15 Breese Street
Brunswick VIC 3065
+61 3 9383 3904
The industrial back streets of Brunswick is the least likely place that one would find some of the finest pierogi in Melbourne, that’s what Caron (my buddies, Aaron and Cathy who are forever joined t0 the hip) and I thought as we veered from Sydney Road and onto the seedy back streets that one wouldn’t want to be walking in after dark. As a modded WRX hooned past with Nick Skitz blaring from its sub-woofers (Nick Skitz!) and as we walked past a brothel and countless vans ferrying crates of unidentifiable matter from warehouse to warehouse, the newest royal darling of Brunswick’s cafe scene appeared in the distance. How did it get its name? Well, there’s a cute but convoluted story on the cafe’s website which I ain’t going to bother summarising here but feel free to read… just as long as you return to this page, stat!
Bizarrely named Court Jester Cafe, the coolest brunch joint on the block makes its home in a old factory. While the bulk of diners will sit on the long communal table inside, there are additional seats scattered around the cafe and a few tables outside. Because it was a miserable October Saturday morning when the three of us visited, there was no way in hell we were going to sit outside.
Unfortunately by 11am, the place was rocking like a Bon Jovi concert. I was slightly perplexed because as far as I knew back then, this cafe had not had much press besides one mention in The Age earlier in 2010. And although blog reviews have been positive, there had only been like, five blog posts in cyberspace about the cafe.
We were told by the friendly lady at the front to take a seat in the suede couch in front of the counter, a couch where customers doing the takeaway thang could sit down with a glass of water (no, not tequila) while they wait for breakfast or brunch to cook.
They even have a random assortment of books for customers to browse while they wait. I love how that macbook is unceremoniously dumped on top of that pile …
Knowing that we were in for a long wait, we decided to order coffees. My skinny latte ($3.20) was good, but not out of this world. As we sipped our coffees, we chatted with the lady. She explained that the owners, an artist and a writer, wanted to retain as much ‘street cred’ as possible by keeping it ‘underground’ and so did not advertise the business. Little did they know that they would, by the end of 2010, have two write-ups in The Age and a handful of blogs and independent online media sites extolling their hearty Polish-influenced meals.
Finally, we managed to score some space on the nine metre-long communal table. Once we ordered our food, we were left on our own to look at all the local art that was adorned on the cafe’s walls. There was lots of art.
Like, LOTS of art.
There was even art on the table (NFI what this is but it looks pretty cool).
I thought the bikes were pretty cool but even cooler were the black letters on the right, obviously taxed from MYER.
The guys at Court Jester obviously like to take their time and while most of their diners are also in the same boat, there are the odd impatient mofos like myself who hate waiting. The guys are well aware of this and so they’ve scattered several v-parting tools around the table for diners to carve their names, cartoons and the odd explicit message on the table.
Work in progress…
Finally, food! We decided to share all the dishes between the three of us and the first thing we got was the Ed’s Breakfast ($16), which was something we only ordered because they didn’t have chicken soup with kreplach available. Boo. While the chicken soup would have gone down so well that morning, none of us regretted selecting the Ed’s Breakfast as an alternative. Two perfectly-poached googs roosted on one of the two wood-fried rye bread slices while crispy-to-the-point-of-burnt bacon pieces sat on another. Trimmings came in the form of a light Russian coleslaw (carrots, onion and cabbage with only the slightest hint of creamy dressing) and a marinated avocado half that was sliced and then arranged back into its original shape. Finally, a well of delicious beetroot dip injected some colour into the dish. Apart from the burnt bacon, I reckon this dish was successful.
Ah, ‘life could not better be…’
Next up, we have the Jester’s lunch ($12). In one bowl there was a handful of pork kreplach which was covered in a lovely not-too-rich tomato and cabbage stew sauce, and in the other bowl a cold Russian potato salad which is like any other potato salad but less creamy.
The kreplach, dissected. Apparently one of the owners used an old family recipe (both of them have Eastern European blood) which will forever remain a secret. It was lovely, the sweet and tasty pork meat was beautifully completed by the stew sauce which was also sweet with a bit of tang and pepper goodness.
The three of us were full from sharing two dishes (imagine having a dish to ourselves!) but nothing could stop us dumpling affectionados from eating two bowls of pierogi. After all, this place served Polish-influenced food so who in their right mind would leave just without ordering Polish dumplings? Now, the pierogi flavours change every so often and on the day we went, they gave us the choice between the farmers’ cheese with mashed potato or the cabbage and mushroom. We decided to order six of each (six dumplings, $7.50) because we’re greedy that way.
I couldn’t decide which ones I liked better. Upon presentation, both sets looked completely identical. From
their perfect size six figures, to their long, silky, blonde hair and eyes the colour of the Pacific Ocean the utilitarian white casings to the sour cream on top, you couldn’t tell which ones were which. Obviously, however, their insides were nothing like the other. The cheese and potato one was like Elizabeth Wakefield, soft and mushy with a subtle tangy edge to it. The more piquant cabbage and mushroom ones, however, were a Jessica – sweet, peppery and full of flavour (Jessica is dissected, and pictured above). More extravagant flavours were available, such as the bacon and asparagus, for an extra cost but I think I’ll save them for another visit (and yes, they would be the Lila).
The three of us left the place with tummies like Henry VIII as such was the amount of food we ate, and for a reasonable price too. Despite the dwaddling pace of the service, we all agreed that this was a place that we’d visit again because it was just so, so cool. Sure, the food may have been a tad unrefined even for Brunswick and hey, it’s homely and tastes fantastic so who cares? I’ll leave you guys with the final product of my hard labour during my wait for the food. Don’t expect yours truly to win any Archies though…