Tuck Shop Cafe, Pie-House and Delicatessen, Northbridge
Autumn leaves are falling and the roads are slippery as we drive through East Perth on our way to Northbridge on a rainy Sunday morning. A storm's been forecast for later today and we plan to be home safe and cosy with full bellies long before it hits.
We arrive at Tuck Shop Cafe, Pie-House and Delicatessen at 9.30am amidst the frenzy of Sunday breakfast. The cafe is packed and we're told the wait will be around 15 minutes. There's a light drizzle falling and for just a second I think Jac's low tolerance for queueing, combined with a growly tummy that hasn't been fed yet today will mean she insists we jump back in the car and find somewhere else to eat. But she knows how much I've been looking forward to checking out Tuck Shop Cafe, and doesn't want to disappoint me. She can't stand waiting around, so we kill time with a brisk 10-minute walk. At almost the 15-minute mark exactly (I'm impressed!) we're invited inside as a table is now free.
The crowd of hungry onlookers doesn't diminish while we're there. There's always someone peeping at the door, huddling beneath the big black brollies or gazing longingly through the window. How long are you prepared to wait for the promise of a delicious breakfast?
The menu is printed daily and all items are available whether you're there for breakfast, brunch or lunch - this is my kind of place: no one raises an eyebrow if you want a pie and chips, cider braised pork ribs or Moroccan meatballs for breakfast. My only regret: not noticing the special of hash brown, slow cooked lamb, spinach and poached egg until it was too late - written low on the blackboard and partially hidden behind the diners sitting in front of it.
We start with freshly squeezed apple juice (a blackboard special, AU$7).
I also order a soy flat white. The coffee is Toby's Estate, rich and creamy.
Jac orders the ciabatta with Tasmanian smoked salmon, lemon ricotta, asparagus and fennel salad (AU$17). There's a thick layer of lemon ricotta on crisp ciabatta toast that's topped with salmon, fennel, asparagus and herbs, seasoned with salt and pepper. It's generous and abundant, fresh and colourful, but Jac finds it a tad oily for her taste and hard work to get a bit of everything on her fork.
I'm torn between the sautéed mushrooms with feta and spinach on multigrain sourdough ($16.50), baked beans with smoked ham hock, poached egg and parmesan toast ($17.50) and any of the pies ($12.50) - today's selection includes beef bacon and cheddar; Moroccan lamb; chicken, white wine and tarragon; beef curry; lamb rosemary and vegetable; beef and Stilton; and vegetable and chickpea curry. I can't resist the lure of a good hearty handmade pie, so in the end, the beef, bacon and cheddar it is.
This pie is a big boofer and a real beauty. The pastry is crisp, flaky and buttery and inside it's loaded with tender beef chunks and bacon pieces in rich brown gravy. Between the meat and pastry there's a top layer of gooey melted cheddar. I see Jac's eyes light up and I know she is coveting my pie.
Since I haven't ordered the baked beans breakfast dish, we get a side dish of baked beans with smoked ham hock ($5) instead. We also get the hand cut chips listed under "Sides" (AU$4.50). There's another option of hand cut chips with aioli or gravy (AU$7.50) on the main menu.
The baked beans are superb, with chunks of tomato and specks of ham hock and a hint of middle eastern spice.
The chips are pointy with skin on, and well salted. We can't stop eating them. I dip chips into the baked beans and into pie gravy. Gosh, it's good.
It's unrelentingly busy the entire time we're there but the staff are efficient and attentive.
If you have a Tuck Shop Cafe coffee loyalty card, you can leave it right here hanging on the wall so you'll never forget to bring it with you. Nice idea, but do you have to climb over fellow patrons to reach your card that's on the top row?
It's ticket parking on Money Street and you pay an hour at a time, $2 per hour. Even before our food arrives, it's almost time to put more money in the meter - the downside of queueing and dining at one of Perth's hottest cafes. A little birdie tells me there's free parking on Newcastle Street if you're lucky.
We'll be back, next time hopefully much earlier to beat the crowd. It's going to be hard to go past another pie and chips for breakfast.
Tuck Shop Cafe, Pie-House and Delicatessen
178 Newcastle Street (corner of Money Street), Northbridge
Telephone: (08) 9227 1659
Open Tuesday to Sunday 7am to 4pm
Unless you go early, be prepared to queue.