15 Urquhart St Coburg, VIC 3058
|Opening hours||Daily 8am–3pm|
|Features||Gluten-free options, Vegetarian friendly, Licensed, Accepts bookings, Breakfast-brunch, Wheelchair access, Outdoor seating, Family friendly|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9354 5032|
If the point of eating out is to luxuriate in stuff you wouldn't make at home (plus no dishes!) then Glass Den is nailing it.
That was my conclusion as I ploughed through their signature Bluestone Benedict, a magnificent brunch creation that makes dinner seem the very definition of unnecessary. House-made roti is piled with melty braised beef cheek, torn kale, poached eggs and a sucker-punching hollandaise laced with chilli. It's elaborate but hearty and comforting.
You wouldn't do tiramisu hotcakes at home either. These fat, springy sponges soak up coffee cream and chocolate splodges, plus a shot of espresso to ensure a lively day. It's at the "freakshake" end of the breakfast spectrum but that doesn't mean it's not enjoyable.
Rocking the activewear crowd is a coconut panna cotta trembling in a crunchy sea of granola and berries. Again, you'd be unlikely to create this in your own kitchen, even though it's way prettier than a bowl of corn flakes.
There's a heartfelt vibe to the place. Thai chef Mini Pakchima injects the menu with spicy sorcery but credit for dishes is shared around. For example, barista Nam is the inspiration for the Breakfast Banh Mi, a Vietnamese-style sausage sandwich that includes jalapenos and smoky barbecue sauce as it globetrots its way to flavour.
The Avocado Riot is "inspired by our resident activist Alex" in a nod to Glass Den's progressive ethics, also expressed in its mostly female crew and Coke-free policy. Vegans and gluten-avoiders are respected, as are the woefully under-caffeinated – the coffee is very good.
The customer experience isn't entirely cosy: the main dining room is more "glass" than "den" and the rear atrium is shielded by plastic curtains (on the upside, there's acres of room for prams).
Service is friendly but can feel a little disorganised. Two tips: never let a customer stand in the doorway wondering what to do next, and don't make me cry by letting eggs go cold on the pass.
Glass Den is in the old gatehouse of Pentridge Prison, now an incomplete residential development that is nowhere near as nice as it should be. In this context, the cafe is an exuberant and positive splash, a knitter and nurturer of community, offering reasons to eat out that are beyond dishes-free dining.
Rating: Three and a half stars (out of five)