Eat here: Little Flock, Melbourne (café/brunch)

Little Flock
81 High St, Northcote
https://facebook.com/littleflocknorthcote/

I hate to say it, especially as a Melbourne northern suburbian, because my area is basically ground zero for hipster cafés, but I’m a bit over the Melbourne brunch scene at the moment.

I’m not over going out for brunch, I still do that every weekend, I’m just over the pretentious menus of a lot of new places. I’m over waiting in line for an hour to get a $28 plate of organic vegan eggs sprinkled with unicorn tears. I’m over the smug attitudes of staff talking about their coffee sourced from a Venezuelan cave harvested by elves. So I haven’t been trying many new places out lately.

But a few weeks ago, I drove past Little Flock, and it looked like a cute little place, so I investigated. Turns out it IS a cute little place, run by Michael Coates & Miroslawa Kotowska, who named it after their chooks. They serve free-range eggs, traditionally smoked bacon, and homemade rugbrød (Danish rye sourdough). And the interior is gorgeous – pale blue walls, hanging greenery, simple wooden tables and chairs, perfect.

Husband went with the avocado, smoked bacon, goats cheese, and nuts & seeds on sourdough toast. Generous amount of bacon, great sourdough, and the bacon was seriously unreal.

I went with the cold smoked ocean trout with rugbrød (both made in house by Michael), with crème fraîche, capers, dill and lemon salt. Honestly, it was probably a bit overpriced at $19 for such a small serve, but it was absolutely delicious! Michael said it was basically them on a plate, and the pride he takes in the dish is well founded.

Husband liked his cappuccino so much he had a second one to go with the almond croissant we wolfed down after breakfast (freshly made and sourced from Brasserie Bread). And I couldn’t have been happier to find out that instead of my $5 getting me a small teapot that would make just one cup of tea, I got a huge cast iron teapot that kept me going all morning.

With a much bigger and well known café a few doors down, it was really lovely to have the option to eat such good food in a smaller venue where the owners were floating around and actually chatting to the customers. Already looking forward to my next visit so I can try some eggs!

Little Flock Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eat here: Miss Margaret, Melbourne (café/brunch)

Miss Margaret
14-18 Gilbert Rd, Preston

http://www.missmargaretcafe.com.au

I’ve not been food blogging much lately; I’m getting a bit over it, to be honest. While I appreciate a creative menu and nice interior design, I am finding that I’m just not interested in being the first person to rush into a new place and sample the fancy menu in an uber-shiny new space anymore.  More and more, I’m valuing local places with a warm, homely feel, a less pretentious menu and actual friendly staff.

Enter Miss Margaret, in Preston. The neighbourhood is slowly but surely gentrifying, a far cry from the more working class suburb that my Italian family first settled into. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly when it brings places like this.  Turning up on a Saturday morning  (when cafés are usually at their busiest and staff at their most stressed), we were greeted and seated not only with a smile, but with a genuine “how’s your morning been?” and a poured glass of water (as opposed to the usual huff and slide of the glasses and water bottle across the table at you). Unexpectedly and pleasantly surprisingly good start!

After our water was poured, we were offered hot drinks to start – they were ordered and brought out very quickly. Husband was very happy with his Cartel Coffee Roasters brew, and I was stoked with a good strong pot of Australian Tea Masters’ English breakfast. Food was ordered, too – usually there’ll just be one item that’ll jump out straight away, but there were quite a few we had our eyes on this time…

Husband went with a savoury option, smashed avo and saganaki on sourdough with a poached egg, grilled asparagus and lemon pepper. He loved it – first time we’ve seen saganaki with smashed avo, and can’t understand why now; it’s unreal!! Even the vegetable element that would usually get a cursory taste before being dismissed was entirely devoured. Well done Miss Margaret; you’re the first one to successfully get my husband to eat asparagus!

