Switchboard Cafe – The Cutest Retro Cafe Ever!

panda 4 rating

Switchboard Cafe

Switchboard Cafe

The Hole in the Wall Cafe

The Hole in the Wall Cafe

Latte at Switchboard Cafe

Latte at Switchboard Cafe

I was meeting C for a catch-up the other day and was looking for a coffee place located somewhere near City Square in the Melbourne CBD. C suggested Switchboard Café which I hadn’t heard of before and boy am I glad she introduced me to this quaint and cute little place.

Switchboard Café is located in a somewhat drafty arcade laneway on the ground floor of the Manchester Unity Building – located on the corner of Collins and Swanston street. It literally is what you would call a hole in the wall type of café – fitted out in a Retro style feel complete with green and white floral wallpaper and brass framed glass windows. There is the world’s smallest “living area” glass box where patrons can sit inside and avoid the cool drafts that flow through – that can seat about 7 to 8 people max (Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of this). Literally across from this hole is another hole in the wall – which used to be the building’s old switchboard cupboard (hence the name) where the coffees are made.

I ordered a latte to have in and took my seat in the tiniest living area while waiting for C. It almost felt like being down the rabbit hole on the set of an Alice in Wonderland movie! The latte was absolutely perfect – full bodied with a great nutty after taste. I would definitely recommend this place for a good hit of caffeine when you feel the need – or for anytime for that matter.

I didn’t get to try out their breakfast or lunch range – but C did tell me that it was really great tasting food. Think warm soup, toasties, baguettes (Smoked Salmon) and bagels – you can choose from melted Haloumi, Tomato and Avocado just to name a few. For breakfast there is also Bircher Muesli or Fruit Toast available.

Definitely go and check out Switchboard Café – especially if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of a busy day at work! Next on the list for me is to come and try out their food!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – A choice of soups, toasties, baguettes and bagels
Atmosphere / Ambience: Retro, Unique and Fun!
Service: Friendly!
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
Ground Floor
Manchester Unity Building
220 Collins Street, Melbourne

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Saturday: 9:00am – 3:00pm

Switchboard Cafe on Urbanspoon
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Switchboard-Cafe/158990604124405?ref=ts&fref=ts
Twitter: @switchboardcafe
Instagram: switchboardcafe

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Form Cafe – Suburban Treat

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Form Cafe Menu 1 Form Cafe Menu 3 Form Cafe 2

Form Café is located in the suburban streets of Essendon and has been on my list of cafes to try for a while. I found myself in and around that area on a Saturday so decided to pop by for something to eat before running more errands.

Form Café resides on Albion Street in what used to be a milk bar, then a house, then an artists’ studio and finally a café. Owned by Rob Cecchinelli and Jason Currie (both from Ray) – this café has a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere where you can see yourself spending lots of time without even realising how much time you have spent. I especially love the wheelbarrow garden located at the front of the restaurant coupled with a chalkboard sign with its name on it.

The interior is mostly white with splashes of wood throughout. I love the island bench that houses the terracotta jugs where you can self-serve your own water – it actually makes self service cool! Carrying on the self-service theme are the cutlery and serviettes that are clustered in the middle of each table held in a tomato soup tin – how vintage! Carrying on the vintage vibe is the menu that is written on brown butcher’ paper. There are three main sitting areas – one as you walk in, another as you go up the stairs (almost like a raised living area) and then outside in the courtyard.

The menu begins with the classics that you expect to find on a breakkie / brunch menu such as Fruit Toast, Pet (Poached Eggs on Toast), The Good Stuff (Bircher Muesli with Poached Fruit, Cream, Pistachios & Honey) and then moves onto the more unique dishes such as Shane’s Sardines (Tinned Sardines on Toast with Pickled Fennel and Salsa Verde), Cheese & Onion Square (Leek & Onion braised in White Wine on Toast, sat under Grilled Messy Valley Cheese) and Smash (Avo, Tomatoes, Danish Feta on Multi-Grain Toast with Grilled Corn) – just to name a few. There is also Gluten Free bread available.

I order a latte while I decide on what food I want. The Latte is perfection in a cup – strong with nutty flavours and just the right amount of milk and foam. I decide to order the Trout – Petuna Smoked Trout, Potato Cake and Lemon Scented Zucchini and Poached Eggs. I was surprised at how quickly the dish appeared at my table not long after I had ordered. A few tables down – the patrons made the same comment as well – the quick delivery of food once their orders had been placed. Efficiency at its best!

