Phat Milk in Travancore is shaking up the run-of-the-mill cafe menus normally found in the area.
And where is Travancore you might ask? It’s a somewhat forgotten suburb between Flemington and Moonee Ponds. Phat Milk is right by the gates of Flemington Primary School, making it a perfect pre or post school hangout.
The frontage is deceptively small but a corner corridor leads to a whitewashed back room and then an undercover courtyard with narrow garden beds and a play area for kids.
You can also reach the courtyard from the gate along Mangalore Street for those with accessibility issues.
The menu has a Middle Eastern influence thanks to the young owner’s Lebanese heritage. The recipes are his grandmother’s work, handed down to him in a fading, fragile notebook with handwritten notes. His mother helps out when she can but her health prevents her from cooking in the kitchen, a shame as apparently her sweets are out of this world.
Their Middle Eastern breakfast is their most popular dish and deservedly so. It’s a generous platter of grilled bread sprinkled with zaatar, a loose golden pile of scrambled eggs, beetroot relish, several falafel balls, humus, labne and the owner’s mother’s pickled olives.
For a mere $15!
I decided to add some grilled sujuk (spicy Turkish sausage) to my dish for an extra $4 but in fact I think it’s not really necessary. Save your money for one of their apparently excellent coffees instead (I don’t drink coffee so can’t judge for myself, sorry).
The falafels are a standout – delicately crumbly and deep fried to a crisp golden ball as if it’d been dipped in panko crumbs. They are possibly some of the best felafel I’ve ever had in terms of texture and flavour.
We also share a lamb kofta burger, a gently spiced patty with vintage cheddar, cos lettuce, tomato, mustard on a brioche bun ($14). The burger is juicy and hefty and extremely satisfying but what really makes it amazing are the ‘phat chips’. Holy cow someone very skillful is working the kitchen’s deep fryer because these perfect chips are of Mr Blumenthal’s calibre. Each chip is fluffy on the inside with an egg-shell thin outer crunch then sprinkled with oregano. The portion is very generous, so make sure you share!
For dessert we go back to the breakfast menu for a polenta hotcake with fresh berry coulis and marscapone ($14). It’s a pretty palette of pan-fried buttery batter, a rainbow of fruit and yoghurt. While not as wow-worthy as the savoury dishes, it’s very satisfying nonetheless and the plate was happily licked clean.
Phat Milk is a family-owned and family-loved business. It shows in the care in which they present their food, the sourcing of their produce from their own gardens and some of Melbourne’s best small-batch suppliers and the fact that they’ve built a space that’s welcoming of families.