Friday, February 19, 2010

Close to home. Er, work.

We have a little guilty pleasure, at work. Downstairs from our office is our regular coffee haunt, the large food-hall style cafe Hydra.

Every morning at 7:30am, Nick and Sam would cheerily serve very good coffee with a smile and a twenty word download of the night before. Occasionally, we are enticed to eat breakfast or lunch, and rarely are we disappointed.

On this occasion (the end of December), we (WP and I) decided to stop in for a working breakfast. We were celebrating some small victory, and we decided to splash out on the chef's brekky special. Huevos Rancheros.

Avacado, jalapenos, refried beans, salsa, sour cream, a tortilla, and eggs poached just SO, it was such a surprise I instantly decided to make it my post for the week.

Perhaps it was also the sense of victory, or the comfort of home, but it so far ranks very highly in my estimations of breakfast venues in Melbourne. The great irony however, is that the chef hates cooking it so much he's now taken it off the menu!

He may make it for you, if you ask very nicely, but just make sure you don't tell him I said it was ok.

7/10 + .5 for my personal bias :)

Needs a little tweeking

If I only go to the big name brekky venues, I tell myself quite often, then I couldn't find the hidden gems. The one's you're all talking about.

Tweek, on Bridge Road, is not a hidden gem.

It is hidden though; it took me twenty minutes to find it on an otherwise quite flashy street.

For a venue ostensibly set up to deal with the breakfast crowd, there were two immediate issues; we ordered two different types of breakfasts that they'd run out of (not Meredith again!) and when I finally ordered a mexican style breakfast wrap, it just wasn't that nice. Yucky eggs.

Service wise, we might as well have been at a lunch cafe in Sunshine, for all that they seemed to want us there.

I went with my business partner and one of our advisors for a breakfast meeting, and while we got what we needed out of the venue (i.e. something that didn't tempt us into a pre-midday beer), everything else was a little limp.

4.5 / 10 (my lowest yet?)

Tweek away.

Birdman, eating

I made a rookie mistake in preparing to eat at this next venue, a popular brekky spot on Gertrude Street in Fitzroy; the much-venerated Birdman Eating.

I read reviews first.

Not that there is anything wrong with people writing reviews about breakfast venues. Or reading them! In fact, suggesting that there was would probably put me in the category of such famous hypocrites as George W Bush, Dubya, and George Bush Jnr.

A little like taking Trip Advisor at face value though - which I've done, with regret - I read about coffees taking forever, terrible service, bad food, and an awful atmosphere, and I believed them.

So when KB and I arrived for our breakfast foray, I was pre-prepared to be pessimistic. On the occasion that I visited, however, I am happy to say that it was instead a briskly paced, well timed and pleasantly proper place.

Coffee, for instance, was great and served quickly. Cranky hangover types were dealt with with smiles and alacrity, and while there was an unaccountably perturbed table ("can't you do something about this noise?" My answer: "would you like us all to be a bit quieter, you little tw&t, all thirty of us?" Her answer "Would you like to sit outside instead sir?") the hustle and bustle felt like a well-oiled machine.

And the food? KB's sauteed mushrooms and the parmesan toast, just fine. No complaints. The big however?

I have an issue with the baked eggs. I think they're trying too hard. When I compare the baked eggs at Birdman Eating (any of the four varieties, but on this occasion I had the Mediterranean) to Liar Liar, or Cumulus... they're a poor second cousin. And these meals are clearly the piece de resistance of this little place, the clever trick, the novel idea.

But they're just average. OK. Not mind-blowing.

So while I was impressed by so much about this place, and perhaps because of and not in spite of the reviews I'd read before, the big bang was instead a fizzle. I'll give it 7.5 out of 10, with .5 off for trying too hard. 7/10.

Guys, do ONE style of baked eggs exceptionally well!

Ignoring the obvious

Ok. So we're going to ignore the fact that I've failed to post since December 13. Just... pretend it dídn't happen.

I have been eating, you know. Breakfasts even. Just not posting.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A tale of two breakfasts...

So the question is, which breakfast do I review? Darn it, you'll get two-for-one this week.

The weekend saw me at the much-venerated Meredith Music Festival, as much about the music as for individuals in incredibly skinny jeans to show off their latest piercing or ink. No, seriously, I saw the world's skinniest man at Meredith... he could fit sideways through a closed door.

Meredith being Meredith, there is no doubt that breakfast is going to be accompanied by its friend Mr Hangover, and on both mornings he perched merrily on my shoulder, shouting into my ear and clapping little drums in beat with my footsteps.

There are quite a few breakfast stalls to choose from, and it must do a roaring trade, what with the munchies and all. We chose one of the traditional, nameless breakfast venues on the first morning, and after KB waited in one line for breakfast for 45 minutes, and I waited a similar time for coffee - served by a Barista from Pippa May Cook who I recognised last time as well - we sat on our foldaway chairs and listened to the first crappy band and prepared for our feast.

Oh and what a feast it was. To our nutrient-famished, dehyrdated bodies, no Cumulus nor Grossi nor Fat Duck itself could compare. A Breakfast wrap with bacon, cheese (cheese!) and (can you believe it?) runny eggs. Bless. I give you, oh nameless brekky venue, a solid 7 out of 10.

Like light and dark, however, Sunday's breakfast efforts were a sharp contrast. I'd like to say that I tried something different, that second day, and I attempted to - a breakfast Roti (under a sign saying, hotties eat rotis, hahaha) but after twenty five minutes of waiting in line, the charming lady behind the counter stated "Sorry guys, there's only fourteen Rotis left, so you, you, you, you..." I don't think there's any surprise that I was number fifteen in line.

