276 Brunswick Street Fitzroy, Victoria 3065
|Opening hours||Daily, 7am-4pm|
|Features||Outdoor seating, Vegetarian friendly|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|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.
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.