658 Church Street Richmond, Victoria 3121
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 7am-4pm, Sat-Sun 8am-4pm|
|Phone||03 9429 4332|
Lots of people eat lots of avocado without ever seeing an avocado because avocado is that creamy green stuff that comes with breakfast. Not here. At Top Paddock, an impressive new cafe from the owners of Two Birds One Stone, avocado is served in its skin and you spread it yourself. As avocado varieties come in and out of season, the dish will look different. It's a small, direct way in which chef Jesse McTavish expresses his farm-to-plate philosophy. I think it's great.
What's also great is the design of this sprawling cafe. A coffee station is the axis for various zones: a deck with rockery, large tables for birthday lunches, round tables for corporate brainstorming, nooks for catching up on emails, and perches for people-watching. There's an open feeling, augmented by multiple entrances, skylights and covetable lighting fixtures.
Big can mean busy and the service ranges from wonderful to overwhelmed. The same menu runs all day and the chef, who is from Byron Bay, would love it if you ate fish for breakfast. Choose from gin-cured trout with beetroot relish or pretty pan-fried kingfish that's given a Mexican wave by arranging it with baby coriander, fried egg and a corn tortilla that's tricky to eat with knife and fork.
Pulled pork is made from the neck and shoulder of a pig that's delivered by the farmer who raised it; the meat is braised to succulent surrender with fennel and lemon and served with sodden prunes over a hunk of rye. Think of the bread as an inside-out stuffing.
Traditional breakfast dishes are given a good shaking. Polenta porridge is robust but doesn't sit like an anchor in the stomach. The ricotta hotcake is epic: just try it, fight over it, applaud it. The sweets display includes a chocolate cheesecake brownie that's been in co-owner Nathan Toleman's swag since his first cafe, Alphington's APTE. It's evil and delightful, as ever.
Coffee is taken seriously; the lattes are good and there's single-origin fun, too.
Top Paddock rockets into the top echelon of the Melbourne cafe scene because it's one of a number of places taking food as seriously as any hatted restaurant. That doesn't make for a cheap brunch but, taken in context, it's a win at weeny prices.
3.5 stars (out of five)