NorthSouth Eatery

It seems that in the past six months or so amazing cafe ventures have been popping up all over the south side of the river like wildfire. Along with Outpost (which I really need to get around to reviewing properly one of these days), one of my favourites is NorthSouth Eatery, which is a leisurely stroll from my workplace and provides a green refuge from the hustling bustle of Chapel Street.

When I say green refuge, I mean GREEN! Quite aside from all the lovely fresh flowers that peep out of vases everywhere, the interior is painted in this really quite gorgeous dark green colour that for some reason I find really calming. It’s a really enjoyable space to sit in with a book, and just relax, perhaps in a spot that lets you see into the open kitchen so you can watch your brunch getting made.

And I’ve experienced quite a few NorthSouth Brunches by now! The very first was in the fine company of Schaefer and Miss Brinkman on a sleepy Sunday morning. Clearly we were all in need of savoury kick-starts that morning in light of our choices!

After much deliberation, I decided to sample the avocado on toast with black pepper. It was comprised of nice thick seedy bread, bright green avocado, and gorgeous tomato slices drizzled with a little olive oil. Adding some Maldon salt from the bowl on the table made it pretty much the prettiest and tastiest breakfast around.

Miss Brinkman went with the leek and zucchini omelette. In her words, it was perfectly cooked, not rubbery or runny, a perfect consistency all the way through. The zucchini was by all accounts AMAZING, and the leek topped it all off into an eggy, savoury delight. I wanted to try a bite, but Miss Brinkman wasn’t letting anyone else touch it!

Schaefer chose the scrambled eggs with bacon on toast. “Tasty,” in Schaef’s brief words. Though he did think that the toast was a bit comically thick (it was at least 3 inches thick, it was a bit absurd).

I did manage to sample something more sweet on my most recent visit: the homemade crumpets with butter and honey. These were just divine, two big crispy crumpets served with honey, a lemon wedge and a perfectly round disc of butter. You can view their beautiosity for yourself, in this awesome photo taken by Miss Brinkman that you can find on her Tumblr, right here (you can also see her muesli, our tea and espresso, and my fingertips eagerly anticipating crumpety goodness).

So there you go, one of my south side brunching favourites. Pop on in next time you’re over the river, get a crumpet, and then have fun watching all the cute dogs trotting past on their daily constitutionals.

NorthSouth Eatery

760 Chapel Street, South Yarra

Ph: 9872 6221

Edit 9/7/2011: After some ownership wranglings, it appears that NorthSouth has had a name change. It is now covered in big red signs that proclaim “BK’s on Chapel” (which has honestly got to be the worst name change in the history of ever, I mean dear lord). It is yet to be ascertained whether they are still running with the same menu.

Friends of Mine

I was actually quite recalcitrant to blog about Friends of Mine after my first visit last November. Normally I can’t wait to blog about a new place, and generally have to be stopped from just blabbering quite incoherently about how everyone has to stampede to whatever new venue has tickled my fancy. But although the food was mind-blowingly amazing, there were a few things about Friends of Mine that made me pause in blogging about it. The first thing was it was very new at the time of my first foray, and clearly was going through the obligatory teething problems. I ascribed several oddities experienced during that visit (waitstaff being very unsure of themselves, an epidemic of missing teaspoons with orders of tea) to this fresh newness. Though I’m still not sure whether being given a bottle of utterly rank water could be due to being new or just an example of sheer what-the-fuck-ness (it did cause one of our party to utter the now immortal line “This water tastes like arse“, which for me will never stop being funny).

Then over the next few months came several reports from other friends who had severe issues with some truly rude waitstaff (seriously, mouth-dropping open, I-can’t-believe-that-actually-happened-type stories). I decided that, despite liking the food, my internal jury was completely out on whether Friends of Mine was somewhere I wanted to recommend, and generally not liking to blog about places that make me ambivalent, I threw it on the back-burner of unfinished posts.

Then a few Saturdays ago Phoebe invited me out for brunch and suggested Friends of Mine. Remembering that the food WAS super awesome, I decided to brave the weirdness that could come our way. Instead of weirdness, I was presented with a highly competent outfit who have clearly gotten themselves into a workable groove, and were dealing with a potentially chaotic high-traffic day with pleasurable aplomb.

The staff were universally cheerful and highly pleasant despite the Saturday brunch-time bedlam. The fellow in charge of the waiting list did a remarkably good job keeping control of the floor and the milling mobs waiting for tables, which is impressive especially given the fact that Friends of Mine is a heck of a lot bigger than most cafes seem to like to be lately. And throughout our meal every waiter that we encountered was unfailingly polite and charming (in relation: to the waiter who looked a little like Jesse Eisenberg, I would like to marry you please), the food and beverages all arrived in a timely fashion despite the full house, and all in all the experience quite changed our opinion on the level of staff friendliness at this place, especially for Phoebe, to whom one of the incidents of incredulously jaw-dropping staff behaviour had occurred.