Thank F%*K I got my coffees first.

So it was a more traditional wrap I procured, after trudging to the back of a line that seemed to have multiplied, only to be disappointed that the much celebrate bacon bits had, in fact, run out like $2 panties at a Myer's Boxing day sale only fifteen minutes before.

Hmmmmm. 3.5 / 10.

A massive upside to this was the delicious sample of a breakfast calzone I had from a friend.

Hat's off to you, the entrepreneurial (and nameless) Calzone stall-holder at Meredith for such an insightful pairing.

There was some music played at said Meredith, between all the breakfasts and the beer, and hats were definitely off to Paul Kelly, Wagons, and some grudging admiration to Sia (who was a little annoying but had an amazing voice).

Well, dear readership of two, this Christmas weekend we'll have to find some room in between christmas puddings and whole legs of lamb to sample some Christmas brekky cheer.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Is the Pope Benedict?

My brother argues that Eggs Benedict is the true measure of a breakfast venue's supremacy. The colour and texture of the Hollandaise must be just so, the muffin crisp, the eggs (of course) pleasantly runny. I didn't hold to my brother's religious observance of EB at every venue, but I was definitely ready to put it to the test.

On the Sunday just past, my proposed brekky with the boys had dissolved into brekky with the Boy, my two-and-a-half year old champion kid, Noah. I say champion, but last weekend he was more like a champion boxer, with all the attitude and bravado to go along with it. We butted heads repeatedly (in between his loud declarations that 'I love you daddy') and I was NOT feeling like Dad of the year.

So what I really wanted was a place where somehow, somehow, I could occupy his attention whilst eating and enjoying my meal. We'd meandered up High Street, and was considering heading across to Brunswick St, when I was reminded of Mosskito - you know, the one near the art deco Maccas. Or near the Scarlet Lady, you depraved fiends.

Mosskito (205-211 Queens Pde, North Fitzroy) is situated in an imposing-looking building, but my experiences here over the years have been hit and miss, well, more miss than hit. Coffee, service, food and price have all copped a mental schelacking from me at one point or another.

This time, however, was so vastly different as to leave me at the end of the meal wondering if I'd come to the same place. The service was spot on, jovial, boisterous and very accommodating, and the guy that served me clearly the lynch-pin of the team's apparent lift in customer service.

Eating the eggs benedict after expecting so little was almsot a holy experience, and while there criticisms (not seasoned enough and the sauce maybe just a little thin), it was good enough to have me licking the plate. Nothing better than teaching your son bad manners!

The coffee was good but a little small (my cappucino not much bigger than Noah's babycino) and price wise it was perfect.

At the end it was the service that shone through, and the utter acceptance of a terror doing sprint laps around the tables almost enough for me to wish that I could afford to tip.

Noah really enjoyed his toast too :)

Verdict? 7.5/10, not orgasmic but better than the standard fare.

Next week? I'll be at Meredith Music Festival, so it's the breakfast of the music-weary and hungover!

Monday, November 30, 2009

To begin with...everything

What do I love about breakfast?

To begin with... Everything.

I love the atmosphere of shared hangovers and glare, of days that only start with the first sip of coffee, of the anticipation of steaming hot poached eggs that ooze yolk so deliciously.

I am a breakfast addict.

So naturally over time, I've come to appreciate some breakfasts more than others, some venues more than others, and some service more than others. Usually my company is pretty good :)

What cemented that I should really do this was Breakfast Experience # 1 at The Bean Counter in Fairfield, a chic cafe populated with all of the Fairfield cool kids and young trendy families. It's a fairly serene setting - barring the train station opposite - and ivy clings to the external walls and it has all the hallmarks of a good cafe.

KB (we'll introduce her later) and I were Hung Over. (Perhaps I should also give a HO rating to each of these meals?)

And we were hungry. The place was packed, and we had to wait to sit, which in my opinion is always a good sign and I'll never complain. Coffee service was instantaneous and it certainly was good coffee.

And yet during the 50 minutes we waited for our meals, it dawned on me that this was nothing at all like our favourite breakfast haunt, P********* (you don't think I'd give that away just yet, do you?). No service with a smile, no pzaz in the menu, and anywhere that charges $3.50 for wilted spinach earns an immediate no.

When our meals finally did arrive, the cardinal sin of Breakfast occurred. No I would not like HP!, there is no substitue for worcestershire sauce!

And so I decided, dear reader (well I'm pretty sure I'll make Waz read it, so I can say that with confidence), that there was nothing for it but to catalogue my exploration of mid-morning (ok, sometimes it's mid-afternoon) breakfasts so that others may celebrate in the delights and manoeuvre through the pitfalls I uncover during my expedition.

And the meals? The Veg Brekkie (I had) was O.K., but the serves were small and the real value adds (home made baked beans, mushrooms) were extras, obliterating the seemingly cheap and cheerful menu. The eggs though were poached and perfect, and the ceremony of the Cut indeed led to a Run of delightful yellow gooeyness that I spread all over the bread and cheerfully indulged myself in.

The Corn Fritters that KB tried were underwhelming, tasting more like fluffy corn pancakes and slightly limp, certainly nothing like the crisp flavourful delight we'd anticipated...

The outdoor area also was perfect, and I can definitely imagine trying other brekky meals there with Noah as it does have a cute little area for him to play and destroy things.

Overall, I will give it a 6/10. I have high standards for my breakfast people!

Next week I'll be enjoying breakfast on Sunday with some of the Boys, and indeed the smallest one, my son. Where should I go???