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St Martin's: Brighton's new gem

Jim Marinis, Mary-Jane Daffy and Brett Hobb's newest establishment is taking Melbourne's cafe world by storm, delivering insta-worthy yet unpretentious meals

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Food Photography: Teagan Glenane

09 May 2017

For anyone familiar with Jim Marinis' and Mary-Jane Daffy's creative flair and attention to detail, only one word could come to mind back in October when they launched their Brighton endeavour: success.

"The whole journey started for us four years ago with our first venture Little Tommy Tucker in Bentleigh. It continued with Glovers Station, which was such an incredible cafe," Mary-Jane Daffy tells Neos Kosmos.

"St Martin's is a natural progression of these two establishments. We've taken everything we've learnt from the previous cafes and poured it into this place."

Indeed, it feels like they've married high-end restaurant culture with simplicity, creating solid yet surprising flavour combinations based on seasonal ingredients.

It is evident that there are intricate and deliberate techniques behind the preparation and execution of dishes, however there's a refreshing modesty to the finished product. There's an emphasis on locally sourced, free range and foraged products which feed directly into the ever changing menu.

"Our business partner and executive chef, Brett Hobbs, and head chef Lachlan Williams utilise their fine-dining backgrounds to create simple, creative dishes with surprising twists," Mary-Jane explains.

At St Martin's you won't find smashed avocado, a Melbourne breakfast favourite, or French toast. What may hit the table however is a pillowy omelette topped with foraged pine mushrooms, puffed wild rice, feta, lemon and a lick of chili caramel that lifts the dish to great heights.

Other dishes that leap from the menu include the yoghurt panna cotta with gluten free muesli and seasonal fruits; and the hearty fried eggs, spicy beef sausages and golden raisin relish.

Apart from the highly recommended pine mushroom omelette, I also tried the eggs Benedict with smoked ham hock, green apple mousse, crackle crunch, perfectly poached eggs hollandaise and compressed apple.

I never would have thought, not in a million years, that the mild acidity of green apple would complement eggs Benedict in such an outmatching way.

"Everyone is welcome to come in and have a great breakfast of, say, eggs and sides if they choose," Jim Marinis says, "but we also have more adventurous options like our slow cooked silverside with mustard butter, white onion puree, pickled zucchini and chili fried eggs."

"Breakfast, lunch, magic; that's what's written on the door as you enter," says Mary-Jane.

"We hope there is magic within these walls. In the food, the coffee and the service. We put an emphasis on all the elements of the cafe experience".

We'll add 'atmosphere' to that. How the fit-out is designed, definitely contributes to the overall feel; the dining experience.

"We wanted something different, something close to the water," the couple agrees.

"So what we've done is design the interior in reference to the beach bathing boxes in Brighton. It is however, minimal and contemporised."

Everything from the wood-panelled walls inside the 90-seater space, to the brightly coloured outside umbrellas combine to create a similar relaxing vibe associated with the nearby Brighton beach.

The faded sea blue-green hue for the floor tiles and the columns, works perfectly with the hardwood surfaces and the indoor plants creating a polished, chic environment.

Even though there are cold features like marble top counters and a concrete wall the cafe, which is nestled in the heart of an upmarket apartment block, exudes warmth.

Meanwhile, the speed of the service is noteworthy not to mention the quality, with members of the staff always greeting you with a smile, able to guide you through the menu and each dish's ingredients to the last detail.

"We always want people to feel welcome and be able to relax in our space. We tried to create a nice atmosphere that suits the area.
"We both spend a lot of time here, so we wanted St Martin's to feel like home. This is a family business and that's exactly what we're trying to do here, create a family."

Our recommendations:
· The activated almond bircher with tropical fruit and passion fruit curd, macadamia crumb and mango caramel
· The poached ocean trout with avocado puree, poached egg, broccoli, quinoa, buckwheat, kale and goji berry salad
· The semolina gnocchi with seasonal greens, pickled zucchini, whipped feta and curried pumpkin veloute
· The sticky beef roll with mustard mayonnaise, apple, fennel, celery coleslaw and dill pickles

* Vegetarian, vegan, gluten and dairy free options available.

A few weeks before St Martin's official opening, Melbourne's food power-couple was welcoming its firstborn son, Archie, into the world.
PHOTO: VLAD SAVIN

Open daily 7am-4pm.
116 Martin Street, Brighton, 03 9530 6678
For more follow
@stmartincafe on Instagram and like their page on Facebook or go to stmartinscafe.com.au to have a better look at their delicious menu.

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