Layup, Northbridge

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On the site of what was once the Dizzy Witch Cafe, the new owners have transformed a tired old space into an light, industrial, modern cafe with a pleasing menu. When I met Egg and her son there shortly after Easter, there were only a few tables occupied and we wondered why. Our food dispelled any doubts we may have had, and the coffees were superb too.

The display cabinet and pie warmer were bereft of any offerings that looked appealing. This was a bit disappointing as the butter chicken pie on the menu sounded like just the ticket, and I could see the potential there in the slightly dry version left over from yesterday. Well it was early and they hadn’t had a chance to cook fresh ones and re-stock, so I reassured myself that the pie would keep for my next visit.

The brioche doughnut balls with salted caramel, pistachios, chantilly cream and sauce sounded amazing, but I wasn’t in the mood for sweets so went for an old fave, scrambled eggs on toast. This was a huge serving of eggs, soft and somewhat sloppy as you can see in the photo. As someone who’s not keen on runny eggs, I was a bit trepidatious about my breakfast, but the eggs continued to cook through in their own heat, and they were delicious with their smattering of chopped chives and sprinkling of cracked pepper.

Egg went for a simple plate of poached eggs on sourdough toast, and was rewarded with eggs that were soft and runny as she preferred them.

Fortunately Egg’s son saved the day by ordering the brioche doughnut balls which I managed to sample. When you blog about food, you really do need accommodating friends who are happy to give up part of their meals for your benefit 🙂  Anyhoo, the flavour combo of the doughnuts and the sweet sauce, citrus, luscious cream and crunchy nuts, was a good one, though I do think this would be a rich dish to eat on your own at 7.30am!

Layup boasts a range of toasties, wraps and burgers with some non-traditional fillings, as well as their tempting house-made pies and sausage rolls. It’s easy to see why it has become one of Perth’s new favourite breakfast spots in recent months, and it’s roomier and  easier to get into than Sayers Sister just around the corner which is always freakishly busy.

 

Layup Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Barchetta, Cottesloe

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Brunch beachside = views of the Indian Ocean and the fresh salty smell that confirm all’s right with the world. Dining by the sea always reminds me how lucky we are to live in Perth.  Barchetta is one of several Cottesloe venues that highlight the beauty of Perth’s coastline, and I met a few friends here for lunch a few weeks ago when the Sculptures by the Sea was in full swing.

The brunch menu features some comfy old favourites like pancakes, avocado on toast, bircher muesli, and a few items with some interesting tweaks. I decided to try the poached eggs on ciabatta with dukkah, Danish feta and hummus, and was glad I did. The hummus worked well as a base for the eggs on the ciabatta, and the crunchy, spicy dukkah was a good contrast for the silky eggs. An all-round satisfying dish, enhanced by the peppery rocket. It’s amazing how a handful of rocket adds some zing to almost any dish, which I guess is why it’s included in so many dishes these days.

My friends chose the fried eggs with roasted tomato, spinach, and a side of bacon, which looked somewhat ordinary but which I was assured was fine, and another the muffin of the day; a monster creation full of strawberries and white chocolate.

The coffees were robust and hot, and I enjoyed the two long macs I had. I regretted ordering the pink passion juice however; as this woeful concoction of watermelon, strawberry and apple was watery and insipid and not worth the $7 .50 price tag.

Barchetta’s service was friendly and attentive and the food was served promptly, despite it being a busy day. Sitting outside on the verandah is the way to go, as you can maximise your view and build up an appetite breathing in all that lovely salty sea air. I’ve breakfasted at the Blue Duck adjacent to Barchetta, and it’s a much bigger venue with slow service and generally uninspiring food, so for an all-round superior experience I’d opt for Barchetta.

