Freshly made coffee, perfectly poached eggs and ubiquitous smashed avo on sourdough toast - here in Australia, it’s fair to say that breakfast may be the closest thing we have to a national cuisine. Indeed, so beloved is our favourite meal that Aussie-inspired brunch spots are popping up the world over at an ever-increasing rate. But to see where the rest of the globe takes its inspiration, then a trip to Melbourne is a must. From the Sri Lankan croissant and classic Northern Italian brunch, to some of the best corn fritters in the country; this city gives seriously good brekky. Read on for 5 of the best places in which to see why.
Sri Lankan for breakfast? Believe it or not, stranger food combinations have happened.
At Pavlov's Duck, a modern brunch menu brimming with new flavours and distinct combinations are the order of the day. Think asian tabouli with a fish and potato fritter and poached egg on top, or the ‘brunch bowl’ (spiced chickpeas, cauliflower, pumpkin, broccoli, spinach and sauerkraut). The South-Asian ingredients and spices have even been applied to the humble croissant, which has become the ‘lankan frenchy' - a croissant filled with coconut, chilli, parsley and a boiled egg. Yummy. Post-meal there’s also a range of gluten-free, sugar-free and organic desserts to satisfy any cravings.
One of the newest additions to the heavy Melbourne brunch scene, Higher Ground is also easily the most stylish.
Set at the west end of Little Bourke Street in a heritage-listed former Victorian powerhouse, Higher Ground has wow factor in spades. A cavernous space, its sky-high rafters (15-metres high, to be precise) and huge arched windows could easily house a trendy boutique hotel in London or Manhattan.
A long stainless steel coffee bar spans the ground floor, overlooking what is a funky l-shaped mezzanine from where diners can take in the bustle in all its glory. Upstairs, there’s another level that’s more casual and lounge-like space - complete with its own barista station - where visitors can read or work.
Coffee is from the restaurant group's in-house roastery and the cafe-meets-restaurant approach to food can easily be seen in the combinations on offer. From semolina porridge with fresh blueberry, tikka bean and lemon balm, and avocado with anger lime on sourdough, to spiced cauliflower scrambled eggs with curry leaf and roasted chilli - the eating is good. Not only that, but the dishes are very good looking too. In fact, Instagram fans won’t be able to control their urge to get snap-happy. Indeed, the ricotta hot cakes - complete with edible florals - are (I’m reliably informed) the most Instagrammed breakfast dish in the city.
Located at the top of Bourke Street, The Mess Hall doesn’t have a jaw-dropping interior - it’s actually pretty unassuming - but this little modern Italian packs a real punch in the food stakes.
In the thick of the city’s dining and theatre precinct, the cafe has built a reputation amongst hungry Melburnians for providing quality, unpretentious breakfast and brunch favourites - classic dishes with a slight twist. The menu includes belly-filling options such as avocado on rye toast with Bulgarian feta, chilli, coriander and lime, hollandaise eggs with smoked trout and minted pea mash, and the ever-popular corn fritters stacked on top of avocado, cream cheese, tomato relish and coriander, which has easily the best bang for your buck in the city.
With seating options inside or al fresco and with great coffee on tap, this is a bolthole of a cafe where you can easily while away a morning or early afternoon.
Positioned in the remains of an old chocolate factory in the hip suburb of Fitzroy, the award-winning Breakfast Thieves cafe has a sister restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, which obviously is the inspiration for its unique modern Australian meets Asian take on brekky.
Since opening in 2012, the cafe has been a go-to for brunch-hunters and it’s easy to see why. Firstly, looks-wise it ticks the right boxes: industrial chic, with exposed light bulbs and aged timber. Secondly, given its multicultural background, the menu options showcase influences through Asia and Europe.
Standouts include the ‘gypsy king’ (spanish morcilla served on crisp rosemary polenta bars with caramelised onion jam, cauliflower & parmesan puree) and several weekend and holiday-only dishes, including ‘mr benedict’ (free range pork jowl slow cooked with crisp kale, apple and snow peas compote and poached eggs) and the moreish ‘ms omega’ (beetroot and gin cured ocean trout, pan fried broccolini and poached eggs with yuzu-hollandaise sauce on sourdough toast.)
More brunch than breakfast, this relative newcomer (it opened its doors last year) is an all-day eatery focusing on Northern Italian fare.
Housed on Little Collins street, the intimate space seats around 50 and it’s the ultimate venue for a brunch that continues well into lunch - particularly with the addition of a glass or two of the expertly curated house wines.
Pasta is a definite highlight here. Freshly made, it ranges from light dishes, such as black spaghettini with blue swimmer crab, through to the rich, including a pork ragu or ricotta gnocchi with truffle cream. Mains include the roast chicken and veal schnitzel and the coniglio alla bergamasca (braised rabbit and sausage).
The marble bar, which spans the width of the restaurant is great for pulling up a chair, watching the chefs slice mouthwatering salami and terrines (the restaurant’s “crudo antipasto corner”) and sinking a prosecco or two.
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