Tall Timber: Felling Breakfast Prejudices

I really should stop ragging on the breakfast institutions South of the Yarra, given the few that I have been to have all pleased my palate. WRONG! What a seductive trap to fall into, that of drawing conclusions from a small sample size. It would be all too easy to relinquish my inborn suspicion of how the other half live, to think that perhaps there is character and heart behind the fripperies of Chapel Street and Toorak Road et al., based on the three or so lovely little South-Side venues I have visited. Yet until I have extensively sampled the offerings over the bridge, I cannot confidently test the hypothesis that perhaps my dismissal of that area as a cultural wasteland is hasty (and bigoted). The selection bias of only going places that my companions know to be “good” isn’t helping with the validity of this study, but who wants to pay for a crummy meal at an inconvenient end of town?

This particular morning I hopped on my bike and cycled a lazy 10km (!!) to meet the industrious Chic Pea before she started work. The effort of this was mitigated by it being a delightful morning for a ride, with the sun prickling my near-translucent skin for the first time in months. We visited Tall Timber, any airy establishment East of the Alfred Hospital on Commercial Road. Communal dining and dogs seemed to be encouraged in the outdoor area, both of which I am a little iffy on. What I have no problems with, however, is going straight for the:

House Bircher Muesli: Vanilla + cinnamon pear, pistacchio crumble + rose syrup

Here is what all of that added up to (because there were a few addition signs in the menu, you see):

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Well, they certainly delivered on the pear part of the equation. In fact, it seems that having a big, throbbing pear centrepiece is a bit trendy at the moment. Anyway, this was an actual feast as well as a visual feast. As I journeyed through this Garden of (about to be) Eaten, I encountered sweet, moist oats balanced by the crunch of savoury pistachio and micro-herbage. I gladly consumed the apple of this garden, not offered whole by a serpent, but Julienned by the equally dangerous South of the Yarra chef. I subsequently cast aside the flowers, placed, no doubt, for my modesty (after eating one, how transgressive) and fully succumbed to this Original Sin, the sin of now considering travelling Southside of my own volition to re-experience this muesli, and of recommending that others do so.

Final Word: Go! Cast aside your prejudice and taste the fruit of Tall Timber, and the muesli while you’re at it.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

Tall Timber Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Naughty Boy: Nice Bircher

As a long weekend Monday would demand, I wanted to expend the least effort possible to go out to breakfast this morning. As I had visited the highly proximal Miss Marmalade yesterday, I thought I might branch out and travel slightly East to Princess Hill, notable for its leafy greenery and graveyard. Fun fact: the bust that sits above the drinking fountain by the cemetery is modelled on a direct ancestor of Baby Chino, who is not the man named on the plaque – that guy was sick at the time of sitting for the sculpture. Nothing like swooping in and getting your mug immortalised in someone else’s name – classic Chino family tactics.

Speaking of hijinks, the establishment that we visited this morning was the aptly named Naughty Boy, sitting sheepishly on the cusp of the fun end of Lygon Street, next to Richardson Street. Naughty boy is an airy space that is lit by all manner of quirky hanging lights. Well, two manners; dropping down from logs, and dropping down encased in black milk crates. These gave the place an eclectic, calculatedly haphazard feel that was offset nicely by neat teal tiling adorning the counter and walls. Northern-suburb chic oozed from the exposed brick peeking out from defects in the white concrete walls, with a grimy No Standing sign indicating that the patrons were to be seated, I suppose. One of the walls contained the top half of a head, probably of a ne’er-do-well male child, but I don’t want to make assumptions.

