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

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Top Paddock: Stallion Muesli

This particular  morning I ventured out to Richmond which is much further away from Brunswick than I thought – but probably still not far enough to complain about. I think my confusion stems from not having much of a concept of the East of Melbourne, or of Victoria for that matter. Some might call this a sheltered existence but when almost 100% of your destinations for the last 5 years can be summarised in two words – Parkville Precinct – you tend to have a more narrow focus. Or become lazy.

I was lucky enough to be spending to morning out with The Milkmaid who had suggested that we try Top Paddock in Church Street. I would have cycled there except I was not-so-stoically enduring the second cold that I had earned in my time at the Royal Children’s Hospital – kids are great – so we drove. I mention this only because the benevolent Pope Eggs-Benedict, who was a welcome and coined-up surprise addition to the party, ended up having to pay for parking to enable us to get anywhere near the place – not a good start to the morning. I’m rambling a bit about the prelude to the breakfast to cover up the fact that I did not get a good look inside Top Paddock because at 9:30am it was full. As I am the type of cavalier (impatient) breakfaster that will endure freezing temperatures to eat muesli, my company and I sat outside. My impression of the place is, therefore, that it was cold.

As my brain was numbed by hunger, the very helpful and up-to-date Top Paddock website reminds me that I asked for:

Bircher Muesli with natural yoghurt and green tea poached fruit

Green tea?! Ah, the exotic East-ish of Melbourne. Here is what that looked like:

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Everything about this visual feast is endearing to me. I very much enjoy the whole poached pear plonked proudly atop a mound of moist muesli. The micro-herbs (an entity that I had never before encountered – how uncouth I must be!) trail delicately around the dish giving it a whimsical, Springtime look. Additionally, for a change berries take a backseat as they create a darkly rich frame for the aforementioned pear protrusion. Seeing as I did not simply stare at my muesli I should mention how it tasted. The overarching theme here is lightness. There was a lovely balance of sweet shredded apple and tart, citrusy herbs. The green tea infusion left me with a very pleasing, dusky aftertaste that was one of the best things about this unique muesli. Finally, a note must be made of the moist density of this Top Paddock dish which is a texture that makers of Bircher muesli should strive for.

I would be remiss not to include a note on the Top Paddock porridge which I enviously watched The Milkmaid order and eat, despite me being visually and nutritionally sated:

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Man oh man. Oats oh oats. Flowers and rhubarb and micro-herbs and pistachios! Those are all of the things I can see but sadly did not taste. Apparently it was “full-bodied, thick and creamy…with the sugar caramelising into toffee” (Milkmaid, 2013). It kills me that these are not my descriptors, I’ll have to go back for this!

Overall: If you wake up early with hungry eyes-and-stomach, go to Top Paddock and feast on the cereal. Try not to pay for parking.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

Top Paddock on Urbanspoon

Small Block: Geometric Muesli

On a semi-recent cold Winter morning, Baby Chino and myself set out for a brisk (but shamefully short) bike ride to Small Block, an unassuming cafe-front at the cool end (my end) of Lygon Street, where we were meeting the indomitable Ms Sourdough and the ever-elusive Doctor Dessert for breakfast.

Small Block plays heavily on a simple maths theme. For those of you who quiver at the site of the quadratic equation, or simply get angry with algebra – this is a safe place. There is a number wall with single digits pleasingly arranged in a tetris-like collage; there is a giant happy-coloured abacus adorning another wall and there are games aplenty for those so inclined to play as they eat. As there would be nothing like a good board-tipping followed by a huffy walkout to spoil a morning out, I refrain from playing games in public so this feature is lost on me. The decor was very sparse and basic, with concrete floors and functional ugly-but-comfy chairs – just what you would expect from a left-brained establishment.

The menu is found on a blackboard on one of the walls, and so I was able to make full use of my updated glasses prescription to ask for:

The bircher muesli, please

The answer to this equation was worked out as follows:

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What a neat pile of muesli. I enjoyed the rays of cinnamon framing the meal like a halo, an appropriate presentation for the glory that is cereal. Speaking of wonderful things, I would have to say the best thing about Winter is rhubarb. I will never stop being pleased to see it and today was no exception – such volume of chunks! The praise, however, does not continue much beyond this superficial level. The Small Block muesli was very light on the oats and heavy on the coconut, resulting in the dish tasting very much like a rhubarb crumble. Now, I am all for breakfast-dessert, but here I was expecting a breakfast-breakfast and so was not loving this dessert-dessert masquerading as muesli. It was all very sweet and crumbly, with sultanas and possibly dates providing some enjoyable chewiness – which is all well and good except I would soon have no teeth to chew with if I continued to eat breakfast with the sort of sugar content that the Small Block muesli seemed to have.

