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

Click to add a blog post for Naughty Boy on Zomato

Home Made Special: OMG Granola – Oh My Ginger!

This latest homemade special is fulfilling a reader’s request to review the muesli that her very brave mother has made in a life-change involving the decision to dedicate her days to creating food through her Yarra Valley-based company OMG Cereals. I have the utmost respect for people making hard decisions to follow their dreams – especially if those dreams are oat related.

I was sent a packet of normal granola, gluten free granola and in a very touching gesture, a high-energy biscuit. If you are reading this, OMG-mumma, I cycled with vigour after eating that cookie!

OMG Granola:

Granola is such an easy breakfast as it does not require soaking overnight to unlock the awesome texture of oats, rather it promises a crunch-fest with simply the addition of milk and yoghurt. Here is the granola pre-yoghurt and for some reason pre-milk. I suppose I wanted to capture the essence of dry breakfast, and I feel like I succeeded:

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The first thing that struck me about this granola was the aroma – upon opening the packet I was met with a spiciness that suggested that I was in for an exotic experience. There was an impressive density of almonds and dried fruit that, in the presence of the spices, created an almost savoury flavour. I’ll admit I was in intellectual and gustatory shock given that granola tends to have very sweet connotations. What an original take on muesli! After the first bite, there was a lingering taste that I couldn’t quite place and that was reminding me of travelling on the Spirit of Tasmania as a rowdy teenager. This was a feeling the required further analysis as I tend not to have seafaring flashbacks during breakfast. With the next mouthful I realised that this granola contains ginger – which I did use as a remedy for nausea back in the day. This is quite a polarising ingredient and I might recommend to the creator of this muesli to ease back on the ginger as it is not to everyone’s taste in such quantities. Nevertheless, it did add to this being a truly unique, refreshingly savoury take on granola.

Final Word: OMG Cereals have tried hard to create a spicy granola that departs from the traditional honey-soaked variants that permeate the market. Due to the ginger content I would certainly recommend this to people at sea, and women suffering from morning sickness. Also give it a try if you are feeling like a savoury breakfast adventure.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

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

Home Made Special: Lord Marmalade’s (thankfully) Marmalade-Free Muesli

One of the best things about being a muesli-blogger is that family and friends alike suddenly come out of the woodwork as being  muesli-makers. It warms my heart to receive portions of their creations, and so I have acquired a small collection of different muesli packaged in ways that causes me to fondly reflect on some of the donor’s idiosyncrasies: tiny jars (meticulous hoarder), old yoghurt containers (pragmatist) and tupperware (trusting, perhaps too much so as they might not ever see this container again). I feel quite privileged!

This morning’s home-made special comes from Lord Marmalade who, despite being my inspiration for ordering “The Works” at Shepparton Pizza Hut the other week, has become a real health food and exercise guru these days. I was very excited to try his muesli which contains things like:

Oats, bran, almond, pepitas, sultanas and pistachios

I soaked it overnight in milk and here is what I was greeted with in the morning:

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This was a very raw, earthy muesli which was elevated to gourmet status by a smoky savouriness imparted by the pistachios. The addition of salt is surprisingly pleasing in breakfast dishes, and while I won’t be adding salt to my weetbix any time soon (or will I? Maybe that is what will make weetbix take off as a cafe food!), salt in porridge and muesli (in the form of pistachio) is genius. Despite being soaked overnight, Lord Marmalade’s muesli was resilient to mushiness and instead was densely crunchy, adding a jaw workout to the health benefits of his dish. The only thing I might include in this breakfast next time would be a sprinkle of cinnamon (though would this blend with pistachio?) which would complement the almonds and any added banana.

Final word: If I was giving out stars, this would get 5 gold ones. As I am a star-witholder (anyone who has played Super Mario 64 knows you don’t just hand them out once you find them), I’ll say for those at home: pistachios in your muesli are worth the investment.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

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

De Clieu: No Clieu What the Name Means, But the Porridge was Good!

I happened upon De Clieu in response to one of the worst situations that can happen to a person – the cafe that I initially rode to at 8am on a Saturday morning was closed. The sinking feeling that occurs after getting up early on a weekend and expecting, no needing, to be warmly greeted and offered coffee, but instead being confronted with a CLOSED sign and having to find somewhere else must be experienced to be imagined. I shudder with the memory. I was not alone in my plight, happily I was accompanied by Chic Pea, who later dropped the bombshell that she doesn’t even like going out for breakfast. It was a torrid morning.

De Clieu sits on the corner of the trendy Gertrude street, and George Street which I have no comment about except that it reminds me of my second-favourite Beatle. De Clieu has a stark, minimal exterior that belies a warmly lit interior that celebrates foliage. Not always overtly as the artfully arranged flora that adorns the furniture seemed comprised of dry sticks and branches, which is a decor I can certainly support given last year’s Christmas tree was a Eucalyptus branch that Baby Chino and I carefully chose from the Royal Park ground. Anyway, the depictions of old-timey botanical artwork coupled with the clean lines of the timber furnishings  gives De Clieu the air of being in a more quaint, natural environment than in the reality of its bustling inner suburban location.

