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Best Brunch in Melbourne: A Local’s Guide for 2024 (South of the Yarra)

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4 weeks ago

I think the greatest joy of visiting Melbourne is tapping into the Melbourne lifestyle. Before you head off on a walking tour or explore Melbourne’s laneways and arcades, it is crucial that you start your day with a plate of Melbourne’s legendary brunch (or ‘brekkie‘ as we call it).

It’s important you understand that Australia takes brunch seriously and Melbourne is unquestionably Australia’s breakfast capital. From Melbourne’s iconic smashed avo to ricotta hotcakes, you can find Melbourne’s culinary influence proudly shared across cafes in London, New York, Hong Kong and beyond. In short, the modern Australian restaurant can best be described as a Melbourne brunch cafe.

However, unlike a British breakfast or New York bagel, brunch in Melbourne is a decadent affair. I’m always taken aback by the artistry and culinary genius of Melbourne’s cafes. From the pioneer brunches of the 2000s to the latest TikTok suburban trend, I guarantee your brunch won’t simply be a funnily named plate of avocado and eggs.

Rather, expect to find Melbourne’s breakfast geniuses experimenting with the subtle hints and flavors of Lebanese dukkah, the essence of cherry tomatoes or a twice-toasted almond curd.

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Melbourne challenges the Northern Hemisphere (we’re looking at London and Berlin) for being the most vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free city on earth. I always joke that only in Melbourne can you tell the waiter you’re paleo, gluten-free, pescatarian and allergic to soy and they’ll highlight 12 dishes on the menu for you.

In this guide, I’ll share my top 5 cafes in Melbourne – South of the Yarra River. As you’ll soon find out, Northside (as well call it) has a whole different energy and culinary palate.

5. Plain Sailing (Elwood)

What St Kilda lacks in brunch options, neighboring beachside Elwood makes up for. With a lovely outdoor section and within close distance to Elwood beach, Plain Sailing offers the best brunch in Elwood and one of my favorite brunch spots for a sunny day in Melbourne.

As can be expected in Elwood, Plain Sailing leans more towards a Sydney cafe vibe rather than your grungy Melbourne aesthetic. But the food here is always tasty and bursting with fresh flavors.

The zucchini and pumpkin fritters with white quinoa is my regular Plain Sailing order. I am a big fan of their toppings of sumac, zaatar and lime. If I’m looking for an early morning pick-me-up, the apple, cinnamon and date bircher with saffron poached pear feels like a treat. Honestly, it’s why I love brunch in Melbourne so much: it often feels like a fine dining affair.

4. Journeyman (Windsor)

Journeyman is a consistently high-quality brunch option on the Windsor end of Chapel Street and very much a favorite among Windsor and Prahran locals. Set in an oh-so-Melbourne exposed brick former industrial space, Journeyman offers some of the best coffee and all-day brunch options south of the Yarra.

Unquestionably the standout dish at Journeyman is the chilli scrambled eggs, served with smoked beetroot (I didn’t even know that was an option!) and a roasted salsa.

If you’re looking to take things up a notch, consider upgrading to the croissant option for only a few dollars more. I should warn you though: the chilli scrambled eggs can be a little heavy. You don’t get that level of creamy fluffiness by going lactose-free…

If you are looking for some unique brunch dishes, Journeyman offers a few items you won’t find elsewhere in Melbourne. The Persian feta potato croquette is an innovative dish combining a large potato croquette with fresh corn salsa, crispy kale and a poached egg.

If I’m in a healthy mood, I’ll often go for the charred greens. Despite the name, this fresh salad is incredibly filling and well-spiced, with kale, charred brocolli and dollops of fresh labneh.

3. Left Field (Carnegie)

We’ve all been there: after a long afternoon of shopping at Chadstone, you’re feeling kind of hungry but you’re in Melbourne and you definitely don’t want to waste a meal. Left Field steps in to fill that void, and, yes, we’re now heading very South of the Yarra for the best brunch in Carnegie.

Not your ordinary suburban cafe, Left Field’s menu is innovative and worthy of your attention. Think spicy veg tacos with halloumi and a raspberry pitaya pannacotta topped with their homemade signature muesli and, my personal favorite, ‘pistachio crumble’.

As can be expected, Left Field’s ‘signature’ avo is a work of art. I’d be lying if I told you I knew everything loaded onto this dish (and guessing is half the fun). But expect a slight Middle Eastern undertone (could it be beetroot hummus or sumac dukkha?) and a generous topping of goat cheese.

2. ST ALi. (South Melbourne)

Few Melbourne cafes have lasted the test of time. ST. ALi dates back to 2005, at the very beginning of the great Melbourne brunch renaissance. It is from this grungy South Melbourne establishment that great traditions like slow-drip coffee and ricotta hotcakes spread through Melbourne.

Like all good Melbourne brunch cafes, ST. ALi’s menu changes regularly, but you can generally expect to find great Melbourne classics like chilli scrambled eggs (with a generous dose of creme fraiche) and avo toast with an extremely artisanal grated egg.

st ali's best breakfast aleppo eggs

My go-to ST. ALi’s order is the Turkish Eggs, with poached eggs set on a bed of herbed labneh and ST. ALi’s in-house chilli oil, all served with fresh Peshwari naan bread. Another excellent choice is the My Mexican Cousin (a long-standing ST. ALi staple), with corn fritters, poached eggs and halloumi.

These dishes may pay homage to Türkiye and Mexico, but I can guarantee that you can only find them in Melbourne.

Local tip: Don’t miss out on the ST. ALi General Store, one of my favorite spots for unique Melbourne souvenirs.

From Nespresso-machine friendly pods to homemade crispy chilli oil, bring a little piece of one of South Melbourne’s best restaurants home with you.

If you’re craving one last brunch or, looking to bring some Melbourne-ground coffee home, you’ll find a small outpost of ST. ALi’s after immigration at Melbourne Airport. For those on the mornings flights out to East Asia, trust me that ST. ALi’s offers the best of Melbourne Airport food.

1. Hobba (Prahran)

Hobba is a rarity in the Melbourne cafe scene. Prahran may be full of brunch spots, yet Hobba takes the title of the best brunch South of the Yarra, and consequently the best cafe in Prahran. This long-standing brunch institution has managed to ride the waves and trends of Melbourne brunch and somehow continues to provide a high-quality, reliable and innovative menu on a regular basis.

Hobba has a large space, meaning that even on a busy weekend morning you can usually get a table fairly quickly.

You’ll want to keep an eye out for the specials board (especially for their semi-regular special, the Aleppo Eggs with labneh).

Otherwise, the main menu offers the best of Melbourne brunch classics. I usually come to Hobba for their chilli scrambled eggs with goat curd. The dish isn’t too creamy and it uses their own homemade, fermented chilli sauce. Both the pea and halloumi fritters and legendary Hobba hotcakes are also excellent (and very Melbourne) choices.

Special Mention: All Things Equal (Balaclava)

In the quickly-gentrifying Balaclava neighborhood sits one of the most unique restaurants in Melbourne. All Things Equal offers purposeful hospitality training and meaningful employment for people with disability.

The core vision of All Things Equal is to celebrate all abilities – alongside world-class coffee and brunch.

In my opinion, the breakfast at All Things Equal is extra-delicious, because you know how much heart has gone into the dishes. I’m a big fan of their roasted mushrooms, served with almond cream and pickled enoki. If you’re feeling indulgent, the latke benedict is served with a rich hollandaise and poached eggs.

Regardless of what you order, I guarantee that this is one brunch you won’t forget. And when you’re done, head across the road for some dessert at Haymisha Bakery – one of our best desserts in Melbourne.

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