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

Home Made Special: Historical Porridge

In a shameless ploy to get Baby Chino’s History and Live some attention, I agreed to have him make me breakfast in bed. Aren’t I nice?

This morning we were travelling back in space and time to Ancient Greece, through the tried and true portal of porridge. According to the authors of The Classical Cookbook ancient greek women who knew about herbs could use this porridge, or kykeon, for dangerous purposes – like sending men to sleep, or worse!

It is likely a breach of copyright for me to post the actual recipe, so the things that went into this dish are: semolina (soaked, drained), ricotta cheese, honey and some egg. The combination of those ingredients in quantities approximating 1 : 3: 1/2 : 1/2 grams, and heated to almost boiling point, looked like this:

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I had an immediate insight into how the Athenians built the Parthenon, how Pythagoras birthed his theorem and how Sappho had the strength to articulate her passionate poetry: they were all essentially fuelled by cake. I could not contain my delight at having an excuse to eat such a thick, creamy batter for breakfast. There was a pleasing grittiness to this pale, slightly cheesy mass. A hint of honey transported me to the Elysian fields; as if I were lightly traipsing through them, sunlight reflecting dazzlingly off the golden fleece I’d be wearing, as well as off my perfect Grecian curls. That was all in the first mouthful. Subsequent mouthfuls became more and more laborious; indeed, Heracles would have been proud of me for eventually finishing such a task. It was exhausting, luckily I was already in bed so I could comfortably lapse into a food coma. Baby Chino thus truly succeeded in channelling those Ancient Greeks, or at least the women who knew about sleep herbs.

I would not recommend this as an every day food, at least not for anyone who wouldn’t use the subsequent energy to throw a discus or run a marathon.

Solid Porridge, Greece!

– MM

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

Elceed: El-Seedy Muesli

Sometimes it feels like all I do is ride my bike down Royal Parade. This leafy portal to anywhere even slightly South or East of me has been a constant ever since my life stopped revolving around High School in Northcote all those years ago. Eeep, it is getting close-ish to a decade now; if riding down Royal Parade was a job, I’d be getting due for some long service leave. I should stop quantifying things in terms of how close to earning long service leave I am in them, it’s not particularly useful especially as I have been in my actual job now for only 9 weeks. This particular outing down Royal Parade to North Melbourne was to be my last in the hustle of Melbourne’s breakfast scene until the end of May, as I am about to be whisked away to Horsham for work. I am excited for some more rural breakfast experiences, perhaps I’ll try and stop in at some towns along the way to eat muesli and turn a 3.5 hour journey into a full day. Worth it? Who am I kidding I’ll probably just end up stopping in somewhere like Beufort for a vanilla slice and a Big M – much more sensible travelling fare.

I arrived at Elceed, an airy cafe just west of Curzon street on Queensberry, and was surprised to be able to walk right in (sit right down) at 10am on a Sunday. I had visions of brunch lines snaking up the road, and having that conversation with my companions that happens when one person (me) is trying to test the waters and see how committed the company is to having brunch at all. Wouldn’t it be nicer if we didn’t have to wait because we all just gave up?  Hmmm, perhaps I catastrophise slightly, I just don’t like waiting for breakfast on top of that waiting time necessitated by the concept of brunch. I digress. Elceed was not made to honour the image of the homophonous Alcide, but still managed to be a nice place to eat by virtue of light, textured walls, open archways and large terrariums.

The menu had many words, but my eyes went no further than:

House Made Granola with Organic Yoghurt and Cranberry Poached Apple

I was not expecting this to come out:

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Everything is so upright! I think I was in shock, and hence could not work out how to photograph this spooned-jar of muesli. Was the spoon placed in the jar just so I would be instantly presented with evidence that it would fit; that yes, it would be possible to get my breakfast out of there using that? I still felt a bit like a bear at the zoo trying desperately to solve a food-puzzle. The reward did have a honey component, which made my bear-self happy but was a trifle overpowering to start with. True to its pronunciation, the Elceed granola contained plenty of seeds. Pumpkin seeds were the stars of the show, which created a nice nutritious crunch alongside the toasty oats and flecks of coconut. Cranberries were a thoughtful, red, chewy addition and I think were also used to poach the slices of ?apple (I’ll be honest, I settled on it being a plum before I re-read the menu…please continue to trust my food reviews) if the grammar of the menu was to be believed. Whatever happened to make that fruit how it was when I consumed it, it was tasty.

