Like woolly scarves, hot water bottles and waterproof shoes, a steaming bowl of soup is an essential ingredient for a chilly Melbourne winter, packing nutritious essentials into a big bowl of love. Skip the pre-packaged, watered-down options and check out some of these healthy and worldly soups made with care and quality.
With two Melbourne locations, an iPhone app and a handy bike delivery service, chances are you won't be far from an aromatic bowl of beef pho laden with noodles, bean shoots and Vietnamese mint from Misschu, a growing collection of Vietnamese tuckshops that recently migrated here from Sydney under the watchful eye of Refugee Week ambassador, entrepreneur and owner Nahji Chu. This may seem a pricey version of an ordinarily inexpensive product, but at Misschu you're paying for free range ingredients and, of course, no gristle, MSG or garlic. The warm and fuzzies come free.
Have soup for breakfast at Carlton brunch spot Middle Fish, a sexy refurbished warehouse devoted to the salty, spicy, sweet and sour flavours of southern Thailand. For this kao tom (traditional breakfast soup), a light stock is simmered long and slow with aromatic herbs before brown rice, a soft poached egg and roughly formed balls of minced chicken (or soy braised mushrooms) are added for comfort and flavour. Partner this with the excellent 5 Senses coffee on offer (or Thai-style coffee laden with rich condensed milk) and you'll be ready to take on the world before morning tea time.
Owner-operator Simon Michalengeli uses his Italian grandfather's recipe to make this traditional Tuscan delicacy - a minestrone without pasta that's so thick you can stand a spoon up in it. It's made with finely diced sofrito (sautéed carrot, onion, potato and celery) slow-cooked kidney beans, whole borlotti beans and cavolo nero (Tuscan cabbage) for greenery. A sprinkling of freshly grated Italian parmesan adds a tangy kick. For an even $10 you can pair this filling soup with a half fugazza (traditional filled Italian focaccia). We love the zucchini, olive, ricotta, lemon and mint version best.
This city newcomer is quickly gathering a cult following for its secret recipe 12-hour slow-cooked tonkotsu (pork) broth. There are 10 different soups on offer (including vegetarian and gluten-free versions) and all are made in-house. The most popular is chasu tomago ramen - rich pork broth, springy noodles, pickled bamboo shoots, a generous helping of thinly sliced barbecue pork and a gooey, marinated soft boiled egg. There's a full page of additions for those who like to have corn, butter, bean sprouts or a jumbo double helping of noodles in their broth. This is winter goodness at its best.
Social enterprise Kinfolk gives triple good times. This quirky inner city cafe is staffed by volunteers - a combination of youngsters in training and some seasoned professionals doing a good deed. Often chaotic and always charming, the daily changing menu includes a soup. On our visit they were serving a creamy offering of Jerusalem artichoke and leek slow-cooked in milk, then pureed and served with a sprinkling of crunchy bread crumbs fried off in butter. Profits are combined with customer donations to support a range of local and international charitable causes, from education-focused projects for Indigenous youth on Palm Island to anti-slavery initiatives in Rwanda. Good for the mind, body and soul.
Bayte brought Middle Easter brunch to town just over a year ago, with chef Julie Tourna channelling her Lebanese roots and grandmother's recipe box to create old family favourites. Most popular is 'monk soup', a nourishing blend of onion, soft brown lentils, cumin and lemon scattered with tiny burghul dumplings and a dollop of housemade labna. Accompanying flat bread is crisp and chewy, with each serve made to order. The team have recently launched dinner service, with soup available for all-day eating alongside traditional mezze and larger plates of meats, grains and spices and nuts. With a focus on Middle Eastern classics and local ingredients you'd do well to make Bayte your local too.