 

Barchetta Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Casa Bianchi

Casa Bianchi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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In the cool green space that was once a nursery, Casa Bianchi in Mt Hawthorn beckons like a calm oasis. Complete with murmuring fountains, koi fish, verdant ferns and trees, shady umbrellas and chilled music, you instantly forget that you are in the midst of a busy inner suburb. I don’t know of any other eatery in Perth that provides such a tranquil and soothing environment. It has the effect of lulling you into a state of calmness, and even though my phone didn’t work while I was there, I think that’s part of the magic of this place.

I chose to sit out in the garden area, although you could classify the entire venue as a garden. There are leafy nooks and corners all around, as well as the main area under the roof where you line up and order your food at the counter. Though nothing out of the box, the food is always fresh and the juices are deliciously revitalising.

I ordered the savoury French toast with avocado and onion relish, and freshly squeezed fruit juice. It was a generous serve of avocado, and while the dish itself wouldn’t win any culinary awards, it was perfectly adequate for my mid-morning solo dining experience. I sipped on my juice and enjoyed the soothing sound of the fountain and the tranquility of the space. I could have sat there all day with my book, but alas, I had work to do.

I thoroughly recommend Casa Bianchi for a quiet, leisurely brunch or afternoon tea. It’s not often that I recommend a cafe based on the venue itself, but this is an exception. I guarantee you will love sitting amongst the frangipanis, sipping a coffee and savouring a quiet moment. There is a range of cakes and sweet treats available, so it’s perfect for that afternoon pick-me-up, with or without a friend.

tbsp.

tbsp. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Taking a cue from its Maylands neighbour, the old suburb of Bayswater finally appears to be undergoing a slow but steady renaissance. Several of the tired and shabby shop fronts have been replaced by new cafes such as tbsp, Drip Espresso and the Artisan Market Cafe. It’s long overdue Baysie, but better late than never.

Tbsp, referred to in everyone’s parlance as ‘tablespoon’, sets the standard in this hood. Its funky menu is appealing and different to the usual brunch and lunch offerings. The uber-friendly staff really seal the deal. This bunch of young’uns at front of house are a breath of fresh air, and know how to make you feel welcome.

Forget any ideas about typical eggs on toast, porridge and avocado smash here.  How about a cheese and kimchi toasty, beef brisket with poached eggs and beer braised onions, and slices of pandan cake and savoury curry loaf?

We loved it so much we visited twice in the last fortnight. Alex was so enamoured of the fried chicken sandwich that he ordered the same thing the second time. A succulent fried chicken thigh wedged in a soft brioche bun with an Asian-type slaw, was accompanied by a mountain of fries. Even the fries were seasoned with a tasty salt mix.

My rice congee with confit chicken, slow-cooked egg, chicken crackling and spring onions was liberally doused in a quality sesame oil that brought the flavours and textures together. I’ve always loved this comfort dish but Tbsp’s version really brought the house down.

The pumpkin tartine I tried on my first visit was a beautifully coloured dish of orange pumpkin, green pesto and pepitas, pink pickled onion and white fennel, and almost too pretty to eat. But I managed.

Their drinks offerings are also a tad unusual. My cold drip coffee with tonic water was quenching and refreshing, and Alex loved his tea concoction of strawberry and basil flavours.

Tbsp oozes friendliness and casual innovation. It’s wonderful to find a little suburban spot where nothing is ordinary and everything aspires to be extraordinary. It’s a hard act to emulate, but I’m hopeful that others in the all-day breakfast menu lineup, will be inspired to lift their game and produce similar magic.

Cecchi’s

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Cecchi’s in Inglewood has been on my bucket list for several years, and I finally made it there for brunch a few weeks ago. This cosy Italian restaurant inhabits a converted house on Beaufort St, and has the perfect courtyard setting for brunch.  Inside those courtyard walls you could easily imagine for a moment that you are in a little trattoria in Tuscany, far removed from the busy thoroughfare it lies on.

