Hammer & Tong 412 (Fitzroy)

Like most cooks, I grow obsessions with frightful regularity. I discovered the incredible flavour of freshly ground coriander seed (over the store bought pre-ground stuff) and almost every meal involved a sprinkle or heavy coating of the stuff. Green beans cooked in chicken stock, butter and a sprinkling of ground coriander seeds have become my signature at home.

Recently, it’s been the difference between the cheap versions of smoked paprika, and the stuff that’s imported from Spain, that one that comes in a little tin. It’s smokey spice inspires so many recipes that send me scouring through the pages of my Movida cookbook, that Spanish / Mexican / Portuguese section of my Food Safari book. Okay, I know paprika isn’t Mexican, but you start thinking spice and you combine them with salsas, chimichurri, chilli and chorizo and the rest of that stuff that makes your eyes light up, your tongue twitch.

Paprika

Paprika

So what the hell does all of this have to do with an incredibly popular brunch/ drinks / dinner place in Fitzroy? Nothing at all, except for the fact that it is just a stone throw from Case Iberica Deli. When there is a trip from the suburbs into the city, there is brunch involved*.

So the popular place in Fitzroy is Hammer and Tong. It’s run by two blokes who have a list of credentials that are as long as these winter rainy weeks. The last on the list is Vue de Monde, and with that predigree I was excited.

Front of house showed that experience. Friendly and casual as you expect from brunch, but efficient as you would expect from the top end of Melbourne dining.

The brunch menu has a lot of standards, a version of eggs benedict, some form of baked eggs option, pancakes, some smoked salmon and a grainy salad. All looked great and I was torn between the lemon and lime bitters cured Atlantic salmon (sounds brilliant) and the eggs benedict. Mrs Johnson didn’t get past the 5th item on the menu, buttermilk pancakes with blueberry and maple syrup. Oh, and popping candy.

Pancakes with popping candy

Pancakes with popping candy

I was sucked in by the eggs benedict with a side of the house made haloumi (how the hell do you make haloumi?)

Eggs Benidict

Eggs Benedict

The pancakes looked a bit of a mess, and while tasted great, probably too rich, too thick and a little gimmicky. I challenge anyone to finish the whole plate.

The eggs benedict were disappointing. The bacon (from Istra Smallgoods, just out of Daylesford) was distinctly lacking in flavour or smokiness. That aside, it was the “black pepper hollandaise” that was the real letdown. I’m not sure if it was because it was a “black pepper” hollandaise that they went without the lemon juice but it was bland and tasteless. Eggs, a little underdone. Not much, but enough for that runny uncooked egg white to run. That’s not really cool.

Haloumi was brilliant. I should have just got a plate of the haloumi.

Coffee was excellent, really really excellent. I can strongly recommend their coffee. I wish I was offered a second. Would have happily paid for a second.

It’s a pity that such a beautiful looking restaurant missed the mark with me, and I should give them another crack. It’s a great menu, but for me too many “could have been better”.

Well, off to buy some chilli’s.

Hammer and Tong 412 on Urbanspoon

* for the record, since moving to the suburbs, we have discovered that quality brunch is a inner city thing. I’m yet to find a place out here** that understands that not everything needs to be in a focaccia, that you can cook eggs and bacon fresh to order, that coffee isn’t supposed to be piping hot and that mushrooms don’t need to be cooked into a paste.

** when I say “out here” I do appreciate that we don’t live “out there”. We still have running water, electricity. I’m being snobbish of course.

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About johnsonskitchen

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