When I moved to Melbourne, I moved into the northern suburb of Thornbury. This suburb has undergone a lot of gentrification over the years. This has resulted in Thornbury having a burgeoning bar and cafe scene. To me this suburb along High Street feels like an extension of the Fitzroy hipster scene with a more Italian flavour and fashionable edge and its own splinter identity.
I have been to a lot of cafes around Melbourne but living in Thornbury I decided that I would start my blog journey here.
I woke up late and hungry on Sunday. My friends (most of whom live in the south, south-east of the city) had been convincing me through the week to go with them for a bagel in the south of the city. (Huff Bagelry in Carnegie. A separate post on that later). As a result I started craving a bagel on my cheat day. But my lazy self didn’t want to go all the way to Carnegie.
I had heard from the ether that a cafe called Ampersand on High Street in Thornbury serves a good bagel, so I decided that’s where I should be going.
The cafe is located very close to my apartment on High Street and I usually walk by it everyday on my way to the gym, so I decided to walk down and treat myself to a bagel there. There are no brunch cafes this side of the 7 eleven until after the junction in Preston so I was expecting it to be a bit crowded.
The cafe is located closer to the northern side of High Street in Thornbury and is right next to Kustom Burgers. As I was walking by I was almost tempted by smell from the grill to stop and enter Kustom Burgers which was pretty busy (I will be doing another post on Kustom Burgers).
I controlled my urges and entered Ampersand. It was pretty quiet for 12.30 pm on a Sunday. About 3 tables occupied and the rest were empty. As soon as I entered I loved the feel and ambiance of the cafe. White, green, black and wood. A pretty standard cafe decor but the whole place had a very fresh vibe. Nothing to fault there. Decor and Ambiance on spot. It also helped that the cafe wasn’t very busy. All in all a very good first impression.
The lovely waitress at the counter greeted me and asked me to sit down on any table of my choice. I selected the one right next to the wall just beside the coffee machine. Now I had a problem with this seat which I realised after sometime. A large menu was hung on the wall and the frame was thick enough that one corner became an overhand that extended a little bit out onto the table. I hit it a couple of times while using the fork. I won’t fault the cafe 100% on this as ‘I’ chose the seat but such a seat is something that should not have been an option. They need to move this table around.
Right! Now back to the food. I was promptly provided with the menu by the lovely waitress and my coffee order was taken. I usually order a hot skinny flat white no sugar.
I scoured for a bagel but nothing of that sort on the menu. I was disappointed a bit but then I was too lazy to leave and hunt for one. So I went through the menu and ordered chili eggs which was scrambled eggs with bean sprouts, coriander and chili on a sourdough toast. I ordered it with a side of bacon. (I know.. bacon). My mind told me bacon would be a good addition to this dish (I wasn’t wrong. Well, one can never really be wrong with Bacon).
So I waited, looked around. The view of the street from the cafe wasn’t bad. Pretty generic street side cafe view. In a few minutes my coffee was served. I took a sip. It was good. There are a lot of roasts available here, but I wasn’t in a coffee trial mood. So I ordered the house blend which was a roast by Padre Coffee. You can never really go wrong with Padre. The coffee was absolutely on point. Not too powerful on the flavours like Axil. Perfect creamy texture. Soft notes of cacao and a proper level of bitterness. I had ordered it hot but the coffee wasn’t exactly as hot as I usually get elsewhere but it was definitely hotter than the regular serve. The barista knew exactly how hot to serve the coffee so that all the flavour notes of this roast could be enjoyed.
All in all the coffee was perfect for a lazy Sunday, not too overpowering but strong enough to wake me up just a little. I would definitely go for something stronger for my daily morning cup but this one was absolutely delightful for a Sunday.
After a while of waiting the food was served. I had finished my coffee by then and was browsing through the stack of newspapers available to read. It did feel like quite sometime for the food to be served but it wasn’t that long. It was just about right for Sunday speed.
First impressions were very good. The food was nicely plated. Nothing fancy but perfectly aligned and topped so that you would see all of the ingredients. Not too much of egg that is falling off the toast nor too much of the toast so that the egg felt like a small portion. All the portion sizes looked large enough to satisfy my hunger. So without further ado I dug in. I took a bite ingredient by ingredient and then all together.
