02 April, 2009

Pancakes, pikelets: Auction Rooms, Enni

Auction Rooms: 103-107 Errol St, North Melbourne; 03 9326 7749
Enni: 915 High St, Thornbury; 03 9484 8288

The press was abuzz with news of Auction Rooms when it opened in mid-2008. Matt Preston was particularly glowing in Epicure about its interior. Despite its soaring ceilings and double-shopfront width, it is a cosy place to be, and it offers one of the broadest range of seating options Melbourne has to offer. Take a simple table for four by the bright red coffee roaster, or perch on a low stool in the sunken area immediately adjacent to the plate-glass front. There's a courtyard out the back and a darker area behind the bar where those needing a few well-made coffees to buck up from the night before can shield themselves from all that natural light.

It's a venue that promises an interesting menu, and they've certainly shied away from generic breakfast dishes. It's not a menu filled with unusual ingredients as such, but their arrangement speaks of innovation.

Rather than pancakes and maple syrup, Auction Rooms offer coconut pikelets with vanilla pineapple, creme fraiche and orange syrup. Like me, perhaps the second item on that description has given you pause - just what is vanilla pineapple? It's diced pineapple that's been steeped in a vanilla syrup until it's candied and has countered the pineapple's sweetness - which to my palate is always a bit sickly - to offer instead a smoother flavour, with a touch of vanilla, encased in the firm, candied fruit pieces.

Perhaps you've also double-checked the description after looking at the photo to confirm that it did, in fact, say 'pikelets'. It does, but I would concur, that in my world pikelets are flat and share the approximate diameter of a piece of salami! The good news is that these pikelets are quite fluffy, and while the coconut milk is no doubt in part responsible for that, it offers only a hint of flavour. I do have a similar criticism to the that of the buckwheat pancakes at Giorno, that while the dish offers an uplifting combination of flavours and textures, there isn't enough of the wet to go with the generous offering of dry.

Update: It's kind of funny reading that description a couple of years later. Auction Rooms is the darling of the hipster crowd, and while its layout is still one of my favourite aspects of the place, the word cosy is no longer what first comes to mind. It's positively buzzing at any time of the week, and on weekends you can be sure you'll be putting your name down and waiting for a table. The menu remains reliably variable, if that makes sense, running the gamut from pork belly to felafel to creamed peanut butter and everything in between. And, of course, Auction Rooms is also one of Melbourne's coffee temples, with various blends available as well as siphon and pourover.

At the northern end of High St, where Thornbury starts to morph into Preston, Enni is not the kind of cafe to be written up for a Six Degrees-inspired interior kitout. This is a more traditionally laid-out cafe, with tables and booths on one side, and a lengthy display counter on the other. There is much to commend in that counter - a huge range of pies, filled sandwiches, salads and cakes that are a strong distraction from the menu.

The menu shows some thought as well, including dukkah eggs, (much vaunted) homemade baked beans and corn pancakes in addition to the regular pancakes. The latter, though amply smothered in berry compote, were not an exciting dish visually nor gastronomically. The cafe, however, is better known for its savoury offerings, and the corn pancakes didn't disappoint. Served with bacon, fried tomato, a poached egg and a decent chutney, they offered a lot more of interest to look at and to assemble into flavour combinations.
With the sad demise of Devour across the road, Enni offers a well-priced breakfast option on the edge of the inner suburbs. They are also a great option to stop into if you're heading northwards out of town and want some homemade treats - whether savoury or sweet - to take along with you.


  1. drool...Auction Rooms' menus always seems to be changing. I had the best french toast of my life there, and it's now no longer on the menu. We went a few weeks ago, and my friend had a lemon myrtle pancake, singular, huge, fluffy, and probably b tit oo sweet. No sign of your pikelets. I imagine their sweet breakfast is a wet dish that constantly changes. Bring back the french toast, I say!

  2. I'd heard very good things about their French toast, but didn't get the chance to try it. It's a tough call on menus - I like them to change with the seasons and with the chef's fancies, but it's so sad when a loved dish disappears!

  3. I love the interior of this place- we've had drinks there a couple of times, but the brekky looks fantastic! Can't wait to try it.

  4. Hi Maree - it's an achievement in itself, when a venue can function at both ends of the spectrum, ie for breakfast as well as for drinks. I think Cavallero in Collingwood is similarly successful.

    (Or there's Gingerlee in Brunswick East, which brings the two together by offering a Bloody Mary with one of their breakfast dishes. Hm, now where's the venue offering French toast with your evening bubbles?!)

  5. I disagree... I find the whole atmosphere ridiculously overstated and overindulgent. I like good coffee, good food and good service. This was over priced food, overflavoured coffee, rude self-indulgent staff and an okay but way too busy atmosphere. As a north melbourne resident I have found them rude and difficult to deal with and don't like a business that does not value the community in which they operate. I would not support them.

  6. I think it's fair to say that there is a certain vibe, or atmosphere, there now. It's certainly very hipster, and you won't get near breakfast at the weekend without putting your name down and queuing with the other patient punters outside. I'd also rate some items on the menu a dollar or two over where they need to be. I still respect that menu though - it's one of the few cafes in Melbourne offering a genuine 'brunch', as a meal in its own right, not just a late breakfast. It sucks when your local turns into THE place to hang out! Let us know if you have other favourites along that Errol St stretch