08 June, 2008

Green Refectory

115 Sydney Road, Brunswick; 03 9387 1150

A sunny long-weekend afternoon. A lazy bike ride, the fresh air clearing out the last of the fugginess from a red wine indulgence the night before. The ride leads us to Green Refectory at the Brunswick end of Sydney Rd. The cafe's rustic interior is buzzing. Groups and couples arrange themselves at mismatched chairs around communal and smaller tables. Counter staff take orders from those dining in as well as those wanting salads, cakes or coffee to take away. A grill behind the counter is on incessant duty warming up homemade sausage rolls. Overlooking all of this activity is a trustworthily smudged menu announcing yet more choice from their hot kitchen dishes or breakfast menu (offered all day every day). At the till, enormous fresh muffins - such as raspberry, pear and choc chip - almost steal the menu's thunder as a lunch selection.

I draw my eyes back to the blackboard and instead of homemade baked beans with mushrooms on sourdough, or a roast sweet potato, fetta and spinach focaccia, my lunch choice comes from out of the blue: when I read 'oat porridge, served with stewed prunes and apricots, scattered almonds and a jug of milk' I know absolutely that it's all I want to eat. This is despite its proximity on the menu to french toast, served with pear poached with white wine and vanilla bean, served with ice cream.

We settle into a reclaimed timber table in the window and admire the surrounding furniture and fittings. The cafe is awash with retro chic, down to the saucers for our hot drinks.

The porridge when it arrives looks just as nourishing as I'd hoped:
It is, unfortunately, lacking the promised jug of milk but for moisture content I make do with the stewed juices. The fruit is superb, stewed to softness and oozing flavour. There may have been some orange blossom water in the mix as overlaying the sweet cinnamon scent is an aroma of citrus. The dish is a progression of texture from the soft fruit, to the hearty oats, to the crunch of nuts.

My oaty contentment doesn't stop me noticing how fine SG's choice of the summer chicken burger looks.A chalk sign just next to our table informs diners that all of Green's chicken is free range. This particular sample has been beautifully seasoned and expertly prepared. Rather than a bun it sits between toasted bread, atop layers of crisp spinach leaves, cushioned by crescents of avocado and rounds of tomato, topped with thickishly-cut, unfatty bacon, dotted with sun-dried tomatoes and forming a wondrous partnership with a homemade mayonnaise. It is an utterly delicious lunch.

Homemade comes up a lot on the Green's menu. The atmosphere here is very much of using the best of what's on offer, to greatest effect. There's no gimmickery, no need for fancy fit-outs. Their menu is full of sensible and delicious food combinations and their kitchen is to be commended for so aptly handling baked goods, pastries and desserts as well as plated dishes. I do believe I've found my new favourite cafe.


  1. As always your blog makes me want to move to Melbourne, or at the very least visit Darby street move often.

    (I have tagged you for a meme, but feel free to ignore it if you don't think its suitable here)

  2. yum yum yum now heading there for lunch today!