21 Brougham Street Eltham, Victoria 3095
|Opening hours||Daily 8am-4pm (kitchen closes 3pm Mon-Fri)|
|Features||Family friendly, Licensed|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||Mastercard, Visa, eftpos|
|Phone||03 9439 5362|
Alistair Knox was one of Melbourne's pioneering mud-brick builders, a self-taught architect who designed and built houses all over Melbourne's outer leafy bits. Knox loomed artistically large in Eltham in the early 1970s, and as the Australian Dictionary of Biography notes, his home there "provided shelter, nurture and support for two generations of painters, potters, sculptors, poets and thinkers".
Now another Knox building is providing a different kind of haven in Eltham at Second Home. It's the only industrial structure he built: a former factory for street lights that has also been a tractor workshop, an antiques emporium and a gallery.
Anyone travelling to Second Home expecting a tree-change idyll on the banks of Diamond Creek is in for a surprise, though: the building's neighbours are panelbeaters and auto-electricians, and a lovely (but full) bit of tarmac car park greets you out front.
But once you get through the big glass doors, that all falls away, and you find yourself in an airy, open space with muted light spilling through windows around the roof line.
Within this church hall-like shell, restaurateur Jason M. Jones (Entrecote, Porgie & Mr Jones, Friends of Mine) and business partner Catherine Westwood, a local, have created a cafe that will make a trip here worth the drive (and the hunt for a park …).
Chef Gerard Phelan comes via Jones' Moor Please in Hepburn Springs, and his menu ranges through breakfast, brunch and lunch dishes, some avowedly healthy and tasty – an acai bowl full of banana, date, berries and buckinis; a superfood salad of kale and quinoa and all the other good stuff – as well as plenty that's just tasty.
There's local produce – Yarra Valley salmon, citrus-cured and served on grilled cornbread with peppery horseradish creme fraiche – while a carpaccio of local venison with baby beets and grana padano channels an old Milan lunch-bar favourite. Spaghetti on toast, on the other hand, is avowedly Aussie.
A nice spring-summer lunch is the fior di burrata, a fresh mozzarella-and-cream cheese from La Latteria in Carlton. It sits all creamy in fennel and preserved lemon purees studded with chunks of ripe cantaloupe, a tender piece of confit fennel and crisp house-made grissini. That goes down exceptionally well with a glass of dry Abati prosecco.
Also hard to go past is the ploughman's lunch. It's an artful plating of pistachio-studded pork terrine, a chunk of ripe cheddar, slices of a lovely savoury bresaola from Lago Butchers in Fitzroy, pickled florets of cauliflower and batons of grilled sourdough. The only bum note was the Vasiliev mustard – a hot, sweet Russian style that, for me, turned the heat dial up past 11 to unpleasant.
But that was quickly offset with a deliciously moist little flourless orange cake and a shot of espresso from Rosso, a Melbourne roaster that hits a nice median between specialty and old-school.
As Alistair Knox would surely agree, there's no place like home – especially your second one.
Do … have a drink: there's a nice list of wine, beer, cider and cafe-smart cocktails.
Don't … fret over the parking: leave your car in nearby Susan Street.
Dish … Ploughman's lunch.
Vibe … Nice people brunching nicely.