Signature dish: the Butcher's breakfast. Photo: Ken Irwin
Donnie Lam has been in the cafe business for years, but mostly before Melbourne’s love of cafe culture and the third wave of coffee hit. You’d never know it, though, from his new venture, opened a few months back in a largely residential part of Yarraville.
In a former butcher shop in a tiny strip of shops near the bike path, Butcher 128 has had a hip fit-out, and offers Maling Room coffee and specialty teas in the most unassuming of spots - and shopfronts, having kept the original 1960s butcher shop signage.
It was a bold move opening away from the popular - and now cafe-heavy - village, but Lam, a local himself, knew this part of Yarraville was "screaming out" for a decent breakfast spot.
The cafe is located in a former neighbourhood butcher shop. Photo: Ken Irwin
"There’s not a lot of foot traffic per se, but the bike path is nearby and we’re already hectic on weekends because there’s nothing like this around here," he says.
The shop retains a few original features - the tiling and the display fridge - and has been extended to include a large indoor-outdoor space and a garden and sandpit for kids. Lam and his business partner fitted out the space themselves, with the help of an architect friend It is a mix of old-school at the front and cool wooden booths and banquettes out back, with a large communal table featuring an in-built herb garden in the centre.
"It took us about nine months and we specifically designed it so there was an outdoor area for kids - some people don’t want kids running around," he says, adding he wants to accommodate everybody.
Popular: Butcher 128's Persian eggs. Photo: Ken Irwin
The breakfast menu is compact, creative, and beautifully presented, turned out by chef Leon Lam, Donnie’s brother.
There’s cinnamon and Bon-Soy rice porridge, served with house-baked banana bread ($8); house-roasted granola with saffron-poached pears and coconut blossom yoghurt ($10); and an incarnation of avo smash (served with ricotta, mint and fresh chilli on toast, $10/$12.50 with egg).
Perhaps the best - and, says Lam, the most popular - dish is the signature Butcher’s Breakfast of mushroom and truffle oil ragu with pecorino and two perfectly poached eggs on toast, with a huge side of Istra bacon ($16.50). Truffle oil can be overused but here it’s a glorious marriage of shroom, truffle, just the right amount of pecorino and oozing, golden egg yolk.
"Leon has his own recipe in terms of the way he poaches his eggs - he uses a sous vide recipe that produces that yolk texture and that mozzarella ball-type result," says Lam. "The Persian eggs have also been very popular."
These beauties are also poached sous vide and served with house-pickled beetroot relish, hot smoked salmon, Persian feta, avocado and herb mix ($16.50). Other hearty options include the paprika and tomato baked beans with chorizo, cheddar and baked eggs ($16.50) and the Brekky Bun - scrambled eggs, bacon, smashed avo and brie on brioche (a bargain $10).
Paired with serious coffee - batch brew, single origins, filter, all prepared by hardcore baristas - and, if you can manage, house-made cakes and slices, Butcher 128 will set you up for the day.
Lam says they’re still perfecting their food and there are plans to create a more Asian-influenced lunch menu. Just as long as he keeps what might just be the best eggs in the west.
- 03 9318 0975
- Cuisine - Modern Australian
- Features - Family friendly, Cheap and cheerful
- Chef(s) - Leon Lam
- Owners - Donnie Lam
- Opening Hours - Tues-Fri 7am-3pm; Weekends 8am-4pm.
- Author - Kylie Northover