I love winter. That always seems to be an unpopular statement to make, particularly here in Australia where it sometimes seems as if the very life-blood of the nation survives on sunburn and budgie-smugglers alone. You certainly don’t get anyone lamenting in the middle of summer that they miss rugging up in twenty scarves and going out into a hailing maelstrom. Unless you’re a super weirdo like me, who thinks it’s a good idea to go to places like the Swedish Arctic in the middle of January (I still stand by the awesomeness of that decision!), winter gets a bad rap.
There are some places, however, that know how to deal with winter to make it as pleasant as possible, or at least more bearable for those pining away for warmth.
Grigons & Orr models itself after an old school milk bar, and radiates a twee cuteness which sent me off into fits of aesthetic delight. There’s not many tables inside, but plenty out on the footpath. Which proved to be a bit of a difficulty on the Sunday afternoon I showed up for a solo brunch, as the weather was admittedly vile: rain intermittently sleeting from the sky more horizontally than vertically, and a cruelly frigid wind. Even a winter lover like me was keen on this particular day to admire it from inside rather than out. But all the few tables inside were full! What was I to do, as I looked uneasily outside as a passing woman’s umbrella turned itself inside out?
Grigons & Orr have you covered against wintery calamity in the most grandmotherly way possible, in the form of big, thick crocheted blankets! Wrap yourself in layers of colourful woolen squares and you are more than ready to face sitting outside (which is generally kept dry by the overhanging roof over the footpath). I turned myself into a wooly Michelin man and joined other similarly rugged up punters on the outside tables and looked forward to my meal.
I chose to go with the French toast made of home made brioche, with creme Anglaise and a whole sliced apple poached in a maple-syrup sauce. The brioche was intensely dense, almost to a cake-like consistency, particularly in the way it crumbled when cut through with a knife. The lightly poached and nicely sweet apple slices were absolutely dripping with thick sauce with a toffee-like consistency. The sauce was sweet but not sickly, and combined with the cloud of heaven that was the creme Anglaise, they proved perfect condiments to the thick, not terribly absorbent brioche. Not the best French toast itself I’ve ever had, but definitely some of the most impressive accompaniments.
I also had a delightfully fragrant pot of French earl grey tea. No milk was brought out with it, and there was no sugar pot provided on the outdoor tables, which leads me to believe you must need to collect these things from the counter when you order, but I was far too happily cocooned in my blankets to be bothered with moving. Turns out that I did not need my usual beverage crutches of milk and sugar anyway, it was such a flavoursome brew that I enjoyed it on its own.
As I sat warming my hands with my tea cup, a commotion was heard coming down the street… in the form of a tiny pug puppy! Seriously, this was the most excited tiny pug puppy in the world. She was most particularly excited to discover a human being entirely made of squishy warm blankets, such an experience! An experience that required her to SNUGGLE THE BLANKET PERSON TO DEATH.
Hee hee, tiny pug snuggles! Hmm, what, you need a final pronouncement on Grigons & Orr? Well, I’m certainly keen to go back. It’s cute, the menu is wide-ranging and contained some items I’m very curious to try (including a tofu scramble which very nearly won out over the French toast), and all in all it was a very pleasant, friendly place to hang out in, especially as a lone diner. And if your meal is interrupted by tiny puppies, well, what else do you need in life, you curmugeon, you?
Grigons & Orr
445 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Ph: 0403 515 814