B'FST, Melbourne styley

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Too many things, there are just too many things that I want to write about on my little blog. I mentioned previously that i had made a recent trip to Melbourne. A city which I absolutely love - so much so that i can pretty much see myself living there one day. What is it about Melbourne that pulls at my heart? Coffee, food and laneways full stop (.) - and friends of course :P The trams are also a bonus. I'm sure this hunger for expenditure must be a generational thing, yay for Gen-Yers! We are well and truly fuelling the Australian economy. Well, I'm doing my part anyway.

Anywho, so last week I went for a 3 day trip down to Melb with an old work friend of mine, S. It was completely a spur of the moment thing, we literally booked the Friday morning to leave on Monday. Spontaneity for these kinds of things (impromptu minibreaks!!!) just adds to the excitement. We arrived at about 11pm on Monday night, dropped by a minibus on the side of Queen Vic markets. Now I'm not sure if you know the area, but it's sort of like sydney's Haymarket - an awesome food market during the day but abandoned and a bit on the dodgy side at night. I suppose the thick fog didn't help much. Anyway we found our lodging quickly and fell asleep ready for a huge day ahead...

The next morning was overcast with a decided wind chill in the mix. Typical. First stop was brekkie at Cumulus Inc. a wee diner on Flinders Lane (google maps anyone?) set up by chef Andrew McConnell - who has become some sort of demi-god on the melbourne restaurant scene. On route to the cafe we dropped into the Press Club to make a dinner reservation. They'll be more on that later ;) S and i had been scouring through the several restaurant guides i had brought with me on the plane (some would call me a food nerd). I'm sure the snoozing lady in our row didn't appreciate our squealing as we resolved to visit some of the hatted restaurants in town.

Cumulus Inc. 
15/20, one hat (The Age, 2011)
Readying ourselves for a big day of EOFYS shopping, the first coffee of the day was in order. The cappuccino that I had was brilliant, with plenty of foam that didn't deflate as soon as it was set on the table (take note baristas). Tick! I ordered the Cumulus Inc. breakfast (akin to a house special) which included a boiled egg (i would have liked soft boiled but forgot to ask/clarify), toast, preserves, natural yoghurt with winter compote (rhubarb and the like), organic orange juice & coffee. Can't complain really. The table next to us had ordered the shakshouka (baked eggs with roasted peppers and marinated Persian fetta) which smelt divine. Look, our trip really was too short...

The door signage. Flashy, but me likey. Weird, I seem to have a thing for signs on this blog. This shot is by Studio Round, the design firm responsible for the logo handiwork.
Another big plus for me is the interior design. This place has a really high set ceiling making it feel really spacey, with classic modern table settings - basically the kind of place i like to find myself (does that make any sense?). There is a proper bar by the windows along with front row seats of the kitchen (where all the action happens) and then the usual table/chair set up in between. It's a pretty nifty space. And I didn't seem to mind the scraping of chairs on the floor boards after a while. Apparently, you can also book them (as in Andrew McConnell and chefs) to cater private functions, within the Arc Gallery which is just next door - how handy...!

What I'm going on about. Isn't it gorg?! It's a miracle what a wide angle lens can do for a place. This still is from Australian Traveller who rate Cumulus Inc. #45 in Australia's top 100 gourmet experiences - okily dokily! 
Gee, i should be employed by tourism Australia. I do apologise for my personal lack of input on the photo front but i haven't entirely mastered the "subtle-camera-whip-out-to-take-an-instant-masterpiece" move yet. I did try however, and surely that must count for something? P.S. the restaurant pic i took had some crepy random lady, standing outside the door peering in. Slightly awkward and she probably didn't want to be in the spotlight. Moving on however...

