Middletown

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My experience here on Saturday was so good, that I decided I should come back the very next day and see if it really was too good to be true. Such was the daze of happiness that I was in on my first visit, it was virtually impossible for them to live up to my hype.

True, it was impossible for them to reach the heights of the Saturday, but I left here every bit as impressed on the second visit. The entire experience is tailored to my specific set of needs and wants. You begin with the bright white decor, which is surely a wake-up cure on any lazy weekend. The leather bound menus speak to the quality of the offering coming from the kitchen and coffee machine.

Coffee is the best I have had in Prahran to date. That one really does deserve a full stop. True, I did write last week that very same proclamation for another venue, but this is on a new level. This is not “best in Prahran,” but rather right up there with the best in Melbourne. Naturally, I have done no such comprehensive survey. However, I cannot imagine any coffee rising above it in any significant, tangible way.

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The food matches that same level of detail and finesse to round out the experience. On the Saturday visit, the choice was easy: Avocado. Not smashed, but a beautiful large dice set atop a delicate corn bread, which was a soft, fluffy, textural delight. On the side was smoked beetroot and goat’s cheese “mousse.” Not much smoky flavour coming from the beets, but still a perfect accompaniment to the rest of the ingredients on the plate. The included poached egg was the clincher. Really does annoy me that these have become an added extra on avocado dishes in cafes, as prices per dish have nudged towards $20 and beyond. At least one included egg improves on that, so well done to Middletown.

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The Sunday visit saw me become a little more adventurous, trying the Mackerel dish. Pickled mackerel is paired with baguette croutons, manchego cheese, charred capsicums, jamon and fennel emulsion. There are some challenging flavours here, especially as a breakfast dish. It all just worked together. The mix of hot and cold was perhaps a little out of place on an especially cold Melbourne spring morning, but I was happy with my choice.

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On the Sunday I did take a friend, who had the Benedict. As is the way these days with this traditional breakfast dish, Middletown have chosen to upgrade the recipe to include their pork pastrami instead of the more usual ham. The pastrami is basically some thick slices of delicious smoked pork belly which makes me want to order this dish. The blood orange hollandaise topped it off beautifully.

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Service was professional and unfussy. Both a reflection of the pedigree of the staff, and the ability of those setting up the cafe and managing its operation. The staff were knowledgeable, and attentive; without being overbearing.

Middletown is a destination cafe and a must visit.

Middletown Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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ISIT

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Aptly named due to it’s position on Izett St – or is it? (Did you see what I did there?!)

Right in the heart of Prahran, just back from Chapel St and Greville St, ISIT sits amongst a group of cafes that seems to be ever expanding. If you want to succeed here, you’d better be good. This wasn’t my first visit. I had sampled the coffee a few times previously and knew it was good. Time to put the food to the test methinks.

A morning seating on a sunny day sees your face pointing squarely into the sun. In the afternoon, the situation reverses, providing some protection on hotter days. The glare would be something to keep in mind if coming here early, although it only affects the few seats out the front. There is a courtyard out the back and ample seating inside. Setup is basic, with all the essentials provided. They are not trying to be too modern, or fit into a certain mould of cafe styling. It’s practical, if not stylish.

The menu has all the usual suspects; another area where there are few chances taken. I chose the Avocado Smash, as if to reinforce their choice to stick with the Prahran cafe formula. The semi-dried tomatoes – that were clearly made in house – added a nice touch to this popular dish. Otherwise the only deviation from the standard was the fresh mint used as garnish. Nice touches that add to the quality bread, nice portion of avocado, and perfectly balanced salty/creamy feta cheese. Of course, poached eggs can be added to make this more of a meal.

I can understand why the cafes in the area stick together, preferring not to stray from the expected breakfast offerings. With so much competition in close proximity, it would be a bold choice to go it alone. We are creatures of habit, and breakfast is perhaps the one area where we are most likely to stick to our favorite over and over again. ISIT manages to win in terms of consistency and their coffee is a testament to that. This is one area where any cafe could totally lose the game. But, their coffee game is strong; one of the best in Prahran in my humble opinion…

ISIT Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Fourth Chapter

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My top tip for getting a table at a popular Prahran cafe on the weekend: get up early! And yes, Fourth Chapter fits into the category “popular Prahran cafe!” I arrived at about 8:15am and left just before 9. The significance of this information you ask? Well, on arrival there was space aplenty. Fast service and little to speak of in the way of crowds – maybe 75% full. On leaving, there was a line a mile long and paying became a bit of a pain.

It’s clear that many other people know what I do. Fourth Chapter is one hell of a great cafe.

