28 Niagara Ln Melbourne, VIC 3000
Why do we love hidden places? It's the childlike thrill of hide-and-seek, the explorer's victory of discovery, the smug feeling of being somewhere that not everyone knows about and, more soberly, the satisfaction of being part of an urban environment that's well used.
Sun Moth is of the cobbled laneway "are you sure it's down here?" breed of hidden restaurant. (Psst, look for the potted plant.) It's an all-day canteen which strolls in friendly fashion from excellent coffee to fine salads to knock-off drinks to tasty dinner to "one more craft beer, please".
Come for breakfast, juice up your phone at a tableside USB port and mainline muesli with crunchy coconut topping.
Duck in for a lunch meeting, free Wi-Fi and stout-braised beef cheek sandwich or kale salad (in a bowl or in a sandwich – yes, kale sandwiches are among us).
Don't eat all the bread because I need the fried bread that's a night-time snack: it's salty with green olives, spiked with chilli, pungent with garlic and cheese, golden-crunchy from frying and basically designed to make a person happy.
You might also nibble on vibrant pickled vegetables with dukkah-style dipping salt, or dig into a white bean stew (shredded ham hock optional) that's more like an abundant, piquant spring minestrone than the "stew" moniker suggests.
Eggplant parmigiana is indicative of the Sun Moth approach: it's nothing you couldn't attempt at home, if only you'd done the shopping and had the time, energy and composure to cook. But you didn't, and it's here and it's $16 and it's vegetarian and gluten-free, and you can eat it while drinking natural wine and blissing out to surf films projected onto the wall.
The owners of this urban playground are Luke Mutton and Kylie Mackinlay, previously of Deadman Espresso (South Melbourne) and Common Galaxia (Seddon). Their organic aesthetic flows through, but there's a welcoming city lounge-room feel to Sun Moth, even better because you found your way down a narrow laneway to get here.
Rating: Three and a half stars (out of five)