67 Grimshaw St Greensborough, VIC 3088
|Features||Family friendly, Wheelchair access|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9434 5298|
Mabel Jones sounds like a name Barry Humphries might have tried on back in 1950-whenever before he settled into the wisteria hair and cat-eye glasses of Edna Everage – a comfortable moniker for a suburban Australian everywoman.
Sixty years later, Mabel Jones still has a nice suburban ring to it, but this time the ring is of coffee spoons and latte glasses, and the suburb is Greensborough, not Moonee Ponds.
Mabel has been resident in the outer north-east since May, and her neighbours have welcomed her with open arms.
She has welcomed them back with a roomy space fitted out in cool greys, copper pipes and Astro-ivy hanging from a matte black ceiling. A high, long communal table is good for head-to-head catch-ups, and there is plenty of room between the tables for parking Bugaboos: there is even a ramp up from the door.
Owners Seona and Damien Breen know the business – they also own Jerry Joy in Thornbury, and kicked off with Foodrinkery in Burwood a few years back.
In the kitchen they've recruited Sandra Melgalvis and Dallas Reilly to do up the kind of menu we expect in a Melbourne cafe now – breakfast is all about faves with a twist, and lunch sneaks in a couple of main-style plates to keep more conservative orderers happy.
The menu is seasonal, and it has just changed for spring. In winter it featured a plate of ham hock and hash brown, a meaty, crunchy savoury dish that nicely balanced salty and fatty; and lightly smoky and herb-tinged trout rillettes with a savoury blini.
The ham hock has been supplanted by pulled pork eggs benedict, while the trout rillettes has given way to a meaty pork and rabbit terrine served with pineapple chutney and a poached egg. The terrine is coarser than the smoked trout was, two chunky discs on a smallish piece of toasted sourdough, but still tasty and satisfying – a nice brunch dish.
Pork crops up on a banh Mabel, which the waiter described as a deconstructed banh mi.
A brick of pork belly – poached in master stock, then slow-cooked – is topped by a slice of pickled daikon and perched on strips of pickled cucumber on a slab of toasted brioche loaf. The pork is tender and tasty, with a hint of star anise from the master stock. The combination of tangy pickle and sweet brioche wasn't as convincing as it sounds – the wrong contrast of flavours and textures, maybe. And the ordinary table knife supplied wasn't up to sawing through the pork belly, so the deconstruction became a demolition that required a lot of work – a steak knife is needed here.
Mabel's crumpets are the sweet star of the breakfast menu, house-made and cut square, tin-loaf style. They debuted in May with a lovely mandarin cream and house-made marshmallows; now, with spring, we get berries, yoghurt and honeycomb crumble.
A kangaroo steak sandwich with beetroot relish on toasted Turkish bread is a twist on the cafe classic, while the burger is a grass-fed angus beef patty – cooked medium-rare unless you ask – with pickles, caramelised onion, lettuce and an extra meaty hit of bacon, all packed into a brioche bun with fries on the side.
Pappardelle with roasted cherry tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella takes the menu into the lunch zone, as does a seared tuna salad that riffs on a nicoise – confit potato, cherry tomatoes, beans, asparagus, aioli.
Coffee from Axil is pretty good, and comes as a batch filter brew as well as espresso. Who knows what Dame Edna would make of that, Mabel.
Pro Tip: Keep an eye out for share-plate dinners, Thursday to Saturday, "on the horizon".
Go-to Dish: Crumpets with seasonal garnishes.