Spring has always been a time for green shoots, rebirth, recovery and hope, but this one is extra special. Because hope is more important right now than it's ever been. Everyone blossoms in spring, whether safe at home or out and about. Here's how.
Meet the sando
It's the Japanese sandwich taking Australia by storm. Forget sourdough. It's all about soft, white fluffy bread (Japanese milk bread, or shokupan, is traditional but any thick-cut fresh white bread will do) filled with everything from pork tonkatsu or silky omelettes to fried chicken.
But never has a sandwich been as pretty as the fruity versions of these sandos.
This easy hack combines springtime strawberries with a sweet cream cheese filling to spectacular effect, with every bite a mix of creamy, juicy, tart, sweet, soft and crunchy.
Get your hands on some shokupan milk bread (in Melbourne try the brilliant Brioche by Philip, or go on the waitlist at Quentin Berthonneau's Shokupan; in Sydney try Azuki Bakery in Newtown or Fuji Bakery in Killarney Heights). Or make your sandos with soft, buttery brioche loaves from the supermarket instead.
This is how we brunch now
Brunch is a state of mind, so let's kick up our heels, let down our hair, and enjoy this wildly popular meal however we can.
If that means turning your balcony or backyard into your favourite brunch spot, then do so.
Move the table outdoors, cover it with greenery, add floral cushions, a striped umbrella and a gleaming ice bucket for bottles of bubbly and pre-batched iced coffees.
And if you're scared of poaching eggs and haven't yet mastered your shiny new espresso machine, there has never been a more delicious way to bring brunch home, as cafes adapt their menu signatures for pick-up and delivery at weekends.
Babajan's mushroom and walnut borek. Photo: Ben Christensen
We have choices that reflect the beautiful diversity of our hospitality scene. Both Sonido cafe in Fitzroy and Arepa Days in Preston are doing Saturday home delivery of arepas, Colombia's irresistible little pan-fried cornmeal patties, ready to split and fill with avocado, bacon, whatever. You can even add coffee, empanadas, and basics such as milk, eggs and beer (that's a basic, OK?).
Use brunch as an excuse to snaffle the things you have been craving the most. It could be Middle Eastern eatery Babajan's home-delivered family pack of borek pastry stuffed with silverbeet and feta ($25), or their popular sucuk pide ($7.50), a crusty torpedo of house-made pastry filled with three different cheeses, beef sausage, parsley and egg, and coated with sesame seeds that will stick in your teeth and remind you for the rest of the day how good it was.
You haven't brunched properly until you've dusted flakes of golden filo pastry off your chin after eating pita from South Yarra's Sweet Greek. They're filled with zucchini and ricotta; cheese; chicken and leek; or spinach, and available for home delivery along with the best pita of all, sweet custard-filled galaktoboureko. (Or make your own zucchini pita with this recipe.)
Do-it-yourselfers, go for the vegetarian big breakfast box from ethically-minded community cafes Kinfolk and Sibling by Kinfolk. You'll get a haul of leafy greens, two avocados, 1 kilogram of baked beans, fresh mushies, 15 eggs and a loaf of sourdough ($60), which sounds like lunch and dinner as well. Add a $10 donation and they'll even send a home-cooked meal to someone in need. siblingbykinfolk.org.au
Al-muhuffin, house merguez sausage, fried egg, batata harra hash brown and toum from Nour in Sydney. Photo: Supplied
Sydney is Brunch City, where the options are as endless as the cloudless blue sky. Book a four-top on one of the north shore's favourite balconies, The Louis Terrace at Bathers' Pavilion, and knock back a spicy Bloody Mary as the waves roll in. Pair with oysters in a chilli-lime dressing from former Sailors Thai chef Ty Bellingham's Betel Leaf pop-up next door. batherspavilion.com.au
Further north is the magnetic pull of Corretto Dee Why, where a long lunch in the courtyard opposite the pine-lined beach starts with bruschetta, goes on to tuna tacos and beer-battered chips ($38 a head), and requires free-pour mimosas (2 hours, $30 a head). Gotta love a place run by a bar dude whose slogan is "good coffee 'til it's acceptable to drink cocktails". cornettodeewhy.com
Or stay home and order in a 12-pack of earl grey and rosewater iced doughnuts ($60) from Shortstop Coffee & Donuts (Darling Square and Barangaroo; also in Melbourne). And bung in a jar of their own crunchy peanut butter ($12) for toast while you're at it. short-stop.com.au
SIX MORE WAYS TO BRUNCH IN STYLE
- Upgrade your toast soldiers to long, elegant spears of springtime asparagus to dip into soft-boiled eggs. A little Yarra Valley trout roe wouldn't go astray, either.
- Throw a waffle party and set out a help-yourself table of maple bacon, chicken liver pâté, nutty vegetable dips and berries and cream. Waffles are personal, so this way everyone gets what they want.
