Brunchtime, heading north of the city. It’s spring and the pretty boulevard is flush with the delicious pale hues of new leaves. We pull up near a weary beige vinyl couch slumped on the verandah of an ornate, Hawthorn brick Victorian era terrace house. A few doors away is North Carlton’s Rathdowne Street Food Store. Outside, the smokers cheerfully brave the wind and as we enter a waitress carefully places a fresh sheet of butcher’s paper on a recently vacated table.
The café is full to the rafters with women, no children and just a couple of men. A waiter races from table to counter and back again, multi tasking as he goes. My heart goes out to him. The poor dear is stretched to the limit, a weary smile stretched over his face. But with brisk professionalism he hands us breakfast, lunch and brunch menus. Seated on a bentwood chair with my back to the wall, I watch the world pass by, joined by Mr Stickyfingers who watches it all in reverse courtesy of the mirror behind me.
The coffee is perfect, the OJ freshly squeezed and the hot chocolate looks velvety. But what takes my breath away is my omelette. Buttery, richly flavoured, melt in the mouth eggs dissolve on my tongue. The next mouthful is offset by sweet braised leeks. Then the first of the prizes is revealed: hidden within are a half dozen barely cooked oysters. As I cut my way in, the first oyster releases its briny juices into the tarragon and champagne butter sauce, adding a flavour that flashes to mind the salty peat taste of the wind on a rocky beach in Scotland.
I am in brunch heaven. So much so that I close my eyes to concentrate on the simple but masterful combination of flavours. The soft textures are a culinary cashmere on my tongue. After this ecstatic surprise, Mr Stickyfinger’s dish of scrambled eggs with avocado, lime, basil and smoked salmon on toasted brioche, pales into insignificance.
The Rathdowne Street Food Store is the kind of place people say they’d love to have as their local. For the last ten years the team here have been plating up well executed, simple comfort food from 8:00am until well into the evening. They’re also known for their take home meal options and catering. Decorated in pared back French bistro style it is a popular weekend venue, in a shopping strip featuring a number of other quality dining options such as La Luna and Zum Zum. Best seats – with a view to the shopfront or by the fire, or perhaps a table on the street to enjoy a warm summer’s night. Our generously sized meals were priced at $19.50 & $18.50 respectively.
Rathdowne Street Food Store,
617 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North, Victoria. Phone. 9347 4064