Happy, the menu can be found online, so I don’t have to remember that I ordered:

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So many specific words and letters, you can’t just make this stuff up. What is a corella pear? How do chia seeds fit in? I will answer all those questions and more right now:

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Such a collection of things! I feel I am supposed to divine my future from the way that the ingredients have fallen…here goes…my perception is grainy, however it looks like I will be encountering a juicy pear of nuts…oh my, I’d better stop right there and focus on the present/recent past. What a moist plethora of flavour this breakfast was! The cool tartness of the pear mixed sensuously with smoky almonds, while the salty pistachios elevated the cool, sweet apple and yoghurt-soaked oats. Finally, the bitterness of the blood orange was a thoughtful reminder that nothing in life is easy or straightforward, and that breakfast is serious business that should not be wolfed down. It also left my mouth with a slight tannin residue, as if I’d just has a sip of tea but with the added bonus of chewing. The textures here were just as varied and satisfying, with special mention to the pleasure I derived from squishing the pomegranate seeds and popping the small grapes with my teeth and palate. The Naughty Boy muesli was an intimate, visceral experience.

Final word: Visit Naughty Boy and order the muesli. While some disciplinarians might argue that you would be reinforcing bad behaviour, sometimes you’ve got to take a chance on a rogue.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

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Two Short Men: Reaching New Muesli Heights

On this chilly Winter morning I decided to begin my exploration of the breakfast offerings of High Street, Northcote. It lies obscenely close to my temporary ‘hood, an airy family home of which I am the sole human occupant and where I am completely enslaved by the whims of a very persistent cat. Despite living alone for the past fortnight or so, I have not graduated to dining solo and so jumped at the chance to escape my hermitage and meet Captain Cappuccino, who has triumphantly returned from his linguistic secondment to China as a true Scholar of Asian tongues.

High Street is the place to eat, drink and buy over-priced (probably, maybe not for real adults with jobs) but socially conscious wares in Northcote, and it knows it. Shop after trendy shop seem to pop up, ready to siphon off some of the quietly enthusiastic local patronage, and add to the much-more-family-friendly-than-Brunswick-Street vibe of the area. I will always be fond of this street, with its memories of trivia, first date nervousness, and beef with sizzling Mongolian sauce. I am yet, however, to make many breakfast memories and that is where Two Short Men, just off High Street on Mitchell Street (it still counts), comes in. Unfortunately I was too wrapped up in the tales of adventure and debauchery that the Captain was regaling me with as he sipped his chocolatey namesake to take notice of the interior, but I do remember it being deceptively spacious with plenty of natural light. I managed to order:

Home Made Bircher Muesli: with labne and seasonal compote

Here is what I was presented with:

 

Happily, unlike my recent meal-companion, Capt. Cappuccino did not sit on my lap and try to eat my breakfast and so this outing could already be considered a success. The muesli was, in a word,  juicy. It was as if I was eating creamy, crunchy juice – which it turns out is delicious! There were plenty of little poppy seeds and pepitas to get suck in my teeth, but it’s a small price to pay for texture and whatever health benefits these things contain. The labne was cool, dense, and smooth in lovely contrast to the mushy oats. My only criticism would be that there could have been more of a stewed fruit presence, with the bit of pear – while very welcome – left me wanting more. Overall, Two Short Men has delivered a generously portioned muesli that I was very happy to start my day with.

Final Word: If  you have so far measured the merit of an establishment by the height of the owners, now is the time to stop bizarrely discriminating and order the Bircher muesli from Two Short Men.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

Two Short Men on Urbanspoon

Mixed Business: Muesli Good Enough to Buy Shares In

My return to the Melbourne breakfast scene took me to a part of Clifton Hill that was both familiar and strange to me, depending on which side of Queens Parade we look at. The familiar aspect of this northern arterial road lies to the East in the form of the bizarrely architectural Clifton Hill McDonalds (I do love art deco, and a sneaky caramel sundae). The Clifton Hill Mac drive-thru and car park has served as the setting for at least two firsts for me – my first desperate car-knock for jumper leads to start a flat battery caused by eating sundaes with the headlights and radio on; and my first encounter with a brothel (to eat, we always park out the front of Scarlet Lady or “Scarly”, the other den of iniquity apart from the McDonalds). I had so far overlooked the West side of Queens Parade as it tends to go by in a blur of frantic U-turning across this busy road in order to make it back home. Having the opportunity to actually walk on this side of the road revealed a pleasant strip characterised by many bikes, a quaint little florist and Mixed Business, the cafe where I was meeting the world-beating Madame Macchiato for a final breakfast before she jets off to study disease in a foreign land.

