Feel like fish and lamb neck first thing in the morning? Here’s a cafe for people who are sick of eggs and toast
Prahran’s Middletown is one good-looking café, which is no surprise considering it’s inspired by British royal Kate Middleton. The Studio Tate-designed space boasts a blue and white colour palette that references the dark blue of Middleton’s engagement rock (and frock) on their walls and leather-bound menus. Choosing a Duchess as your café’s design inspiration is a little baffling, but they haven’t gone full Union Jack. The references are more of a subtle nod to the Duchess’s sartorial preference of the clean-cut, timeless look – sleek brass trims and marble tops gleam, fresh flowers sit at every table, and a filter coffee island with built-in hot water dispensers shine pearly white. Oh, and your cursor turns into Middleton’s engagement rock when you scroll through the café’s website.
But Middletown’s not all looks and no substance. Co-owners Randy Dhamanhuri and Valerie Fong from Operator 25 in the CBD have crafted a smart café menu with chef Dilpreet Singh (Top Paddock, Kettle Black) that follows the slow shift away from egg-heavy brunch menus. The breakfast and lunch offerings combined add up to less than 20 dishes, and while the usual DIY eggs, toast, granola numbers are there, more adventurous eaters are well-served by interesting dishes, like their take on eggs and soldiers with a trio of mushrooms and celeriac purée, and duck leg with potato fondant, celeriac remoulade, and sour cherry jus.
You’ll want to make a beeline for the pickled mackerel and lamb neck dishes on our visit. The pickled mackerel on toasted baguette arrived hiding under a sunny side up egg and ribbons of manchego, surrounded by slices of jamon, charred bullhorn capsicum and a creamy fennel emulsion piped around the plate – it’s a protein party on a plate, but all components on the surf and turf dish unexpectedly go together well. The mackerel has been lightly pickled like a ceviche with lime and lemon juice and coconut milk, which ‘cooks’ the fish into a near spreadable consistency. The citrus balances the mackerel’s usually pungent fishiness and keeps the dish light and fresh; the fennel adds a nice fragrance; and the salty manchego and jamon round it out.
The lamb neck might sound more like the main course in a country tavern, but then again, who says you can’t have meat and three veg for breakfast? The circles of meat are seared, caramelising the fat to make the edges crisp before yielding to tender meat. There’s no jus or gravy, but the smoked yoghurt under pickled beetroots, baby carrots, and roasted sweet potato add essential tartness and a cooling factor to balance the rich meat.
Middletown doesn’t look like a café that aims to rock the boat. It’s stylish and doesn’t have a hair out of place. In a statement, Dhamanhuri says Middletown “pays the ultimate compliment to Kate Middleton, whose humble nature and unpretentious beauty embodies the design and personality of the café”. But we sense something else behind their picture perfect interior and very Instagrammable waffle stack that’s just asking for a flat lay shot. While the breakfast and lunch menus are separated, dishes are meant to be available all day long meaning you can order anything – even steamed barramundi with Brussels sprouts – first thing in the morning. And we can definitely get behind a café that’s not shy to serve pickeled mackerel to a champagne brunch party.
229 High St
|Opening hours:||Mon-Fri 7am-4pm; Sat, Sun 8am-4pm|