Our only task for Saturday was a trip to the markets and, with our go-to brekkie options Elceed and Twenty & Six Espresso both on summer break, we branched out into the CBD to sample The Grain Store. I'd seen the odd mention of this place suggesting it would be a solid veg-friendly brunch choice, but it turns out The Grain Store is one of the most hyped cafes in town (check out the link round-up at the bottom of this post). Luckily, everyone was still at the beach on the weekend, so there was no queuing for tables or feeling pressure to eat quickly and get out.
It's an oddly sterile space - in some ways reminding me of a cafe in a business hotel (the dreadful music being piped over the speakers probably contributed to this impression). The service was slightly stiff and formal as well, taking the whole experience a bit further away from the casual brunch I was expecting. The menu is fascinating, especially in terms of sweets. A couple of examples: you can try a summer fruit cocktail with golden flax seed dukkah, agave nectar buttermilk, watermelon mouse and rooftop chocolate mint ($13) or cottage pancakes with passionfruit, almond butter, berry and pistachio smoothie, strawberry puree and honeycomb streusel ($17). It's generally quite vegetarian friendly and there's one clearly labelled vegan dish (cauliflower, quinoa and goji berries with pumpkin hummus, celeriac and nigella seeds, $17). I got the feeling a couple of the other dishes would be veganisable too, although we didn't confirm it.
We stuck with the non-vegan menu options. For Cindy, buttermilk French toast and poached peach with peppered caramel, lemon curd, sweet basil and oreo crumble ($17).
This was basically fine-dining for breakfast - there were little splotches of sweet basil, a line of oreo crumble and a bit swirl of peppered caramel. It was all very well executed (especially the lemon curd) and the creativity and thought behind it is impressive, but there was something a bit fussy about it as a breakfast.
My meal was a bit more straightforward: portobello mushrooms with a raclette potato rösti, poached eggs and a hazelnut hollandaise ($18).
These guys really know how to poach an egg - they were both at just the right level of ooze. The mushrooms were excellent as well and the creamy hazelnut hollandaise was a nice variation on a standard breakfast sauce. The rösti was a bit of a letdown though, quite small and a bit undercooked for my tastes.
It's easy to see why The Grain Store has built such a big following so quickly - they do a range of fancy, innovative brunches, with great coffee in a light high-ceilinged space. There was something about the whole experience that left Cindy and I a little flat though - I guess we're just not that up for high-end dining at breakfast time, preferring a more casual brunch experience. Still, The Grain Store wins points for having an impressive array of veggie dishes, being open in the CBD on the weekend and staying on top of dietary requirements (gluten-free options are widespread). Also: the little sweets on the way out looked incredible.
For a place that's barely been open six months, The Grain Store has been visited by a ridiculous number of bloggers. The World Loves Melbourne, The City Gourmand, Gourmanda, Something Green, I Am Famished, Foodie About Town, dumpling love, Gluttony Gluttony, de-brief me, Sarah Cooks, Fig And Walnut (twice), The Hungry Excavator, confessions of a little piggy, thehangrybitch, Sweet and Sour Fork, Going with the Grain, Adventures of a Melbourne Girl, In Scout's Honour, Laws of the Kitchen, Yellow Eggs, Skinny Glutton, amystown, Ichigo Shortcake, The Honesty Path, Dammit Janet I Love Food, Melbourne Delicatesses, MEL: HOT OR NOT, Thought 4 Food, Deconstructing Comestibles, A Sheepish Flog, The Epicurean of Southbank, The Chronicles of Ms I-Hua, grazing panda, Gourmet Chick, The Owl's Nest, Peanut Butter Jelly, Gastronomical ramblings, Mr & Ms, The Food Society, TALES OF A CONFECTIONIST, A Swoonful of Sugar, Wandering Mint, Never Too Sweet and Lucy likes food were all pretty impressed, while Pigging out around the world, Mango Macarons, lunchosaurus, The Melbournian Palate, Foodies Review, Tried and Bested, Caramel Love, Clekitty Bites and eleia-c didn't think it measured up to the hype.
The Grain Store
517 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
veggie breakfasts $12-$23
Accessibility: There's a ramped entryway into a well lit and pretty spacious interior. There's full table service. We didn't visit the toilets.