The Ladies Who Lunch recently convened together for a long awaited event – this was to be our chocolate lunch, a reward for Jess and Kim finishing uni forever, and me because, well, I just deserve chocolate in general. So the plan was to go to L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe and stuff ourselves with chocolate and delicate pastries until we couldn’t stand it any more.
But as you may have noticed, this post is not entitled L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe and for very good reason, as when we all gathered outside the red door on Lygon Street, we were sad to discover that chocolatey French delights were not to be ours on a Monday as they were closed! WOE.
“Well, what are we going to do NOW?” Jess asked. I whipped up Where’s the Beef on my phone to figure out what was nearby. “Gingerlee, New Day Rising…”
“I saw a nice looking place on the way in,” said Kim. “Pope… Pope something…”
“POPE JOAN?” Jess and I shouted in unison, both of our faces glazing over in worshipful wonder. Once the name had been floated, there was no further question of where we were going.
Inside Pope Joan is all light and airy inside with warm wood finishes everywhere, but the place to be on a sunny day is out in the courtyard, nestled on surprisingly comfortable park benches set on top of astro-turf, with garden beds and pots of herbs in reach for you to sniff at.
It was quite hard to narrow down the delicious-sounding menu to just one option. I ended up erring on the side of eggs and ordered the asparagus, mozzarella and herb omelette.This was the most impressive (and giant!) omelette I had seen in quite a while; a roulade-shaped mass of egg encasing whole spears of asparagus and ever so stretchy mozzarella. And just in case all those spears weren’t enough to satisfy your ravenous need for asparagus, there were also tiny sliced discs of asparagus layered in the omelette batter itself. It was rich, is was cheesy, it was gussy, it was the high god king of omelettes, and I did not shut up about it to anyone I came across in the week after I consumed it.
I was negligent in taking proper note of Kim’s meal (I know it was a smashed avocado something), but I do remember that Jess had the Not Quite Full English Breakfast, with scrambled eggs, a little tin of baked beans, sausage and bacon. It may not have been full but it looked filling, and I may have pined a little for my own tin of baked beans.
Are we the sort of people to stop at one dish each? No, you know we are not, so of course dessert followed. I had the ginger bread with smoked maple butter, accompanied with a pineapple sage and mint tea. The ginger bread contained my preferred ratio of ginger, awesomely strong (I have been known to happily gnaw on raw ginger, so this sort of spice ratio may not be as agreeable to you), and was served warm, so that the maple butter melted and mingled with the bread’s spices. And unlike a lot of condiments labeled ‘smoked’, the butter had a distinctly dusky, smoked flavour to it. The pineapple sage and mint tea made a good companion for the bread, all pleasantly herby with a mild fruity overtone which mellowed out the mint, which I find can sometimes overwhelm other flavours. All in all so comforting, and so damn good.
Kim’s mango and vanilla rice pudding, served in a large jam jar, was a delightfully creamy thing, punctuated with dots of vanilla seed and slivers of bright mango. I probably ended up sampling quite a bit more of this than I intended, purely because it was reasonably rich and filled Kim up quite quickly. I didn’t get a look in at Jess’ chocolate and raspberry muffin, however, it disappeared into a trace of crumbs while I wasn’t looking!
Pope Joan was, simply put, absolutely stunning. This was in no way a case of having to settle for second best. Even with only a few weeks slipping by since our visit, I can recall that sunny courtyard, the delicious things we ate and our acres of lazy chatter with a sharp clarity that I know means that that afternoon is going to become a particularly favoured memory.
As for L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe, did we end up making it there in the end? Tune in for our next episode, Ladies Who Lunch: Chocpocalypse!
77-79 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East
Ph: 9388 8858