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Many have been converted to residences, only leaving little clues of their busier moments in bygone days when they were the social centres of their neighbourhoods. But the trend has been reversed in Colonel Light Gardens, a suburb proud of its past and determined to make a place in the present.
Hidden away from view on a side street known best to the local Colonel's Gardenites, a new cafe has blossomed from the remains of a defunct hydroponics shop. It opens early enough for breakfast or brunch, or you can just pop in for a coffee.
The Bond & Lane Canteen opened less than a week ago, but has already caused quite a sensation in this quiet corner of the metropolis. I visited first the day after it opened, on a wintry Saturday when I quickly hid the beanie that protected me from the biting wind as I walked in the door. But the cafe was doing a roaring lunch trade, with all tables in use and a couple of people sitting in a colourful and comfortable waiting area enjoying a coffee.
I was very keen to do a joint visit with a foodie friend for brunch, but unfortunately she wasn't free for another week so I did it alone. But I could happily go back for more after my first visit.
Bond & Lane Canteen presents as open and airy, with clean white walls and an uncluttered appearance. Polished boards, bare walls, and plain wooden furniture can lead to pretty horrible cafe acoustics - sometimes causing echos and the need to shout. But background noise was not intrusive for me (and I'm fussy about these things), despite being close to other diners.
The layout of the dining area was a big plus in my view - I resent going to a restaurant where one knocks other diners when you move a chair, or hit elbows with someone at the same table. There was plenty of space between customers at Bond & Lane Canteen, but the restaurant still felt cosy and intimate. Unlike many small cafes, full but unobtrusive waiter service is offered despite the canteen epithet.
The menu comprises a lot of breakfast and brunch-y type things which I have rarely tried in a restaurant or cafe because of my languid (lazy?) approach to the start of the day. I could have eaten pretty much anything on the menu, but elected to treat myself to a little luxury - eggs Benedict for me!
While there is a good range of coffee and tea available, surprisingly the cafe doesn't stock fruit juices at present, so I chose a Capi - a blood orange flavoured soft drink. It was refreshing and not overly sweet, and survived the 15 minutes it took for my eggs Benedict to be cooked. The meal presentation was perfect, and it was colourfully garnished with a sprig of parsley.
Having not eaten eggs Benedict before I can't compare my meal at Bond & Lane Canteen to anything else. But the poached eggs were exactly how I like them - soft and runny. The ham was flavoursome, and the Hollandaise sauce was quickly mopped up by the crisp toast. Delicious!
It was not a large meal but was the right size for me, and anyway - massive breakfasts are probably not healthy. If I had been still hungry there was plenty left to tempt me. While the specials board is still on the way, there were lots of things on display to fill an appetite yearning for more, perhaps with a coffee.
After finishing my meal I went for a quick wander through the rear dining area, where I discovered a children's play area complete with toys. It's possible to have a meal and keep an eye on the kids while you relax afterwards over a coffee.
These Ladies in the Rear Room Graciously Consented to being Photographed
So what's my verdict? Bond & Lane Canteen is an asset to Colonel Light Gardens, and devoted locals will throng to enjoy its comfortable corners. All three dining areas inside were busy, and on warmer days I think the alfresco dining front and back will be popular. Prices are neither cheap nor expensive, but food quality and service will ensure its ongoing success.
I popped in on the weekend and enjoyed a lovely flat white while I flicked through the adorable book 'French Dogs' which was gifted to the owners by their little dog Chilli if the book's inscription is to be believed.
Lovely relaxed atmosphere, comfy couches and very friendly staff - I'll be back :)