The north end of Rathdowne Street, through Carlton North, would have to be one of the nicest suburban main streets in Melbourne. Snooze has indicated that it used to be quite rundown but it's wide, tree lined and features some well preserved Victorian and Edwardian homes and shops. Add to this some good restaurants and cafes and it's somewhere I really like to walk, even if it is quite a long way from home.
It doesn't seem to attract many outsiders though and I always feel a bit of a stranger when passing through. I think this could be because with no tram running down the middle or convenient train station it doesn't get many visitors. Consequently it may not be as appreciated as some other better known shopping strips.
Amongst its assorted cafes I had known about North Cafeteria for some time and with the coming of the warmer weather Snooze and I had planned a pleasant walk followed by a delicious breakfast. While the weather didn't really deliver, a bit windy and threatening to rain, North Cafeteria certainly was worth the visit.
The first thing that struck us about the café was how much space there was for such a small cafe. Unlike most cafes the front counter has been removed so that the room is much more open and spacious, something accentuated by the tables being placed along the white painted walls. The menu sits on the back wall and promises an interesting variety of breakfasts, some sweet and some more savoury.
Indulging my sweet tooth was the French toast, served with poached fruit (pear), walnuts and honey and lemon labne. I had been eyeing off a more egg based option but was intrigued by the labne. Sweet from the honey, slightly sour from the yoghurt and zingy from the lemon, an interesting variation on the more typical mascarpone or ricotta. The pear was tender but firm, the only thing which was a slight down was the toast itself, I suspect because it got buried a bit under the other, stronger flavours.
Snooze decided on a bagel, with poached egg, goats cheese, asparagus and bacon. Unfortunately this dish had a couple of problems with it. The bagel itself was good but let down by slightly undercooked bacon and egg. The bacon could have been attributed to personal taste, as I do like mine slightly crispy. However, while a runny yolk is almost mandatory the white of the egg should be cooked all the way through and this unfortunately wasn't quite. Top this with a slightly dry lamington for afters, and it felt like somewhere that had failed to deliver of its best food.
We both left this café feeling good. Nice place to eat, service was efficient, the menu was interesting. Some of the food didn't quite come through on the day, although it did feel more like the kitchen had just got one dish slightly wrong than their typical standard of offering. Still, you can only eat what's put in front of you.
Food - 7
Ambience - 8
Service - 7
Price - 7
717 Rathdowne Street
Carlton North VIC 3054
Tel: (03) 9348 1276