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

Click to add a blog post for Naughty Boy on Zomato

56 Threads: Sewing Wild, Friendly Oats

For reasons known only to herself, the benevolent Lady Grey decided that this particular morning would be one devoted to “girls” – I prefer to identify as a blossoming young woman, but that might be a delusion in itself. Happily, a girls morning means that the similarly age-bracketed and beloved Madame Phở-pas, Ms Mimosa and I are treated to breakfast and an item (or a sneaky three) of second-hand clothing. After we discovered that the pop-up store in Carlton that Lady Grey had her eye on had distressingly popped-down, I swooped in to save the day by suggesting that we dine out West and move on to Footscray Savers, a much less crowded option for a late Saturday morning.

The venue we descended upon was 56 Threads in Derby Street, Kensington. My interest was piqued by their ethos of providing employment and training for new migrants, which is a heartening initiative given the current political clime. The cafe sits on the ground floor of public housing in Derby Street. The main theme seems to be geometry, with interesting dodecahedral light fixtures and clean lines dominating the bench architecture. Of note, as I have been on an accessibility tirade of late, I observed that 56 Threads has an entranceway wide enough for a patron to enter using a motorised scooter, order coffee, then turn around and leave without hitting furniture or being impeded in any way. If this level of functionality existed more uniformly across the city, Melbourne’s cafe-culture would be more inclusive of the oft forgotten population of people with mobility impairment – which is certainly not insignificant!

Upon perusal of the menu I was excited to order:

56 Threads almond and cranberry muesli: made in house served with strawberries and yoghurt 

In a refreshing twist given my last cafe experience which I will neither forgive nor forget, we did not have to wait even 20 minutes before our breakfast arrived. Here it is:

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This was a simple, hearty muesli that felt like it was prepared by a well-meaning dad: The portion was generous, the oats were plain with nicely-toasted almonds, crunchy hazelnuts, sunflower seeds and cranberries mixed in to provide extra taste and a sensible amount of nutrition. Fresh strawberries and cool, creamy yoghurt combined for a light, Springtime taste. While nothing fancy – not a micro herb, chia seed or labne to be seen – the 56 Threads muesli was homely without pretension and a meal that kept me going until lunch. What more could a “girl” on a girls morning want?

Final word: Regardless of your mobility requirements, take yourself out to 56 Threads and enjoy a friendly, inclusive breakfast. While you will not find super specialised on-trend ingredients that will blow your mind and confuse your tastebuds, you will find plenty of community spirit – super food for the soul.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

Fifty-Six Threads Cafe on Urbanspoon

John Gorilla: Rolled his oats up and threw them at me…and I liked it.

Spring has sprung and I emerged today from my blog-hibernation squinting warily into the sunlight as Baby Chino and I rode through residential Brunswick at earlier-than-8am for our breakfast appointment. What a time to be able to ride a bike;  the roads are deserted, the air is crisp and the best meal of the day is the reward for our exertion (although I’m not sure  leisurely riding for less than 2km really counts). Also, there is a smug self-satisfaction that comes from watching the less disciplined breakfast crowd that arrives around 9am waiting to be seated, while I sit back in post-muesli bliss chatting happily to my companions. I’m all for a Sunday sleep in, but will trade that for unimpeded access to breakfast in a heart beat.  Anything to avoid brunch territory and the subsequent meal confusion that always follows –  what time should lunch be?! I shudder to think.

This morning’s breakfast took us to John Gorilla, a quaint cafe just North of Hunter Street on Pearson. Upon entering I was transported back to early childhood and this was my playroom; perhaps it was that the main counter was so high that I immediately had the strange experience of actually having to look up to address someone; maybe it was the brightly coloured plastic fruit and trinkets that adorned the main table at the entrance, or perhaps it was the whimsical seaside feel of the section we sat in. Most likely it was the old Snellen chart that adorned the wall opposite me so that whenever I looked up I was reminded of my early optometrist and a time when my prescription did not require super-thin lens technology to avoid the coke-bottle look. What a great place!

With no trepidation I ordered:

Bircher muesli: golden raisin and hazelnut with seasonal fresh fruit

I was then surprised to hear Mr Scrambled Eggs actually order his namesake, even more surprised when Baby Chino ordered porridge (considering how he feels about oats), and not surprised at all when Ms Mimosa ordered B.L.A.T. Back to me:

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It looks like a fantastical landscape at dawn. My inner child sat there imagining the strange beasts that might traverse those strawberry peaks and seek shelter under the grape-boulders. My outer adult quickly stuffed a spoonful of it into my mouth. Citrus-surprise! There were slices of fresh orange buried under the apple and yoghurt-soaked oats, buried so completely that I had no idea what I was tasting, initially cursed Mr Gorilla for overdoing it and started wondering if I would still be able to put off going to the dentist until I can afford health insurance. I found that there was actually no need for that level of catastrophising as the rest of the dish was delightfully creamy and oaty, with the only bursts of sweetness being from the obvious and not-so-obvious fruit within. A quick comment on golden raisins – delicious and translucent – but how are they different from sultanas? Wikipedia says: they’re not. But who can you trust?