Anyway, enough of that, to the food! I ordered the folded eggs with herbs on wholemeal toast, accompanied by some sides of smashed avocado and thyme-buttered mushrooms. A quite sizable volcano of food came out. The ocean of folded eggs were delightfully creamy, though the promised herbs seemed a little thin on the ground. The mushrooms were just as delightful as I remembered from my first visit, all permeated with that gorgeous, slightly smoky tang that only thyme can provide, and the avocado was amply spread across the bread, all smooth and eye-poppingly green. The only thing I kind of felt would make the dish perfect would have been some just-wilted baby spinach, though this may just be my ravenous need to have spinach in EVERYTHING lately talking.

Phoebe had practically the same dish as me, piled high with both mushrooms and avocado, except having poached eggs instead of my folded ones. “Eggs and mushrooms, I will conquer the weirdness of both!” she said gleefully. Weirdness was indeed conquered, with both of us endeavouring as hard as we could to clear our plates. Which was quite hard given the sheer size of the dishes!

Egg mountain or not, each of us were determined to finish with a sweet. We each chose one of the little cupcakes on offer. My was coconut and lemon flavoured, and was quite delicious: crumbly, buttery cake shot through with a sharp lemon tang, and an icing softly accented with lemon, and shredded coconut sprinkled on top. Combine that with a tea, and I was rendered quite content.

So there you go, a reminder that sometimes one visit is sometimes not enough to get an accurate read on a place. Question for other bloggers: do you tend to visit a place multiple times in order to suss out a more complete vibe before reviewing, or do you stick by a one visit policy under the belief that cafes and restaurants should be consistent? While I have a tendency to blog by the latter standard, I’m glad I gave Friends of Mine a second chance. The service may have proved itself to be inconsistent yet improving, but the food itself (which is the most important in a lot of ways) just keeps being excellent.

Friends of Mine

506 Swan Street, Richmond

Ph: 9428 7516

Broadsheet Cafe

So today I was able to amble down to the temporary cafe that Broadsheet have set up in Crossley Street as a part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. I’d been hearing about the cafe for quite a while, seeing as Jess is a Broadsheet intern, and I even scored an invite to the opening night party, which I sadly had to decline as I couldn’t get out of work that night. Boo-urns!

The cafe is set up in a long, thin shop, with some tables and seating up front (including a bench made out of a long piece of blond-coloured wood stacked on about a billion copies of Broadsheet), with the imposing Synesso coffee machine glowering at you from up the back. The black walls inform you, through the white writing scritched on them, that the sandwiches are provided by EARL Canteen, the pastries by Baker D Chirico, and the macarons by LuxBite. Heading up this pretty fine looking list of contributors are a rotating range of coffee providers: Seven Seeds, Proud Mary, Market Lane, Dead Man Espresso, The Premises and Five Senses.

The usual suspects had presented themselves in order to investigate this temporary cafe venture – Jess, Emma, Claire and Bennett. The others had already scarfed down some sandwiches and were engaged in coffee and gossip by the time I shambled up, and one simply cannot face juicy workplace gossip on an empty stomach, so I went and got an EARL sandwich to fortify myself. I never quite got the full lowdown on what exactly was in it, but from what I could make out there was a lovely fat seam of egg salad, complimented with vibrant green baby spinach leaves and some delicately soft braised mushrooms. Being that Broadsheet Cafe are getting these sandwiches delivered by EARL and keep them in a fridge until you eat them, the quality is slightly less than you would get from a made-to-order one at EARL itself (the bread in particular seems to toughen up significantly from the cold of the fridge), but if you’re too far away from EARL to comfortably visit on your lunch break, this is an acceptable alternative in sampling some EARL goodness.

I also overcame my general distaste for coffee and actually ordered one – hey, I figured with all these fab coffee folks around even an avowed tea drinker like me would have to enjoy it! Also, I don’t think they were even offering any tea.

The coffee on offer was today provided by Market Lane. My mocha was definitely stacked fiercely on the side of coffee rather than chocolate; not being used to such a strong coffee I fairly gasped from the shock. But it grew on me a little by the end of the cup – a very earthy, almost harsh blend, but with a mellowing aftertaste. Still, don’t think I’m going to become a regular coffee drinker any time soon!

A delivery person arrived through the doorway with a giant pallet of macarons. Given the fact that Jess, Claire, Emma and my heads all swung simultaneously in order to follow the macarons’ path, it was collectively decided that us girls were going to have to sample them. Preceded by a brief crazy rant on my behalf on the differences in pronunciation between ‘macaron’ and ‘macaroon’ (“I used to get so angry when I’d hear goddamn food industry professionals say ‘macaROON’ on Masterchef, I’d end up throwing things at the TV. MACARON, people, dear god, is it so hard?!”), we had delivered to our table three creme brulee flavoured beauties, and a watermelon one.

I ended donating half my macaron to Bennett, who had somehow missed out on ordering one and was resorting to being a giant mooch. Breaking it in half meant that I kind of mooshed all the texture out of it, but flavour-wise it was quite lovely. I was particularly pleased that you could discern vanilla bean flecks in the ganache. Emma’s watermelon one was gorgeous, with one half being red, the other green. I’m very intrigued as to how watermelon would translate in macaron form… I’m going to have to go back and try one, aren’t I?

So all in all, a very interesting operation and well worth a visit. Be quick, though; Broadsheet Cafe will only be operating until next Monday the 14th of March. After that, you’ll just have to visit all these cafe superstars separately!

Broadsheet Cafe

24 Crossley Street, Melbourne CBD