Mixed Business has a clean, raw retro feel. The decor appealed to the obsessive in me with a pervasive neatness in the arrangement of the crockery, baskets and cafe knick-knacks on the simple timber shelving adorning the wall behind the counter. Even the plants had a simple neatness of growth and arrangement that made my brain very pleased to look at (and some people call me highly strung – I don’t see it). Finally, and I don’t often mention this, but the staff were as warm and friendly as a sunflower tablecloth (which was not present here, probably for the best – too much of a good thing etc etc).

Excited by the prospect of breakfast in friendly surrounds I ordered:

House muesli with strawberries in rose water syrup, honey yoghurt and pistachios

My hopes high, and with the promise of a quality dish by Mme Macchiato from past experience, I eagerly received this menu-reality:

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The almost UFO-sighting quality of this image belies the excellence of what my eyes actually registered (though this is less blurry than what my unaided vision would have picked up so let’s just say I was trying to convey “frustration of myopia” with this one). You don’t need 20/20 vision, however, to appreciate the deliciousness of this muesli. Mixed Business have got it right, from the creamy yoghurt used as a medium to convey a subtle hint of rosewater and honey sweetness into the power combination of pistachios, coconut and oats. The strawberries add a refreshing coolness and berry-ness to the mix that complimented the heavier smokiness of the nuts. And as you can see, Mixed Business did not skimp on the nuts which to me conveys a customer-care at a level beyond friendly service. The staff can be as accommodating as can be, but if at the end of the day my mouth has been largely devoid of nuts, I will be going home disappointed (a mentality that surely must be shared by patrons of one of the above-mentioned establishments).  To top it off, having the liberty of tailoring the viscosity of the muesli with a separate milk jug is a thoughtful addition to this breakfast experience.

Final Word: Queens Parade has much more to offer than the late night Maccas run. Wake up, walk to the other side of the road and have the good people at Mixed Business fix you this muesli. Caution: they do not have a drive-thru, so you will have to wear pants.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM
Mixed Business on Urbanspoon

The Elk and Pea: Muesli Worth Enduring the Current Government For

This weekend I found myself driving to Canberra with Madam Macchiato to visit the beautiful (but deadly) Kommandant Kale, who has left Melbourne to answer the noble call of public service. Initially, while I was very happy for my dear friend, I not-so-secretly thought that she was in for a boring and depressing year in our nation’s capital. This was based on nothing but the general disdain that Melbournians tend to have for anywhere more than 15km out from the CBD (unless we are talking about “the beach”, which we just loooove with a self-righteous air of ownership). My view changed on Saturday morning, however, as seeing the capital for the first time in the light (the drive was awfully long – we arrived in the dark) I realised that it is a gorgeous garden city! With the impending upheaval of Royal Park to make way for the East-West link, this was a revelation as I have now found a city that is a essentially giant park with buildings scattered amongst it all to escape to. I could live in Canberra! Whew, I said it.

We chose The Elk and Pea on the safely-named Lonsdale Street in somewhere called Braddon for our first venture – which was, I’m ashamed to say, a brunch. The intermediary meal of brunch throws me off-kilter for the day, punishment for waking up after 9am I suppose. We arrived and were shocked to be asked if we had a booking. Booking for brunch? What did they think they were, the Langham Hotel? The wait staff apologetically asked us to share a table with others outside, which was an unnecessary sentiment as there was an abundance of space on said table – if this was Melbourne there would have been four tables crammed into the space allocated for this one. Refreshing. In terms of decor, I can only comment on the table cloth, which made me quite happy as it carried a cheery sunflower pattern. Otherwise, it was nice to have a quiet, unhurried meal in the middle of a capital city.

