HOT: Proud Mary, Cnr Stanley and Oxford Sts, Collingwood

P1030156v1 HOT: Proud Mary, Cnr Stanley and Oxford Sts, Collingwood

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.

P1030147v1 HOT: Proud Mary, Cnr Stanley and Oxford Sts, Collingwood

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!

P1030079v1 HOT: Proud Mary, Cnr Stanley and Oxford Sts, Collingwood

P1030081v1 HOT: Proud Mary, Cnr Stanley and Oxford Sts, Collingwood

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.

P1030047v1 HOT: Proud Mary, Cnr Stanley and Oxford Sts, Collingwood

P1030059v1 HOT: Proud Mary, Cnr Stanley and Oxford Sts, Collingwood

P1030060v1 HOT: Proud Mary, Cnr Stanley and Oxford Sts, Collingwood

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!

P1030066v1 HOT: Proud Mary, Cnr Stanley and Oxford Sts, Collingwood

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.

P1030097v1 HOT: Proud Mary, Cnr Stanley and Oxford Sts, Collingwood

P1030105 1024x828 HOT: Proud Mary, Cnr Stanley and Oxford Sts, Collingwood

P1030092v1 HOT: Proud Mary, Cnr Stanley and Oxford Sts, Collingwood

P1030113v1 HOT: Proud Mary, Cnr Stanley and Oxford Sts, Collingwood

P1030161v1 HOT: Proud Mary, Cnr Stanley and Oxford Sts, Collingwood

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.

P1030070v1 HOT: Proud Mary, Cnr Stanley and Oxford Sts, Collingwood

For other breakfast options in the area, try Birdman Eating, Monsieur Truffe and Cibi.

minilink HOT: Proud Mary, Cnr Stanley and Oxford Sts, Collingwood

pixel HOT: Proud Mary, Cnr Stanley and Oxford Sts, Collingwood

22 thoughts on “HOT: Proud Mary, Cnr Stanley and Oxford Sts, Collingwood

    • Hi Gourmet Chick

      The food at Proud Mary is so good that I went back again this morning! It’s going to be dangerous to have it within shouting distance from my house. Lucky I don’t drink coffee, as it would be so easy to indulge in a different blend every day.

      Jetsetting Joyce

    • Hi Penny

      I’m not a coffee drinker but given the number of clover coffee machines sprouting up all over Melbourne at the moment, how would you rate Proud Mary’s clover coffee over the clover coffee from other places such as St Ali, Brother Baba Budan, Market Lane and David Jones’ new Sensory Lab?

      Jetsetting Joyce

  1. Not a bad place, but hardly deserving of all the raving I’ve seen on the web. The fit-out is clean and professional, but a little too shiny and bland for my tastes – apart from the Rubiks Cube salt and pepper grinders, there didn’t seem to be much character. The music choice was abysmal 80s crap – Dire Straits, anyone??? The coffee was good, but not being a coffee geek, I couldn’t say whether it was exceptional. They did do a nice fresh juice though. As for food, we tried a couple of different salads – both were massive, but consisted almost entirely of leaves, with everyhthing drowned in dressing. Oh, and my partner had a massive case of food poisoning shortly afterwards. Nice…

    • Hi LilJo

      It’s unfortunate that you’ve had a bad experience at Proud Mary. I can’t vouch for the coffee (all my coffee-drinking friends think it does very good coffee) but my breakfasts there have been very good, fresh and colourful and inventive. It sounds like from your experience that the lunch menu does not reach the heights of the breakfast menu – I will have to try it for myself. Given you’re not a fan of Proud Mary, what cafes would you recommend instead?

      Jetsetting Joyce

      • It seems that Proud Mary is trying to emulate the success of St Ali, Seven Seeds, Dead Man Espresso, etc, but instead of adding anything new to that model, it’s simply polished off all the rough edges that gave those places their charm. As far as nearby cafes go, Monsieur Truffe is hard to beat.

        • Hi LilJo

          Having not been to the other establishments, I can’t really say whether Proud Mary does it better or worse. I am, however, also a big fan of Monsieur Truffe. Can’t comment on their coffee (not being a coffee drinker), but THE BEST croissants I have had in Melbourne, lovely hot chocolates, plus I’m told that their new sorbet flavours are delicious.

          Jetsetting Joyce

  2. I also wasn’t overly impressed with the food. From memory, I ordered some balsamic mushrooms plus poached eggs and onions. The eggs were well poached and the small serving of caramelised onion was very good, but the mushrooms were cold. It was supposed to come with goats cheese, but I certainly couldn’t see or taste any.

    My partner (who doesn’t eat fish) ordered a potato rosti, which had fish in it and came covered in a fishy sauce — something that wasn’t really made clear from the menu.

    Our meals were ordered together, but arrived at completely different times.

    The coffee WAS excellent, and the baristas did an amazing job of keeping track of what we’d tried and recommending different things.

    It was a Saturday morning, so it was super, super busy, and I’m sure the food is better in quieter times, but weekend mornings are the only time I have to do breakfast out, so if it doesn’t work then, it doesn’t work for me.

    Ultimately, I thinks it kind of suffers from being too popular. Despite the great coffee, the lacklustre food coupled with it being way to loud and busy and full of prams and babies means I probably won’t go back for breakfast.

    • Hi Ruth

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I’ve only ever been at around 9am on a weekend when it’s not at its busiest, so the food and service has always been excellent in my experience. I can imagine it wouldn’t be very relaxing later on in the morning with the prams and babies and noise, when all you want to do is read your weekend papers in peace. Plus the kitchen may be finding it harder to keep up with the rush of people. I do hope you’ll give it another try, maybe once the hype has died down a bit.

      Jetsetting Joyce

  3. Yes, I might, though I have a long list of local brunch places that I love but can’t/won’t do on a weekend, like Rosamond, Min Lokal and just about the entirety of Gertrude St. One of the few things I miss about freelancing and working nights is enjoying all the best Collingwood/Fitzroy/Abbottsford cafes minus the masses.

    I’d definitely go back there for coffee in an afternoon. Would love to sit there on a quiet arvo and systematically work my way through the entire coffee repertoire.
    .-= Ruth´s last blog ..Family Portraits of all 56 ethnic groups in China =-.

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