“If you would lift me up you must be on higher ground”
I couldn’t say it better myself. I’m assuming that when American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson penned this famous quote he was looking well beyond his 19th-century existence. His crystal ball was turned to February 2017 and focused firmly on Little Bourke Street, Melbourne Australia.
I’ve eaten at Higher Ground twice now and I’m convinced it’s the best brunch in Melbourne. Tucked away as it is, just opposite Southern Cross station and underneath a skyscraper, we almost walked past it on our first visit.
I had a feeling Higher Ground was something special and read up a little after my first visit. I was right, it is something special. Less than a year old, Higher Ground is the brainchild of Nathan Toleman, the guy who along with his wife, pretty much invented smashed avocado on toast! Dear god, what a man!!
Oh as if that’s not enough, he also has a string of successful foodie ventures under his belt. His head chef Nate Wilkins has cooked in all the best places and his team’s experience is equally impressing. They are well and truly a power duo.
Let’s look at the food
Although I couldn’t fault any of the four dishes I’ve tried at Higher Ground, this one was my favourite. Spiced Cauliflower, Scrambled Eggs, Curry Leaf, Roasted Chilli & House Made Flat Bread. Ooof… where to start?
Incredibly fragrant crispy fried chilli leaves topping the softest bright yellow scrambled egg, thinly sliced cauliflower and toasty roasted broccoli florets. The spicing was subtle enough to not smother the vegetables but somehow, at the same time, enough to warm your palette. Honestly, I can’t find one negative with this dish.
On this occasion, I was with my friend Patrick as he was visiting us for a holiday. He had the Lamb Sausage Roll with Cucumber Pickle, Garlic & Anchovy Mayonnaise. Although it comes unaccompanied, for brunch it’s a good size and will easily fill you up. After all, it’s entirely pastry and meat!
The salty, creamy anchovy mayonnaise was the winner on that plate for me and like a roast leg of lamb studded with garlic and anchovies, it paired the sausage meat perfectly. The pastry was flaky and gloriously calorie laden and don’t get me started on the spiced lamb filling. Let’s put it this way, Patrick only let me have the smallest of bites!
And the drinkies…
On my visit with Patrick, we enjoyed a couple of glasses of vino to toast his arrival and my success at having found such an awesome place for his first brunch. After telling him how amazing the Pinot Noir was in Australia, Patrick found that after this first glass (2014 Jamsheed ‘Pepe le Pinot’, Yarra Valley) nothing came close for the duration of the trip.
On my visit with Dave, we were supremely impressed by his batch-brew coffee. Aside from the rich, almost smoky flavour, the presentation impressed us. The coffee came with tasting notes, much to Dave’s delight. A brilliant touch which made the experience all the more special.
I’ve left little room for confusion here. It’s obvious that I LOVE Higher Ground.
Just excellent food in a stunning, creative space. I ate during the day on both occasions. We queued on both a Monday and a Saturday. That’s just the way it is as you can’t make daytime reservations. If you want to go at night you can (and should) book. Given how busy the staff were, I was surprised at their friendliness and impressed by the efficiency.
Expect to pay a little more than brunch elsewhere (across my two visits, the bills were an average of $59) which I actually think is really bloody reasonable. It’s about £20 a head. If you want cheaper food, go somewhere else. This is a special place and I’d happily pay double.