South Melbourne is seriously spoiled when it comes to eating and drinking, with more than its fair share of cafes, tiny owner-operated restaurants, specialty wine stores and old world pubs. At the centre of it all is the famous South Melbourne Market, full of fresh produce and street food. After living in the area for two years I’ve definitely put the cafe scene through its paces and have come up with my top picks for the best brunch in South Melbourne.
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Proper & Son
Proper & Son is the star of the food hall in the South Melbourne Market. The menu at Proper & Son changes weekly, depending on what is in season and available at the market. Brunch is cooked to order until 11:30am, but if you stop by after this you can still pick up a delicious lunch or sweet treat from their cabinet. Compared to most other Melbourne cafes, Proper & Son is delightfully easy on the wallet, with most breakfast items ranging from $10-$15. Go for their latest rendition of the buttermilk hotcakes, served with seasonal fruits (poached pear pictured below) or the classic Marketeer, a soft roll with egg and smoky bacon.
The Kettle Black
Spilling out of the last Victorian terrace house on Albert Road is one of Melbourne’s leading brunch spots – and the queues to match.
The Kettle Black burned up on Instagram in 2015 with their uber grammable ricotta hotcake ($21), leaving a sea of imitators in its wake. The Kettle Black is part of the brunch juggneraut that also includes Top Paddock in Richmond, South Yarra’s Two Birds One Stone and Higher Ground in the CBD.
Fads aside, The Kettle Black is still leading the pack with dishes that are truly somewhere between breakfast and lunch, rather than just fancy breakfasts.Dishes like fresh snapper in a brioche roll with green papaya salad and citrus mayonnaise or wild pine mushrooms with smoked kombu dashi curd make The Kettle Black less of a cafe and more of a breakfast restaurant.
The menu marches to the beat of its own drum, which makes The Kettle Black perfect for when you’re done with smashed avo and smoothie bowls. On that note, don’t bother trying to get a classic smashed avo here. They’ll oblige you with avocado, citrus toast & kelp salt, but it sure as hell won’t be smashed.
The secret is out. Once upon a time, we never needed to wait for a table at Giddiup. These days, there’s always a waitlist for this tiny Coventry Street cafe on a Saturday morning. I’m just surprised it took the South Melbourne brunch crowd this long.
No matter how many times I eat at Giddiup, I’m always torn between at least three dishes every time I go. The menu changes regularly and they manage to make the menu exciting and creative while still comforting.
It shares a wall with homewares store Vincent 2, and the door between the two makes it easy to pop in for a browse of the retailer’s Scandinavian-inspired homewares collections after brunch.
It’s younger sibling, Wynyard Cafe is just around the corner on Wynyard Lane, and also shares a space with a retailer – ceramics and homewares store Made in Japan.
St ALi is famous for its coffee, with award-winning Head Barista Matt Perger behind the espresso machine and owner Salvatore Maletesta his cafe as ground zero for spreading the third wave coffee movement. For the uninitiated (I suspect, most of us), the third wave coffee movement sees coffee treated less as a commodity, but instead as an artisanal product, like wine. In Melbourne, most good cafes have a house blend of coffee as well as a rotating menu of single origin beans to choose from.
It’s known for its coffee, but St ALi always delivers the perfect food to match. My personal favourite is My Mexican Cousin, a secret recipe corn fritter with poached eggs, grilled haloumi, corn & cucumber salsa, tomato puree and green salad. Half of Melbourne tends to agree! Executive Chef Andrew Hearnden (ex-Entrecote City) keeps diners on their toes with dishes like North African lamb served with eggplant caviar, Salmon parfait with Madeira jelly and toasted Volkonbrot and steamed ginger pudding with candied mandarin.
Housed in a former industrial warehouse, St ALi shares a building with one of my favourite wine bars in Melbourne, Smalls. The St ALi family has expanded across Melbourne with Sensory Lab, Clement and another entry on this list and personal favourite, Deadman Espresso.
It always feels like Saturday morning at Deadman Espresso. This light-filled cafe a few blocks away from the main hub of South Melbourne is always buzzing but never chaotic. The wood-panelled walls soak up the sunshine and gives the cafe a natural, relaxing atmosphere that is perfect for sleepy weekend mornings. From the brains behind St ALi, it’s no surprise that the coffee here is always pitch perfect, and the rooftop garden provides fresh herbs and vegetables for their menu.
The Left Handed Chef
The Left Handed Chef is decidedly low key. It’s not as slick as The Kettle Black, as hip as Giddiup or as industrial chic as St Ali, but can always be relied upon for tasting, comforting breakfast dishes that are slightly left of centre.
h2 style=”font-size: 25px;”>Chez Dre
A warehouse converted into a sprawling cafe and bakery, with an adjoining patisserie & gelato shop, Bibelot, facing onto Coventry Street. There’s a lot going on here, but it all stems from French baking. Serving all-day brunch, the dishes range from classics like French Toast, Croque Madames and their spin on a Smashed Avocado, to lunch-style dishes like Minute Steak, Tuna Nicoise, Cassoulet and Duck Liver Parfait.
h2 style=”font-size: 25px;”>Stokers Cafe
This cosy cafe on Clarendon Street is all about crepes, but I can’t go past the oozey croque madame.
h2 style=”font-size: 25px;”>Gas Eatery & Supplies
A little bit Middle Eastern, a little bit European and a whole lot of delicious, I have never spent less than ten minutes deliberating over what to order at Gas. Their menu changes daily, and the cabinet is always full of mouthwatering mezze, tapas and supergrain salads. I can’t get enough of this place!
Have you been to any of these cafes? What have I missed? And most importantly, where is the best brunch spot in Melbourne? Tell me in the comments!