Brunch · Melbourne

Feeding the Brunch Crowd

Large parties do not seem to be encouraged very much in the culture of Melbourne brunching – most of the cafe seating are dedicated to 2 people with (usually) only 1 communal table, and the long waiting lines on Saturday mornings do not seem very friendly for parties of more than 2.

But so far, we have defied that ‘rule’. And I think we’ve been doing pretty well 😛

The brunch crowd has expanded significantly since the start of this year, from the humble beginnings of just myself and Ms CC, to parties of 6 or more. Since people were keen to join us on our brunchventures, including Andrew, we just decided to give it a go and see how these cafes were going to manage our extended crowd!

So our first hit of 2014 was Industry Beans:

Fitting in nicely with the vintage vibe of Fitzroy
Fitting in nicely with the vintage vibe of Fitzroy

From the pictures, the cafe looked big enough, so we thought there would be a chance of getting a seat for all 7 of us. We realised that the cafe was a converted warehouse and it was definitely bigger than the usual Melbourne cafe. However, it was bustling with people and the waitress told us it could be a 20minute wait.

We were prepared for it anyhow so I of course, ordered a coffee to drink while waiting 😉

Latte while waiting pls!
Latte while waiting pls!

The 20minutes flew by quickly with the 7 of us chitchatting and soon, the waitress came to show us our seats.

Rustic table settings
Rustic table settings

Industry Beans has quite an extensive menu so it was good that there was a large crowd of us to sample more of their dishes!

Citrus & herb cured salmon, pea puree, beetroot jelly, salad - $19
Citrus & herb cured salmon, pea puree, beetroot jelly, salad – $19
Hoe Cakes, pulled pork, poached eggs, vinegar slaw & watercress - $19
Hoe Cakes, pulled pork, poached eggs, vinegar slaw & watercress – $19
Coffee rubbed beef burger, vegetable chips - $18
Coffee rubbed beef burger, vegetable chips – $18
Fitzroy St Fried Chicken, espresso BBQ sauce, chat potatoes, rocket, bacon & caramelized onion aioli - $19
Fitzroy St Fried Chicken, espresso BBQ sauce, chat potatoes, rocket, bacon & caramelized onion aioli – $19

From round the table, it seems that salmon got nods of approval from the 2 who ordered them, Ms NO quite enjoyed her pulled pork hoe cakes, while Andrew wasn’t quite impressed with his coffee rub beef burger. The stand-out dish however, seems to be the fried chicken ordered by Mr JC – he always seems to know to order the right dishes!! We all stole a bite of the chicken and it went wonderfully with the sauce.

These were the 2 dishes that Ms CC and I shared:

Deep Fried Duck Eggs, pea puree, truffle oil, fennel, radish, watercress & toasted almonds - $18
Deep Fried Duck Eggs, pea puree, truffle oil, fennel, radish, watercress & toasted almonds – $18
Industry Charcuterie - coffee & molasses cured duck bacon, tea marbled eggs, salt cured yolks, citrus cured salmon, smoked cheddar, fennel fronds, relish & brioche crisps - $21
Industry Charcuterie: coffee & molasses cured duck bacon, tea marbled eggs, salt cured yolks, citrus cured salmon, smoked cheddar, fennel fronds, relish & brioche crisps – $21

To be honest, I found these 2 dishes quite underwhelming. The ingredients all sound so gourmet-like and exquisite but in the end, not all of the ingredients were done up well, making the overall dish fall short. The fried duck eggs tasted a little bland and the other ingredients did little to lift up the flavours of the dish.

Half of the charcuterie
Half of the charcuterie

Whereas for the charcuterie, all the flavours of each ingredient turn out too bold (either too salty or sweet), making it hard for us to appreciate the entire dish. But I guess what Ms CC and I found was that we actually like duck bacon!

So there were mixed reviews from the group about Industry Beans. What we all agreed on, however, was that the coffee was beautiful. The blend was dark chocolatey and bold, without being overly bitter.

Andrew liked his coffee so much that he gamely tried an ice coffee after his long mac!
Andrew liked his coffee so much that he gamely tried an ice coffee after his long mac!

And it does look impressive when they have their own coffee warehouse!

Where the coffee magic happens!
Where the coffee magic happens!

So undoubtedly, Industry Beans does take its coffee seriously. The menu also seems impressive but the dishes tend to border on being too complicated. So do take it with a pinch of salt when ordering these grand-sounding dishes.

And yup, I would say that the service staff did a great job in handling our crowd and even made sure that we all sat together – so kudos to them!

Industry Beans on Urbanspoon

Having braved our 1st brunch experience as a large party, we went on to our 2nd venture of the year: Bluebird Espresso!

Quaint little cafe in Collingwood
Quaint little cafe in Collingwood

With Bluebird, I think we were pushing it a little because it was a lot smaller than Industry and our group had now expanded to 8 – seriously, do we know our limits?? Haha.

However, I liked how unfazed the waiter was when I told him we wanted a table for 8. He simply smiled and said, ‘I’ll see what I can do.’ Now, that’s service!

As usual, it was about a 20minute wait and the waiter did ensure that 6 of us could sit together, while the other 2 would sit at a table nearby. We then decided it would be a 6 girls-2 guys split – too easy!

How cute does that menu look?
How cute does that menu look?
The coffee circle
The coffee circle!

From memory, the coffees were all right, but not as outstanding as Industry Bean’s.

Quite a tight space for the kitchen
Quite a tight space for the kitchen… oohh do you spy some poached little eggs?

As compared to Industry, the menu at Bluebird is a lot simpler. Most of the reviews seem to highlight the baked eggs and dukkah eggs so most of us went for that:

Baked eggs, spicy chorizo, tomato sugo, feta & toasted sourdough - $15.50
Baked eggs, spicy chorizo, tomato sugo, feta & toasted sourdough – $15.50
Dukkah eggs, mushrooms, spinach, feta, multigrain toast, chorizo - $18.50
Dukkah eggs, mushrooms, spinach, feta, multigrain toast, chorizo – $18.50

And did these dishes live up to the reviews? They sure did! The dishes had simple ingredients but they all worked so well together. Such comforting dishes! In particular, we were all impressed by the chorizo – it was meaty and spicy, with a special spice to it, not the typical chorizo you find in the supermarket!

Ms CC decided to go on to the sweet side that day…

Brioche French toast, salted caramel, banana, mascarpone & ginger crunch - $15.50
Brioche French toast, salted caramel, banana, mascarpone & ginger crunch – $15.50

It was okay but I thought the ginger gave the dish a weird slant and the mascarpone did make the dish quite heavy. Between you and me, I kind of prefer the one at Le Miel Et La Lune for the addition of the bacon to cut through the sweetness.

Overall, Bluebird Espresso does seem like the laidback cousin of Industry Beans in the Collingwood/Fitzroy area. The variety here definitely falls short to what Industry Beans offers and there are just that few go-to dishes. However, despite the limited options, I find the food here more down-to-earth and the simple but well-executed dishes make it quite a charming cafe.

And yup, I would have to mention the good service we got as well, having posed them the challenge of seating the 8 of us in this little cafe!

Bluebird Espresso on Urbanspoon

So we’ve tested the waters at 2 cafes and all seems bright on the horizon for big brunching parties at the moment. So far, the brunch crowd has been fed well so stay tuned for more brunchventures!

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4 thoughts on “Feeding the Brunch Crowd

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