Without further ado I will get to the main event which involved me ordering:

Bircher Muesli: Coconut and cinnamon infused muesli, poached pear compote, toasted nuts

Wondering in error how one solid (oats) could be physically be infused with another (coconut), I eagerly received this dish as an answer:

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The pear is arranged like Parliament! Sort of – they probably realised that they couldn’t get away with only having four slices of pear as a garnish. And by probably realised, I mean that I have concocted that story about this muesli with a tourist’s excitement. The first mouthful of this dish revealed a deliciously tart puree that tasted more like passionfruit than pear, but I’m not picky as it was excellent. The cinnamon was generously present here, complimenting the stately, crisp pear perfectly and giving the plump, moist oats a comfort kick. The crunchy toasted almonds and coconut contrasted nicely with the oats and chewy sultanas strewn throughout this dish. This is a powerful breakfast, one that could win elections, pass bills and do other confident political acts. Basically, I enjoyed this muesli so much that I would let it brainwash me – how dangerously alluring and absurd!

Final word: The Elk and Pea have defied all expectations and delivered one of the best muesli that I have eaten so far. For those that live in Canberra, make a booking (weird) and demand this dish. For those in Melbourne, don’t drive up to Canberra, fly, then brave your disdain for all places ‘other’ and just order the muesli.

Good Muesli, Canberra!

-MM

The Elk & Pea on Urbanspoon

The Old Paper Shop Deli Revisited: Muesli to Turn a North-Miss South – Again

My now annual trek across the Yarra to Albert Park for the Brazillian Butterfly Queen of the Lake fun run for Ovarian Cancer ended much like the last one did – me dragging my hot, sweaty, self-satisfied body to the Old Paper Shop Deli for a Ms Sourdough sponsored breakfast. I again had the company of a much fitter, less sweaty Baby Chino and was happy to include newcomers to the support of this worthy cause, Lord and Lady Marmalade.

The interior has not changed, however I feel as if I have become more observant as this time I noticed a decadent decal of a topless woman on the facade. How risqué! We still had to go up and order at the counter, and it was lucky we did so quickly as the place promptly filled up after 9am. Ms Sourdough offered to do my bidding for this task and so she directly and politely ordered:

Two Birchers, please.

She has good taste. Here is what eventually came out:

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Prunes! Well, one prune. There were more but I was so excited by this muesli to stop to take a photo of the undisturbed dish. I cannot go past a breakfast that includes this most sticky sweet digestive. Imagine if bran was also an ingredient here, my gastrointestinal tract quivers at the thought. Anyway, prunes alone were my reason to revisit this muesli as I would like to reiterate how great they are. The muesli here has not changed one bit – still refreshing with cool grated apple and natural yoghurt. The hazelnuts add a dessert-like flavour, recalling cakes and crumbles – things that the Old Paper Shop Deli has in delicious-looking spades. There was even the silly mint garnish that I came across one year ago but this time I will pay it the respect it deserves as it put a furry little mint tinge to the underlying yoghurt, which is much more appetising than I’m making it sound. Again, I could have eaten two serves of this muesli, but that is probably because running around Albret Park Lake in 32 degree heat will make a girl extra hungry.

Final Word: The Old Paper Shop Deli muesli is a good second reason to be in South Melbourne. The first reason should be something charitable and fun, and not awful like the Grand Prix or Chapel Street.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

The Old Paper Shop Deli on Urbanspoon

Two on Rathdowne: One Solid Muesli

It is time to rouse Miss Muesli from her end of year, stress-induced coma and stop talking about her in the third person. The first step on this journey toward muesli rejuvenation was to accept a surprising and uncharacteristic breakfast offer from Mr Tea, on the proviso that he would not have to choose the location and that he be picked up and driven there. Dads are great.

So on a clear Summer morning, we visited Rathdowne Street. This would have to be one of my favourite streets in Melbourne, with its terrace houses and small shop-fronts bathed in dappled sunlight filtered through the giant trees – no urban heat islands to be found here. Our destination was a cafe called Two on Rathdowne, adjacent to Macpherson Street. Inside were tables displaying bits-and-bobs for sale, things that would make a place feel homely (which succeeded for the cafe) but are likely to be otherwise useless (which would not deter me). Also of note are the quaint hanging birdcage lights, which emit somewhat of a harsh glow so I would advise not to stare at them for too long.

