Penny Farthing review: Breakfast Out

Published 31 August 2013
View original review at Breakfast Out


On ya bike!

I love a sweeping generalisation, so I’m going to make one here. As the 86 tram winds its way down Gertrude and Smith streets and begins the slow climb up High Street to Northcote, pant legs start to widen, dreadlocks begin to sprout where once there were none, and median rents decrease by at least ten cents per month. More importantly for breakfast eaters, portion sizes balloon without an accompanying blow to the wallet.

Penny Farthing is a true Northcote-style eatery, and I say that with much love. It’s not painfully slick; there’s no attitude. Staff members greet you as you arrive and seem to actually care about whether or not you enjoyed your meal. There is normal seating available (hot tip, Fitzcollingwood cafes: milk crates and vintage children’s chairs aren’t all that comfy) and you don’t need to sneakily Google ingredients to decipher the menu.

In fact, the all-day breakfast menu is a pretty straightforward affair, with toast’n’sides, Bircher muesli and eggs many ways. That said, it’s all nicely done and there is genuine care in the details, whether that’s house-made cultured butter with your toast or a side of chilli oil with your avocado smash. There’s also the occasional pleasant surprise, like the semolina chai porridge with carrot, chilli and walnut compote. This velvety delight tastes like nanna’s carrot cake put through a blender, and is a far cry from the claggy stuff of childhood nightmares.

The pea and sage bruschetta is an exercise in freshness, with peppery watercress balancing out the creamy smoked salmon, and the whole shebang topped off with a nicely wobbly poached egg. Also worth checking out are the light and fluffy corn fritters with almond capsicum relish and crispy bacon. Both of these meals are larger than the typical inner-north offering, so props to the waiter for not raising an eyebrow at our side order of porridge.

Coffee is a big deal at Penny Farthing, since the team behind Fitzroy-based roaster and wholesaler, Industry Beans, owns the cafe. Blackboards are loaded with the latest limited release single origins and there’s an equally impressive selection of tea available. If you like to brunch like you’re in advertising in the ’80s, delicious coffee-and bicycle-themed cocktails are available from 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Folks from down the hill might enjoy a Fixie (vodka, kahlua, double ristretto), but I’d be happy with the boozy coffee-orange goodness of a Bali Trike.