Chances are you could most likely walk down to your local cafe and the menu would consist of a big breakfast, avocado smash on sourdough or some sort of fritter with a poached egg on top. As great as these dishes are, it's places like Bayte in Collingwood or Stovetop in Carlton that really break up that breakfast monotony and present a menu that gets you actually reading the description. I came across Stovetop when I had noticed they had liked my Facebook page and followed on to read Ashley (I'm so hungree) and Cindy & Michael's (where's the beef?) posts which became the deciding factor for my visit when catching up with a friend.
There is plenty of parking on the street and I managed to snag one just outside the cafe. From our seats, I witnessed the meticulous care the barista put into each of his drinks, void of the typical hurried atmosphere.
There was a steady flow of students and office workers streaming in and out for their takeaway coffees and quick lunches. The flow of service was stuttered at times (new staff, perhaps) but considering that Stovetop is only weeks old, their consistent friendly manner more than makes up for it.
My double ristretto flat white was perfect - strong and velvety. I would have ordered another one had we not already decided to have a bottle of wine after our lunch.
Meanwhile, Ms J opted for a skinny flat white.
I rarely delve into black pudding when it comes to cafes but strangely I was in the mood to try it. The Melbourne pantry black pudding was meaty, crumbly with pieces of pork fat intermingled in. The rich flavours married well with the braised cabbage and sweet apple and pear chutney, while the kassler fleisch (smoked salted pork) gave an extra hit of saltiness. I loved this dish as a whole, very delicious and satisfying.
They poach their eggs well here, wobbly, runny golden yolk marrying nicely with the tangy hollandaise and plentiful bacon.
There is a limited alcohol menu; listing only two options for each white and red wine but it's comfortable and convenient enough for us to order a bottle ($30) and waste the rest of the day away here until closing time.
After running a few errands at the nearby Queen Victoria Market, I returned later that week with another friend, considering how much I enjoyed my initial visit. The chai latte at Stovetop came highly recommended by Ashley, many whom would classify as an expert seeing as it is her drink of choice when out at cafes. I took a sip and it was aromatic, packed full of tea leaves and spices. Made with Prana Chai's masala blend, I liked that we could see that this wasn't a syrup or powdered version and also allowed the option to tweak the sweetness level thanks to the miniature pot of honey.
Although their website seems a little on the silly side (too much of a masquerade that I find myself quickly scrolling past), the wait staff at Stovetop bear no resemblance to the "too cool" vibe on their website - down to earth, helpful and chatty, and it's always a positive when you can preview the menu before visiting as well. Stovetop has a feeling about it; you feel so welcome and comfortable that you're tempted to stay the whole day.
Will I return? Yes, a great new cafe on the outskirts of the city.
100 Leicester St
Carlton VIC 3053
Mon to Fri 7am - 5pm
Sat & Sun 8am - 4pm
Red velvet cake has always been a favourite of mine and Beatrix's was light and fluffy with crunches from the chocolate balls. I find it hard to detect a distinct cream cheese flavour in the frosting so I'm unsure whether it actually was a cream cheese frosting or not however I still really enjoyed the flavour of the cake.
The apple tarte tatin was perhaps the least liked out of the box of cakes. It wasn't bad, just that it didn't wow us as the others did. The base was crumbly and apples were soft and sweet although with bits of the core in some pieces.
There was a intense chocolate flavour in the decadently, fudgey flourless cake. It was insanely rich, so delicious and addictive. It was perfect as it was but I think a dollop of cream or ice cream on the side would have been divine!
Cutting into the signature Meyer lemon chiffon cake let out a barely audible 'squelch' which inferred that it was light and moist. An incredible zesty lemon flavour apparent in every bite and the sugary lemon zest icing highlighting the tanginess of the chiffon cake. I will absolutely be trying to recreate this at home.
There need be no other words spoken when I'm told the lemon tart is fresh out of the oven. Nat continues to hammer the nails in the lemon tart's demise when she goes onto explain that it has been made with Myrtleford Butter Factory butter, free range eggs and home grown lemons. Mr A feels more inclined towards Thomas Keller's sabayon lemon tart, as it is much more tart, however I loved the luscious, creamy lemon filling and the crisp base crumbled away beautifully.
After encouragement from Nat to return on a weekend to sample the rest of the goodies, I couldn't resist a five minute detour to Beatrix on our way home, after a haircut and lunch at Hero Subs (blog post to come). Mr A warned me not to go overboard as I exited the car and I assured him, "don't worry, I've called already and there's not much left!" Different story when I saw the counter filled with goodies and Mr A's words were already forgotten. Yep, I got a little defensive when Mr A saw my box...
The potato brioche doughnuts are very popular at Beatrix, not to mention almost exotic sounding. They were ever so delicate and fluffy with the tangy icing just melting away with a touch (as you can see with my paw marks).
The Elvis cupcake sounded like a decadent treat, just from the description alone, it is a surety that you'll feel the need for some form of exercise afterwards. Despite it all though, the banana butter cake was light and moist, the peanut butter icing subtle enough without overwhelming the flavours and the bacon praline - genius.
Anything crème brûlée, I'm down with. The crisp tart filled with a velvety smooth vanilla bean custard nestled away a dollop of strawberry preserve. I actually enjoyed Beatrix's crème brûlée tart more than Bourke Street Bakery's version as the caramelised surface was comparably much thinner and crackly, providing a delightful sugary crunch, and fillings were much more impressive in both flavour and texture.
The Moroccan twist on the "Snickers" tart meant that dates are added into the caramel layer. Starting with a peanut cookie tart base, then a layer of caramel and dates topped with a fudgey milk chocolate filling - it was spectacular. Sinful, decadent and we couldn't stop ourselves from going back for more.
Vanilla slices can be overly creamy for me at times but the addition of the passionfruit icing gave a fresh, zesty dimension to the slice. The puff pastry was crisp and flaky, sandwiching the smooth vanilla custard filling.
Also known as melting moments, this yo yo biscuit was so delightfully short that it crumbled away easily. Filled with a cream that had a subtle mandarin flavour, it left a lovely lingering flavour of butter and citrus on the tongue.
Will I return? Yes, tasty baked goodies.