I’d been having quite a sad-trousers day as I was scrolling through Twitter, when this completely delectable photo from Where’s the Beef popped up in my feed and pulled me up out of the doldrums from sheer sight alone. I was informed that it was a haloumi and zucchini stuffed baguette, and could be procured from Carlton cafe Stovetop. I needed it in my face. I needed it in my face AS SOON AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE.
So the very next day, I trooped myself down to Stovetop. For whatever reason I hadn’t had this place on my radar at all, which is a massive shame, as in two visits Stovetop has put itself in contention as one of my favourite cafes about town. Imagine all the coffee and cheesy baguettes I could have had by this time if only I’d been more aware! Alas, alack.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Design wise, Stovetop is a bit of a hipster’s delight on the surface, what with all the Scandi blond wood furniture and men with cardigans and styled mustaches (okay, the latter may not have been deliberate on behalf of Stovetop, but you can’t have so many Scandi touches without mustaches attached to men appearing to create the natural and appropriate contrast). Tell you what, though, I want to find out where the particular chair and stools here are from, because they’re so darn comfy – cushy and upholstered stools, take note Melbourne cafe proprietors, your customers’ bottoms will thank you!
As I had promised myself, I bypassed reading anything else on the menu and went straight into ordering the seeded baguette filled with egg-dipped zucchini, haloumi, rocket and chutney. Jesus H Christ, people, this is just… this is the high god king of sandwiches right here. It’s the sort of combo that makes you incredulous that everyone isn’t plating up a version of it, the components are so perfect for each other. I mean, the egg-dipped zucchini ALONE. This is the kind of sandwich you should reward yourself with when you achieve a major life goal.
After this first foray I immediately sent a rambling, bordering on incoherent message to Muffin demanding that our next catch up session be held at Stovetop. She was more than happy to acquiesce, which meant that only a few days later I was facing a duck egg baked in sauteed spinach, roast pumpkin, Persian feta with za-atar and toast. DUCK EGGS, YOU GUYS! I might be particularly partial to them because I had pet ducks as a kid (ducks make the VERY BEST PETS, as long as you’re okay with your back garden becoming a de-grassed mud pit, and why wouldn’t you be okay with that if it means you have DUCKS!), and duck eggs always had these beautifully rich orange yolks that made every Sunday morning fry-up or sponge cake just that extra bit better. This particular duck egg oozed beautiful orange deliciousness over the soft, warm pumpkin pieces and through the spinach. Lovely. My one thought was that the dish might be kicked up a notch with the inclusion of some kale, but that’s only a thought, not a criticism.
Muffin had the roasted root vegetable salad with spinach and Rooftop honey lemon vinaigrette and toasted almonds. This looked like a healthy late-winter feast, I particularly liked the look of all the caramelised parsnip strips. Muffin was certainly enormously pleased with it.
The coffee is definitely the nicest I’ve come across – smooth and mellow with nary a bite to it, and not so strong that a coffee weenie like me ends up sitting up half the night staring unblinkingly into middle distance.
And a word must be said about the staff, who are lovely and friendly without a lick of pretension, are happy to answer any questions you have, and good-naturedly put up with you taking up a table for a good two hours just gas-bagging (Muffin and I had a lot to catch up on, okay).
As for the prospect of future visits, I have an eye on the cinnamon waffles with pomegranate molasses, vanilla bean custard, agave and house almond dukkah, and also the sweet potato and chia latkes with poached eggs, baba ganoush and rocket (I mean, just revel in those descriptions, UGH, AMAZING). Such is my love of Stovetop, I’ve ended up making a rule with myself that I have to make sure than at least every second foodie visit I make has to be somewhere that ISN’T Stovetop, because really, it just wouldn’t be fair to everyone else.
100 Leicester Street, Carlton
Ph: 9347 2010