After going back and forth between sweet and savoury, I ended up going with the coconut crumpets with coconut yoghurt, toasted coconut and raspberries. I also asked for the peach syrup on the side, because fructose isn’t my friend. The lovely lady looking after us let me know that they were actually using plum syrup – I told her it didn’t really matter, all stone fruits are the enemy with fructose hating tummies, I’d be more than happy with just the coconut yoghurt and berries. She had a word to the chef who followed her out with our breakfast, carrying a little pot of maple syrup for me to use instead. These are the little things that make all the difference; by that stage, they were pretty full up and the kitchen was getting busy, but he still took the time to pop out and bring the maple syrup himself. That is why these sweet little local neighbourhood places win out over the hottest new place with the most OTT social media campaigns by the people that brought you X, Y and Z every single time.

And they were the best damn crumpets I’ve ever had!!! They will be happening again, believe me! 

If the good, honest food (in their own words, “Our food is made using ingredients that are good for the mind and body. Seasonal fruit and vegetables that are high in vitamins and minerals are transformed into delicious smoothies and salads, and seeds and grains fill you up and provide you with protein and fibre. We don’t want you to go without the sweet things in life so our cakes, slices and muffins are made on site so you know there are no nasty preservatives.“),  the homey atmosphere and some of the best servive around isn’t enough to convince you, these legends are also all about helping those less fortune in their community:

Miss Margaret is a social enterprise café born out of a strong desire to help those in need. Our aim is to bring like-minded people together over a cup of coffee and a delicious plate of food, so that collectively we can help even more people than any one individual could. We do this by fostering a community spirit, donating proceeds from our café sales to various charities, holding special fundraising events, and employing refugees to help them develop new skills and networks within the local community.

There is a lot of sadness and inequality in the world and something we are passionate about is access to education for women in developing counties. Women in the developing world are often denied opportunities for education. When women miss out on education their prospects are limited, overall family income is low, it increases the likelihood of ill health, puts women and girls at risk of trafficking and exploitation, and limits the economic advancement of entire countries.

Everything you buy from us helps us help others because we donate part of our profits to charity! All the spare change you give to us in the café gets donated to charity and if you attend a charity dinner which we hold once a month, then $20 gets donated – all because you are eating and socialising with us and others!

Keep doing what you’re doing over there, guys; consider yourself plus two new customers 🙂

Eat here: Gontran Cherrier, Melbourne (pastry)

Gontran Cherrier
140-144 Smith St, Collingwood
http://www.gontrancherrier.com.au/

Around 7 months ago, renowned French patisserie king Gontran Cherrier brought his buttery operation to Melbourne. The bloggers and foodies flocked in droves; I personally couldn’t justify waiting in a line for half an hour to get an over-priced croissant. I finally visited for the first time a few weeks ago, and upon tucking into a golden delicious almond croissant, I finally understood what the fuss was about.

Eager to try more of the beauties in the display window, we made our way back last weekend for breaky. Rolling in for a late breakfast (for us) just before 10am on a Sunday morning, it was pleasantly quiet, with only a few tables occupied – muuuuuch better than the initial rush when they opened!

We ordered a few bits and pieces; husband chose the a quiche Lorraine studded with bacon and Gruyère cheese; I didn’t take a photos of it, but for $8.00, it was a little on the small side. Which was a shame because it was one of the nicest quiches either of us have ever tasted! We also went with a Croque Monsieur – again, not the cheapest toastie at $12.00, but, again, probably the best toasted ham and cheese sandwich I’ve ever had. Buttery and golden, crispy crusts and super soft bread, and that ham and cheese were magic.

I also spied a beautiful long piece of bread spread with Lescure butter and covered in some very pretty, colourful tomatoes. I added that to the order on a whim, not really expecting the husband to be too into it, but turned out he loved it, too. There’s something incredible about a simple bread, butter and tomato dish, when they’re all of the freshest and highest quality.

Those three dishes and a coffee for the husband set us back around $40 – not bad for a Melbourne breakfast, ridiculously over-priced for most other cities, but no regrets here; good food is worth paying more for, in our opinion.

 

We also couldn’t go past a sweet, and took a chocolate croissant home with us to tuck into with some tea and coffee. Nowhere near enough chocolate, but my goodness that pastry is something else. We’ve had the almond croissants there, too (we have a tendency to order an almond croissant whenever possible), and that was pretty spectacular.

