On Sunday, the Devine Ms M and I were invited to have lunch at this newly opened Prahran café the baby sister to the established Port Melbourne restaurant. Being the first proprietary invitation, I was duly excited (and also impressed with the great car spot right in front of the café that I’d managed to parallel-reverse into).
After arrival, I ordered a mocha and Ms M a coke and latte. We both agreed the coffee was excellent. In this, I certainly trust Ms M’s opinion more than mine, as I enjoy the occasional coffee bean experience but not enough to be much of an expert. The coffee had a lovely creamy finish and a roasted aroma, without being burnt (take note Zumbo’s). The mocha arrived dotted very cutely with roasted coffee beans on top. I could have done with a bit more chocolate flavour (but then who doesn’t) The size of the mocha was considerable, as were the three espresso shots that it contained. I was concerned for a non-connoisseur like me, this would keep me up all night. But actually, it left me with a nice, contented, almost alcoholic buzz. Ms M’s latte also came with a gently cinnamon flavoured tear-drop meringue, which was a nice touch. Beautifully froth-painted on top too.
I had a quick squiz at their website online a few days prior to luncheoning and I noticed that their menu was very varied, American BBQ, Russian and what could loosely be described as “contemporary Australian” (wraps, big breakfast, that kind of thing).
To be fair, we ordered an item from each of the main categories, pork ribs from their American BBQ, the risotto hash brown from their contemporary Aussie b’fast menu. And the Russian Sampler Plate.
All the food was beautifully presented. To start with my favourite, the breakfast dish. I hesitate to call it to risotto hash brown dish because I felt that was the weakest element on the plate. The risotto rice was a bit overcooked and slightly gluggy and although there were pieces of mushroom, there was no mushroom flavour pervading across the hash brown. Although crisp on the outside, it also didn’t really have the crunch necessary to provide the textural contrast on the plate.
However, the rest of the dish was spot on. The mushrooms were perfectly cooked and buttery. The chorizo had a wonderful deep smoky flavour, without being too salty or overpowering. The rocket added a lovely zing to the dish. The home-made semi-dried tomatoes were lovely and tart. The relish was also sweet and beautifully balanced. And the poached egg cracked over the top when cut open oozed its lovely golden sauce over everything, dressing it perfectly.
So overall, I would say that the hash brown was unnecessary on the plate. It would have worked as a beautiful salad (or breakfast dish with the right carb element) without its presence. I do appreciate the novelty value of the risotto hash brown which was our main reason for ordering it.
Interestingly enough, there is a Chinese version of hash brown made with rice. But glutinous, sticky rice and it’s a thin rectangular shape, deep fried until very crispy. Very hard to come by outside China but always done beautifully and one of the first items I order when breaking my fast in the Orient. When bitten into, the outside is very crunchy and inside the rice is held together but each individual grain retains its shape and texture.
Moving on to the ribs. The ribs were cooked beautifully and meat came away meltingly from the bone. The sauce had a lovely sweetness and tang. There was a slight lingering spice that Ms M and I couldn’t quite place but seemed to overpower the taste of the ribs somewhat. The bed of chips were cooked and seasoned beautifully. The coleslaw slightly less impressive and though authentic looking, the dressing lacked the flavour and zesty appeal needed.
The syrniki on the Russian Sampler plate were thick round discs that wafted a lovely buttery smell when torn open. Similar to a buttermilk scone in taste and texture, they were rich and accompanied beautifully by a cute little jar of blueberry jam and sour cream. The boiled dumplings were less impressive. The filling was smooth and bland, with a soft creamy but against mostly flavourless sauce over the top. I appreciated the dill but would have liked either a stronger filling or a more punchy sauce. I couldn’t help but compare it to the pierogi I had tasted at the Christmas Markets in Kraków, which were fried and had a lovely slightly spiced, flavour-infused and texturally interesting filling with different vegetables and a cheese variety. The blintzes on the plate, however, were very tasty with a crispy thin wrapping around a creamy mushroom filling, and a minced meat filling.
Inside, the café is simple but elegantly decorated. Some lovely pale yellow couches at either end of the café add a splash of colour to the otherwise black, white and creamy interior. The styling seemed Cumulus Inc- inspired. Relaxed but trendy.
So, on the whole, I’m not certain about the menu. The size and cultural diversity of the menu makes it difficult to perfectly hone and balance every dish. Nonetheless, I think it’s a great place for a coffee and catch up with a friend after a tour of the Prahran markets. Or a stopover for a tasty, hearty brunch before some hardcore Chapel Street shopping.
Live long and love food!