Thursday, June 14, 2012

Jungle Juice Bar, Melbourne CBD by Big Fil

It’s the Harry Potter cafĂ©, the one that someone built in the cupboard under the stairs. It’s located in Melbourne’s own mini Diagon Alley, Centre Place. It’s cramped but cosy and comfortable. It’s cute but colourful and contemporary. It’s called The Jungle Juice Bar, and it’s my kind of place.

If you want to pay a lunchtime visit though I’d suggest you get here pretty soon after 12. When we started perusing our Little Golden Book enclosed menus we had a choice of sitting wherever we wanted. By the time we were ready to order the place was basically full. An interesting mix of people as well – a few business suits, a couple of hipsters and one table that appeared to be international students. In fact, one of my favourite things about this part of town is watching all the different people who come here to eat.

I’m not usually a coffee drinker but decided to order the Saigon Coffee, a Vietnamese style coffee sweetened with condensed milk. You also get a small jug of hot water on the side, so that you adjust the strength to your own personal taste. While I’ve only tried it once before I think it might be the start of a beautiful friendship. It looks pretty, tastes great and may be enough to wean me from the light side (hot chocolate) across to the dark side (strong coffee).

Food wise, what you should expect is a limited range of items, some with a few quirks and all competently made. For the space they have I think that they are doing a great job, in fact I can only think of one other place in the city which seems to be doing such a great job in so tiny a space (Switchboard, if you are curious).

My choice de jour was the bagel burger, a fairly simple thing with beef patty, bacon, cheese, tomato, rocket and mayo but made using a bagel rather than the usual hamburger bun. It’s kind of funny in that using the bagel works both for and it against it, at least in my opinion. There is a lot less bread in the bagel so that you have to be careful in eating it, as demonstrated by Snooze who when starting from the outside of the bun soon ended up with a large chuck of patty enclosed by a diminishing amount of bagel. On the other hand the texture of a bagel is very different to a hamburger bun, denser and with more flavour, and I thought worked really well from that perspective.

Snooze decided to go for the club sandwich, a two level sandwich with grilled chicken, avocado, bacon, tasty cheese, tomato rocket and mayo. It looked very simple, much smaller than many club sandwiches and kind of unimpressive on the plate, but really just a great tasty sandwich.

Nice friendly people, cool but not condescending with their customers. It’s decorated in sort of Fitzroy share house chic, a look I quite favour. It even felt somehow spacious, although that could have been influenced by getting there early and sitting in the corner so we could survey all as they entered. A classic example of making the best of what you’ve got and just so very Melbourne. The only negative, for a simple bagel or sandwich with nothing on the side it did seem to be starting to push the boundaries on price.

Food – 8
Ambience – 8
Service – 8
Price – 6

20 Centre Place
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel (03) 9639 8779

Jungle Juice on Urbanspoon

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