Sunday, January 29, 2012

Breakfast at Fitzrovia


Address: 155 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, VIC, 3182

Phone: (03) 9537 0001

Open: Tuesday to Sunday, 7am until 11pm

Fitzrovia. It sounds like a game show or a bad sci-fi film, but it’s not. In fact, it’s an all day café-restaurant in Fitzroy Street and it lifts St Kilda’s standards to the next level. Huddled into the busy strip, it joins Golden Fields and much loved Baker D. Chirico. In The Age newspaper today, Dani Valent reviewed Fitzrovia's main menu (I actually visited after she suggested I do so via Twitter). But if you're a morning person, this breakfast post is for you.

The name Fitzrovia, aside from referencing Fitzroy Street, pays homage to the West End in London. Owners Paul Jewson and Marco Pugnaloni lived in England for some time, but they are hardly new to the hospitality scene. Jewson has cooked up a storm in London town at Mezzo, Soho House, River Café and The Bluebird. Back down under, he’s better known for Outpost in South Yarra, where Pugnaloni also worked.

We arrived around 11.30am and there were three groups of people waiting for a table in front of us. We decided to risk Melbourne’s unreliable weather and sit outside. Someone hastily wiped down one of the outdoor tables for us. Before I continue I have a disclaimer: I adore this place. From the décor to the food to our friendly and thoughtful waiter, I loved the experience. So I’m not going to tell you that the service was incredibly slow. Nor am I going to tell you that we collected our own menus and that 20 minutes after our order was taken, our waiter returned to take it again. No, I’m going to keep all of that to myself, because nothing should deter you from visiting the best breakfast spot in St. Kilda.

Anyway, the place overlooks Albert Park and resembles an airy conservatory divided into three spaces. As you enter, the cash register and coffee area are to the right with some tables opposite. Behind the baked treats in the counter are shelves displaying neat rows of coffee packets and glass bottles of grog. The centrepiece: a set of antique, bronze scales surrounded by over a dozen mortars and pestles.

Lining the floor-to-ceiling windows are herbs and chilli peppers suspended in upside-down pots. Huge vases of flowers and fresh produce are crammed into every available nook and cranny. Climbing the stairs takes you to the green and white tiled section. 

Two tables mark the entrance to the homely dining room area with a view of the open kitchen. On a sunny day, the seats out the front are a brilliant place to people-watch. During our meal it was confirmed that owners do indeed look like their dogs.

The coffee was incredible. Fitzrovia uses St. ALi’s single estate coffee. The head barista, Cian Evans, makes the kind of latte that guarantees you’ll order a second. If you love the beans or have a favourite blend, there are also take home packs available. But it probably won’t taste as good if you make it yourself.

If you’re not a coffee drinker, the “slow pressed” raw juices are the way to go. Being the piggy that I am, I had both. My organic juice of choice was the immunity booster with pear, orange and strawberry. While it was pretty small as far as fresh juices go it managed to be fruity and refreshing while simultaneously feeling like it was doing my whole body good. Unlike goji berries, the 'miracle food' we insist on eating, despite them tasting like soap. Come on people — stop pretending they are delicious!

That’s the thing about Fitzrovia. The ingredients are so tasty because they are sourced locally, which means minimal food miles. Fitzrovia make it their duty to use food from within 100 kilometres of Melbourne, from Bacchus Marsh and South Gippsland to Port Phillip and Caulfield. It’s sustainable. It’s seasonal. And it’s sensational.

The breakfast menu (served until 4pm) is pricier than your usual cafe, but that's to be expected considering the area and the incredibly fresh produce they use. I demolished the asparagus eggs. The dish was a three dimensional canvas: grilled asparagus spears protruded from a cave of shaved fennel, bulked up by a mixed herb salad with bright pink stems. Hidden beneath the arrangement nestled two immaculately poached eggs (free range, of course) that erupted oozy yolks when cut. Hunks of soft goats cheese were scattered within the appetising pile, but the deal-sealer was the Istra Daylesford dry cured bacon crumble, sprinkled like salty confetti over the plate.

The apple, date and fig Bircher muesli was the best Bircher I have tasted in an age. With fresh strawberries, blood orange and rhubarb, it ticked all the boxes. The porridge-like texture was spot on, the serving was generous and it was peppered with a generous amount of poppy seeds. Great for the taste buds, not so great for a dazzling smile! Most spoonfuls contained a chewy cranberry surprise and it arrived topped with fresh raspberries, sliced nectarine and pepitas.

Two serves of the free range eggs “served the way you like them” were ordered. Both had homemade tomato relish on the side and were accompanied by buttered toast. There were two varieties:

The first involved a single egg, perfectly poached with two sides. The avocado feta mash was blobbed on the plate in a small pile, but ‘Andrew’s cheese kransky’ stole the show. The fat sausage was browned on the outside and exuded cheesy juice when sliced. Thank you, dear Andrew.

The other free range eggs were a deep yellow, buttery scramble, also with a side of avocado feta mash. If you’re feeling fancy, order a side of shaved black truffle for $12.

I must admit I was tempted by the crème brûlée French toast with vanilla poached pear, frangipani crust and rhubarb mascarpone. Lunch also looked delicious, especially the Otway pulled pork shoulder ploughman’s plate with Pyengana cheddar, Scotch quail’s egg, sourdough bread, an apple and sour cherry and fennel chutney. 

When I return for dinner, I already know what I’m going to order (for both myself and my dining companion). I will be starting with the crisp fried zucchini flowers with minted homemade ricotta, followed by the overnight-braised beef cheek, and finally the “most decadent double chocolate tart.” He will have (in other words, I will taste): the roast chilli and lime calamari; the rack of lamb with broad beans, asparagus and green pea puree; and the lemon curd brûlée tart for dessert.

Fitzrovia also offers picnic hampers, which are chock-full of sweet and savory delights. Leave a deposit and pick up the food… along with cutlery, crockery, a blanket, glassware and a corkscrew! If you want to have a few drinks, they can also arrange chilled wine (or Champagne if you’re celebrating) for you to pick up from the Prince Wine Cellars down the road.

Fitzrovia is like the cool kid at school: everyone wants to be their friends and be seen hanging out with them. It’s because the eatery’s passion for the hospitality industry is infectious. You can see it in the interior design, smell it in their coffee, hear it in the jokes swapped between staff and feel it in the atmosphere. But most of all, you can taste it in the food.

Fitzrovia on Urbanspoon


  1. I am trying for the life of me to remember what was here before Fitzrovia and I can't. Looks like it is worthwhile hitting up for brunch though.

    1. Ready to be put out of your misery? It used to be the Waldorf Diner!

      (Of which one Urbanspoon reviewer said, "...was SHOCKED and HORRIFIED at the awful Tapas Menu, the cheap and nasty new branding, the poor levels of service... everything!" Yikes!)

      Thank goodness for Fitzrovia, hey?