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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Degraves Espresso Bar and Roule Galette, Melbourne

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.

Eggs Benedict

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)
< Go back to the first Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2010 post

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 on Urbanspoon

Degraves Espresso Bar
23 Degraves Street, Melbourne, Victoria
Tel: +61 (03) 9654 1245

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 7am - late, Sat 8.30am - late

View Larger Map
Roule Galette on Urbanspoon

Roule Galette French Crêperie
Scott Alley, 241 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Victoria
Tel: +61 (03) 9639 0307

Opening hours:
Monday to Thursday 7am - 8pm
Friday 7am - 9.30pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am - 5pm

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Congratulations to Hannah who is the lucky winner of the Grab Your Fork Freebie Friday competition. She has won a copy of the Salt Book with her winning entry here.

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.
17 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 5/05/2010 12:27:00 am


  • At 5/05/2010 5:24 am, Blogger milliemirepoix said…

    I wouldn't be able to resist the crepe with chestnut spread- I've never tried it before and am so curious!

    I really need to make it over to Melbourne sometime. Looks like they've got a lot of good food :)

  • At 5/05/2010 7:04 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Love Degraves street and love the fact you managed two breakfasts!

  • At 5/05/2010 8:44 am, Blogger Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    Good work with the two breakfasts'! I love degraves st, even though I didn't have much time there. I loved the whole atmosphere... Love the pic of the pierced egg with the hollondaise sauce!

  • At 5/05/2010 9:47 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    I remember I did my best to churn through the biggest breakfast in Melbourne one night. I think I got about two thirds in before keeling over into a food coma. Melbourne brekkies = KO.

    Thus, major kudos to you for hoovering through two brekkies! Chestnut spread crepes.. mmmm

  • At 5/05/2010 9:58 am, Anonymous Tina said…

    I <3 Degraves - and their giant vessels of house wine... I think I'm due for a melbourne trip...

  • At 5/05/2010 10:38 am, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    Two breakfasts! *swoon* Love the laneways of Melbourne as well. Gives the city so much hidden charm that makes you want to explore every nook and cranny.

  • At 5/05/2010 10:47 am, Blogger ragingyoghurt said…

    the last time i was there i had a parma ham and stinky cheese galette. raclette? oh it was stinky! have you been to the waffle shop in degraves? the crust is all caramelised and sugary (with flyaway strands), and then if you have the one with maple syrup, you get golden sweet puddles on top of that. arghgarlrlegrl.

  • At 5/05/2010 11:38 am, Anonymous Fiona said…

    The colours are amazing on the benedict

  • At 5/05/2010 12:36 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    "Gutteral grunt" - love it! In fact, I think that's what I search for when I'm in the mood for super dark chocolate :)

    Apart from that... chestnut spread! Oh tummy, I wish I had some of that give you right now.

  • At 5/05/2010 12:53 pm, Anonymous Adrian @ Food Rehab said…

    Glad you liked the place. Total gem huh?

    Loved how you described the crepes, making me feel awfully hungry. And two breakfasts?! Why the hell not!

    Another place when you're down next is La Cita in Degraves. Their Eye Fillet is succulently sinful!

  • At 5/05/2010 2:46 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Love the look of those eggs benedict mmm and 3 chhheeeessssseee crepe XD

  • At 5/05/2010 8:44 pm, Blogger YaYa said…

    Damn, why aren't there any places like this in Sydney?

  • At 5/06/2010 8:25 am, Anonymous Sophea Lazane said…

    Crepe and chestnut spread - I'm drooling. It's so tempting, yummy, and delicious!! It is way better with a great cup of fine coffee.

  • At 5/06/2010 4:36 pm, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    'Bursque' is a great word to describe Degraves Espresso Bar. it's a bit of an institution in Melbourne although i think there's better and nicer places for breakfast in Melbourne. i tried roule galette but preferred le Triskel which has a bit more room to sit, nicer laneway and preferred their crepes plus they have big bowls of coffee — French style.

  • At 5/09/2010 9:36 pm, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    man, we need some place like this in Sydney! I would love a nice crepe for breakfast with a cup of great coffee!

  • At 5/10/2010 6:24 pm, Anonymous Blue Penguin said…

    Oh, I just love Roule Galette - it's pretty much worth a trip to Melbourne just to go there! I will happily vouch for the Forestiere - it's amazing, and was sorry you didn't get to try it. I only wish Sydney would realise it needed a galettery - ever since the one at Five Ways closed ages ago. And such great food from the tiniest cafe!(I was also sharing the Roule Galette love pretty recently - http://penguinsandparentheses.blogspot.com/2010/04/you-spin-me-right-round.html)

  • At 5/12/2010 10:46 am, Anonymous Brett Sutcliffe said…

    I have been there couple of times. A lot of love.
    Also the ones near this one have really good risotto.


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