This Sunday, I woke up early for a Badminton session. After a marathon two hour long session of smashes, I worked up a large appetite. Good thing I live in Thornbury. I had a dearth of options for a large breakfast.
As I was walking home from the intersection of Normanby Avenue and High Street, I passed a small text book Melbourne style cafe named Brother Alec. Kerbside breakfast, long lines for coffee and a buzzing small communal table inside. The smell of fresh ground coffee and food just made me hungrier.
I rushed home, just a couple of streets up High Street, washed up and was back again at Brother Alec ready to satiate my hunger. I had heard a lot of good reviews about this cafe and that it is a local favourite, so I was pretty excited. The excitement was very short lived when I saw just how busy it was. I don’t mind busy places but this was just a bit too busy. Too lazy to scout around at the last minute, I went inside and readied myself for a long wait.
The cafe has a textbook Melbourne setup if you know what I mean. Clean, fresh, white designs, “cozy” tables, a communal table, street lookout and a hipster vibe. Wooden finishes and bearded staff. A very welcoming feel and super friendly staff.
I spoke to the waiter and he asked me to “chill” at the wait area outside (basically some stools on the footpath) and he will let me know as soon as a table is available. He took down my order for coffee. I ordered the regular skinny flat white hot. I settled on a stool outside for a long wait. The crowd in the waiting area slowly grew as the morning progressed but slowly most of the people just left with takeaway. I persisted.
My coffee arrived. Well, probably not mine. I got served a cappuccino and before I could understand it and say anything the waiter had disappeared. (Yeah, it was THAT busy!). I tried to look for staff but it just seemed to be a big inconvenience for me to try and get my coffee corrected. So I just started sipping away at the cappuccino. It was not hot. 😦
I don’t like a cappuccino. First the chocolate dusting masks the flavours of the coffee and ruins it for me. Second, Too much Foam for my liking. So I won’t review the coffee using the cappuccino as I decided I would order another flat white with the food and review it then. (Yay! I successfully blamed someone else for me having 2 coffees :-D). The wait time was pretty long. The cafe was busy and it had a lot of people who had come with pets and were having breakfast street-side. So I was happy I had to wait outside (Dogs!).
After a while (say about 20 minutes) one of the waiters called me inside and sat me at one of the tables. The menu was already on the table; I was quickly served with water and boy! Was I ready to go.
The menu is varied with lots of offerings but reading through them they felt pretty standard “cafe breakfast” offerings. Not bad but I was hoping to see at least one item that would stand out based on the rave reviews I had heard, so that’s probably just me with high expectations. I will leave this to you. The menu has something for everyone.
I ordered the usual breakfast, Scrambled Eggs on Toast with Bacon and Roquette, also a hot skinny flat white. That cappuccino had left me unsatisfied and kind of pissed.
The food surprisingly didn’t take long.
Scrambled Eggs: I was quickly served and the first thing I noticed was the eggs. They were very runny and steaming, just off the gas. I don’t like being served like this, but the cafe was very busy. I could feel the chef going as fast as he could with the orders coming in. Not to say that it was bad because in a few minutes as soon as the heat and steam settled, the eggs were back to their “scrambled” consistency though they were a little bit on the runnier side. Ampersand had definitely done the eggs better (i.e. to my liking) but this wasn’t bad either. I liked it. It worked. The dish was very well plated with toast and eggs in the centre garnished with radish and with roquette on one side and crispy bacon on the other.
Bacon and Roquette: The roquette was fresh and crispy. Nothing wrong there. The bacon was not right. I suppose in an effort to quickly cook my order, the bacon was put on higher heat than it should have been on. The edges instead of being dark brown were black. A wider area was black. As a result of this, the bacon tasted saltier and had a hint of burnt bitter flavour.
The Toast: Well, I don’t know, the toast was just not there in the dish. It just didn’t have a taste profile or any kind of flavour. It had nothing to add to the dish. There would be no difference if the toast was absent. I just felt disappointed after eating the toast. The dish overall was very nice. The eggs were tasty. The ingredients were fresh. But the toast. I just felt like putting my hands up and screaming ‘Why!’. The toast wasn’t bad or dirty or not toasted or anything of that sort. The toast was good slice of bread, nicely toasted. But it just didn’t lift the dish as it is supposed to. Its supposed to add a different perspective to the dish. A carb-y taste to the protein-y feel of eggs and bacon. It should prepare you for the next bite. Nothing of that sort. It was just not there. The toast was out of action.
The Coffee: The coffee was served pretty quickly too. The cafe uses organic fairtade beans. They did not disappoint. The coffee was good. Pretty good. But you can get a good coffee in Melbourne at almost every street corner. So nothing very defining here other than organic and fairtrade. The coffee had nice flavours. Strong on the earthy note and a very light hint of chocolate. Overall the coffee had a very fresh feel to it. I suppose that is what was the defining thing for the coffee. Lighter taste and lighter flavours. Nothing too strong. It had a good caffeine punch as well.
Conclusion: This place is a very typical Melbourne cafe with super friendly staff, healthy, welcoming vibes and great coffee. The food is also very good but not something I would pay the price for. At $27 for breakfast and two coffees, I would expect a bit more. That identity defining thing was missing in the food. You can have the best staff and ambiance that gives your cafe identity but if there is nothing that defines your food then it doesn’t work much for me. As a cafe, it is definitely good. Its a place worth a visit, the staff are super friendly, there is a nice relaxing vibe and it is located in a very good spot. Its a very nice spot for people watching and you won’t feel bad as a lot of things on the menu are organic and fairtrade. I can see why locals would prefer to spend their weekends here. But the food just wasn’t what one would expect.
On another note, the cafe does have a lot of good reviews online so I assume this was just a one off experience. If you do plan on visiting, I would definitely advise to avoid the busy hours. Maybe that’s what I will do as well sometime later. Visit at a time when its not busy, I expect I will be satisfied then as this time I was not.
719 High Street, Thornbury, VIC 3071
+61 3 9416 9428