31 January, 2011

Duchess of Spotswood

87 Hudsons Rd, Spotswood; (03) 9391 6016

I wonder sometimes how a cafe owner approaches the challenge of doing something 'different' for breakfast. You could throw some unusual ingredients into an omelette, sure, but to do something truly inventive - particularly in this town - means thinking outside the box, circle, square and geometry itself.

Duchess of Spotswood have thrown out the set square and come up with an equation where inventive + quality = a cafe worth crossing town for.

First of all, they're in a suburb off the beaten cafe track. Most of Melbourne's cafe afficionados are going to have to travel to get there (and to those already living in Spotswood - lucky you!). That the blogosphere is, regardless, alight with praise for their British-influenced menu tells you the effort is worth it.

Two words: pork neck. For breakfast. That's thinking outside the box. It involves rather more effort than frying bacon to order. The Duchess' menu manages to put the 'slow' back into break-fast, but the presentation speaks of simplicity and flavour, rather than convolution and complexity.

Here's their version of muesli:Served on a wooden board, the 'muesli bar' is one to eat with fork, not fingers. It's a conglomeration of nuts, oats, puffed rice, dried fruit and other morsels of goodness, held together with something sticky - honey or golden syrup - that has the sweet dial turned to spot-on. On the side is creamy yoghurt and seasonal fruit.

See, simple: ingredients and process aren't too out there, but presentation has a big wow factor, without being intimidating or sacrificing satisfaction.

I love black pudding, but I'm not going to order it just anywhere. With a kitchen pedigree that includes the Station Hotel in Footscray and The Botanical, I was comfortable that I, and the piggy before me, would be in safe hands. And we were.
I know it's not to everyone's taste, but chef Gale's version is light and delicate with cinnamon. The eggs are from Villa Verde in Mitcham and, honestly, you could simply have had these two orbs all on their own. Perfectly poached and bursting with bright-orange yolk.

The bread is from Zeally Bay in Torquay. I had ciabatta with a steak-knife crust on my plate, along with a pot of whipped butter (it's the little things). Our next-table neighbours had the avocado and goats cheese sprinkled with fresh herbs and broad beans, served on thin crusty bread. Even the toast is selected to match the meal.

Other options include the wonderfully named Breakfast of Champignons, with mushrooms and Stilton. Giddy up.

So, get out of the box and out of the city. You'll be rewarded.

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