The coffee is superb. I tend to think that I am one of the more discerning coffee drinkers, just like every other coffee drinker in inner Melbourne. Here the effort can be seen, heard, felt and tasted. At my first visit, they were too busy to sit, so I went for the take-away option. On leaving we were told: “Have the best weekend ever!” Such is the enthusiasm which these people have for their cafe, or perhaps they are just high on their own supply?

Having arrived early I was able to sample the food offering. The menu was as you would expect, with the usual suspects. Where they set themselves apart is with the quality of the offering. As is my want of late, I went for the smashed avo. In and of itself, the dish consisted of sourdough toast, avocado and poached eggs (added extra). The pumpkin sourdough was a great bread, with flavour and texture which suited the dish well. Where things got exciting was the addition of saganaki and nuts. I love a good bit of cheese, and fried cheese takes it to the next level. Unfortunately, placing the saganaki on the cold avo cooled it, and made it a little chewy, but still yum. The nuts just made me think wow! I will definitely add these to my home cooked version.

The decor is light and bright, and Fourth Chapter is far enough away from Chapel St that parking is less of an issue during the busier times. There is perhaps not enough innovation in the menu to bring me back over and over, but it is a go-to place where quality is assured.

Fourth Chapter Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Operator 25

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Operator 25 has been on  my radar for some time. Social media led me to some of their impressive photos and I just knew they were the goods. I have been following them for some time on Instagram, and every post saw me wanting to visit more and more. I don’t get into the CBD very often, so when the opportunity arose, I took it with both hands.

It was a quick lunch, and once we secured a park we were in. Immediately I knew I was in good hands. Everything was decked out the way things should be. There was maximum effort offered to achieving the best possible coffee experience. I couldn’t help myself when I saw the barista using a sieve to ensure a consistent coffee grind – I had to take a picture. Naturally the coffee was on point.

The food menu was solid, without really blowing me away. I have a love hate relationship with good menus like this. I love to see things that excite me, but multiple options leaves me with much anxiety as to whether I have made the correct decision. I went for the corn and sweet potato fritters. They were great and would make a nice light breakfast, brunch or lunch dish. I am of the larger appetite variety, and so found the portion to be a little on the small side. All the better for my waistline when consuming fried food I guess. Nonetheless, better add some extras next time.

Outstanding quality and attention to detail, the only negative I could comment on was the slightly bizarre experience of paying as we were leaving. The server seemed to be on another planet, and was barely acknowledging our existence. Not to worry as they were happy to split our bill (not on weekends though). Operator 25 will be a go-to when I’m in the CBD of Melbourne.

Operator25 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Diplomat Cafe

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One of so many cafes that are spreading the inner city vibe to the burbs, Diplomat Cafe has a lot going for it. With arguably the best coffee on board (from roasters Omar and the Marvellous Coffee Bird, in Gardenvale), there was only 3 questions that were on my mind when I visited:

  1. Could they do those magnificent beans justice?
  2. Would the menu reach the same heights as the inner city cafes that this place seeks to emulate?
  3. Can they ooze the super-cool of the inner city with the mums and bubs in the burbs?

In answer to the first question, it is a resounding yes! I must admit to feeling a slight twinge of pride when I was served the coffee with the tasting notes. It was the same coffee that I am using at home with my new coffee machine. Yes it tasted great in this cafe, but more importantly, my efforts at home were comparable. This made me so happy.

For the second question, I have to say that on face value it ticks all the boxes. I had the smashed avo, which I must admit is a favorite of mine. I had read that they only included this dish reluctantly, understandably wanting to move beyond this ubiquitous dish and offer some new breakfast ideas. I have to say that I was not impressed with this version. It was tasty, although a little small, and the presentation left the eggs to get cold very quickly. Whilst it was not bursting with flavour, I was not really in the mood for caring – they got the coffee right.

For the final question, naturally the decor brought that cool vibe to the party. The staff were all dressed in aprons with thick leather straps. Some had tattoos, as is de riguer in these environments. The service was professional and efficient – exactly where my requirements begin and end. There were a lot of prams and young children on this weekday lunch, but the mix of clientele kept The Diplomat firmly in the cool category for me. A worthy addition to this neighborhood, as well as bringing the best coffee within reach of my office HQ.

The Diplomat Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Let’s make a change…

It’s been a while since I have been regularly posting on my blog. Work has been busy, life gets in the way, blah, blah, blah, excuses, excuses. Anyhow in this time off I have decided to change focus. I still love burgers, but I think that this has led me down a negative path of late.

There are 2 possible reasons for this: new burger places aren’t making the grade; or, I am getting more and more fussy. Whatever the reason, I still love a burger, but want to branch out further. On to new adventures and hopefully more joy rather than complaint.

There is no doubt that there will be more burgers – I won’t be placing any burger bans. Just looking to enjoy the freedom and the full menu of options that is available in this great city (Melbourne) and beyond.

So without further ado, let’s get positive and happy with some new food experiences…

 

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