MELBOURNE, Jan 24 — Tired of having brunch in the same old cafés offering eggs Benedict and lumpy baked beans? Weary of screaming children running around in tight spaces -– barely enough room in between tables in less-than-family-friendly establishments? Here are a couple of beautiful brunch venues with a twist in Melbourne, considered by many to be the epicentre of brunch culture worldwide.
A city of bagels
Hidden in a side alley off the busy Little Bourke Street is a perfect spot for brunch in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD (Central Business District).
Manchester Press used to be a former gallery, now transformed into an inner-city café with space to spare, unusual for its location.
Owners Issy Shaked and Nir Kalif have taken their experience running Loco Café, another popular brunch destination, and created a must-go (and be-seen) venue for hipsters and students alike.
During peak hours, the line to enter can be long but part of the fun is observing the waiting list that is written in chalk on the wall next to the entrance.
Every time the names and numbers get wiped off with a wet cloth, there is a collective cheer.
Cyclists may leave their bicycles against the worn, wooden post. Eye candy is abundant, but if no one catches your fancy, there is a large decal of Manchester Press Printers on the old red brick walls, a defunct printing press from which the café gets its moniker, that’s pretty too.
Once you are inside, pause to take in your surroundings: the warm, industrial décor with life-size art prints on the walls; giant contemporary lamps above the espresso bar; bits and bobs that look like they were rescued from scrapyards (and probably were).
Instead of concealing yourself in a corner, sit at one of the many communal tables where you can enjoy the conversations of your fellow diners (otherwise known as eavesdropping) while peeking at what is on their plates. Whatever looks tasty usually is.
The menu is simple at Manchester Press. In lieu of the eggs-and-toast heavy offerings at other brunch cafés, bagels reign supreme here. Almost everything on the menu is paired with these doughy breads.
Their signature bagels are made in-house daily; is there anything like the soft, chewy bite of a freshly baked bagel? Here you have a choice of plain, wholemeal, sesame seed or poppy seed bagels.
A firm favourite is their BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato) bagel; the simple and fresh flavours are heightened by a cranberry and plum relish topping.
Adventurous diners can try a grilled blue cheese bagel served with grapes, roquette and walnuts. No kissing afterwards, please; not unless you are fond of stinky smooches!
We opt for something simple and something more decadent: a toasted bagel with peanut butter and raspberry jam makes brunch absolutely guilt-free, while their 12-hour roasted pulled pork bagel with barbecue sauce and homemade apple slaw may require some hotel gym time later.
Don’t forget the coffee. The flat white at Manchester Press is a revelation... and a reminder why Melbourne is the coffee capital of the world.
If eggs and toast are all you crave –- the same old, same old, basically -– and the only a change you seek is the scenery, why not head out of the city?
At the Collingwood Children’s Farm, a few kilometres north of Melbourne, chickens scratch for worms while sheep and goats alike graze placidly.
This not-for-profit community farm stretches over seven hectares of grassy land along the Yarra River. It’s quite unusual to find a slice of the (almost) countryside so close to the city.
Visitors can milk the cows and bottle feed young lambs, which makes this a great place for families to bring their children. It’s the Year of the Horse, after all, so why not sneak an apple for the gentle mare in the field?
And the barnyard animals aren’t the only ones that get fed; for those who skipped breakfast in their hurry to get here, there is an attached café housed in the former dairy where one can grab a bite. Aptly named the Farm Café, this brunch spot is a labour of love.
The owners, Pip and Tom Hay, met at the farm as student volunteers and eventually got married in the paddock. (One wonders if there were more four-
legged wedding guests than two-legged ones?)
From humble beginnings with a coffee cart and serving scones on weekends, the menu now offers wholesome and sustainable fare to farm visitors.
Fresh, ethically-sourced produce such as beetroot and cauliflower are paired with nutritious quinoa and free range ham. Fans of Dr Seuss can go for Green Eggs (sans green ham) -– an emerald platter of poached eggs served with spinach, herbs, parsley aioli, crispy fried onions, broccoli and almond pesto.
Those who have heartier appetites may happily engulf the popular Farmer’s Breakfast -– this time, the poached eggs are paired with Berkshire bacon, smoky pork & fennel sausage, fried potatoes, and house baked beans on toast.
Easily a meal for two, if one isn’t altogether famished.
Imagine having eggs and toast surrounded by paddocks, orchards and barns.
Instead of jazz or slow rock, the only soundtrack is the quacks, bleats and woofs of creatures both feathery and furry.
Now who would want to miss a brunch like that?
8 Rankins Lane Melbourne, Victoria 3000, Australia
Open Mon-Fri 7am -5pm; Sat & Sun 9am-5pm
The Farm Café
18 St Heliers Street, Abbotsford, Victoria 3067, Australia
Open Mon-Fri 9am-4pm; Sat & Sun 8am-5pm