The super-café trend is gaining momentum and we’re stamping our feet and blowing our whistles in approval. ‘Super-café’ by the way, is the name we’re pinning to the new wave of breakfast joints being opened by hospitality veterans, who are downsizing to café format, but super-sizing the experience, bringing all their restaurant and bar know-how to the game (we’re looking at you Small Victories). It’s great news for everyone. We love the option of climbing into either a coffee or cocktail, and bircher or a burger at almost any hour of the day and knowing that all are going to be good.
You'll find all of the above at Oscar Cooper. It’s the new café-bar in Prahran by Paul Butera and Jason Barone (both previously of Richmond’s the Collection bar), and they’ve set up their new venue with a let’s-see-what-happens-if-we-put-this-here approach to café establishment. They held the Greville Street lease for a couple of months before opening and just kept putting stuff in till it all clicked. Which it did. White tiles and polished concrete floors are florally garnished with more plant pots than you can poke a pansy at, and we love panoramic windows that swing wide-open for a little breezy breakfasting. Or, as promised, boozing.
The beverage department is the star of this show, courtesy of a 3am license inherited from the previous inhabitants. There’s coffee of course, well above par with beans supplied by Small Batch Roasters (and sometimes Market Lane) pumping out of a three group Synesso. But it’s the boys’ bar smarts that stand out. For those after the hard stuff head for the AM friendly cocktail menu; a Vegemite and Belvedere vodka Bloody Mary should keep you going from the night before, while a peach purée and fizz Bellini will start the next one.
Edible options cover the usual suspects – banana bread, smashed avocado on toast, bircher muesli. More inventive is a twist on eggs Benedict which does an ingredient subbing job akin to building a fantasy football team. Ham becomes bacon, there’s a mid-layer of smashed avocado while drab English muffins are replaced with a rich potato rosti – they make a potato cake, cut it into wedges and fry ‘em to order, so they’re crisp and soft in all the right places. A breakfast burrito (a steal at $13) is surprisingly light; fried eggs, fresh tomato salsa and avocado hang out in a crisp, pure-masa tortilla shell (that’s cornmeal since you ask – gluten free, too) perfect for hand-held munching.
Lunch is mostly about proteins between bread. There’s the ubiquitous burger and a cone of fries if you’ve still got a spare artery to clog, while the rest tilts Southern-USA in style. Try saucy pulled pork sliders or a slow cooked beef sub – both viable lunch options partnered with the best in Victorian craft beers right now.
While we appreciate all those who are specialising – focusing, say, on perfecting the brew – we're throwing our hands in the air for all those who are diversifying and getting it right on all fronts.