Abacus Bar & Kitchen review

Clean and green: Abacus is like a miniature harvest festival.
Clean and green: Abacus is like a miniature harvest festival. Photo: Wayne Taylor

383 Chapel St South Yarra, VIC 3141

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Opening hours Mon-Tue 7am-4pm, Wed-Fri 7am-11pm, Sat-Sun 8am-11pm
Features Accepts bookings, Family friendly, Gluten-free options, Vegetarian friendly, Bar, Breakfast-brunch, Wheelchair access
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Payments eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 9824 1026

When you walk into Abacus and the first thing you see is a few pumpkins and bunches of rhubarb lolling on hay bales, you know you're not in for a dirty fry-up. Skim the space and you'll see a cluster of lemons on a table here, a centrepiece of walnuts in the shell there.

The air feels clean – greenery abounds, with a towering fig tree a charismatic centrepiece to this smart, vaulted space. It used to be a bank but now feels more like a miniature harvest festival, with an open L-shaped kitchen and countertops piled with fresh pastries. Even the table sugar is in little hessian sacks.

Find your chosen nook – the space lends itself as well to solo dining as groups – and get into the menu, where homegrown pride is front and centre. At Abacus, they mill their own flour, bake their own bread, cure their own meats, keep bees on the roof and use scraps for the worm farm.

Chilli-folded scrambled eggs.
Chilli-folded scrambled eggs. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Rev up with coffee from Padre then onto choosing from ex-Top Paddock chef Chris Connolly's abundant take on cafe fare, encapsulating a farm-to-fork ethos and the proximity of Prahran Market.

Breakfasts can run from a simple, feathery, house-made pain au chocolat to the Abacus bircher, with house-milled roasted oats, fruit and a chunk of honeycomb from the roof. More savoury options include smoky beans revved with chipotle, and chilli-folded scrambled eggs with seaweed and olive dust, served on charcoal toast.

Bridging the brunch-to-lunch divide are dishes like the wood-fired cauliflower, topped with a fried egg, underscored with a super-punchy chermoula and decorated with a flouncy fringe of candycane beets.

Wood-fired beans, pumpkin, poached egg and cheese toast.
Wood-fired beans, pumpkin, poached egg and cheese toast. Photo: Wayne Taylor

The flat-iron steak comes burger-style on unleavened bread – two generous slabs of tender meat on pickled veg with a fried egg and a lash of "wasabi custard".

Or the wickedly oozy speck and gruyere croquettes, served with charred broccolini, chorizo oil and smoked almond butter.

All-day dining is the name of the game most days here. Evening menus move into pizza, tapas and drinking territory, with some nifty cocktails and a lot of homegrown beers and wines to get you started. Those naughty croquettes sneak onto the night menu alongside other shareable snacks like snapper wings with finger lime, sardines with pickled lemon, and pork belly with mushroom.

Wood-fired cauliflower with chermoula.
Wood-fired cauliflower with chermoula. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Pizzas fly with some interesting combinations, including mushrooms with seaweed butter, native saltbush and thyme, and pickled octopus with smoked trout wings and sea parsley as well as a simple margherita and a vegan number with soy cheese.

As assured serving pre-yoga breakfasts and after-hours cocktails, Abacus is an all-day diner you can count on.

Pro Tip: Book – it gets extra busy on weekends.

Go-to Dish: Abacus bircher with fermented raisins, raspberry jelly and pistachio, $16.