20/2 Maddock St
Windsor, VIC 3181
I find it a bit hard to get excited over brunch these days. As much as I love the indulgent weekend ritual, it does start feeling a little same-same after a while. And paradoxically, this is actually exacerbated by how infrequently I have time to go out on a Saturday morning. When I do finally get around to it, I tend to expect the world from my brunch, and end up getting quite disappointed if it doesn’t live up to my hopes. Thankfully, I had spotted Oppen a few weeks before I was due to come back to Melbourne for Christmas, and was rather keen to try out their Scandinavian take on brunch.
The story of how Oppen came about is a rather cool one. Zume Pham, one-half of the husband-and-wife team behind Oppen, is a Vietnamese immigrant who originally came to Australia to pursue a career in mechanical engineering, but soon found himself falling in love with hospitality, and with Amy Vo. The duo got married, and whilst on a trip to Denmark discovered smørrebrød – Danish open sandwiches – and decided to open a cafe dedicated to the dish in Melbourne. And voila! Oppen was open!
Oppen subscribes to the very trendy concept of hygge – a Danish and Norweigan term roughly translating to the concept of cosy conviviality, and a general feeling of contentment. It is done remarkably well here. The space is clean and full of natural light, the minimalistic design accented with cosy touches, from the warm beige-toned furnishings to the tasteful knicknacks. Ample amounts of greenery completes the comfortable, welcoming air.
Like the interior, the menu bursts with understated personality. The main brunch menu has all of the classics, albeit with Scandanavian touches; expect your ham hock hash with sauerkraut, and your pancakes made with spelt flour and garnished with ligonberry. The real drawcard however are the smørrebrød, the toppings of which range from classic Nordic cured salmon, all the way to internationally-inspired ingredients such as enoki mushroom, dehydrated vegemite, and dukkah. And for those who prefer more boisterous mornings, they have a small but inventive collection of cocktails, as well as a succinct wine list, which is available all day in conjunction with coffees and smoothies.
Speaking of coffees, my Skinny Flat White ($4), with beans from Disciple Coffee Roasters, is the best I’ve had in a long while. The brew was robust yet balanced, but the real hero was the milk, which was frothed to an indulgent creaminess that permeated the entire cup down to the last drop.
Although there was the option to get three smørrebrød with a side as part of a tasting platter, K and I opted to just share two, so as to leave room for dessert. The first we tried was the Cured Salmon Oppen Sandwich ($16), which came highly recommended by our waitron. This is a classic for a reason; the folds of ruby-red salmon on a bed of herb-flecked creme fraiche is a salty, creamy delight. It takes a slight Asian turn with the addition of pickled daikon and fennel, but it’s an apt interpretation, the vegetables adding a subtle sweet tanginess that isn’t as confronting as sharpness of a dill pickle. The bread is also worth a mention. The thin slice of house-made rye was so dense it could be used as a weapon, but went down surprisingly easily, imparting a rustic heartiness without being hard work to eat, and was a great base to the richer toppings.
We also agreed to try the Rare Roast Beef Oppen Sandwich ($16), which like the cured salmon, was a simple concept done extremely well. The beef was tantalisingly pink and was so tender it melted in the mouth even when served cold, and the spicy bearnaise had just enough creaminess and heat to complement the beef without overwhelming it. The garnishes of sour pickles, peppery watercress, and yummy fried onion rings were simple but effective, carefully adding layers of flavour to succulent roast beef.
We were talked into the special of Matcha French Toast ($21) by our waitron, who assured us that we did not want to miss this. First impressions were definitely promising, the pale green brioche pan-fried to a light gold, garnished with a fragrant bounty of summer berries and raspberry meringue.
After pouring over the small jar of maple syrup, we dug in. Despite the intriguing list of ingredients however – pumpkin custard, yuzu semifreddo, hazelnut, raspberry meringue – this was actually less exciting than I had hoped. Nothing on the plate stood out very much to me, and there was barely even a hint of matcha to the brioche. In fact, my favourite part by far would have to be the house-made raspberry and yuzu ice cream, which burst with summery sweetness, without ever veering into being cloying. It was a decent dessert, the light and fresh flavours appropriate for the warm weather, but it just didn’t thrill me. K however really enjoyed this, and he’s no slouch when it comes to food, so keep that in mind if you ever see this on the specials menu.
I had a wonderful morning at Oppen. Admittedly, the food wasn’t quite as ground-breaking as all the reviews have made it out to be, though it was still a very nice cafe. Its slightly out of the way location made our meal a peaceful experience, but the plentiful foot traffic (it’s right outside Windsor station) prevented it from feeling isolated. I would happily recommend this to anyone who wants something a little different for brunch, but also wants to know that the experience will be a comfortable and enjoyable one.
Rating: 13.5/20 – oppen for a good time.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.