Food is served on recycled plates (they really are looking out for the environment) – which I don’t mind at all! The Potato Cake sits on the bottom with the beautifully smoked trout layered on top followed by the lemon scented zucchini and finished with rocket leaves. It looks like a Christmas tree that I can’t wait to devour. The poached egg is placed to the side surrounded by peas, pepitas and dukkah. The Potato cake is soft on the inside with a crisp and delicious tasting crunch on the outside – it is not what you would expect normally when you think potato cake – but is fantastic nonetheless. The combination of the fresh cool trout with the warm potato and hint of tang from the lemon scented zucchini is a divine combination. The egg was poached nicely and the addition of the peas and pepitas added extra texture. The dish was consumed just about as fast as it arrived.

The service is a bit varied but overall friendly – especially the barista as you leave – which makes your experience a whole lot better and makes you want to come back. Form Café is a great addition to the area and I will definitely be back to try out Shane’s Sardines!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Comfortable and Casual
Service: Friendlyish…
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Form-Cafe/184897851654353
32 Albion Street, Essendon
Tel No: 9375 3232

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 6.30am – 4:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00am – 4:00pm

Form Cafe on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Form-Cafe/184897851654353
Twitter: @ForMCafeMelb
Instagram: @formcafe

Percy’s Aeroplane – Yellow, Model Plane, Tasty Food All In One

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Menu at Percy's Aeroplane

Percy’s Aeroplane is located in Kew, and is named after a World War II pilot who resides in Kew as well. It is solely owned by Wesley Lim and is located in an old building– which has been further stripped back to bring out it’s best – complete with high ceilings and exposed brick walls.
The main feature of the venue is definitely the model plane (Lim visited various antique stores to find this piece) that hangs over the front door – in its striking and vibrant yellow colour. To match is the custom-coated Ferrari-yellow FB70 La Morzocco 2 Group Head machine.

The feel of this café is fun, lively and cosy. There are two main dining areas – the front room as well as the back room which also leads to a courtyard area for larger groups. There are interesting trinkets and ornaments scattered around the place to further adding character. From the front dining you can look into the kitchen to watch as your dishes are being prepared.

Coffee is from Retro Roast (based in Berwick), and there is a weekly single origin that is run. I ordered a latte which was quite robust and had flavourings of hazelnut and fruits. N’s espresso was similar tasting with a hint of dark chocolate.

There is an “All-Day” breakfast menu which is served until 2pm, when the Lunch menu picks up. There are also a list of specials which are listed just under the kitchen area. The breakfast menu consists of the usuals such as Bircher muesli, toast – you can select from rye, white, fruit or wholegrain, B.L.A.T, Wes’s favourite – bacon, poached egg, avocado on a herb potato rosti with capsicum, anchovy and garlic sauce – just to name a few. There is also a French Fruit Toast – which is twist on the usual French toast that you see in most places – you can also add bacon if you want to make it a more savoury dish. The Lunch menu consists mainly of the baguettes and sandwiches which are located at the counter display fridge, but there is also a Soup of the day, as well as a Bruschetta or Percy’s Scotch Fillet Steak Sandwich.

After much deliberation I decided to go for the Smoked Buxton Trout on Herb Potato Rosti, Baby Spinach, Poached Egg and Dill Dressing. The dish was presented on a purple rectangular plate with the rosti at the base, topped with the smoked trout, spinach and poached egg, with the dill dressing to the side. There was also a slice of lemon for extra flavour. The trout had been smoked well and together with the accompaniment of the lemon was delicious. The herb potato rosti was just what you would expect – crunchy on the outside, flavoursome and fluffy (almost melt in your mouth soft) on the inside. The poached egg was another component also done well – gooey and runny – just like how a poached egg is meant to be. As a whole the dish, with each individual element pieced together created a tasty, memorable dish.

N had the Pilot’s Breakfast – Fried Eggs, Bacon, Chorizo, Mushrooms, Spinach & Roasted Tomato on Toast which was quite large in size. N ordered his dish sans tomato, so was given a herb potato rosti instead – which I thought was a nice touch by Percy’s Aeroplane. You don’t find many places that substitute one item for another unless you specify it yourself.

T ordered the special which was the Poached Egg with Corn & Haloumi Fritters, Spinach, Tomato & Chilli Pesto. The combination of corn and haloumi was unique – I hadn’t previously seen these two elements in fritter form before. The fritters were tasty, however one down side was the consistency of them – they were a bit too chewy for my liking. The Tomato and Chilli Pesto was delicious – nutty flavours with a hint of chilli. Once again the poached egg was cooked well. As a whole the dish was nice, but the fritters were a bit of a let down.

