Pope Joan is a small cafe in Melbourne’s northern suburbs that has been on my list of places to try for a while and I finally got a chance to have a casual lunch there the other day when Di from The Culinary Library was visiting from Adelaide. Pope Joan is on Nicholson St in East Brunswick and could easily be missed if you not looking out for it. It is owned by Ben Foster and Matt Wilkinson and their two head chefs are Frank Verschaeve and Jason Newton. They serve breakfast and lunch 7 days a week from 7.30am to 4pm. It’s cosy interior is laid out with wooden tables, flowers and fresh pomegranates and the shelves are stacked with a small collection of cookbooks and vintage trinkets.

Their menu is based on seasonal produce and has a good mixture of well priced small breakfast and lunch options including taleggio and rosemary scrambled eggs, pumpkin & haloumi pie, gourmet sandwiches and daily specials such as seafood and pasta dishes. They have a small veggie and herb garden out the back from which they pick fresh ingredients to compliment their dishes.

For lunch, we chose two items from the specials menu:

Parsnip and cauliflower soup with toast and parsnip crisps $12
Fontina and white truffle ravioli, hazelnuts, roquette and parmesan $18

The parsnip and cauliflower soup was deliciously smooth and creamy and the parsnip crisps on the top added a lovely crunch and flavour. They serve their soup in tall and skinny Robert Gordon bowls on wooden boards that not only make great presentation, but keep your soup toasty warm. Try our version of this soup here.

The house made ravioli had a soft cheese filing and was served with roasted hazelnuts, parmesan and roquette from their vegetable garden. The pasta was cooked perfectly and the fresh peppery rocket offset the rich parmesan, fontina and the truffle. Hazelnuts were a great addition as they compliment both cheese and fresh salad leaves and add a nice crunch to the dish. The ravioli was served on top of what seemed to be a parsnip puree that was equally as delicious.

In the cake cabinet there were lots of lovely looking treats for dessert or as a coffee accompaniment such as raspberry macaroons and lemon and rosemary cakes. The quality of the food and presentation at Pope Joan shows attention to detail by chefs who clearly care about their food and is well worth heading back for.

Matt Wilkinson recently published a book called Mr Wilkinson’s Favourite Vegetables that I simply could not resist purchasing to add to my own Culinary Library. The book is filled with inventive and unique recipes that are not necessarily vegetarian, but make humble and often overlooked vegetables the centre of each dish. The book has beautiful food photography and botanical drawings that pay tribute to the produce and Matt’s recipes. He has a way with flavour combinations and I look forward to trying out many of his recipes such as Nettle & Sorrel Souffle Omelette with Feta, Heirloom Carrot Salad with Yoghurt, Almond & Honey Dressing and Foil-roasted Big Beets with Ricotta & Mint.

Pope Joan
77 – 79 Nicholson street
East Brunswick

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2 Responses to Pope Joan – Restaurant Review

  1. Ohh that ravioli looks amazing. I have really wanted to visit there as well after one of my dishes was on the menu for a week from a competition I entered earlier in the year. I missed out on a visit when it was on the menu unfortunately. I also would love the book, along with many others 😉 I could spend a fortune on cook books!!

  2. Wow that is very exciting Kyrstie. What a compliment getting your dish on their menu! I hope they took some snaps for you. What was the dish? Yes I bought the book for a friend a few weeks ago and then I really didn’t last very long until I bought it for myself!

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