We Melbournians certainly love our little laneway cafes, the sort of places you only find out about because of word of mouth or wandering around some of the less salubrious parts of town. A fairly recent addition to the plethora of these scattered around town is Oli & Levi, located in an obscure dead-end laneway off Little Collins Street.
Despite being in such an obscure location Oli & Levi is well worth seeking out. It has a very modern style fit out with large communal wooden table, an open kitchen and window where those just seeking takeaway coffee or baguette can order, a feature which received a lot of use while we were there.
Actually one of the most surprising things during our visit was the high number of office workers getting something to take back to the office compared to the number who ate in. It could have been related to the time we were there, with our server indicating they usually started to get busy around 12.30 with the peak around 1. We were in around 12.15, gone by 12.45, and only one other couple came in to sit at the table while we were there. Actually I don’t think ‘couple’ is the correct term but how do you refer to two office workers who've popped in for a bite to eat?
Anyway, other than the cakes under the counter most of the food comprises reasonably priced gourmet baguettes and sandwiches. Two of these stood out as obvious choices to try, a salted pork belly, camembert and coleslaw (from memory – Olympics fatigue from lack of sleep is already kicking in) and a roast duck with an Asian salad.
At first taste the pork belly baguette was a little disappointing. The bread was a bit chewy, the pork a little lacking in flavour and the salad wasn’t really adding much to the flavour. That was until we hit the camembert, which added a rich creaminess that lifted it significantly.
The duck on the other hand was good from the start. Nice bread with a little crunch to the crust but fluffy interior and the duck given a little bit of a spark by the tangy salad.
The baguettes weren’t as large as some on offer around the city, but then they're also less pricey than most of the ‘gourmet’ offerings. Consequently we felt properly justified in finishing off our lunch with two small crumbles to share, one mixed berry and the other apple. These weren’t your typical crumble, with the filling served in puff pastry. Unusual but an interesting idea. Of the two the apple was definitely the better, the mixed berry suffering a bit from being overly sweet.
Yet another very good Melbourne cafe. Not as busy as I'd expected but then just as we were leaving several groups started heading towards us down the alleyway, like some coffee seeking zombie office worker apocalypse (I’ve been watching too much The Walking Dead recently). Food was good if not the best in town but good value as it was also a bit cheaper too. And our server was quite entertaining, possibly due the fact that he'd just finished his fifth coffee for the day (one of the benefits/curses of working in a cafe I guess). If you're in the area and want a bite to eat Oli & Levi is well worth seeking out, if you can find it.
Food – 7
Ambience – 8
Service – 7.5
Price – 7
20 Coromandel Place
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9650 0501