117 Swan Street
Richmond VIC 3121
+61 3 9428 8480
It took my parents almost 30 years of Melbourne to get into brunch – or ‘white people food’ in general. You see, my folks (like a lot of Baby Boomer Asians) are stubborn creatures of habit when it comes to food so they normally stick to what they know. For them, it’s Indonesian food, Chinese food (and by Chinese, I mean Cantonese, Hokkien, Hainanese and maybe a bit of Shanghainese) and Japanese food as long as it’s not too expensive.
When it comes to Western food, however, things get a bit tricky. They like Italian food – but only the type they’re used to, so La Porchetta and Sofia’s (which ain’t really Italian food but let’s not get into that…). Greek food is too meaty. French food is too fatty. Spanish food is too exotic. German food is too bland. And so on.
They were also never into brunches either.
Then one day – and don’t ask me how because I don’t know – something changed. Suddenly, they were into their third wave coffees, their Saturday morning brunches in Camberwell and their paper bags filled with non-Nutella-filled donuts. I don’t know what happened and whether my absence may have something to do with it but hey.
The last time I was down, they took me to Feast of Merit. Neither my parents or myself had been there before but its proximity to where I needed to be later that morning and positive reviews was enough to get them to drive 30 minutes to Richmond, drive around for another 30 minutes to find parking and then wait another 10 minutes for a table to open up.
To be fair, a 10-minute wait was pretty good given Feast of Merit’s location, the time of day (9am, Saturday) and how busy the place was. Before we knew it, the three of us were seated in a cosy corner towards the back of the restaurant.
I really liked the coffees here; made with a special St Ali blend, our coffees were smooth with a strong chocolate and caramel finish. The milk they used was gloriously rich and creamy, hailing from Saint David Dairy in Fitzroy, the only micro-dairy in Melbourne’s inner ‘burbs.
Now, I had another breakfast to go to that morning (!) so there was no way I was going to eat an entire big breakfast-esque dish to myself. In the end, we decided to share two dishes between the three of us. When it comes to most things (asking for free samples of Aesop products at David Jones, for example), I have no shame but here I was, worrying whether we’d be silently judged for being tight arses. If we were judged though, the staff didn’t show it. Instead, they happily offered to give us spare cutlery and plates so I can dig out my share of the edible goods.
Dad ordered the shakshouka (‘what’s this? It sounds unusual, I gotta have that!’). Upon first bite, he initially found the peppery tomato stew to be ‘very tangy, ugh.’ After a few more spoonfuls though, he got used to the taste. Combined with green eggs, tahini, labneh, cumin and harissa, it was a dish that filled him up quickly in a satisfying way – and best of all, he felt good about not having to eat meat.
Now THIS is a dish that you won’t find in many places. I’ve always loved the idea of having fish for breakfast (I was in heaven in Japan last year…) so when Mum decided she was going to have this dish, I did a little fist pump in my mind. The fish was beautifully cooked and tender to the touch. Matching it was a bit of smoked potato, dukkah, poached egg and toast. It would have been an excellent meal on its own but Mum insisted on adding a side of beech smoked bacon ($6). Now, I love bacon like the next (non-vegetarian) person but it did tip the dish into the ‘omg, this is too much’ territory. Thanks, Mum.
We were in and out within 45 minutes, an impressive feat given how busy they were. The three of us were happy with our dishes and the pace of our meal; I’d love to come back and try some of their other dishes, maybe even during dinner. Maybe after I’ve convinced my parents to try a tapas session or dig into a plate of schweinshaxe.