We were a little sad that there weren’t any almond croissants left by the time we were leaving… the chocolate one wasn’t a bad back up option, though. Now that the crowds have died down, it’s probably time to head back a bit more often – it’s the perfect spot for a Sunday morning breakfast or coffee session; maybe not every weekend, but definitely those weekend you feel like being a little bit fancy and treating yourself 🙂


Gontran Cherrier Boulangerie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eat here: Sookie La La, Melbourne V.2 (diner)

Sookie La La
593 High St, Northcote
http://www.sookielaladiner.com.au/

It’s hard to believe it was September 2015 when I first visited and blogged about this place… since then, it’s become our favourite Sunday breakfast nook and feels like a second home 🙂

Almost 18 months since that first visit, nothing about Sookie La La is slipping. The service is wonderful, prompt, and most importantly, welcoming and friendly. The booths are perfect – your own private little breakfast nooks. And the standard of the food is still top notch – it’s simple, homely, comforting food that makes you feel like you’re in a favourite aunt’s home.

Husband’s new favourite thing in the world is their fried chicken on waffles. You can probably see why. But tasting it is another story – the waffles are soft and fluffy, and the chicken is perfectly white and tender on the inside, with the perfect crunch on the outside. We’ve eaten a bit of fried chicken, but Sookie La La’s is both of our favourite.

I went with the reuben sandwich, the towering king of bread and corned beef and sauerkraut and pickles and cheese and Russian dressing. This is a proper sandwich. For breakfast or lunch, it’s just magic.

After a long week, when we roll up to their glass front door on a Sunday morning and slide into one of the beautiful wooden booths, it really feels like home. We both seem to sigh in relief as we sit down to a hot pot of strong tea for me and a chocolatey coffee for the husband, always brought over by the ever-smiling lady of the house, and we know that no matter what we order, it’s going to be delicious. We’ve spent many hours planning our #👫WorldTour there. Talking about our weeks at work. Mulling over problems that need solving. Discussing our plans for the future and remembering all of the good and bad from the past. We eventually look out at the street through the shuttered windows with the Sunday morning light streaming in, and reluctantly slide out of our booth to get on with the day. Always knowing we’ll be back soon 🙂

Sookie La La Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eat here: Jethro Canteen, Melbourne (café/brunch)

Jethro Canteen
385 – 389 Burnley St, Richmond
https://www.instagram.com/jethrocanteen/
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Sunday morning breakfast dates are my favourites. And living in Melbourne means there is always a new spot to check out; yesterday, it was Jethro Canteen in Richmond. It’s still relatively new, but is already pretty popular with the locals given the amount of people streaming in and out for coffees.

The space was beautiful;  yes, it was a little bit Melbourne-hipster-cafe-by-numbers, but that exposed brick + bright tile and tea on shelves + bakery style pastry display had me from the get go. Big windows meant we were drenched in summer sun, and it instantly felt like the perfect place to bunk down with a pot of tea and a good book for the morning. Or coffee – husband said it was fantastic.

Unfortunately, the people didn’t feel quite as warm and comfortable as the physical space to start off with. The staff all seemed a little preoccupied and sour, until someome stopped by with a cute dog. The little fluffball seemed to put a smile on everyone’s dials and made them all much more pleasant. The menu, like the cafe, was exciting straight away – husband struggled to decide between the chili dog and the Louisiana plate,  but the jalapeño popper won out in the end. Also on the plate was thick cut bacon steak, poached eggs on corn remoulade smothered toast, chili prawns and guacamole. Other than a slightly overdone egg, no complaints, and his plate was mopped clean. The jalapeño popper was definite highlight, though.

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I struggled to pick between the waffles with cereal milk pannacotta, the white chocolate & almond crumble porridge or the chia pudding, but the latter won out. Coconut and almond milk soaked chia, topped with elderflower jelly, berries, mango puree, vanilla bean cashew cream and granola. I was really disappointed that the granola was pretty much non-existent, because the tiny bit that was on there was amazing! The chia was perfect, the berries were fresh, and the cashew cream was the perfect surprise addition – thick, creamy,  strong vanilla flavour – loved it.

