I’m not a religious person, but when you get a toasted sandwich with tingly pickled green tomatoes in it, you can’t help it if a random “Hallelujah!” comes flying out your mouth.
Pope Joan is the salvation of a scrappy patch of Nicholson St, way, way up there amidst non-descript, ho-hum buildings and thoughts that maybe you’ve gone too far.
A doormat of AstroTurf and a saintly window painting welcomes you into a cosy wooden diningroom with an open kitchen going full-tilt behind the counter.
Move further in and there’s an enclosed deck. Further again and you get to the rectangular courtyard. Which is gorgeous. It’s AstroTurfed (but so convincing I had to lift up a corner to be sure) with a beat-up collection of tables and chairs, hanging plants and a couple of bricked veggie patches going gangbusters. It reminded me of Madame Brussels – or rather, Madame Brussel’s earnest, vegan sister who lives in Brunswick and works for an NGO.
The coffee here is Allpress, straight up, and it’s a hefty, reliable brew that’ll shake any cloudiness out your head without filling it with the jitters. But it’s the food at Pope Joan that’ll have you moving to a higher plane.
What’s not to love about boiled eggs with soldiers, bacon bits and herbed salt? Nothing, that’s what. Especially with a glass of Prosecco. Breakfast of underachieving champions. The ‘bit posh toasted sandwich’ is buttery gold with the aforementioned pickled green tomatoes, prosciutto and mozzarella. It’s like the chef just weaves a bit of poetry into classic comfort dishes. Corned beef bubble and squeak with a fried egg. Kedgeree. That kinda thing. They were playing a Beatles compilation – when “Something” came on it was just the perfect Sunday soundtrack. Made me wish I was feeling a bit more busted up because this is the kind of food, music and atmosphere that puts you back together.
Damn it, even the business cards are beautiful – all scumbly typography with a glossy embossing of the eponymous pope on there, just quietly shining through the grime. Bit like the café, really.