Middle Fish restaurant in Carlton. Photo: Angela Wylie
Breakfast in Thailand, says Middle Fish co-owner Pla Liamthong, is not really a set meal. ''We usually have soup in the morning, or we might have rice, but there's really no such thing as 'breakfast' - we eat anything any time of the day,'' she says.
When she and husband David Holtum decided to open Middle Fish two years ago for both lunch and breakfast, Liamthong wanted to offer traditional Thai food that wouldn't be too alienating.
The restaurant's most popular breakfast dish, the hoy tod ($15.50) - crispy mussel omelette with picked bean shoots and home-made sri ra cha sauce (made from a paste of chilli peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt) - is actually a popular night market dish in Thailand.
Hoy Tod, crispy mussel omelet with bean shoots and home-made sriracha sauce. Photo: Angela Wylie
''It's very popular but not for breakfast,'' Liamthong says.
''Here in Australia and the Western world, we have eggs for breakfast, so when I was thinking about the Thai breakfast menu, I thought it would be more accepted in Australian culture.''
She was right, even though the generous serve of deep-fried potato cake-like omelettes - containing whole mussels - was decidedly un-omelette-as-we-know-it. Crispy and salty, and coupled with the spicy sauce it's guaranteed to wake you up.
Iced tea with condensed milk. Photo: Angela Wylie
Also on the Thai breakfast menu (served all day) is kao tom, a more ''traditional'' breakfast of hearty, filling chicken broth with brown rice (instead of white, which is actually more traditional, but Pla says she is health-conscious), with shredded chicken, Asian herbs and a poached egg ($13.50) and kai jiew, omelette with spring onion, toasted sesame seeds on brown or white rice with either chicken or tofu ($14.50). You can also beef - or pork - up any of these with extra sides of bacon, pork belly, smoked salmon or roti.
There's also a ''cafe breakfast'' menu here featuring less challenging dishes that marry both cultures - the smoked salmon bagel comes with son-in-law egg, shredded radish salad, sri ra cha, coconut and creme fraiche ($10.50) and the breakfast roti with avocado, barley, herbs, tahini yoghurt and a crispy fried egg ($14.50) and the delicious, if cloyingly sweet, option of the purple rice pudding made with caramelised pineapple, peach and toasted coconut ($10.50).
As well as Western coffee, there is a range of Thai drinks - including tea and coffee with condensed milk ($3.80), young coconut juice ($4.50) and longan drink ($4.50) - to complete the authentic experience.
The cool industrial space, in an old warehouse next door to Seven Seeds, is bustling during the week - for both breakfast and lunch - but at weekends it's easier to get a table (or one of the cool oversized booths), given the location, and, while the menu hails from a hot climate, a Thai breakfast is a warming, hearty winter alternative to the usual brekkie cafe fare. And if you feel inspired to whip up your own versions of Pla's dishes, she's set up her own online cooking ''show'' to guide you through it - head to the Middle Fish channel on YouTube for step-by-step guides.
- 03 9348 1704
- Cuisine - Thai
- Owners - Pla Liamthong and David Holtum
- Opening Hours - Mon-Fri 8am-4pm; Weekends 8.30am-4pm.
- Author - Kylie Northover