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

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Green Refectory: Pink Muesli?!

To commemorate the birthday of Lady Grey, I decided to take her out for breakfast at the cheapest place I could think of. The Green Refectory immediately jumped to mind as I have been there many times and am repeatedly delighted to pay not-very-much for very-lovely-things. Yesterday’s muffins for two dollars? A thousand times yes. Thus, I felt this was the perfect place to show my maker how much I care for her.

The Green Refectory is a narrow cafe tucked in next to a shoe store and a tram stop just South of Weston Street on Sydney Road. There is nothing to invite the casual passer-by to enter the glassy facade – no outdoor dining to suggest that this is a place of joyous consumption (and I am not referring to happy Tuberculosis, found in much more tropical climes). Indeed, the bustle of trams, humans and narrow footpaths is a most inhospitable setting for exterior eating and so I commend the Green Refectory for not trying. Do note that for those that enjoy eating in the elements, there is a backyard to this place that I cannot fully remember sitting in but of which I have a vague sense of quaint, leafy claustrophobia.

One of the perks of going anywhere to eat at 8:30 on a week-day morning is that a fair proportion of the breakfast-populace has either eaten earlier and gone to work (respectable) or just gone to work (understandable). Happily this allows those with more flexible schedules – at the moment – to swoop in and claim a seat unchallenged. In a place like the Green Refectory where the long wooden tables are often bustling with communal diners and the smaller private tables are much coveted by less sharing individuals (such as myself), an easy week-morning seat was a relief. That relief, however was countered somewhat by the anxiety of having to squint myopically up at the menu etched onto a blackboard above the counter, and then recite accurately my decision to the friendly wait staff. A warning, the busy nature of the Green Refectory is such that I have always had to chase up my coffee, sometimes even having to reorder it. Or at least, I hope this is due to busyness and not disdain for me!

On this occasion, my breakfast hinged on an order of:

Bircher Muesli w sweetened or natural yoghurt or cream

I was presented with a submenu of dairies to decide upon – luckily I have the nous to understand that cream is for cakes and hot chocolates, and sweetened yoghurt is for putting ice-cream in, not oats. My natural yoghurt-Bircher combo eventually emerged:

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Yes, a tower of pink muesli is really what we are seeing here. As if modelled on the Egyptian pyramids, complete with strawberry capstone and sandy-cinnamon perimeter garnish, this flamboyant number is one out of the box. Once I calmed my overstimulated eyeballs, I was able to mush the absurdly, delightfully placed yoghurt into the muesli-proper and eat. What I encountered was a crisp density of apple and nuts. The Green Refectory does not skimp on almonds and hence this meal is a crunch-fest. Between hard foods I also found a strong presence of soft ones, happily including banana – king of breakfast fruit – and a saturation of berries. Indeed, the violent colour of this muesli is most likely not due to a manic chef squirting red food dye/cordial/blood into the breakfast but rather from the natural ooze of broken berries.The Green Refectory muesli also contains the culinary triple threat of the aforementioned banana, cinnamon and honey. Lots of honey. I felt my pancreas thank me for not ordering the sweetened yoghurt as the tartness of the natural yoghurt was all that stood between me and blood-sugar central.

Overall: The Green Refectory muesli is a sight to behold and sweetly pleasant to be-taste. It is also very cheap. So if you are after a crunchy wake-up meal and are not afraid to go chasing coffees, roll in to the Green Refectory and grab a muffin as you roll out.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

MM

Green Refectory on Urbanspoon

Babka: Defying Expectations – Not In A Good Way

I had been meaning to try the Babka muesli for a while because I have a vague memory of going there years ago and really enjoying some muffins. It seems like an odd rationale but really if babka muffins = grains = yummy, and muesli = grains then surely babka muffins = muesli = yummy? Ho ho, how wrong my flawless logic was.

But first, the establishment. Babka is the second institution that I have had the circumstance to review. In this instance the suburb is Fitzroy and the bakery cafe is located on Brunswick Street, just North of Kerr Street. It is compact yet seemingly spacious and as such my lovely friend and I felt quite comfortable sharing all of the lascivious gossip we had for each other, without feeling too self-conscious. The wait staff were for the most part friendly and attentive, but not over-bearing – there are certainly no waitress-mothers around these parts (thank goodness as who needs one more?). I should also add that being a bakery, Babka smells very nice so if you visit with a cold, or are unfortunate enough to be anosmic, you’re missing out on an important part of the experience.

