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8 Killer Melbourne Cafes and The Breakfast Bootcamp

Submitted by on November 2, 2011 – 12:58 pm56 Comments

UH, hello?! Can we get this party started?! To celebrate the warmer weather, I decided to skip the beach and bury my face in a little sumthin sumthin called food instead. Some friends say I’ve got the mind of my pet Beagle – where an appetite for all things edible trumps everything else. I’ve been known to walk away mid conversation should my nose pick up a tasty scent. You may laugh, but sadly, this is true.

Over the course of 5 days (yay for annual leave!), I flexed my eating muscles and hit up 8 cafes across Melbourne for a good ol’ fashion cafe spree. I didn’t start out with a specific number of places to try out but when I got to 7, I thought I’d might as well round it off to 8. Now, some people may spend their Saturday mornings doing a fitness bootcamp. I on the other hand, chose to do a Breakfast Bootcamp!

Now, drop and eat 10 poached eggs and 10 lattes soldier!

So get ready folks, read on to see how my buds (taste buds) proudly kicked some brekkie butt.

Monk Bodhi Dharma Melbourne

Cafes Featured

1. Muharam Courtyard Cafe, 97 Burwood Road, Hawthorn 3122

2. Caboose Canteen City Square Motel, 67 Swanston Street Melbourne VIC 3000 Phone: (03) 9663 4448

3. Little Ox 452 New St Brighton, VIC 3186 (03) 9596 6577

4. Madame Mango 768 Burke Rd Camberwell VIC 3124 Phone: (03) 9813 4070

5. Pope Joan, 77 – 79 Nicholson street East Brunswick Phone: 9388 8858

6. Monk Bodhi Dharma, Rear 202 Carlisle St, Balaclava VIC 3183 Australia Phone: 9534 7250

7. Sourdough Kitchen, 172 Victoria St, Seddon Phone: 9687 5662

8. Spinifex, 192 Bellair St Kensington, VIC 3031 Phone: 03 9372 2285

1. Muharam Courtyard Cafe

As the sun shone through my window pane, I dragged my sorry arse out of bed and began my quest. For once, the Melbourne forecast was right on the money as I head out in my usual summer weekend ensemble: t-shirt, shorts and my havanas to soak up some vitamin D.

Muharam Courtyard Cafe is actually a two minute walk from work. Previously a quaint cafe that was further down the road, they recently took over the Oaktree Cafe premises and totally transformed the place into an uber cool establishment fit with the quintessential ingredients that makes up a new age Melbourne cafe  – exposed brick walls, open spaces, a two tone playful colour scheme with splashes of white and yellow throughout, clever use of either recycled materials or in this case hanging bicycle wheels paying tribute to our cycling trend and of course, a massive communal table plus a sunny courtyard to boot. Bam! Seriously love what they’ve done with the place and was excited to see it on it’s first day of trading.

muharram cafe interior

Muharam Cafe presents their food well. Think ciabattas served on wooden boards, curries atop banana leaves and salads in deep bowls. Though, being that this was their first day of trading since the moving, the usual cutlery wasn’t out.  I start off slow and order what I know best, smashed avocado on sourdough that came with plump, sweet slow roasted tomatoes bursting with flavour and fetta cheese blended throughout with a handful of rocket to complete the picture. I also asked for a poached egg on the side so I could mop up the yolk. Adding  slow roasted tomatoes made this dish a pleasure to eat.

breakfast at muharram cafe

I can testify that they also do the best Asian Chicken Salad known to man as you would have seen me rave about on my Facebook page. You’re probably thinking, geeze Adrian, it’s freakin chicken salad, I can get that anywhere. I rave about it because I rarely get salads because I’ve been burnt way too many times be places that claim to serve Asian salads but prematurely ruining it with balsamic or at times, Italian dressing!? WTF. OK. Let me start by describing it to you so you know what the hell I’m talking about. Finely chopped greens, coriander, roasted cashews, a little chili, crimson red capsicum, pieces of shredded tender chicken and a sweet and sour killer dressing that will make you wonder whether you’ve been eating crack because it will have you coming back. For more.

