Brighton Schoolhouse

19 St Andrews Street (corner Church Street), Brighton, Victoria

The Serve: Brighton Schoolhouse Cafe
Inside the dramatic ironstone building. Photo: Ken Irwin

Dani Valent

It's more fun to eat waffles with chocolate mousse than to parse Latin texts. That's why I'm glad to visit Brighton Schoolhouse now rather than in the mid-19th century when it was school number 44 and, if records are to be believed, sadly lacking in bircher muesli, kale juice or espresso. No wonder it didn't last.

A few operators have tried their luck in this dramatic ironstone building. The new consortium (which includes Hawthorn footballer Josh Gibson) is a clever pitch at a tough crowd with a mix of wildly healthy and superbly indulgent food and drink and an aim-to-please outlook, expressed in such things as a respectful kids' menu and a ''your local chemist'' selection that includes juices, Berocca, Bloody Mary and a toothbrush.

School chic means timber desks, bashed-up lockers and vintage games but a steampunk coffee roaster says less about Victorian-era education and more about 21st century Melbourne. Even cuter: tea comes with egg timers to ensure perfect brews.

Classy: Activated nut porridge with raspberries and organic yoghurt.
Classy: Activated nut porridge with raspberries and organic yoghurt. Photo: Ken Irwin

The enormous patio has a playground, shade and a lot of people ordering complicated coffees ("skinny decaf latte in a long glass") and Instagramming photos of one another's designer dogs (I admit baby pugs are adorable). The waiters are impossibly good-looking and the food is spunky too.

Porridge is made with oats, activated nuts, dried blueberries and crisp freeze-dried raspberries. I can't imagine how much Pilates a person would have to do to finish the huge serve (more yoghurt might help) but it's wholesome and tasty.

The quinoa with truffle-flavoured poached eggs, fried haloumi and pea puree is a bowl of brunchy brilliance. A buy-local ethic extends to the Tasmanian quinoa. The Western world's love of this super-seed has put it out of reach of many of its South American farmers, a fact that's flagged on the menu. I'm impressed by this global outlook.

The Schoolhouse's enormous sunny patio.
The Schoolhouse's enormous sunny patio. Photo: Ken Irwin

Lunch stuff includes pies, burgers and gorgeous salads. Baby beets with greens and garlic crisps are the prettiest but I loved the juicy, sunny tomato salad, scattered with torn mozzarella and crunchy olive crumb.

The nicey-niceness ebbs when you head to the toilets, shared with the adjoining church and with a scrappy institutional feel to them, as though a naughty choirboy with a cigarette might emerge from a stall. Detention at this schoolhouse, however, would be no punishment at all.

Rating: 3 and a half stars (out of five)

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19 St Andrews Street (corner Church Street), Brighton, Victoria

  • Cuisine - Modern Australian
  • Prices - Breakfast: $6-$21.50; lunch: $16.50-$21.50
  • Features - Licensed
  • Cards accepted - AMEX, Mastercard, Visa, EFTPOS
  • Opening Hours - Daily 7am-5pm
  • Author - Dani Valent
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