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Brunswick Flour Mill Cafe is on Sydney Road hedged in by vintage shops, ethnic eateries and hip culture. It's opposite the Sydney Road Community School (an alternative school with no uniform) and the ever-popular Savers (where you can find bargain vintage wear) and around the corner from the iconic Brunswick Baths.
A memorable dish- sweet corn and zucchini fritters with avocado
You couldn't be more in the heart of Brunswick. Pull up a stool near the window and watch the passing parade of hipsters walking by or riding their push bikes up Sydney Road. They seem carefree and oblivious despite irate motorists and clanging trams.
Given the ever-changing procession, Brunswick Flour Mill Cafe has the feeling of permanence with its thick brick walls, archways, massive interior staircase and solid wooden floors. The building is over a century old, so has seen many groups come and go - the Italians, Greeks, Maltese, Lebanese, through to the Turks and more recently other Muslim communities.
The building has also had various tenants over the years. Anjali the new cafe owner, who took over in June 2017 says she loved reading up on the history of the old building and finding out it was originally the Cumberland Hotel. 'During the gold rush the prospectors would stop here on the way to the goldfields. That's how old it is,' she said.
In more modern times, it became the Brunswick Flour Mill Cafe, which in turn became a popular Brunswick institution. It was famous for its weekend big breakfasts of eggs, lashings of bacon, pork sausages, potato, grilled tomato, mushrooms and tomato relish. For some, I suspect it provided a good hangover cure after a night spent clubbing.
Anjali says that when taking over the Brunswick Flour Mill Cafe, she tried to be mindful of such Brunswick traditions. She has not changed the name, for example. And if anything she has managed to make Brunswick Flour Mill Cafe even more 'Brunswick' than before.
Pancakes with fresh fruit anyone? Image credit Facebook Flour Mill Cafe
She commissioned a new, interior wall mural that features Brunswick characters striding across the wall. There's little kids dressed by their hipster parents, women in hijab or overalls and Doc Martins, workmen toting ladders and an odd assortment of designer dogs on leads. Brunswick is one of the only suburbs, I know with its own Doggy Day Care Centre.
Other than a bit of brightening up and this great mural, Anjali has made limited changes to the Brunswick Flour Mill Cafe. She has not overly changed the famous menu maintaining old favourites such as the big breakfast and the smoked salmon steak (built on a potato rosti, fresh spinach, and topped with poached eggs and homemade hollandaise).
What she has done, however, is to recognise the locals' desire for more organic produce and gluten-free, vegetarian and especially, vegan options.
I tucked into a Flour Mill favourite, which is sweet corn and zucchini fritters. I am writing this the day after consuming it, but the dish is still in my taste bud's memory as being absolutely memorable.
The fritters were on a bed of green rocket, but their mattress was the deep savoury flavour and firmness of grilled halloumi. This was then covered with sheets of thin crispy bacon, creamy and tangy smashed avocado and some tomato relish. Perched on top was a snowy-white poached egg.
For dessert, I decided to have a vegan cake for after all when in Brunswick eat as the locals do. Having vegan friends I know how hard it is to find vegan desserts, but I noticed that along with the more traditional cakes on display at the Brunswick Flour Mill Cafe they stock ample vegan fare.
I could have easily succumbed to the homemade vegan chocolate and peanut butter slice or been held hostage by the caramel bounty slice made from organic cacao butter, organic virgin coconut oil, maple syrup, almond butter, coconut and sea salt. But being near Christmas, I couldn't resist a slice of the vegan celebratory cake.
The lush texture was created from cashews, coconut and coconut milk. Maple syrup created a pleasant sweetness (rather than the hit one gets from sugar) and the wonderful whiff of festive spices such as ginger was a delight. On top was a cherry half encased in rich vegan chocolate.
Like the other cafegoers around me, I found myself relaxing and spending time at Brunswick Flour Mill Cafe. You don't really have to move as the world comes to you. Old Beatles tracks were playing, interesting Brunswick locals were passing by and it genuinely seemed to be a happy and laid back place.
I was there long enough to try a couple of their new standout drinks. Walking in, hot off the street on a 36 c day, I cooled off with a long glass of iced mango. Mine was whizzed with ice cream, but for a vegan option, sorbet was on offer. Other varieties included banana with cinnamon and an optional dollop of honey or berry, which was a whizz of mixed berries and coconut water.
With my cake, I had something quite singular - a single origin cold brew infused with tropical fruits served over ice. It was pretty with petite pieces of frozen mango and blueberries and raspberries floating on the top.
Anjali told me about coming up with the concept. 'When it's hot you don't always want a sugary drink such as bottled iced teas, or iced coffees. The cold brew means you can get the kick of coffee, but have a sugarless pleasant cooling drink. We tried it with orange last week, which was really popular, so today we are trying tropical.'
And it seems the more things change, the more they remain the same. But the subtle changes that Anjali is heralding - the organics, the vegan options without losing the old standbys, including, those big breakfasts - ensures that Brunswick Flour Mill Cafe remains well entrenched in the heart of Brunswick.
For the full menu or all day breakfasts and brunch, click here.