Mr Tulk 
1/3 cups translating as very good coffee and food (The Age cafe guide, 2011)
This dinky place is the cafe attached to the State Library of Victoria and is a veritable gem. There's nothing better than catching up with the melbourne crew, and introducing them to 'new' spots. It strikes me as kind of funny but when you count the urban sprawl that goes on (Sydney is heaps worse let me tell you), most people live around the city and not in it (well, obviously). If you find the name intriguing, the cafe's namesake is Augustus Tulk, the SLV's 1st librarian. It's like his name (character) is straight out of a novel :) 

Monsieur Tulk. Man, I was sweating over how to merge these jpegs lol. I love the old school high arch windows, how do I get me some of those? Big central tables seem to be en vogue around these parts e.g. Journal cafe on Flinders Lane
The staff are friendly and the vibe is cheerful. The coffee is decent (pretty much all melbourne coffee is decent, as in very good and above Sydney's par) and my standard 'cap' order went down a treat.  Foodwise, I ordered the corned beef hash with 2 poached eggs and dijon mustard. This brekkie is apparently a must try, recommended by someone (I forgot who - i do a lot of food reading, okay). I was a bit perplexed by the prospect of 'corned beef hash' but it turned out well. It's essentially a hash brown, with shreds of corned beef incorporated. The thing is then shaped into a plump sausage-like shape (different from the picture), crumbed and cooked. Btw, the poached eggs were perfectly spherical orbs (how, i don't know) and had beautiful running yolks :D You can't say I'm a tough critic, but i do like my eggs done right. Haha   

Corned beef hash @ Mr Tulk circa 2007. Still by Agnes and her DSLR (i'm jealous).     

Brother Baba Budan
3/3 cups i.e. the best coffee and great food in a special setting; in some cases, the best coffee but limited food (The Age cafe guide, 2011) - i believe BBB falls into the latter category, sadly.
Now, on our last night, S and I stumbled across (not the drunken type btw) this place completely by chance after 'de-meandering' back home from a laneway bar, Murmur. Of course, the name BBB rang a bell - the name is pretty distinctive, nevermind the chairs they have for a roof. BBB is another spawn (i write as if it were a bad thing) of the Seven Seeds coffee empire that is taking over Melbourne one cafe at a time...

See what I mean?! BBB have effectively made a puny space punier but it just works for some reason. You can thank my phone for the blurriness, it makes for artistic effect.
So the next morning we hopped on a tram down Lizzie street to Little Bourke where this little nook resides. I was a bit trepidatious (lol) because it looked like the place was chockers, which it was. But the sweet thing about being in Melbourne during the working week is that most places are pretty quiet... Yay, for the suits who only had time to grab a takeaway double shot long black in their keep-cups. BBB feels like the kind of joint that is opened and run by a bunch of friends who have license over the coffee machine (a great monstrosity of a thing, probably equivalent to a Rolls in the caffeinated world) and the soundtrack. It is very laid-back (apart from the coffee orders that keep rolling in), which is a nice step back from the freneticism (here i go making up words again) of the sidewalk metres away. 

Somehow, we managed to get a seat right in front of the pastry cabinet. How convenient! Apparently the Russian pastries are the ones people go on about but there wasn't anything russian in sight so we opted for some almond croissants instead (old faithful). My order of a regular (full fat, ftw!) cap came out looking pretty as a picture. I must say, though it was very good, I was expecting a little bit more (some of it must be due to hype). I thought the coffee at Cumulus Inc. was a touch better (more creamy and better depth of flavour), but maybe it's because that was the first coffee of the trip and my first great coffee in ages...? I dunno, to be honest I really am nitpicking here. 

Now how could I write a Melbourne coffee/cafe post without showing off some coffee art? That is one good-looking coffee fern...lol
All in all, nowhere else in Australia is the cafe culture as strong as in Melb, Sydney tries really really hard and doesn't quite get there. Melbourne probably has more cafes/coffee vendors/baristas per capita than anywhere else in the world. But I really can't argue against it if the results are this good. A bit of healthy competition never hurt anybody now did it :P xo


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