Last week The Age’s Melbourne Magazine published its list of top 30 Melbourne cafes. Obviously such a list is going to create some controversy  but as I scanned the names I nodded in agreement with most of their choices. Then I got out my diary to make a note of the cafes that I had yet to visit and made a date with myself at Julio.

North Fitzroy is very close to where I live, so I was surprised that I’d never heard of Julio – I thought I’d pretty much covered the suburb before. It’s a little cornershop premises overlooking  Merri Creek Primary School on a residential street and as I pulled up to the brightly coloured outdoor tables on my bike I thought that Julio could become my go-to lunch stop off the Merri Creek bike trail.

The Melbourne Magazine article said that they judged the cafes on the standard of coffee, service and an ‘x factor’, though in their little blurbs they often described the quality of the food  as well. Not being a coffee drinker I can’t say anything about their coffee (though I noticed they use an impressively shiny La Marzocco machine), but yes I agree that the service was friendly and welcoming and the place was cool enough to fit into its inner city locale without being so hip as to be intimidating. Cue vintage schoolyard furniture, high communal tables and a retro rotation of tunes – the cafe is named after a Paul Simon song ‘Me and Julio down by the schoolyard’.

The Melbourne Magazine also got it right that it’s great for kids – there are games and storybooks available to amuse the little ones and the menu has plenty of kid-friendly choices. I imagine they get a lot of business from parents of the nearby school doing the school run.

So….why have I given Julios a NOT? Basically because I didn’t like the food. For lunch I had baked eggs with chorizo, peas and coriander ($14) and the ceramic dish that came out contained a tomato/chorizo mixture with a pair of cock-eyed eggs – as you can see, one with a soft yolk and the other with a yolk cooked to a solid ball. I also thought the whole dish was thirst-inducing salty though I’m not sure whether it was the chorizo’s fault or whether the dish had been overseasoned. (I actually replicated the dish the next day in my own kitchen just to see whether I could get the eggs and seasoning right and frankly enjoyed my version much more).

Reserving judgement for the moment I moved onto the quince and almond tart ($6). I like almonds but this tart was too nutty and dry and it contained the merest smear of quince. If you had told me that there was nothing involved other than crushed up nuts and melted butter pressed into a tart shape I’d have believed you.

So overall, a disappointing experience. I’m a little perplexed by what I’ve missed that The Melbourne Magazine loved so much and I’m sure I’ll receive comments rising to Julio’s defence. If I lived around the corner, then I would probably return to Julio purely for convenience. But was it worth my 20 minute bike ride to get there and would I recommend it to my friends? Probably not.

The Melbourne Magazine also listed the following places which I’ve reviewed as HOT previously and which I wholeheartedly recommend: Proud Mary, Three Bags Full, Coin Laundry, Monk Bodhi Dharma, Auction Rooms, Penny Farthing Espresso, The Hardware Societe, Liasion, St Ali, Coffee Darling and Pillar of Salt.

  • Julio, 171 Miller St, Fitzroy North +61 3 9489 7814

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