200 Gipps Street Abbotsford, Victoria 3067
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 9am-5pm; Sat 10am-5pm; Sun 10am-4pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||03 9445 5900|
The Kitchen, recently opened in Gipps Street, seems at first a dicey prospect, attached as it is to a furniture and homewares store, but Weylandts, the first branch of a South African franchise, is no Ikea. Sitting at the front of this vast store housed in a former matchstick factory, the cafe is mercifully free of bain-marie fare.
The stylishly fitted out space, with furniture and ceramics reflecting the aesthetic of the store, serves what head chef Caleb Laws describes as a ''modern Australian'' menu, but there are nods to Weylandts' South African heritage sprinkled throughout, which make for some of the most interesting dishes here.
The breakfast menu, aside from the Health Breakfast of granola muesli, fruit compote and Greek yoghurt ($13) is mostly a decadent list; even the basic toasted banana and spelt bread with walnuts and honey ($10) feels dessert-like. The house-made buttermilk and coconut crumpets served with Kaiserfleisch bacon, banana, pecans and maple drizzle ($16) is a sweet-tooth's dream, the Elvis-esque elements artfully arranged so it doesn't look as artery-hardening as the Graceland version. Savoury options are given just as much love with poached eggs rolled in dukkah with guacamole, toasted ciabatta and pancetta lardons ($20); Posh Poachies, with Kaiserfleisch, tomatoes and bearnaise sauce ($20) and the exceptional vego option, Forest Mushrooms and Grilled Goat's Cheese, is mushies pan-fried in sherry, cream and herbs ($18).
The Farm Breakfast is the standout here for meat lover/hangover sufferer - scrambled eggs on toast with Kaiserfleisch bacon, roasted tomatoes and mushroom and house-made spiced Boerewors sausage ($24).
''We've developed our own Boerewors sausage, which is the main tip of the hat here to South Africa,'' says Laws, a Kiwi who worked in London restaurants for nine years. ''It's our own but very much based on what you'd get in South Africa. We created the recipe but we send it out to a butcher to be made up. Everything else, including the cakes, we make here.''
The other South African dish is the Madiba Homebrew Burger ($23). It's technically on the lunch menu, but if you sleep in late enough it's breakfast.
''Our executive chef from South Africa was here helping set things up when Nelson Mandela passed away, and she wanted to create something as an homage to him,'' says Laws. ''It's made from charred Boerewors-spiced pork and beef pattie and gherkins, cheese and Chakalaka sauce, an African vegetarian relish.''
The wines, should you linger late enough, are from the Weylandt family's vineyard, Maison, but for breakfast it's worth trying the ''red latte'' or ''red cappuccino'', which aren't lattes or cappuccinos at all, but made from South Africa's favourite tea, Rooibos.
''Our customers love it,'' says Laws.
The Kitchen might be attached to a homewares store but its position near the river means it's attracting lots of passing trade, particularly at the weekends when it's ''pumping from start to finish'', says Laws. Get in before the queues start forming.