I don't remember when was the last time we stumbled upon an accidental gem that made us this happy and excited. This time we headed out to the fashionable precinct of Prahran in Melbourne, without any specific place in mind. The super planner in me decided to take a chance and see what surprises we could find. We chanced upon St Edmond's purely by chance. We got off the tram on Chapel Street and turned onto Greville Street, armed with the knowledge that this little side street is a shopping niche in itself with cafes and restaurants. We heard the sounds of silverware clanging and veered off Greville Street towards the clanging noise. That was when we discovered St Edmond's, a former garage space now converted into a brunch spot. There's so much character to St Edmond's that it was easy to fall in love with this local neighborhood gem.
St Edmond's only served to prove us again and again the quality of the cafe culture that pervades life in Melbourne. It is true when people say that Melbourne has such a strong cafe culture that you really can't go wrong with almost anywhere you step in to. And, the coffee in Australia. Oh my goodness. When family and relatives from Australia visit the U.S., they so frequently complain how bad coffee is in America and to which I would say, "What are you talking about?" After numerous visits to cafes in Sydney and Melbourne, and this time after St Edmond's, I concede. Holy crap, they were right. Australia has excellent coffee with a high standard; the latte and flat white are so much more creamy and rich. One thing we noticed was that in Australia, people generally have espresso-based drinks instead of regular coffee. Coming back to the U.S., we have realized that those drip brewed coffee served at so many brunch places that come with free refills only taste like water. Even the latte at Starbucks doesn't quite cut it anymore. Thankfully, there are several micro roasters in the U.S. that make pretty darn good coffee which we have come to love such as La Colombe Torrefaction and Blue Bottle Company.
My brother-in-law who lives in Melbourne told us, "You know how Starbucks is considered as one of the most popular coffees in the U.S.? Well, here in Australia, Starbucks is considered the worst of the worst. It went bankrupt because the coffee was so bad." Yikes.
Another thing we noticed about cafes in Melbourne is that all of them serve quality gourmet breakfast. This was confirmed by several other Australians we spoke to so it wasn't the case that during our one-week visit we just happened to stumble upon gourmet cafes. Admittedly, this whole breakfast culture in Melbourne was very exciting to us and we could not help but compare this with cafes in Chicago that serve breakfast and brunch. The food quality of breakfast places in Chicago that are very popular where you have to wait up to an hour for a table (e.g. Yolk, Meli Cafe) does not even come close to a regular breakfast cafe in Melbourne. This is not to say that those popular breakfast cafes in Chicago are not good. They just don't compare in terms of quality. To match up with the breakfast culture in Melbourne, it's as if every breakfast or brunch place in Chicago needs to be like The Publican which by the way offers fantastic quality brunch. I almost want to say that the novelty of American breakfast or brunch places are mainly for the wide choices on the menu and food portions, but not necessarily for its gourmet quality. Of course, there are many quality American breakfast places. They just don't make up the majority like they do in Melbourne's breakfast culture.
The banana fritters at St Edmond's made me feel like a happy kid. Between every couple of bites, I would make a remark to T on how much I absolutely loved it. The bananas were very thinly coated with batter so that it did not take away the focus of the natural sweetness from the bananas. The outside was fried until perfectly crispy and inside the bananas had the perfect soft texture. The clotted cream and maple syrup made the banana fritters even more perfect.
As much as my constant raving about my banana fritters to T throughout the meal, he loved his breakfast just as much. Sitting on the slices of toast were tomato and Brique D'affinois, a type of soft French cheese. The poached eggs completed the dish.
I am usually not a huge fan of sausage but I became one after trying the pork sausage at St Edmond's. I liked very much that the pork sausage wasn't too salty and yet it was very tasty. The housemade barbeque sauce was a very nice touch to the sausage.
If only every breakfast place in Chicago has a piece of St Edmond's, we will be instant fans.
154 Greville St