288 Smith St Collingwood, VIC 3066
|Opening hours||Daily 8am-4pm|
A good operator knows when to hold 'em and knows when to fold 'em. The trio behind Smith Street's Rockwell & Sons knew the clock was ticking on their seven-year-old diner-slash-den-of-iniquity and had the good sense to phoenix it into something completely different: a bakery and cafe where the hardest thing on offer is the caramel crust on the fermented oat and porridge loaf.
Bread, you say? Casey Wall, Manu Potoi and Michael Bascetta have teamed up with baker Christine Tran – previously working her magic at the likes of Loafer Bread, Fitzroy North, and Tartine, San Francisco – to update the classic Aussie bakery. Just add pies.
A bolthole from the chaos of Smith Street, it's a serene little spot; both slick and unshouty, with an A-plus in joinery. As in all good bakeries there's a counter of bread, biscuits and pastries jonesing for their close-up, and thanks to the owners' pedigree, the small number of places to sit both inside and out are in hot demand.
Can't get a table? There's a counter for propping with your coffee and pastry – because all 2020 new year's resolutions should involve stopping for five minutes rather than going the takeaway option.
Make no mistake: the menu is really just a stealth carbohydrate delivery vehicle. Look no further than the danish (they call it danish but I beg to differ over this croissant-like creation) with its filling of pastrami and emmental, with extra points for those bits of heat-hardened cheese clinging to the outside. There's more pastrami, with kraut and swiss cheese in a grown-up's toastie, while the egg and ham breakfast muffin (made with Tran's naturally leavened sourdough muffins) is like God took breakfast form then added relish.
And the pies, you ask? All golden puffy hats and flaky in the extreme, they look like the sort of pies that should be left to cool on a farmhouse windowsill in an idealised Disney family movie. The Rockwell pie is the signature – a take on Rockwell's cultish double patty smash burger, it's a symphony of seasoned mince enlivened by a tangy-sour mayo-esque concoction uncannily like a certain fast food behemoth's signature sauce.
Take a shopping bag for a loaf of bread, or suffer deep and lasting regret.
Rich and strong as anyone's perfect date, the caffe latte arrives kicking like a mule without tipping into the nebulous territory of "too strong". Top points. There's also filter and cold filter.
There's no booze but you can pretend with the kefir, plus there's ginger beer and pink iced tea.
Loving The self-serve filtered water fountain with a choice of still or sparkling.
Not getting Just a warning, but the closest loo is the horrifying public toilet on the corner of Otter Street.
Vegan factor Slim pickings – this is one part of Smith Street the vegans haven't colonised.
Overheard "Go on, you can pat him. He really likes croissants, too."