Friends of Mine is the culinary equivalent of a friendship circle. Everything in the cheery establishment, from the produce to the artwork to the furniture, has been sourced from friends or friends of friends of the owner Jason Jones – hence the name. Isn’t it great to see a cafe really embrace the philosphy of supporting local producers and businesses?

A cafe located in the arse end of Richmond must be really good for it to become a destination in itself – and judging by the number of blogs that have reviewed and loved Friends of Mine, Jones, of Porgie and Mr Jones in Hawthorn and Snow Pony in Balwyn, has really succeeded with his third cafe.

So let me join the chorus.

A wet afternoon had me ducking into the cafe to find it surprisingly packed. I guess there are office building around and Burnley train station around the corner, but given its location (with zero foot traffic) the large space, divided into three rooms, was pretty busy for a weekday lunch hour.

I asked for a table in the dining room, which was quieter and more formal than the rough-and-tumble of the front room with its school chairs and wide window bench. In contrast the dining room was decked in classic Bentwood chairs, with a prime corner spot dominated by two throne-like high back leather armchairs.

The menu was extensive (with a long breakfast list) and I found it really difficult to decide. In the end, given the wet weather and my penchant for beans, I went for the cassoulet with parmesan crust served with a side salad ($26) from the ‘Bigger Plates’ section of ‘Lunchy Things’. The ramekin held a pretty good representation of the classic French dish, with large chunks of white sausage and plenty of herby aromas in the beans. The best thing though was the non-traditional layer of cheesy crust.

The brulee lemon tart with Jock’s rum and raisin ice-cream called to me for my dessert. While extremely pretty (the waiter said that he wanted one as he put it down in front of me), the pastry casing was extremely hard. I actually had to put the weight of my shoulder into my knife to hack a piece of the pastry away, half afraid that a piece of pastry shrapnel would lodge itself into the opposite wall. On the other hand, the swirls of lemon curd inside the casing were divine – a perfect balance of tart and sweet with just a slight hint of a brulee crust.

Despite some reports of patchy service from other bloggers, I found the waitstaff extremely friendly and helpful – bringing me the newspapers when I was trapped in my seat by a baby capsule and apologising profusely when they forgot to bring me a top up bottle of water.

From June Friends of Mine will be serving high tea in the dining room on the last Sunday afternooon of the month. The $45 price tag includes a glass of sparkling and given the popularity of the cafe generally, I’d be making a booking asap.

To read more reviews, check out “…it pleases us”, The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar, Melbourne Food Files and Gourmet Chick.

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