1053 Burwood Hwy Ferntree Gully, VIC 3156
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 6am-4pm; Sat-Sun 8am-4pm|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9758 6180|
Here's a cross-cultural breakfast spread that tells a lovely Australian story. Crumpets with lemon curd – as Anglo as it gets – are on one side. On the other, a bowl of Mexican chilaquiles (think of them as brunchy nachos). This is Lorna's story in two satisfying dishes.
The crumpet recipe comes from the cafe's namesake, grandmother to owner Josh O'Brien. O'Brien grew up in Tasmania and spent much of his childhood at Lorna's place, where her crumpets and curd were a bit of a fixture. He's updated the plating, adding roasted cashews, honeycomb, strawberries and edible petals, but the core of the recipe is still grandma's. The crumpets are petite and springy, the lemon curd is zesty and sprightly, the cafe accoutrements add fancy flair.
The chilaquiles – traditionally made from leftover tortillas, fried and layered with black beans and cheese – are another family recipe, this time from O'Brien's fiancé, Omar Viramontes.
Viramontes grew up in Los Angeles where his Mexican mother, Maria, frequently made chilaquiles for the family. Omar was often alongside her, hoovering technique and cooking tips as well as calories. This isn't a dainty dish but a sturdy home-style breakfast, especially here when it's topped with a fried egg drizzled with lime cream. Excavate the layers to reveal chorizo, spiced black beans, and Jack cheese.
Jack (or Monterey Jack) is a pale, melty cheese that's ubiquitous in the US (and Cali-Mex cuisine). The Lorna crew make weekly trips to Costco to stock up. Jack also stars in an excellent toastie, made with slow-cooked beef brisket, red onion jam and chipotle aioli, again a marriage of Tasmania (exceptional Cape Grim beef) and Mexico (chipotle is a smoked jalapeno chilli).
Lorna is a bright splash of city style, deep in the suburbs but just five minutes from the base of the Dandenongs' 1000 Steps walk, and it's a popular pit-stop for pre- or post-trek fuel. Many walkers feel like they've earned (or are about to earn) the waffles with fried chicken.
Just as many hold onto righteous fitspo vibes by ordering the health bowl, a colourful tumble of kale and curry leaves sautéed in coconut oil, plus quinoa dotted with nubbins of turmeric-pickled cauliflower and sneakily healthy tofu-mustard dressing. Apparently, lots of people have a bet each way and add fried chicken. Life's all about balance, right?
In July, Lorna will celebrate its first birthday. It's been a big year. Ferntree Gully isn't overflowing with modern cafes and locals have loved Lorna from the beginning, coming for smoothies, good tea and coffee every which way, as well as the food.
The cafe is all clean lines and bright whites with a long timber banquette mirroring the counter. Out front, Lorna has its own bike racks and dog-friendly pavement seating. I like the fact that there are two dog water bowls – a low one for dachshunds and their little buddies and a taller one for bigger pups. It's a generous gesture, just one example of how Lorna the cafe is doing Lorna the grandmother proud.
Rating: Three and a half stars (out of five)