Victoria University, Footscray Campus
88 Ballarat Road
Footscray VIC 3011
+61 3 9919 4091
Ah, it seems it’s been forever since my last entry – and given that it was a week ago, it is a long time in the land of food and caterpillars. I’ve not pissed off to Queensland again but rather, slaved away on a copy-editing assignment that I only managed to finish an hour before submission time. Phew! I’m six weeks into this subject, Editorial English, and while I might still not know the difference between an em dash and an en dash, I hope that this subject will help me write better blog posts – hah!
A few weeks ago, Aaron and I travelled across town to Footscray for breakfast. While we’re both Vietnamese foodophiles, we weren’t actually going to postcode 3011 for phở but rather, a meal with more of a Western flavour. And this time, we weren’t headed to our usual haunts on Hopkins Street but instead, to Victoria University. Now, what on EARTH would compel us to wake up early on a Saturday morning to have breakfast at a university café? And one that’s quite a distance away from our respective houses, too?
For the Pop-up for Charity initiative at Reading Room Café, that’s why. Starting this weekend, and running for eight weekends, the popular campus café will cease serving your usual sandwiches and rolls that weekday diners get. Instead, weekenders will get an Ingo Meissner-designed menu (he of St Ali, Outpost Café and Fitzrovia fame) and coffees courtesy of Sensory Lab and Small Batch Auction Rooms. And the best bit? A percentage of proceeds will go straight to charities around the area.
Before opening up to the general public though, Marz from the café invited me and a guest to dine at the café. This not only gave me a chance to get to know more about the initiative, but to also provide constructive feedback to the team prior to the official opening. Given that fellow bibliophile, Aaron, and I were going to spend that afternoon exploring second-hand bookstores, we decided that a breakfast stopover at Reading Room Café was certainly very fitting.
Our walk from Footscray Station to the university led us to develop a ferocious appetite. Despite having a printed campus map on hand and despite the two of us being reasonably good with directions, we ended up having a bit of trouble finding the café. After ending up at some sports oval (god, we’re such chumps), we did an about-face and FINALLY, found the café. It wasn’t in the most central location but then again, most cafes in Melbourne aren’t usually.
O HAI, ADRIAN!
After a very warm greeting from Marz, we sat at a table outside so that we can soak up some Vitamin D from the autumn sun. I ordered a latte (below, $3.30) made with ‘chompy’ beans courtesy of Sensory Lab. The beans, which came from Indonesia, emitted pleasant caramel and dark chocolate undertones, which worked well with the milk. Aaron, however, felt that this flat white tasted a bit ‘burnt.’
The café’s menu is evenly divided up between traditional breakfast offerings such as eggs and lunch dishes such as pasta. I liked that the entire menu was available all day long and on a normal day, I would have so ordered the broccoli and tomato orecchietti but I had spent the last three lunches eating spag bol so I decided a break from my favourite carb-based food would do me good. The dishes, which all had cute bookish names such as Bircher in the Rye and As You Like It, all sounded fantastic. Bonus points were also given for not naming any dishes Breaking Dawn or anything from the moronic Twilight franchise. When I asked Marz what she would recommend, she pointed to the Coco Bananas (toasted banana bread topped with fresh bananas, lemon curd ricotta and toasted coconut) and The BFG (brioche French toast with crispy bacon, candied walnuts and maple syrup), both of which sounded amazing. Instead, I ended up ordering the Great Expectations because I’m more of savoury kind of girl and well, Charles Dickens is pretty cool.
Meanwhile, Aaron chose the Eggs Hemingway, essentially eggs served any way (naw, cute!). The default option was to have it served on buttered toast with tomato relish but for an extra cost, you have to option to customise. I was secretly hoping that Aaron would request some slices of Tasmanian oak-smoked salmon so I could be all ‘Haha! Old Man and the Sea!’ but to my disappointment, he chose to add a side of dry-cured bacon ($13, including the eggs). Aaron loved his breakfast – he especially noted the extra generous serving of bacon, something that he rarely sees at other cafes.
