8.5 | 2.5 | 2 | 2
- Some of the best cafe food in Melbourne
- Open, spacious and light filled interior
- It can get busy. Get here early, or be prepared to wait
- Not many good lighter breakfast options
- Fresh Queensland Soft Shell Mud Crab Roll
- Blueberry & Ricotta Hotcake
TL;DR – Top Paddock is one of the best cafes in Melbourne, and one of the few restaurants that I would fly to Melbourne just to eat. Creative, yet familiar food, served in a comfortable and open space.
As a foodie, people are always asking me for food recommendations. Generally, I have no problems rattling off a top 3 list for whatever category they ask but there is one category which makes me hesitate. When people ask me for my favourite cafe in Sydney, my heart always sinks.
Normally I rattle off the usual suspects – Devon, Three Williams, Grounds of Alexandria. But deep down, I feel uncomfortable because I know I’m lying. The truth is, I don’t actually like any cafe in Sydney. They are all simply uninspired and derivative.
It’s been my little secret for several years now, but to the trusted friends I am honest with, they all gasp in shock and ask the same question – “So where is your favourite cafe?
“Melbourne” I whisper, in a defeated tone.
It’s the reason why I fly down to Melbourne at least two times a year. Melbourne is a utopia of cafes; a city seemingly constructed for the sole purpose of brunching. Unlike Sydney, it’s not something you do every now and then on weekends – it’s simply a way of life. And why wouldn’t you, when the average Melbourne Cafe makes the best Sydney cafes look like McCafés.
So in a city littered with great cafes, where does one start? At Top Paddock, one of the cafes on my regular rotation (along with Hammer and Tong 412). From the creative twists on everyday food, to the thoughtful and efficient service, to the large spacious tables that encourage you to actually enjoy your brunch, Top Paddock makes even the most cynical Sydney-sider smitten.
Melbourne may not have the weather, but they most definitely have the cafes.
And as any Sydney-sider would know, it takes a lot to admit that.
Not sure why, but Melbourne coffee just tastes better than Sydney coffee.
Fresh Queensland Soft Shell Mud Crab Roll with a Fennel & Dill Salad & Lime Mayonnaise in a Brioche Bun – $23 (9/10)
So the question on everyone’s mind is how does it compare to Hammer & Tong?
Not as good, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Top Paddock’s rendition is good in it’s own right but differs from Hammer & Tong in that the focus is on the soft shell crab itself. While most of the soft shell crab we eat arrive frozen in 1kg bags from Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand, Top Paddock’s soft shell crab is a home-grown Queensland mud crab (Watermark Seafoods). As a result, their soft shell crab is unlike any other, unbelievably meaty and juicy; without doubt the best soft shell crab I’ve ever had.
However, where it loses out is the flavours which were not quite as balanced and the proportions which were marginally off (too much bun). By the end of the burger, you start to feel overwhelmed, as there was no real acidity and freshness to keep everything in check.
Still a great burger though, worthy of a drive (or a flight).
Roasted Kipfler Potato & Leek Omelette with Padron Peppers & Jamon Serrano on Toast – $21 (6/10)
While there was nothing particularly wrong with the omelette, there was nothing special about it either; it’s the epitome of what one would call “average”, something that would be served in Sydney.
This dish is the reason why Hammer & Tong 412 is still my favourite cafe. Every dish on their menu is special.
Blueberry & Ricotta Hotcake with Berries, Organic Maple, Seeds & Double Cream – $21 (8.75/10)
Probably the best hotcakes I will ever have.
Normally I drown my hotcakes in maple syrup to make up for a bad hotcake (and also because I love maple syrup). However, I’m thankful they didn’t drown it because the hotcakes were a perfect balance of flavours and a perfect contrasts of texture (fluffiness of hotcakes with the crunch of the hotcake edges and seeds) and temperature (warmness of the hotcakes with the coolness of the cream).
I’ve had dreams about these hotcakes…
Dat open space.
Photo credit – toppaddockcafe.com
So fellow foodies, where’s your favourite brunch spot in Melbourne?