Today I enact my special plan: to get up early and have breakfast somewhere new before work. I choose (drum roll … bagpipes … duelling banjos …)The Kettle Black.
I’m dead excited about this one – a) it’s a new Melbourne cafe, and b) the weirdness of the building has attracted my notice before I knew it was housing a cafe/restaurant. I like it – it looks like a time travelling Victorian terrace that materialised in a space station, which is funky in of itself, And the juxtaposition of period, taken into account with the seemingly simple materials demonstrating the interplay of brutalism and warmth … all these things give rise to a profound sense of something or other. Yes, I agree – move on…
My expectations are super high given that The Kettle Black has chosen a slightly offbeat name in line with the Melbourne convention of seeking success through mild obscurity. At least the kettle part has a certain beverage tone, which makes a small amount of sense. Other than that, so far as I know The Kettle Black has no meaning other than what a pot might call you. It all is slightly more understandable than calling a cafe “The Tree of Life” (which sounds like it sells tarot cards and essential oils) or “Friends of Mine” (I’m not, guys, we’ve never met).
The Kettle Black has been established by the same dudes behind Three Bags Full (of what? Wool? Phone chargers? Cats?) and Top Paddock (sure, there are totally millions of acres of paddock in Church Street, Richmond – an area much noted for its pastoral landscape). Don’t let me scoff because these are great venues. Just ones with weird-arse, pointless Melbourne cafe names.
So we can expect big queues and mucho reviews from The Kettle Black because these entrepreneurs have taken their money growth hormones on a regular basis. My first requirement is an excellent coffee, so we’ll see how that works out…
Coffee… Nothing to worry about here. The suppliers are Five Senses, and the barista is very good. The coffee was excellent (and much needed given that it is the exact hour of sparrow fart, and I’m supposed to put in an appearance at work at some point). Having done the first gulp of life-saving coffee, I now take a quick decko of the surrounding whatever – interior, ambiance, stuff.
There are certain themes to look for in trendy dining interiors. There is the distressed brick and stainless steel warehouse feel (like Proud Mary / Stagger Lee’s etc), the cosy cottage feel (Station Street Trading Co / Hardware Societe – well, it has feminine wallpaper anyway). The Kettle Black has positioned itself squarely in the “more expensive items from IKEA” vibe – probably because anything more exotic in the Victorian Futuristic architecture would probably overload my morning brain cells and trigger a meltdown. But it feels cheerful, bright and spacious – though possibly less so if it weren’t sparrow fart time on a weekday and instead had the mile long queue that will show up on a weekend. Shayna from Selling Houses Australia would look around and probably say something about clean lines, because that is the kind of thing she says. I say its food time, because that is the kind of thing I say. And because it is.
This is Blackburn J’s choice: it describes itself on the menu as “Benedict style eggs - with free range pork shoulder and aerated hollandaise”. Uhuh… Aerated hollandaise.
The report back: Blackburn J found this to be by and large an excellent dish. Eggs poached to perfection, lovely hollandaise, really tasty slow-cooked pork … I have to agree about the pork because he didn’t finish so I stole some and it was just perfect.
BTW: I specifically asked him to describe the taste of aerated hollandaise versus ordinary hollandaise. He said (I quote) “I did see some bubbles” then when pressed about the taste he said “I like the hollandaise – the aerated stuff on the menu is just some Melbourne wank, surely?”. I didn’t press the issue. It may be that there is no real taste difference between a good hollandaise and an aerated one. Either way, you heard it here first.
And this is what I ordered: Chilli scrambled eggs with (I kid you not) air-dried wallaby (sorry Skippy!), feta and leaves. You have to give the chef points for coming up with this concept.
So what did it taste like? Pretty decent. To be honest, I love getting scrambled eggs in a proper restaurant: I can do this at home, but a professional always does it better. Then me, at least. And I love chilli – and the concept of chilli on eggs for breakfast isn’t new so it didn’t surprise me. That is to say, I expected a few strands of de seeded stuff on the eggs purely as decoration, with no particular chilli heat. This is what I got – mind you, for the nervous buyer of anything with chilli, go for your life! Nothing to fear because there is no chilli taste with an “ooo yeah … HEAT” discernible in any way.
If I owned the world, chilli eggs wouldn’t just look pretty – it would smash you, leaving your sorry pounded body on the floor saying “what WAS that?”. This is the world, not as it is, but as it should be. The Kettle Black didn’t deliver the punch I was hoping for. Mind you, this could be a sign if good business sense on their part.
Having said that, feta with eggs is such a topsomundo combo that I’m surprised it isn’t a recognised classic worldwide.
I like the wallaby stuff. I cook a fair bit of what my colleagues describe as “weird shit”, including kangaroo. Being all clever, like, I assumed what I would get might be an abstract random Pancetta of unknown beast that tastes like any old pancetta. Wrong! If you are familiar with cooking skippy, then you will note that this is decidedly wallaby, not cured pig bits. I can taste the gameyness of the wallaby and am clear in my own mind that I’m not devouring Porky Pig – I’m eating Skippy. I liked The Kettle Black for that – game on a breakfast menu is brave.
The building is so unusual that it is worth a visit on its own – if it isn’t yet a Melbourne icon then I suspect it will be ( it’s not as though the competition is stiff – federation square is a disgrace! Me and Barry Humphries are of one mind about this thing).
The interior shows some consideration for the comfort of the guests – which doesn’t sound like a big deal but it makes a difference to me.
I see a few reviewers on Urbanspoon have trashed the staff – dunno why. Who knows what happened to others at a different time? Sorry for your loss etc. We (that would be BlackburnJ plus me) were really well looked after, and I loved the staff. I loved it even when we left and a woman held the door and said she hoped we had enjoyed ourselves. She sounded like she honestly cared, and as far as I’m concerned that is worth something.
The coffee – no fear, go for your life. Drink two – you won’t regret it.
The food – they do their stuff well, but I’m not certain I would return on that basis alone. For me, I have been really blown away by dishes from Duchess of Spotswood, Small Victories and perhaps Proud Mary. So the truth is I would go back to those venues first. Don’t get me wrong – these guys do a tops job and I look forward to a revisit … I think my major critique is that normally neither of us would spray food with the salt shaker. On this occasion, we both had a few mouthfuls and simultaneously dived for seasonings. It may just be us … see how you go.
(though… to be honest and you are a real dude that loves food … make you way over to the Duchess of Spotswood … ooo yeah!).
After all that, do go. To The Kettle Black, I mean. At the very least to check out the wacky time-travel building which is worth a look. And the staff are lovely, you can rely on a tops coffee and the food is pretty decent and striving for imagination.
Also … One of your offspring might marry into this insane brunch dynasty. Play along. Support it. I do since they are certainly richer than me, and decidedly deserve it.