Sometimes cafes and restaurants look a little uninspiring from the front: you can walk past and not even notice they are there.
Today I realised I walk past Caffé Vero on Rokeby Road all the time and rarely give it a second glance. But I was hunting breakfast, and it was a quiet Sunday two days before Christmas. Many places were closed and as we ambled up Rokeby Road with the pram complete with wailing baby, the appearance of two small tables outside a café shone like a breakfast beacon. Something was open. I would be fed.
Those leather couches look perfect for lounging with a cup of coffee
When you step inside, it actually feels a bit like my kitchen. By this I mean red walls, red cups and red appliances. I love red. Caffe Vero also boasts a glass cake case, stuffed filled with pasties and cakes - something I only wish I had in my kitchen.
But I was here for breakfast and a quick glance at the menu satisfied my urge for 'something different'. It was then I noticed what was out the back. The back of the shop opens onto a covered wooden deck, complete with couches, overhead fans and a flat screen TV. There was a big red bookshelf with various condiments and sauces you could help yourself to. There was reading material and free WiFi. It felt like home. There was even a screaming baby (mine), just like home.
The staff at Caffe Vero are really lovely. No cheffy pretensions here, if you ask for something a little strange, they are more than happy to provide it. When I selected the avocado, mixed herbs, feta and olive oil on casalinga loaf ($14) with two scrambled eggs ($4) they didn't bat an eyelid. Why should they? The menu clearly suggested eggs with this dish, although I realised afterwards they tend to serve it with poached eggs. 'This is the first time we have served this dish like this,' the cook said to me as he lay my plate on the table, looking a little dubious. It looked great, and tasted even better and I made sure I mentioned it on the way out.
The herbs included parsley, basil, spring onions and mint and it was light and zingy. Scrambled eggs and feta work a treat and the entire dish was a winner.
My friend, Breakfast Brad asked for the ricotta hotcakes with caramelised banana and honeycomb butter ($17) and I made sure I ordered a side of bacon ($4). Pancakes and bacon are a match made in heaven, like salt and caramel. Ricotta hotcakes are more substantial than ordinary pancakes and together with the bacon (which funnily enough, also tasted brilliant with my avocado and eggs) was a very satisfying breakfast.
Other breakfast options include a breakfast burrito with home-made baked beans, guacamole, eggs and rice ($11), home-made granola with yoghurt and seasonal poached fruit ($13), a big breakfast with eggs, toast, bacon, hashbrowns, tomato, mushroom and baked beans ($22.50) and the 'Big Boys Toastie' which is two eggs, double bacon and sauce ($10).
I know a few girls who could go a Big Boys Toastie.
Looking through the lunch menu, it is clear that Caffe Vero has its feet firmly on the ground. It doesn't push any boundaries (with the exception of the intriguing Bunny Chow, which I am eager to try), the food is familiar and fun. Think fish and chips, chicken penne, Wagyu burger and BLTs.
You can bet that I won't be walking past Caffé Vero in future.