What also makes it so addictive is that it’s so easy to eat.

chicken salad at muharram cafeCommunal table at Muharram Cafe

Muharam, do it.
Muharam Courtyard Cafe on Urbanspoon

2. Caboose Canteen

I hardly drive into the CBD for breakfast these days. It could be love for suburban cafe courtyards, the fact that I want to get away from the hussle and bussle on the weekends and that all the few good cafes and hugely popular ones mind you, are queue ridden. That was all about to change when I randomly walked past the French inspired Caboose Canteen located smack bam in the middle of City Square which is owned by Gerard Anderson who also helms the nearby La Vita Buona  and Three Below, a funky bar beneath the Westin Hotel.

Caboose Canteen signage

Caboose Canteen dining

In terms of fitout, there is the main dining area more suited towards a dinner date and thankfully, there’s the alfresco area out front to lap up the sunshine.  It’s also conveniently across from Brunettis so I spent some of my time happily perving on the cake display as I sipped on my Coffee Supreme flat white. You know where I ended up going afterwards right?

coffee at Caboose Canteen

Caboose Canteen use organic free range eggs and seasonal produce. Smoked Salmon was on the cards served on some toasted English muffins beautifully covered with a tangy hollandaise sauce. What made this dish however, was the salmon roe roe roe your boat bling. I strategically ensured that each bite I took was coupled with a few bursting bits of roe. Quite a fancy breakfast indeed.

I’m looking forward to trying out their dinner menu.

breakfast at Caboose Canteen
Caboose on Urbanspoon

3. Little Ox

You won’t normally find me on this end of town. I mean, there aren’t that many great cafes in the area worth the travel time.  The only reason I ventured out to Brighton was to see how Cookie the beagle likes local dog parks. I got chatting to a friendly couple about dogs and how they take over our lives and our homes! Cookie has done his fare share of house destroying from chewing up all the PS3 controllers, my Kenneth Cole watch, TV remote controller and my new retro table but nothing compared to the experience the couple have had with their little terrier! At least I can leave home alone at home without too much trouble.

Anyways, I digress. I drove past Little Ox the last time I was in the area and did abit of research on the place beforehand to find mostly glowing reviews so I had to check it out. The exterior wall is marked with a ginormous cow with a yellow heart. I thought it was a fried egg from afar! There are plenty of tables outside with the spacious interior just as cosy with chit chat filling the air.

Little Ox Brighton

Salmon Tartare at Little Ox

I was still craving smoked salmon by this stage. The menu is diverse and full of delectable options from corn fritters, house made baked beans, Mexican eggs to pork and pistachio sausage, corned beef and vanilla scented porridge. I chose what I thought was a menu seller – Salmon Tartare. Oh hello! My appetite came back right back when I saw this baby. A mix of tangy flavours and textures from the beetroot relish and lemon drizzled salmon tartare whilst playing softball with the nicely poached oozey egg and a crispy potato roesti acting as the yolk clean up crew. Loved this dish. Bloody LOVED it.

Salmon Tartare close up at Little Ox

Only downfall was the attack of the wasps. OK, I didn’t get stung or anything but the bloody wasps sure liked hanging around my precious meal.

Inside Little Ox Cafe

The Little Ox   on Urbanspoon

4. Madame Mango

A food friend of mind recommended this place. I don’t know why, but for some reason, I had some vision of the place being centered around, guess what, mangoes. I’m sure there’s a story behind the name and all but until I find out, my assumptions remain.

Madame Mango tableDSC09629

As you’re seated at the back, the place just screams “Anyone for tea?” At Madame Mango, you’ll find tea sets, tier stands for those scones and crust-less sandwiches and themed menu items like the one I chose – Miss Buttermilk. I thought, why not get something different for a change and with mango to play along with the name of the place. So I went ahead and got me a giant serving of fluffy buttermilk pancakes that were topped with cream (mmmm…) and filled with you guessed it, mango cheeks. There was also a helping of maple syrup.

Buttermilk Pancakes at Madame Mango

When it came out, I was in shock. How the heck was I supposed to finish that homeboy! I swear, this could feed a family of four. Surprisingly, it wasn’t overly sweet. I actually would’ve have liked a little more maple syrup  but nonetheless, a stellar stack of pancakes.

Coffee at Madam Mango

The coffee was solid – a smooth pour with  rich crema my friends.

Clock at Madame Mangotick tock tick tock- you’re next brekkie stop awaits!!

