Monday, April 25, 2005

Eastside, man! - Replete Providore

It is often said that competition makes people work harder, to strive top be the top of the pack, or just to keep themselves from drowning. But the true winners are perhaps those who thrive continuously even without the threat of competition.

Inside this Victorian cornerstore in the well-to-do eastern suburb of Hawthorn where private schools could well outnumber decent cafés could well be a humble milkbar, but (no offense to milkbar owners) I’m glad it’s Replete Providore instead.

It’s late Saturday morning. Probably peak hour at this café/foodstore, but never had I imagined that there wouldn’t even be a single empty table. Luckily one of the lovely girls briskly cleared us a table that a couple of satisfied souls had just left.

The café is not large, but immediately feels airy and bright thanks to the two large window panes on either side of the street corner. On one side, there’s a row of seats for those who like to gawk at the eastern-suburb folk walking or driving past, but their understatedly trendy outfits and humbly elegant cars may suddenly seem much less interesting compared to the rack of baked goodies from the renowned Philippa’s behind you, or the intriguing take home meals in the counter by your side.

But no, it is highly unlikely that you’d walk out of here only good food only in your hands. Far more probably is that you’d have some (or too much) in your stomach too.

Breakfast is the spotlight here and they range from cute (Coco Pops) to healthy (muesli, fruit and yoghurt) to indulgent (scrambled eggs with chorizo).

My poached eggs with wilted spinach were suggested as a lighter, healthier alternative to eggs benedict, as the hollandaise sauce is optional, but how, possibly, could one resist the temptation of this wonderfully creamy egg yolk and butter sauce that has just the right amount of lemon juice to cut through the richness? Well, perhaps if I was forty years older, but not today and most of all, not here, where you can let your two thick slices of multigrain toast mop up all the gooey egg yolk from the two flawlessly poached eggs along with the sauce. In an attempt to reduce the guilt, there’s wilted spinach on the side, which was also cooked to perfection; it was really “wilted” and not boiled like it was the chef’s worst enemy.

It would have been unbeatable but for the under-seasoning of the dish.

behind: bruschetta; front: poached eggs Image hosted by Photobucket.com

The tomato bruschetta, a brilliant (again) slice of thick toast topped with top-class tomatoes tossed in sweetly fresh goat’s cheese, seemed unfortunately to have encountered the same under-seasoned fate.

It may be for health reasons, or the fact that such fresh ingredients are tasty enough in the town right, but in my opinion, salt is an essential part of a dish, and a bit of it can do wonders on the tastebuds. This may just be that my tolerance of salt is higher than that of the general public, but I would have liked the opportunity to add extra salt into my dish; and the uninteresting matter that was contained in the salt and pepper shakers on the table virtually meant that I had no choice but to leave the (almost) immaculate dish alone.

Coffees are very decent, incredibly smooth though a little weak, which is a peculiar common denominator of even the best suburban cafés. Also available are the usual suspects like tea and fresh juices.

Replete doesn’t seem to need much competition to keep it at the top, but for the welfare of my fellow eastsiders, would it be awfully greedy to ask to boast a couple more café gems like this?

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Replete Providore
302 Barkers Road
Hawthorn VIC 3122
Australia
9818 4448
Open: Tues-Fri 8am-4pm, Sat-Sun 8am-5pm

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