Small Victories Carlton North is a cafe on Rathdowne Street that was awarded “Best Breakfast Spot of the Year” in The Age’s 2013 Good Food Under $30 Guide. It certainly sounded promising, so I headed down for breakfast to make up my own mind.
This part of Rathdowne Street has been experiencing a renaissance of late, and there are quite a few interesting looking spots to eat and drink that have opened up or are in the process of opening up. For breakfast, the tree lined streets and village-like atmosphere of the area certainly add to the appeal of any cafe located on the street.
The space is small and understated and suits the area with its simple design, white walls, wooden tables, chairs and shelves and white marble bar. It suits the area very well.
Owners Ben Farrant and Alric Hansen are committed to using local, fresh produce and, where possible, make as much as they can on site, including things like butter, yoghurt, jams and all of the smoked produce. With this focus, and their impressive pedigree working at several of the best restaurants in Melbourne (Rumi, Bar Lourinha, the Crimean), expectations were high.
It was quite busy on this Sunday morning, however we only had to wait about 10 minutes for our table for 4 to be ready.
Single Origin Espresso ($3.50)
As well as their usual blend from Brunswick Roastery Wide Open Road, Small Victories also has a rotating single origin bean on offer. This was a Kenyan bean, with noticeable honey undertones to it. It was perfectly pulled from the La Marzocco machine, it tasted great.
Poached Eggs on Toast with House Made Organic Butter ($10.00), Free Range Bacon ($5.00) and Oven Baked Mushrooms, Garlic & Rye Crisp ($6.00)
My friend ordered this, and was very happy with all of the food.
“Small Victories Mixed Grill” Fried Egg, Breakfast Sausage, Black Pudding, Croquette, Streaky Bacon, Baked Beans ($18.00)
My fiancée and I both ordered this. The only change from the menu was that we asked to have our eggs poached instead of fried, which was accommodated without fuss.
I loved the use of streaky bacon, and the croquette was a particular highlight, with the cheddar and leek interior melting in my mouth – a nice contrast to the crisp exterior. The black pudding was also very good – surprisingly light in texture for a black pudding.
The eggs were cooked perfectly and the beans were very tasty, with what I thought tasted of almost a slight tea flavour to them, although I would suggest that was more the herbs used in the tomatoes rather than any actual tea.
The only lowlight of this dish, which my fiancée agreed with, was the sausage which was tasty but somewhat dry.
Melon, Mango, Lime & Ginger Sago, Passionfruit, Basil Seed, Puffed Brown Rice, Candied Coconut ($13.00)
This was a very tasty dish. The fruit was ripe and of top quality, and the basil seed and puffed brown rice were a nice addition. The highlight that really put this relatively simple dish on another level however was the candied coconut. It had just the right level of crunch and sweetness, and the sugary coating didn’t overpower the coconut itself.
The pedigree of the owners really shows in the way they think about and treat their ingredients. The dishes are simple, with the ingredients allowed to do the talking, and little twists such as candied coconut, dill-and-yoghurt coleslaw and fenugreek syrup really serve to elevate the food above your usual cafe fare.
With good service, a great, focused selection of breakfast options, some tasty looking sandwiches and a good selection of lunch and dinner options, Small Victories is certainly worth checking out.
617 Rathdowne Street
Tue: 8:00am to 4:00pm
Wed – Sat: 8:00am to 10:30pm
Sun: 9:00am to 5:00pm