I like going out for breakfast. I would like it even more if it weren’t so early in the morning, but anyway. There is something great about getting up, leaving the house, sitting at fairly plain tables, surrounded by bustle while drinking hot liquids and eating something with eggs.
But every breakfast haunt has its own character. The food, the chairs, the staff, even the other customers all contribute to the feel of a breakfast place.
Over three days I ate at three Civic cafes, and each had a very different personality.
The young professional
After the excellence of their evening menu, I couldn’t wait to try Dieci e Mezzo’s breakfast menu. All it took was me getting up long enough before work. It is only open during the week, but that’s ok. With its rather cold décor, it’s not a place you want to spend ages sitting around.
Everything about this place screams elegance. From the teapot being delivered on a piece of slate, through to the small but neat presentation of the dishes, this breakfast was very sleek.
A croque mademoiselle was exactly what it is meant to be. Good quality ham and smooth bitey gruyere white sauce sandwiched between crisp, sweet toasted brioche. It would have been nice if the fried egg on top had a larger yolk, but it’s hard to argue with nature. At just $10, the price was unbelievable.
This is a place you go to for great food and style, if not exactly for warmth, which is fine for before work. And the beautiful tang of the lemon ricotta cannoli I had on the way out was certainly the perfect way to start the day.
The friendly hippy
With high quality organic produce and a real community atmosphere, what more do you need on a Saturday morning? Which is why it is sad that the Blue Olive Café is only open for the three hours before noon. This is a place focused on ingredients and on people, making it more like a hug then a restaurant.
It was a struggle to look past the seriously exciting New York style sandwich list, but this was about breakfast. For that my adoration of the great Dr Seuss led me to the Green Eggs and Ham. Nicely moist scrambled egg mixed with sharp pesto, served on sourdough and accompanied by perfectly crisp, salty bacon. Simple, but well flavoured, though it could have done with a touch more pesto.
It was a community driven store, with most people there seeming to know the staff, and a local sports team eating together out the front. It was the sort of place that you would love to be a regular.
And given time, who knows? I might become one yet.
The old friend
Gus’s is the institution in this city, having been around since the city allowed people to eat on the pavement. It also has the notable advantage of being open pretty much all the time. There’s something about Sunday afternoon breakfast that suits my body clock.
The defining feature of the food at Gus’s is size. This is not a place that lets down on portions, with huge plates piled with food, often with little coherence.
This week there was a special of spicey scrambled eggs with cheesy bread, bacon, garlic mushrooms, hash browns, and rocket. It was all merely ok. The eggs a little dry, the mushrooms a little flavourless, the hashbrowns what they always are, and the cheesy on toast nothing more than quite dull cheese on toast. But there was a lot of it.
There’s nothing wrong with Gus’s. They use quite good ingredients, and they seem to please the crowds, but it’s nothing exciting. Not to mention, it is quite expensive. But what else can you expect on a Sunday afternoon?
Where to go depends on what you are after of a morning. In a choice between elegance, comfort and size, all are acceptable options.
It comes down to a question of character.
Dieci e Mezzo
ActewAGL House, Cnr Bunda & Mort Sts, Canberra City
Breakfast, Monday to Friday from 7:30am
Blue Olive Café
56 Alinga St, Canberra ACT 2600
Mon-Fri 7am-3pm, Sat 9am-noon
Shop 8, Garema Arcade, Bunda Street, 2610
Open 7 days, 7:30am – Late