After listening to Chic Pea painfully grapple with uncertainty I haughtily stated the obvious fact that I would be having muesli, most likely in order to highlight how much stress there is in thinking that breakfast is a time for anything other than cereal (or the odd pancake). Alas, upon glancing at the menu to determine whether I would be asking for “the bircher” or “the fancy name that essentially means “glorified cereal””, I was dismayed to find there was no such thing. The list was not completely bereft of oats, however, as I was thus led to trying my first porridge of the season:

Porridge with labne, star anise and poached fruit

I hoped that when this dish came out that I would find out that start anise is not the same as aniseed and that this was not some sort of horrible liquorice porridge. Here’s what I saw:

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On viewing this I was no closer to figuring out my spice question (always an imperative, as he who controls the spice does control the universe…Dune, anyone?). I was not put off, and was please to find a subtle cinnamon-like flavour that was smoothly communicated by the creamy labne and offset by the tart pear and plum. This is a lovely, warm, homely porridge that was only let down by the paucity of labne; to me it seemed like a second garnish for the fruit, like the capstone of the Great Pyramid of Giza, where it should have been more like the cornerstone of the dish. Yes, I went through an Ancient Egypt phase – who didn’t? Anyway, I really enjoyed de Clieu porridge and would surely eat it again. It would have been a different story, however, if the star anise was something that made things taste like liquorice.

On a side note, Chic Pea insisted that I temper this positive review with her thoughts on how De Clieu serves tea. To be fair, this place touts itself as a coffee-house and I think Chic Pea was asking for trouble ordering tea, however it was a bit heinous that it did not come with a teapot. The glass vessel was pretty cool though.

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Final Word: On a grey Winter morning, venture to De Clieu and surround yourself in its warm, green illusion of foliage. Give the porridge a try as long as you aren’t craving lots of yoghurt-stuff. Also, do yourself a favour and order coffee – it’s what the place does best.

Good Porridge, Melbourne!

-MM

De Clieu on Urbanspoon

Home Made Special: Carman’s Muesli

I have to open this post with an apology to Carman’s:

I’m sorry this post is a year late. Basically, after my phone met its demise (with my unwitting help) my reviews were lost and I drowned my sorrows in the many varieties of muesli that you generously sent me. This has weighed heavily on my conscience and so recently, when it was on sale at Coles, I bought your muesli to re-review. Hopefully this can smooth over the awkwardness that I imagine exists between us.

Whew. Now I know why people go to confession – conscience clear! Let’s now turn to the muesli:

Carman’s Fruit and Nut:

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Look at it all, nestling snugly within the cool embrace of my second-favourite bowl. This muesli was generously endowed with nuts (ahem, almonds and hazelnuts) which provided big crunches subtly accompanied by smaller crunches of sesame seeds. This textural fiesta was also attended by sultanas and dried fruit pieces which erupted in a satisfying squish of cinnamon and slight sweetness with each bite – flavours that I think were enhanced by the overnight soaking process. I would recommend adding banana to this muesli as the cinnamon tinged oats complement banana perfectly. A great muesli!

Carman’s Gluten Free: 

Unlike those of  an increasingly visible subset of the population, the immune cells in my small intestine have no problem with the proteins that make up gluten and so I exist mostly in a bubble of my wheat-enriched existence. Sometimes, however, I am enticed to try the offerings of the gluten free world (the little muffins they give you at the blood bank are great!), such as Carman’s gluten free muesli. The best part of this muesli were the chewy bursts of sweetness provided by the sultanas imbued with the vanilla-cinnamon flavour that I feel is a Carman’s hallmark. The rest was a little stodgy to be honest; I’m not sure that the barely or corn puffs hold up well being soaked overnight. It must be difficult making a gluten free cereal and I think there is still a little bit of work to be done here.

Carman’s Fruit Free:

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Why would anyone want to exclude fruit from muesli?! This is a strange concept, however my inquisitive mind would not let me pass this by (also it was initially free). To stay true to the theme I excluded grated apple and the berries or banana that would normally perch atop my yoghurt. The abundance of hazelnuts and sesame seeds gave this muesli an impressive crunchiness, and the cinnamon overtones added an autumnal feel to the breakfast. While I enjoyed the richness of the flavoured oats, in the end I could not get over the lack of fruit – it’s like driving without music, enjoyable but no one is singing and taking it to next-level happiness. What I would like to do instead is use this muesli to make muffins, or stuff some in an apple and bake it. Actually, being fruit-free might make this a very versatile muesli!

Carman’s Bircher:

The bircher offering was surprisingly light on the Carman’s vanilla-cinnamonness, which actually made for a refreshing breakfast. The almonds, sultanas and apricots in particular added the majority of the non-oat component of taste. I enjoyed the raw oatiness of this muesli, however, as it is nice to revel in clean simplicity once in a while. I realised that I was enjoying the fruit that I added more, which could have something to do with me daringly adding both banana and frozen blueberries. Sometimes I surprise myself with how edgy my breakfasts can get. Carman’s bircher is a basic, utility muesli to be eaten on a regular day (or perhaps after a bout of tummy-trouble, as a means to wean off dry toast).

Final word: Carman’s provides a wide range of muesli that aims to suit everyone from fruit-haters to wheat-avoiders. Do not follow my example and wait until you find yourself in a perfect storm of guilt and thriftiness to try the fruit and nut muesli (in particular) as it is a store-muesli marvel.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

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

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