Another day, another cafe. Another single origin coffee, another bearded barista. Another naked lightbulb, another funky fit-out. Another brunch, another blog post. But just how many words and terms can you find to describe a grey concrete floor, exposed wires and distressed paintwork? You know – that high-ceilinged, warehouse space that so many cafes are going for these days. Urban, minimalist, industrial. Hmmm… truth be known? We miss plump cushions and a comfy seat, a warm atmosphere that extends beyond the welcoming staff, flowers on the table and carpet on the floor. Maybe it is because we are getting (a little bit) old, or maybe it is because we are tired of Melbourne’s cafes catering to one demographic – one that we are not convinced we are cool enough to belong to.
If, like us, you believe there is more to a dining experience than terrariums / mix ‘n’ match wooden chairs / insanely long granite-topped bars (delete as appropriate)*, relief from the world of hipster comes in the form of Crabapple Kitchen, the perfect antidote to jaded city- living from chef Greg Feck (of Richmond Hill Café & Larder fame) and Kim Coronica (2010 Young Restaurateur of the Year, no less), the original team behind Sapore and more recently the FoodandTravelCo cooking school and place of all-round culinary greatness. (Watch this space for news as to when they plan to resume their globe-trotting degustation dinners.)
Goodbye urban, minimalist, industrial, and hello homely. Now, before you jump to conclusions – homely can still be on-trend and modern, as Crabapple’s muted palette, gorgeous soft furnishings and smart, country cottage appearance attests. They have even engaged in a spot of up-cycling – look up and you will spot pickling jars masquerading as lampshades.
They have done a good job with the long, narrow dining space – it is a little tight in places – there is a section with banquettes against the wall that is a bit of a bottleneck – but the wait staff are adept at maneuvering between the wooden tables, brandishing goodies from the kitchen (at the back of the room) and open kitchen/cold counter (at the front of the room and stocked with charcuterie and cheeses galore).
A love of travel shines through in all the dishes – rather than your run-of-the-mill mushroom, avocado and corn fritter offerings, attention to detail is given to every component of each dish to delicious effect.
We opted for the Stockholm-inspired smoked ocean trout bruschetta with shallots, shaved cornichons, caperberries, horseradish, creme fraiche and seaweed caviar – a celebration of great produce handled with respect – neither too little nor too much of each element, they combined in one harmonious salty, tangy, subtly warming hit. It is this care and attention to detail that sets them ahead of the brunch pack. The ‘Breakfast Spritzer’ (Campari, marmalade, blood orange juice and sparkling wine) sums up the kind of fun creativity that is going on here.
They can do your basics, too, and have comfort food covered – the ‘Jum and Bender Sarnie’ (bacon, HP sauce, aioli and rocket in a brioche bun) can come with a side of fries (why would you say no?). But before that we lined up a light and dainty Blue Swimmer crab slider with apple, radish and mayo – again served in a slightly sweet, super-soft brioche bun.
This is on the lunch menu, which ranges from Starters and Sharers to More Substantial. It’s licensed, there are food and drinks menus for ‘little Crabapplers’, smoothies and milkshakes, the coffee is Campos, desserts are best enjoyed with a sticky wine. There’s something for everyone. Especially if you happen to love a playlist that moves from Motown to Hot 8 Brass Band to Billy Joel – uplifting and guaranteed to put a smile on your face – just like this place.
Open 7am-5pm seven days a week for now (currently open Saturday nights, but with plans to increase this) look out for the colourful striped awning on Glenferrie Road.
* We do not have anything against terrariums / mix ‘n’ match wooden chairs / insanely long granite-topped bars, and have rarely been disappointed at an establishment subscribing to such decorative accouterments, we are just trying to set the scene here.
659 Glenferrie Road
Tel. (03) 9078 5492