It's somewhat of a drag, but it's a Melburnians' Sunday morning ritual — waiting for a table at brunch. It occurs all across the city, in pokey suburban cafes and industrial inner-city spaces, but none seem to match the quintessential wait at Auction Rooms. Even with a number of impressive alternatives just around the corner, still brunchers are willing to wait with growling bellies and pounding heads. They know what's worth waiting for.
Luckily, the line isn't stagnant, and thanks to the sheer size of this converted warehouse-cum-cafe, tables are turned over and cleared quickly. If you're willing to wait — and you will have to wait on a weekend — expect to spend up to half an hour on the stand-by bench. Be sure to use your time wisely, by perusing the menu, reading up on the specialty coffee or keeping an eye on other peoples meals as they roll out of the kitchen. Either way, the large, naturally lit modern industrial space, with exposed brick, high ceilings and statement light fittings is one easy to enjoy.
When you are seated, coffee by Small Batch Roasting Co. will be needed — make sure to check out the coffee of the day and specialty brewing methods in addition to your usual espresso order. The menu itself is not overly long or too tightly packed, and instead it offers just the right amount of options to make your selection. Place your offers where you will, but the pork belly 'schadenfreude' ($19) and the shakshuka of stewed tomato, eggplant, peppers and chickpeas with Meredith goat cheese, dukkah, poached eggs and grilled flatbread ($17) are both deals you can't pass up.
The outside bids are made up of a mix of surprise favourites, with the smoked streaky bacon and chorizo with rhubarb reduction ($8.50) and the macadamia crumbed black pudding ($7.50) interesting inclusions. The menu also offers a few lunch options come midday, as well as smaller breakfast options and cakes at the front counter. Just make sure you leave room for the house-made banana and walnut bread, served with maple syrup and their incredible espresso butter ($10.50).
Just as auction-goers used to enter this Errol Street warehouse with their bids, the crowds at Auction Rooms are no different; they know they'll have to wait to pounce on their prize. It's the guarantee of one of Melbourne's best brunch experiences — an exceptionally well-rounded menu, serious coffee and a buzzing space. There are no losers here.