I don’t live in Prahran, but I sometimes wish I did. Like when I need recycled furniture, or a marvel comic, or a guitar or a sausage roll from 1968. Or when the first week of spring arrives and the frocks come out. Or I find a new café.
Fucking smartarse suburb. They do all this shit so well that I have to get in my car and go all the way there instead of just down the road to my local drag. And the latest addition to Prahran’s annoying list of attractions is Stickybeak. A large-ish reno’d warehouse off Chapel street, it’s a cornucopia of coffee and comestibles. And copper.
First the comestibles. I had something called Meat baked eggs – which sounds like you’re being introduced to some guy called Eggs – but is in fact a signature dish, and a fine one. It took about 20 minutes, and involved two eggs sitting on top of sautéed potatoes, with onions, spiced cabbage, cumin, parmesan and sour cream – or whatever bubble and squeak combination the chef decides on – all baked in a little cast iron pan. Frigging delicious. It came with thin slices of toasted baguette on the side too, which were handy to scoop and soak up all the rich juicy stuff at the bottom. Plus on top there was kaiserfleish bacon! Thin and salty and continental, this is the king of bacons; hence the name. In fact it’s made from real dead german emperors, so you know it’s good.
You know what else is good? Stuff baked in cast iron. That little black pan is an element that keeps warming your dish while you eat it. This proved useful because my mate got a phone call from his lawyer just as it was his turn to eat some of my eggs. You don’t hang up on your lawyer, so he took it outside… and me and the eggs sat patiently waiting for him, for 15 minutes. And when he did return, the dish was still warm. He gobbled his portion down and declared it to be delicious and I beamed with reflected pride. An astonishing triumph of heat retention over heat dissipation. It was like a year 7 science experiment.
For the record, my mate ordered the porridge, which had banana mixed through and berry compote on top, plus some roasted nut clustery stuff and he said it was arguably the best porridge he had had in a long, long time… He talks like that.
And a confession; when I ordered my eggs with the kaiserfleish bacon, I did it with a german accent. It just came out. A Hogans Heroes abomination of the teutonic tongue. The waitress smirked. I couldn’t tell if it was approval or disdain. Damn those inner city smirks. So when the dish arrived I could not help myself again and said Danke… She replied ‘bitte’ – which means ‘you’re welcome’ – and a cheeky thrill ran through my body. I just know we both felt so international.
Now to the coffee. I’m long and I’m black, and I like a bit of warm milk. Baristas kind of have to work to please me… Well I’ve had a few of them at Stickybeak, and they have all been hot and rich and good. (I want to write ‘and the coffees weren’t bad either’ but this is already getting a bit too ‘Carry On’.)
On a bum note (oh Matron!), my mate’s latte was a bit close to cool, which is a bit uncool. I know some of our hottest Cafistas are ironically turning the heat down to more Italian levels, but most of us want to start sipping and end up savouring, not gulping before the chill sets in. But look it could have been a one-off. A storm in a tepid teacup, if you will… a teacup of coffee that is… oh dear.
I’m going to water. Can you tell? Seriously, water delivery is a benchmark test of service in any cafe, and Stickybeak water arrives fast and in corked French bottles, or should I say bouteilles, with big sensual glasses for big sensual swigs. See don’t you feel better already? I do just writing that.
And finally, the copper. I’m a fan; I remember fondly when Copperart had stores all over Melbourne. But we’re not talking about chamber pots and bed warmers here. Stickybeak has a copper-pipe sculpture thing spreading above the bar area that makes it look like a Mad Professors laboratory. Carbon filament light bulbs and old educational/medical books add to the eccentric Victorian effect. So does the green pressed tin ceiling. And the copper-coated bar is a thing of shining beauty, with a feather design that looks so warm and organic you kind of want to pat it. I didn’t, but I am going to next time. You watch me.
There is a subtle sense of fun about Stickybeak, which is probably why I like it so. The staff were all effortlessly nice to me, at least one indulged me in mildly inappropriate humour, and just for good measure there’s even a church chuckle of a joke on the specials board; ‘Whether you’re chasing cock or tail, it’s $10 all day on Sunday’. Which is both a fairly good deal, and a fairly good smutty word play. I know because I pride myself on smutty word plays. Like the time I thought of the word ‘cockporn’ while eating popcorn and watching some adult entertainment. The movie was called Shaving Ryan’s Privates and I must say the narrative was surprisingly strong; it kept me gripped from beginning to end despite being under constant threat from an army of huge bouncing – Oh I’m sorry, wrong review.
Where was I? Oh yes. The bottom line is, Stickybeak kicks café arse. It does. It takes your anemic little corner café by the skinny shoulders, spins it around, bends it over and kicks it in the arse. Just like that. Then it saunters back to its spot like nothing ever happened, while other cafes stare and mutter disapprovingly. One considers dialling triple 0. But an icy glare from Stickybeak and the phone is quickly put way… you get the picture. Kicks arse.
Stickybeak is on Green St near Chapel St, and is open 7 days from 7:30am to 4pm.