16-20 Leeds Street Footscray, Victoria 3011
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 7.30am-3.30pm, Sat-Sun 8am-3.30pm|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||eftpos, Mastercard, Visa|
|Phone||0497 058 173|
Take a vacant lot on a gritty inner-city corner that has served as an unofficial car park, add four shipping containers - cleverly rejigged by a smart local architect - and some urban landscape gardening (cleverly executed by a local landscape designer). Then hire a well-known local chef to run the small open kitchen, and before you know it you have happy mothers' groups spreading their bunny rugs on the astroturf in the autumn sun, and a bright room where Vietnamese women share Asian-style chicken salads with their daughters, local groovers mull over a batch brew or two, and tables of tidy older gents who look like they've cashed out their time in some wharf-side office enjoy a different kind of autumn sunshine.
That's the vision realised in Footscray by local Desmond Huynh and his partners, Lieu Trieu and Michael Ngo.
Huynh's father owns the block, so the project has a pop-up angle: "The land is getting more valuable," Huynh says. "But it's semi-permanent; we're looking at 10 years."
Architect Richard Denby, of RD Architecture in West Footscray, cut up the containers and stitched them together into a big, light space with french windows on two sides and a casual, woody feel, though here and there the containers poke through. Landscaper Sally Browne has turned the former car park into a sustainable, productive city garden with planter boxes, gravel, brick paving and rainwater tanks (like CERES minus hippies).
Shane Donelly's short menu musters all the brunch food groups without looking like it's ticking boxes. Eggs are scrambled with prawns, crab and speck and served with pickled veg and watercress, or fried and layered on a bun with bacon, cotechino, onions and hot sauce; and a sourdough toastie of gypsy ham and asiago with dijon mustard and bechamel sauce is a fat, tasty slab reminiscent of M. Croque.
Three nice waffle triangles - crisp on the outside, spongy in - come with a generous blob of quark to spread around, nicely crisped slices of pancetta and two sweet halves of grilled fig. Add a fried egg and this dish has a lovely mix of flavours and textures. There's a dash of maple syrup to kick along the sweetness of the figs and contrast with the cheesy tang of the quark.
A big wodge of braised pork belly is served with crisp pig's ear, chilli, tamarind and fried eggs on toast, while house-cured ocean trout has cleaner, more delicate flavours: the sweet sea taste of the fish, the sour bite of pickled cucumber, fresh, fruity hits of sliced nashi pear and tangy blobs of beetroot relish.
Coffee is from Small Batch, as espresso from the La Marzocco, or as a tasty single-origin batch brew.
Huynh says the whole shebang was designed and built to be lifted up and carried away if his dad decides to develop the block, but it's only temporary in the grander scheme of things - and only rudimentary in a good way.
Do bring the bunny rugs; and the prams; and all the rest
Don't skip lunch: maybe try the broth of chicken balls, rice noodles, shoots and garden herbs
Dish House-cured ocean trout
Vibe Westside cafe eclectic