With my son Alex for company, we asked for advice from our charming and personable waiter, and ordered our meals along with a 5 Senses coffee for me. Alex was slightly disappointed that the slow eggs were unavailable as they were still cooking, but instead accepted the recommendation of the Pugliese sausage, fried egg, marinated kale and crispy chick pea polenta. This was a well executed dish with good contrasts of colours, flavours and textures. The sausage wasn’t the usual version, but a mix of lamb and pork with fennel and herbs that had been pan fried.

The hot weather convinced me to try something different; the yoghurt sorbet with berries and muesli praline. This refreshing dish was delightfully cool and zingy on the palate, and I loved the accent of the crunchy muesli and the freshness of the berries. I had to eat quickly though as it didn’t take long for the sorbet to start melting.

We were ready to try one of Cecchi’s special morning desserts, but sadly their much touted brioche croissants with salted caramel ice-cream were no longer on offer. Cecchi’s has decided to take them off the menu during the hot summer months, and will be offering ricotta doughnuts instead. However as neither were available for us to try, we opted for the apple pie panacotta. This beautifully presented dish came with a crumbly scattered “crust”, apple sauce and little velvety cubes of apple jelly. Although the panacotta was not as wobbly as was expected (and I suspect this was deliberate because of the hot weather), this was truly scrumptious. All of the elements worked very well together in this dish; it was the perfect light morning treat and perfect for sharing.

Our charming waiter informed us that an Italian bar will be opening next door later this year, and that although this will complement the existing restaurant, it will serve its own tapas-style dishes. This is something that is needed in the Inglewood area, and I am sure will be a huge success. I’m sold on the quality of Cecchi’s food, and look forward to returning and trying the evening menu. Overall this was a very pleasant experience, with food, service and ambience all top notch.

http://cecchis.com.au

Cecchi's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gill St Cafe, Mosman Park

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I met my south of the river bestie Lauren, for brunch in a cute cafe south of the river. This one is in the middle of the southern burbs, in a beautiful old converted corner house. With an outside deck and on site parking, it really is a little haven in the midst of suburbia.

There’s an all day breakfast menu, as well as a lunch menu that kicks in at midday. We chose to share a meal, and have a green smoothy and coffee each.

Our avocado, Persian feta, cherry tomato and basil on sourdough toast was delicious and plenty enough for two to share. I love that the serve of avocado was very generous, with the only minor gripe being that the toast was a bit dry and brittle. Could have done with less toasting.

Our green smoothies of apple, banana, spinach, chia, spirulina and lemon were really refreshing with a strong taste of banana. At $9.50 a pop though, they don’t come cheaply. Welcome to Perth 🙂

Coffees were perfect – hot, strong, and not bitter or burnt. Lauren is a regular here and says the quality is consistently good.

There is no table service here – you order and pay at the counter. You seat yourself and help yourself to water from the table on the verandah.

There was a range of jumbo sweet and savoury muffins in the display counter, as well as a few cakes and ready made baguettes.  Everything looked fresh and delicious and overall this was a pleasant experience on a lazy Sunday morning.

 

Gill St Cafe and Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Blue Duck

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Location location. If you come for the food at The Blue Duck you may leave disappointed, but come and sit on the deck for an hour and soak in the magnificent view of the Indian Ocean, and you’ll probably leave feeling that all’s right with the world.

It’s the perfect spot for a weekend brunch, and I caught up with Lauren, one of my besties, for a long overdue chin wag.  Lauren lives in Coogee so meeting with her always gives me a chance to try out some of our south of the river spots. I don’t often get to these spots with Mt Lawley, Inglewood and Maylands on my doorstep, but it’s great to venture  further afield for brunch occasionally.

The Blue Duck was loud and busy inside mid-morning, and the wait staff seemed a bit harried occasionally. It was hard to get their attention for coffees later, which wasn’t that surprising given the size of the indoor dining area. The breakfast menu held no surprises, but there were freshly squeezed juices available and our jars of The Hulk were refreshing and zingy and really gave a kick start to the day.

