I'll admit it.
I've never been a huge fan of Proud Mary.
One of Melbourne's crown jewels in the brunching scene, that has stood tall and strong for such a long time now (by cafe standards), and for many of my interstate friends a must-visit despite the half an hour or longer wait; it's just never grabbed my attention as being outstanding. Guess it helps I don't drink coffee, so I've never gotten to see that side of it, but for brunch? Many more options that are just as good in my opinion, and most of the time, better.
Which is why when I heard that Stagger Lee's was opening, I was massively 'meh', which was reinforced by some of the mixed reviews I was hearing. So whilst I knew it was about, it was quite low on my brunching priority list.
However recently, one of my colleagues, who I've recommended to many places since I've been working at BrandWorks asked if I had been, and was telling me how clever and fun the menu was, as we had been discussing how Melbourne brunch menus can go a bit stale every now again.
A quick google, a menu ogle (that left me salivating) and that weekend I found myself there with Brad.
I was most pleased that there weren't half an hour waits, instead we were promptly seated on a communal table.
Stagger Lees felt spacious, with much more light than Proud Mary, but was classically Melbourne hipster chic with distressed brick walls, coloured weatherboards down the back, cold drip contraptions on the table and naked light bulbs hanging from the ceiling.
I love the comic book style art on the menus, and the hints of teal that are consistent through the cafe. There's a little bit of attitude in general, but the cool bad-ass attitude that makes you wish that you were them (or a bit more like them).
Seeing that almond milk was available, scrawled on one of the chalkboards, I couldn't resist getting my usual chai with it, and enjoyed it. Not as creamy as milk or soy milk might be, but good flavour.
Brad's coffee looked exceptional (but I guess with Proud Mary heritage, it better be looking damn good!)
Preditable as ever, Brad ordered the Frank n' Beans, saffron baked beans with smoked ham hock, chorizo, soft poached egg, herb and garlic crumbs and topped with a long sliver of toast. Wholesome, hearty, comforting, Stagger Lee's did this very well. Loved that it was more stewy, and not too wet, the beans were lovely and meaty and it all just came together very nicely. Perfect comfort food. Especially in this weather!
However…I think I found brunch heaven with my Shrooms 'n' Truffles dish. Pan roasted local pine mushrooms, truffled polenta, a confit egg yolk, pecorino pepato and farmhouse toast.
Wow, wow, wow. I could hardly pick my jaw off the floor as the truffle aroma hits in me in the face. The polenta is creamy and rich, the pine mushrooms buttery and beautiful and the confit egg yolk just lazily fuses itself into the polenta, a comforting orange stream of delicious. Add a couple of crunchy croutons for texture, and pecorino to just tip one over from earth to heaven.
I just could not shut up. With each mouthful I cooed, swooned and sighed happily, audibly. The only sad thing is that the plate eventually is empty, and I was perhaps not quite as full as I could have been, however I did not eat all the bread (as I forgot to request for gluten free bread), so I suppose that might have helped!
Despite my initial reservations, I was absolutely exhilarated to be bowled over and fall in love with Stagger Lees. I'm already considering what to have next visit, and will definitely plan to try out one of the 'Gangsta Milkshakes', the salted caramel one with chocolate chunks has my name all over it...
276 Brunswick Street
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