Cutting to the chase, I stayed true to form and ordered the:

Muesli, please

Of course the menu described it in more detail, but this was my first review for a long time and I forgot to make a note. I hoped the muesli would not be as rusty as I am:

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Nothing excites me more than a brown-tinged breakfast. To me, that signals that spices are afoot and although I do not have the palate to confidently distinguish between them, I always have a taste-tester on hand to tell me what exactly it is that I’m enjoying. I guess in that way I’m sort of the opposite of a paranoid Queen, in that I earnestly hoe in to whatever I’m presented with and only later do I try and work out what any peculiar (but rarely poisonous) taste may be. In this case the spice that could be identified was ‘juice’. Yes, these were sweet, juice-soaked oats offset nicely by the tartness of the poached raspberries and blueberries. The addition of sesame seeds, poppy seeds and sultanas gave this muesli a pleasing chewy texture and an earthiness that is a welcome addition to any oat dish. With this, Two on Rathdowne have created a solid, but not particularly remarkable muesli.

Final Word: Have this muesli for breakfast if you would like a cool sweet treat to escape from the (ridiculously) warm Summer-morning sun.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

Two on Rathdowne on Urbanspoon

Racers: Middle-of-the-Pack Muesli

For the last month I have been living in a nursing home. No, I did not eat the brain of someone who lived in the UK between 1980-1996 and have developed the dementia  associated with prion disease (touch wood). This barely-converted nursing home represents my University’s accommodation for me and other students in Ballarat, where I am currently doing a five-week placement. Despite the grimness that confronts me every day upon waking, as well as weather that makes Melbourne look like the Gold Coast, the town of Ballarat itself is really quite nice. Churches and historic buildings densely populate the town centre and the black swans inhabiting the glorious Lake Wendouree are a sight to behold on a rare sunny day.

Madame Phở-pas came to visit for a week and provided as good a reason as any to wake up early and seek out some semi-rural muesli.  The first place we tried, Eclectic Tastes, looked very promising however we were shocked to our Melbourne-bred cores to discover that on this mid-week morning it was due to open at 9am. What sort of rationale is that? Disheartened and confused, we drove around the Lake looking for anywhere that would feed us. We found Racers Bar and Cafe, which sits on the corner of Wendouree Parade and Webster Street. The inside is not particularly inspiring, with a lifelessly modern decor consisting of lots of red, white and black. Glass dominated the facade which did give the place an open, airy feel.

Anyway, turning to the menu I was happy to see that Racers does cater for the muesli-inclined and so the gist of what I ordered was:

Bircher Muesli with Stewed Fruit

What could be the reality of that intriguing description? Well, this:

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This thirds approach to presentation was particularly appealing, except for the subliminal peace promotion that I suppose I can get behind. To start, a good thing about this dish was the rhubarb and probably-pear stewed mixture which provided a tartness that balanced the almost caramel, naughty sweetness of the honey used. The nut crumble added a crinkliness to the texture that was welcome as that muesli mix itself did not seem to contain any sort of nut or seed. Indeed, the paste-like oats did not stand up own their own and had to be quickly combined with the two other thirds to be enjoyable. The whole of this muesli was certainly tastier than the sum of its parts.

Overall: The Racers offering is a good example of a second-choice muesli. Don’t jump at the chance to try it, but if your first option is unavailable and you still need your morning cereal this muesli will tide you over until lunch.

Adequate Muesli, Ballarat!

-MM

Racers on Urbanspoon

Miss Marmalade: Muesli Not To Be Missed

After waking in terror last night during a particularly violent thunderstorm, it was fortunate that my nerves were to be soothed this morning by the unique combination the company of Ms Sourdough and muesli. There is nothing like a bowl of oats to fortify the spirit (and to activate the gastrocolic reflex, but as it is not polite to mention this in conversation this important truth is relegated to brackets).

It had been a while since Ms Sourdough and I had managed to align our schedules to facilitate a coveted weekday breakfast and so I wanted to take her somewhere memorable. That place was Miss Marmalade, a cafe tucked away in Union Street, just East of Barry Street and opposite the Union Hotel in Brunswick. How could I resist the Inception-esque allure of a muesli within a Miss Muesli  within another Miss?

