I think I've found this summer's best breakfast! It's fresh and seasonal, and I suspect it's vegan and gluten-free. It's a plate of melon and mango wedges dotted with chewy sago and puffed brown rice, moistened with a lime and passionfruit syrup and crowned with candied coconut ($13).
This fancy fruit salad comes from Small Victories. The cafe opened last winter in a spot that was previously occupied by the Rathdowne St Food Store and I didn't notice big changes to the interior - it's still a simple, elegant split-level layout with a high bar and tempting spread of cakes and pastries.
The staff and menu are all new though. Other sweet options are fruit toast, bircher and a warm pistachio loaf served with yoghurt mousse, watermelon, sour cherries and berries ($15). Savoury breakfasts centre exclusively around eggs, baked with fancy fixings or done to your preference with toast ($9.50), plus sides at extra cost. Vegos should skim past the bacon, sausage and black pudding and order oven baked mushrooms with garlic and rye crisp ($6), a leek and cheddar croquette ($5), wilted spinach with garlic, chilli, scallions and soft herbs ($4), baked beans ($5) or avocado with broad bean butter and linseed crisp ($6). Michael's poached pair of eggs were perfectly prepared, and he praised the rich mushrooms.
Gluten-free bread is available on request; it's unclear whether vegans might get a go at the mushrooms, spinach or baked beans or whether they're buttered up.
Small Victories' breakfasts are a little extravagant, but they seem to back it up with high quality ingredients and smiling service.
Small Victories has earned positive mentions on Confessions of a Food Nazi, Brunch On, I'm So Hungree and dear melbourne,. Gagwood Blog and om nom nom.com left less impressed.
617 Rathdowne St, Carlton North
veg breakfasts $7-20+
Accessibility: Small Victories has seats on the footpath, a step up into the cafe and a couple steps more up to extra seating. Tables have average-to-crowded spacing. We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets but expect that they'd require at least a couple, if not a full flight, of steps to access.