Twenty and Six, North Melbourne

594 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne 9329 0298
We went: Sun March 22, 2014 
Verdict: 16/20
http://www.twentyandsix.com.au/

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In a nutshell: popular, trendy café that is almost too small to cope with the ever swelling numbers that want a piece of it. Has an outdoor area that resembles an inner urban backyard… which is a good thing (though it may get a wee bit chilly in winter if they don’t invest in a few heaters).

The brunch team: me, wife, two female friends.

We ate:
–       Smoked ham hock with pureed peas
–       Fried polenta, braised mushrooms, asparagus, ricotta, salsa verde, poached egg

Fried polenta

Fried polenta… food envy!

Conversation topics:
–       relationships
–       family
–       comedy festival

Food:

I had the smoked ham hock with pureed peas, as did my friend. It would have to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing brunch options in Melbourne (perhaps even the world!). But at the end of the day, what is it? It is ham, toast, eggs, peas and pureed peas. Maybe I am being cycical, but then I was hungover (again!). My less-hungover friend told me to “ease up about the food” when I sent her a draft of the review. She had the smoked ham hock too and said “it was delicious”… so she’d be a better judge than me.

Smoked ham hock

Smoked ham hock… an aesthetically-pleasing dish.

I do remember suffering a little food envy for those who chose the fried polenta. Reports on this were favourable although nothing to write home about. The salsa verde was “yummy” and the fried polenta had “nice texture”. The menu has a fairly English feel about it (although the fare is a cut above what you’d get at a corner ‘greasy spoon’, that is for sure).

Do yourself a favour and order a donut. We had a salted caramel one, which was delicious. Not dissimilar to the jam donut that goes around at the local footy but with a rich salty filling. There is also the option of the peanut butter jelly flavour. The wife suggested heating the donuts wouldn’t hurt. 

Food rating: 4.5/5

Donut

Mmm… donut

Coffee:

Living in a city renown for good coffee certainly has its perks. Having lived in London for a while, finding a decent coffee can be like finding a cab after midnight in Melbourne on a Saturday night. The problem with it is our baristas are quite protective about their craft – perhaps rightfully so – and are quite particular about certain aspects of said craft. Let’s take milk temperature, for example. Some sources state the milk should be heated to 60C with a pouring temperature of 65-70C. I’ve even seen some (slightly wanky places) put a sign up telling customers “We serve our coffee at 53C because this is the optimum temperature for heating milk in coffee” BLAH BLAH BLAH… yeah, we hear you. You’re special. The thing is, milk has a lower boiling temperature than water (80C vs 100C) so the last thing you want is to boil the milk. You just want to heat it. Also, the temperature of the milk affects the chemical composition of the coffee when they are combined so there is a heat ‘range’ that will get best results.

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My point is, sometimes baristas err too much on the side of caution when heating milk and it’s on the cold side of warm. It could have been due to us being seated outside but our coffees (plural) at Twenty and Six were a little on the cold side.

After brunch, I ordered a cup of filtered coffee (7 Seeds, Guatamala). I am a filtered coffee convert, I must admit. It seems to have much more character than milky coffee and doesn’t leave you feeling bloated yet still gives a nice buzz. Plus I like it when coffee places offer something that’s a bit off the beaten track, like Single Origin, cold drip or filtered options.

Coffee rating: 4/5

Price: ~$120 (four pax)

Ambience:

I guess you have to expect a bit of a wait if you go to a place that is popular. But perhaps that’s what sorts the wheat from the chaff… a good brunch place is one that can pump out quality food and coffee, at pace, even when there’s a crowd. Or maybe us folk at MBS are just a bit fussy? We like good brunch and value fast enough service that doesn’t have us wondering when the food is coming. We did the Sunday Age quiz then waited another 15 minutes before our meals arrived. Some from our team said that was fine… perhaps I am too impatient.

It was a little chilly out the back where we were seated. The furniture is not overly comfortable but it’s all made from recycled materials so that’s commendable. As winter digs in its icy claws, you’d hope they invest in a couple of tall heaters… I’m sure they were on order when we visited.

At the end of the day, it’s a standard backyard… with an outside loo.

We sat out the back because it was chockers inside, as it is most of the time on weekends (so this part will just be about the outside area).

Ambience rating: 3.5/5

Service:

The wait staff were very nice and smartly dressed. One gentleman even had mustard-coloured trousers that matched the coffee mugs. Asked if it was intended, he indicated that’s what he was going for. That’s dedication! The guy with the beard (the one who was wearing the mustard trousers) was very good.

Service rating: 4/5

Twenty & Six Espresso on Urbanspoon

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