Amanda's Cafe

2460 Warburton Highway Yarra Junction, Victoria 3797

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Opening hours Mon-Sat 7.30am-4pm (breakfast until 11.30am)
Features Outdoor seating, Family friendly
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Chef John Knoll
Phone 03 5967 1593

IT'S tough for a town to promote itself when it has the word "junction" in its name. From the get go, visitors have a hint that they should be heading elsewhere. That's not to say Yarra Junction isn't a nice place — pretty views, pub, park — but when Warburton is just up the road . . .

Yarra Junction was built on the, er, junction of the narrow-gauge and main rail link, so timber coming down from Powelltown could be lugged on.

In the 1920s, more than one million "superfeet" of wood would be awaiting transport at Yarra Junction and the only place with more timber passing through it was Seattle.

It was a time when the town was heaving with timber workers — apparently you could pick them by their handshakes. They lived on one-pot slop, and other cliches, and would no doubt have benefited had Amanda's, one of the best cafes to pop up this side of Mount Donna Buang opened 90 years earlier.

Amanda fired up her cafe in 2007 but started her culinary vocation working the floor at such institutions as Jean Jacques by the Sea and Stephanie's. Family and cheese-making in France followed, then Amanda opened her eponymous concern, which is scattered with French prints, fresh bouquets and objets galore.

It makes sense that the cafe is called Amanda's, as it is she who semaphores you into the blue-walled room, wrestles the till and can be heard praising the cook over yet another superbly hollandaised eggs florentine. The sure-handed cook used to fry them up at Wombat's Chai cafe in Healesville until she was, er, poached.

Breakfast is indeed a standout here and includes poached eggs with a sumac-spiked Moroccan sauce, house-made dukkah and hummus-smeared bread from nearby Candlebark Bakery. There's also lightly toasted, almond-studded muesli crowned with Hoddles Creek blackberries and yoghurt, warm milk optional.

The cafe is only open for breakfast and lunch and is closed on Sundays but Amanda has grand plans to expand both hours and horizons and has already set up tables on what was a weedy nook between the cafe and the neighbouring butchery and plans to establish a kitchen garden.

You can sit outside and have lunch ferried out: perhaps baked curry chicken pies with roast beetroot salad, or a spanakopita made with local rainbow chard cut through with fetta.

There's always a soup — maybe a carrot-pumpkin concoction so orange you might want to check it with your Geiger counter — rest assured, the colour comes from organically grown produce that rolls down the hill from the Moora Moora co-operative, and other organic sources.

As for ready-mades, there are chewy ciabatta rolls filled with goodies such as local goat's cheese, Otway ham and roast vegies. Sharing cabinet space are cafe-made cakes, including a lemon tart and a flourless Kennedy & Wilson Chocolates beast.

These treats, plus top-notch coffee and a child-friendly book nook, make Amanda's a worthy spot to recharge. In fact, the experience may well eat into the rest of your day, in a mighty fine way.