Final Word: If you are not a diabetic (or prepared to increase your insulin dose if you are) and feeling like some yoghurty rhubarb-crumble for breakfast, try the Small Block Muesli. If you value your teeth and pancreas perhaps stick to the eggs.

(Not So) Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

Small Block on Urbanspoon

Wide Open Road: This Muesli is Going Places!

Sydney road and its tributaries are lush with interesting places to eat, instead of with any sort of natural foliage (interesting given the tree-lined beauty that is its continuation, Royal Parade). Traffic flows sluggishly through this Brunswick artery, hardened with concrete on all sides bar the sky – which on this particular Sunday morning was a warm Autumn blue and happily not yet the steely grey that will set the tone for the coming months. Understand that I say all of this with the wan fondness bred from a life of habitation and there is nowhere in Melbourne that I would rather live!

Anyway, this discourse on Sydney Road is slightly tangential as the place I was taken for breakfast – Wide Open Road – is on Barkly Street opposite Barkly Square (soon to proudly house a JB-HiFi!). Wide Open Road is a light-brick building that looms large over the footpath. This stark exterior belies an indoors that I did not, in one of my recent posts, quite believe existed – I had  serendipitously found myself in a cosy warehouse! What has led me to make this grand statement? One word: terrariums. Plural. Wide Open Road is decorated by terrariums large and small, of all shapes and sizes – but mostly spheres and rectangular prisms. Flourishing in the soil of these microcosmic ecosystems were reedy-looking plants, leafy-looking plants and cacti. I’m really not a green thumb, but a I am a green eye in that I like seeing other people’s healthy flora. I also found plants peeping endearingly out behind wall columns that would have otherwise been bare and uninviting. Wide Open Road has (photo)synthesised nature with the industrial feel of impressive metallic, spherical ceiling lights that hang over dark fabric booths and the fans that whir lazily overhead to create a dynamic and interesting space for dining. I did manage to stop overanalysing my surroundings for long enough to ask the harried waitress for:

Bircher muesli with stone fruit compote and oat crumble

Whenever I see the word ‘compote’ I think of mafiosos in pinstripe suits, my silly association cortex has linked it irreversibly to ‘Capone’ I suppose. Old timey gang leaders aside, the muesli looked as follows:

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What a dark and mysterious muesli this is! After some of the garish offerings I have witnessed of late I was glad to see this dusky dish appear in front of me. The thing that immediately set the Wide Open Road muesli apart from the rest was the roasted nut and oat crumble lavishly strewn over it. I was particularly pleased to find cashew nuts nestled within the mix adding their smokey creaminess to the dish and giving it the feel of a guilty pleasure rather than a wholesome breakfast – I can never resist a naughty cashew or twenty. The crunchiness of the crumble almost managed to overshadow the other accompaniment to this muesli, the compote. With the help of Ms Sourdough I was able to determine that it was most likely plum that, thanks to the internet, I can say was masterfully stewed in syrup or sugar (that is, compoted) to the point of soft fleshy semi-resistance. Furthermore, the natural yogurt was tart and dense with a smorgasbord of seeds, namely sunflower and poppy, along with oats, grated apple and an odd sneaky dried apple piece that would give the lucky mouthful a delicious leathery chewiness. The Wide Open Road muesli was packed with flavour and texture, and left me so full that I later turned down free samples of who-knows-what-but-normally-I’d-have-three being handed out in the aisles of Barkly Square Coles. That is just about the highest honour a muesli can earn.

Overall: Do not drive to Wide Open Road as this is an ironic name given its proximity to the very congested Sydney road. Rather, find any other means of transport to take yourself to this cosy warehouse and insist upon the muesli – you will not eat until lunch.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

MM

Wide Open Road on Urbanspoon

Little Henri: A Muesli Prodigy

The other week I navigated the foggy area of meal-time that is brunch as one of my companions that day, Captain Cappuccino (who just likes chocolate), touts a hearty late-morning meal as his hangover cure. Not being seedy enough to require curing from a  midweek hangover I begrudgingly had pre-muesli toast at my normal breakfast time to stem the tide of hunger pains that would no doubt plague me if I did not make inroads into breaking my fast. As toast is not muesli it will certainly not be reviewed here.

