Monday, 12 May 2014

Friends of Mine, Richmond, Victoria (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

I'm not big on going out for breakfast, so when I do I want it to be as worthwhile an experience as going out for lunch or dinner. In my hometown of Perth, there are far too many breakfast joints who treat breakfast like its a blank cheque to mark up simple dishes like Eggs on Toast without offering any particularly creative alternatives. During our visit to Melbourne, I was keen to give breakfast a fair go and see what the city had to offer. While researching places to go, I stumbled upon a list of Matt Preston's five favourite Breakfast spots from the Herald Sun online. The Herald Sun is a horribly right wing paper that I wouldn't normally be caught dead reading, but that first photo of the Banana Bread from Richmond's Friends of Mine had me transfixed. After reading what Preston had to say about the place, it was pretty much settled; Friends of Mine was on our list of breakfast places to check out.

Located on the quiet end of Swan St and conveniently close to the the Burnley Train Station and a Route 70 Tram Stop, the place is an interesting mix of styles, with bold splashes of yellow and a chandelier near the counter...

... juxtaposed with reclaimed industrial chic in the cafe's middle section,...

... and a kind of bistroesque main dining room. Seated where we were, it was interesting to see the interplay of the three styles, which worked in a charmingly odd way.

The menu at Friends of Mine (pictured above) is filled with considered and interesting breakfast choices, ranging from the $5.50 Pick. Me. Up. Please (a brioche roll, bacon, house made tomato chutney, scramble eggs and cheddar) to the signature breakfast dishes on their 'Favourite Friends'.

Given that Alissa was still on Perth time and we had gotten up early to beat any queues, we had our standard issues of a cappuccino for Alissa and a strong latte for myself. As is to be expected of good cafes throughout Australia (and Melbourne in particular), the coffee was excellent and well made - not overly frothed and at a good temperature.

But of course the main draw here was the breakfast. My choice of the Toasted Banana Bread with Maple Syrup Mascarpone, Fresh Banana, Berry Compote and Pistachio had been decided the moment I saw the photo in the Herald Sun list and it did not disappoint. There was an interesting contrast of fresh and cooked flavours here; the expected move for bananas in a breakfast stack would be to served them caramelised with a bit of sugar, however the decision to serve them fresh highlighted their creaminess instead of their sweetness - something that the maple syrup mascarpone had more than covered anyway. The berry compote added a pleasing tartness, and the buttery goodness of the pistachio crumble really capped of a marvellous fruit-driven breakfast. I can see why Matt Preston had been impressed.

In a something of a role reversal, Alissa went with a savoury dish for her breakfast - Smashed Avocado with Thyme Buttered Mushrooms, Marinated Fetta and Torn Basil on Toasted Five Grain Bread with a Poached Egg. Alissa loves avocado on toast, so this was a dish right up her alley; the avocado was smooth, fresh and creamy, and the use of thyme and butter in cooking the mushrooms imparted it with a lovely richness of flavour. The fetta gave the dish a salty kick, and the poached egg was perfectly cooked, with a pleasant runny yolk. This was a little more orthodox a breakfast than my dish, but it was well executed.

The Verdict: Excellent
This was a really nice breakfast, served up in an establishment positively brimming with charm. The flavour combinations of their dishes were well considered, with the Toasted Banana Bread in particular justifiably acclaimed. Its a cut above the average breakfast place and is decently priced for the quality, but after eating at Hammer and Tong a few days later I did feel like the cheffy touches of Hammer and Tong were another level higher than what Friends of Mine are doing (although the Friends of Mine service was probably better). I think if I lived in Melbourne I'd definitely still want to come back for the Toasted Banana Bread and to try their Eggs Benedict with the smoked ham hock terrine and apple cider hollandaise, but it would be lower on my list of priorities than trying everything on the Hammer and Tong menu.

Friends of Mine on Urbanspoon

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