My choice of the roasted mushrooms dish was adequate, but the flavour could have been enhanced with a hint of garlic and perhaps a quick saute in the pan to finish them off. One stingy pat of butter was barely enough for the toast, though the goats cheese compensated for that somewhat. Still, I like lashings of butter with my toast and that’s not hard to cater for.

Lauren’s avocado and toast was patently basic and boring. It really wouldn’t be that hard to mash the avo and mix it up with some feta or peas and seasoning to zhoosh it up a bit. And charging an extra $5 for a few cherry tomatoes and a handful of rocket – are they having a lend?

The Blue Duck isn’t renowned for its quality food, so our very ordinary brunch fare was no surprise. The juices were top notch, though the coffees were mediocre and not hot enough. I guess even when mediocrity is your middle name, you will still bring in the crowds with this classic beachside view.  For some perplexing reason Perth still suffers from a lack of beachside dining establishments, so they’re always a drawcard.  The Blue Duck probably rests on its laurels by virtue of its location, but it’s not that hard to create a few memorable breakfast dishes. The Indian Ocean should be an inspiration for good food, not be an excuse for the lack of it.

http://www.blueduck.com.au

The Blue Duck Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Betty and Dave’s

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I was keen to try this new spot in Inglewood, having watch it transition over many months from its tired antique shop incarnation to a light, bright cafe.

There is an outdoor terrace area – though very hot in the afternoon – and a few separate zones inside, starting with the main counter area at the front, complete with stools, fluro pink coffee machine and a takeaway coffee window. The last zone inside near the kitchen has a large table and would be suitable for a group. I loved the collection of ceramic ducks on the wall in the middle zone – I’ve never seen this many flying ducks (on a wall) before!

I ordered the Summer Beans dish comprising poached eggs with peas, beans, mint, sugar snap peas and sprouts, on sour dough toast with goats cheese. This was a beautiful dish with fresh ingredients and I loved the way the flavours worked together. The dish comes with pancetta but I asked for this to be omitted, and I think the dish works better as a vegetarian dish anyway. I felt they could have been a bit more generous with the goats cheese as this was just a thin spread on the toast, enough to tantalise you but not enough to really satisfy. That aside, I enjoyed the way the dish was put together and loved the mix of flavours.

My long mac was good, strong enough but without any bitterness, and nice and hot. The front counter has a small range of cakes, slices and muffins, as well as some ready made salads and sandwiches. The sandwiches looked good, though they all came with meat fillings. It would be nice to see an option without red meat, as even the chicken version came with bacon. These days a lot of folks prefer either vegetarian or options without red meat, and there were very few choices on the menu.

I bought a brownie to take home and wow, it was amazing. If you love squidgy, moist brownies then these are perfect. With a few pieces of white chocolate nestled inside, the brownie was scrumptious – one of the best I’ve had in fact.

It would be nice to see a few vegetarian and non-red meat options on the menu, and bottles of cold water provided. The water was tepid and so not at all refreshing on a hot day without the air con on.  I’m not vegetarian but I don’t always feel like eating meat. Apart from the salads and a few brunch items, it was a very meaty menu. There’s limited parking outside, so you’ll likely have to park behind the nearby Inglewood Hotel. The service was prompt, the wait staff super friendly, and overall Betty and Dave’s was a positive experience.

Betty and Dave's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sapore Espresso Bar

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AB had long been dreaming of a legendary gourmet milkshake from Sapore, so we squeezed in a visit last week for a late lunch. It was a Monday afternoon and although there were few tables occupied inside, it was surprisingly rowdy. I can only imagine the din when the place is crowded! In any event, it was a perfect sunny 28 degree day and ideal for al fresco dining, so we were happy to sit outside.

We both ordered items from the all-day breakfast menu, and naturally AB went for the sweetest milkshake on offer (after getting advice from the wait staff), while I ordered a fresh juice.