The venue chosen for this outing was Little Henri, an unassuming (only because I walked right past it, more a comment on my lack of observation) building on High Street, just South of Dundas Street in Thornbury. Little Henri can be summarised as an aloof warehouse. The high ceilings, regimented timber and metal furnishings as well as the large  timber-framed windows create an atmosphere of airy anonymity – this building does not care who dines, just that the function of dining is accomplished. This is in contrast to cosy-warehouses that envelop you with warmth and lavish you with attention. OK, perhaps I have never been to a cosy warehouse and maybe they don’t exist but I’m making the point that Little Henri feels aloof so there you go. This is not to say that I didn’t like the interior, I found the clean, repetitive, industrial style of it all very pleasing – it appeals to the obsessive compulsive in me who in principle hates clutter and irregularity (but in practice is clumsy so things tend to get knocked askew).

Anyway, with the brunch team assembled, I was ready to tackle:

Bircher muesli w/ poached pear, yoghurt, pistachio + rose petals

Thank you, urbanspoon menu photographers. The reality of this food-promise is as follows:

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Muesli on a plate! Things sure do get weird around brunch-time. I am, however, of the school that plates are for meat and (three) vegetables, not oats and their associates. Every morsel of a breakfast needs to be able to be scraped up and without a bowl we are getting into spoon-and-knife territory – and  you don’t bring a knife to a muesli fight. Just a bowl.

Moving on to the muesli itself, I was intrigued reading the menu as to what rose petals would be contributing to the dish. I had visions of blood-red petals artfully arranged – a romantic offering from the seemingly aloof Henri? What came out was much more grounded in culinary reality and was a lovely surprise. The rose petals gave this muesli a hint of the Mediterranean which served to accentuate the cool, tart yoghurt. The poached pear – which is now becoming my favourite muesli accompaniment – was moist, crunchy and subtly sweet. Another innovation in the Little Henri muesli were the chewy clusters of (probably) honey-roasted oats and pistachio scattered throughout. These not only fulfilled my love of chewing, but also my love of oats. Oats are wonderful nestled in yoghurt, but they are also divine in biscuits and cakes. Little Henri managed to combine the two personalities of oats – the respectable breakfast oat with the cheeky dessert oat – to create a deliciously original muesli.

Final Word: Find Little Henri and ask for his muesli. Despite this cafe’s coolness, it will serve you up an innovative breakfast that will only leave you wanting more.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

MM

Little Henri on Urbanspoon

Fruits of Passion: Muesli of Indifference

On my first observed Labour Day in five years (thanks, Melbourne Uni) and probably my last for quite a number to come (thanks again) I decided to venture out to Kensington to sample the muesli that Fruits of Passion has to offer. I embarked that morning with a light heart and a special smugness that only comes from knowing that many of my friends and family were being forced to learn or work while I would be triumphantly stuffing my face at breakfast with not a care in the world. Suck it, academia!

Fruits of Passion can be found nestled next to Kensington train station on Bellair Street which is a leafy and inviting location – especially on a languidly sunny public-holiday. Inside, Fruits of Passion can only be described as being proudly Melbourne with a pop-culture tic. Trams and suburb names share the walls with newspaper clippings of sensational stories; bright artwork sit alongside large mirrors and (most likely) faux flowering vines extend down from high ceilings. This is the second instance of ceiling plants I have encountered and instead of screaming “uber-quaint-trendiness here!” these gave off more of a pleasant, welcoming, eccentric-aunty feel. The brick walls, mirrors and concrete floors give the place a very cool, open and airy feel which is most appreciated in the midst of an Autumn heat wave. I very much enjoy the Fruits of Passion decor, it even has a mezzanine! Perhaps. Not really – it has maybe three steps to a higher level so you feel a little elevated – but mezzanine is such a romantic word that I thought I’d include it.

Anyway, myself and company were seated in this elevated area and only after poor Baby Chino suffered the always hilarious indignity of a self-inflicted pants wetting (the classic full-glass-in-lap story) could the menu be considered. I was the black sheep of this occasion as Lord and Lady Marmalade, Ms Sourdough and Baby Chino all eagerly ordered the pancakes. I stayed true and asked for:

Bircher Granola Muesli with Mixed Fruit

I am only slightly paraphrasing here as I don’t recall if it was ‘Bircher Granola’ or ‘Granola Bircher’ and was too caught off-guard by the proposed fusion of these two types of muesli to encode the actual details of the fruity accompaniments. With bated breath I received:

