358 Koornang Rd Carnegie, VIC 3163
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 7am-4.30pm; Sat-Sun 7.30am-4.30pm|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9578 2043|
This is the suburbs. Life is not meant to be like this. You're meant to be able to park your car outside a cafe and be seated with a golden grind latte in your lap within, say, 120 seconds.
But not at Left Field in Carnegie on a Thursday morning, where the on-street parking is jammed and table-waiting groups are told "15 minutes" on this formerly sleepy Koornang Road corner.
It's easy to see the attraction at this cafe that opened in early May. Left Field's fitout is clean and inviting: white walls, pale timber, cool grey and blue trim. Seating is mostly two-tops ranged tightly around the windows. There's a heap of outdoor tables too – a bit of a stretch on a chilly morning. Rug up, queue, or wait for spring.
Chef and co-owner Ryan Lording's menu is an exhaustive list of capitalised ingredients (that's a thing now), but the food is very good: a tricked-up riff on cafe brunching with the odd Middle Eastern touch.
Smashed avocado comes on quinoa toast with beetroot hummus and dukkah, and a seared fillet of beetroot-cured ocean trout is served with a salad of quinoa, broccoli, kale, beetroot, and a splodge of avocado hummus.
Avocado, beetroot … where's the hummus hummus? In a delicious and nourishing dish of cauliflower hash, actually. And the hash really is a hash, not a hash brown (that old argument again): the cauliflower is roasted, then sauteed with chickpeas, kale, garlic, spices and fresh herbs, and smashed with fresh lime. It's full of flavour and texture: the chickpeas are cooked well, there's the subtle umami of cauliflower, some cumin, tart, fruity hits of sour cherry and pomegranate, and two lovely poached eggs – aerodynamic blobs, the whites cooked and the yolks almost-but-not-quite set.
Beef rib for breakfast? Yes please, if it's as tender, sweet and flavoursome as the beef rib at Left Field: rubbed in Lording's "secret spice mix" (he told me, so I'll tell you: smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, cinnamon, ground coffee and chocolate), braised in pomegranate juice, smoked, then given a blast on the grill before it's served with cumin-spiced black beans, a tangy smear of beetroot hummus (there we go again) and a fried egg. Bonus points for the large plate this cowboy-inspired dish arrives on, which lets you manoeuvre the food around as you eat.
A WTF factor comes with the cookies-and-cream doughnut sliders: yep, little doughnut buns filled with chocolate-laced mascarpone and served on an artful pool of salted caramel with a fruit salad of banana and fresh fig scattered with microherbs, petals, crushed pistachios and smashed Oreo biscuit. Oh, and chunks of honeycomb … this is as over the top as it sounds if you're thinking "doughnuts for breakfast with a side of fruit": but it's tasty and not too, too sweet.
Coffee comes from Melbourne roaster Niccolo as espresso and batch-brew filter.
And there's that non-coffee turmeric and cinnamon-spiced golden grind latte: gritty in the mouth, and the spices too raw. I'll pass on the warm turmeric milkshake. But I don't mind joining the locals in the queue for the rest of the offer here.
Vibe: Buzzing neighbourhood bruncher
Pro Tip: Join the queue. It's worth it.
Go-to Dish: Braised beef short rib with spicy black beans.