Residents love their brunch in North Melbourne. Their addiction is fuelled by an abundance of cafés , all walking distance from the quaint victorian style housing that gives the suburb it’s old world charm. Dissimilar to other Melbourne hotspots where cafes are concentrated around a single street, cafés are more spread out in the North. What appears to be a quiet suburban street, usually is home to 1-2 ‘hidden’ cafés. In this suburb, word of mouth is more important than prime location. The following is a guide to brunching in North Melbourne:
Auction Rooms – the most well known of the suburb, serves as a roastery and cafe in one. Preserving the integrity of the heritage building, brunchers are greeted by iron signage and a charming, dilapidated blue facade. Coffee is a big drawcard, with beans sourced from premium coffee regions, freshly roasted and served to coffee worshippers around Melbourne.
The menu is diverse and at times a tad kooky. The ‘Shady Deal’ is a Shakshouka of eggs, eggplant, and chickpeas braised with a mixture of aromatic spices and dukkah. The dish can be overpowering to some, so be wary if you are not a fan of strong Mediterranean flavours. On the kookier end was the crispy pork belly, wrapped in a thin corn crepe, with a smother of coffee BBQ sauce, and a side of fried poached eggs. Coffee in sauce? Slightly unusual, but it works.
Pork Belly w/ Corn Crepe, Coffee BBQ Sauce, Fried Poached Eggs
Shady Deal – Moroccan Tomato & Chorizo Stew, Eggplant, Olives, Poached Eggs, Dukkah w/ Grilled Flat Bread
This diminutive corner café is North Melbourne’s hidden secret. Dozens of egg whisks swing above a glass cabinet, that encase an alluring array of baked goods: fluffy lemon chiffon, layers of red velvety goodness and endless buttercream. The cakes are a mixture of traditional and surprising flavour combinations, baked with love and expertise. The star of the show is the Red Velvet: layers of moist, fluffy red velvet smothered in a rich buttercream, and sprinkled with crunchy chocolate waffle balls. Beatrix also do a range of delicious sandwiches and baguettes to balance the sugar intake 😉 .
Red Velvet Cake
Cafe 345 is a chocoholic’s dream, locals swear by the thick traditional Italian hot chocolate coming in 20 varieties of interesting flavours, ranging from banana to white chocolate, to other oddities ( need to come back to try!). Menu also includes a range of savoury galettes and sweet crepes. The cafe itself is consistently quiet, and undeservedly so; considering the crepes were quite good – thin, crisp and generously adorned with sweet toppings. Perhaps the savoury menu is discouraging? Lacklustre pies and sandwiches unfortunately won’t cut it, in this competitive suburb.
In observation, many average dessert places are packed to the brink on busy nights (e.g Desserts by Night in Maribyrnong). The predominant reason being the absence of non-franchise dessert houses in the Western and Northern suburbs. Perhaps this would be a good opportunity for Cafe 345 to consider night time operation. Just a silly blogger idea
Banana caramel crepes
DI BELLA COFFEE ROASTING HOUSE
North Melbourne residents are blessed when it comes to coffee. With Auction Rooms nearby, this is the suburb’s second roasting house. Di Bella is a Melbourne staple, whose blends are enjoyed across the Melbourne cafe scene, cementing our obsession with the little brown bean. The bean is king, freshly roasted and served to customers, whilst they enjoy the inner workings of a roasting house.
The ‘Crispy Pork Jowel’ and ‘ Prawn Brioche Roll’ represent artery clogging goodness. Son-in- Law eggs, fried until golden brown with an explosion of oozy golden yolk, was an exemplary alternative to the poached or scrambled varieties. Everything in moderation, correct? 😉 For quality brunch, Di Bella never disappoints.
Elceed is a cosy low-key café, sheltered from the hustle and bustle of brunch crowds. With Melbourne queues and overeager foodies (guilty as charged), it’s easy to overlook the quintessential objective of a cafe – to provide a casual and relaxing environment for friends to catch-up over coffee. With high turnover requirements, staff that work at the latest and hottest cafés can develop somewhat of a entitled attitude (you just work here, honey, you don’t own the damn place). I will refrain from mentioning which North Melbourne brunch-spot has this attitude, but it certainly is refreshing to relax at Elceed, and not have to be concerned about table turnover. Food is top notch too.
