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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

January 16, 2010: Court Jester

Every time I think I'm on top of the great cafes of the inner-north, something new and wonderful turns up. Take the Sydney Road strip: we've happily chowed down at Ray, Tom Phat, Cafe 3A, Empire, Green Refectory, Minimo, A Minor Place and Robbies Stein and I was short on enthusiasm for the few places left. But then Brian started gushing about Court Jester and my ears pricked up. We've enjoyed Eastern-European style food before, but both Brian and Ange had pretty meat heavy meals and so I assumed it just wasn't going to work for us.

Still, it looked like a wonderful space, and once we'd had a quick peek at their menu and Cindy had seen the word 'blintzes', there was only one destination for our next trip northwards. Court Jester is tucked off Sydney Road a bit in a converted warehouse, with a massive construction site across the road. The ramshackle front garden and glorious graffiti murals give the place a welcoming vibe, and things only get better once you walk into the dining space. It's a stunning room - high ceilings, massive communal table, beautiful old furniture and walls covered in fantastic local artworks. Cindy and I sat there and soaked it up (along with the Modern Lovers pumping out of the stereo) - determined to like the place even before we'd looked through the menu. It's probably the most satisfying space we've been to in Melbourne. You can even add your own creative outpourings to the table!

Of course this was helped by the fact that we had the place to ourselves - people started to trickle in by 11, but at 10 in the morning things are still pretty quiet at Court Jester. Although if the food is as consistently great as ours was, then there'll be queues out the door in a few weeks. This. place. is. amazing.

The savoury options are split fifty-fifty between meaty and vego (although they'll happily change things around - see the rejigged kugel in Rae's post), and I was keen on the Brunswick green: poached eggs on Dench toast, with mushrooms, marinated avocado, asparagus and a deliciously garlicky horseradish mayo ($14.50 - it comes with tomato as well for those who fancy it).

So damn good. The avocado was herby and delicious, the asparagus marinated in a garlic oil and the mushrooms and eggs were perfect. The little touches, like the dashes of paprika and the insanely tasty horseradish mush took this from nice to outstanding.

Cindy predictably found herself in blintz-town: "Polish crepes filled with lemon zest infused ricotta in a mote of apple & berry compote topped with roasted almonds and fresh mint" ($10). Cindy didn't talk much during the meal, breaking her silence occasionally just to count off the reasons why this was the best sweet breakfast she'd had in ages: tasty and tender crepes! Rich and cheesy blintz filling! Oodles of poached fruit! Slivers of almonds! It was a win-win-win meal.

Cindy capped it off with a honey rhubarb drink ($4.50), which was not as sweet as it sounds - the tart rhubarb balancing out the honey flavour.

If you're still reading this and haven't already jumped on a bike/tram/train to Court Jester then let me reiterate: this cafe has a brilliant atmosphere, it serves up glorious food and is run by friendly and charming people. Oh, and they sell pierogis that you can take home and cook yourself ($20 for 15 - note to others: keep them in the freezer until you're ready to boil them!). If I had to find a downside, it was the lack of obviously vegan food (which I guess isn't that surprising in a Polish place). I'm sure that they'd be happy to put together something for keen vegans, and my toast, avocado, mushrooms and asparagus would make a pretty great animal-product-free brekkie.

Go there! Go there at once! (But leave a space for for us at the communal table.)

Read all the other rave reviews at: Fitzroyalty, Vintage Wonderful, Applecake Times and Vicious Ange.

Address: 15 Breese Street, Brunswick
Ph: 9383 3904
Price: $10 - $15


  1. I love the way the marinated avocado is molded back into an avocado shape - it just seems to further reinforce that this is a high-quality plave worth seeking out. Hopefully it will be just as good in a few months' time when I find myself back in Aus!

  2. Court Jester is fab. Great how the same guys who take your order then wander off to cook your food and/or make your coffee. Worth mentioning that CJ uses the excellent Padre coffee that is roasted locally at the Brunswick East Project just over in Lygon St.

    The building site across the road will be apartments with bottom floor shops soon so the street should become a lot more lively/inviting, and hopefully this cafe will flourish with the increased population of Breese St!

  3. it looks gorgeous, i must go and check it out while i'm still hanging around in coburg. what are the vegan options like?

  4. Hannah: you really should stop by when you get back - it's brilliant.

    Adrian: I'm torn between wishing them the success they deserve and wanting to be able to wander in and get a seat whenever I feel like. I

    Pip: I emailed one of the guys who runs the place and, along with all the non-egg bits of my brekkie, they've got a vegan burger and he says, "We are in the process of adding a couple of vegan options to the menu, including a tamarind okra dish with dried apricots, raisins and garlic." So it looks promising - they're incredibly helpful, so you'll be able to talk through your options.

  5. Long time reader, first time commenter...

    Court Jester is right around the corner from my work but I had no idea it even existed until I read your review. I had the pleasure of having lunch there today, and it was really outstanding (I had the Brunswick Green)! The giant table is great, and the service is totally laid back and welcoming. Definately going back (again and again and again)!

  6. Welcome, Jackie! The power of blogs, eh? We'd never have found Court Jester either without Brian from Fitzroyalty writing about it. Glad you liked it as much as we did. :-)