20 Cowderoy St St Kilda West, VIC 3182
|Opening hours||Mon-Sat 7am-5pm; Sun 8am-4pm|
|Features||Cheap, Family friendly, Food shop|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9525 4971|
Michele Curtis is not a celebrity chef. Sure, she's got a book deal (Curtis co-authors the successful Foodie's Diary series and her 2002 collaboration with Alan Campion, In the Kitchen, is set for a 2018 refresh) and her column "Solving the dinner dilemma" ran in this publication during the mid-noughties – but Curtis isn't interested in fame. She's got a cafe to run.
And boy can she run. On a visit to her recently opened solo-venture Frankie's Top Shop, near the beach in St Kilda West, she's everywhere: in the kitchen, behind the coffee machine steaming lattes and on the floor crowd-controlling the weekend masses.
It's exhausting to watch all that work so we relax back into the Kermit-de-Frog-green faux-velvet banquettes to examine produce shelves stocked with Curtis' house-made jellies and chutneys (which we buy) and a $40 maple syrup (which we don't) while drinking Duke's espresso and almond milk, blueberry and coconut smoothies. It's a hard life.
Speaking of green, the joint has 50 shades of it, from the wet-look wall tiles (in gumleaf) to the expensive indoor plants (varying shades) and the kale, chard and spinach "super greens" that make an excellent side dish ... no doubt because they've been sauteed in butter.
Add these to poached eggs on sweet potato that's been roasted then smashed with turmeric and feta. So simple, so good, it's a "why didn't I think of that" moment. Ditto to a generous serving of silky folded eggs stuffed with mushroom and parmesan. Hell, pop them onto a pair of pancake-sized sweetcorn fritters too.
There are specials, including seasonal greens with fresh coconut and toasted almonds, and a Cypriot salad with freekeh, pine nuts and labneh, but unfortunately we don't find out about those until 15 minutes after we've ordered. It's a hiccup easily overlooked.
There's a strong focus on take-away, which is always a wise move in a residential area. Curtis will happily trade in lasagne, shepherd's pies and the aforementioned daily changing salads until the end of the day, even if the kitchen is closed.
Part of the genius at play here is the focus on wholesome, everyday foods, something which Curtis has earned quite a reputation for. There's no foam, 63-degree eggs or lobster doughnut burgers … and we couldn't be more delighted.
Pro Tip: Parking is scarce on weekends; ditch the car and walk.
Go-to Dish: Smashed roasted sweet potato with turmeric with toasted seeds, herbs and feta with poached egg.