Paco Y Lola, South Melbourne

Inspiration for my weekly breakfast adventure comes from all manner of sources. One Saturday morning, just for a bit of fun, I decided to browse the hashtag “#melbournefood” on my Instagram account while I was waiting for my breakfast to arrive. The first picture to appear on my iPhone screen was a colourful, appetizing shot of a “Breakfast Pan” by pacoylolamexican at the South Melbourne Market. I thought I had tried most of the cafés and restaurants open for breakfast at the market but obviously there were still more experiences to be enjoyed.

Instagram is my new source of inspiration ... - Paco y Lola, South Melbourne
Instagram is my new source of inspiration … – Paco y Lola, South Melbourne

After a couple of weeks and some more investigating on my behalf to find out the precise location, I walked to Paco Y Lola on Cecil Street on a beautiful, bright Autumn Saturday morning and found a quiet table in corner of the outdoor dining area, making sure the sunshine was poised to warm my shoulders and that I could enjoy a bit of people watching to help pass the time. I had actually been to Paco Y Lola for lunch with my parents six months previously and enjoyed the experience, but failed to realise that they were also serving breakfast.

The breakfast menu is clearly presented on one page and obviously has a Mexican influence with a breakfast burrito on offer and other eggcentric dishes served with either crispy jalapenos, rustic guacamole or tomato salsa. I was happy to see that the Breakfast Pan was still available on the menu, but what shocked me out of my morning stupor were the prices – most dishes were incredibly cheap and were priced at $12.00. The most expensive item on the menu, “Eggs Gremolata” was only $15.00 and indeed sounded worthy of a deluxe price tag – two poached eggs served on top of two golden corn cakes sprinkled with gremolata of finely chopped coriander, kaffir lime leaves, red onion and chilli served with a rustic guacamole, crispy bacon and salsa roja. Mmm … sounds divine but I think I had already fallen in love with the Breakfast Pan the moment I first laid eyes on the dish on Instagram, so my decision was a little bit of a foregone conclusion.

The service at Paco Y Lola is laid back and not obtrusive, although at one stage I must have looked so relaxed and noticeably enjoying my time in the sun that the wait staff thought that they didn’t need to intrude on my solitude, and seemed to avoid my table for a good length of time. But having immensely enjoyed my first cup of coffee and eagerly looking forward to my second cup, I did have to wave someone over to take down my order as the coffee at Paco Y Lola is definitely worth experiencing. Deliciously hot and creamy, with a beautiful roasted aftertaste and served on bright, colourful saucers typical associated with Mexican/Spanish culture, I honestly didn’t expect quality coffee to be served, so I admit that the joke is on me for passing unwarranted judgement because in my humble opinion, it was outstanding.

The Breakfast Pan – eggs, bacon, mushroom, sweet roasted cherry tomatoes, casa iberica chorizo, baby spinach and caramelised onions served in the pan with chargrilled bread – was everything that I thought it would be when placed in front of me shortly after ordering. Presented on a large wooden board and with fresh sprigs of coriander adorning the top, the dish was like similar to a large fluffy omelette with the listed individual items hidden and dispersed throughout the shallow cast iron pan. With a slice of succulent honey bacon taking pride of place, I ate my way through the rest of the dish to discover succulent chorizo beneath, then across to the thyme roasted mushrooms, under which were the sweet caramelised onions, over to the roasted cherry tomatoes and wilted baby spinach, so it was like being taken on my own edible adventure. The toast was also delicious and actually the perfect texture and flavour to break up some of the monotony of the egg mixture. Breakfast really was worth walking a few blocks for and the kicker is that it was only $12.00 for such a substantive and fabulous feast.

Breakfast Pan - Paco y Lola, South Melbourne
Breakfast Pan – Paco y Lola, South Melbourne

If I was to think of my local neighbourhood gem, I wouldn’t hesitate to now name Paco Y Lola as mine and I’ve recommended it to a few of my friends looking for a new breakfast destination. Completely unpretentious, with high-quality, fresh and flavoursome food, where else could you get an amazing big breakfast with two coffees for only $19.00?

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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.

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Dead Man Espresso, South Melbourne

This past week has been mentally and physically exhausting. On Monday, I managed to leave work at 1am; Tuesday’s home time was 11pm, and so it went, culminating with a 7pm finale on Friday night. Needless to say I woke up late on Saturday morning with a headache, tired and keen to stay close to home. Feeling like a zombie, the aptly named ‘Dead Man Espresso’ seemed to be the best place to head to for breakfast.

Walking into the café, I felt like I was in a sophisticated tree house for grown-ups with timber decking and wooden benches, chairs and tables, and clever integrated canopies made with timber slats that open out and let you drink in the Melbourne skyline.

I was seated outside along the front bench, with a view to die for. Thirty seconds after sitting down, I had a menu, a glass of water, my coffee order taken and the specials of the day recited to me. The non-menu items included French toast, as well as beetroot cured salmon with whipped goat’s cheese, which both sounded divine but I just wanted to sit for a minute and take it all in.

There were some really intriguing items on the ‘All Day Breakfast’ menu, so much so that it really took me a good five minutes to decide what I should order. Although there were hotcakes and savoury “Green pancakes”, I wavered for a couple of minutes over the “BLT”, described as pork belly & spinach puree on brioche w side of gazpacho & pickled kohlrabi but I couldn’t quite conjure up the courage to be that adventurous with my beloved brioche. Perhaps next time. After deliberating through each menu item, I finally decided on the “Potato and kale hash” for breakfast.

My coffee arrived shortly thereafter, extremely pale in colour and probably matched my complexion. Although nicely presented, it was a little too milky for my taste and drowned out the coffee flavour. What added to my frustration was that there wasn’t any sugar on the bench and I couldn’t catch anyone’s eye, so I sat and drank my latte as served. Just as I was finishing my coffee, breakfast arrived.

Crumbed potato and kale hash with grilled kaiserfleisch and fried eggs - Dead Man Espresso, South Melbourne
Crumbed potato and kale hash with grilled kaiserfleisch and fried eggs – Dead Man Espresso, South Melbourne

My outlook lifted considerably when I looked at all the delectable things in front of me and the delicious aroma of the grilled kaiserfleisch wafting towards me. I started with the crumbed potato hash first and was instantly transported to my happy place. I was surprised that it was cold in the centre but it was so delicious, it was like eating the most wonderful potato salad at a gourmet barbeque. The kale was chopped finely, while the cooked potato was cut into bite-size portions, and combined with either onion or leek. I couldn’t get enough of it.

While I prefer my eggs to be on the well done side, the fried eggs were excellent with the broth and accompanying dill and other herbs. The soft texture of the grilled meat, it’s slightly sweet and salty flavour, went well with the eggs and potato. The rye sourdough toast was just as delicious, and perfect for mopping up the remaining broth.

It was more than enough to bring a very tired girl back into the land of the living.

I loved my breakfast and am really looking forward to coming back and trying some of those other exotic items on the menu, however the service did seem to be a little lacklustre. After the spiel was delivered when I was being seated, I received one glass of water which I drank relatively quickly. There was no offer of a top-up whilst other patrons had bottles of water, basic condiments were unavailable, and the empty coffee glass was whisked away but a second cup seemed to be totally out of the question. Or maybe the service staff intuitively knew that I needed time out and deliberately gave me some space. I’ll test that theory after I’ve caught up on my sleep.

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