AU79 review

Ambitious: inside Abbotsford's 200-seat cafe AU79.
Ambitious: inside Abbotsford's 200-seat cafe AU79. Photo: Simon Schluter

27 Nicholson St Abbotsford, VIC 3067

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Opening hours Mon-Fri 7am-4pm; Sat-Sun 8am-4pm
Features Accepts bookings, Groups, Vegetarian friendly
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Seats 200
Payments eftpos, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 9429 0138

I'll be the first to admit that food writers use the term "shiny" too frequently but this time I actually mean it.

AU79, the Abbotsford power-cafe/bakery/coffee roaster that's named for the symbol and atomic number of gold, is a prime example of what you can accomplish by throwing money around.

General manager Robin Shepherd won't say how much the hospitality-focused CCC Group spent on hand-crafted Italian furniture, brass floor trim and a couple hundred indoor plants, which give the former garage a zen-vibe, despite its size. But he hints that it's a substantial amount that runs into millions.

Smoked bonito croquettes.
Smoked bonito croquettes. Photo: Simon Schluter

There are 200 seats across three dining rooms (we've a soft spot for the pastel-green New York bistro-style booths) and at weekends roughly 800 people wait up to an hour for a table. With this many bodies in the house it makes sense to have coffee stations at either end, both equipped with custom-built Black Eagle espresso machines, batch brew made hourly, V60 and cold brew. 

They roast about 400 kilograms of beans a week on site (currently from Rwanda and Colombia) for AU79 and sister venues that include Addict, Liar Liar, St Edmonds and Sir Charles.

Keeping with the bigger-is-better theme, there are two head chefs. Eddie Noble and Ryan Lynch share that distinction,  both brought over from other CCC Group venues to knock up a modern Melbourne brunch menu.

Go-to dish: Korean vegie benedict.
Go-to dish: Korean vegie benedict. Photo: Simon Schluter

Never say no to breakfast croquettes is my motto. I was hoping their smoked bonito version would be of the bechamel variety.  Instead, these have a potato base with a jet-black panko and activated charcoal crumb, more for visual impact than a health effect.

They were on the dry side, more like a fish cake, but it's not too serious if you mix it all together with the accompanying poached egg, pickled red cabbage, char-grilled corn and avocado.

The Korean vegie benedict proves two points. One: breakfast can be a complete meal without bacon; two: gochujang (Korean chilli paste) makes everything taste better – especially hollandaise. Add to the equation meaty whole portobello mushrooms and fermented wombok and you have a winner.

Belgian waffle balls with passionfruit creme patissiere.
Belgian waffle balls with passionfruit creme patissiere. Photo: Simon Schluter

For the fearless there's a plate of spherical waffled balls doused in passionfruit creme patissiere, sugar-steeped pineapple, banana praline and with  "coconut snow."

Teething problems? Of course – our table wobbles and can't be fixed and at 11am the toilets could use a restock – but these are easily overlooked. 

As the adage goes: money can't buy you happiness. But it will buy you an innovative breakfast in brass-trimmed surrounds.

Pro Tip: Don't queue. AU79 takes bookings.

Go-to Dish: Vegan vegie benedict: house-made kimchi, roast field mushrooms, gochujang hollandaise.