There are also sweet goodies located at the counter for you to try.

Service here is friendly, with Lim himself always happy to have a chat. Percy’s Aeroplane is quaint and welcoming café that serves up some great tasting coffee with tasty food to match. Go in for yourself and check out Percy’ Aeroplane.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Breakfast and Lunch Menu – refer to picture above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Relaxed and Fun
Standout Dish:
Service: Friendly and Helpful
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location: 
www.percysaeroplane.com.au

96 Denmark Street, Kew
Tel No: 9939 7642

Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday: 7am-3.30pm

Percy's Aeroplane on Urbanspoon

De Mad Hatter – Breakkie Invite with Alice

panda 4 rating

halal symbol
I had the privilege along with a host of other bloggers such as Brunch Addict, The World Loves Melbourne and Forksake to attend a breakfast at De Mad Hatter. Having worked in the Docklands area for the last couple of years I had previously been to De Mad Hatter for many our team lunches, as well as for coffee and ice coffees.

You can refer to my previous blog post for De Mad Hatter at https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/de-mad-hatter-alice-in-wonderland-style/

De Mad Hatter is located at the bottom of the recently opened Collins Square and is owned by the same people as Beanstalk Café – located just up the road from De Mad Hatter. De Mad Hatter’s low ceilings were the inspiration behind the Alice in Wonderland theme carried out throughout the venue and the menu. They change their menu twice a year according to the varying seasons.

As we were seated at our tables – the menu was laid out as well as the first dish for our breakfast which was the House Made Bircher Muesli topped with Yoghurt and Fresh Fruit. The muesli was presented in a glass- so you could see the layers of the different ingredients. The flavour was refreshing and the textures worked well together

Coffee is sourced from Degani and De Mad Hatter uses a flavour that is only exclusive to them – I ordered a Latte – which was full bodied, nutty and strong.

For the main dish selection of our breakfast – we got a choice of Homemade Pancakes topped with Fruit Compote and Ice Cream, Alice’s Brunch (Corn Fritters, Tomato, Grilled Bacon, Avocado & House made Tomato Chutney), Prosciutto and Asparagus Bruschetta (with Rocket, Olive Oil, Poached Egg and Parmesan Flakes) or the DMH Signature (which was Fried Egg, Chorizo, Oven Baked Cheesy Tortilla and toped with fresh Tomato and Bean Salsa).

Having a love of fritters – I of course selected the Fritters dish sans the grilled bacon. The dish came out with the fritters – there were around 4-5 fritters – on the base topped with the tomato, rocket and finally the avocado. The fritters were deep fried and as a result were crunchy on the outside. The inside was soft and cushion like, with the addition of the corn to create the juiciness. As a whole the dish was good but not great – I felt that the fritters could have been a bit bigger in size, therefore having a bit more of a filling to them. The house made tomato chutney was quite tasty and had a mix of sweetness and smokiness to it.

It was a great opportunity to not only meet my fellow food bloggers, but a chance to try out their breakfast menu, as a pose to their lunch menu which I have done many times. De Mad Hatter has a great vibe and serves good tasting coffee and food – if you are in the area check them out. Who knows maybe you will find stumble upon Alice herself or even the White Rabbit.

Also a point for all my Muslim readers – their Chicken is Halal. Their Chicken Parmigiana’s are ridiculously large and taste amazing. There are around 6 different types to choose from.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – A la Carte as well as food served in Bain Marie’s, as well as a selection of salads, foccacias, baguettes etc.
Fullness: 90%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Quirky and fun
Online Booking: No – you are best to book a table for lunch if you have more than 4 people
Restaurant Details and Location:
https://www.facebook.com/d3madhatt3r
797 Collins St, Docklands
Tel No: 9620 2226

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 6am – 5pm

De Mad Hatter on Urbanspoon

Stables of Como – Historical Country Style Cafe

panda 3.5 rating

The ICKE and IGBY group – who are behind the popular Friends of Mine (Richmond), the great Snow Pony (Balwyn) and one of my favourites Porgie and Mr Jones (Hawthorn) – have opened up a café in the former stables building in the heritage listed and historic Como House – called Stables of Como, located in Toorak.

