Dennis the MenaceNovember 1, 2015
106-108 Chestnut Street, Cremorne
If, like me, you’re always on the hunt for a new brunch venue, I highly recommend you tram/train over to Cremorne (aka further south, semi-industrial Richmond) and try out Dennis the Menace. If, like me, you’re also confused by two parallel streets named after nuts (Walnut Street and Chestnut Street, to be specific), and your hunger-addled mind can’t even remember which street you’re meant to be on, let alone which out of those two nuts you prefer (always walnuts), then I recommend you hunt down this enormous Bryant & May factory. Opposite the factory is a converted warehouse. In that warehouse is Dennis the Menace.
The only similarities I can find between the cafe and the movie is the pixelated likeness of the blonde TV character on the front, a giant slingshot in one corner of the cafe, and a cheeky approach to naming menu items. Apart from these, all you really need to know is that Dennis sits in a bright and spacious converted warehouse, he has a relaxed, boyish vibe (couldn’t help myself), and the food and coffee is A+.
Walking in, my eye is immediately drawn to a long line of booths running down one wall, separated by wooden planters of cumquat trees. It feels a bit like stepping into an internal garden, with lots of timber and most tables sporting some sort of potted herb or a built-in planter in the middle of the table. The high ceilings also do wonders for the place.
On my first visit, I’m here with C and H for a long overdue catch-up. First order of business – a round of coffees. My flat white was pretty perfect (although with Seven Seeds beans, you’d hardly expect any less).
Also excellent were the iced coffees we all enjoyed to cap off the meal. I particularly enjoyed watching the caramel coloured coffee swirl and mingle through the milk.
Now, the menu. The Dennis the Menace theme carries on with kiddy, pun-tactic names for dishes, but the boyishness stops there. The menu is as sophisticated as brunch menus come, and is perfectly attuned to the latest trends. Acai and raw green breakfast bowls both feature, but so do American classics like keiserfleisch in a bagel or a Mexican tortilla with japapenos and a fried egg.
Allergy and dietary information is helpfully set out underneath every item – be it V, VG, GF, DF, EF, NF, MF, SF or SOYF (if, like me, you spend half your meal trying to work out the difference between them, please direct yourself to the helpful key at the bottom of the menu). So there’s food for the health-conscious, the hungover and the
picky eaters allergic/dietarily restricted. Then of course, there’s the ubiquitous avocado on toast. The crowd pleaser. There really is something for everyone.
H, always one for the classics, went for “Classic Stuff”, eggs Benedict with ham, tomato and gruyere cheese on sourdough, and of course béarnaise sauce. Traditionally, eggs Benedict are made with hollandaise, but béarnaise is merely the herby cousin of hollandaise, so rest assured this is still very much a “classic”. The menu cheekily asks us, “did the tomato help curb your guilt? Good. Now, eat up”. Personally, I love this attitude. Eat up indeed.
C went for a bagel stuffed with keiserfleisch and a fried egg, aptly named “Good Morning America”. It also had some cream cheese, spinach and house-made beetroot relish, and is an absolute steal at $10. Bagel looks a bit pale but the kaiserfleisch looked very generously cut, and really what more do you need?
I was feeling virtuous (a rare feeling for me), and decided on a bright and spring-like plate of “Something Fishy is going on Here”. A garden pea puree, asparagus, avocado, steamed spinach, crispy red kale and hot smoked trout, all crowned with a pair of poached eggs. It was a surprisingly filling breakfast, and beautifully plated. I particularly enjoyed the smoked trout and pea puree together. I could, however, forgo the crispy red kale in favour of some other crunchy element, perhaps some nuts or grains.
The dish was also a bit wet, in that there wasn’t anything to help absorb the egg yolk and pea puree (although I note this is a common problem with no-carb breakfasts of this type). Towards the end, when the yolk, peas and spinach had mixed into a wet sauce on my plate, I was really hankering for a piece of toast. You see, even when I’m in the mood for healthy food, my non-virtuous side isn’t gone for long! Toast withdrawals aside, this was a fantastic brekkie dish, a real notch above the usual.
I enjoyed my first visit to Dennis so much that only a week later, C and I were back again to try out more of their menu! The return visit, I am learning, is as important as the first visit. In fact it may even be more important, because it can either totally reaffirm or dislodge your first impression of the place. Yes, first impressions count, but second impressions are pretty important too.
If this feels like the build up to a letdown, it kind of is and it kind of isn’t. My second time at Dennis was much the same in many ways – we got a table easily, the service was friendly and prompt, the coffee was excellent, and the general vibe of the place was the same.
I decided on the Wabash Wa Denis, a Japanese inspired omelette with spanner crab, shichimi, mung bean shoots, alfalfa, shiso, miso sauce, tobiko, fresh herbs and a seaweed salad. “See how it all fits on a plate”, beckons the menu. Well, it all fits on the plate, and it all looks fantastic, but I wasn’t convinced taste-wise. Yes, the omelette tasted good when dragged through some of that salty miso sauce, but overall it wasn’t a stand out dish. The problem with crab when amalgamated with egg is that the crab virtually disappears, and I struggled to find even a trace of it. Instead, cutting into the omelette revealed stringy bits of seaweed that didn’t cut well. You know those seaweed salads they sell at Sushi Sushi? Imagine that but wrapped in an omelette. Not bad, but not my favourite.
So the omelette wasn’t the best choice. But look, I’ll end on a happy note. C had the ‘Avo, We’ve Met Before’, a ridiculously good looking plate of food. Two pieces of sourdough, neatly piled with smashed avocado, heirloom tomatoes, marinated feta, breakfast radishes and basil. C made the wise decision to add the optional egg and crispy pancetta. What a pretty picture that all made!
So pretty actually, that I think I’m going to have to go back and try it myself. And then of course there’s the highly recommended acai (“Sounds Like A-SAI-IE”) bowl, and the corn tortilla quesadilla filled with manchego, ham, jalapeño and a fried egg. Plus the coffee’s pretty great, and there’s never a queue to get a table. Lots of good reasons to check out Dennis the Menace, so I suggest you do yourself a favour and pay him a visit!
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