AB’s Nutella milkshake was a sight to behold – rivulets of chocolate and Nutella in a large jar, topped with a generous blob of whipped cream, and finished off with a Baci chocolate. If looks count for anything, this was impressive. And AB was suitably impressed, though it was way too sweet and decadent for me. My freshly squeezed apple, ginger and lemon juice was tickety boo, and I wish more cafes would put in the effort to make them.

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It took me all of 30 seconds to decide on the mushroom bruschetta with goats cheese and fresh herbs. The creamy, mild goats cheese went perfectly with the trio of sautéed mushrooms drizzled with truffle oil and served on soft toasted Turkish bread. One of my pet peeves is breakfast food served with various toasted breads that are so hard to cut through that you need to ask for a steak knife. I really don’t get why so many cafes do this – food needs to be idiot-proof and able to be eaten decorously. Try sawing through a slice of bread as tough as crocodile skin and toasted to death, with bruschetta toppings flying shelter skelter off your plate, and you’ll understand what I mean.

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AB deviated from his usual food types and ordered the truffled scrambled eggs with shaved parmesan. It was a massive serve of creamy, wobbly eggs, sprinkled with fresh parsley and served on sourdough toast. Whilst he enjoyed it, he was envious of my mushroom dish. I don’t blame him – I love eggs, but it’s hard to beat a plate of super fresh mushrooms sautéed in good olive oil, right?

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We’d finished eating and were paid a visit by Sapore’s owner, enquiring about our experience and wanting feedback. We noticed that he did this with every table. I love it when people take their business seriously, and value what their customers have to say. Should be more of it!

Sapore is bit of an anomaly in Belmont as it’s the lone wolf in a forest of fast food outlets and food hall stalls (at the adjacent Belmont Forum). Sapore’s food is fresh and well made, the shakes and juices worth visiting for, and the owner cares about his customers. You can’t ask for more than that, really.

http://saporeespressobar.com.au

Sapore Espresso Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mia Cafe

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Mia Cafe combined the concept of cafe dining alongside garden nurseries long before it became trendy. In fact Mia Cafe has been around as long as I can remember, and that’s a while.

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I visit Mia Cafe every few months, usually for a coffee and a quick lunch. It’s popular with locals, especially in the warmer months when the verandah section looks out on the colourful plants in the Mia Flora nursery. There’s also a quaint little gift shop on site, so if the owners would only slap on a lick of paint to clean up the unattractive bore water stains, the place would look a lot more enticing.

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I’ve noticed that since the uber popular Finlay & Sons opened a few metres down the road in Inglewood, that Mia Cafe isn’t as busy as it once was. I guess in summer time though the families will flock back, as the cute little garden courtyard out the back with its complement of kiddie toys will always be enticing for parents of young kids.

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There’s always a collection of oldies in the community who patronise Mia – it’s a comfortable and welcoming cafe, so you can see why.

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Whilst I can’t say that the fare on offer at Mia’s is revolutionary or particularly creative, it nevertheless provides a few meals that are reasonably priced and enjoyable to eat. We don’t always need a sandwich to be cutting edge filled with a pantry of exotic ingredients. On my latest visit to Mia last week, my toasted chicken and sun-dried tomato wrap was tasty and delicious, and for $12.50, a lot cheaper than some other hip joints around town. There are always salads, wraps, toasties, fish and chips, cakes and muffins on offer, with a blackboard that offers daily specials of soups in winter, salads in summer, and freshly squeezed juices.

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My friend opted for the house-made spinach and feta muffin, toasted and served with butter. We shared each others food, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how tasty the muffin was. Very moist, cheesy and well flavoured, it was a large serve and something I’d order on my next visit.

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My long mac was pretty good – I have to say that over time the quality of coffees has improved at Mia, so this is another big plus from me.

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The staff here are friendly and greet some of their regular customers by name. It’s a nice relaxing little spot on Beaufort St where you can sit and read the paper and not part with a fortune for a casual lunch.