The Stables of Como café is located at the rear of the main Como House building and is situated in a secluded courtyard area and reminds you of visiting a farmhouse. The aim was a country house style chic with a rustic charm and from the moment you step foot inside you realise this brief has definitely been met. Stables is very popular and usually there is a wait for a table, the atmosphere inside is lively and fun – you can tell people just genuinely enjoy being here.

The theme is white, green and wooden – from the 6 metre long rustic counter which houses sweets, cakes and slices of almost every type and variety – to the tables, lights and coffee machine! Back to the counter of sweetness – there are things such as Raspberry and Pistachio Tea Cakes, Christmas Mince Pies, Honey Joys, Lamingtons, Giant Freckles, Choco Crackles and soooo much more!! They provide not only a colourful but enticing look complete with flowers and greenery, that you are almost tempted to skip eating a proper meal and just ask for one of each. There is also an option of high tea available as well as picnic baskets to take out into the gardens and enjoys. There are even rugs and Frisbees included! How awesome is that!

There is a homely feel attached to the Stables, it looks like a cross between a country kitchen and an olden day tearoom, with modern accents along the way.

The menu is from Jason Flygenring and covers the basics such as Toasted English Muffins, Bircher Muesli, Granola, Toast and Egg anyway you like it. There are also Crumpets available however they aren’t made in house and seem to be store bought. Most of the produce comes from the venues very own garden – there are chickens that lay the eggs that are used in the egg dishes! There are Stables Staples such as Smashed avocado, Toasted banana bread, Three egg omelette and Gardeners Breakfast which their take on the Big Breakfast.

The Lunch menu consists of Toasted Piadini – Honey roasted pumpkin and Prroscuitto, Baguettes – Ham as well as roasted veggies and Sourdough Sandwiches – Poached chicken and rare porterhouse beef are options. There are also smaller dishes such as Bruschetta, Soup, Smoked Salmon and Quiches as well as Main plates which include Lamb Loin, Tuna Nicoise and a CapeGrim fillet minute steak.

As mentioned before there is High tea (Devonshire Tea) available and the cost is $15 per person – and you get the famous Aggie’s lemonade scones, tea or coffee and you get to select one Jill Cross chocolate truffles to finish.

To start off with I order a vanilla bean milkshake and A orders an OJ. The milk shake comes out in a metal cup with extra milk on the side if you want to dilute the milkshake. The syrups are made in house and the milkshake was delicious and you could taste the freshness of the vanilla bean. Just what was needed on this warm morning. A’s OJ came served in a brown glass bottle with a straw and was fresj;u squeezed.

For food I decided to go with the Smashed Avocado with thyme buttered mushrooms, marinated feta and torn basil on wholegrain toast.  The dish came out with the toast acting as the base, with the avocado placed on top, followed by the thyme buttered mushrooms and topped with a poached egg (this was an addition I made) and finished with the feta and basil sprinkled around. The combination of all these ingredients was really good – the flavours were perfectly balanced and the mushrooms were fresh. My only gripe was that the toast was a tad bit hard. The feta was creamy and tangy and worked well with the basil and avocado.

A had the eggs from happy chickens folded with herbs and served on toasted, buttered ciabatta.  I loved who the omelette looked when it came out – the way in which it was cooked it resembled a rose or flower, with the herbs sprinkled on top. A dish that not only looked great but tasted the same.

The staff are generally friendly and knowledgeable, although the first waitress we had seemed kind of lost and had to take our order twice as she didn’t get it the first time.

I do have one gripe though – the very first time I went to eat at Stables was with my family for my sister’s birthday, and we arrived on a Sunday at 9:30am only to find that it was opened at 10am. My sister had to go to work by 1pm, so we would need to have left by 12pm at the latest. We were located at the main entrance which required us to walk thru the gardens to get to to the cafe, and this entrance was opened at 10:10am and by the time we got to putting our names down for a table of 4, the list was quite long, as the side entrance to where the cafe is situated had been opened at 10am. I do understand that there is a list that people put their names down for, and I explained to the girl at the front that we would need to be out by 12pm at the latest and she said she would wait and see the best that they could do. I also explained that we were here at 9:30am and we were at the main entrance which was clearly opened much later than the side entrance, but she really wasn’t listening. There were many tables of 2 going at a rapid pace, but after an hour of waiting and seeing lots of sets of 2’s we had to leave. It was really disappointing and I guess that is why it has taken me so long to actually come back and give this place a try. I get that busy café’s have a process that they follow, but I have seen other café’s be accommodating in circumstances like this, and Stables just wasn’t.

