Lolo and Wren

Lolo and Wren's banoffee porridge.
Lolo and Wren's banoffee porridge. Photo: Ken Irwin

484 Albion Street Brunswick West, Victoria 3055

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Opening hours Mon-Fri 7am-4pm; Sat-Sun 8am-4pm; Fri & Sat 6.30-9.30pm
Features Vegetarian friendly, Gluten-free options, Licensed, Accepts bookings
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Payments eftpos, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 9383 3712

No one would ever skip breakfast if breakfast was always Lolo and Wren's banoffee porridge. The oats are delicious, stirred to sturdiness then dolloped into a heavy, hand-made pottery bowl. The creamy mass is scattered with crunchy coconut crumble, topped with a spoonful of date and banana puree and - the spectacular killer blow - a splodge of dulce de leche (caramelised milk). It's a one-bowl breakfast banquet.

Lolo and Wren opened last Christmas at the front of a new housing development in Brunswick West. There's no street life here and it must have taken a certain amount of confidence to open in lone-star territory. On the one hand, you suspect the locals are dying for somewhere to get their buttermilk pancakes and pulled pork; on the other, you wonder if this is a hospitality wasteland for some spooky reason.

Happily, the pioneer spirit seems to have been rewarded and Brunswick West is now better caffeinated and better fed, its children no longer lack babycinos, and its dogs are learning that this particular ''walkie'' involves sitting around for ages and sharing the water bowl.

Secluded standout: Although off the beaten track, Lolo and Wren is worth sniffing out.
Secluded standout: Although off the beaten track, Lolo and Wren is worth sniffing out. Photo: Ken Irwin

The cafe can't help looking new, but recycled timber and patterned paintwork give the space character. There's a cheffy spin to Franco Caruso's food; his wife, Karen, is a friendly presence on the floor, and her Chilean background feeds into the menu. The corn fritters are as light and springy as doughnuts. Presented on a long platter with peperonata (capsicum sauce), chilli jam and coriander salsa, they're a zesty, savoury winner.

Breakfast chugs along all day but lunchy things include a chicken and chorizo melt and ''the hopper meal'', a wallaby burger that's a little too lean and dense. It's served with patatas bravas (Spanish-style chunky spuds with smoked paprika) that turn a light lunch into a lurch-out-of-here feast.

The coffee is good, and each cup comes with a choc-coated coffee bean for an extra blast. Sweets are lined up on the counter with the very best eat-me intentions. I always oblige. Delicate iced coconut teacakes come in various versions. I tried moist sour cherry and a lovely lime version with chunks of candied peel.

The banana and spelt bread is a wholesome alternative and just as satisfying as this off-Broadway cafe.


3.5 stars out of 5