Twenty & Six Espresso

May 20, 2013

594 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
It’s not often that I’m served a mandate on places to blog about. The usual order of things is for someone to suggest we catch up and then to defer choice of cafe/restaurant to me, the blogger. Not the case with N, who didn’t hesitate, having perused the blog, to make some rather assertive suggestions.’I’ve noticed a serious absence on your blog: no Twenty & Six Espresso! You haven’t written about them, and they’re very good. The world needs to know!’ exclaimed N, borderline offended. Well, ok then, I thought, giving the usual spiel. I suppose I could try to visit in the next couple of months … oh, next Wednesday? 11am? Oh, well, alright. Gee.

And so it was that I found myself traipsing over to North Melbourne! The day we’d decided to brunch it was really cold and miserable and I’d been nice and toasty warm in the library and didn’t like the idea of getting my nose cold, but what can I say, I’m committed to my craft. How’s that for dedication?

I’ve walked past Twenty & Six many times while on my way to Beatrix further along Queensbury (blog post coming soon), but never thought to stop by for some food. Having read up on them, and now having eaten there, I can’t understand why I hadn’t done so sooner – it’s exactly the kind of cafe that appeals to me. The food is somewhat special so it’s not really an ‘everyday’ kind of place, but well worth a visit every now and then.

It’s easy to pick owners Ned Rahmanovic’s and Majda Falon’s backgrounds in design: the cafe is small but smartly thought out and feels well loved. On the walls, a series of sketches include a talking deer, a paper plane that’s gone missing and a cute pair of elephants, solemn in their companionship. Lots of exposed lightbulbs, attractive mint green coffee cups and the innovative use of milk crates as book shelves on the wall provide the finishing touches. In all, a very pleasant place to be!

Coffee is a Proud Mary blend (in my opinion one of the best around), and the service is quick, friendly and welcoming. I must say I was very impressed with the menu which is small but well thought out. Some of the more innovative points of difference include Balinese black sticky rice with salted coconut cream, palm sugar and passionfruit pulp, and a giant-sized pork belly bao with five spice and peanuts.

N, who it seems is something of a regular, ordered the Russian – vodka and lemon house cured salmon tartare, a poached egg and dill creme fraiche served with seed and sprout sourdough. It turns out the attention paid to the interior design is also applied when plating dishes. I mean really, how beautiful is this dish?

I didn’t get to try any but N said he liked it, despite having reservations about the toast (‘It’s just not practical!’ – outrage, sheer outrage). And yes, perhaps the piece of toast was a tad too cumbersome, but this was still one of the gosh darn prettiest breakfasts I’ve seen in a long while.

Food choice was a bit of a no brainer for me – it just had to be the Hunter – balsamic, red wine and rosemary roasted portobello mushrooms (fark yes) and chorizo on sourdough with creme fraiche and truffle oil. Admittedly difficult to taste the truffle oil with so much balsamic, but I really enjoyed the flavours nonetheless. I will admit it looks a bit messy, but it tastes delicious and is the perfect winter-warmer dish (though I was defeated by the enormous serving size).

In all, a very enjoyable visit to Twenty & Six. They take care with the food, and they take care of you, a trait that is, sadly, rare in cafes today. As you can probably tell, I was really impressed with the place and am looking forward to a return visit.

UPDATE: A few weeks after I wrote this post, Twenty & Six brought in a new menu. So, in the interests of both my readers and my stomach, N and I returned yesterday to sample the new offerings. The menu is similarly creative (the Russian is the only carry-over from the earlier menu), but has a much stronger focus on lunchy things.

For example, I’d love to try the The Gatherer, five grain and fresh herb salad, chilli and garlic broccoli, toasted nuts and seeds, preserved lemon and pickled red onion. Yummo. Similarly, N had his eye on a plate of pulled pork sliders with cabbage slaw, aioli, butter roasted pepitas and kettle chips. Unfortunately we were there at 8:30am and the most grains I could probably handle were the ones in The Cleanse – a healthy and light breakfast of green apple and strawberry bircher museli with rosewater, puffed grains, basil and toffeed hazelnuts.
I say healthy – bircher museli is like the caesar salad of muselis, the most unhealthy of the healthy. But still! This was a delicious breakfast, I particularly liked how there were cubes of fresh apple throughout the museli, although I wasn’t convinced about the addition of mint.

Though he decided against the pork sliders, N nonetheless integrated a little pig product into his breakfast with the Franks’n Beans, ham hock and smoked chorizo baked beans with blood sausage, a slow poached egg and garlic toast. Perhaps I should have said “a lot” of pig product. Almost as much pork, in fact, as there was garlic on that toast! It might be worthwhile toning it down a notch because the amount of garlic there was almost criminal – poor N was chewing mints the entire day!

Garlic-laced bread aside, the new menu is interesting and, based on the two dishes we tried, just as tasty as the last. So head on over and give it a try!

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Filed under: Brunch, Coffee, North Melbourne