The Kettle Black

It is BUSY at The Kettle Black. Seemingly all the time. It makes sense – in this particular part of South Melbourne, just near the Domain Interchange, there’s not another quality cafe within cooee. Luckily Julian had got there before me on this day and had the good sense to put our name on the list, so the wait for me was under ten minutes. Always go to brunch with more punctual friends, it equals dividends!

The Kettle Black is very striking, aesthetically. It’s comprised of the ground level of a swisho new apartment block, all shiny surfaces and architectural whizz-bangery, which has managed to include an old, stark white terrace house as a part of the greater building. Inside walls are white, with potted plants and vines streaming their tendrils in the bright light of the wall to ceiling windows that face the street.

After a flat white, I got stuck into a plate of seasonal raw and cooked mushrooms on toast with mushroom powder and goat curd, plus a poached egg. The poached egg was served on the side, which was a little odd – surely the joy of the poached egg is to pop it open upon your bread and fixings and let the yolk ooze decadently over everything. Maybe The Kettle Black wants to advocate levering a poached egg directly into you mouth all at once, and if so I greatly dishonoured local practice by carefully transferring the egg onto the mushroom and curd mountain on toast. The cooked mushrooms were juicy and hot; I’m not 100% convinced that the raw mushrooms worked with the rest of the plate, mainly for textural reasons, but it certainly is an interesting idea. But hey, put creamy goats’ curd on things and it all tends to turn out right in the end.

Julian decided to feast on some native wildlife (okay maybe it was mostly the allure of the eggs) and went with the chilli scrambled eggs with air-dried Flinders Island wallaby, feta and leaves. The scramble was an eye-popping cadmium yellow – yes I just delved into Derwent pencil colours to get just the right descriptor – crowned with some red capsicum and little pink medallions of wallaby meat.

I also finally sampled a Doughboys doughnut, which were the crown jewels in a very impressively curated cake cabinet. I have been largely suspicious of the fancy doughnut craze, as for me a doughnut is a rebellious crap food indulgence. I don’t need quality ingredients when it comes to a doughnut, I want powdered sugar and artificial creme! But this morning I was beguiled by the fat, glazed rings calling at me from across the room. I asked the waiter to surprise me with the flavour, and he brought back a ‘lime toast’ with lemon and lime zest icing, sprinkled with toasted coconut. The dough was very light, puffy and airy, and the icing had been heavily zested with citrus flavours without being overwhelming. It was very pleasant, although I can’t say I’ve now been drawn into abandoning my crap doughnut ways.

I am not one to ordinarily advocate queuing for anything, no matter how good, but should you find yourself in South Melbourne and can snaffle yourself a spot at The Kettle Black in under ten minutes, I would recommend it as time well spent.

The Kettle Black

50 Albert Road, South Melbourne

Ph: 9088 0721

The Left-Handed Chef

I am going to be completely rubbished by Julian for this, but it is always best to admit to one’s shortcomings. So at the close of our visit to South Melbourne’s The Left-Handed Chef, I ended up peering at the menu taped to the front window for an inordinately long time, until he asked me what the hell I was doing. “I’m memorising what we ate so I can write about it for the food blog.” “Are you sure you don’t want to, I don’t know, write it down?” “Oh no, I have a really good memory for these things, I’ll be fine.”

Julian looked skeptical, as it turned out he had every right to be, as since I’ve finally came around to blogging about The Left-Handed Chef nearly a month after our visit (I know I know, I’m TERRIBLE), while I can distinctly remember everything that I had eaten, in a case of sheer food narcissism I only have vague recollections of what Julian ate. I know it was called something akin to a Big Breakfast Plate, there was bacon and eggs (maybe scrambled?), maybe tomato, maybe some kind of sausage? I really don’t know. So I am sorry, internet, my hubris means I have failed you once again.

I do however remember very clearly my meal and all the other impressions gleaned from our visit to The Left-Handed Chef, a little bakery and cafe that hangs out on Park Street. I’d been keen to visit on finding out that all the bread products used are baked on premises each morning, because why wouldn’t you be excited by fresh bread? BREAD IS LIFE (even if yeast does make my insides a little sad these days).

The set up is quite endearing, and old school in that several new wave cafe trends have clearly passed the Chef by. No little bowls of fancy salt will you find on your table, no unrefined cane sugar – the sweet stuff is bleached white and still comes in sachet packets. But the food that comes out on the plate is hearty and packs quite a tasty punch.

I went with The Green Breakfast – freshly baked wholemeal bread spread with smashed peas, two perfectly poached eggs with generously gooey yolks, and grilled stalks of tender asparagus. First of all, SMASHED PEAS. Why isn’t everyone doing this? It would relieve the fatigue of far too many smashed avocados around town. And these peas were sweet and not at all mushy, it was unexpected spring on bread. And speaking of bread, ooooh it was good, fresh and crusty and not at all lacking for not being the cafe standard of sourdough. Cracking the perfectly gooey orange yolks over the bread and loading it up with a bite of asparagus, goodness, it was just what the doctor ordered.

In terms of coffee, I actually do remember Julian saying that he felt his latte was a bit weak, and not terribly to his tastes. I did however how a lovely pot of English Breakfast tea, all woolen cosy-ed up, that was remarkably strong and multi-note flavoured considering it actually came from a teabag (although I’m often not as fussy about teabags if the end result is nice and robust).

The Left-Handed Chef may not be as slick as we’ve become accustomed to in Melbourne, but on the plate it gets everything that really counts right.

The Left-Handed Chef

Shop 2, 219 Park Street, South Melbourne

Ph: 9645 5800