56 Derby Street
Wed – Sun: 7.30 am – 3.30 pm
A Melbourne Food and Wine Festival special event
If you ever wanted to thank someone for being a catalyst of the competitive and just damn delicious Melbourne food scene, you would thank migrants. Ever since we opened our shores to the world, migrants have come from all over to seek a better life. Whether this was to seek riches (there was, after all, a gold rush) or escaping a war-torn past, they had brought across with them something very precious and close to heart – their traditional recipes. Before you can say baingan bartha we have this extensive range of food cuisines. Brunch has certainly followed suit in embracing different cultural influences and we looked to experience this during the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival at The Brunch of Cultures event hosted by Fifty-Six Threads cafe.
Fifty-Six Threads Cafe is located in Kensington and is cleverly tucked away within a public housing space. The cafe takes a portion of the ground level and blends both concrete and wood features to create an interior decor theme that nicely ties in with the uniquely shaped lighting features. It contains all the right features to give off a modern cafe vibe. On this occasion we had invited Miss SL’s workmate and partner, Bond Girl and Mr Bond, to taste the various cultures of brunch.
First Course: Mediterranean. Greek Yogurt layered with fresh seasonal fruit, local honey and pistachios
“The fig had a nice smokey flavour and was delivered warm, however the yogurt was a bit too creamy for my liking. What I did enjoy was the texture of the smoked fig with the crushed pistachios that gave a nice nutty flavour to the fruit. The honey added the sweetness element required for the fig, however, I’m not a big fan of honey in general. As a result, this dish didn’t really hit the mark for me.”
“I really loved this dish as an entree. The Greek yogurt was incredibly smooth, thick and creamy and not at all sour like a typical Greek yoghurt. The combination of such a smooth texture with lightly crumbed pistachio nuts and honey was just divine. The fig itself was interesting – the skin was a little bitter and mine lacked the smokey flavour that The Bond Girl noted when she tasted her dish. My only critique on this dish would have been to serve a whole fig, not just half. “
Second Course: Middle Eastern. Mezze Plate. Traditional sharing platter with Hummus, Labna, olives, egg, cucumber pita and zatar
“This dish for me felt like a real entree with its array of flavours to indulge in. The dips in particular were rich and had the right texture, with bold flavours that were a sensory delight. The hummus had a slight amount of oil floating on the surface. What I really liked was the foul (pronounced foo-le). The dip itself had a seed-like texture which tasted a little dull, but the additional tomato and parsley gave the foul a beautiful and fresh taste. I felt that the boiled egg, whist tasty, didn’t really add any value to the overall mezze.”
“I think that this course perfectly followed on from the last. The elements on the mezze were refreshing and promoted those around the table to dig into a shared platter. I found the fresh cucumber topped with the labna to be really cleansing to the palate, providing a clean slate for tasting the flava beans that had been ground to make the earthy flavours of the foul. The olives were beautifully salty and soft and no mezze would be complete without them!”
Third Course: Asian. Asian fritter with sesame seeds, spring onions, chili oil, sweet soy and snow pea salad
“In my opinion, this was the best plated dish of the five courses. It had vibrant colours from the snow pea salad with the crispy onions on top of the fritter and the dressing created a moat that was overall visually pleasing. The fritter was moist and topped with sesame seeds, which I thought added the necessary Asian element to the dish. The chili and soy, when mixed with the snow pea salad, provided a nice seasoning and help expand the flavours of the dish. Overall I thought that this was the best of the five courses served in terms of execution and presentation.”
“When this dish came out I was initially excited. Visually, I was immediately attracted to the burst of colour of the snow pea salad. When i dug in, however, I was less impressed. The snow pea salad was unfortunately really bitter and had barely any dressing. As I tucked into my fritter I couldn’t help but note that it was a bit dry and overcooked. What I did enjoy, however, was the crispy fried onions on top and the chili oil combined with the sweet soy – beautiful.”
Fourth course: European. Italian pork and fennel sausage, potato farls, bacon and oven roasted tomato.
“The pork sausage had a rich fennel taste and whilst it was the star of the dish, I thought the potato farl and tomato chutney made it complete. The sausage was certainly home made as the flavours of the pork and fennel were strong and the sausage didn’t taste like it was made of too much fat. The chutney itself was rich in flavour and tended to dominate the other flavours of the plate; including the pork sausage which had a pretty defining flavour. The farl, whilst being a little tasteless and floury, balanced the dish overall.”
“The pork and fennel sausage was just… wow. Delicious. It was juicy and perfectly cooked which the fennel flavours, really reaching through the pork and teasing the taster. The chutney was really sweet and delicious, and while it was powerful in flavour, could really be enjoyed if taken in small doses. My potato farl was unfortunately undercooked and unimpressive. As I deconstructed this element, I found a thin layer of potato in between a bready mixture. Whilst it was an interesting concept, I felt that this added no value to the overall dish. It was, however, the favourite element for Mr Bond who pointed out that the flavours was purposefully muted, providing a ‘bread-like’ element to the dish.”
Fifth course: African. Sweets platter. A delicious finish treat of Baklava, Mokasas donuts, Basbosa and special biscuits prepared by our famous Sorghum Sisters
“This combination of sweets, whilst having a worldly feel, was a bit of a hit and miss. The Baklava, as noted by Bond Girl, was rather dry and a little too dense for my liking. The Mokasas donuts, however, were a sweet delight! They had a glossy exterior and light, soft filling. The basbosa reminded me of a better version of a lamington, with the coconut and soft textures inside which made it a tasty treat. Overall, it was the perfect way to finish the various cultures we experienced for our brunch.”
“What can I say? I’m a sucker for sweets from all around the world. I hadn’t realised at the time of experiencing these dishes that they were particularly African, particularly with items such as Baklava which is usually noted as being from the Middle East. So.. where to start?
The Baklava was okay, but there was not enough sugar glucose used between the sheets of pastry, resulting in a dry, flakey sweet that didn’t contain the right level of moisture. Ironically, however, this made the Baklava more edible for me as I usually find the flavours of this treat overbearingly sweet and too dense. The biscuits were really beautiful – they dissolved in my mouth as soon as they entered, leaving behind the reminisce of almond meal and essence in their wake. Next up, was the Mokasas donuts. These were really something else! Beautifully glazed and perfectly cooked, these donuts were light and fluffy on the inside with a clear flavour of rose-water emanating through the dough. Finally was the basbosa. This was actually my favourite element of the sweets dish as it was a really lovely consistency. The cake mixture was moist but not dense and the coconut really just made this dish beautiful and enjoyable. The sweets were really something else and were my favourite of the day.”
Fifty -Six Threads cafe is a business owned and operated by AMES - an organisation that focuses on assisting recently arrived refugees and migrants settling into our fair state of Victoria. The General Manager of AMES approached us after the meal and introduced himself, taking the time to explain to us that they provide support to refugees and migrants right from when they enter into the country. For those interested in working in the food industry, they provide training through a formal course and work experience at their cafe. Whilst our experience at The Brunch of Cultures provided inconsistent experiences, we couldn’t help but appreciate the cause. A job well done to AMES and to the refugees and migrants who are working there.
Final thought: “Mixed results – some improvements to be had, but there are some seriously outstanding elements to be enjoyed”