Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May 21, 2011: Friends of Mine

Friends of Mine opened about six months back in a burst of hype and excitement. The place was run by peeps with impressive cafe pedigrees (Porgie and Mr Jones, Snow Pony - both unreviewed by us despite vague intentions to visit since about 2008) and was on a section of Swan Street that was desperately short of good coffee options. They also used their twitter account smartly, generating enthusiasm without just being boring self-promoters. So, predictably, they've been overrun by Melbourne's buzz-conscious foodie set.

We put them on our list of places to visit once the hype (and queues) died down and this Saturday, with a trip to Richmond on the cards anyway, we decided it was time to give them a shot. We turned up at about 9:30 to find swarms of people blocking the door - luckily they were mostly in search of takeaway coffee, so we were able to grab a table without waiting around (just a month back, Nouveau Potato waited 25 minutes for a table!).

It's a pretty big place that hums with activity - staff swarming about everywhere, customers coming and going and a constant stream of takeaway coffees being served up. The fit-out is varied: we sat in the middle section - all concrete and quirkiness, while the dining area furthest from the front had a more formal white-tablecloth vibe going on.

The menu (which rather weirdly tells you, "you are beautiful") is fairly standard for a place like this: some vaguely healthy options (muesli, porridge), toasts, eggy dishes and a few other bits and pieces. There's also a whole bunch of lunchy dishes and some desserts, but we stayed focussed on the breakfast section of the menu. The breakfast style sweets weren't too abundant (no French toast, no pancakes) so Cindy went savoury: herb and cheesey toast with eggplant kusundi ($11.90).

I thought this was excellent - generous cheese, perfectly melted on delicious bread and a salty and spicy eggplant relish to cut through it all. Alas, from Cindy's point of view it was all a bit heavy on the cheese. She's a more delicate appreciator of melted cheese (we've had some long and fruitless debates about pizza before), so this ended up being a bit much for her.

I ordered the smashed avocado with thyme buttered mushrooms, marinated feta and torn basil on wholegrain toast, with a poached egg ($18.90).

This was a pretty excellent rendition of avocado on toast - no skimping on the avo (with some nice bite via a good squeeze of lemon juice), fragrant and beautifully cooked mushrooms, salty fetta, bursts of basil and parsley and a perfectly poached egg on top. It's worth mentioning that the bread they use at Friends of Mine (courtesy of Noisette) is excellent - soft and crusty in perfect proportions.

Unlike a few other bloggers we had no service issues at all - in fact our food came out remarkably quickly and multiple staff were always on hand when we wanted them. The coffee good and Cindy enjoyed her orange juice, but both of us walked away feeling a bit uninspired. I think my issues were price-related - $18.90 is getting a bit ridiculous for a breakfast which, although excellent, doesn't tower above some cheaper options closer to home.  And given its popularity, it's not currently a place to linger over the newspaper.  To be fair, I probably have higher expectations for places that take more than half an hour for us to get to so I may be holding Friends of Mine to higher standards than our local favourites. Based on our experience, you'll get great service and good food at Friends of Mine and if you're in the neighbourhood you'll not be disappointed.

Friends of Mine has been raved about all over the blogosphere: Saturdaymorningsinmelbourne, The Guilty Stomach, Once a Waitress, The Neff Kitchen, Melbourne Food Files, Addictive and Consuming, Melbourne Food Tales, ... it pleases us, Juggernaut's Foodie Thoughts, Gourmet Chick, Social Marketplace, Very Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eat This, The Food Designer and Pete Can Cook were all pretty impressed, while just Melbourne Culinary Journal wasn't wowed.

Vego bloggers Nouveau Potato and Ballroom Blintz were also fans (although it should be noted that vegans will struggle to find anything on the menu they can eat).


Friends of Mine
506 Swan St, Richmond
9428 7516
Breakfasts: $5.50 - $18.90
http://www.friendsofmine.com.au/ (beware of seemingly unstoppable autoplay music)

Accessibility: Friends of Mine has a fairly wide and flat entry and is fairly spacious around the communal table.  Things get more crowded and difficult around the check-out and in the dining room area. 


  1. Woah.. $18.90 for what you had was pretty steep! But I'm still going to give it a go :)

  2. Holy moly, I think I'm with Cindy on this one: that's a veritable doona of cheese!

  3. Friends of Mine really rubs me the wrong way. It is extremely overpriced and the quality of the vegetarian options is nothing better than what is on offer at Flaunt or Bendigo St. Milk Bar for much more reasonable prices. If you are looking for something in that area go the few extra blocks and go to one of the above.

  4. Ah, I saw that place while walking home from somewhere one day and made a note to myself to check it out. And then didn't. Pity about the lack of vegan options. I might check it out some time for coffee though.

    To add to lokulin's list of veg-friendly cafe alternatives in that area, there's also Cafe Azul on Bridge Road near Church Street, who do a tofu scramble and some other good veg options, as well as nice coffee & chai. They're definitely better for breakfast and brunch than for lunch meals, though.

    Porgie and Mr Jones (I used to work nearby): lots of buzz, always busy, but the coffee always seemed crazy expensive (my takeaway coffees used to be about $4.50) and I couldn't really justify going there instead of other options nearby.

  5. yikes i have to say $18 for breakfast is a bit ott...esp with simple ingredients & even if they are well executed this is still too much. here is me thinking melb was a little less priced to say syd for breakfasts!

  6. Msihua - we'll be interested to see what you think.

    Hannah - "doona" of cheese is as hilarious a description as it is apt. :-D

    lokulin & Joanna - thanks for recommending some alternatives in the neighbourhood. Hopefully in spring I'll feel a bit more enthused about getting on my bike exploring around my workplace!

    gbf - I agree. There are still plenty of places to get a good breakfast in Melbourne for less than $18 thankfully. :-)

  7. Pleased to hear that you had an enjoyable experience and no service issues. They certainly have a range of excellent dishes to suit all manner of tastes - including stacks of cheese!

  8. I'm glad they were good to you when you went. Even just thinking about the place makes me hungry - not because the food was amazing but because we were starving by the time the food actually arrived! Maybe they are picking up their act. Fingers crossed.

  9. Hi Rumbaba and Elisa - we received much faster service than many other bloggers have noted. The floor was positively jumping with staff, so I wonder if they've added more to each shift recently...?

  10. Can't speak highly enough of FOM! The service for me has always been awesome, cakes are yummy & phenom and I regularly eat their herb scramble eggs with feta on gluten free toast costing from memory $13 ish and you can definitely get other options for less.
    It's a quality food place. I've eaten also many times at Bendigo St Milk bar where the toast is cheap stuff, eggs over scrambled and arrives cold and the cost has been similar, the atmosphere wouldn't even compare either.
    I've also gone for Sunday lunch with a group of friends and we were welcome to stay till close, we were eating & drinking all through. On a Sunday or busy time slot you can't expect to have 1 latte & sit there for an hour, whatever the cafe...plenty do it but so rude...
    I don't work for FOM or have friends there or any other similar, I just believe in supporting those that believe in quality food and there are too few of these places. Sit in dining room, go with Girlfriends and have a blast!!!