Picnic Basket the toast of Taroona
THE PICNIC BASKET 176 Channel Highway, Taroona Weekdays 7.30am to 4pm, weekends from 8am. BYO. 0459 466 057
OH DEAR. Why don’t I listen to my wife? Because I’m a man, I’m the food and wine writer in the family and I know what’s what around town.
But, of course, she was right about a suburban café where the pretention was as overblown as the microwave was over- used and the food was terrible.
So we were at The Picnic Basket on the rebound. And what a contrast.
Everything was beautifully fresh, the flavours good and almost everything made daily in house.
It used to be a drive- through Shell service station. Now you can drive right up to your table. And that’s just what a steady stream of cars and walk- ins were doing at lunchtime on a sunny day last week.
Simon Lyons grew up in Taroona lamenting there was nowhere to go locally for good, fresh café fare. Fifteen months ago he decided to do something about it. And, if the queue for takeaways and the mix of families, workmen, young and old coffee- ing, snacking and lunching inside and outside the other day was any indication, Taroona is very happy he did.
Inside, the high- ceiling space is bright and airy with displays of local preserves, chintzy artwork, colourful event posters, a scattering of papers and magazines, and bare wooden tables around a communal table with an inbuilt blackboard and chalk for the kids.
The all- day breakfast menu includes three different toasted breads with homemade jams, honey- toasted granola with apple, pear and yoghurt, avocado and roasted tomatoes with grilled haloumi on toast, and various egg dishes.
We chose the baked eggs with homemade baked beans, chorizo and spinach, which was as generous and tasty as any of the many versions of this sort of dish now popular around town.
Then followed a total indulgence in the form of two thick slices of French brioche toast topped with a pair of meltingly baked, caramelised bananas all slathered in cinnamon butter with a side jug of cream. Pure decadence.
Vegetarian and spiced chicken flatbreads from the luncheon display cabinet were fresh, crisp and generously filled, while a chilli and black bean pie – unusually enclosed in short crust rather than flaky pastry – for me, was a little dry and needed more chilli fruit and bite to warrant its name.
I thought some of those long red and green mild chillies chopped through would have helped with flavour as well as colour against the blackness of the filling.
The blackboard lunch menu and cabinet also offered a soup of the day, a selection of salads and a tempting array of fresh pastries and small sweet bites, including a richly flavoured orange and almond cake.
The coffees were excellent and, on leaving, a couple of lads said their milkshakes were awesome.
Price guide: Toasts and jam $ 5.50; eggs on toast $ 8.50; French toast and bananas $ 9.50; baked eggs/ beans/ chorizo/ spinach $ 12.50; filled flatbreads $ 7.50.