Plain pancakes for breakfast are passé. These days it's all about variation and experimentation. For a relaxed breakfast or brunch on weekends, there's nothing beating the charm and taste of ricotta hotcakes. A variation of basic pancakes, these are packed with protein yet are light, moist, smooth and scrumptious.
I don't recall the first time I had ricotta hotcakes but I do know I've loved every mouthful of it to date. Impelled by personal fancy, I scoured Melbourne for the best spots to enjoy this rather simple yet scrummy dish.
You've got to have patience when you come here – not because you'll have to shove yourself through a long queue of customers looking for a takeaway, but because you'll be coddled with choice. Each time I've been here, it's taken me long to decide what (read what not) to have. But my personal favourite is a plate of ricotta hotcakes served with roasted plums, mascarpone and lashings of maple syrup complemented by a glass of freshly squeezed apple juice. Also worth trying is the vegetable tart with salad, croissants – fresh and buttery, bombolone (Italian custard-filled doughnuts) and pastries; and don't forget to grab a loaf of traditional European bread, hand-moulded and baked fresh.
When: Everyday 7 am to 3 pm
Where:109 Scotchmer Street, North Fitzroy, VIC 3065 Contact: 03 94863554
2. Replete Providore Having sampled a huge serving of ricotta hotcakes with 'Replete' lemon curd (true to its name) and strawberries, I wasn't surprised to learn that it was one of their best-selling dishes. The pancakes are smooth and delicate, the lemon curd - creamy and intense and the strawberries - fresh. But if you're still not 'replete', go for a sunrise trifle – natural muesli layered with yoghurt and rhubarb, apple and berry compote. They also have a huge range of products for takeaway and gift giving. I always bring back something for later – be it a jar of marinated mushrooms or half a dozen Moroccan spiced potato pies. If it helps you form a view, this place won the 'Best Breakfast Restaurant' award by Restaurant & Catering Victoria in 2009.
When:Breakfast - Monday to Friday 7:30 am to 11:30 am, Saturday and Sunday 7:30 am to 3:00 pm
Where:302 Barkers Road, Hawthorn, VIC 3122
Contact: 03 9818 4448
3. Bistro Flor Their ricotta pancakes with baked quince and honey mascarpone is not only a finger-licking dish but also beautifully presented. The tartness of quince is a perfect complement to the honeyed mascarpone. They have a good brunch menu and cater to special diets and tastes, so if you're a vegan or vegetarian, don't give another thought before stepping in. Every dish personifies perfection in terms of taste and display.
When:Breakfast - Saturday and Sunday only from 10 am
Where:555 Nicholson Street, Carlton, VIC 3054 Contact: 03 9381 4443
4. Kamel For me, the best part about the place is the generous list of vegetarian options. They even have a gluten-free menu and if you have special dietary requirements, the chefs will happily whip up something good for you. What I liked: Ricotta hotcakes with poached blueberries and maple syrup, and since the portion is rather small, I also sampled Ethiopian spiced fruit and yoghurt toast with butter, perfect with a cup of spiced hot chocolate with Turkish delight. My friend, who ordered Middle Eastern breakfast pastry with cinnamon lamb mince, Spanish onion, tomato and mint, was happy with his choice too. Go there for good setting, great food and excellent service.
When:Breakfast - Friday 8 am to 12 noon, Saturday and Sunday 8 am to 3 pm
Where:19 Victoria Ave, Albert Park VIC 3206 Contact: (03) 9696 1386
5. Proud Mary Coffee aficionados have been making regular pilgrimage to Proud Mary for a long time now. But that's not all. You must try their ricotta hotcakes with white peaches – oozing freshness and delicacy in every mouthful. No wonder it's a big hit. Also very popular is the potato hash with seasonal specials. Honestly, your Synesso, Clover or Syphon can wait. There are plenty of breakfast and beverage options to choose from.
When: Breakfast - Monday to Friday 7 am to 4 pm, Saturday and Sunday 8 am to 4 pm
Where:172 Oxford St, Collingwood, VIC 3066 Contact: 03 9417 5930
6. Three Bags Full Three words go with one adjective – great – food, coffee and décor. Ricotta hotcakes served with poached seasonal fruit, topped with honey and complemented by orange-infused ricotta on the side will take your breakfast experience on a different level. Try a chai latte with it and you're in heaven. The banana and coconut bread toasted with honey labna, pistachios and roasted fruit is also something to write home about. The savoury dishes are equally good and coffee beyond doubt – excellent.
When:Breakfast - Monday to Friday 7:30 am to 4 pm, Saturday and Sunday 8 am to 4 pm
Where:Corner Nicholson and Mollison Streets, Abbotsford, VIC 3067 Contact: 03 9421 2732
7. Grigons & Orr Corner Store Their ricotta pancakes with brandied blueberries topped with toasted almond flakes and Barbados cream is to die for. Enjoy the dish with a glass of freshly squeezed juice. Though everything on the menu is toothsome, I particularly like pan fried tofu with spinach, mushrooms and a spice infused soy dressing. However, this quaint little joint has limited seating.
When:Breakfast - Monday to Sunday 7 am to 5 pm
Where:Corner Queensberry and Chetwynd Street, North Melbourne, VIC 3051 Contact: 03 9663 5192
8. Bomb Café & Bar This modest café does not boast of a great décor but it sure can cater simple yet yummy food and good service. Their ricotta pancakes with blood orange syrup and double cream are soft, moist and simply delectable. Enjoy it with a cup of a Genovese black coffee or Gravity latte – another thing that should not be missed. The menu also has a good range of other options to choose from.
When: Monday to Friday 7:30 am to 4:30 pm, Saturday and Sunday 9:30 am to 3 pm
Where:229 Johnston Street, Abbotsford, VIC 3067 Contact: 03 9486 0699