I expected, well, great things from my Great Expectations ($13.50), a breakfast piadina with scrambled eggs, shaved ham, tomato and Gruyere cheese. In hindsight, I should have gone for one of Marz’s suggestions so that Aaron and I could sample a sweet and a savoury breakfast, instead of eat two savoury options, both of which had scrambled egg in it. Don’t get me wrong, my Great Expectations was fantastic but y’know, food envy. Especially since I later found out, from Adrian’s friend, that The BFG was nothing short of OMG-NEW-ORDER-LIVE-AMAZEBALLS (no, I still have NOT recovered from that gig!). Facepalmfacepalmfacepalm! But anyway.
The first thing I noticed was that they were extremely generous with the scrambled eggs. While this would normally be seen as a good thing, I found it a bit too much. Yeah, what is wrong with me?! Toning it down, though, would have made the already-filling piadina perfect. Apart from that, it tasted amazing. The wonderful combination of cheese, egg and ham – with bits of tomato and spinach to break things up perfectly – made for an extremely comforting meal; it automatically put my own tomato, ham and cheese toasted sandwiches to shame. In fact, both Aaron’s and my breakfasts were THAT filling – and yummy – that we did not feel the need to eat lunch during the day. This was despite the fact that we did cover a lot of kilometres (and bookstores) on foot, too.
While our plates were being cleared, a lovely young waitress asked us if we would like anything else to eat. I thought it was pretty generous of them to ask us that, especially since we were dining as guests of the café, but we had to say ‘no’ because we were that full. I did, however, oblige to a shot of Japanese cold drip coffee. Given how I fell in love with that stuff in Cairns a month ago, I was keen to taste Sensory Lab’s version. The coffee was good but I’m afraid that this cold drip coffee had the misfortune of having been tasted after Caffiend’s all-too-amazing brew, which will probably never be beaten in taste – at least in Australia, anyway. This version was slightly stronger in taste than Caffiend’s brew, and perhaps a little bit sweeter but at the same time, more acidic. This made it a little bit harder to consume on its own, though I would imagine that a bit of condensed milk and ice would make it taste fabulous.
I thought we were just about done here, but then Marz HAD to be a darl and supply us with more treats. This time, a selection of sweet baked goodies from the oven. Aaron and I shared a decadent chocolate brownie, a mini carrot and walnut cake and a passionfruit tart. Shared? Nah, man. Aaron could only manage a single brownie before resigning while I finished off his share. Now, I’m no sweet tooth but despite that and despite being full from the breakie, I still managed to finish all the sweets. They were THAT amazing. The brownie, although rich, was small enough so that I could enjoy its richness and chocolatey-ness without suffering a sugar comatose while the carrot and walnut cake was mellow. My favourite of the lot, however, was the passionfruit tart, which had a base that wasn’t overly thick, and a filling that was delightfully tangy. Loved it.
Marz encouraged me to fill out a feedback sheet while we were nibbling on our sweets. I didn’t really have much to bitch about. The service was fantastic – quick and friendly – and the food was pretty good. The only things I had to made a comment on, though, was the amount of egg in my piadina (but that was just me being difficult) and an ampersand being in the wrong place on the menu (but that was just me being a grammar nazi).
As we were leaving the campus, Aaron and I kept saying how we wished that our respective universities had decent cafes like that. Okay, so being a student at Melbourne University means that I am within walking distance of Lygon Street and whatnot but hey, what excuse does our student union have for not putting semi-decent eateries ON campus? The students of Victoria University should consider themselves lucky for they have always had access to the best phở and kebab joints in town … and now they have this for eight weeks! Now that I’ve been to Vic Uni, I will definitely make a special trip to study – oh, who am I kidding? I’ll be back to try their BFG! Heeeh-heeeh!
Disclaimer: Aaron and libishski dined as guests of Reading Room Café.