La Maison Cafe, Wodonga

Wodonga again? Yes, surprisingly I’m back in the Border after only two weeks away so that I could see the legendary Neil Finn and Paul Kelly perform at “A Day on the Green” at All Saints Estate. I have this rule that if an artist has taken the trouble to visit regional areas, then I’ll try my hardest to support their efforts and pave the way for other artists and theatre companies to come to the Albury-Wodonga region. So my self-imposed quest to find the Border’s best breakfast continues.

I wanted to catch up with a friend who was going to the Farmer’s Market so I thought about which cafes were in the vicinity and chose La Maison Cafe. If I think about the locality of this cafe, almost 250 metres away from the New South Wales boundary, it literally is “breakfast on the Border”.

Potato rosti, poached eggs, smoked salmon,wilted spinach & hollandaise (House Specialty) - La Maison Cafe, Wodonga
Potato rosti, poached eggs, smoked salmon,wilted spinach & hollandaise (House Specialty) – La Maison Cafe, Wodonga

La Maison Cafe has had numerous guises and owners over the past decade. It is located in an old pioneer style building in the Gateway Island precinct, with a rustic, wooden cottage feel. The breakfast menu is varied with plenty of options, including a delicious sounding French toast offering, but I needed to suffer for my art and try something new, so I chose the House Specialty.

Looking around the cafe and seeing very young male staff with casual attire and a laid back attitude, I started to have reservations about what would be served. I need not have worried or mentally entertained any similarities to metropolitan cafes; my breakfast was superbly presented and was almost perfection on a plate.

Two well-stacked mounds on the plate with each layer visible to the eye. I like to have my eggs poached hard, and they were cooked to my liking with just enough hollandaise sauce added to the dish. Although my expectations weren’t all that high to begin with, I was anticipating sliced smoked salmon from a packet and was extremely surprised that it was a smoked salmon fillet that flaked away nicely. Although cooked well, the wilted spinach had a bright green vitality and all these elements were perfectly complimented with two homemade potato rosti. The potato was coarsely grated and just cooked with a small element of crunch, seasoned with pepper and a hint of lemon. I couldn’t help thinking of my Baba (Grandmother) and the similarity between her own potato cakes that she made when I was growing up.

After finishing an excellent breakfast, it felt good to be reminded that great food isn’t dependent on decor. Bon appetite!

Hideout Cafe and Rubix Cafe, Wodonga

Wodonga! Can anything good come from there? Well, it’s my home town. Sometimes I love it and at other times, I’m glad to leave it behind in the rear view mirror. Nevertheless, I have spent a great deal of my time and money indulging in Saturday breakfasts in Albury-Wodonga cafes over the past decade or so. My favourite places for breakfast used to be the Wodonga Plant Farm and Cafe Grove, but these cafes change ownership regularly so I’ve been a bit reticent to go back on recent visits.

Being keen to try somewhere new, one of my Facebook friends recently posted a beautiful photo of a pancake stack and I mentally noted that I needed to go and try it out when I was next in Wodonga. Hideout Cafe is located in Waratah Way and used to be a milk bar and takeaway store when I was in high school.

It felt really odd to return to the store after some twenty years or more. The facade has changed from mission brown to white, and the store has had a modern makeover to transform it into a cafe. However it still has that cloying smell of vegetable oil in the air and the usual corner store items are still for sale to the neighbouring residents.

At the counter, I quickly looked at the breakfast menu, which was divided into two pancake offerings, a French toast section, artisan bread for toast with condiments, corn fritters and then an array of individual items to create your own individual cooked, savoury breakfast. Enjoying the sunshine outside, the windows were emblazoned with self-printed signs proclaiming the “Border’s best breakfast”. Can’t wait!

My breakfast dish was personally delivered by a chef in whites. Extremely posh for West Wodonga but appreciated. The chef noted that I didn’t have water on my table and arranged for a bottle to be brought out to me. Two thumbs up.

French toast with poached pear, Turkish dried fig and lime yoghurt - Hideout Cafe, Wodonga
French toast with poached pear, Turkish dried fig and lime yoghurt – Hideout Cafe, Wodonga

The presentation was impeccable, however the yoghurt looked a little on the lumpy side and the obligatory sprinkling of icing sugar was about to declare war on my lovely orange pants. The bread was soft and light and perfect with the moist poached pears, which suprisingly still had skin on. I love toasted flaked almonds and they were a great accompaniment. The sliced dried Turkish figs were a bit tough to chew but added a sweet flavour.

When I tasted the yoghurt, I hate to admit it but it had a distinct taste of garlic. After another taste, I came to the conclusion that it didn’t need to be on my plate or near my toast for that matter. With all the dry elements on the toast, the dish needed some moisture and the syrup was not too sweet and was delicious with the figs, pears and almonds.

So in conclusion, a delicious and filling breakfast but I wasn’t overwhelmingly convinced that it was the best breakfast I’ve had in Albury-Wodonga.

A planned power outage on early Sunday morning made it necessary to leave home and go in search of breakfast and coffee. Last weekend, my wonderful Dad (who enthusiastically supports my food and wine adventures) cut out a comment from the letters to the editor in the local newspaper about a new cafe in Wodonga’s Cube complex and asking whether people knew about it. Well I do now.

The cafe space at The Cube is clean, spacious, modern with an outdoor dining area and much appreciated air-conditioning to escape the summer heat.

Rubix Cafe at The Cube, Wodonga
Rubix Cafe at The Cube, Wodonga

From the sweet to the savoury, the sound of the Potato Boxtie (sic), which is a traditional Irish potato pancake, with house smoked salmon and sour cream piqued my interest.

Potato Boxtie - potato pancake with house smoked salmon, sour cream and fresh lemon - Rubix Cafe, Wodonga
Potato Boxty – potato pancake with house smoked salmon, sour cream and fresh lemon – Rubix Cafe, Wodonga

My breakfast exceeded all expectations. Four fluffy thin savoury pancakes with a delicious creamy sauce of dill, finely diced red onion and sour cream, topped with thick, warm pieces of salmon fillet. Totally divine, delicious, yummy and filling. Perfect sustenance for getting me through another long train trip back to Melbourne.

As for the Border’s best breakfast, that honour will always go to my Mum and Dad!