21st September 2017
71 Bouverie St
Carlton, VIC 3053
I’m back on the brunch train! After realising that going to bed at 2am and sleeping in until noon on weekends makes for an excruciating Monday, I’ve started making an effort to set myself more reasonable bed and wake-up times. Then lo-and-behold, all of a sudden I have way more daylight hours at my disposal, and what better way is there to make use of it than by having brunch?
Humble Rays has been on my radar pretty much since it opened earlier this year, propelled by a more or less constant stream of positive reviews and Instagram photos. Sure enough, even when we showed up at 1:30 on Saturday, there was still a 15-odd minute wait for seats. Still, that’s no major hardship, as it gave me plenty of time to soak up the beautiful decor in delicate shades of pale blue and green, accented with cheerful yellows. The entire restaurant was awash with greenery, and the front section let in plenty of natural light.
Like many places these days, the brunch menu at Humble Rays has a heavy Asian influence. That, combined with its proximity to Melbourne University and local student accommodation, meant that it is hugely popular with the young Asian clientele. In fact, I’m pretty sure Chris was the only Caucasian person in the entire restaurant that wasn’t a member of staff!
I get pretty jittery when I have more than one coffee a day, so instead I traded my usual flat white for a Matcha Latte ($4.5). This rendition was quite sweet, which I’m actually a fan of – there’s nothing worse than a powdery, bitter matcha latte. What really impressed me however was that behind the creamy sweetness, the matcha powder used was crisp, fresh, and clearly of high quality. All up, this is probably my favourite matcha latte to date.
After some humming and hawing, we decided on the Crab Meat Scramble ($18.5) over the eggs benny. Too often, you can barely taste the crab in dishes that promise it, but in this case, not only was the briny taste of crab immediately apparent, you could even see the shredded meat mixed throughout the egg!
The delicate eggs were given an Asian twist with a scattering of fried shallots and shavings of fresh herbs, and the spicy sriracha mayo gave the dish a welcome kick. And although I’m usually not a fan of substituting bread for croissants, it actually worked really well here, the buttery sweetness of the pastry melding easily with the savoury and spicy elements of the dish.
In an attempt to behave like some sort of adult, I looked past the waffles, French toast, and skookies (that’s a cookie baked in a skillet), before settling on the Mushaboom ($18). Although I was indescribably pained at not getting to try any of the sweets, this dish was good enough to ease the pain.
The base of the dish was a full-flavoured, spicy stew of toothsome beans and plump confit mushrooms. It was topped off with a creamy poached egg, toasted hazelnuts that gave each bite a nutty crunch, and a grating of pecorino cheese, slowly melting into the stew. And although this may seem trivial, the fact that the accompanying toast was buttered was a thoughtful touch, and just made the whole dish so much better.
Admittedly, Humble Rays suffered a little from the hype train, as it wasn’t the brunching masterpiece that I had been led to believe. But that’s not to say that my experience here wasn’t good, far from it. I thought the food was tasty and well-presented, and despite being a little hit-and-miss, service was friendly and attentive overall. It may not be the most jaw-dropping brunch experience around, but it’s a solid performer that brings some interesting options to the table (literally) for a fair price, and that alone should be enough to guarantee its success.
Rating: 13.5/20 – humble brag.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.