Smoked Paprika in Bardon is a place we’ve been to a number of times now, and a little writing on it has been intended for a while. Away from the cluster of Paddington eateries, it is a breakfast, lunch, or brunch destination in its own right. On the fairly busy MacGregor Terrace, there is a hum of traffic constantly going by. There are a few parking spots in the complex it is housed in, but you have to be on the correct side of the road on the approach to get in.
We waited near the entrance, and were shown to seats soon after arriving. Seating is in a built out covered area, open on all sides, with some drop shades available. The temperature is whatever the ambient temperature is. There are fans available, and make it a little more tolerable when the weather is hot, but that doesn’t completely take the sting out. There isn’t air-conditioning or heating, so be prepared for a non-climate-controlled environment, which is variably alright depending on when you go.
It is furnished with polymer wood-look tables and metal chairs with wooden seats. There is a little pot of greenery at each table, along with salt and pepper grinders and a little stand with a table number. It is a simple, clean look.
On some occasions, the music played from a Bluetooth speaker near the door (80s/early 90s power ballads) can be a touch loud. With the surrounding traffic noise and buzz of people talking, it can be hard to hear any words or tune over everything else going on though, and it just adds to the noise level. The coffee grinder and ice blender were also intermittently rumbling from the indoor area.
Service can be variable, sometimes brusque, as the best description, and other times friendlier. There is a bit of an eastern European directness and drive for efficiency.
Starting with drinks, the flat white was thought to be pretty good, and came with a little square of orange cake that was moist and light.
The chocolate milkshake was richly chocolatey, and nicely cold. It might be just a touch sweet for some, but it was enjoyable.
There are usually specials written up on a couple of chalkboards, and they are certainly worth paying attention to. On the most recent visit, we had the special of Sweet Potato Fritters, and the once-special-now-regular Slow Cooked Brisket.
The Sweet potato fritters were listed as coming with poached eggs, tarragon hollandaise, mushrooms, goat’s cheese, and grilled chorizo. They had, unfortunately, run out of chorizo by that point in the day, so we had bacon as a substitute. The fritters had a fragrant curry spice flavour. They were also slightly sweet, from the sweet potato component, and a good texture that wasn’t mushy or too dense. The mushrooms were well-cooked, and had a roasted, umami flavour. The poached eggs had the still runny centre as expected. The tarragon hollandaise was creamy, and not too strongly herbed. The goat’s cheese added a gently piquant pop. There was a good amount of bacon with the dish, imparting meaty saltiness. The sweet potato crisps on top were crunchy, and not oily. It all worked well together as a dish.
The Slow cooked brisket, as mentioned, started off as a special. It has since become a regularly available item, and although it hasn’t been added to the menu you receive at the table (or the ones online), it remains written up on one of the blackboards. The Slow cooked brisket comes with toasted turkish bread, tomatoes, mushrooms, poached eggs, and horseradish hollandaise. The brisket meat was tender, a little spicy, and a little tomatoey. The eggs, like those in the other dish, had runny yolks. The hollandaise over it all was tangy, with horseradish flavour, but not too much heat. Peppery rocket was hidden beneath the meat. The mushrooms were, again, nicely cooked.
We have had other items on the menu previous times (didn’t get good pictures of them all though).
At a previous brunch, we both couldn’t go past the special, and both ordered the same thing, for fear of food envy. It was crispy skin pork belly with braised lentils, asparagus, chorizo, poached eggs, snowpea tendrils, bearnaise sauce, and balsamic glaze. There was properly crispy skin on the pork belly, and the fat layer had been adequately rendered down. The food had actually taken a little while to come out, and the chef came out later to tell us that that had been because he had wanted to make sure that the skin was crunchy. Having been to other places where that hasn’t been the case, we appreciated the attention to detail. The lentils were flavourful, sweet and salty with a hint of tartness. There was smokiness from the chorizo. The asparagus and pea shoots provided the vegetable component to balance the heavy proteins. The eggs were a little overdone though, so the yolks weren’t runny. The bernaise sauce provided the creaminess instead. It was a very tasty dish, and very prettily plated.
The pulled pork omelette with cherry tomatoes, shallots, and smokey BBQ sauce was a filling dish, but with less flavour variation. The pulled pork in it was savoury, and wasn’t soggy, as can often be the case. The omelette around the contents was actually rather fluffy, like the Hong Kong-style egg chiffon (anyone who had been to the A1 Cafe in Melbourne before it closed down will get what I am talking about). The BBQ sauce didn’t really have a smokey flavour, but was tasty nonetheless.
The Smoked Paprika breakfast has spiced beef on Turkish bread with poached eggs, hollandaise, rocket, roasted tomatoes, and grilled haloumi. Again, they are flavours that work, with all the components cooked well. (I think the eggs had a runny yolk that time.)
Smoked Paprika isn’t fancy, but it is a place for tasty food at a good price. They offer a bit of a twist from the typical, and some of their specials are dishes you’d really be happy to eat all the time.
Price point: Breakfast items: $11.90 to $17.90.
Address: Shop 9, 65 Macgregor Terrace, Bardon
Phone:07 3161 5469
Website: Smoked Paprika