Brunch out south of the Yarra
As winter settles in Melbourne it can be so tempting to stick to old favourites and not leave your neighbourhood for the entire weekend. After a busy week at work, deadlines, meetings and frequent runs to make the train on time (aka my daily cardio session), I sometimes feel that there is nothing better than staying in my postcode for the entire weekend…but then I think of all the people, food, art, parks and architecture that there are to be discovered in this city and I force myself to get out the door and go somewhere new and unfamiliar. And the best thing about SouthSideBrunch is that it drives me to try and visit new places instead of opting for the old and familiar. I tell you all this because for the 14 years that I have lived in Melbourne I have driven past Mart 130 hundreds of times, but never ever stopped to explore this beautiful area of Middle Park.
Mart 130 is very different to any other place I have reviewed so far. The reason is simple, Mart 130 is in fact a tram stop. Yes, a tram stop. Stop 130 to be precise (if you haven’t worked it out yet, MART is TRAM spelled backwards). When I tell my co-bruncher that I am taking her to eat at a tram stop she does not seem too impressed. While I am nervous myself about the concept as I have never been here before, I reassure her that she is in for a treat. My co-bruncher unfortunately knows me way way too well and while she gives me her usual generous smile, I can tell that she is very suspicious of my morning’s plans for her (as she should be!).
The first noticeable bonus about Mart 130 is that there are no lines to queue up in (what seems to be an almost bizarre concept in Melbourne’s café scene). As we open the door of this modest wooden structure, we are astonished to see what lies inside – a warm, buzzing, colourful and somewhat whimsical space. It is like walking into one of those old shops that sell crystals, tarot cards and have an in-house psychic at the back that will read you your fortune. We are greeted by a smiling young girl (who does not seem to read fortunes or have any special mystical powers so far) who shows us to our table, located at the back veranda, overlooking the greens of Albert Park and the city’s skyline. There are heaters, cushions and fresh flowers everywhere to make sure that you feel right at home.
My co-bruncher and I cease our flooding dialogue to examine the menu. There are poached eggs with Persian fetta, smashed peas, artisan sourdough and snow pea tendrils, as well as baked bean cannellini beans with ham hock, pesto sourdough and crumbled feta, and a triple pancake stack, chocolate crumble, fresh bananas, chocolate mouse and honeycomb. I am really struggling to decide and my co-bruncher (who now seems to think that eating breakfast at a tram stop was a great idea all along) declared “you know it’s a good place when the menu-silence lasts for more than a minute” (a particularly rare occurrence when the two of us are together!). She settles on the famous Mart Bircher Musli topped with crunchy granola and poached fruits, and after much deliberation, I order the Poached eggs , Harris smoked salmon, fresh spinach, crème fraiche and dill-caper salsa on sourdough toast .
Our coffee arrives within minutes and our meals follow shortly after. The bircher is huge and the crunchy granola is a nice twist to the traditional dish. The smoked salmon servings are generous and pair well with the other ingredients on the plate.
The crowd is a mixture between locals and visitors like us. There are toddlers, Mac junkies and foodgramers. The staff is young and sweet and the place hasn’t reached the madness point of other cafés in its class.
My favourite thing about this place is the atmosphere. There are cute little messages in the pot plants all over the place, the coffee cups and saucers are the type your grandma collects, and there are little wooden airplanes hanging from the ceiling. It is the kind of place I would imagine to be a usual fixture in Diagon Alley, with a pinch of magic in every corner. Perfect for a dreamer like me.
Can’t wait to go back.
Food: 7.5 out of 10
Staff: 8 out of 10
Atmosphere: 9.5 out of 10
Good for: a day around the lake, a place to read a novel, a winter escape.
Getting there: 107A Canterbury Road, Middle Park 3206, stop 130 on the 96 tram. Parking available on Canterbury Road.