My first impression of South of Johnston or SoJo as it is affectionately known as was that it had a really vibrant yet relaxed country feel to it. It was a place that you could literally spend hours and hours and feel like you are away on a day trip, yet you are located in the inner city suburb of Collingwood. Stuart McKenzie (from Mart 130) spent a lot of time finding the perfect venue to open his café and wonderfully transformed the once old valve-repackaging factory into the venue that it is today with some help from Carver Design.
SoJo is quite a large venue, in Oxford Street, and is made of multiple spaces that you can pick to choose from to sit. There is an outside covered quadrangle located at the front, which looks out onto the street and lets the bright sunshine in. What is super cool as well is the “urban orchard” that is located at the front of this area – with herb and fruit trees located in planter boxes. What was also great was that there were blankets placed on each chair – perhaps if you got a bit cold – such a novel idea. There is a covered courtyard area located at the back as well as the main area where the bar / coffee bar is located that is quite large (and where bookings can be made as well). This main area also consists of a fireplace with comfortable looking lounges located around it. If you think its hard deciding on where you want to sit, wait till you get to the food menu – there is a huge variety to select from!
I love the combination of the wooden tables and chairs with the simple, modern and pastel pieces of artwork. As well as the colourful cushions that are tossed across the comfy looking couches. At the entrance there is a table with knick knacks and various elegant artifacts which adds a classy touch.
South of Johnston has an all day dining menu to offer and consists of classic breakfast dishes with a contemporary twist, and they can cater for all dietary requirements as well. There really is a little of everything on the menu and like I said you will spend even longer than you did deciding where to sit. There are egg breakfasts: scrambled and folded with goats’ cheese and truffle oil; fried eggs and kaiserfleisch; or soft-poached and saucy with sugo, black olives and spicy chorizo. The usuals such as Bircher muesli with poached seasonal fruit, crunchy granola and vanilla bean infused yogurt can also be found. Two dishes that most people seem to talk about is the French Toast served with Brioche and the Corn fritters – where the corn cobs have been oven roasted to get that smoky flavour – mm yuum!
It was quite a warm day and I felt like fresh juice and the waitress informed me that they had a special for that day which was a grapefruit juice – so I thought I would try it out. It was quite refreshing albeit a bit bitter. Towards the end I did have to add some sugar in it to cut some of the bitter taste. After much deliberation I decided to have the Pancakes served with Mixed Berries and Vanilla Infused Mascarpone with Pistachio Nuts as I felt like something sweet. The pancakes come with a maple syrup bottle that you have all to yourself – so you can put as much or as little as you want around the pancakes. There hasn’t been a place yet that I have been to that does this. The dish was quite sizeable and it seemed like there was a mountain of pancakes to get through (I couldn’t finish the whole dish) – the pancakes themselves were delicious – soft and flavoursome. The combination of the tangy berries with the vanilla mascarpone and crunch of the nuts against the fluffy pillows was fantastic. The addition of the maple added more sweetness to the dish.
SoJo is a relaxed and inviting café (in fact they almost encourage you to sit and stay the whole day), that has a great selection of tasty dishes coupled with a variety of drinks. The menu is for All Day Dining and the multitude of options of where you can sit add to the homely feel of this space. I will definitely be back and this time I will sit in a different section of the café =)
Rating : 4 Pandas
Menu – Refer to http://southofjohnston.com.au/spring-summer-menu-13.pdf
Atmosphere / Ambience: Relaxed, Comfortable, Warm and Inviting. Great place to just chill and hang out and spent most of your day. (There is free WiFi as well)
Standout Dish: Didn’t try it but the French Toast Brioche and the Corn Fritters seem to be a hit
Service: Friendly, Helpful and Warm
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
46 Oxford Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 9417 2741
Monday to Sunday: 7:30 am – 5:00 pm