Melbourne was once in danger of being named Batmania after explorer John Batman, however these days it’s more likely to be rechristened Brunchtown. That in-between meal – neither breakfast nor lunch but a portmanteau that speaks of indulgence and lazy mornings – has conquered hearts, minds and stomachs. Hell, it might even be challenging the footy for our affections. Here are 10 of the best.
The first thing that hits you is the space: this former power station at the unloved end of Melbourne’s CBD has been artfully reimagined as a café-restaurant wonderland with nosebleed-high ceilings. It’s little wonder Higher Ground is the spiritual home of the brunch movement (and a contender in our Business Travel Awards on page 119). Would you expect anything less of the greatest venue yet from the café royalty behind Top Paddock and The Kettle Black? The two-speed menu appeals to diners’ basic instincts (the minced-lamb fry-up with eggplant and eggs is a guaranteed hangover cure) and higher ideals (quinoa and seed Bircher muesli with roasted blood plum, seed crumble and almond milk or cleansing steamed fish in Japanese broth with vegetable noodles). Meanwhile, the ricotta hot cakes with maple syrup sell like, well, hot cakes.
￼650 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne; (03) 8899 6219
The new kid on the Domain Road block – otherwise known as ground zero for ladies who brunch – Gilson has a menu that swings both ways. There are options for the health-conscious (a grain bowl with beetroot, greens, avocado, an egg and hummus) and the indulgent (buttermilk pancakes with blueberries, ricotta and maple syrup). For an added bonus, you can run it off afterwards on the nearby Tan Track.
171 Domain Road, South Yarra; (03) 9866 3120
Take a bunch of shipping containers, put them on a Footscray lot, add small-batch coffee and a snappy menu then watch the brunchers descend. At this eatery, hot rolls are a favourite – fillings include pancetta with egg, tomato relish, rocket, cheddar and aïoli – or you can swipe right on the sweet stuff with a rhubarb tart topped with lemon mascarpone.
16-20 Leeds Street, Footscray; 0497 058 173
SEE ALSO: Where to Get a Pancake Fix in Melbourne
Northcote’s High Street is accustomed to the sight of crowds spilling out of perennially popular Barry on the weekend. The house signature is a kooky combination of peanut butter and fresh tomatoes on toast. The gluten-free and plain old health-conscious are looked after assiduously: look no further than the super salad of raw broccolini, kale, avocado, lentils, herbs, soft-boiled egg and activated almonds. Someone better tell Pete Evans.
85 High Street, Northcote; (03) 9481 7623
All roads to brunch in North Melbourne lead to Auction Rooms, an industrial-chic café where the coffee (both single-origin and blends) has a backstory that you can breakfast on and is taken very seriously, indeed. The food is no slouch, either. Fight your way to a table for an all-day breakfast/brunch menu that keeps itself nice with cheffy touches on everything. In the fish-finger sandwich, panko-crumbed barramundi saddles up with root-vegetable crisps, taramasalata and the traditional tartare sauce and iceberg lettuce. Toasted corn tortillas are topped with a chest-thumping combination of pulled pork shoulder, spicy salsa roja, cheese curd, black beans and fried egg. Can’t decide? Grab a breakfast board laden with good stuff such as grilled chorizo, smoked-trout rillettes and a boiled egg with soldiers, plus a green Super Smoothie.
103-107 Errol Street, North Melbourne; (03) 9326 7749
Andrew McConnell is a bit of a trendsetter in this town. He’s brought back the lazy Susan at Ricky & Pinky, made karaoke cool at Supernormal and at his Flinders Lane eating house Cumulus Inc, he was an early leader of the brunch charge. Get stuck into The Full English (complete with blood sausage) or go for something fancy, such as the potato-and-green-onion waffle with pastrami and pickles.
45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne; (03) 9650 1445
It’s easy to pretend you’re in Paris (although Domain Road, South Yarra, is hardly shabby, either) with a menu of croque monsieur, brioche French toast and superior baguette with salted butter caramel.
131-133 Domain Road, South Yarra; (03) 9804 5468
If your idea of a good way to start the day is with something sweet, the cookies-and-cream doughnut sliders with crushed Oreos at this buzzing café are just the ticket. It’s the kind of Instagram bait that has propelled Left Field to the top of the Melbourne café hit parade – no mean feat in postcode 3163 and ample proof that there is life beyond the inner ’burbs. For every Oreo-led trip to the dark side, there’s redress in the new-school Southern Californian-style of brunch fare, such as sautéed greens (hello, kale!) with goat’s cheese, smashed avocado, dukkah and lime. After midday you can get stuck into something heartier, such as the spicy pulled-pork burger. The wait for a table can be long but you’ll hear no complaints from Carnegie, which knows that its brunch-time ship has come in.
358 Koornang Road, Carnegie; (03) 9578 2043
In more news from the McConnell stable, his Gertrude Street wine bar does a mean weekend brunch. Get fired up for the day with a zucchini omelette with tarragon and buffalo ricotta; baked eggs with merguez sausage and shanklish cheese; or a perfect flaky croissant from Lune bakery – and you’d better chase that good brunch buzz with a Mimosa.
53 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy; (03) 9419 6262
Kirk’s Wine Bar
Sitting pretty on a corner of Hardware Lane, Kirk’s Wine Bar has only been open a snip less than three years but has already won institution status. With dishes such as smoked salmon and fried egg with a potato blini, and gnocchi with seasonal vegetables that speak directly to the brunch program, you’ll broach no argument with us.
46 Hardware Lane, Melbourne; (03) 9600 4550
Top image: Left Field