11 January, 2009

French Toast

Green Refectory: 115 Sydney Road, Brunswick; 03 9387 1150
Cafe 3A: 3A Edward St; 03 9380 4996
Red Box: 317 Sydney Road, Brunswick; 03 9387 8699

It's a handy word, toast. You'll see it, or close derivatives thereof, on menus across many languages, making breakfast orders a less onerous task. Its culinary incarnations, however, are more diverse than its linguistic variations.

To the Spanish, tostada is often a dry, crispy bread snack enlivened with some marmalade, eaten late morning as an afterthought with the far more critical cafe con leche or espresso.

In France, toast has developed into an evening meal in the form of croque monsuier. Gruyere is mixed with dijon and slathered on ham atop bread toasted on one side, then grilled to gooiness. The Welsh take the mustard and cheese idea - normally cheddar rather than gruyere - and maybe throw in a little beer for perhaps the world's best national dish.

Our focus here, however, is on the particular incarnation known as French toast. Here, the nomenclature becomes murkier. Why the myriad permutations of (traditionally slightly stale) bread soaked in egg and fried became known in our language as 'French' is a fact lost to history. The range of names and interpretations of the dish perhaps indicate that it was in fact invented by everyone and no-one.

Pain a la francaise seems to be having something of a renaissance, not to mention a reinvention. It's no longer limited to eggy bread served with maple syrup and bacon. Seasonal fruits often feature: Green Refectory poaches a pear in white wine (another good way to sneak alcohol in with brekky), cinnamon and vanilla bean. Across the road, Cafe 3A may be miniscule, but their menu has room for both a sweet and savoury French toast. The former mixes it up with sour cherries and cinnamon creme fraiche. The savoury matches sweet tomatoes, slow-roasted till they barely hold their shape, and salty twins pancetta and fetta:Further up Sydney Road, at Red Box, the French toast nods to the traditional bacon and maple syrup, but is lifted by sprinkles of macadamia and smears of mascarpone.For more variations, check out Gingerlee and CERES, or leave a comment with your own fave French toast.


  1. Fabulous post! I must try all of them :-)

  2. That is an interesting combo with the macadamia nuts and mascarpone with the bacon. I would never have thought of that. Will have to try it. The picture looks awesome.

  3. Ta Fitz!

    Hey Squishy. I liked that Red Box's combo was a bit innovative, but without going off the scale. The mascarpone was quite subtle actually, just nestled between the bread slices. The bread was great - soft enough to soak up lots of egg, but firm enough to hold its shape. Spot on.

  4. macadamia nuts sounds fantastic!!! the best french toast i've had recently was a sweet version at...now i can't remmeber the name, but a cafe in north melbourne. oh, auction rooms. which had berries and bacon. simple but mind-numbingly good. i finished the whole lot.

  5. Hey Estelle. I am a very big fan of judiciously included nuts in a breakfast dish. I always put macadamias in my homemade muesli - I love starting the day with them!

    I ate at Auction Rooms the other day too - had the pikelets rather than the French toast, but great to hear that it's worth going back for!