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Brown Bear Cafe

Home > Melbourne > Breakfast | Cafes | Charity | Coffee | Restaurants
by Jeni Wilson (subscribe)
Teacher educator and author of many teacher reference books. Amused by random ideas and loves random acts of kindness. Enjoys writing humour...seriously!Please see my Instagram: wilsonjeni
Published February 8th 2015
Affordable and Irresistible Food and Coffee for Fussy Diners
Café, charity, Lunch, Breakfast, Great coffee, Free the Bears, specialty Coffee, gluten free, ethical cafe, homemade baked food and cakes,
A plea for support

Brown Bear, Brown Bear

What do you see?

I see passionate owners looking at me

Brown Bear, Brown Bear

What do you see?

I see smiling faces looking at me

Brown Bear, Brown Bear

What do you see?

I see irresistible food looking at me

Brown Bear, Brown Bear

What do you see?

I see premium coffee looking at me

Brown Bear, Brown Bear

What do you see?

I see passionate and ethical owners, contented, smiling faces, irresistible homemade food, premium Five Senses coffee…

That's what I see!*

*Adapted from the popular children's book Brown Bear

By Eric Carle

Café, charity, Lunch, Breakfast, Great coffee, Snacks, specialty Coffee, gluten free, ethical cafe, homemade baked food and cakes,

Leo Shee and wife, Feng, are the sort of people that make you feel perfectly at home from the very first time you meet them. They are a talented couple with an ethically disposition. They are passionate about providing the best, freshest homemade food at a reasonable price. Leo says that the food does not have to be fancy. They aim for simple, best value food that everyone can enjoy. His creativity has resulted in a unique east meets west style.

Named in honour of the organisation Free the Bears, Brown Bear Café donates all tips to the charity that's committed to ending bear bile farming*. Leo and Feng commented that their regular customers (knowing their cause) often empty their pockets of change when they come into the café (not as they leave) and the café has donated over $700 in the last few months.

With lengthy café experience, Leo moved to Australia 27 years ago and has been in the café business for a long time. Feng moved here ten years ago and clearly enjoys interacting with customers. Together, with their enthusiastic team, they great food and exemplary service. They are humble and this is a happy café where you can expect intimate service and gracious attention.

Café, charity, Lunch, Breakfast, Great coffee, Snacks, specialty Coffee, gluten free, ethical cafe, homemade baked food and cakes,
What is in that sauce?


Ronny is the talented barista who has been making coffee for nine years. He said he enjoyed his job and that he found the locals nice and approachable... 'and I hope they find me the same way. They give me great feedback about the coffee.'

The Brown Bear Cafe serves a tempting menu of all day breakfasts. Starting from just $4.50 for toasted sourdough, its hard to go past. Some other examples include oatmeal porridge with almonds, mixed berries and cream or skinny milk. ($7.90) They serve sandwiches ($9), large amazing homemade hamburgers (only $8) and nothing (including the big brown bear brekky) was over $16!

Café, charity, Lunch, Breakfast, Great coffee, Snacks, specialty Coffee, gluten free, ethical cafe, homemade baked food and cakes,
Brown Bear cheesecake


We were treated to a sample menu. To start we were given guilt free light and fluffy cheesecake. It's not a traditional cheesecake or heavy, it looks more like a cake and has a similar texture. This cheesecake is baked for four and a half hours and is stamped with the brown bear logo. It's so light, jokes Leo that you can eat five! At only $15 for a whole cake, you might as well take a couple home.

Café, charity, Lunch, Breakfast, Great coffee, Snacks, specialty Coffee, gluten free, ethical cafe, homemade baked food and cakes,
Make sure it has the Brown Bear logo!


Our next sample was a grilled chicken on a thin slice of toasted sourdough with a side serve of potato salad and lettuce. This is one of the special selections only available on weekends when it's not so busy. My daughter asked about the sauce but it was top secret. All they would tell us was that it was homemade with fresh ingredients. Leo said that often sauces were too sweet because of the vinegar and sugar added. He wanted to create something new and unique… eastern style food with a western style bread.

Then came the chicken sandwiches with the freshest, softest bread! For six weeks one customer has come in for these every single day. Inside the chicken is tender with seeds and walnuts and a light homemade mayonnaise that is made with fresh lemon juice.

