For all those jaded city slickers out there, Bendigo Street Milk Bar in the Richmond/Burnley precinct is the answer. Offering the perfect antidote to the impersonal, generic coffee spots that seem to keep springing up, stepping into this local cafe is like coming home to a larder always stocked with fresh produce, a warm smile and a quiet spot to sit back and unwind.
The breakfast and lunch menus are full of hearty savoury dishes, but it is the huge range of tasty pastries and cakes, milkshakes and counter-top sweets jars that appeal to the inner child within us all. And yet somehow, despite being such a cute little gem, this place seems relatively undiscovered – hidden away up a street leading off Swan Street. We guess all this will change, however, as soon as the apartments in the renovated GTV 9 studios opposite are sold.
Having spent a large chunk of my childhood on the Gold Coast, and before that in Sydney, I know a few things about milk bars and, while they were always an important part the local community (and the best place to spend one’s hard-earned pocket money) none of them were as charming as this creation from owners Di and Mario Di Stefano.
The main dining area channels a sense of retro cool with its old-school carpet, magazines sitting on a piece of string along the white panel wall, and mismatched chunky cushions. The side room, filled by a huge dining table, has packets of seeds for sale – could this place feel any more like you have walked into a food and garden enthusiasts house?! Possibly, as you head through to the slightly more modern courtyard – with funky green chairs and heaps of leafy shade.
Monte coffee quickly followed by an ice-cold metal flask of chocolate milkshake got things off to a great start, although the chai was a real disappointment. Word Monkey seems to inhale vats of the stuff lately and considers herself something of an aficionado. Too sickly and sweet, she reckons this was a powdered instant chai that might even have had sugar added to it. Either way, when most places are making their own whole spice versions or serving Prana Chai, it is time to wave goodbye to the tinned stuff.
Onto the food and the steak sandwich was definitely the real deal. Not skimping on the steak – it was served rare, the rocket was fresh and the chips were spot on.
Avocado salsa (lovely chunks of fresh tomato) with heaps of Yarra Valley Persian feta, rocket and a couple of poached eggs came on sourdough toast – delicious – although perhaps the bread could have been sourced from a local bakery as opposed to the bags of Schwob’s that were for sale in the dining room. Not really a major grumble. Overall, the laid-back ambiance and unpretentious staff do such a good job of making this place feel like a real home from home, it’s hard not to love it.
37 Bendigo Street
Richmond VIC 3121
(03) 9428 4196