VenueAddress- 203 Carlisle Street, Balaclava, Victoria
Phone- 03 9531 3699
Hours : Open 7 days, Breakfast and Lunch (Breakfast all day – hoorah!)
Price – breakfasts from $5-15
This bright and cheery café is one of the highlights of the Carlisle Street strip. Located at the foot of Balaclava station, Las Chicas’ location ensures it does a roaring trade in commuter breakfasts (coffee and muffin/croissant) on weekdays but this is the least of its attractions (except when I run out of coffee at home).
Though the tables inside are small and it gets a bit cramped inside, there are large tables outside (covered and sunny, with pram access) that can accommodate larger groups. If you turn up with a large group on the weekend, expect quite a long wait.
My most recent visit to Las Chicas was on one of those 40 degree days and I sat inside. I was asked if I would like a drink as soon as I was seated and a bottle of water arrived automatically before my coffee. My soy latte was fantastic and was delivered promptly despite the busy-ness of the café. It was strong and smooth, with a thick crema and no ‘grit’ or bitterness.
The menu is extensive and creative. It is largely comprised of breakfast items but with a section at the back of the menu for café staples (toasted ciabatta, salads etc.). I must say that I am constantly inspired by the breakfasts and haven’t ventured into this terrain. Then again, breakfast is my favourite meal so this isn’t much of a surprise.
Divided into sections - healthy, favourites, vegetarian, non-vegetarian and pancakes – there is something that will please anyone. From regular or bircher muesli ($5.50) through baked beans with pumpkin and polenta bread to the Bikini Benedict Blowout ($15) which consists of a toasted bagel topped with avocado, bacon, poached eggs and lavished with hollandaise.
Egg breakfasts come in half and full serves (one egg or two) and favourites such as eggs Florentine ($8.50/$11) or build your own ($5.50/$8) plus extras from $1.50 - $3 include standards as well as unexpected items such as sweetened ricotta. I love this as it means that on a hungry day you can order a two course breakfast – a half serve of eggs followed by breakfast dessert – sweet!
It is the set breakfasts where Las Chicas really shines. On the veg side there is a Japanese inspired omelette with enoki mushrooms or the brekky bruschetta (scrambled eggs and pesto on bruschetta sprinkled with pine nuts). Both are substantial enough but don’t leave you unable to move.
Bacon lovers tell me that the non-veg brekky burrito is a winner, with bacon, scrambled eggs, spinach and tomato folded inside a tortilla. This breakfast is popular with the irritating carb-conscious make-up and strappy heels at breakfast set that can be seen around St Kilda but contains enough fat and taste to please others too.
On this occasion, I ordered from the healthy section of the menu; stewed fruits with pistachio ricotta and cinnamon toast ($8). When it arrived, it gave the people sitting next to me order envy. Two pieces of sugar and cinnamon encrusted ‘fried toast’ pide is hardly healthy, especially when eaten in concert with the generous amount of creamy ricotta with which it comes. Lucky that the rest is fruit, right? My bowl included two types of separately stewed fruit – rhubarb with cloves that isn’t overly sweetened and apple with cardamom and nutmeg. The rich red of the rhubarb and pale apple provided an aesthetically and tastebud pleasing contrast.
The toasted flaked almonds sprinkled on top provided a really nice crunch and texture contrast with the smooth fruit and ricotta. In case it isn’t obvious I will point out that I was really happy with my breakfast and will definitely order it again.
Despite the Las Chicas being really busy, I never felt rushed to vacate my table even though I lingered over the crossword with nothing but water after finishing my second coffee.
I highly recommend Las Chicas, through gritted teeth as I don’t want it to get even busier on the weekends!