Brunch out south of the Yarra
When I was in high school, my girlfriends and I had a strict rule – never go on a date with a guy who brags about doing “laps on Chaps” on Saturday night. You know, those guys who think they are in the Fast and Furious movie, with the sub woofer, seat covers and too much gel in their hair, driving 20 kilometers per hour down the tiny congested Chapel Street, in Melbourne’s inner South-East.
What makes Chapel Street worth visiting is all the colour it brings to Melbourne’s urban scene…
This is a tale of three sisters.
To the South, funky, young and considerably more affordable, sits Windsor, an energetic mix of eateries and funky relaxed bars, where you can bring your dog out for a drink, find treasure at an op shop and enjoy dinner while sitting on a milk crate. This sister is the Uni student of the three sisters, with no rules or boundaries, willing to try anything new and exciting.
In the middle lies the more sophisticated Prahran, with some designer boutiques and fine dining dotted around electro nightclubs and excellent oriental dining institutions. She is the educated sister who knows what she is after. She enjoys a good book and a quality glass of wine, but not afraid to spend months travelling South East Asia on a shoestring budget.
At the very end lies South Yarra. High-end boutiques and white cloth restaurants make up this luxurious suburb. The prettiest of the three sisters, but admittedly, also the most boring. She is the well-groomed, well-established sister, who is secretly envious of the freedom the other two enjoy.
When it comes to brunch on Chapel street, I rarely think of the South Yarra end of Chapel as the place to go, as food here is usually a little boring and possibly pretentious (exciting things however do happen once you approach South Yarra station or cross over Toorak Road- see my earlier reviews). Lucky for me, Lucky Penny decided to take over a somewhat tacky bar and open its doors to serious co-brunchers like myself, offering some solid quality food and coffee to talk about.
I am late to my brunch date (which happens more often than not), so I am delighted to see my co-bruncher seated when I arrive. The interior is absolutely gorgeous, following the familiar yet never disappointing modern-rustic mix. There are blonde-wood high tables, a white painted brick wall and ample greenery to give the space a clean, calming sensation.
The staff is delightful. As a new starter, they are at this stage where they really want to make a lasting impression and do not take their customers for granted. They offer warm smiles and relaxed, efficient service. No one here is trying to kick you out as soon as you finish the last sip on your latte to seat other patrons.
The menu offers some interesting choices like the Black pudding, spiced plum jam, chicken livers and brioche with poached eggs or the Waffles with waffles, salted soft chocolate and vanilla ice cream. My co-bruncher and I are tempted by these offerings but decide these are too heavy for a Saturday post work-out breakfast and decide to go for something slightly less sinful.
My co-bruncher opts for the Citrus cured salmon, potato and pea salad, cucumber and herbs with poached eggs but she needs to order a toast to accompany this dish. The dish is beautifully presented, and my co-bruncher, an experienced professional foodie and blogger in her own right, declares the dish “excellent”.
I order the Smashed avocado, chilli oil, sour cream with rocket and mint salad and poached eggs with an additional side of smoked Salmon. I like the original combination of sour cream and chilli oil to go with my avocado, and the rocket and mint salad are the perfect addition to my eggs. My strong-skinny latte is made with the 24/7 coffee blend by Five Senses. There is a single origin and an alternative blend on offer. My only suggestion on the menu is to include lighter dishes that allow a less indulgent start to the morning or even more sinful items, such as hotcakes and French toast with fruity additions.
The atmosphere here is fun, young but not too pushy or noisy so we can spend hours catching up on what life has thrown at us since we last met.
This is a solid brunch choice, a star on the South Yarra Chapel end and I am very hopeful that similar ventures start popping around this end of Chapel Street. I write this review conflicted, as I want to tell the world how great this place is, but I also do not want it to reach the level of crazy wait times as neighboring Two Birds, One Stone, Pillar of Salt and the king of all lines, Top Paddock.
I vow to keep coming back until I am prevented from doing so by the masses.
Food: 8 out of 10
Staff: 8 out of 10
Atmosphere: 8 out of 10
Best for: a breakfast date before a movie at Jam Factory, a break from shopping, a gossip session.
Getting here: 481 Chapel Street, South Yarra. Five minutes walk from South Yarra Station.