Naughty Boy Cafe is one of those rare places where the quality of service and food is as good as that experience at a good evening meal, but is a place welcoming enough for me to relax here the whole day and catch up on a spot of blogging. It’s a bloggers paradise; free wifi; staff who are attentive enough to leave me be, but who also ensure that my water glass is full and my stay a comfortable one.
The Instagram-worthy food tastes as good as it looks and there’s enough choice on the menu for all. It comes as no surprise that Ashley De’Hartman and Daniel Katz, the guys behind Naughty Boy, have done it all before leaving popular spot Mama Bear in Flemington to bring their friendly charm to the leafy streets of Carlton North.
Luckily, they’ve also brought chef Mark Wallen with them, who ensures tasteful dishes arrive in a timely manner with consistency being key – a big bonus in my books. As well as the usual favourites, both the all-day breakfast and lunch menu have a handful of unique dishes, such as the cauliflower & roasted hazelnut fritters with apple & fennel remoulade, cress, poached eggs, blue cheese & white bean hummus. This is a great little dish with big flavours, especially the blue cheese & white bean hummus, which cheese lovers like myself will adore. I also added a side of chorizo as it’s no fun being a good girl when dining out for breakfast.
Another favourite of mine is Mr Wallen’s housemade parmesan and chive gnocchi with beetroot purée, Parisian feta, baby spinach, bosc pear & walnuts. Now, I’ve never ordered gnocchi before and I can’t remember the last time I ate pasta or potato, but I thought I’d try something new. Turns out it was an excellent choice with the feta & walnut salad providing a fresh crisp finish to the dish, beautifully complementing the sweet beetroot purée. I didn’t get much of the pear come through but it didn’t taste like it was lacking anything. Again, this dish may look slightly on the small side, especially for the Carlton AFL team that regularly come in (now, I wonder why this has become my regular hangout spot!), but the combination of rich bold flavours left me feeling satisfied.
I have a love/hate relationship with the specials board, which in recent weeks has seen the return of the hugely popular soft shell crab burger. The thought of digging my teeth into a whole crab terrifies me, so much so I’ve woken up with nightmares about it (a little loser-ish I know) but it seems to be the “in thing” in Melbourne at the moment, along with hotcakes which is obviously where my heart lies. I haven’t tried Naughty Boy’s special coconut hotcakes with kaffir lime infused blackberries, passionfruit curd & vanilla ice cream, but I’ve seen it come out and my God it looks good. Talking of looking good, the Lamb Kibbeh with pistachio freekah, roasted cauliflower, pomegranate, and saffron yogurt was a hit on my Instagram page.
Now on to my favourite part – cake. Yes Naughty Boy do cake, of course they do, this IS Melbourne after all. There are about six sweet treats which take centre stage in the display cabinet, including a gluten-free spiced carrot & walnut cupcake and a gluten-free ‘feel good bar’ for those feeling not so naughty. These alternate every couple of days, as do the inventive flavoured muffins (think cranberry, pistachio and dark choc) depending what chef Megan has baked on site that morning.
I have heard many of the customers comment on the mixed nuts, salted caramel & chocolate slice, so that is what I chose as after all, the word of others always seem to be the most reliable – like this blog for instance 😉 The pastry was well baked and had a gentle crumble when cut. Personally I would have liked to have tasted a little more salt in the caramel, but all in all it was an enjoyable bake.
Yet to be discovered by photo-snapping Urbanspoon bloggers, word has got round the local neighbourhood and I regularly see the same faces who the staff know by name and make the effort to remember their morning coffee order. The coffee used is Allpress (also available in the UK) and made with love by experienced barista, Cheng Hsien from Taiwan who illustrates a clear passion for Melbourne’s favourite hot drink. My personal favourite is an almond piccolo, but I do chop n’ change being the indecisive gal that I am. It’s surprising that a small biscuit or chocolate isn’t served with every hot drink, considering Naughty Boy pulls out the little extras to create a special personal experience. Naughty Boy brings top evening hospitality to the breakfast table seven days a week, not forgetting lazy afternoons which can be spent enjoying a glass of one of the wines on offer. They also do catering if you’d like to be a little naughty at home or in the office, especially with the party season coming up, it would be good to impress. Just contact them here.
When I find a place that I like I can seem a little biased, but why not, I want to tell you all about it so you can enjoy it too. Naughty Boy is kid-friendly, dog-friendly and as my mother would like to hear, cyclist-friendly, meaning you can drag the whole clan down for a spot of brunch. I also hear there’s a very attractive waitress with dark curly hair 😉 but hey, who am I to believe in rumours. I’ve met my match with Naughty Boy, life’s too short to be good ALL the time.
Living life, loving naughtiness,