Three Monkeys Place

Does breakfast taste better when it's this pretty? Yes! The bircher at Three Monkeys Place.
Does breakfast taste better when it's this pretty? Yes! The bircher at Three Monkeys Place. Photo: Chris Hopkins

2 Jackson Ct Doncaster East, VIC 3109

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Opening hours Daily 8am-4pm
Features Licensed, Cheap Eats, Vegetarian friendly, Outdoor seating, Gluten-free options, Breakfast-brunch
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Chef Keith Wong
Payments eftpos, Cash, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 8528 4214

It's been scientifically proven that photographing food makes it more enjoyable to eat, because the ritual of considering, positioning and snapping elevates perception of the observed dish, and also because it delays gratification.

It's true! I read it in Psychological Science! However, the same study suggests that watching someone else take a photo does not enhance enjoyment and (according to my own anecdotal experience) can actually be really, really annoying.

But what's a person supposed to do when faced with the beautiful breakfasts at Three Monkeys Place, a year-old cafe that's changed daytime dining in Doncaster? The food is so pretty.

Two-tone cured salmon is coiled like flowers and offset by black olive crumble, French toast is piled up like Jenga blocks and strewn with berries and flowers, and the bircher muesli is garnished with a red disc of lemon-and-honey jelly formed over bubble wrap so it looks like honeycomb.

Perhaps even more spectacular is the Sweet Monkey, a blow-out brunch made with house-made roti "pancakes" and piled up with berries, mascarpone, raspberry compote and a sweet rubble that contains Oreo biscuits and other naughties.

The whole show would fall down if the dishes didn't taste good: luckily it's not just window-dressing. The eggs spill with sunny yolks, the fried things are golden and crisp, and the fruity bits are fresh and crunchy.

Three Monkeys is owned by Doncaster locals Dennis Huynh, Lina Tran and Sam Tran who didn't think it was right that their suburb's cafes, 20 kilometres from Melbourne's CBD, lacked the creativity and pizzazz of inner-city counterparts.

The original Three Monkeys upped the game and then some when they added Hong Kong-born chef (and co-owner) Keith Wong to the mix. Wong's fine dining background shows in his attention to detail; experience with Asian cooking shines through in his star anise and tamarind-flavoured pork belly, in the tea-smoked egg that comes with a lunchtime octopus dish, and in the lively papaya and mango salad that underpins the crisp, fluffy corn fritters. It's on-point cooking in a humble setting.

The courtyard is bigger than the interior here and we all know what that means.

Wait, what? No, I wasn't thinking about the fresh air, space for prams, or the large tables perfect for relaxed group brunching, though they are all in evidence. I was thinking about the great natural light for photos.

Now, excuse me while I ritually enhance my brunch.

Stepping it up in Melbourne's Doncaster East.
Stepping it up in Melbourne's Doncaster East. Photo: Chris Hopkins

Rating: four stars out of five

http://www.threemonkeysplace.com.au/