Brunch out south of the Yarra
I guess you cannot write a blog about good things south of the Yarra, without visiting South Yarra. So there I went on a warm Saturday morning.
Ten years ago, South Yarra was a place where models went to be seen, greying CEOs paraded their sport-cars, and well-kept housewives went to show off the latest in botox technology. While some of these trends certainly still exist, the influx of high-rise apartments over the last four years has brought young corporate blood and cashed-up international students to the area, making South Yarra a much more interesting place to visit. As I walk to Two Birds One Stone, I think it is hard to dispute that this is one of Melbourne’s most visually appealing suburbs, with leafy trees, spotless footpaths and, well, very good looking people.
The cafe is located on a side street off Toorak Road, only a minute’s walk from the train station. As I approach the cafe I am slightly disappointed – a new high-rise is being constructed just across the tiny street, making sitting outside very unappealing. The other existing high-rises block a lot of the sun as it is, and I can’t say that the one being built is adding a lot of character to the area.
After a five minute wait (I have previously waited a lot longer here) we are offered a seat at the bar. I am excited to be able to see all the barista action, but being tucked away in the corner isn’t the vibe I’m after.
Our wait staff is young, professional and exceptionally friendly. They take our drink orders as we are seated and meal orders minutes later. I choose the Two Birds One Stone Breakfast, essentially a large vegetarian breakfast with all the trimmings, including two eggs (mine were poached) mushrooms, spinach, heirloom tomatoes, avocado and haloumi cheese. Meat lovers can add bacon and sausages for only a few extra dollars. My partner in crime orders from the all-day lunch menu. He decides to go for The Reuben which makes me reminisce about my trip to New York two years ago, where I had one of these at about 1 am in the famous Carnegie Deli. The Reuben here is made up of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut & seeded mayonnaise. It comes served on rye bread.
My meal is huge (can easily be shared by two) and while I cannot fault it, it really fails to wow me in any way. The Reuben is too generous on the butter and cheese and lacks a decent amount of beef. Our beverages (ice coffee and chai latte) are nice but again rather average. Coffee here is a house blend and I watch as the dedicated barista staff carefully prepare each cup. It is of the high quality expected in this area but not the type I would go to order each morning on my way to work.
As I sit at the bar observing the six or so staff behind the counter, I cannot help but think just how hard it is to run an institution like this well. Every minute, a new cup of coffee is prepared and the owners here work very hard to provide you with a high-quality experience.
The space is bright, fresh and pleasantly busy. A party of two will likely be seated at the large communal table or on a high stool against a counter. Larger parties may get lucky and get one of the private booths (can fit up to eight people) which are separated by thin walls (Japanese style). There are a few toddlers around, but I wouldn’t bring here strollers or four -legged friends.
If you have any space left after breakfast, head next door. Adriano Zumbo’s wonderful patisserie will satisfy the fussiest dessert connoisseurs, with macarons (or as they are known here, Zumbarons), world-class cakes and French pastries.
Food: 8 out of 10
Service: 8.5 out of 10
Atmosphere: 8.5 out of 10
Best for: catch-up with Northsiders (given the proximity to the city, it is a good half-way meeting point), fancy pre-footy brunch, reprieve from house-hunting in the area or a day of shopping.
Getting here: 12 Claremont St, South Yarra, catch a train to South Yarra or the no 8 tram down Toorak Road. Off-street parking is available but usually limited to two hours.