Friday, July 1, 2011

Batch Espresso, Balaclava by Big Fil

Most people seem to consider Brunswick or St Kilda the home of the cool Melbourne café. However, with Las Chicas, Wall Two 80, Gattica, Monk Bodhi Darma and Batch Espresso as well as a number of other lesser known cafes all within 5 minutes walk of each other Balaclava would have to be up there too, even if it is a bit of a secret best known by the locals.

A batch is what they call a holiday house or shack in New Zealand. It's an appropriate name for this café with its relaxed low-key vibe. Decorated with assorted Kiwiana (New Zealand tea towels anyone?) and with most of the staff sporting Kiwi accents, it's cute and casual, busy but unhurried.

The menu is different enough to be interesting without being completely unfamiliar in style. My favourite out of the two breakfasts sampled was the fried eggs with cumin, lemon, mint, hummus and rocket on toasted Turkish bread. With nice lightly fried eggs and toast it provides an unusual flavour combination that works very well.

Still good if not quite as much to my taste was the avocado and feta mash on toasted sourdough, with a side order of bacon. The star of this dish was the optional bacon, which was crispy on the edges, tender in the middle, and almost all meat and no fat. I did however find the combination of avocado and feta a bit too heavy for me.

The cakes and sweets offerings were almost a meal in themselves. Quite ugly but very tasty was the chocolate Danish. It looked very different to the usual Danish, more like a small pull-apart loaf. It was also a little more bread-like in texture. But the staff member who recommended it was correct, it's good, home style baking.

The apple and blueberry pie with cream was equally as good. Served slightly warmed and with cream, the pastry was buttery and the filling generous. I'd have liked the addition of a little cinnamon or nutmeg to perk up the apple flavours, but would more than happily have it again.

A very good neighbourhood café, it has more of a whimsical feel compared to the slightly more serious cafes surrounding it. The food is more than up to par, the service casual but not disorganised. You know that a place is well liked when even in the midst of the other good nearby cafes, at 9am on a Saturday morning there is already a queue for a table.

Food - 8
Service - 7
Ambience - 7.5
Price - 7

Shop One/320 Carlisle Street
Balaclava VIC 3183
Tel: (03) 9530 3550

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