If you mention Melbourne to someone outside of Australia, it’s sure to evoke images such as street art, flat whites and avocado toast. This simple dish is a symbol of Melbourne’s brunch scene. Vegemite aside, it is perhaps Australia’s most well-known culinary export.
Avocado toast can be found in nearly every Melbourne cafe. Avocado toast is a popular choice in Melbourne cafes, just as Australian-style cafes are becoming more popular all over the globe. Melbourne visitors should be aware that there is more to Melbourne’s cafe culture than just one dish. Many cafes remain open throughout the day and transform into restaurants or wine bars at sunset. The food is as important as the coffee. You’ll find shakshuka and ramen on menus. This is a reminder of the city’s cultural diversity. While some cafes may only serve one cuisine, such as Thai, Sri Lankan or Japanese, others offer a variety of foods and a relaxed atmosphere. You can make almost any dish into brunch here.
While it might not be fair to call an Australian cafe a cafe if they don’t offer an avocado toast, Melbourne cafes do more. Here’s what Melbournians order for breakfast.
In 2013, Top Paddock introduced a blueberry-and-ricotta hotcake that inspired countless other versions; you can still find it there and the Kettle Black and Higher Ground at its sister cafes. These hotcakes are decorated with edible flowers and colorful powders. It might appear that they were created for Instagram only. Ricotta batter is made into thick, fluffy pancakes and then covered with fruit, cream maple syrup, nuts, and flowers. Hotcakes are about the same size as large plates. If you don’t want to eat it all, share them with your friends for a post-brunch dessert.
A Melbourne potato hash, similar to rosti and hash browns, is made from shredded potatoes. It’s fried until crispy and then topped with slow-cooked beef, poached egg, and spinach. Proud Mary is located in Collingwood, Oregon. The potato hash includes crispy kale and short-cut bacon. If you look closely, you will see that half of the tables have the hash. Fitzroy’s croquette-like potato hash is made from Addict Food and Coffee. It comes stacked with mushrooms and onions, and an egg.
Japanese breakfast set
Melbourne is home to many Japanese restaurants, including cafes. Zenta Tanaka and Meg Tanaka created the Japanese breakfast set, which includes grilled salmon, tamagoyaki and potato salad, and miso soup and rice. They are both Japanese and met in Adelaide while studying together. After a while, they moved to Tokyo to work for a few more years. They returned to Australia and opened CIBI. It combines their passion for design and food. They also offer miso-baked eggs and pork katsu sandwiches in the afternoon. You can find Japanese-inspired cafes in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. Asako Miura, James Spinks and Carlton put their spins on the Japanese-Australian cafe Ima Project Cafe. The Japanese breakfast is all about sustainable produce and fish.
The crumpet is similar to English muffins but was developed in the British Isles. Many Australians grew up enjoying them with butter and honey after school snacks. Bouncy cakes are made from a flour-and-yeast batter. The small holes in their surface make them an ideal vehicle for spreading spreads. Cumulus Inc. is home to Melbourne’s most well-known crumpets. They are served with raw Rooftop Honey and whipped ricotta. Holy Crumpets is now the city’s first crumpet café. It offers six varieties of honey and a wide variety of spreads, including seasonal options such as passionfruit curd or ricotta.
Updated egg and soldier
British soldiers and eggs are made from slices of toasted bread dipped into a soft-boiled yolk. Australian cafes sometimes make the Vegemite soldiers dish by adding brown yeast to the toasted bread. There are many twists to this classic: The buttered toast and free-range eggs at Pope Joan in the Central Business District (CBD) come with crispy bacon bits, herb salt and buttery brown yeast. Hardware Societe goes one step further by topping their soldiers with toppings such as duck rillettes and potato tortillas.
Comforting rice porridge is becoming a popular Melbourne brunch choice. Although it might not be available everywhere, you can find versions at Japanese and Thai-Australian cafes like CIBI or Oneyada. Magic Mountain Saloon in the CBD offers a Thai chicken congee and coddled egg with chicken. It comes with condiments such as ginger, chile and dry anchovies. Australian cafes also adopt the trend, such as Wild Life Bakery. Brunswick East bakery and cafe make congee with brown rice and mushrooms.
