And the winner is…Top Paddock!
From the team behind phenomenally successful cafes APTE, Liar Liar, Three Bags Full and Two Birds One Stone comes a big, bold, seven-day-a-week eatery. It lives among the chi-chi furniture stores of Church Street and is nowhere near a paddock (though there is a large adjoining grassy lawn strewn with blankets and cushions) but it is tops. Even The Age agrees, crowning Top Paddock Best New Cafe in 2013.
Come here on a weekend and it’s happy mayhem as eager diners fill the light-drenched dining room, sit by the bar at the coffee machine, linger at the small tables by the takeaway station or hide in the narrow back balcony which captures the midday sun.
As the cafe doesn’t take bookings on Saturday or Sunday there will probably be a bit of a queue but it moves quickly and efficiently (they take bookings for groups 4 or more Monday to Friday).
The all day menu ranges from breakfast classics to more substantial lunch time offerings and you can mix and match as you please. As such, I decide to go backwards and order pan-fried local snapper with a chilli-fried egg, avocado, salsa and lime and corn tortilla ($17.50) then finish off with one of the sweet breakfast dishes in the form of drunken gingerbread with season berries and chocolate marscapone ($14). The menu gives credit to its paddock-to-plate producers, indicating the kitchen’s commitment to using local, organic ingredients where possible. There’s even some Little Vegie Patch planter boxes out the front for quick pickings.
When the plate of fish came out I almost regretted pre-emptively ordering a two course lunch. It was huge and and every inch of the flat rustic platter was scattered with grilled fillets of fish, chunks of avocado, what seemed like a whole punnet of juicy cherry tomatoes and a smattering of micro-herbs. You’ll need to get your hands dirty for the tortilla – use it to wrap up some fish, avocado and tomato and to mop up the egg yolk. I loved this fresh and vibrant dish that gave a nod to Mexico for inspiration – like a deconstructed fish taco x 3.
My ‘dessert’ or reverse breakfast was a throwback to a similar dish that I’ve had at Three Bags Full and if this isn’t a signature dish it should be. Three chunky slabs of just-crisp, Christmas pud spicy gingerbread and more antioxidants than you could throw a stick at with fresh berries scattered everywhere and a berry coulis in the miniature enamel jug as well. The use of chocolate-flecked marscapone was genius, as unlike ice-cream it didn’t create a dribble of melting custard which would make the gingerbread soggy.
Top Paddock uses Five Senses coffee as well as using an in-house roaster to create signature blends to match the food. As a non-coffee drinker I like that it’s a cafe that takes its food very seriously and despite the frenetic hum on the floor the food came quickly and the service was friendly. The menu is so interesting and varied that I can’t wait to return. Top Paddock, you’re a winner!
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