281 Victoria Street
Brunswick, VIC 3056
Growing up Chinese, I’ve never been one to shy away from a sizable breakfast. In most parts of Asia, it is considered perfectly normal to start your day with a bowl of noodles, a plate of meat buns, or even leftovers from dinner the night before. In fact, one of my all-time favourite breakfasts is my grandma’s wide rice noodles, cooked in soup with minced pork and pickled veggies.
I think my liking for hearty breakfasts is one of the reasons why I am so fond of brunch. In a culture where eating ‘non-breakfast’ foods for breakfast is looked askance, the opportunity to order a substantial meal first thing in the morning is liberating. And of course, the more ‘non-breakfast’ the food is, the happier I am. Which is why I was so excited when I saw that Small Axe Kitchen has blessed us with the invention of breakfast pasta.
On first impressions, Small Axe Kitchen may look somewhat cramped and dingy, but fear not – not only is there an outdoor dining area by the side of the cafe, there is also a bright covered courtyard out back. But it’s not the decor that has me excited. With heavy Sicilian roots, the menu is a complete break from the preconceived notions of what is and isn’t breakfast food, featuring everything from meatballs to chicken cotoletta, along with a healthy (or not so healthy) list of wines, spritzes, and cocktails.
My Skinny Flat White ($3.9) by Code Black Coffee Roasters was lovely. Strong but not bitter, the bean was with rich with chocolate and hazelnut flavours, and an undertone of caramel sweetness. I don’t often feel the urge to order a second coffee, but I came close this time around.
Ah, Breakfast Pasta ($21.5). This is what dreams are made of. If I could have this every morning, I would jump out of bed the moment my alarm went off, despite being a night owl through and through.
After a quick mix with the fork, each tube of al dente maccaruni became coated with creamy slow-cooked egg, and the double whammy of salted ricotta and shaved parmesan. The strips of fried guanciale were more flavoursome than bacon could ever be, its smoky fattiness complemented by the sweet freshness of peas and mint. Each rich, sticky bite was absolutely indulgent, yet the flavours were always so perfectly balanced that I felt as if I could keep on eating forever.
I took advantage of the unusual menu by ordering the Fried Sardines ($19.5). The fillets of fish were satisfyingly meaty, its natural brininess and salt cut through by the cool, vibrant acidity of the eggplant caponata, and the occasional sharp pop of capers. If the breakfast pasta was a fleece-lined blanket in winter, then this dish would be a flamenco dress in the heat of summer.
Unwilling to let the meal come to an end, I ordered us a dessert of Toasted Brioche ($9.5), spread thick with whipped cinnamon ricotta flecked with candied orange rinds, and a generous drizzle of honey. Half toast, half cake, and entirely European, this was a charming way to wrap up the meal.
Breakfast pasta aside, the experience at Small Axe Kitchen was a good one. The coffee was excellent, the food refreshingly different, and the service cheerful and friendly once you manage to grab one of the admittedly inattentive wait staff. But all of that, good and bad, was overshadowed by the glory of the pasta. ALL HAIL THE PASTA!
Rating: 15/20 – once again, this rating is pretty much based solely on my love for the pasta.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.