203 Carlisle Street Balaclava, Victoria 3183
|Opening hours||Daily 7am-5pm; drinks and deli till 8.30pm|
|Features||Outdoor seating, Vegetarian friendly|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||03 9531 3699|
It's a lazy time of year. If the remote control is out of reach then I stay on the same channel. If the bread isn't sliced I just tear off a hunk and shove it down. If no one gets me a glass of water then I guess I'll be thirsty. I do have a survival plan, though: have someone piggyback me to Las Chicas for a happy holiday brunch.
Las Chicas has been feeding Balaclava for 11 years but a recent renovation has sparked a new golden age. There are more seats (up from 80 to 120) including a solo-friendly window counter facing Balaclava station.
There's a bigger and better kitchen running an extensive eat-in menu and keeping a take-home deli counter stocked with salads and pastries. The rear courtyard now has a retractable roof and a fireplace (unthinkable now but it will be gorgeous in winter). They've even installed the steel structure necessary to support a rooftop bar, though you'll be waiting until next summer for that one.
The energy is upbeat, the food is smashing, the appeal is massive: go there.
I'm a sucker for the Las Chicas classic Bikini Blowout Benedict, a bagel with poached eggs, crushed avocado, bacon and lashings of just-right hollandaise. My own bikini is always draped by a kaftan so the blowout is no problem.
The big breakfast is sublime: everything is cooked carefully and portions are generous. Other dishes push the healthy button. The Breaky Greens is a jolly brunch salad with dukkah-crumbed poached eggs, kale and broccoli, plenty of nuts and the chirpy pop of pomegranate seeds.
There's a goji berry porridge that probably has its own clean-eating cheer squad.
Juices are laced with "it" ingredients, like the flurry of turmeric and chia seeds in the Youthful Glow pineapple smoothie.
Service is generally very good though it's a rare hospitality business that doesn't struggle with summer newbies and casuals. On a recent visit, I had a face full of house-cured pastrami on rye when a waiter enquired if I was all done. Luckily, the excellent Rubenesque toastie was too tasty – and I'm way too lazy – to splutter in outrage.
Las Chicas is a great all-rounder and its broad offering makes it easy to play indulgent or lean in to wellbeing. Add a shot of protein powder to your juice or greet the day with a Bloody Mary. Drink single origin coffee or a decaf soy latte. Eat burritos, bagels, burgers or cacao bites.
Come on your way to work for a muffin or on the way home for sunset spritzers or take-away meals from the fridge. Or, do as I do, and park yourself around midday for a slothfully sumptuous brunch.
Rating: Four stars (out of five)
Note: Cafe closed December 31-January 2.