Self Preservation

70 Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9650 0523

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Eating in the CBD tends to take a back seat compared to exploring the suburbs, but this Winter I’m finally putting in more effort on this front. I’ve walked by this cafe several times in the past few years and finally lunched here with Mr Frenchman one day in July.

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What captivated me was the dark, inviting and almost European sense of cosiness to the place, complete with a fabulous looking counter display of sandwiches, salads and sweets right at the front. I also liked the old-school, piston-like coffee machine in the premises. The space straddles the line between brunch cafe and European bistro, and they’re open for dinner on Wednesday to Friday.

Self Preservation 3205Self Preservation 3207Braised beef with white beans, cavolo nero & horseradish $22
Black risotto with cuttlefish and gremolata $18 

Conversation between Mr Frenchman and I took priority over the actual food, and we got quite immersed into things. All that said, the offerings here were good…

Succulent beef cheeks gets served with tufts of deeply green warming tuscan cabbage and winter beans, much to my companion’s approval. And I enjoyed my squid ink risotto, which had good texture and a lovely seafood-based broth lifted with fresh parsley and lemon.

Self Preservation 3209Self Preservation 9Cappuccino $4 | Bakewell tart $7

We ended with a bit of sweets and tea (cappuccino for him). The bake well tart had a raspberry jam centre topped with peanut crumble. It reminded me of scones with jam & cream, only short crust version, and I really piled on the cream over the tart.

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Overall, the food and ambience here is lovely, while the coffee (by Romcaffe) and that bakewell tart took second spot. It’s a nice cosy place to catch up with a friend and I had a good meal with Mr Frenchman. I also like the look of those sandwiches at the front counter.

On a side note, two followers on Instagram have mentioned that service here could be somewhat ‘frosty and full of disdain’. While one or two of the staff weren’t as saccharine cheerful as those you’d see at your usual brunch spots, I did not have problems with the service here and most of them were friendly. All that said, I rarely receive such grievances on Instagram (especially from more than 1 person) and think that the management may want to take a look at how they’re treating customers, especially since these days service is everything.

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After Mr Frenchman I parted, I proceeded to buy beans for my home. It’s good that I now have a favourite cafe / roaster to buy beans from in most areas of Melbourne (except the West). Meaning I don’t have far to travel after brunching to get good beans. When I’m in the CBD, it’s usually a toss up between Sensory Lab and Maling Room beans (from De Alleway Espresso).

Masak Ayam Tempra Maling Room Beans

However, on two occasions in recent months, I’ve received a bit of attitude from staff at Sensory Lab and St Ali South whilst buying beans. So I’ve culled Sensory Lab off my favourites list (their beans don’t taste that good on my coffee machine anyway) and am sticking with Maling Room beans from the much friendlier chaps at De Alleyway.

We’ll end this post with yet another home cooked dish. That afternoon I made Masak Ayam Tempra, a comforting chicken dish from my home that involves a bit of stir-frying (with onions and chilli) and a bit of braising (with dark soy sauce). What makes this dish so nice is the final squeeze of lime into the dish that’s done just before serving. If I can learn to cook it just like how mom makes it at home, then I might just blog its recipe in the future. :)