Sometimes, the prospect of a holiday can be a more powerful motivation than the holiday itself. It's all about anticipation (which might be a point that's reinforced by my family's tendency to open their Christmas presents in, at best, late afternoon - and not just because we're too busy grazing). One of my favourite things to look forward to about a holiday is the very important matter of where to eat. It's where my holiday planning efforts begin and (perhaps to the occasional frustration of the Other Penguin) often where they end, too.
Time Out's list of the best breakfasts in Melbourne was one of my starting points on the trail for promising restaurants and cafes before a recent long weekend visit. The combination of tea cup light shades and "grungy warehouse chic" at Three Bags Full sounded intriguing, so I popped over to its website. And it had me at Sticky Black Gingerbread. Hook, line and sinker.
It was a good thing I was committed and, perhaps, an even better thing that there aren't too many other brekky options in the vicinity of Three Bags Full on a wide but surprisingly peaceful road in Abbotsford. Because the rest of Melbourne's discovered it too. And when we got there, at a pleasantly civilised hour of mid-morning, they all seemed to be ahead of us in the queue. We fidgeted and chatted, eyeing the rather hardy souls game to sit in the still-rather-nippy fresh air at outside table under the hungry gaze of the waiting hordes, and held out for a table indoors.
The cafe felt comfortably modern and quirky, and rather reminded me of the artfully curated style at Anthropologie. The tea cup lights above the counter added a spark of whimsical colour, while road signs turned into stools and vintage finds brought an industrial edge and hinted at the building's past. I had plenty of time to take it all in as, being so busy, service was a little stretched (but also friendly).
Looking at the menu was a bit of a cursory effort for me - I already knew exactly what I was going to order. Although twice-baked French toast sounded pretty appealing, too. And so did the braised leek and potato omelette with gruyere.
The Other Penguin opted for the big breakfast, which was very true to its name - even after the appetite-whetting queue, it was a bit too big to finish. It included eggs, bacon, tomato, spinach, mushrooms, a rich and slightly obscene looking cheese kransky, relish and toast.
The keenly-anticipated gingerbread initially concerned me with its crunchy-edged appearance. Where was the stickiness I was hoping for? As it turned out, though, toasting the gingerbread was a great move - it gave it a textural contrast to the rich smoothness of the vanilla bean mascarpone and the syrupy tang of the candied cumquats that accompanied it. And the sprinkle of pistachios brought it together. The menu grouped it into the 'Sweet Tooth' section, and it was definitely indulgent - but not tooth-achingly so. Looking forward to a particular dish for a fortnight could have created an almost-insurmountable expectation, but this was the perfect beginning to set up a hungry penguin for a day of pootling across town.
The menu of reliable favourites plus some more unusual options and the friendly laid-back atmosphere make Three Bags Full worth the wait. Which is lucky, because it could be quite a while before I make it back to Melbourne to have more gingerbread for breakfast... but it all just adds to the anticipation.