A couple of Sunday mornings ago, I waved The Boy off on his bicypede on his way to training, and realised that I had a good two hours to fill up before having to meet my friends at the Astor to watch Doctor Zhivago. Hmm, what to do, what to do. I decided to wander over to Balaclava in order to check out whether Las Chicas was quiet (read: less than 15 people waiting out on the pavement) enough to attempt getting breakfast. Alas, the pavement was thronging with masses of hungry-looking people with apparently dire hangovers requiring eggs, stat. I have limited waiting patience, so I was stumped for where I was going to eat.
“Hang on!” said a wee voice inside my head. “Isn’t Monk Bodhi Dharma on Carlisle Street somewhere?” “It IS!” I answered it excitedly (yes yes, I have conversations with the voices in my head, do not pretend to be SURPRISED). But where exactly? The little voice hesitated, and my mind started frantically trying to recall the various blog posts I’d read about the place. The little voice finally came up with “… behind the Safeway?”
I ambled to the Safeway, and lo and behold there was a little sign leading up an alleyway to a tiny brick hut. I had made it! And it was lucky I was a lone diner, because the little place was heaving at the seams. I slipped onto the end of a bench that faced the coffee machine, the last space, and eagerly looked to the menu.
Vegetarians should be very happy here, as I was when I saw the menu was completely veg-friendly. Yay! Let’s do a dance. I was of course completely seduced by the thought of a sweet breakfast, and despite seeing some absolutely massive bowls of bircher muesli floating around, I always figure if you’re going to go sweet you may as well go decadent. Hence I went with the Madagascan French toast, which was two slices of sourdough toast slathered in caramelised banana, citrus marscapone and a smattering of chopped pistachios. The carmelised banana was sweet, sweet, SWEET! Yet luckily the marscapone proved to be quite tart so my palate didn’t end up being overwhelmed, and the dish all together was quite delicious. I was very nearly defeated by the sheer size of it (portions at Monk are very generous, just how I like them), but never fear, your intrepid correspondent won out in the end.
Monk Bodhi Dharma seems to have attracted so much attention due to its coffee, they have single-origin beans and individual grinders and siphons and a whole lot of other technical-sounding stuff that I don’t really give a jot about seeing as I think coffee tastes like death. But what really IMPRESSED me (look, capitals, that’s how much I was affected) was that they also put equal effort into their tea, the true beverage of champions. My Irish Breakfast was infused for five minutes before it reached my bench, which means it was lovely and full bodied without the need to keep the tea leaves in the pot. It also meant no gross, over-steeped second cup, which is what happens with a pot left full of leaves. To pour out a second, perfect tea was such an overwhelmingly wonderful thing I quite honestly could have wept.
I was very impressed with Monk Bodhi Dharma, and am enormously keen to go again. The space and staff were both very welcoming, especially for a lone diner. If I’m not feeling nervous while somewhere new on my own and actually end up enjoying myself and feeling comfortable, that to my mind is indicative of a good atmosphere. My only quibble would be that, considering the small space, it may not be a place to go with a big group of people on a busy weekend. Otherwise, it really is a perfect little place.
I voyaged off to the Astor with a satisfied belly and a new cafe to place up among my favourites. And as for Doctor Zhivago, oh my goodness, it was amazing, get off your butts now and watch it and develop a severe crush on Omar Sharif or Tom Courtenay, or both, it’ll do you good.
Monk Bodhi Dharma
Rear 202 Carlisle Street, Balaclava
Ph: 9534 7250