Lena: Do you really not drink coffee?????
Jetsetting Joyce: Um, that’s right. I’m not a true Melburnian. Can you and James please come to Proud Mary with me? It’s reputed to have the best coffee in Melbourne and I’d really appreciate your expert coffee-drinking opinion.
James: Sure. I have been coffeeing a bit at Brother Baba Budan and St Ali lately, the two other challengers to the Melbourne coffee throne, so will be interesting to compare them to the $40,000 God Machine.
Evidently the word had got around the coffee drinkers of Melbourne, as 9am on a Saturday morning found Proud Mary (named after a Creedance Clearwater song) pumping after only the fourth day of opening. So let’s get to the key question first – how good is the coffee? James and Lena both agreed that their house blend espresso, Columbian roast siphon and Guatamalan long machiato (made with one of only 250 Synesso coffee machines in the world) was some of the best coffee in Melbourne – smooth, no bitterness and with a beautiful crema. Proud Mary also serves coffee made using a rare Clover coffee maker, a machine handbuilt by Stanford engineers. From my point of view the coffee smelled gorgeously rich and was extremely photogenic!
Fortunately for me, Proud Mary also caters for discerning tea drinkers. Somage Fine Foods provides Proud Mary with Chamellia organic imported teas and naturally I gravitated towards the most expensive tea – a hand-picked shiny Lumbini golden tip tea from Sri Lanka which sells for a whopping $350 a kilo.
All the tea comes with precise instructions for brewing – for the Lumbini golden tip it’s 180 seconds with water at 80-90 degrees. You can have your tea served at your table with a timer, but I opted to have it brewed using the Japanese siphon from Hario. The friendly and knowledgeable barista and owner Nolan Hirste (a bit of a celebrity in Melbourne coffee-drinking circles apparently) talked me through the process of siphoning. Basically, siphoning uses vapour pressure and vacuum to create a clean, crisp, rich and smooth flavour because the heated water bubbles up to to the tea leaves/coffee grounds instead of having water poured on top of it, and then the vacuum in the bottom chamber draws the water back down through a strainer. In the 50s it was the most common method of making coffee, but when espresso came along the Western world kind of forgot about it. It’s still quite prevalent in Japan, where 30% of the coffee is brewed using siphons.
At the end of an almost scientific process, my delicate Reidel glass (love it!) of golden-hued tea was almost savoury in flavour – in fact it reminded me of the dried scallops used in Chinese cooking. Nolan said that next time I should try one of the teas which tasted like chicken broth!
As for the food – all I can say is that I’m a breakfast-sceptic and Proud Mary may just convert me. From savoury to sweet, everything by chef Kane was fresh, colourful and flavoursome. Between us we tried the potato hash topped with a properly jiggly poached egg, crisp bacon, grilled asparagus and a creamy sauce, an unusual semolina custard with vincotto caramelised peaches and toasted hazelnuts baked to almost a fluffy pudding, a tumble of scrambled eggs spiced with red pepper relish, with chorizo, grilled haloumi and rocket on the side, plus some of the best hotcakes I’ve ever eaten, served with spiced pears, maple syrup, ricotta and a sprinking of almonds.
Proud Mary, I’m so happy that you’ve arrived into my hood. I’ve already got my eye on my next breakfast – muffins here I come! (Note cash only).
Update 8 November 2009: The food at Proud Mary was so good that I went to bed anticipating my Sunday breakfast. It didn’t disappoint the second time either – my toast with crushed avocado, roasted tomatoes and rocket was vibrantly coloured and took me back to summers in Italy, but the highlight was my fresh-out-the-oven strawberry muffin. Queue up everybody, because these intensely moist muffins (buttermilk?) were baked just to the point of golden and were of chiffon-cake lightness. Simply put, the best goddam muffins I’ve ever had.
- Proud Mary, Cnr Stanley and Oxford Sts, Collingwood