Photo: Ken Irwin
Really fresh food leaps off the plate and grabs your taste buds with verve and enthusiasm. It doesn't need tricking up because it tastes so bolshie and beautiful. That's the non-secret behind the Big Vegan Salad at this sweet, heartfelt three-year-old treasure: the leaves, flowers, celery, carrots and beetroot that give the salad body and bounce are grown just up the road in owner Rhondalee Hunt's garden.
This is no token vegie patch. Hunt spends two hours a night tending 120 tomato plants, 150 strawberry plants, eight chooks and more, plus a variety of other ingredients as the seasons roll. She actually calls her suburban swath a farm because it's so sprouty and verdant.
The salad also includes avocado from further away and a simple dressing of vino cotto and olive oil. (It's Maggie Beer's vino cotto, which you can buy here cheaper than elsewhere, along with other pantry comestibles, many house made.)
This old milk-bar cafe is teeny-tiny (book ahead!), with assorted Laminex tables and a doll's-house-size door to the toilet. For those with small kids, there are toys and books crammed into vintage dresser drawers and two outside seating areas, though neither with much room for shaking the sillies out. The minuscule kitchen is hard up against the cake cabinet (love the jammy, gluten-free burnt fig and pear muffin), making every meal seem like something of a miracle.
High-rise construction does flourish in cramped areas, which must explain the Leaning Tower of Thornbury. This spectacular signature breakfast has a pumpkin, feta and basil muffin for a foundation and poached egg, prosciutto, rocket and pecorino teetering atop. The lot is drizzled with a raspberry balsamic reduction in a tasty balancing act.
Not everything is as spectacular. Our pancakes were unevenly cooked and the lemon tart pastry lacked bite. Good scrambled eggs and excellent coffee squared the ledger and amazing spiders with grown-up flavours were absolutely fab. I don't think I've sunk a spider since I was a kid but I couldn't resist coconut and kaffir lime sorbet with ginger beer and I made sure I had a healthy sampling of the blood-orange sorbet with lemon, lime and bitters, too, both of which were as tart and tingly as they sounded.
Kitschen Pantry is more expensive than some cafes but your coin is repaid with a caring attitude, outstanding produce and some special, thoughtful food and drink. I'd rank it among the north's most appealing cafes.
KITSCHEN PANTRY ★★★★
128 Mansfield Street, Thornbury, 9484 0503
Unlicensed MC V Eftpos
Mon-Fri 7am-5pm; Sat-Sun 8am-5pm
Breakfast $6-$19; Lunch $10-$22; Sweets $1.50-$10.50
- 03 9484 0503
- Prices - Breakfast $6-$19; Lunch $10-$22; Sweets $1.50-$10.50
- Owners - Rhondalee Hunt and Steve Ridley,
- Opening Hours - Mon-Fri 7am-5pm; Sat-Sun 8am-5pm
- Author - Dani Valent