I happened to stumble across the newly opened Norma Loves Joe on my Instagram and was happy to note that it was only a short drive from home. Norma Loves Joe is located on Whitehorse Road in Balwyn, just down from the iconic Balwyn Cinema, and is opened by Courtney Ludlow and Kristie O’Donoghue who have been friends since kindergarten.
Norma Loves Joe is named after the passionate and addictive affair between Norma Jean and Joe DiMaggio, that remained everlasting and honest – which is the formula that this newly opened café will follow. The aim of this café is to create a relaxed space with an all day brunch menu for the surrounding residents of Balwyn – and further.
I love the interior of Norma Loves Joe – a combination of wood, tiles and metal brought together in perfect harmony. The tiling on the main back wall reciprocates that of a brick wall in angular formation, with the tilling around the bench and kitchen area being a patterned contrast. Minimalist light bulbs light up one wall with lighting for the kitchen and coffee areas being provided by under beam lighting. Seating is available both inside – on low wooden tables in front of the coffee & kitchen benches as well as along the window; and outside – both at the front of the venue as well as in the courtyard out the back.
Coffee here is served by Axil Coffee Roasters – one of my favourite roasters! I ordered a latte which was crisp, nutty with caramel tones and made to perfection. Tea here is by The Slow Tea Co. with 8 different flavours to try including Booze Hound (which is meant to aid with cleansing), Spicy Vanilla Chai, Chamomile & Mint. Other drinks include Karma Cola and Lemmy Lemonade both of which are fair trade & organic, as well as drinks and smoothies from the Emma & Tom’s range.
The breakfast menu consists of all your favourites together with showcasing some flair in some different dishes – I’m talking about you Red Velvet Waffles! These aforementioned waffles are at the top of the breakfast list – and how could you not order them when you see this combination? Other savoury dishes include a Big Love Breakfast, a Brunch Salad (Kale, cauliflowers, avocado, ruby grapefruit, poached egg, bacon) as well as a Super Salad (Brown rice ,red quinoa, roasted sweet potato & beetroot, broccoli, toasted seeds & lemon hummus), a Yankee Burger (lean beef, Swiss cheese, pickled red cabbage, tomato & caramelized onion) and a toastie (Double Smoked Ham & Swiss Cheese) and pide (Pulled Chicken & Red Slaw) available too. Norma loves Joe caters for the little ones as well – with two dishes aptly named Little Joe and Little Norma – both served with chocolate milk.
There were four of us on this Saturday morning and we scored a table in the main dining area. We all couldn’t go past the waffles so decided to get that as our sweet dish at the end to share. I was deciding between the Mixed Mushrooms and the Breakfast Quesadillas and in the end ended up going with for the latter.
The Breakfast Quesadillas came with scrambled eggs, cheese, spinach and black eyed beans – however I am not a fan of black eyed beans so I asked to have the dish without these and asked for mushrooms instead. This dish coves in a very generous serving – you get four triangular pieces stuffed with the filling together with a little serving of sweet chilli sauce. I really enjoyed this dish – NLJ has taken a simple idea and turned it into something special. The scrambled eggs form the base later with the spinach, cheese and mushrooms placed above it – this is encased in a quesadilla. The flavours were simple but the overall flavouring was delicious – the juice from the succulent mushrooms worked well with the crunch of the quesadilla finished with a hint of hotness with the sweet chilli sauce. Yum!
S ordered the Mixed Mushrooms – on grilled sourdough with parsley puree and she asked for a side of salmon. This was quite a cute dish and despite looking smaller when compared to the other dishes everyone had ordered; was quite filling. The parsley puree was unique and something that I haven’t seen anywhere else and was quite tasty and really did complement the flavour of the mushrooms.
T & S (another S) both ordered the Shakshuka – two eggs baked in tomato sugo, capsicum, basil & feta served with grilled sourdough. The Shakshuka itself was served in a terracotta dish and placed on a wooden board where the grilled sourdough was also placed. The Shakshuk was perfectly made and tasted fantastic – the combination of the sweet tangy tomatos with the basil and feta together with a hint of chilli was scrumptious! If you are a fan of tomato and Shakshuka in general – NMJ does a really great version!
Once we had finished our savoury dishes – it was onto the sweet part of the day in the form of waffles! Norma’s Red Velvet Waffles – with cream cheese dressing and seasonal berries was visually stunning dish – individual red heart shaped waffles – topped with cream cheese and finished with berries and icing sugar – DIVINE! The flavour was exactly what you would expect – the rich velvety taste with the not too sweet cream cheese dressing – it really was like eating a cupcake but in a waffle version. This is one dish I would definitely recommend anyone to try!
The service here at NLJ is exceptional – staff are friendly and always with a smile and you can tell that they genuinely love everything that they do and every dish that they put out. Norma Loves Joe is the type of place that you can find yourself spending a whole day at without even realising – it is just that comfortable and chilled out. I am so glad that it is close to home – will definitely be back!
Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Menu – Refer to pictures above or visit http://www.normalovesjoe.com/menu.html
Atmosphere / Ambience: Comfortable, welcoming and laid back – great for a relaxed weekend catchup
Standout Dish: Norma’s Red Velvet Waffles – with cream cheese dressing and seasonal berries
Service: Fantastic – very friendly and helpful
Online Booking: No
239 Whitehorse Road, Balwyn
Tel No: 9817 2576
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00am – 4:00pm