Miss Marmalade is a charming place.  The faded-white awning overhanging planters brimming with…plants…(botany is not my forte)… outside is reminiscent of an old country town general store. The homeliness of the warm, rough brown of the counter and furnishings is accentuated by the dark brick walls and the warm light reflecting off the array of enticing cakes displayed in quaint glassware. There is an eclectic mix of decorative pieces including a collection of green bottles hanging on a wall – which brings to mind the consequences of what happens if one should accidentally fall – how endearing to be reminded of primary school bus songs in such an unexpected setting!

Miss Marmalade has two muesli on offer, a Bircher and a granola. According to the menu I chose:

Berry Nutty Bircher Creamy Rolled Oats with Tahitian vanilla, royal gala apples, mixed berries and sweet dukkah

Sweet, sweet dukkah. What is dukkah, we both ask? Well according to the Google it is a mix of nuts and spices from Egypt and can also be spelt: duqqa. That description makes the topping and the tasting of this muesli make more sense:

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How pleasantly fresh. The thick, creamy vanilla yoghurt was divine and was the perfect vehicle for delivering the soft, earthy oats and crunchy nuts into my person. The berry nuttiness of this dish was not a misnomer, the joy of encountering whole hazelnuts and macadamias with every bite is only comparable to the joy of not being allergic to nuts. There were so many nuts! What a treat. The slight spice that I now know is attributable to the dukkah was a lovely accompaniment to the tartness of the raspberries and blueberries, as well as adding to as the crisp freshness of the sliced apple. It speaks volumes for this muesli that not only did I love it, but so did Ms Sourdough and she has a much more refined palate than the one in my relatively-uncouth yap.

Final word: Take this opportunity to be adventurous and explore the backstreets of Brunswick to find Miss Marmalade. Your reward will be great, as this muesli is one of the best in town.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

Miss Marmalade on Urbanspoon

Wide Open Road: Muesli Revisited

Firstly, it has been way too long between muesli.

Secondly, this is due to the double-whammy of being busy doing things that do not involve me eating oats (if only I were a horse, that would go a ways to solving that problem), and the fact that I destroyed my phone a couple of weeks ago. After being annoyed that all my contacts and text messages were gone, my heart sunk as I realised that recent muesli-related notes and pictures were also lost!

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My reaction to all of this was to mope. Oh how satisfying it is to balefully stare at the non-smart (dumb) backup phone that was kindly given to me by Lady Grey, while trying to tap the non-touch screen to make a call. I revelled in the martyrdom of techno-poverty that had been thrust upon me (by my clumsiness). Boy, I am the worst. Safe to say I got over it once Chic Pea took pity on me and lent me a phone without too many buttons.

Anyway, I returned to Wide Open Road with two wise-men; Monsieur Croque and The Burgermeister, for a cheeky Friday morning breakfast. Happily there was a new muesli on offer:

Date and coconut Bircher muesli with strawberry banana jam and almond clusters

What a mouthful. Let’s see what it looked like before I scooped it up:

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Wide Open Road definitely makes muesli with a rugged, woodsy look. It is with utmost affection that I compare the aesthetic of the jam and toasted almond topping with tanbark in its earthy familiarity – you could almost imagine furnishing a children’s playground with it. Most importantly, this was a delicious muesli. The crunchy almond crumble perfectly complemented the creamy texture of the oats and yoghurt, and chewiness of the dates. The soft chunks of banana in the jam were a nice surprise (although the menu did strongly suggest their presence) in that banana is sadly not often used in cafe muesli. Despite my having it every morning on weetbix, I cannot get enough of breakfast banana. The jam added a sweetness that, even on top of the coconut strewn through this dish, was not overpowering – which is quite a feat. Unlike the previous Wide Open Road muesli, however, I was not particularly full after this meal as I noticed my beady eyes resting on the breakfast-dessert options at the counter. In a rare display of self restraint (directly proportional to having only $15 on me) I refrained, but will certainly return for a coffee and crumble.

Final word: Regardless of the season, Wide Open Road does great muesli. Go there and order it, but bring enough money for a post-brekky treat.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

Wide Open Road on Urbanspoon