07 June, 2009

Cafeklatsch III: Fuel, Red Box III, Big Dish

Fuel: 4 Margaret St, Moonee Ponds; 03) 9375 4499
Red Box: 317 Sydney Road, Brunswick; 03 9387 8699
Big Dish: 70 Wales St; Ph TBC

Who would have thought that Moonee Ponds is only as far from Brunswick East as the city is? Probably anyone who'd taken the time to look further west on a map than Melville Rd! Puckle St, leading from Pascoe Vale Rd down to Moonee Ponds Station is dotted with cafes, bakeries and restaurants (lots of Thai and Indian), along with a mix of franchise and independent stores.

Tucked around the corner, immediately across from the station, is Fuel (and, just a few doors up, Holy Cannoli - review hopefully to come soon). This is a gentle cafe, which manages to squeeze enough tables and chairs into an angled space to accommodate families, couples and friends doing coffee, but still give the wait staff enough room to wend through with coffee after coffee.

The menu covers most brunch cravings. French toast with bananas in caramel sauce was hard to go by, but it was a savoury kind of morning, and with the corn fritters (above) - served with avocado, bacon, salsa and sour cream - already claimed by one of my brunch partners, baked eggs it was.

So the breakfast trend of 2008, I'd eschewed baked eggs for a while. Fuel's version comes with chorizo, mushrooms and white beans in tomato sugo. I thought at first that they'd been extraordinarily generous and plonked not two, but three, eggs atop the sugo. The middle mound is actually a dollop of sour cream (the online menu proffers mozzarella - a much better option). And let's be upfront: these aren't, in fact, baked eggs. They're two poached eggs atop baked accompaniments. And while we're there, it wasn't so much a tomato sugo as the kind of tomato sauce that comes with tinned spaghetti.

Nomenclature aside, this was an enjoyable breakfast. One thing I don't like about baked eggs is the way they keep cooking in the hot plate, offering a too-brief window to enjoy a runny yolk. At least this presentation eliminated that problem. In such a deep serving dish, however, there was all too much sauce for the yolk to mix with. Great chorizo, in any case.

Speaking of generous serves, Red Box is a cafe that believes in feeding customers for the day, not just a meal. A soup-of-the-day of sweet potato and ginger was an effective anecdote to the impending cold that likes to niggle around on these cold June weekends. Smooth, warming, piquant, and about a litre more than I could eat! Just the buttered bread would have carried me through most of the afternoon.

And as for their burger...it's almost self-defeating, it's so towering. It's worth the effort to push it down to mouth-size, but you could make stock with the amount of juice that dribbles out from the lamb and beef pattie.

Big Dish has entered the inner north cafe scene with a very small splash. Tucked away on a quiet Thornbury street, it feels more country foodstore than suburban cafe. Our visit there was unphotographed, which is a shame, as their very commendable food is elegantly presented.

They've mastered baked eggs, or rather claypot eggs, as they appear on the menu. The pot comes to the table with the capsicum-sweet sauce bubbling around two free-range eggs, expertly positioned in the middle, so they're not still cooking in contact with the sides. Le Madre sourdough completes the dish.

Fruit toast, dense enough to keep SG going until dinner, is presented on a wooden chopping board. Unmissable (especially for $7.50) are the crumpets with warmed honey ricotta, delicately spiced poached fruit tumbled on top, and the whole lot drizzled with pomegranate molasses. Absolutely delicious.


  1. Mmmm, Moonee Ponds is really starting to take off- thanks for the review of Fuel- must try it- always on the lookout for nice new brekky venues in the area!

  2. Being a Moonee Ponds local, it was nice to see a place I haven't tried:) Alas, though the area has lots of cafes, it would be a great stretch of the imagination to name more than three (or four?) eateries that cut the mustard. Still, it's nice when people realise that the area isn't a bazillion miles from the city, cos it's a common misconception. :)

  3. What are the mustard-cutting venues in the area for you Duncan?

    i LOVE eggs, and yes its rare to find a place that makes them perfect (e.g stop cooking after taking out of heat to keep yolks runny)

    for some reason i'm not a fan of french toast (maybe i havent tried it outside in a restaurant before??) i did make them once and they turned out err.. edible but not really nice to eat o.0

    muldydoona told me bout your blog, its great! keep it up xx

  5. Cheers Betty. I recommend finding a good French toast purveyor in your neck of the woods - it's such a good way to start the day! And one of those dishes where it always tastes better if someone else has done the dunking and frying.

    Great pics on your blog :)