Published on July 11 2019.
Never mind the five-dollar coffees and the $20 avocado toast – if you really want to throw your home deposit to the wind, consider one of Melbourne’s nascent food trends: adding fresh black truffles to breakfast and brunch.
While lunch and dinner have always been the natural places to indulge an interest in upsizing, upgrading and reckless blingification, breakfast has its moments. This is where the black truffle comes in. The musky underground mushroom known to science as the tuber melanosporum is one of the food world's most expensive ingredients, and is in season in winter. It’s also known as a firm friend of the carb, and makes particularly sweet music with eggs and dairy. Which sounds a lot like breakfast to us.
Right now you can pay as much as $3,000 a kilogram for “extra grade” Tasmanian truffle, $2,500 for “first-grade” West Australian product, while Victorian truffles can be had for the relative bargain price of $2,200 a kilo for “premium grade” if you’re willing to buy at the farm gate.
But what if you’d like to get your taste of the good stuff without committing to a whole truffle (let alone a whole kilo)? Melbourne’s breakfast venues have you covered. Or at least a few of them do.
Truffled ham and Gruyère croissants at Lune. Croques monsieur, madame and non-binary at The European and The Hardware Société stuffed with shavings of truffle. Napier Quarter’s three-egg omelette with nettles and truffles. A1 Bakery’s halloumi pie in half-mourning.
These are all made up, purely products of our imagination for now. But there’s more than enough real-world examples available this winter to certify truffles for breakfast as A Thing.
In a fantastic example of the supplement costing more than the dish it’s added to, Butcher’s Diner, at the top of Bourke Street, offers shavings of black truffle for $15 over its $10 scrambled eggs on rye toast.
Should you be fortunate enough to be staying at Jackalope on the Mornington Peninsula, the breakfast menu includes a winter special of a caramelised onion, baked bean, Gruyère and fried egg toasted sandwich, over which chef Guy Stanaway shaves truffles from Red Hill, just up the road.
Back in the city, Cumulus Inc offers some serious competition on the luxed-up toastie front, tripling-down on the truffle. Chef Sam Cheetham spreads bread with truffle butter and Dijon mustard, lays on Shaw River buffalo mozzarella and scamorza and more truffle. Then once the whole thing has been sandwiched and made golden and crunchy, Cheetham shaves extra truffle over the top for good measure. It’s $25, and his truffles of choice are from Oak Hill, a producer near Ballarat. (Fun fact for very late breakfasters: it’s also available upstairs at Cumulus Up as a late-night snack.)
At Zagame’s House in Carlton, meanwhile, there’s both a breakfast and brunch option. The hotel’s café, 1851 Coffee Kitchen, offers its $25 truffle eggsmash (buttered mash, two coddled eggs, Manchego, toasted brioche, fresh black truffle) from 6.30am daily, while its Lord Lygon wine shop offers a $35 baked truffle Camembert with toasted Turkish bread from 11am every day.
Cantina Carolina, the sister venue to Bar Carolina on Toorak Road in South Yarra, opens in the coming weeks, and we have it on good authority that the breakfast carbonara, available from 7am, will be available in a carbonara tartufata version while truffles are in season. Spaghetti alla chitarra, confit egg yolk, pancetta, pecorino and black truffle could be yours for a mere $25.
Verdict: Thing (at least until the end of the truffle season, anyway – get into it while you can).
Get your taste:
Butcher’s Diner, 10 Bourke St Melbourne, butchersdiner.com
Jackalope, 166 Balnarring Rd, Merricks North, jackalopehotels.com
Cumulus Inc, 45 Flinders La, Melbourne, cumulusinc.com.au
Cantina Carolina, 44 Toorak Rd, South Yarra, barcarolina.com.au
Zagame’s House, 66 Lygon St, Carlton, zagameshouse.com.au
Want to truffle your own breakfast (or lunch or dinner or afternoon tea)? Say no-way to truffle oil and give these Victorian producers a go:
Black Cat Truffles, Wattle Flat, blackcattruffles.com.au
Oak Hill Truffles, Gordon, oakhilltruffles.com.au
Red Hill Truffles, Red Hill, redhilltruffles.com
Truffle House, Jumbunna, thetrufflehouse.com.au
Truffle Treasures, Daylesford, truffletreasures.com.au
By Pat Nourse