87 Burns Street St Andrews, Victoria 3761
|Opening hours||Wed 8am-2.30pm,Thurs 8am-2.30pm, 6-9.30pm,Fri 8am-2.30pm, 6-10pm,Sat 7am-3.30pm, 6-10pm,Sun 9am-3.30pm, 6-9pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||AMEX, Mastercard, Visa, eftpos|
|Phone||03 9710 1023|
A Boy Named Sue? He's thoroughly delightful, a cool, mudbrick cafe and pizzeria in hilly St Andrews, with the best coffee in the Shire of Nillumbik and a tight community base.
It's run by Steve Simic, Dan Zeidan (who also co-owns the Grace Darling Hotel in Collingwood) and Ioreth Tudor, a hip trio of thirtysomething lads who now live locally.
''We were almost busier through winter last year than summer,'' Simic says. Makes sense: A Boy Named Sue is a cosy hang-out with a ''pull up a seat'' vibe, homely fresh flowers, a higgledy collection of second-hand chairs and a recycled timber fitout. A fire in the tub of an old washing machine provides outdoor heating and, for non-locals, there's that added romance of a mini road trip and romp in the hills.
Pizzas form the core of the menu and Tudor is the pizzaioli and acknowledged ''oven whisperer'', until recently cooking everything in the wood-fired beauty, which heats to a roaring 400-500 degrees. ''It can be tricky this time of year because the wood's wet,'' he says. Red gum or local eucalypt keeps the flames licking, and the cafe recently bought an auxiliary electric oven - Tudor reckons he needs to learn how to ''cook electric'' again.
Puffy sourdough bases with just the right amount of chew are made from a four-year-old starter, extracted from the yeast of ''a friend's home brew sludge in Kinglake''.
There's the ''B.F.B'' (Big Friendly Breakfast), a garlicky number with bacon, mushroom, spinach, caramelised onion and a poached egg. ''Queen margherita'' comes topped with house-made passata (crushed tomatoes), fior di latte and a crown of fresh basil leaves; it's utterly delicious. ''It Ain't Easy Bein' Zucchini'' ain't bad, either, with roasted zucchini and thyme and hazelnut pesto.
''Suck eggs'', a crafty reimagining of frumpy boiled eggs and toast, wins my brunch Pulitzer. Sitting in the bottom of an espresso glass is a plump, poached free-range egg, laced with house-made chilli and garlic oil, just waiting to be prodded by a bit of toast so the deep orange yolk leaks out. On top is a generous knob of Meredith goat's cheese and chives, freshly snipped from the kitchen garden growing down the side. If you want, add some salmon - a vivid ruby gravlax cured for 48 hours in sugar, salt, dill, beetroot and vodka.
The toast? Soldiers of seeded loaf from St Andrews Bakery, slathered with French Lescure butter.
This dish made my morning, as did the ripper latte, which was made from Padre's Daddy's Girl, a mellow, caramelly blend.
Sustainability is a push for the cafe, which runs on tank water and has 24 solar panels on the back roof.
The trio plans to start growing the bulk of their produce and, in spring, will turn the second building into a cheese and wine shop with craft beers and ciders on tap.
A Boy Named Sue? It's the sort of place that makes potential tree-changers twitchy.
Do … Check out St Andrews Market on Saturday.
Don't … Expect to find a park.
Dish … Suck eggs, bloody mary.
Vibe … Chilled, cosy, rustic and cool.
Twitter: @ninarousseau, email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Age Good Food Under $30 is on sale now at selected newsagents, bookshops and at The Age online shop.