Breakfast panna cotta
Italian pannacotta is a sweet way to start your day. It can be found in Melbourne cafes as a breakfast option. Pannacotta breakfast is often decorated with granola, fruits and edible flowers. The wobbly thickened cream dessert can be made with various flavors, including pandan, basil, Oreo cookies and taro. You can try the Nutella pannacotta with torched marshmallows from Elsternwick’s Penta or the mango-and saffron pannacotta at Northcote’s Tinker.
Almost every cafe has a baked egg dish. But shakshuka is the most popular. It’s eggs poached with tomato sauce and herbs, then served with pita. Tahina in Northcote & Fitzroy offers a green shakshuka with zucchini, avocado, and broccoli. A white shakshuka is available with mushrooms, Jerusalem Artichoke, goat cheese, and red. From Bowery to Williamsburg, you can find haloumi or Italian sausage versions. All come with flatbread baked with a spice mix called za’atar.
Clockwise from top left: Tinker; Michael Woods; Timothy Grey
Mushrooms on “toast”.
Most cafes will offer a mushroom option if you look for something vegetarian/vegan and not too far from avocado toast. It’s the “on toast” portion that is most interesting. Admiral Cheng Ho, a vegan cafe, roasts four mushrooms and serves them on cornbread with almond feta or chile oil. Short Straw offers wild mushrooms with crispy polenta. Two Birds One Stone serves them on soy-and linseed toast. You might get to enjoy the local red pine mushrooms, also known as saffron milk caps, on your toast if you visit the city in the winter months.
Scotch eggs can be hard-boiled, wrapped in sausage, breaded and deep-fried. They are usually served cold in Britain as a snack, on picnics or at work. As you may have guessed, Melbourne cafes do things differently. While the essential ingredients (egg, minced beef, breadcrumbs, etc.) are the same in Australia, the Scotch eggs are served warm straight from the deep-frier and as part of a prepared dish. Holla Coffee Roasters pays homage to the Vietnamese restaurants in Richmond by serving lap-Cheong Scotch eggs with heirloom carrots. Lights in the Attic’s most popular dish is the Egg Basket. It consists of two Scotch eggs in a rosti nest with a tomato-and bean concasse.
On almost every cafe’s menu, you will find bowls with yogurt, fruits and greens. Serotonin Eatery offers an acai bowl containing peanut butter, banana and coconut “ice cream”, while Matcha Mylkbar’s Daily Ritual Bowl is made with chickpeas and miso brown rice. Another popular choice is porridge. Porridge is usually made with oats. However, bases such as quinoa and chia are becoming more popular. Alternative milk like almond or soy are used to keep the dish vegan. Here are some suggestions: Vertue Coffee roasters’ quinoa ginger and orange porridge, Vertue’s maple rice porridge, Grain Store’s maple syrup porridge, or the Journeyman’s chai porridge at At Home One.
Cafe menus now include noodles of all types. Mammoth Cafe in Armadale offers breakfast ramen, chicken dashi broth and bacon with an onsen egg. Terror Twilight lets you create your bowl by selecting your noodles (soba, rice), broth (chicken & lemongrass or miso & shiitake), as well as vegetables and protein. In Richmond and Footscray, Vietnamese restaurants serve piping hot pho at 8 or 9 AM. You can also enjoy a flat white while enjoying soy duck noodle soup or Khao si or spaghetti in green curried at Oneyada Thai Cafe in Richmond.
Breakfast pasta is a distinct dish from Asian breakfast noodles. Pellegrini’s was the first cafe to offer pasta in the morning. It was established in 1954 and had the first espresso machine in the city. There’s still a place where you can get a 9 AM spaghetti Bolognese and an espresso. This is right where Melbourne’s cafe culture began. Brunswick’s Small Axe Kitchen began serving their “famous” breakfast pasta, maccaruni with guanciale and peas, salt ricotta, mint, and slow-cooked eggs. Others followed their lead with breakfast gnocchi or carbonara at other cafes. You can call it to breakfast if you add an egg to it.