One of the pleasures of this time of year is getting to catch up with friends who normally live overseas but are in town to visit family for Christmas. My friend K is currently working and studying in Japan, and was staying in Parkville for a few days. She’s vegetarian, so I suggested we go to Mule Café and then have a wander up Sydney Road, which has gone very veg-friendly in the five or so years since she left Melbourne.
Mule Café has been around for about three years, but I’ve only discovered it in the last month or two. It’s a small, quiet sort of brunch place, with a courtyard out the back, and a standard sort of cafe set up at the front. The menu is excellent – I am going to have to overcome my tendency to fixate on one thing I like and actually work my way through it, because it is full of fascinating combinations that take your standard brunch dishes and give them a lovely twist. It’s so appealing that I very nearly ordered a tofu dish today, something I have never done before and would not have imagined I would want to do…
In fact, I am hereby proclaiming that next time I go there, I *will* have the corn and sweet potato cakes with guacamole and salsa and poached egg, and that the time after that, it will be cajun tofu and no excuses.
But I digress. Monday’s choice was the potato and pumpkin rösti with poached egg, grilled tomato, beetroot relish and zucchini, coriander and feta salad.
I mean, can’t you just about taste the colour and freshness just from reading that sentence? This is why I keep ordering the same dish when I go there. It’s irresistible. The potato and pumpkin rösti is fairly plain, but the beetroot relish is earthy and sweet, the egg is perfectly poached so that the yolk runs all over everything when you pierce it, and the zucchini and feta salad is fresh and light and gorgeous. It’s pretty much the perfect breakfast.
My friend ordered the french toast with poached pears, walnuts and mascarpone, and that was pretty amazing, too. The french toast tasted like a really good pancake, the pear was boozy and the mascarpone and walnuts were the perfect complement. Also, it was gorgeous to look at.
In terms of the menu overall, it’s very veg-friendly – I wasn’t analysing, but I’d say it was at least 2/3 vegetarian, and there were a fair number of vegan options. There were a lot of gluten-free dishes, too – definitely a café which is aware of these dietary requirements. It’s also pretty inexpensive – we had two meals, a fresh orange juice and coffee, and got change from $40.
I also want to comment particularly on the customer service, which has been exceptional every time I’ve been there. The staff are very friendly and helpful – the first time I went there, I was in a rush, and they let me know which dishes could be served up most quickly, and got me fed and back out the door within about twenty minutes. The second time I went there, there was a mix-up with my order (due to two similar items being on the menu), and they had no more roesti left; the chef came out, apologised, and asked what he could do, and when I explained that I don’t eat bacon and was really after the salsa and salad, I wound up with a meal that had all the best elements of both menu items. And then they gave me my drink for free and charged me for the cheaper of the two items.
I actually felt quite guilty, because it seemed to me that I’d ended up with, in fact, the meal I would have liked to order if only it had been on the menu, and yet they were apologising to me… And the thing is, mistakes happen. That’s just a fact of life. But making your mistake into something better than the original is pretty impressive, if you ask me.
146 Sydney Rd, Brunswick VIC 3056
Tel: 9388 8933
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Two years ago: Recipe: Baked Ricotta
One year ago: 2013 in Review