Another amazing brunch / lunch joint in Melbourne – and this one stands out amongst a very high quality crowd.
The Merchants Guild has totally devine food, and an imaginative menu that would reach a lot of people – particularly those in the mood for a few good coffees, a freshly squeezed something and the kind of breakfast that sets you up for some low-level, weekend window shopping and then home to doze on a couch.
One thing though, you will need to do your weekend window shopping elsewhere – not in Centre Road, Bentleigh East, which doesn’t mean I have anything particular against the suburb (like most people, I have nothing particular to say about the suburb at all), but it is a pleasant surprise to find a place like The Merchants Guild lurking quietly on an otherwise unpromising strip in suburbia forgettable. It is more the type of place you might happen across in South Melbourne while killing time before your next cut and colour at Rokk Ebony.
I had read about The Merchants Guild, which made the top 25 brunch spots in the Age last year, and knew it to be busy so hassled Blackburn J to get up and drive me there for 7:30am while there are still tables.
Okay so … No need for speed today. There is only one dude with the Herald Sun at a table at squint distance. (Note, the place did start filling up quickly – but I confirm it is probably safe to say you will get a seat at 7:30 am Sunday morning).
Super cool menu. I think these glow in the dark eggs are probably looking a bit radioactive because I’ve stupidly left the flash on. This is my Bubble ‘n Squeak – something rarely done well but this one is expertly seasoned and consists of delicious cooked-twice roasted vegetables, so that you really can get a sense of the caramelised bits of roasted onion, and fluffy, starchy, lovely potatoes. Threaded through the B&S tower is home smoked ocean trout (nom) with perfect, runny, dark-yolk poached eggs, a horseradish cream something to the side (nom nom) all soft and smooth like a pate, with a slight French onion flavour and a spike of heat from the horseradish to go with the rich, smoked trout (nom nom nom).
And those three cornichons. Well, there they are. And why not? Who doesn’t like cornichons? I think I might be capable of eating human body parts if pickled reasonably effectively.
Lovely as this was, I had a serious case of food envy looking at what Blackburn J ordered.
Not fair! He gets two glow in the dark eggs too! His is the eggs Pananella (traditionally a type of bread, tomato and basil Tuscan salad) but this version was superb with not only the gooey egg yolk running through the dish but mingling with white anchovy pieces and with shaved, smokey pancetta. He gave me a try and the combination is sublime – I don’t know if this is an occasional special or a regular on The Merchant Guild brunch menu. I hope it returns because I would go, special-like, to Bentleigh East any old time just to order one of these all for me.
Coffee was good here, tasty and smooth, though I could have gone stronger and deeper – Industry Beans and Proud Mary have spoilt too many coffee drinkers in Melbourne, and I suspect in time I could become that kind of git too. Don’t get me wrong though, this is plenty good coffee so I’m a happy soul.
No website up with a menu for this cafe / restaurant (though as at today I find one under construction) so no sneak peek at the offerings before setting off. You’ll just have to trust me that the menu all looks excellent – it’s the kind of place where I get stressed making a selection in case I miss something better.
Many thanks to the chef and staff (who were lovely too). I think this place is tops and will decidedly return.