 

Mia Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Margaret River Bakery

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The Prof and I discovered the bakery across the road from our accommodation in Margaret River, and decided we would breakfast here before the long drive back to Perth. It was such a dilemma trying to fit in some amazing food places in such a short space of time!

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The bakery has a charming and eclectic collection of mismatched arm chairs, tables, lampshades and vintage china, and is crammed full of people who come for the deliriously good food. There’s a constant stream of people at the counter ordering takeaway coffees, almond croissants (I got one for the road of course) hot house made pies, salted caramel doughnuts and pastries.

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Mad mushy fan-girl that I am, I had to have the mushroom special for breakfast. Two ENORMOUS slices of sourdough were topped with a generous serve of mashed avocado sprinkled with sunflower and sesame seeds, alongside a dish of oven baked mixed mushrooms with baby spinach and shaved parmesan. This.was.so.good. And big. I very reluctantly had to leave my 2nd slice of avo on toast. The photo doesn’t really show how big this dish was.

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The Prof’s eyes glazed over when she clapped eyes on her pancakes with banana and salted caramel sauce. This was another giant serve with plenty of sticky sauce and fluffy pancakes, and she managed to polish off the lot. Well, look at that plate – why wouldn’t you?

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This place will ALWAYS be on my list when I visit Margaret River. I wanted to buy one of everything in the cake cabinet, not to mention a hot chicken pie and a Mediterranean vegetable tart. The constant stream of people is testament to the food made and served here. Just go there and indulge, and while you’re there, check out the funky Frieda Kahlo pics near the toilet. This crazy mish-mash of everything works brilliantly.

PS. You do need to take cash with you, and plan not to visit on Sunday (they’re closed).

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Margaret-River-bakery/288362249992

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Beaufort St Merchant

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I’ve often driven past Beaufort St Merchant, gazing wistfully at the people perched outside sipping lattes and looking as chilled as a hipster at the opening of an envelope. This must be one cool place, I thought to myself. Better see what the attraction is.

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Meeting my friend Miss V for brunch was the perfect opportunity to check out hipsterville. I wouldn’t call either of us hip, but we didn’t feel out of place in this eatery that was already bustling with customers at 9.30 on a Tuesday morning. Couples, suits, gym goers and young mums all looked equally at home.

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The menu comprised fairly standard breakfast fare for the most part, with Miss V being sold on the hazelnut and honey granola option.

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Served with poached rhubarb, icecream and almond milk, Miss V liked the contrasting textures and flavours of her granola.

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My choice of the omelette with feta, roasted red capsicum and herbs was average, and I can safely say I’ve made better myself. I was expecting a fluffy concoction with generous dobs of feta, but the omelette was flat and tired and the Merchant was stingy with the feta. Toast = meh. I had been tossing up between the omelette and the ricotta pancake dumplings, and eggs won out. Sometimes you should just go with your first instinct. Ah well, you win some, you lose some.

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Our coffees were good and made from the house blend.

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The Merchant has a range of cakes, muffins and pastries that look appealing, and I took home a custard pastry to son AB who gave it a thumbs up. Anything sweet is usually a winner with AB.

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I loved the vibe at the Beaufort St Merchant, and I can see why the place is always humming. It’s a place to be seen for sure, sitting front of shop on a sunny day and solving global problems with a few friends. On this busy little strip on the Highgate/Mt Lawley border this is the “IT” place.  I’m sure to return for coffee and cake, or maybe for a glass of vino in the evening.  I’d look pretty hip, lounging out front, sipping on my glass of red, right?

http://www.beaufortmerchant.com

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Tarts Cafe

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The name Tarts may be short and sharp, but the cafe itself is quite the opposite. From breakfast fare to lunches, to special degustation nights with jazz singers, this little haven in Northbridge is nothing if not versatile. They even have jewellery, scarves, homewares and food for sale, a boardroom you can use for small group meetings, and a rustic courtyard out the back where a French speaking group meet most Saturdays.

