Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published September 21st 2011
Located about halfway down Gertrude Street, Arcadia Cafe is an excellent place to go for brunch and coffee. There's usually a free table or two, and while the food is as delicious as anywhere in the Fitzroy cafe district, the atmosphere is wonderfully casual. There are few better places in Melbourne to go for a late breakfast and a coffee.
The d้cor is a little kitschy but overall very functional. The clipboard-style menus, brick walls, and smell of coffee are similar to Seven Seeds if you visit there regularly, Arcadia Cafe will feel like home. There are benches along the window if you're by yourself, smaller tables for groups of two or three people, and one large table that can seat about eighteen or nineteen (twenty might be pushing it.) It's a good idea to call ahead and book if you want the larger table, but if there's five or less of you then you can be pretty sure of getting a table whenever you turn up.
The drinks are excellent, especially the soy chai, which comes in a teapot complete with strainer and little dish of honey. It's not overspiced or underspiced not too sweet, either and for under five dollars you can get about three cups worth of it. If you're a chai fan, definitely go for this. Unsurprisingly, the coffee is very drinkable; more surprising is that it's of respectable quality, even compared to nearby cafes. The taste is somewhere between Lot 6 and Seven Seeds: enough bitterness to make it interesting, but not quite reaching that caramelish burnt-toast flavour.
Arcadia Cafe's main claim to fame is its extensive poached eggs menu basically two poached eggs on sourdough, covered in a variety of sauces, pestos and add-ons. Every option looks beautiful. Whatever else you say about Arcadia Cafe, the presentation of the food is stunning, with prosciutto gently folded around the eggs and dollops of bright green pesto in the middle. Unfortunately, the eggs don't taste quite as good as they look (some of the combinations don't work as well flavourwise as they do visually), but they're still worth getting.
Probably the best meal that Arcadia Cafe offers is the lemon and ricotta hotcakes. They come with a pear and rhubarb sauce, which works surprisingly well: the sharp rhubarb taste balances out the sweetness of the other ingredients, and the hotcakes themselves are light and fluffy. If you've got your heart set on savoury, though, there are some curries and soups available for lunch. Vegetarians can try the tempeh or tofu pide burgers best eaten with a fresh juice or smoothie on the side.
Arcadia Cafe is open every day for breakfast and lunch, shutting at 5pm. Unless you're pretty well off indeed, it's a little too pricey for a regular breakfast spot. Instead, come here for the coffee and chai. It's not the best coffee shop in the area (that would be the amazing Doctor Java), but it's reliable and a great place to sit and relax.