468 High St Northcote, VIC 3070
|Opening hours||Tue-Sun 7am-4pm|
|Features||Outdoor seating, Gluten-free options, Licensed|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
Why black? I'm guessing it's not a reference to a tragic gardening mishap but to the preferred shade of clothing in Melbourne's north… or perhaps the colour of my heart when standing in line for eggs at 11 o'clock on a Saturday morning. Lucky, then, that Field Black mollifies the punters with the easy-going charm of Fraser Davies, a hospo lifer in his first outing as owner who gives every impression of loving his job. It's a crowded market out there in the Northcote cafe world but Field Black is getting its share thanks to all the love in the room plus some serious food smarts.
Simple and pleasingly spare, there are no design "concepts" here, praise the gods. Nestled into what used to be the northern High Street badlands (yes, we're on the "wrong" side of Separation Street), Field Black gets the balance between style and comfort about right. Fake vines hug the lattice work above the bar and on the walls, simple tables get schoolroom-style chairs, and out back there's the cute Astro-turfed, fairy light-festooned courtyard required by Darebin Council Ordinance 2.5.4.
"It's really more like dinner food," says the nine-year-old co-reviewer with terrifying precocity, cutting straight to the heart of Melbourne's upwardly mobile cafe scene. Breakfast is the new dinner and that means we now expect to wake up over vibrantly composed plates of textural, multi-elemental loveliness rather than a couple of eggs slapped on toast. That's certainly the guiding philosophy of chef Ritchie Boucher (formerly head chef at Oakridge winery in the Yarra Valley) who brings mac 'n' cheese into the pre-midday fold with oozy croquettes, a poached egg and paprika-dusted smoked cauliflower, a virtuous-yet-tasty kale hummus and nicely acidic turmeric mayo. Gnocchi also takes a breakfast spin, the pillowy carbs keeping good company with mushrooms, goat's curd and garlic butter and lavished with a fried egg. One kvetch: decorative greenery turns up on everything – even the fat sticky date hotcakes with jaffa ice-cream and warm caramel sauce.
Padre beans make a lusciously smooth latte – the Daddy's Girl blend, with Saint David Dairy milk, is rich and sweet. They also have a single origin that changes every few weeks and serve up cold drip and filter. The smoothie game isn't as strong: a spinach, banana and pineapple number with almond milk (or mylk, if we're to assent to the menu's political will) leaves a lasting impression of well-meaning green ice.
It's early days, people. While the lettering on the window says Cafe-Food-Bar, there are a few beers on the list and a few wines (a Heathcote shiraz; a Yarra Valley pinot gris) recited by the waiter. More to come in the near future, they say.
Avo index Playing a strong game. It also gets a toasty wedge of pan-fried haloumi and chilli jam on pumpkin bread. Nix the pea shoots and we're happy as Larry. $17.50.
Caffe latte $4.
Loving The cute dog-friendly courtyard out back.
Not getting All the decorative pea sprouts. The food doesn't need it.
Overheard "Do we really have to go to Aldi after this?"
Score Two cups
Food 8/10 Coffee 4/5 Atmosphere 4/5