Small Victories has a lot to live up to. In The Age’s 2013 Good Food Under $30 Guide it won ‘Best Breakfast Spot of the Year’ – quite an accolade in a city which I think out-breakfasts anywhere else in Australia.
The cafe is nestled among some residential terraces in tree-lined Rathdowne Street and the homely atmosphere of its neighbours extends to the nooks and crannies of the cafe.
The menu is small but interesting, with an extensive list of breakfast items (as you’d expect) and for lunch a series of salads, house made pastas and rather pricey sandwiches.
I almost never opt to eat salad for lunch as it doesn’t ever seem to fill me up sufficiently. However, the salads at Small Victories beg to differ. These are complete, warm and hearty meals which just happen to feature lots of healthy, fresh, green leaves.
Of the three salads on offer I chose the spiced slow roast lamb with chickpeas, spinach, ewes milk feta, herbs and dukka ($18). An earthy ceramic platter appeared wafting mouth-watering aromas of the Mediterranean with gently spiced lamb cooked to falling off the bone and a generous scattering of feta in amongst the vibrantly coloured greens. It was also a perfectly balanced dish in terms of texture – each mouthful combined the meat with creamy cheese, crunchy chickpeas and speckles of dukka spice. Best of all the dish was protein on protein on protein and hence very filling on a cold wintery day.
While I would have been quite content to leave with a full belly at that point, I felt it was imperative to try one of the all-day breakfast dishes. So from the sweet section of the menu I chose a warm pistachio loaf, yoghurt mousse, watermelon, sour cherry compote ($15).
For a breakfast dish it took an unexpectedly long time to arrive (almost 30 minutes on a not-super-busy weekday) but when it did it was wonderful. The loaf, or really, shall we call it cake?, had that freshly baked, just-out-the-oven crispness to the outer edges and a toasty fluffiness on the inside. The yoghurt mousse was a delicate blancmange of tang that was an interesting variation on a standard pot of yoghurt. The variably tart/sweet fruits highlighted the tart/sweet counterpoint of the yoghurt and loaf/cake. The dish was a very accomplished construction, both visually and in terms of flavour and textures.
Based on my experience I’m not sure I would make the call that Small Victories is the best breakfast spot in Melbourne and I did myself checking the watch while waiting for each of my dishes to arrive. But the kitchen demonstrated skill and imagination in its choices of flavour and textural combinations and if it was my local I’m sure I’d be hanging out there a lot.
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