Lolo and Wren | Dani Valent

Lolo and Wren

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484 Albion Street, Brunswick West, 9383 3712

My score: 3.5/5

No-one would ever skip breakfast if breakfast was always Lolo and Wren’s banoffee porridge. The oats are delicious, stirred just to sturdiness and not as far as stodge, dolloped into a heavy, handmade pottery bowl. The creamy mass is scattered with crunchy coconut crumble, and topped with a spoonful of date and banana puree and – the spectacular killer blow – a splodge of dulce de leche (caramelised milk). It’s a one-bowl breakfast banquet.

Lolo and Wren opened last Christmas at the front of a new housing development in Brunswick West. There’s no street life here and it must have taken a certain amount of confidence to open up in lone star territory. On the one hand, you suspect the locals are dying for somewhere to get their buttermilk pancakes and pulled pork; on the other hand, you wonder if this is a hospitality wasteland for some spooky reason. Happily, the pioneer spirit seems to have been rewarded and Brunswick West is now better caffeinated and better fed, its children no longer lack babycinos and its dogs are learning that this particular ‘walkie’ involves sitting around for ages and sharing the water bowl. The cafe can’t help looking new but recycled timber and patterned paintwork give the space character.

There’s a cheffy spin to Franco Caruso’s food; his wife Karen is a friendly presence on the floor, and her Chilean background feeds into the menu. The corn fritters are as light and springy as donuts. Presented on a long platter with peperonata (capsicum sauce), chilli jam and coriander salsa, they’re a zesty, savoury winner. Breakfast chugs along all day but lunchy things include a chicken and chorizo melt and ‘the hopper meal’, a wallaby burger that’s a little too lean and dense. It’s served with patatas bravas (Spanish-style chunky spuds with smoked paprika) that turn a light lunch into a lurch-out-of-here feast.

The coffee is good and each cup comes with a choc-coated coffee bean for an extra blast. Sweets are lined up on the counter with the very best eat-me intentions. I always oblige. Delicate iced coconut teacakes come in various versions. I tried moist sour cherry and a lovely lime version with chunks of candied peel. The banana and spelt bread is a wholesome alternative, and just as satisfying as this off-broadway cafe.

See their website.

More winter breakfasts:

Monk Bodhi Dharma, rear 202 Carlisle Street, Balaclava, 9534 7250
Hidden behind Carlisle Street is the tiny, cosy good-karma Monk with mostly gluten free and all vegetarian food. I love the Bodhi bircher muesli with fig and roasted almonds, and the great coffee.

Grigons & Orr Corner Store, corner Queensberry and Chetwynd Streets, North Melbourne, 0487 608 489
Baked eggs and hot Milo are among the winter drawcards at this cute cafe. There are blankies to keep you warm at the pavement tables and cosy seating upstairs.

I Love Pho264 Victoria Street, Richmond, 9427 7749
A day that starts with pho (Vietnamese rice noodle soup) is a warm and zoomy day and if you make it to the bottom of the bowl you probably won’t even need lunch. Especially recommended if you’re trying to banish a cold.

First published in The Age, June 23, 2013


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