35 Market Street
South Melbourne VIC 3205
+61 3 9686 2255
Sunday is my only ‘free’ day in which I don’t have to do any sort of work. If I’m not at the gym, I’m sleeping in until 2pm. If I’m not catching on my TV shows and baking cookies, I’m catching up with friends or spending time with family. Occasionally, I will go to the footy but I’m an Essendon supporter and not much needs to be said about that at the moment *buries head in hands*. On this particular Sunday, I was in South Melbourne with Jen for a spot of brunch at Dead Man Espresso, grocery-shopping at the market, stalking the house that came out on top in The Block finished off by some sweets at Chez Dre. I will eventually write about the couple of times I’ve been to Chez Dre (both times with Jen) but for now, let’s travel to the land of the Dead.
Once upon a time, Melbourne and its surroundings were full of gold (now it’s just full of derros) so immigrants from all over the world migrated to this part of the world hoping to strike it rich. These hopeful immigrants set up makeshift communities by the Yarra and one such community was called Canvas Town due to the canvas sheets that provided shelter from the elements (and derros) for these folk. Of course, gold-diggers those days had to put in more hard yakka than merely making themselves look pretty with make-up and putting on six-inch stilettos, so you can imagine how battered their bodies and their minds were. Some even died, hence the name Dead Man Espresso.
It is, however, a livelier story every Sunday afternoon at DME, where old Canvas Town once stood. The atmosphere is warm thanks to the winter sun and the beautiful and friendly people both working and chilling at the café, which is packed to the rafters. Jen and I had arranged to meet at 1pm but for some reason, she got the time wrong and rocked up at 12:30pm instead. There was a half an hour wait for a table when she rocked up, so she sat outside on her lonesome and by the time I sauntered in at 1pm, a table had freed up – hah! I wouldn’t have minded sitting in the little outdoor sitting area to soak up the sun’s rays or even the communal table in the middle of the room so I could squeeze shoulders with cute tall locals, but the somewhat cramp-y corner table we managed to squeeze into was fine.
Both Jen and chose the default house blend for our coffees, a Seven Seeds espresso blend made with beans from Nicaragua (36%), Brazil (36%) and Panama (28%). I liked that they were so precise with their figures but wondered why Panama got the short end of the stick – I’m sure they have a good explanation, though! While Jen had opted for a cappuccino, I had a latte. The coffee was beautiful with lovely maple notes – it had the depth and sweetness that I expected from a place that consistently gets stars in The Age Cheap Eats guide.
DME’s food is also fantastic. Their menu is all about reducing food miles, growing what they can in-house and sourcing other produce from local suppliers. They grow their own herbs in their garden and their honey comes from their rooftop, while meat is sourced from local gems such as Istra Smallgoods and Hook & Spoon Mutton.
I had the herb and potato rosti with poached egg, avocado and Istra bacon $21. If you’re not a fan of bacon (and let’s be honest here, who isn’t?), then you can go with the salmon instead. However, any sane carnivore would be crazy not to say ‘yes’ to these crispy strips of bacon.
I really couldn’t fault this meal. The herb and potato rosti, not the bacon, was surprisingly the highlight of this meal – not only was it generously sized (more carbs to provide sustenance for the rest of the day), but it was also very fluffy on the inside with flecks of rosemary to give it a bit of character. Meanwhile, the avocado and beautifully poached egg provided a lovely dosage of good fats and protein respectively.
I thought I had it good with my rosti but Jen’s BLT ($16.50) made my meal seem very James Magnussen in comparison (the just-missed-out-on-first-place-by-a-chest-hair aspect, not the stupid doucebaggery-ness aspect). DME’s spin on the classic BLT sandwich involved a slab of pork belly and spinach puree on brioche with gazpacho on the side.
It was incredible. I loved the spinach puree, so soft and delicious that you almost forgot you were eating something so healthy. It worked well against the backdrop of the crunchy toasted brioche bread that was wonderfully sweet and buttery, thus negating the fact that spinach is healthy (because all healthy food taste terrible, right?).
The pork belly, however, was the star. The meat was naturally sweet and oh-so-tender and the skin was so delectably crispy, with a joyously squishy layer of fat running in between. Amazing. The only downside of Jen’s meal was the small glass of gazpacho which both of us thought added nothing to the dish (‘tastes like a watered-down relish,’ Jen remarked) so that was left untouched.
I’m not normally one to drink more than one cup of coffee in a day but because I enjoyed my latte so much, I couldn’t leave DME without trying their famed filter coffees ($4.50). The beans they used on the day were from special guests Market Lane with their beans from Nyakizu in Rwanda. According to the description on the board, you were supposed to taste ‘floral, pineapple, apricot, butterscotch’ flavours. At first sip, however, I couldn’t really taste any of those notes so I felt chump-y and inadequate – wah! Once, my taste buds got better acquainted, however, I could then taste the tangy apricot notes and even a bit of butter (oooh is that butterscotch?).
The service might have been a bit frazzled but hey, this was Sunday afternoon. Both Jen and I enjoyed our lunch, promising ourselves that we’d bring our partners here at some point down the track. Surprisingly, my two cups of coffee did not get me wired for as soon as I got home, I crashed tummy-first onto my warm bed and was dead to the world for the next couple of hours.