1A Marchant Avenue Reservoir, Victoria 307303 9469 5851
|Opening hours||Tues-Sun 8am-4pm|
Breakfast Cured salmon, peas, mint, home-made labne with poached eggs, $14
Lunch Roast chicken, avocado and home-made mayonnaise sandwich, $9
Black coffee $3
Milk coffee $3.50
LADYBOWER RESERVOIR IS A reservoir in Derbyshire's Upper Derwent Valley, formed by the damming of the rivers Ashop and Derwent. Lady Bower, Reservoir, is a cafe in Reservoir. What a difference some punctuation makes in a Google.
Last time I checked, ''cafe in Reservoir'' meant two things: ''cafe in West Preston'', or espresso bar in Reservoir where my cleaning lady's ex runs the card games.
Lady Bower is neither of these. For a start, it's in Reservoir Reservoir, the Reservoir you get to on the South Morang train, not the Gilbert Road tram. It's just off Broadway, around the corner from where Healthy India sidles up to Akkar Bakery and the Prison Fellowship op-shop, filling a little stretch of side-street with its footpath tables and what looks like about three shopfronts knocked together and dressed down with polished concrete, cool grey paint, some indoor astroturf and low-key recovered furniture, including a faux-colonial Baltic pine ensemble that you couldn't give away.
The Lady welcome all-comers: young ex-Brunswickers who've recently moved into brick-veneer bargains, some elders who most likely remember when the suburb was the city's northern frontier, a table of variously-accented middle-aged guys discussing the folly of schoolies teens and the parents who give their offspring $1000 to go to the Gold Coast for a week - but what are you gonna do? They can get into trouble anywhere, kids that age.
The menu is a seasonal one-pager with only a couple of dishes over $15, and many under $10. There's local produce - meats from Preston Market, herbs, vegies and fruit from customers' gardens - and lots made in house: salmon cured with salt, sugar and citrus zest, little house-baked cakes and slices. It's all the handiwork of Jason Chan and Vanessa Nitsos, who cooked at Collective Espresso in Camberwell and the Collingwood Children's Farm cafe respectively.
The clean-tasting cured salmon features in an all-day breakfast with two nicely poached eggs, some toothy peas, cubes of house-made labne and sticks of crisp cucumber, all tossed with local herbs - fennel tops, mint, some flowers that looked like rocket. It's a nice contrast of warm (the eggs) and cool (everything else), crunchy and creamy and vegetal all at once.
Lunch is a toss-up between another all-day breakfast - grilled Tasmanian Mersey Valley cheese on toast with home-made tomato relish, maybe - or a sandwich: perhaps chicken and avocado; egg, lettuce and mayo; or even meatball, Swiss cheese and rocket on flatbread. The chicken and avocado number is honest and generous, thick slices of moist breast meat, pan roasted with the skin on, with chunks of just-right avocado and creamy mayo on seedy Brasserie sourdough, spiked with mint and rocket that taste of sunny northern suburbs gardens. Local rhubarb turns up in a cupcake, and in a delicious spritzer with soda water and cranberry juice, served by the half-litre jug for just $4.50 (inner-north style, outer-north prices). The table of middle-aged guys - who eventually disappeared into the back door of the real estate agent's across the road - were gathered happily around some cute little green espresso cups, so the Five Senses Twenty-Four Seven blend must have passed the old-school cafe-guy test. There's a regular single origin too, at the moment a Guatemala La Traversia that shows some juicy apple fruit, nice nutty hints and a gently charry finish: just the South Morang ticket with a perfect little round of lemon and passionfruit tea cake served on some Reservoir granny china.