The lustrous Pearl Café
Apr 14 2010
ONCE IN A BLUE MOON
Tubbymistress is standing next to her car, opposite the food temple known as Pearl Restaurant. For once, she is early for a breakfast rendezvous with friend Cyril, although something is rotten in the state of Denmark. She takes off her sunglasses and strides across the road for a closer look at the restaurant, which is cloaked in darkness on a sunny Saturday morning.
She picks up her phone and dials Cyril’s number.
TUBBYMISTRESS: Pearl is closed! Where are you?
CYRIL: About five minutes away. Are you sure it’s closed? Are you at the café?
TUBBYMISTRESS: The café? What, we’re not having breakfast in the restaurant?
CYRIL: No. The café is a couple of blocks down the road, toward Swan St.
Tubbymistress looks down at her sky-blue Leona Edmiston heels, and sighs.Pearl Café
Church St, Richmond VIC
As my feet will tell you, Pearl Café is an entity in itself, about a hundred metres down Church St towards what weatherman Mike Larkin would call ‘downtown Richmond’. The café features elements of the restaurant’s minimalist high-end elegance, including a white and silver palette. You won’t find comfy couches here; instead, a long benchtop cuts through the room, with a handful of two-seater tables along the left of the café and four-seaters along the right. It’s Pearl’s aloof little sister, with glossy faux-industrial edge.
Printed menus are handed out, but you only need to look up to see what’s good to eat – a beautiful large-scale print of the menu is displayed on the wall, a splash of colour on your immediate right as you walk in. As you’d expect from a Pearl establishment, it does make for excellent reading.
If you need a visual cue, step up to the counter and inspect the delights that are ready to go, such as the fresh berry salad with blueberry and honey yoghurt (right) that Cyril immediately chose. Predictably, I took a little more time to decide, the thought of a French-toasted white peach sandwich with whipped cream and raspberry sauce bouncing around in my brain like a golden retriever awaiting a night-time walk. Just as I was about to embrace Calorie City, an angel landed on my shoulder. It leaned close and whispered, ‘Bircher muesli with apple and hazelnuts’.
Both our choices looked great in the glasses they were served in. Although the julienned apple atop my muesli was pretty, a sort of post-apocalyptic array of pale-green matchsticks, it proved harder to eat than my pre-breakfast brain was hoping for. It was worth the extra concentration. The muesli was denser and flavoured differently from my current bircher favourite – the drier, berrylicious version at Il Solito Posto – but it was equally as delicious, the hazelnuts adding that extra bit of gloss and texture. Coffee was also great.
Breakfast finishes at 11 am on weekdays and 12 pm on weekends, paving the way for a lunch service that features an exquisite line-up of salads, soups and baguettes, some with an Asian bent. It’s a great, informal alternative to dining in the restaurant if you’re seeking a regular Pearl hit and are weighed down by a mortgage or the distinct need to buy pretty shoes every fortnight. The next time I visit, I have a feeling the Portobello mushroom and almond pot pie with slow cooked onions under puff pastry will be in grave, grave danger.
TUBBYMISTRESS SAYS: Pearl Café reminds me of the bar section in the restaurant: a tad sterile, with more emphasis on aesthetics than comfort. Even so, I know I’m in for a sublime meal and cocktail (I love the chilli-rific ‘Thai me up’, as amusing as it is to order).
The café was also to my liking, although this was a planned mid-morning assault with light breakfast and coffee firmly on the agenda. I’ll definitely be back for something more substantial. Don’t follow suit if you’re craving breakfast after 12!