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I met Egg there one weekday morning for brunch, along with another agent pal, Stefano. Coffees and a mocha ordered immediately, because it was already 9.30 dammit, and we hadn’t had our caffeine hit. Coffees hit the spot but mea culpa, I forgot to ask about the beans. Another senior moment – what can I say – you’ll just have to excuse these minor slip ups occasionally 🙂

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Egg reverted to the Christos at $15.90 – a variation on her standby avocado dish  – but this one did also have salmon, sundried tomatoes and grilled asparagus. Egg loves having salad and greenery in her meal, and she enjoyed the Tarts’ version with ciabatta toast.

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Scrambled eggs with ciabatta toast ($10.90) was Stefano’s choice, and with a side of healthy rocket, he was one happy man.

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I continued with my recent pancake mania and ordered the stack of Pancakes at $17.90 with maple syrup, slivered almonds, mixed berry compote and a dob of cream. My fruity, sweet pancakes were a delicious indulgence, but as is often the case, I ended up eating around the syrupy edges, leaving an arid ring of pancakes in the middle with no syrup or compote left.

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I’ve eaten lunches and brunches and cakes and tarts at Tarts, and always enjoyed the surroundings in this welcoming cafe. Their range of cakes and muffins always looks delectable.

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Situated towards the north end of Lake Street, there is usually free street parking available, and I’ve never had to wait for a table. Might be a bit different on a rainy day though, when folks can’t use the rear courtyard. It’s a fab little spot, far removed from the busy central Northbridge area. In case you needed further incentive to visit, Tarts has a voucher in the Entertainment Book.

http://www.tartscafe.com.au/whats-on/

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Valenti’s on the Brook

2015-05-31 17.51.11 It’s a bit of a drive through the back roads of Millendon to reach Valenti’s, but this halcyon little eatery nestled in the Swan Valley on the banks of Susannah Brook, makes it worthwhile. I often ask myself why I don’t visit the Swan Valley more than once or twice a year; it’s only a 20 minute drive from home and it is simply brilliant. These days there are wineries, breweries, cafes, gourmet restaurants, produce shops and chocolate and cheese makers in abundance, and it makes for a fabulous day out. 2015-05-31 17.50.09 Valenti’s converted house with wide wooden verandah is far from the noisy suburban cafe strips and perfect for a casual weekend brunch or high tea. One glimpse of the towering gum trees, blue skies and welcoming homestead and I wanted to burst into a chorus of “Zippidee Doo Dah”.  I really am showing my age, huh?

On a warm and sunny late May morning, it was an idyllic setting for our group to gather over cups of tea served in fine china, and chat about life and food. Isn’t it incredible how much time we spend talking about food? Everyone seems to have evolved palates these days, and we all love sharing food experiences and hearing about new foodie discoveries.

Valenti’s range of Serendipity teas is loose leaf and presented beautifully on wooden trays with pretty china cups.