Dodge the crowds at Auction Rooms and pay the neighbouring Fandango a visit. The menu is uncomplicated and simple, providing customers with a base choice of eggs and sides to choose from. The most flavoursome were the curried eggs, served with indian spiced chickpeas and spicy brinjal vegetables. I have to admit that Indian Food and my stomach are acquainted enemies, but the allure of warm roti bread and aromatic spices was too great.
Fandango also demonstrate a great passion for pickling, taking neighbourhood donations and leftovers to bottle a range of sauces, preserves and chutneys. The Mango Kasundi, a rich tomato pickle with a hint of mango, for tartness and depth of flavour is the most appealing. The café incorporate these flavours in their own dishes, but customers can also purchase a bottle to take home.
Curried Eggs w/ Indian Spiced Chickpeas, Fried Eggs, Spicy Brinjal Vegetables, Pickle, Minted Yoghurt, Warm Roti Bread
GRIGONS & ORR
Half corner-shop, half café , Grigons & Orr takes you back in time to a retro era of tea cosies and old school milkshakes. The shelves are stacked with nostalgic and current goodies, firmly resembling a neighbourhood corner-store. Admittedly, the menu is anything but nostalgic, with dishes inspired from cuisines around the globe. Dishes with an international twist included Kimchi Corned Beef, Breakfast Burritos and a classic Shakshouka.
The fried chicken with crispy fried brussel sprouts and crumpets, represented Southern cuisine. Unfortunately, it could not make me a fan of brussel sprouts. Brussel sprouts will remain forever blasphemous in my eye, however; the wickedly indulgent Tim Tam milkshake was enough for a hypothetical apology. The presentation of dishes could be improved; however strong flavours and an international twist makes Grigons a solid competitor.
MISS KATIE’S CRAB SHACK
Napkins and towelettes ahoy! You will need your fingers at Miss Katie’s Crab Shack for some Southern style dining. Technically, not brunch, this is an alternative to when cravings go beyond a big breakfast. The crustacean inspired decor signals heavily that crab is the signature dish. With a humorously large bib and mallet, smash your way through the signature crab boil, seasoned generously with Old Bay and boiled in a mixture of spices and aromatics. Bring your crab whacking strength, but it’s best to leave the whites at home.
TWENTY AND SIX
If you find yourself growing tiresome of standard brunch fare – Twenty and Six is the way to go. Creative menu options and quirky plating makes dishes such as ‘The Hunter’ and ‘ The Russian’ worthy brunch contenders. When these dishes were removed, I was a tad disappointed. But with any great business, experimentation and change is pivotal for achieving novelty and excitement. Being a big fan of savoury french toast and ANYTHING truffled, the ‘ Truffled Brioche French Toast’ was an easy choice. Perfectly slow poached eggs, not an ounce of rubbery texture, delicate egg whites, exploding with oozy golden yolk, resting upon a bed of asparagus, whipped goat’s cheese and an immensely satisfying savoury brioche. Twenty and Six is no doubt a standout in Melbourne.
Ham Hock in Baked Beans w/ Smoked Chorizo, Spanish Morcilla, Poached egg, Garlic toast
Truffled Brioche French Toast w/ Braised Mushrooms, Asparagus, Whipped goats’ cheese, Herbs, Slow Poached egg
THE FRENCH QUARTER – PATISSERIE BOULANGERIE
The French Quarter serves an array of pastries and cakes, perfect for an after brunch sweet treat. The decorative planter boxes, bright spring flowers and rustic woven chairs, add an element of Parisian authenticity. The interior is disappointingly clinical with bare walls and cabinets, which is a shame considering the charmingly beautiful al fresco area.
Quantity over quality wins any time with menu selection, however it is questionable whether the quality of the almond croissants, pastries and cakes are enough to account for the limited selection. Nonetheless, the lemon tart was zesty and fresh, and the cheesecake demurely subtle.