“Just make sure you eat loads of brunch.”
That was one of the first pieces of advice I was given after I’d booked my flights to Melbourne, and an excellent piece of advice at that. I’m a big fan of brunch anyway (breakfast is great – why wouldn’t you want to eat it all day long?), so needless to say I was excited to hear about the city’s obsession with it.
Manchester has plenty of options when it comes to brunch, but in Melbourne they take it to another level. Whether you’re in the CBD or out in the suburbs, you can barely turn a corner without stumbling upon another cool cafe serving up unique, delicious dishes to hungry diners. Diners that will happily queue round the block for their favourite delicacies.
So, I decided to dive in headfirst and sample the best brunches Melbourne had to offer. All in the name of research, of course.
Higher Ground, CBD
What better place to start my journey into the heart of Melbourne’s brunch scene than Higher Ground. Found in the heart of the CBD, this old power station is now one of the city’s most popular cafes, serving up sensational food in a captivating setting. All around you people are snapping photos for Instagram, and it’s not hard to see why. The building pairs up exposed brickwork, concrete and metal beams with a whole host of lush greenery, topped off with huge windows which flood the venue with natural light – very Insta-friendly.
But this place isn’t all show and no tell, oh no. The chefs here aren’t afraid to take risks, turning out all manner of unusual but delicious dishes – from spiced cauliflower and scrambled eggs to a confit lamb sausage roll with cucumber pickle. I could’ve happily eaten my way through the entire menu, but restrained myself and picked the thing that had caught my eye the second I grabbed the menu.
I went for the minced lamb fry-up, which came with miso eggplant (or aubergine to us Brits), fried eggs, barberries, smoked yoghurt and dukkah, served up on a couple of slices of sourdough toast. All washed down with a iced coffee, because it was my first day in Australia and it was hot as hell but I still needed to fight off the jetlag with a solid dose of caffeine.
With my first delicious down under brunch in my belly, I was ready to face the day (and start planning my next destination).
A couple of days later, I ventured out to the second stop on my brunch tour, Tinker. Moving out of the city and into the suburbs, Tinker was just down the road from where I was staying in Northcote.
Just like Higher Ground, Tinker opts for the ever-popular minimalist interior design, with yet more exposed brickwork and huge windows letting in plenty of natural light. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The menu is full of superfood-fuelled dishes, from quinoa and acai breakfast bowls to poached eggs and smashed peas (because avocado isn’t the only green thing you can smash, apparently). But, seeing as I was on my holidays and not on a health kick, I ordered the waffle eggs benedict.
A cheddar cornbread waffle, topped with pulled smoked beef brisket, poached eggs, sweet potato crisps and chipotle hollandaise sauce. I’m a big fan of brisket, and this was some seriously good, melt-in-your-mouth brisket, and the chipotle hollandaise sauce was a taste sensation.
Humble Rays, Carlton
Third on my list was Humble Rays, which had been one of the recommendations I’d been given before I started my trip (cheers for the heads up Karl!). Keeping up with the Insta-friendly aesthetic, Humble Rays is all bright pastel colours, soft lighting and plenty of plant life. There’s also lots of communal seating, which makes it just as popular with solo diners as it is with groups.
The menu was equally as diverse, unusual and enticing as my previous two destinations. While I was incredibly tempted by the Korean hot sauce marinated chicken with pickled root veg, this time I opted for a meat-free dish, the smashing pumpkins.
The dish contained a whole host of things I wouldn’t expect to have for breakfast, but all worked perfectly together. A couple of slices of soy, linseed and quinoa sourdough toast, topped with mashed pumpkin and sweet potato, tenderstem broccoli, quinoa, black beans, feta, dukkah and a poached egg. It looked and tasted incredibly healthy, which made me feel better about wolfing the entire thing down in a very short space of time.
Penny Farthing Espresso, Northcote
For the final brunch of my trip, I was back in Northcote, checking out Penny Farthing Espresso. While this place was more stripped back than my previous stops, with a simple, no-frills look and feel, the quality of the food and coffee spoke volumes.
I’d opted for some more unusual dishes over the course of my trip, but couldn’t come on a brunch tour of Melbourne and not get some smashed avocado on toast, so that’s what I ordered here. Or, to be precise, whipped feta, avocado, basil and mint, served on top of some locally baked sourdough, with a poached egg, halloumi and chilli oil. This dish has become a brunch favourite around the world, and for good reason. This was so good that I forgot to take a photo until I’d already started eating it, but who cares.
So, there you have it. I came, I saw, I ate. But while I managed to sample a good selection of dishes during my time in Melbourne, I still feel like I barely scratched the surface of what the city has to offer. Oh well. All the more reason to head back for round two, eh?