- Shout yourself some new inside/outside glasses that can cope with the rugged schedule of working from home yet segue classily into brunch. French Luminarc glasses, 410ml, $10 (pictured). williamssonoma.com.au
- Upgrade your napkin game with a nautical stripe in sunny sherbet colours, $6. theboathousehome.com.au
Hardware Societe's scrambled eggs. Photo: Supplied
- Melbourne's rustic-chic Hardware Societe cafe has always been brunch-strong – so much so they wrote a book about it, No Eggs On Toast (plenty of other eggs and breads, however) to prop up your own brunch game. $50 from hardwaresociete.com
- Never underestimate the power of caffeine, heavily disguised in a stylish espresso martini. Get yours delivered (nationwide) from Seddon's neighbourly Lay Low bar, and raise a toast to vodka, Kahlua and first-press cold-drip coffee. ($35 for 330ml, $80 for 700ml) colabpantry.com.au
Neil Perry's spring minestrone (recipe here). Photo: William Meppem
- Give hummus a springtime makeover by blending one cup of thawed green peas with one can of chickpeas in a mini food processor with a grated garlic clove, sea salt, and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, adding lemon juice to taste. Lighten with warm water by the tablespoon if too thick, and serve with baby carrots for dipping or pumpernickel bread for spreading.
Braise your peas for a little French ooh-la-la. Gently soften leeks and spring onions in butter, add a dash of white wine and a cup of vegie or chicken stock. Arrange halved little gem lettuces in a pan and scatter on a handful or two of peas. Cover and braise on low for 10 minutes, until sweet and steamy. Serve with roast chicken, or as a light dish topped with a poached egg.
- For a fabulous springtime salad toss lightly cooked peas in a sharp, mustardy apple cider vinegar dressing and spoon over avocado halves.
Make a thick, rustic pea pesto by pounding a cup of just-cooked peas with a cup of basil leaves, sea salt, 2 garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons pine nuts or almonds, and 2 tablespoons grated parmesan, using a mortar and pestle. When smooth, slowly stream in up to 200ml extra virgin olive oil, and store in an airtight jar. Use as an instant sauce for pasta primavera, spoon over spring vegetables, or pile onto toasted sourdough for a bruschetta – and save a few peas to scatter over the top.
Sydney Italian restaurant Ragazzi is adding a food store. Photo: Edwina Pickles
There are welcome signs of life in restaurant, bar and cafe land, with new openings slated almost weekly in NSW, and delicate little buds of growth and regrowth scheduled for the end of lockdown in Victoria.
Sydney, you're in the swim again – the Poolside Cafe has finally unfurled the black-and-white striped umbrellas on the sunny terrace overlooking the Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool in The Domain. Even better, they are now offering all-day brunch, which means smashed avocado, smoothie bowls and chilled French rosé by the glass, all day long. poolsidecafe.com.au
More fun in the sun comes with Via Napoli's Luigi Esposito and crew going all southern Italy with The Amalfi Way, opening dockside on Woolloomooloo's yacht-fringed Finger Wharf in November. For Esposito, the Amalfi Coast means seafood, fresh ingredients, cocktails by the water, and good vibes. "By opening in late spring, I hope we're giving people a reason to get excited about the restaurant scene again," he says. theamalfiway.com.au
The CBD's tiny Ragazzi Wine and Pasta will open a gleaming stainless-steel food store called Fabbrica in late September. With its shelves of Italian pasta, pecorino, prosciutto, prosecco and fresh produce, "it's very much a product of our new world," says co-owner Matt Swieboda. 161 King Street, Sydney. ciaofabbrica.com
Another cause for celebration is a very grown-up gin distillery opening on October 1 in the heart of King's Cross (called, unsurprisingly, King's Cross Distillery)
November will see a glamorous new wine bar at Matt Moran's Aria on Circular Quay, with haute snacks by head chef Joel Bickford and 80 wines by the glass chosen by head sommelier Alex Kirkwood. "You might pair Joel's abalone toast, say, with Josh Cooper's Old Port Righ Vineyard chardonnay from the Macedon Ranges, or a yuzu whiskey sour. That's how a snack at the bar turns into one of your best nights out," says Kirkwood. ariasydney.com.au
The vada pav, a milk bun with potato fritter and coriander chutney, from Ansari. Photo: Jana Longhurst
Melbourne chefs continue to get a lot of love for their classy take-home initiatives, from Providoor (founded by Shane Delia stocking home-delivered food from some of Melbourne's best restaurants) to Co-lab Pantry (a digital pantry bringing goods and experiences from restaurants, cafes and bars).
There's extra love for those chefs holding foreign visas who have been left without means of support, such as Nabil Ansari, sous chef of Sunda, whose Mumbai-inspired dinners from The Concierge at the Hotel Windsor are selling like hot naan.
We have a special place in our hearts for those who opened in June and July, only to lock down soon after. We're talking about you, Gimlet, the glamorous bar from Andrew McConnell's team; Fitzroy's Poodle Bar and Bistro; and cute-as-hell Filipino Chibog in West Footscray. They'll all be back, and we can't wait.
Fitzroy's Rustica Bakery is sending out lockdown date-night packs of finish-at-home gnocchi, garlic bread, dessert and wine ($80). As if not busy enough, Rustica's baker-owner Brenton Lang has also taken on Williamstown landmark Hobsons Bay Hotel (formerly Hellenic Hotel) and will open a very bread-friendly eatery there in November. rusticasourdough.com.au
Latest word is that Martin Benn and Vicki Wild of Sydney's Sepia will be open for business with their flash new Melbourne CBD restaurant in January 2021. "We're cannot wait to finally open this project and just be in our restaurant again," says Wild. "It's been great to have time out, but we miss the excitement".
This article appears in Good Food in Sunday Life magazine within The Sunday Age and Sun-Herald on sale September 6.