Sunday, 23 February 2014

Melbourne series - The European

Melbourne is my second favourite city in Australia, right behind Brisbane, and I try to get down  at least once a year and twice if it's a good year.  There are a couple of reasons why Brisbane is my favourite city, mainly due to the weather and the fact that I moved away from a southern state because I hate those long and cold winters.  Another key reason is because Brisbane is improving as a food destination and while it's not in the league of Sydney and Melbourne yet, it's definitely getting there.  One key area of food that Brisbane kicks butt with is it's breakfast culture, which combined with the amazing climate, is second to none in the country.

I've tried quite a few breakfast spots over the years in Melbourne with mixed success, and mainly leaving me a little disappointed.  There is one breakfast spot that I go to every single time I am in Melbourne and it's my 'go to' place for breakfast when I am in the food capital of Australia.  The European in Spring Street produces the best breakfast in Melbourne in my opinion and I wouldn't miss a visit when in town.

We'd a pretty big day planned for our second day in Melbourne, which would start off at the European for a hearty breakfast.  As a bonus, the European is just a short walk to the Melbourne Museum and in her mind, SC's primary reason for visiting Melbourne in the first place, the James Bond exhibition.  I have to admit that while it was not front and centre in my mind so far in our planning, not that the big day had arrived, I was starting to get a little excited.  SC and I love James Bond and see every film the second it's out and will always watch a Bond movie on TV over anything else.  We've also got the entire book collection, which we also read a lot!  It's quite a thing between us, whenever we see a Bond reference, we will start to sing that famous song (check this out Bond).

Anyway, back to breakfast.  We were staying in Little Collins Street and had only a short walk to The European.  We hate waiting in queues, so we slept in just a little bit and then made our way across just after the peak breakfast hour and to validate our planning, we were shown straight to a seat near the back of the restaurant.  It was still quite crowded in dining area, and it looked as if we scored the only available table.  Sitting at our table waiting to order some drinks and food, I was reminded by how much the European reminded me of the cafes we had visited around England, France and Spain over the years, even the double door entry was reminiscent of our time in Europe.  The dark wood panelling gives the European a very warm and welcoming feel but is definitely old world charm.

Melbourne is renowned for its coffee culture, so SC went straight in for a latte, which was really good, extracted well with just the right temperature milk - exactly what you would expect in Melbourne.  I looked over the menu in the hope that there would be a smoothie, which are not a big part of the breakfast culture and had to settle on a carrot, orange and lemon juice that came from a bottle and was not freshly squeezed.  It was quite a bitter juice and I didn't love it.

The menu at the European has a good mix of traditional and contemporary offerings but the thing I love most about it, and the item that I always order is the European Breakfast, which has all the trimmings I love to start off my day, with one small exception.  It comes standard with scrambled eggs, bacon, mushroom, tomato and toast and once you include a side of chorizo, it becomes the perfect breakfast!  Normally when I have ordered the European breakfast, it comes out looking beautiful and elegant on the plate, but for some reason the breakfast placed in front of me just looked a little sloppy.  Luckily you don't judge a breakfast on its looks and I was happy to get stuck into the wonderfully creamy scrambled eggs.  The breakfast hit all the right notes, tasty bacon that was cooked perfectly, mushrooms that were lovely but lacking just a little seasoning.  The highlight of the breakfast for me was the chorizo, which every time I have them at the European, reminds me of why I love chorizo so much.

Still a little full from our previous day's adventures (see post here and here), SC wanted something much lighter to start the day and chose the toasted muesli with yoghurt and fruit.  What she didn't expect was a huge bowl that was filled to the brim with ingredients.  Knowing she wouldn't get through the whole lot, SC set about cracking into her breakfast.  There were lots of crunchy textures from different nuts, along with sweetness from raisons and other dried fruit.  There actually seem to be more fruit and nuts in the breakfast than anything else and halfway through, SC was again completely full.   

We had finished our nosh and were feeling full and satisfied.  The timing has been perfect too, we had just enough time to slowly wander over to the Museum, without feeling rushed.  When I reflect back on the breakfast, the whole meal had that same feel about it, nice and leisurely.  We also found the staff to be lovely throughout the meal and even though it was busy, they would often stop by the table to ensure we were ok, or tell us about the meal or the juice etc.  In fact, one of the staff members ended up bringing over a discount card for a market where my carrot, orange and lemon juice came from.  Sweet.

Even though I enjoyed the breakfast, it wasn't quite as good as the last few times we had been to the European, the presentation was not as precise and the seasoning not quite perfect.  I also think I have been spoiled a little bit by the amazing breakfast spots in Brisbane, where there's got to be a hundred great restaurants and cafe all vying to be Brisbane's best breakfast spot.  I'm sure my Melbourne friends will disagree and I'll get bombarded with suggestions for my next trip south, but they will have to be good to change my view.  Perhaps I'm a bit biased but you can check out what others think about Brisbane breakfasts (here).

I would have preferred juice blended fresh on premises!
The muesli was chocked full of goodness
The breakfast was pretty good, but the chorizo was the star of the show
Old school wood panelling like you would see in Europe
In fact, the whole restaurant has that old world feel
With lots of nooks and cranneys 
Even the muffin case is made of wood!
The Spanish poster adds to the charm 
The European on Urbanspoon

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