I've been flying red eye for nearly as long as I can remember - my Mum always said that only then can "it give you the whole day" after landing. She's a champion flyer, who spent most of my childhood bringing home the bacon from all corners of the earth. She was extremely generous too; pulling me out of school at times, letting me travel with her on Business Class and showing me the world in her own way. I vividly remember our flight to Vancouver, Canada - it was my first time flying for almost 24 hours. I was absolutely exhausted from the jet lag but my amazing Mum was up and running within an hour of settling into our hotel. I owe a huge part of my curiosity and passion for travelling around the world to her; as my plane to Melbourne was just about to leave the runway, I closed my eyes and took a moment to be truly thankful. Simultaneously, I could barely contain my excitement - in a few hours, I would be arriving at my favourite city in Australia and thanks to Mum's advice, I would definitely be ready to seize "the whole day"!
As regular readers will know, I tend to keep the anonymity of my fellow travellers/diners quite well under the wraps. However, I couldn't possibly write about how wonderful this trip was, without mentioning my partner's M best friend, Zowy. She was an excellent host, who played a huge part in making our Melbourne trip memorable and very delicious. As an ex-Penangite, who has been calling Australia home for the last 5 years, Zowy definitely knows her good food and where to find it. Having met Zowy on my last trip to Melbourne in April, she knows just how serious I am about my coffee and sportingly rose bright and early to have breakfast with us at a North Melbourne brunch icon, Auction Rooms. The morning brew here has been proudly sourced from Small Batch Roasting Company is nothing less than impressive.
Even though I'm an avid supporter of our progressive Perth coffee scene, the coffees that I experienced at Auction Rooms was definitely quite a few notches up from what one generally receives from your average cafe in Perth.
For West Siders, we generally expect our Long Macs to be poured topped up - but East Coasters will nearly always serve them traditional. Whenever I'm in Melbourne or Sydney, I always opt for a Piccolo Latte. It's not uncommon for me to squeeze at least 3-4 coffees a day over here and keeping them short and strong is just what I need! I can taste the richness of the ristretto shot and upon touching it to my lips, 7:30AM began to beat itself into my sleepy system - this is definitely one of the best coffees I've had all year.
As the morning sun began to shift, our meals arrived one by one at the table. Dining in Melbourne does sort of put you in an alternate plain - yes, you're still in Australia but unlike in Perth, every dish on the menu is around the $15 mark and they're by no means meagre with the portions. The presentation reminds me of the beautiful trees around my neighbourhood that turn purple come Spring time; it was such a soft spoken and well put together dish. The trout pieces fell apart with the gentlest slide of my fork, whilst the sweetness and crunch from both the fennel and the cauliflower were met perfectly with shards of salt from the ham crisps. Zowy pierced her poached egg and smiled, we both had a true egg yolk porn appreciation together, remarking that an egg that doesn't velvet it's way across your plate is an egg worth sending back to the kitchen.
The french toast caught our eye immediately - how exactly does the humble eggy bread get brûlée-ified? Better yet, the components of blue cheese, dates, bacon and rhubarb posed as an eclectic mix of flavours that were too good to resist.
The caramelised corners of the french toast cracked on the slightest impact to reveal a sweet, spongy centre. Including the dates stuffed with blue cheese was also an impressive step above the usual bacon and maple syrup breakfast affair. I think that this was the most creative and value for money dish that we tried today!
I've been blessed to see a lot of pork belly across all kinds of breakfast menus lately. Some people may find this to be an overly heavy cut of meat to begin your day with but for me, I see it as a supreme, extra delicious piece of bacon! There were three tender, sizeable cuts of pork belly, each topped with a crown of crispy pork crackling.
What actually stood out the most for me on the plate was the parsley salad with the fried capers. The capers were sweet and tangy, which not only went well with the pork, but also added an extra crunchy texture to the fresh parsley salad. Potato is one of the few foods that M and I disagree on (she's not a fan, at all) but even she couldn't fault the potato and ham terrine which was perfectly seasoned and very tasty. If terrines are the new hashbrowns, then I'm all for it!
As with most Melbourne cafes, it's not all just about the food - it's also about the exposed brick, the retro meets contemporary notes and your usual dose of well dressed staff. I do find the service in Melbourne in general to be on the poorer side - hardly personalised and a little (sometimes a lot) on the condescending side if they think you don't know what you're talking about. However, at Auction Rooms, the staff were quite pleasant and efficient throughout our meal. Watching the real coffee experts brew their way through their customer's morning orders was also a delight.
It's a well known fact that Melbourne is the coffee city of Australia and home to some of the best baristas and brews in the country. I certainly was impressed at the quality of my morning dose today and can definitely see why Auction Rooms is popular - the atmosphere, the food and the coffee were faultless.
For any Perth readers who are making their way over to Melbourne any time soon, if you haven't already - a visit to Auction Rooms is a must. If not for the unique and affordable breakfast offerings, then let it be for the coffee that they put so much pride and care into producing. It was a great way to kick start my short journey in Melbourne and just one of those places where you wish that you had an extra few stomachs to accommodate everything on the menu!