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Best Cafes in the East

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by Lisa Williams (subscribe)
Freelance journalist? Guilty. Adventure, food, people and performing are my passions.
Published June 27th 2013
Melbourne's answer to a lazy start to the day - brunch
Breakfast, morning tea, lunch; they all seem to merge into one meal on days off, don't they? It's the Melbourne way. Have a glorious sleep in, then catch up with mates over a big mug of coffee, and some brunch. Yes, brunch.

Not quite breakfast, but big enough to be lunch, brunch is my new favourite meal of the day… especially when someone else cooks it for me.

Here are three of my favourite inner east cafes, serving up the best brunch around.

Coffee Art
A lot of love in my latte glass

Replete Providore

It's accurate to say this cafe turned me into a coffee snob. I've not had a steaming blend as good as this anywhere in Melbourne, and that says a lot!

Originally a butcher in the 1920s, this heritage building has been transformed into a homely cafe and food store. While the meat rails and hooks still wind their way around the roof of the front room, the rest of the building has a warm, feminine touch to it.

Known for their generous portions, you'll never leave Replete hungry. Their signature dishes include glorious corn fritters, towering hotcakes, and slightly less guilty smashed avocado.

There are two rooms - a lively front room, which is abuzz with customers and the smell of what's coming out of the kitchen, and a more relaxed back room with a fire place and a large communal table.

Weekends are usually pretty busy, and there's often a coffee queue, so be prepared for a short wait. Otherwise, they take bookings.

Snow Pony

This little gem is up there with the best cafes in Melbourne. Their menu is spot-on with flavours, the whole cafe is styled with eclectic artworks, and they always have a fun, sometimes sassy, sometimes funky music playlist to get you going. You'll leave with a spring in your step, feeling good, ready to see the day through as your fabulous self.

If you're a sweet tooth, you absolutely have to try their toasted banana bread, with mascarpone cheese, sliced banana, berry compote and crushed pistachios. Honestly. I dare you not to lick the plate.

There are several areas for you to relax in - the front room, which is warm as toast, and a little noisy at times, the back corner room with crisp white linen, the outdoor deck for a little fresh air, or the courtyard for some communal coffee and sunshine.

These guys are cash only, so come with a few notes in your wallet. They're also busy as a standard, so come early, especially for bigger bookings. Giddy up!

The Counter

Decadently arranged in the window, a spread of slices and baked goods stare at you as you walk past. You enter out of curiosity, decide to stay for brunch, then decide you'd be doing yourself a favour if you stayed for cake. And you are right. These guys know how to bake.

And while I don't normally eat meals at cafes that I can cook myself, they even make porridge taste divine. Their take on it is the coconut quinoa porridge, and it is anything but ordinary. If you feel like something warm and hearty, try their Moroccan Baked Eggs. Cake still goes with that, right?

The Counter is a relative newcomer on the Melbourne indi food scene, and they're certainly making their mark (not just on my thighs). While floor space is limited, they can still accommodate a good number, and it always feels light and warm.

Again, a busy little space on weekends, so get it early.
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Why? For a treat on your morning off... why not?
When: Whenever you roll out of bed, hopefully between 8am and 3pm
Where: Inner East - Hawthorn & Balwyn
Cost: $5 - $25
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