Well kids, it’s back to work tomorrow, and for me that means mapping out the highlight of my day: lunch. I’m kicking off 2015 with the wild idea to craft my midday meals solely from Yotam Ottolenghi’s veg-only cookbook, Plenty More. But when I tire of quinoa and cannellini beans (most likely by Thursday), I’ll be tempted by seven of the best cafes in Richmond. As I’m on a one-hour lunch break, I’ve confined my picks to the stretch of Church Street south of Swan, all within a few hundred metres of the Wine Companion offices.
Best for breakfast as lunch: Top Paddock
Ahh Top Paddock, what did we ever do without you? It’s not only one of Richmond’s best cafes, it’s also one of Melbourne’s finest, which means the queues at lunch are more like what you’d expect of a Soviet-era bread line. Fortunately it’s right next door to our office, so we can pop out at 12pm sharp to secure a table. It would be ideal for lunch meetings if it weren’t for the crazy volume levels, so instead pencil in your coffee catch ups between 10am and 11.30am, then leave the lunch break for unfettered feasting. Take your pick of the dessert-like ricotta hotcake, soft-shell crab burger, or silky scrambled eggs with chilli, feta and pan-fried mushrooms. 658 Church St, Mon–Fri 7am–4pm, Sat–Sun 8am–4pm.
Best for lunch on the run: The Boy Who Cried Wolf
On those days when I’m dining al-desko and need a bite to eat, I’ll nip to The Boy Who Cried Wolf for a slice of spanakopita, baguettes crammed with ham and salad, or the naughty panko-crumbed chicken burger on brioche. If I’m eating inside the Scandi-chic cafe, I’ll plump for the just-set baked eggs in a dish of tomato sugo, pork belly and braised leek. The Boy takes some seeking: he’s located 100 metres off Church Street, tucked at the back of a car park. 3 Newton St, Mon–Fri 7am–4pm.
Best for those detox days: BlendCo
In the same car park, BlendCo is catering to the superfoods crowd (and there are a lot of us in Richmond) with blitzed-to-order smoothies and acai berry bowls. If a week of restaurant reviewing has left me feeling like a fatted goose, I hightail it to this cheery caravan for the Green Blend of banana, spinach, dates, apple, mint, mango and orange essential oil, dusted with a crunchy, sweet jumble of pumpkin seeds, cacao nibs, raspberries, acai and goji berries. Full disclosure: although I set out with the best intentions to just have this for lunch, I often find myself secret-eating a piece of toast in the kitchen come 3pm. 3 Newton St, Mon–Fri 7.30am–5pm, Sat 10am–3pm.
Best for carb loading: Baby
And then there are days when the diet is well and truly out the window. Enter Baby Pizza on Church Street, opposite Top Paddock. If I’m dining with a crowd, I’ll happily share the respectable pizzas, crunchy arancini balls and rigatoni with beef ragu. If it’s all for one, then the gnocchi with pumpkin and sage sauce gets my vote every time. Finished with chilli flakes and parmesan, this is pure comfort in a bowl, perfectly suited to wet-weather days and mild hangovers. 631 Church St, Mon–Fri 7am–late, Sat–Sun 8am–late.
Best for dusting off the night before: Mr Burger Truck
If I’m at the stage where gnocchi cannot save me, then I’d better hope and pray it’s a Thursday or Friday, for that is when the good folks at Mr Burger park their bright orange truck on Church Street. Speed is not of the essence here, so place your order than nab a spot on the footpath along with the rest of the Richmond faithful. Your wait will be rewarded with juicy burgers loaded with American cheese, pickles and a trio of chin-dribbling sauces. Problem solved. Near 658 Church St, check mrburger.com.au for dates and times.
Best for drinking on the job: Kong
Towards the end of the week, it also becomes permissible to have a cheeky drink on your lunch break (though only when you’re dining with a crew: solo drinking is for street people). This is where Kong comes into its own. A nifty little glass of umeshu (plum wine) will see you sailing through the afternoon. To eat, I’m a big fan of the bau, pillowy buns packed with soft-shell crab or sticky slabs of pork belly. 599 Church St, Mon–Sun 11am–late.
Best for guilt-free afternoon snacks: Pana Chocolate
When 3pm rolls around, there are some days when my sad sack of almonds doesn’t cut it on the snack front. At that point, it’s time for a trip to Pana Chocolate, where me and my work mates splash out on the dairy-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free desserts. I’m a sucker for anything of the choc-mint persuasion, along with the berry and vanilla slices. 491 Church St, Mon–Fri 10am–5pm, Sat 10am–4pm, Sun 11am–3pm.