Rustica Canteen

Rustica Canteen is housed in a converted warehouse.
Rustica Canteen is housed in a converted warehouse. Photo: Pat Scala

33 Guildford Lane Melbourne, Victoria 3000

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Opening hours Mon-Fri 7am–4pm; Sat-Sun 8am–4pm
Features Cheap Eats
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Payments Mastercard, Visa, eftpos
Phone 03 9642 2203

"WE GOT WHAT YOU KNEAD" announces a red neon sign on the back wall of this smart converted warehouse down a lane in what is fast becoming a hip mini food precinct in the north of Melbourne's CBD.

But the sign really means, "We knead what you got", because artisan bread is the basis of the food at this joint venture between some Melbourne stalwarts. Brenton Lang of Brunswick Street's Rustica Sourdough supplies the bakery know-how, and Matt Vero and chef Tristan White from Tall Timber and Touchwood add a smart cafe gloss to the food, service and ambience at this city canteen.

The breakfast and lunch menu is, what do they say, "tightly curated" to minimise decision fatigue for busy worker types: there's house-made muesli with seasonal fruits and raspberry labna; an avocado smash with Persian feta, pickled onion and a poached egg; and a quinoa and coconut cream pudding with cocoa dust to balance the too-healthy ledger.

Toasted ciabatta stuffed with juicy beef brisket.
Toasted ciabatta stuffed with juicy beef brisket. Photo: Pat Scala

Bread is the foundation, though, and it first appears as a riff on a home breakfast favourite, bananas and Nutella on toast, zhooshed​ up with brioche toast and smashed hazelnuts to complement the Nutella, while a salad of freekeh, wild rice and kale gets breakfast-y with raisins, toasted almonds, mint-infused yoghurt and a poached egg.

The bakery-cafe classic of scrambled eggs is a generous pile of creamy folded eggs threaded with chunks of bacon and spring onion, and topped with a nice sprinkle of manchego​ cheese. There's plenty of toast in there, and a slow, peppery burn from a chilli infusion lifts the eggs.

The lunch offer is about sandwiches, although there are salads, such as a more savoury version of the quinoa, wild rice and kale number with tomatoes, toasted pinenuts and goat's curd, or a Mexican-inspired pinto beans, cabbage and corn thing.

A tumble of chilli-infused scrambled eggs on toast.
A tumble of chilli-infused scrambled eggs on toast. Photo: Pat Scala

So there's a sandwich for every taste and tendency, all served on enamelled mess plates with a little side of pickled vegies: slow-roasted lamb shoulder with watercress and mint sauce on a baguette; grilled eggplant with buffalo mozzarella and tomato on quinoa, soy and linseed sourdough; and even a fish sandwich – panko-crumbed flounder on a brioche burger with iceberg lettuce.

The cayenne-spiced roasted chicken with lime aioli on pumpkin sourdough has got people talking ("I didn't know pumpkin sourdough could taste this good!").

Asian-spiced roasted berkshire pork with a cucumber, coriander and apple-sauced salad on a bap is a classy nod to Melbourne's banh mi lovers. 

Banana and Nutella on brioche.
Banana and Nutella on brioche. Photo: Linsey Rendell

Beef brisket comes on a crusty toasted ciabatta stuffed with juicy slices of the beef, roasted to a Maillard​ turn on the outside with a nice thread of rendered fatty cartilage and sweet, tender meat, some crunchy cabbage and carrot coleslaw and a souse of peppery chipotle aioli.

Coffee is a straightforward Allpress blend and there are great breakfast-style pastries to match it with, from yeasty, chewy doughnuts filled with creme brulee, lime curd or Nutella, to crazy cronuts.

Do…come for a weekend city brunch: it's open on Saturday and Sunday
Don't…miss the Nutella doughnut: one of Melbourne's best
Dish Beef brisket sandwich
Vibe Busy city lunch bar