I haven't had a sleep-in in weeks; it's chilly and I'm tired. Do I really need to get out of bed and into a gloomy, rainy Melbourne morning? Apparently so. After a quick detour into the Bourke Street David Jones store and time-traveller-like trip in the old-school lift to obtain an umbrella, the need for caffeine directs us to Degraves Street, where coffee awaits with hoardes of other like-minded breakfasters.
Good morning! Nothing like a macchiato to slap the sleep out of your eyes. I adore the tiny little spoon that's served with this one. I also love the fact that water for the table is a given at most cafes in Melbourne - of course one needs water with coffee!
Having learnt our lessons well in the art of 'not overeating at breakfast so as to ruin the rest of the eating day', we take a civil approach and share two meals among three. The open croissant is promptly closed up and split. The pesto does an amazing job in elevating the simple ham and cheese snack into something more worthy.
For some, it's not breakfast without eggs and so the eggs florentine is ordered with extra vegie sides for some sudden vegie craving of mine. Served on toasted Turkish bread, a healthy serving of wilted spinach and smoked salmon sit beneath hollandaise sauce covered poached eggs. I found the sauce to be underwhelming and the egss a touch overcooked but satisfactory overall. It's seriously breakfast for two and I'm glad we're sharing.
We follow up breakfast with a trip to St Kilda, embarassingly in the pursuit of cake. We did say it was an eating weekend! And with cake shop fronts like they have on Acland Street, it's difficult not to get hungry soon after.
Whether tarts, cakes, slices, biscuits or cupcakes are your fancy, the strip of cake stores on Acland Street is sure to have something to sweeten up any day. Having been to quite a few of the stores previously, we headed into Monarch Cakes at the southern end of the street.
Monarch Cakes has a less jam-packed window - probably the reason for my skipping it on previous occasions - but this time, I spy the pretty serious coffee machine and sign saying they only hire baristas with OCD. While some of the other cakes stores obviously tack on coffee as necessity to cake and sometimes do it poorly, I feel I'm in safe hands on the coffee front here. And I most certainly am.
It appears the kooglhouph at Monarch is somewhat of an institution, as is the cake store itself. The store is filled with framed pictures of owners/customers/celebreties and peppered with shop items from other eras. The cash register and scale at the counter evoke a genuine vintage feel - unsurprising when the store has been around since the 1930s.
The mini chocolate kooglhouph is a little on the dry side but the chocolate bits are scrumptious. It has a mild fruitiness to it, like orange perhaps, and is a relatively light and crumbly cake.
I can't go past Monarch's famous plum cake: whether it's the 'famous' part, or the deep purple hue of the cake, or the generous blobs of moist plum. The cake is light and eggy, and its sweetness is tempered by the reddish plums aplenty. This I manage to polish off with help from the perfect cappuccino, while the kugel gets the doggie bag treatment.
I have a terrible habit when it comes to eating, or snacking in particular, of the need to alternate between sweet and savoury foods. After sweet, I need savoury. After savoury, I need sweet. Which can become a dangerous ongoing matter, for obvious reasons. So after a bit of shopping and some other cake store visits, I'm of the mind that another 'snacking' meal is in order.
The sheer abundance of little cafes and restaurants on Acland Street alone is bewildering, but reassuring at the same time. I'd have been happy to step into any of the cafes we passed but eventually settled on Fringe - which again, I'd seen and passed many a time before. It was late lunch time by now and after the walking, eating and trying on dresses, the comfy lounge and wine list beckoned a little too temptingly.
And if anyone knows where Fringe got their mammoth front door from, drop me a line. It's a huge wooden thing, yet light to push and pull so there's none of that 'making a fool of yourself struggling to open a door' business.
A tapas trio was too perfect to pass up, and a game of tapas bingo quickly ensued. Selecting three items from the list each, it was quite funny to see how we mostly gravitated towards the same items. Now whoever said chorizo isn't a girl's best friend?
We had the wild mushroom arancini - big balls of creamy risotto in a golden crumb and quite the cheesy affair. We also had grilled lamb cutlets that came with a minted yoghurt sauce. One of the cutlets was overcooked and chewy, the other perfectly soft and cooked to a medium, but both of them unevenly salty. Thirdly, we had a warm salad of kipfler potatoes, chorizo, tomato, olives and rocket - the latter ingredient a little soggy from the heat but a perky, fun salad nonetheless.
And so lying back in the warmth of Fringe (they have a fireplace in the back) with a glass of pinot noir, I decide that getting out of bed in the chill isn't such a bad thing. If only I could stomach more cakes, I could be a happy, chubby little camper. (I do, admittedly, get a vanilla slice to takeaway - it's not a trip to Acland Street without a square of flaky pastry with smooth vanilla custard covered in icing sugar - really, it's not).