If you saw my guide to the Top 10 Meals in Melbourne I enjoyed last year, you'll understand that all I do in Melbourne is eat, eat, and eat. Now I visit Melbourne around thrice a year, each time for 2 weeks thereabouts. Take 1+1, and go figure how many meals I've had.
So you'll also understand when I say that on my nth visit, I was really beginning to despair. Where else haven't I already visited, what popular places haven't I already checked out, what the hell is there to be done that I haven't already checked off?
I was that close to giving up trust me, but then I thought I still gotta eat right, and no way I'm shelling out close to AUD20 for a bowl of pho or some plain old eggs and toast, so I sacrificed a full night's sleep scouring through Melbourne food instagrams till I came up with a full list of places to visit next. Mmhmm yo girl's got some dedication.
Sir Charles Fitzroy was top of the list for how close it was to our lodging, and descriptions of its "Asian-inspired brunch menu with a twist". I wasn't completely convinced really cause almost every café there has some Asian element or "twist" so that doesn't really set Sir Charles apart innit. But then I saw a picture of some yummy croquettes served with tonkatsu sauce and seriously how often do you see that around, and for brunch what more?
What's interesting is their kitchen is — or at least was — helmed by Tyler Preston (ex-Chin Chin), and they pay some serious attention to coffee with their own roaster around the back and seasonal house blends. To say I was expecting quite the brunch is an understatement.
Iced Black (AUD3.80) — Rotating brew
As per all brunches in Melbourne, the right way to start (yes there is a wrong way) is with a cup of java. I can't remember the single origin they used that day, but suffice to say it was a very pleasant and balanced brew with the right amount of acidity. In case you're the coughs-boring-coughs say-no-to-caffeine sort, they've got a pretty decent range of smoothies. We shared the P&B Banana smoothie (AUD9) which had peanut butter, banana, cacao, honey, and almond milk in it. Slightly thin, but 'twas still ok.
Creamed corn croquettes with tonkatsu sauce (AUD10)
What I had in mind with these croquettes was crunchy, creamy, savoury, acidic, meaty, all bundled up in one golden bauble — and that was precisely what I got. Piping hot, these aren't anything fancy, just downright hearty and delicious. The tonkatsu sauce was a touch sweeter than I'd have liked, but it went so well with the croquettes I'm not complaining. Down them quick though mind you: cold clumpy cream isn't the best thing around.
Loaded fries with smoked chilli mayo, jalapenños, parmesan, coriander, spring onions (AUD9)
They've got 2 other sides besides the croquettes, and the Loaded Fries sounded uhhhhmazing so no points to guessing what we got. But let me put a pause anyone thinking of doing the same, cause this was beyond disappointing. Sliced jarred jalapeños, packaged processed parmesan, market-bought coriander, and spring onions aren't really things you can f*ck up. When it boils down to the components they make though...fries for one weren't seasoned, not particularly crisp or fluffy, borderline acceptable. The smoked chilli mayo was nothing like what it sounds. It's crazy acidic, nothing remotely smoky or spicy, with the only thing resembling mayo being its viscosity. In other words the only component that could save the dish and bring it all together was a massive disaster.
Salmon Benedict (AUD20) — Panko-crumbed eggs, sriracha hollandaise, smoked salmon rillete, baby spinach, burnt chilli on roti
If there were a proof of God, this would be it.
You can imagine how hard I was praying to some dubious higher power when the mains arrived. "Please, oh please, not let my AUD100 meal be a total waste of time."
Clearly my prayers were heard, cause our two mains turned out fantastic. Perfect yolk porn, hollandaise was spot on, and my oh my that salmon rillette. Creamy while still holding a bite and well-seasoned, a spoonful of that and smeared on the fluffy roti and you have yourself a happy camper. My only peeve would be that there lacked some sort of crunch, so everything got a little too creamy and overwhelming for me — tossing some spring onions, leek, or chopped celery into the rillette would've sealed the deal for me.
The Smash (AUD18) — Smashed avo with spiced peanut dukkah, dill oil, crispy cauliflower popcorn bites and poached eggs on seeded sourdough toast
I wasn't all too excited when their staff recommended the ubiquitous avo toast as a must-have, amidst a menu full of stellar-sounding creations like Tamari and ginger glazed beef short ribs, or the Shiitake and pea risotto with ricotta salata, confit shitake cream; but as it turned out, their take on the brunch staple was my favourite of the meal.
Chunky and fresh smashed avo ✔
Perfectly poached eggs ✔
Fluffy toasted sourdough ✔
Earthy, crispy, nutty, and absolutely addictive cauliflower bites ✔
They nailed every component, and I can't emphasise enough how insanely delicious those cauliflower popcorn bites were! If they were to serve a bowl of these as a side, I'd be the first to rejoice.
Sir Charles isn't a star players among the ranks of White Mojo, Hardware Societé, Top Paddock and the likes, and if you asked me whether I'd list them as a brunch must-visit: well, probably not. But I did enjoy brunch there, I may pop by again in the future, and I'll be damned if I ever thought there weren't any more good cafés worth checking out in Melbourne.
Sir Charles Fitzroy
121 Johnston St
Fitzroy VIC 3065
+61 (03) 9415 7077
Mondays to Fridays: 7AM-4PM