Madame Mango on Urbanspoon

5. Pope Joan

By this time, I was getting used t0 the brunch-worthy weather as I found myself  livin it up at every courtyard cafe I could find and Pope Joan, with its mega-sized courtyard, was no exception. There’s astro turf, enough space to bring out that old picnic rug and benches to soak up some rays. I have to admit though, the location is pretty whack but its appeal, like that of Duchess of Spotswood who also faces a similar location deficit, is their outstanding ‘dinner quality’  menu heavily based on fresh seasonal produce as explained by our waitress. You could say the Pope Joan is the Concrete Rose of Brunswick East.

Word-of-mouth keeps all the seats warm with many revelers like me, willing to travel from the other end of town to see what the big fuss is about.  It also helps that Matt Wilkinson who was head chef at Circa and Ben Foster (ex-Kent Hotel in Carlton) heads up the joint.

the courtyard at Pope Joanastro turf at Pope Joan

The Service

Initially, the service was a wee bit shaky with an awkward, slightly sarcastic greeting at the door. I was a little taken back. Maybe the waitress was having a bad day. We all have them right?  At this point, we were hoping and praying that we would be served by another waitress and thankfully, we were.  Flipping between choosing three items on the menu, the very effervescent waitress kindly took us through what was in season, the menu highlights and how the produce is sourced. The service did a complete 360 and the dish that was recommended was smashing. As a diner, when you spend close to $50 for breakfast, you should expect a certain level of service. You feel me?

The food + coffee

Also similar to Duchess, is the English at heart theme from black pudding and blood sausage on the menu to the table items like the cleverly used Stilton Blue pot that contains the sugar.

sugar at Pope JOan

The coffee, brewed from Allpress beans is impressive and may I say, quite generous in size. I’d normally want a second cup but one was just dandy.

coffee at pope joan

Now to the real deal. You know how much I heart salmon so of course I had to order it. Thin, slightly sweet delicate slices of N.Z Smoked Salmon are topped with a  65/65 slow poached egg that’s soft and perfectly gooey throughout with a layer of asparagus. Just beautiful and presented with care. As you can tell, I liked the food here despite the initial hiccup on the service.

breakfast at pope joan

Pope Joan on Urbanspoon

6. Monk Bodhi Dharma

Monk Bodhi Dharma. A place that’s received so much press it needs no introduction yet it’s so hidden I had to breakout the GPS! I mean, it isn’t exactly the sort of of place you’d find at the back alleyway near a Coles loading dock! That’s Melbourne for you I guess – with many of our city’s best gems hidden away from all the tourists crowds to find! And luckily so being that the place doesn’t exactly cater for the masses.

Interestingly, MBD was named after an Indian monk who introduced Zen Buddhism to China and their main focus is to introduce some of the finest vegetarian meal options but this means no eggs folks. But not too fear- despite this deviation from the norm, I had a hard time choosing from the mouthwatering menu and with the endless tea selections and three blends of beans to choose from, eggs was put in the ‘that’s so 2008’ box…temporarily of course.

Outside Monk Bodhi DharmaMonk Bodhi Dharma signage

Luckily, I called ahead to put my name on the waiting list as there was a 20 minute wait. Seated smack bam in front of the precious coffee machine, I chose to indulge in the El Salvador blend. What a cracking cappuccino it was. Rich, slight acidity and filled with hints of toffee  making me lick my lips during shameless savouring  the moment type moments.

coffee at Monk Bodhi Dharma

Onto the food- aye curamba! I’ve been finding it it difficult recommending a good vegetarian brunch joint and that I’d revisit again and again until now. First up came Umani Mushrooms. I adored the richness and creaminess of the dish and though a little afraid it may outshine the mushrooms, it actually sat well together like one big happy family. On the plate were slow-roasted king oyster, enoki, oyster and shiitake  mushrooms sitting on top of polenta made up of pumpkin and spinach.

Unami Mushrooms at Monk Bodhi Dharma

Next was The Avo, that’s right, The Avo! Chucks of avocado combined with cubes of fetta piled up like Mt Everest with a chili flag and a sourdough foundation. A simple but killer dish.

The Avo at monk bodhi dharma

Why I would DEFINITELY return

Amazing food and despite the all the hype around Monk Bodhi Dharma, you won’t find complacent attitudes only impeccable service standards.