So just to note my rating that I have given is to do with the food, venue and atmosphere of the place, and not really for service.

Overall, Stables is a great addition to the historic Como House Building and I do love that they allowed people to have access to this beautiful site. The Picnic Basket idea is a wonderful idea and I think I will come back to try it out – along with more of the sweets!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – There is a Breakfast menu served all day, a Lunch Menu and an Afternoon Tea Menu as well as a High Tea Menu which can be found at http://www.thestablesofcomo.com.au/#!menu/ckiy
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Homely, Cosy and makes you feel at home. Great for a summery day to sit outside.
Standout Dish: Any of the sweets that are located on the 6 metre long rustic counter!
Service: Friendly and Knowledgeable in general, but had a pretty bad experience the first time I went there.
Online Booking: No. There are generally queues on most days. 
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.thestablesofcomo.com.au/#!home/mainPage
Corner Williams Road & Lechlade Avenue, South Yarra
Tel No: 9827 6886

Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

The Stables of Como on Urbanspoon

Collective Espresso – Breakkie with a Difference

panda 3.5 rating

Menu:
Menu at Collective Espresso Specials at Collective Espresso

P and I decided to catch up at a place that was central to both of us and that happened to be Collective Espresso located in Camberwell – right opposite the train station. Collective Espresso was opened by a group of friends with business partners Mark Jacobson, Graham Babbs and Duncan McCrane.

Where Collective Espresso resides now used to be a boutique store and the group has done the fitout themselves and the results are impeccable. The space is light, airy, open, inviting and welcoming – the centre piece is the large high wooden communal table which takes up most of the venue space together with quirky art work adding vibrancy and colour. . There are bars seats along the window and near the kitchen. The look is simple yet charming and comfortable.

Collective Espresso is named as such as it was the “collective” experience and knowledge they gained from working at Las Chickas and Galleon café that allowed them to create this café. The menu consists of Breakfast, Lunch as well Rolls and Subs and there are daily specials available as well. The breakfast menu has some really interesting combinations such as grilled zucchini and squash omelette; sesame fried eggs as well as the usuals such as Bircher Muesli and Baked beans and sausages. Their cold drinks menu is varied and interesting – they have slushies as well as white chocolate Tim Tam shakes.

Collective Espresso offers a house espresso blend and a changing daily single-origin coffee. The coffee is from Five Senses and the latte that I ordered was really quite delicious. The flavour was rich and had noes of caramel and paired with the perfectly frothed milk. They really do some of the best coffee.

We were seated at the end of the communal high table – I really do like the high tables at cafes – especially when the space is smaller. It gives a great sense of space and allows you to peer behind the counter if you wish. There was a bit of a mishap with our coffee orders – even though the coffee orders were taken before we ordered food – we only received the coffees after our food.

I ordered the Beetroot and Basil Cured Kingfish, Potato Rosti, Kim Chi and Sesame Fried Eggs. This dish came out on a wooden board, with the components of the dish being centred on the board. I quite liked the fact that normal plates weren’t used – it tied into the surroundings of the place as well as being different. The dish looked like a piece of artwork – with each component displayed artfully. The Sesame Fried Eggs were delicious and the sesame coating on the outside was an interesting addition. The egg was really a poached egg which had been fried and coated in sesame – the poaching was done perfectly and had the gooey yolk. The Beetroot Cured Kingfish was another difference that I haven’t had before and together with the other components really did work well together. The potato rosti was crispy and crunchy on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside. The kim chi added an extra tang and spice for flavour and brought the whole dish together.

P ordered the Collective Sigh of Relief – Poached eggs, Spinach and Kale, Thyme and Garlic Mushrooms, Spiced Beans and Toast minus the Kaiser Fleisch. Her dish came out on a board as well with each ingredient placed in an expressive manner. One thing missing though was the spiced beans from the dish. There was many different parts to this dish and as a result it was quite a large size dish. P did enjoy her food and especially liked the mushrooms.

Collective Espresso serves delicious and simple food with a twist and has great coffee in a convenient and easy to access location especially for people going to the train station. It is welcoming and cosy and you can really spend half your day soaking up the atmosphere.

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to pictures above
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Welcoming and Light/Airy – great for a weekend catchup!
Standout Dish:
Service: Overall service was friendly – just a few stuff ups with the coffee coming with our food and missing some ingredients as part of the dish.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
3 Cookson St, Camberwell
Tel No: 9882 8995

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:00am to 4:00pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00am to 4:00pm

Collective Espresso on Urbanspoon