“Can you see the ‘Golden Triangle’ from the sky?”, asked my kids as we drove through Applecross.
“No, it’s just a metaphor for wealth and status,” I replied.
“So do we live in a bronze square, dad?”
Thankfully we soon arrived at Cioccolato Espresso and I diverted the kids’ attention by pointing at a hyperactive pug outside.
Cioccolato had a Parisian air with vintage decor and rustic furniture.
There were a few tables and chairs inside, but most of the seating was in the alfresco, which was spacious and dappled with shade from the gorgeous verge trees.
It was a great spot to watch the Applecross glitterati buy designer avocados and bras from the boutiques and delis on the Ardross St strip.
At the side of the cafe was some extra seating in a charming laneway festooned with fairy lights, vines and lanterns.
It was very atmospheric and reminded me of a scene from the film Hugo, or some magical arbour you would stumble across in gay Paree. Cioccolato’s menu had a small range of breakfast and brunch-style dishes including brisket benny, chicken quesadilla and breakfast burrito.
I went for the warm Moroccan chicken salad ($20).
The dish certainly looked the part with bright bursts of colour in the salad complementing the blue ceramic bowl.
The tender grilled chicken tasted divine when paired with the charred capsicum, roasted pumpkin and pickled onion.
But the star of the dish was the bright yellow blobs of turmeric labneh.
When you added some to the hazelnut dukkah, the dish became an exotic treat and went from an A to an A+.
This was a delicious and slightly sophisticated salad. One of the best I’ve had in years.
As I sipped a refreshing green smoothie ($8) the cafe was filling up with stylish 20-somethings, retirees and middle-aged couples.
Cioccolato was a popular haunt that attracted a multi-generational clientele.
Across the table my wife was struggling to eat her slow cooked soup of the day (spicy chicken noddle $14) as the lady at the counter hadn’t included a spoon with our cutlery.
My wife went to the counter to get one and was given a dessert spoon, I then said “Excuse me” to the passing waitress who replied “I’ll be back in a minute” and never returned.
I understand it was Friday and they were busy, but the waitress should have at least listened to what I had to say.
Service aside, the soup was very tasty with the chilli oil conjuring a latent heat.
“There’s a lovely depth to the broth and the flavours are fantastic,” noted my wife.
“It’s perfect for a cold day and the chicken is nice and tender, but it’s impractical to eat – the noodles are super long and the chicken pieces too big. They should have cut up the noddles and chicken to make it easier to eat with a spoon.
“My chin is getting yellower with every mouthful.”
It literally was, and by the end of lunch my wife looked slightly jaundice.
A top-notch chocolate frappe ($6) restored some colour to her visage and all was well again.
Cioccolato Espresso serves up fantastic dishes in a fantastic setting without breaking the bank.
I’ll be back soon to try another meal in the laneway.
31 Ardross St, Applecross
by STEPHEN POLLOCK