Review: Square and Compass (Melbourne, VIC)

222 Clarendon Street
East Melbourne VIC 3002
+61 3 9416 4914

East Melbourne may be home to some of Melbourne’s most gorgeous and expensive houses but when it comes to dining options, it’s not a gastronomical destination. No, the leafy residential streets of East Melbourne was where you’d typically go if you’re there to visit someone at one of its many hospitals or if you’re too tight to pay for parking at the MCG.

A few months ago, Square and Compass opened to cater to East Melbourne’s hospital workers wanting something more substantial than a feed at Hudson’s Coffee or Maccas. It’s also done well to get plenty of Melbourne’s brunch set through its doors too. And while I’m definitely not part of Melbourne’s brunch set, its location was a convenient one for me the morning I was due to catch up with my old friend Jen whom I hadn’t seen in years.

Much needed morning coffees ($4 a pop)
Much needed morning coffees ($4 a pop)

I took my first sip of Melbourne coffee for what seemed like a lifetime and a half, sighing with happiness. Square and Compass uses Seven Seeds blend for its espresso coffees; a strong and robust drop with a hint of mellow caramel notes was just the thing I needed at 8am on a cold Saturday morning after a big night out.

Crunchy peanut butter on toast ($13)
Crunchy peanut butter on toast ($13)

I’m not one to order stuff like toast, muesli or eggs and bacon when I’m out because puh-lease, I can make those things at home. However, I got sucked into the following description on the menu:

‘Crunchy peanut butter, heirloom tomatoes and salt and pepper peanuts on toast (trust us)’

In hindsight, I did feel a bit ripped off for ordering something so blatantly simple. On the other hand though, I could not have imagined that such a combination would taste so good and Jen agreed with me. I loved the gorgeous contrast between the creamy, crunchy peanut butter against the sweet, juicy tomatoes. The whole thing reminded me of something my friend Susie once said about modern art: ‘A: I could have painted that. B: But you didn’t.’

Pulled pork jaffle ($14)
Pulled pork jaffle ($14)

Jen had the pulled pork jaffle which came with apple sauce on the side. The pork on its own was a bit too sweet for my liking but thankfully a bit of Monterey Jack cheese sorted it out.

Since our visit, Square and Compass has added more items to their menu – I like the sound of the wholemeal carrot cake waffles and chia pudding with sesame snaps. I’m not sure about the Saigon roll (pickled carrots, red onion sambal, fried egg and Laughing Cow cheese), though I can appreciate what the kitchen was trying to do. In saying that, I do like that Square and Compass tries to be original with their dishes rather than play it safe with boring smashed avocado, $5 bacon and Bircher muesli options. It’s the sort of stuff that is likely to make me want to go back – that, plus speedy and friendly service and a warm environment in which weekend brunchers can chill without feeling the need to rush out.

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Oh, and Doughboy donuts on the counter too!

I eat too much.

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