The only ‘Pope’ I follow.

Posted on July 6, 2011

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Windy winters in Melbourne make me want to hibernate, eat or bake. This morning I chose to fill my tummy up with a hearty breakfast at Pope Joan’s in East Brunswick. If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit for breakfast, get moving immediately. This place has become an institution north of the Yarra river. It is the brain child of Matt Wilkinson (Circa) and Ben Foster (The Kent Hotel). The philosophy is to provide good seasonal food, whereby the ingredient is the star. It is packed to the brim daily despite it’s seclusion on Nicholson Street. Damien Styles is now head chef, formerly from Charcoal Lane in Fitzroy, bringing his experience with native Australian produce and cuisine.

The place has a retro fit-out with wooden furniture, mix-matched ornaments and traditional cooking equipment. It is a cosy space that leads to an outdoor dining area perfect for a steamy night in summer.

The breakfast menu is filled with a variety of toasties, a selection of egg dishes, rice puddings, oats and toasts. The coffee is by ‘All Press’ and there is a great selection of freshly squeezed juice. Despite the weather I ordered an apple and strawberry juice and Mr M had a Cappuccino. The juice was too watered down, making it was hard to taste the strawberry. The cappuccino was good.

'My kind of Melbourne breakfast'

I ordered a dish of ham hock, lentils, and poached egg. Mr M ate large and ordered his favourite “a bit posh sandwich” which was filled with pickles, salami and Mozzerella. He also ordered “the Cuban”, which was a curried pork sandwich on a panini. Pope Joans has service with a smile, the staff are friendly and timely. They are free of “hipster staff”which tend to congregate at most of Melbourne’s northern cafes.

The ham hock dish felt like a cross between a hash brown and a terrine. The pulled ham hock was mixed with bacon, lentils, and just the right amount of seasoning. It was moulded and served on La Madre multigrain bread perched underneath a perfectly poached egg. The dish was garnished with Pope Joan grown herbs, and had a gribiche sauce of mayonnaise, dill cucumber and caper. This is my type of break-fast: warming and filling. The fresh herbs complemented the earthy texture of the ham hock and lentils.

The “posh” sandwich is everything that I remembered, chewy, buttery and rich in flavour. Mr M gave compliments to the chef for returning the salami to the sandwich( they used pancetta for a while). The salami is flavourful without being overly fatty. The “Cuban” sandwich is filled with a pork belly sanga, a mustard curry sauce and greens. It was well put together and did not have an overpowering “meaty” taste that pork sanga can have. I really enjoyed my breakfast, I have eaten here on numerous occasions and have yet to leave disappointed.

Almost one year on since opening, this place is still delivering great seasonal food at an affordable price. I would like to try more of the the lunch menu as I spent most of my time during breakfast salivating over the truffle infused Brie with fruit bread on the specials board. It comes as no surprise that Pope Joan’s took out the Australasian Sandwich Association’s ‘Great Australian Sandwich’ award this month. Well deserved.

Look out for the opening of the attached bar : The Bishop of Ostia and Matt Wilkinson’s new restaurant Hen & Coq (opening in February). A successful start to the morning, bring on the Pope’s reformation……

Pope Joan’s
77-79 Nicholson St. Brunswick East, Phone (03) 9388 8858

Pope Joan on Urbanspoon

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