1150 High St Armadale, VIC 3143
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 6.30am-4pm; Sat-Sun 7.30am-4pm|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9509 2710|
We were sitting by the kitchen hatch where I could see the action. I loved watching the chefs folding omelettes, piling burgers and scattering chia seeds with that careful orders-are-rolling-in combination of speed and delicacy.
But it was a bit noisy for Mum and Dad, so I thought I'd check upstairs. And that's where I found one of the best outdoor rooms in Melbourne, a rooftop deck with cushioned benches and high walls, a sun trap with umbrellas, a space that's crying out for sunset drinks and cheese platters (stand by for the liquor licence – plans are afoot).
Moby 3143 is a month-old cafe owned by chef Stephen Svensen (ex-Barry in Northcote) and his best mate's sister Christina Higgins, a front-of-house specialist who's done a stint with Ottolenghi in London.
You don't get away with shabby chic in Armadale: they've gutted the corner premises that used to house Woodstock, rethought it in teal, pink and grey and given a compact space identity over four distinct zones: the bustling main dining room with attractive arched windows (one of them dispensing coffee to go), a spacious and sheltered pavement area, a mezzanine that works well for meetings, and that appealing hidden roof deck.
The cafe is named after the owner's recently deceased rescue dog, a husky German shepherd cross who sounds like a real darling. Moby's spirit of welcome extends to 3143's pups, who are treated to pigs' ears on the footpath while their owners fuel on batch brew coffee and kicking harissa-spiced beans.
If you ate at Barry, you'll recognise Svensen's honest cheffy approach to cafe food. Just about everything is made from scratch, there's evident care in the sourcing, and flagrant use of microherbs is banned. Most of the menu is gluten-free, which flies well around here, and there's a canny balance of stuff like kimchi-laden fried chicken and health-pushing ancient grain bircher.
The bircher is a cinnamon-scented mix of rolled oats, spelt and rye, and millet and chia all soaked in orange and apple juice. So far so wholesome, but it's the toppings that catch the eye: blood orange both fresh and dried, a buttery coconut crumble, and glistening, gorgeous strawberry pearls.
Even more hearty is the excellent eggs benedict, which plays like a roast dinner for breakfast. Grated potato and caramelised onion are turned into a crisp brick of dark golden happiness. The hollandaise is made with nutty ghee instead of butter. The ham is slow-braised and scattered with pork crackling powder. There's julienned apple for freshness and crunch. It's epic and you'll probably forget about lunch if you're having this for breakfast.
The hotcake is oven-baked to order, and whipped egg whites through the mixture ensure it's impressively fluffy. Blueberries appear in three guises: fresh, as a jammy drizzle, and as berry leather, dark and tacky shards that are made here in the dehydrator.
Service is smiley and willing. Our table move was no problem for the staff and the waiter passed Dad's strict test. He always orders a second coffee to come with his breakfast, then assumes it will be forgotten. He added a half-star to my score when it arrived without a reminder. I wasn't surprised: Moby is motoring and it's set to rock 3143 all summer.
Rating: Four stars (out of five).