Final Word: Set your alarm for early and venture out to John Gorilla for a whimsical breakfast, if you’re in to that sort of thing.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

John Gorilla on Urbanspoon

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

Lolo and Wren: An Overwhelming Porridge

I am always glad to discover new pockets of Brunswick – the suburb is like the Mandelbrot sequence, it expands and repeats infinitely on closer inspection. The west end of Albion Street forms the particular permutation of Brunswick that I visited recently with Baby Chino. We were meeting Ms Sourdough and the ever-unpredictable Doctor Dessert to see them off before they embarked on a European road trip – with the most important topic of conversation being my upcoming responsibility over a very determined (possibly more perseverative, as in what can occur following a frontal lobe brain injury), food-obsessed cat.

I was surprised to find that Lolo and Wren sits within a sort of super-apartment-shop-cafe complex that suddenly appears out of the surrounding housing and is itself adjacent to large mounds of dirt. What is going on there? Who knows, but I’m sure this little self-sufficient community has it covered. The cafe itself is very tidy, with the stand out feature being a wall with a teal circular pattern surrounding their quaint bird mascot. I have a newfound appreciation for teal, it is a nice choice to lighten a room and complement whites, greys and brown – colours that Lolo and Wren really goes in for.

Porridge was on my mind that morning and happily Lolo and Wren had it on theirs, too:

Banoffe Porridge: which involves things like banana, crumble and dulce de leche

To do justice to this menu item I should have transcribed what was actually in it, perhaps I dropped the ball, or perhaps I am creating an air of mystery around what “Banoffee” means. I had no idea, and this did not make it any clearer:

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What manner of porridge is this? The Greedy-Gert in me rubbed her chubby fingers with glee, while my somewhat artery-conscious brain quivered in horror. This is probably the best example of breakfast dessert I could ever hope to come across. I should have twigged from the name – I was misreading it as “Banhoffe” thinking it was going to be some German twist on porridge (not that I thought Banhoffe meant anything, maybe it was a place?) – “Banoffee”, the internet tells me, is a neologism formed from banana and toffee. Oh boy. The Lolo and Wren porridge was deliciously creamy, with the oats and banana warmly congealed into a delightful chewy mush. The top was a coconutty crumble that was just perfect for reminding me of many a happy dessert-time. Dulche de leche is condensed, sweetened milk and was dolloped on top alongside a date paste. As if this needed more sweetening! Thinking back, it’s rather obscene how much of a comfort food the Banoffee porridge would be – if only I was moping about something at the time! Probably because I was relatively happy I was unable to finish the dish, though not for want of trying. It was overwhelming. I’m feeling full just thinking about it.

Final Word: Burrow your way into the warren that is Brunswick and seek out Lolo and Wren. If you are cold, sad, in need of comfort or just really, really hungry order the Banoffee porridge. Be warned: It will overpower you with comfort if you let it.

Good Porridge, Melbourne!

-MM

Lolo and Wren on Urbanspoon

Mocan & Green Grout: Not Much More Than A Pretty Face

On the second day of my whirlwind visit to Canberra I managed to wake up early enough to enjoy a Sunday breakfast out and about, this time in New Acton at a place called Mocan & Green Grout. This area had an air of sustainability, with the surrounding new-looking apartments having a warm-brown timber look with abundant greenery sprouting from walls, balconies and planters. The cafe itself spruiks it’s ethical approach to food-making and also doubles as a bike shop – which I have to support given the motor-dependent nature of the city. Any attempt at promoting a bike friendly culture is laudable (though my views do change depending on whether I am a cyclist, pedestrian or motorist which indicates to me that we all – it surely just can’t be me! – need a bit of education on managing our interactions with others on the road, regardless of how liberating it feels to mostly-anonymously rage at other humans).

It was a very sunny morning and so we were happy to be seated outside after having to wait a little while for a table. I thus did not get a proper look at the interior but got the impression of dark, cool timber – if that helps. Outside was congruent with the surrounding area with hanging plants in abundance and plenty of greenery. It was a clean, cheery environment with a hip feel that was certainly reminiscent of cafes in Melbourne.  Looking at the menu, I was disappointed that there was no bircher on offer, so instead I ordered:

Rose scented granola, rhubarb and yoghurt

I was excited about the rhubarb and the prospect of rose petals as these have been used as a garnish in other muesli to great effect. Here is the realisation of my anticipation:

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What a large surface area they presented me with. There really was not much in the way of granola here, which was disappointing. For a place that has such links to cycling and activity, you’d think Mocan & Green Grout would provide more rewarding portion sizes. The main taste event here were all of the seeds – pumpkin and sesame seeds were prominent and although that is a good thing, it did serve to did overwhelm the other ingredients. The plain yoghurt was a good move in order to facilitate the rhubarb and rose petals, however there was a blandness to these tastes – they did not seem as tart as they should be. This was not a particularly sweet granola, though nor did it convey any other particularly strong sensations. To add insult to injury, while eating this small, bland meal I sustained my first sunburn of the year! Not worth it.