Inside Monk Bodhi Dharma

Monk Bodhi Dharma on Urbanspoon

7. Sourdough Kitchen

It’s such a relief to find some new decent brunch places in my hood. Sourdough Kitchen has been open for a while now but I always bought a loaf of bread and I was out. Today, I chose to dine in and bask in the yeast filled surroundings. Inside, there are brightly coloured chairs, cute little vintage table sets for the kiddies and a communal table. The place has a ‘no fuss’ rustic feel with trays of freshly baked pizza, croissants, sourdough and other pastries in open view. Whatever you see is what they have available on the day. I like that.

Sourdough Kitchen at Seddon Inside Sourdough Kitchen at Seddon Chairs for the kids Sourdough Kitchen at Seddon

In the mood for something served warm, I ordered a couple of items, one of them being one of my favourite finger foods,  the Sausage Roll. The pastry was nice and flaky and the pork filling, well seasoned with a touch of fennel and served piping hot. The housemade chutney was just as good as I scooped up a spoonful with each bite.

Sausage Rolls Sourdough Kitchen at Seddon

Two pizzas were available and both vegetarian.

Pizza Sourdough Kitchen at Seddon Mushroom pizza Sourdough Kitchen at Seddon

Plain croissant with a jar of homemade jam. Presenting itself with a multitude of buttery flaky layers, each rip into the freshly baked beast was messy and I enjoyed dunking it into my latte .

Croissant Sourdough Kitchen at Seddon

latte Sourdough Kitchen at Seddon

There were a tonne of other items I wanted to try like their baked cheesecake that looked sublime.
Sourdough Kitchen on Urbanspoon

8. Spinifex

Walking along Bellair Street, there’s a plethora of choices to eat one’s way one breakfast at a time. There’s the more recently opened The Premises for example, but not wanting to join yet another queue, I headed to Spinifex just a few doors down. Time is precious fool!

I think what lured me to Spinifex was the Peanut Butter and Chocolate Brownies just staring at you at the counter. What’s a glut to do that to oblige right?!

Brownies at Spinifexinside Spinifexmenu at Spinifex

Knowing full well I was about to delve into a brownie, I chose to continue with the healthy trend and chose poached eggs on sourdough with avocado, roasted tomato and mushrooms on the side.

breakfast at Spinifex

The eggs were slammin with the right kind of oooze that will have you saying “ooohhh, ahhhhh’ – well, that may or may not apply to you but that’s the sounds that seem to emit from thy mouth when I prick a poached egg. The yolk runs down the toast as planned and my breakfast seems complete as I scoop it all up with the fresh avocado and tomato juices.

poached eggs at Spinifex

Spinifex on Urbanspoon

Cap Off

Thinking about it, I actually think my breakfast bootcamp was tougher than a fitness bootcamp. Why? Because I later had to find some way to lose all the damn weight I gained over that period. Do you know how many weekday lunches had to forgo desserts? Picture me sitting in my cubicle resisting all kinds of temptation from workmates walking around offering Tim Tams to avoiding eye contact with my lolly drawer. All for the sake of Breakfast Indigestion time !

Oh and apologies for the photo quality here. When I’m out conducting my brekkie business, I despise taking my big ass SLR camera. It takes up too much table space! LOL

Cookie eating JerkyCookie the Beagle munching on some jerky. He can finish his dinner in 20 seconds flat. Food rules in the household!

Cafes Featured

1. Muharam Courtyard Cafe, 97 Burwood Road, Hawthorn 3122

2. Caboose Canteen City Square Motel, 67 Swanston Street Melbourne VIC 3000 Phone: (03) 9663 4448

3. Little Ox 452 New St Brighton, VIC 3186 (03) 9596 6577

4. Madame Mango 768 Burke Rd Camberwell VIC 3124 Phone: (03) 9813 4070

5. Pope Joan, 77 – 79 Nicholson street East Brunswick Phone: 9388 8858

6. Monk Bodhi Dharma, Rear 202 Carlisle St, Balaclava VIC 3183 Australia Phone: 9534 7250

7. Sourdough Kitchen, 172 Victoria St, Seddon Phone: 9687 5662

8. Spinifex, 192 Bellair St Kensington, VIC 3031 Phone: 03 9372 2285

Still undecided?

I’ll make it easy for you, just click on the “Happy Toastie” below and you’ll be taken to all my breakfast adventures. BOOM!


So um, did I miss any of your favourite brunch spots?

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Keep eating,


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