Scrambled eggs: Nicely done. Not runny, Not too omelette-ey. Soft and creamy, and the right texture. It’s very easy to mess up scrambled eggs. Many places just serve it a bit runnier in a bid to get the right soft and creamy texture. The eggs could have used a little bit of salt while cooking. I know there is salt on the table but food cooked with salt takes a little bit different flavour than just adding salt after. A little bit of salt would have uplifted the eggs.
Coriander, Sprouts and Chili: Well, nothing to fault here. Crunchy sprouts. Fresh Coriander. Good quality produce. Coriander gets musty quickly if not fresh, and the sprouts also develop a distinct flavour. But nothing of that sort as both of them were very fresh. The crunch of the sprouts worked perfectly with the softness of the eggs. The chilli was finely sliced and dropped over the top. The chili was hot, but not hot enough to my liking. One thin slice of the small chilli with a bite of eggs and sprouts. Nice and hot for the first bite and it just gave a very nice dimension to the eggs. But then my mouth got used to the heat and the bits of chili weren’t hot enough. For the namesake of the dish I suppose the whole dish required a bit more heat than what it had.
Toast: Lovely, just Lovely. The sourdough was perfect. It was just sour enough to add a whole new dimension to the dish when eaten with the other parts. Sourdough can be too sour, but this one was just the perfect level of sour. A very soft sourness telling me that the bread was monitored while it was fermented. The way the toast sat with the rest of the dish told me that the chef had put in effort to search for the perfect sourdough that would add a different flavour profile to this dish. It was properly buttered. I like my toast a tad bit ‘toastier’ than what was served, but then again that is my personal preference. With the dish the level of ‘toastiness’ wasn’t bad as it kept more of the sour flavour of the bread. I guess if it was toasted a bit more, it would have lost the soft sour flavour.
Bacon: Well, Bacon can never be wrong, I am a bit biased to it. So done anyway, I like it. The bacon was nicely crisped. Dark brown at the edges. Slight Pink at the centre. Perfectly thin cuts. Not too thin to make it super crunchy and taste like just crispy salt. The bacon had a little bit more saltiness to it than I would expect, but it ran perfectly with the very low salt profile of the eggs. So it paired up nicely.
Overall the dish worked good, It had all the taste and flavours I expected when I read the menu. The ingredients were quality. Everything tasted nice and full in my mouth. I was able to taste everything that the chef would have wanted me to. Every ingredient worked with each other rather than one ingredient overpowering the others. Based on the portion size, it did keep me interested until the end rather than becoming monotonous as my taste buds got used to the flavour. The only thing I was left wanting more in the dish were kind of the namesake ingredients. Chili and Eggs. A bit more heat was required and a little bit more of the egg-y taste (a dash of salt while cooking the eggs might have done it).
Conclusion: All in all a good place to spend a lazy Sunday. I left the cafe at 2.30 PM, so it was interesting enough to laze around and eat at my pace and put some time to enjoy the vibe. The cafe did get busier after 1.30 pm. The service could be a little bit faster but it was not at a bad speed for the Sunday laze. The staff was friendly and accommodating and left you alone. Not like many places where they try to be friendly and end up nagging you a bit. The ambiance was good. The vibe was nice and very fresh that it brought me back to life (probably the coffee 😀 ). The food made me feel satisfied with its taste and perfectly full with the portions served. The damage was $24.30, so it is around the range of what the average cafe meal with coffee in Melbourne is. But for this price I would have expected a little bit more in terms of the taste but it wasn’t at all unsatisfactory. The coffee and sourdough toast were the highlights. The other thing in my opinion would have been something on the lines of a small serve of house-made chili sauce which would have given the heat for those who desire along with a bit of the saucy texture as an added profile.
Would I go again? Yes I would, but not for sometime. If you are expecting something innovative and different, then you wouldn’t find that here. Its pretty much standard cafe fare done in their own way (which is good as well). The menu is a little different and does warrant a visit if you are looking for a change of scenery from your regular haunt or just wanna go out and explore.
Definitely worth a few visits.
Ampersand Coffee and Food
863 High Street, Thornbury, VIC 3071
+61 3 9484 2085