30th April 2015
143 Whitehorse Road
Balwyn, VIC 3103
Living in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne, I am a bit short on luck when it comes to brunch. However, I don’t live in Melbourne for nothing. Though few and far in between, there are quite a few well-regarded cafes in the east, though most of them are clustered closer to the CBD. One that would come to most people’s minds is Snow Pony, but just down the road from that is Scarvelli Cafe, doing a roaring trade in all things brunch.
To ease my sister’s back-to-school and dentist appointment blues (I know, the poor kid), I promised her brunch as a treat. As we cruised down the highway, Scarvelli Cafe shouted out to us with an enormous graffiti painting of an eldritch woman, and before long we had parked the car in a side street, and our buttocks on some chairs by the window.
It always amazes me when I see a restaurant in my end of town decorated with a patchwork of creative thrift-store knick-knacks. Generally speaking, I’m used to seeing cafes that are comfortable, but lacking in character. Otherwise, there is so much character that it makes you wish the cutlery wasn’t so chipped, and the tables weren’t so grotty. Scarvelli however is a true Melbourne cafe, dressed up with freshly trimmed posies, rusted pots impersonating lampshades, and an unusually high number of moose-related pieces. There was even a spacious courtyard out back; it’s a shame the weather was so blustery that day.
I heartily recommended the Apple and Watermelon Juice ($6.5) to my sister, in the fear that if left to her own devices, she might decide to have a milkshake before noon. It was a good decision, as the juice turned out to be fresh and sweet, with just a hint of seasonal tartness.
I, on the other hand, am a grownup, and therefore don’t need to take my own advice. And that’s how I ended up drinking my entire Skinny Flat White ($3.8) on an empty stomach, after going to the gym. Even though I was jittery afterwards, it was well worth it. With some help from the tasting notes, I found notes of plum and chocolate in my brew, but unfortunately the sweet citrus escaped me. It was a big, comforting cup with a smooth, rich aroma.
Though I didn’t like her having the milkshake, I couldn’t deny my sister the Wagyu Burger ($20). It was as pretty as a picture, and tasted even better than it looked. If you think the combination of beef, cheese, American mustard, and special sauce in a sesame seeded brioche bun sounds familiar, you would be right.
However, this is a burger McDonalds could only dream of creating. The beef patty was thick and juicy, with a slice of jack cheese melting into the charred crevices. Layered on top were the tangy-creamy duo of mustard and a heavy dollop of special sauce, and vibrantly fresh salads. Even the chips were amazing; they were golden perfection with a centre of mashed potato, generously salted and served with a side of pungent mustard aioli. This is definitely one worth breaking the diet for.
My order of Chilli Eggs and Ham ($16.5) on the other hand was nothing like I had expected. What read like an innovative but hearty breakfast was actually an innovatively reconstructed Sunday lunch. The centrepiece was a golden ham hock and potato hash that proved once and for all that Scarvelli is the master of deep frying.
Underneath the hash was a bed of sweet minted peas, served with a delightfully zesty herb and onion salad on the side. Topping it all off were two perfect sunny-side-up eggs with the yolks still wobbling, ready to be mixed in with the chilli sauce.
But wait, there’s more! On my way out, I was handed a small bag of goodies, which turned out to contain a deliciously tangy and flaky Mango and Lime Tart, an unbelievably gooey Chocolate Brownie with Crystalised Ginger, and a buttery piece of Pomegranate Shortbread, studded with little fruity kernels.
And this awesome grow-in-the-bag coriander, which my mum confiscated gleefully the moment I got home.
There is plenty to love about Scarvelli Cafe, from the simple but delicious food, to the cosy, laid back atmosphere. And possibly most of all, excellent coffee in a part of Melbourne where (shock horror) not every single cafe serves a good espresso. One thing I did however find fault with was the service. Though friendly enough when you do actually get it, it just all seems rather half-hearted and a bit reluctant. C’mon guys, you were almost perfect!
Rating: 14/20 – sunday dinner brunch lunch.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of Scarvelli Cafe.