Ivan Pavlov was a Nobel Prize winning Russian physiologist who studied the digestion of dogs in the 1800s. The name Pavlov's Duck, however, is completely random — Pavlov never owned a duck. Randomness aside, the name is intriguing enough to attract customers inside this Smith Street cafe. And Pavlov's Duck is set to put casual Sri Lankan fusion meals on the Melbourne map.
From the moment you walk through the monster glass door, the establishment's eclecticism is thrust upon you. Exposed brick walls surround sporadically placed wooden ducks. The cafe has tossed out boring sugar caddies and serves sugar out of wooden coconuts — another subtle way of paying homage to Sri Lanka. Its coffee however is not from Sri Lanka, as the beans come from Padre Coffee (Daddy's Girl blend).
What separates Pavlov's Duck from other brunch spots is its impressive integration of South-Asian ingredients and spices. But be prepared — the food is hefty. Chillies and poached plums give a rich twist to what would be ordinary dishes. The cafe has managed to twist a regular croissant into what is called the 'Lankan Frenchy': a croissant filled with coconut, chilli, parsley and a boiled egg ($11). For those who go out for breakfast but secretly feel like lunch, the 'Pol' roti ($16) is perfect, with homemade coconut roti, spiced red lentils, onion relish and a boiled egg.
Nothing screams innovation louder than the specials. The blueberry French toast with bacon crumb mascarpone, lychees and chocolate three ways ($17) gives a new name to the timeworn classic. And yes, it works. If it's diversity you're after, the pumpkin and chia seed pancakes with lentil salad, coconut sambol (a relish made of desiccated coconut and chillies), chorizo and pickled chilli ($18) may be the one for you.
After a year of trading, the cafe have extended their hours into the evening; on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, they're serving up a tight menu of Sri Lankan snacks and meal. Head in after 4pm and you'll find traditional thosai (dosa) with sambar and green sambol ($15.50), roti and hoppers, which are bowl-shaped crepes filled with egg and dahl and other delicious things ($15.50).
Pavlov's Duck also has desserts lined up for post-meal sugar craving. Raw white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake ($7) and a salted caramel slice ($6.50) are two sweethearts on the menu. Parents, the chocolate crackles ($3.80) made with buckinis (activated buckwheat) are a healthy dessert option for the kids. The best part? All of these are gluten-free, sugar-free and organic. So you can be cheeky at Pavlov's — but not too cheeky.