Sometimes a wrong turn can be the right decision.
I was cycling along the Merri Creek bike track one afternoon, intending to head up to CERES. However, at the junction for the path heading north I heard the loud rumble of excavation works and chainsawing and so I decided to take a right hand turn instead…and that’s how I found myself at the Westgarth strip of High Street looking for a place to have lunch.
I was attracted to Gypsy Hideout thanks to its bright, almost spartan, pine wood and white-washed brick interior. But then I spied the small courtyard out the back and slid into one of the jaunty outdoor industrial metal chairs, slipped off my shoes and felt the comforting ruffle of fake turf between my toes.
The crowd was your usual inner-city types, but with a little less polish than the increasingly gentrified Northcote. All the outdoor tables were occupied because there was more than your usual proportion of rollie smokers and I eavesdropped on an enlightening conversation about how to negotiate an agreement to have an open relationship when you owed the other person money.
Gypsy Hideout has an extensive breakfast and lunch menu and in order to sample as much food as possible I chose the Gypsy Plate ($17.50) while my curiosity was piqued by the Gypsy Elixir ($5). The scarlet concoction of the juice of red fruits – redcurrant, pomegranate, elderberry, red apple and grapes amongst others – was served in an Alice-in-Wonderland-esque vessel, a laboratory beaker. The drink, originating from Turkey, was very sweet with natural sugars, apparently high in antioxidants and deliciously refreshing on an unseasonably warm autumn day.
The quirky presentation of the Gypsy Elixir was carried through in other delightful details. Old-fashioned milk bottles were filled with tap water. The feta cheese on the Gypsy Plate was served in a doll-sized casserole dish and the olives were placed in a little cut-glass liquer glass. The plate also included Greek yemista (tomato stuffed with rice, herbs and feta), several meatballs, a few slices of toasted bread and some of the best baba ganoush I’ve ever had, with chunks of smokey eggplant punctuating the smoothness.
For dessert, I couldn’t go past another intriguing menu item – the Gypsy top secret hot chocolate ($4.50) – and accompanied it with the daily muffin of lemon, ricotta and rosewater. I had been advised that the hot chocolate was more like a dessert and it was sort of like a hot, liquidy chocolate mousse that you ate with a kitsch, souvenir spoon. I imagine it’ll be a very popular option as winter rolls around. As for the muffin, the rosewater aroma was strongly evident, lifting the cake beyond the usual cafe muffin offerings.
I was completely won over by the raffish charm of Gypsy Hideout’s food and presentation as well as their super-friendly service, so I will definitely be returning for more.