We may have arrived in Melbourne late into the night, but from the very first moment I saw its dazzling city lights, I was smitten. Often described as a grown up version of our hometown Wellington, and being just as varied but more laid back than London, it was no surprise that I felt completely at home in Australia’s second largest city. It is stylish, filled with culture, and has everything a food-obsessed traveller such as myself could want! I used to dismiss all those reports calling it one of the most liveable cities in the world as skewed promotion, but frankly I’m now a convert and it’s on the list as a possible future home for a certain someone and I.
With only a couple of days in the city, we decided to leave the suburbs for our next visit and mostly stick within the grid of the CBD. Not that this was in any way limiting. Visits to the National Gallery of Victoria, Botanic Gardens and the Shrine of Remembrance, walks along the Yarra River and a spot of shopping was more than enough to hold our interests. There was also plenty to sate our appetites; we only tried but a slither of Melbourne’s eateries but from what I tasted, I was impressed. It reminded me a lot of London’s food scene where the whole world is at your fingertips, there’s something to cater for every budget, and great places spread all over the city. We pretended to be Melbournians and brunched with the best of them, wandered around the city, then checked out some of the wide range of cuisines on offer…
I’ve been meaning to go to Roka for quite some time now. Since Taste of London 2014 to be precise; I never forget a meeting, first impressions do count, and Roka’s cod and crab dumplings made quite the impression on me. After fighting a certain someone for the last one, I made a mental note to book in a proper meal at the restaurant soon but that plan fell by the wayside. It was my first year in London so all the old restaurants were new and shiny to me, and all the new restaurants were even shinier… Roka was soon forgotten.
Until Taste of London 2015; same delicious gyozas, same mental note, and even more conviction in my vow to book in a proper meal as I had since learnt of its excellent reputation and IT-restaurant status amongst fashionable food bloggers who dabble in a fair bit of Japanese fine dining! However, once again I was thwarted by my fickle and forgetful nature and it took me almost another year before I finally set foot in one of Roka’s four London restaurants.
Try as I might, I’ve found it’s ridiculously difficult to avoid that popular made up meal time sandwiched between breakfast and lunch if you want to maintain any semblance of a social life. While I am generally not a fan of brunch, with a few exceptions here and there, it seems I am in the minority… well amongst my friends anyway. The girls like to gossip over brunch and since I do actually want to hang out with my lovely lady friends… off to brunch I must go!
Luckily for me, London has a million and one brunch options and some of them don’t just involve avocado and eggs – that’s right folks, you don’t always have to endure yolk-porn at that time of the day. So how did I brunch instead? Peruvian-style, that’s how. Imagine pancakes, porridge type dishes, and ceviche… ok, perhaps the ceviche is a stretch for some but I could eat that stuff anytime of the day! And if you dilly dally for another hour or so, we slide into lunch time and then anything goes…
2015 was not a good year for brunch and I; we kind of fell out of sync, we didn’t agree on certain things, it was like we were no longer compatible. While everyone was gushing over their #avocadotoast or #yolkporn on instagram, I was wincing at the thought of paying £10 for avocado roulette (ripe or not) or grumbling at the fact that one egg on half a muffin was becoming a normal portion size.
It just confirmed that I don’t like eggs or pancakes enough to warrant a special trip out for them, so sorry brunch, I’m just not that into you… I’ll move straight to lunch, thanks very much. But just before the year was out and the foodblogger police caught wind of my rebellion against the current it-girl of meals, there was a glimmer of hope for brunch and I, for which I have the Germans and my text message skim reading habits to thank.
I’ve heard all about the brunch service at M1lk– I’ve heard about the great coffee, quirky twists on classic dishes, and the legendary line that spills down the street. This all made me very curious and so on a lazy London Sunday, a certain someone and I made the short trip to Balham to quell my curiosity. From that excursion I can only confirm that the ridiculously long line spiralling down Hildreth Street is not stuff of legend, it most definitely exists and is fairly slow moving. So as people who don’t share the English’s love of queuing, we decided to give it a miss and I was still left wondering. That is until earlier this week when I had the good fortune to meet a friend for lunch, in Balham, on a weekday- what are the odds?!
Whoever invented brunch is my kind of person; that woman (or man) really understood the meaning of ‘weekend’. They knew that Saturday and Sunday mornings are for sleeping in and lazing about; sometimes nursing the hangover from the night before, other times just procrastinating and avoiding those pesky chores. They knew that by the time you’ve managed to get out of bed and make yourself look respectable you’re actually pretty hungry. In fact, if you’re anything like me, you’re rather starving. The thought of the weekday status quo of cereal or marmite (New Zealand, of course) on Vogels just doesn’t hit the right notes… you need something more, after all it is almost lunch time. And that’s where brunch comes in; you basically only need two meals in the weekend, and this is one of them.
Like the rest of the weekend, brunch is best savoured slowly. It’s the perfect time to catch up with friends you haven’t seen in ages, something which happens too easily in London, and share those dating disaster stories or tube rage rants. London has a plethora of great brunch places, but last weekend I decided to try something brand spanking new- Le Bun’s ‘Le Brunch’, as part of their month-long residency at Old Bengal Warehouse near Liverpool Street.
In this industry, making it this far is somewhat of a miracle considering the fickleness of diners, the revolving food fads, and ability of a scathing review going viral before the bill has even been paid. This year, kiwi chef Peter Gordon’s The Providores and Tapa Room in Marylebone turns thirteen and I went along to celebrate.