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Brighton Schoolhouse Cafe

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by Dayna Chu (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer and primary school teacher living in SE Melbourne. I love finding adventures for myself, my husband and our four kids to enjoy. Come along! Heart my articles, subscribe to the fun, follow along on www.facebook.com/WNMelbourne
Published March 15th 2014
Too bad they failed to make the grade
Brighton School House Cafe Review
My twins, waiting eagerly for recess

I was skipping to Brighton Schoolhouse this morning like a peppy preppy on my first day of primary school.

I wanted to like this cafe so badly. The playground, the enormous outdoor seating area, the sandpit, the gorgeous heritage setting; it all beckoned me like a school teacher with a gold star.

Maybe the lack of social media accounts should have tipped me off, but that's forgivable; so they're old school. The menu not being available online was a bit frustrating; what can I say? I like to do my homework. Also forgivable.

Brighton School House Cafe Review

Two steel nearly life-sized zoo animals outside in the front garden made a nice first impression, as did the buzz. It was a late weekday morning and the place was hopping; servers serving, kids playing in the small playground, penned in by a cute picket fence (but not in clear view of the seating area).

I wasn't sure if I should find a table or head in, so in I went, with my twins, and had a little look around. An impressive (but not pram-friendly) entrance with a strong and consistent "school house" theme was quaint and quirky to say the least. The servers could barely be seen behind the plethora of espresso machines, grinders, and baked goods displays; not a menu in sight, posted, hand-held, or otherwise. Even the baked goods on display lacked description signage.

Brighton School House Cafe Review
This cafe is an actual heritage schoolhouse, circa 1843

Some confusion ensued with whose turn it was to pay or order or speak next; the kind customers who came in after me, but were served first, gave me the option of proceeding with my request.

Brighton School House Cafe Review
A meagre kids' selection
I was handed a grubby, glossy paper menu and went outside. There were some high bar tables available, but with the twins (2.5 years old), I didn't feel safe there, nor was I comfortable squeezing in to a table for 2, between two occupied tables. I opted for a low coffee table outside of the main seating area, with stone stools. Apparently a "smoking section" as evidenced by the carpet of cigarette butts. Curious little toddler fingers got the the better of me, and I bribed the boys to head for the sand pit; a fort-like area under some low branches, with some plastic buckets and spades at the ready.

Brighton School House Cafe Review
Shaded sandpit gives the impression of kid-friendliness

Yet to be acknowledged by any servers, I flagged one down. She asked me to find a table. I explained that it was looking a bit busy and asked if I could order and stay near the sand pit with my kids. She said no. Hm. I guess I paused too long, because she turned and walked away. Oh. Kay.

Brighton School House Cafe Review
Lockers strengthened the consistent brand and feel
I got the boys out of the sand pit and veritably dragged them back inside. By now, any preconceived plan of plated meals was history. I quickly ordered a milkshake and asked if there were any gluten free slice options. "These are all gluten free." No signage, but feeling pressure to order, I pointed at one with dark pink icing of some sort and goji berries on top. I didn't have to wonder for long whether there was an eftpos minimum, because my order came to $12. There was nothing to read, but some quick 'rithmatic told me that the slice was a shocking $5. The milkshake came in a foam cup; surprising for all the earth friendly image-projection on the menu ("...Our team philosophy is to have produce at its optimum, grown or harvested sustainably and ethically..."). It came with a fountain straw, and I worried that I would not be able to sip my shake through it. Unfortunately, it was easy to sip, due to being not much thicker than chocolate milk. 16oz. $7.

Brighton School House Cafe Review

I was hoping for more than the menu had to offer. A contemporary Aussie fusion blend of various muesli, egg dishes, pancakes, and burgers. $22.50 for fried eggs and sausage is a bit too dear for me. If I ever somehow end up there again, I'd try the "katut and rhonda hot pot" : baked eggs tajine, slow cooked lamb & sweet capsicum ragu, whipped goat's curd, cavolo nero, $18.5.

Morning cocktails anyone? Special cafe celebration of some sort? A bottle of champagne is at the ready for $135. Morning cocktails: $12- $13.5, most other wines, ciders, and bottled drinks: $9-$10 per serve or $40-$45 per bottle.

The menu items had some tongue-in-cheek names like #hashtagFOMO pancakes, and I guess in an effort to be trendy or neighbourly, also some references to local businesses, like the Lululemon athlete porridge, and Church Street Chemist Smoothies; the effort for fun and flair simply flopped with me, and came across as a bit of an ad campaign, especially when I literally looked up from the menu and saw that I was sitting in the shadow of the Lululemon "ohm" omega logo sign from the shop just across the street. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of Lululemon, but it's a bit much.

The most surprising and disappointing aspect of my visit was the kids' menu, or lack thereof. Five kids' menu choices (four of them breakfast options), $7.5 for granola with milk, pancakes ($8), jaffle ($8), bacon and eggs ($9.5), or a chicken breast burger ($12).

Brighton School House Cafe Review
My son on the slide in the play area

I left sadder than a school girl with an ink-dipped ponytail. Brighton Schoolhouse Cafe needs to decide who their clientele are, and serve them well. If you're going to put a playground in the front yard, kid-sized desks in the entryway, and chalkboards at kid-height all around, then be ready to cater to some Mums chasing kids, with a more kid-friendly menu, pram-friendly access, family-friendly toilets, and lastly, some family-friendly prices.

For a little history lesson, do some homework here. If I was in a better mood upon leaving, I would have wandered next door to the St Andrew's Op shop; worth checking out sometime.

Unfortunately, the Brighton Schoolhouse Cafe failed to make the grade. C- from me; 6/10.
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Why? More like why not?
When: Open 7 Days; Breakfast and lunch
Phone: 9593 3129
Where: 15 St Andrews Street, Brighton
Cost: Starting at $6.50 for toast; most mains $16-$20
Your Comment
Love this review. You don't hold your punches, but you don't go overboard either. Those prices are a little steep, even if it is in Brayton :)

Your boys are adorableness.
by Sue Stevenson (score: 2|569) 1888 days ago
Giving this one a miss.FAR too pricey and don't come cross as friendly so I wont be visiting.Need to learn a bit more about running a business and who they are aiming at before they open. This café wont last long....
by lauryn (score: 2|120) 1888 days ago
Hi, good work having the patience to stay there for a start! I know this place
I go to a few meeting in the church hall there. My actual Church is St.Peter's in
Were Street, not far away. This could be a virtual gold mine, the cafes around
here all brimming with customers everyday.Next time I'm in the area I might pop
in to see what's happening !!
by julzy (score: 1|54) 1887 days ago
I notice that this review and replies are two years old. So here's my experience in 2016. I have had morning coffee/chai tea and a slice of cake in the old schoolhouse midweek (without children) and served quickly by friendly staff.
I have also eaten at The Pantry 'dining room' indoors several times with friends and we've enjoyed all the meals and served by friendly helpful staff.
PS. I enjoy popping into the opshop too ☺
by Helen (score: 1|12) 979 days ago
Oh wow, you give it to them girl! If you were disappointed there, don't try The Pantry on the opposite corner. I was treated as if I were the privileged one to be served by them! Many friends have had the same impression ;-)
by bucky (score: 1|30) 1888 days ago
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