Melbourne may be Australia's second biggest city, but it still has an endearing sense of intimacy. Wide and spacious main roads generously accommodate trams and the ambling flow of pedestrians, but its the side streets that appeal the most - alleys that are narrow and cosy, a happy jumble of boutique stores, al fresco cafes and graffiti-plastered laneways.
Degraves Espresso Bar
On our final day in Melbourne, Billy and I head to Degraves Street, a cobbled laneway flanked by steep historic buildings and littered with coffee shops and marquee umbrellas. Degraves Espresso Bar is one of the grungier establishments - staff dressed casually in t-shirts and optional tattoos, the furniture an eclectic combination of wooden chairs and recycled leatherette theatre seats.
The barista works non-stop, the click click of the coffee dispenser punctuated by the furious whirr of beans and the high-pitched squeal of steam. Service is on the brusque side of attentiveness, but patrons seem to take it all in as part of the charm. Our coffees take some time to arrive, and it's not until they're set down before of us that we realise we've travelled all the way to Melbourne to drink coffee beans roasted in Sydney. The irony is not lost on us.
Latte and flat white
My flat white is beautifully presented but its smoothness, a signature of Toby's Estate, doesn't have the gutteral grunt I'm craving.
The menu, hand-chalked on the blackboard, is short and sweet, including classics like porridge, French toast, a hot cooked breakfast and eggs either Benedict or Florentine.
Eggs Benedict arrives on toasted sourdough bread, a sunny splash of Hollandaise over two poached eggs and overlapping slices of pink leg ham.
Runny egg yolk
We pierce the egg white to release a flood of runny yolk, a river of deepest orange that spills over and soaks its way languidly into the bread. The Hollandaise sauce - smooth, velvety and refreshingly tart with lemon juice - is the perfect foil.
Fruit toast with mascarpone and honey
Fruit toast is small in size but heavy with fruit. A liberal dollop of mascarpone and lashings of honey add a new dimension to this breakfast favourite - somehow both rich and light at the same time. The vintage plate only adds to the charm.
We tumble out into the chattering alley, pockets of sunshine creeping their way around the market umbrellas.
Second breakfast? You knew we would.
Roule Galette is only around the corner. We've come on the breathless recommendation of Adrian, an endorsement for amazing French crepes is one I'm not inclined to ignore.
The alleyway is small and desserted at 11.00am on a Sunday. A heartfelt "Bonjour" from French owner Michel is so unexpected that for a minute I think I'm in Paris and not inner city Melbourne.
Flat white $3 and short black $3
There's no latte art on my flat white, but the coffee has a richer deeper flavour that finally satisfies my coffee craving.
Three cheese galette with goat cheese, Morbier and blue cheese
Disappointed that the Forestiere is not available (bechamel, bacon, mushroom and cheese using a recipe by Michel's father), we order the three cheese galette instead. Each corner of the folded parcel holds a different cheese, from the molten and mild Morbier, to the sharpness of blue, and the lingering tartness of goats cheese.
Blue cheese inside the crepe
The galette is a traditional savoury crepe originating from Bretagne, France. Buckwheat gives the crepe a slight nutty flavour and lends a milky coffee colour beneath its golden brown hue.
Making fresh crepes
The crepes are made in the front window, a wooden paddle used to gently smooth the batter into a thin layer on the hot griddle.
Adding the chestnut spread
A metal spatula is used to carefully fold the crepe in half, before small dabs of chestnut spread are added to its surface.
Sabaton chestnut spread
Sweet crepe with chestnut spread $5.00
The sweet crepe with chestnut spread looks small and unassuming on the plate, but it's infinitely pleasing. Impossibly thin and deliciously crisp, the dabs of sweetened chestnut puree are sparse, but it only makes encountering these pockets of sweetness even more exciting. It's an elegant dish that exemplifies the French philosophy of quality over quantity. It marries well into the food blogger mentality of eating two breakfasts as well!
< Read the final Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2010 post (a photographic ode to Melbourne)
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Grab Your Fork visited Melbourne as a guest of Tourism Victoria for the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. Degraves Espresso Bar and Roule Galette were both visited anonymously and paid for personally.
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Degraves Espresso Bar
23 Degraves Street, Melbourne, Victoria
Tel: +61 (03) 9654 1245
Monday to Friday 7am - late, Sat 8.30am - late
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Roule Galette French Crêperie
Scott Alley, 241 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Victoria
Tel: +61 (03) 9639 0307
Monday to Thursday 7am - 8pm
Friday 7am - 9.30pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am - 5pm
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Melbourne - Abbotsford Convent Bakery
Melbourne - Lord of the Fries
Melbourne - Madame Brussels
Melbourne - MoVida Aqui
Melbourne - Red Spice Road
Melbourne - Sensory Lab
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Missed out? There are plenty more competitions on offer. Don't delay - enter now, and remember you can enter once per day as long as each answer is different.
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5/05/2010 12:27:00 a.m.