Brunch out south of the Yarra
Carlisle street, Balaclava. No doubt the most versatile street South Side of the Yarra. Here you will find Orthodox Jews shopping in kosher butchers, eastern European migrant pensioners buying cured meats at Russian delis, yuppies sipping lattes, rich private school kids overspending on their parents’ platinum cards and as you are heading west towards the beach, ever colourful drug-addicts and working girls.
Despite all the craziness, all the different characters of this street work in an unmatched harmony with one another and this is one of the best streets in Melbourne to undertake some serious people watching. Perhaps more importantly, Carlisle street could also be a proud contender in Melbourne’s best brunch street (yes, not just South Side of the Yarra), offering some solid gastronomic choices (watch this space for reviews).
My breakfast at Las Chicas on a Sunday morning is accompanied by three other dedicated brunchers, who have unofficially sampled with me many breakfasts before.We are told by the smiley hostess that the wait will be 5 minutes. My attempts to order a take away coffee while I wait is snubbed by the barista staff who warns me sternly it would be a ten minutes wait (this would never happen in the city!). When I say that I will give it a miss they just walk off. 25 minutes later and multiple attempts of giving the hostess the biggest sad puppy eyes I can pull off , we are seated in a corner table inside (the puppy eyes clearly failed me).
Once we are seated I remember why we came here. The menu is absolutely mind blowing. The breakfast menu is extensive and includes a comprehensive “extras” section, including items such as Yarra Valley Fetta, Bubble and Squeak Croquettes and Organic Lamb, Honey and Rosemary Sausages. The lunch menu, which appears to be served all day , includes exciting salad dishes such as Kale &Quinoa Salad and Sesame Seared Tuna Salad. Our orders are taken within minutes and before I know it, our drinks begin to arrive. Food follows shortly after.
I order the Sautéed Mushrooms – field and shiitake mushrooms on a multigrain toast with persian fetta, thyme and a poached egg. I decide to order some avocado as well which arrives mashed in a small side dish. My dish is accompanied by a fresh rocket salad and a wedge of lemon which gives the meal a nice fresh, peppery balance. The egg has a rich orange yolk (just the way I like it!).
Two of my fellow brunchers build their own breakfast with indulgent sides including Smoked New Zealand King Salmon and Slow Roasted Vine Tomatoes. The fourth bruncher of the group opts for what he later describes as the “best pork belly roll ever” from the all day lunch menu. We are all so engrossed with our meals that for a few minutes there, we forget to engage in anything that resembles conversation and instead settle for sound effects that aim to describe to one another our sheer enjoyment of the food. We unanimously agree that this is brunch food perfection.
The indoor space is funky with bare bricks, posters and hanging light bulbs. Staff are dressed in their best grungy-hipster look, leading you to the inevitable conclusion that you could never pull THAT off. While there are two large wooden tables outside on the Carlisle Street footpath, this is not a place for pooches or strollers. There is also a lovely courtyard at the back, but seats are limited. The cozy yet very busy feeling inside makes this a perfect place for a rainy Sunday, or a decent debrief with your besties.
Food: 10 out of 10
Atmosphere: 8 out of 10
Staff: 7.5 out of 10
Best for: catch up with friends, winter brunch, “the morning- after-get-to-know-each-other” date
Find it at: 203 Carlisle St, Balaclava. Literally under Balaclava station, 69 and 03 trams at your doorstep. Some parking behind the cafe or behind the supermarkets across the road (2 hour parking).