THEME: BETTER BREAKFASTS
P.S. BAR AND KITCHEN
RIVER LEVEL, SOUTHGATE, 3 SOUTHBANK AVENUE, SOUTHBANK, 9699 4600
LICENSED AE MC V EFTPOS
MONDAY-FRIDAY 7AM-LATE, SATURDAY-SUNDAY 8AM-LATE
BREAKFAST: $8-$22; LUNCH & DINNER: $7-$48
Would you like your eggs fried by an Irishman recently crowned the world's best young chef. How about having your cream whipped by an experienced head chef on sabbatical? Or perhaps you fancy your fruit bread toasted by a finalist in a local young chef award? All are likely to happen when you breakfast at P.S. Bar and Kitchen, the downstairs portion of Pure South.
The please-all-comers P.S. is an all-day restaurant with an all-star cast in the kitchen. The menu is appealingly simple, the ingredients are stellar, the execution is exemplary. And the room! The window seats at the enormous concrete counters on Southgate's western corner should rival the Flinders Street Station clocks as an iconic meeting place.
Pure South has been here since 2004, showcasing produce from Tasmania, King Island and Flinders Island in a fine dining setting, and doing a really good job of putting authentic relationships with Tassie farmers onto Melbourne plates. It was closed for most of 2016 for a renovation, expanding upstairs and reopening a year ago as two restaurants, the fine dining Pure South on level one and the casual P.S. on the riverside promenade, with 300 seaP.S.ts between them.
Chef David Hall oversees both venues, leading a gun team that massively over-delivers breakfast, and yay for that. (The world-beating Irishman, by the way, is Mark Moriarty. The journeyman on sabbatical is Clinton Camilleri, ex-Elyros. The local young gun is Matt Hammond.)
The same produce is used in the kitchens up and downstairs which means wins all round. Cream from outstanding Pyengana cheesery is piled on top of a towering hotcake, along with Tasmanian strawberries dressed with white balsamic and miso maple. Butter made from that superb cream is slathered over fruit toast. I am a butter-lover from way back and this stuff is the business.
Smoked eggs (local this time) are fried and served with a fat slice of glazed ham, sticky with muscovado sugar and madeira, leatherwood honey and orange juice, basted and glossy, then char-grilled right at the end. The ham and egg situation is English enough but add a puddle of house-made HP sauce and the Yarra River suddenly looks a little like London's Thames. The HP is dark and thick, redolent of tomato and onion, spiky with vinegar.
Ocean trout is cured in salt and sugar flavoured with lemongrass, seaweed and grapefruit; it's then smoked over applewood, piled in a croissant and tarted up with salmon roe and a snow-white poached egg. Fine technique turns a simple brunch sandwich into a luxurious interlude that shushes the world. I'd take this over a session in a float tank any day.
Later in the day, there are snacky bites: lobster dumplings, crunchy chicken and an excellent brioche bun filled with roasted mushroom and gruyere. From 5pm, steak sizzles on the grill.
P.S. is rambling and gently zoned; the pale blue rotating Carlton Draught clock hints at the unflappable hospitality of an old-fashioned pub. But it's also modern and elegantly timbered; even the curved corridor to the unisex toilets is pleasing.
Breakfasting in our fair city can be a bit of a palaver. There are often queues, crowds and the under-caffeinated anxiety of perusing a menu bursting with options. P.S. makes it easy: there's room, there's good, simple food backed up by lovely regional stories, and there's an outlook that's as Melbourne as a tram.