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I’ll admit at this point I was having some post-traumatic-esque flash backs to Dr Dax and the fruity mess I was served there. I did not let my trepidation deter me from my task and on first bite found this muesli to be quite sweet – and not in a forgivable yoghurty way but akin to the way that you know Fruit Loops transgresses against your enamel and insulin profile when you eat it. Perhaps that was the granola – oats toasted in honey and oil – and perhaps it was all of the honey drizzled over everything. I was disappointed at the lack of yoghurt to give the tart creaminess that I enjoy with my oats. The muesli was an oaty mush of a dish either due to this inadequate amount of yoghurt; or perhaps to a lack of commitment to milk-pouring leading to this muesli falling short of the more traditional-cereal plane of liquidity. I did enjoy the banana (as I am a Miss Weet-Bix and Banana in my life away from the glamour of the breakfast world), raspberries and blueberries. I think I even detected the odd raisin (or perhaps it was two sultanas stuck together). These, however, were not enough to absolve this dish from the heinous crimes of nut negligence and apple abandonment – the omissions of two vital ingredients in a Bircher muesli.

This was an exercise in confusion. In trying to make a “Bircher Granola” Fruits of Passion took the worst aspect of granola – sweetness – and did not balance it with the tartness of yoghurt and apple. My hopes were such that this would be a gateway to reviewing granola, but frankly all the Fruits of Passion muesli has done is put me off.

Final Word: Fruits of Passion disappointed me with this muesli. In such a lovely setting I was left to watch, flushed with envy, as my company devoured their sumptuous pancakes – which I would definitely come back to try.

(Not So) Good Muesli, Melbourne!

MM

Fruits of Passion on Urbanspoon

The Old Paper Shop Deli: South of the Yarra (*sniff*) Showing How It’s Done

Last Sunday morning I found myself in South Melbourne. I know how I got there – this isn’t one of those stories – it was in the course of doing a fun-run around Albert Park in aid of ovarian cancer research. And what better way to celebrate running 5km than a high-society bowl of muesli? Yes, I’ll launch right into it: being a Northern suburbs Miss I have an innate wariness of the land over the bridge(s) so get ready for lots of “South-side” this and “snooty” that. That’s how I was brought up, I suppose.

The Old Paper Shop Deli is, according to Ms SourDough who was one of my company on this occasion, a South Melbourne institution. It is located just North of the corner of Clarendon and Dorcas (malorcas) streets and is pretty un-inspriring in terms of its interior. That is, until the hungry eye rests upon the selection of cakes – which almost made me consider breaking my “cereal is breakfast, cake is not” rule. Almost, but I’m occasionally practising self control these days.

The procedure at the Old Paper Shop Deli is to take a seat and then go up and order when you have considered the menu. How empowering/inconvenient! After taking mere seconds to scan the menu for muesli (I was on an endorphin high so everything was done quickly and with gusto) I went up and ordered:

The muesli, thank you”

I’ll be honest, I’m paraphrasing again because I had to order for my two breakfast companions which was easy due to endorphins and their memory-enhancing properties. In fact, the only thing that was not enhanced that morning was my appearance, which was decidedly dishevelled and a bit damp. Lucky there were no paparazzi about.

After not very long, this arrived (ignore the bacon, Baby Chino doesn’t like muesli for some reason):

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You know you are on the wrong side of town (that’s right, the South side) when your muesli comes with a mint garnish! Despite this, the dish was glorious. Firstly, it was cold which is the sort of refreshment I am after when I eat any sort of dairy product (except tasty cheese, which is best melted). Honey was drizzled on top giving it an initial sweetness that was not overbearing and happily diminished as I made my way through the meal. The real revelations here, however, were the fruit and nuts. Call me old-fashioned, but I love a good prune and this meal had at least three of them which added a soft, waxy texture that was truly lovely. Additionally there was a very high density of freshly-grated, cold granny smith apple throughout the muesli that added a welcome crunch and tartness. Finally, I was surprised to discover that hazelnuts were the nut of choice for this meal, something I have not tasted anywhere else which is a shame because it turns out that hazelnuts are great. To be honest, the only thing that was wrong with the Old Paper Shop Deli muesli was that it seemed served in gourmet (read: small) portions but that could have been a misperception induced by those nefarious endorphins.

Overall: Run to this muesli. I sort of did and it was amazing. I will be coming back here for the cakes also, but you will have to leave my eventual thoughts on those to your imagination as this is a muesli blog.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

MM

The Old Paper Shop Deli on Urbanspoon