HAVING heard much about this converted urban space by famed Melbourne architects Six Degrees, I thought I too might just love Auction Rooms the moment I clapped eyes on the cafe’s wrought iron signage and blue stippled exterior.
The cafe was buzzing when we visited on Saturday, but inside, it was bright and airy with tables enough to keep you from feeling guilty about lingering for post-prandial banter after your plates are cleared.
Large windows showcasing the courtyard let the winter light in, while the high ceiling, criss-crossed with exposed beams, preserve the building’s heritage.
The micro elements were similarly charming.
Tiny vintage-stained tins of “Heinz Pea & Ham soup” hide brown sugar for your latte, and a jam jar licked clean and filled with a small posy of fuschia orchids rests on the window sill.
And ladies, a trip to the bathrooms will leave your delicate fingers geranium-scented after a good lather of Aesop handwash!
Three heads together, my companions and I pore over the menu.
The choices are eclectic, for the kitchen has given the classic brunch fare a twist, with items such as anchovies or tangy salsa over eggs, and avocado with fresh chilli, mint and feta on toast.
And if you prefer sweet to savoury, there are pancakes, house-made banana bread and bircher muesli.
After some deliberation, we finally settled on the Chorizo Hash, the Opening Bid, Sardines with Crostini and Fennel, and Croquettes.
Our favourite was the Chorizo Hash.
We were expecting a patty-style hash, but what we got was something better – loosely grated spiced carrots, potato and onion slivers (so soft and caramelized!), topped with a fried egg over warm-baked pita bread. The crispy edges of the pan-fried chorizo pieces were mouthwatering.
The Opening Bid was a yummy mix of free range poached eggs, spinach, bacon, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms over Dench Baker’s sourdough.
The lightly roasted cherry tomatoes were bursting with juicy goodness, complementing the crisp bacon. And while “wonderfully leathery soft” may not seem the most flattering description, it was what came to mind when I bit into the dark field mushrooms. Yes, leathery bliss indeed.
The Sardines with Crostini and Fennel was a sophisticated-mix, but best to avoid if you hate tomatoes, and you hate them cold.
And then, there were the Croquettes, and they were no ordinary croquettes.
They were like oversized Ferrero Rochers made of spud. It was simply divine biting through the crispy crumbed chopped almond crust to a centre full of chopped mushrooms and creamy gorgonzola.
And if the thought of blue cheese makes your face scrunch, we suggest you try this anyway. The gorgonzola is mild and surprisingly pleasant to the uninitiated.
And the crema?
“Oh, I hope the coffees are good, if people are taking photos,” the waiter with the Hanson-style centre part said with a smile, our cups in his hands.
We grin a little guiltily.
For the record, our lattés are great, though the very large and very red 1960s Bolognese roaster which sits proud in the forefront is decorative rather than functional.
All in all, we think it’s definitely one to revisit.
We’ve already got our eyes on an item for lunch (available from 12 noon). The Beef Carpaccio with Confit Egg and Miso Aioli bids us back.
Auction Rooms Café
103 – 107 Errol St
North Melbourne 3051
Tel: 03 9326 7749