Review: Barry, Northcote

In Melbourne, North-side is as foreign a concept to me as West-side. Raised in the East and living in the South, there’s a certain snobbish-ness about my unfamiliarity with other areas of this city. Even when friends hail from those parts of town, we’ll arrange to meet somewhere more central for catch-ups – heaven forbid I venture past the CBD!

On a rare occasion much earlier this year, we ventured North-side for brunch after dropping a friend off at the airport for an early morning flight. Barry in Northcote was our destination of choice, after good experiences with similar cafes owned and run by the Sahely family (Mammoth, Square and Compass).

Soy Cappuccino ($4.70) and Blended Drink #1 with banana, peanut butter, cacao nibs, honey, almond milk and ice ($10.50)

Drinks to start. K opted for a standard Soy Cappuccino, and I chose their Blended Drink #1 of banana, peanut butter, cacao nibs, honey and almond milk. Make no mistake, this smoothie is so rich and thick that it’s a meal in itself. It also finds the right balance of sweetness – sweet enough to be a treat, not so sweet that it’s sickly. I would recommend sharing this between two people or ordering a much smaller dish, otherwise you will end up rolling out the door.

Ricotta hotcake with grilled pineapple compote and coconut labne ($20)

K chose the Ricotta Hotcake for his meal, no doubt thinking with fondness of the small light and fluffy ricotta hotcakes that his family enjoy regularly on Sunday mornings. Barry’s ricotta hotcake is in a class of its own though – thicker and heavier, and much more sodden with sticky tropical syrup. Not quite the light melt-in-your-mouth hotcakes he was expecting, but deliciously doughy and fruity if that’s your preference.

Acai chia pudding with basil macerated strawberries and coconut, millet and quinoa granola ($15.50)

I opted for the Acai Chia Pudding with strawberries, coconut and crunchy granola. Acai bowls are dime a dozen these days with every cafe and their cousin offering an acai bowl (I’ve had my fair share), but Barry does their iteration well. It’s the millet and quinoa granola that does it, lending a textural crunch that helps to offset the stodginess of the acai.

Like its sister cafes, Barry offers Melbournians hearty brunch and lunch options with top quality drinks in a relaxed, semi-industrial setting. While we didn’t try the more innovative items on the menu (activated charcoal porridge anyone?), the standard brunch items of hotcakes and acai puddings were a hit. If we ever venture North-side to try it again, we’ll give their savoury dishes a try – perhaps the scrambled red chilli eggs?

Barry is located at 85 High Street in Northcote, Melbourne.

Review: Soul Press, Edithvale

When my friend Beth asked to take me out to dinner for my birthday, I said “Actually why don’t you take me out to brunch instead, and we can try that healthy cafe in Edithvale?” Most people would have said thanks for dinner, but I had to just take it that one step further. It all worked out in the end anyway. Beth had been wanting to try the same cafe, and we went to Costco Moorabbin afterwards which we had been talking about for a while (because clearly, neither of us have a life).

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The cafe in question was Soul Press in Edithvale, a second branch of the original Soul Press in Brighton. Like all ‘healthy eating’ cafes, they offer a range of super smoothies, acai bowls, pressed juices, and in this case – sushi burritos as well. To fit in with the other diners, I recommend wearing your tightest activewear to the cafe with your hair in a jaunty ponytail and a yoga mat under your arm.

Chai Latte, $4.50, and Beetroot Latte, $5
Chai Latte, $4.50, and Beetroot Latte, $5

I had wanted a matcha latte but they were unfortunately out of matcha on that Sunday morning – strange for a health food cafe! I had to settle for a Skim Chai Latte (too milky without enough spice) instead, whereas Beth tried a Beetroot Latte with coconut milk for the first time. I don’t think she’ll be rushing back to trying beetroot lattes any time soon, finding the beetroot a bit too sweet.

Avo Smash with chilli flakes and edamame and pumpkin seeds with optional goats cheese, $15.50
Avo Smash with chilli flakes and edamame and pumpkin seeds with optional goats cheese, $15.50

As a smashed avocado lover (it’s okay Bernard Salt, she’s already a property owner with a hefty mortgage), Beth immediately gravitated to the Avo Smash with chilli, edamame, pepitas and goats cheese. This was a great mix of textures and flavours – soft avocado, tangy goats cheese, crunchy pepitas, fresh edamame and crusty bread. A great blend.

