The team that brought us Kettle Black and Top Paddock are at it again, this time setting up opposite one of Melbourne’s busiest station, Southern Cross. Love or hate them, they certainly know how to attract an audience.
Bookings for brunch are, of course, not available, so groups larger than four should be prepared to wait for an hour plus if they don’t turn up at opening. Thankfully names are taken at the door, allowing guests to wander shops for an allocated time, or enjoy a coffee on the overcrowded patio. It’s great for that morning takeaway; less so when everyone is bunched up and hangrily waiting for a table.
But the wait is worth it! Entering into the beautiful inner sanctum, our eyes are greeted by a multi-level table layout surrounded by trees and shrubs. Power Ballads from the Eighties and Nineties ring out across the hall, psyching us up for our meals. Intentional? Who cares, we love the Nineties! (and thus, we were indoctrinated).
Coffee orders are taken as we sit and arrive soon after. It’s a 50:50 blend with good strength. The adept will notice the slight bitterness when ordered with reduced milk, but full cup drinkers (latte, cap) will find it smooth and impressionable.
Diverting our eyes to the menu, we find a small range of breakfast and lunch items, but each with interesting ingredient combinations; it’s what we have come to expect from this high-end brunch team, along with the price hike. The sides/appetisers are unlike anywhere else, with choices such as Brussels sprout to accompany your meal. Surprising and delicious.
But the menu won’t appeal to everyone. Higher Ground caters for adventurous eaters looking for something out of the ordinary, and food intolerant options are practically non-existent. It’s an interesting arrangement given the increase of food allergies in modern Melbourne, but, given the crowd, has not harmed the business.
Food arrives and we notice the attention paid to ingredient textures. Meals are assembled like an inverse sandwich, with soft purees lining the bottom of our plates, and softened vegetables or poached eggs topping a rough component in the centre. The best example is the mushrooms on soft polenta, utilising a crumb crunch to separate the consistency of the two smooth elements. Whilst rather simple in presentation, it provides complexity in the taste; a common theme across the menu.
Being a popular venue, there isn’t much time to rest and digest as someone else is desperate to snag your table. If you’re looking for a place to have a quiet chat and lounge around, this isn’t it. But for those looking for some variety on their plate, Higher Ground is calling to you.
Rating – 74%