Friends of Mine

October 28, 2011

506 Swan Street, Richmond
Many of you will know that I’ve become quite enamoured with the Richmond brunch set of late. Friends of Mine has been on my list of places to visit since it opened, and I’m sorry to say it’s taken me almost a year to get here. Shame on me. Bright yellow sun blinds herald the cafe, since it occupies an otherwise empty section of Swan Street. Inside is large and bright, and split into a number of attractive dining areas.
When you first enter there’s the register, the all-important coffee machine, and shelves of Noisette bread and other produce for sale. The next area, through a large framed doorway, is where you’ll find half the punters, perched on cheery yellow stools at the communal table, or crowded around small two-person tables. It’s a raggedy yet attractive mish-mash of wood, glass cabinets, exposed brick and olive green lights that look like they belong in a shipyard. All the furniture has been sourced from friends of the owners, thus the name of the cafe.

The second dining area, where we sat, has a completely different feel, albeit just as nice. Dark carpet, a light timber feature wall with illuminated prints, and modern wooden chandeliers. It felt quite dressy compared to the other room, with some tables made of marble, and other covered in white linen tablecloths. I quite like the dual effect – it breaks up the place and give each room more focus.

My brunch companion for today was A, and we began with a hot chocolate and a latte. Two guesses as to who got the hot chocolate. It was tall and rich (the hot chocolate, not the drinker).

The other of us ordered a latte. My-oh-my that’s a good coffee! The latte was wonderful, smooth and creamy and heated to the perfect temperature, with a cute little rosetta drawn in.

The menu at Friends of Mine (which shares owners with Porgie + Mr Jones and Snow Pony) is very similar to it’s cousins, but extended, and, dare I say, much better. They have all the favourite classic dishes, mushroom and avocado with feta and “tincy wincy basil” (Ha) on toast etc., but they also have some new and exciting breakfast combinations, which A and I sampled. The lunch menu is equally as enticing.

While waiting for our meals, I indulged in a spot of people-watching, in which I invent stories for people. Here, a young man awaits his friends, thinking deeply on the night before and struggling to remember anything beyond 10pm.

A attractive mirror leans against one wall, adding the illusion of space and nicely framing the two armchairs and the people in them at the table below. Here, two women, possibly sisters, or perhaps just close friends, sit contentedly reading the papers, their silence only broken upon the arrival of their coffees.

I also quite liked the low hanging desk lamps, which had been clamped to a beam running across the ceiling and spotlighted the artwork.

Our meals arrived, in good time. A had the house smoked salmon on a sweet corn pikelet with herbe creme fraiche and a poached egg. He said it was a very good brunch, tasty and light, but felt that for a dish costing almost $20 there wasn’t much to it (secretly I think he was hankering for a big fry-up). In this case I disagree with him, only because he usually orders more substantial dishes that cost about the same, whereas I’m more used to lighter dishes at these prices. But then perhaps I’ve just become desensitised: even I’ll admit that food is overpriced in Melbourne.

When the waiter first arrived with our meals, he went to give A (the boy) my dish and me (the girl) the salmon. Which was fair enough really, given that I’d ordered the “HUNG” over, a massive dish consisting of two slices of herb + cheesy toast, poached googies, bacon, and eggplant kasundi, which was fantastically spicy. The dish is called hung over, and obviously it’d be perfect for that situation. But I wasn’t, on this occasion, hung over, I was just damn hungry!

The bread was noisette’s multigrain which was awesome (who doesn’t like cheesy toast?). Overall a great dish, well balanced and very filling. The combo of salty bacon and spice from the eggplant was heaven, although I couldn’t finish it all so A got some cheesy toast as a sort of second-breakfast.

Our second round of drinks featured a pot of Earl Grey tea, a magic (sweet as), and general chit chat about other brunch places on our “to go to” list.

Friends of Mine has a wonderful feel to it: decidedly Melbourne, and very warm and inviting, despite the large space. Another positive was that it wasn’t crowded. Busy, yes, but not overrun with people. Here is the delightful looking front counter, you can just see the bottom of the crystal chandelier. The pastries and cakes looked extremely tempting, but I’m trying to be good and managed to resist.

“It’s not my fault I like bubbles” – wise words.

French lollies, magnifique! Love the colours here.

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Filed under: Brunch, Coffee, Richmond