Final word: While Mocan & Green Grout has the look of a promising cafe, the food was lacking in taste and volume. Go here to feel part of trendy garden community, but by no means leave your comfort zone to do so.

(Not So) Good Muesli, Canberra!

-MM

Mocan & Green Grout on Urbanspoon

Baby Chino Guest Review: Vyve Cafe and Restaurant

Note: This is a guest review by Baby Chino, who was left behind while I visited Canberra. The grumpy views posted here are his alone. He wanted the title of the post to be: Café Vyve – A Real Muesli Review as No One Really Likes Miss Muesli (Especially Her Terrible Titles). Rude.

While Miss Muesli is traitorously eating muesli in Canberra, it’s time for a real assessment of the state of Melbourne muesli. Turning a scheduled service of a lemon of a Suzuki car named Coco into a family affair, Madam Marmalade (?), Lady Sourdough (??) and I decided to eat breakfast in a café named Vyve in Heidelberg somewhere (possibly…I think…it was near the Austin Hospital at least). The café was pretty nice and we were able to sit in the back that looks up over a green tree-y area and see the trains on the Hurstbridge line go past, so pretty nice. The servers were nice and inoffensive (as they should be), however a family with small screaming children arrived (a chronic problem in Melbourne cafes), scowling I ordered:

Vyve Bircher Platter: Bircher muesli, seasonal fruit salad, organic handmade crumpets with your choice of spread

This is what I got:

David muesli

First off, as no one really like fruit, I palmed off the salad as quick as I could, I mean who wants to eat a fruit salad for breakfast? Secondly, not being asked what spread I wanted (tut tut), I was given honey for my crumpets, which looked a bit pale compared to the lovely orange of Golden’s Crumpets we all prefer (that’s ‘organic handmade’ stuff for you). The muesli was presented in a little salsa jar, which I have to admit was pretty novel (however as I think back on it, what audacity they have for making me open the jar lid myself). Smearing the on honey and eating the crumpets, I found them to be pretty good, if a little dry. As for the muesli itself, it was wet with some sultanas and almonds mixed in, which to be honest, was a little bland, so for better or worse I poured my remaining honey into the muesli. The honey added a sweetness to the sour lemony taste of the muesli, which I finished eating as the others ate whatever it was they had ordered. All in all, I guess the muesli was alright but I, like everyone under the age of 60, don’t really like muesli anyway.

– BC

Vyve Cafe & Restaurant 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

Clique3: Porridge I Could Be Friends With

Undaunted by last week’s failed foray into porridge, I decided to take advantage of the benevolence of Lady Grey whose maternal instinct now extends to buying her moved-out-so-must-be-starving (or at least that’s the act I maintain) daughter breakfast once in a while. I did not have any idea where she was taking me, I only hoped that when we got there that I would be greeted by a menu that did not smugly slip in a ‘semolina’ or ‘sago’ in front of my now-coveted winter breakfast.

We managed to survive the gauntlet that is Albert Street in Brunswick, dodging and weaving around parked and moving vehicles alike, to arrive at Clique3. This was a warmly lit, cosy place offset nicely by the grizzly, overcast street outside. Of note there were inverted wire ceiling fixtures upon which dark butterflies alight – or perhaps I’ll decide to interpret them as moths, as we do not see enough of these hairy  oddballs in decor. Interior designers, take note. In terms of furniture there were large timber communal tables which we thankfully did not have to share this early on a weekday (I’m not a dignified eater, it’s best those in proximity are not strangers and are used to my excited, hearty manner of consumption) and at the far end of the room there was a single table with an eclectic collage of fabric chairs which I did not feel up to navigating that morning but did help the place to look quaint.

Unfortunately Cliqueis one of those places in which you have to order at the counter. Fortunately my hungry eye instantly spied what I was after and so I was spared that special awkwardness of umming and ahhing while a line of people behind you shift impatiently from foot to foot. I cheerily asked for:

Porridge with grilled banana

This is only a paraphrase as I was too overcome by the relief of not finding some dread qualifier in front of the word porridge. Here is what emerged:

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Joy! A big ol’ bowl of oats. I immediately wrapped my perpetually icy hands around the sides and let the rejuvenation begin. Instantly my capillaries dilated as the heat seeped from porridge to person,  colour creeping up to my fingers as blood was finally given permission to flow there. Alright, I’ll stop the melodrama, but I was pretty happy. As for the porridge itself; it was hot, creamy and densely oaty. The grilled banana and honey accompaniment perfectly contributed a sweet mushiness to the chunky porridge. I should also commend Cliquein that they managed to get the amount of milk just right to give the meal some movement without drowning it. Finally, they did not skimp on the serving size – there would have been nothing worse than getting a simple glassful of this porridge.

Final Word: If your fingers, hands or cockles of your heart need warming, join this Cliquebefore Winter ends and get them to make you their porridge.

(Just as good as) Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

 
Clique3 on Urbanspoon