When I first read about Champ opening up on The Urban List, I was really excited. Because of my hateful sleeping disorder, no matter when I go to bed at night (usually late on the weekends), I'm awake at 6:30am like clockwork. Marc doesn't even aknowledge the existance of this time period so I often find myself in the position of needing a local (near West End) place to have breakfast by myself. Champ is a new cafe-slash-bar in South Bank, which is a perfect morning stroll from where I stay.
I've ventured out there twice now. I have a self-imposed rule for my blog where I refuse to blog a place unless I have at least 2 proper dishes to write about. Sometimes I can get away with ordering 2 things at one place because a) they're smallish items or b) because I don't think I'll get a chance to go back anytime soon (e.g. if the cafe/restaurant is interstate). Because Champ was so close by, I figured I'd order one thing and go back a second time to get enough data for my review.
On my first visit, I walked all the way down to the end of South Bank Parklands before having the bright idea of Googling where the hell I was supposed to be. I realized that Champ was way back at the other end, close to where I started my trek. Oh well, nothing wrong with a bit of walking on a Sunday morning. I find it invigorating.
Once I'd reached Champ, I had this 'ohh!' moment because I'd actually walked past x times before. It had always registered in my mind as 'that really busy cafe' but I never stopped to look at the name. This first time that I went in for food, it was truly early... somewhere between 7 and 7:30am. I had no trouble getting a table. Champ is located in the new ABC building and has an open feel about it, not only because there's generous outdoor seating and the space is literally open, but because of the liberal use of floor-to-ceiling glass rather than actual walls. I have a big thing for natural lighting so this was a major plus. It's instantly mood-lifting. I had a small table right indoors near the bar, but it still felt sunny and outdoorsy.
The breakfast menu at Champ is, in my opinion, genius. There are the familiar offerings of fruit, muesli, toast etc. People who can't distinguish 'breakfast' from 'bacon and eggs' will be delighted to know that it's available in all forms (with or without other bits and pieces). I can be picky with breakfast items because I like ordering things that are innovative, and that I can't make at home but also aren't too try-hard and wanky. Champ had several options that met those requirements.
I ordered a latte straight off the bat because that's just what I do. The coffee was great. It's fast becoming my thing to look forward to for weekend mornings: that first coffee hit that makes life feel 10 x better (especially when hung over).
Chili creamed corn - with poached egg, sour dough soldiers and nam prik
For that first breakfast occasion, I went with the chili creamed corn. I wasn't really sure what to expect because I'd never had anything like that for breakfast before. It came as big bowl of creamed corn with a poached egg on top and some toasted sourdough bread for dipping. Oh my... it was delicious. I know that creamed corn is not the most photogenic food item in the world. I tried not to let the word 'vomit' enter my mind and failed, but waving all the nasty, shallow remarks aside, guys this is a killer dish.
I have a good dipping strategy... gotta get a bit of everything
I do confess an abnormal liking for corn but I don't think that only corn enthusiasts would enjoy this dish. It was the perfect mix of creamy and eggy with a slight chili kick. There's the chili sauce (nam prik) available if you want to amp it up. The dish worked well texturally too, with the softness of the creamed corn offset by chewy whole kernals and crunchy sourdough. The only thing is, the creamed corn to bread ratio seemed a bit high. I finished with a lot of creamed corn remaining in my plate. Did I underload my sourdough? I doubt it. I was full anyway so it didn't matter but for others, extra toast soldiers may be necessary.
As a side note, I was also sick that day and had a heinously sore throat. You know when you're sick with throat pain and there's a lot of food that seems intolerable? Well, chili creamed corn is not one of those things for me. I found it more than tolerable.
Orange, peach and ginger fruit shake
My comment about being sick is sort of relevant because after I'd finished my coffee, I started craving a cool, refreshing drink. As a traditional Chinese man, my dad thinks cold food/drink is the worst thing you can do for a sore throat. I blocked out his advise and ordered an orange, peach and ginger fruit shake, reasoning that ginger has healing properties and that makes it OK.
I often order these types of drinks and feel disappointed because they'll be too sweet or just nothing special. This was incredibly refreshing and the ginger makes it just quirky enough to be different (unlike say, a banana smoothie which is a dime a dozen). The Champ fruit shakes are icy like a frappe but the ice is ground so finely it was akin to velvety cold liquid. These will be a real treat come summer time.
On my second visit to Champ, it was a bit later on a Sunday morning. They were much busier this time. I knew exactly what I wanted: coffee again (which I won't talk about because it was exactly like the first one) and the crab omelet. I must have a thing for eggs in the morning. It was also really hot so I ended up ordering a lemon and lime iced tea too.
Old fashioned lemon and lime iced tea
The iced tea came first. I imagine it's made from real tea flavored with citrus and then sweetened with a sugar syrup. Next time I order this I'll request an omission of the sugar syrup because I hate sweetness in drinks. The top part was great, lemony and cool with a distinct tea flavor. The bottom got too sweet for me and I didn't want to stir at the start because I liked the unsweetened portion.
Crab omelet - with Chinese sausage, red pepper, onion and Asian herb salad and warm soy mirin drizzle
My omelet took a while to come out. I had feared the serving would be too big and I wouldn't be able to finish it because I wasn't that hungry (late night kebab the night before). Luckily for me it wasn't a huge omelet and I ended up devouring the whole thing because it was so tasty.
There was a good amount of crab meat and plenty of lap cheong (Chinese sausage) to satisfy the meat lovers out there. What I liked most was the dressing. It was a simply soy dressing but had a great balance of sweet, salty and tangy that together with the salsa and fresh herbs really lifted the omelet.
I really loved it at Champ Kitchen. It's done a leap into one of my favorite breakfast spots in Brisbane and that's no easy feat. The service was a tad slower on my second visit but to be fair, they were really busy and the staff were still friendly. I've loved the food and beverages on both occasions. My pick is the chili creamed corn and I'm dying to try more flavors of fruit shakes.