After sipping some water I considered the menu and found:

Swiss muesli – oats, sultanas, freshly grated apple, almonds, yogurt

My first exact account of the menu! And the first black mark against the Babka muesli – Swiss? What is Swiss muesli, some sort of wonderful muesli derivative that we should all try? No. It is naught but our good friend the Bircher Muesli which was developed, AND I QUOTE: “by Swiss physician Maximiilan Bircher-Benner” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muesli#Original_Bircher-Benner_muesli_recipe). I suppose I have made a bit of a meal (hehe) of the pretentiousness of this menu billing, but it is so at odds with what came out that it illustrates completely my disappointment:

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To borrow another quote: What the glob?! (LSP, Adventure Time). Instantly underwhelming. I was however, ready to look past appearances and judge this muesli based on its mouth-hole merit alone. Boy, was my mouth-hole disappointed. To begin with, it was warm. This went further than just being not-cold, it felt close to body temperature. As this is a Miss who likes to know where her tissue ends and muesli begins, instant disdain blossomed. Yes, I enjoyed the grated apple and the odd chunky almond, but these elements were lost within a sea of warm, creamy yogurt. The oats were similarly unable to compete with the dairy deluge. Safe to say, I was not amuselied.

I decided to be fair to Babka and take away a slice of the lemon tart that I have actually heard a lot about to eat over a cup if tea at work. Mind. Blown. I am not even a lemon tart fan, but I was not only given a gigantic slice (tick!), but it turned out to be a gigantic slice of amazing. Babka redemption!

Final Thoughts: If your boat floats in a lake of warm yoghurt, buy this muesli. If not, have toast, eggs or lemon tart for breakfast at Babka.

(Not-So) Good Muesli, Melbourne!

MM

Babka Bakery Café on Urbanspoon

Le Miel Et La Lune: Le Muesli Et…OK

My French is terrible so when I try and recommend this pretty trendy place on the corner of Elgin and Cardigan Streets in Carlton I turn what is probably an elegant five syllables into an embarrassing mush of grimacing awkwardness. I wish the muesli was terrible so I could now go on to say “and you know what else was a grimacing mush…” but it wasn’t that bad so I’ll have to maybe use that analogy somewhere else.

Anyway, why is Le Miel Et La Lune “pretty trendy”? Two words: Ceiling plants. This place has pot plants hanging from the ceiling like light fixtures. Additionally, it’s right near Melbourne Uni so you get the whole students-who-for-some-reason-have-enough-money-to-afford-this-place-oh-wait-Centrelink crowd who I share the pleasure of identifying with but at the same time disdaining (mostly the ones who look younger than me). And finally it has another stupidly unhelpful (but cutesy) website like Milkwood. Infuriating!

I’ll stop being snide, I was told I have to be more mean and it’s not sitting well with me. I actually really like how big this place is – the timber tables with stone (or cement? or it could be more timber?) floors and huge windows give the cafe a really breezy, open feel. It was lovely on the mild Summer morning that I took Mr Scrambled eggs (the pseudonym my brother chose for himself…he ended up having a fried egg, but who cares about non-cereal foodstuffs?) out to breakfast.

To paraphrase the menu, the muesli on offer was some sort of:

Homemade muesli with seasonal fruits

And it looked like this:

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First up, I love that they give you a separate little milk bottle. There is no assumption that just because I have ordered a yoghurt-based muesli I do not also want to loosen things up with a sneaky drop of milk. I definitely wanted to loosen things up with a sneaky drop of milk so this gets major ticks from me.

If the experience of eating something could be expressed as an average I would have to say that for this muesli x̄ = pleasant. A highlight was the fruit; the addition of raspberries as the main berry attraction was a lovely, tart surprise (I always expect strawberries, which I like, but am bored with) and there were chewy chunks of date throughout that I enjoyed. There were also little black seeds involved that I’m not sure I could taste but my eyes liked them being there so that was enough. However, apart from the fruit the yoghurt and muesli itself were not particularly flavoursome. The yoghurt wasn’t too sweet which is a plus, but it also didn’t have a distinctive presence in the meal (excuse me while I finish my wank…). The oats were crunchy but seemed to be present mainly to bulk out the yoghurt and fruit.

I enjoyed my breakfast at La Miel Et La Lune and will return, but I think I’ll try something other than the muesli. Don’t mis(smuesli)understand me, I liked it well enough but that might be due in equal parts not only to the pleasant taste, but also the comfortable atmosphere and good company.

Final Word: You should try this muesli, especially if you do not feel like having your mind blown that morning but still want cereal for breakfast.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

MM

LE MIEL et la lune on Urbanspoon