Chez Dre is a bit of a legend amongst the Melbourne cafe scene. It’s located in one of the most competitive parts of Melbourne for great cafes – just near the South Melbourne market – but even so its reputation is as the premier place to go in the area for great breakfasts and breakfast desserts (otherwise known as cakes). So what did Snooze and I think of our visit here? Chez Dre is one place where reputation clearly reflects reality.
The main entrance is up an old laneway – very Melbourne Chic – and from the view when stepping through the door it isn’t possible to really appreciate what a great job they've done with the set up. Behind the screen is the ‘boudoir’ section, for those looking for well filled padded seats. Further on is the old Melbourne staple--larger communal table--and out the back is a court yard area that proved very dog-friendly. The kitchen opens up into the dining area and the whole place is remarkably well spaced for such a popular eatery.
The menu is a little out of the ordinary without necessary being on the leading culinary edge. For me anyway, it was more about doing things well while adding a few not too challenging twists. Being the gentleman I am I allowed Snooze to choose her dish first and of course she naturally headed for what would have been my first choice. It’s a curse sometimes being so nice and polite.
Anyway, Snooze’s Moroccan baked eggs came with lamb sausage, tabouleh, tahini yoghurt and grilled bread. Not taking any notes but just over one week later two things stood out about this dish to me. First of all the flavour packed lamb sausage. The only breakfast sausage you normally get with this much flavour is chorizo, which brings a fair chilli hit with them. These though were just packed with my favourite meaty flavour (lamb) which really lifted the dish. The other highlight, perfectly runny eggs. One of the killers for baked eggs is the eggs are overdone due to continued cooking in the hot pot. These though still had the perfect liquid yolk which is released when you pierce the soft outer white shell.
And if Snooze can steal my normal choice I can always go for a more typically her vegetarian option, in this case a slow baked mushroom with roasted buckwheat, lentils, walnuts, grapes, goat's cheese and poached eggs. While the strong earthy flavour of the mushroom and lentils was good, what truly stood out was the crunch of the toasted lentils.
Unable to leave without our breakfast desserts, I may have got a bit too greedy here. There is a saying you can’t have too much of a good thing, but the cakes are very rich, or at least the ones I chose were. Looking picture perfect behind the glass counter I just had to order two, a shiny coated chocolate tart and the caramel mound. The chocolate tart was decadently rich, like late Roman Empire dining with the emperor decadent. The caramel mound wasn't quite as rich, but contained several different layers of caramel goodness. I think Snooze found the chocolate tart overly rich, given she'd just eaten a generous breakfast, but almost forced herself to finish her share of the caramel mound it was that good. I think next time though, a single cake would suffice between us.
High quality food and very well set out cafe but the service was occasionally a little scratchy, for example the cutlery being brought to our table before we ordered rather than for our neighbours. Only a minor thing and we didn’t really care, but an indication that they may not be as organised as they are aiming for. And pricewise, well Chez Dre isn’t cheap and I wouldn’t go there expecting a bargain. However, we certainly didn’t feel we overpaid and it’s more a case of paying a bit more to get a bit more.
Food – 9
Ambience – 8.5
Service – 7.5
Price – 6.5
Rear 285-287 Coventry Street
South Melbourne VIC 3205