendricks Cafe, Balwyn
Crispy Eggs with sweet potato puree, ham hock, salad of fennel, radish, red onion and candied walnuts – Mr Hendricks Cafe, Balwyn

Trying to capture an appropriate image for my food chronicle was no mean feat – there were so many colours and items on the plate that trying to fit them into one frame was a frustrating task. Photographic duties aside, I went straight for the ham hock which was simply delicious, slightly crispy yet soft and salty at the same time. There was plenty of meat on the plate, yet it was something I found myself wanting more and more of. The crumb on the boiled eggs came away easily and delicious with the sweet potato puree, but made for a bit of sport trying to scoop a mouthful onto my fork. “Slippery little suckers”, one might say.

I’m not a huge advocate of salad for breakfast yet surprisingly, I loved it and would say it was absolutely my favourite part of breakfast. From the crunch of the candied walnuts to the finely shaved fennel, the entire salad was beautifully dressed with a silky, smooth and slightly sweet honey mustard dressing, with every leaf glistening with the sheen of olive oil.

Completely satisfied with my breakfast, I even ordered a third cup of coffee just so I could sit and prolong the indulgence for just a little bit longer. A way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach, and Mr Hendricks, I’d have to say that you have certainly captured mine.

Mr Hendricks Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - 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

Einstein’s Relative, South Yarra

The first breakfast I had when I moved into the South Yarra area was in a café located in the Yarra Lane precinct, adjacent to the train station called Outpost Café. Let’s just say that after that dining experience, I avoided the place altogether and didn’t look in that general direction when I walked to the train station every morning.

Recently, I noticed that there had been a lot of activity in that area during the morning and weekend periods, with people dining inside the café, and spilling over onto the chairs and tables set up in the laneway. Curiosity got the better of me and I thought that I should go and see for myself what all the fuss was about.

The majority of the space is occupied with the open kitchen, with bench space for dining along the perimeter of the café. The exterior walls are made from floor-to-ceiling glass which makes the relatively small space feel open and filled with natural light. Interspersed throughout the café along the benchtops are a series of recent bestselling cookbooks. I devoured the mouth-watering dishes in Ottolenghi’s “Plenty” whilst simultaneously enjoying my breakfast. Small, glass beakers filled with God-knows-what on the tables, together with colourful caricatures of Albert Einstein and friends displayed along the front counter, pay homage to the great scientist and café’s namesake.

The coffee has a sharp, distinctive flavour that is a little too bitter for my palate but nonetheless beautifully presented in one of the café’s trademark stylish emerald-green coffee cups.

The menu is not extensive but has a combination of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences, in conjunction with exotic sounding offerings incorporating organic superfoods such as the Acai Wake Up Bowl and Quinoa Porridge. I have a deep love of haloumi so I was instantly drawn to the Haloumi Bruschetta with seeded sourdough toast, diced haloumi, avocado, radish, tomato medley and a tangy yoghurt dressing.

Haloumi Bruschetta: Seeded sourdough toast with diced haloumi, avocado, radish, tomato medley and a tangy yoghurt dressing - Einstein's Relative, South Yarra
Haloumi Bruschetta: Seeded sourdough toast with diced haloumi, avocado, radish, tomato medley and a tangy yoghurt dressing – Einstein’s Relative, South Yarra

The first thing that struck me about my breakfast was the amazing array of colours. From the vibrant red and yellow displayed in the cherry tomatoes, to the golden brown grilled haloumi, complete with touches of green in the mashed avocado and hints of purple from the micro herb garnish. It was a feast for the eyes as well as for the stomach.

The haloumi cheese, with a crispy outer layer and soft centre was delicious, even more so when covered with the silky smooth yet spicy yoghurt sauce. The medley of thinly sliced radish, tomatoes and herbs were fresh and tasty and a perfect foil for the spice in the dish. With a little more added spice thrown in for good measure, the mashed avocado was also plentiful and helped to ensure that all the combined textures and flavours worked in harmony with each other. The sourdough bread was also great but with all the moisture from the avocado and dressing, it didn’t resemble toast for too long.

It seems a little strange but poignant that my last breakfast as a resident of South Yarra should be in the exact same location as the first one, but at least I can say with absolute certainty that this breakfast experience was thoroughly enjoyable!

Einstein's Relative on Urbanspoon

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.