Café, charity, Lunch, Breakfast, Great coffee, Snacks, specialty Coffee, gluten free, ethical cafe, homemade baked food and cakes,
Not as simple as it looks


I highly recommend the French toast. Even if this is not your usual choice, you have to try this one. The presentation is impressive. The colorful selection of fresh fruits includes all my favorite berries and mango. 'That looks amazing' exclaimed my daughter.

Café, charity, Lunch, Breakfast, Great coffee, Snacks, specialty Coffee, gluten free, ethical cafe, homemade baked food and cakes,
Delicious French toast


Also on the must try list needs to be the smashed avocado on pan-fried sourdough with free-range poached eggs and sour cream. This is a well-laden lunch treat.

Drum roll please….and now for the coffee! The smell when entering the café is irresistible. All coffee is direct trade. It's a premium blend designed to be sweet, heavy and rich. It's high end, specialty Five Senses coffee that's been lightly roasted. I admit some of the technicalities have been lost of me but my companion, a coffee lover, was most impressed.

Café, charity, Lunch, Breakfast, Great coffee, Snacks, specialty Coffee, gluten free, ethical cafe, homemade baked food and cakes,
The hot chocolate and the coffee are the best

Which would you choose?

Crompton Road: dark fruits, thick, coating body, red grape, plum, intense lingering aftertaste.

Or

Dark Horse: dark cocoa, cherry, orange, floral, lingering.

It's a big call but I think the hot chocolate was the best I have tasted. It was the perfect temperature, creamy and reminded me of my favorite Lindt chocolate.

Not to overstate the point but this café is an absolute must for coffee lovers and connoisseurs. You will always be welcome, you are guaranteed of friendly, intimate service and unique homemade gourmet food.

Café, charity, Lunch, Breakfast, Great coffee, Snacks, specialty Coffee, gluten free, ethical cafe, homemade baked food and cakes,
A clever, quirky menu board



Noticeably simple but with effective ambience, the choice of black and white décor was deliberate. Leo says it accentuates the colors of the food and people's clothing. The walls are decorated with exquisite chalk drawings on the blackboards. These were drawn by Leo (also a talented artist). One is of a bear with eyes that look into your soul. The other chalk drawing is a scene with a hanging bat… an artist's impression of how coffee can transform you.

Café, charity, Lunch, Breakfast, Great coffee, Snacks, specialty Coffee, gluten free, ethical cafe, homemade baked food and cakes,
Fabulous chalk art by Leo


Feng said the large windows enable diners to look out to the street view and for passing traffic to see what diners are enjoying inside. Leo and Feng like to think of the Brown Bear as a community café where they play music donated by a customer and display artwork of bears on the shelf drawn by another customer.

When asked about the name of the shop and commitment to the Free the Bears campaign, Leo said he was moved by a documentary on the lifetime suffering of bears in Asia. He is appalled that people make money from the bears. He feels strongly that we don't have the right to do it (even if it makes medicines). 'We care too little' he added, and acknowledges that it's easy for us to judge when we have a good standard of living. To support the cause they will soon launch a website supporting the free the bears campaign.

Check out their Facebook page on Fridays for a sneak preview of the delicacies they will offer the next day. This is a café that must be on your soon to visit dining list.

Postscript
*Free the Bears

Recent developments show that approximately 9,000 bears are kept for bear bile farming. Bears were being held in horrifying conditions throughout Asia, surgically mutilated and regularly milked for their bile to feed the demand for bear bile used in traditional medicine.

These captive bears suffer in filthy and cramped conditions. The bear bile industry causes intense, unjustified suffering to bears and is completely unnecessary because plentiful and inexpensive synthetic and herbal alternatives to bear bile are readily available. The Free the Bears campaign works to eliminate such archaic practises.

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*Jeni Wilson was invited as a guest
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Why? For fabulous and affordable homemade food
When: Mon-Fri 8am-4pm, Sat 8am -3pm
Phone: 0425 609961
Where: 301 High Street, Preston
Cost: Excellent value
Your Comment
The cheesecake looks lovely, and I really like the way the made the coffee menu.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12364) 1564 days ago
Its a lovely place with beautiful people
by Jeni Wilson (score: 3|1849) 1563 days ago
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