665 Nicholson Street Carlton North, Victoria 3054
|Opening hours||Tue-Sun 8am-6pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||03 9381 1777|
In the early 20th century, Madame Poulard, the proprietor of the Hotel de la Tete d'Or in Normandy, was celebrated throughout France for the "exquisite lightness and beauty" of her omelettes, Elizabeth David writes in her 1959 article, An Omelette and a Glass of Wine. Speculation was rife about what Madame Poulard put in her omelette: water, or cream, or eggs from a breed of hens unknown in the rest of France, or even foie gras.
Finally, M. Robert Viel wrote to her and asked, publishing her reply in a magazine called La Table. There was no special ingredient, of course, no secret technique: just three fresh eggs, beaten, and a decent wodge of French country butter in the pan to cook them.
A fine cheese omelette ($16) is on the all-day menu at this rustic North Carlton cheese and wine shop and eatery. It's light and delicious, herb-flecked, with molten cheese mixing with the runny-egg insides. It's served simply with a slice of sourdough toast.
There's no real secret to this omelette either, says Tall Chef Monte Hudson: "Just three eggs, herbs, lots of good quality cheese – provolone and Maffra cheddar as the base, and some bits and pieces of soft white mould cheese from the cheese cabinet. Maybe a Milawa King River Gold."
The secret is that Hudson is the only Tall Chef: his original partner left nine weeks after they opened in June 2013. They split amicably, says Hudson – but that's another story.
The menu offers brunch until 3pm: fruit or sourdough toast with Myrtleford butter ($6), a plate of cinnamon French toast with caramelised apple, bacon and mascarpone ($15), eggs any way ($13).
Hudson has had a long kitchen career, including time at Tetsuya's in Sydney, Don Alfonso 1890 (a three-star hotel in Sorrento, Italy), and about 10 years all up at Buon Ricordo in Sydney. Buon Ricordo's Armando Percuoco "didn't teach me how to cook", says Hudson. "But he taught me that hospitality is not a business, it's a life."
The menu goes beyond the idea that breakfast is about eggs, toast and avocado. Tuna patties ($16) come with a delicious salad of shaved fennel and pickled coleslaw, a savoury-crunchy combination that complements the crisp-outside, soft-inside patties beautifully.
House-made pork, veal and truffle sausages ($16) are done crepinette-style, patty-shaped, wrapped in caul fat and served with roasted turnip puree. "If people want that to look like breakfast, we can just add a poached egg," says Hudson.
Baked eggs ($16) are cooked with a mix of cannellini and borlotti beans, spinach, yoghurt cheese and an almond and dukkah crust, and served with grilled sourdough for mopping up.
The toasted sandwich gets a workout, too: at the moment it's a sweet and meaty braised lamb and olive jaffle ($16) served with roasted tomato and goat's cheese, though it has been a croque monsieur and a chorizo and smoked mozzarella version.
Breakfasty sides ($3) include streaky bacon, Pacdon Park black pudding, kaiserfleisch and baked beans. And the Chefs are licensed all day, so there might be a bottle of chardonnay open, for a glass of wine with that omelette.