On the site of the much maligned Retro cafe on Brunswick Street is a new project from Daniel Schelbert, the short-lived head chef from Hare & Grace.
The dingy saggy couches and stained ripped vinyl chairs have been replaced with sleek marine palate of black, cream, gold and blue. The expansive space is dominated by a huge kitchen bench/dining bar which presides over neat army of cane chairs and a lineup of cane bar stools.
The menu is similarly neat – a concise list of interesting breakfast dishes, main meals from midday, sides and desserts. The dishes show a Spanish influence (black pudding, manchego) with an occasional surprising dash of Asian (son-in-law eggs, Balinese pork belly) which may be a nod to the famous Chinese film of the same name.
My BBQ Balinese-style pork belly ($23) came in a pork-loin disguise, complete with criss-cross grill marks. The tell-tale ribbon of fat and moist pull-apart texture of the meat were more typical of a perfectly cooked pork belly and the Indonesian flavours came from the seasoned crust of lemongrass, shallot, chilli and lime pressed onto both lengths of the cut. It was accompanied by a very sharp salad of Vietnamese mint, coriander and spring onion – really delicious and I’d only wish that more of it appeared on the plate. Next time I’ll order it with Vietnamese coleslaw and peanuts ($5).
D was most impressed with her cured salmon, pea and ricotta pancakes and smashed avocado ($17). A really generous portion of fatty fish with a dab of fresh horseradish atop fresh avocado and fluffy pancakes with the sweet pops of pea.
W was similarly enamoured of his baked eggs with chorizo, black sausage and manchego ($17). He pondered what black sausage might be and I, very naughtily, refrained from telling him that it was blood sausage as I wanted him to try it without having any squeamish preconceptions. The two eggs yolk were the required just-cooked consistency, perfect for dipping with bread, and the robust flavours really sang. Oh, and the black pudding was devoured very happily.
The cafe has only been open since last Friday and the friendly waitress said that they were still ironing out some ‘kinks’. Well, no kinks were evident from our experience – full marks for interesting, confident cooking, a reasonably priced menu in a casual yet professional atmosphere. Welcome to the neighbourhood!