03 February, 2009

Toast; North Island and Crunch

North Island: 111 Scotchmer St, North Fitzroy; 03 9486 8864
Crunch: 669 High St, Thornbury; 03 9495 1655

"It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you," opined British food writer Nigel Slater in his memoir, Toast. I haven't quite fallen in love with the cafe staff who have provided me with a golden serve of carb with toppings in the last couple of weeks, but as long as the bread is good and the grilling hand steady, it is a marvellous thing to sit down to.

In an attempt to reclaim January as a relaxed, vacationing month, I headed out on spontaneous mid-week jaunts to tick yet more local cafes off the list. I wasn't after Big Breakfasts - more to get a feel of the place, sample the coffee, and quiet my gurgling morning belly. It can seem odd to leave a kitchen amply stocked with a toaster, bakery bread and quality Australian honey to order and pay for a plate of toast; then again, like a cup of tea, the flavour and crunchy delight of toast is somehow enhanced when someone else makes it for you.

At North Island, they took care of the toasting and slicing, but the rest was up to the diner.The simply served plate of pide, avocado and lemon fits the cafe's atmosphere, a proponent of the Brunswick model of minimal kitout, eschewing fancy touches in favour of good coffee and basic menu items with a twist. I had to interrupt David Sedaris (not him in person, unfortunately; rather, his humour, in the form of Naked) to effect my own avocado and lemon distribution. But look at that avocado - that's why you order out. I've never had one at home that looked like that: mine are browny green and mushed before they even leave the skin (due to my flesh-extracting technique, rather than inferior produce!). Accompanying this indulgently simple start to the day was a fine coffee.

Thornbury's Crunch probably isn't a cafe that many people cross town for, but it's one that looks after local shopkeepers and families with adequately prepared cafe staples for breakfast and lunch.

Their sourdough toast comes with a side bowl of orange and tamarind marmalade. Tamarind is vital for giving that extra oomph to good satay sauce, and combined here with the orange it produced a tartness best enjoyed via a light smear, rather than a good dollop. A refreshingly intercultural way to start the day with toast.

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