Rustic leaning: Short Round has a country foodstore air. Photo: Eddie Jim
The ploughman's lunch, the labourer's lunch: call it what you will, I find these boards of bits and pieces almost irresistible. Even the prospect of some kind of slow-cooked pork in a sandwich (Melbourne carries a heavy travel advisory from the pig embassy: extreme risk of being eaten) is not enough to distract me.
Although I don't do any labouring that raises any kind of sweat most of the time, (unless you count sweating over comma splices), I regularly consider myself in need of lunch.
So I'm a bit of a fan of the labourer's lunch at Short Round, a big, airy corner cafe with tall windows looking over High Street, Thornbury.
Seasonal selection: The labourer's lunch. Photo: Eddie Jim
It's not your usual cafe for this part of town, which has favoured shopfront boltholes with footpath tables teetering on the edge of the traffic. The high ceilings and exposed remnants of the one-time Victorian butcher's shop give Short Round a country food store air, and it's no surprise to learn that the owners, sisters Libby and Clare Cairns, hail from Bright: Libby via Jasper Coffee and a stint on Monsieur Truffe's La Marzocco, and Clare with fine-diner front-of-house experience everywhere from Broome to Port Douglas.
They describe their menu as seasonal and local, and the labourer's lunches live up to that. On the spring menu, it was a board piled with slices of ham, kransky from butcher Velimirovic down the road, and rustic chunks of vintage cheddar which, sans spectacles, I mistook for butter and tried to spread on the accompanying lightly toasted sourdough - LOL. It came with a pot of vinegary house-made piccalilli, crunchy cornichons and sweet, braised red cabbage.
On the autumn menu, it morphed into something more sophisticated: salty-sweet duck rillettes served in a jar under a layer of duck fat, to smear on slivers of toasted baguette, complemented by a tart and crunchy celeriac remoulade, the acid crunch of cornichons and the lush sweetness of prunes steeped in marsala and brown sugar.
There's plenty for breakfast too, from tasty-snacky (a pair of brioche sliders with creamy scrambled eggs and bacon) to wheel-me-out (waffles with vanilla mascarpone, maple and toffee). Lunch could be a Mexican-ish thing of cornbread with poached eggs and avocado salsa that was good but maybe a touch heavy on the rocket; grilled prawns with pico de gallo; or Spanish pork and veal meatballs in sugo with a baguette.
The single-page food menu is backed by a full page of drinks - wine and beer, coffee from Proud Mary and Industry Beans - and a couple of seasonal cocktails. A Mr T - spiced rum and Ceylon tea, a riff on the British army in India's Gunfire - took the edge off a Friday afternoon nicely.
Actual tea fans should look out for the Somage reserve selection, which is infused at the bar before serving for optimum brew time.
The winter menu is about to arrive, and the labourer's lunch will feature a chicken-liver parfait - time to head back for another round.
Dish… Labourer's lunch
Do… Try a seasonal cocktail - one won't knock you sideways
Don't… Miss the delicious house-baked treats
Vibe… Thornbury cafe rustic
- 03 9484 3904
- Cuisine - Modern Australian
- Prices - Breakfasts $7.50-$14.50; lunches $14.50-$19
- Features - Licensed
- Owners - Libby and Clare Cairns
- Cards accepted - Mastercard, Visa, EFTPOS
- Opening Hours - Tues-Fri 7am-4pm, Sat-Sun 8am-4pm
- Author - Matt Holden