Lawyers, Guns and Money

Chongqing-style fried chicken with chilli and pepper.
Chongqing-style fried chicken with chilli and pepper. Photo: Pat Scala

505 Little Collins Street Melbourne, Victoria 3000

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Opening hours Mon-Fri 7am-3pm
Features Licensed, Cheap Eats
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Payments AMEX, Mastercard, Visa, eftpos
Phone 03 9614 0445

There's nothing like a plate of tripe and pig's ear at 8am to make you think about the concept of breakfast. But there I was, tucking in, tonguing tripe, slurping ear, happy as a (heartily carnivorous) clam at high tide, with nary a thought for the smashed avocado mountains dotting Melbourne breakfast plates for miles around.

I had my epiphany and I'll say it here and I'll say it now: breakfast orthodoxy begone. Let us leave the poached hordes to their soft eggs and their candied bacon, to their self-righteous bircher rubble, to their sad, wilted spinach. Give me a breakfast sozzled with chilli oil and let me see that I'm alive.

In short, give me breakfast at Lawyers, Guns and Money, the new legal district cafe from chef Victor Liong.

Lawyers, Guns and Money in the CBD's legal district.
Lawyers, Guns and Money in the CBD's legal district. Photo: Pat Scala

Liong's restaurant, Lee Ho Fook, has helped us rethink contemporary Chinese food. Here, he's giving us classic Chinese breakfasts made palatable for a suits-and-heels crowd.

So, yes, tripe and other braised meats, but also congee, a most benign rice porridge, especially when lacking the liver, heart and tendon tendencies you'd find in more traditional Chinese eateries. The accompaniments here include a relish with ginger and "century" egg (preserved egg but not super funky), fried bread and spicy pickles.

Come for lunch and it's mostly chicken, though the menu will soon expand. Fried wings or drumettes come either Chongqing style with chilli and Sichuan pepper, or stickier Shandong style with black vinegar. Both types have the juicy, luscious finish of brutally flash-fried protein.

Customise your congee (rice porridge) with century egg, Chinese doughnuts or oysters.
Customise your congee (rice porridge) with century egg, Chinese doughnuts or oysters. Photo: Pat Scala

The gentler dishes include Hainanese braised chicken (sweet, winningly sticky, subtly gingered), and a bowl of egg noodles with rich, dark beefy broth and fall-apart brisket. I am seeing a happy winter in this room.

More radical than the menu is the coffee situation. What kind of crazy person opens anything – food truck, pub, envelope – in Melbourne without paying $20,000 for an espresso machine? This one. The coffee is Vietnamese style drip-filter coffee; I love it with condensed milk.

Otherwise, there's tea, juice and spicy tomato – with vodka, if you like, because sometimes the proof of the breakfast pudding is in the hangover you have by lunchtime.

Tripe and mixed braised meats.
Tripe and mixed braised meats. Photo: Pat Scala

Rating: Three and a half stars (out of five)