Where: New School Canteen, 379-381 George Street Fitzroy
What: Jack of all trades, master of the iced almond latte
Bloat score: 0 – Living the dream
I had an immense hankering for a Melbourne brunch after spending the last two weeks of January in Kuala Lumpur and Bali breakfasting on roti canai, dim sum or dosa and avoiding coffee for fear of having to use a public drop toilet. I turned my sights to New School Canteen – a new café that had popped up in the backstreets of Fitzroy.
A perusal of the menu a few days prior revealed that New School Canteen prides itself on a number of things – Thai boat noodles and English scotch eggs sit alongside artery-clogging burgers and faddish chia puddings. I contemplated ordering the ‘brunch boat noodles’ – which comprised slow-cooked pork belly and spring onion and lime leaf meatballs with glass noodles in a spiced broth – but reasoned that it was teeming with onion and garlic, and opted for the crispy wok-fried eggs with braised bacon, wilted greens, glass noodles and peanuts without the chilli fried onions, tasty though they sounded. Funny too that I felt like a Melbourne brunch, but was tempted by the more Asian-inspired dishes on the menu, passing over the more quintessential house smoked salmon with poached eggs and corn fritters.
I was somewhat disappointed by my dish when it arrived. There were no glass noodles, not in the form I took them to be, and the dish paled in comparison to a ‘pad woon sen’ that I’d had at Thai brunch place One Yada, where the aromatic glass noodles came with an egg, tomato, mushroom and Chinese cabbage stir-fry and which I’d subconsciously hoped this dish would emulate. That aside, the braised bacon was generous and flavoursome, and I used the wilted greens to mop up the sticky sweet sauce that the fluffy fried eggs sat atop.
Two friends went down the ‘burger for brunch route’, with one ordering ‘The Pig Boss’, which featured pork shoulder and pork crackling sandwiched by crunchy peanuts, sesame choy sum, Sriracha mayo and a white roll, while the other went for the decadent-sounding ‘Cauli Cheeseburger’, which came with grilled cauliflower, a whole lot of cheese, leek and garlic mushrooms (even typing those words makes me shudder) and lettuce, tomato and onion.
Neither seemed particularly impressed by their meal – the former expected his to be a burger because it was categorised so on the menu, and the latter immediately regretted his choice to indulge in copious amounts of cheese at such an early hour and suffered from three bloats after in a stunning role reversal of our usual brunch experience.
The ones who liked their dishes the most were perhaps my other two friends who ordered ‘The Scotch’ and ‘Freekeh Time’ respectively. The ornately crumbed scotch egg came with pork and leek stuffing, a whole heap of bacon, and grilled cheesy toast on the side, with my friend remarking that its reasonable portion size prevented the inherent richness of the dish from becoming too overwhelming, although he was unnerved by how much his dish resembled a ghoulish face.
The roasted cauliflower and freekeh salad with crispy spiced chickpeas and salt and vinegar kale chips received a rave review, if disappointment that its portion size was too small.
There were a couple of hiccups, with the iced almond latte that I ordered arriving nearly 20 minutes after everyone else’s coffees had arrived, and the café incorrectly charging us for a regular almond latte that no one had ordered. I, however, was immensely glad for the distinction between ‘iced lattes’ and ‘iced coffees’ on the menu – the former is an espresso and chilled milk poured over ice, while the latter is equivalent to death for me with its inclusion of ice cream.
While there are too many cafes popping up in every corner of Melbourne for me to hurry back to New School Canteen, I appreciated its diverse menu and the fact that I could walk home after my first brunch back in Melbourne without succumbing to an overpowering need to use the toilet – a win in every sense of the word.
New School Canteen is open from 8am to 10pm Saturday to Sunday and from 7am to 10pm Monday to Friday.