It seems you can't visit Lygon Street without someone recommending you to make a stop at Carlton's iconic shop for pastry and coffee. Brunetti is regarded as a Melbourne institution established since 1985. Over the years it has expanded in Melbourne including a outlet in City Square and MYER, and also traveled to Dubai and Singapore.
Its home in Carlton covers three shop fronts with large displays of colourful Italian dolci to tempt any passerby to stroll into the shop. Usually buzzing with locals and tourists, I managed to find a lull moment after lunch at Michelino's for a pastry and coffee.
Stepping into Brunetti Carlton reminds of a large upmarket Italian pasticceria designed to help home-sick Milanese experience la dolce vita.
Indoor seating is plentiful and there is an enormous selection of bite-size cakes, pastries and other baked goods to savour for several hours. Large windows that look out to the sidewalk allow you to sip coffee and people-watch. There are few places like Brunetti Carlton in Melbourne.
I occupied a seat by the window with my self-served order of a flat white for AUD3.50 While the atmosphere was a winner, the coffee was disappointingly weak, flat and lacked character much like the hit-and-miss brew at Coffea in Queen Victoria Market. It also reminded of the same at Gino's in Freo. I wasn't expecting artisanMarket Lane but I thought it would at least deliver a Hush Espresso.
Unlike the homely cakes and pies of Pellegrini's, the pastries at Brunetti Carlton were highly refined. I thought I spied some Struffoli covered with chocolate in the cake fridge.
I decided on the Bigne San Giuseppe for AUD4 which reminded me of Rome in March. While I enjoyed the creamy centre, the dough was too dense for what should be a fluffy dolci.
Despite the thumbs-down coffee and so-so Roman doughnut on that occasion, the overall atmosphere makes Brunetti Carlton a popular social hub with the continuous traffic of young and old. Guess Brunetti must be doing something right.