2015-05-31 17.44.57 I ordered my usual long mac topped up, but what I got was the shortest mac of all time. That glass in the photo is a wee baby – espresso size. Still in all, the coffee beans were good and robust and hey; when the sun is shining and you’re in good company, why complain about the small stuff?2015-05-31 17.47.09 It’s an all-day menu at Valenti’s, so you can choose from a range of typical breakfast foods along with lunch fare and more decadent choices like scones with house-made Strawberry & Shiraz Jam and cream. As a Haloumi and mushroom devotee, I really didn’t need to ponder the menu much and chose the Haloumi Shroomy. This dish features Haloumi, sourdough toast, mushrooms with pesto, and salad leaves with a balsamic dressing. These simple flavours worked well together, with the saltiness of the Haloumi and the pesto offset by the sweet balsamic dressing. The toast was hard and difficult to cut, but apparently the normal sourdough loaves hadn’t been delivered so the chef had to resort to Plan B. Oh well, it’s a minor thing and didn’t detract from the dish. 2015-05-31 17.57.21 The house-made baked beans were chosen by one of our group, along with a side of bacon. The borlotti beans, slow cooked in a tomato sauce and sprinkled with melted cheese, were sadly on the bland side, according to my friend. A bit more seasoning would have been just the ticket. Shame, because the dish looked so appealing and who doesn’t love tucking into some good old-fashioned hearty beans? 2015-05-31 17.54.58 One gal opted for the bacon and egg panini and judging by her silence and her smiley face, this one hit the spot. Kudos for the hearty eggy filling and the crusty ciabatta roll. 2015-05-31 17.55.56 Our lovely gal at the end of the table went for more of a lunch dish: the roasted vegetable and feta tart with a side of bacon. Obviously a lot of bacon lovers at this table. I don’t eat the stuff as a rule, but it seems these days that bacon is insinuating itself into more and more dishes. A place I dined at recently even had bacon maple ice-cream. Eeww. As for this vegetable tart, the “pastry was crisp and the filling delicious”. A big thumbs up for this dish that included a leafy side salad. 2015-05-31 17.52.28 Valenti’s is more than just a cottage cafe – it is an olive grove and a producer of olive oil, honey, and fine preserves, all for sale on site. Saturday afternoons are all about Vintage High Teas, and I can’t imagine a more relaxed place to indulge. Valenti’s will also cater to groups mid-week if you want something like a mum and bubs lunch date or high tea. Their home made cakes looked amazing but we didn’t have time to indulge.

The service was friendly and attentive and although some minor dish tweaking could be in order, dining at Valenti’s was a primo experience overall. Why not pull up a chair on the deck with a friend, choose a slice of cake and a pot of tea, and ponder the happenings of Westeros?  Winter is coming after all.

2015-05-31 17.49.04 http://www.valentisonthebrook.com.au

https://www.facebook.com/valentisonthebrook

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Mille Cafe

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Mille cafe has had its fair share of detractors, but I’ve been several times over the years and haven’t had a negative experience. Mille has been around for years, and in its heyday was popular and always packed. When several friends suggested a last-minute brunch date there as they wanted to use an Entertainment Book voucher about to expire, I was happy to oblige. I’ve never breakfasted at Mille, so I was curious to see how it stacked up against the trendy competition further along Beaufort St.

With a short menu featuring several appealing options, the prices seemed a few dollars cheaper than many similar establishments. Four of us had eyes only for the buttermilk pancakes with berry compote, vanilla mascarpone and maple syrup for $14.50, while the lone ranger in our group would not be swayed by peer pressure and ordered the classic eggs Benedict at $16.50.

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The lone ranger enjoyed her perfectly cooked eggs with ham and a good Hollandaise sauce. She lives a few streets away, has breakfasted at Mille many times and has always been happy with her dining experiences.

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As for our buttermilk pancakes – I can honestly say that they were the best pancakes I have eaten for a long, long time. Two light and fluffy pancake rounds topped with a fruity berry compote, a generous dollop of vanilla mascarpone and drizzled with maple syrup – they were simply delicious. So many places serve up a pancake high rise where there is NEVER enough syrup or topping, where you eat around the edges and you end up with a stack of drizabone pancakes left in the centre. These featured beautifully textured pancakes with the perfect ratio of topping to pancake. All four of us concurred, and left not a smidgeon of food on our plates.

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I had two long macs during my breakfast which were robust and perfectly made, but I forgot to ask about the beans or to take a photo.  All I can say is that all five of us relished our early morning feast with coffees.

I guess Mille Cafe is a bit of a dinosaur in some ways as it hasn’t changed its decor over the years, or tried to do anything special to attract the hipster crowd. It must be doing something right though, as it’s often full when I drive past on weekend nights. This large, sprawling cafe has space galore for prams, ample free parking,  is child and family friendly and has a voucher in the Entertainment Book. Worth a visit if you love pancakes……and who doesn’t?

http://www.millecafe.com.au

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