Final word: The Elceed granola is a bit of a puzzle in terms of the logistics of eating it, and identification of its components. Do try this granola if you have already had a first breakfast and just like the taste of toasted oats and seeds (guilty!). If you are very hungry and insist on granola, Elceed have cakes that looked perfectly suitable for a cheeky dessert portion of your morning meal.

Good-ish Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

Elceed on Urbanspoon

Code Black: As Promised, Sublime and Ridiculous “Muesli”

I have been neglecting my sworn duty to Melbourne’s cereal scene of late. The ghosts of grains consumed unacknowledged over the past few months wail constantly in my subconscious, manifesting perhaps only as an eye-twitch here, or a long sigh there. What better time to get back on the blog than Labour Day, a day that had mostly been denied to me over the past seven years by Melbourne University? Now as I have graduated into the warm light of gainful employment I can bask in the rays of paid public holidays. It is absurd and wonderful to be lying in bed, reflecting on breakfast being paid by the hour. I had better get to work:

Code Black forms a deceptively unassuming prism that sits opposite the Barkly Square car park on Weston Street. Like any ominous puzzle box, the starting point was obtuse and subtle, with the first test involving sliding a geometric door in a direction that would hopefully gain us entry. The black, moody interior was quite a contrast to the sunny day outside, with naked lightbulbs highlighting the cold lines of the dark tables and dividing walls. Numerous large contraptions loomed out of the dark – probably involved in the mystical process of coffee making, which seems to occur inexplicably in both giant and tiny machines depending on where you are in Melbourne. Overall, the setup at Code Black was strangely science fiction, it certainly seemed bigger on the inside. I must also make special mention that the menu promises the “Sublime and Ridiculous”, which immediately called to mind Romantic and Gothic themes of horror and epiphany; would I be reaching those heights today?

There was one thing on my mind, and so although I simply asked for “the muesli mix, please”, the real order was the more grandiose:

Organic gluten free muesli mix, toasted nuts, seeds, grains, dried fruits & raw cacao, house made creamy coconut yoghurt & berries (V) (VE) (GF)

Whew. I hoped this dish was as much of a mouthful in reality as it was in text. I was also intrigued as to what would constitute a gluten free, vegetarian, vegan muesli. Here is what this all-dietary restriction-inclusive breakfast came out as:

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Ah, no milk. Makes sense, I guess, although it would have been nice to have been offered a soy/nut alternative. I was too coyed by the specificity of the muesli to think about asking for anything to dampen this dish. The compote in captivity was an interesting side, I suppose mixed berries are not to everyones’ taste especially if you have not been vaccinated against Hepatitis A (thanks Nanna’s). Now, to cater for the gluten-sensitive this was a barley and seed based breakfast. It was exquisitely crunchy, and so granular in texture I was reminded of the International Soil Classification Scale; instead of silt we had cacao, barley and dried fruit instead of fine and medium gravel respectively, and boy, I could go on. For the most part the smoky, nutty taste was pleasing, but was overwhelmed by the power of the coconut yoghurt. The Code Black “muesli” was inventive, but I found it unsatisfying and non-cohesive, probably because I did’t ask for soy/nut/evil milk. Not even the gloriously useless micro herb garnish would endear me to order this one again, next time I’ll get the crumpets.

Final Word: Code Black is an enigmatic institution that caters thoughtfully for many dietary creeds. The risk of this, unfortunately, is to navigate the good ship Breakfast to culinary shores so alien that one cannot help but keen for the familiar comforts of oats, grated apple, cinnamon and milk. Does that count as an epiphany?

Confusing Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

Code Black Coffee on Urbanspoon

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

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

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