Beatrix has been on our "to visit" list for ages. Ages and ages. The steady stream of gushing about the quality of their cakes did not go unnoticed, and when you add in Sarah's declaration that it's her favourite place in Melbourne and stern blog commenters demanding we visit, it's clear that we're long overdue.
We finally made amends for lunch on a Saturday, grabbing a seat at the window counter and trying not to get too excited by the cake counter before we'd had something savoury. Thankfully, the savoury menu doesn't require too much concentration - there's a granola and two vegetarian rolls. We took on both of the rolls, starting with Cindy's small meat-free howl (roasted red and yellow beetroot with warm ricotta, mint, hazelnut dressing and roquette, $13.50). It should be noted that neither of these rolls could really be eaten sandwich-style - we deconstructed them and dug in with cutlery.
First of all, I can't emphasise enough how great the bread is here - these rolls were to die for, and would make a wonderful lunch even if the fillings didn't stack up. Thankfully, that's not the case here - the mint was bursting with flavour, working nicely with the sweetness of the beetroot. I thought that it was missing something a bit salty or tangy to cut through it all, but Cindy was completely satisfied.
I ordered the Shak-in-a-roll (spicy Israeli-style braised peppers, with a fried egg, fetta and fresh mint, $12).
This was perfectly suited to my tastes - a soft-fried and well seasoned egg, a bit of spice on the peppers and more mint that was just bursting with freshness. And the bread! Ah the bread. The only problem was that it was all so wonderful that I scoffed it down (plus a good portion of Cindy's) without making sure I had room for cake. But I gritted my teeth and pushed on.
I couldn't go past the rhubarb and real vanilla custard crumble tart ($6), which was mercifully modestly sized.
It was excellent of course, tangy and sweet in all the right places, with a good crunchy top and lovely light pastry. Having gone through a bunch of blog reviews since our visit (see below), I'm a bit sad I didn't tackle their signature doughnuts, but there's always next time I guess.
Cindy looked to the specials board, ordering the raspberry tiramasu tart, at $9.50 a slice.
Nearly $10 seems like a lot for a slice of cake, until you see the mountainous chunk that they're labelling a slice. It was almost meal size. And it was amazing - soft, fruity and nicely boozed up, with a generous chocolate sprinkle on top and layer after layer of custardy, cakey goodness.
Beatrix lives up to all the hype - it's a tiny little space that's cutely decorated, with the glorious sweets cabinet the clear focal point. The staff were friendly and the service quick and efficient. The only vaguely negative thing that I'd mention is that they really don't seem to cater for vegans, who might be better served up the road at El Ceed or Grigons & Orr. They do offer a reasonable amount of gluten-free goodies for non-vegan coeliacs though.
There is a lot of love for Beatrix among Melbourne's food bloggers - see unremittingly positive reviews from Johnson Kitchen, Sarah Cooks, Heartshapesandcrosses, essjayeats, new international students, Addictive and consuming, om nom nom.com, Coffee, Cars.. etc, Momo & Coco, consider the sauce, melbourne gastronome, Let's Get Fat Together, Rumbly in my Tumbly, Coffee Patrol, Mmmm, sugar, Footscray Food Blog, Golden Delicious Smile, Kat Chew(s) and Chomp(s), Tour de Clance, the grassy garden, donisbaked, Diary of a Pampered Housewife, Eat. Play. Shop., earl and cookie, Drew's Travel Foodprints, lunchosaurus and Sharking for chips and drinks.
Snap Story was a bit less enthused, at least when it came to the savouries.
688 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Veg brekkies $8 - $15, Sweets $4 - $9.50
Accessibility: There's a small step at the entryway, and things are pretty crowded inside. There are a few outside tables as well, and you get full table service (although the menu is on a chalkboard inside). We didn't head to the toilets.