Footscray Brunch Trilogy
I consider Footscray as the land of Vietnamese bánh mì and bún chả, not to mention it’s the one place where I can find all my Asian produce with ease. But this year, the food landscape has changed to include pockets of brunch culture. Most of us welcome it, I believe, as evidenced by the swarms of café-starved locals at each place I visited.
Two of these newcomers have received awards in The Age Good Cafe Guide this year. That’s a sudden, strong presence in the West, which I think is great. But I only look at official awards as guidelines, and trust my own tastebuds more. Hence these visits. Walk with me as I explore Footscray’s flood of new cafes.
West 48 is in Lauren’s neighbourhood, it’s only fitting that I visit this café with her.
It’s located smack in the middle of unknown streets, you’d only know of this place by word of mouth or if you lived locally. Still, it was very very busy that Sunday.
The fit out’s dark and masculine with a woody sheen… like a café that knows what’s it doing. But there were little bursts of flowers, posters, and bright orange cups and saucers that gave vibrant counterpoint.
Piccolo 3.50 (by Allpress Coffee)
These days, I’ve become quite particular about the roastery that a café chooses to source its beans from. Unfortunately, Allpress doesn’t do it for me. All that said, Lauren honestly likes the coffees here! They’re extracted using a La Marzocco machine.
Chai Latte $4.50
I had a chai latte at the end of the meal. It was mellow and sweet, but could be more spicy.
House cured salmon on toast with scallion cream, capers & rocket $15
They feature a simple menu here, but it’s simple done well.
Mueslis, toasted sandwiches and bright colours on toast. Lauren got cured salmon on toast and really liked its freshness and simplicity.
Toasted prawn roll with garlic aioli and rocket $12
My toasted prawn roll was pretty good too. Fresh, quality ingredients, albeit a touch too generous with butter. The garlic aioli tasted more like melted butter with a slight punch of horseradish. I liked that touch of zing.
Sicilian biscotti $3 | Passionfruit yoghurt $5
We ended our brunch marvellously with sweets that came from Dolcettiin West Melbourne, a Sicilian inspired pasticceria.
READING ROOM CAFE
This café is a little different, it’s inside a University.
It first started off as a ‘Pop-up For Charity’ weekend café. That movement had so much positive feedback that the weekend menu has now become a permanent feature.
But the biggest drawcard for me was its specialty coffee section. They use beans from Sensory Lab (St. Ali) and Small Batch (Auction Rooms). Having enjoyed a previous visit with Fakegf, I brought Willem here on Mother’s Day.
… and no, Willem isn’t my mum. Ha ha!
Piccolo 3.2 | 3/4 Latte 3.3
I’m happy to say that the coffees here are extracted by capable hands, using a Synesso machine. My single origin Kenyan piccolo (by Sensory Lab) had wonderful strength with notes of foilage and citrus. The coffees I had from a previous visit were also very good, suggesting they’re consistent with quality.
Willem also really liked his punchy Candyman 3/4 latte (by Small Batch). He’s just about as fussy with coffee as I am, so it’s nice to know it also hit the spot for him.
The menu’s filled with literary puns, such a ‘Bircher In The Rye’, ‘Eggs Hemingway’ and ‘The BFG’. I found it very amusing while Willem thought it was a little silly. Please note that there is a weekday and weekend menu. I don’t know how this place is like on weekdays.
Great Expectations 13.5
Breakfast piadina, scrambled eggs, shaved ham, fresh tomato with gruyere cheese
Willem’s scramble piadina was an okay dish as a whole. The ham was good, but he thought the flavour of the gruyere did not come through that well.
Happy Little Vegemite 12.5 (+ a poached egg)
Open vegemite & avocado toastie with dry cured bacon and Swiss cheese
Pun aside, I went very Aussie with this vegemite dish. It was such a salty-strong combination… crisp cheese, grilled bacon, smashed avocado and vegemite with toast.
Theoretically, these are very heavy flavours. But they worked together very well for me, giving a balanced heaviness that wasn’t too rich. I liked it!
The Reading Room serves delicious coffees. And there’s a vibrant, youthful vigour about the waitstaff here that reminds me of those carefree days as a student. A lovely, unusual café. It’s really impressive that a café inside a University can stand amongst Melbourne’s stalwarts.
FOOTSCRAY MILKING STATION
Here’s our final café, and this one could be called Willem’s local. But just to have a different brunch companion for each venue, I came here with Ees on a Saturday.
Once again, it’s located in quite a remote spot. I love hard-to-find cafés. I also liked the smudges of green and white paint on the table tops, a recurring theme all through the café’s fit out.
Ees arrived first and thoughtfully chose a table right next to a window. Natural light is such a godsend for food photography.
chai latte 4.2 | orange juice freshly squeezed daily 5.0
loose-leaf tea blended with steamed milk served in a teapot
I had a non-spicy chai latte while Ees nurtured a boldly piquant OJ. My chai had a rather odd flavour to it that I couldn’t put my finger on.
omelette w prosciutto, asparagus, tallegio cheese, toast 16.5
Food-wise, there’s quite an extensive breakfast and lunch menu and a deli counter with gorgeous sandwiches and wraps.
Ees’s omelette looked promising, and the bite I stole was nicely soft and moist. He mostly enjoyed it, with the exception that he thought the cooked prosciutto wasn’t a necessary ingredient in that mix.
panini of pulled pork, pickled cabbage, caramelised apple 8.5
Through Willem, I have local knowledge of what’s good here, and stealthily ordered the very last pulled pork panino from the counter that afternoon.
Whoa, Mama! Now that’s what I call a sandwich!! It was moist, creamy, and soo delicious! There was something gently smoky and Asian in the pulled pork’s flavour profile, and its texture was almost like tuna with mayonnaise.
rocket, pear and fennel salad 6.0
Ees and I had a salad on the side to share. Aside for being a little wet with dressing, it was light, tangy and went quite well with my panino.
strong flat white 3.5 (by Padre Coffee)
You may be wondering why I hadn’t covered the coffees yet.
Unfortunately, like Allpress, I am not that keen on Padre beans either. A previous coffee-only visit here confirmed that. But Ees had this drink to go with our sweets and he did not mind it.
lemon tart 7
And here’s a bit of sweetness to end our visit. The tart was alright, with a waxy rather than buttery-crumbly type of pastry.
I think all three cafés hold great promise, with quality produce, a positive vibe, and solid menus. And I like how they’re all located away from the beaten track.
I liked West 48’s simplicity, The Reading Room’s coffee, and Footscray Milking Station’s sandwiches. These three places are very exciting additions to the food demographic in Footscray. I suspect many more cafés will be appearing in and around this suburb soon.
Footscray is changing, we all know it’s inevitable. For me, I am perfectly fine with this change as long as the food and produce does not get dumbed down by gentrification. I want my beloved Vietnamese eateries, Asian grocers and Little Saigon Market to remain unscathed.