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Despite a few bumps, we both absolutely loved Jethro – the beautiful space and the creative menu (so nice to see something other than smashed avo toast and chili scrambled eggs!) make it the perfect addition to our brunch scene;  we will be back!

Eat here: Tinker, Melbourne (café/brunch)

Tinker
235 High St, Northcote
http://tinkernorthcote.com.au

Another weekend, another breakfast. I used to say brunch until husband pulled me up and said that when we’re up, dressed, out the door and seated with menus in hand by 8.30am, its not brunch. Touché.

Anyway, I decided to have a little browse to check out the new openings in our area (we have high attendance rates at Sookie La La, but do occasionally like to see wha else is going on), and I remembered passing a new looking place when I went to the Northcote Kris Kringle Night Market last week: Tinker.

Online investigation led me to their Instagram page, which told me that Tinker was another product of the team that gave us Legacy Camberwell and Temperance Society. That’s all well and good, but proving yourself in the Northcote brunch scene is no easy feat. So, off we went to see for ourselves.

If I was unsure when we were parking the car, the welcome at my feet swept away most of my fears. It seemed I was certainly in the right place. We were promptly greeted and seated, and had tea and coffee in no time at all. Tea was hot and strong, husband loved the coffee. Off to a solid start.

Ordering was tough for husband, tossing up between chilli scrambled eggs, smashed peas, and eggs benedict, but the eggs benny clinched the win with the jalapeño rosti instead of plain old toast, and Kaiser bacon over ham. Perfectly poached eggs with molten yolk, golden crisp rosti, and a proper slab of bacon. Winning.

I was an easy decision; jaffa hotcakes with orange curd, vanilla mascarpone and chocolate swirled meringue pieces. Just wow. Two thick, dense hotcakes swimming in an incredibly generous pool of tangy curd, heaps of chocolate meringue pieces, and mascarpone that wasn’t too sweet or too cheesy. That was the sweet breakfast I’ve been craving!

The space itself is very clean and crisp, sparsely decorated, which I thought was a bit odd to start with, but once the food started to appear, these bright, colourful dishes looked evennbetter against the basic interior. I understand now, well done interior decoration team.

This whole being spoilt for choice in the breaky and brunch department is not getting even remotely old yet… welcome to the north, Tinker!

Tinker Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eat here: The Old Milk Bar Cafe, Thornbury (brunch)

The Old Milk Bar Cafe
144 Dundas St, Thornbury

Back in Melbourne and back to weekend brunches! And don’t I feel just a bit silly not having visited this place sooner… We’ve been living a stone’s throw from the Old Milk Bar Cafe for a few years, now, and it’s one of those places that’s been on my radar but I just haven’t gotten around to visiting.

We finally made it to the sweet, little, old milk bar converted into a cafe over the weekend. High Street in Thornbury is getting to be a pretty popular location for cafes, but this one’s tucked off the main drag. If you don’t know about it, you’re not likely to stumble upon it, and that was instantly obvious – staff were greeting a lot of customers by name, which was really lovely to see 🙂

I adored the space itself – little touches like the old THE AGE sign on the wall under the kitchen were the perfect throw back to the old days. While the inside of the cafe isn’t enormous (with seating for around 8 on small tables and one larger communal table that seats another 8 or so), the outside patio seating was pretty spacious. And the menu looked great! Husband’s choice was made quickly; he went with the smashed avo – 2 slices of toast with an absolute mountain of smashed avocado, goats curd, and a panko crumbed egg on top. He gave big points for the amount of avocado and how perfectly oozy the egg yolk was, but was a little sad the panko crumbs didn’t stay crunchy.

My choice was even easier again – lemon lime ricotta hotcakes with blueberries. Yes, please!! These were hands down the lightest, fluffiest, most delicious hot cakes I’ve ever had. No competition. No other was to describe it. Absolutely perfect. Swimming in the most delicious citrus curd, and plenty of juicy blueberries. I was told these were a new addition to the menu, and I hope they stay on the menu – I’ll be back for them again. They were magic.

Vietnam was a good time, but no one does brunch like Melbourne. And when places like this are making food this delicious, it’s good to be home 🙂

The Old Milkbar Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato