115 Sydney Rd
Brunswick, VIC 3056
Brunswick, VIC 3056
You never realise what you have until it’s gone. My sister is a bubbly and chatty kid with lots of crazy ideas, and as much as I love her, in true sibling fashion, I find her annoying more often than not. But all of a sudden she flies off to China with dad for a couple of weeks, and I miss her more than I can say.
Before my sister left however, I made sure to take her out to eat lots of food she can’t really get in China. Of course some good burgers were on the menu, but I also wanted to take her up the northern end of town to get some brunch, and a bit of Middle Eastern nosh too. Green Refectory seemed like a good place to make that first stop. I don’t really understand why I haven’t visited, considering that it’s extremely cheap and closer to my uni than the city is, but here we are.
Appearances are usually pretty deceiving when it comes to Melbourne. And in the case of Green Refectory, what looked like another hole in the wall turned out to be a vintage-styled mess hall spread out over 3 rooms and a long, narrow back garden. And the variety of food they serve is mind-boggling. Aside from the breakfast and lunch menu scrawled on blackboards, the cabinets were piled high with pastries, vibrant salads, sandwiches, and even sushi rolls.
After ordering for the two of us – and getting change back from a twenty! – we headed to the back room and sat down with our cute little canvas print that seems to have taken the place of table numbers. There was a bit of a wait, given our simple orders, but probably expected given how busy the cafe was. At any rate it gave my sister plenty of time to sit around awkwardly as I scuttled around, taking photos.
|Breakfast Stack ($10)|
My sister is a fast learner; she is already researching what she wants to order at a restaurant in advance like a true foodie. The Breakfast Stack ($10) is something of a signature dish at Greens (as it is affectionately referred to by locals), and on the day we visited, we saw all sorts of people enthusiastically digging into it. Surrounded by a puddle of tomato relish, this stack has got it all – potato patty, roasted tomato, spinach, eggs, bacon, and haloumi. I’ll say upfront that this dish is more of a quantity than a quality thing; the potato patty was mash rather than crispy, the bacon was soft, the egg was hard, and the vegetables rather flavourless. But at the same time, I adored the buttery, cheesy potatoes, the bacon was plentiful, the haloumi had the perfect salty squeak, and the vegetables became much more interesting after a swish in the rich tomato relish. I wasn’t impressed by this dish, not by a long shot, but I enjoyed it quite a bit as something that I would love to cook at home, but can probably never be bothered to.
|Small Salad ($7.95)|
After tackling a 588 gram burger just the day before, I needed to eat something that would make me feel good about myself. So the bewildering variety of salads that Greens offered was a dream come true. I had myself a Small Salad ($7.95; $6.95 take away), which allowed me to choose 3 different ones to sample from the cabinet.
|Brown Rice and Cranberry Salad|
The first salad I chose was a concoction of Brown Rice and Cranberries. I loved the way the grains rattled around in the mouth, each bite contrasting between chewy grains of rice and crunchy diced celery. I really enjoyed the slight creaminess of the dressing punctuated with the sweetness of cranberries.
This Chicken Salad was a great example of something simple done right. The generous chunks of chicken were well-flavoured by a peppery marinade, and the accompanying vegetables were fresh and crispy, occasionally interspersed with the silky oiliness of mushrooms and capsicum. I don’t have too much to say about this one but I would eat this every day if I could work out what was in that marinade.
|Roast Vegetable Salad|
It was a shame that the trio of salads were let down by the Roast Vegetable. There was a good variety of vegetables and it wasn’t bad or anything, but it wasn’t much more than a plate of too-sour moosh, potato chunks aside. I’d skip this and get one of the other dozen of salads on offer.
There were desserts stacked by the door (probably as bait – I see what you’re doing!), but we just couldn’t fit anything else in, especially considering we were having a second brunch very soon.
Despite everything, my feelings for Green Refectory are actually a little bit mixed. I enjoyed the food and adored the prices, as well as their lovely set-up and the sheer variety of food on offer. But the overall experience left a little to be desired. As nice as the vintage setup was, it just didn’t feel very relaxed – more like a food hall and less like a place where I wouldn’t even notice the time slip away. The service left a bit to be desired as well; the staff struck me as a bit too-cool-to-serve-you-properly. I had to wait for the girl at the counter to stop chatting to her friends before being able to ask her to explain to me, grudgingly, what the salads they had. But if you’re just after a quick, hearty and cheap meal, then you’ve come to the right place.
Rating: 13/20 – greener pastures.
645 Sydney Rd
When you’re up this end of town, a trip to A1 Bakery and the huge op-shop, Savers, is a must. I’ve been to this Middle Eastern bakery before and I loved everything I tried, but because we just had brunch, my sister and I had to pick wisely.
|Cheese Pie ($3.5)|
Going to a Lebanese bakery and not trying the Cheese Pie ($3.5) is like going to yum cha and not having prawn dumplings, and A1’s version is seriously impressive. The bread is light, sweet and leaves a dusting of flour on your lips, and the cheese in the middle is melted just enough to retain its salty squeakiness.
And of course, a piece each of the Baklava ($1) that had brought a tear to my eye the first time I had it. It’s not as flaky as I remembered, but it’s still indulgently buttery, nutty and syrupy, good enough to make my sister’s eyes grow wide at her first bite.
And our trip to Savers after? We picked up 6 books and the Harry Potter board game for only $19.95 – SCORE!