Breakfast out on a weekday is virtually a non occurrence for me, but when I had to travel all the way to Tullamarine for work, a fellow foodie colleague and I took the opportunity to indulge in brunch at Pope Joan.

I have driven past Pope Joan many times, but the long line outside on weekends always deterred me from making the visit, but luckily there was no such issue on a Monday morning. Located on the busy Nicholson St, we were fortunate enough to find parking right in front of the shop front, and we hoped this was a sign that we were off to a good start!

We walked in to find an array or tables available to us, so we chose to sit in the left hand section of the cafe, where are waitress promptly greeted us, handed us menus and took our coffee orders. I ordered my standard latte, which arrived quickly.

Pope Joan serves All Press coffee, and the quality and flavour was evident from the first sip. A very smooth coffee with a subtle bitterness and rich aroma gave me confidence that this was going to be a good brunch, and my attention quickly turned to the menu.

At first glance I was super excited, with three quarters of the menu being vegetarian friendly! It then got even better when I realised that other than the standard toast and muesli options, all the other offerings were savoury! I scanned through the list and settled upon an Indian looking option, saag aloo (also known as spinach and potatoes), smoked yoghurt, almonds, pickled radish and grilled flat bread. I think it was here that the morning went down hill.

I should have picked up on the fact that saag aloo is obviously Indian, and pickled radish definitely has Asian connotations. The two cuisines are both delicious independent of each other, but combined, they really do not work. The saag aloo was also rather flavourless, and whilst I understand that the spice factor may need to be toned down for a western palate, I really do expect better from multicultural Melbourne.

My colleague went for a smarter option and chose the truffled polenta brick, baked eggs, green mozzarella and fried capers. This breakfast was definitely worthy of its place on the menu. I only had a small taste, and immediately regretted not choosing it. Truffle has become the new ‘it’ food on Melbourne menus, and its distinct flavour added an interesting element to the soft polenta brick. The baked egg looked perfectly oozy and the fried capers added the right balance of tang and crunch.

Overall, Pope Joan gets a two out of three. A great coffee, one below average breakfast, and another great breakfast. Would I go back? Yes. Would I order another ethnic or fusion meal? No. Stick to the creative Western options on the menu and you’re in for a good breakfast.

Pope Joan on Urbanspoon
Unplanned weekend brunch outings are always the best, and that’s exactly what happened last Saturday. Given that it was unplanned, I hadn’t thought of where to go, and so I tried to think of local cafes that I had put on my mental list. Merchant’s Guild popped up in my head and it was decided, to Bentleigh East it was!

We arrived at about 9am, and already the cafe had started filling up, and so we became the first ones to sit at the communal table at the back. I looked around and all along the wall large buckets of spices were lined up ready to be mixed into chai mixes. It was then that I decided that today was going to be a tea morning, rather than a coffee one.

A friendly waitress handed us our menus, and informed me of the excellence of Prana Chai, which is the tea that they serve. I took up her recommendation and wondered if their masala chai would live up to my Indian standards.

The tea arrived promptly, served in a little pan, so that I could strain my own. Whilst pouring it, I could smell the spicy aromas and the remnants in the strainer indicated the generous presence of cardamom and cloves. Upon tasting it, I came to the conclusion that it was certainly worthy of the masala chai title. The complexity of the spices complimented the flavour of the tea, and resulted in a perfect hot drink to start the morning with. Merchant’s Guild had already won me over!

A browse of the menu revealed a lack of fritters, which are my usual choice for breakfast. Instead I opted for the pumpkin, feta and harissa polenta biscuit with poached eggs and za’atar. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from a polenta biscuit, but it turned out to be a perfect choice. The polenta was soft and creamy, but the exterior had a crunch to it, making it to be great replacement for fritters! The harissa added the required zing, and pumpkin and feta are always a welcome combination.

Of course the yolk porn test was the ultimate decider, and the Merchants Guild eggs passed with flying colours!

The other half went for completely the opposite of what I was having, which makes for good blogging. He chose coffee, and a sweet breakfast of French toast, with vanilla mascarpone, bananas, berries and pistachios. I am not usually a sweet breakfast person, but this was delicious. Cheese of any form makes everything taste better, so clearly the mascarpone was responsible for making this dish taste so good!

All in all, it was a great breakfast. The food was delicious, the atmosphere and staff were welcoming and friendly, but for me the real winner was the Prana Chai. I need to go back just for my masala chai fix.

Merchants Guild on Urbanspoon