Stagger Lee's

Cutting-edge contemporary: Inside Stagger Lee's.
Cutting-edge contemporary: Inside Stagger Lee's. Photo: Anu Kumar

276 Brunswick Street Fitzroy, Victoria 3065

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Opening hours Daily, 7am-4pm
Features Outdoor seating, Vegetarian friendly
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Chef Chris Hamburger
Phone 03 9419 5564

Brunswick Street needs another cafe like I need another hole in the head …

Have I said that before? If I have, it was a long time ago - at least a year - and everybody has probably already forgotten. And anyway, it's not strictly true.

There's Marios, which has hardly changed, ever; there's Atomica still doing its original roaster thing; there's even the Black Cat - still - which has kind of grown up (or old, you choose), and now morphs from cafe by day to bar by night. But a smart contemporary coffeehouse with a tight menu and cutting-edge coffee it has not had.

The Mexican: Fried eggs, tortillas and tomatillo salsa.
The Mexican: Fried eggs, tortillas and tomatillo salsa. Photo: Anu Kumar

Enter Stagger Lee's, with a fitout of raw brick, dark timber and big windows opening on to street-corner seating - the perfect backdrop for the twin Brunswick Street pastimes of watching and being watched over brunch.

Chris (The Aylesbury, St Ali North) Hamburger's one-page menu works a variety of cafe-goer moods. Something for a sluggish Sunday morning? How about a fat bacon toasty: thick house-smoked rashers in sourdough toast with melty cheddar and tangy-sweet house-made HP to cut through the fat. Two halves of beetroot-pickled egg give an extra vegie-tinged protein hit, while a little salad of parsley leaves and shaved fennel adds the lightest touch of vinaigrette crunch.

The Stack and Billy burger is a hungry handful - beef-shin patties on a seedy brioche bun with mustard, ketchup, pickles, cheddar, a rocket and parsley salad plus a pair of bacon-and-cheese croquettes on the side (load up, why don't you).

But it's hard to beat the Mexican: a couple of lovely runny-yolked fried eggs resting in soft tortillas with a mess of avocado, charred corn, creme fraiche and roasted tomatillo salsa. From the moment the plate landed on the low communal table it said: ''Just eat me!''

Coffee (with Nolan Hirte of Proud Mary involved) is pared back to single origins, no blends. There's the Brazil Fagma house bean, which Hirte apparently has a truckload of. In milk coffee it's a chocolate milkshake bomb, sweet and rich and mouth-filling, with a hint of fruit.

There's a top-shelf single origin that comes at a premium - just over $5 in the case of a Colombia CMC gesha. In a full single-shot short black it has nutty vanilla and sweet lime fruit and a kind of lingering silky-savoury finish, almost as much an idea as anything. Maybe it was the five bucks talking, but I went back the next day for another one.

Proud Mary is famous for its weekend queues and has destination status for its coffee - I swear I saw a Japanese tourist taking snapshots out front once. No doubt the queues - and the cameras - will soon be appearing in Brunswick Street, too.

Do … Expect a queue on the weekend.

Don't … Miss the luxe milkshakes: salted caramel with choc chunks.

Dish … The Mexican: fried eggs, tortillas and tomatillo salsa.

Vibe … Brunswick Street, but not as we know it.