Visited just before Big Fil called for a cafe breakfast break, Old Barber Shop Cafe made it in by a whisker. I'm glad it did because it's a decent cafe in a location seemingly without a lot of good cafes, at least compared to some neighbouring areas, in a city difficult to find a substandard cafe in. As an added extra, it's not a corner store or milk bar converted into a cafe; it's a barber shop conversion. And if you take a look at the cafe facade; I think it might originally have been a terrace converted to a shop. The building seems to have had an interesting past.
Unlike some of the conversions, I didn't spot many signs of the building's former use as a barbers. Yes, there were photos towards the rear and Big Fil assures me seemed to be a lot more knick knacks around the cafe when it opened. But in some ways that's ok; I'm happy not to be reminded of stray hair and shavings!
The fit out was very me. I liked its simplicity: the use of white to keep it airy with the counterbalancing darker colours adding warmth. The tables and chair were an eclectic mix much more harmonious than most places taking this approach. It was something about the colour of the wood and panelling used throughout pulling it all together. There's also something and somewhere for everybody: outside for the winter hardies looking to watch the world go by, a little bit of seating in the entry near the kitchen for those who like to be where everything's happening, and a mixture of seating styles in the rear. We ended up in the corner in the back, seated with a bird's eye view of the kitchen. I like that spot best everywhere we can get it.
I'm a fan of Gordon Ramsay's view restaurants should do a few things and do them well. Old Barber Shop Cafe hasn't adopted that approach. It's menu holds quite a few interesting things; so many that Big Fil could easily have tried half a dozen offerings. They fit the mould of a short but interesting menu where everything is done well; something I admire in many Melbourne cafes. Old Barber Shop’s menu is slightly longer and full of interesting options: some of the usual suspects you see around Melbourne such as housemade baked beans, breakfast wrap with herbed egg, smoke salmon and mascarpone. Also a number of lovely looking cakes that made it a likely destination for afternoon tea: lime cheesecake and a raspberry and rhubarb crumble slice.
Feeling a little under the weather and warned off smash with feta, I picked cosy comfort food called El Tigre: a corned beef toastie with tasty cheese, pickles, onion jam and chimchurri. With a side of crisps and a cup of tea. This was fabulous and our pick of the day. Tender, fall apart corned beef, good bread and an injection of acid from the onion jam and the pickles.
Big Fil chose a filling and pretty iced chocolate and the Moroccan Baked Eggs: spinach, feta and tomato together pistachio dukkah. It's no secret I love baked eggs but find most versions bland. The feta and pistachio dukkah both took this version of baked eggs away from bland and the yolks stayed runny to the last bite, but there was still that little something missing to move it into the sublime.
The Old Barber Shop is another Melbourne cafe consistently punching above its weight: its spaces are bright and clean, there's plenty of room to sit and chat, and the menu is varied enough to allow you to try something different each time you go. Yet another cafe I wish I lived closer to.
Food - 8
Ambience - 8
Service - 7
Price - 8
251 Church Street
Richmond VIC 3121
Tel: 03 9421 6463