The perks of temporarily staying a 10 minute walk away from North Melbourne continue to loom over my head, even after a big night out celebrating Zowy's birthday - we still managed to slip into Twenty & Six for "breakfast" just before 3PM. I do love my suburb in Perth immensely but it's still a sizeable (at least 15 minute) drive away from our prominent local food hubs such as Mt Lawley, Vic Park, Leederville or Northbridge which isn't always made convenient by congested freeways and highways. I hadn't heard of Twenty & Six before today, but had it known on Zowy's good authority that she wouldn't take us anywhere not worth visiting!
The first thing I noticed was the adorable mural that lined the front corner of the cafe. It's a simple setup here with one large communal table, a few smaller spaces for two and a windowside fixture. Unfortunately because we had arrived near closing time, we weren't able to sit in their Courtyard - it's understandable but a shame on our part since the weather was being awfully kind today! It's a haven for those who like quirky art, white spaces and exposed lighting fixtures; I can seriously imagine spending a good afternoon here with a cuppa or three.
It takes me awhile to build up some kind of apetite after waking up and after the extremely brisk (rushed) power walk to Twenty & Six, hot coffee was off the cards. I ordered the market juice instead, which featured a Heinz-like Blood Orange juice. I love everything about blood oranges; from their taste to their beautiful candy red flesh. Tart, clean and fresh - just what I needed after yesterday's busy day and this morning's impromtu amazing race! Props to Zowy and M who happily welcomed coffee into their day with two flat whites, no sugar - of course!
Twenty and Six use Seven Seeds coffee, which has long been embedded in my brain as home of some of the best coffee I've had in Melbourne. As I mentioned in my previous Melbourne post ft. Auction Rooms, Melbourne is my walking city. I first came across Seven Seed's Carlton cafe whilst walking from Flinders Street Station...all the way to the University of Melbourne's "The Spot". I can maybe hear a few Melbournian jaws scrapping the keyboard there, but all those years ago...all forms of very convenient public transport was nothing compared to tackling the 2.2km walk undertaken for the sake of an eye opening adventure! These days though, I do take the tram and drive since I've become way more familiar with the CBD and it's surrounding suburbs - still enthusiastic, just more time savvy. However, the moment when I finally managed to not only locate Seven Seeds, but also get a seat there during the lunch rush will forever be immortalised within me as a moment of true culinary exploration triumph. Plus, my coffee that day and every Seven Seeds cup I've had there after...seriously worth walking for.
Before I say anyting about the food, may I just admit that if not for sincere respect for restaurant owners and general morals, I very nearly wanted to lick my own plate dry and take it home with me afterwards. They're beautiful and now looking back, I seriously wish I had stopped gawking over the food long enough to get up and ask where exactly did such white beauties originate from? Oh and also - meet Zowy's breakfast.
Whenever I think of freekeh, I can't not recall Alice Zaslavsky from Kitchen Whiz and Masterchef's Season 4 - not only is her last name incredibly fun to say, but she's the personality that made Season 4 really memorable for me. It was my favourite season, aside from the original Season 1 and I still remember that particular "Cook for your Family" episode when Alice mentioned that she had "freekeh that's gettin' freaky". Freekeh has a lot more of a bite than the usual pulses/grains that we see on menus such as cous cous or barley. There's a lot sweet and slightly crunchy flavours going on, much like a savoury granola, with tender lamb swirled through it!
Найдена России в Австралии...Лососем и сметана?! M and I definitely shared a bit of a heartfelt giggle across the table when we saw this dish on the menu. There's no better person to judge any take on Russian cuisine, than M who is fresh out of 7 years of medical school - all of which were spent studying and living in the beautiful Moscow city. After staying in Moscow for a few months myself, I've had the great traditional blini, salmon, caviar and sour cream breakfast a few times and it was fantastic! It's a little mind boggling to think that this time one year ago, I was readying myself for my first ever expatriate experience and for what was one of the biggest geographical changes I had ever made in my life. M and I still carry so much of Moscow in our hearts even after we've both moved back to our respective home countries. She'll still laments to me in Russian at times and I'll reply with either a confused look or the few broken sentences that I can muster together. At least once a week the whole, "I miss Moscow" speech will begin from either one of us and we can't wait to return. It was a profound moment in both our lives and it's funny and yet so wonderful how one simple breakfast dish in a North Melbourne cafe could have uncovered so many wonderful memories!
Delicious nostalgia aside, I couldn't have picked a better execution of this Russian breakfast revamped. Instead of thin slices of smoked salmon, the cubes of immaculately fresh salmon popped with zingy flavours and a wonderfully smooth texture. The perfect egg rolled slightly before being eagerly piereced; the yolk porn that followed made the fresh tartare even more deliciously creamy.
M was quick to smear together a combination of the runny egg yolk, the tasty creme fraiche and that amazing tartare onto a hunk of crispy toast for me. It was the perfect mouthful that I'm sure even the Russians would not only recognise, but be proud of. If only I could eat this for breakfast everyday!
My original choice for breakfast was actually called The Revival, which included Truffled Sourdough French Toast, Braised Mushrooms, Asparagus, Whipped Goat's Cheese, Crispy Shallots, Herbs and a Slow Poached Egg ($18.90) - it sounded so much like the kind of big breakfast that only existed in my dreams! However, upon seeing the penned red stroke across this selection, I wasted no time in finding an alternative which spoke to me in the words of prawns, jalapeno and kataifi pastry.
I'm slightly on the fence about "one egg wonder" breakfasts, I do believe that two eggs are a standard serving, whilst one may be a bit frugal. However, where I've seen it - that one egg has been done perfectly with Twenty & Six being no exception. I didn't have grits the last time I was in America but put jalapenos through anything and I'll naturally gravitate towards it. To me, it tastes a bit like mashed potatoes, even though it's actually made from dried corn kernels. There could have been more kick from the jalapenos as the grits were rather heavy to eat but none the less, delicious. I was very excitied to see three handsome kataifi wrapped prawns guarding grits castle too! They were insanely crunchy and a boarderline hazard for us "nose to tail" eaters; the tail end of one of my prawns was so crisp that it actually nicked the side of my inner mouth. Well, no pain, no gain - it's certainly one of the most inventive breakfast I've seen in ages!
I could feel a persistant food coma taking over my senses by the end of our meal - to this day I still kick myself over not grabbing a donut for the road as they really did look spectaluar. I praised Zowy immensely for introducing us to Twenty & Six; I sincerely appreciated her sharing such a wonderful place. There's great ideas and great food coming out of that tiny kitchen and it's worth visiting, come Melbounre rain or Melbourne shine. It was a beautiful cafe, a true pleasure to photograph and a place that I really can't wait to come back to again and again.