Brunch has shaped Melbourne’s cultural identity. The terms brunch and Melbourne have become synonymous, ringing bells that conjure picturesque platings that people salivate over on Instagram and Pinterest.
Due to its popularity, the concept is being rapidly reproduced in other parts of the world (check out St Kilda Cafe in Iowa, USA).
Interestingly enough, consumer demands have changed in tandem. People are on the hunt for clean, healthy food that is locally, seasonally and sustainably sourced. They are also on the lookout for a diversity of flavours.
“Breakfast or brunch out didn’t even rate a mention in the first edition of The Age Good Food Guide in 1980. But we’ve made up for lost time. Now, Melbourne-style brunch, with restaurant-level table service and plating, high-quality coffee and sleek architect-designed interior, has become an export commodity,” Roslyn Grundy, co-editor of The Age’s The Good Food Guide 2018, said.
Grundy said, that in late 2015, US Michelin-starred chef Grant Achatz was so impressed by the local brunch scene that he decided to add some elements to his restaurant in the Big Apple, the Aviary.
Moreover, blogger of Never Too Sweet For Me, Daisy Wong said her “family and friends who live overseas always tell me how much they want to come and brunch with me.”
“Melbourne style institutions are opening up in Hong Kong, London and New York,” Wong said.
Darian Szyszka, owner of Reunion and Co stated that his café has a strong commitment to ethical farming and transparency.
“We are proud to support local Victorian suppliers that help deliver their vision of food from farm to your plate,” Darian said.
At Reunion and Co. seasonality is incorporated into meals. On top of this, the Richmond cafe meets the demand for ethically sourced and raised proteins such as eggs and meat. Not surprisingly, its best sellers are the fresh green salads and seasonal vegetables.
Darian’s recipe for success is simple. Obtain fresh, transparent produce that is then properly cooked.
“We do what we do really well. People understand the difference in their palates. They are also political – they like to know where their food comes from,” Darian said.
“Food sourcing and farm to plate scenarios are bound to rise as people become more educated about ethical sourcing and locally produced food. It is really important to support local farmers and not import our supplies from overseas due to cheaper prices,” blogger Daisy Wong said.
Lisa too voices the rise of sustainability in brunch. She has noticed eaters to be “savvy” and applauds the ban of takeaway cups.
Similarly, self-professed food nerd and University of Melbourne PhD student, Sophie Lamond echoes the inclusion of sustainability as a core value. She also has a controversial prediction about the type of protein used.
“On our plates this might look like more protein from insects and more sea vegetables as sudden shocks could mean sharp price rises in grains, fruits, and nuts,” Lamond said.
Nola James, freelance writer and cafe reviewer for The Age’s Good Food charts the rise of other cultural influences.
“Our love affair with Asian-style breakfasts will continue to grow, too, expect more congee, more bonito and more kimchee across the board,” James said.
Similarly, Grundy echoes the popularity of a variety of cultural influences.
“Brunch might be congee, pho or kedgeree as much as hot cakes or french toast,” Grundy said.
Another area that has gained prevalence in the Melbourne brunch scene is the Middle Eastern cuisine. Richmond’s Feast of Merit provides sumac, Turkish delight, tahini, Persian feta and isot chermoula. Similarly, Carlton’s Babajan is influenced by Turkish cuisine. The menu provides a beautiful blend of rose, cardamom, dukkah, sucuk, smic and za’atar.
With a strong focus on sustainability and a mishmash of international flavours, Lisa, Melbourne based blogger of Lisa Eats World, sums it up best: “brunch isn’t just smashed avocado and eggs on toast anymore”.
Written by Devana Senanayake