Snickers superfood bowl with acai blended with banana and coconut water, topped with muesli, strawberries, coconut chips, banana, vegan Snickers slice, caramelised bukinis and bee pollen, $14.50
Snickers superfood bowl with acai blended with banana and coconut water, topped with muesli, strawberries, coconut chips, banana, vegan Snickers slice, caramelised bukinis and bee pollen, $14.50

I chose my first ever acai bowl – a Snickers Superfood Bowl featuring banana, coconut water, muesli, strawberries, vegan Snickers slice, and more. It’s the type of naughty sweet treat you feel virtuous ordering and eating, even if the fats contained in the vegan Snickers probably has more kilojoules than an actual Snickers bar. I quite enjoyed my first acai bowl experience and can see how people get addicted to them! Next time around though, I think I’d choose one that’s less of a mock dessert and has more fresh fruit toppings.

Soul Press isn’t far from where I live…yet, I don’t think I’ll rush back to eat there unless I was already planning on having a particularly healthy day with a long 15km walk along the beach. If I’m going out for a cheeky weekend brunch, I’d much rather spoil myself with a plate of Cointreau hotcakes or corn fritters at Hendrik’s Cafe in Mordialloc instead!

Soul Press is located at 265 Nepean Highway in Edithvale.

Review: Percy and Percy, Bendigo

I spent my 30th birthday weekend in Bendigo, a regional Victorian town that I last visited on a school trip when I was still in single digits. As I said to everyone on our return, visiting Bendigo as an adult is very different to visiting Bendigo as a child. For one, you’re not forced to go on excursions to the former gold mine, but more importantly, you can pick exactly where it is you want to eat rather than eating soggy peanut butter sandwiches packed the night before.

In this case, I had done a lot of research before we got to Bendigo and had planned all our meals in advance. Percy and Percy was my pick for a light breakfast on Saturday morning – light being key, as I had made an early lunch reservation for 12pm.

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Located slightly out of the main town centre on a quiet residential street, Percy and Percy is still easily accessible on foot, like much of the small town. Having taken the V-line train to Bendigo from Melbourne, we actually spent all weekend walking around town without wheeled transport at all, and found it all very accessible.

Given that we expected to be quick with our light breakfast, we chose to sit outside on the casual bench seating rather than inside or in the busy courtyard. It was a beautiful day for it, with blue skies and warm sunshine. Luckily, we had that good weather for most of the weekend.

Soy Cappuccino and a Skinny Hot Chocolate (approx $4.50 each)
Soy Cappuccino and a Skinny Hot Chocolate (approx $4.50 each)

I started with a Skinny Hot Chocolate, adorably served with both a marshmallow and a Tiny Teddy which was a real blast from childhood. The hot chocolate was beautifully rich and creamy, an ideal hot chocolate that wasn’t too sweet. K opted for a Soy Cappuccino, not wanting to aggravate his lactose intolerance – not comparable really to a regular coffee as the Bonsoy soy milk always has a stronger nuttier flavour that can sometimes overwhelm the strength of the coffee.

Dr Marty's crumpets, $7.50
Dr Marty’s crumpets, $7.50

While I was very tempted by other more elaborate items on the menu (the massive Breakfast Board looked ideal!), I kept it simple and light with a serve of Dr Marty’s Crumpets served with giant wedges of salted butter, local honey and Bonne Maman jam. I definitely count Dr Marty’s crumpets as some of the best that Melbourne and its surrounds has to offer – thick, chewy and spongy, and manages to absorb all the honey you would want to slather onto the crumpet.

The Good Loaf's Raisin Toast and Gourmet Fruit Toast, $7.50
The Good Loaf’s Raisin Toast and Gourmet Fruit Toast, $7.50

K chose a lighter breakfast as well – Raisin and Gourmet Fruit Toast from Bendigo’s local gourmet sourdough baker The Good Loaf. I had a personal preference for the raisin toast, which I thought was perfectly dense and chewy, soaking up melted butter which gave it the creamiest and richest mouthfeel. K preferred the fruit toast with its big chunks of orange peel and slightly brioche-like sweetness. Both were really as good as the other and it was to my disappointment that I found out The Good Loaf was closed on Sundays so I couldn’t buy a loaf to take back to Melbourne!

While we only sampled the simplest of items on the menu at Percy and Percy, I was impressed with their service, with their judicious choice of the best food items available in Bendigo and its surrounds, and with their deliciously rich and creamy hot chocolate. If only we had capacity for more meals in a single weekend, I would have gone back to Percy and Percy for a larger and more substantial brunch, sampling some of their more elaborate breakfasts. Next time!

Percy and Percy is located on the corner of Hargreaves and Baxter St, Bendigo.