With a wedding in Melbourne last weekend, and friends and family to catch up with while there, it was inevitable that we were going to end up eating a lot (what a shame). For some reason I didn’t foresee quite how much, and I definitely hadn’t anticipated the quantity of pig fat…
A beautiful sunny Saturday sees us at Edinburgh Gardens in North Fitzroy to meet up with whoever is able to make it along. But getting there early and unbreakfasted leads us to seek out a suitable café. Marmalade and Soul hoves into view on a corner site at the end of quiet Queens Parade, but with a gaggle of people standing outside we fear the worst – a wait for tables. Fortunately said gaggle have presumably eaten their fill and are on their way out for we get a table straight away. Inside is a large two-roomed space with exposed red brick and quirky little displays of old, hardback books and retro storage jars on wooden shelves.
Waitresses are becomingly attired in pale blue striped shirts and sandy-coloured (I’m assuming some sort of raw natural fibre) aprons. I’m giving Marmalade and Soul an award right now for the most adventurous breakfast menu I have ever seen with dishes like ‘potted breakfast trifle’ and ‘spiced five rice porridge with curry and broken eggs’.
I go for hearty, sweet-spicy, richly tomatoey house-made baked beans with chorizo and chipolatas served in a small paella pan with crunchy croutons of garlic bread, all sprinkled with Parmesan.
The portion size is huge and Mr T eats about half of it. That’s on top of his own breakfast, a titillating taste combination of caramelised orange and olive cake with maple bacon, burnt orange custard and raspberry coulis. Mr T especially loves the citrus bitterness of the custard, and the sweet-tartness of the raspberry, but finds the sticky bacon a bit on the tough side (“like trying to chew a Minty”).
We spend the rest of the day basking in the Melbourne Spring sunshine with friends and picnicking at a VFL match (Fitzroy vs. Hampton at Brunswick Oval, for those, unlike me, who understand these things), followed by a wonderful wedding with very good champagne and fabulous finger and buffet food – oysters and macarons, anyone?
Next day is Father’s Day, or Godfather’s Day as we rename it, since we are staying with Mr T’s godfather and his wife. We all meet up with their daughter, son-in-law and two gorgeous granddaughters for brunch at Le Flâneur in Hawthorn, a lovely laid back café with a French bent. Really good coffees all round to start, babyccinos for the girls, and a Valrhona hot chocolate for Mr T which promises greatness but sadly doesn’t deliver to his exacting (“I want it the colour of espresso coffee”) standards of strength.
To eat I go for the Croque Madame (a Croque Monsieur with a fried egg on top) which has creamy, stringy cheese sauce and good ham, but I’m not sure I’m a big fan of the sweetness of the brioche used here in place of bread.
Mr T has French toast (again made with brioche) with bacon and honey, topped with sliced strawberry and pear. The bacon is good quality and plentiful, the fruit fresh and beautifully presented, but the honey is not a very present flavour.
Everyone else around the table has beautifully made omelettes with various delicious fillings. We could happily, and do, spend quite some time here.
We decide to spend the afternoon, before our flight back to Sydney, hanging out in the trendy Gertrude/Smith/Brunswick Street area of Fitzroy/Collingwood where we’ve enjoyed much mooching time in the past. What actually happens is that we park on Smith Street and walk straight into Josie Bones, a bar/restaurant we’d both been keen to go to for a while.
Run by Chris Badenoch and Julia Jenkins who were contestants on the first series of Masterchef, Josie Bones is a fabulous place seriously dedicated to beer and nose-to-tail eating. A long chunky wooden bar runs the full length of the large room (below an enormous and confrontingly visceral mural of a skinned rabbit), purveying some 250 local and international craft beers, plus eight rotating beers on tap. We sit up at the bar and leaf through the exceedingly thick beer list, grouped according to type and origin. The friendly barman’s knowledge and description of beer knows no bounds and he helps me to choose a Croucher Pilsner from Rotorua in New Zealand which is deliciously fruity and hoppy.
Despite having eaten only a couple of hours prior, we can’t possibly not sample some of their meaty offerings. We decide we’ll risk scurvy and skip the vegetable matter, cutting straight to the chase with pork crackling, lambs tongue sliders, pigs trotter and rolled pigs head. Enough pig, do you think? The crackling is fabulously crunchy and the lambs tongue sliders soft, sweet and slightly smokey with toasted brioche buns, tomato relish and creamy mayo.
The pigs trotter is stuffed with black pudding on a bed of earthy braised Puy lentils. I’m used to black pudding being much richer and bloodier than this paler, lighter version which has a touch of fruitiness from the calvados-flambéd apple that they include. The salty, crumbed crispy pigs ears on top are a wonderful textural marriage of crunch and chew.
The dish of the day is the pigs head which they braise in beer before pulling the meat off, rolling it up with the tongue down the middle along with herbs and lemon zest, and steaming it before it’s sliced and pan-fried golden brown to order. Decadence in a dish, it’s full of large chunks of unctuous, melting fat and falling-apart meat, topped with another shard of the fabulous crackling. It rests on a bed of jewel-green sauce gribiche; performing the same role as a salsa verde or a chimichurri, it’s the perfect foil to the fattiness of the meat with its inclusion of zingy, acidic capers and cornichons as well as fresh herbs.
We waddle off to the airport sated and very happy but swearing off pig products for… well, as it happens, only two days! On Tuesday we have lovely thick pork chops with a syrupy balsamic glaze; can’t get enough of that pork on ya fork.
Marmelade and Soul
162 Queens Parade, Fitzroy North, Melbourne
Visited 1 September 2012
5 Church Street, Hawthorn, Melbourne
98 Smith Street, Collingwood
Both visited 2 September 2012