This last weekend was a double brunch weekend, by which I mean I did brunch both Saturday and Sunday mornings. Normally Sunday brunch is a bit of a ritual for me and my sister. I meet her for a yoga class at 11am and then we go to brunch together, with my partner or some friends often joining us for the brunch part.
This weekend past though was, as I said, a double whammy. On Saturday I ate brunch at Auction Rooms (25 minute wait, but we waited inside and it was worth it) and on Sunday I ate brunch at Di Bella (no wait, we were there around 9:30am).
At both places I played it pretty safe and ordered dishes which are amongst my favourites. I don’t think there’s any shame in that. I’m not a morning person, so I don’t want too much of a sensory overload/surprise before lunch. I like well cooked eggs, I like really soft poached fruit and I like dishes which I know are going to make me happy. I’ll be adventurous at dinner, but at breakfast, if I know it’s great I’ll order it 9 times out of 10.
At Auction Rooms this familiar favourite was their ‘Shady Deal’ – two poached eggs with a zingy tomato sauce, soft fetta, lots of onion and olives. The star of the dish though is the two little bundles of super soft flatbread you get with the dish. I like to save a few pieces of bread for the end and really wipe the inside of the bowl clean with them – it is wicked, delicious, slightly childish fun that gets me smiling on the greyest of mornings. My one, ongoing disappointment with Auction Rooms (besides the wait for a table) is the lack of scrambled eggs. I’ve asked, they just don’t do them.
I respect that. But I love eggs for breakfast and I have a weird visceral aversion to runny eggs. I know! I know! Self respecting foodies like their poached eggs oozy, but I just can’t handle the half raw smell of the egg or the gloopy body-fluid like texture, particularly before lunchtime. I recently tried to eat a raw duck egg (amazing birthday dinner at Vue de Monde) and realised that part of my aversion might be that egg yolks kind of smell like the animal they came from. Growing up in Gippsland we had numerous clutches of duckling hatch and grow up on our property. Ducklings are absolutely adorable, but they do have a distinctive feathery, poo-ey, grainy sort of smell. A smell which is echoed in their egg yolks and a smell which, for me, renders them inedible.
Anyway, the point of that ramble is that I can’t handle runny eggs so normally order scrambled eggs. But, in something of a coup, I’ve now discovered that Auction Rooms will happily and fairly reliably cook the crap out of your poached eggs if you ask them to do it. I am probably making one of Auction Rooms’ chefs weep, but if it means I can order their Shady Deal, weep away I say.
Brunch on Sunday was pretty early for me. I like to be under a doona at that time, especially on the weekends. Another thing with eggs is that I really can’t handle eggs, in any form, before about 11am. I have a lot of rules about eggs, don’t I? This meant that on Sunday the egg dishes at Di Bella were out. They do great scrambled eggs at Di Bella, with some very good sides, but, it being 9:30am, I ordered the 5 grain porridge with cranberries, pistachio and rhubarb. It comes out in a big white bowl with a little jug of milk on the side. The porridge is creamy but not smooth – you can see and feel those five grains. Five grain porridge seems to be a very popular menu item, I’ve seen it on Auction Rooms’ menu and well as a few places in Fitzroy and the CBD. The rhubarb on top is a little on the firm side for me but it’s been cooked in some sort of delicious spice and tea spiked syrup, so I’m more than willing to overlook the fact that I like my rhubarb almost falling apart. At first I wasn’t sure about the caramelised little chunks of pistachio and sugar, but after having the dish a few times I’m really getting into them. I’m a sweet tooth after all. My only complaint is that the little jug of milk isn’t quite sufficient for the porridge, meaning the cereal to milk ratio is out. On the couple of occasions I’ve bothered to ask for extra milk though, the staff were very happy to do so.
The other great thing about both places – Di Bella and Auction Rooms – is that they have a lovely selection of cakes for a naughty mid-afternoon snack. I often opt to takeaway something at the end of the meal and then eat it around 4 o’clock. Between that and the big brunch I’m set until a lateish dinner at around 8pm. At Auction Rooms the muffins are king. They had still-warm mixed berry chocolate and oat ones on display on Saturday . At Di Bella I can recommend the almond croissants, the caramel slice and anything of the cakey-berry-crumble variety which they tend to produce. I’m not convinced by their chocolate brownies though. They are passable but a little dry and lack that really deep dark chocolatelyness which I sometimes just need. Oh and the muffins at Di Bella are pretty good too, especially if they involve white chocolate and raspberries.