Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Friends of Mine, Richmond by Big Fil

Spring has sprung into Melbourne this week. The skies are blue, the clouds are fluffy, the cafes are full ...well, most of the better cafes are full whatever the weather but it will probably get even worse over the coming months. Spring is also the season of freshness and renewal, which is an appropriate for a visit to Friends of Mine. This is because to me the highlight here was the freshness of the food, from the house smoked salmon to the still gooey chocolate in my muffin.

Toasted banana bread with maple syrup mascarpone, fresh banana, berry compote and crushed pistachios 

Located in the semi-industrial suburb of Burnley, Friends of Mine is another café given over to Melbourne industrial chic. There are three separate dining areas to choose from: outside across the road from the park, the shared table and window seating room, or the more 'formal' separate table room. On both my visits I was relegated to a window seat, which appeared to be this cafés equivalent of the singles table at a wedding reception. It's unfortunately not my favourite place to eat, with the combination of light and shadow making it hard to take a good photo and the more limited bench space making it difficult to read my paper without jostling the neighbours. One major highlight though, I have to love the amazing lights scattered around the place. I want one for home!

As mentioned, everything sampled was almost bursting with freshness. First up was the smoked salmon on corn pikelet, avocado, herbed cream fraiche and a poached egg. Good, somewhat softly flavoured salmon on a yummy corn pikelet and properly runny-yoked poached egg. Surprisingly though I was left a little disappointed. On occasions I can be a big flavour kind of guy and the flavours here were more on the subtle side than I would have preferred, which is more a reflection on my likes than the dish.

No such problems with the banana bread (see first pic). Toasted banana bread with maple syrup mascarpone, fresh banana, berry compote and crushed pistachios. A generous serve with generous flavours - thick, lightly toasted bread, firm banana and the pistachios giving a crunchy texture. I rarely have banana bread because of a dislike of soft, squashy banana but I loved this and was left wanting more.

To top it all off, a freshly baked chocolate and pistachio muffin and hot chocolate. The muffin was delicious if a little crumbly, with pieces of warm still runny chocolate gooeyness on the inside.

The hot chocolate was also how I like it, with a good strong chocolate flavour and a layer of liquid chocolate at the bottom for scooping out with the spoon.

The food was a definite hit but I have two caveats about Friends of Mine. One is, if you are going to take a common approach to lots of other places, to stand out you have to do it better. The industrial café look is a good one but here it didn't quite hold together for me. I might have been a bit prejudiced by my window seat but I never really got comfortable and couldn't imagine wanting to hang around for long after finishing. Secondly, without doing a direct comparison it did seem a little pricier than other similar good Melbourne cafes, not unreasonably so but just enough to notice. But all up, a good place to eat and somewhere I'd more than happily return.

Food - 8
Service - 7
Ambience - 6.5
Price - 6.5

506 Swan Street
Richmond VIC 3121
Tel: (03) 9428 7516

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