PARKING at the shopping strip on Marmion Street can be a bit hairy at times.
On Friday it felt like a scene from the JG Ballard novel Crash, and I could picture tradies and stay-at-home mums colliding in great puffs of erotic diesel.
Thankfully my wife did a Penelope Pitstop turn and secured the last parking space opposite Blend.
The Melville cafe is a long-standing favourite with locals, who swear by the coffees and brunch dishes, so I was keen to check it out.
It was the final day of phase two and Blend had reached it’s 20-person limit, but the smiley waitress spotted an imminent departure and secured us a table by the window.
The all-day brunch menu had a nice range of Italian-inspired dishes (caprese eggs, wild mushroom bruschetta, gamberi aglio olio) and there was also a dinner and takeaway menu including grilled Atlantic salmon, beef cheeks and Tuscan risotto.
Despite being super busy, the service was first class and the friendly waitress made sure we had some water to drink and quickly took our order (my wife only had an hour before work).
The rustic cafe had a lively vibe with staff buzzing about and the chef in the open kitchen greeting customers.
In the alfresco some old Italian men were discussing Juventus FC and inside there was an eclectic mix of retirees, business folk, and couples staring at their phones.
It wasn’t long before the waitress returned with my caprese eggs ($19).
This towering dish was like a culinary Everest and I almost needed mules and a team of sherpas to reach the summit.
Undeterred, I cut through the thick slices of ciabatta and combined them with the poached eggs, buffalo mozzarella and San Daniele prosciutto.
The salty dry-cured ham cut through the gooey yolk and was a nice counterpoint to the roasted cherry tomatoes. Finishing off the dish was some pine nut pesto and drizzled sweet balsamic.
After a few bites I yearned for some feta instead of the unassuming mozzarella, but in hindsight it would have made the prosciutto-based dish too salty.
The caprese eggs were great value and extremely tasty. File under I’m skipping dinner.
Across the table, my wife was tackling her wild mushroom bruschetta with poached egg ($21.50).
She couldn’t fault the dish, which was layered with wilted spinach, sheep’s feta and sautéed king oyster and enoki mushrooms.
“I think it’s the little drizzle of truffle oil that takes this dish to another level. It’s a great interpretation of a classic.”
During the meal I had a freshly-squeezed Dracula ($7.5) – a refreshing medley of apple carrot, beetroot and ginger – and to finish off we enjoyed a good quality cappuccino and latte (both $4.20).
Blend is still top notch and serves great-value brunches.
Just watch out for Mad Max in the carpark.
Blend cafe and pizza bar
356 Marmion Street, Melville
by STEPHEN POLLOCK